yep, i’m a sinner.

now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about gambling. this past weekend i took a friend to one of the indian casinos in the area. i had never been to this one, so it was a nice little adventure.

once we arrived on the casino floor, we did our first lap to check out the space. by no means are we high rollers (and by “we” i really mean her… because i am broke… and that ain’t no joke…), so we scoped out the penny slots. as we were making our obligatory lap, we came across the non-smoking section. this was the asthmatics gambling paradise. the ability to breath fully without inhaling gross cigarette smoke, and choking up a lung, lets one think more clearly, thus making more wise gambling decisions.

i was playing it all… all $4 that is. (a donation by my friend… she felt guilty that i wasn’t sitting next to her having the same adrenaline rush as she did while pushing the pretty buttons) here’s my play-by-play: $2 into the machine… $1 lost, insert another $1… won $2… total now $4… cash out…. move to another machine, this one had a surf theme… realized that i’d upped the ante, it’s a two cent machine (i know… i live life to the fullest)… i could now win bigger, or loose faster… which is what i did. you know, $4 in a two cent slot machine goes kinda fast… just sayin’. well, as a fellow native american, i did my duty and supported a local tribe.

in the end we both lost… me $4… her $25. but that’s the chance you take. i am often amazed at how many people are there, and this being a holiday weekend, the place was packed. the slot machines, tables, the high roller rooms… they were all packed with people, not to mention the line for the buffet. (we already ate, so just did a walk by… but, isn’t that what people really want at the casino… a good buffet? i digress…) there were just a ton of people there.

at one point i began to imagine what it would be like if all these people went to church like this, or even what it would take to get people to church in masses like this. sure there are some of us who have the hankering to worship, but there are a ton of people who warm a pew on sunday morning because it’s the right thing to do… or it’s just what you do.

i recently began a small group study about spiritual disciplines. the author of the book we are reading talks about worship as an act of gratitude for what God has done for us, as opposed to an act of obligation. i know that i can’t honestly say that every sunday i am in church with a heart full of gratitude. and i will even go as far to say that i had more excitement walking into the casino, than i do on some sundays when i walk into church.

i want my heart to be full of gratitude and have the anticipation of excitement every time i walk into church. i want to be aware of the sacrifice that God made for me, that he sees the worth in me and choose to do what he did. i want to be excited to see and experience the spirit move during worship. i want to be excited for the words that God will revel to me during the act of corporate worship.

i want a lot. but is it really too much to ask of myself to raise my level of excitement to the place i was at when i walked into the casino? no… no it’s not.


the daily special

contrary to popular belief, I am not a big drinker. a bottle of beer has the ability to remain in fridge for several months before i even remember that it’s in there. and there are several good reasons that i do not regularly partake in libations… first, i’ve been blessed with alcoholism swimming around in my family gene pool, on both the deep and shallow ends. (i’ll let you determine which side is the shallow and which is the deep) second, alcohol is darn stinkin’ expensive… at least the good stuff. and is there really any purpose in drinking anything but the good stuff?

and finally… drunk people are only funny for so long. there really does come a point when it’s best to show them the door, or you leave yourself, before they puke on your shoes.

so now i find myself at an interesting point in my life… i’ve come to affectionately call it my semi-mid-life-maybe-not-really-crisis. within those set parameters i feel that i am able to do things that might seem… oh, out of character. or even something out of the ordinary. and so i did… i went to bar tending school.

mixology is a fine art… mixing your vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey is not for the faint of heart. in fact, it had been a long time since i had something so rigorous to study for. mastering the art of the one ounce blind pour sent some fellow class mates over the edge. and we aren’t even going to mention the nervousness that surrounded the pour test for some fellow students.

now, i can make a mean Singapore Sling or a Bahama Mama… not to mention a Brain Hemorrhage or a Cement Mixer. (there are just some concoctions of alcohol that i can’t imagine why people would drink them… ) the art of the muddle and shake is just as important as the booze you pour. from your inexpensive well drinks to your top shelf, the difference between average vodka and good vodka is tremendous… in taste and in the pocket book.

