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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The Night Love Came Down

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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.

When Love Comes In

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This is a bit of a different blog for me. I haven’t written in awhile because I have been busy getting married and adjusting, quite nicely, to being a wife and mother.

If you were to ask me 10 years ago “when do you think you’ll get married?” I would have given you the Christian answer “In God’s timing,” all the while only my heart and closest friends knew I wanted to be married and having more children before 25.

25 came.
25 went.

30 would come and go in the same fashion yet in the waiting, and lets be honest; in the moments of frustration, loneliness, and the times of fun being a single mother God did something in my heart…all the while doing amazing things in the man He would bring to the door of my heart.

For years I, as some would say, wrestled with God, many times asking, nay pleading with Him to take from me the desire to be married, especially if it wasn’t in His plan for me. It is difficult to have a desire for something and not have it fulfilled. The only thing about the desire that would leave me was hopelessness. God had more in me that He wanted than for me to just get married. Being married is so much more than being in love and having babies. Being married means learning to be selfless on a whole other level, as a single mom I learned a mother’s selfless love, but marriage would be a love quite different. It would be learning to love in a different way. But that wasn’t the point, I needed to learn my worth and how to be loved, because past pain caused me to shrink back and view myself less than.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, love is like a ray of light that finds it’s way through the smallest of cracks, illuminates darkness, and causes good things to grow in the un-likeliest of places. In all of my waiting God’s love came in, deep into my heart, healing, refreshing, preparing, strengthening, and instilling a sense of belonging to Him…as His daughter. When we allow the love of God to come and fill us, heal us, strengthen us and when we wait upon Him…it is always worth it. It causes good things to grow in us. He would stretch me to have faith in Him and His promises, the things He spoke to my heart- I would cling to when doubt and hopelessness would come at me like a storm to knock me down, because hope needed to grow freely in me as did love.

In all that time the point was not to learn some “lesson,” or fix something on the long list of things that people concoct to understand why someone may still be single. The point was to learn to know that I was valued by the Creator, that His love for me would in turn help me to love myself and to love others deeply which would turn into a ministry (Illuminating Love). In that ministry I would meet a man with a great passion for God and turns out a great passion for me (and my children), so the old adage that good things come to those who wait is true.

So the greatest thing that happened in waiting was I learned to love and love is needed everyday. When love comes in, selfishness leaves, wrongs are forgiven, chains are broken, lives are changed, hope is renewed…from love springs forth so much that our soul needs to grow, that our world around us needs in order to grow. In our relationship with Christ, in our marriages (or other relationships) and in our daily lives love is what makes the difference and the world could use that difference.

Let love come in.

So, April 2015 I became a Mrs…
Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her! Luke 1:45

(I love these pictures of the two of us before our ceremony. Dedicating our hearts, lives and marriage to God.)

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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

Because One is Too Many.

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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

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 doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

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