Tag Archives: hope

I Have No Sandwich To Give

sandwich    Fourteen years ago I pulled away from our church parking lot following a van full of zealous Christians. Our mission was to save the lost and feed the hungry.  We met with a team to set out on the streets of San Francisco. When we arrived I was as excited and eager as was the rest of the crew. They separated us into little groups, armed us with socks, sandwiches and a few guidelines to follow, and sent us out to change the world.
It all sounded so epic. I sincerely thought I was going to be someone’s light in a dark place. I felt I carried significance, purpose, and vision to the “blind”. We walked the streets of Height and Ashbury. We painted a mural in a crisis pregnancy center. We ministered in the park. We worshiped in the city square. It was a rush to experience the heart of God for a city. I wasn’t even put off by the homeless lady taking a pee in the street as we shared the love of Christ with her boyfriend.
However, something caught my attention after a long night of providing essential items to those in need: I found most of them believed in Jesus. They were open to prayer. They quickly took our socks and snacks. They would say “Amen” and “God bless you”. Suddenly there were moments I felt like I was being manipulative. I was offering them something they needed (food and clothing). In a sense, they felt obligated to listen to my shpeal. I searched my heart, asking the Lord for clarification. Many of those to whom I was ministering sincerely believed in Christ. They were simply trapped in addiction, self destructive behavior, and brokeness. They didn’t need to say the sinner’s prayer again. While these thoughts were rolling around in my mind, I looked across the street where I saw the polar opposite of social status.
Beautiful women in long flowing gowns were getting out of limousines draped on the arm of good looking men in Armani suites. They were walking into fancy clubs, paying cover charges that would make my overpriced coffee blush. While they caught the attention of everyone around them, I found myself staring at them for longer and longer periods of time. My heart grieved. Who had their sandwich? Who could offer them a relationship and an experience with a loving God who cared for them? Who’s mission field were they? I broke inside. Money they had. Food was not an issue. Socks may as well have been disposable as far as they were concerned.
Yet like everyone else they hungered for something more. They were successful in every sense of the word. They had it made in the eyes of a material world. Yet, they were the poor in spirit. They could eat all day long and never be satisfied. They to are sad, depressed, and alone. They also battle addictions, self destructive behavior and brokenness. They too long for a love they haven’t known, a feeling of belonging, and a genuine acceptance beyond performance.
I went back to the hostile that night and balled my eyes out, “Lord, I have no sandwich for them.” I have nothing to offer them. Why would they listen to me? What do I have that they do not? They pity me, as if I am the one in want and need. I don’t remember sleeping that evening. I spent the whole night crying out to God.

