Monday, June 18, 2012


We leave tomorrow for Israel!

I can't believe our trip is finally here! We'll be walking the Promised Land for 10 days and I can't wait to update when I get back. I won't be on this blog at all but if you'd like to follow our trip, please click the link below. It will have daily updates, pictures, reflections, etc from our sites.

GTI Tours

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hope for Fresno

Every morning I read the news via Twitter with headlines about Fresno.

Yes, they usually report crime, poverty, how many drunk driving arrests were made in ___ part of town, failing education system, umemployment rates, the bad air quality, the 108 degree weather!!

The list goes on.

And yet today, I woke up so thankful for living here and so in love with this city more than ever!

I have so much hope for this city and see so many great things going on that don’t make the headlines!

I see this great organization Off The Front giving away hundreds of bikes to students throughout the city. Off The Front was born from a pastor's holy discontent over the poor physical health and poor academics among elementary age children in Fresno. Off the Front's goal is to encourage a healthy lifestyle and "give a bicycle to every 4th grade student in the impoverished areas of Fresno Unified who is able to achieve customized goals in academics, character, and service."

I got to attend my first gathering for No Name Fellowship, which is an interdenominational organization that gathers leaders from all of this city to help alleviate poverty and serve the city.

Every Neighborhood Partnership whose mission is "to equip churches to partner with and serve elementary school neighborhoods through their active presence in the community." Out of this, faithful volunteers who mentor elementary age children, help in classrooms, provide a Saturday Sports program for neighborhood children, etc.

My friend's blog I Heart Fresno who shares lots of GOOD things and GREAT places that are in Fresno! Updates on restaurants, events, shops, etc.

Rescue the Children our of Fresno's Rescue Mission. They exist to help heal and restore broken families and just bought a new facility for women and children! They are providing places for women to experience real life change and hope for the future!

I saw the pastor of the little church next to my school in the office yesterday, just saying hi and asking how she can be a blessing the school next year.

I see teachers on Pinterest throughout the week "pinning" great teaching ideas/strategies to help impact students with more meaningful instruction. Yes, for fun, teachers look through Pinterest for creative teaching ideas. That's love and dedication.

I've seen all kinds of people in small groups finding ways to love and serve our city as part of their lifestyle. Serve Dei

I know people who walk their neighborhoods to pray for their neighbors. I know people who reject safer neighborhoods, bigger homes, etc to move into parts of town that need hope and love.

I see this stuff all of the time and that's why I love living here! Not because the weather is perfect or because crime is nonexistent, but because there are many people doing great things in this city out of love and compassion.

And I think that's something to report on . . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Serve Dei 2012: Bag Sale at Aynesworth

Our hope with the Bag Sale was to bless families at Aynesworth, and really it all started because of a little boy who had no other shoes to wear to school besides his soccer cleats (Read here). We wanted to gather items like clothing, hygiene products, and food and discount it all waaaaay down to provide for families in need.

Little did we know that this even would come at just the perfect time. Just 6 days before the sale, our Aynesworth community received some bad news.

The bad news . . .

Shortly after hearing this we didn't know what would happen. The principal thought this was the perfect thing to lift the heaviness and hurt in our community, remind people that our school is a positive light for the neighborhood, and they are loved. So we continued on.

The donations came in . . .

The line formed . . .

The people shopped . . .

The love spread . . .

The whole reason for this sale was to be able to bless families at Aynesworth with physical needs and show the love of Christ. We were able to serve over 100 families. We filled about 180 bags and gave away 115 bibles.

Thank you to every single person who donated items, donated money, donated time, and donated their love and prayer for this bag sale. The families were blessed and God knew just the PERFECT time and just the PERFECT way to show love to His hurting people.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Marriage Threat #3

{Reflections from "A Weekend to Remember" Marriage Retreat by Family Life}

Threat #3: Inevitable Difficulties

Understanding that each marriage will have difficulties can bring so much health when problems arise. I think many of us fantasize that marriage will be without conflict, and so when problems arise, we assume something has gone wrong. When we understand that difficulty/conflict are normal, and in fact healthy, we can begin to seek ways to pursue unity even through difficulty.

There are two failures in our response to difficulties
1. There is a failure to anticipate the certainty of difficulties and problems.
2. There is a failure to respond properly to difficulties and problems.

Difficulties do not mean something is wrong with your marriage.

Your response to difficulties will either drive you apart or bind you together.
-Some respond to problems by trying to suppress or escape the pressure.
-Others respond to problems by blaming or attacking others.

