Monday, October 20, 2008

LOL! God's Sense of Humor!

I gotta hand it to God. He's got a great sense of humor! In a 48 hour period God told me to write a book, gave me the title, gave specific command as to when to do it and how long it would take to write, and gave me the introduction for it. I'm going to share the introduction here, with my faithful blog readers. Comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome! You're all a part of my accountability team now! So Here's the Introduction...


For 20+ years now God has spoken to me about writing books. And for 20+ years now I’ve said, “Yes, Lord, as soon as I get time I’m going to do that!” I always have had great intentions, but my follow-thru has been lacking…a lot! But as I was in the process of returning home from a recent 48 day deployment as a contract Disaster Housing Inspector contracted to FEMA to work the Hurricane Gustav and Ike disasters the Holy Spirit almost yelled these words at me. “You’re going to write a book!

I’d been reading more of Margaret Feinberg’s book The Sacred Echo, which is a Must Read for anyone interested in hearing God’s voice in every area of your life. I’d cried my way through part of chapter 6 as Ms. Margaret related a story about her friend Shana. As I read the words on the pages in front of me, I saw myself and my life, desires, and calling so vividly.
"I've watched Shana's life for almost a decade now, and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day. And he does--time and time again. Somehow Shana has managed to start her own entertainment company, film several movies, and launch a significant ministry with less than $1000 to her name at any given time."

She later says,
"Just watching Shana's life provides countless snapshots of faith in action and what it looks like to answer the call, You follow me. If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?"

Now granted, I have no aspirations to have an entertainment company, but there are other equally as daunting things that I desire to do and have already been doing. And some of them do involve filming documentaries, and a HUGE chunk of them involve launching a missions ministry.

But the two things that caught my eye and heart were, “…and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day” and, “…with less than $1000 to her name at any given time." I had to laugh at that because it was so fitting! When I got to Ms. Margaret’s question, “If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?" I had to cry. Not a “bad cry” though. I cried because of the immense implications of that question.

It was later that night, after reading that chapter, and reading about Ms. Feinberg’s own lifelong desire and call to write, that I heard that loud, firm voice telling me, “You’re going to write a book!

God gave me the title the next night, the night I got back from Houston. I was getting ready to go to bed and grabbed a book I’d received in the mail while I was gone for a few pages worth of “bathroom reading” before turning in. The book was Mark Batterson’s Wild Goose Chase: Reclaiming the Adventure of Pursuing God. Right off the bat I was captivated by part of the excerpt on the back cover.
Most of us will have no idea where we are going most of the time. And I know that is unsettling. But circumstantial uncertainty also goes by another name: ADVENTURE.
A few pages into the book I came across this statement,
If you would describe your relationship with God as anything less than adventurous, then maybe you think you’re following the Spirit but have actually settled for something less—something I call inverted Christianity. Instead of following the Spirit, we invite the Spirit to follow us. Instead of serving God’s purposes, we want Him to serve our purposes. And while this may seem like a subtle distinction, it makes an ocean of difference. The result of this inverted relationship with God is not just a self-absorbed spirituality that leaves us feeling empty; it’s also the difference between spiritual boredom and spiritual adventure.

I’d been thinking about all the various adventures that I’ve embarked upon in my life, including my recent South America trip and my FEMA deployment. I’d asked for God to use each one for ministry for His Glory, and He’d answered accordingly. As I read this excerpt in Pastor Batterson’s book I realized that that’s what I always seemed to be seeking—Spiritual Adventure. It was then that the Holy Spirit told me, “You’re going to call your book CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE.

I thought, “OK. I’ll do that Lord. I’ll work on it sometime soon.” Yeah, right! Like all the other things I’d mentally assented to work on that never even got started. But God had other plans. The next day I was at church. The service had ended and I was standing in line to enter in to the Pastor Appreciation Luncheon. Suddenly, as I was talking to some friends, the Holy Spirit spoke to me—very clearly. “You’re going to take the next two weeks, and you’re going to write the book. I’m going to give it to you. I’ll use it for my Glory.” I almost laughed out loud! It was so unexpected and random! I told him OK, and here I am—writing my book…His book.

In the almost 28 years that I’ve walked with God, I’ve experienced some pretty wild adventures. Some were of my own choosing. Some were the ramifications of other people’s choices. Most were good adventures. A few weren’t. But I’ve asked God to use each one to further His Kingdom.

