Monday, December 30, 2013

"10 Days Without"

How can you help "the least of these" while also relating to them on a personal level? Daniel Ryan Day answered the question with an experiment to get a small taste of what others are going through, while raising money and support for organizations helping others around the globe. The premise: go ten days without something most of us take for granted to raise awareness and support for those who go without it daily. For example, 10 Days Without a Coat to collect warm coats for the homeless, or 10 Days Without Speech to support the anti-trafficking movement.

The book chronicles eight of Day's experiments and what he learned from each. It's a very simple read and makes an excellent starting point for anyone looking to make a difference in the world. As Day alludes, making a difference is not simply a 10 day experiment. Instead, the 10 Days Without concept is a starting point, a way of humbling ourselves and breaking the routine that keeps us only concerned about our own circle. It's an eye-opening experience to make us question the way we live and interact with the people in the world around us.

For those eager to embark on their own 10 Days Without experiment, Day offers suggestions and tips at the end of each chapter, along with resources and organizations worth supporting. His website also features more resources and other experiments worth looking into.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. I also recently participated in my own 10 Days Without challenge, going ten days without technology. It was not easy, but it was eye-opening. You can read some of my thoughts and experiences here.

I would definitely recommend this book to those unsure of where to begin making a difference in the world, and for fans of Jen Hatmaker's book 7.

Recommended, 4/5 Stars.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.


Ladies, before you tune out, this isn't just a guys book. It's not about being gentlemen, or holding doors for women, or some romantic spiel. Instead, Zach Hunter's newest book is a call to action urging all young people to develop and live by a code of honor. To live civil and just lives in an unjust world.

Using the knights of old as inspiration, college-student Zach Hunter uses his fourth book to inspire Christians to hold themselves to a standard of conduct higher than the world demands, but one it so desperately needs. He blends personal anecdotes and modern examples with classic philosophers and Scripture to present his case for modern chivalry.

The book includes a section of journalling or discussion prompts and encourages a commitment to chivalrous living with a specific "contract" for each chapter.

Chivalry would be a great book for Christian teens and young adults eager to stand strong in today's culture as they are beginning to form their worldview and strengthen their belief system.

Recommended 3/5 Stars
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Techless Ten COMPLETE!

The first (and probably last) ever Techless Ten Challenge here on Aspiring Ashley is now finished!! I cannot tell you how happy I am about that! This has been a very tough and loooooong Ten Days Without Technology.

Before I get into the good stuff, let me apologize for the lack of posts during this challenge. You might be surprised to know that it's very difficult to post by proxy. Especially when you're working opposite hours from your designated poster. Also, my brother works retail, and this challenge happened to fall over the Christmas season madness. He was barely home to rest, let alone do much else. I had given him another post, but it seems he wasn't able to get it up. Sorry about that, readers! If I ever do this again (though that's highly unlikely), I'll make Blogger my one exception so I can post myself.

Going without phone, computer, and TV for ten days is, in fact, just as crazy as it sounds. While maintaing a normal work schedule and Christmas social life, Christmas shopping, and observing early bedtimes, I read the longest Harry Potter book (900 pages) and another normal-length book (190 pages). I also spent a lot of time just sitting on the couch or table and staring into space. I did not, however, get so bored I cleaned. I planned to use some of my free time for cleaning, but my house is super cold, so snuggling under a blanket and going to Hogwarts was a much more alluring activity.

You don't realize how much you use the phone and computer for until you go without them for ten days. The TV part wasn't too bad. Especially since I had the rule that I could watch if invited to join someone, which happened a few nights. But going without my phone and internet was so hard! People would be talking about the latest weather or news or Facebook gossip and I was completely clueless. Can't tell you how many times someone would say, "Did you hear about....oh, wait...."

Didn't know about the whole Target identity theft thing until I had already shopped there twice. Couldn't look up movie times when the family decided we'd all go. Had to get a battery in my old watch, since I usually just use my phone. Same with flashlights and alarm clocks. If I had a question or a fleeting thought, I couldn't just Google it. Didn't know what the weather was going to be for the next day. Had no way of contacting friends if I wanted to tell them something. Had to print a hardcopy of my calendar, since I usually use my phone. Couldn't document the mundane things of life with an artfully edited photo. No TV in the background while I made crafts, just silence.

The biggest complaint was the convenience factor. Staving off boredom with a little powerful device became impossible. While I was sewing Christmas gifts, it was just me and my brain. No entertaining show in the background. Instead of looking up a med real quick on my phone at the medcart, I had to go dig out the actual drug book and hope it was in there. Couldn't text my dad to ask him to bring home ice or whatever on his way home. Nothing to do while on lunch break, or standing in lines. Just me and non-technological means of entertainment.

The second facet of the challenge was the feeling of being disconnected. With my family, I see them every day, so I didn't feel too disconnected there, unless I was out and wanted to ask them something. But not being able to talk to my friends was tough. Not being able to share the events of the day, or something silly that happened that only they would understand is something uncommon in today's world. We're so used to instant communication, to the ability to immediately convey what's happening or what we're thinking with the world, that to take that away is very strange. Especially when you realize that ten years ago, cell phones were just starting to become popular. I didn't even get my first one 'til about nine years ago! Before that, if I was out there was no contacting home, unless I was at a friends house and used their land line (ha, remember those?). Yet today, it's odd if you don't have a cell phone. We're so over connected it's crazy!

