Inside the American Embassy in Iraq

When I was in Baghdad in November I spent many hours inside the American Embassy, including Thanksgiving dinner in the Dining Facilities. Here’s a slideshow of the embassy for a better perspective:

The US Embassy in Baghdad from above

Writing is like placenta turned inside out. Gory and beautiful all at once.

“Writing is like placenta turned inside out. Gory and beautiful all at once.”

– Dawn Richardson

Discipline motivated by love is beautiful. This bit of truth I learn daily these days; these writing days. I am writing a book. I am aiming to get said book done this month. This means seven pages daily on weekdays which is about five hours of writing each day. It’s challenging. I am reminded of a couple years ago when I watched a friend deliver her baby and afterward the midwife asked if I wanted to see the placenta. I did. I’m obsessed with life and building long-term structures which promote life, OF COURSE I wanted to see the placenta! Anyway, I saw it. I was mesmerized. Sometimes turning something inside out, which is a bit of the way the placenta appeared, rips your own substance toward worship. That moment sure did.

So, I’m writing. I met my seven page quota today. I’m feeling a bit inside-out, having peered back at the year 2006 and held it in my writing hand for wisdom’s sake. Inside-out can be a screamingly thankful state.

I girded my writing courage today by reading some writing quotes. I thought I’d share some favorites. Dare to hold your story, your life story, in your hands again and see it from the inside out. Maybe you need to do some writing too, or some talking  – with another human being who will let you process your thoughts. If so, do it. Let’s make 2012 supercharged with life every single day. And when necessary, let’s write about it.

** You are welcome to add your own writing quotes in the comments too. That’d be grand. **


“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” – Ernest Hemingway

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Ernest Hemingway

“Good writing is like a windowpane.” – George Orwell

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.” ~Anaïs Nin

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”  ~Anaïs Nin

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  ~Toni Morrison

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”  ~William Wordsworth

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”  ~Vladimir Nabakov

“When you are describing,
A shape, or sound, or tint;
Don’t state the matter plainly,
But put it in a hint;
And learn to look at all things,
With a sort of mental squint.”
~Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

“The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“I want to write books that unlock the traffic jam in everybody’s head.”  ~John Updike


One Thousand Gifts – Tell me what YOU are thankful for!

As the New Year grins its slightly secretive, mostly extroverted grin, it is a good time to plop into a thankfulness beanbag and meditate on the gifts already in one’s life. It’s a good time to observe blessings and pick them up: like caterpillars on a walk in the woods: think about their many legs, their funny fur, their itsy-bitsy eyes, their specific place in the universe, their unique role in the ecosystem.

Be outlandishly thankful. I once read a quotation that was something like, “If you want to see a promise sprout, bury it in thanksgiving.” THAT is a great image!

Here are some things I am recently thankful for:

1. Hearing a helicopter at night and remembering my time in Baghdad

2. Serendipitously running into a friend and having lunch with her

3. My desk: a friend gave it to me and it’s larger than my last one

4. Having English as my first language: it’s useful and makes me more travel-ready

5. Fingernails. I think my fingers would be able to do a lot less if their tips were more squishy.

6. Having a dishwasher

7. My sister Dori is dating a Palestinian. (It’s so amazing to have the Middle East IN my family.)

8. My sister Dana & her husband work with kids full-time. This keeps them ultra-creative and fun.

9. The internet. I can keep in communication with friends all over the globe.

10. Knowing we are going glory to glory.

11. Hot water

12. The option of buying chemical-free dishwashing detergent.

13. The small tree outside my apartment. It’s sweet.

14. My car. It’s 20 years old and still alive and adventurous.

15. Living near a river.

16. Growing an appreciation for sparkly things.

17. Being able to read Arabic (albeit slowly).

18. Two people this week used their own gift certificates to buy me lunch. The gift that keeps on giving.

19. Being part of pastors’ prayer at my church

20. The archways on my apartment building.

21. Having spent two years in Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. It’s like having learned a new language.