To echo Pastor Batterson’s words a couple pages farther in, “...Jesus didn’t die to keep us safe. Jesus died to make us dangerous.” It is my hope that in writing this book I can encourage you
  • To Choose Your Own Adventures with God.
  • To Challenge you to Not Settle for the Mundane, Boring Existence that brings a smile to our enemy’s face.
  • To become Armed and Dangerous to the kingdom of darkness!

Let The Adventure Begin!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Homeward Bound...

Well, I've been gone 48 days now. At times it hasn't seemed long, but right now it seems like an eternity. Not in a bad way, but in the way that some things just seem like distant memories, even though 48 days really isn't that long.

By the time anyone reads this, I'll probably be home. I'm actually writing this while sitting in a hotel room across the street from NASA's Space Center outside of Houston. In about 2 hours I'll be headed to the airport and in 5 hours from now I'll be on a plane headed home. BUT, since I'm trying to surprise as many people as possible, I'm setting this to post on Saturday evening late. I don't know how many people actually read about my wanderings, so it shouldn't spoil the surprise too much.

I know if I wait until I get home to record my "final thoughts" about this tour of duty, I'll never get around to my last South America post that has yet to be written. So it's really important to me to actually put my thoughts to "paper" right now, before I get home.

Once I knew I was being released from the field, I arranged for Evelyn (one of the inspectors with whom I'd roomed previously) to come and pick me up. She was being released as well, so I knew we could ride to the field office together to turn in our equipment.

Before she came to pick me up I carried my laundry the 3+ blocks to the Washateria (that's a laundromat if you hadn't already figured it out!) and finally got my dirty clothes washed...YAY!!! When Evelyn came to pick me up I was somewhat surprised at the pangs of regret I had for leaving the area with which I'd become very well acquainted over the last several weeks.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to sow seeds of God's love to the people whom I've encountered on a day to day basis. Many had voiced concern for my safety in that area, which opened the door for me to share how I felt about the people in that area. I had to laugh at one lady on Thursday, though.

I had just finished my last inspection for this deployment and was walking away from my applicant's apartment. My camera wasn't co-operating, and I was carrying it and trying to get it to turn off. A man and woman were walking by and said, "Hello, officer..." I laughed and made it very clear that I was NOT a police officer, but a contract inspector contracted to FEMA.

They cautioned me about having a camera out in that area (for a couple reasons 1- theft risk and 2-people who are using and/or dealing drugs get real nervous when there are people with cameras around taking pictures). Then she asked me my name and age. She introduced herself by saying that people called her "69" but that her real name was Re-----. The nickname "69" kind of makes me think she was a prostitute, but I'm not sure...

The thing is, SHE was concerned about ME. Before she walked away she cautioned me again to put away my camera and my cellphone, "You're too pink to be carrying a camera or a cellphone around here!" I laughed at her comment and thanked here sincerely for her concern. I've found most of the people in the Third Ward to be really nice, caring people.

I was talking to an applicant a couple days ago about why she chose to move into the area in which she is living. She said that it was a big decision for her at first, because the neighborhood was pretty run down when she bought her house. But she pointed out that if people who do care will move into a neighborhood that's run down and crime/drug infested, they CAN change the neighborhood.

It takes guts and time, but that's what happened in her case. She started caring, not only about her own house and self, but about her neighbors as well. She became pro-active and it rubbed off on a few of the other neighbors as well. Now her block is totally different than when she first moved into her home. The neighbors work together to keep the area clean. They look out for each other. They've run the drug dealers out of their block. They take pride in their community.

What I got from talking to her is that sometimes the easy road isn't the road that we have to take. That to get something worth having it may take some hard decisions and you may have to put up with adversity along the way (and people may tell you you're crazy for doing what you're doing!). BUT, there is a tremendous reward in the end. And when we stand up for Good and Right, we naturally draw other people to do the same. We shine the Light into the darkness and the darkness has to fall back.

I know that many times when we hear that term "shine the light into the darkness" we think of preaching the Gospel...telling people about Jesus. But shining the Light into the darkness can also mean looking out for our neighbors' well being, showing a love and compassion for others, giving of our time and energy to help those around us, encouraging others...being a "good neighbor."

