Friday, April 29, 2011
This is one of my favorite songs by Needtobreathe. It reminds me of the state of mind that I was in last night when I was leading an outreach with my small group. Anyone that knows me knows that I love to be the light of God to His hurting people, but I am not a fan of putting together outreaches. I never think I am good at it, people don't like doing outreaches, you never really know if it will be a success and it can be somewhat stressful when your game plan shifts. That's what happened to us.
Last week, one of my group members got a word from God to pass out food on Jimmy Carter Blvd. Doing an outreach in the suburbs is a lot different than doing an outreach in down town Atlanta. People in the suburbs are private, they think they have it all together, they will figure things out themselves, they don't need a handout or prayers. I honestly wasn't a fan of the idea because I thought it would not be effective. Things got worse when I was told that me and my co-leader Jose would be heading it up since my actual leader and other co-leader would not be able to come. Neither Jose and I planned for this nor do we like planning outreaches.
We prayed and settled on a different location but God quickly shut that down and sent us to the Quick Trip gas station on Jimmy Carter Blvd. We were nervous because we had carloads of group members looking for our direction and we really didn't see many people walking around that we could pass out food and pray for.
But God did something beautiful. He sent people to us. Before we could even get out of our cars completely and start unloading the paper bags of food and water, people came up to us. One man was in his car and revealed that he was praying about gas money because he was on empty and was going to sleep in his car right in the gas station parking lot that night. One lady who lived in the extended stay motel behind the gas station told us about a family with children that had no food and were losing hope. I ran into the very same man and his two toddlers that I had met and helped just a few eeks ago. His wife had been arrested on an old warrant, he needed food and to just use someone's phone to call a friend with an out of town number.
God gave me my Gideon moment. Though I thought I was weak and ineffective, He used me and my group to do mighty things. He said Jimmy Carter, we obeyed and He sent us the people that needed the help. He sent the people that needed to see something beautiful happen.
As we carried bags and water to the motel, doors began to open and people asked if we had any extra bags to share. I saw babies, elementary, middle and high school kids. I saw whole families living in tiny rooms with only two beds and one small bathroom. We heard their stories, we prayed for them, we invited them to our church which was just a couple of blocks away. My group was on a spiritual high because they now knew what it felt like to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They broke out of their shells and restored hope for so many families.
It was beautiful. He was marvelous as always.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
And I wont. Despite how things are going right now, I am still going to keep pressing forward and giving Him praise in the process. My friend Fransau posted the lyrics of a song in his facebook status and it was exactly what I needed.
"I'm about 5 seconds away from giving You the most amazingest praise!"
I heard this song by Canton Jones last year though its been around for a while now. I needed that spiritual praise break to remind myself that the enemy will not get the best of me despite my circumstances and I will continue to give God His just praise. I will not waste time trying to fix a situation when I just need to give it over to God in prayer and thank Him for what He has already done.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
Monday, April 25, 2011
When my alarm went off that morning, I seriously debated on not going. I have been running none stop for weeks now and I truly have not had a Sabbath in forever. My body was crying out for me to hit the snooze button and just skip the outreach altogether. But the leader in me knew I needed to be there so me and Gavin got dressed in record speed, hit the drive thru for breakfast and made our way to the apartment complex.
And it was amazing.
We split into groups with a least one Spanish speaker heading it up so we could talk to the Hispanic families we encountered. We took bags of groceries door to door, invited the families to bring their kids down for an Easter egg hunt, face painting, crafts, an inflatable jumpy house and a game of soccer. They came out in droves! The most touching encounter was our last stop. We heard kids playing on the balcony and Melissa spoke to them in Spanish asking where their parents were. One little boy mentioned that his mom was inside but she was sick. All 4 ran inside, woke mom up and opened the door for a group of strangers who mentioned Jesus and games. The mom, whose name was Mildred was small and thin and had exhaustion written all over her face. She was reluctant to speak with us (well Melissa cause she only spoke Spanish), but she invited us in. Mildred explained that she had been having problems with her kidney and the doctors didn't know what was wrong. One of her sons had just come back from Honduras and was almost out of control behaviorally. Her infant daughter contracted a brain virus which damaged part of her brain making her left side immobile. She had lost her Medicaid insurance, had to switch to a lower paying night job so she could take her son and daughter to doctors, her husband left and it was just her and her sister there to care for 5 kids. She had lost hope.