Then, there's the whole reason I did this. Not just for bragging rights or so everyone could call me crazy, but to help children on the other side of the world find connection with people who love them. So their voices could be heard and their little hearts can find peace. The Kealey Family is heading to Thailand in approximately one week to work with kids who have been victims of human trafficking, or who are risk of being trafficked. I gave up my connections for ten days to connect this awesome family with these kids. Have you donated yet? If not, click here to make a difference.

I know that I am a bit addicted to my phone and the internet, but I made it through this challenge! Walking away from it, I am going to try to make a more conscious effort to put the technology down more often and focus on the now. In some ways, it was nice to be unplugged. Knowing that if anyone really needed me, they'd find a way to make it happen. Not feeling the need to check out what was happening on Facebook. By the end of the experiment, I had finally stopped having that mini panic attack when I didn't feel my phone in my pocket.

So while I'm glad I did this challenge, I am also so glad it's over! Going without technology for ten days was insanely difficult, but definitely worth it to help fund connection for the kids of ZOE.

This challenge was inspired by Daniel Ryan Day and his new book Ten Days Without, which is now available. I'll be posting the review hopefully tomorrow, definitely over the weekend.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Techless Ten Day Three

   Hello everyone! It's Jeremiah again, posting for Ashley. She wrote this last night, and asked me to post it for her today. Enjoy!

   As I write this, it's 5:15pm and I'm wondering what to do with myself for the next four hours until my brother and friends get home. they invited me to watch something with them, and per my rules set last week, that means I can. Yay! I've already spent the past two hours reading through half a book, with several hours earlier in the day and yesterday. I suppose I should finish making Christmas presents...
   Today was the hardest day (so far. I'm sure tomorrow-my day off- will be worse). Today was my day to work at the church, which is mostly a desk job, in front of a computer. I did everything I could without the computer - even hand drawing and writing Sundays take home sheet! Then came my one planned internet escapade during these ten days - setting up a Youtube playlist for Kid's Church. It was fun to have a little video break! And I'm proud to say that despite some of the intriguing "suggested videos", I stayed on tsk the whole time!
   Of course, when I first opened up my browser, I was automatically headed to Facebook, but I caught myself before I clicked. For that matter, the instant I sat at the desk, I reached for the mouse to start Pandora or Spotify! It's crazy how ingrained and automatic technology has become in my life. This experiment is showing me how much time I truly waste on T.V., internet, and apps.
   Then there's the communication side of it. I can't just text my friend to ask "is so-and-so married, or did I dream that?". I can't call home to say I'm running late at work. I have to rely on my family to tell me the forecast, or if a meeting will me cancelled due to snow. Most of the things I want to text or post are trivial - an observation (It's only 1 degree outside according to my car!), a silly happenstance (How did I cut my hand sitting at my desk?!), or just an update of unimportance (Christmas is one week away!).
   But for the millions of kids held in slavery around the world, true communication on any level seems impossible. I've got my cell in my bag, ready in case of an emergency, but these kids have been dehumanized to the point that no one in their world will listen even if they do speak up. They are used, and hurt, and forgotten. Hopeless.
  Thankfully, there are people like the Kealeys willing to step into the world these kids live in and listen. To give them a voice and make others aware of their needs. It makes this experiment seem small, but God is in the habit of using foolish things to confound the wise.

This post is a part of 10 Days Without inspired by Daniel Ryan Day. It is an experiment to go ten days without technology to get a sense of feeling unconnected and to raise money and support for the Kealey family, who will be moving to Thailand to work with children at risk for, or who have been victims of, human trafficking. The complete series of posts can be found here.

To donate, please click here. Want to support the Techless Ten but can't donate financially? Please share the posts within your circles using the hashtags #TechlessTen and #10DaysWithout.

Techless Ten Day One

Hello everyone! This is Ashley's brother Jeremiah, posting her blog for her. Apparently the first post I put up for her on Monday didn't actually post, so here it is again!

   Well, the first day of my "10DaysWithout" experiment is complete, and it wasn't as bad as I expected! Granted, I was super busy at work, and really tired when I got home (late), so that helped. But honestly, except for a few minor inconveniences and reaching for my phone/laptop/remote out of habit, I didn't miss it too much. I know that will be completely different, though, on a day with more downtime (like Wednesday. I'm dreading Wednesday).
   Today I used my few spare hours reading a book (the whole thing), checking my Christmas list for any gaps, and starting to plan out my 2014. I also got my Compassion Child Advocate package in the mail, so I looked through that (more about the Advocate program when I come back). Although today wasn't too bad, I've already got a list started of things I need to look up or do once I can be online!
Happy Monday everyone!

This post is a part of 10 Days Without inspired by Daniel Ryan Day. It is an experiment to go ten days without technology to get a sense of feeling unconnected and to raise money and support for the Kealey family, who will be moving to Thailand to work with children at risk for, or who have been victims of, human trafficking. To donate, please click here. The complete series of posts can be found here

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Announcing The Techless Ten

I've been brewing a plan for a while. Ever since I read Jen Hatmaker's book 7 and learned about the soon-to-be-released book from Daniel Ryan Day, 10 Days Without. The plan? To go without something for a set period of time to raise awareness and funds for a cause. Well, thanks to Daniel, this plan has been fully formed! Introducing...

