Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Life

It's been a few days since I last made an entry and I hate that. Especially hate that this 90 day devotional is taking a bit longer than 90 days. Well actually I don't mind that so much. I have never been one for reading a devotional every single day but I do try to get it in every couple of days. It also allows me a bit of time to reflect on random revelations that I have in the mean time.

Anyway, my thoughts are with Keith, Alycha, Cristal and Kemesha in Mexico. I have an extra soft spot for mission work though I have never been on a missions trip. Its just something about devoting your life and purpose to spreading the gospel to people that may not otherwise hear about Jesus that just amazes me. It's mind numbing to think about all the countries in the world that do not have a large Christian population. In these days, I am constantly reminded about how Paul talks about singleness being a gift. Had I come to embrace God as a teen, I probably would not have gotten pregnant out of wedlock, which kinda limits my ability to do international missions work. Limits but not stop. But a friend reminded me on FB yesterday that everyone has a different path to take. I know for a fact that if Gavin had not been born, I would not be in Georgia and Aiden definitely would not be here. Everything works divinely according to God's plan. I'm sure He didn't intend on me having 2 kids outside of marriage but He is allowing me to still be present and accounted to do His business.

I've decided to answer the call and join Nate's team to help expand his ministry. Nate is an awesome man of God and has a heart the size of an ocean. I have taken a mom and daughter into my home while they get back on their feet and its all possible because Nate has this crazy way of making things happen. Well actually, Nate is very obedient to God's directions and calls upon other people that he knows are equally obedient. I think this ministry is going to be something amazing and he is rallying a good group of people to help stand behind it. Grateful that he can see my heart for God and His people. Means I am doing something right. Score one for the kingdom.

I'm am still listening out for God to give me some direction on my calling. In the mean time, I am enjoying the place that I am in and the people around me. I couldn't ask for a better community of people around me that truly know the importance of keeping God first, obey His commands and having a heart for others. I have some great friends that I can call upon when in need and for them to help keep me accountable of my actions. Now it's time for me to continue pressing forward, stepping up and out with boldness and courage. The harvest is always plentiful but the laborers are few. Working to bring more laborers into the Kingdom to be about our Father's business.

Friday, September 24, 2010


One of the most powerful words I know of besides Jesus, is faith. Faith is a trust in things that are unseen. It is by faith that we are saved in Jesus Christ. None of us here on Earth now have every seen Jesus, but it is our faith in His life, death, and resurrection that frees us from sin and condemnation. It is by faith alone that we are given the gift of salvation. Strong stuff.

Our faith or lack there of can make or break us. I believe that society's lack of faith in God is what is destroying our nation and our world. People kill themselves each and every day because they lacked the faith to know that God will bring them out of their temporary situation. People give up hope because they believe that God has forgotten about them. One set back can be the end all be all for someone that does not have a strong faith in the Creator. It breaks my heart for people that are close to me to not have faith that their situation is only temporary. It breaks my heart that they idolize trivial issues and ignore God's desire for them. It's eye opening how some people walk through life covered in confusion and sin and still don't think to submit to God to be released from their struggles.

I am grateful for my life of brokenness and despair before coming back to Christ because I see the world with a new set of eyes. I know what its like to be absolutely bound to sin and shame and I also know the pure joy and love of God and the freedom in Him. Even when I am going through my own storms and battles, I lean on my Savior for strength and come to Him with a heart of thanksgiving for the works that I know He is already doing in my life. Why doesn't everyone get that? Why doesn't everyone know how life saving faith is?

It's times like these that I am extra grateful to have the love of my Savior poured over me and to have the desire to show His love to others. It's moments like this where I know how strong the need for the Gospel is because this world is so broken and desperate. Praying for a revival of spirits and lives and true encounters with the Risen King. So in love with my Savior right now for loving me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 12: What Do You Crave?

"My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!-insatiable for your nourishing commands." Psalm 119:20 (MSG)

In early 2009, I began having this weird longing to go back to church. Now mind you, I had been in GA since 2000 and could count on one hand how many times I had been to church. Once I left Mississippi and the routine of going to church every Sunday, I started doing my own thing. I was new to the state and finding a church just was not on my radar. I would sometimes feel bad for not going to church but never convicted enough to do something about it. However, that longing, that craving, that thirst for God started to get very strong. I found myself obsessing over church websites trying to figure out where I was supposed to go but could never step out on faith and make the move. This was always when me and Ryan started having our break down in communication and in hindsight, I believe God was calling me back to Him to prepare me for the trials that were coming soon. He was still pursuing me even after living outside His will for almost a decade. He was still in love with me even when I allowed an atheist to shake what little faith and understanding I had of Him. He still desired me even when I denied Him...and then I ended up craving Him.

