Friday, February 26, 2010

Show Us How You Live: What Do You Collect?

 Show Us Your Life with Kelly's Korner

Over at Kelly's Corner blog, a blog carnival is being hosted! This week's topic?  
What do you collect?

 So I'm not a hoarder, but I cant remember a time when I didnt have a weird collection going on. How about the mini eraser collection I had? Or clover grass from the back yard because it was pretty. Or intense amount of horse everything. Well, I threw all that crap out, and kind of developed a phrase:

One thing that my collections won't collect: dust.  

Magnets. I dont know how people cant love magnets. They are a fun addition to every refridgerator, and can express a multitude of things, as well as being useful to hold things up, and remind you of fun memories. I have collected magnets from everywhere in the world I've been, from Buffalo to Moscow, Gatorland in Florida, to Athens Greece to Hawaii. I have over 25 magnets. Here is a small pic of my fridge for you all to see.

My two favorites are the Buffalo, from Buffalo, and the cracked plate from Greece (which cracked because it fell on the floor ten times! but makes it look ancient and authentic haha).

 Books. Lets just say I was raised a reader. Ever since reading The Junkyard Dog and Saddle Club books as a kid, Ive been tearing up pages ever since. Also worked at a library for 3 years, which was the best time of my life. (I am the master of Dewey Decimal)

Pretty sure there's over a thousand books on my bookshelves, a vast collection generally made up of nonfiction. Me and my nonfiction =true love. I would read them all again for sure.

Lastly, I'd like to mention my small but hopefully growing collection of "destination" art, art work that is focused on a city or destination. For example, my beautiful old map of Block Island, Rhode Island. Sure it only costs 50 cents and it got wrinkled on the ferry ride, but its so cool! Also, my colorful rendering of Moscow! A little more pricey, but completely worth it.
  The last piece I have is a sketched drawing of Paris. I got it while hanging out in the Charles De Gaulle airport on the way back from Greece.

Anyone else collect anything good? 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

How to: Pray for Missionaries

Taken from MissioMishmash, "How To Pray For Missionaries" click here for expanded version.

Is there more to missionary intercession than “Lord, please bless all the missionaries”?

 Much missionary prayer is shallow. Yet prayer is a vital part in the fulfillment of the Lord’s Great Commission. Every Christian should be involved in world evangelism through faithful, biblically based prayer. Here are some suggestions (of ways to pray for a missionary) I think will empower your intercession:  
  • Love for God. .
  •  Genuine love for others.  
  •  A deeper relationship with God.  
  •  Vital, supportive home churches and individuals who are willing to pray fervently and faithfully. 
  •  The supply of financial need.  
  •  Cultural adjustment. 
  •  Protection from Satan’s attacks. 
  •  Single life. 
  •  Fruitfulness.  
  •  A sense of urgency
  •  Health and strength. 
  •  Specific ministry needs. 

It is so exciting to be on the brink of something crazy beautiful. Lately I have learned what a global God we serve!

Hope this list helps you in your prayers for all the missionaries you know=)
Check the expanded version for some more indepth tips.

Leaving for Russia tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do You Date or Use Chop Sticks?

This topic of dating and relating is relevant to mostly everyone. I was spurred to write the following blog post by a fellow rhodey blogger (Check out his blog if you would like: Click Here.) provoking some questions about how we teach the topic in church or youth group. Do we tell people not to date? The bible is silent on the specific issue of "dating" or "courtship" and it made me think. So here is my response.

The debate between dating vs courtship vs who knows what else is kind of like debating between using a fork vs using chopsticks. They both get us to the end goal, some maybe a little cleaner and neater, others depend on social/cultural norms, but it gets the food to the mouth. So that’s not really the debate. The debate is what is the point of that action? The point is to get the food to the mouth the most efficient way possible (efficient = god honoring?). So we know we don’t want to throw it across the room, and we know we don’t want to dump the food in the garbage or burn it in a pot so you have nothing left to eat, or stab someone in the face with our forks.

