Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Beautiful City

“Beautiful City” from Godspell in 2000 - written by Stephen Schwartz
Out of the ruins and rubble,
Out of the smoke,
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day. . .
We can build a beautiful city.
Yes, we can. Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful City.
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city of man
We may not reach the ending
But we can start slowly but surely mending.
Brick by brick,
Heart by heart.
Now, maybe now
We start learning how.
When your trust is all but shattered.
When your faith is all but killed.
You can give up bitter and battered,
Or you can slowly start to build!
A Beautiful City.
Yes, we can.  Yes, we can
We can build a beautiful city,
Not a city of angels,
But finally a city of man!

This wasn’t the blog entry I had planned to write.  I had planned to write all about what the Lord had been doing and how He’d led me back to New York.  I haven’t really told most of you that I’m even back yet.  So, I can only imagine your shock as you read this entry.  I’ve been back for almost four weeks.  Just in time to meet up with a hurricane named Sandy.  So, I feel like explaining how the Lord led me back here is pretty unimportant right now.  I just feel that the fact He led me back is significant.
By now you should have seen all of the pictures of destruction.  If you have not seen the significance of what’s happened to New York and New Jersey go online and look it up.  This should not be ignored or understated.  The amount of devastation is of Hurricane Katrina proportions.  We have had the worst disaster in New York’s entire history.  People ,you need to know what’s happened because I believe this is not only significant because we should know what is going on in our world and take action, but also because it is important to the Word of God and what He is saying to us as the people of God.  So, in short, look it up!
You might then say to me, “Well, you definitely didn’t pick a good time to go back to New York” or “Now, how do you feel about being in New York?  I bet you wish you weren’t there now!”  If you think that you’d be wrong.  You’d be wrong because I love this place.  I love these people.  And to be away at a time like this would bring me much heartache.  I would long to be here to help.  The Lord knows that about me and I know this is one of the major reasons He brought me back for, “Such a time as this”.  There is no coincidence that He has brought many of my friends and I back to our beloved New York.  I have felt for quite a while that the Lord has a great plan for the believers He is migrating back to New York, their home.  No matter if we were born here or not, we’ve adopted this place and the beautiful people here as our home and family.  It’s the place we feel that we fit the best.  It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I didn’t have the desire to be anywhere else and have always been grateful to be while I’m here.  No matter what has gone on in my time here. 
I’m not going to post any pictures of destruction, devastation and carnage.  You can go anywhere online and find plenty of those.  I’m going to tell stories and show pictures of the good that has gone on since Hurricane Sandy.  I find that when I’m away from New York there is a general perception that all New Yorkers are rude, pushy, self-absorbed and kleptomaniacs.  To be honest, I have found those types of people everywhere and more in places people don’t “expect “ them to be.  What you may not know is that the loveliness of people here can be very overwhelming.  Since the hurricane I have met some of the most selfless beautiful people I have ever met.  I was able to volunteer with the Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn, NY for a few days.  My last two days there I pretty much stayed at their headquarters as a Volunteer Coordinator and Front Door point person.  Red Hook is not a wealthy neighborhood and these people have been without power, heat or much food for almost 12days.  Their main subway line to get anywhere took the longest to be restored to them, and was not even flooded.  They came in asking for blankets, flashlights or batteries for elderly people stuck on the 12th or 14th floors of their buildings.  Hundreds of volunteers poured in to go into dark, cold, dangerous buildings to serve those unable to leave their apartments food.  We sorted through hundreds of bags of clothes and supplies to distribute to people in need.  People not affected by the storm gave generously to those who have lost EVERYTHING.

And the most amazing and disheartening thing for me was when we ran out of supplies and had to turn people away.  The amazing thing was that they didn’t yell or scream at me.  No one every cursed me out or got angry with me.  They thanked me for all the help we had given them and walked away peacefully, but downcast.  Watching someone who has lost so much and just needing a blanket to keep warm walk away defeated was heartbreaking.  This is not the mythic New York so many people have in their heads.  Yes, people are angry, dejected, and scared.  So, yes fights are happening between neighbors, looting, etc.  But neighbors are also watching out for each other and taking care of each other.
A lady I met one day while serving food emptied out her refrigerator because she knew all the food would go bad and cooked all of it, giving all she had away to the people in her building with nothing.  Another lady came in to get a ride for a woman and her sick newborn to a nearby shelter.  Churches in the East Village have set-up the largest relief effort in all of New York City’s five boroughs.  They got there before FEMA, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross.  By the time any of those organizations got there, the needs of the people were being met in such a way that they just told them to “carry on”.
So, just as the song says, “We can build a beautiful city, not a city of angels, but a city of man” God doesn’t always send angels.  Sometimes He calls us to step up to the plate, broken men, to be the angels to others. 