For ten days (Monday, December 16 through Wednesday, December 25) I will be going techless: No iPhone, no computer, and no TV (except with friends or family. It is Christmas season...Christmas movies and Doctor Who!) Ten days with no texting. No Facebook. No Instagram. No email. No Pinterest. No Candy Crush. No makeshift flashlight. No daily Doctor Who.

Yes, I am crazy. Or as my brother and his friends said when I told them my plan, "That's stupid!" But I'm not doing this to be crazy stupid. Or even just to see if I can do it. I'm going techless to see what it's like to be unconnected. To not be able to just pick up my phone if I'm bored or lost or need an answer. But more importantly, I'll be unconnected to help fund connection. What is that supposed to mean??

My friends, the Kealeys, are preparing to move to Thailand with ZOE to build connections with kids who are at risk for, or have been victims of, human trafficking. Kerri is one of the people I've looked up to throughout my life, a real-life role model! And now she's packing up with her husband and four adorable children to go love kids who have been through more in their short lives than you and I can imagine. I'm so proud....and a bit jealous.

So while I go techless for ten days, I'm asking you to sponsor me and donate to these awesome people doing awesome work. You can make a one time donation of your choosing, or donate a fee per day (say, $10/day? Keep the theme going?), or however you'd like to do it. Donations can go directly through their page on the ZOE website. When you make a donation, can you do me a favor and let me know? I'd just like to see how much we raise during this time! You can post below anonymously, if you'd like.

Please spread the word about this experiment. I will be hand-writing about the experience throughout the week for my family and friends to post here, and Kerri will be guest-posting one of the days for us! Share this and coming posts with the hashtags #10DaysWithout and #TechlessTen so we can follow along!

So, what do you think of this challenge? Think I'll make it? Would you be able to do it?

Questions? Encouragement? Leave them below! Want to know more about the Kealeys and Zoe? Check out these links:
ZOE missionaries
Kealey Family Blog

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

"Sex and the Single Christian Girl"

So, to be honest, I don't recall why I requested this book. Truth is, I'm a bit jaded when it comes to purity books. I grew up in the "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" generation. I devoured every purity book that came out in that time (and there were plenty!). I've taken the pledge, worn the ring, been to the conferences, and bought the t-shirts. And as I've grown, I've watched many of my friends (and the authors of those books) get their early 20s.

Now, I have nothing against people getting married in their early 20s. But as I sit here, as single as can be about to turn 27, it annoys me sometimes. I can't tell you how many times I've heard/read someone say, "It was so hard to wait that long! What a struggle!" And then you learn that they were married by 22. Really? Please, tell me again how hard it was to stay pure until you met and married your husband at 19.

At 27, to most of the world, I'm still young. But in Christian circles, it's a usually unspoken belief that anyone not married by 25 is an old maid. Most people won't actually say anything, but you'll get the impression. So going into this book, I was a bit skeptical, to say the least. But then, right in the first chapter, we learn that the author didn't get married til 38. 38! Ladies, we have an actual real-life example here! She knows what it's like to struggle, and she writes for women, not for teens (though teens could certainly read this). Do you know how rare that is in the purity-book world??

Plus, she admits that she ugly-cried all the way down the aisle and quotes Mean Girls, so I knew I could trust what she had to say.

This book is not your average purity book. Most tend to be a mix of the author's love story, religious rules, and a basic message of:

Sex and the Single Girl takes a different angle. Ellis goes beyond rules to the heart of the matter. She makes the case for why we should seek purity and how to fight the lies of the enemy regarding sex. Ellis wages war against a "no-big-deal" culture to lovingly rescue women who have been burned by the world's mentality, and equips them to fight back for their purity and wholeness. She uses her own experiences, the experiences of others, and lots of Scripture to make the case for purity and healing.

This book is so good. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. What I loved is that much of what she is preaching is applicable to other struggles, not simply sexual sins. Ellis makes the case that purity is impossible on our own, because our nature is sinful. The only way to conquer sexual impurity (or any impurity for that matter) is to be renewed and redeemed. Ellis describes how to get to a place of intimacy with God, and how to stay there. She provides plenty of Scripture passages to help women stand against temptation and is bluntly honest about how to flee it.

I will absolutely be recommending this book to any woman struggling with sexual sin and impurity. Definitely check this one out!

Can you relate to my single-Christian-girl frustrations? Have you read this book? What'd you think?

Highly Recommended
4/5 Stars

I received this book from the published in exchange for an honest review through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

"Raised Right"

To be honest, I don't know how I ended up with this book. I mean, it came from LibraryThing, but I don't remember requesting it. And I'm really not into politics, so it's not the type of book I would usually request or read. Setting aside the politics aspect, I read the book, and will not let that interfere with my review.

The book is about Harris forming her own worldview, from being raised in a very conservative home-schooled environment, to working in NYC journalism. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the author is still struggling to find where she stands. The whole book just felt confused and lost. It felt a lot like the diary of someone trying to sort out what they believe, by jumping around to different memories.

Plus, there didn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to the layout of the book. One page she's in college blogging, and the next she's practicing for her home school debate. Then she's suddenly being extra verbose for no apparent reason.

There were a few good lines in the book, but I don't think this would really help anyone sort out their own faith/politics. It's a confusing biography with no real life details. On the plus side, it was a quick and easy read (aside from random time jumps).

