Where Have I Been?

A Daddy Lion looks on tenderly at his cub
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One of my images of Father God, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown

If you’re wondering where I’ve been, honestly, for a long time, the adoption process and keeping my home clean enough to please our agency was so stressful, I didn’t have enough creative energy left for any writing at all. Now I’ve improved on that front, only to take a class at church that required as much energy as college and took up a lot of free time and frankly after my chores and my course work I just wanted to play games, read, or Facebook on my Kindle. That got boring, so I got a job.

That story begins last September, when my friend Niccole asked me to host a Lilla Rose party for her, as an adoption fundraiser for me–in addition to my hostess rewards, she threw in her own

commission from that party–that floored me. Not many people like her in business these days. If you’re wondering “what’s Lilla Rose?” So was I.

The company sells unique hair accessories that work better than store-bought, last longer than store-bought, have a 1-year product warranty , and they’re gentler on hair and work for nearly any hair type. Including mine, and that says something.

I was born with a thick set of curls that my family had no idea how to care for on a girl and they were too proud to ask for help. At age twelve, my hair was frizzy and so brushed out, we’d thought my baby curls had gone away rather than having matured into long, wavy hair very stressed from neglect and so unmanageable, I was daily asking my mom to comb out my rat’s nests.  After she reached her frustration limit there, I ended up in a salon, getting an impulsive, bad hair cut fixed. I wanted my pretty curls back, which led to a perm and advice from the beautician that I needed to use conditioner and hair picks (or wide tooth combs) and never again let any sort of hairbrush anywhere near my head.

So over the next few years, the perm grew out into the long, naturally wavy hair I have today. And I could now manage my hair myself–but it remained unruly and stubborn. My styling was limited to the half-up, a ponytail, and a basic bun at the nape of my neck. I was surprised at first at how much it made the professionals’ day to get to put my hair up for my prom and my wedding. For the most part, I’d all but lived 24/7 in the boring buns and ponytails before the Lilla Rose Fundraiser. My best styling trick was making my hair look shorter with a Scrunci upzing–which you can get for under $10 easily but they’re not big enough to hold my buns and they caused scalp pain the whole time I had them in. They also tangle on themselves and break easily. Lilla Rose costs more but you get better quality and you can exchange any items that do develop defects in the first year.

Jesus saved my life; Lilla Rose reduced my hair problems. I still have migraines but otherwise I can now put up my hair as fancy as I can learn to do it with little pain, when only the boring bun wasn’t painful before. On top of that, these things are unique hair jewelry that jazz up even my standby simple bun, simple pony tail, and the half-up.  There’s also something to suit all tastes, ranging from a metallic Celtic knot, a skull and cross bones, to flowers and bling suitable for the prom queen or even a bride getting married on a tight budget. I was used to buying cheap, so their prices seemed high to me at first, but their prices are low-end from the jewelry standpoint. Their main product, the Flexi, was too unique to sell in stores, so Lilla Rose restored to selling their products online and via network marketing consultants like my friend Niccole and now me.

Yes, I got that excited but gave myself until this late spring to think about it before getting bored enough to go for it. In the end, I figured consultants get a 30% minimum discount and the $125 kit contains $300 worth of their best-selling products.  To keep this independent contractor position, we only have to sell like $29 a year and sales to ourselves count. You only have to actually work it if you want to actually make any money–and if you do work it, you may eventually build a passive revenue stream. If you want to test things out, host an online party for me either on my public Ashira Clips page or in my private  group.

Note this is a one-time announcement that will not repeat, and I do plan to get back on topic here soon. If you’re interested in becoming a consultant or hosting a party, PM Ashira Clips on Facebook. If you’d like to see more, check out the product demo videos on my Facebook page or browse my online catalog at: lillarose.biz/ashira

For the rest of my life update, my last class ended only for me to need to start a Bible Study that reads like an MLM/network marketing approach to Christian evangelism/missions. It’s talk about reproducing and “be fruitful and multiply” may be triggering for infertile women, and I’m concerned it talks too much like the goal is for us to multiply ourselves rather than for Christ to multiply himself through our efforts, but otherwise it looks good. We need more discipleship in the church, and the other evangelism methods known to me are obnoxious and boundaries-violating so I’ll be interested to see if this approach is instead respectful and effective. I’ll let you know when I finish the course and get back from Romania. (The Romania trip story is one I’ll save for another time.)

