Taunet Nelel means 'New Beginning.' This blog is about finding purpose and living in purpose. It seeks to inspire hope and help you live a fulfilling life. One with "No Regrets, No Fear, No Shame and No Anger."

Pilgrims of The Alley: Interview with Author Dave Arnold

Wednesday, February 20

Today I am excited to interview Dave Arnold who has launched his first book, Pilgrims of the Alley on Amazon, just this week. It is available both on Paperback and as a Kindle Edition.

He shares a message of hope and how to thrive in purpose as Christians despite being in a fallen world where we constantly feel out of place. This message resonates with what we share on this blog.

Without further ado, let us get to meet Dave and know more about his newly released book:

Pilgrims of the Alley - Book Cover

Maureen: Kindly introduce yourself to our readers, who is Dave Arnold?
Dave: I am a writer, speaker, and an advocate for refugees living in Dearborn, Michigan. I've been in full-time ministry since 1998 in a variety of roles: as a pastor, missionary, urban worker, social worker, etc. I've been married to Angie for 13 years and we have one son, Luke.
I have been a writer since 2003, where I first started doing freelance work for a variety of magazines and online journals. I also started doing freelance writing with a major church denomination. I am a blogger, too, and have started me own online ministry: www.reflectionsfromthealley.org

Maureen: Have you always thought of one day authoring a book?
Dave: I was inspired to write by a professor I had in college by the name of Dr. Hensley. He taught me to love words and to use words to impact people’s lives. He encouraged me in my writing endeavours. So, in 2003, I started doing freelance writing by writing for different magazines and journals. God really opened up doors for me to write. In 2006, while in was in Chicago, I started writing a bit and started to put together a book. I stopped after a while; but then in 2011, I really sensed God wanting me to write this book.

Maureen: Why did you choose the title “Pilgrims of the Alley: Living out Faith in Displacement”? What was your inspiration?
Dave: The Title, Pilgrims of the Alley, came to me when I was working with World Relief, a refugee agency on Chicago’s north side. I was loading up donated furniture in the back alley and I met this homeless couple. They were going from dumpster-to-dumpster looking for something (although I’m not sure what). I couldn’t shake them from my mind; and the phrase, “pilgrims of the alley” just came to me. And I began thinking about how people who follow Christ in this world are homeless, oftentimes wondering through the alleys of life attempting to live out their faith in an authentic way. Moreover, I believe God is at work in the “alley” – that is, in the tough and undesirable places of our lives and in the world.

If I could sum up my book in one word, it would be the word hope.

Maureen: Share with us the main message of the book.
Dave:  Really, it’s a book about hope – a deep hope in a God who is for us and who is leading us through the alleys of life to our ultimate destination with Him (in Heaven). It’s a book inspired by many people who have suffered and persevered amid great difficulties and challenges. I share stories of refugees who escaped through the jungle to get to safety; and my friend who started a business that seeks to bless and serve people in spite of losing his job and house.

My hope is that people will read the book and walk inspired and ready to take action: ready to engage in meaningful work and learn to trust God no matter what.

Maureen: In the book you cover three main stages of displacement, kindly break that down for us in a few words.
Dave: The three stages of Displacement I share in the book are: (1) Disorientation; (2) Blessing; (3) Homecoming.

These three stages I’ve observed in many immigrants and refugees whom I’ve worked with, especially within the first six months or so of their new life in a foreign country.

First is disorientation. Disorientation is the initial “shock” of living in a foreign environment. The challenges of language, culture, finding a job, etc. are at the forefront. Similarly, as followers of Jesus, we often feel disoriented in life – as if we are trying to navigate through a foreign and (often) difficult environment.

Second is blessing. This is where a person starts to assimilate into their new environment: where they learn to adjust, becoming more self-sufficient, etc. For Christians, once we face that life can be profoundly disappointing and disoriented, we then can move through life with the purpose of blessing others by living out our God-ordained purpose.

Third, is homecoming. Most of the immigrants and refugees I’ve worked with have a longing to go back to their homeland. Really, the longing never goes away. For some people – refugees from Somalia or Sudan or Afghanistan – they may never go back to their countries. But that doesn’t mean they don’t miss it and long to see their homes.