Until we shared the Gospel with her. The hope of Jesus Christ. She let us pray for her healing and her children. She tearfully accepted Christ as her Savior. She allowed us to take the 4 boys out to play games and they had a ball! Roberto found the golden egg with a dollar inside and he swelled with pride. Michael couldn't speak English but had fun making a paper bunny and getting his face painted. His older brother Oscar, who has the behavior issue helped him draw a bunny face and translated for me. As we walked them back home, Melissa shared with them the story of Jesus and they all listened so intently, especially Oscar. They recited the prayer of Salvation and gave us all hugs. When their mom opened the door, you could see her entire face was lit up with joy and peace at the sight of her smiling boys as they showed her the candy they collected, their painted faces and paper bunnies.
A whole family saved. Hope restored. God was showing out for real. But He wasn't done.
That night, I met up with some more of my friends as we prepared to minister at a strip club, hoping to bring the light of Christ into one of the darkest places. My friends Sheena is a former stripper and God placed it on her heart to rescue other girls from the very place He rescued her. We prayed, gathered the many gift boxes that we had put together for the girls that included handwritten letters of love, an invitation card to Easter service and candy. Our army of about 15 girls marched into the club while about 5 guys stayed outside and covered us and the club in prayer. Luckily, Sheena was still cool with the manager so he allowed us to talk to the girls in the locker room as long as we didn't bother the paying customers.
I hadn't been inside a strip club in years but seeing the girls dancing half naked on a pole is never a sight you forget. We entered the tiny locker room and kinda stood in awe as we adjusted to the scene. God's beautiful daughters reduced to sex objects, some half naked, some totally naked, all mentally check out of reality. None of us were sure how effective our rag tag team of young Christian women would be to these girls with hardened hearts who have been through experiences some of us will never understand.
But again, it was AMAZING. God was AMAZING.
The girls welcomed us with open arms and many with tearful eyes and thankful hearts. We gave them hugs and the gift boxes and in turn they gave us their wounded spirits. We prayed for them, we loved on them, we complimented their beauty. We saw them through the eyes of our Father and they knew that. They each had a story to tell. Many were in school trying to make a better life for themselves, many didn't think they had any other options. Sheena shed so many tears because she saw so many of her friends that were still stuck in that life, trapped and hopeless. She reminded them and herself that God can pull them out of any situation, even stripping and prostitution, if they let Him.
My friend Alysha and I followed one girl into the tiny bathroom because she wanted prayer for her sick uncle. By the time we finished praying for her, 3 or 4 other girls rushed up to us asking if we could pray for them. They were desperate for something other than what they knew. The last girl we prayed for captured my heart. She tearfully asked for prayer for strength, wisdom and love. As the light reflected off of her tiny crucifix around her neck, she told Alysha and I that God sent us there especially for her because she didn't think she was going to survive that night. She needed to know that someone cared for her and loved her beyond her circumstance. I shared with her part of my story of abuse, kids out of wedlock, a million bad choices, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, my decision to turn it all over to God and my redeemed and restored life today. She needed that truth. She needed a Savior and we gave her a hope for the future.
Obviously, we made such an impact in the short time we were there because the manager called for us to leave over the loud speaker a few times. None of us even realized it until he came into the locker room to escort us out because all of the girls were in with us getting prayer and none were on stage making money for the club. God moved in that place for real! Seeds were planted for sure.
As we recapped the night, some of my friends were in tears from heavy hearts. If they could take everyone of those girls out of that place, they would have. But we did good that night. We left those girls with the hope of Jesus and a prayer that they will reach out to Him so He can rescue them. We plan to go back again and again until we reclaim His lost girls so they can in turn rescue others.