so, am i really going to get a job working at a bar? am i going to be pouring libations at clubs in midtown on friday and saturday nights? i am going to twist off caps off of longneck bud when the average joe bellies up to the bar for his daily drink? and, what does this mean for me as a christian… a christian who has a call to vocational ministry nonetheless?

i seriously doubt you’ll find me at the neighborhood bar restocking the bud light or pouring some type of sweet fruity tini at the hottest downtown night spot. maybe i’ll end up at some chain restaurant pouring from their drink menu, or even be the friend who can be the great bar tender at parties.

mostly what i’ll do now is pray. seek God for what he has next for me… for the calling he has given me. he’s cultivated passions and skills and talents in me that will all collide in a moment for his kingdom, and it’s my job to be ready and alert when that happens. the bar tending thing just happens to be the now thing… and has also given me the ability to pour a really good drink for my friends.

point reyes

i believe this to be my all time favorite place… on all the earth. people love the mountains… well, i am all about the beach and the ocean and everything else that goes with it!

zipping our way through the valley on highway 37. it was almost as though our trip was preordained… no fog… no traffic… and lovely people!

we not only explored the beaches, but the cheese too! our first stop was at marin french cheese. we dove right into sampling the offerings… and they were great! we hopped back in the car and made out way to point reyes station. once there we hit the cowgirl creamery. they are an organic, artisan cheese making operation in the heart of point reyes station. (well, truth be told the town is only a couple of blocks… so really it’s all heart!) they were in the middle of washing the rinds of their red hawk, a triple-cream cows milk cheese. above are the lovely ladies in action… washing the rind.

we left the creamery and headed downtown to fetch some lunch. (this really meant we walked around the block) out of pure fascination, and having never been into a real general store, we popped into the point reyes general store. there was everything a person, or horse, needed. continuing our tour, we headed down to toby’s but was pleasantly distract by the yarn bomb that i spotted on the railing.

enough oooo-ing and aawww-ing over the yarn bomb spotting, we finally headed over to toby’s and were greeting with the fantastic display of organic fruit.

after retrieving lunch, we finally made out way to the beach. it was a treat to act as a tour guide for my friend heather on the way out. once we began making our decent into the drakes bay area, i knew i was were i supposed to be.

this time of year is a busy one at point reyes… people flock to see the migrating gray whales and the nesting elephant seals. the national park service closes off the road at south beach and operates a shuttle between the light house (where, after descending steps equivalent of a 30 story building, you can have the best view on land of the migrating whales), chimney rock (where there is best area for viewing the elephant seals) and drakes bay (where there were 2 elephant seals on the beach, therefore we had to stay 300 yards away from them). we caught the sunset while on the shuttle back to the car and headed over to north beach and took in the beauty of where was in front of us.

all in all, it was a great day! oh, yeah… we ended it at the station house cafe, located in downtown point reyes station. we feasted on hot popovers and bbq-ed oysters. a great ending to a great day!

post a week… it’s all we ask

extra bonus points for anyone who remembers where that came from! (or at least the idea of where is came from… the original commercial was asking for a can a week)

yes, i am dedicating to post at least once a week for the year 2011. i know, i miserable failed at my daily post project this past fall. but, hey i tried… well, the truth is that i was so overwhelmed with crap in life, the blog was the last thing i wanted to do. also, there was so much carp that i needed to dump, and this space wasn’t as safe as i needed it to be in order to dump it all here. consider yourself lucky! but i digress…

so, to sum this all up… i’ll be posting at least once a week during the 2011 year!

9: my faith, my tattoos

1.  Describe your tattoo(s):
i have two… the first is a large celtic cross, with the trinity symbol in the center. the second is a word in hebrew that means grace. because the actual word grace is not in the old testament, but the concept is. the cross is is traditional black ink, the hebrew word is in white ink with a subtle shadow.