Overall, I didn't like this book. It's possible if you enjoy politics that this may interest you more than it did me, but I just don't think this is a good book, subject matter aside.

2/5 stars.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Doctor Who's 50th Anniversary Party

"The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life...You don't just give up. You don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say "no". You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away..." (Rose Tyler)

The Doctor has officially been a part of television for 50 years now! So, we threw a party to watch his special anniversary episode: The Day of the Doctor. I got creative. Enjoy my creations!

For decorations, I bought a few blue plastic tablecloths and pulled out all my brothers Whovian toys collectibles. Not pictured are the Daleks positioned to guard the stairs from intruders.

I used a plastic tablecloth and a printout to transform my front door into a TARDIS.

I used some mason jars and chalkboard paint to make some pretty fantastic drinking glasses: 

To fill them, I invented a Whovian Mocktail: The Hallucinogenic Lipstick. 
It's a big spoonful of berries, a bit of grenadine, a TARDIS and dalek ice cube, and Inca Cola. Delish! 

What are TARDIS and dalek ice cubes you ask? These:
How fun are these?!

In addition to my blue table clothes and plates, I made some bow tie napkins

Now, it's time for food. Some "All of Time and a Cup!" for dessert, based on this idea.

And some "Bannakaffalattes" (i.e. delicious homemade crockpot fair-trade cocoa)
Thanks, Jess, for the picture! I forgot to take one because I was so excited to drink it.

Now, it's time for what may be my favorite thing I did for this party: the food. 
First, the garlic dalek pizza.
For some reason, the pepperoni all shifted while baking. But still delicious.

Then a Cassandra extra cheese pizza:

And finally, an adipose calzone. So cute!

Well, that about does it for the fun party we had! That episode was stinkin' amazing. My only complaint is that Rose wasn't really Rose, but I can see why they did it that way. It was seriously just a great episode, and it set up the future for so much opportunities to be awesome! 


Did you watch The Day of the Doctor? What did you think? (And please, no spoilers for the sake of those Whovians who haven't seen it yet.)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rescue Happens

Okay, so NaBloWriMo has kinda been a bust this year. Sorry-ish. But I'm kinda over posting just for the sake of posting. I'd rather have something to actually share, and "I went to work today" or "I spent all day in my jammies watching Netflix" isn't totally blog worthy. But today, I've got something exciting to share!

The Exodus Road has been trying for a few months to conduct a raid on a certain dance club in India. Previous attempts were unsuccessful as the club owners somehow learned about the raids in advance and moved out all the girls. But this week, the ER team tried again, with amazing results.

I'm on their texting list (which is AWESOME!) and got a text Wednesday night saying that 35 people (including 10 minors) were rescued from a dance club in India. Then an hour later, another text: "MORE! Team heard sounds coming fr wall. Broke thru & found 22 girls trapped. 56 new total now, 18 minors!" What an awesome series of texts to get!

Here's founder Matt Parker talking about the raid:
Girls Hidden Behind a Wall. (Update on raid for 56 victims) from The Exodus Road on Vimeo.

Can you imagine? Not only are you kept as a slave, raped multiple times a day, but then you're crammed behind a fake wall, all the while knowing other girls are getting rescued. Imagine, that was your life, but then you wake up Thursday morning, free. No slavery. No abuse. No rape. Just rescue. Just hope.

You can take part in funding rescue. Now til November 30th, Exodus Road is aiming to fully fund one year of rescue. They've put together four gift sets in their store to meet this goal. Or for more information about the Exodus Road and other ways you can be involved, head to their website.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Magenta Monday

Today's color was magenta. This was both easy and hard. See, nothing at work is magenta. Nothing. But practically everything in my house is. I <3 magenta. 

Except nothing in the house seemed worthy of a picture....until I climbed into bed with the final book in one of my new favorite series:

The lighting in my bedroom isn't the greatest, but I promise it's magenta. 

By the way, since I know you Hollywood big shots totally follow my blog, I'm gonna need the people who make the Avengers movies to please bring the Gallagher Girls to the big screen. Please. I don't care how old I get, I will always want to be in spy school. Not just any spy school though. Only the best: Gallagher Academy. 

And of course I'll need my own spy boyfriend like Cammie has Zach (unless Zach turns bad in this book, in which case I recant that statement.) Although, I am a grown I'll just go ahead and call dibs on Mr. Solomon. 

What book would you like to see brought to the big screen?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Falu Red

Today marks the beginning of my annual Color Week! Every year I get my Facebook friends to assign me seven colors, then I go out and photograph the most epic thing of that color I can find. Today's color had me running to Google: falu red. Here's the best falu red object I could find:
Jessie's sparkly cowgirl boots! Yay!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I just finished Visioneering: God's Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Personal Vision, by Andy Stanley and I am in love with this book! Especially because it fits right in with what my pastor has been teaching over the past few months.

Using the story of Nehemiah, Stanley walks the reader through the process of birthing a vision, from conception to finalized dream. He outlines 20 "Building Blocks" throughout the book, balancing examples from Nehemiah with real-life case studies. Every step of Visioneering is covered in this book, from "Why should I have a vision?" to "Where do I start?" and "How do I stand against these haters" and more. This book is equal parts inspiration and how-to manual. Stanley encourages you to grab hold of the vision for your life and gives you the tools to do so. Each chapter ends with a "Visioneering Project" to put into action the principles of that chapter, processing emotions and practicalities to produce a well-rounded vision.