You must have a plan to move through these times without rejecting or withdrawing from your spouse.

We often think that if our spouse doesn't handles problems/difficulties the same way we would, they are in the wrong. The speaker at the retreat continually told us different doesn't mean wrong. It means different.

He held up a mug. He asked the audience "Which side of the mug is the handle on?" We responded "the right side". He said "Well from my perspective it's on the left side". Both were correct, they were just different . . . not wrong.

I think this brings so much freedom when encountering difficulty in marriage. We will see things differently, and that's okay. We have to be willing to work through these problems without feeling like the goal is "same" but unity.

They had us then circle which ways we most often respond to problems:
-blame others

This reflection piece was huge for me! Understanding the unhealthy way I deal with problems can help me to pursue a healthy way of dealing with difficulties. Knowing that we will most certainly have difficulty/disagreeements/problems in marriage also helps us see it as a growing point, rather than thinking something is wrong or broken.

What ways do you respond to problems in your marriage?
Are there steps you can take to pursue healthy problem solving instead?
What can you do to respond in a way that will bring you together, rather than drive you apart?

"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bring Good News to the Poor

{Isaiah 61:1-3}
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

I woke up at 4am this morning. I am not a morning person, this wasn't planned. I woke up with Aynesworth on my heart. Today is our Bag Sale. We've had this planned for a few weeks and received hundreds of donations. I'm praying every single item will be given away, that we'd arrive with much and return with nothing. I'm praying for 100 families to come through the door, for every single person we make eye contact with to know they are loved and valued by their Maker.

Last week, the community of Aynesworth heard some terrible news. A gang member out on parole, running from the cops, was shot and killed on our school campus by police. The community has been heavy ever since.

And as I prepared for my day in prayer this morning . . . the LORD reminded me of His mission on earth, found in Isaiah 61 and what Jesus read in the synagogue in Luke 4:18-19

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

Last week Aynesworth received bad news. The community has felt unsafe and heavy ever since. It was a terrible tragedy and yet amazing timing. Just when many are feeling poor in spirit, God would have 20-30 of us go and serve, go and give, go and offer something positive, something uplifting, something . . . good.

As I read these words, I realized that nothing on this earth is an accident, not even timing. God knew what would happen last week and what will happen today.

Would you pray with us to proclaim the good news?
Would you pray that the families of Aynesworth would receive the good news?
That they would know they are loved and valued by their Maker?
That they don't have to walk in fear because Jesus has come to set them free from oppression?
That His spirit would captivate the families we will serve?

Would you pray that HIS light would shine through the darkness?

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:3)

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved." (Romans 10:1)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Prayer Is . . .

{Meditation Monday: My Journey Through the Sermon on the Mount}

Prayer. Something I'm passionate about and something I struggle with.

When you mention the word "prayer" feelings of guilt usually arise, because we don't know how, we don't do it enough, we don't understand it, etc. It's an often neglected part of the Christian life, yet essential to spiritual growth, health, and intimacy with the Father.

I'm excited to be thinking on the following verses the rest of this week.

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I think I could summarize my thoughts on prayer in just 3 words: JUST DO IT. A million things keep us from closing our doors, bending our knees, and talking to God.

So what are some things that keep you from praying?
What are ways that you incorporate prayer into your daily life?
Are there things you enjoy about prayer? Struggle with?

I'll take this week to examine my prayer life and then . . . pray!

Friday, June 8, 2012


I had a discouraging day yesterday. Nothing big, just lots of little things that left my heart feeling heavy.

I woke up today so refreshed and encouraged.

Because the LORD is the God of ALL comfort and He used His people to comfort me.

I didn't realize how many people from my past/present I would see yesterday.

I stopped by my old school to pick up things for our bag sale. I saw so many old friends who said over and over "I miss you". Not just the generic "I miss you" either, the kind that grabs your arm, looks you in the eye and says "I miss you seeing you and having you here."

My love language is words of affirmation, so I was feeling so uplifted.

My boss/mentor/friend pulled me aside to encourage and affirm me. That speaks love to me.

I got home to women in my lifegroup at my house organizing stuff for our sale. I love feeling like my home is open and welcome enough that people could be there even when I'm not.

I had a friend from highschool drop off a gift to say "Happy Anniversary" and wrote me the sweetest card. Again, words speak love to me, and her card and gesture meant the world to me.

I had another friend from life group come by and we chatted for about 30 mins.

Our favorite family, The Rumleys, stopped by with ice cream and stayed to hang out.