I could ramble on and on, but I don't want to lose you as a reader, so let me just finish with this. I had a little time at the washateria to read more of Margaret Feinberg's book The Sacred Echo. At one point she was talking about surrender. I want to leave you with a couple quotes from her book and some final thoughts from me...
"Surrender means it's not just about getting things done, but how you get them done that matters. When Jesus speaks of walking two miles instead of one and giving your coat instead of just your shirt, he's saying that surrender takes many forms--everything including your schedule, your possessions, and, of course, your heart. Surrender asks us to hand over not just what we have but who we are to God."

There are many people who look at me and don't understand why I do many of the things that I do. I often step out of what little comfort zone I have left, and as my pastor commented to me on the phone the other day, "You do seem to get yourself into some interesting situations, Sandi."

In another chapter of Ms. Feinberg's book she talks about a friend of hers named Shana. At one point she states,
"I've watched Shana's life for almost a decade now, and her latest exploits are always a cliff-hanger resting on the hope that once again God will save the day. And he does--time and time again. Somehow Shana has managed to start her own entertainment company, film several movies, and launch a significant ministry with less than $1000 to her name at any given time." She later says, "Just watching Shana's life provides countless snapshots of faith in action and what it looks like to answer the call, You follow me. If God can do so much through one woman pursuing the passions of her heart and the calling on her life, then what could he do with me?"
That question resonates throughout my very being, "Then what could he do with me?" I truly have always striven to live my life as faith in action in response to God's call on my life (I didn't say I've always succeeded! :D ).

My dear family & friends, though you may not ever fully understand me...I hope & pray that you'll join me in the adventure of this pursuit!

To God's Glory!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Ministry To The Hurting...

Hey, this is Sandi! I finally have the time to take a couple minutes (yeah, right...I know my posts are never only a couple minutes long :D ) to talk about the stuff that really matters to me here. The ministry...

Each day as I make my way from one applicant to the next I am trusting God to order my path. I ask Him to place me in the right place, at the right time, to speak to the right people...Divine appointments. He says He will in His Word (Psalm 37:23 AMP and Proverbs 3:6 AMP), so I remind Him of it.

Yesterday my first appointment was with an elderly woman who had a couple trees still on her house. I knew when I first met her that she was a Believer. You can just tell... As I started talking with her and her 16 year old granddaughter whom she'd raised from a small toddler, the Holy Spirit began moving.

We'd talked about the way God had done a healing miracle in her granddaughter's life after a severe child abuse incident as a 2 year old had left her paralyzed on one side. Now as a teenager, she was walking with just a mild limp and was involved in Junior ROTC in high school. I listened as the young woman shared how God had challenged her and transformed her life to overcome the disability and the poverty of the area in which they live. I had tears streaming down my face almost the whole time she was speaking.

By the time I was done with my inspection we were "havin' church" right there in my App's living room and God opened a door for me to pray with both of them. The 3 of us were crying, laughing, and praising God for His faithfulness. My Applicant looked at me and said that she "just knew" that God had sent me to her and was so grateful for me coming. Little did she know that I was the one who got blessed by meeting them!

A few weeks ago I did an inspection for a single mom who has 5 teenage+ kids. She herself was back in school pursing a Medical Assistant degree. I had been talking to her and two of her children about their dreams and goals in life. Her one son wanted to pursue a career as an architect and I'd seen some of his drawings. They were really good. I saw a Bible laying on the counter, so before I left I used that as an opening to just simply say, "I'll be praying for you."

That opened a door, and she responded by saying they could use all the prayer they could get. I asked if she'd like for me to pray with her before I left and her face brightened. The thing that was so awesome was that her two teenagers reached out to grab my hand to pray with us, so we all gathered in a circle and I got a chance to pray for each of them. We were all hugging and crying. God was just so awesome!

I've seen countless incidents where God's placed me in the right place at the right time. Case in point is one day last week. I'd made a decision to walk to Denny's for dinner and take a taxi back to the hotel since it was going to be dark by the time I got done (home girl don't walk in the hood in the dark!). Anyway, I always try to let the Holy Spirit guide me as to which road I walk down.

I looked down at the ground while I was walking, and there was a gas company credit card that someone had dropped. I picked it up and called the toll free number on the back to report that I'd found it. The lady at the credit card company was so amazed that I had turned it in, and it was a good feeling knowing that God had used me to keep someone from having their card stolen. If I had taken a different street someone else may have found it that may have misused it. God is good!