One thing I will say, in all this whirlwind, I’ve had a few thoughts. 1) Christians are too busy to be asked to spend more than three hours a week with Jesus, which is why so many wait until their only alternative is therapy to take my previous, more intense discipleship class. 2) What is more exciting to us? Hair jewelry that considerably reduce our hair headaches? Or Christ who saved our souls from Hell and supplies all of our spiritual needs according to his riches in glory? What do we show more appreciation for? A friend who gives us an unexpected gift worth in excess of $200? Or God the Father, who ransomed us with the precious blood of his only begotten son, whose worth is beyond measure?

Another of my images of Father God*, a gift from a discipleship class facilitator at church, photographer unknown. (*The Son is the image of the Father See Col. 1:15)

Not to say we shouldn’t be grateful to our friends or happy to have solutions to every day problems. God cares about those, too, and he wants us to be grateful for each other when we do good for one another. I’m simply contemplating our priorities and wondering if we’re taking Christ for granted or if we’re letting the good gifts of this world remind us of the excellency and matchless worth of God’s gifts.

Let us remember the good people and good gifts we’ve received from them with gladness. Let’s also remember Christ’s glory and be spurred on to stir up what we’ve received from Christ and be mindful of Christ with us as we go about our day.

For anyone who walked in off the street because of Lilla Rose and now has no idea what I’m talking about, sorry. Please pretend I’m from a foreign country and speaking broken English from the strange cultural viewpoint of my strange foreign country. If you’re curious to understand it–not necessarily accept it–feel free to ask questions. Otherwise, please feel welcome to take in the data of interest to you, ignore the rest, and go on about your hopefully peaceful day.

 

Why I Chose Faithfulness

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The Church faces a lot of challenges with the changes technology is making to our society. New generations have been taught values that run contrary to scripture.  Many believe this presents a problem they have to fix in their own might and wisdom.

I end up cringing at most of these solutions. Some of these efforts, while well-intentioned, come off as fake and cheesy because a church or ministry is doing something that’s so unnatural, that’s so obviously doesn’t fit who they are, that it feels fake and schmaltzy. Then, we have people who ignore the parts of the scripture that are unpopular in today’s culture and thus compromise the truth. And often, in both cases, the people offering the solutions will be telling Christians what they ought to do but haven’t actually succeeded in reaching these groups themselves.

This week, I read in Acts 9 the story of Saul of Tarsus’ encounter with Christ that led to Saul becoming Paul the Apostle. This raised questions for me. What if the people who hold the solution to the church’s most vexing challenges aren’t in the Church right now? Maybe, the people who God will ultimately use to address the needs that vex so many in church leadership are far from God right at this very moment.

Certainly, Saul, the persecutor of the Church, was far from God.  No one in the Early Church would view Saul as a solution to anything, but rather as just another big problem. There were a probably quite a few who’d lost relatives to his fanatical persecution who would have shed no tears if Saul had died.

Yet God had chosen Saul for a mission many would not have expected: “the Pharisee of Pharisees” who would have eschewed contact with gentiles became the Apostle to the gentiles.  It seems like a horrible idea. Yet God knew what he was doing.

As a man who learned at the feet of Gamaliel, Paul had honed a fine intellect which would be key to reaching much of the Gentile world. His background as a Pharisee gave him a great understanding of scripture and tradition. At the same time, his impeccable Jewish credentials made him the perfect opponent of the Judaizers who threatened to subvert the early Christian Church.

Throughout history, God has done this. He has taken persecutors and skeptics and raised them up to be the leaders and thinkers of the Church. It’s true not only of Paul, but of more modern figures like C.S. Lewis, an atheist who became the greatest modern apologist for the Christian Church, or Chuck Colson, a ruthless take-no-prisoner political operative who has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world through founding Prison Fellowship.

Time and time again, even with churches full of people, God has reached out, drawn people out of the world and to himself and raised them up for the great purposes he’s intended and often are truer to God and his word than many who were raised within the Church’s walls and also more effective at reaching those outside the church. God has provided in this way time and time again throughout history.

The most important thing for Christians to do is to be faithful to what God has called them to do. Any new steps or new approaches will only succeed if they are ordered by the Lord. Let’s remain faithful to who God has called us to be, and let’s rest safe in the knowledge that God hasn’t called us to solve every problem. God has called us to be faithful to do what he’s called us to do.