His response to me was simple… I was their sandwich. He told me to be myself, do what I love, and work hard at developing my craft.  He reminded me of the words spoken over me my entire life, beginning when my mother was pregnant with me. She saw my name up in neon lights like a Hollywood sign. God told her I was going to be a girl and to name me Joy and that I would bring great JOY to this world. He reminded me of when I was an infant and the prophetic words my parents received about me saying, “Open your mouth and I will fill it.”
God then took me back to my childhood where my parents were on staff at the YWAM base in Maui. It was the performing arts base. Christians from around the world gathered there to collaborate on projects that would impact the world. I remember learning to sing, dance, perform on stage, and entertain a crowd. It was at that place that I learned to talk to God. At a young age He became my best friend.
As I grew up in the church many shunned my dreams, claiming my head was in the clouds. As both a child and a female I was taught to be seen and not heard. I suppressed my voice and my calling. I tried being a good Christian evangelist. I told everyone I could about the love of Jesus. I became a youth pastor and served as a small group leader. I put my heart into everything I did, yet God kept reminding me, I wasn’t fully alive unless I was being 100% who He created me to be.
After my experience in San Francisco I went back to school and got my degree in media communications. I began to take acting classes. I got an agent and I tried out for Esther in “One Night With The King.”  I cultivated relationships in the L.A./Pasadena area and I have been a faithful tortoise ever since, persevering in the belief God intends on using me to be a sandwich to those in the entertainment industry.
After my husband Matt went to ministry school, he and I have now served as volunteers for five years in the church teaching an overview course in film along with a good friend of ours. We have produced over two dozen short films and have held three film festivals highlighting the students work. My husband Matt has also illustrated 3 of Danny and Sheri Silk’s children’s books and Kris Valloton’s latest children’s book “The Ways of Royalty.” He also works at Bethel Media as our main source of income.
All the while we pastor about 75 people in the growing film community in Redding out of our house. We have continued to build relationships in L.A. and be actively involved in our children’s lives. Our personal short films have won multiple awards nation wide, and now we find ourselves at precipice. We are gearing up for the new rung of students and plan on taking their craft to a new level. We intentional teach them to be Daniel’s and Joseph’s called to serve those in Hollywood by making them look like geniuses. We teach them to not promote propaganda, but to become good at being visual storytellers.
Our goal is to make feature length films in the Northern California area. We intend on providing sustainable jobs and resources to those in our community. Though we do not feel called to faith based films, we do feel called to partner with the church to bring entertaining and meaningful stories to life. We focus on co-creating with the Holy Spirit, operating from an identity in Christ, and living as examples. Our company is called speropictures. The word spero comes from the latin term which means “hope.” Our brand is the tree of life. Our desire is to plant seeds of hope that reproduce wholeness.
We have made connections with our county’s development department, our local Film Commissioner, a performing arts studios, and several others who are partnering with us in this journey. We have also been building relationships with professionals in their field from sound, music, color grading, editing, acting and much more who feel the call of God to be doing their craft from Redding.
What we attempting do at the moment is seek investors, donations, sponsors, and other financing options so we do not have to be over extended by volunteering, working, doing family and making a films. Plus, some of what will be funded is equipment that our students would then have access to, thereby taking their projects up a notch as well.

– Joy

 


Afraid of the Dark!

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Blankets clinched tight around your face as if they are a cloche of protection. You can almost hear your heart beating within your chest… Bum, bum… ba,bum!!! Tired eyes now wide open. The noises of the day kept your mind busy. Now the quiet speaks so loud. Creaking of boards turn to monsters in the hall as our imagination plays on our greatest fears. The rustling of leaves outside our window become rabid packs of animals on the prowl. Dark shadows loom in corners like a creepy stalker waiting for us to defer our eyes.

From frightening images through the window to the unsettling feeling we get when we hang our feet over the bedside, we are afraid. Our minds create more drama than reality. Instead of taking our thoughts captive and telling ourselves what to think, we believe our gut instinct is telling us we are in danger. We do not realize we are the ones entertaining tormenting theories.

We have deduced that we are discerning truth. We act upon that core belief so we can feel safe. We try to protect ourselves and the ones we love from harm. Yet, we have come to anticipate horrific moments instead of considering the alternative… We are not in danger!

Irrational feelings of being vulnerable to pain causes us to meditate on negative thought processes. We have interpreted our surroundings to be perilous and predicted the outcome to be fetal. We fail to scrutinize what is spawning our understanding of the situation. Unfortunately we draw the wrong conclusions and we ourselves remain alone, in the dark.

As a child, I thought like a child. As an adult, I put childish things behind me. Most of us as children went through a time when we feared the boggy-man or the mysterious creature lurking behind the shower curtain. We may have even been comforted by someone we trusted; someone we knew would protect us. As we have grown our speculative nature hopefully matured.

Switching on the light in our brains is just as important if not more-so than switching on the light in a dark room. What we focus on we empower. If we dwell on fearful thoughts, we give way to torture of the mind, spirit, and soul. We become scared to agree or partner with faith as our worst dreads become our friends and enduring allies. Our self imposed paranoia causes us to take extreme precautions. We do not calculate risks verses benefit, we simply freeze in our tracks and become numb to respond with rational.