To all those back home, I send my love. I don't know when I'll be back, but I want to encourage all of you with the same encouragement that I give to myself...only those things done in the Spirit and for the Kingdom of God will stand for eternity; so, no matter how the economy or the election or anything else looks, "keep your eyes on the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ" and press through to finish the race that we are running. Fight the good fight of faith.

A friend of mine wrote to me the other day and voiced the thought that he couldn't wait to get to Heaven...and I agree...I'm longing to hear my Heavenly Father tell me, "Sandi, you made me right proud! Come on home!," and to see the countless lives that I'm believing God to touch through my life.

Until then, Daddy, let me touch one more life for you...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gasp! My Son, Jed Wrote A Blog Post!

Just had to get a word or so in out of my shock at Jed actually posting...and to let any new readers know that there are 5 of us who have the ability to contribute to our family blog (I need to get my grandkids blogging too...hmmm) so not every post is necessarily from me. You can usually tell Jed's: short, to the point, and infrequent! :D His will be the ones that say Brother Grymm. Troy's will say Brother Gromm. I don't remember what Rachael and Zip's pen names are, but you get the point...Anyway, gotta run!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Has the world ended?

Probably not, but it should have, because I am writing a blog post. Very short, very much to the point. If there was one.

This is Jed. I've been in Texas for a little over two weeks, and right now would give almost anything to be able to go to Dallas tonight and watch a football (A football game? No, THE football game...) The Red River Shootout. I love college football, and I have two teams I cheer for any time they are on the field, one of them is Oklahoma University, and the other is the University of Florida. Anyway, Rivalry Weekend is going to be awesome, I just wish I could watch the games rather than work.

Other than that, nothing major to report, been inspecting houses and generally just wishing payroll woul get their act together. I will say, however, that this would be the perfect place/time for a bum to live. Meals can be found on nearly every corner of Galveston Island, and sometimes they find you first (Mobile Salvation Army food trucks driving up and down the streets all throughout the day, serving hot food, cold water, and even some Gatorade.) Two nights ago we slept in the truck on Galveston, in a parking lot. There was a furniture place that had thrown all its sofas out because they had gotten wet, but were dry now. So, being the Birds that we are, we pulled a sofa over to the car, pulled a stack of crates over, ran the power cord of Troy's laptop out the passenger window, and watched a movie on it, sitting on a couch for the first time in ages. So, yeah, if you ever thought about becoming a transient, this would be the perfect time.

My biggest complaint while down here, though, has got to be the McDonald's Dollar Sweet Tea, or lack thereof. First off, most of them don't even have sweet tea. Its like, are you all freaking yankees or something? What the hell is wrong with this country when the southern restaurants don't have sweet tea. Second off, when they do have sweet tea, it isn't a buck. It's a buck 69, plus tax.

Anyway, going to cut the chat now, so until next time, take care and have fun.

Where Angels (Some Folk) Dare Not Trod...

Hey everyone! This is Sandi. I'm still here in Houston, TX on deployment with FEMA. I had a little time to write tonight, so I wanted to try to catch things up a little bit. To do that, I'll have to back-track to last week. I hesitated to share part of this lest I concern people back home, but I don't think the people I'm worried about being concerned for me actually read my blog anyway! (And if they do, yes, I Know...!) :-) And hopefully none of you who are reading this will get freaked out...I'm laughing about it as I write it, so I hope you'll see the humor in it as well...a typical Bird Family Adventure! And I've had a chance to minister to and pray with a LOT of the people here. That's where my heart is in all of this.

I'm still in the Third Ward, an area that I mentioned in my last blog post. Due to a payroll issue that has persisted over the last couple weeks, I had to turn in my rental car last week (which had doubled as my hotel room for two nights)...that made it kind of hard to do my work. I stayed with Evelyn down across from NASA for 4 nights, but that was 25+ miles from my assigned area. So on Sunday I moved into this divey little hotel where I've been staying ever since.

Let me describe my humble surroundings...At $150 for the week, it's a pretty good bargain. It comes complete with mirrors around the bed, a cable channel that I have to turn my head to pass over (since I'm not into hard-core X-rated programming), and a shower stall that took 1/2 a bottle of Tilex and an hour of scrubbing to get it to the place where I felt comfortable using it. By Day 4 they finally put a working deadbolt on the door and fixed the door where it had obviously been forced open at some point and been broken in the door knob area. They even let me borrow the vacuum cleaner on Wednesday!