Whether you have a specific vision already, or you want something more from life, you need to read this book. Especially if you're a fan of books like Jon Acuff's START. Add this to the Christmas list for all Dreamers and Builders in your life!

Highly Recommended
5/5 Stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

12 Signs You Were Raised in Sunday School

I am a church kid through and through. Some of my earliest memories are of church. I grew up in Sunday School and Children's Church and Rainbows and everything else there was. Because of this, I've learned that there are some signs that show you were raised in Sunday School. As all good SS kids know, 12 is the best number (except for 7, the holiest of all numbers). There were 12 tribes, 12 disciples....and now the top 12 Signs You Were Raised in Sunday School!

1) You can't find anything in the Bible without singing The Song. You know The Song. It may be different than my version of The Song, but if you're a Sunday School kid, you absolutely learned The Song at some point. Speaking of songs....

2) Most Bible verses quoted in a sermon or conversation spark a reminder of the song that helped you learn said verse. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and anyone who loves is born of God...." (You totally just sang that, didn't you?)

3) You consider a singing songbook, a living cartoon, an orange puppet, a middle-aged sherif, a living donut, a super book, and/or talking vegetables your friend. Best friends. The kind you spend Saturday mornings with, and hope the teacher shows on Sunday mornings. (You know you grew up in Children's Church when you know the names of all the references I just made.)

4) You're disappointed you no longer get snacks at church. Fishies, Nilla wafers, graham crackers, with a side of apple juice...those were the days.

5) You're disappointed current life lessons aren't taught with playdoh. Creation? Let's use playdoh! God trades our heart of stone for one of flesh? Playdoh time! Learning to pay bills? Why is there no playdoh?!

6) Flannelgraphs. It's a sad fact of life that today's youth will grow up in a Sunday School without flannelgraph. The magic of watching the story unfold with printed pieces of felt was like really being there. And when you got to be the one to put the piece on the board? Awesome.

7) You know sword drills has nothing to do with a metal weapon. I can sing The Song super my're goin' down! 

8) You would pray to not get chosen to pray in front of the class. "Don't let the teacher pick me! God, I don't mind praying. I like talking to you, but please don't make me do it in front of the other kids!"

9) You've been smacked in the eye with a palm leaf. True story. One Palm Sunday all the kids had to sing in front of the church while waving palm branches. Do you know what happens when you tell kids to stand next to each other and wave a palm branch? Things get out of control and someone will get hurt. Probably me. Let's stick to teaching them how to make those things into a cross (I still haven't been able to figure that one out!)

10) You accidentally told another kid that Santa doesn't exist. Because you've been told all your life that Santa wasn't real, and as a kid you need to always be right in front of the other kids. "I hope Santa brings me a new bicycle!" "No he won't! Santa's not real! My mom said so." *extreme crying and angry parents*

11) Now that you're grown, you wonder why a song who's only lyrics are, "I am a Christian and I have Christ in my heart and I will live eternally" takes so long to sing...or why it's so much fun to sing. Especially when followed by a song just as inexplicably titled "Father Abraham".

12) You've prayed The Prayer at least 314534 times. Just to make sure you were truly saved.

Can you relate? Share your favorite Sunday School-ism with me! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


So I'm reading this book, Visioneering by Andy Stanley. It's pretty awesome and I'll convince you to read it in my review this weekend. But it's a study in Nehemiah and it got me thinking, how cool would it be to spend a day on the wall with Nehemiah??

This guy was an awesome leader. And had so many great lines and ideas! He was respected for not just his ideas, but because his character backed up his words. Through this book, I'm learning a lot about vision and leadership. But here are a few of the many reasons I'd like to spend the day with Nehemiah.

He could've extorted from the people of Jerusalem, like all the other governors had done, but he didn't. He could've shown up and started barking orders. He had a great God-vision after all. But instead he listened to the people. He spent three days just listening and observing. He saw the needs and problems that went deeper than just a wall in need of repair. So he set about fixing those issues of injustice and inequality first. He fixed the invisible scars before repairing the obvious wounds. He earned the people's respect when he joined with their pain and shame, and helped them heal.

Even then, with the respect he had rightfully earned, he could've been the Master Overseer, the Great Delegator, and directed everyone else in the reconstruction of the wall. But no. Nehemiah, grabbed some tools, picked up a sword, and climbed up to work alongside his people to repair not just their wall, but their reputation. He never asked them to do more than he was willing to do himself.

Then there's the way he responds to his enemies. This one made me laugh when I read it. The bad guys of our story are planning to kill him, trying to trick him away from the group so they can just pick him off. Look what he says: "I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down." (Nehemiah 6:3 MSG). How great is that?! 'Sorry, this work is too important, I can't come out to play.' Such a great line! I'm going to adopt it for...reasons.

I would just really like to spend a day working on the wall with Nehemiah. Get a glimpse of his leadership and sense of vision in person.

What Bible personality would you like to spend the day with?

By the way, my friend Asheley Clark makes some pretty great music, including this song based on Nehemiah that you should check out. I couldn't find an embed-able version. (Ashe, if this song exists in a Youtube or better format somewhere, let me know. This is all my Googling could reveal.)