22. Friends who broaden my perspectives.

23. The online catalog of my local library.

24. Freedom.

25. My parents’ courage to support me whilst I go to war zones.

I would LOVE it if you would share 5-25 things YOU are thankful for in the comments below. THANKS!

More thankfulness inspiration here:

And if you want to join Ann Voskamp’s JOY DARE check out January’s Joy Dare

if Mary & Joseph used Facebook

I really like how this portrays the way their friends and family may have reacted to the news of Mary’s pregnancy etc. I also like that it brings the characters to life. I am newly aware of the poignant, “unbelievable”, and communal nature of Jesus’ birth. I LOVE GOD’S WAYS.


Fearless jumping and the grasshopper basket

About two weeks ago I had a dream while sleeping. I dreamed I was in a house in the Middle East; and as I was moving toward the door to leave the woman of the house came out of the kitchen. In her hands was a basket shaped like a grasshopper. She explained to me that it was a gift, meant for use in folk religion, but she had redefined it and redeemed it for her own Jesus-centered purposes. She said it was a reminder of a prayer strategy. She then took the lid off, which was the grasshopper’s head, and showed me a circle of colors inside the lid. Each color represented a prayer focus. It was really insightful and the hidden nature of the colors was important. The colors were inside the grasshopper and they required revelation in order to understand what they represented.

It was a powerful moment. As I thanked the woman and left the house I knew the wisdom she gave me would be a key to my approach to life in the Middle East for years to come.

Interestingly, later that week a top US military person told me the prayer strategy God gave him for Iraq over the course of two years.

I knew the grasshopper was important in its symbolism so I google-d it. The first and only link I clicked on said the following:

Grasshopper Symbology — The grasshopper is associated with astral travel. They have the ability to leap through time and into space where the true mysteries of life exist. People with this medicine have the wisdom necessary to overcome obstacles efficiently and are able to jump into successful ventures without preparation or planning. When the grasshopper appears to us we are being asked to take a leap of faith and jump forward into a specific area of life without fear. Usually that specific area is one that we have avoided and is often connected to change on a larger scale. This can represent a change in location, relationships, career or just in the way we perceive ourselves.

Grasshoppers can only jump forward….not backward, or sideways. So, when grasshopper shows up he could be reaffirming to you that you are taking the right steps to move forward in your current situation. Or it could be that he is telling you to go ahead and move forward, getting past what is hindering you. This is why grasshopper is the symbol of good luck all over the world. Grasshopper’s ability to connect and understand sound vibrations is why he is also a symbol of your inner voice. he could be telling you to trust yours. *

I read the explanation out loud to a friend nearby. We both opened our eyes wide and laughed substantially: the laugh of discovery, awe, and whoa-God-is-omniscient-eeriness. It felt like the words were exactly for me. There I was sitting in Iraq, the place I’d dreamed and prayed about for 16 years, dreams were materializing; yet, I was on the brink of another sequence of large decisions to LEAP forward WITHOUT FEAR.

That move forward is happening. I am building relationships with people in Iraq that will facilitate my path back here one day.  Moreover, inside me is a prayer strategy, simple, but expanding. There is a rainbow ring of promise around my neck, around my voice, and it will be unveiled. The purposes of heaven will be made manifest in my life and in Iraq’s life.

We are bound for glory to glory, so forward we shall go.

RE-TRAIN YOUR HEART, start today.

Being avalanched by God’s love is the best thing that ever happened/happens to me. It’s not a one time deal, but a continuous divine comedy of extravagance, surprise, delight, and holy irony. It’s a daily walk of raising my expectations, lifting my eyes, expanding my faith. It’s choices to believe for goodness to show up. It’s opportunities to get under the circumstances or OVER them. (I must choose OVER.) It’s moments when fear is the environment, and my heart yawns in boredom at fear and chooses courageous love instead. That one poke through fear’s atmosphere changes it. My thoughts change the atmosphere. What you behold, you become. If you entertain yourself with fear, anxiety, negativity, and grim matters, you train your heart to focus on those things. Then you wonder why your attentions are drawn to negatives rather than positives. YOU have trained your heart.