Anyways, the point is: what is the point of dating or courtship? The point is a godly marriage (or to realize that you aren suitable partners). Marriage is a sacred institution established by God for the primary purpose of bringing Him glory. It’s main purpose is not, as some think, to procreate, or to have companionship, or to fulfill sexual needs. No. It’s primary purpose is to bring glory and honor to God. It is outward focused, for God’s glory, not inward centered, for our comfort. (thank you for that agreeable definition).

It’s kind of silly to bash dating or courtship, because they are just the means to the goal, and both can obviously be used and abused.

I think the way to address it this whole topic to teach about godly marriage and relationships first and foremost. Why even use the words “dating” or “courtship?” We should never even have a talk about dating without including a discussion on marriage.

Did you ever play those ice breaker games where everyone gets all these ingredients, and their friend has to tell them step by step how to get to the end goal, but they don’t necessarily know what the end goal is, and by the time they are done following all these messy directions they just have a sloppy pile of bread and gook? Wouldn’t be easier if we started out by telling them what the end goal was supposed to be about, and clearly defining it? “You are making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a sandwich is two slices of bread with the condiments in the middle.” I think their end product would be more on track than the other guy.

So we should first teach about what is a healthy and God honoring marriage. Straight up, thorough, Biblical theology about it. After that, we teach Christian grace and living, being involved in a healthy local church, spiritual disciplines, holiness, honoring God, being salt and life, missions, having good Christian friends, all that good stuff.

So now people know the clear end goal: biblical marriage, and they know how to live like someone who has been saved. I think that’s where we can now step in and give them even clearer guidelines that are pumped with grace: Stay pure. Consult elders and fellow church members and family for wisdom. Ask yourself “will this relationship glorify God.” Am I being intentional and selfless towards this person? Am I cultivating a relationship that is moving towards a marriage that will showcase the wonderful love that Christ has for the church?

After that, explain Christian freedom. Some people like to cut the crust off of their bread. Others like to toast their bread, or use crunchy peanut butter, that’s cool too. If someone can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, without slicing off their thumb or burning the toast, then we have accomplished our goal.

If we have faithfully taught correct theology to people who are passionate about God, I don’t see how they would want to do anything other than honor God in their relationships and strive for his purposes, and they will see that being unequally yoked isn’t even an option. Steven Patton, from the aforementioned blog, said that pastor’s should not teach from a personal perspective that has been swayed by emotions or situations, but strive to teach biblical truth, and I one hundred percent agree.

I’m not a skilled professional on the topic. But that’s what I think. (sorry for all the ridiculous and terrible analogies… haha.)

What do you think? Should we just kiss dating good bye, should we applaud courtship, or should we embrace a method that is simply biblical?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Little Photo Essay

AhhHHhhHH! My mind is spinning out of control. So many things. So little time. 4 days until departure! What's a girl to do!

Oh, maybe I will learn how to knit? Haha this evenning I went over to my lovely friend Jen's house for a simple tutorial on the art of knitting. I bought this delightful yarn and she taught me the ways. In the picture above is the scarf I am making! Whew! Look at that progress in one night. Although, Im kind of experiencing a knitting crisis! Knit, perl, knit, perl, knit, perl, I dont know what happened but something went awry! AHH!

Hmm, maybe I will try Sushi! Sunday after church everyone was invited to Sakura Japanese restaurant on Wickenden St. for some exceptional delightful food/"not really going away" party! I had never been there before but was inspired by my travelicious co-worker to check it out. Let me just tell you, that crab sushi above: de-freakin-licious. Under ten bucks for a whole plate of sushi plus soup and salad? I will be making my way here again. Dan, Kim, Alon, Hannah, Leeta, Melissa, Otto, and I headed over and had a fun time hanging out and trying some new cuisine. Hannah is leaving third trimester as well for a co-op, sad!