 I’m going to post links to the website for the Red Hook Initiative and Trinity Grace Church.  TGC Brooklyn (where I have been attending church) is doing some work with RHI and other relief efforts in Brooklyn including the East Village Trinity Grace Church which was one of the churches in that large relief effort.  You can donate money, if you would like to, on either one of the first two links below.  I am also going to post a link to the article about that East Village relief effort. 
My city is Beautiful, My God loves my city and I ask you to pray for us.  Pray that people would turn to God through this tragedy.  He has had mercy on my city, this could have been much worse.  But, He is definitely calling us higher and I am asking you to partner in prayer with us that His desire for us would be met.

 Love, Ebony
Red Hook Initiative -
Trinity Grace Church -

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Joys of Fasting (or How to gorge yourself until you meet Jesus)

I first started fasting in 2007, but not food, media.  See, I'm a T.V. addict.  There, I've said it.  The first step is in admitting you have a problem.  I'm such a terrible addict that when I was a child my mother didn't even have to spank me.  All she had to threaten me with no TGIF on ABC.  If you don't know what TGIF on ABC is, then you've missed it.  Lin Manuel Miranda said it best, "Gmorning Twitterico! Its Friday! If this were 1990 we'd be fiending for that new Perfect Strangers n Step by Step tonight!"  Remember "Step by Step", "Family Matters" and "Perfect Strangers", just to mention a few?  C'mon people, work with me.  If you don't know what I'm talking about after all of the television classicness I've just spewed on you, Google it friend, Google it.  Because frankly, you've missed out in life.  I'm already feeling bad for you. 

Moving on. . .

In 2010 I started fasting food.  It started out pretty badly.  I got diarrhea and was vomiting.  Don't worry, this isn't a common occurrence.  It was just poor planning on my part.  After I figured out what happened I began actually enjoying fasting.  I feel closer to the Lord during my fasts, even with all the ugliness that comes out in the process.  When you're hungry, you can be mean.  That meanness is your swarthy flesh rearing it's ugly head and getting in the way of the awesome encounter the Lord wants to have with you in your weakness.  Yes, it's hard.  Yes, it can honestly suck at times.  I've made two desserts almost every week for other people since my sweets fast started.   It's not easy to fast while everyone is raving about your yummy cheesecake, or chocolate cake or mousse dessert.  Your flesh wants to taste it, "to make sure it's okay" or  "to make sure the whipped cream is sweet enough".  But to be honest, what I'm fasting for is so much more important to me than having any of those desserts.  I am so desperate for the Lord to meet me right now.  I am desperate to hear His voice and to be free.  I am desperate for breakthrough in my life.  I know that He has great plans for me and I don't want my anger to continue to hold me back from the greatness that is right in front of me.  So, when you come at it from that perspective, a cheesecake seems like celery when compared to what you'll get from killing your flesh.  It's also never about self-control, but grace.  Because seriously, if it were up to me, I would have had a piece of each cheesecake, my sister's yummy cupcakes and a piece of the chocolate cake as well.  But, no, I had fruit.  That's got to be the Lord!  Bottom line, if you think your going to fast in  your own power, your wrong and I promise you'll fail frequently.  We are a greedy and selfish people.  We allow our Id to take over.  Freud knew what he was talking about some of the time. 
I don't know what to tell you.  It's not like I have some incredible revelation afterwards that changes my existence everytime I fast.  But I do feel closer to the one who gave up everything for me.  I figure, if he could die for me, why can't I give up pizza and cheesecake for him every once in a while.  Frankly, it's not a lot to ask.

