Thursday, July 29, 2010

He Wants It All

As I am traveling to work after dropping off the baby or on my way home from work, I like to ride in silence. This has been the norm for a few weeks. Before, I would be blasting praise and worship music, giving my Father a little glory. I don't know where the riding in silence came from but I do it more and more often. I think I do it to have a little quiet time to spend pouring my heart out to God, hoping that He is listening.

This morning was no different...well maybe. I had just dropped Aiden off and was sitting at the light when I turned off the radio to start up my morning conversation. For some reason, I didn't know what to say. I had had a pretty crappy day yesterday and wanted to have a half-way decent one today, hence the need to talk to God. But the words wouldn't come, the thought were jumbled. I was a mess. I gave up and turned the radio back on.

I flipped from one station to the next and found nothing suitable. Didn't want to pull out a CD either. I was getting kinda frazzled. In a last ditch effort, I flipped the station one more time and there it was. The song that ignited my heart and lifted my spirits. He Wants It All by forever Jones. I got goose bumps the moment I heard the words and immediately began singing my praises.

There's a voice that cries out in the silence,
searching for heart that will love him,
longing for child that will give him their all,
give it all, he wants it all

And he says, love me, love me with your whole heart
he wants it all today
serve me, serve me with your life now
he wants it all today
bow down, let go of your idols
he wants it all today (x3)
He wants it all

There's a God that walks over the earth,
he's searching for heart that is desperate,
longing for child that will give him their all,
give it all, he wants it all

God was speaking to me this morning in the midst of my confusion and frustration about not knowing what to say to Him. He wants it all today. He wants all of my crazy thoughts, my tears, my heart, my devotion, my love. He just wants to spend time with me today and wants me to desire to spend time with Him. He doesn't want me wasting time bound to idols when He should be the only person getting my attention and admiration. He just wants all of me. All of me.

God is working on me still. He is working on me to help get me to the point where He has all of me. I am almost there. Kinda. Still a work in progress. Still working on falling on my face completely naked and unashamed before Him. But He is patient and still reminds me that He just wants to be my everything. How sweet is that? My Father, the romantic.

He wants it all. He wants me to serve Him with my life. He wants me to be a child that will give Him my all. It's funny how hard it is to let go of everything and let God have it. My impatience tends to keep me wanting to have my hand in what goes on around me. He just wants it all. Let Him have my troubles and allow him to ease my heart and mind.

He wants it all. You win, Father.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Peace in the Storm

It's amazing how quickly emotions can take over and turn a ok day into a not so ok day. Sometimes something so simple, so small can make me lose my footing and the rug is pulled from up under me. Sometimes, a small reminder of my present situation makes me believe that life will always be like this. Sometimes I have to let the tears fall, get overwhelmed and slightly freak out before I come back down from space. Nothing like crying in the stairwell at work to make me come back to Earth. I'm having a day.

Not a bad day. Just a momentary lapse into an emotional abyss. Slowly coming back to the light after letting my Father calm me down. I had every intention of calling someone or texting someone to get me off the ledge, but I couldn't. I needed to be in that moment alone, so I could totally depend on Him to be my comforter. Jehovah Shalom: Lord of Peace. He didn't speak in a booming voice, or even a whisper. I didn't feel His touch on my shoulder. I didn't feel Him anywhere in that stairwell, but I know He was there. He was there just like He always is, waiting for me to just give it all to Him. See, my Father doesn't want me to be upset or overwhelmed. Sometimes when I get caught up in my own emotions or by let the lies of the enemy invade my thoughts, He waits for me to calm down and remember that He takes care of everything. He makes everything glorious, He provides for my needs, He takes care of problems, He moves. I just have to remember that in the midst of my chaos.

This entry started off differently. It started off with me going on and on about what upset me and the history behind it. Think the Holy Spirit shifted gears after my stairwell tear-fest and decided to have me give praise to my Father instead. Sometimes circumstances seem so bleak and overwhelming, but in the midst of it all, we should still remember to praise Him. Rejoice in the midst of the storm. Though the world felt like it was crashing down around me for about 20 minutes, I still must remember that God is not going to put more on me than I can bear. And I have learned over the years that I think I can carry a mighty heavy load and still press forward. So, in this moment, I am good. I can actually smile. My God is good and makes sure that I remember that. The enemy is already defeated and I am victorious.

Thanks Dad. You rock.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Atlanta Pimp

I witnessed a lot over the last couple of months that has caused a stirring in my heart. God has completely broken my heart for victims of the sex trafficking industry. I had always felt like God was leading me down a path that involved working with women, but I believe He has clarified His purpose when I encountered Princess. For those not familiar with Princess's story, she is a 19 year sex trafficking victim who was rescued from that life after 3 years. Her rescue team: just a group of people from the Fusion Young Adult Ministry who are true doers of His word and not just hearers. Her life has made such a lasting impression on me that words can not even begin to describe.

During the times I spent getting to know Princess and the life she left behind, in the back of my mind, I always had a ton of questions. Many of them she answered without me ever having to ask a single thing. However, I was always left with so many unanswered questions. How could he treat a person this way? Why did he force her to sell her body for 3 years to complete strangers? Why did he fill her head with such lies about loving her and protecting her when he didn't do either? What happened in his life that made him this way? Why doesn't he care? Why is his heart so cold?

I think I may have found some answers from the most unlikely source: a pimp in Atlanta that shared with ABC News what his life is like. I found an article entitled A Day in the Life of an Atlanta Pimp. How befitting.