Or, maybe I will go for a walk around Providence! This weekend Hannah slept over. It was a great time, and I am GLAD she did. Let me tell you, living with your best friends is like having a fun sleep over every night, and add some more friends into the mix, and its simply a delight. (She brings nail polish too, cant complain about that!) After getting home from church and Sakura; Kim, Hannah, and I took a walk from Smith Hill to Federal Hill to the Providence Place Mall. We ended up at Border's and enjoyed some nice Ice Chai tea. I recommend it. (but not really- its too expensive.)

And that's where I bought this doozy, which is what brings us to real time, right now, as we speak. Its a mini Russian/English dictionary, and while it looks small, you turn it over and its about 3 inches thick, atleast. For the past six months Ive been taking Russian language classes at JWU, but never bought a dictionary? Am I on crack? Maybe a little, maybe Im just too good at getting by. Sigh. My final exam is tomorrow morning, (who knows what it will really be about- my teacher is one confused human being) and this little buddy has been quite helpful in studying. Glad I bought it, cant wait to use it for real!

And thats been my life recently. Maybe Thursday night I will get to this packing shenanigan:
(cant travel without Craisins now can we!)

Hope you enjoyed my photo essay=)
Have a good one!

Friday, February 19, 2010

"What's all this junk mail?"

So after a short term couch surfing session last night with my friend Jake's sister and her friend, I wanted to wake up really early and bid them farewell. But when I woke up at 6am, they had already left! Whoa. After realizing I had woken up and was full of energy, I decided to check my email. At first I just scanned the inbox for important/business/ personal emails from people I know. But as I was filtering through the spam, I wondered out loud "What's all this random garbage junk mail in russian?" I wondered to myself where I had signed up for russian junk mail, or if some how spammers in Russia had gotten ahold of my account name. It almost got deleted. But then, because of the grace of God, I decided to check into it further, and guess what....

IT WAS MY LETTER OF INVITATION from the Russian Government!

You should see the expression plastered on my face when I realized that a bajillion of prayers were answered and now there is still a chance to go to Russia with the rest of my team from Johnson and Wales. I had come to terms with not getting to travel with them, but going a week later. (that would have been sad). You know, it still might happen like that, but I know that God is good and His plans are above mine.

So thank you for praying everyone. In the next hour I will be overnighting all my paper work to Houston Texas where it will get processed and ideally shipped back to me with a Visa attached to it by February 26th! Continue to pray that it wont get delayed in the mail, but will arrive right on time=)

Thanks again!
picture from last years trip of the kids doing a fun lesson in church

Monday, February 15, 2010

Letter of Invitation: Please Pray

HELP! I need ya'lls prayers.
In order to go to Russia for three months for the purposes that I am going for, there is a government process that takes place and it's kind of complicated:
  1. I have to request a Letter of Invitation (LOI) from the Russian Baptist Union (RBU)
  2. They have to send it to the Russian government for approval
  3. The Government sends it back to the RBU
  4. The RBU sends the LOI to me
  5. I send the LOI to a passport agency that will help me apply for my visa (2-4 days)
  6. The Passport agency sends it back to me, and I can head to Russia! (3-5 days)
Well, because of certain time restrictions (You can only apply for the visa within 30 days of departure), I am only on part 2 right now. I actually started the process a little bit early, late December, and its taking a lot longer than expected. My supervisor said that last year, the Russian government had a time when they just randomly didn't respond to any LOI for 45 days! With absolutely no explanation.

With only 10 days to go, things are getting down to the wire. Number 4 requires e-mail, which is a fast process obviously, but the rest of the journey is by snail mail, which could bring this final visa to me the day before I leave, Lord willing.

If you could please pray for me, I really would love to be able to get on the plane with my team and not get delayed because of this nonsense. Please pray for this LOI to come through asap so I can get my visa. God will be the ultimate controller of my LOI and we need HIM to come through and work out this timetable! Other than that – I can only trust God & it's His agenda if it doesn’t come through like it is supposed to.