Not bad for a random Saturday.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I am realizing that there are some issues that I thought I was whole and healed from but in all reality, I was just ignoring them. I am the Queen of ignoring something until it goes away, praying that it doesn't rear its ugly head again at the most inopportune time. But lately it has. In the form of dreams. Dreams about him. For the most part, that chapter has been written and ended and for the most part, I feel that I am completely okay with leaving the past in the past.
But God has this amazing way of bringing to the light areas of our lives that we try to hide from Him that are still a little tender to the touch. I had my moment of clarity and honesty when I let the floodgates open about how I was really feeling.
I miss him. Not the relationship, but just him. His presence in my life. I miss the security he provided. The comfort, the listening ear, the encouragement, the validation, the friendship. For so many years, he was this prominent figure in my life, in my world. Luckily when things ended, I was not left this big gaping hole. I was okay with our transition out of each life. It was needed because I needed to free myself to follow Christ, to grow up, to be rescued.
Being surrounded by courting and married couples reminds you of your single status. I'm okay with that but its hard to escape that twinge of something in your heart. Yet over the last few weeks, God has been speaking to me about issues that I have not been wanting to address out loud even though it has taken up residence in my mind.
A few weeks ago, I took Ancient Paths 2 at church. 1000% more impactful that the first class. This was the first time I heard the scripture Isaiah 62:2-4 which says:
The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
My intercessor for our group prayed this blessing over me. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and at our last Beth Moore Breaking Free bible study session, Beth mentioned again Isaiah 62:2-4. Hephzibah. This past Friday at the women's conference, Beckah Shae mentioned having a dream with the name Hephzibah. It means "my delight is in her" from Isaiah 62:4.
Its funny how I've been longing for some affection and praise from someone that God purposefully removed from my life so that He can be the one give me affection and praise. He has been saying "I delight in you" for weeks. To Him, I am a royal diadem and I have been crowned with splendor. He delights in me. I am Hephzibah. For real. All these things I have been longing for, God already promised to be that for me in the form of the Holy Spirit. John 14:16 (AMP) says:
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby), that He may remain with you forever--.
My dreams about my past, the twinges in my heart, is just God trying to fill the empty spaces in my life that I pretend are not there. He can't mend what I wont let go of. Thank goodness He is patient with me because I can be stubborn and controlling and try to patch myself up when I think He isn't looking. But He is jealous for me and would rather speak to me than to let me keep nursing an open wound.
He gets me.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Yet, Saturday night I dreamed about them again. This time, it was our wedding day. I saw myself in a simple white, flowly gown and my hair was longer and straight. I felt in love in the dream, yet apprehensive and nervous. As I walked to the wedding venue, I was disgusted by the condition or the building. It looked like a regular run down store front. I opened the rickety door and I was standing right at the altar, looking at 3 bridesmaids in the most hideous coral hued gowns and tacky decor all around. I turned and walked away.
Through out the rest of the dream, I found myself walking along a beach in my wedding dress, running into various faceless people that kept asking me why I walked away. My only excuse: I didn't like the colors or the decor. Never once did I think or feel like I was marrying the wrong person or making a huge mistake. I genuinely wanted to marry him and felt so bad for leaving him at the alter. I found myself frantically asking everyone had they seen my groom, fearful that I had made the biggest mistake all because of some minor issues.
But he found me. He found me.
I pulled up in a jeep on the beach. I don't recall ever seeing his face and his build was heavier than he is today but the name was the same. He hugged me. No anger, just relief. He found me. He promised that I could have any kind of wedding I wanted, as long as I didn't leave again. I was happy. I was in love. I was safe. He found me.
I have no clue what any of these dreams mean. Maybe they are some repressed feelings buried deep in my subconscious. Maybe they are just a subconscious manifestation of my desire to get married period, not specifically him. Who knows? I've prayed about it. No answer as of yet.
We shall see what happens next.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Little did I know she was going to change my life.
Christine Caine blew me away! I have heard lots of motivational speakers, preachers, evangelists, you name it, over the years but never has one little petite woman leave me with a heart set ablaze to change the world and wake up the sleeping body of Christ to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. She has a tell it like it is, no sugar coating, true and honest approach to removing the veil of denial, normalcy, and complacency in the lives of people professing to be Christian.
