Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pimps, whores...and unconditional LOVE.

When I was 16 I went to my first 'Pimps and Hoe's' dress-up party. (I know what you're thinking, and yes, depending on their social circles many Australian adolenscents are corrupted by such ridiculous sexual-themed parties at a young age. However, please extend grace and don't assume that all Aussies are sleezes and tarts from the age of 14). To be honest, I didn't exactly know what a pimp, or a hoe for that matter, was. So I just put on a pair of short-shorts and my ex-boyfriend's work outfit- complete with checkered shirt, work-hat, work-boots and tool belt- and headed out the door. After a couple of puffs of a joint and way more alcohol that my teenage body could handle, I got a call from some mates that were coming to pick me up. The party was held in a very secluded, small country town about 40 mins north-west of Melbourne CBD. My friends had no idea how to get there, so in the hope of saving them the trouble of directions I left the party and started walking along the freeway at 2 am. I can't remember much, however I recall that after quite a bit of walking, and no sign of my friends, I was suddenly very aware that I was in tiny shorts and a half un-buttoned shirt with my bra showing...and I was walking along a very dark road at a some-what dangerous hour on a Saturday night. After hours of walking (and still no sign of my punctual collection posse) I slumped down on the side of the road in frustration. My head was spinning, my heart was racing; only thing that I wanted was to pass-out in a warm bed...and I had a thought: I look like a prostitute.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am by no means comparing my feelings at the time of the event to the feelings of a woman who is waiting on the side of a dark road to offer her 'services', or saying that I was feeling anything remotely similar...just that in that moment, I feel that I got a little glimpse of the solidarity that a woman might feel while she's alone on a cold night anxiously waiting to be 'picked-up'...and it has always stuck with me.

Did you know that there are 2.7 million victims of human-trafficking being forced into prositutution in the world today? That's the population of Chicago. 80 per cent of these victims are women and children. In Italy alone there are estimated to be between 19,000 and 24,000 people working on the streets as prostitutes, and there is thought to be 3 times that number working in 'indoor prostitution' (apartments, nightclubs, massage parlours etc.). So what are we doing about it? Well, I can't speak on behalf of all the countries where this rapidly increasing industry is evolving, but I can give you some information on what action Italy is taking:
The Department of Equal Opportunites passed a legislation (Act 18) that promises protection for victims of human-trafficking, not depending on whether or not they choose to testify towards their traffickers. This is already a big step forward in respect to the rest of Euope, who's Human Rights Legislations still require victims to testify in exchange for their protection (one point- Italy). The Italian government was providing 5 million euros to the DEO, who then, as part of this new law, opened up a free help-line for victims of human-trafficking in Italy to call, which guaranteed intervention and protection. This help-line was operating out of 15 capital cities around Italy. However....the descent of the Italian economy has caused many government funds to be removed- including many of these funds for the DEO. On the 1st of August, 2010, 14 of the 15 help-line operators were shut-down, and 2 million euros was cut from the funding. Today, the total of funds provided for the DEO doesn't even reach 4 million- keeping in mind that obviously this money is being used to carry out other legislative acts also. Article 18 of the DEO legislation still rests as head of the fight against human trafficking in Italy, however there are huge complications. While Acts 18 continues to be active, there are other laws still standing that do not allow it to work in the way that it should. For example, the Department of Immigration states that someone living illegally in Italy (obviously including people that have been smuggled or trafficked into the country who don't have resident visas) should be fined from 5-10 million euros, and even after that they are not guaranteed permanent residency in the country. This means that many times after illegal immigrants have been discovered, whether they were trafficked here or not, they are deported back to their own countries without an option. All this to say, the Italian government is not provding necessary help, and because of this, victims are reluctant to come forward and turn to the authorities for fear of being fined and deported...and the vicious circle goes around and around. Pretty discouraging, isn't it? In my despair for world-wide human trafficking epidemic (also being labelled as 'modern-day slavery') I cling to this hope: there is another Power on our side of the battle.

"One of the Pharisees asked him (Jesus) to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table.. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at a table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now, when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself , 'If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner'...- Luke 7:36-39
'....Then turning toward the woman, (Jesus) said to Simon (the Pharisee)- "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time that I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, HER SINS, WHICH ARE MANY, ARE FORGIVEN...for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."- Luke 7:44-47
When speaking to those who refused to believe the truth about Himself, Jesus said:
"Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you." - Matthew 21:31
During the time of His ministry, Jesus' love reached even the lives of women deeply entangled in sin and sexual immorality. God loves these women; He created them in the same way that He created you and I, He extends the same hands of love and redemption that He extends to us...and He forgives them in the same way that He has forgiven us. All through the Old Testament we have examples of God's chosen people, Israel, prostituting themselves to foreign idols and other god's...and God still offered them His mercy. Over and over, He promised deliverance for Israel, regardless of how many times 'she played the whore'- all His chosen people had to do was turn back to Him. The same applies to us today- when we turn to Jesus, when we cast our burdens upon Him, we are delivered from the emptyness of our previous lives- we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Whatever we did in our lives before Jesus, we are forgiven and redeemed. That is God's promise, and the meaning of Jesus' cross, to all of us who believe in Him and repent for our transgressions- no matter whether we are liars or theives; pimps or prostitutes. Whoring yourself to sex, whoring yourself to's all whoredom. We are all whores in need of His redemption.

There is intense heavyness and heartbreak in my spirit for the women that I see standing on the corners of the street. My apartment building is right beside one of Rome's main roads; a hot-spot for prostitutes. Night in and night out I come face to face with empty, broken, and desperate girls. I am reminded of the reality of the crime that is human trafficking each time that I walk home from being out with mates. I see the pain in their eyes, the masks of courage that they hide behind. My heartbreak deepens when I think about the men behind the schemes, and even further for the men that fill the voids that they carry in their souls by seeking the women. Their view of Creation is just so enormously skewed.  However, God didn't give up on His people Israel and Jesus didn't give up on the sinful woman. I remind myself that my sin is no different than theirs. In the same way that I needed to be redeemed from a life without Jesus, they all need to be also. I pray for God's Spirit to move in the hearts of these women and men, and for Him to call them to Himself; for Him to provide them with a way of escape from the prisons that they are living in.

