All posts by Allegra Fletcher

Seasons Change

As I write this post I’m listening to ‘Seasons Change’ by United Pursuit. It’s nice, really. And fitting.

Lately I’ve had to make some very important decisions, and I can only hope they are good ones. I’ve decided to leave my day job and enter fully into missions and radio work.

Throughout this process I often prayed and cried about answers. I just wanted God to tell me what to do! I figured then I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not I chose correctly. But I realized not too long ago that God wants a relationship. If all I want from God is “tell me what to do!” then I don’t really have any agency and I miss out on incredible opportunities to grow and learn. I have to be able to make choices and accept the responsibility for those choices.

And so, here I am, a couple months out of embarking on an incredible new journey. I am hopeful that the Good Word Radio Show, my time at the Justice House of Prayer, and my work with European Faith Missions will only benefit from this transition. I’m excited to see where the journey takes me, and I’m glad to have you all on the road with me!

Beloved

Hey folks,
So this post will get a bit personal. Sometimes certain times of the year can be more trying than others. That used to be the case for me near Valentine’s Day, but not so much this time around. I feel light and free from past choices and ready for the best God has for me. If I have been forgiven of my past sins, then all guilt and condemnation need not be attached to me. To that end, I will share a poem that I hope inspires the reader to remember that Jesus is fully aware of your sins, and they don’t scare Him one bit. He still loves you, and He still invites you to be His bride, His beloved.

His Beloved 
In my heart I married you.
I readied myself before the altar,
Love awoken before its time.

You did not know me, but I allowed
you to know me because if you knew me,
you’d take more time to know me, right?

Love awoken before its time…

No daddy to walk me down the aisle but
you, you make me feel like it’s ok there is
no one to ask permission.

So in my flesh I married you,
but you couldn’t fill me.
Love was awoken before its time.

Do you not see me? Does not anyone see me?
Can you not feel the beating of my heart?!
I am good, and I deserve better than this.
I deserve better than you.

I see now the Lover of my soul pursuing me,
eyes burning with holy fire.
I am His and He is mine.

My garments are wedding white and I am beloved.
Oh yes. He sees me, He knows me,
and He calls me His own.

To this love, I gladly surrender.

Brokenness in our Borders

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Not too long ago I was with friends when conversation came up that made me uncomfortable. We were in a neighborhood that they did not often (ever) frequent, but that I had grown up in. It surprised them that the prosperous and well adjusted people we were visiting would live there voluntarily.  Then some other comment was made, and I felt my temperature rising. I chose to remain silent. I did not trust myself in that moment to speak up without offense coloring my tone and delivery. I think I’m ready to share now.

In this world we have a pretty clear idea of who is broken, messed up, really needs help or whatever you want to call it. Often times that image does not look like us. And if we are in such dire straights that we can acknowledge we need help, we can think of at least five others who really need help because they’re worse off than we are and really, you see, we’re not that bad off in the end.

If we are going to be effective carriers of the gospel, we have got to be able to recognize the brokenness in our borders. Jesus calls us to cover ourselves in the sweet smelling perfume of serving in humility and authenticity, but so often we Pharisaically parade around like white washed tombs, unaware of just how bad we actually smell. The unacknowledged gunk accumulated in us then never gets a washed out, and we keep skunking on.

I choose today to examine myself, and ask Holy Spirit to reveal to me that which needs to be taken care of. Then, I’ll let God lead me in taking care of it. I choose to recognize the brokenness in people who look like me and share a similar story, so that I can bring my story of victory in some of the same places they may still struggle, and vice versa.

I choose to recognize the brokenness in those who do not look like me or share a story similar to mine, so that we can build and encourage each other up in the same way as those who I more readily connect with. See, there is no ‘easy button’ with living out the Gospel. That call for loving on people is for everyone. Even the ones you wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Spend some time this week with God and let Him show you how to love better. Let Him make you more like Him.

