Just Sing

In the middle of heavy persecution from many sources, I recorded this audio on my phone about why I stopped writing blog posts about love. I hope it will speak to you and encourage you to sing in the midst of anything you are going through.


The Whole Armor of God

When the spiritual battle gets tiring, be reminded of standing. Stand with the Whole Armor of God that you will be able to withstand all.

Watch video of a chant version of Ephesians 6:10-18


I Confess

I confess. I blew it again. Just when I thought I was doing a better job at how I reacted to injustices, it’s still upsetting. Not that I don’t have reason to be frustrated but I was hoping I’d do better. There are many stories in the bible about how Jesus had to confront the devil when even, was he surprised, the enemy used the word of God against him.

After talking about my struggles with a Pastor he gave me a book called The Three Battlegrounds. I just started reading it, but now it’s making more sense. The enemy will accuse us because even if there is a little bit of truth to what he is saying, he can step into our darkness.

But, and this is a huge but, because I have Jesus his accusations will not stand. I can confess to Christ my part and he forgives me. This doesn’t make it right to accuse, and it may not mean I will react any differently the next time he rears his ugly head, but because I have Christ I have hope that I will begin to change and be more perfected. It’s really so simple. I’m not sure why I make it harder than it has to be.

Palm Desert 2021 © Cinderella Factory

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9


Write Now-Writing Prompt

Write with us virtually. I’ve recently started a writing practice group and would like to share our writing prompts from the last session. Writing practice is the process of writing spontaneously without thinking about what you’re writing. You set a time limit. In this latest practice session we wrote the first prompt for 10 minutes and the second prompt for seven minutes. Here are some points to remember when you’re practicing. Keep writing during the whole set time regardless of whether you can think of anything. Usually, there’s so much you think about it’s hard to write it down fast enough. Don’t edit during this time or think about correct spelling and punctuation. You want to just let your hand go with the first thoughts that come to mind. Consider detail and showing what you’re writing about. I’ve found that dialog helps me keep from showing versus telling.

These prompts were taken from Debbie Macomber’s Once Upon a Time book.

Prompt #1 (10 minutes): Write about your childhood home. [As you’re writing think about what you would say to people if you were giving them a tour. Show all the details, the good, the bad, and the quirky].

Prompt #2: (7 minutes): There was once a man…[Start with this beginning line and see where it goes from there].

Please share your writing in the comments section or if you’d like read it with your family at the dinner table, or with your friends at the coffee shop.


Easter Egg Hunt

At least 50 children and their families enjoyed a fun Easter Egg Hunt at Village Chapel. There was a story time, an egg hunt where the Easter Bunny appeared and the children left with handfuls of eggs and candy.


Backyard Plays and Film Festivals

I’ve always loved the theater, and movies especially, ever since I would pretend like I was singing for crowds on the backyard stage my brother had built for us for a play I had written and was planning to put on for the neighborhood kids to perform. I liked singing songs to an invisible audience from the Sound of Music. I was amazed with the lyrics after seeing a rerun of the movie at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, an outdoor venue my mom used to take us to on summer nights. They offered free entertainment and that was the right price for a family of seven.

My neighbor friends and I would run home from school to practice renditions of movies. My brother’s outdoor wooden stage was raised up against the back of the house. Our first effort was singing the songs from the Grease movie that starred John Travolta. It was especially attractive to us after we pleaded with our parents to see the movie and almost didn’t get to because it was rated PG and up to that point we had only been allowed to watch rated G. We wanted to put the Grease play on for the neighborhood but soon realized the project was too big for us. So, then we tried to perform a short play for our siblings and a couple neighbors. The play was primarily just a couple of love themed songs. We sang the old Beatles tune When I’m 64 and a song by Harry Belafonte There’s a Hole in the Bucket. The play felt tired and we lost interest quickly, like anyone who listens to the There’s a Hole in the Bucket song usually does.