She came from nothing. Literally. She was abandoned by her mother in a hospital, unnamed and unwanted. She grew up in a poor Greek Orthodox family in Australia. She was sexually abused for 12 years. She learned she was adopted at the age of 31. Yet she went on to be apart of the leadership team for one of the most dynamic and influential churches in the world. She has traveled the globe leading crusades for Christ, spreading the gospel to some of the darkest nations in the world. It was 4 years ago that she was in the Frankfort, Germany airport did she learn about the issue of human trafficking. Being a leader of a church, she was appalled that form of modern day slavery was still happening when there are billions of Christians in this world.
She decided to that human trafficking was not going to continue on her watch.
She established the A21 Campaign, a grassroots organization that has established safe houses in Greece, the corridor for the world's human trafficking. This organization is taking on the global human trafficking issue on like no other organization I have ever seen. Since God has already put this social injustice in my heart, I felt like I was in the right place at the right time hearing Christine speak with such passion and urgency for the church to get mobilized and take back the lives of those that are enslaved. There was such a move of the Holy Spirit on Saturday morning, before Christine even came up to speak again, and as the worship team sang, I was so overcome with His presence, His urgency, His heartbreak, I was in tears. Crying my eyes out, singing His praise at the top of my lungs. My heart was breaking for what broke the heart of my Savior.
I had this passion to set the captives free and I wasn't doing anything about it.
I needed that. I needed that jolt. I needed that renewed spirit. I needed that sense of urgency, that heartbreak, that wake up call. I needed to be reminded that there are 27 million people held in slavery around this world, more than any other time in the history of man kind. I needed to know that 1.4 million of those slaves are sex slaves. I needed to know that traffickers get the women pregnant and sell those babies to pedophile rings across the world. Babies as young as 6 months old, sold for sex, with no documents, no papers, no one even knowing they exist on this Earth.
Where is the church?
I have been rescued from the darkest places in my life so that I can rescue others. Isaiah 61 is my heartbeat. I have been called to proclaim freedom for the captives, to comfort those who mourn, to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.
I am ready to be a trailblazer. I am ready to empty myself so that I can be filled with the Holy Spirit and used in any way He see fits. I yield to my own will, my own desires and I full surrender to His will. I am excited. I am on fire.
I am on His mission to set the captives free.
Friday, April 15, 2011
I am realizing I am not that good of a disciple as I thought I was.
I have found myself stuck in a rut of lukewarmness and complacency. Sure, I talk about Jesus and all the amazing things happening in my life but I tell those things to my circle of friends. I put it on Facebook for the random masses to see, but I don't share it with people that I KNOW are far from Christ. I know most days I am not always diligently seeking Him, yet the moment I am in need, I call on Him. I have developed a rather unfair relationship with my Savior. He is always there, unchanging, just waiting anxiously to pour out His blessings over me, but I treat Him like an after thought, a get out of jail free card. I have become comfortable in my regular ways that don't always glorify God or bring people to the Kingdom of Heaven.
But why? How did I get to this place?
Just like the breakdown of any relationship, it isn't one event that happened that put me in the place I am in. It's a series of events or incidents that got me here. Unfortunately, since God never changes His ways, the blame is on me. I stopped making Him my first thoughts. I stopped being diligent and intentional about seeking Him. I slacked up in my prayer time. I stopped expecting Him to do amazing things in my life because I began to get consumed with trivial things around me. I started to let my faith wane because I began to focus more on my own wants and desires than God's will for me. I stopped having that crazy hunger for His presence and His living word. I became regular, average, lukewarm, conformed.
God's timing in perfect...like for real. I have been aware of my present state of mind for a while now, but never really knew what to do about it. But God decided to show me what to do. Fusion kicked back off last week with a new series called unNormal. Basically stepping out of our comfort zone and being radical for Christ. This past Sunday Pastor D talked about making our desire to share our faith with others an urgent matter. This past Wednesday at our monthly leadership meeting after Fusion, Pastor Johnson gave all of us leaders a book to read to help strengthen us. The is called Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream by David Platt. I haven't even opened the book yet, but I know it going to challenge my thinking and push me out of my comfort zone.
I need that. For real. I want to be radical. I want to be unNormal.
"How many people am I sending to Hell because I didn't share my faith with them?" Think about it.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
As global as the issue of human trafficking is, there are so many people in the world who have no clue its happening on such a large scale let alone in their own back yard. Luckily enough, there are some cells that have caught wind of what's happening and have decided to get in the trenches with the average Joe to make a difference.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher have launched the Demi and Ashton Foundation that is taking this injustice on head first. They have testified in front of Congress, done various interviews and press conferences, done amazing social networking to get the word out and will be appearing on Piers Morgan's CNN show tonight. They are putting in the work, speaking out and getting their famous friends involved instead of just lending their name and celebrity to the cause.
I applaud their work for real. All it takes is for one person to step up and do something. The power of one.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
My love languages in order of preference are quality time, physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation and gifts. I didn't know this until I read the book and started looking at my life and how I respond to gestures of kindness from people. My friend Heather and I often joke about needing our love languages stroked when we need to quality time with people or just a hug.
God has used my knowledge of love languages to reveal times when I didn't give certain people the type of love they needed. When I think about to my relationship with Ryan, I realize his love languages were words of affirmation and physical touch. We had the physical touch down but I often found myself frustrated when he always needed reassurance and positive words. I took that as a lack of confidence in himself when in hindsight, that's how he received love. I remember the fights we got into when he wanted to hang out with his friends as opposed to us spending time together. Again, a miscommunication in love languages.
God kinda checked me a few weeks ago when I was frustrated about whether or not a guy was interested in me. In all honesty, I was frustrated because I wasn't having my love languages stroked. Not the guy's fault, but just a reminder of how important it is to know how people receive love and affection. In any relationship, knowing how your significant other receives love can save lots of time and pointless arguments. If he knows that she loves gifts but isn't big on words of affirmation, telling her how much he loves her isn't as effective as showing her with jewelry or flowers. If he isn't big on acts of service but craves words of affirmation, rearranging his junky desk wont be as effective is reminding him how proud she is of him.
Learn your love language and the love languages of the people that are close to you. Knowing someone's love language can change the entire course of a relationship.
Sunday, April 10, 2011
I guess this kinda hit home for me today after hanging out with some friends last night. My girl, Gre' had a fundraiser at her house to raise money for Peru and she invited a lot of people. Her church friends as well as friends she has met over the years and coworkers. I already knew how the night was going to play out because I have seen it happen before. People will gather in groups with people they know and pretty much stay that way, with very little mingling. Yeah we said the usual "Hi, nice to meet you" but other than that, there was not much mixing of the two worlds. It got a little more weird when one of Gre's non church friends broke out the bottle of Grey Goose and orange juice, sat in a circle in the floor and and proceeded to drink. It didnt bother me because even though I don't drink often, I am not going to knock anyone that does (within reason of course.)
When just about everyone was gone and all that were left were me and a couple of our church friends, Gre mentioned that one of her friends said that we were anti social. I could believe it. The church people were deeply in grossed in various cards games around the house, myself included, and none of us really stopped and invited the other people to join us. And that's how it happens. It happened at my friend Sheena's BBQ/housewarming a few weeks ago. Saved and unsaved people in a house together. When we gathered to pray blessings over her home and family, all of her unsaved friends and family walked out. Actually they spent most of the time outside while we stayed inside and fellowshipped like we always do.
I have found myself having to choose between two worlds, the world I left behind and the new world that I have embraced since coming to Christ. But why? Why do I have to feel like I have to be one way with my unsaved friends and another way, the real me, with my saved friends? I am not the super spiritual, fire and brimstone, radical Christian at all, but I do have my values and standards. I find myself being pulled more towards my Christian family and the things of Christ than I do my older friends. I love talking about God and all that He does, I love hearing praise reports and even hearing about trials that people are going through while still holding firmly to their faith. I love just being able to laugh, worship and feel free to not be like the rest of the world. With my old friends, the conversations are usually on the latest reality show, the last time someone has had sex, relationships that are totally outside God's will for us, oppression, anger, unforgiveness, selfishness, partying, material things and everything else that the world says is good. I hate seeing people be "holy" when the mood fits but full of sin the other 90% of the time. People that I once thought were pretty good spiritually but by my own observations, are only that way on Sunday or when they decide to put on that Christian hat.
Pastor D pointed out that when most people become Christians, they tend to stay in their Christian circles and forget about the people still in the world. The most we do is pray from afar but not really take the effort to reach out to them and share the love of Christ. For me, I usually stay within the confines of my Christian circle though for a while, I have seriously been feeling the nudge to bring other people in or at least step outside my circle and mingle with those that are not saved. I think my interactions with my co-worker sparked that feeling. Though she is not saved, she totally understands and respects my faith and even asks questions and advice. She does that because I don't judge and I always remind her of the pit of Hell that was my life before Christ.
I believe my problem is the fact that I always tell people that accepting salvation is a choice. Your own personal choice. And it is. I made the decision to follow Christ and no one forced me. But for many, they choose not to follow Christ because someone came to them in the name of Christ and offended them. Someone close to them died, was hurt, was sick, left them, hurt them, and they feel like God didn't care about them. Maybe they feel like they are too far from saving. They have done so much crap in their lives that they feel like they are beyond repair. It can be host of reasons why they don't attend church or follow Christ, no excuse is worth them going to Hell over. That is my sense of urgency.
My inability or lack of desire to carry out the Great Commission is sending people to Hell. No I can't take responsibility for people and their sins and mistakes. But I can take responsibility for my own calling from God. The ministry of reconciliation. Every Christian has the call to bring people to Christ. I can serve in every area of my church, lead a million small groups and pray until the cows come home, but if I am not sharing my faith and bringing the unsaved to Christ, then what was it all for?
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
As I twirl my purity ring around my left ring finger, I am laughing at how God moves and speaks. A week ago, out of the blue, I got the idea in my head that I needed to switch my ring from my right ring finger to my left finger. Now I know it was a God thing because there really isn't any way I would convince myself that putting my ring, which looks likes a wedding band, on THE wedding finger. I've worn it on my right finger ever since a guy mistaken thought I was married after looking at my hand. To me this, ring signifies my commitment to honor Christ in my thoughts, actions and with my body, but not to be a man repellent. While at the party, I felt the strong nudge to take the step of faith and switch my ring to my left hand. After a few minutes of going back and forth with the idea, I gave in and switched the little silver band to THE ring finger.
And I was okay with it. In that moment of obedience, I stopped worrying about whether or not men will mistake this purity ring as a wedding band and not approach me. I knew in my heart what the ring meant and since this was a God move, I trust Him enough to know that this wont stop His plan. I believe this was an act of faith and commitment. God's way of seeing if I really trust Him to release this aspect of my life to Him completely. I am certain I will have naysayers who will probably try to convince me that the ring on that hand is a bad idea. No worries though cause I trust God above what people say.
After basking in the moment of my bold move, I looked around the room. I saw several couples enjoying each other, laughing, praying, sharing a meal, enjoying the union that God had put together. I saw the Jensens, the Gatlins, Melissa and Elijah, Tierra and Chris, Keith and Jillian and other couples who all trusted God with their relationships. It was something beautiful to witness and be apart of. Hearing the men in one corner talk about guarding the hearts of their girlfriends, fiance's and wives took my breath away. Hearing the women talk about honoring God with their bodies so that they in turn honor their men was astounding. You don't hear that in the world cause only God has the power to orchestrate something so beautiful.
Then I heard God whisper "This is what I have for you." Everything that I was witnessing was available to me as well. There was no need to worry or be fearful. He still had a plan to finish penning my own personal love story in His time. My job was to be patient, faithful and obedient. He will take care of the rest.