Monday, January 28, 2008

in one week ...

Here's what's on the menu around the world this week. Take a good look at the family size, diet, availability and cost of what is eaten in each country.

Germany: The Melander family of Bargteheide
Food expenditure for one week: 375.39 Euros or $500.07

United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week $341.98

Italy: The Manzo family of Sicily
Food expenditure for one week: 214.36 Euros or $260.11

Mexico: The Casales family of Cuernavaca
Food expenditure for one week: 1,862.78 Mexican Pesos or $189.09

Poland: The Sobczynscy family of Konstancin-Jeziorna
Food expenditure for one week: 582.48 Zlotys or $151.27

Egypt: The Ahmed family of Cairo
Food expenditure for one week: 387.85 Egyptian Pounds or $68.50

Ecuador: The Ayme family of Tingo
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55

Bhutan: The Namgay family of Shingkhey Village
Food expenditure for one week: 224.93 ngultrum or $5.03

Chad: The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23

Once again, here's a link to Free Rice and Gospel For Asia. I promise--it won't hurt a bit.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008


What do you do when you're eighteen and crazy about a girl who lives 655 miles away?

First, you talk your Volvo-owning friend into taking a road trip. Then you sell your X Box and your big screen TV (the one you just traded tires and rims for) to another friend for $400. Then you toss a hastily packed bag in the back of the Volvo, ask your parents to pray for you, and hit the road.

I prayed. I asked God to put a giant bubble around my son and send some road-trip angels along for the ride. And I asked that the girl I've never met would receive him kindly.

Zac called me a few minutes ago. "How's it going?" I asked. Those few words were a far cry from what I most wanted to ask. Are you tired? Have you slept yet? Are you guys keeping your eyes on the road? Any sign of angels?

"Well," he began, "it's been rough so far." He then launched into a play-by-play. "We come around a corner early this morning and find a deer carcass strewn all over the road."

"Did you hit it?"

"Just a piece. Then we run into a blizzard ... in California!" Clearly, he holds little memory of the unit study we did on the Donner Party back when he was a homeschooled seventh grader.

"To make matters worse, Theron's right turn signal won't go off, his windshield wiper is stuck in one speed, and his electrical system is going haywire."

I should be alarmed, but I can't find it in me. Instead, what I'm thinking is that Zac will describe this adventure to his children one day.

"We're so hungry, Mom. And we agreed we were only going to eat off the dollar menu. But then we got to talking about how good Subway would be, so we decided to treat ourselves. We're hungry now ... but it's only 8:30--Subway won't be open." He sighs.

"You'll find something soon, honey."

He tells me again to pray. I tell him I haven't stopped. We swap "I love you's." And when I hang up, I think about the girl in Sacramento who has no idea of what my son has sacrificed for her. She doesn't know he's coming. I wonder what she'll think when he knocks on her door, and wonder what he'll find her doing.

And then I think how familiar this all is.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field ..."

Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

~ Matthew 13:44; Luke 12:40

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008


In those early days, when I came to the realization that the God of Sunday actually lived and breathed and beckoned for me all the other days of the week as well, and I fell into those warm arms and whispered, "Not just my Savior, but now my Lord," I reached for His love letter and began to read. I read as though the pages were bread, and I, a starving woman.

I read before I left my bed each morning--grateful that the sun had roused me from sleep (which I counted to be wasted hours) and called me back to my food. I devoured those honey-words during breakfast, when nothing on my plate tasted as good or satisfied as fully.

Thankful for red traffic lights, I read until the car behind me honked in annoyance. I read while in line at the grocery store. When I arrived at the department store where I worked as a plainclothes security officer, I rushed the steps two at a time, signed in at the back door, and hurried my key in the lock to my office door. Ensconced inside, I would often take my fifteen-minute break immediately because I couldn't bear to close the book.

Countless times, when God's love rose from the pages and wound themselves around me like a blanket of "I'm here," I'd lift the book to my face and press my cheek against His letter, and cry. His love wove through every word, and I could not believe that the Maker of clouds and babies, rippling wheat fields and laughter had thought to send me something so precious.

I remained in that ravenous state a long time--long enough to read each word and then read them over again. And then one day when the sun tapped my shoulder, I turned over and chose sleep. One day, I spent my time in the grocery store line scanning nothing but the ridiculous headlines of lying magazines. One day, when I arrived at work I signed myself in and went straight to my task.

I didn't stop eating entirely; I just stopped loving it quite so much. Now and again, I'd remember what it was to feel such intensity, such passion. Sometimes I'd feel it again.

Yesterday the hunger returned. While researching for my current work-in-progress, I looked up a well-known verse. I don't know what it was that caused me to look twice at that page, but when I did, something stole over my heart. I love this book, I thought. The scribble-embossed page was covered with markings from the many times I'd read it--touches of red on verses that spoke of the cross; touches of blue that reminded me of God's unchanging nature. Lines that drew my eyes to the margin, where I'd recorded an insight I could have received only from the Spirit who teaches me all things.