Classy place, right? ;-) It does, at least, have an air conditioner and free local phone calls. And a perfect view of crack deals going down in the park that borders the property...I won't mention the name of this fine establishment while I'm staying here though. The best thing it's got going for it is the people who run it. They are actually very nice, and are concerned about me being here without a vehicle.

Oh, it gets better though! I've had the lovely opportunity to walk to all of my applicant's houses. It's a lot slower going, of course. And as I mentioned in my last post I have some pretty rough neighborhoods in my area. I've become somewhat of an oddity, I'm sure, as I walk all over the "hood". I am learning which people not to make eye contact with, which people to ignore, and which people to avoid altogether. The up-side is that I've been getting some great exercise by walking 4-6 miles a day in the last few days. The walk time is also great time to talk with the Lord. Plus it gives my angels something to do as, well,...I normally lead such a "boring" life...I figured I'd spice things up for them. You know, keep them on their toes! :-)

I've had applicants ask me if I was afraid to be walking around this area. My reply has been this: If I were to be afraid to be in this area then I would be judging the whole community based on a few "bad apples". I figure there are a lot of good people here who just happen to live in a poverty, drug, and gang-infested area. (Yeah, I forgot to mention that there's gang activity here too...) I do make it a point of being in my room before dark, and most importantly to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit when He tells me to "turn here", "go this way", or "DON'T go that way.

My heart really goes out to the people here. I went to one applicant's house today. He is an elderly, disabled man who looks like he's going to fall with each shaky step, despite using his cane. There is still a tree on his house that messed up the badly deferred maintenance roof and walls, tearing up the termite-eaten/dry-rotted rafters and the top plate on the exterior bathroom and bedroom wall. There's a hole in the bathroom where you can look out and see tree limbs and sky. And the sewer is STILL backed up into his tub and commode. And he's afraid to leave there because of the number of break-ins/thefts in his neighborhood.

Another thing that amazes me is the number of people that will fit in a 1 or 2 bedroom house. Back in Virginia it's a violation for a landlord to rent a one bedroom to a family that's larger than 2. Here they'll let a family of 8 stay in a 2 BR...

Anyway, I let the time slip away from me, so gotta go. Will try to actually get more of the stuff I really want to talk about (the stories about the people)down in print soon. Bye for now!

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Houston Update

Not much time for internet, but wanted to update everyone. I've been in Houston for 2 weeks now, and it's been an interesting experience. A great many signs are blown down, so finding my way around has been interesting nonetheless! If you ever want to find someone to take wrong turns with and explore Houston the hard way, you should have ridden with me the first week...I know God has a sense of humor and was ROF LOL watching my navigational attempts! The street I was looking for was always the one that had the sign blown down... :-D

My first night here was spent in a hotel with Barb and David (two of my roommates from New Orleans). That was when we got the news that our first paycheck was going to be held back TWO weeks, not just one, so the paycheck we thought we were going to be getting wasn't going to be there that Friday.

Since I'm a member of (you can check out my profile at I got on the local Houston Group and posted a request for a place for the three of us to stay. I got a phone call that night and the next day we had the absolute honor and privilege of meeting local CouchSurfer Steve McNulty.

Steve and his wonderful family opened up their home to the three of us and another inspector (Kendall) for over a week until our inspection assignments caused us each to relocate. His wife, Lorei, fixed us some of the most delicious meals, and they just plain spoiled us while we were there. It was a nice place to come home to after seeing destruction and hearing sad stories all day long.

And that leads me to the people and homes affected by Hurricane Ike. My assignment finds me meeting with people in the Third Ward area of Houston. It's where you find the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. And it's an area that has a strange combination of HUD projects, student housing, really old falling down shacks, really old nice homes, and some modern urban living buildings mixed in. At any given time of day there's probably a crack deal going down within a few blocks of you, and many of my male applicants have the tell-tale extra long pinkie fingernail. But there are a lot of really good people in this area who have lived here for years.

As I go from house to house to perform my inspections I am appalled at the conditions in which many of the area residents live. I see houses that should have been bulldozed years ago. Many landlords do little to nothing to maintain their properties. And I'm surprised to see how many of the buildings actually managed to remain standing after the hurricane. I'm running out of time, but I wanted to post a few pics...

Tree vs. House 01

Tree vs. House 02

Tree vs. House 03

Tree vs. House 04

Ram Tough

Double Whammy

A House On Galveston Island