Love is Hard.

We have all heard the phrase, “Love is a choice.” Sometimes that choice may feel easy, but lets face it there are many times when that choice feels hard. It feels easy when our children are smiling and obeying, but when the laundry and dishes are piled high, you are flat out exhausted and your children are throwing a fit because you didn’t cut the crust of their sandwich…it can get hard. It may feel easy to love when your spouse is being sweet and thoughtful, but when they are short with you, or say something thoughtless…it can get hard.

It’s not so much choosing to love, but choosing to respond in love that can be hard at times. I struggle with it, we all struggle with it. Recently, I saw this great picture of a scripture verse out of Romans 5:8. The scripture reads, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) The image paraphrases the verse and says, “I loved you at your darkest.” Wow. In my darkest moment God loved and still loves me. He also calls us to love like that, except it is much harder for us to do. That is why we need His help.
As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph,” is playing in my mind.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive…

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul.

It isn’t hard to love the “lovely,” but what about the homeless man you see downtown that hasn’t bathed in a while? What about the woman who spits in your face when you tell her she is worth more than the $50 her pimp is getting for her? What about the person close to you who breaks your heart? I think about what Christ endured; the ridicule, the physical and emotional pain, the sting of death. And what for? Love. The cross wasn’t easy. Therefore love isn’t always easy. Yet, it is the most vital. It encourages, uplifts, frees, heals, restores, makes new and is desperately needed.

Remove the word “is” and you get…love hard (and with all you’ve got).

bible-verses-about-love-bibleversesaboutlife.com-image-7

The Night Love Came Down

lovecamedown.001

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Luke 2:16-20 (NIV)

The book of Luke goes on to talk about (Ch.11) giving good gifts and if we as imperfect people love to give good things to our children, then how much more does God?  No matter what we have been told or believe; God is love and He loves to give good things.  Christmas is truly about promises fulfilled, when love came to earth and the greatest gift was given.

I pray this season you are surrounded by such love and that your time is filled with peace, joy and invaluable gifts.

Merry Christmas!

Illuminating Love Ministries.

Perpetual Hope

perpetualhope.001Christmas is known as the season of perpetual hope. Hope, a simple four letter word that carries so much meaning and something that so many are desperate for…sometimes the only thing people have to hold onto. The only thing they can see to hold on to.

I was thinking the other day about the word perpetual. Dictionary.com defines perpetual as:

  1. continuing or enduring forever; everlasting
  2. lasting an indefinitely long time
  3. continuing or continued without intermission or interruption, ceaseless
  4. blooming almost continuously throughout the season or year.

So perpetual hope means a hope that doesn’t cease, it continues without interruption, it’s everlasting…then really a “season” of perpetual hope is an oxymoron…there is no season for hope, but it is to continue without ending. Hope is essential to our lives even the Word of God says in Proverbs 13:12 that,” Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

What is it that you are hoping for this season? Let your heart not be sick in the waiting and let us also keep in our hearts those who have a hope of freedom and pray that 2016 will bring just that.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Chocolate Holiday

holidats.001
It’s hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us!  In all of our celebrating we must not forget those who are often used in slave labor to make the products we will be purchasing to give to our loved ones or place on our dinner tables.  It feels and often is nearly impossible to find items that are made completely without slave labor.  Yet, we can start in one simple area…chocolate.

According to the World Cocoa Foundation we consume 3 million tons of cocoa beans annually…68% of which is sourced from Africa, 17% from Asia/Oceania and 15% from Americas (Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia).  Simply put, that’s a lot of chocolate sourced on the backs of children, men and women who are paid nearly nothing (if anything) and live in horrible conditions, they are modern day slaves for our sweet tooth.

So during this upcoming holiday season, let’s take a step in the right direction of ending human trafficking and slavery and purchase our chocolate from companies who are sustainably sourcing their cocoa beans, using transparency in their supply chains, working to empower and create positive change in the communities they are sourcing from.  Here are some companies that are doing just that:

Lindt Chocolates 
http://www.lindt-spruengli.com/sustainability/sustainably-sourced/

Divine Chocolate Co.
http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/

The Endangered Species
http://www.chocolatebar.com/?page_id=18

You can also do a search on “Slave Free Chocolate,” for more options and don’t forget coffee too!