Thank you so much for your support.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Valentines Day Prayer

Love is patient, love is kind.
Lord please help me to have patience when dealing with all sorts of people. I want to be kind, even when there is no gratitude or acknowledgement. And I want to be creatively kind at that. Thank you for your kindness in my life.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
Help me to look at my brother or sister and wish them well, not wish for what they have, or proclaim useless platitudes in order to have them think better of me. Help me to be humble and encouraging. Help me to see that I am not better than anyone, but just another sinner saved by your redeeming grace.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
I do not want to be rude or hurtful. Please help me to stop and listen, rather than to jump in and speak. I want to only seek after the other persons benefits, and shove down my own. I want to have self control, a disciplined mind that will be laid back and loving, not quick to become offended or angered. I want to forgive and forget. Even if they hurt me 77x777 times, I want to forgive them.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
And sometimes the truth is not sexy.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I desire to protect hearts, to protect reputations. I hope to trust always, giving the benefit of the doubt. I want to be able to hope for the good, and always persevere through the bad with my friends.

Love never fails.
God I thank you that you are love. And I thank you that you never fail me. I hope and pray that I also do not fail those that I love, but I also ask for you to give both them and I mercy and grace for when I do.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (New King James Bible)

As this Valentine's Day of 2010 comes to fruition, I hope that we think of greater things... Not about the candy or the heart socks that our grandparents buy us, the romantic dinners, or the cards from friends. But we think of deeper things.

"How can I love greater?"
I love my friend more by being slow to anger when he angers me.
I love my dad better when I seek to keep no record of his wrongs.
I can love my boyfriend/girlfriend better by striving to protect their hearts and their purity.
I can love strangers better by not delighting in evil, but seeking to rejoice in the truth, which sometimes isnt popular or easy.

Also, "how can I love God better?" Maybe by cutting out some of the crap that we strangle ourselves in and realizing the truth that He will never fail us, and He is love, so feel free to insert His name whereever love appears.

Which means that God:
  Is patient, is kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. AND NEVER FAILS.

Amen. =)
Much love
(originally written 02/09)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hysterical or just Historical?

A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, "Everytime we get into a fight, my husband gets historical." When her pastor said "you must mean hysterical," she responded, "I mean exactly whatI said; he keeps a mental record of everything I've done wrong and whenever hes mad, I get a history lesson!"

Tragically, this scenario is all too common. Having never learned the true meangings of forgiveness, many people keep a record of the wrongs of others and bring them up again and again. This pattern destroys their relationships and deprives them of the peace and freedom that come through genuine forgiveness.

To forgive someone means to release him or her from liability to suffer punishment of penalty. Apheime, a Greece work that is often translated as "forgive" means to let go, release, or remit. It often refers to debts that have been paid or cancelled in full. Charizomai, another word for forgive, means to bestow favor freely or unconditionally. This word shows that forgiveness is underserved and cannot be earned.

-Excerpt from The Peace Maker by Ken Sande.

I've been in the process of reading this book for a few months now, its one of those books that is great, but since I have no deadline to read it, a few other required reads have come first. I definitely recommend it to anyone who has ever dealt with a conflict of some sort (uhh, so everyone?). It provides a practical, gospel centered guide to forgiveness and conflict resolution in many situations.

I never thought that I struggled with unforgiveness until recently when hard conflict arose, and both parties- myself and another, were dealing with things poorly. Being previously apt to "forgive and forget" or so I thought, I realized that I wasnt really stepping up to the extent that as a christian we are called to do, and it was throwing a wrench into the peace and freedom that I should be living in. I thought I had forgiven people, but at the same time I hadnt quite let them off the hook, not releasing them from the punishment I thought they should endure. Maybe both parties had aimed at forgiveness, but there was still that awkward and slightly bitter interaction, and almost complete and ridiculous avoidance to be around each other.

We were both acting "historical" so to speak.

