Thursday, July 30, 2009

All the People in the World Could Fit in Texas?

As a student of Architecture and Interior Design, for the last eight years of my life and counting, I've become extremely well versed in both practical and theoretical issues surrounding Green and Sustainability movements. While there are many aspects of this social trend that I enjoy and put into practice in my own life, there are also certain ideologies imbedded in this movement that are clearly oppositional to the heart and character of God.

The greatest of these, perhaps, is the idea of "overpopulation," a contributing factor in a world-wide trend of a devaluing of human life. No need to go into detail about this issue because I've already blogged away about it here, and here; however, this is an issue I have become increasingly passionate about, which is why earlier today, I was excited to find a link to a website called Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth, on one of my favorite blogs. This website creatively gives a brief history to the idea of overpopulation and provides factual evidence to dispel the myth, which does have life and death consequences.

Of the brief, but interesting facts the authors include:

According to the U.N. Population Database, the world's population in 2010 will be 6,908,688,000. The landmass of Texas is 268,820 sq mi (7,494,271,488,000 sq ft).

So, divide 7,494,271,488,000 sq ft by 6,908,688,000 people, and you get 1084.76 sq ft/person. That's approximately a 33' x 33' plot of land for every person on the planet, enough space for a town house.

Given an average four person family, every family would have a 66' x 66' plot of land, which would comfortably provide a single family home and yard -- and all of them fit on a landmass the size of Texas. Admittedly, it'd basically be one massive subdivision, but Texas is a tiny portion of the inhabitable Earth.

Such an arrangement would leave the entire rest of the world vacant. There's plenty of space for humanity.

It looks like there's way more space to go around than we ever imagined! Because I appreciated this little website so much, I thought I'd include their short film. Enjoy!

*The Facebook RSS feed does not include videos, so if you are reading this but the video isn't appearing, go here.

callie m.

Want to learn more? You might like these resources:

The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birth Rates Threaten World Prosperity by Phillip Longman

Click here to listen to a podcast of Candice and Steve Watters interviewing Phillip Longman. (Scroll to 14:00)

Start Your Family By Steve and Candice Watters

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Start Your Family Callie's Review

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

It has been a couple weeks since the last letter, but a lot has been going on in the Mitchell household here in Israel. The Lord has really blessed the work of my hands. Callie and I set an amount that we needed to earn each month in order to cover all our costs and to have a little extra in case of an emergency. After just two months of work, the Lord has blessed me with enough students to hit the mark we had set. This has all come from simple word of mouth from student to student. We have not done any advertising or marketing of the business. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness!

The other really big thing that has happened is that Callie is now pregnant with our first child! We are over the top excited about this and we covet your prayers. This comes a few months earlier than we were expecting, but this is the good kind of surprise. The Lord obviously wants us to start our family here in Israel, and we are very excited to do it. Callie has been dealing with a lot of morning sickness as a result, so please pray for her as well as for the development of our little one. Many of you have been following where the Lord has been taking me for a log time now. It is precious to me that I can share this with you, my extended family, who have been faithfully praying for me/us for many years. Please pray that the Lord would continue to provide for what He wants to do with us here.

I have been struck recently by the circumstances surrounding Jonah's flight from the Lord. What is amazing to me is not that Jonah ran from something he didn't want to do. We all do that from time to time. There is something very human about wanting to run instead of facing the things we need to face. None of us are perfectly brave all the time. This was not the thing that caught my attention. What caught my attention was the fact that Jonah ran even though He heard the very voice of God telling him to do something. How many of us plead and plead for God to speak clearly to us? How many of us want God to speak in an audible voice so that we can be sure we are doing the Lord's will? Jonah HEARD the voice of the Almighty God and yet he ran. There is an enormous responsibility that comes with hearing the Lord's voice. We in the Body have looked at the hearing the Lord's voice in the same way as we would look at reading a fortune cookie. Fortune cookies are always "positive" and we are never disappointed by what is written. If we are willing to let them, fortune cookies can also give us enough direction to make us happy, but not enough that we are accepting true responsibility. When we ask God to speak, we better make sure we know what we are asking. We will never get a "fortune cookie" response. I am not saying that we will, like Jonah, hear something we don't want to do. Maybe we will and maybe we won't.