As Christians, the Bible tells us our home is not this earth – that this is not all there is. In John 14, Jesus told His disciples He had to leave to go prepare a place for them… and that He will come back and take us to where He is (Heaven).

Maureen: After every chapter, there is a section called, “Reflections of the Alley.” What is that about and how important is reflection as a practice in the society today?

Dave: The idea of Reflections From the Alley came alongside of the book a few years ago. (In fact, I decided to name my blog Reflections From the Alley as a result of this.) I want readers to be able to reflect on what they just read; to think on it and write out some thoughts. And hopefully, they will look back at what they wrote years later and remember what God taught them. There is also a prayer after the reflections the reader can use as a guide.

I think reflecting on what you read or learn or experience is vital to our growth. We are to be both reflective and active.

Maureen: We can either live a life of purpose or go through the motions in life, and get lost in the discouragement of life. Can we thrive in displacement or are we just meant to survive?

Displacement is when we’re struggling or feel out of our natural environment.

Dave: I believe with all my heart it is possible to thrive in displacement. Throughout the Bible, you see God’s people thriving in difficulties and challenging situations. But the key is trusting God. We will not make it if we do not trust God. He is the One who sustains us and who helps us thrive.

Maureen: Does life work out the way we think it should Dave? What has been your experience and how are we to live even if life doesn’t work out?

I don’t think life works out the way we think it should (at least not often). We have an idea of how life should be – that we should be happy, have a good job, get married, have kids, etc. – but life always throws us curve balls and is full of challenges.

Dave: We live in a fallen world: a world where tragedies happen and sickness occurs, and wars. Jesus never said He would give us a pain-free happy life; but He did promise He would be with us. When you cling to God and trust Him, life works and you thrive. It may not work the way you hope or think. But there will be joy and peace.

Maureen: You share a lot from people’s personal experiences in the book, yours and other peoples’. What would you say about experiences we go through day-to-day and the importance of learning from others as well?

Dave: I think we learn best from experiences. Going to school is good and learning information; but experience is the best teacher. We should always seek to be learners: to learn from others, to learn from our own experiences. One of the ways I personally do this is by keeping a journal. I jot down what God is teaching me, people who impact me, etc. It’s always helpful to look back and see how God worked.

Maureen: Any last words you would like to share with the readers of this blog Dave?

Dave: I do hope you check out my book. It was not written in an office or as theory of nice principles. It’s written from the blood, sweat, and tears of experience and attempting to work out my own faith in this world. It’s a book to read and reflect on; but more importantly, to act on. To be willing to trust deeply in God and do extraordinary things in this world.
In fact, if you buy the book this week (Book Launch Week, Feb. 18-24), you will receive some bonus items (a really good video about World Relief, a refugee organization that is helping the poor and displaced all over the world, and a PDF of the book. In addition, you will be eligible to enter a contest to win free Starbucks gift cards and eBooks.
Thanks for having me Maureen!

Thanks for sharing with us so candidly Dave, it's my pleasure!
        To get the bonus items and enter the contest, you must send Dave the receipt of the book. You can email him the receipt at davejarnold16@gmail.com
To connect more with Dave find him on any of the following platforms:
Twitter:  @davejarnold16

Question : Are you a pilgrim of the alley? (Please share on the comments section and check out the book on Amazon)

Open and Uncut (Plus a giveaway of an Ebook, SELAH)

Friday, February 8

I am humbled and glad to be part of the launch team of a Christian devotional, SELAH: A 90-Day Journey of Grace and Hope written by my online friend, Joseph Iregbu.
I would love that you kindly download a sample of the book - the First 7 Days of the devotional from this link: http://selahthebook.com/free/
Just as the name suggests, you will daily take time to pause and calmly think on each day’s topic. You will also be filled with the grace and hope that only God can give. Joseph took a seven year journey to write this devotional, I believe it will be a blessing for you and will be worth your while.