I still remember coming to Victory in August 2009, just a few weeks after having my first encounter with God. That overwhelming craving for God was at its peak and I didn't know what to do with it. When God spoke to me that night in July and told me that "this is not who you are." I surrendered to Him right there and that craving started to become satisfied. I was so overwhelmed with Him presence and my brokenness, that I had a panic attack. A couple of weeks later, I was at my first service at Victory and felt the weight of the world lift off my shoulders. I was home and God was glad to see me.

I crave to always have that feeling of satisfaction and overwhelming presence of God but in all reality, I don't. I don't always have these supernatural experiences where God speaks clear as day or that I am just baptized in the Holy Spirit every time I call on Him. But I crave those days. I crave God's attention and affection. I long to please Him and follow His commands. I long to share His love with others. But does all of that happen on the regular? Nope, because usually my life is crowded with junk and distractions. I spend too much time worrying about "minor" issues, on the Internet, watching TV (or catching up usually), running errands, raising kids, being a friend, sister, counselor, life coach, leader, etc, that I don't always leave time for God. I worry that there is not enough hours in the day when there is plenty of time but only one of me. Even in all the chaos, God still wants His time.

I miss that season of craving God and His presence. Not that I don't long for Him now because I do desire to keep drawing closer to Him. But that overwhelming, tangible craving to be with Him is not always there. One of my main desires is to continue to grow more with Him and press forward in this spiritual journey. I have been feeling rather bored with sameness and it's because I feel stagnant. I need something, I need God. I need Him to shake things up for me, to give me boldness to speak of His love to strangers, to "step up and lead" as He has called me to do. So why haven't I done these things? Because I let other things get in the way of that passion that I should have for the King. When I am worried about the kids health, I am not trusting that He is a healer and that I should have no fear. When I am worrying about money, I am not trusting that He is a provider. When I am wasting time on foolishness, I am not giving God His glory and filling my time with things that please Him.

Wow, just had a revelation. I have needed a break from sameness and something new to do with my life. I've been asked to do some work with a friend's ministry which I am happy to do. This would be pleasing to God, this will be a way to grow with others and reach out to God's lost and hurting. My excitement and thirst to do more for the Kingdom is growing and this just might be the outlet I need to be creative and allow God to use me.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Love Thy Neighbor

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31

How many of us know our neighbors? Not just know them by the brief "hellos" you exchange when you both happen to be outside at the same time, but really know your neighbors. Have you ever invited them over for dinner? Cheered their kids on at their little league game? Brought a casserole over because they were ill? Kept an eye on their house because they were out of town? Probably not.

We live in a society where everyone keeps to themselves. No one really watches out for each other or takes pride in keeping their neighbors and neighborhoods safe. We are so private and guarded that we turn a blind eye to others so no one comes looking into our own windows. How can we be followers of Christ and not love our neighbors?

In the past few weeks, the local news has reported of two families in Cobb County that were living in absolute squalor along with their children. On August 16, 2010, police responded to the call at the house of James and Anne Cardona and their two pre-school age girls. The 5 year old weighed 160 lbs, three times the normal size of a child her age, and could not walk 10 feet without wheezing. The 4 year old weighed 89 lbs, two times the size of a child her age and was found wearing a urine soaked diaper and sucking a bottle. Both had rotted teeth, filthy bodies and lice infested, matted hair. The house was infested with roaches and spiders. Bare mattresses were in bedrooms with stained floors and walls. The house smelled of rotted food, excrement, and dirt. Neighbors knew there were children living in the house, but why did it take so long for someone to report the living conditions? They knew the little girls could barely communicate because of the neglect but who cared enough to save them from the neglect? Who loved this hopeless family?

The second family in Cobb County was living in far worse conditions than the Cardona family. In Mableton just a few days ago, police finally responded to the desperate pleas of a woman who was concerned about her neighbors. Christian and Ruth Swanson were arrested for animal hoarding and child cruelty after police found maggot infested food, garbage piled to the ceiling and two decomposing animals in the bedroom of the two young girls that lived in the home. The refrigerator was full of rotten food and there was excrement in the bathroom. Some of the toys found outside had not been moved in a year. What was interesting about this case was the fact that a neighbor had called to the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) several times but was told they did not have enough evidence to investigate child neglect. Some of the neighbors reported hearing screams from the home. Others became concerned about the smell. Obviously no one from the state loved these children enough to take a concerned neighbor seriously.

What would happen if we all just stopped for a minute and introduced ourselves to our neighbors? What would our communities look like if everyone knew their neighbors and helped each other out if they were in need? How would the lives of children be changed if they knew that they lived in a safe and healthy environment because someone took the time to care for them? What would this world look like if every follower of Christ really loved their neighbors like the commandment says. Jesus' love would flow from house to house, neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city. People would have a comfort and peace that only Jesus can provide because they would see His love for them in action, all because someone loved thy neighbor.

Day 11: Free Thinking

"For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." 1 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

I love the fact that through Jesus, I have been set free. Free of everything. Freedom from sin, freedom from condemnation, freedom from the world. I still have to remind myself to stay pure in my thoughts and in my intentions so that I can remain free from the bondage of sin. I don't see movies or televisions shows the way I used to. I find myself turning from shows that have sex scenes in it and refrain from some movies all together. I was rather proud of myself for not seeing Takers because I am pretty sure it was filled with sex, drugs, and sin. Why be accepting of the very sins that Jesus died to save me from? That has been one of those eye opening revelations I have had lately. When you think of things in the world with that prospective, it makes it harder to do and view things that you once did.

I try not to make my walk with Christ a list of rules and restrictions. I sometimes get disappointed when I know I am not living up to God's expectations of me but I have to remember that I am going to fall short of God's glory...many, many times again. He doesn't expect me to be perfect which is why He supplies me with ample grace and mercy each new day. He just wants me to have pure thoughts and intentions. A clean heart and a clean mind. Free from things that can keep me bound and far from Him.

Yeah, it does suck to have to forfeit some of my favorite shows, movies, or music but the less and less I expose myself to those things, the cleaner my spirit becomes. After a while, it doesn't even bother me anymore because I know that my restraint is pleasing to my Savior. My intention is to please Him and not my flesh so the sacrifice is very much well worth it.

I know there are still areas of my life that need to be completely free from. I am still working on allowing God to be my fulfillment and not long for an Earthly companion (who doesn't!). However, I do know that me settling for anything less than God's best is not an option which I know is pleasing to Him as well. This is my period of reconstruction and molding. My "in the course of time" period with just me and Jesus. I also know I need to set myself free from thinking that I need to be in control of what happens in my life and the life of others. God has totally revealed that I cannot be any one's Savior and it's not my job to save the world. It hurts to see friends and family struggling with sin, shame and guilt but at the end of the day, my salvation is not theirs. My devotion to God is not their devotion. My testimony is not their answer. Each person has their own gift of salvation and has to answer to God for the sin and shame in their lives. My story can be a reflection of God's grace and power, but the people I encounter have to make their own decision to follow Him and to live out His commandment and turn against sin.

I look back on my life then and now and know that the shackles of sin have been removed. I am free to live under God's covering and have been giving power and authority to keep myself free and to help free others. For that I am thankful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In The Course of Time

God's timing is perfect and ours suck. Words to live by. Last night's message from Johnson was very much on point. He spoke on what to do in the time between God responses to your prayers and when He delivers on His promise. He referenced the story in 1 Samuel about Hannah longing for a child and pouring her heart out to God. Eli heard her fervent prayers and told her to go in peace and prayed that God would grant her request. She dried her eyes and ate something and was no longer sad. 1 Samuel 1:20 stated that "in the course of time" Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to Samuel. How long is in the course of time? The Bible was very vague about how much time had passed from the time she said her prayer until the time that God delivered on her request. It could have been months, years, or decades but He was faithful and His timing was perfect.

So what do we do during out "in the course of time" period? For me, I am impatient, sometimes frustrated and doubtful. Sometimes I spend those times talking at God than praying to Him with a spirit of thanksgiving and praise. I wonder "why am I still single?" or "why haven't you shown me your purpose for me?" or "why am I still enduring this issue with Ryan?" or "why do I feel stuck sometimes?" I spend so much time worrying about whether or not God is moving the way I want Him to and in my time, that I miss out on the scenery that He has provided. I had that revelation a few weeks ago when I was plagued with distractions. I was so busy focusing on what were really minor issues (Ryan and our issues) instead of focusing on major issues (focusing on showing the love of Jesus to others). The enemy is very clever when he wants to knock us off God's plan. He just throws a couple of small things in our midst and watch us panic and not keep our eyes on God and His faithfulness. He allows those of seeds of doubt to creep into our head when we are impatient about God's timing. We start to wonder "where is God" in the midst of all the chaos. But God is always right there. He has promised to never forsake us and He is definitely a man of His word.

I am learning to live in the right now and not worry so much about tomorrow. Matthew 6:34 says "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." I need not worry about the next stage of my life because that's all in God's hands. He reveals things to me in His own time which has always proven to be perfect. If I keep focusing what comes next, I will miss all the glorious things that He has laid before me right now. I need to use this "in the course of time" period to stay committed to Him and uplifting His Kingdom. Maintain my servant's heart and not miss out on opportunities to share His love because I am too busy focusing on the finish line. God is always at my side. I might not feel His presence but I know He has not left me. In a time of crisis or in a time of joy, He is still worthy or praise.

Slow down and smell the roses.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Getting Prepared

So for the past couple of days I have been obsessing with recipes. Weird I know. I do enjoy cooking at times, but over the years, it has become more of a chore than something fun and exciting. But oddly enough, I have been obsessed with cooking and trying new dishes. I've been pulling out old cookbooks, surfing food websites and blogs, you name it. So not like me. While looking for recipes, I keep getting this overwhelming feeling of needing to be prepared. Needing to have my arsenal of meals and dishes in my head, ready at a moments notice.

Another oddity: coupons and budgets. Now, I am not a coupon clipper by any means. I remember watching my mom clip coupons for hours on Sundays and then organize them in her little plastic accordian looking holder. Never thought it was worth the effort. Now, I am fasinated by the stragies and the amazing amount of savings if you know how to do them right. Budgets have usually equated to me making sure my check can stretch until the next check comes with no surprises. Now, I fret over savings accounts, cutting costs and getting the most bang for my buck. This being an adult thing is no joke.

I think God is preparing me. Not quite sure for what but these new found interests that seem to have come over night kinda give me peace and comfort. The same peace and comfort I get when I am obedient to what He would have me do. I am actually beyond excited about making this Mexican cheese dip and guacamole for Taco Tuesday (a weekly tradition in my home). Never been this excited for Taco Tuesday!

Day 10: Called to Worship

"Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth! Sing about the glory of his name! Tell the world how glorious he is. Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Your enemies cringe before your mighty power. Everything on earth will worship you; they will sing your praises, shouting your name in glorious songs." Psalm 66:1-4

That is one of my favorite passages in Psalms. How befitting is this devotional about worship coming off the heels of the amazing Fusion Band concert. Last night was so full of energy and praise. I absolutely LOVE worship time and I think the Fusion Band is the best worship team I've heard. Mike Turner was right when he said that the band has an anointing. They seriously do.

For me, worship is one of the most intimate forms praise to God. Every song that we sing with our lips pierces a different part of our heart and mind that only God and that person know about. Everyone responds differently to a song. Some sit in silence and just embrace the moment or if your like me, I love to stand and sing to the Heavens with outstretched arms. That's like my personal time with God. It's just You and me here now. Only You and me here now.

I'm glad that the Fusion Band CD is comprised of my favorite songs, both high energy and slow and intimate. I can worship at home, in my car, at work, where ever. Its something about the worship songs that just sends tingles down my arms when the very song I am listen to is exactly where I am with God. Whether I feel lost or if I am sitting at His feet in awe, there is a song for it!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Acts 2:42

"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer." Acts 2:42

That is the foundational scripture of Fusion. We devote ourselves to the apostles teachings by coming to our Wednesday night service. We fellowship when we gather together in small group communities. We break bread when we get together as friends and share a meal. We are devoted to prayer when we rally together and prayer for the sick, the lost, the hurting. I am so grateful and overjoyed to be among a group of people from my generation who understand what an Acts 2 church looks like and live it out on the regular!

Last night was such a powerful night for me and it showed me how the body of Christ is supposed to operation. Our fellow Fusionite Joyia Kelly is currently in the hospital with complications with her lungs. Now, I don't know Joyia personally but I know of her, have spoken with her in passing, and coo over her twins Lyric and Journi. You see, Joyia is a walking testimony. She has had a serious heart condition since birth, wasn't supposed to live past age 5 and was never supposed to have children. Well, she is an adult, married to an amazing man of God, and just gave birth to twin girls a year ago. Doctors put limits on God's power and He showed them that He has Joyia covered. A few days days ago, she was rushed to the hospital after spiting up blood. Her husband Courtney said this all happened after having a demonic dream...spiritual attack. People have been praying for Joyia and her family since she went to the hospital. Yesterday, Courtney announced on Facebook that the doctors were saying that they would need to remove a portion of her right lung because of an infection. Someone announced on Facebook that there would be a prayer vigil at the cross at Victory for Joyia and I knew I was supposed to be there. I only recognized a couple of people at the vigil since I don't know everyone at Fusion but we were all there in agreement sending up prayers of thanksgiving and for healing. There was such a peace and joy in the atmosphere and we knew God was already moving. A couple of hours later, Courtney announced that the surgery was off and that her condition was now treatable. All praises to God who still heals!

But He wasn't done yet.

My friend and sister in Christ, Kemesha Allen, is also in the hospital. I got the text from Jill right before leaving work and my heart sank. Me and Kemesha had just hung out at the Nascar race this past Sunday and she is supposed to be heading to Mexico for her 2 month missionary training program on the 17th. The enemy was so busy. We included Kemesha in our prayers at the cross and someone mentioned that her ministry work was going to begin right there in the hospital. A prophetic word in deed. When the prayer time was over, I hit the highway trying to make sure I got to Lawrenceville before visiting hours ended. When I walked into the room, I immediately felt overwhelmed with the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jill, Johana, Cristal and Keith were there praying. This is what community looks like. As I laid hands on Kemesha and gave thanks for her healing that had already begun, I was so overwhelmed with joy and peace that tears began to fall and I began to laugh to myself while praying. The Holy Spirit had everyone filled. There was no fear, no worry. We laughed until it hurt and declared victory over sickness. There was so much peace and joy in that room that we all knew that God was on the move doing His thing. Just got a text from her saying that the surgery is being rescheduled until after she gets a second opinion on Monday and can go home tonight. Total praise to God!! Guess He said no surgeries for Joyia or Kemesha today.

Everyday God shows me just a glimpse of His power and His absolute devotion to us. I serve a God that truly will never forsake me, will always provide for and protect me, will continue to smile at the thought of me even when I sin. He sacrifice His only Son so that I can come to Him and sit at His feet, free of condemnation. This experience is just one of many that I have encountered and will encounter during this journey. This renews my spirit and makes me even more hungry for Christ. He is amazing, faithful and I just stand in awe with thanks in my heart. I am beyond grateful to belong to the Fusion community with people that will drop what they are doing to come to the aid of someone in need. Believers that truly are the hands and feet of Jesus and show His love to any and everyone. I know of plenty of people that go to church but none that I can say live out His commands to make disciples, heal the sick, take care of the poor, love others and mean it like the Fusion community. Just last week, Vittoria's mom saw a family at the park and ride near the church and took it upon herself to speak to them. You see, this wife, husband and toddler had been there for weeks, homeless. People passed them by and a few offered to help but did not follow through. V's mom contacted her and the ball started rolling. Vittoria called Dede, Avery and Nate and by the afternoon, this family was in an extended stay motel with food and supplies. The husband had already gotten a job at Walmart and Nate was working on getting a job for the wife. They went to service this past Saturday and loved it. Nate said that they are still in shock that a group of young people came to their rescue and didn't even know them and truly came through when others failed them. Hey, that's what Christians are supposed to do, that's what Fusion always does. I know that Johnson rests easy knowing that whenever the call goes out to Fusion for a cause or someone in need, they step up and make things happen. Great leadership creates obedient and faithful followers.

When I think of the awesome power of Fusion, I think of Sabrina who we rescued from sex slavery during S2S this summer; Tish who was helped just a few weeks ago; the 30 kids that are being sponsored by Fusionites for Mike Turner's school in Nicaragua; the families in Nashville who were helped after the flood when Fusionites were the first to respond even before Victory sent a team; the hundreds of stories from Fusion on Tour when we went into the community with the gospel, the 700 men who got a hot meal thanks to the Christmas gift to the City with S2S and Fusion, the 55 people that got baptized in street clothes a few weeks ago; the Holy Spirit filled season of Fusion back in the spring that lasted months; Nate whose eyes were healed and Jasmine who was healed from cervical cancer; the amazing outreach coming up in October with Safehouse. These are just a handful of memories that I have and Fusion's work goes so far beyond that. Acts 2:42 is the catalyst behind it all. Come on Jesus.

Day 9: Bargaining with God

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" Matthew 7:7-11

I have always like Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you. God is all powerful and grants the desires of our heart, yet I do believe I have used this as more of a bargaining tool than anything. I have prayed the prayers in crisis, asking God to come through one more time and I will never put myself in that position again. He comes through and I find myself right back where I started. He always proves to be faithful even when I am not. Still scratching my head on that one.

That Brennan Manning quote has been stuck in my head for weeks now and it reminds me that God will never forsake me even when I don't hold up my end of the bargain. So in essense, why try to manipulate God? He knows my heart and mind when I come to Him in prayer, so why even try to make these grand gestures when I know I will still fall short of His glory? That's been something that has been kinda weighing on my mind. I don't need to put on this front for God when I come to Him because He knows my every thought and every desire. He just wants me to come to Him naked, unashamed and with boldness. I don't need to be afraid to come to Him with anything. I sometimes thinks He gets a kick out of it when I do become transparent with Him because that's when He says "You finally did it." That's when I get my greatest peace and rest. That's when I see Him move the most.

Why is it so hard to stay in a state of transparency with Him all the time? I know what it feels like when I lay all of my burdens at His feet and the pleasure He gets when I come to Him boldly with things. So why don't I do that all the time? Hmmm. I think sometimes I try to rationalize and understand how great He really is and put limits on His infinite power. His thoughts are not my thoughts so my scope of understanding pale in comparison to what He can do. When I start wondering if I should bring something to Him, I am placing limits on what I think He can do. I start trying to disect things and that's when the bargaining begins. I come to Him thinking, "If you just handle this little part of my problem, then I can handle the rest." God wants me to come to Him and simple say "Here it is." He wants me to be obedient to the Matthew 7:7 command: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Such a powerful, yet simple statement. Ask God for what you need and watch Him work.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 8: In Awe

"Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire." Hebrew 12:28-29

When was the last time I stood in awe at God's amazing power? It would have to be a couple of weeks ago at small group when I read the letter I wrote to Jesus and I was in tears at just the sheer fact that He was faithful. He had transformed my life in such a way, it's mind blowing. He answered prayers I had forgotten I prayed. He poured out His love on me even during times when I doubted Him.

I also think back to a couple of weeks ago when I was supposed to go see the movie "Takers" with some of the girls. Yeah I was a little on the broke side that day, but I was really feeling weird about seeing that movie. I am trying to be more careful about what I put before my eyes, and it was something about that movie that I know I would struggle with. Instead I stayed home, and watched hours of Youtube clips of Trip Lee, Lacrae, Sho Baracka, Canton Jones, and Passion 4 Christ Movement poetry and messages. Man, talk about an awesome night and I was left in amazement at how God totally fulfilled me way more than that movie would have. Just being in His presence and letting the Holy Spirit speak to me was amazing.

This devotional talked about how in our society, nothing really leaves us in awe even though God's grace and power should always leave us in awe. We should continually have a praise for Him for just the little lessons He teaches us and even the major trials He brings us through. I know I need to challenge myself more to remain in a state of awe and praise for Him because each day that He breathes life into my heart and lungs is another day to glorify Him. Each day He gives me a chance to be the hands and feet of Jesus is a time to stand in awe of Him. He is working miracles and blessings even moment of the day and for that, He deserves praise.

I believe I need to challenge myself more to find ways to glorify Him and bear witness to His power. I have this desire to be completely sold out and go hard for Christ that it's crazy. Have to see where all this energy leads me.

Victory Over Craigslist, but the Fight Continues

The popular site, Craigslist, has come under some serious fire in the past couple of months because of their adult ad section. The blatant sexual ads have become almost like an internet catalog for men looking to buy sex. The sex trafficking industry has used sites like Craigslist to expand their clientele base, moving from the seedy tracks to cyberspace. There is no shortage of underage girls and enslaved women being bought and delivered to the highest bidder.

Yet, after the media storm shed light on this new avenue of sex trafficking, many states put pressure on Craigslist to remove their adult section and finally take responsibility for their part in the global crisis. On September 4, 2010, Craigslist finally stepped up to the plate and removed the adult section from their website. This proved to be a small victory in the ever expanding sex trafficking business.

Although this is indeed a victory to be applauded, we must not get so lax and think that is the end of the war. The demand for sex is astronomical and the supply is simply moving to a new location. Many experts are weighing in on the fact that although Craigslist has removed their adult section, there are plenty of other sites available and in use right now to promote prostitution. Sites such as and are welcoming the former Craigslist pimps and johns with open arms.

I applaud Craigslist for removing the adult section, but I am confident in saying that it was more of a PR move than a mandate. Why isn't the government doing something to crack down on sites that are obviously involved in the exploitation and trafficking of women and children? We have Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to thank for that. This piece of legislature states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." In other words, Craigslist nor any other website can be held liable for what is published on their sites or the actions that occur as a result of something posted on their site. The powers that be have pretty much left the door open for sex trafficking on the Internet to continue until these types of sites are held accountable for their part in the promoting and advertising sexually exploited victims.

The battle has been won, but the fight continues. Hopefully, at some point, companies will stop hiding behind the law and stand up for victim's right. Until then, advocates will continue to put the pressure on them, one site at at time.

Men in the Sex Trafficking Industry

On August 31, 2010 one of the major headlines of the day was the report that police in Spain infiltrated a male prostitution ring. I was just as surprised as the next man because most people equate prostitution and sex trafficking to women and children. Rarely do you hear about men being forced into the sex trade industry. Just because male prostitution is rarely reported doesn't mean it's rarely happening. Male prostitution is much more prevalent that I thought.

I remember during The Unholy Land tour with S2S, Avery told the story of a young male prostitute who refused to come off the streets because he was in such high demand. For some reason, I naively thought that any man that is selling himself on the streets is probably doing so willingly, probably to support a habit or uphold a certain lifestyle. I couldn't believe that somehow a man could be forced into that lifestyle the same way a woman with a trouble passed could be coerced and trapped. The connection just wasn't there for me, until I read the headlines. 14 people were arrested in Spain because of their involvement in a global sex trafficking ring involving 60-80 men. These men were made to believe that they would they would be traveling to other countries for better jobs and a chance at a better life. They were told they would only have to pay back their airfare to Spain. Yet, upon arrival at their destination, their passports were seized, they were given cocaine and Viagra and immediately put to work as prostitutes for male clients. The men were advertised in newspapers and websites to help increase their demand. They were on call 24 hours a day, expected to perform on demand. They were forced to live in tiny cramped house with 6 to a bed. If they complained, they were threatened with beatings and death.

Slowly, the story of these men started to sound similar to the stories of women trapped in the sex trafficking industry. These men were looking for a better life and believe the lies that their pimps told them. I'm certain that they were not told they would be sold to strangers for sex. I'm certain they weren't aware that they would be drugged and beatened. I am certain they did not know that trusting a stranger's promises would have them trapped in what seemed like an endless cycle. You see, whether foreign or domestic, male or female, the deception of the pimps and traffickers is all the same. They prey on the weak and the desperate, those they can easily manipulate and control for their own gain.

Since Atlanta is a hotbed for sex trafficking, I attempted to get some statistics on male prostitution in the city. Although I was not able to find any clear cut numbers, I did come across the vice arrest page for the Atlanta Police Department. This page was comprised of over 270 men and women arrested for prostitution or soliciting. Of those 270+ mug shots, 38 were men arrested for prostitution. 38 men arrested for selling themselves for money. There is no way to tell whether they were selling themselves willingly or by force, but those 38 faces were a wake up call. These were 38 men that were arrested and accounted for but, the number of sites that came up for male prostitutes, escorts, or rent boys as they are called, was astounding. I tried to find if there were any organizations that focused on rescuing and rehabilitating these men and came up empty handed. I understand that the major of the people caught up in sex slavery are women, but where do these men caught up in the same cycle of despair go if they want to break free?

The sex trafficking industry does not play favorites. Though women are in much greater demand, this economically booming industry destroys the lives of men, women, and child. Though progress is being made each and every day to combat this global issue, there is still a long way to go in this fight. The sooner we all realize that no one is immune from being pulled into this lifestyle, the better equipped will can become at fighting back.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 7: Removing the Mask

"Watch yourselves carefully so you don't get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can't keep your true self hidden forever; before long you'll be exposed. You can't hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can't whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public" Luke 12:1-3

Ahh removing the mask. This is something I think I still struggle with. Removing the mask. For years, I have mastered keeping the smile on my face and not wearing my emotions on my sleeve. I learned to internalize my feelings until it almost drove me crazy. I mean popping Prozac, lying on a therapist couch crazy. I was living inside my head and couldn't find a way to escape. A bad relationship, poor family support and just the stress of every day life will do that to you. In hindsight, I can see a million things I did wrong, but I couldn't see them then.

Fast forward about 8 or 9 years and I know I am in a far better place than I was then, but the mask is still there. I still don't let people really see my hurts and struggles. I guess that's why people always think I have it together. So not the case. There are days when my emotions are so raw that it takes everything in me to get out of bed. I no longer have the need to medicate (yeah I popped prescription pills to sleep) the pain away, but sometimes the need to "check out mentally" is still there. I don't answer the phone and I don't entertain other people's problems when I am having my own moods. I allow myself to be the center of attention for a change.

I have tried to go to friends with my problems but 9 times out of 10, people don't listen. They tend to hear snippets of what you are saying and relate it to their own situations. Before long, the tides have changed and the focus is on them. I can say I do have a select few that I know I can go to in a time of crisis and know that the spotlight will solely be on me. Sometimes, we aren't looking for definitive answers, just a listening ear and to know someone really does care.

For a while now, God has been working on me to get me to a point where in a time of crisis, I only go to Him. It happened a few weeks ago when I found myself crying in the stairwell at work. I couldn't bring myself to call or text anyone cause I knew I would only be distracting myself and not dealing with the problem head on. In those moments, it was just me and God in that stairwell. I needed Him to be my comforter and He was. After a few minutes, I was crying tears of joy and praises to Him, simply for His promise to never forsake me and to always love me. His promises hold true, no matter what the circumstance.

I am learning to remove my mask and be honest and vulnerable with Him. It's not easy to admit that I am sometimes frustrated with Him or that I can't always hear Him or that the trials are too much for me to bear. Sometimes its hard to let Him know that I do get overwhelmed, that I do get lonely, that I do lose faith. I am learning that when people ask me what's going on in my life, that it's ok to be honest. It's okay to admit to my small group leader that some days I feel overwhelmed or that I have issues going on that I think will never get resolved. My excuse is always "they wont understand" or "someone else has a bigger problem that needs their attention." I have to remind myself that they really do care, that God has place people in my path to help me through the tough times. He doesn't want me to continue wearing a mask. He wants me to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

Lesson of the day: God calls you to walk consistently, allowing your actions to mirror what's going on in your heart. Get rid of the mask and be real with God, yourself and others. I think I am going to challenge myself this week to be honest with people when they ask me how I am doing. Taking baby steps to start removing the mask.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I Really Do Make You Happy, God

It's been a few days since I have posted and I feel kind of bad. Got off track with my 90 day devotional cause of distractions dealing with Ryan. It's so funny how the devil works. The closer you get to God, the more he comes at you with foolishness. God never said that this walk would be without trials and man, He wasn't lying.

A simple email from Ryan started a chain of events that took me back to our days of fighting with no purpose. What was supposed to be a meeting to hammer out a visitation and support agreement ended up no where really. He expressed his disdain for my actions, I expressed my reasons for him needing to get his focus back on Aiden. When he realized that he couldn't make ANY decisions about visitation or support without his wife's approval, we were at a standstill. He realized that at the end of the day, she called the shots. I called him out on that and he couldn't deny it. He admitted that his home is World War 3 again and that he was desperate to work things out with me, so that he could work things out with her. Nothing was about Aiden, just about his struggle for peace and some control in his house. Reminds me of that parable about the wise and foolish builder in Matthew 7. His house was not built on God's solid foundation and it's already starting to crumble.

My heartaches for what Ryan is going through, but I realized today that I cannot save him. I cannot be his Savior. He knows of God in concept, but not in a truly intimate way which would bring conviction and correction, but also fills him with love. If he did, that marriage would not have happened. His actions are his own and there are no words that I can say to express the error of his ways. Only a true encounter with our Savior will do that. I'm praying that happens.

So I have been consumed with Ryan and our bickering since our meeting on Monday. I came into work absolutely distracted and pissed off on Tuesday because I found out my brother had gotten arrested the night before. Great. More stress for me. Baby daddy issues and now my brother. But through out all that, God saw fit to show me His love for me. Out of the blue, I was blessed with $25 from my supervisor. Totally unexpected! First thing I thought to do with it was to use it on the boys. My heart was heavy for them, especially Aiden, and I had already wanted to do something for them to remind them that I will go to the ends of the Earth for them even if no one else did. Took them to McDonald's for dinner and then to see Ironman 2, popcorn and soda included. Total came up the exactly $25. God is so good.

This morning, I decided to choose happiness and peace off the bat. My mind wandered to Ryan on and off but I refused to let it consume me. It was Wednesday which meant Fusion, a much needed spiritual refuel. As soon as I got to church, God showed His love again! My Jillian had a gift bag from Bath and Body works and the sweetest hand written note that spoke right to my heart. I needed to hear God's love for me poured out in that letter. He is truly amazing. Worship was out of this world heart is still singing "He is faithful to the end. He's faithful to my heart. He's faithful to the end. He will come to marry me."

Pastor Johnson's message...exactly what I needed to hear. It was about God's vision of marriage. His jealousy for His bride. I was reminded that anyone can get married but God wants me to have a marriage that mirrors His marriage to His bride, the body of Christ, His church. Ephesians 5:25-27 says "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." That is what my Father desires for me, the daughter of the Risen King. I don't want a husband who is desperate and entering marriage based on emotions and the need to have someone. I am worthy of a husband who understands his position as leader of the household and leader of our spiritual walk. A husband who understands God's purpose for him and knows that our union will help enhance and grow that purpose and vision and edify the Kingdom of Heaven. A husband who understands how Christ loves His church and wants to present me without stain, or wrinkle or blemish before that Holy covenant that God Himself ordained. A unguarded and deceitful heart cannot lead my husband to me, only the power and faithfulness of God can.

I have been distracted from many things that I was supposed to do lately. Blogging for s2s, keeping up with my devotional, checking in with Veronica and Carl about the s2s intake forms, etc. I was consumed by something minor and was missing out on what was major in my life, my devotion to Christ and His work. But I am so thankful for God revealing His love and devotion to me in the little ways, just to remind me that He is there. He's there in the midst of my tears and frustration and all He wants to do is pour out His love. He wants my heart and for me not to get distracted by the ways of the enemy or the world.

I really do make Him happy. My favorite quote right now is one from Brennan Manning in his book "The Furious Longing of God. He says "He loves me whether in a state of grace or disgrace, whether I live up to the lofty expectations of His gospel or I don't. He comes to me where I live and loves me as I am." He keeps showing me that He is so very faithful, even when I am not. He reminds me that He knows the desires of my heart and just wants me to trust that He will do what He says He will do, in His time. I really do make Him happy, despite it all. I am no one's Savior, so I need to leave the heart transformation work up to Him. All I can do is love like crazy and pray for those that need to know His love.