7 Reasons The Apple Store is Like Church

This post was originally going to be "What The Church Can Learn From the Apple Store", but that's been done by people way smarter than me. Plus, it's late. So it has transformed itself. I present to you:

7 Reasons The Apple Store is Like Church*

1) Greeting: You are immediately welcomed by super-smiley people when entering both, and often feel let down and confused if no one is there to greet you. If they're really on the ball, the greeter will direct you to the staff member/ministry leader who can best meet your needs and give you a personal introduction.

2) Recognizable Symbols: Walk into the Apple Store and you will see the famous Apple all over. Walk into church and you see the cross, maybe a dove...with fire, if you're lucky.

3) Something for All Ages: Apple has a product or software for every age and the training on how to use it, making it perfect for all ages. Kids will intuitively pick it up and know how to do anything, while older adults can sit down at the Genius Bar and learn what they need to know. Church may not have a genius bar, but if it's a holy church, they'll have a coffee bar, and that's pretty close. But in any event, a good church will have ministries and groups for every age group, nursery to seniors. Everyone receives at their level.

4) Uncomfortable Seating: The only seating you'll find at Apple is the hard stools in the instructional area. Otherwise, you're standing. And do I really have to tell you about the comfort level of pews or 60-year-old theatre seating?

5) Jargon: Applese and Christianese are so fine-tuned they could be considered secret code! It all sounds like crazy-speak...until you join the crowd and suddenly understand it all.

6) Provides Access to a New World: The moment you join Apple or the Church, you gain access to a new dimension. You start seeing things in a whole new way and wonder how you ever lived without [iPhone/Jesus]. Things are clearer, decisions are easier, and you're more connected with the people around you. Life changes and you are never going back.

7) A Very Dedicated Following: Whether following the Messiah or the Mac, Christians and Apple-nerds are undoubtedly committed to their belief in the One True Way. You can try to persuade them otherwise, but they know the Truth and will not be swayed.

Did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?

*This list has been created at midnight. This is in no way deep or spiritual. It is meant to be silly and make us laugh at ourselves a little bit. And to give me something to do as I unwind after work.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

As Cool As Lincoln With a Machine Gun Riding a Bear

Jon Acuff posted this on his Facebook today with the caption, "Dear Monday, I'm coming at the week like this. You've been warned."
I'm adopting it. I have a bunch of things I've been putting off, and this week is the week to get them done! Watch out, Monday!

I've started early. Last night I completed my first Christmas present (my brother's). And today I ran the Doctor Who Virtual 5K with my friends! Look at our smiley, shiny faces at the start of the run:

At the finish line, my brother did the honors of bestowing upon me the Coolest Race Medal Ever:
Look, K9! Look, a Sonic Screwdriver! Look, the TARDIS! Look, Gallifreyan! And it says, "Basically, run"!!! Awesome-sauce.

What kind of awesomeness do you have going on this week?

Friday, November 8, 2013

12 Years a Slave

I thought I was just going to go out for dinner tonight. But my dinner date decided she didn't feel like dinner, she wanted to see a movie. She really wanted to see 12 Years a Slave, and I'm always down to learn more about slavery, so I looked it up and found a theatre near us, and off we went. Before we left, I didn't really know anything about this movie, except it was about slavery. I watched the trailer before I left the house (and was very excited to see that Benedict Cumberbatch was in it!!). Here's the trailer:

This movie is incredible. The cinematography is unlike most movies in that they give you so much silence and stillness. They give you time to process and absorb the emotions of each gruesome, graphic scene. And believe me, there are plenty of hard-to-watch moments.

Movies like this always make me angry that this kind of evil has happened...then it makes me even more angry to think it's still happening. Maybe it's not as public or accepted as it was back then, but slavery is still a very real thing in our world. There are more slaves in the world at this moment than there were in all the years leading up to the emancipation of the late nineteenth century.

That kills me! While it's impossible to know how I would have reacted if I lived back then, I like to think I wouldn't have sat quietly by while so many people were brutalized. And if I wouldn't have allowed it to happen back then, how can I allow it to happen now?

There's no easy answer to that. The issue of modern-day slavery, of human trafficking is so much bigger than any one person can understand or combat. Nearly every part of life in today's world is impacted by slavery. There are layers of economic and relational problems that contribute to the reality of human trafficking. Nearly 30 million men, women, and children enslaved as I type this. It's impossible for one person to make that all disappear.

But that's okay. Because my one person is determined to take action. And my one person can join with your one person. Then we two people can join with another two, until we are a big, strong force for freedom in the world. One person can make a difference, but many people working together can turn the world upside down.

It takes one decision. One choice to not sit quietly while others suffer. To take action when you get the chance. I promise that when you decide to take action, the opportunity will present itself. Learn about the issues in this world, and find your action to help end the horrors of human trafficking. Because no one should be enslaved.

For more information, check out some of these sites:

Pseudo Doubles

Wow. I'm really not doing so hot with NaBloWriMo this year! I think because I don't want to just write silly boring "Today I did..." posts. And not much exciting has happened this week, except what I've already told you about!

Today was alright. I ran six miles this morning (go me!), the furthest yet. It was also my slowest average pace ever because I just wasn't feeling it. But I did it, so that's something. In the rain, no less. And my pace was just under what it needs to be for Disney, so now I know that even if I'm having a bad day like today, I won't be picked up by the loser train. (You have to maintain a 16:00 mile avg. Today's run was a 15:30. Cutting it super close.)