The world is so fallen, and so drenched in evil; it's a battlefield out there in the valley of darkness... but I KNOW that God's light overcomes darkness. I know that His mercy overcomes sin. I know that His love overcomes everything...and I mean, EVERYTHING...and I know that He's on our side.

But now says the Lord,
He who created you,
He who formed you,
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine,
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour,
You are precious in my eyes,
and honoured and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
people's in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you,
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, give up,
and to the south, do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.
-Isaiah 43:1-7

Thursday, September 15, 2011

You are here.

...'on a moat of dust suspended on a sunbeam'. What?
Carl Sagan was an American astrologer/scientist (cheers, Google). I'm assuming he wasnt a Believer, but that's not the point- the point is that he was right. That's what we are. A tiny speck, floating in the universe.

Many people in my life have a problem with submitting to a Higher Power. They can't grasp the concept of God, because they don't want to admit that something bigger than themselves is controlling them. They want to be 'Lord's' of thier own lives; they want to be the ones with the power. I once understood that thought process, but now it's just so obvious to me- if I can't even control what is going to happen tomorrow, how can I pretend that I'm in charge of my own life? Things happen, every minute, that are completely and utterly beyond us. Many events that occur in my life prove to me that I can't control it. I can't even control what's going to happen in the next 30 seconds. You can't wake up in the morning and ordain everything that's going to happen in your day. People who attempt suicide can't even control their own deaths- some of them jump off bridges and still don't die.  So who are we to claim authority?
Every so often, I wonder about the future. Shocking, I know, coming from the girl who cant even anticipiate where she's going to be in 2 weeks. However I cant help wonder where I'll be in 10 years, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. What will I be doing and how will I get there? Will I still be floating from one corner of the world to the next? Man, I hope so. However, no matter how much I brain-storm and fantasise, the point is this one- I have no control.
Okay, side-spiel, objecitvely speaking: I do have some control, based on the day-to-day desicions that I make. My hope as a Believer is that by staying constant in prayer, I will make my desicions based on what I feel God is leading me to do. God blessed us with the freedom to make our own choices, which is a nice thought, cos if He hadn't of, then we would all be His robots. He graciously gave us power to make choices...but that's still not the point. The point is that He, being all-knowing, already knows what decisions I'm going to make...and I'm so thankful. Imagine if I had the power to plan out my own future? I would be so screwed. How many times have I almost decided to do something, and after not having done it have said, 'I'm glad I didn't do that..' If God gave me authority over my own life this moment, I guarantee that I would not even make it past the next hour. I would totally eff it up. Why? Because I am completely and utterly lost and broken and selfish...and I would screw myself over giving into the desires of my flesh, rather than the desires that God has for me...and the desires that He has for me are no less than perfect.

The last words that Jesus spoke upon the cross were 'It is finished'...then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit..(John 19:30). Jesus called his own death. He acutally said- 'That's it' and then He died. Jesus was God. Remind me who's in control again?

Looking at Carl Sagan's picture reminds me of the power our Creator has, and how small we are in the immensity of His universe. We are dots that appear for second. Let's say you live for, I dunno, 80 years. That's a long time to think about...but what about when you measure it up with the overall span of time? We're in the year 2011. That's TWO THOUSAND AND ELEVEN years (which isn't even starting from the beginning of time, ps)...and you're alive for 80. Not long huh? At least make it worth it. Don't waste time worrying about what's going to happen; live in the moment. Live for what's now, cos guess what? You can't control tomorrow...or the next day...or the next day... so why bother trying to? Sure, I don't have many things that society labels as 'successful', such as a degree, or property, or fancy cars and such. Sometimes the lack of 'stability' in my life freaks me out...but faith pulls me right back. I have faith in His driving skills, and I know that He's the best Driver out there. I don't really care if that means that He might drive me to scrape plates, dive in bins or live in a park. If it's in His plan it's going to be good, whatever it is, so I try not to be anxious about what the future holds. I don't know if I'm going to be here or there, or anywhere...but I know that I'm here NOW...and that's what matters.

Look again at that are smaller than it. Don't waste now, tiny molecule.

"...yet you do not know what tomorrow may bring. What is you life? For you are a midst that appears for a little time and then it vanishes." James 4:14

Monday, September 5, 2011

A crazy, beautiful walk across Spain.

Well...I promised that I would write all about my travels over the last month. I started in Spain on a very long walk called the Camino di Santiago. The whole thing takes about a month and usually starts in a French town called Saint Jean Pied de Port, then takes you all across Spain and finishes in a city called Santiago de Compostela, where you get to the Catheral of Santiago. I started in a town called Leon and walked for 8 days. Between catching a bus here and there, in the end I calculated that I would have walked close to 200kms.  In my effort to minimise this experience down to words for you all, I could only think of one way to do so...and that is to read you parts of my journal. Here we go...