Mind you, we are all called to show love and kindness. The story of Paul encourages me to look at those who are far from God differently. It’s often said we should not judge people because we don’t know where they’ve been (i.e. what they have suffered that led to this behavior) but Paul’s story shows that we don’t know where people are going. The terrorist, the political extremist, the bigot, the sexually immoral person, and the con man may be one encounter with God away from being transformed as Paul was. They may be the person who helps bring your lost relatives to Christ or who ends up writing words that will save you from losing heart years down the road.

The solution to the problems the church faces is not to be clever and inventive but humble, loving, and obedient. Let’s pray God will raise up those people who will have the wisdom and the ability to address the problems we face at this time as he has done throughout the history of the Church.

[bctt tweet=”Why I Choose Faithfulness: Saul the Persecutor became Paul the Apostle by God’s power, not by cheesy gimmicks or compromising on the truth. By @Idahoguy” username=”@andreajgraham”]

There Was Light

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photo credit: blavandmaster Light overflow via photopin (license)

There was light in the dawn
Spreading over separating waters,
Sweeping over drying land
As the dust sprouted people and grass.
Chasing dusk with dawn and dawn, dusk,
Life from the word, and the word was “Good,”
The word from the light in the dawn.

There was light on the tree,
Hammered down with nails nine inches long,
Poured out as an offering of love
On the masses and their children,
Wrapped in cloths and lain in a tomb
And left three days before anyone came,
Three days from the light on the cross.

There was light outside the grave
That could not keep him locked inside
But admitted defeat as the boulder
Was shoved aside and the angels
Proclaimed;. the women feared
And the women rejoiced: He has risen!
Rejoiced for the light defeated the grave.

There was light in the followers
Who would not recant the savior
They knew and loved and trusted,
But kneeled down and chose not
life that was death but death
With him that was life eternal
For the light in the followers was life.

There was light in the dusk
When the trumpet sounded
And Hope rode on a white horse
Whisking away in a twinkling eye
Those who believe he would come
And washed away their tears,
For the light in the dawn was the light in the dusk.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]There was light on the tree, Hammered down with nails nine inches long, Poured out as an offering of love[/tweetthis]

Home to Glory

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photo credit: MashrikFaiyaz Road to Heaven II via photopin (license)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.”

–Rev 21:4

I slipped into my grandpa’s room,
Eyes swollen from crying,
Fear gripping my heart,
Expecting to see a shriveled-up skeleton
With sunken eyes filled with despair.
Imagine to my surprise, I found
Just my grandpa, looking small in the bed,
Shriveled up yes, but my, there’s that same sparkle
In his eyes, and smile on his lips!

“Grandpa,” cried I, “What’s this joy I see?
How can you be so glad?
You’re dying! How can you smile?”

Grandpa laughed and, as he swung his legs to the floor,
He said, “Because there isn’t any loneliness in heaven,
And there isn’t any pain.
When I die, I’ll be free from this body of decay,
I’ll put on Glory and run to my Jesus,
And Jesus will take me up to the mansion he’s built for me,
To live where my Gladys lives and never be alone.”

And again, he cried, “Glory, child, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

Seeing the disbelieving look in my eyes,
And knowing the doubt in my heart,
Grandpa said to me, “Bring me my walker,
I’d like to take you to see a couple friends of mine.”

When Grandpa had his walker and we were going down the hall,
He said, “Now first is Brother Larry. He was redeemed
Seven years ago from wild, riotous livin’,
But is reaping the fruits of his sin in his flesh still yet,
This is his twelfth trip to the hospital this year,
And it looks like it is gonna be his last.”

“Wow,” said I, “Now he has to be upset.”

Grandpa just smiled at me and introduced me to Larry.
Larry was wasted in the flesh as I’d expected,
But imagine my surprise, instead of fear in his eyes
And a frown etched on his face, there was the same twinkle
In the eye and smile on the lips!

“Larry,” said I, “What’s this joy I see?
How can you be so glad? You’re dying!
Why this cheerful countenance?”

And Larry cried, “Because there ain’t no devil in Heaven!
Nor is there any tempter in Glory,
When I die, I’ll go to heaven and be free from this body of sin.
I’ll run to Jesus and put on His righteousness.
Jesus will take me up to live with him in the mansion he’s built for me,
Free from the tormentor forever in Glory.”