“Where is my Justice?”

Where is my justice?!

This is not simply a question I have asked for myself when encountering injustice (though trust me, I have asked). When I look at this question I see the faces of loved ones I’ve known, ones I have not known yet, and some I’ll never have the pleasure of meeting. Chained, overworked, forced into unthinkable acts using even more unthinkable methods, we are facing a slave epidemic of proportions far more epic than the trans-Atlantic slave trade ever imagined it could be. Human flesh is now worth its weight in gold, human souls deemed a fair loss considering the gain. When I think of these lost ones I imagine I hear them crying out.

Where is my justice?!

Can you hear them?

All too often we don’t. I don’t. But as we enter the new year, with this first month being Human Trafficking Awareness Month, I resolve not only to lose a few pounds and gain a few good habits; I resolve to be love, and embody freedom.

Where is my justice?

All too often the answer to this most poignant question goes unanswered because the answer is us, and we are not moved. I decide this year to be moved. I decide to allow the brokenness of this world to move me. I decide to let Holy Spirit speak to me, and lead me in an answer to this question. If justice is a Man (and He’s coming!), and I am His hands and feet until His return, why is He not being seen?

It’s time to make Jesus famous on stages with an audience of One.

 

Community and The Place of Pleasure

 

I’ve been wondering lately about community and joy.

More specifically, the communities in which I most find my joy. How appropriate, then, that I found this little excerpt of John Piper while doing a google search for sermons to listen to during some down time.

I have often been that Christian who, when looking at the Body around her, finds it…lacking. Lately, as I have talked about on the Good Word Radio Show, I have been burning for revival, burning to see the Body of Christ rise up to rightly value the relationship we have with Jesus, and the responsibility we have to keep our faith fires going.

When I don’t see that happening as quickly as I would like, or even in the ways that I would like, I get upset. I start complaining, I start saying things like the person depicted in the video above. “I don’t like the Christians I know.”

Already there should be a prick in the heart or the conscience of the Christian who reads such a line or thinks such a thought. Since when are we to entertain such thoughts?

I recognize fully that we are in a fallen world, and as we are not yet perfected in faith, we all make mistakes. However, I also recognize that Jesus modeled a life that calls us to look past mistakes. We are to forgive even 7 times 70 times (Matthew 18:22). We are to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41). We are to love our God above all, and our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

So, when I find myself judging, I can first deal with the plank in my eye before going for the speck in someone else’s. I can answer the higher call to love and to pray for the people around me. Trust me, it is very hard to entertain negative feelings for someone you are genuinely and honestly praying for.

May we all be more prayerful and ultimately more loving in the times to come, and may our communities flourish because of it. After all, the world will know us by the love we have for one another.

 

Simple Gospel: Album Review

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If you’re looking for an intimate worship experience, then this is the album for you.

Simple Gospel” represents the newest effort of the United Pursuit family, born out of a group of believers who gathered together in what they named The Banks House to worship God together. “Live at the Banks House” remains a stirring and memorable testimony of those humble beginnings.

With “Simple Gospel”, the United family seeks to share the testimony of the years between. The album also expresses a common desire to not over complicate relationship with God. You know, keep it simple.

The album builds with stirring crescendos, draws in with memorable melodies, touches the spirit with expressions of truth, and inspires the coordinated and uncoordinated alike to bop with the faster songs or sway to a slow tune. “Let it Happen” and “Never Going Back” among others are definitely being added to the JHOP set list!

I highly recommend setting  aside some time to soak in this album. Whether you’re painting, dancing, reading the Word, or just laying on the couch, this album is an excellent accompaniment to anyone’s quiet time, and music library.

 

Rome, Italy

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Rome is likely to be magical any time of the year, but I think I lucked out in particular by going during Christmas.  As is often the case with me, I stayed with a good friend, an Italian I had met senior year of college while representing the Italian department as its only major that year (You’re welcome, Bryn Mawr).