#untilallarefree #endmoderndayslavery

What ideas do you have to help fight slavery this holiday?  What are your favorite fair trade products?  Share with us!

 

Justice is Inconvenient

Today was one of those busy days, lots of running around with errands and a grand finale of stopping at the grocery store for just a few items.  I found a parking spot quite quickly and made my way to the store entrance when I was approached by someone carrying a sign…I was about to be asked to boycott the store in an attempt to stand up for the rights of the employees.  Super inconvenient…I’m talking super-duper.  As I was walking back to my car to go 20 minutes out of my way to buy 2 items I heard this woman yelling at the young adults holding signs that she was already there to shop and wasn’t going out of her way.  This made me think and think hard about how we as a society cannot often be bothered to go out of our way to help someone (especially someone we do not know) or take a stand against injustice, which requires action, if it interferes with something we’d rather do.  Many times I have seen friends comment on Facebook how they get more likes for a post about a dinner they made than something about social justice issues.  I’ve had that happen to me as well, heck I have even scrolled past stuff I should probably take a second look at.  Is this a reflection of our society as a whole? Maybe.

People can’t be bothered to go to rallies, protest, etc. unless it directly affects them.  We must stop this.  We must begin to fight for others, stand up for what is right, reject apathy, and actually love one another.

We want a better world, but are we willing to do something about it?  We complain that we are being taken advantage of or that elected officials are not really representing the people, but their own selfish gain, but what do we do about it?  We see that there are millions of people enslaved in the world today, yet go about our lives giving no second thought to it.  Believe me, I certainly have my moments when I wrestle with doing something right simply because it is inconvenient, but if we don’t…then who will?  Fighting for what is right, for justice, for love is often inconvenient and often “out of our way,” but think about this…Jesus went out of His way to fight for us…I mean really out of His way.  He left heaven to come to earth, to lay His life down for the hearts of people who would be desperately thankful and those who would adamantly oppose Him.

If no one will go out of their own way to help another then the world becomes quite the lonely, desolate and depressing place…something God never intended.

Justice and love are always worth the fight. Always.

#fightforoneanother #justiceisinconvenient

One Simple Act

AFrankQuote

Reading the book, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, again has brought to my heart an encouragement of great proportions.  If so many could risk their lives to hide and save thousands of Jews, elderly, disabled, young men and others the Nazis deemed unworthy during that nefarious regime, we can surely do something to rescue those who are led away to captivity today.  We can certainly refuse to do nothing.  There is an estimated 27 million people enslaved in the world today and millions more who know nothing about it.  Millions of fellow human beings, who if they all did just one simple act, would make, at the very least, a profound dent on modern day slavery.  What is one simple act that every person could do?

*Participate in an activity that is raising funds to fight trafficking, especially if it is for a safe house for victims of human trafficking.

*Donate to safe houses, projects bringing awareness or organizations that are actively working with victims.

*Educate yourself on the evils of trafficking and then spread the news, the more who know the better.

*Encourage law makers to create laws to fight trafficking and protect victims.

Again, we can all refuse to do nothing because one simple act can mean everything to one trapped in captivity.  As Dr. Seuss once said, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

Check out A Light in the Night 5k/Fun Run, Walk to END Human Trafficking at alightinthenight.org

Because One is Too Many.

oneistoomany

One of my favorite parables told by Jesus in Luke 15 is the shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine sheep in search of one.  It reflects His heart and character that He believes that one person is worth it.  It reflects that each life is precious and valuable.   To me it speaks the message that when there are more people entrapped in slavery now than ever in history, and it can be daunting to think about helping as many as you can, to focus on one at a time is a far greater encouragement.  We can all become weary and burned out, but when we carry the attitude that even just one is worth it because one is too many it can change everything.  Some food for thought:

*God would likely have spared Sodom and Gomorrah for one (Genesis 18).

*The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15).

*Jesus would have died for one.

Can you imagine how many more lives would have been lost during the Nazi resistance, if people didn’t find it important to smuggle “just one more” out of the Nazi clutches?  Never think that one treasured life isn’t worth it.