Day 1- Leòn to Hospital de Orbigo- 32 km

This morning I started walking at 5am. I got out the door, and it was still pitch black. Of course I didn't have any batteries in my torch, so I just started walking, hoping that God would somehow provide some light, as He always does...and He did, in the form of a really funny French man called Thivou. He's been walking for close to a month, he started the Camino from the beginning. He's hilarious, I've never laughed so hard that early in the morning before. We walked the whole day together- I gave Italian lessons, and he gave French (of which I absorbed nothing, ps) and we laughed until our sides and legs hurt. We talked about faith and the corruption of the church. Around lunchtime Thivou started getting a really strong pain in his leg- 'Girl, make sure you drink ze water so zat you don't get tendinitis like me.' I prayed for him, out loud, and after a couple of hours he said 'Wow, it is a miracle zat my leg, it don't hurt like before.' Well...He is God, you know. We got to Hospital de Orbigo and found a refuge. Obviously, after 6 hours of walking I was exhaused. There was a good group of us staying at the hostel, among which there was a man from Siena called Roberto- "No one does the Camino without a reason. They either have stuff to think about, or something to look for. Why are you doing it?" He asked. "I found what I was looking for. Now I'm here to tell the other people that are looking for something all about Him." I shared my testimony in the kitchen with him and two American girls, Beth and Alison. Powerful moments.
The beginning of this adventure is a little daunting, but I'm reminding myself that I've been going on faith up until this point so I shouldn't stop now. God commanded the earth to tremble, and He commanded it to flood. He provided manna for the exiles in the desert...and He is the same God today. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. How can I doubt what He can do and what He provides?

"I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4

Day 2- Hospital de Orbigo to Villafranca- 36 km

Waved goodbye to Thivou this morning and  walked on to Rabanal del Camino. From there I hopped on a bus to Villafranca. Worried about not making it to Santiago in 8days, best to get a head-start. Walked with a lady from Bilbao, Monica. Shared my testimony again, wondering if I should get some kind of play-back service so that I can just play it to people...just kidding, how can you ever get sick of telling the world how powerful He is? Passing through Astorga, 3 ladies from Valencia that I met at the refuge last night were taking a Merlot break. Note to self: Make it through your 40's by drinking red wine at 9am..
I got to Villafranca in the afternoon. As I layed down to nap, a had a very strange flash of the name Mattias. God spoke it to me out of nowhere as He likes to do quite frequently...when I'm half asleep. Once I woke up, the hostel was full. They were even setting up matresses for people to sleep outside. I was in a huge room with about 50 people, amonst whom there were 3 Spanish girls from Barcelona. Then, I met a guy from Milan, Paolo, who was cycling the Camino. He asked about my tattoo and we started talking about Jesus, and how prayer should be a diaglouge with God, rather than set things that we need to recite (his words, not mine). Interesting guy. While we were sitting out in the courtyard, the gate flew open and in rode a crazy blonde German man, Marius. He's cycling Europe on his bike; him and Paolo had met some days before. Paolo introduced us, and he sat and started chatting and offering us beer. As the night went on, more and more people came to add themselves to our group. By the end there were about 40 of us sitting around. Italians, Spaniards, Frenchies...and 3 American guys. One of their names was Matt- I get that it's a common name, however when he introduced himself it took me back to my vision from a couple of hours before. The Americans had a guitar (that's why I loved them the most) and so we sang and played and danced and laughed...what an amazing, amazing night.
I love how God weaves himself through everything. His name is proclaimed everywhere...and whether it's because people are speaking for or against Him, I've decided that it probably doesn't matter much anyway. The important is that His name is proclaimed at all- there is strength and power in it. The word Jesus alone is the Gospel. Jesus is Immanuel, and Immanuel is God with us.

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed...and in that I rejoice. - Phillipians 1:18

Day 3- Villafranca to O Cebreiro- 32 kms

Man, today was hard. 3rd day of over 30kms of walking...however the beauty of God's creation makes it all the worth-while. I began walking at 5am. Again, couldn't see anything, however God always provides LIGHT, and apparently always through French people, so I walked with some more Frenchies . The stars were still out when my day started; there were millions. After a couple of hours of star-gazing and mountain walking, the up-hill started. 6 hours of up-hill in the scorching heat? Distaster. I don't think I've ever pushed myself that hard physically...ever. It was so intense. I was reciting Phillipians 4:13 to myself the whole time, and reminding myself that my pain is absolutely nothing compared to what Jesus endured. What's that saying that girls with breast-implants love? Beauty is pain? I got showed that too.. the harder the climb, the better the view got. I was literally above the mountains, pausing every few minutes to soak in the utter beauty of His creativity and imagination. Mental pictures taken.
Once I got to the refuge at O Cebreiro I settled in and made some more friends. There was a Korean guy who had been at Villafranca singing with us last night, Dan. He smokes and walks...apparently something about nicotine power. I dont know what he's talking about, the last thing that I want to do is walk 30 kms a day with a cigarette in my hand. Crazy, crazy bloke.
Today was testing, not only physically, but emotionally. The weight of the physical trials is starting to take it's toll and I'm becoming a teary mess. I guess it's just a realease of built up emotion and mixed feelings- one moment you're crying for pain, the next you're crying for beauty and for how wonderfully He ordains each of your steps. Up and down, up and down. I was really reminded today that nothing is as heavy as the weight that Jesus carried for me. Not just the acutal weight of the cross, but also the weight and heaviness of the sins of the world. I dont think that I, or any other Believers, will fully understand it until we see Him face to face.

For I am ready to fall, and my pain is ever before me... -Psalm 38:17
...we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope...and hope NEVER puts us to shame. - Romans 5:3-5

Day 4- O Cebreiro to Triacastela - 20 kms

I started walking at 6am. I've never seen so many freaking stars...and not just single stars spread out- constellations of stars. Millions and millions of burning dots in the universe. It was pitch black, but just the stars alone were enough to light up the morning. As I walked down the mountain that (almost) killed me yesterday afternoon, the sun started rising. The sunrise was probably only 10 cms high from where I could see it, however it was enough to make the light of day. Are you kidding me? That's how powerful the sun is. Even from behind a mountain it illuminates everything. God is light, God is light. I walked up a second mountain. Once I got to the top I looked behind me and there was a sea of clouds hovering in a clearing underneath me. I wish that I could somehow post the image that I have managed to carve into the retina of my eye on this page. This is His power. This is what He can do- make mountains sprout from nothing. To think that what I saw this morning is only a tiny fraction of the whole picutre that He gets. If my vision of creation is this limited, and in itself enough to take my breath away, imagine just how mind-numbingly ridiculous it is from up-there somewhere. How much more is God's glory going to completly plant me on my face once I see HIM?

