July 18, 2010

Human/Sex Trafficking

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 11:19 pm by Tamara

I’ve started doing research lately on human and sex trafficking.  The knowledge that children are forced into slavery and prostitution not only around the world, but in the UNITED STATES, shocks and infuriates me.  In fact, Atlanta, Georgia, just a few hours from here, is one of the top three cities for sex trafficking in the world.  Statistics show that there are more people in slavery today than ever in history, and yet we act like this ended with the Civil War.

I don’t know yet what I’m supposed to do about this, but I know I’m supposed to do something.  We’re commanded to “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), and that command is just as real today as when it was first spoken.  So for now I’m researching, praying, and planning to speak out what I learn–and praying for courage to do whatever God tells me to do next.

“ Tolerate not evil against humanity.  And when thee is powerless to do anything else, speak with vigor.  Protest!”

—Daniel Anthony, father of Susan B. Anthony

June 19, 2010

True Story in a Bookstore

Posted in Water Droplets tagged , , at 3:46 pm by Tamara

We get all sorts of strange requests at the bookstore I work at, people who saw a book a year ago on the shelf by the window and can’t remember its title or author or what it was about…and want us to find it for them.  Most of the time they’re nice, and it’s a rewarding treasure hunt if we can semi-miraculously find what they’re talking about.  One particular story stands out to me, though.

Right before Christmas I asked a 40-something year old man in a business suit if I could help him find anything.  He rubbed a hand on the back of his neck and hesitated for a second before saying,

“Well, I have kind of a weird request.  I’m looking for a book, and I don’t remember the title of it.  My mom just passed away, and she was reading it.”

I told him I was so sorry, he thanked me and offered a few more details about the book.  “I think the author was a man; it had a picture of a man on the back, and the cover was blue.  I think it was a New York Times Bestseller.”

That was enough information for me to know where to start, so I walked him over to a shelf and picked up a Nicholas Sparks book with a misty blue cover.

“This one, maybe?”

“Oh my goodness,” he said softly, reaching for it.  “That’s it.  She was reading it when she passed away.  I wanted to give a copy to each of my siblings.”

It was then that the title of the book hit me and I couldn’t stop a soft exclamation of “Oh!”  He looked at me as I covered my mouth, not wanting to state the obvious poignancy.  I’d never read the book and had no idea what it was about, but it seemed a surreal book to be reading during your last few days with your family.  He still had a confused look, and at last I managed, “The title….”

He looked down at the book again, and realization dawned.  He breathed a little laugh and shook his head.  “Wow.  That didn’t even occur to me.”   He was quiet for a minute, smiling a soft, sad smile.  “Thank you so much,” he told me.  “This means a lot.  I can’t believe we found it.”

I smiled, told him I was so glad to help, that my husband’s grandmother had just passed away and we were grieving too.   He smiled back and thanked me again, told me again how much it meant, and walked away with five copies in his arms: one for each sibling, a small memento of their mother and her last days.

The book was called The Last Song.

April 27, 2010

Really, God?

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , , at 10:20 pm by Tamara

Sometimes I really think I know where God is going with things.  His power is so obvious, His control over the situation so seamless.  Take the story of how God delivers the Israelites from Egypt.  God needs a leader, so He miraculously arranges for a baby boy to be rescued and adopted by none other than Pharaoh’s daughter.  I see where He’s going with this!  Who better to free the Israelites than Pharaoh’s own grandson, who just happens to be an Israelite himself?  It’s perfect!  Moses just grows up, becomes pharaoh, sets the Israelites free, and rules all of Egypt.  Isn’t it so amazing how God can put people in powerful positions in order to have them do His will?

Pause.  What?  Moses commits murder?  Pharaoh orders him killed?  Moses runs for his life, leaving his wealth, his power, his position?

What?

I’ve had some “what?” moments with God before.  I think I know the track He’s rumbling my life along, and then—WHAM—everything gets derailed.  Without warning, Moses goes from a life where he was probably learning political strategy, forging alliances, using wealth, and dreaming of how God might use him to deliver his people.  And then suddenly, he’s sitting at a dirty, dusty well in the backwoods, where no one respects him and he’s constantly looking over his shoulder in fear.  Everything is lost.  To add insult to injury, his solitude is cruelly interrupted by the jangling, jostling, bleating sounds of a smelly herd of sheep plowing their way towards him.  Not only that, but they’re being shepherded by the daughters of a pagan priest.  Great.

Moses watches them fill their water troughs, wishing they’d hurry up and finish so he can be left in peace again.  And then the shepherds come—big, burly, dirty men who start harassing the girls and shoving them away from the well.

Now, to be perfectly honest here, I’m not sure I would have done anything.  I can physically feel how depressed, worthless, afraid, and abandoned I would be feeling at this point.  All my big dreams of doing great things for God are gone.  The most important thing in front of me is a well and some idol-worshipper’s sheep?  I have a sad feeling I might have just gotten up and walked away.  What’s the point of doing something so small when I failed at something so big?  But Moses doesn’t walk away.  Exodus 2:17 says he did two things: “Moses stood up and helped them.”