Our neighbors came over and we watched the kids play in the fountain in my backyard.


All made me feel loved yesterday.

It just reminded me that when the LORD puts something/someone on your heart, respond. Call them. Bring them ice cream. Stop by with a gift. You don't know how much that will encourage them!

The LORD uses people to comfort His people.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prayer Is . . .

“Sometimes I consider myself there as a stone before a carver, whereof he is to make a statue; presenting myself thus before GOD, I desire Him to form His perfect image in my soul, and make me entirely like Himself.” –Brother Lawerence (Practicing the Presence of God)

I love this imagery . . . we are the stone and prayer is going to God and saying “chip away”. Form me, cut me, mold me . . . make me look like you.

Prayer is to be carved into the image of the Son.

Oh LORD would you carve me with your tools . . . your people, trials, challenges . . .

Oh LORD would you carve me with your Living Water . . . your word, your very presence . . .

To look less like me and more like Christ.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marriage Threat #2

{Reflections from "A Weekend to Remember" Marriage Retreat by Family Life}

Threat #2: Our Culture's Pattern

A. Our culture's pattern is a 50/50 performance relationship.
1. Acceptance is based upon performance-"you do your part, I'll do mine."
2. Giving is based upon merit-affection is given when one feels it is deserved.
3. Motivation for action is based on how one feels.

B. Our culture's pattern (50/50 performance relationship) is destined to self destruct because of:
-My inability to meet all unreal expectations
-My tendency to focus on weaknesses in my spouse
-My disappointment in my spouse, which paralyzes my performance
-My desire to get revenge when I'm wronged
-The impossibility of knowing if my spouse has met me halfway

This may sound silly, but when I used to hear people say "I love you unconditionally" I just thought it meant that they loved me a lot. It wasn't until I understood God's love that I understood unconditionally means "without condition". I know, it's obvious. I'm slow to catch on.

I've brought that into marriage . . . to love unconditionally doesn't mean just love a lot. That's an amount, and that's not endless. Someday I may run out, especially if my husband does something to tick me off and my love tank empties a bit.

To love my husband unconditionally means without condition. I love him, I respect him, I serve him without condition. I love him regardless of what he does, doesn't do, forgets to do, or doesn't want to do. In biblical marriage, your love given isn't based on what your spouse is or isn't doing. It's given in response to God's love and grace for you.

We are loved by God without condition. Regardless of how we act, what we do, don't do, He loves us. Without condition. He loves me at my worst, and at my best. God loved me even when I didn't want to be with Him! He loved me when I ran from Him, opposed Him, hid from Him, rejected Him, and disrespected Him.

So it is with marriage. Culture tells us that people are to earn our love and respect. We love our spouse when they've met my needs and done what I've expected. When they don't, I can respond in anger and selfishness.

God's way of marriage is God's way of love . . . without condition. God's way of marriage isn't 50/50, it's 100/100. Both, all in, all the time, out of an overflow of God's love and grace for us.

Looking above, can you see some of the places you've been loving with condition?
-You do your part, I'll do mine
-This weakness you have, once it's fixed, I'll love you back
-You've hurt me, so I can hurt you (revenge)

Doing marriage God's way seems so backwards and so much harder than what the world tells us to do. Seek your own happiness, live for yourself, get yours! God says . . . seek your spouse's happiness, serve his needs above your own! It's the only way to true happiness in marriage.

Without Condition.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Serving the Poor #2: What's Best?

Yesterday, I posted about Matthew 6:1-4. Serving not to glorify ourselves, but to glorify God. Serving for an audience of One.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

It is clear throughout scripture that God cares about the poor,the needy, the helpless, and the oppressed. And He wants us to care about them too. I've been wrestling through The Sermon on the Mount and Isaiah 58 and seeking the LORD on how He wants me to serve.

I've been asking:
LORD, who are the poor?
LORD, how would have me serve them?
LORD, where I can live off of less to give away more?

We often think of the poor as materially poor. Thanks to these books, my thinking has been reframed, renewed, and challenged as to "who are the poor" and how we can best help them be reconciled to God and live the life He wants for them.

"Compassion, Justice, and The Christian Life: Rethinking Ministry to the Poor" by Robert D. Lupton

"When Helping Hurts" by Brian Fikkert & Steve Corebett

What the "needy" need most is Christ. What we should be giving to them along with "stuff" is dignity. We should be offering relationship before we offer money. Though some literally have physical need, many need opportunity ... to work, to be loved, to hear the hope of Christ, and respond.