He determines the number of stars; He gives to all of them their names. - Psalm 147:4

The walk today was easier. Dan walked past puffing on what was probably his 15th cigarette, reciting 'Nicotine Power, Nicotine Power' as he took another drag. I hope he's praying as he does that cos the only power I think he might get is the power to have a coronary heart-attack. I got to the refuge in Triacastela and heard 2 guys speaking Italian out the front so I introduced myself. Their names are Davide and ...... Mattia. Yep, not kidding. Once we got settled we went and grabbed a drink. They are both incredible guys. Davide is 29 and he's searching for something spiritual on the Camino. He goes to church on Sundays, however he gets bored and believes that loving God should be about celebrating His love and not reciting hail-Mary's for 2 hours every day. I think that he's absolutely right. Mattia is 22 and he thinks that it's all bullshit...I know how he we talked for a few hours. Davide said the most beautiful thing, and I havent been able to stop thinking about his words since: 'Faith is like love. You can't see it or explain it- you have to FEEL it..' ...nice. Very nice.
God's ordination is extrodinary. To think that I might have kept going another 10 kms if I wasnt in so much pain today, I wouldn't have met them. Everything happens for a reason...and His reasons are wonderful.

Day 5- Triacastela to Barbadelo- 25 kms

I walked all day with Davide and Mattia. Aside from the fact that I could hardly walk, and that I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry about it, we had a great time. The scenery was incredible, and it got better by the hour. I'm a little discouraged that rather than things getting easier, they are getting harder, however I know that  just as life comes from Him, so does healing and strength. From Him, and through Him and to Him are ALL things...thankyou for reminding me, Romans 11:36.
I met another Frenchie, Sylvan, at the refuge (sensing pattern of French-encounters). We talked about God and how He is in everything (again, thankyou Romans) and how He connects people. Sylvan described it as a 'frequency' that works within us and connects us to certain people depending on the outcome of certain circumstances. I know that what he acutally meant was Spirit...just gotta give people time to get there. Sylvan is searching for peace; he's doing the Camino alone because he needs time to find peace in his heart. He is in my prayers, and I hope that by the end of his journey he will have found the ACTUAL peace that only comes from loving Jesus and being happy and content in His prescence. He talked about not finding happiness in material things, but that it's important to live simply and free. "When we live simple we are closer to God"...umm.. YES!! Man, it amazes me that people can believe such Spirit-filled things and yet not fully believe in the power of Christ. To me, that demonstrates that everyone has the inclination to search for God; to long for something bigger than themselves. I can't wait for Sylvan to find it.
There has been a re-occuring theme on this trip- light. From the book of Genesis we know that the first thing that God commanded on the earth was light. Then, John 1:2 says that 'He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not any thing that was made.' Jesus was there from the beginning; he was there when God commanded light. When God commanded light, obviously life life. We cannot live without light...and we cannot live, and not only in the wordly sense, without Jesus. For-

In Him was life, and life was the light of men.- John 1:4

That's the coolest thing I've ever heard.

Day 6- Barbadelo to Ferreiros- 10 kms

So much pain today. I have made it to the non-walking stage. It took me 5 hours to limp 10 kms, and had to stop because I was actually walking and crying. For those of you who don't know me too well, my pain threshold is usually pretty high, so I was even shocking myself. I got to the first town, Ferreiros, with Davide and Mattia. The thought of walking any more made me nauseaous. Our guides were telling us that the next refuge wasn't for another 10 kms. We stopped for a coffee and I was so, so happy to find out that there acutally was a small refuge right next to the coffee shop. It was a completely answered prayer, I was praising Him so much for not making me walk anymore!... Yes! He provided more than I expected. Dont you love that?...and it gets better: In the midst of my tears, both of pain and joy, along came Julian.
I remember seeing Julian at a bus station a couple of days before. I remembered him from the very distinct long white feather that he has on his hat. He and a Slovenian guy, Joseph, introduced themselves while we were sitting out the front of the refuge waiting for it to open. As we started talking, I was pressed to pray for grace- Julian was the living, walking definition of French Wanker. After only 4 minutes of conversation, he was already going on about how France have all these islands everywhere and that's why they're so rich, blah, blah, blah...whatever. He told me that the night before he had sleept at a monestary and had met a group of Americans who were not doing the Camino, they were just there evangelising. They invited him to their service. He told me about the girl who stood up and shared her testimony and that it was so cheesy cos she was blonde and pretty and she was crying and thanking Jesus for saving her...and she was American, and "Americanz, zey are bullshit". He went on to say that although he didnt enjoy the dramatic 'Jesus Loves Me' show, he did have fun singing with a band instead of falling asleep to an old woman singing hymns with a piano. He was immediately critical of the fact that "Americanz, zey try to convince ze world to love Jesus," however, happy at the end to have been a part of a Bible study they conducted after the service.
We checked into the refuge, and about an hour later while I was sitting at the coffee shop Julian sat down beside me with a beer. Obviously I had my Bible on the table, and once he realised what it was he picked it up. He went straight to the book of Matthew, telling me that he's read it. Then, he flipped to 1 John, and I felt inclined to point him to the 'God is love' passage. As he began to read it, he expressed that it's difficult to read if it's not in your native language...but he kept going anyway. He commented: "Ah, Italian girl, it is coincidence that you show me this passage. Yesterday I walk with a priest and he tells me for 4 hours that God is love. Strange, no?" "Julian, it's not's God." We proceeded to talk about many spiritual things, including how God revealed Himself throughout my life. This Julian, the 'Wanker' I had labelled him as, turned out to be one of the smartest 18-year-old's I've ever met. Only a couple of times in my walk have I come across someone so severely pursued by God. Just the things that he was talking about, and the reasoning coming out of his mouth was all pointing to God stirring in his heart. He literally quoted scripture at one point: "Some people, zey, ah, zink that God live only in churches...but I zink God iz everywhe-ah.." (Acts 17:24, one of my favourite passages..) He told me some crazy stories about his Camino experience: his first day he saw this written on a wall: 'Oser la confiance.'- 'Dare to trust'. 2 days later, a guy invited him to sleep in his house and fed him when he was about to sleep out in the field. He took the quote that he saw as a sign to accept the man's invitation, when he would have otherwise been too scared to go into a strangers house. Coincidence? Nope, it's God, you bloody Frenchie. Suddenly all the pain and discouragement of the morning payed off...because of my meeting with Julian. What a blessing it was to be able to share faith and life and God with such a precious and intelligent guy. At the very end of the conversation, just when I thought that maybe after all the God talk he may have come out a little humbled he said: "You know, I'm not smart...I'm French."
Well...some things take time.