Moses made a huge mistake in Egypt.  I can remember times I’ve wondered if I have too, and if I’ve completely messed up God’s plan.  Or sometimes it just seems like God has plunked me in the middle of nowhere for no reason.  But He still challenges me to 1) Get up, and 2) Do what He’s put in front of me (Ex. 2:17).  No matter how small it is.  No matter how far gone I feel.  No matter how powerless I feel.  I have no way of knowing what wonderful things God might do through my obedience.

I don’t always get God.  I “think” that I think in big terms, have big dreams, lofty goals, careful plans:

“God, couldn’t You make me president so I can DO something about this?”

“Oh, if only I was a famous movie star, I’d share the Gospel with everyone.”

“I can’t wait to be on the mission field so I can make an eternal impact.”

Those aren’t bad dreams, per se, but it seems like God doesn’t often work that way.  In my case, He’s taken me from being heavily involved in multiple ministries to working a retail job.  Really, God?  Are you sure?

Have you ever had one of those moments?  Ever felt powerless to impact anything?  Ever stared down at that exploding baby diaper, or at the piles of paper covering your desk at work, or at the five page study guide for that test, or at the notice about your layoff, and said, “Really, God?  This is my life?  This is what You’ve given me to work with?”  Don’t get me wrong–I’m enjoying life right now, but it doesn’t seem very spectacular, or like there are many life-changing moments in it.

“Really, God?  A smelly herd of sheep, and pagan shepherd girls?”

“Yes, Moses.”

In the end of the story, God’s plan was infinitely more incredible than where I would have gone with it.  A vision of God in a burning bush?  One of those shepherd girls becomes his wife, and saves his and his son’s lives?  Miraculous powers, signs, and plagues?  The entire Egyptian army being wiped out?  Wow.  But the really impressive half of Moses’ story starts with him just showing compassion and watering a flock of sheep.  Just like Moses’ story, I think the story God’s writing for me—and you—will be more incredible than we imagine.  And it, too, will probably start with obedience in a lot of small things.  We just need to get up, do what He’s put in front of us, and trust Him for the rest.

July 16, 2009

The Upside

Posted in Watermarks in Progress tagged , , , , at 5:03 pm by Tamara

http://www.comune.venezia.it/flex/images/Gallery/D.d7d119dc8f79a29fd98a/Quaderno_a_112_folgi_in_formato_A5_o_A6___112_page_blank_book_in_A5_and_A6_formats.jpg

I’ve written about a lot of the struggles of my current “blank page between chapters” (as my friend and mentor Natalie called this stage in life). I think I’m drawn to write about struggles because I like wrestling with them and trying to learn from them. But there have been a lot of enjoyable things about being in a time of limbo. Here’s a few (in no particular order):

I commented to my mother-in-law the other day that I’ve never been so available to help out with random things. I think in the midst of all the business and the drive-to-accomplish that I usually thrive on, I’ve lost a lot of my sense of compassion. I’ve learned (pretty well) how to guard my time, “saying no so that I can say yes to other things,” but that’s meant that I’ve said no to a LOT of unexpected, practical needs the people around me have. But suddenly I have very little reason to say no! The result has been helping with a lot of things I usually just wouldn’t have the time (or the compassion?) to help with. Helping several friends pack, clean, paint, move, etc, for example. I’m currently pet-sitting one fish, two birds, and a cat, for another example. I’m surprised I haven’t been babysitting. Anyone need a babysitter?

It’s nice to have so much time to be in the Word and in prayer, and no excuse not to be. Granted, I should probably be spending MORE time in the Word, but I’ve enjoyed having more time than usual. I would think that down time would naturally increase the amount of time I spend with God, but it doesn’t always. Sometimes knowing I have “all day” to get around to Bible study means I never get around to it. But I’ve determined not to let that happen, and it’s been nice. I’ve been reading in the Old Testament, which I don’t do as often as I should. I’ve just felt a drive to understand GOD better—how He works, what He does, how He acts/reacts to things, etc., so that drove me to the Old Testament. Another perk of where I’ve been reading is that they’re stories, which draws me to want to read just one more chapter…. There are so many things God does in those stories that I don’t understand. I want to know Him better.

I get a massive thrill of exhilaration when I see my list of “Books I’ve Read This Year” grow, and there’s been a significant growth spurt lately. I just finished Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace by the Ricucci’s, Holy Available by Gary Thomas, Emma by Austen and The Enclave by Karen Hancock. Now I’m reading Glocalization by Roberts, Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible by Farah and Braun, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Scazzero, Plot by Dibel and Romans Verse by Verse by Newell. Plenty to keep my head spinning.

I also just accepted an internship at my church! That’s pretty exciting. My job at the moment is to research how to connect and involve women in missions, even if they can’t go overseas themselves. I’m supposed to have a proposal of ideas ready to present to the church in September. It’s a very exciting opportunity! I welcome any practical ideas you might have. How do you help people catch the vision for missions AND get involved in it?

And last but not least, have you noticed my proliferation of blog posts? You may consider that a blessing or a curse. Not sure which….