The point is that when we ask, the amount of responsibility we accept is usually never understood to its depth. Jonah, because he accepted the role as prophet of God, he became responsible for the people of Ninevah and the sailors on that ship. God's Word to him directly affected the people he would meet if he obeyed and the people he would meet if he disobeyed. Asking for the Lord to speak and hearing his voice will directly affect people around us if we obey and if we disobey. The Lord's voice is a fearful thing to hear and the Body has taken this responsibility WAY too lightly. We have the opportunity through Yeshua to have a relationship to the living God. Communing with Him everyday is wonderful and doesn't have to be "direction" oriented, but we should know when it is. This is a wonderful, joyous thing, but it also should be a fearful thing. Blessings to you all.

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie (+1)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making Cheese Biscuits in Israel

Just a few weeks ago, my cousin, Emily, visited Israel on a tour with her class from Campbell University. While her group was in Jerusalem, we were blessed to be able to spend sometime together.

Devin and I had Emily over for dinner one evening. We decided to have a Breakfast Supper complete with our Mema's cheese biscuits. Making (and eating!) cheese biscuits is one of our family traditions. After our Mema went to be with the Lord, Emily assumed most of the cheese biscuit making responsibility. I can make a decent biscuit, too, but Emily's a pro, so I was excited to see what I might be able to learn from her skills.

The incredients are simple — self rising flour, buttermilk, crisco, and cheddar cheese. The Israeli version was slightly different, with non-brand name vegetable shortening and white cheddar.

First, we sifted the flour in a large mixing bow, then with a fist, made a crater for mixing the other ingredients. Now, really, we should be using a wooden bowl, but I don't have one yet. Remember that for my birthday!

Next, we poured buttermilk in the crater.

Then, Emily added the shortening — about the size of an egg.

Next, she kneaded the ingredients together.

Here we are. :)

While Emily was kneading, I was getting the cheese ready...

... and Devin got started on the Goosebreast, eggs and grits, in our All-Clad pans. :)

The biscuits when in the oven for a little while, and when they came out they look like this! We always know they'll be good when we see the cheese oosing out!

Then we enjoyed our yummy meal! :)

As our Big Daddy used to say:
"Come when you can, and stay as long as you can when you come."

Thanks for stopping by, Emily!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Binding the Vanity of Creativity

For the many wonderful things facebook is good for, sometimes I find myself snooping around other peoples lives and becoming discontent. I know I'm not alone because my friend, Faith, blogged about it several months ago:

Confession time: sometimes lurking on facebook serves to make me jealous of the people I stalk. I tell myself I’m just keeping up with friends, but in truth, I’m coveting...

And if I was to be honest, I'd have to say the same thing. Last night I found myself confronting this issue in the Lord after seeing a few friends new and creative lives on my computer screen, but really this issue goes beyond facebook. Its a struggle of everyday life.

My university experience at UNC-Greensboro was a wonderful time of learning about the Creativity of God. He blessed me with the most unique group of friends in the entire world. All artists of one sort or another, we were set on being creative in all areas of life, including our expression of faith and worship.

My friends looked like artist, displaying the latest trends in both purchased and homemade clothes, pierced body parts, unique hair styles, tattoos, and accessories. My friends acted like artists, being choosy about selections in film, music, literature, etc. We even had the most well put together rented houses and apartments you'd ever see, for a group of unemployed college students.

It was a stretching season of life. I learned to be thoughtful and intentional about my aesthetic decisions and I learned that I didn't have to settle for the K-Love status quo. My faith in Jesus didn't have to limit my creative expression. In fact, it really should expand my artistic expression. It did expand, and it continues to do so.