Day 7- Ferreiros to Palas de Rei- 33 kms

Thivou, the Frenchie from Day 1, ended up showing up at Ferreiros yesterday afternoon. Turns out that him and Julain are like I got to spend the night giggling with 2 French men (considering that about 2-thirds of the time I had no idea what they were on about...and they were still funny). Anyway, as I was drifting off to sleep, Julian came in. He and Thivou had been talking after I left for bed. He said, " You know, Italian girl, I tell Thivou about all ze funny coincidences zat happen to me on ze Camino. For egzample, I remember too, one day when I am walking and i zink of a song...and zen ze hostel I go to has a small radio and I turn it on and ze song is playing. Funny coincidence, no? I dunno, maybe God is saying, 'Julian! Wake up!'" I said- "Julian, you're a funny coincidence." "Ha, ha, Italian girl, you are funny...somezing about you is very different zan ze other people on ze Camino. I like you...and now, I brush my teeth because ze French are not pigs."
How I love the radiance of the spirit, and how I love falling asleep laughing. After meeting Julian and Thivou, my new French mates, I had to rethink my prejudice towards French men and embrace their arrogance...this lead me to the (convicting) thought of the day-

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.- 1 John 4:7

...even the French Wankers.

Day 8- Palas de Rei- Santiago- LAST DAY!

This Scripture really touched me this morning:

God is in the midst of her;
She will not be moved,
God will help her when morning comes - Psalm 46:5

...and He did. I caught the bus majority of the way, and walked the last glorious 10 kms into the beautiful town of Santiago. The Cathedral was huge and packed...and overwhelming. I don't know if it's because I live near the Vatican and I have seen riches beyond my immagination in there, but I got the exact same feeling walking into that place as I do each time I walk into St Peters: With all this money, we could probably stop world hunger. Stuff like that makes me wonder why people question God when they think of the big issues in the world, such as, hunger. Why is it up to God to fix something when we have the resources to fix it ourselves? Think of how many overly expensive possesions we even have personally. If each one of us gave something up, we could feed a family, and proabably for an extended period of time. So why do we 'blame' God for things that we are perfectly capable of ending? We sure are selfish, fellow humans... and we are very quick to point fingers and justify our own wrong-doing for fear of taking the responsibility...but too slow to miss the things that acutally need our attention.
Sorry..momentary lapse of frustration. Needless to say, Santiago really is a beautiful city, and it was such a relief to finally get there. The last couple of days of the Camino seemed like a race; it kinda lost it's essence. At the beginning everyone was so chilled out, and taking their time walking and getting to know people...but by the end, everyday was a fight to get to your destination before a certain hour to make sure that you got a spot at a refuge before they all filled up. The last stretch was draining, I just wanted to finish. However, at the end of the Camino de Santiago (also the Spanish word for James), I really did 'count it all joy' in all the trails that I encoutered. Physical trials and emotional trials- all of it was worth it when I think about how much He worked, not only through me, but also in me. I know that the testing of my faith produces steadfastness, and that steadfastness will have it's full that I may be perfect and complete; lacking in nothing. (James 1: 2-4).

I sat at Santiago train station, waiting for my bus back to Madrid. A lot still lied ahead- Amsterdam was the next stop. I knew it wasn't going to be easy to go back to the place where I spent a very dark period of my life this time 2 years ago... but I also knew that He is in the midst of me, and that I cannot be moved. I tried to sleep, however I was very disturbed and distracted by the fact that someone had flicked a cigarette butt at me. Nope...not even joking. I didn't know whether to laugh because they must've thought that  I was acutally homeless, or cry because I looked homeless enough for them to not notice me. Imagine what happens to the people that live on that station floor? I wonder about that...many people often say- 'If they're homeless, they must be homeless for a reason. Maybe they shouldn't have blown all their money on drugs or alcohol...or gambling..' (because of course, if you're homeless, you must fall into one or all of those categories..) My question is, how does the homeless addict differ from the addict in rehab? We don't think twice to feel compassion when someone we know gets admitted into a centre to fix their problems, yet we look down upon the rugged, dirty man who's sleeping on the street with a can of beer in his hand... are they not both equally as broken and lost? Let me tell you about Francesco. Francesco was the drunk middle-aged man that was sleeping next to me. We had been talking for about 40 minutes, however after rolling and smoking his giant joint, he passed out. If there was ever a time that I wanted to have a drag of a joint, that was it, let me tell you. It would have been an instant fix to relax the weird muscles that I didn't even know I had and take away all my physical aches. However, after having told Francesco that I live for Jesus and not for marijuana anymore, I respecatbly declined his offer...but I still stayed there, right beside him and hummed him to sleep. I would rather Francesco remember me as the sober Christian girl who was talking about her love for Jesus when she slept next to him at a train station, than the crippled girl who told him about the importance of living for 'some guy named Jesus' while puffing on his doobie, because that is what I'm called to be. Each time I come across someone like Francesco, it hits me even harder and the confirmation is stronger. I love his brokeness because I know what he feels. I know the emptyness and despair and the mind-numbing frustration of living a life with no purpose...and I know how to fix it. People like Francesco are the reason that I got saved...because they need to be saved too, and they need people that aren't afraid to tell them that. Meeting Francesco was a perfect end to my adventure. He slept for the next few hours, and I lied awake praying next to him. I left him with some scripture and a couple of bux in his front pocket and as my bus pulled out...I waved goodbye to him and Santiago.

This month I have re-learnt and been reminded that God lives and moves in me, and His Spirit projects out of me; it leaks out of my pores and into the universe like a stream of marvelous light. He splatters off of me, all over the earth, and each splatter of His truth always achieves the purpose for which He sends it out. God is Provider, He is Creator, He is Healer...and He is Peace. He ordained each one of my steps on this Camino, and His will was done in all circumstances. How good it feels to know that He is with me, and that there are now more of His seeds along this walk than there were before. God is the wind and the stars. He is the trees and the flowers; He is sea and the earth.  God is love, God is life. He is all things crazy; He is all things beautiful.

... just a little music to remind us all :

Monday, June 6, 2011


You wana hear a story?

This weekend I got to experience again what it's like to be a dirty, dirty hippie. Two lovely ladies and myself packed up the car with more camping gear than I've ever before been equipped with and headed off to a music fesival called Wakarusa in a state called Arkansas. I guess that when you've gotten used to camping consisting of a tree and a blanket, it's weird to have a full-blown tent and luxuries like eski's and camp-barbeques. Man, am I thankful for those.
The festival was about a 3 hour drive from where I'm staying here in Oklahoma. We pull into the fesitval and realise that to get a camping spot in there we're going to have to wait a couple of hours in the car, under the close-to-40 degree heat. We decide to drive back down the mountian to the closest servo and stop at a camping spot there to relax and figure out what our next step is going to be. One of my festival sisters decides that it would be best for us to spend the night there and head back to the festival in the morning, so we start setting up camp...
* Let's take a little detour, just for a second- the day of these events is Thursday the 2nd of June. Keeping in mind that the 3rd of June would have been my father's 52nd birthday, I had just finished telling the girls while we were driving that God was so amazing for reminding me of him in the days leading up to it- first, I had translated for a doctor called Frank the day before who had introduced himself as Francisco. Later that day I had been making some calls for a mate and had made a call to a Mexican guy called Francisco. Obviously, a chord in me strikes when I hear my father's name. It was a wonderful way for God to remind me to think about my dad around his birthday.

Anyway, back to the weekend. We go and pay for a campsite and start setting up camp. There are two young guys sitting on a picnic table next to our site. I don't want to give out any names, so let's call them Bob and Johnny. Bob and Johnny are in their early 20s and they are from San Diego, California. They have been sitting out in the sun all day waiting to buy a ticket to get into the festival. Both of them are insanely beautiful to look at; the kind of beauty that hits you in the face and you need to remind youself to look away to risk not looking like an idiot. As we're setting up, Bob is playing his guitar and singing. Of course, just too add to their charm, they are so humble about accepting anything from us, so we have to convince them to come and eat with us. We get to talking and laughing over dinner, and the boys start sharing some of their stories. Bob and Johnny have grown up together because their dad's used to be best mates- they were both soccer coaches. Bob mentions that he's been on the road for about a week or so and he is utterly amazed by the hospitality of people that he has met and how touched he is by the characters that he has come across in his travels so far. He pulls out the guitar again and starts singing. He sings some of his original songs for us. One sticks out to me, it says something to the effect of- "I held my daddy; but he's not coming back. I want to drown myself in the sea because my daddy's not coming back."
There is so much pain; so much depth behind his lyrics, that I cannot hold back the question- what is the song about? Bob shares with us that his father died 2 years ago. I tell him that mine died 7 years ago, and that he had also been a soccer coach. I ask him his father's name. 'Frank.' he says. 'Serious? My dad's name was Frank...well actually, it was Francisco,' I reply... and he so casually comments back, 'My dad's name was Francisco.' UM, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? What are the chances of a Californian Hippie, and a crazy Australian girl sitting in some forest in some random state in America (ps guys, never heard of Arkansas in my life until I went there) talking about the deaths of their fathers...who had the same name?

The night proceeded- music, conversation, laughter. God was threadding Himself through everything. If you leave room for the spirit to move it's amazing how many hints, how many things refer back to Him. Afterall, He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17), what would stop Him from pointing all things to Himself? By the end of the night, it was just Bob and I. Listening to him share his grief was intense. He was pretty much quoting word-to-word the same things that I used to say 2 years after my dad passed. The pain, the guilt, but also the acceptance and the motivation to see the positive. He said that his dad's death was what provoked him to start singing, he sang to him while he was dying. I also sang to my dad while he was on his death-bed. All these small connections that some may call 'coincidence' scream GOD to me. Only God could do such a thing; create such a connection. Only God could bring Californian Hippie and crazy Australian girl together in the forest to talk about the death of their fathers, who had so much in common.
Then, as if the evening couldn't get any more moving, it did. As we were saying good-night, Bob hugged me. Not just an awkward American side-hug, a big bear-hug. Right there, in the middle of the random forest, God brought us together to share that embrace; to mould our spirits together for a moment, through one completely pure action that we all take for granted day-to-day. The power in that hug; the force behind Bob's grip almost crushed me. There was a release of emotion, a barrier broken down that he had been keeping so long at arms length. He took a deep breath in and released more of the guard as he exhaled. He released even more of it through his fingertips as they dug into my shoulders. The prescence of God between us in that moment brought tears to my eyes. It shook my soul, my core. And Bob was there. Bob was in His prescence, in His whirlwind. I cannot even get my head around God's...well, His everything. The love that He feels for both Bob and I, to put us infront of one another and enable us relate to each another through the pain of losing what we have lost. God's love, His beauty, His compassion...all intertwined into one event.

For He wounds but He binds up; he shatters, but His hands heal.- Job 5:18

This weekend, God has spoken to me in mind-blowing ways. He has led me to desperately pray for the lost; the crushed in spirit. We are all broken, but to think that some people have such immense holes in their souls that it provokes them to turn to such extremes and such temporary highs makes me hurt for them. Watching the masses of people at this festival: the alcohol, the drugs, the emptyness of their beings- searching, longing, thirsting for something to fill those voids. Replacements that don't even measure up to the intensity of brokeness and anguish inside each individual. I've been there, I know that, I've just never seen it from the outside until now. I may not have experienced the same extents of their drug-use, but I am definately familiar with the race they're running. I understand the chase to the rainbow of happiness that seems promising in the form of a joint, a can of alcohol, or a bag of powder...however never lasts long enough to act as more than a band-aid. It wears off, and once it does you're worse than you were before you started. It's not enough. Through all of that, God keeps reassuring that He really is everywhere. Through the drunkeness, and the highs, the acid trips- His spirit shines. Unfortunately some of us are so far gone, so down buried under band-aids that we have forgotten that there is a wound that needs healing. But God speaks. He speaks through music, through movement, through conversation, through others. God doesnt turn His back on the lost. He doesnt give up on them. Instead, he cradles them. He carries them. He loves them....and He hugs them.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things- Romans 11:36


Monday, May 16, 2011

'Your love, Your love, Your my drug.'

The inspiration to write always comes at the strangest times. Like now, when I'm sitting in a Chinese-themed apartment in the city centre of Bogota, Colombia. My mother is here (in the flesh!!!), and she is upstairs, having a chat with some Colombian bloke. I've already heard them switch from Spanish to Italian to French to Portugese (hello mum, you are ridiculous). Meanwhile, I am downstairs still struggling to remember which words belong in the 'Italian' and 'Spanish' colomn, and reminding myself that I will never be as talented and beautiful as her...even when I am 50-something.

It's been SO LONG since I got on this thing. With all the changes from Ecuador to the US, and then having to adjust to stadium-churches and drink out of cups that hold more liquids than my brain does, it's been kinda hectic.

Although I can't completely sum up everything that has happened since my arrival in America, I can tell you all about a game that I have been playing a lot lately. The game is join-the-dots. A couple of blogs ago, I wrote that before I was a Believer the events in my life were like a series of black dots, just kinda floating. Once I got to know God it's was like He handed me a black texta and gave me the chance to connect them all. Well, as time goes by I am realising more and more that our join-the-dots isn't just a game that He wanted us to play once: it has turned out to be a daily routine. God is showing me that if I can just keep my eyes open; if I can just stay sensitive to what's around me how He's working, the game never stops. (Thanks for making my life fun Mate, appreciate it). He is showing me the madness of how all things relate to eachother, and that He will speak through anything. Seriously, ANYTHING. He can speak through books, He can speak through other people, mate, He can even speak through a rock if He wants to...(He made it, why wouldn't He use it?) God uses everything- good, bad, gross, small, big, evil, breath-taking- EVERYTHING. He doesn't have restrictions. He doesn't have boundaries. He doesn't have a set-list of things that He can and cannot do. He doesn't watch us through binoculars, or only come and help when we need him. His prescence doesn't just sit in a gold-crusted, crystal cube in some fancy church somewhere; He doesnt live in a box. It's easy to assume that God only does things a certain way, or that there are some things that He cannot do just because we don't see them happening in front of us. But, hi, God made the first man out of dust. DUST. I can't even see dust and He freaking makes humans out of it...and that's exactly it. I can't even SEE things, but He's there, behind them all, using them to make other things.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man; He is not served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything... (Acts 17:24)

Every single day has been, and continues to be incredible. Around each corner there is something to be stimulated by; something to learn from. They havent all been happy lessons; some have been difficult, some have been annoying and others frustrating, but the bottom line is that I can feel God working and it's the best high I've ever felt... ever, ever, ever. Even the down-points make me high; I don't want to run away from the difficulties and harships, but rather turn and run towards them in complete gratitude that I know that God is with me. It's a high so intense that it makes me wonder why people waste their money on acid when they can just get high on God's love (which is free, ps). It's a high that never leaves- He's the first thing you think about when you wake up, and the last thing on your mind before you fall asleep, and every waking moment is spent craving and wanting more, more, more of His spirit that resides from somewhere deep inside of you and just makes you want to erupt and tell the world that they can get high too if they just love, love, love Him with every molecule that embodies them.

"In Him they have nothing literally, nothing in the world, but everything with and through Him." -Bonhoeffer

Well... I don't know who's love is that Ke$ha chick's drug...but I definately know who's love is mine.

Peace out homies,
Love, Cris

Saturday, March 5, 2011

'Forgive the urgency...but hurry up and wait.'

Well, thank God that's over.