If you can find an Italian family for Christmas, especially one with mid-Italy/southern Italy roots, I highly recommend getting yourself a dinner invitation.

For my friend’s family, all mid-south Italians, Christmas is serious, regardless of the fact that they didn’t actually believe in Christ. Their manger scene alone was enough to make me rethink my paltry-by-comparison Christmas traditions. You know, like actually celebrating Jesus…

Anyway, we went through a litany of fish and seafood dishes, boiled hen, fried zucchini flowers, pasta dishes, a special ricotta cake from the Jewish quarter, breakfast pastries called maritozzi, various traditional fruit cakes, chocolate bars, marshmallow bars, and many, many, bottles of wine. The wine was imported from their favorite southern winemaker, of course.

My friend was so happy to get his mom’s cooking (he had just come back from his time abroad in Philadelphia) that he ate too much and got sick. Fortunately I had more self control.

Rome is gorgeous, and because it is further south, it can be quite warm even in December. During Christmas everything is lit up, there are Christmas trees set up by the Colosseum, and the city has an almost magical air. Transportation sucks, though. We ended up doing a fair bit of walking because it was easier than trying to do the trains, but it’s worth the view. Plus, while all the typical attractions are worth seeing, walking the city allows for a little spice and adventure that you might otherwise miss. My favorite was coming across a guy giving out free hugs. I had always wanted to meet one of those people! I was skeptical at first, but it turns out he was a good hugger and was quite the gentleman.

It’s also fun to see the various people in Roman soldier outfits ready to pose in pictures with you for your euros.

Rome in and of itself is a museum, so between the amazing sites just there as you walk down the street and the free concert the day after Christmas, I was quite fine not paying to go to museums.

Tips:

  • Be prepared to walk. That means proper footwear, protection, and hydration.
  • Again, Rome is further south. That means in the summer months you’ll be in the 90’s and 100 degree weather. Choose spring, early summer, fall or even winter travel times if this weather will prove difficult.
  • Have fun! Rome is an amazing city to just wander, eat well, and just get lost in the romance of it all.

Kruje, Albania

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If you’re like me and one of your best buddies is Albanian and has a car, getting around Albania will be pretty easy. If for some odd reason that isn’t the case, there are buses between most cities. I went by car from Tirana to get to lovely, historic Kruje.

The site of Albania’s battle for independence against the Ottoman invaders, Kruje is a place of national pride for Albania, despite them having lost the war. In Kruje you can find the museum honoring Skanderberg, the national hero who organized Albania’s flailing forces in this their most successful bid for freedom.

Though taken captive and raised among the Ottoman troops, Skanderberg never forgot his roots, instead taking what he learned and returning to Albania to better organize the fight for freedom. I’d make him a national hero too…

Entrance here is about 2 lek, and it affords some incredible views when you go outside at the upper levels.

Kruje is basically a mountain so you have to walk uphill to get to the museum. It’s worth it though, because you pass through a market of handmade items and trust me, it’s amazing. In one shop I met one of the last people who still make sheep’s wool items by hand. I played a traditional instrument I can’t remember the name of, and looked at countless hand embroidered, woven, and carved items.

If all this isn’t amazing enough, you can continue driving up the road past the part of town with the shops and museums, and get to the top of the mountain. Here there is a seating area for outdoor picnicking, shepherds grazing their flock (And apparently people making movies about it. Still don’t know what that was about…), plants you can pick fresh for the ever popular “mountain tea”, and an absolutely stunning view of lakes and rolling landscape while you’re at it.

Albania makes good on its reputation for a land flowing with water, because if you walk down the staircase next to the picnic area and turn into a creepy cavernous little place where you go down some more steps into utterly cold dankness (that’s totally a word…), you’ll find a pipe that lets out fresh spring water. It tastes amazing, and after romping around in the hot sun all day it feels amazing too. Bring a couple of empty water bottles!