Those were some of the best years of my life, but if I was to be truly honest, and I can only speak for myself here, sometimes I also felt the insecure and competitive spirit that lurked amongst our creative crew. Sometimes I'd wonder, "Do some of my friends have a people preference based on style?" Then I'd realize the pride and judgment in that thought and turn it back on myself, "Do I have a people preference based on style?" I was disgusted when sometimes the Lord's answer was "Yes."

Of course, its easiest to identify with those who share common interests with you; interests in aesthetic taste included. Its just a completely different scenario to cause others to feel unloved because they don't share your specific tastes. This can happen through not attributing enough value to someone of a different creative expression, or having a hardness towards another because of jealousy. Amongst creative types, its also not uncommon to have a wrong self perception because of things or talents you do or do not have. I have been the perpetrator and the victim of those sorts of mentalities.

At least in real life, during those amazing days, we were able to walk through struggles with each other. We prayed for and with one another. We saw each other at our best and worst. Facebook hides all the dirty laundry. Maybe we post our successful art projects but hide the failures; we delete the ugly photos, but make albums full of Vanity Fair ready shots; we share good memories of escapades overseas, buy conveniently leave out falling down the stairs in Turkey or the swollen shut eye in Mexico because of some freak grain of sand.

This is not necessarily wrong. Who doesn't want to put their "best foot forward." Its just good to remember that we all struggle with failure, wanting more than we have, or how we're perceived by others, on one level or another. No one's life is as perfectly crafted as it seems. Its often the hard places that the Lord uses to refine us most. That's where the true and eternal crafting comes in.

Also, our identity shouldn't be founded upon how we would categorize ourselves, or how we would be categorized by others. I was reminded of this while reading a Relevant Magazine interview with Misty Edwards.

Last year you were featured in “The Blah Blah” blog as a "Girl of Christian Indie." How did you feel about being tagged in the Christian indie scene?

Honestly, I haven’t thought much about it. I am not sure what it means to be a "Girl of Christian indie," but it sounds cool. I don’t put a lot of thought into the way I am “tagged” today. I try to stay focused on where I am going. My focus is to go deep in the Word of God; live in the First Commandment, which leads to the Second; stay faithful in the place of prayer; fast more; give more; and live the Sermon-on-the-Mount lifestyle to the highest degree, even in my weakness. I know I am going to die one day, and the only real definition of who I am will come from the lips of Him who searches my heart. So, it’s cool but not relevant to who I really am.

Ultimately, in dealing with my discontent, I have to ask myself a few questions:
Who am I at the end of the day? Who does He say that I am? Or better yet, Who do I say that He is—through the way I live my life? And the ever important: How can I know You more, Lord?

Without settling these matters, I'm too grounded in the vanity of this age to act... and create... in love.

Go here for the full interview with Misty Edwards.
Faith's Blog: Great Smitten

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Come Up Here!

Today during time with the Lord, I listened to Jason Upton sing, "Come up here, My Beloved!"

Though a familiar song, his lyrics hit my heart a little differently today. Devin and I have been seeking the Lord for quite a while about several different life-direction issues. The Lord finally provided His word on all the matters we had been petitioning Him about with one giant swoop of His hand.

The plans of the Lord are quite creative, and we received a giant taste of that creativity! It appears that areas of our life will be shifting around in the next year, and we will be called to greater levels of trust, sacrifice, obedience, and hopefully more joy than we have ever known as these new adventures unfold.

I hear the Lord whispering to us, to me, "Come up here, My Beloved... Come up here."

callie m.

