Monday, January 21, 2008


We led worship at a local church last night, and on the piano I found a liturgy for a funeral service that was held there the day before (Saturday). For a little baby girl named Delaney. I don't know anything about her, how old she was, did she live after she was born, anything like that. But as I glanced through the liturgy, read the songs of hope and love for this little girl, I could not imagine the grief her parents must be going through. Life is precious, even when it is hard, and when it ends in this case before it really even begins..... Immediately before the service we were playing at there was a baptism Mass, with three little babies being baptized. The contrast. And it made me realize once again that I really do not have answers.

Monday, August 20, 2007


For about six months now, I have been reading a blog written by Miles Levin, an 18-year old from Michigan battling rhabdomyosarcoma for the past 26 months. His blog is an amazing chronicle of a boy growing up facing the harshest of life's circumstances. Yesterday morning, Miles died. Click here for a link to a story on about Miles. To read Miles' blog, go to CarePages. You'll have to register (it's free) and then in the page search field type "LevinStory".

In announcing his death Sunday afternoon, his family wrote:"Miles went from a boy-man to a man-boy. At a cost that would knock your socks off, Miles still managed to pack a wallop. He could not and would not be held back ... from living life to the fullest."

And this is from one of Miles' last posts, on August 3: "It's a stupid system, but the the only way to fully understand what you have is by losing it. Therefore, luckily for me, I'll probably never know how blessed I am to be enveloped in the sort of love my family provides, especially now. I can only try to imagine how much scarier this would be without them."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Watermelons and music

This past Sunday our band played at the annual Carytown Watermelon Festival here in Richmond - more than 60 bands, more than 100 performances, on a total on ten stages - thousands of people, lots of watermelon and other summer foods - it was a beautiful and a fun day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Another Christmas in July report

During the second Christmas in July event last week - a ten hour marathon concert at The Positive Vibe Cafe - we had several guests come in who had no idea of the event taking place. First you could see them think "Christmas music? In July?", but they got the picture pretty quickly of course.

One gentleman came in as part of a small group of chimneysweepers on break from a job. He approached our merch ladies and told them how much he enjoyed the music and te cause, and proceeded to buy three of our CDs. Then he mentioned that he wished he would have known about the food drive, because he would have like to have contributes cans of food. He asked if instead he could write a check to the Foodbank, which of course we said "yes" to. A few days later we were processing our paperwork for the event, and realized he has written a thousand-dollar check to the Central Virginia Foodbank.

Needless to say, we're still a bit speechless.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Christmas in July

Yesterday and this coming Saturday our band is hosting "Christmas in July", two Christmas-music-concerts cum food drives benefiting the Central Virginia Foodbank. Last night the concert was leading up to a Richmond Braves baseball game, and one of our volunteers, Jen Foltz, who helped collect the donated canned goods just sent me the following report. It made me smile and choke up at the same time, and did I mention humbled?

"I enjoy working with Offering because it gives me the opportunity to nurture my spirit. Yesterday I was put in charge of collecting food at the Braves game. Offering had joined in conjunction with the Richmond Braves to collect food for the Central Virginia Food Bank at the annual “Christmas in July” celebration. If patrons brought 4 cans of food per person they could receive a ticket into the game. We “sold” 108 tickets before I left last night.

There were quite a few times during my 3 hour stint that I thanked God for the opportunity to see His children in action. But, a few of those times stand out because they were so special.

One such time was when a man came over to me and, as he was placing his bag of food into the box, I asked him how many tickets he needed. “None,” he replied, “I am a season ticket holder.”

There were other people who came to put food in the box who didn’t need the tickets I was handing out. They were just in it for the giving.

Another poignant moment that will stick with me as the reason I do Offering gigs, was when I turned to my left and coming across the parking lot was a line of children carrying plastic bags. A mismatch of kids, they carried their bags proudly as they followed the leader of the troupe like ducklings following their mama. As they got closer, I smiled and greeted the woman leading this “hit parade”. I asked her how many tickets she needed and one by one those little children stepped up to the box and handed her the food they were carrying. She counted aloud as she placed the food into the box, “One, two, three…” right up to ten tickets. Some of the kids only had one or two cans of food, but every one of them contributed to those ten tickets.

During this time I was mentally counting the number of people in their little party. There were two adults and twelve kids. I counted out the ten tickets for their food and then asked, “How many people do you have with you?” She told me there were fourteen of them and they had driven all the way from Charlottesville to be able to donate food for this worthy cause. As she turned to go purchase the remaining tickets they needed, I thought, “There is nothing better than seeing these kids, most of whom have probably been the recipients of a food bank a time or two, being so happy and willing to give a little.” I called out to the woman and with tears in my eyes, handed her four more tickets. “I think we can afford to give out a few extra,” I said.

She took the tickets, smiled, and said, “Say thank you, kids.”

A chorus of “Thank You” filled the air and the little troupe turned; hands empty save for those tickets they now clutched as if they were made of gold. "

A small thing, but many small things...... somehow we must make a difference.