So my play had incorporated a lot of songs along with actor’s scripts and I had cast my sister and almost all of my neighbor friends as actors. My brother worked the sound behind the scenes. With most of us being in the play we realized we didn’t have many people to watch it so we ended up going around the neighborhood to announce the performance. The play went well except for some minor glitches as kid’s projects often do, but to this day I still have fond memories of writing and performing a play in our backyard.

So almost five years ago when the idea to go to the Telluride Film Festival as a volunteer came to mind, I was more excited than I had been in a long time. I had briefly sampled the festival in 2008 when I happened upon it while taking a road trip to the area. That year, I sat in the front row of an outdoor theater and watched a movie about a Senegalese musician Youssou Ndour, and found I had been sitting right next to his wife when at the end of the performance he asked her to stand.

The first year I volunteered I joked with my friend that I had to take planes, trains and automobiles to get there. The flight to Denver ended up arriving late at night and I wouldn’t be able to pick up my rental car until the morning so I ended up doing my best to rest on benches in the airport until things opened up. I would nod off and then jump awake again afraid my luggage or myself might be vulnerable.

In the morning, I took a tram from the airport to the rental car area. The flight to Denver and the car rental in Aurora were the best rates I could find during Labor Day weekend on a tight budget. [It’s easier to fly to Durango and drive about two hours to Telluride and pick up a car at the airport but flights and cars are usually more expensive that way]. The tram dropped me off in a residential area and after looking at maps and asking people how to get there I was told I would need to take a bus. I boarded the bus and watched kids getting on for school and adults heading to work. The closest bus stop to the car rental location was still a couple miles away.

By the time I arrived at the car rental, I was sweaty and exhausted from the walk and lack of sleep. I still had a seven hour drive ahead of me and was in a hurry because I needed to be at a first-time volunteer meeting at the Sheridan Opera House. The drive took longer than the map said it would and I hadn’t eaten anything. I realized about midway through that I was going to be late to the meeting so I contacted my volunteer manager. She told me it was fine so I felt some relief.

After a long and twisty drive, I reached the main street of Telluride in time to get into the volunteer meeting a little late. I didn’t have time to pick up my SHOWcorps pass and backpack with items they give to volunteers but was lucky to find a parking place near the hotel. My body woke up a little from the fresh air and excitement of being at the festival. The main street was decked out with colorful flower pots and outdoorsy people walking along the streets. The high mountains in the background were gorgeous. The whole scene seemed surreal. I tiptoed to an empty seat in the auditorium. The air of excitement filled the room from other eager volunteers. I seemed to fit right into the crowd. After the new volunteer meeting, there was another gathering for both new and returning volunteer staff at the Herzog Theater. It was crowded and I still didn’t have my pass. People started asking me where my pass was but after I explained that I had just arrived they allowed me to find a seat. The climate inside the Herzog was even more anticipatory, almost like everyone else was in awe like I was. I talked to my neighbors to the right and left of me. Most of the people were veterans of the Show, as they like to call it. I found out from my seat neighbors that Telluride is a favorite among many of the stars for its

low key atmosphere in the mountains. Ken Burns and Peter Sellers, festival veterans I found out, stood up to talk to the crowd like we were all their friends. Their speeches included a lot of political and liberal references, even using cuss words regarding some issues. I was surprised. The managers then told us we would be given a meal and after they would show us the first movie we’d see at the festival. At that point I was so exhausted I was ready to go to sleep but ran to the office to pick up my pass, then hustled back to the Herzog to stand in line for the meal. I talked to a lady that had been a newspaper reporter. We sat down and ate together. The meal was very good but I just wanted to find my hotel. In the morning I was going to have to get up early to make another mandatory staff meeting at the theater I was volunteering at, the Chuck Jones Theater. As I was walking to my car I saw John Assaraf and his wife walking toward the theater. He was made famous for being in the Secret movie. I remembered reading previously that he had a home in the area.

Because of my budget and the high cost of staying in Telluride, I had found a low cost room but it was about a thirty to forty minute drive from the theater in an area called Rico. When I arrived at the small town that looked more like a ghost town I found the Inn was rickety and strange looking. It seemed like miners in the early 1900’s would’ve stayed there. I was glad to be able to go to bed and decided to miss the showing of the first movie at the Herzog theater that night.

I fell asleep early and woke up to find a rat running across my room. In the shared bathroom I found a cartoon book about being a disciple of Jesus and the operator of the hotel was listening to a sermon. It seemed a bit out of context as the discussion I had with him while checking in was weird. He said it was suspected that the hotel had ghosts in the past.

Still excited, though, to be going back to the festival I got to the meeting at the Chuck Jones Theater a little early. There I met all the volunteers I would be working with and I started feeling like I was a kid at summer camp. We introduced ourselves and told each other what our favorite movies were. My role was an evening shift usher inside the theater. The first day they had us work the day shift to learn our roles. The night shift volunteers would then return to work the evening movies.

After the day shift ended I walked around the mountain village area. I was still a little sleepy from the travel and missing a night’s sleep, but at the same time excited to be at the festival, I walked past the Madeline hotel’s restaurant and saw Jennifer Garner having dinner with her friends like she was just one of us. Our managers told us at the first meeting that the actors like to go to Telluride because they don’t get bombarded by people asking for pictures and autographs so we were not to request it from them.

I walked around some more and a man was playing his guitar and singing like the songs were just for me. It seemed as though I was in a dream as I continued to walk around awestruck wondering how I had gotten there.

The evening shifts brought more amazement as I helped seat actors like Tom Hanks and Jennifer Garner as their movies Sully and Wakefield were premiering at the show. I had heard that Amy Adams was going to be there during the day shift.

When the movie La La Land premiered my dream-like state erupted with such pleasure as I was reminded of my growing up years in Los Angeles and the musicals I loved. One of the benefits of volunteering inside the theater was that we got to see most of the movies during our shift. Over the remaining time at the festival I heard the songs from the movie both in my head and around town. The buzz about La La Land was all over the festival. There was another movie that got some attention too that year, Moonlight.

I seated the Moonlight movie’s VIP group and one of them was making comments to me. He was talking about Jesus and inferring that I was sort of like the sacrifice. When both movies were up for best picture at the Oscars the next year I wanted La La Land to win and was disappointed when after they announced it had won, they came back and said there had been a mistake and the best picture went to Moonlight. I had hoped for a different ending to the La La Land movie, my only complaint of it really. The volunteers at Telluride were all talking about it. Some of them said they liked it because it had a different ending than expected but I guess the Sound of Music memories in me hoped for a better outcome.

The last day of the film festival, Labor Day, they had a picnic in the park surrounded by more awe inspiring mountains and Emma Stone was there with a panel talking about La La Land with the director and moderator. I took in all the beauty of the mountains, the sunlight, the flowers spelling out Show on the ground, the catered picnic food and was content and in a peaceful joy. After the picnic I walked around the town catching glimpses of other actors I tried to put names to. Although I was tired, I was happy to be a part of the 43rd Annual Telluride Film Festival.

I’ve seen rumors online that a couple new musicals will be coming out this year. I hope the organizers of the Telluride Festival [no one knows what the movies will be until they get to the show] will run them and bring back the musical atmosphere from that first year I volunteered. There’s something about adding sing–along music and a good ending to a movie that makes it timeless, sort of like the Sound of Music.


Bread Bites

Since the 2017 Open The Gates’ International Christmas Celebration (ICC), which helps Syrian Refugees in San Diego, we’ve been giving away bread to needy people. Once a week one of our helpful volunteers has picked up bread through the generous donation of Panera Bread’s Day-End Dough-Nation program and given it away. Here are a few images from our donations through the non-profit Open The Gates.

©Cinderella Factory
Photo Courtesy of Violet Macias
Photo Courtesy of Violet Macias

Five Things to Do To Help While Hibernating At Home

It seems all of us have more time to get projects around the house done that we’ve been putting off. The laundry pile might be lower, the house possibly a bit cleaner, more books have been read and you’ve tried that homemade recipe you’ve been meaning to get to. But once all those chores are done, now what can you do to make a difference in other people’s lives?

1.  Connect with family and friends. Now that we have more time, why not connect with family and friends we haven’t spoken to in a while? You can call them on the phone. Or, use one of the video meeting sites through zoom or google. You can also send letters or postcards to friends and family far away.  The Sincerely app has a goal to send one million Americans a free postcard in 30 days. Just use the Ink Cards app on your mobile device.

2.  Network with your neighbors. Most of us get too busy with our lives to even say hello to our neighbors. A wave is the most common expression. But what if one of our neighbors is struggling but doesn’t want to let people know?  Tell them you care by dropping them a note, or a gift basket with supplies, or an offer to connect remotely.

3.  Donate your time or money. If you have extra resources of time or money, find charities in your area that are helping people in this time of crisis.  If you’re healthy, help pass out food to needy people. Contact churches or non-profits in your area. Places to consider are Meals on Wheels or Save the Children. 

4.  Support small businesses. As the economy takes a hit, small business owners and their employees are some of the first to struggle. You can purchase gift cards or items online to support your favorite small business.

5.  Focus on love. Instead of watching news reports all day long which can cause you to focus on fear, why not spend time considering that love conquers fear? Stay up-to-date on what is happening but spend the rest of your time being productive and taking care of yourself and your family members in your household. Pray, make healthy meals, get enough sleep and exercise. There are many good online exercise programs on video sites like YouTube and Vimeo. 

Finally, be grateful for your health and the health of your loved ones. You are making a difference.


There’s No Room For Hate, Only Love

I couldn’t figure out why for a time a still small voice kept repeating this phrase to me, “There’s no room for hate, only love.”

I brought this image to a group of Syrian refugees and asked them what word described love to them. All of them responded God.

It was at a time when it seemed like hate was thrown at me in a lot of places I went to–sometimes in a big way, but most often in small ways–like underhanded comments meant to harm in a passive aggressive manner. It was very sneaky and there was really no way to put a finger on the person or the culprit, like a snake slithering along and biting you, then weaving back into its hole.

My husband and I would go visit Syrian refugees who had pretty much lost everything and had to flee their countries for their lives. They would feed us large helpings of elaborate displays of homemade food from their country and the love poured out of them despite our differences in faith.

I did my best to ignore the attacks, but that seemed to only grow the problem bigger. Sometimes I made the mistake of fighting back. I confess it wasn’t always a Godly response in the midst of constant pressure. At the time, I had also been rejected by many people. When I tried to address the issue with them, they most often would just ignore my attempt at discussions so I would have to guess at what was going on.

While in the midst of these attacks, my husband and I were invited to churches and many church members hosted us at their homes. We were blessed not only in getting to know other believers in Christ, but also with tours of their cities, beds to sleep in, and meals where we fellowshipped with each other. At the church services we were able to encourage people and see new people get to know Christ.

However, I was still dealing with many difficult situations in my life. Most aspects of my life had just caved in on me and I had been asking for help. At the same time, I was fighting an onslaught of more problems being thrown at me. I thought my attempts at getting help would do good but more often it caused more problems. I was looking for a love response but I often got hate instead.

In order to feel better, I would seek out people who were struggling more than I was. I was able to encourage many homeless people on the streets of San Diego. My tears turned into joy when I visibly watched people being healed by prayers. Then, we started to get bread donations through my husband’s non-profit. We would walk the streets with these donations and give out the bread and pray to help alleviate some of their struggles. Friends affiliated with other groups wanted to participate, so we increased the bread outreach to many people and groups in San Diego.

However, I had been sharing honestly, maybe too honestly, with some people about my struggles–Instead of growing closer to people, as I had hoped, my sharing pushed people away. I learned that most people don’t really want to hear about your problems. It’s easier just to say “things are fine,” smile and move on. But I wasn’t fine, my life was falling apart. People wanted a smiling person not a hurting person. So my phone stopped ringing. Few people sent personal texts and I was mostly on my own except for a few friends who walked this strange journey with me and who I am very grateful for.

I found joy in going to worship services and singing, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10. Also, it was at this time that I really felt the Lord’s closeness like never before and understood that He truly is our personal friend.

I was reading an article on church discipline at bible.org that referenced the verse Hebrews 12:6-10. “Sin always destroys people and relationships. So to be indifferent toward a sinning brother or sister is to hate, not love that person.” Here in the verse was the small voice reference I kept hearing, “there’s no room for hate, only love.”

Without input from others, I went to the Holy Spirit in prayer to seek wisdom. Was I the one hating or was it the other people around me? Were people judging me for a perceived sin they thought I was doing? If so, why weren’t they directly talking to me about it as the Bible demands in Matthew 18:15, “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you, if they listen to you, you have won them over.” No one had confronted me about a problem.

Because I was getting so much clobbering in the world, I started to focus too much on what was happening and trying to figure it out. But we are called “to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5.

Through it all though, I found ways to encourage other people to focus on the Lord and pray for them. This would turn my discouragement into love and an outward focus helped to keep me from worrying too much. This life can seem like one of contrasts but I believe we can always overcome, “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.  For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night,  but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:4-5

I still don’t have all the answers, and have a lot of work to forgive people. It’s not easy to love your enemies. My initial response to hate is not always the right response but ultimately in the end I choose that still small voice that says “there is no room for hate, only love.” And once you’ve met the one true source of love, Christ, there really is no other option.


We Are Covered in the Storm

I thought it was just a small diversion to explore a new city after driving for four hours from North Carolina toward Philadelphia as we prepared for a church meeting my husband had been invited to. I told him, “let’s take this exit and see what’s there.”

The city looked inviting after driving through woodlands. It would be something different. We exited and noticed that there were very few cars in the area even though it was just past the drive time hour. Strange, I thought as we looked for a parking space. We spotted a beautiful white building that was surrounded by construction and detour signs. “This would be a nice place to walk around,” I said to my husband. He has slowly learned to give in to my detour requests as many times what happens afterward ends up in his sermons. He’s an evangelist.

We stopped the car and asked a mom and her two kids for directions to a restaurant. It was dinner time. Nothing seemed strange about the request. The mom pointed to a couple of restaurants. After, we found a parking space and noted, again, that it was weird that there were so few people walking on the streets.

“I’m not sure it’s safe to walk here,” I commented as I spotted a few people on the streets. There were unkempt looking skater men and homeless people. Please note that I love talking to homeless people in downtown San Diego where we live, it was just that this place seemed different. My husband didn’t say much as he parked the car. We found our sneakers and put them on. We needed a bathroom so we headed toward a 7-11 and CVS but when we got there both of their doors were locked. Weird, again as it was only about 6:30 p.m. when places like that are normally open.

We peered down the street and looked for open doors. At about the same time one man started walking in back of us and another joined up with him shortly after walking dangerously close to us. They were the only other people on the street. I started to look behind me but my husband told me not to look back as he grabbed my hand. We found a waffle and chicken place that was thankfully open and walked inside, glad to lose the men trailing behind us.

My husband asked the young guy behind the counter, who appeared nervous, why the streets were so empty. He said a big storm had just passed through and everything had closed early.

From WBBT’s website

It was sunny with just a few clouds by the time we arrived in the city. We decided to eat at the small restaurant and prayed about what to do next. I wanted to see the old architecture of the city but it didn’t seem safe with so few people around. We decided to walk back to our car and drive around before heading back on the road.

As we were driving I decided to do a google search on the area. We had dropped into Richmond, Virginia, a place I had never visited before. I found that the city has the highest crime rate in the country, and there had been three separate shootings in the area over the previous weekend.

“Just this past weekend eight people were shot in about a 12-hour span,” noted a segment from an article posted on the area’s CBS 6 website.

We gave a sigh of relief as we drove onto the freeway leaving the deserted city behind us. We gave thanks to God for protecting us in the middle of the storm.

1 Thessalonians 2:2-We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.