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.

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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.

A little issue called hate.

Hate is nothing new and really isn’t a little issue.  It is bred in unforgiveness, prejudice, jealousy, and leads to one thing in particular…lack of value for human life or maybe lack of value for human life leads to hate.  I believe this grieves the heart of God to the deepest of levels.  God is love and He created us in His image, so we were made to love and care for one another.  We can see the opposite of this at work in our world today, heck it has been at work since the beginning of time, after all Satan didn’t deceive Eve because he had her best interest in mind.

We have seen so much of hate in the news lately and I see this issue operating successfully each day in my line of work.  In the fight against exploitation and trafficking I see human beings have a complete lack of value for their fellow humans.  At the core of it is a complete lack of value for themselves, to allow their own bodies into these situations where they abuse the body of another either visually or physically.

The answer must be in the love of Christ.  He, who laid down His own life and body for the lives of many to come because of love.  Yet, can we love unconditionally when we don’t even realize our own value?  Maybe.  Maybe not.   Change in the world does, however, begin at home and in ourselves.  I pray that we realize our inherent value and worth…what the Creator of the world thinks of us and in turn we begin to realize what our fellow human beings are worth.  I pray we begin to realize that God loves us unconditionally, without expectation and in turn we begin to love others unconditionally.  What a slap in the face to the enemy of our souls if we live as we were meant to live, loving others.  There is too much hate in the world, too much hate that people experience every day.

So please, never underestimate a little act of unconditional love…you may be giving someone a great thing that they have never experienced before.  A little act of unconditional love is a greater blow to evil and hate than you may make think.  A little love always outshines hate.

Love_Shines_Bright_by_xBAZAximage credits:deviantart

My Heart is Moved

endtraffickingThere are things we as the community can do to END the sex trafficking and exploitation of our fellow human beings.  1) SHOUT it from the rooftops…ok, maybe not so extreme, but find a way to bring awareness to those around you.  The more people doing something about this the better. 2) Do research and support local organizations who are fighting this injustice. 3) MOST importantly, don’t participate in anything where another human being is being exploited…this includes strip clubs.  Don’t believe those places are filled with victims?  Do your research.  Not all women in strip clubs are trafficked, but they are all exploited.  END SLAVERY.

A Garden of Truth

It amazes me how God can reveal truth to us in just about anything…well, He is God.

This is my second year gardening and I am growing to love it and this is my second year that God has revealed a truth to me through gardening lessons.

As with most gardeners who are protecting their investment, I had my battles with gardens pests (even rare ones), too much rain, too little rain, soil issues and more.  Yet I kept fighting for the harvest I wanted (yes there is a lesson in that, but we’ll save that for later.)  I was winning many of my battles, but what was curious to me was the shape my cucumbers were growing into, different shapes and sizes…still delicious, but not the “normal” looking cucumber, so I did some research as to what was wrong.

I found many different responses and reasons why cucumbers would grow like that, but the one that stuck out to me the most was, “we have become so used to what vegetables look like on the mass market that we feel there is something wrong when we home grow our own and the harvest doesn’t look like all the rest,” (my own paraphrase).

Don’t you know, that when I read that I immediately felt a tug on my heart, oh, how we human beings apply that to everything.  We have generations of people who have struggled for decades with the fact that they don’t look, act or sound like everyone else.  The magazines and other media outlets weekly and even daily portray “beauty” or “real masculinity” (for our men out there) and we fall head over heels into someone else’s version of “true self.”

What we loose, especially as Christians is that God has fashioned and formed us individually, not on an assembly line in mass production.  There are no two fingerprints alike and there is much more that shouts our individuality.

When I first started leading worship at our church I struggled with feeling the need to sound like other mainstream worship leaders.  God in His goodness and grace kindly reminded me that I was not those other women leaders, but He created me in a separate moment in time and therefore I am as He designed me to be.  That is when I began to flourish in the gifts He gave me.  Haven’t we as women also struggled with feeling beautiful and comparing ourselves to other women on a daily basis?  That is a dangerous habit to take up.

Psalm 45:11 basically says “the King is enthralled by your beauty…” and if He thinks so…isn’t that all that matters?

Beauty and even individuality is not mass marketed…it’s created, it was created the moment you were conceived in the heart of God.  So it’s time to let go of self-inflicted expectations that you are to be like everyone else or even just like the woman who passes by you in the store.  It’s time to let go of over examining our weaknesses and faults and take time to build off of our strengths (no, I didn’t say ignore weakness).  It’s time to get comfortable in your own skin and stop trying to adapt to someone else’s.  It’s time to love you the way God does.  You are an amazing person, an individual unlike any other.

Hey, there are no two tomato plants exactly alike, right?  Right.  Well, you get the point.