When Light Breaks Into Darkness

Centuries ago, darkness was convinced it had the world in its grip and victory in the bag, but then again it didn’t really know its foe.  That day was a dark one, the friends and family of Jesus had just witnessed him mercilessly beaten and crucified on a cross.  Grief stricken and confused by the course of events, it must have seemed like darkness had overtaken them, after all the Messiah, the one they had been waiting for, had just been put to death.  Yet, at that moment so much more was happening…light itself was breaking into the darkness.

The Passion of Christ is a powerful moment in history.  It speaks of an unconditional love we cannot fully comprehend.  A light so powerful that darkness cannot stand it.  Jesus, love and light, made the ultimate sacrifice to bring freedom and restoration.

Imagine what could be accomplished if we received God’s unconditional love more freely and in turn loved more unconditionally.  Imagine if we let that light shine within us…oh how it would break into the darkness and the darkness would flee.

#easter #goodfriday #LoveofGod #lovewins #light

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A Holiday with A Cause

I love this time of year, Thanksgiving with a lot of great food, family and friends and the beginning of the Christmas season.  Maybe Black Friday is your thing or maybe Cyber Monday (both of which are now becoming weeks instead of days), whatever way you enjoy your holiday shopping I would love to share a few “slave-free” options.  With an estimated 20 million people enslaved globally today, it’s easy to say that human trafficking and modern day slavery are an epidemic hitting our society as a whole…and hitting us hard.  Many of our items that we purchase on a regular basis and especially during the holidays, such as clothing, coffee and chocolate are made with slave labor (including child labor).  These are precious people who are trafficked and/or exploited into harvesting materials and making these items for retail.  We can take a stand against slavery, do something about it and still buy our loved ones beautiful gifts.  When you are out shopping look for labels that read,”Fair Trade,” or you can also check out below just some of the websites that are out there.  There is no better time to start doing something for our fellow man than now.  Anne Frank once said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and happy shopping!

*Fair trade coffee and chocolate can be found at local grocery stores.

*Girl Set Free

*Thistle Farms

*Freeset USA

*iSanctuary/ Purpose Jewelry

MORE INFORMATION ON LABOR TRAFFICKING AND FORCED LABOR
https://polarisproject.org/labor-trafficking

 

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).

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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

The Journey of Forgiveness.

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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.

Love looks ahead.

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Characteristics of love series

When Jesus died on the cross He wasn’t looking backwards…He was looking straight ahead.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Emphasis my own) We were and are still that joy.  He was looking ahead, He knew His purpose on that history making day, He came for us.

I find this extremely comforting when I have flesh out days and lose my temper with my kids.  I find it extremely freeing when shame or regret tries to grab ahold of me because Jesus endured the cross and the shame for the joy that was set before Him…me and you.

You see, love looks ahead.  It offers new mercies each and every day.  In fact, it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See! I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction,” which means that each day God sets before us life and death.  No matter what we choose He is there and the morning comes and His everlasting patience sets before us life and death again.  Now, I am not saying that when we sin there are no consequences, what I am saying is that Jesus paid for our sin…period…it is finished.  We look back, hold records of wrong against others and ourselves and wait for the axe to fall.

If we just understood who we are in Him, we would choose life more and more.  If we understood that love keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13 and Psalm 103:12) and it knows the end from the beginning we would live differently.  If we understood that God, who IS love, doesn’t love like we mere humans understand it, because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

Walt Disney once said, “Keep moving forward.” Well, you can’t move forward very well if you keep looking back. Think about this: He sent His son while we were still sinners, knowing full well that not everyone would love Him in return and we get so lost in our past and at times our present.  Yet, I believe God in His infinite wisdom looks ahead.  Maybe today He wants us to know that He knows there is a better tomorrow, but today we need to know He loves us no matter what.  That is life changing.  That’s the love I want to know more.

Characteristic of love #5: it looks ahead

The Miley Epidemic

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I cannot help but reply to the flurry of words hurled into cyberspace and social media airwaves, if you will, about Miley Cyrus’ risqué performance at the MTV VMA Awards.  I want to shout…

“WHAT DO YOU EXPECT!?!”

We live in a culture where nearly everything is hyper-sexualized.  We allow our daughters to wear shorts that should be known as denim underwear and watch music videos on MTV that are extremely sexual in nature.  We have an ever-growing problem in the United States where our daughters are being lured into sexual exploitation, while the majority of Americans decide to ignore this epidemic of sex trafficking (exempting those who are actually ignorant of this issue).

We take our daughters to places like Victoria’s Secret for their underwear…why?  Our boys are plagued with images of half naked women nearly all their lives and we have millions addicted to pornography.  We have a thriving billion dollar strip club/ and pornography industry that is visited by Christians and non alike…

So please, do not let this heartbreaking performance of a moment pass you by.  Instead of posting nasty words about Miley (all the while ignoring the married man on the stage), do something about it.  What can you do?  Stop shopping at places where they forgot to sew on the rest of the material on that skirt or pair of shorts.  Stop buying into the lie that our kids “need to experience” things in life that they have no business “experiencing” until they are in the right situation and it is a good experience.  Stop watching porn, stop visiting strip clubs and for crying out loud gain a little compassion for those trapped in it.

Talk to your kids, give them some boundaries, let them know they are made in the image of God and their bodies have great value…and not for the lust of another.

During a recent outreach to exploited women, my heart was broken to hear in their voices and experiences the hypocrites they have encountered.  These women have been visited by the very same people shouting about this Miley situation…people of faith, people in prominent positions, the average parent, and so on.  When have we become a society that embraces the devaluing of another human being?  Why are we spouting jargon from one side of our mouths and acting another way in secret?  Should we be outraged?  Yes, but we should be outraged by all of it.  Our words and our actions have weight and the world is paying attention…and more importantly, so are our children.