Seek the peace which passes understanding. Allow your body to relax. Draw from the still small voice that calms your spirit. Choose to believe in hope. Set your scattered, uneasy mind to good thoughts. Tell evil to go to hell and deal with bad things when that happen not during the never end “if” they are going to happen. Breathe deep and smell the fresh air. Close your eyes and trust everything is going to be alright.


Expecting… The Unexpected!

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Expecting… The Unexpected!

Ever plan for something you wanted so badly? Did you ever do everything that could have been done and fight with all of your might? Have you ever seen a dream so real you just knew with all your soul it would become reality? Have you ever been crushed, disappointed beyond belief?

To hope in the face of despair, to pursue against the odds, to believe beyond doubt…. is it stupid to wish for the impossible? Or is it rational to be apprehensive to ask for our heart’s desires out of fear they won’t be answered the way we want?

It can be discouraging when what you seek always seems to be just beyond your reach. Such a helpless feeling when you are not in control of your own destiny. Even though many others have experienced similar pain it can still be such a lonely feeling. Yet you press in, you dig deep, you suppress those nagging feelings of frustration.

What happens when you have put your heart and soul into something but reality tells you it is not going to happen? Everything seems to turn against you. Even time itself ceases to be a friend. At what point do you finally put to rest the very thing that motivates you to live? How do you bury what you been imagining, and simply “move on”?

When it feels like you’ve died, at the point you finally let go, that moment is often the very moment your seed is finally planted, finally able to bloom. All this time you thought you had been carrying rotten fruit: dreams that seemed to be shriveling, decaying, and growing mold like a disease. Come to find out, like fruit decomposing into the soil, it is not what is seen that matters.  Rather it is the potential, the hope, the life it carries inside that matters. It is this self-contained life that gives this seemingly small, yet deeply meaningful, pregnant aspiration the potential to become great.

It can be difficult when others so easily acquire what you have been longing for. The thing that seems to come by accident to some, and even unwanted by others, is the very thing you yearn to possess. In those moments, not becoming angry or embittered, and remaining faithful and vigilant to your own dreams may be the hardest thing you ever do. However, this will cause your roots to grow deep. And relative to your surroundings, though you may not flower often, your blossom will be rare and magnificent.

Very few appreciate what they have. Even fewer express true gratitude for what comes naturally. It is those whom have known the strain of struggle, the ecstasy of endurance, and the payoff of perseverance who truly value the prize. For it is the joy set before us that makes this life worth the darkness we go through to get there.

There are those of us who choose to never give up on our dreams. Though we choose to lay down our right to toil in vain, we trust that God keeps His promises. We seek peace during the process even when understanding evades us.  There are those of us who believe that the power of love is stronger than the power of hate. There are also those of us that live in the joyful expectation of good no matter if we get what we expected or we are happily surprised by the unexpected.


Perphect!

Perphect…

“Perfectionism”, this unattainable yet infectious complex, spreads like infected cells.  The consuming, pseudo reality plays itself out for humanity, especially in our culture’s ideology.  The presumptuous intellect knows best.  Each individual creates their own internal infrastructure with the assistance of nature, nurture, and social factors. I myself developed an idealistic persona in my mind. A person I desired to be, but could not attain.

The problem with lofty ideals is we often develop a mental picture of these and how we think it should be. Then we are discouraged when something does not end up looking like the picture we saw in our heads. We are stubborn. We think things need to go a certain way and produce a certain outcome. That is all well and good as far as intentions go, however, it totally screws with our head. Like an artist with an idea, it is frustrating when what is in our mind does not come out on paper.