Are you real? Are you authentic?
In an imperfect and fast paced world, where we have love and hate, joy and sorrow, hope and hopelessness – it comes back to you and the choices you make as you journey through life.
Please pause and calmly think about this question: “Who am I?”
How did you answer that? Did you say daughter/ son, father/ mother, a sojourner…the answers to this question are as varied and broad as they get.
My next question is, “Who are you outside of the roles that you play?” Are you defined by the position you play in the workplace, home, and community?
Whose expectations do you live for?”
What is success to you?”
Have you ever failed? Does that make you a failure?”
When will you consider yourself as successful?”
Do you have dreams?”
When you die, will you have lived a full life – done all that you were born to?”
Do you think you are valuable?”
Do you add value to the world – in your relationships, at your workplace, in the community?”
Are you a difference maker in this world?”

“We are often good at masking our pain with fake smiles, raised hands in shallow worship and timid confessions of faith. We must learn to be open and real.” Joseph Iregbu, Author of SELAH: A 90-Day Journey of Grace and Hope

This year, I am launching into the deep. In purpose fulfillment, writing, giving hope, relationships and living a life that matters. The path that I know God is leading me this year is to launch into the deep seas where there could be storms, more danger in the waters, and turbulent winds. I believe the boat is safe. I believe that I am safe. My Savior sits with me in the boat resting. Effortlessly, He shall speak calmly, “Peace be still.”
We shall continue to declare that we have no regrets, no fear, no shame and no anger. In the coming months, I shall walk with you on the journey to find your authentic self and answering the above questions – hopefully with more clarity.
I pray that each word I share will be an encouragement. I also welcome you to share your life lessons with us. I am no expert, but I have a passion to help you journey through life with renewed hope and live an impactful life.
Join me in coming posts as we answer these and many more questions. I value your feedback and your support as you read and share.
Are you real? Are you authentic? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Hebrews 4:12-13 Expanded Bible (EXB)

12 [For] God’s word is alive and ·working [active; powerful; effective] and is sharper than a double-edged sword. It ·cuts all the way into us, where the soul and the spirit are joined, to the center of our joints and bones [penetrates until it divides even soul and spirit, joints and marrow]. And it ·judges [discerns] the ·thoughts [ideas] and ·feelings [attitudes; intentions] in our hearts. 13 ·Nothing in all the world [Nothing in all creation; or No creature] can be hidden from God. Everything is ·clear [naked] and ·lies open before him [exposed to his eyes], and to him we must ·explain the way we have lived [give an account; answer].


Friday, January 25

I recently read a magazine headlined, “Whatever Happened to Patience?” The cover photo has an image of people waiting in line at a tax office obviously impatient. The woman at the counter was arguing and seems to have taken so long going by the faces of those waiting/ or could we say forced to wait by circumstances beyond their control.
To remain committed in the journey and with perseverance in life, we have to watch out for this enemy that lurks in the corner - Impatience.
People normally say about themselves, “I am not a patient person” or “I am not patient with such people.” Personally I think impatience has grown popular in this day and age. We are always looking for the next big thing, the faster way to execute a job – so much so, that we miss the mark.
Good things come to those who wait.

Granted, patience is a virtue. I think until we face the ugliness of the effects of some habits, we can’t and maybe won’t see the need of adopting other habits.
Impatience causes frustration, anger and stress – related issues.

Consider the growth of an oak tree. An acorn seed takes 3-6 months to germinate into a sapling. “The growth process is a slow one, with white oaks producing new growth at a rate of 10 to 15 feet within a span of 10 to 12 years, according to the Clemson University Extension. Though growth is slow, white oaks have a life expectancy surpassing 100 years.” (Source in the link below) Can you imagine an oak tree can live up to 1000 years? If the acorn can wait that long, what are you getting overly impatient for?

photo credit: Steve Clancy via photopin creative commons

There are various impatience triggers ranging from the simplest to the most complex (depending on your perception). Waiting for an elevator, reading through a book, church services, electioneering periods, a couple waiting for a child from God, saving to buy a home, expanding a business, working towards your area of purpose – we would not be able to exhaustively name them here. Even as simple waiting for a bus or having to be stuck in a traffic jam.