Just be prepared to walk up all those steps on your way back.

Tips:

  • The walk up to the museum through the market is really smooth and uneven cobblestone, uphill. Make sure you have comfy shoes with good tread.
  • Because of the elevation, it’s a good idea to bring a sweater and be aware of any health issues this might cause.
  • The market is all cash, and all worth it. Prices are generally fair and not much bartering is needed.

Album Review: Everything and Nothing Less

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If, like me, Chris McClarney was a newer name to you, you may remember his work on the worship album “Your Love Never Fails”. I may not have known Chris as the songwriter, but I sure knew the words to almost every song. He has now partnered with Jesus Culture Music to offer his debut live album, “Everything and Nothing Less.”

Released on June 9th, 2015, the album features nine new songs recorded at the Jesus Culture Sacramento Conference 2015.

The album is powerful, with corporate praise and worship songs like “Holy Moment” and “All Consuming Fire” seamlessly transitioning into songs like the deeply intimate “Running After You”, that feels as if they came right out of the prayer closet.

With smooth vocals, a balanced mix of tempos and a nice sprinkling of free worship, this album is a win for me. I already have plans to incorporate various tracks into JHOP prayer sets and personal quiet time!

Check out the album promo below, and happy listening.

 

 

Tirana, Albania

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Albania is one of the few places I’ve been where I had to handle my own accommodations in any real sense (missionary perks y’all). While Hostel Propaganda is the only hostel I’ve ever stayed at, from what I hear finding this place is like winning the lottery.

Located in Tirana, the capital city, for an incredible 10 euros a night you get a clean place to stay with sheets changed as often as you like (room with private bathroom costs a bit more), a simple breakfast, quiet hours at 11PM with access to any desired non-quietness right outside, wifi, and a public desktop for the non-techie travelers.

They even have a Wii in the sitting area for all those Wii Sports and Just Dance fans. (Anyone who knows me understands that this alone would have had me hooked on this place…)

Friendly staff with just enough English skills seals the deal on this one for me.

Do note though that with a name like Hostel Propaganda and considering Albania’s past dabblings in communism, decors must follow suit. This is not the place for you if seeing pictures of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other folks of similar ilk will distress you.

Tirana’s lovely artificial lake is a 10-15 minute walk away, and since it’s basically walking in a straight line, I’m pretty sure you can’t get lost on your way there. Go during the day to enjoy the scenery, or in the evening to enjoy one of the many lakeside bars and nearby clubs.

I didn’t make it to Tirana’s national museum but I heard it’s lovely. It’s also across the street from a green space and other nice center city walking areas.

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For food, check out world famous Creperie, which is within walking distance of the hostel. Also within walking distance, though a bit further, is the pizzeria where you will find some of the best pizza you’ll ever have outside of Italy. All throughout Tirana you can find any number of shops that serve Kofta, a type of meatball often served with lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt, and bread. 100 lek ($10) or less at any of these places will get you a satisfying meal and a couple beers to boot.

If you’re really on a budget, you can find burek, a savory dish of stuffed baked pastry dough, almost anywhere for under a lek.

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If you’ve got the time and space in your suitcase, check out the markets and outdoor stalls for fun fashion finds. Bartering is welcome.

Tips:

  • Albania gets very hot in the summer. And I mean very hot. Try cooler times like June-mid July and September, or make sure to stay hydrated and protected.
  • Be aware of yourself. Unfortunately there are many Roma children whose parents send them out begging on the streets all day, whatever the weather. They are persistent, and you need to pay attention. In order to encourage Roma families to stop this practice, Tirana officials caution against giving these children money. Since this policy has been in place, there have been reductions in the amount of children sent out.
  • Albanian currency has just changed. 10 lek is now 1 dollar. Previously 100 lek was a dollar, so double check your purchases if the numbers seems off. I almost got into an argument with a fruit and vegetable vendor because of the misunderstanding.