2.  What made you want that tattoo(s)?
i had wanted one for a while… because they were cool. but i always talked myself out because of the needle factor. after a nasty breakup with a former boyfriend, i woke up on morning wanting the mark of God on me… permanently. i got in touch with my tattoo guy and we went from there.
the second was about six months later when i felt had come to pretty solid of understanding of God’s grace in my life and the importance of it.

3.  How did your faith influence your tattoo, indirectly or directly?
it’s my Jesus freak! i wouldn’t of have done it if it not were a direct demonstration of my faith. because of my aversion to needles and the family schism it would cause, i was looking to avoid it.

4.  What’s the relationship between your tattoo and your broader understanding of your body?
under the cross, i had romans 12:1&2 tattooed on it… this is my worship, my living sacrifice.  because i fully believe that we are first created to be in full worship with God, this is a part of it for me. it needed to be in a place that i could see regularly (and i really didn’t want it on my arms, wrists or hands) for that constant reminder of my dedication of worship to God on a daily basis.

5.  Was it worth it…do you have regrets?
completely worth it… no regrets at all!

6.  What funny story has happened because of your tattoo?
well, because my mom correlates tattoos with being in prison (she is a retired correctional officer), i hid it from her… and was successful until a faithful easter day about a year and half later. i was wearing pants, but at the angle each of us was sitting at, she had a direct view of it. my step dad sitting next to her saw it but didn’t saw anything about it. all of a sudden she jumps up off the couch, walking towards me with a finger pointed at my leg, saying, “what the hell is that?” i, of course knowing what is talking about but being me says, “what are you talking about? oh, you mean my tattoo.”
after a few expletives (remember she was a c.o.) i then added fuel to the fire and showed her my other one. to then add even more to fuel to the fire, my stepdad says, “well, now that abby has one, i can get one too!” then he got up, came over to me and gave me a big telling me how proud of me he was!
she’s totally over it now!

7.  How did your tattoo change your faith (and if not, why not)?
because of it, i am more bold. my faith is my serious business, and not that i didn’t take it serious before or wasn’t bold before, but now instead of me always engaging people, they now engage me. and the people who do engage me about it, were not they people that i would have engaged. it’s really gotten me to step out of my box.

purposeful advent

i have spent the last 30 years caught up in christmas. the good, the bad and the ugly of it all. i have been caught up in it all, and well frankly, i am tired. i am tired of the consumerism of it. i am tired of all the “family drama” the is associated with it. i am tired of feeling like i can’t shower my family and friends with gifts because i can’t afford it. i am tired of not taking the time to stop, take in a deep breath and enjoy the beauty of the season or reflect on the purpose as to why we have christmas in the first place.

all this to say, i am not boycotting christmas, but i am just re-aiming my purpose. for me, this past year has been a tidal wave of ups and downs, back and froths, side to sides and full tilt spins. has this past year been any different than any other year? emotionally… yes. everything else… no. i felt things this year that i never thought that i would feel. i felt things that i could never have imagined felt so amazing, then in a turn feel so completely horrible that i at times didn’t know how to move on from the pain.

in the tidal wave of it all… the rock solid foundation that existed, and will continue to, is Jesus. the tidal wave has subsided and the damage is manageable, but no matter how horrific i think the residual damage is, Jesus always makes it look like a piece of cake.

this season i am doing a few things differently…

taking time to breath
being more purposeful in my gift giving
spending more time with the reason for the season… Jesus
will only listen to “Christmas” music
open my bible everyday and blogging about the experience
acknowledging Christmas shenanigans as just that, shenanigans
not taking myself too seriously

a moment of silence

about a week ago we lost one of the great ones. the ovens were shut off, the doors were closed and the delivery trucks were forever parked. never again will a grocery store receive a fresh delivery of mother’s cookies.