Related Post:
Shabbat Letter July 13, 09

Monday, July 13, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

The Lord is so faithful! Sometimes Callie and I sit back and think about how we got to this point in our lives and we just sit in wonder. Nothing short of the Lord working out His plan in our lives would have gotten us to this point. I went back and read a a few journal entries from the time when I went to Zambia for the first time. I m not a person who does well with journals. I have started and never continued several, but when I really have something to write, I do write it down. During the whole trip to Zambia, I was seeing the Lord work, but I was also pretty despondent about some things. One of the things I wrote was, "Well I guess I have to give up on having a wife!" It is hilarious that just 3 months later in that journal, I wrote, "Well, Callie is coming to visit tomorrow, and if all goes as planned, we will be engaged in a few days". Callie and I are now settling into the life the Lord has for us in Israel and all I can say is that the Lord is faithful. Please continue to pray that we would grow together through Yeshua so that we can be used mightily in His kingdom.

Please continue to keep Israel in your prayers. At no time in it's history has this small nation seen so much pressure from the rest of the world. When all her "friends" seem to have joined with the accusers, there is little else to do but turn to the Lord. That is something that we are praying for continually. Israel has arguably the most well trained army in the world, but that is nothing compared to the God of Israel being on your side. Please pray that Israel will cry out to her God for salvation.

Humanity as a whole is very obsessed with the drive to be or have enough. When we start to feel discouraged, the word enough invariably comes into our thinking. Maybe we think we are not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to complete the task assigned enough. Maybe we think we are not attractive enough, personable enough, or rich enough to attract members of the opposite sex. These are all things that we as human beings have to deal with at some point in our lives, but what is astounding to me is when we see this problem of "enough" running rampant in the Body. Everyone from the pastors and elders on down deal with this on a regular basis. We say we are not spiritual enough, holy enough, pure enough, or anointed enough and we cut God short before He can really start working with us. I have heard people say they were not holy enough to be in the ministry, so they decided not to pursue a call of God on their lives. I have heard others say that they have tried but are not spiritual enough to follow the Lord so they stop pursuing God. Still others have said they are not anointed enough to contribute in the Body, so they sit quietly in congregations. Oh how quickly we forget the lessons we learn from our Bible stories. No one was nearly "enough" when God chose them to serve Him, but what they did have was the willingness to be used. All of scripture is made up of men and women who were not perfect, but decided to give all that they had to God. We have allowed an excuse to permeate the Body that we don't find anywhere in the scriptures. God wants to use each and every one of us not because we are sufficient in ourselves, but rather He wants to use us exactly because we are not sufficient. He chooses the humble to bring low the proud. He chooses the "foolishness" of the kingdom to bring down the wisdom of the world. The whole of scripture testifies to the fact that God uses ordinary men and women (with all their flaws) to give glory to His kingdom. We are supposed to be continually going through the process of sanctification and purification, but thinking that we have to be one with this process in order to be used is true ignorance. God wants to use us this day and the only thing we have to ask is this: "Are we willing give all we have to God and be used by Him?" Blessings!

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

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Friday, July 10, 2009

A Weapon... A Weapon... A Deadly Weapon

Anyone related to me on my dad's side should recognize the title above. It originated with my cousin, Amanda, when we were children. She was dressed as a cat, spinning her tail around singing:

"A Weapon... A Weapon... A Deadly Weapon...

A Weapon... A Weapon... A Deadly Weapon..."

She just kept saying it over and over and over again. We have it on a family home video, and it has since then been a little inside joke.

Well, I think about that little song often while living in Israel because I see guns all the time. Big guns... small guns... guns everywhere. Most of the time they are strapped onto the backs of soldiers, but civilians carry them too.

This week three civilians with guns caught my eye. The first one was a middle aged man, well dressed, tall, with patient mannerisms. He was waiting at my bus stop with a hand gun in a HOLSTER around his waste. Today we road home on a bus with a young man who had a big M16 on his back, the same as the soliders, except he was wasn't in uniform. The most interesting of all was a young woman I ran into a few days ago. My gun carrying, well accessorized, southern friend, Trinidy, would have been envious of this chick.