Back in country

We're finally back home, and I will be catching up, especially these last days of the fast - I did not expect to have as little internet access and time as I did the past two weeks, but I promise I am catching up now!

Today there are two posters: Kat's mom, and Heather.

More later.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Catching up......

I'm still in Holland, and have less internet access than expected...... so, for now, catch up with the 40 day fast here. And I will start catching up for real sometime tomorrow. Or as soon as my internet connection decides to cooperate :).

Monday, July 9, 2007

Days 15-18: update

I am at the airport getting ready to fly to Holland, and the past four days have been positively crazy and I have gotten behind!!!

So, very quickly (they are calling our flight :)): today's blogger: Scott.

Yesterday: Todd.
Saturday: William
And Friday: Valerie

As I have internet access overseas, I will keep up better. And will be praying for all of the bloggers. And perhaps get some more people in the Netherlands following and participating in the fast!

Boarding now.....

Friday, July 6, 2007

Christmas in July

This coming Monday my hubby and I are leaving for the Netherlands for two weeks (I was born and raised there and my entire family still loves there) to celebrate my birthday and to spend some time with my mom, especially. My dad passed away this past January, and the year has been challenging so far, to say the least. But I am looking forward to this time, even though it will be bittersweet and not always easy. (I will be taking my laptop, so I'll keep up with the fast :))

Right now, I am trying to get ready to go - the house, the dogs, the cat (our house/pet sitter that we had lined up fell through yesterday) and an event that I am putting on with our band immediately after I get back: Christmas in July. We're hosting two concerts (July 25 and July 28), one before a Richmond Braves baseball game and one marathon 8-hour concert at a local restaurant that trains people with disabilities for work in the restaurant world (The Positive Vibe Cafe, and we ask everyone attending to bring non-perishable food items to benefit the Central Virginia Foodbank. It's the second year in a row we're doing this, and it's a lot of fun, although slightly insane (98 degrees and singing "Winter wonderland" or "O come all ye faithful" - it can be a funny feeling).

Why am I posting this? Because it turns out that July in many cities and states is the absolutely slowest month for Foodbanks, food pantries, and other organizations/ministries that reach out to people who do not have enough to eat. Summer=vacation, summer=hot weather and we eat less during hot weather so how could anyone else be hungry?, summer=different routine and our usual routines may not work..... And in the midst of all that it is still flabbergasting to me that there are so many people that stll do not have that most basic of human needs: daily bread. The few cans we donate will not solve that. But it has to start somewhere. So..... if you read this, consider making a donation to your local Foodbank, or to an organization like Food for the Hungry, or to any of the organizations highlighted during the 40 day fast, because most if not all work to meet this need in some way, shape, or form. Oh, and if you live anywhere close to Richmond VA - come hang out with us on July 25 and 28 (click here for details).

(And no, this is not an official "40 day fast post". But it fits I think.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Day fourteen: orphans in Bulgaria

Today's blogger for the 40 day fast: Susanne.

Her cause: orphans in Bulgaria. Her organization: Bulgarian Child.

Matthew 25:34-36
34Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

And a note - I have been trying to keep up with all the blogs participating in the 40 day fast, and each on of the sites is turning into a great resource for anyone that ever thinks, or says "Where do I start? What can I do? There are so many needs....." Yes, there are too many needs to list. But you have to start somewhere, and there are lots of starting points here. And that is one of the many reasons I love what we're doing these 40 days, and I hope that as a group, as a community, in some way we will continue this after July 31.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Day thirteen: the least of these

Wow. Today's blogger: Steven.

"but go to your inner city. find a community center. volunteer to read stories to kids at the local children's hospital. go to a food bank. a mission. give your time.

take the spare burgers and hot dogs from your cookout and find the homeless guy on the corner. the one holding the sign that you don't make eye contact with every day at the red light.

instead of putting the leftovers in the fridge to be thrown away in a couple of days, feed someone with them.

instead of talking about change. instead of blogging about change. be a part of it."

Thank you, Steven.

Day twelve: God of Justice

Today's blogger: Jeremy Thiessen. He posted an incredible song by Tim Hughes. I am not going to post it here because I want you to go read his site :).

Monday, July 2, 2007

Day eleven: clean water

Today's blogger: Ryan G..

His cause: lack of clean drinking water. Read this. It is mind-boggling. And then take this challenge (I know I will):

"For 2 weeks, make water your only beverage. Save the money that you would normally spend on sodas, coffee and sports drinks for two weeks. Then take that money and donate it - I suggest to Living Water International".

Thank you, Ryan, for this post.

Day ten: orphans in China

Yesterday's blogger: Truevyne. Her cause: orphans in China. Here's a quote from her blog:

"Children with any problems at all are sometimes dumped, because they have some imperfection. For example, a child might happen to have the misfortune of being a girl. Boys grow up to be parent's means to "social security", and a girl certainly could not be expected to provide for parents in old age. So Chinese orphanages house many more females than males, and generally only healthy girls are to be adopted from their country. Special need boy adoptions are the exception, not the rule. Children with a cleft palate or another medically treatable disease become orphans, because parents simply could never afford to pay for surgeries. Also, physical imperfections lead to second or third class citizenship just like they do here in the U.S., so parents look for a healthy and whole boy to secure their future and abandon the lesser. The worst poverty of all is the children who are aborted, because parents cannot afford the government fines imposed for second children.".