After lunch and a nap, I worked the 3-11 shift. It was a bit crazy, as we have some very sick people at the moment. I got report/count an hour late because day shift was so insane, and I didn't leave until midnight because I had to catch up on the paperwork I didn't touch during my shift (everything else was done at a decent time, though. Just non-stop moving.)

And now, after the busy shift and getting out late, I get to go back for 7am! Aren't I so lucky? And I'll be on the exact same unit/cart that I had tonight. I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

Pros: I know what's going on with everyone. I made my cheat sheet before I left. I can make sure everything is followed up in the AM.
Cons: It'll feel like I never left. It's crazy with all my little sickies and should-be-hospice-ers.

The biggest problem with these "Pseudo Doubles" as I like to call them, is the lack of quality sleep. Especially tonight, I didn't leave work til 12am. Then by the time I get home, get comfy, unwind a bit (especially needed after a night like tonight), maybe have a snack, it's at least 1am. That gives me 5 hours to sleep. Less if I plan to shower. Ugh. I like sleep. Guess I'll have to trade it for a breakfast Coke tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When Did I Become a Grown-Up??

Okay, so I know I'm technically a grown-up. I know I lead a ministry, pay taxes, own a car, and pay bills and things. I know when I go to work people's lives literally depend on me. But still. When did I become a real grown-up?

I mean, I'm just starting to accept the fact that people I went to school with are married with kids. That younger classmates now have multiple children. Meanwhile, I spent this past Sunday with my best friends buying and wearing wigs, playing with empty B.B. guns, and yelling at the TV while eating grilled cheese. (And it was AWESOME, by the way. I was the pirate Captain Calliope Blackwater)
[Photo Cred: Kathryn]
(Don't mind my gums...I have no idea what I was doing with my mouth...growling, maybe?)

Then today I go to a meeting and learn that someone I was in youth group with just wrote a book. His second book. He's also an assistant professor, has been in Forbes and Bloomberg's BusinessWeek, and speaks around the country (including "little" events like SXSW and TEDx).

Guys, I have a picture of this dude when his hair was Highlighter Yellow. Somewhere in my house is a beautiful poem he wrote...about the need to pee. I distinctly remember a youth group ride in the back of a camper, singing songs, then listening to him quote said pee poem before talking about some deep thing I didn't understand. And now he's a big fancy business man, inspiring others with his presentations on leadership and innovation.

I know he's a few years older than I am, but seriously? How am I old enough to have peers doing stuff like that? Anyways, congrats on your new book! Now I'm off to plan a big world-takeover of my own....from my blanket fort (NOT to be confused with a pillow fort. Don't be silly. A blanket fort is much more serious.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Too Wonderful

This was an interesting morning! (And yes, I am aware I've already missed a day of NaBloWriMo. Too bad.) I wound up teaching the 1st-3rd grade class today, a little by surprise, so I went in early to prepare my lesson. The lesson was on prayer, using the story of Samson's parents as the example. Which was fun, because Sunday School curriculums usually start Samson's story after his birth, not before. So as I read read the text in Judges 13, two things jumped out at me.


The first was when the couple asks the angel his name. He replies with, "Why do you ask my name?...It is too wonderful for you to understand." (Judges 13:17-18). Imagine that. The name of the angel is too wonderful for  a human to understand. Makes me want to know what it is! But it also got me thinking about names.

Names in the Bible always have significance, much more than we tend to place on names now. There's always a meaning, a purpose to a person's name. And we see in the Bible so many instances of God changing a person's name after they encounter Him. And we see prophets giving specific names to their children to make a point about the Lord. But what about us? Yes, we have names given to us by our parents, but I believe there is also a special, wonderful name that God calls us. Something unique to who we are, something too wonderful for us to understand. And maybe that's why, after encountering the Lord in a powerful and unusual way, we see so many Bible figures change their names.

Think about Simon. After meeting Jesus, his name is changed to Peter, meaning Rock, because he will play a role in establishing the Kingdom of  God on Earth. Prior to following Jesus, such a name change would be incomprehensible. The name would be too wonderful for Simon to understand, to marvelous a destiny to comprehend. But after knowing Jesus, and serving Him so closely, Simon Peter was sure he would never leave Jesus. He was able to understand the new name, even if he wasn't fully living up to it yet.

I believe God has the same for us. That He has a special name, a significant calling for each one of us waiting to be revealed when the time comes that we will be able to understand it. What a powerful thought that the God of the universe has a special name for me! A special message for the world, through me!

I know I said I had two things, but that took longer than I expected it to, and I'm tired! Plus, I have to be up early tomorrow for work. So that's all you get for tonight! Tune in tomorrow, and I'll try to remember to share the other part!

What do you think about this? Do you see names as simply identifiers, or do you see them as a calling and destiny?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five Fire Trucks

It's the start of NaBloWriMo!! Woot woot! And boy, have I got a story for you.