I found the more I tried the further away the person I wanted to become would be. I sabotaged my joy by setting up unrealistic expectations. If I wanted to always be good at something and happy, I would push myself as hard as I could. I would find the brighter side to every moment. Now, those are good things. However, I was coming at them from an obsessive place. When things went out of my control, I was in chaos. My internal world felt out of sorts. The conflict heightened when worry entered the equation. Anxiety had found a place to rest in my heart. It caused turmoil to spin like a hurricane inside of me.  This storm surfaced the belief: If I could just be OCD enough bad things would stop happening.

Happiness, easy going, delight, and stress collided. I quickly realized to be fun and carefree I needed to pursue my dreams. I did not know how to do this practically, outside of  a fantasy world.  Yet, it was in this very place I delighted to be that caused the most frustration and disappointment.  I could not hope and be a realist at the same time. I relinquished one for the other. I developed a “poverty” mentality of surrender and slavery. I felt like I was constantly in lack. I became bound by my own perceptions and core beliefs. I was uncertain how to be happy and carefree from the inside out no matter the circumstances .

I wanted it all. Yet how could I reconcile my hearts desires, live in the here and now, and be okay with the inevitable imperphections? I was afraid I would let my dreams hinder my capability to apply wisdom and practicality.  I began slowly suppressing myself, my joy, my nature, my being….the very name that I was called to be.  My fear and worries slowly took over my spirit. I was drowning in quick sand.

I buried my heart. I began setting my standards lower. If I could achieve it then I would not be a failure. I would protect myself from disappointment by only attaining what I knew would be possible. No risk…no pain! I tried intently to avoid rejection and disapproval. I began to plan ahead so I could prevent mistakes. If I could overdo everything then nothing bad could happen to me, right? I was continually in a battle with discouragement and disappointment. I was bleeding love and hemorrhaging acceptance. I needed a tourniquet. I did not know how to genuinely receive a compliment. Overwhelmed by insecurities, I focused on my flaws. It was a dark place with too much introspection. It is a place where people go to get depressed. It was a place I desperately fought to get out of.

Still, it did not matter how hard I tried, all I saw were my flaws. My attention was continually drawn to what I could be doing better. I underestimated my worth and personal value. I did not think I had anything to offer this world or the people in it. I felt as if I needed to earn affection, earn approval, and keep on earning things once I got them. Imbalanced, I felt as though I could lose love if I wasn’t pretty enough. I believed I would lose acceptance if I let anyone see the real me. I also felt I could lose everything I held dear if I let just one thing slip through the cracks. I had so much weight on my shoulders. Even when I did manage a smile anyone who truly looked into my eyes saw I was hiding enormous amounts of pain. My dreams were drowning in my pursuit of perphectionism.

But “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick”. To live in hope I needed to believe in the joyful expectation of good. The problem was, I was constantly waiting for the next problem, for that proverbial “other shoe to fall”. I had this ever constant, looming feeling something bad was just about to happen. There was a foreboding atmosphere surrounding me. This constant state of fear had stolen my peace and rest, and had run away with my joy. I struggled to keep them in my heart. Occasionally I would grab them by the leg and force them to hang out for few hours, but could never get them to take up residency.

Eventually, I was able grasp grace. I finally realized I could understand my limits, and still pursue excellence as a way of life. Priorities are important. Reconciling discipline, healthy habits, and a strong identity remain beneficial. To this day my house is typically very clean. I exercise on a regular basis. I am actively involved in my children’s education and extra curricular activities. I adore gardening and the outdoors. I love being fashionable. I enjoy arts and crafts. And I pursue my dreams. Yet through all of this, I am motivated by intentionality. After removing the stress, anxiety, and pressure that comes from thinking my actions determine my success or failure as a person, the things that at one point I thought “defined” me are now operating out of who I am. Though I will always grow as a person, I will also know my best is simply the best I can do.

It was through experience I discovered love was not based on performance. It was through discovering “JOY” that I finally became comfortable with my imperphections.  Often times the hardest demons to tell to go to hell are Fear of Failure and the Fear of Rejection. However, false humility is our own worse self-deception. I found when I compared myself to what I saw in others, all I could see is where I fell short. I had to be honest with myself and believe the truth about what I liked in me. I did not have to make up stuff, I simply had to discover who I was and then except that person. I had to choose to use my talents, my abilities, and the person I am. I had to blend my nature with nurture and walk in my own shoes with confidence in the direction I was created to head.

If we don’t grow and mature as people we will be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually stunted and even retarded, twisted by what we have made agreements with over the course of our lifetimes. I’ve learned a lot from taking risks, from trying, from making mistakes. As I’ve learned how to walk I’ve had to be okay with falling. Falling is fine. Getting back up is the important part. I found it vital to keep my eyes focused on the goal, rather than constantly looking down and seeing only current restraints. If we don’t go after our what is in our hearts, we will live in envy of the lives of others, and we will not do the very things we were created for.

Remember: it is what we believe about ourselves that becomes our reality. If we think we need to be perfect to be good enough, we will never be good enough! We can remain in our self-absorbed cesspool breeding bacteria or we can flow within the current of our own rivers with all of their individual eddies and idiosyncrasies. We can enjoy the ebbs and flows and the path laid out before us. We can trust, for no matter what comes around the bend, we will eventually make it to our ocean.

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Naughty or Nice

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The Christmas spirit is all about believing the best in people. Atheists, agnostics, and Christians alike surround themselves with hope and joy. It is a time when we celebrate humanity, the gift of life, the gift of a savior, and the gift of acceptance. Somehow we belong to a bigger picture. It is a greatness that bonds us together. We see fit to forgive and we desire goodness and grace be extended to all mankind. Even grumpy, ill tempered, self-centered old mister Scrooge is worthy of yet another chance.

It would behoove us all to believe in the goodness of others all of the time. If we genuinely treat others how we want to be treated, adhere to our values, and allow for grace, more often than not we will win. Constantly worrying and fretting over what bad people may or may not do and dwelling on the “what if’s” of the unknown is tormenting. If we take responsibility for our own actions we only have to be concerned about what we offer to this world. We can be kind because it is who we are, not because others deserve it. We can show love because we carry love, not because others demand it. We can show respect because we respect ourselves, not because others earned it.

Living from a place of peace reproduces peace on earth. When we extend goodwill and mercy to those who have known very little, our reward is eternal. Walking in freedom rather than control cultivates honor. We can believe in the goodness and sincerity of others because we believe in the goodness and sincerity in ourselves. It is our jobs to communicate our hearts, our needs, our feelings. It is our job to manage ourselves, to tell ourselves how to act, behave, and what thoughts to discards and which to meditate on.

Many live in a regular state of fretting over when and how others will eventually hurt, disappoint, betray, or simply let us down. Most of us do not even realize the arrogant self-preservation mode we are living in.  Taking up the power to judge people before they have even done anything wrong not only validates our distrust in humanity, (which not only proves us “right”) it also keeps us separated, self-righteous, and prideful. We do not give people a chance to fail. Thereby, we do not give people the chance to grow and clean up their own mess. How can someone get on the nice list if we automatically default them to the naughty?

Someone’s past does not define them. Many people have made mistakes and change for the better. Our future is not written. Patterns of behavior can change if we introduce new opportunities, new circumstances, and choices beyond our current box. Predictions are only that… predictions. They are not fact. They are not fate. They are not predestined, and they are open to faulty interpretations and misguided discernment. Even the Mayans, in all of their “wisdom”, got it wrong. For far too long people have used threats, intimidation, and manipulation to experience feelings of safety. We are too focused on external things such as behavior and performance.

We can change people’s actions for mere moments with scare tactics, but it is when we connect with people’s hearts that they will be changed forever.  It is when we place value on the internal and unseen riches such as love and acceptance that people truly flourish. When people know they are not required to be perphect to be worthy, they will know they are good enough by simply being themselves. We will come to find more people on the nice list if we would stop trying to be what we think everyone else wants us to be and just concentrate on being us.