Isaiah 58:4-6 (AMP)
4[The facts are that] you fast only for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness. Fasting as you do today will not cause your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is such a fast as yours what I have chosen, a day for a man to humble himself with sorrow in his soul? [Is true fasting merely mechanical?] Is it only to bow down his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him [to indicate a condition of heart that he does not have]? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?
 6 [Rather] is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Cooking is Elementary

Okay, so maybe the title for this posting isn't absolutely true.  Cooking is not "easy" for everyone and not everyone enjoys it, but here me out.  You'll like this, I promise. 
Now I'll warn you in advance, I'm not sure this posting is going to be super spiritual as were my previous postings.  That's not to say the Lord isn't doing much on this end.  On the contrary.  A LOT is being done.  It's possible spills may happen during the course of my writing this post and you might get a nugget or two, but let's just see what happens, shall we?
Before you ask, "Where in the world is she?"  I'm still at the International House of Prayer and working full-time as an addictions counselor.  Same place, don't worry.
I've been on hiatus from blogging since November.  About that time I had also gained back a large portion (all but five lbs) of the weight I had lost in 2010.  I was by no means happy about this situation.  I don't gain weight out of happiness as some people do.  I was angry and bored.  That is why I gained weight.  I quit caring and I had felt that weight loss was a mandate from the Lord.  Well, when your angry with someone, what they ask you to do no longer matters.  You're not too concerned with pleasing them.  So, like a little glutton, I ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted even when I "fasted" and quit working out.  Imagine my shock when my jeans quit too.
I have never been "overweight" necessarily.  It's just that I have felt a leading to be healthier.  To work out regularly and pay attention to what I put into my body and not just smash food into my cake hole or muffin hole in my case.  I also found the unfortunate corn nut snack during my binge.  Thankfully, I've quit that poor life decision. 
It's one thing to gain weight from joy and because you are indulging in marvelous food.  I wasn't, so that's what made my weight gain that much worse.  The muffins were good, but that was pretty much the extent of my "good eating". 
So, when I realized what I had gotten myself into, I vowed to change.  As I've been changing, I've been re-introduced to my adoration for cooking.  It's funny, I'm not one who necessarily "loves" to eat, but I LOVE to cook.  I will never forget my first "real" cooking adventure outside of Hamburger Helper.  My mother put raw chicken and spices in front of me and said, "Go to it".  I've been in love ever since.  Cooking is the only thing I enjoy close to as much as anything related to theater.  So, in December when I had started working on my weight I also decided to get back into cooking.  I made a meal for my current housemates and planned out the meal for weeks.  I was giddy watching the YouTube videos of Nigella Lawson, "Nige" as I like to call her, cooking all the wonderful dishes I had planned on making.  I could have cared less about actually eating the food.  The most enjoyable portion of the meal was watching my roommates faces as they ate the food and even getting one to like vegetables! I was so thankful to the Lord that it all came out well.  So, then I cooked again for Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day for which I learned to make Bangers & Mash and I've been on a baking binge for the past four to five weeks.  Pictures of those yummy endeavors are to follow.
As all of this has been happening, I'm back into my normal jeans and was down near my normal weight in time for my big birthday this year!  Praise God! 
Don't get me wrong.  It's still a struggle to keep the weight off.  I notice a mini-yo yo affect, but I'm not near where I was earlier.  And I'm also seeking inner healing at the same time.  God is doing a lot.  I'm cooking a lot and hopefully one day I'll get to enjoy my other passions a lot. 
My next big cooking adventure is next week.  I'm cooking for one of my dearest friends, my mentors and a woman I met a few months ago who is from the tribe of Judah!  The Lord is actually allowing me to cook for one of his direct descendant's!  I mean come on! No pressure, no pressure.  So now, I'm looking at Laura Calder to rescue me with her french.  She's got good plans; I think I'm safe.
Now, why do I think cooking is elementary?  I say that because for me it's a part of my healing.  It's getting me back to the basics of what the Lord has given me.  Getting to the simplicity of me and what I love and what simple things I can do to bring joy to myself and others.  Cooking has been a great way to take my eyes off of me and put them back on God and others.  When your eyes go back to where they should be, that's where the healing begins. 

So, bon appetit!