I ran my hands over the page, and it touched me back. The words felt like braille, and I, a blind woman, read, I love you.

I lifted the book to my face, pressed my cheek against His letter, and cried. And then I dined like I hadn't eaten in years.

Keep me hungry, Lord.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Twice a day, at least, and sometimes several times a day, I drove past the empty mobile home on the highway-side of our long, private road, and tried not to look. The sight of that long strip of yellow crime scene tape, tucked haphazardly within the branches of a never-pruned bush, would tip me off that I was nearing the scene. I'd catch the flicker of a loosened edge of tape, dancing in obedience to a passing breeze, and I'd look to the other side of the road, and try hard not to think of all the sadness that had played itself out on that parcel of acreage.

Three deaths had occurred there; three deaths in about that many years. The first had been a drug overdose. The second was an accidental homicide, which happened when an estranged ex-husband showed up with a gun, threatened his ex-wife, and shot her new boyfriend. The boyfriend lived. The ex-husband died when his 14-year old son, trying to defend his mother, picked up a two-by-four and hit him over the back of the head.

My husband brought groceries to the family and spent a half-hour trying to comfort a group of people who showed no interest in comfort. "I'm glad he's dead," one said, and the rest agreed. Though I can't imagine the boy escaping regret for the whole of his life, he showed no remorse on that afternoon when Dave sat ready to point the way to forgiveness.

We tried to reach out again, not long after, when Dave spotted the owner of the property, J.D., out near the mailbox. J.D. lived in a travel trailer off to the side of the mobile home, which he had rented to the other family. We'd just returned from the grocery store and had a box of donuts in a bag between us. Dave handed the donuts to J.D., chatted with him a bit, and then suggested that they get together for coffee.

"I might like to do that, Pastor," J.D. said. Dave left our number and told the quiet man to call anytime.

But coffee never happened. A week turns into a month pretty quickly, and months slip by before you catch what's happening. Once in awhile, one of us would mention J.D. and the coffee idea would resurface. But before it could come to life, J.D. was gone. One night, after several drinks with his live-in girlfriend, J.D. fell asleep ... and she shot him.

Three deaths; three long yellow strips of crime scene tape. I was sick of the sight. But one afternoon, before I realized what I was doing, I stopped my car directly in front of that unpruned bush. Reaching into the branches, I pulled out a section of that tape and tore it away, then brought it home and tacked it to the bulletin board above my writing desk.

We don't know the number of our days. We only know that we have this hour, this minute, this second. I don't want to forget the frailty of breath. I want no regrets.

Next to that strip of yellow tape I've posted a favorite quote. Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us.

Today, I want to sing.



Thursday, January 10, 2008

roby duke

I don't know what to say. I heard a rumor and didn't want it to be true, but it's just been confirmed that Roby Duke went to be with Jesus on December 26th. I'm so grieved by the news, but it's a grief tinged with envy. His is the better reality. The world seems lesser without him in it, but heaven has gained.

Just three days before his death, he played this last song at Calvary Chapel Thousand Oaks. The title is so poignant--especially in light of the fact that Roby has seen Him now, and has touched His beautiful face.

I only met him once, and it was brief at that. But someday, I'm going to sit with Roby and thank him for the many hours that he reminded me, through his gifts, that something far sweeter than this life waits ahead for me.

I Shall See His Face

It's almost as if Someone is standing there
I don't know what I'd give to see the face that seems to stare
And all my life I'd give to know His face
Just how much I know, I'm no fool I dare not say
As I go in the way of all the earth
As I step through the door there where time is no more
I shall see God

I'm older, much older now, and I still believe
That when all else is gone the Rock of Ages cleft for me
And I'm holding something I can't feel or see
And I'll tarry till the day I hear the music of the free
As I go in the way of all the earth
As I step through the door there where time is no more
I shall see perfect peace, perfect love

As I go in the way of all the earth
As I step through the door there where time is no more
Time is no more
I shall see God

I shall see Him
Touch His face
I shall see Him
Touch His face
I shall see Him
Touch His face
I'm finally gonna face the Beginning and the End

This is a portrait called "One Embrace," which Roby's friend, artist Chris Hopkins completed during Roby's memorial. I like to think he captured Roby's first moment in eternity.

And here's what his friend, Terry Clark, wrote to those involved in Catalyst Ministries:

Dear Catalyst Family,

Our dear friend, Roby Duke, has preceded us into the presence of our Savior, after a sudden heart attack yesterday, December 27, 2007. We want to honor Roby and thank God for the life of sacrifice and service that was itself a treasure given to those who knew him and thousands of people who heard his music. He deeply impacted our lives and we are eternally grateful. Since 1993, Roby's genius has been responsible for the production of U Gada No, Love Heals, This Christmas, Only Believe and ThePRIZE. During those years we have become brothers. We were so blessed to have been with him for his birthday earlier this month, then again last Sunday as we played together at Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, CA. He kept glancing over at me as he sang his final song, "I Shall See God," as if to assure me that he fully believed what he was singing like never before. It was such a sweet and powerful moment as the whole congregation echoed over and over, "I shall see Him, touch His face." Our prayers are with Brantley, Roby's son; Anne Baldwin, his assistant and the whole Duke family. Thanks, Lord, for loaning Roby to us for a little while. It was way too short, it seemed we had so much more to do. But we are absolutely sure You know how to perfectly satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. You've welcomed him personally to do exactly what he has been singing about for as long as we've known him.

So long, Roby. We'll see you soon.

Terry & Nancy Clark

If you'd like to hear more of Roby's music, you can do so at MySpace or on YouTube.



Wednesday, January 09, 2008

be my friend?

I've said for many years that I don't feel my age. For the longest time, I've felt "stuck" at an internal 22. Maybe 23, on days when I feel particularly mature. But that's over.

I am officially the last person on earth to join MySpace. Shortly after I made my page, I heard them shutting the door behind me. And I've found that I'm not 22. Not even 23. I'm "that old person they let in out of pity."

I squeal whenever I load my page and find that someone else has added me to their page. "I have twelve friends!" I yelled downstairs to Zac yesterday. Later, just after a squeal, it was, "Guess what? Matthew Ward has made me his friend!" Now, just my sudden intake of air has him (Zac) heading me off. "Yes, Mom, I know. They like you ... they really like you."

I haven't felt this way since junior high. It's suddenly become very important that I have friends. So ... won't you be mine?

Throw a bone to the old lady.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

my thoughts these days

I write often enough about how busy, busy, overly busy I am ... and it's true. I'm bent on simplifying not only my household but also my schedule this year. It's not good to have so many irons in the fire. Years ago, my very dear friend, Ann, who was a surrogate grandmother to me, used to call and ask, "Are you still homeschooling, dear? Still writing? Still teaching women's ministry?" After hearing my "yes" to each of those questions, she'd say, "Well, then, Shannon, we're going to have to pray some of those things out."

Ann is with the Lord now. I can only imagine what she'd say if she knew that I'd added editing and a whole bunch of traveling and speaking to the list. In her absence, I'll say it for her: "We really need to pray some of that out."

So yes, I'm busy. But I still find time to do a lot of thinking. And what I've been thinking for the past several weeks and months is that I'm tired of living in the land of plenty and not being more globally minded.

Many months ago, when my blogging friend, Jimmy Cochran, was writing his first book, he sent it to me to preview so I could write an endorsement. While I had it, I habitually began editing it. He didn't mind--in fact, he was kind enough to offer to pay me. I'm not in the habit of taking money from my friends, so I said no. But then I wrote back and said, "If you'd really like to do something, and you really don't mind, would you go to the Gospel For Asia site and maybe buy a pair of chickens?" I'd only recently learned about the site. You can browse through a large assortment of items and purchase chickens or rabbits ($10 a pair), pigs ($50 a pair), goats ($55 each) lambs ($60 each), cows ($350 each) or a big ol' $430 water buffalo. You can also buy a bicycle or a fully loaded truck for a missionary, Bibles, tracts, sewing machines, fishing boats, or a community well. Whatever you buy on the site is then given to an impoverished family or a missionary.

Just one set of chickens or rabbits can completely change a family's future. As that one pair grows into several, a cottage industry is born--and the family's food supply is multiplied. So even though I felt a little funny making the suggestion to Jimmy, I knew that both he and a needy family would be blessed. When Jimmy wrote back, he told me that he loved the idea and had shared it his men's Bible study group. Everyone got on board. "I think we're going to buy a cow, a couple chickens, blankets, definitely Bibles, and whatever else our Sunday school group wants to add to that."

I cried. And I cried again on Christmas morning, when Dave, who had asked me what I wanted in the way of a gift, proved that he'd been listening. Within the tree, he'd tucked an envelope which contained a single sheet of paper listing all the things he'd purchased from the GFA site: one pair of chickens, one pair of pigs, 500 tracts, and 10 Bibles ... all on their way to India.

As if one bout of puffy eyes wasn't enough for one day, I cried later that afternoon when I caught Oprah and watched her trip to Africa to distribute gifts to 50,000 children. It was heartwarming to see their smiles upon receiving dolls, soccer balls, and jeans--but it was heartbreaking to see the devastation AIDS is causing within that culture. At the end of the show, I found myself praying, "Please send us to Africa."

Maybe He will. Or maybe He'll keep us here, where, for the price of two foregone lattes, we could send someone a pair of rabbits.

Our women's ministry is saving money to buy a community well for a village in India. The cost is $750, but we're inching our way there. I'm planning to ask for another Gospel For Asia purchase in lieu of Valentine chocolates. Mother's Day won't be far after that ... and then our anniversary, and my birthday.

And just today, I found a great site called Free Rice. By simply playing a word game, you earn grains of rice that are then donated to a third world country. Advertisers on the site provide the rice.

We have been given such an enormous amount of wealth in this country. There's so much we can do, and so little in the way of excuses for not doing so--especially if, as Christians, we believe we are His hands, His feet, and His heart in this world.

So I'd like to ask a favor--would you consider taking one of these ideas to your church or small group?