What gets to us most about having to wait is the possibility of being denied what we are waiting for, especially when we are under circumstances out of our control. And the more we try to control these things, the more we get frustrated. The only person we can change, or control is ourselves. Once we change, only then can we influence others to change.
Developing patience
Patience is an inside job.
Love is patient. Love is the root of patience. If you understand that you are loved by God, you will love yourself and ultimately love others. You will be patient with God because you know that He is patient with you. You will be patient with yourself and in turn be patient with others. With every trial you face in life – your patience grows. Trials come from the outside environment, and are meant to test your faith.
Will you be still, will you be quiet, assured that you have a Father looking after your best interest? He not only precedes and prepares for you the place where you are going; He also prepares you for that time and place.
It must have taken a lot of patience for Abraham to wait 25 years for God’s promise to be fulfilled in getting Isaac as a son. He got a bit impatient and had a son with a servant, Hagar. But God’s promise was still fulfilled when he was 100 years while Sarah was 90 years then. We now call him the “Father of Nations.”
Here is my take, let us take moments to smell the roses, enjoy the warmth of the sun during the day, and laugh out loud. Take moments to linger and reflect; invest in close relationships with those whom you care deeply about. Help a friend. Buy lunch for a hungry kid on the street. Random acts of kindness. Do today what you can. When tomorrow comes, you will deal with whatever comes your way.
While you are waiting, worry less and work on changing you. Be the BEST you (you) can be.
Maybe, delay is good. Delay may mean that better things are coming your way. Delay may also mean that you need to develop endurance and a strong character for what awaits you in the future.
Delay after all, is not denial.

What are your impatience triggers? What has been your experience with delays and growing in patience?

James 1:2-4 (MSG) Faith Under Pressure

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Five Ways to Stay Committed Despite the Odds

Friday, January 4

Commitment connotes an obligation, or a pledge or promise you personally make without any external push to do the same.

Whether to God, in relationships, our responsibilities, a change of habits, or goals, we have at a point committed to one thing, person or event.

Think of climbing a mountain. I did that recently and was shocked at how 2,780 m (9,180 ft) turned out to be a challenge. In the journey I experienced shortness of breath, headache, body weakness and nausea. Despite it all, I committed myself to finish the ascent. The sights were amazing, I made friends and sticking it through was well worth it at the end.

Photo Credit: Tim Brauhn via Photo Pin

How can we stay committed despite insurmountable odds? Let us consider these five ways that will help us in stay committed:

  1. Be Content

Life is really a journey of climbing mountains per say. There are two options for rating our experience, either by the journey during the climb or the destination which is the top of the mountain. Think of a goal to lose weight – we either enjoy the daily jogging regime (journey) or have aching pains of not attaining an ideal weight (destination).

Most times we base our contentment on the destination we desire to reach in a future time. “I will be contented when I reach the cliff...” Sooner or later, you will get to your destination.

True contentment is in the now, during the journey to the top. Enjoy the climb, gasp at the scenery, and bask in your progress.

I've learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

  1. Avoid Making Comparisons
Why do we compare ourselves with others, as if one of us is better and another worse? I find comparisons really a reflection on our own personal insecurities.

It is good to read biographies and learn from people – desire to emulate their good traits.

Each of us is an original. So our journeys and circumstances unique. Compete with yourself if you must.

  1. Keep Hope Alive
Hope is a joyful expectation that looks past the present circumstances. Hope says “It's possible”, even when all else seems lost.

  1. ACT on Knowledge
Many accumulate knowledge and stack it up in a physical library of books or in their brains which can store a staggering amount of data, facts and figures.

If you never ACT on that knowledge it would be just as good as if you never had it in the first place. Mentally waiting on things to magically change without your participation – is too presumptuous on your part.

The acronym ACT may help in handling knowledge – choose to Apply, Change or Teach something from every aspect of knowledge accumulated.

  1. Nurture Discipline
Apathy is an indifference to what we learn or know and lethargy is laziness towards the same.

In sharp contrast, discipline means doing what you need to do especially when you don't feel like it. Nurture discipline to stay committed while watching against apathy and lethargy.

Proverbs 16:3
Roll your works upon the LORD [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so your plans shall be established and succeed.
(Amplified Version)

Do you encounter difficulties with keeping commitments? How else can you stay committed in your journey?

Happy New Year to every one of my readers.
2012 was a great year being my first in blogging. I appreciate each of you for reading, the feedback and the support you have offered me.
I pray that 2013 will certainly be greater for all of us. I thank God for the opportunity to yet again share with you. May we continue to be an encouragement to each other.

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