My good old Strongs Condordance has a list of sysnonyms for forgiveness including: blotting out, remission, pardon, remember no more, healed. The Lord's Prayer says "forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Luke says even if someone wrongs us 70 times 7, we have to forgive them.  We must forgive because God has forgiven us, and nothing that people do to us even compares the offense that we have done against God. Someone recently recounted the beauty of forgiveness, and was thankful that God did not say to us, "You know I forgive you, but I just cant be around you anymore."  A phrase that Im sure we have all said or thought at one point about another person after they have wronged us in a painful way. But God says "I forgive you, your offense is thrown into the sea, I dont even remember it any longer, now come and let me welcome you back into my arms, lets have full fellowship."

Thats what I need to strive to. Instead of being hurt, and then just going on my very way, completely avoiding the other person, even though I have "forgiven" them, I need to strive to let it go and welcome them back into fellowship with open arms. If they want to deny that reconciliation, well, that is their agenda, but by letting go and truly letting them off the hook, I have gained back freedom on my side and I can live with peace that I have done the right thing before God.

I am so thankful that God does not treat me how I deserve to be treated, or how I treat other people. He is gracious and compassionate, a good God who forgives, and a God who gives us this supernatural strength to forgive.

Friday, February 12, 2010

You have Sharp Edges? Me Too.

Recently a quote came to my attention that reads "broken people have sharp edges." Its true. Hurt people are typically the ones who hurt people. In this case its no different. Especially when you are walking a narrow path with others who are broken, you are bound to get cut up. Thats how the church works sometimes.

Sigh. Its pretty obvious to most who know me that I am the type to want everyone to be friends with everyone. As a friendly person, I love inviting many different people to a multitude of events and gatherings and sometimes I dont see why some people cant just suck it up and get along. Since I am friends with a variety of people, I  would love that variety to be able to tolerate each other. Especially those who claim to belong to the body of Christ. I think its resonable to treat my brothers and sisters with love and respect, and expect it in return. The thing is, we all fail at this, I fail at this. Sometimes terribly. And here I am, ill over this situation, wondering what could have been done differently, partially knowing not really much, trying to grasp the fact that sinful behaviour is generally irrational, and mostly knowing that forgiveness and discernment are a part of this solution, but so is confrontation and expressing some hard truths in love.

Im sure we've all been at a point where we just dont want to care about someone anymore, we just want to throw our hands up and walk away from. The pain is just an ugly scab now,  "Ive tried my best to be loving," "I dont know what to do anymore," "Its just not worth it to make the effort." Those are all things that have run across my mind lately.

The thing is though, I cant give up. As long as I am a child of God, I cant walk away from people that that are broken and messed up. Because I know that I am as well.

(come back tomorrow for a riveting part 2 about forgiveness.) 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Snow, "Snow" Day

Its 4:15 Tuesday afternoon and my co-workers and I are sitting at work awaiting some good news. So far we have heard about the city wide parking ban for Wednesday, but no word yet about a school closing. The weatherman is predicting 2 feet of snow to start early Wednesday and continue all day, causing a similar ruckus to the Snowpocolypse that attacked the Southeastern coast. Everyone in Providence is on the edge of their seats, wondering if the city will close down, wondering if they should go out and buy bread, milk, and eggs to stock up for the crazy storm (typical rhodey, the stores suddenly become barren when there is any kind of unusual weather predictions).

6:00pm hits and my roommate calls the Johnson & Wales storm line. We had previously heard rumors of school closings and half day closings, but nothing for sure. At that moment I see a flood of tweets from other JWU'ers about an email declaring Wednesday to be a Snow Day! My roommate confirms the word, as the storm line says similar things about nonessential staff not having to come to work, and students are off the class hook. SWEEEETTT DEAALL! The word spreads, and everyone is pumped to the max. I know I am.

I stayed up extra late Tuesday night, knowing that nothing was stopping me, knowing that I would not feel the pangs of exhaustion the next day at work or class. I finally went to bed in the early morn, excited to wake up to this winter wonderland that I’ve been intensely anticipating.

Approximately 3:00pm Wednesday afternoon, I finally arise. (I did wake up around 9am and noon, but decided to milk sleep for all its worth). Hilariously, there is no snow on the ground. Absolutely none. It wasnt even snowing! Oh snap Providence! You got schooled hard core. Which basically means we had a no snow, snow day. I'm not complaining!