I was supposed to work today at 7am. I only have a 3 minute commute, so I don't usually get up before 6 for work. So today, I roll out of bed at about ten past, and stumble upstairs to start my day (I should mention, I don't wake up well. It takes me a while, and my family knows that if they try to talk to me within 20 minutes of waking up, I probably won't respond.) So I open the door into the kitchen, and my mom immediately asks, "Do you smell that?" Umm....yes? What's burning. "I have no idea." we look around the house, can't find anything. No one has cooked anything yet, except to start the coffee. The rubbery, burning-mechanical stench kept getting stronger, and was the strongest next to the front door. Not in the kitchen. Not in the rest of the house, just super strong at the front door. So, we call the fire department who tells us to evacuate the house. So as I was walking out the door, I called work to say I wouldn't be in on time, if at all. Then this happened:
(Sorry for the poor quality. Phone. Dark. Early.)

We had five fire engines, the fire chief, and two police cars outside our house at 6:30am. While they searched our house with their noses and fancy infrared scanners, we stood outside and made Instagram videos. What else were we supposed to do outside in the dark in our pajamas?

After a little bit, they came out and said there's nothing. They figure there must've been something on the stove when we put the coffee on, but otherwise everything was fine. Except it reeked. By the end we could smell it in the driveway. So, since we couldn't stomach being in the house, we went for breakfast! Yummm.....Owl Diner :)

When we could finally get back in the house to get dressed and everything, I called work, but they didn't need me anymore. Someone who was supposed to be off showed up and I got a free day off. Which was really good because I was exhausted. After a nap, my sister and I went out shopping, just to keep us busy til bedtime. In the process, I found what I would like for Christmas, please:

Yup, that's a plush Eleventh Doctor. And he talks. And his screwdriver lights up and makes the vvvvrrrrrrrr noise. Plus his hair. His hair is what I imagine David Tennant's hair to be like. He's amazing.

So, there you have it. My crazy day. How was your day?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Time I Got Rad

September's adventure was so great! 

We drove down to Seekonk, sat in traffic, and made it just in time for our corral to start at the Color Me Rad 2013 event! What a BLAST!

This is our Before Picture. Notice the very white shirts? Color Me Rad is a 5K run where along the course they throw colored powder (and occasionally liquid) at you, like this:

Now, I've mentioned before that my friend and I signed up for a half marathon. Because we're crazy. So this was a nice intro to organized racing (even though it wasn't a race. It wasn't even timed.) But, it was hotter than I usually run in. And I learned that eating breakfast at 6:30am, when you don't start running til 10am is a bad idea. At least for me. It was a very tough run in that sense since I was basically running on empty. But I made it! It was so exciting to see the finish line come into view:

We got a little separated from each other in the last color pit, so we didn't finish together, but we all finished!! And then we walked back to get a finish line shot. I love this picture. 

Once we finished (and doused each other with additional color), I don't think was there any white left on our shirts. My glasses were covered, there was color in my ears and nose, and I had nice little colorful sweat rainbows at my elbows...and I couldn't have been prouder! 

After the run, we rubbed off as much as we could and went to the mall in our finisher t-shirts. And somehow we must look like respectable grown-ups now, because even though we were sweaty and colorful, the man at Tiffany's still offered to let us try on the diamond rings! It's probably a good thing we didn't go in to the store like we did to the Color Me Rad Color Blast:

This was such an awesome event and I would highly reccommend it! It's designed to be a fun event, so anyone can do it! There were people in wheelchairs and moms with strollers. Definitely a really really fun time that you should do if you have the chance! This may be my favorite picture from the day, my first-ever completed organized run:

Sadly, Color Me Rad doesn't have medals, but they do send e-badges:

I am a finisher!! WOO HOOO!!!

Anyone ever do Color me Rad or something similar? How'd you like it?

Friday, October 4, 2013

"The Exodus Road"

It's Freedom Friday! 

And today's post is both a book review and a post about The Exodus Road. See, the founders just wrote a book! And it's currently on sale!

Amazing things can happen when ordinary people say yes to a powerful God. Such is the story of Laura and Matt Parker (is it weird that I've been reading about them online for so long I kinda feel like I know them in real life? Anyways.....) In this short book, Laura recounts their journey from average family to abolitionist heroes.

As missionaries in SE Asia, the Parker's come face-to-face with the evils of human trafficking and realize they can't sit silently while children and innocent people are being harmed.  But what can two average people do to fight such a dark, overwhelming crime? Through research and God's leading, the Parker's team up with other activists in the area and begin entering brothels, seeking out those who need rescue. Soon they form The Exodus Road coalition, "a road to leave slavery and bondage".

The book goes on to describe how The Exodus Road quickly grew from an idea to an organization active in several countries, with nearly 200 rescues to date. This group is on the front lines, facilitating rescue in the darkest, seediest places in the world, and this book is the story of how it all started. It's simple, honest, and a great insight into how sometimes the extraordinary is started with a very ordinary family.

I've been following Laura's blog since just before the Exodus Road was formed. I've watched this organization grow into something so powerful and I am impressed with not only the organization, but also with the Parkers. These people are real-life role heroes doing the dirty work of rescue. They are humble, and loving, and are doing things I haven't seen from other organizations. One of my favorite things is getting a text from them. They send texts whenever a raid is about to happen, or has just happened. Few things are more exciting than a text saying a brothel was raided and 89 women were set free. My only complaint about this book? I wanted it to be longer!

Want to get a copy of this book for yourself? Laura has the links in this blog post. More information on The Exodus Road and how to get involved can be found on their website.

Definitely check out this book, and find your way to get involved in the fight against human trafficking.
5/5 Stars

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