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Day nine: Cry for freedom

In 1992, I took a small short-term outreach team to Cambodia (I work for an interdenominational mission agency, Youth With A Mission). We worked at an orphanage and in a home that housed people just returning from spending years in refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border. I had done my research into Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, and the brutal regime that killed millions and drove away millions more. The refugees, I knew, had been the lucky ones. Because they survived. The reality of all this did not hit me until I was sharing dishwashing duty with one of the recently returned Khmer refugees, a woman in her late 20’s. She had spent the past 12 years in a refugee camp. Her parents and her siblings all died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. And here she was, back in her home country, the country she fled when she was a teenager. Doing dishes. No idea where she could go, how to pick up the pieces of her life – and were there even pieces left to pick up?
I have seldom felt so humbled, coming from a life of such comfort – only because of the place I was born.

34 million displaced by war, including 8.4 million refugees. Sudan. Afghanistan. Myanmar. Iraq.

These trends deal with poverty. With sickness. But more than anything else: they deal with injustice. People being displaced because other people are fighting. Yet another expression of our sin, and the fallen nature of this world.

I had the hardest time narrowing down causes and organizations for today. When you close your eyes to it and live your life (and it is remarkable how easy that is), it seems like the needs are far away. But when you open them, even just slightly, suddenly the needs are there, they are clear, and they break your heart.

Think about injustice. It is no surprise that so many of our causes in this fast focus on children. Because children are often the innocent victims of the things adults screw up.

I read a story today of six teenage girls kidnapped off the street and forced into prostitution in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Modern-day slavery. National Geographic Magazine in 2004 reported the mind-blowing statistical reality that “…there are more slaves today than were trafficked in four centuries of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.” Injustice in a modern society.

According to UNICEF in the last decade 10 million children were traumatized by war. In the last three years in Africa around 120,000 children were forced to participate in fighting.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

After the tsunami in South Asia in December 2004 I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster for days - observing, praying, considering ways to help. And then, on day four, I realized at night that I had not thought about, or prayed for, the tsunami victims at all. I had already "forgotten", and I felt deeply ashamed. As a result, we wrote a song called Cry for Freedom - about our response to the "sorrow of this world". That, to me, is what this fast is all about: how do we respond? How do I respond? "When will this devastation get underneath my skin?"

My first organization for today: The International Justice Mission, an organization stands in the gap for victims when they are left without an advocate – child prostitution, widows whose homes get taken away, people sold into slavery to repay small debts. And the second one: War Child, a Dutch non-profit (I am originally from the Netherlands) network of independent organizations, working across the world to help children affected by war.
And finally, the Christian Children’s Fund, an organization similar to World Vision and Compassion International, headquartered here in Richmond VA (where I live). All three organizations do excellent work and they all could use all the help we can give them. Mostly, thought, they need us to open our eyes.

Today I will be fasting and praying for children affected by injustice – war, slavery, oppression. Throughout the day I will be blogging more – thoughts and prayers that come into my mind. I hope you will join me.

Day nine: mid-day update

12:30 pm - I have decided to spent some time today really reading some of the other blogs that are part of or associated with the 40 day fast - and continue building my prayer list with topics I want to start praying for on a regular basis.
I found a great blog this way, Amicus Dei, that just featured a post about "Why are we putting children in prison" about children asylum seekers and their families who are being detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention facility.

From the Amicus Dei blog:

Here's what we are doing to these little children:

1. Children are forced to wear prison uniforms.
2. Children over 5-years of age are kept in prison cells separated from their mothers.
3. Children are allowed recreation only 1-hour per day, and often are not allowed outside at all.
4. Children are being treated like prisoners in violation of federal law.
5. Children are being denied access to education, healthcare, and their families in violation of federal and international human rights laws and treaties.

Amnesty International issued this statement at the protest in Texas --

"The T. Don Hutto detention facility is a former prison for hardened criminals, now run by a for-profit corporation to detain child asylum seekers, migrants and their families. On any given day, Hutto holds up to 400 of these vulnerable individuals, as young as five months, who are looking to the United States for asylum or other protection from the full, awful range of human rights violations abroad."

It's almost 12:30, and I was starting to really get hungry. And then I read this post and realized, again, why we are doing this.

"Who will apologize to the hundreds of children held prisoner, here in the land of the free? We can do better than this as Americans. We must do better than this as followers of Jesus Christ. "

As for what we can do - besides pray of course? Ask your congressman, your senators, and demand that we stop this practice at once, is one thing, I also wonder, with all the prison ministries out there, is there a way to reach out to these people? That just moved to my list-of-things-to-do.