Around 6pm on Wednesday it does start snowing pretty hard, but stops without terrible damage. (nothing to close the city down about, thats for sure) Which you can see from the picture above.

Our friends Kevin and Ben have been planning on coming over for the past few weeks to cook, as their living conditions aren't too equipped for hand crafted cooking, but because of incongruent schedules, it just hadnt worked out. We all have the day off though so they end up randomly coming over (well... after a long, epic, bus excursion to Aldi and Whole Foods). Sherita came over (she lives across the street) and Alon's fiance Tim was there, obviously Alon and Kim as well. So we had a mini, spur of the moment cooking party! The guys, who are both culinary majors at JWU, whipped up some of the BEST meatballs and spaghetti that I have ever had in my life (mom, you have some competition!) There were some crazy things in the meatballs like bacon, almonds, soaked bread, interesting herbs, and I dont even know what. But it was delicious. I hope they can come over again soon! (and if e actually plan it, next time we can invite everyone over for the good times!

Above: Kevin and Ben
Left: Ben, Tim, Sherita, Kim all rolling meat balls!


And that’s the story of my first ever No Snow, Snow Day!!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

So Excited! Help a Sister Out!

So. There is this AMAZING travel internship called the STA 2010 World Traveler Intern!!!! Its a 90 day around the world, all paid for, exciting, ridiculous, amazing opportunity! You basially spend the summer hitting up all the sweetest places on every continent and film, write, and photograph all about the great destinations. My brain is watering just thinking about this.

......Who in their right mind would not want to do that?

The bad news: I am not applying for it. The good news: My friend, classmate (JWU'12), and co-worker Meagan Tromburg is in the application process right now! Originally hailing from the Seattle WA area, she came to JWU Providence to explore new places and get her degree in Global Tourism Management. I could not pick someone more hardworking and passionate about life and travel. She is always checking out new travel/tourism topics and talking about them excitedly.

Here's where I need a favor. I dont really know how many people read my blog, but if each and everyone one of you could check out her page on STA Travel and vote for her- it would be greatly appreciated! (and make a huge impact!) If you need more reasons to vote for her, check out the awesome 5 minute video application where she tells us a little about herself and shows us around town=)

CLICK HERE! TO VOTE (and see the video)

Thanks guys. I love ya!

follow meagan on twitter: @surferchik2008
join the facebook group: Meagan Tromburg for STA 2010 World Traveler Intern!!!!

And remember, you can vote once a day per computer, so do it up everyday!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Heart Cookies and Other Random Stuff

Earlier this week my roommate Alon had this deep urge to make heart shaped cookies. So we went to Target and got some heart shaped cookie cutters! We came home, she baked them, then we went hardcore on decorating them!

Fun times for all!

I didnt end up doing too many exciting things this week because Ive just been so tired lately, as well as trying really hard to not spend ANY money other than what I need for Russia. When we went to Target I must admit, I got super excited in the mini-travel sized section of the store and bought hand sanitizer, shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, power bars, and ziplock bags! Im still in the market for European power adapters though. Im pretty sure I can find some cheap ones somewhere, but havent been lucky yet. I did finally buy my volunteer travel insurance- covering everything from evacuation costs, accidental death and dismemberment, repatriation of mortal remains, and some personal property losses. Because I am going through the IMB I get a deal- only $2 per day! Whoopee.

Hmm. If you could please pray that I can get my budget in order for Russia and the next few months, that would be great. I am terrible with numbers, I kind of have no clue how a few things are going to work themselves out, and thinking about it really stresses me out. A lot.

Thank you to everyone out there who has supported me financially and/or in prayer. I am so thankful and you have no idea how deeply it is felt.

Thats all for now.