She had short sassy blond hair, and she was wearing big earings, a light pink tank top, skinny jeans, and a feminine looking backpack. It was a neutral color with Art Nouveau flowers embroidered on the pockets. To complete the trendy and girly look of the bag, she had little stuffed animals hanging from the zipper—and just below the dangling animals—a HOLSTER with a handgun.

Yep. Annie Get Your Gun goes Euro style in the Middle East.

I'll admit, I used to be freaked out by all the guns. I was afraid one might accidentally go off and shoot somebody, or someone might flip out and open fire, but a few experiences last summer changed my mind.

Anyone remember the bulldozer terrorists? On two occasions, Arab guys driving bulldozers decided to start running over people, cars and even flipped over a bus. Several people were killed. During the first attack, the driver was shot by an off duty soldier carrying his gun. The second attack was ended in a similar fashion when a civilian with a gun shot and killed the driver just minutes before he murdered my boss's attorney... who did end up losing his leg.

Besides the connection to one of the victims, these attacks hit close to home because I had just passed through both areas minutes before they took place. Had I been running 10 minutes late... Let's just praise the Lord I wasn't. Fortunately, Israeli's are some of the bravest people I have ever met and they looked out of each other on both of those days. I'm sorry for the families of the Arab men who lost their lives, but I'm thankful that they weren't able to do more damage than they did.

The real and apparent need for defense against acts of terror was my first revelation.

The second revelation came one night after Shabbat Dinner. Devin was home for the weekend and we decided to have our friend, Jesse, over. After we ate, we talked a little, and watched a movie. The lady I was living with had long since gone to sleep. Thankfully she had a guest room for Devin in her bed'n'breakfeast style flat, but Jesse had to leave. The buses stop running on Fridays around 4pm so I asked Jesse if he was going to get a taxi.

"No, I'm going to walk." He said in his upbeat "Jolly Dutchmen" tone. It was like 1:00 am and he lived a good 45 minutes away, on foot.

I started to panic! "Are you going to be safe? You better call us when you get home! Maybe you should just sleep on the couch..."

I was sincerely nervous for his safety. The two men then started laughing at me. You see, Israel doesn't have violent crime. At least not nearly the amount in America. In that reguard, I really do feel more safe in Israel than in the US. Jesse was just as safe walking home in Jerusalem in the dark as he was in the day light.

More guns do not equal more violence—that was my second revelation.

Since Israel has mandatory military service, most of the population is trained in how to properly use a gun and most people chose to carry one for the rest of their lives. Devin often talks about how much he misses his M16 short from the army. The military service could definitely affect the low crime rate in a nation of so many guns. It could also be the low rate of divorce and single parent homes, but I haven't done the research yet to really know.

Meanwhile, I no longer see all the guns and freak out. Instead, I'm thankful that I live in a nation, amongst a people, who are willing to lay their lives down for each others safety, and not just in theory, but in deed and action.

Here's Devin with his M16 while guarding the Israeli/Egyptian boarder.

Related Posts:
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Shabbat Letter - Moving in Formation This was right after the bulldozer attacks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Adventures in Antalya, Turkey

Devin and I had to leave Israel for a few days, so we took a little 'second honeymoon' along Turkey's Mediterranean coastline!

Turkey is a popular vacation destination for Israelis, and after visiting I see why! Devin calls this amazing nation "Europe's best kept secret." The scenery is beautiful, the people are friendly, and its super affordable to get there from this part of the world! We both recommend taking the time to visit if you are anywhere near!

This wasn't a big site seeing trip for us. It was more of a lazy weekend in the sun and the sea.

With beaches that look like this....

...can you blame us?

Here's a few in the other direction. The shore line is covered in pebbles which grow in size as the water gets deeper!

A young man who worked for our hotel took this photo for us. He and a few others followed us around after discovering that Devin, or Devint, as they liked to call him, is an English teacher. I thought about cropping and zooming in Photoshop, but the dear lady in the background might not have been to happy about that!