for me, this is one more piece of my childhood gone. many childhood memories centered around have the iced animal cookies for snack. how can one forget the iced cookies with the tiny colorful sprinkles all over them. or the holiday ones… orange and black for halloween; green, red and white for christmas; or even the red, white and blues one for our independence day celebrations. they were always the first to go in the cookie parade bag, but then i discovered the chocolate sandwich cookies with the fudge center… after those were gone i would loose interest in the cookie parade.

tonight, in honor and memory of cookie history, i set out on a mission. to purchase mother’s iced animal cookies for the last time. i began my adventure at winco, while doing my other grocery shopping for the week. no success, there were a couple bags of cookie parade left on the shelf, but i refused to settle… insisting on pure, unadulterated bags of iced animal cookies.

several hours later i made a visit to target… failure again. then to o’briens, a locally owned grocer, and discovered the mother’s cookies are indeed on sale… creating a much bigger demand then they can supply. after picking up a bag of fat cat scones, found in the freezer section and because o’brien is across town and not a place i regularly shop at, i continue my journey to smart & final.

i enjoy smart & final. i entered the store as someone on a mission. i immediately sought out the aisle signs to locate the correct aisle cookies would be on, and once i spotted the sign i headed in that direction. almost like a hunter who caught the sent of its prey, i was on the trail of these cookies. i knew that i would be successful, eventually. there was no way that the people of modesto would completely buy out all the iced animal cookies in all of modesto… no way, no how.

as i approached the aisle i  began identifying other cookie paraphernalia. i scanned from the top of the aisle to the bottom, making sure not skip a shelf. the mother’s logo caught my eye… for a bag of chocolate chip cookies. no offense to their chocolate chip cookies or to anyone who is a fan, but they don’t float my boat. they don’t do what the iced animal cookies do for me.

disappointment began to set in and i began reformulating my game plan for the next location, when my eye spotted white and pink. could it be? really… am i starring at a dozen or so bags of mother’s iced animal cookies? yes, yes i was. immediately a smile appeared on my face. i was thrilled and relieved. i had completed a successful mission. i looked around the store, grabbed a bottle of sesame ginger marinade for the chicken that i will be grilling tomorrow and walked to the check-out with four bags of mother’s iced animal cookies in hand.

sure, i got a couple of weird looks, but no one identified what was really happening. nobody acknowledged that this would be the end of an era. nobody talk to me about how future generations will never know the joy that is to be had while sharing a bag of mother’s iced animal cookies or opening you lunch box and finding a sandwich baggy containing the cookies.

it’s a sad moment in culinary history… thanks for the memories.

nywc wrap-up

in the next couple of weeks i will be posting some wrap-ups about the convention. there is so much for me to process from this year that i want to take the time to do it justice, to do justice to what my heart and head are feeling and saying about it, and honor God in it as well.

a-team, day #5

early day… very early day… 7 a.m. early. but this morning, not only were we on time, but there was breakfast… a great way to start a really long day! this was the final day of the convention, which translates to winding down a-team activities and packing-up getting ready to ship out to Pittsburgh.

the team that i worked with took on most of the packing duties because i had a last minute meeting scheduled for this morning. we gave away the last of the snacks and treats that we had, took down the posters that so many youth workers created to honor fellow youth workers, packed everything up in the boxes and tubs they came, stacked them on a pallet and then i waited for the wrapping team to come in and wrap it all in super-duper plastic wrap.

we headed over to the book store and jumped in with that team to help pack it all up. luckily youth workers like to shop, so the number of books was less than what we started with.

when we were done i began to look around at everything, and it was sad. staring at the room that just a few hours ago was filled with the beautiful sound of brothers and sisters gathered worshipping has been transitioned to a pack-up state where even the fabulous disco mirrored ball was being packed away. it was all going away. it was all going to Pittsburgh and then on to Nashville.

but for Sacramento… it is done.

speed dating

new late night option at the national youth workers convention… youth worker speed dating.

i was there, i tried it… a friend pushed me into going… literally pushed… he came too, but left a short while later…

that’s all i’ve got to say about that.