In the Spirit of  the season, may this next year bring new perspectives. May we shift our paradigms. May we take down our defense mechanisms and live on the happy side of offense. May we show people love without fear, grace without conditions, and transparency without shrewdness.

Merry Christmas to all and the Happiest of New years. May 2013 be the best surprise you’ve ever experienced!


More Than A Few Good Men

     I came across this article asking the question, “Are Men Necessary?” and it got me thinking. I was raised around a majority of boys. At times I found myself wishing I was one. I viewed them as emotionless, carefree, and adventurous. As I grew up I discovered they are actually full of emotions. That being the case, many were never taught to manage their emotions. They did, however, easily display frustration, anger, and avoidance. I also discovered they are not all carefree. Many men are heavily burdened, worried, and tired. They are deep wells, full of concern and carrying a heavy load. This often contributes to their negatively charged outbursts. Lastly, I discovered most men leave their adventurous days in years of boyhood. They grow up and begin to fear risk, fear failure, and often walk away before they even begin any kind of unfamiliar endeavor.

     What happened to this gender I admired? Men who once were seen to bring strength, courage, and hope to the table, are they now cowards, shallow “assholes”, or passive aggressive? Is it really true? Are men really unnecessary?

     But then I started thinking about the men I have come to know and love over the years. The men I adore provide comfort and stability. They are a source of truth, affirmation, and wisdom. The men that capture my attention are those who are still adventurous; those who see what they want and pursue it with tenacity; those who see obstacles as challenges to be overcome. The men I take note of have standards and convictions. Are they perfect? Maybe not in the normal understanding of the word perfect, but maybe that’s what we need: men perfect because they are okay with being men. They are tough like Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino. They are merciful like Jean Valjean in Les Misérables. They are wise like Mr. Miyagi, fun like Adam Sandler in 50 First Dates, and humble like John Coffee in The Green Mile. All this and they make you feel loved like a Nicholas Sparks movie.

     The good ones may not always know what to do or how to do it, but that does not keep them from trying. They put in the effort to be good fathers, good husbands, and good men in general. They keep their eyes on the prize, staying focused no matter what comes their way. They may make mistakes, they may falter, they may even veer off course, yet they will stay true to their hearts. Even though they may have a proverbial good sense of direction, they are humble enough to ask for for input, to ask directions from those around them, knowing they will find due north through the wisdom of many counselors.

     Goodness resides in their core of these men. They want more than mere existence. The men I look up to understand the value of a woman, they know the meaning of team work, and they appreciate discussions of substance. My hero’s are those that have stood the test of time and remain standing. They have fought for what they have believed in. They have not sacrificed others to get where they are going. They love fearlessly and defend ferociously. Though the ones I love make mistakes, they own their mistakes and learn from them, harnessing the wisdom gained into a gale of world changing force.

     Good men may be hard to find.  They are few and far between. They are rare, priceless gems and should be treated like the invaluable treasures they really are. Many of them have fought to get to where they are. They may have been fatherless, left to learn man skills on their own. They may have built a repitiore of hero’s they model themselves after. However they developed their character, we can be sure it has been tested and tried, and it shines through  faithfully.  Within this type of man, a woman can discover her own worth. She can be vulnerable, appreciate her own value without diminishing his, and let her beauty speak for itself. On real men, true men, good men, we can lay our heads on their chests and rest. We can call them home. We find solitude in their arms. We acknowledge peace in their words. We find life in their soul.

     Even good men may not have always comprehended consciously love in it’s fullness, but eventually they display it with every part of their being. They may not have always been a source of strength, but in the end they make you feel strong. Good men finish what they start. And really good men help others finish what they start too.

     So, thanks to all the good men out there. We are glad you are here. You are necessary, and we appreciate you.


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