Last week was probably one of the worst a long, long time. At the risk of this blog sounding like a sympathy-spree, I won't bore you with all the intricate details, however, let's just say that in my bid to stop one crappy thing after the other crappy thing piling on top of eachother, I resorted to sulking on couch in my jahmies for 24 hours listening to all the depressing songs on my ipod. With all negatives there are positives though, and if I were going to sit here for the next 10mintues and write about how miserable life can be sometimes, it wouldn't be my blog, would it? The positive is that this week has been much better. I am now fully showered and clothed, and back to eating solids. Let me tell you about how I got back:

"Count it all joy brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds..." James 1:2
Intial thoughts? 'Pft, righteo Mate, easy for this James kid to say, what does he know?' I kept reading-
"...for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have it's full effect so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1:3-4
'Let steadfastness have it's full effect'.. what the eff does that mean? Somewhere between The Fray's 'Look After You', and my 12th cup of coffee, the light-bulb went off:

Well, hello dummy, He's telling you to be PATIENT.

Why was I going out of my mind to get answers to everything that was happening? All these 'trials' sure weren't planned by me..they were planned by God. He plotted them- what authority do I have to hasten their ends? My hurry to get through tribulation only deprives me of seeing how beautifully God is going to work it out for me... and makes it that much harder for me to see the lesson after all of it. If I just wait PATIENTLY until the fuzzy things become clear, aren't my perspectives on the matter so much more likely to be broadened? I felt like such an idiot in the moment that I realised how much more I'm going to be able to get out of the situation if I just let God do HIS job, and let things go from beginning to end without worrying about WHEN it's going to be over, or more importantly, HOW it's going to be over. I realised that my role in all the haze was simply just to sit down, shut-up and just let God vindicate in His own way...with His own timing.

God was telling me loud and clear: 'Cri, stop being so bloody self-centred and impatient. Cantcha see I'm tryin-a teach you something?'

Whatever obstacle/s God sets before me never come without a purpose. What do we learn from God throughout the whole Bible? He doesn't make shit happen cos He feels like it...He makes everything happen for a reason, and everything 'works together for good' (Romans 8:28). Why would I want to rush the lesson, and risk missing that reason? Even my hurt is part of God's divine plan. He won't leave me on the couch in my pijamas sulking and feeling sorry for myself...eventually He's going to get me up and show me how mind-numbingly stupid I am (oh, how I LOVE feeling like a fool!) and that He had my back the whole time...and that I stressed for nothing. A dear mate of mine once said that when she was going through a rough patch, all she did was stress her head off...time later, when God did what He does best and worked it all out for her, she felt so silly for having spent so much time worrying about when it was all going to be over. God's going to end all our trials when He's bloody-well good and ready, and there's nothing we can do about it...apart from having 'patience in tribulation' and giving the situation over to him without fighting so hard to finish it we can be 'perfect and complete..lacking in nothing.'

My grade 5 teacher used to say 'patience is a virtue..' I'm still not sure what that means, but after last week I believe I'm getting closer to understanding more of what James was on about...and having a greater apprecitation for The Fray:

On a different note: I write to let you guys know that my time here in Ecuador is wrapping up, and I'm off to the US in a week's time. Unfortunately Melbs in not my next stop. Some of you have been asking me about when I'm coming home- I'm sorry, but I have no idea. For now you might just have to be a little....patient.

Peace out,
Love you's,

Love, Crid.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Heads, shoulders, knees and toes.

I seriously have no idea what is happening to me, but this week I opened a door that I cannot seem to close. Evidently, that door leads to my tear-ducks. I've pretty much been crying like a la-la for the last 4 days or so. Can't stop it, don't know where it's coming from, and it's proving problematic for the people that I have to line up next to in the supermarket, or for the taxi drivers that have to drive me around.
I figure it probably has a lot to do with the amazingly magical week I just had. I went on a little trip to a country called Nicaragua (I told you to Google it..) to work as a translator for a medical clinic run by a group of Americans that I got to meet up with. Our team consisted of about 30 people- this included doctors, nurses, pharmacists, eye-specialists, as well as teachers and translators.. and more people a whole lot smarter than me. We would go out every day to a different village with a whole bunch of medicines and people would travel to see our doctors and get their hands on some medicine...for free.

Working with such an talented group of people really had me thinking about the importance of team-work. Every single person that was involved in last week's trip had an important role to play. It's easy to assume that the doctors and nurses were more important than the teachers playing games with the kiddies, or the translators (or the singers..ahem), but God really proved that each person's role was vital in achieving what we needed to achieve and for us to work in perfect harmony. It's funny cos just the week before I had been flipping through my Bible, and came across a chapter in the book of 1 Corinthians that talks about 'the body of Christ.' Here's what is says:

"For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, 'because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body' that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say 'because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body' that would not make it any less a part of the body. For, if the whole body were an eye, where would be it's sense of hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, where would be it's sense of smell?" - 1 Corinthians 12: 14-18

When I think about my body (like my human body, body) it's true that no part of it is more important than the other. Like, if I had 4 arms, sure, it would be awesome that I would get to play a piano and a guitar at the same time but how would I walk? If I had 4 legs I'd probably be able to run really fast, but then you people would have to carry all my stuff for me. Hence, no body part of mine is more important than the other- each serve a purpose and each of them are needed- very much like every person I worked with last week. If the doctors didn't have pharmacists disributing meds, then what would be the purpose of their prescriptions? If the teachers and kiddie-minders weren't there to look after the children we would have had 300 unattended rugrats running a muck and hindering our work pace...and so forth.

When I take this verse and apply it on a wider scale, it makes me think of how each one of us plays such an important role on this planet. It's like every one of us is one of God's limbs, and he uses us in individual and unique ways. None of us is more significant than the other- we all have a function, and we all need to work together to live harmoniously... like we're ONE BODY.

"God arranged the members in the body, each one of them as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?" - 1 Corinthians 12: 18,19

God's organisational skills never cease to amaze me.

Love you guys,
Love, Cris.

PS, Americans think that it's weird that we call it 'chewy'. I don't get it... IT JUST MAKES SENSE.