Our hotel had this crazy water slide—and no lifeguard! We both witnessed a few incidents (such as people sliding on their feet!) and were part of a few (I ran into a Muslim girl, in her Burka, who decided to SIT on the slide)! We also had a Turkish Bath that provided full spa treatments for only $35 US! Of course we took advantage of that option!

We ate dinner at a lovely kebab restaurant where, again, the staff was enamored by my ESL teaching husband. We had an excellent meal of kebabs, Turkish coffee, Turkish tea, and kenafe for dessert.

And our server did this little trick with forks and toothpick.

This is the little downtown... not architectually spectacular, but colorful and lively, nonetheless.

And what would a visit to Turkey be without Turkish Delight! They also had great deals on leather everywhere!

We found this cute little park filled with adult-sized exercise equipment...

... so we took a moment to do the leg press.

The next day, we ran into Ariel.

We had an amazing time in Turkey and look forward to exploring some of the more historic sites on our next visit! We hope to make traveling to Turkey a regular part of our life here in the Middle East, and really hope to be able to do ministry in this ancient land in the future!

callie m.


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Adventures at the Beach in Tel Aviv

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shabbat Shalom

Dear Family,

It has been a couple weeks since the last letter, and I very sorry for that. Callie and I are doing great, but these last couple weeks have been busy ones. We finally received all of our goods from the States and we have been joyfully setting up our home. It was like opening all of our wedding gifts a second time. With each box we opened, we remembered just how incredibly we were blessed by everyone. After 6 months of waiting, we can finally use ALL of the gifts we were given. I have to admit, it is a real treat to see my lovely wife nesting in our apartment in Israel. We also just got back from a brief trip to Turkey. The Lord open the door for us to have a very inexpensive vacation in Kemer, Turkey. Callie and I were blessed by the trip and now we are finally settling back in here. Thank you all so much for your prayers for us. It really feels like the Lord is rooting us in this part of the world and His favor through that process is something we see everyday.

Please continue to keep this nation in your prayers. With everything that has been going on with Iran, the whole region is waiting to see what the final outcome will be. Israel continues to prepare for a possible response to a nuclear Iran. The rest of the Muslim nations around us have been surprisingly silent about the whole thing. No one knows how things will end, but Israel knows she must be ready for whatever comes. May the Lord continue to watch over and keep safe this small nation of His choosing.

A pastor posed a question this week that I would like to share with you all. This pastor said, "Are we in a position in which we are waiting to receive from God, or are we waiting to take from God?" This was, to me, a very profound thing to think about. Standing on the Lord's promises is one thing, but do we start to demand that He fulfill these things when we want Him to? I think a portion of the Body has crossed over into what I would call the spoiled child syndrome. We know we are children of the king, and that we have a loving Father, but we forget that we have this position through grace. The awe that we held when we first became believers in some cases has been replaced by the idea that IF God really loves us, then He should be acting NOW on our behalf. The truth is that God has given us amazing promises to hold onto, but the fulfillment of these things will always be in His timing. He has said that He would work wonders through His children, but He will do it when He can get the most glory. Yeshua could have gone to heal Lazarus before He died, but He waited so that the Father could receive the maximum amount of glory. If you would have asked Miriam* and Martha what they would have preferred, I am sure they would have wanted that Lazarus would not have died. The children of Israel would have preferred to have gone out of Egypt before going into slavery, but they came out in such a way that struck fear into the hearts of the nations around her. Are our hearts in a place to receive what God has for us, or are we trying to grab what is "ours" from the Lord? Are we saying to Him, "You need to do this now because you promised!" Or are we content to say to HIm, "I believe what you have promised, and I wait for you to fulfill it." Our loving Father wants good things for us and He will bring them to pass in our lives, but we need to come back to that place of submission through awe. We need to know that He is God and we are His children through grace alone, and not because we deserve it. Thank the Lord that He is patient with us and may we learn of that patience from Him.

In Yeshua,

Devin and Callie

*Miriam is Hebrew for Mary