These books have helped me see that sometimes our "good" intentions actually get in the way of helping and doing what's "best". Robert Lupton says something along the lines of "sometimes doing good gets in the way of doing what's best."

I'm learning that the poor don't need stuff, they need dignity.
They don't need programs, they need relationships.
They don't need hand outs, they need a hand up (thank you No Name Fellowship for this phrase).
They don't need charity, they need opportunity.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Serving the Poor #1: For an Audience of ONE

Oh boy . . . it's funny how the LORD aligns everything at just the right time. Something has been stirring in me regarding serving the poor. I have literally read 6 books in the past 6 weeks regarding stewardship, giving, and serving the poor.

And now . . . here we are in Matthew 6. I've been waiting to get to this chapter. It addresses all of these areas.

We just read that if we think we can earn righteousness through "doing" then we must "be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt 5:48)

Jesus tells us in the beatitudes how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He tells us who we are & who we're not, who God is& who He's not. He goes on to explain sin. Listen, you don't get in by "being good". Let me just explain how utterly sinful you are, that even your thoughts are sinful, not just your action. Essentially to be good enough to enter into Heaven, you must be perfect.

That should put us flat on the ground! We will never be perfect. Jesus knows that, and that's why He came and died, and invites us to rest in HIS finished work on the cross.

In Chapter 6 He starts telling us not to turn to religious activity either (giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, etc.). If we do these things, let them be from a pure heart, renewed by God, and for NO attention from others.

If we give, if we pray, if we fast . . . it is out of an overflow of love and obedience for the LORD and nothing else.

And that's it. Convicted already by the first verse in Chapter 6.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

Of course I would read this AFTER I've posted all about our bag sale at Aynesworth. Where I immediately ask . . . oh LORD am I practicing righteousness in front of others to be seen by them??

What are the motives behind this?
Is my heart pure?
Am I wanting to serve you or be seen by others??

I always struggle with this during Serve Dei time. We are to share what we're doing in the city, how we're serving the LORD by serving others, to spur one another on, but in a way that is honoring to God, not boasting in ourselves.

It's easy to do things and (as the next verse says) sound the trumpet for everyone to see!

May it never be that we serve for an audience, to be seen by many.

Let us serve only to glorify you, only for an audience of ONE!

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:2-4)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Funny Things My Kids Say #3

Seriously . . . I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't hear stuff like this everyday!

David: “Mrs.D, did you know my nother name is Tony? When I’m inside you could call me David, but when I’m outside just call me Tony. Because I like that name more better than David.”

Mrs.Danisi, who gave you that ring? My husband. Dang, you have a husband?! You already got married?

Mrs.Danisi, do you know all of us like you? Ya because you’re nice. But sometimes you’re a little a mad . . .

David: Mrs.Danisi, how come I have to sit by you, up at your desk? And why I can’t sit by my friends?
Me: Why do you think?
David: Because of bad habits? I talk too much to them.
Me: Yes.
David: But I just really want to talk to people!

“Mrs.Danisi, are you a woman?” Yes. “But are you a girl too?” Yes. “Oh okay, but you’re just not a child?”

You know when it was waaaay tomorrow? That’s my birthday. I’m 8 year old.

Ricardo: It’s just in my matta-nation. Dominiq-oh you’re just seeing things.

Gustavo: Mrs.Danisi, I can’t read today because my finger hurts.
Me: Well do you need your finger to read?
Gustavo: No, but I did just drink a lot of soda. And my aunt has chicken dots.
Me: Okay, well none of those are reasons to keep you from reading! Nice try though.

When my kids are reading out loud I often say “read in your mind.” Dalyn was reading loud so Donaven says: "Read in your mouth Dalyn! You’re reading too loud, can't you just read which your head?!”

Mrs.Danisi, I like your earrings. They look Chinese bells.

Mrs.Danisi, where did you come from? Francisco or like far away from Francisco?

"When I grow up I want to be a judge so I could bang the hammer.” Well you’ll have to study hard. “Oh then I just wanna be a monster truck guy."

Dalyn: When I grow up I want to be a fireman so I could run red lights.

Marino: When I grow up I want to be a grocery market man.

Briseida: I want to be a police girl.

Raquel: When I grow up I want to be a princess with long hair.

Donaven: I want to sell pets.

Sunshine:When I grow up I wanna be a vegetarian.

David: When I grow up I wanna do concrete and be a police guy on a horse or I wanna be a principal of high school so I could tell everyone go home. I want to help little people.

Amir: I want to be a police man . . . for the ladies.