Kenneth "Fresh" Vaughn is a 33 year old Nashville native who frequents Atlanta for business with his family. To Fresh, Atlanta is a good place to go for money and respect. His business, pimping. His family, the three girls that work for him by selling themselves for sex. Fresh says that he "provides security and guidance in return for their hard-earned money." Makes me wonder what kind of security he is providing when he sends the girls off alone on "dates" with strangers who could beat, rape or kill them? Is he providing guidance when he shows one of his girls how to get a man's attention at a hotel pool with just a wink?

The article points out how the turn over rate in the sex trade industry is very high, so pimps must do regular recruitment. Fresh's newest family member is Rachel. She's a blonde 19 year old from New York, but is considered a veteran in the sex industry. Her mother, also a prostitute, introduced her 10 year old daughter to the lifestyle, where she has been stuck ever since. Fresh picked her up at a bus station. That's where he does a lot of his recruitment. Bus stations are filled with troubled young girls escaping bad lives, in search of someone to care for them.

"They're low-level hustlers that have the gift of gab. And they have a very, very keen sense of how to pick up on a young female's weakness."

Men like Fresh prey on vulnerable girls, many of which are running away from sexual or physical abuse in the home. Pimps can easily spot the lost looks in her eyes and woos her with nice cars, clothes, and the promise of being her boyfriend. He promises to provide everything she needs and she falls for it. Little does she know that in exchange for the guise of being provided for and protected, she will have to give away her mind, her body, and her soul to show her loyalty to him. She is no longer allowed to think for herself, to make her own choices, pick out her own clothes, have a bad day, call in sick, or leave. She is his property, his money maker, his slave. He does not care about her feelings, her dreams, her pain. It's strictly about making money.

Fresh considers himself a "young black entrepreneur." He uses various methods to sell his girls, namely the Internet. He posts pictures of them online and delivers them to waiting customers at hotels. For the remaining girls, he has them hang around the hotel pools and gyms, catching the eye of potential johns. He also has his girls work "the Track," an area of streets and seedy strip malls known for prostitution. In Atlanta, the Track can either be Fulton Industrial Boulevard or Metropolitan Avenue. The Track is usually deemed the area for the lowliest prostitutes. Girls are left alone to walk the dark streets and alleyways filled with drunken and sex starved men looking to have their fantasies fulfilled. The pimps are usually watching from afar in the comforts of a parked car. So much for providing protection.

Fresh has convinced himself that he is a savior to those girls, a father figure. "They sacrificed their minds, their hearts, their bodies for the nonsense that they go through every day for me," Fresh explained. "Therefore I give it my all, 110 percent. I give them protection, knowledge, guidance, wisdom, instructions, knowledge, understanding." When there is fighting amongst the women, Fresh quickly reminds them that their job is to make money for him. He tells them that they are free to leave whenever they want to, but reminds them that they would be trading their current life with a life of working at McDonald's. The fighting ends and Fresh is reassured that he still has control of their minds. After he is done verbally abusing and berating the girls, he "builds them back up" to maintain their loyalty. He consoles them, even takes one of the girls and sits her on his lap and asks "Why are you sad?" He pours into them a false sense of love and security, and the family remains intact.

At the conclusion of the article, it mentioned that Rachel never returned to Fresh after a night on the Track. Fresh did not seem the least bit concerned. I was not surprised because it was no secret that he did not consider her as anything except property. I was reminded of what Princess shared with me about pimps and girls that leave. She said that a pimp is not going to waste time searching for a girl that has left. He will easily pick up more to replace her that night. The supply of broken and bruised girls is endless. For the girl that has run away, it will only be a matter of time before she comes back to her pimp willingly. She has no home to go to and no friends to turn to. He is her everything and provides everything. She will leave with no money, no clothes, and no mind of her own. She wont last for very long with out him.

Fresh shed a little light on what it's like to be a pimp in Atlanta. It saddens me how pop culture has watered down and glamorized the "pimping" lifestyle and made it the idol of many young men and women. When you look past the money, cars and clothes, I wonder if these impressionable minds would feel comfortable forcing a 10 year old girl like Rachel to be raped for money on a daily basis? Would they be okay with stripping away every ounce of dignity and self worth a young girl has in order to "keep her loyal?" Would they be okay with threatening to kill if their girl ever dared to walk away? Would they be man enough to follow through with those threats to make a point? I don't think they would. But, there are real pimps that are okay with it all. They do it everyday. Right here in Atlanta.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thanks for Everything Ex Boyfriends!

Today has definitely been interesting to say the least. Over lunch, a friend and I had a light hearted talk about what we think men want. Obviously, we are doing everything wrong since we are both single. So my friend and I compared notes. Of the friends and associates that we have that have boyfriends or are married, they seem to have a common theme: long hair, dress to the 9s daily (heels included), they do not cook, clean, and they usually manage to appear needy (I need my light bill paid), of course they don't own anything, have no aspiration past where they are, drama filled (busting windows out of cars), live in the hood and stay away from church (cause men don't want church going women).

Yeah, that is soooo not me. I've cut my hair off; I dress for comfort, not attention; I cook; clean; manage to pay my bills every month; aspire for absolute greatness; so not about the drama; live in the suburbs; and am very faithful to my church. Sounds like I will be least by the world's standards.

We ran this list by a co-worker who has never had trouble in the men department and she basically confirmed our list. Men say they want independence, intelligence, tenacity, spirituality...but settle for everything but. Hmmmm. Men...really? Help a girl out.

Why has life gotten to this point? Why do women have to dumb it down in order for a man to show interest? Is that really what women want? Women, do you really want a man you have to always pretend you are less than your best around? Yeah, the pickings of straight men in Atlanta are slim to none but this only makes it just that much worse.

My response to all the craziness I cause on Facebook this afternoon...thank you to all my ex boyfriends! Yep, a big thanks for either breaking my heart and for every lesson I learned about myself, men and life...and how God fixed all of that.

Every relationship I have ever been in has taught me something. Either what to do, what not to do, what men like, what I like and what neither of us like. That was my measuring stick to navigate with my next relationship. What was I thinking? If I had learned so much, I would have been married and divorced a few times based on my track record with men. It's not so much what I learned then, it's what God has revealed to me at this junction of my life that needs to be removed from my thinking.

Case in point:

Thank you Chris S. for introducing me to sex far too early in life. You were the first guy of many that I somehow allowed myself to believe that if I have sex with you as often as you wanted, you would love me the way I needed in return. Such a lie of the enemy that took me until this time last year to realize.

Thank you Joshua for capturing my heart and being my friend above all else. You allowed me to be vulnerable and broken in your presence and you guarded me with all you could. You never took advantage of my weak moments and you etched a place in my heart that no one has ever been able to match. You were rough on the outside but truly had a heart of gold. You set the bar high.

Thank you Tyran for opening my eyes to the fact that married men do cheat...a lot! I know I was not the first nor the last but you made me really start to think about what it is I believe in when it came to marriage. You showed me what not to do and God showed me His purpose and view of marriage.

Thanks you Shawn for showing me how lost I was in the world and how desperate I was for God's love when I was waiting for you to fill that void. You showed me the ugly side of the enemy's perversion and how easy it is to buy into his broken promises. I allowed myself to do and say things that were so foreign to me, I literally lost who I was in you, just to have you near me. Thank you for understanding my need to leave it all behind.

Thank you Ryan for making me grow up and refuse to settle for less than I know I deserved, even before I knew it. Yeah the honeymoon phase was great but the red flags were there from the start. You showed me how to ignore the obvious, what low self esteem in men looked like, what a co-dependent relationship looked like, and how dysfunctional a relationship can get over time no matter how much we love each other. It was in all the chaos that I realized that route was not meant for me so I walked away, despite my heart wanting to stay. It was in that chaos, that God spoke to my heart and saved me from a path of destruction that would take me far from Him. It was in all that chaos that God ignited a passion for Him that man cannot match. God showed me what a man lead by God looks and acts like. God downloaded His perfect match into my heart and mind, and you do not fit that list. You taught me that change does happen, but we sometimes have to hit rock bottom before we allow God to scoop us up and dust us off. Thanks for allowing me to hit rock bottom.

I like my short hair and that I live in the safety of the suburbs with my nice lawns and good schools. I love my church and I love that I can dress up when I want but don't feel like I have to dress up for attention. I love that I love me cause God showed me how to love me. He loves me past sexual immorality, the desperation, the brokenness, the loneliness, the sin and the shame. He still shines me up from time to time cause I still fall in the dirt, but I'm OK with letting Him have my dirt. He makes everything glorious, even me. Even you. The world is going to tell me everyday that I am not good enough or pretty enough to find a mate or to even function in this world. Good thing I have a Father who likes to shield me from the lies and loves on me constantly. He makes sure I know that I am loved and that I do not have to search for it, it's already mine. My worth is not measured by the world's standards, but in the eyes of my Father who loves me to pieces, dirty and all.

Ladies, thank your exes, and allow God to love you like crazy. He spared you from some train wreck relationships and marriages that He never intended for you to be caught in anyway. He's putting the finishing touches on the one He wants for you and still shining you up in the meantime.

God on Mute

Pete Greig wrote a book title "God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayers." I haven't read it yet, but I have heard the term God on mute used many times before. Essentially, its when you pray to God for something and you get silence. No signs and wonder, no confirmation, nothing. Why does that happen? Why does God seem to get distant when we need him the most?

God does get silent. Alot. But God is also constantly moving. Sometimes the very things we ask for in prayer are not things or situations God wants for us. Hence the silence. Sometimes that silence is God's way of saying "no" or my favorite "just wait." Sometimes that unanswered prayer is God wanting to see if you really trust in Him enough to hold on until the last possible minute before He gives you what you need.

Sometimes the silence can be frustrating. Like in my case. Right now, I seriously feel like I am at a cross roads with a certain situation, to the point where it's almost stressing me out to think about. I am waiting on God to give me a sign, a thumbs up, a prophetic word, a dream, an embrace, some comfort, some clarity. At this point, I just want Him to shout His directions from the mountain top instead of leaving me to sift through the cryptic clues. I don't want to take matters into my own hands, but I seriously have no clue with which way to turn.

Despite His silence, I know He is still moving. I know He is working in my favor to restore what has been broken. Maybe it's my impatience that's getting the best of me. He is still moving, but maybe not fast enough for me. I'm still leaving it all in His hands, not allowing any distractions during this crazy time, keeping my eyes on Him and the Kingdom. He is still moving and I am still trusting.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Lost Ones

Atlanta is a famous city and word is spreading fast around the globe. No, it's not because Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympics or because of its rich history for being the birthplace of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's not because Atlanta is home to many celebrities like Usher and Elton John, Fortune 500 companies and the like. Its most important claim to fame in this day and age is sex. That's right, sex. Word is spreading like wildfire that Atlanta is the place to go for sex.

If I had not learned about Atlanta's dirty little secret a year ago and seen it with my own eyes a few weeks ago, I would have been like the majority of the people that live here that have no clue. I would have been ignorant to the fact that Atlanta is one of the top cities in the country for sex trafficking of children. Yes, children. Men are paying to have sex with children every day. Right now.

Atlanta is also known as a sex tourist city, thanks to another claim to fame, Hartsfield Jackson Airport, the world's busiest airport. A husband browses through a catalog of young girls on the internet and place his order online while his wife is preparing breakfast for the family. He kisses his children goodbye before boarding a plan to Atlanta "for business." He touches down in our great city and checks into his airport hotel room right before lunch. As he makes himself comfortable,he thinks back to the years of pornography that he had placed in front of his eyes. When the images on the pages and on the screen were no longer enough, he sought out the real thing. Having one affair after another was too complicated because women became emotional, wanted him to leave his family. He decided to pursue a less complicated route, sex with anonymous young girls. They catered to his fantasies, did not ask questions and were gone by the time the money hit her hand. A knock on the door, brings him back to reality; his online purchase had arrived. He will spend the next few hours paying to have sex with a child that could easily pass for his own teenage daughter. After the transaction is over, he boards a plane back home, usually in time for a late dinner with the family. Sounds simple enough, right. That's because it is.

On any given night, a young girl dresses herself up in a short skirt, a tight shirt, and heels to go to work. No amount of makeup can mask the pain and emptiness in her eyes. She thinks back to the troubled home of abuse she left a few years ago, in search of someone to care for her. A man approached her as she was alone in the mall and offered to give her a place to stay, to love her and provide for her. He said everything she needed to hear, words of affection and love she did not receive at home. In exchange for his love, she has to have sex with strangers every night for money. Her boyfriend takes care of all of her needs so showing her devotion to him in that way didn't seem like that big of a deal. She had never been taught her worth or how to be loved. This was all she knew and that was all he asked. She brings herself back to the present time, 5 years later with her boyfriend/pimp who still requires that she show her love on a nightly basis. He keeps a close eye on her from a parked car, alleyway, or behind bushes. He maintains an invisible leash on his property. The pretty young girl walks the tracks of Fulton Industrial Boulevard or Metropolitan Avenue in search of as many dates as she can score so she meets her boyfriend's nightly quota. The number of dates she has determines whether or not he will welcome her back with open arms or an open hand slap across the face.

As the pimp sits back and watches his young worker drive off on yet another date, he thinks about on how he got to where he is. He grew up in fatherless home, with a mother who was involved in one abusive relationship after another. Left to fend for himself most days, his only example of how a relationship was supposed to work was watching his mother work everyday, while her boyfriends played house. On Fridays, he watched his mother spend her earnings lavishing her boyfriend with nice clothes and shoes. He was lucky to get a meal. His mother seemed happy since she would never try to leave such a dysfunctional relationship. Her boyfriends gave her attention in exchange for her money. Topped off with the media's glorifying men who objectify women, he was left with a distorted way of viewing women that no one bothered to correct. He learned that women should cater to him and lavish him with whatever his heart desires, no matter how she had to get the money. He soon learns that sex sells, in more ways that one. He encountered a young girl in the mall five years ago, alone and helpless, and decided to see if he could sweet talk her into being his girl. The helpless girl wasted no time sharing her story and he wasted no time filling her head with promises. They walked out of the mall together and began a cycle of love for sex and sex for love.

A husband, a young girl, and a pimp. These are the lost ones. They are lost right here in Atlanta. They are lost in a world where they are seeking love and satisfaction in ways that will never be enough. These are the lost ones who do not know the love of the Father, a love that is sustaining, never failing, a love that covers a multitude of sins. A love and a devotion that redeems broken lives and saves souls. A love that heals scars, mends hearts, and pieces together broken dreams.

These are God's lost one. They are searching for Him and don't even know it. He is waiting for them with open arms. He has equipped His army of believers on Earth to help show them the way, the truth and the life. God has given us enough love to share with that co-worker who is struggling with pornography; with that friend that lives in the troubled home that is desperate for love; with that fatherless young man who needs to know the love of the Father.

These are God's lost ones. And He is waiting for us to help them home.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Such A Time As This

I can't remember the exact season that I was in, but at some point in my life, I lost my passion for writing. I could remember a time when books and writing were the absolute most exciting and positive thing in my life as a child. I had imaginary stories and characters that were my escape from my everyday routine. I loved it.

Then life happened. Puberty hit. Boys started to take notice of me. I started to take notice of them. Writing became less important. Only something I did for assignments. The passion was slowly fading away. Then high school hit, peer pressure, the need for acceptance, the need to feel loved, the need to feel anything. My passion for creative writing had died. Home life wasn't great, so I used my friends as an escape. When they didn't fill that void, I found my escape in the boys that told me I was pretty. I traded my passion and desire for writing, for just passion and desire. Bad choice.

Fast forward a decade and some change and about 100 million bad mistakes, and now I am on the other side of the fence. After 2 kids and years of searching for someone to fill that void, I found the light at the end of that dark and lonely tunnel. I found my Father...well more like I stopped running from Him and let Him catch me. We have a simple pact: Give Him all of my junk and He will love me like crazy. I don't have to go out of my way to please Him and He loves me past the hurt and dirt I brought with me.

My journey for righteousness started in July 2009 when God spoke to me for the very first time, in my drive way when I was straight raising hell with someone, but that's for another post. I came to Victory in mid August of 2009 and never left. I mean literally never left. I hit the ground running absorbing everything He had to offer as well as everything Victory had to offer. I was thirsty, anxious to change my life and change the world.

But He said "wait." Yeah, I didn't get that either. He wanted to teach me how to trust Him and allow Him to guide my steps. Not an easy feat for someone who is used to be in control. So I stepped back from the driver's side of my life, allowed God to work on mending my heart and I waited. Just wasn't sure what for.

Then it happened. God wanted me to write a letter to Aiden's dad. Took me 2 days to figure out what to say that didn't involve attitude. But by the time the pen hit the paper, I had written a 2 page letter with words that I swear to this day I didn't write. Kinda like the Holy Spirit took over and replace my anger with words of calm, focus, control and sincerity. I gave him the letter in obedience and never heard a word about it.

Then it happened again. God had me sharing scriptures on peace, faith, wisdom, His love,and forgiveness with Aiden's dad. I found articles and devotionals to send to him. It was working cause God was getting through to him.

Then it happened again! I prayed for boldness to spread God's love to people around me that needed it. God said "write letters." I wrote out 5 heartfelt letters of God's love and devotion to friends I knew needed that bit of encouragement. God said "now write one to Aiden's dad." I said no. God convicted my heart by showing me a vision of Aiden's dad crying in his car. My heart broke and after a week of stalling, I allowed the Holy Spirit to order my words to write the letter. I felt freedom when I delivered that letter though we never spoke about it.

Fast forward a couple of months to just 2 days ago and it finally hit me. God was preparing me for such a time as this. He ignited a spark in me to recognize my gift...writing. My Father said wait and trust Him and in my obedience, He promised to release blessings and great power to me. He wants me to touch hearts and change the world with words. He wants me to be bold and speak of His loves to those that need it and will receive it and to those that need it and won't receive it.

Such a time as this. Jake Hamilton's song The Anthem spoke to my heart during worship this afternoon. God prepared me to re-ignite that passion, my gift that had been there all along. He prepared me to be obedient and still speak of His love, His promise, His truth, His heartbreak, even for those that might not receive it. For such a time as this. People can turn a blind eye to what's going around them, but words tend to pierce hearts a bit better. You have to process words into sentences and paint that picture in your head. That's God planting a seed. God wants me to help plant seeds even if I never see the plants grow. And I'm alright with that because He still gets the praise and glory.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Father, the Dreamcatcher

Last night, I had a dream about you. In my dream, you came back to me after realizing that this is where you heart lay. You even gave me a ring. But that ring was used, second hand, dull, not sincere. And through out that whole dream, all I could think about were reasons why God didn't allow this union to happen in the first place. I actually felt doubt, uncertainty, unrest in my heart about you in that dream. Have never felt emotions in my dream, literally felt them like I was truly living these moments out in real life. God still speaks and moves, even in my dreams.

He is good...all the time.

I am a signs and wonders type of Christian. I believe in God, I know He is all powerful, still performing miracles and healing everyday. But sometimes God has to give me some confirmation before I recognize it is Him at work. I know most days, God is standing in Heaven, tapping His foot like "Really... you still need more proof that I am who I say I am? Get it together." But thankfully, God is patient and merciful and doesn't mind showing me for the millionth time that He's got me. Thanks Father...seriously.

I had been praying for God to reveal things to me in my dreams and as I go about my day. And of course, God being God, He obliges me. He gives me opportunities to witness to people, He gives me those "a ha" revelations at the strangest times, and He speaks in my dreams.

I have a tendency to wonder "what if" a lot and even worse, I "romanticize the past" as the charming Beth Moore calls it. I wonder "what if I handle this situation this way, even though I know its against your will for me?" Or "what if I seek out and pursue this guy I like, even though you've told me to wait?" Or I start to ponder the enemy's enchanting whispers that holding out for hope on someone God has saved me from, might make them come back.

Thankfully, my Father still has bigger plans for me and would rather keep tapping His foot in Heaven, than allow me to travel down the wrong path. It hit me on the drive home from hanging out with friends that God spoke comfort and peace into my heart in that dream. He understands I still struggle from time to time with really rationalizing the fact that I have let go and moved on, so He reminds me of the reasons why He spared me from making such a tragic mistake with that relationship. Being able to actually feel those feelings of doubt and unrest while dreaming was just a reminder of how I feel when I am awake and examine that relationship. Whenever I start down that "what if" path, God quickly reveals to me that He spared me from a relationship that was destined to be stressful, unhappy, complacent, and unfulfilled and totally unaligned with His idea of how a relationship and marriage is supposed to be.

Sometimes I wonder if my daydreaming is the cause of so many rocky relationships too. Well sort of. When my mind wanders about my current single status and the ever present desire to court and get married, God usually sends a broken relationship my way to examine. He reminds me with constant examples of what happens when people go outside His plan and do things their own way. It is revealed to me the consequences of couples that don't guard their hearts and adhere to sexual purity and allow sin to be center of their relationships, not Him. I am faced with adultery, broken trust, divorce, heartbreak, wasted year and unsatisfactory lives.

But my Father adores me. He thinks enough of me to spare me from that. He desires for me to be filled with blessings and happiness that He doesn't mind showing me the reality of what happens when I am impatient and decide to take matters into my own hands. Only a loving protecting father would go to such lengths to ensure that I inherit all the riches due to His beloved daughter. Doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Jesus Talk

I have a confession...I am a Facebook junkie. Seriously. It's to the point where I check Facebook when I get up in the morning, before I go to bed and I check it maybe a 100 times during the day. Facebook is up on the next tab while I type this.

I am just like the other 40 gazillion people that update their statuses every hour and post a 1000 pictures a day. But, I think I'm slightly different than the rest of the Facebook community. I try to spread the love of God as much as I can to the 500+ friends I have. Yeah that's a lot of time to do some Jesus talk (thanks Aaron for coining that phrase this morning).

I never really thought the scriptures or Christian song lyrics I put registered with anyone outside my church friends. Didn't know my random praises to God for moving in my life pierced the heart of some of my friends living outside the faith. But it does. They've told me. Score one for the Kingdom.

I have a friend who I have known since middle school. We both had similar families and grew up in the church like every other kid in Columbus, MS. She moved to Georgia a few years ago and we keep in contact from time to time. We hang with different crowds and our lives are on two opposite ends of the spectrum. She likes to party, I live to hang with my small group friends and do outreaches. She likes flashy cars and clothes, I get excited about spring dresses at Wal-Mart. But Facebook is our common ground.

My church's youth ministry, 212, had their annual spring break trip to the GA mountains called Ignite. I had never been but heard amazing testimonies and of course my middle schooler was going. So some friends and I headed up to Jasper, GA for a night I will never forget. This was the night I was baptized in the Holy Spirit for the very first time. Completely jacked up with a gym full of young Jesus freaks. When I finally stopped shaking and laughing in the streets, I updated my Facebook status to give God His glory.

Then it happened. I got an email from my party friend. She had been checking out my saved and sanctified status updates and this one just spoke to her. She wanted to know what church I attended where the kids were that on fire for God. I told her about Victory, Fusion and 212. She agreed to come to Fusion the following Wednesday. Score two for the Kingdom.

My friend enjoyed the service, the awesome Fusion band and the fact that 300+ people that were our age were jumping, singing, and dancing praises to God. She had never seen that before. She only came to that one service and hasn't asked about coming again, but she did admit that she felt like God was calling her back to Him. She took that leap of faith to come and visit a church, thanks to a Facebook status.

A co-worker of mine stopped me in the mail room and told me that she enjoys reading my inspirational messages on Facebook. It makes her want to get her relationship right with God. During my s2s trip, a old high school classmate sent me a private message on Facebook asking if I could pray for her to get out of controlling relationship. Another co-worker likes to read about the ministry work I do, like rescuing Princess from sex slavery. Another co-worker asked me to pray for her. My co-worker Aaron tagged me in a post just this morning thanking me for my Jesus talk. Score 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 for the Kingdom.

Paul said in Corinthians that we are all living letters. My Fusion Pastor Johnson Bowie, reminds us that our lives should be a reflection of Jesus Christ because sometimes we are the only bit of Jesus some people get. I strive to always "be Jesus" cause I never know who is watching. Never know who needs that bit of inspiration, that jolt of faith. Never know what seeds we plant with just a Facebook status update.

Back to Facebook for some more Jesus talk.

Juice Boxes and Sex Education

For the past couple of days, I have been monitoring reports about the Helena, Montana public school district's proposed health curriculum that will introduce sex education to kindergartners. Right between a juice box break and recess will be talks about penises and vaginas.

What has our world come to?

I am relieved that parents have turned out in droves to protest this absurd idea of teaching sex to kids that can barely comprehend the concept of walking in a single filed line down the hall way. But, it saddens me that ABC News has reported that President Obama supports this idea. I tend to want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on most political decisions, but this just will not fly. Where have our moral standards gone? Has this country turned so far away from God's standards to plant the seeds of sexual immorality into the children?

We live in a hyper sexualized world. Sex is everywhere you turn. Movies, TV, music, books, advertisement, everywhere. Kids are like walking sponges, taking in everything that parents don't filter. When the Internet and television replace family teachings on morals and values, it's no wonder that middle schoolers are frequently engaging in sexual activity. I've had countless talks with my middle schooler's teachers about how sex has taken over the schools because of the media, pop culture and lack of parental supervision. Why has it come to this? Why has the country become so accepting of practices that go against God's will?

The proposed curriculum will introduce appropriate names of body parts in kindergarten and the concept that it's alright to have same sex attraction in first grade. Fifth graders will discuss homosexual relationships and sexual intercourse, "which includes but not limited to vaginal, oral or anal penetration." People that support this proposal believe that children should not be shelter from what is in the world. What about teaching them to follow Romans 12:2 and not conform to the world?

Believers in Christ have been made to be set apart from the world and issues like this should cause a stirring in your heart. This is what breaks the heart of God. We have been giving the authority of the Father and the boldness of the Holy Spirit to speak against the sinful nature of the world and to speak God's truth. This world is slowly falling down around us and we must take a stand and reclaim God's Kingdom on Earth.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (MSG) states "The world is unprincipled. It's dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn't fight fair. But we don't live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren't for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity."

It's time to pray for a revival in this nation. A revival of righteousness and truth. A revival of family values and honoring God's truth. A revival to raise mighty champions who turn against the sins of the world, who remain pure in the bodies and mind, who honor the Father by honoring His Word.

You Make Everything Glorious

I took the title of this post from a David Crowder Band song I heard on the way home. I am sure I have heard it a few times but today it just seemed to speak right to me. The words were a bit more clear as if I was meant to hear them. God is funny like that sometimes. I don't think I was in a state where I needed that bit of reassurance. Or maybe I was now that I think about it. I have been thinking of somethings lately. Ok, God, you win. Thanks for the unexpected bit of comfort. You rock.

The lyrics stood out more than everything.

You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
You make everything glorious
And I am yours
What does that make me?

God makes everything glorious...even us. We are made in His image so if He is already glorious, we get His glory and righteousness by default. We belong to the living Savior and it is by His grace that we have been saved and made whole again. He loves us, He delights in us, He wants to shower us with the one true and perfect love.

So why doesn't everyone get this? Why don't we all let God's love dwell in our hearts and minds and not be consumed by the desires of the flesh? Why don't we simply accept His free, no strings attached love instead of giving away every bit of ourselves to carnal desires, only to be left broken. Why don't we all know that we are already glorious?

The world shows us that we must seek love and acceptance. We must date around, have sex, run a muck and live life to the fullest to find true happiness. We must lose ourselves in relationships, submit to the desires of our heart in order to feel love. We have to have someone complete us. Women have to flirt and dress sexy to get the attention of men. Men have to treat women like objects instead of precious rubies. We have to put on our best face and sometimes ignore obvious red flags for the sake of having someone in our lives. We have to give into our own desires or the desires of others in order to prove our love. And if it doesn't work out, we break up, nurse our wounds for a while until the next one comes along. Notice I said nurse our wounds cause rarely do we let those wounds heal before we rip the band aid off and let someone else get subjected to our infections.

Gross I know, but how true does it all sound? Been there, done that.

Sometimes it's hard to break habits that we have grown accustomed to. Trust me, I was that girl that dressed sexy and gave myself away to men in the hopes that they would give me love back. If that's you, I can save you the wasted time and heartache. I know how the story ends and trust me, it isn't good. Man, was that a hard lesson learned. But, I did learn and am thankful for knowing my worth to God.

The world we live in does an awesome job of helping us buy into the enemy's lie that sexual immorality, idolatry, greed and a host of other sins are the key to happiness. Sex sells. Sex is in the music we listen to, the televisions shows and movies we watch, the books we read. Everywhere. Romantic comedies have women swooning over happily ever after, unrealistic expectations of men that usually leave women disappointed when things don't end up like the movies. It life were like the Notebook, there would be far more happy couples in the world.

But God makes everything glorious. Even me. Even you. To Him, your past does not matter. He just wants your heart. No strings attached. No putting on your best face to impress Him. He wants you just the way you are, even if you are a bit broken and bruised. No wondering if He likes you. Trust me, He loves every bit of you. No pressure, no awkward "where is this going" conversation. He wants to shower you with treasures and blessings beyond your imagination and with a love that transcends all understanding. That sounds sweeter than any romance movie I've seen.

And all He wants is your heart. Cause you are already glorious. You are already His beloved.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Amazing s2s opportunity

As I mentioned in my 1st post, some amazing things have happened in my life over the past few weeks. My young adult ministry, Fusion, has kinda like its own dedicated missions team called Sunday2Sunday or s2s. s2s is the brain child of Avery and Dede Nesbitt who decided to create a way to do missions work right here in the city. And boy does Atlanta need some missionaries!

So I got the chance to go on the June 2010 s2s missions tour and about life changing. s2s's mission is to open your eyes to the city and world we live in so that you can't leave unchanged. And trust me...ministering to the homeless, laughing and talking with those that depend on kind strangers for food and praying for sex trafficking victims on the streets put life into perspective. It breaks your heart for what breaks the heart of God.

I left the experience wanting to continue doing something, anything. Even if I couldn't go back out and sit with some of the people I encountered, I wanted to let the world know about the atrocities right here in our city. I'm a Facebook junkie and I often post articles and my own commentary about social justice issue and I guess Dede and Avery were noticing. It struck me the other day that I needed to have an outlet to vent my frustration and I knew journal writing wouldnt be effective. I would get bored and not keep it up but would still have all these thoughts and emotions bottled up. So what else could I do...start writing. I have always liked to write though I got out of the habit of writing creatively years ago. But now was my chance to let my voice be heard, well to an extent. I didnt want anyone reading my blog just yet. I wanted to share my own private thoughts and start getting some sort of structure and order to all the chaos in my head.

Almost as soon as I posted the desire to start writing again, Dede and Avery commented and inboxed me about writing for s2s's blog about the plight of the city and country. They had never any seen any of my writing but they wanted me to blog for s2s!!! I was excited, honored and absolutely nervous. Avery and Dede are awesome and down to Earth but I hold them in high regard cause they are leaders that I admire. s2s is their baby and I wanted to make sure I do good work.

I have so many articles to comment, its the narrowing it down to relevant issues and to not sound too preachy. So I took a stab at my first s2s blog entry. I hope they like it cause I'm kinda proud of it. Thanks to all of my new friends that inspired that entry.

One Simple Thing

I made some new friends recently. There’s Samuel, tall and lanky, almost like a gentle giant. He speaks softly as he tells stories about his life and family. Then, there’s Wallace. He’s a licensed barber who was taught how to cut hair by the same man who taught his mother 40 years earlier. There’s Robert, who works construction, and has a weakness for sweets. Melanie, the avid movie fan, has a laugh and quick wit that makes anyone feel right at home. Lewis is a former rodeo bull rider from Jacksonville, FL with a love for fishing. He has a heart of gold and smiles at the thought of his 13 year old daughter like any proud father would.

My friends are all people who are full of life, hope, and faith for the future. As the day winds down, just like us, they prepare themselves for bed. While we check the locks and windows before climbing into bed, my friends line the steps of warehouses and churches with thin, tattered blankets and their belongings stuffed in a bag as a pillow. They are regular people just like you and I, except they are all homeless.

These are the names of some of the homeless people that the city of Atlanta chooses to ignore. They are not just a statistic. They are not just the people we avoid eye contact with as we stroll pass Woodruff Park. These are not just people to pity during the 90 second news clip during dinner. These are God’s children, just like us. So why have we forgotten them?

The world teaches us through the media that the homeless are a nuisance, a burden to the city. They tarnish the image of prosperity and safety our city officials try so desperately to portray. But when was the last time a police officer or a politician stopped and spoke with the man sitting alone by the fountains of Woodruff park? When was the last time you stopped to bring a warm blanket and meal the woman sleeping on a church steps?

So, the question many ask is “What can I do to help the homeless?” Yeah, we can all do our Christian duties and volunteer at homeless shelters or food banks passing out hot meals and smiles. But when your assignment is done, what do you take from that experience? What do you remember? The nice thing you did for the less fortunate? The lady in the green shirt that asked for a second helping? The man in the red hat that just stared off into the distance? The little kid with the holes in his shoes?

Is that it?

What were their names? Where was the lady from? Does the man with the red hat have any family in the city? What does that little kid want to be when he grows up? Do you remember? Did you even stop and ask?

I’ve read countless articles and news reports about the plight of the homeless. Plenty of facts, stats and weak solutions. But I don’t recall seeing many names and stories associated with these percentages. Why? Cause a name and a story makes that lady in the green shirt real. It’s hard to ignore a bright eyed kid with dreams for the future and holes in his shoes.

Again the question is “What can I do to help the homeless?” The answer is very simple. Take a minute to stop and ask them their name. Sit along side them and let them tell you their story. Make them real and watch God change your heart towards them.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth

A couple of weeks ago, our small group assignment was to create a collage of words and pictures of what we think it would look like to bring the kingdom of Heaven to Earth. We were given magazines, poster boards, scissors, glue and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Simple enough.

I finished my work of art rather quickly and was proud of the results considering I had to use magazines like Cosmo, Style, Essence and other "worldly" mags. I realized it wouldn't be easy to find images or phrases that represents the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth. Those magazines teach women 99 ways to please your man sexually...outside the covenant of marriage. They teach you make up and hair tricks to make us feel beautiful on the outside...yet broken and wounded on the inside. They teach us that being stick thin is to be idolized when the word of God tells us that we are not to bow before any idol.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me." Exodus 20:1-3. A simple concept that has escaped the mind of the masses. Though people aren't praying to golden calves, they are obsessed with the "treasures" of the world. Sex, money, fame, careers, the quest for love, name it, someone is freaking out about it right now. We spend more time worrying about our outer appearance than we do about our inner appearance.

If God were to show up right now and ask to take a look at your heart, would He find something to be proud of? Would He be pleased with the state of your heart and mind? Would He dwell there?

How do we bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth? Change. We change our hearts by letting the Holy Spirit dwell in us. We change our perspective on the world by allowing God to break our hearts for what breaks His. We change the way we see people, the way we see life, the way we operate in the world filled with sin and despair. We change...and we allow our transformation to be the light of Jesus that people see.

We change. We stop running from God's truth and surrender to His will. Yeah that's the tricky part. Surrendering to God's will means we will have to let go of the pleasures of the world. We would have to stop having sex, stop polluting our ears and eyes with lustful and degrading music and film. We would have to start loving others even when they sin against us. We would have to step out of our comfort zone and stand up for Jesus even when others refuse to listen. We have to pray and discern matters instead of flying by the seat of our pants. We realize that God sees us a beautiful and holy and that we don't have to give ourselves away to be loved. We have to stop searching for the one and allow God to shine us up and present us to the one He has waiting for us. We have to learn to put all of our hopes, dreams, fears, and sorrows in His hands and not try to do life on our own. We have to read His love letter to us. We have to shed our old lives, die to ourselves, and follow our Savior.

Have I lost you yet? We have to change. To bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth means we have to change the way we do things now. The world can no longer be our measuring stick for progress...our Father in Heaven is the standard.

Change comes with time but God is patient. Change doesn't happen over night but at some point, you have to make that first leap towards Him. Trust me, He will catch you.

'Virtual preaching'...wave of the future or problem waiting to happen?

OK so obviously this blogging things is going to be my saving grace cause I surf the net for news stories and opinions daily. Some I agree with, some I don't. This one is leaving me with mixed feelings.

Virtual preaching. Yep We've finally arrived in the age of technology taking over the Gospel. So to speak.

CNN posted an article about churches that use technology to "beam" the image of the pastor on to the church's main stage for the sermon. Yeah, they still have praise and worship, offering, etc, but when its time for the message, the likeness of the pastor is displayed on stage and on the monitors for the congregation. Sounds very Star Trekky to me but I'm sure its effective.

Or is it?

Pros: I attend Victory World Church in Norcross, GA. It is an awesome 9,000 member multi-national non denomination place of worship that has basically saved my life and sanity. With 9,000 members and growing, you can imagine the problem with the crowd on the weekends. We have 4 services each weekend. Yes, 4. One on Saturday night and 3 on Sunday. Our senior Pastor, Dennis Rouse is amazing and delivers the messages at each service with so much energy and gusto. But I know it wears on him. So being able to open satellite locations to ease the congestion of our main campus sounds ideal. Pastor D does one service and we have less traffic in the parking lot.

Cons: But what about that much needed access to the pastor? I applaud any pastor that takes a few minutes after service to be available to speak with their congregation. No pastor should be inaccessible to their flock. So if you attend a virtual service, when do you get that hand shake from the pastor? That brief moment to bounce an idea or questions off the pastor? OK, I know that associate pastors will be there to fill in the gap but if a satellite church has its own staff, pastors, etc, why not make it a church plant avoid all the tech confusion?

I am open to any creative ways to bring more people back to the church. Even if it means wearing jeans to services, having flat screens in the sanctuary, and debit machines for the offerings. Whatever makes it easy for people. I am just in fear that all this ease and convenience will lead people to just attend church via the web or TV and not be apart of a corporate environment of other believers. Where will people tithe if they don't attend an actual church service? What happens to community building when people rely on streaming sermons? Who and what will keep the doors of the church open when everyone is at home in front of their computers on Sunday morning? Virtual preaching is good in theory, but can it be doing harm too?

I'm officially a blogger

So where do I begin? I'm actually kinda surprised I decided to enter the every popular world of blogging. How this all happened was not out of me wanting to be up on the latest media craze. I think this was all birthed out of the need to be obedient to God. I have been on an absolutely roller coaster of a ride for the past few weeks and have been filled with so many emotions, visions, thoughts, ideas, etc but I haven't been able to get everything out in the open. Sometimes I feel like I can't express my thoughts to people around me for various reasons but after all that has transpired recently and over the past year, I knew it was time to let the flood gates open.

So where do I begin? I'm a Jesus freak...plain and simple. I have come to know the love of God and I can never imagine operating in this world without that peace and protection. My life has undergone a complete transformation within the past year...all for the greater good. I will slowly catch the world (by that I mean myself) up on how I got to where I am today...a lover of Christ, a missionary in the making, a world changer, a leader.

More to come...