Oh, and I have ridiculous hives all over my body as of yesterday afternoon. No clue why. Cant stop itching and I look like a freak!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dry Skin, Dry Life

I love the winter! I love snow and icicles and the pretty bare trees. The only thing I hate is that in the winter I get really dry skin. I mean REALLY dry skin! I have tried lotions and moisturizers and all sorts of different concoctions that claim they work but leave my hands cracked and dry by the end of the day. I thought I would just have to live with my hurting hands until I finally found something that worked! It is unusual, I must admit, and a little out of the ordinary. It is this special balm that is used on dairy cows during harsh winters! I use it daily, and it leaves my hands feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

There is also a special treatment for our spiritual life to keep it from becoming cracked and dry. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 gives us the recipe: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These are instructions for a healthy Christian life that is ready to grab life by the horns! It is a little unusual (always being joyful?!) and a little out of the ordinary (praying nonstop!?) but it comes recommended with guaranteed results! Apply once in the morning, repeat as needed, and best of all it works all year round!

-Kailey (Alissa's sister!)
Cross Posted at StandYM Blog, check it out here 

To Russia, Whom Doesnt Want My Love

  As I prepare for my trip (23 more days!), I have been tracking some of the current political and social issues in Russia. One major thing is pulling my attention at the moment.
    While the Russian government claims to be secular and set apart from any religious influences, lately there has been a weird and developing relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church. President Medvedev has an initiative to assign every military unit a Russian Orthodox priest, as well as requiring religious classes at all public education institutions. According to one SFGate journalist in an article entitled "Russian activists: Religious freedoms at risk,"
Those moves breach the Constitution and are aimed at "fostering loyalty to the regime," Sergei Mozgovoi, co-chair of the institute's board, told reporters. Attaching chaplains to army units in particular could incite abuse toward non-Christian conscripts, he said.
While these things don't seem to be something to be quite nervous about by themselves- many American schools have religious education, and our military branches have chaplains. The fact is that the Russian government is focused solely on the Russian Orthodox Church in a dominant way, pushing all other "extremist" or minority religions to the side via new legislation. Most new regulations towards minority religions are aimed at the Islamic foothold beginning to take place across Russia, but there have been rulings against Jehovah Witness groups.
Recent moves against the Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia has also alarmed religious-freedoms activists. Russia's highest court last month upheld a ruling halting the activities of a regional branch of Jehovah's Witnesses and banning dozens of its publications. That followed a 2004 ruling by the Moscow City Court prohibiting a branch in the Russian capital from engaging in religious activity. (same article as above)
The reason that this is frightening, at least in my case, is spelled out very well in this article:
 Joel Griffith of Slavic Gospel Association says there is reason to be concerned. The more power the Orthodox Church gains, the more risk there will be to the religious freedoms of all minority religions, no less evangelical Christianity. Griffith says history proves that evangelical Christians may well be targeted if such legislation is passed. A sizeable evangelical movement would well be viewed as an encroachment on Orthodox territory, and would consequently not be taken lightly.
If this is the case, evangelical movement could be very much hindered in Russia. As it now stands, some evangelical churches experience virtually no opposition at all from the government, while others experience a great deal. If a national legislation should pass, opposition will likely extend to every evangelical church.
"If this becomes a policy of the national government to freeze out evangelicals, obviously that's going to have a pretty big impact not only on freedom of worship," cautions Griffith, "but also on the proclamation of the Gospel."
 As it stands now, there has been a bill passed in the Russian Duma to restrict religious activities. This is all relevant to me because I am going into Russia under a religious visa, affiliatited with a "minority religious group," or Southern Baptist. Did you know that more than 50% of all religious travelers are placed under surveillance? According to my overseer, I am going to have to be true to my visa and not overstep any boundaries. Also to watch my speech and actions regarding Russian/American relations, religion, and culture.

Dont get me wrong, I'm not scared or trying to make anyone overly concerned about my safety, because I will be safe. I have people watching my back, people I can call if anything happens that will be close in the area. I have God on my side. But this whole political/religious climate is something to keep in our prayers. We need to pray that the Russian government will stand up for freedom, and that the Russian people will stand up for truth.