And again, he cried, “Glory, Darlin’, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

Now that was impressive, but Grandpa had still another friend
To introduce me to.

“Now, next we have Sister Lisa. She’s about your age.
Never had a boyfriend.
Never been kissed.
There’s a tumor in her brain,
Which is slowly snuffing out her light.”

Having not yet learned my lesson, I entered Lisa’s room
Expecting to see a pain-wracked body,
Filled with anger and hate,
Trying to mask the fear in her eyes,
This time I was still yet more surprised
To find yet again the exact same twinkle
In the eye and smile on the lips!

“Lisa,” said I, “How can you be so glad? You’re dying!
Before you’ve even had a chance to live!”
What’s this joy I see?

Lisa clapped her hands and said, “Because there ain’t no pain in Heaven!
Nor is there any Sorrow in Glory,
When I die, I’ll go to heaven and be free from this body of death,
I’ll put on my bridal gown and go meet the Bridegroom,
Jesus will be my escort to the Great Wedding Feast,
Where I will live life abundantly, forever in Glory.”

And again, she cried, “Glory, Friend, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!”

This time, my heart too welled up,
Having been moved by these three testimonies,
And the Hope Grandpa and his friends had in Jesus,
I went down on my knees,
And choose this Christ who gives joy in the face of death.
So now someday I shall also sing:

Glory, child, Glory makes me glad.
Come death, as it may,
But I’m going home to glory!
I’ll be with my Jesus forever, by and by
In the place where there is no more sorrow,
and there will be no more pain,
nor any tears, and there will be no more death.
And forever I will cry Glory, Glory Hallelujah!”

—Andrea J. Graham

[tweetthis]“Glory, Friend, Glory makes me glad. Come death, as it may, But I’m going home to glory!”[/tweetthis]

 

Break In

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photo credit: country_boy_shane The Citadel – National City Building via photopin (license)

The street lamp lured the two young vagrants towards their only hope of warmth in the dark night. The store was closed, but a lock pick fixed that in short order.

Inside, the young man cursed. “It’s as dark in here as it is out there. Find a light.”

“How?” the shabbily dressed girl asked. “I can hardly see my hand in front of my face.”

Maybe they couldn’t. I could see just fine. Not that there was much to see, besides me, anyway. I was the main thing for sale around here. This place was generic Corporate America. No different from any other corporate headquarters, other than everyone but upper management having all gone home for the night. Even the janitor had taken off.

The young man sighed. “At least it’s warm. Let’s find what we came for already.”

Blind eyes glanced around as they turned in a slow circle, struggling to see through what to them was a dark gloomy night that the lights should have kept safely outside. The girl’s eyes landed on me, peering hard. “I think I might see something.”

No, don’t. Not this way; you’ll set off the security system.

The girl’s companion shivered. “Let’s get out of here. Something doesn’t feel right.”

The fools ran forward, towards me.

Blue sparks flew from the ceiling and zapped the youths. They didn’t even have time to scream before the ionizer had dusted them both. Gone, just like that.

That was it. No more of this.

A swift kick, and my display case shattered. I rolled out and hit the ground running. No time to mess with the hassle of going upstairs the normal way, and they’d be expecting something like that. But I knew a better way to get into upper management.

Dashing around the corner, I found the grate covering the old service elevator’s shaft. A screwdriver had the bolts off in two minutes flat. I climbed inside and shimmied up the service elevator shaft’s stainless steel rails. On the second floor, at my easy tug, the rusty service elevator doors creaked apart with a groan.

The light from the office glowed golden yellow from the open door. It was a perfect square. Three feet square.

I scrunched down and limboed through the door. Easy for me, but no one should have to jump through hoops like this, and I bypassed the normal steps to management.

At my entrance, the resident Woman in Charge, in a perfectly pressed power suit, came flying at me, red faced and flustered that some miscreant got past security. “You can’t come in here!”

I regarded the manager calmly. “Sure I can.” I pointed at the door to the owner’s office. “That’s my office.”

At the sound of my voice, my manager and her associates assumed a posture that was far more appropriate for employees in the presence of their boss. Finally, upper management had figured out I was the guy that gave them the keys in the first place—the same keys they used to lock me out and treat me like a product to market and sell.

[tweetthis]Break In #FlashFiction based on a dream. A sentient product for sale confronts his managers.[/tweetthis]