It’s time to re-train our hearts. 

Romans says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”


When you renew your mind, the habits of your thinking, what you meditate on, you are better able to recognize God’s will. If you submerge yourself in nightly news full of grisly images and negative statistics, guess what? You are teaching your mind to meditate on those things. There is often a fine line between being informed and being persuaded. It’s one thing to be aware of world events,  it’s another to be persuaded that what the news says is the TRUTH. Truth and fact are different things. The news may be factual. It may relate earthly reality, but it is NOT truth; it does not portray the reality of heaven or JESUS, who IS incarnate Truth.

Re-train your heart.

If you are a follower of Jesus you are a citizen of heaven. You are NOT of this world. Therefore, you should not be first led by earthly circumstances. You should be able to pause and tune your heart to heaven. What is God saying about this particular matter? What does it look like for heaven to come to earth in this particular situation?

Raise your sights. 

Rather than expecting a so-so turn around, expect a magnificent turn around. For example, if you lost $110,000 when the housing market plummeted, believe the money will be restored. Not only that, do not stop at, “Well, maybe I will get some of that back somehow;” approach it with a declaration, “I declare I will not only get what was lost, but a seven-fold return.” This is an example; you may feel God leading you to make a different confident declaration. It’s not based on a formula, it’s based on faith. It’s based on your determination to make your WORDS line up with heaven’s design.

Luke 6:45 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

What you speak reveals what is in your heart.


There is great authority in your words. When you say someone is “stupid” you are actually agreeing with satan’s lies about someone. When you live in a city others may see as drab, but you say, “It’s lovely” you are actually making a proclamation over your city and calling forth its real identity. Many things are not first visible to the eye, but to the heart.


In people, places, circumstances, train your heart to look for what is good, to find the gold buried in the ground. Someone may seem altogether mean, but maybe he is really good with animals. Emphasize that. Talk about that. The more you agree with the ways God delights in someone or something, the more you draw that person or place into it’s heavenly design.

Proverbs 25:11 puts the authority of our words thusly,

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

There is power in your words. You can speak life or death. You can champion someone or degrade someone. You can find a small virtue and water it to grow big and strong, or you can find a large flaw and water it to grow big and strong.

The choice is yours. If you are a follower of Jesus, you should be bringing life to everyone everywhere. And you CAN do this, simply by knowing who God is, who He has designed you to be, and by making choices in what you think about and what you speak about.

You are designed to be a life-giver. Moreover, as you give life to others, you give life to yourself. You will see your environment shift into a happier place and you will be happier too. Besides, it is very liberating to not feel obligated to abide by the world’s outlook or emphases. You must have a different perspective in order to bring a different perspective.

Start today. Ask Holy Spirit to show you how to re-train your heart. Change your wording. Resist the pressure to agree with negative interpretations and gloomy outlooks. Dare to believe for HOPEFUL outcomes. Dare to dream knowing all of heaven is on your side. Dare to see like Elisha’s servant Gehazi saw, and to say the words of Elisha, “”Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)

Ask God to show you what is going on behind the scenes. Then agree with heaven’s purposes for a particular situation. If you see a newspaper article about a poor economy in Yemen, you can say silently or aloud, “Yemen, I bless your economy to thrive.” Often agreeing with heaven is as easy as speaking the opposite. When you hear bad news, speak the opposite, think the opposite, believe for the opposite.

You will quickly discover it is fun to dream with God and co-labor with Him to transform your life, and the world.

nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

That’s right, NOTHING. The most dark-looking situations can be transformed with light and hope.

You are important.

Your words are important.

YOU, YES YOU, have the ability to transform the world and to bring heaven to earth.



Nutrition for the re-training of your heart:

free downloads: The Invitation to Victory:

                                  As it is in Heaven: