Friday, September 29, 2006

Dinner on the Grounds

Where I grew up, from time to time, church folks got together for something we called "dinner on the grounds." Every one brought a dish for an after church meal together. There was plenty of good food including fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, collards, green bean casserole, chicken and dumplings, cornbread, and a host of desserts. We gathered around the table to share what we'd made and to fellowship with those we loved.

My dream for Sparkfly is that it would be a type of dinner on the grounds, a place where we all bring something good and homemade to the table. Recently, some readers have written to request a Sparkfly recommended reading list. Lori and I have discussed several ways to make that happen. With that conversation in mind, Susan Jones and I were sitting around a table dreaming about recommended reading and ways that Sparkfly could facilitate community. One dream led to another and in less than 24 hours Susan had whipped up a creation for the table.

Meet Impulse. A book community formed to promote global awareness and spiritual growth. For the month of October two books have been recommended. One is for the encouragement of spiritual growth and another for increasing our global awareness.

What can you contribute to this hodgepodge of community building? This is the body of Christ in action. You bring a casserole and I'll bring the biscuits. I'm hungry!
See you at the table,

Journeying Together

The most significant element of the body of Christ is that we are never alone. As we struggle with issues, we struggle alongside one another. God never meant for us to walk this journey on our own. Although we each bring something unique to the table, we are united by life's experiences. The mystery of it all is a divine connectedness that inspires us to new understandings of ourselves.

One of my favorite verses of scripture is found in 1 Thessalonians. It proclaims, “Therefore encourage one another, and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11. Through Sparkfly, we aspire to build up, to encourage and to affirm. This blog exists for us all. As community, let us discuss those things we fear. Let us expose those issues in which we tend to conceal, but struggle with daily. Let us share our stories with friends and strugglers along the journey.

This next week, join us around the cyber dinner table as we discuss issues that concern us both as women and as human beings. May we share openly and honestly as we seek to find connection through our stories and experiences. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable. The table is large. There is always room for all. We are listening.


Woman of Vision, by Mandy McMichael

Carol Ann Vaughn

I don’t know where I would be today if I had not met her 8 years ago. Carol Ann inspired me to dig deep and dream big. She introduced me to amazing women of whom I had never heard. She told me their stories. She told me her story. She told me I had a story too, and she made sure that I knew that my story wasn’t determined for me. I had a choice about how it progressed and what people, ideas, and experiences to include. She listened to the doubts of a young freshperson. She laughed (I’m sure!) when I acted like I had everything figured out. She encouraged me in my love of learning. She taught me the art of combining learning with doing. She watched, but never judged, as I made countless mistakes. She waited. She rejoiced when I finally accepted God’s call. Simply put, she ministered to me.

Looking back, I know that my experience of her as a minister taught me not only the validity of women ministers, but also their necessity in God’s kingdom. Carol Ann continues to inspire young women to discover the gifts buried deep within themselves and to dream “impossible” dreams about what they can do with them. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay her is that I want to do what she does.

As a future professor/minister, I want to be patient as my students discern, rebel, and grow into their vocations. I hope to make my students feel as special, important, and irreplaceable to the life of the Church as she did me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Call to Action

Sparkfly contributor Mandy McMichael has a friend who is a mission intern with the United Methodist Church. Mandy's friend Ashley lives in Bethlehem in the West Bank. Bethlehem has been in the center of much violence lately. Two weeks ago Ashley found herself in the midst of the conflict. While Ashley was at work, gunmen broke in and staged their fighting from her rooftop home. Here is an excerpt from a recent letter she sent Mandy and others.

"How can things like this happen and no one ever knows about it? How is it possible that people can enter your home by force . . . and just take over and use your space that way . . . I do not want sympathy for myself from others, I want someone to do something. I want to do something constructive. I want someone to care about these people that I love. I am frustrated at the continued silence that surrounds this situation, where people and homes are violated and where bullets kill in an indiscriminate manner.

'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,' I find myself constantly asking what on earth can this mean here? What does this love look like when your enemy, your persecutor is your oppressor? Does anybody know? Does anybody care . . .

People who live for each other know what it means to take action. People who live for others teach you to give a little bit more, they teach you to love even when it hurts, and they teach you to cry out a little bit louder against injustice.

So, what can you do, what can you say, what role can you play in creating new possibilities?
You can start by sharing this story with people . . . You can educate yourself [about what is going on in Palestine] . . . You can pray for people here . . . send letters of encouragement . . . You can come to Palestine . . . You can write to the President, to the Senate, to Congress . . . you can post things on a blog . . . all these things you can do to express your concern about the silence of what goes on in other places, and your desire to know and hear more about the reality of situations where oppression and injustice have become the status quo."

Ashley is living out her part in the body of Christ. Let's pray for Ashley's strength as she ministers during stressful and dangerous times. If you want to know more about Ashley you can visit her blog:

For more information on the United Methodist Church's Mission Intern Program visit:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Meet Elisabet Fernandez-Morales

Have we mentioned that I am in Prague and Lori is in Atlanta? I am living at the International Baptist Theological Seminary here in the Czech Republic through the end of October. IBTS's student body is amazing. Elisabet Fernandez-Morales is a recent college graduate who decided to do some additional studies at IBTS. Read on for her story and how she fits into the Body of Christ.
Have a wonderful day,

Elisabet's Story
My name is Elisabet and I’m from Spain. Last June I graduated in Journalism by the Complutense University in Madrid. While I was studying, I also worked in an office as the assistant of the company’s director. It was a difficult time, because in
Spain there isn’t a flexible system of supporting students who need to work, so you are required to give 100% in both.

I became a Christian when I was five years old, and since then, I’ve always wanted to serve God and people in any possible way. I heard and read about missionaries and pastors, and I thought that, someday, I wanted to become one of them. As a teenager, I started to help in my church with the puppets’ ministry and to collaborate with Athletes in Action (a ministry among athletes).

The years passed by, and I concentrated my strength and time in the fields [in which] I think I’m more prepared to serve: communications and youth leadership. I’ve been part of the leadership team of my church’s youth group for several years and helped Campus Crusade doing some translating and writing.

That’s why I decided to come to IBTS. I want to know more about my Faith; I want to be prepared “to teach, to rebuke, to correct and to train in righteousness”. For five years I’ve been studying how to communicate. Now I want to learn about the thing I want to communicate the most: my Faith.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Body of Christ in a Refugee Camp

I can still remember that morning. Following a restless night in the camp I awoke to the sound of voices. It was around 5:30am and the sounds began to swell around me. With dew still on the ground, I could hear the voices of small children. I could hear the cry of an early rising rooster. Above it all, I heard the voices of the body of Christ.

The sound was faint as it awoke me from my sleep. But the voices grew louder as I made my way to the place of morning vespers. Gathered under an open bamboo hut were 50 or so of my brothers and sisters singing and praising God. The hymn was a familiar one and I recognized it quickly. Though the language was quite different, the tune was the same. That morning as I stood in the back of that room, I understood the Body of Christ. In that moment I was overcome with a sense that I was a part of something so much bigger than I could ever imagine.

We are united together because of our God. We
are the body of Christ. How do you understand the body of Christ through global means? How have you been changed or touched because of this wonderful body we encompass? Tell us your story.

We are listening,

We ask you to continue to pray for Flower and others who are living in the refugee camps in Thailand. Sparkfly is keenly aware of the current political unrest in Thailand and anxiously waits to see if the refugees will be affected in any way.


Please consider posting some pictures on to share with Sparkfly readers. We need some new ones for the collection.

Trinity Baptist Church in Seneca, SC is looking for a youth minister. Those interested should send resumes to: Youth Minister Search Committee, Trinity Baptist Church, 210 West South 6th Street, Seneca, SC 29678 For more information about the position, email me at

Website to watch: The United Nations Population Fund is one of my favorite UN websites. Part of their mission is to make sure, ". . . every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect." Visit their website for a wealth of global information.

Do you have tidbits to share? If so, let us know.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Body of Christ

It's Monday and a beautiful day where I am. This week our prayer is that you will be reminded of the power of your voice within the body of Christ.

Sparkfly interviewed Mandy McMichael about her life and work on this earth. Mandy is a first year Ph.D. student in Religion at Duke University, majoring in American Religious History. Sparkfly thinks she represents the body of Christ in amazing ways. (for a complete view of Mandy's profile see comments from Lori's blog post on September 11) (click here to view one of Mandy's sermons)

Sparkfly: What does it mean to be the Body of Christ in our world today?
Mandy: Being a Christian isn't easy. Following Jesus is something that is radical and therefore controversial. We are called upon to do things that seem backwards. God commands us to be the voice of the oppressed instead of participating in their exploitation. God encourages us to give away our money instead of getting caught up in consumerism. God instructs us to pray for our enemies instead of killing them. It’s hard work! And, because it’s hard work, we need the support of one another. We receive strength for the journey during worship and fellowship with other believers. We can’t do it alone, but as the body of Christ, it is possible to stand strong.

Sparkfly: As part of the body of Christ, in ten years, what do you want your one voice to be saying?
Mandy: I know it sounds cliche, but I want my voice to say, in the immortal words of Whitney Houston, "
I believe the children are the future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way.” In all seriousness though, our children are the future. And I’m not just talking about our biological children, but all of the children in our extended care networks, our neighborhoods, our churches, etc. We need to spend time with them. We need to teach them, but we also need to listen to them, to laugh with them, and to play with them. We need to model for them egalitarianism, anti-racism, anti-classism, anti-consumerism, and anti-patriarchy. In other words, we need to show them how to be Christians in addition to telling them.

If you were going to be on Oprah what would you talk about?
Mandy: This is a tough one for me. If it was right now, I think I would want to talk about the current
situation in Sudan. I would want to raise awareness not only about the Darfur region, but all of Sudan. I would want to bring a couple of my Sudanese friends on the show with me to tell their stories. They are incredible and they need to be heard. The Sudanese and their suffering has been virtually ignored by the rest of the world. We need to let them hold us accountable for our silence.

Sparkfly:One voice equals . . .
Mandy: Community

Friday, September 22, 2006

Powerful Voices

We've loved "listening" this week as you've commented. Here is hoping that you each have a wonderful weekend filled with voices that laugh, encourage, preach, comfort, and sing.

Thanks for adding your suggestions for powerful voices. Here is our compiled list:

Powerful, Fabulous, and Famous Voices
Jimmy Carter
Alice Paul
Jane Fonda
Wangaari Maathai
Aung San Suu Kyi
Hillary Clinton
Ann Judson
Helen Keller
Sara Groves
Jan Huss
Dorothy Day
Helen Barrett Montgomery
Rosa Parks
Grant Wacker
Lottie Moon
Dorothea Lange
Margaret Bourke White
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Powerful, Fabulous, and Will be Famous Voices
Natalie McIntyre
Colleen Burroughs
Allison Hicks
Carol Ann Vaughn
Karen Smith
Frances Ford
Tina Grozdanova
Lily Stone
Steve Davis
Lindsay Nash
Irene Donkor
Josephine Alcantara
Amy Laura Hall
Leena Lavanya
Russ and Amy Jacks Dean
Timothy Tyson
Julie Pennington-Russell
Harold Bryson
Molly Marshall
Maria Swearingen
Patti Griffin
Zhu Xiao Mei (Annie)
Mrs. Gao
Suzannie Martin
Faith Hogue
(for a complete list and descriptions, see comments from Sept. 18 - 20)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


This week we have been discussing the power of one voice, and the power to make change happen. Over the past few months I have discovered a New Testament passage that reminds me to speak loudly!
I love the letters of Paul and his enthusiasm for the Gospel. Paul "got it"! He understood what it meant to live an abudant life in Christ, as well as proclaiming the Good News. He couldn't keep quiet. In II Corinthians 4:13, he proclaims, "It is written: 'I believed therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak..."
Paul has a message to us today. If we truly believe, how can we not live our lives speaking the Truth? We must speak. We must proclaim. We must be a voice of hope. Today, put action to your faith and speak up! The world is wating to hear,

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Susie Allison's Voice

We are loving the conversation. Thanks to all for posting. Please continue to share your choices for powerful voices. (see Monday's blog) On Friday we will compile the lists.

Sparkfly asked Susie Allison to share some of her thoughts on the power of one voice. Susie works as the Director of Student Activities for Judson College, her Alma Mater. She is also a global citizen who lived in China for two years teaching English. Read on for her answers.

Sparkfly: What is one voice that has made a huge difference in your life?
Susie: Annie. She was born to lead, and her peers recognize it. She was one of my best students in China, the monitor of her class, and nominated to join the Communist Party - - a career boost extremely difficult to turn down. She chose the meager earnings of a minister instead. Right now she volunteers in her church and teaches elementary English while taking on numerous tutoring jobs so that she will be financially able to attend seminary in the near future. Through Annie I've seen the meaning of true obedience. In they eyes of her peers she's lost so much because of her relationship with Christ. She experiences doubts. She feels dissapointment. Yet she remains faithful to the calling God has placed upon her life. Annie could have used her voice to hail the virtues of "The Party", but she chose instead to use her voice to proclaim God's glory.

Sparkfly: When using your one voice at Judson, what is your favorite topic of conversation?
Susie: Make good choices! ( I borrowed this motto for life from my friend Abbi's mother.) Whether choosing friends, classes, or what to do on Friday nights, the choices the students are making now will affect them in the years to come.

Sparkfly: In ten years what do you want your one voice to say?
Susie: [That] I've made the best of every opportunity, that I've spoken for the poor and the oppressed instead of remaining silent and that I've taken the road less traveled.

Sparkfly: If your one voice was going to be on Oprah about what would you speak?
Susie: How American's don't have the monopoly on God, freedom, or money and in fact often miss the boat on all three.

Sparkfly: One voice equals . . .
Susie: Harmony

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Power of One Voice

We each have the power to change the world. Where to begin? We begin with ourselves. We begin with a passion. We begin with our story.

Our voices, one at a time make a difference. Speak up today, the world needs passionate people to truly make a difference. Whose voice has changed your worldview? Add to the list we started yesterday. Speak, we are listening!

The video below is from the organization CARE. They believe you are powerful too!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ten Voices

Voices come in all shapes and sizes. This week we are discussing the power that one voice holds. To get us started I've compiled two lists.

Five Powerful, Fabulous, and Famous Voices:

Jimmy Carter
Alice Paul,
for more info on Alice Paul, watch the superb movie Iron Jawed Angels
Jane Fonda, click here to learn more about her new media company
Wangari Maathai,

Five Powerful, Fabulous, and Will be Famous Voices:

Natalie McIntyre,
(Natalie has recently moved to Washington DC where she will continue her graduate education and work as a human rights activist. Expect to see Natalie addressing the UN and congress within the next five years!)
Colleen Burroughs,
(VP of Passport Camps)
Allison Hicks,
(Allison is a first year student at McAfee School of Theology and has already had a resolution passed in her honor!)
Carol Ann Vaughn,
(Carol Ann is the director of the Christian Women's Leadership Center)
Karen Smith,
(Excellent global minister)

We need to know your picks for fabulous voices (famous or will be famous). Remember, you don't have to have a blog to post comments. Sign in under anonymous and tell us who you are in the body of your comment.
Be loud,

Friday, September 15, 2006

It's Going to Be a Great Day

Happy Friday to all. As we close our week of stories here is a short one read by two very cute boys.
Cherish the stories around you,
L & S

Next week we will be discussing "The Power of One Voice". Come back soon. We need your voices.

Woman of Vision

Each Friday we hope to post a weekly "Woman of Vison" honoring women who make a difference in the world around them. This Friday we pay tribute to the grandmother of Mylinda Baits. Mylinda is an American Baptist Missionary who serves with her family in the country of Costa Rica. She writes for us today about the influence of her grandmother's voice and story.

"The one voice that made an impact on my life belongs to my maternal grandmother or Nana, as we call her. She made me feel like I fit into our family system because I carry the y from her name Myrene in my own, Mylinda. It gives me the sense that I inherited the tenacious inner strength and perseverance that she is known for. Unlike me, though, she was orphaned at the age of three, raised by her uncle and married at the age of 15 since my grandfather did not want her to have to work all day as a waitress to survive. She lived a hard life, raising kids by day and working nights to put food on the table since Grandpa often spent his own paycheck drinking and gambling before he got home. I came onto the scene when times had changed and life was more stable for them. What I experienced as a child was a home full of tenderness, good food and faithfulness in spite of the harshness of the past. While I was attending college she opened up her home to my family and me and we stayed there for three years before I left for graduate school. Though I was rarely home because of studies and work, she provided a stable place in the midst of chaos. My Nana is one of the most positive people in my life and I know she is one of my biggest fans because of her encouraging and affirming words and actions. Once when I was away at seminary she made my favorite cake with a pudding frosting, froze it, then wrapped it in foil and sent it to me through the mail for my birthday. It was a mess when it arrived, but it reminded me of how much she thought of me. As the shy, youngest daughter of three I often felt overlooked or overshadowed by my outspoken sisters, but it was my Nana who paid attention and made me feel like I belonged. Because she paid attention to me, I now try to pay attention to those voiceless folks around me who, just like me, need someone on their side to make an impact on their world. "

Who are the women of vision in your life?

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Our God is all about stories. Here is one in which you might be interested. It is told in the form of a sermon by one of my favorite preachers.
For an audio version email me.

Happy day.
Find a story, be a story, tell a story,

It's Kind of Like . . .

As I think about the element of story in scripture, I immediately recall a special memory from only a few months ago. This summer I had the opportunity to write the curriculum for a youth and kids summer camp for Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta . Along with writing the curriculum, I also led the children’s sermons for each day.

Every afternoon I had the challenge of relating a Biblical truth to this group of children. Most days I would bring an object or an illustration. And everyday as I spoke, inevitably I would say, “God’s love is 'kind of like'_______." And we would share stories about that common item and how it reminded us of God’s love, or whatever the analogy was for that particular day.

I believe our ability to relate through story was Jesus’ foundational approach to ministry. Most often we find Jesus relating to the people through common life events and experiences. Through story, Jesus teaches us we are like a wandering sheep who was lost, but now is found. Through story, Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandment is to love others. Through story, Jesus reminds us to use our God-given gifts and to watch them multiply. Jesus was the ultimate story-teller.*

Every Sunday morning as I teach my class of ladies, I sit before them with my stories, as if to say, “God is 'kind of like'_____." As we find it difficult to put words to our thoughts, some of the best lessons learned are through the power of story.

What are other ways that story plays a part in our faith heritage? Do you have a story to share of life and faith? How has God shaped your story through others or through Scripture?

*For more on this concept read Eugene Peterson's book, Eat This Book.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Do You Think?

For "balance" day we've decided to take some deep breaths and reflect.

How are we to live our lives differently in light of yesterday's stories and many others like them? How do the facts that Flower is in a refugee camp and Sarah is seemingly trapped in prostitution influence our stories? Should we live differently because of those facts and if so, how do we do that?

Please share,
L & S

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Her Story is My Story

I traveled around for two years talking with groups about issues women face globally. I led discussions on various topics. I helped others understand the “issues”. But the issues become something so much greater when met in the form of a person.

Several years ago I was attending a conference on ministry to women in prostitution. It was there that the issue sought me out. It was there I met Sarah. Sarah was two years older than I; she was only 26. Through sharing our stories we became friends. Sarah is a woman in prostitution. Throughout the 8 day conference we found times to meet and share with one another our hopes and dreams for life. It was through our sharing that I realized that Sarah was just like me. Only, she had some unfortunate events unfold throughout the course of her life. At our core, we both yearned for the same things in life. From that moment until now, every time I discuss the issues of prostitution, I no longer see the stereotypical situation. I see Sarah. I see her smile. I hear her voice of hope. I hear her cry for help. She is just like me.

I still think about Sarah often. For a year we kept in touch regularly as she would report on her failed attempts to leave the industry. We encouraged each other. Her story is now a part of my story. I was affected by an encounter with a girl just like me. No longer are stats just numbers for me, they are the faces of friends in need.

The Bravest Woman I Know

When thinking of international women whose stories have made a difference in my life, my friend Flower quickly comes to mind. Flower is from the country of Burma and because of repression by a military regime she was forced to flee her country and become a refugee in Thailand. Her story has taught me so much about what it means to be human.

Flower has also taught me the importance of solidarity and standing with someone even if it is the only tangible thing you can do for her - - especially if it is the only thing you can do for her. Flower has given me the honor of being her voice. She has asked me and others to speak on her behalf and on behalf of thousands of internally displaced and refugee women in Burma and Thailand. It is her voice I hear that reminds me to speak out on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

Flower is brave and caring and creative. She will tell you that at times she is afraid, but I’ve never known her fear to disable her.

Various artists have recorded a CD in honor of Burma's democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest. Read the following story to learn more about issues Burmese women face:


Requesting Prayer

We ask your prayers for Sarah and Flower. How are we to live in the face of Flower's reality or Sarah's circumstances? As Christian women, how should our work be different because of the lack of freedom in others' lives? May God guide us in our actions as we seek to live lives worthy of our callings.

Please pray that Sarah will find rest for her soul and that she will realize and accept the depth of Christ's love for her. Pray for her safety as she puts herself in dangerous situations including unprotected sex, drug use, and abusive relationships. Pray for places and people of refuge to be placed along her path.

Please pray for government reform in the country of Burma. Flower would ask us to pray that she and other refugees and internally displaced persons will be able to go home and live in peace. Pray for Flower's safety as she travels in dangerous places sharing Christ's love with those she fears have lost hope.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What's Your . . .

Sparkfly is at its very center a celebration of stories. We will attempt to weave together conversations surrounding various issues. For our inaugural week, story is our topic.

Our goal is to post Monday through Friday. Monday will be for introductions. Tuesday is reserved for conversation surrounding international women’s issues. Wednesday is our balance day. Does this issue affect us in any substantive way? If so, where are the extremes of the issue in our lives? Thursday is for exploring the conversation that the Bible offers. What truth does the Bible give surrounding the issue of the week? It’s time to wrap it up on Friday. Our hope is to post some of your comments from the week.

In the right hand column of this blog you will see a listing of websites we think are worth visiting. Also note the links under the “pictures” heading that will allow you to be a photojournalist. Please post a shot of yourself and any people or places you think are worth sharing.

If you can’t get a feature to work let us know by posting on the blog or contacting one of us directly. Our contact information can be found under “view my complete profile”.

Pull up a chair,

Connecting Through Story

As I think about the element of story I am reminded of its dynamic power. We connect on levels we never thought possible through conversation and story. In story we find glimpses of ourselves and who we would like to become.

I am almost 28 years old and for the last year I have been teaching the “ Lydia ” Sunday School class at my church. The Lydia class consists of the matriarchs of our congregation, and I believe the youngest member is pushing 75. This supplies a challenge to me weekly. How do I connect with these women? They are old enough to be my grandmother. These are the women who taught children and youth classes for 50 or plus years. They know the Bible. They know Christ. They could teach me. What have I to offer these women? This is the struggle that I have experienced until I came to understand the power and connectivity of our story.

The only way I know how to relate is through my experiences. Each Sunday, thorough the lesson, I share my life. We discuss issues that cause us to look deeply at ourselves. We dialogue about both our personal and faith struggles. We ask difficult questions that sometimes fail to provoke an answer. Through the element of story, we have become one. The playing ground has been leveled. No longer do I see these women separated by a generational gap. I see them as friends. And I see them as sisters along the journey. We have connected through story, the essence of our lives.

I can’t help but think about a song that has become dear to my heart. I recently went to Colquitt , Georgia for their annual Swamp Gravy town production. The play opens and closes with a song entitled, “We’ve All Got a Story to Tell”. With its catchy tune, I am reminded that we each bring something unique to the table. We are all a part of each other. What is your story? What makes you unique to the world? How will you connect this week through the elements of story and conversation?

Tell us your story,


Saturday, September 09, 2006

An Invitation

Sparkfly is an invitation to a global conversation
on: missiology
and declarations.

Sparkfly welcomes voices
of women young,
and shouting.

Join the dialogue!