As I prepare for outreaches this summer I know that even if one life is saved then it is all worth it.   If only one girl receives lifesaving information, then it is all worth it.  Because one person enslaved is too many.  You too can do something for just one.

Ways that you can fight human trafficking in your area:

*Support local task forces, join a coalition or group that is fighting trafficking
*Support organizations that are fighting trafficking, rescuing and aiding victims
*Volunteer at awareness events, fundraisers, etc.
*Educate yourself and spread awareness

You can make a tax deductible donation to help fund For Such a Time Ministries summer outreaches here.

Upcoming Events

Worry Stones

stones

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

We live in an age where there is plenty to worry about. Just watch the news for a half hour and you’ll be tested. Yet, the Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. I’m pretty sure things seemed quite dire to the Israelites when they were hanging out at the edge of the Red Sea or even to David when he was hanging in the caves and wasn’t on a spelunking mission. We are not the first ones to feel like the world may be coming to an end and we won’t be the last. We are not the first ones to feel the weight of worry which is why God tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares upon Him because He not only cares for us, but He can handle it.

First, let’s look at that word cast. Thesaurus.com also describes cast as fling, toss aside, hurl, heave, launch, eject, thrust and the list goes on. Just replace the word cast with one of its synonyms to give the scripture a new perspective.

Heave all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.
Fling all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you, etc.

This gives us an amazing picture of the heart of God and the weight it bears. Jesus can handle anything we cast at Him, as my dad once said, “There is nothing that can knock God off His throne.” That includes anything that brings you angst. Just give it to Him.

I remember years ago when I saw two teenage girls come out of a new age shop on a busy city street. They carried in their hands “worry stones.” The idea is that you were supposed to put all your worries onto those stones. My heart broke and I went to them to share a story about a man who came to carry all their worries over 2000 years ago. The love of Jesus Christ that came to bear the weight of their worry and fear. A love that doesn’t have a heart of stone. Worry is just like that stone. The only useful purpose it has is to be a weight.  With worry you end up with a burden you weren’t meant to carry.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? –Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

So…let it go, it is weighing you down.
Let it go, He carried it for you already.
Let it go, you are in His hands.
Let it go with a ferocity and remember that He cares for you.

The Journey of Forgiveness.

forgive.001

Recently, as I sat in worship I was pondering the greatness of God’s love for me, what little we can actually comprehend, and I went back to about 14 years ago.  It was a painful time in my life, but the love of God was ever present and ever pursuing me.  The key to much of my freedom over the years hasn’t just been receiving the forgiveness of Christ, but forgiving those who wounded me deeply…even forgiving myself.

I think about the women I work with, beautiful, precious and brokenhearted.  For some, the greatest steps of healing they will walk through will be to forgive those who exploited, abused and wounded them deeply.  While those will be some of the hardest steps to make they will also be some of the most freeing.  I love the quote floating around about how keeping unforgiveness in your heart is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die, because it is true.  Nothing binds so much as unforgiveness.  Maybe that is why the journey of forgiving seems daunting, painful and at times unattainable, because it is possibly one of the most freeing journeys to make.

Maya Angelou once said, “You can’t forgive without loving. And I don’t mean sentimentality. I don’t mean mush. I mean having enough courage to stand up and say, ‘I forgive. I’m finished with it.’”  That seems to fit with Jesus’ final words on the cross, “It is finished.”

The cross doesn’t just represent freedom, but forgiveness.

Jesus made that journey over 2000 years ago.  It was the hardest journey anyone would ever have to make.  He took each step strengthened by the power of His Father and the Holy Spirit and His passionate love for us.  His journey of forgiveness paved the way so that we could make that same journey of forgiveness that leads to freedom.  Remember that love keeps no record of wrongs…that means forgiveness is an act of love.  Jesus went through the ultimate act of love…He forgave and still does today.    I don’t believe that forgiveness is so much about loving those who hurt you, but more about loving yourself enough to let go.

Let’s follow that lead and walk in the freedom He intends.  Take the journey that leads to a whole heart.  During this month of “love,” make a decision to love yourself a little better…you are worth it.