Why the Sex Industry?

121016071812-generic-prostitution-story-topI could go on about trafficking stats and the realities of the industry, but I won’t do that in this post.  Instead, I’d rather focus on the main reason.

I’m always amused at people’s reactions when I tell them that I participate in a ministry which serves people affected by the sex industry.  I get a mixed bag of responses especially from other Christians.

For the most part, people are curious.  And I LOVE that!  Curiosity and questions are my favorite reactions because it’s an opportunity for us to break bread together, learn about each other, learn more about God’s heart, and hopefully grow.  If you’ve been wondering about BeLoved and how it all works and why, please ask me!!!  Answering questions about it is my favorite thing in the world!

Another reaction I often get is that of pure excitement that such an outreach exists.  Many people want to know right away how they can be involved because they recognize the need to love people right where they’re at.  I love that reaction too!  It’s my great privilege to participate in a ministry in which I can open doors for people to love other people.  And there are so many ways for you to get involved.  So, if you’re interested in being a bearer of God’s love to some precious people, just ask me about that too!

But, I also am met with a lot of misunderstanding and religious attitudes from some people.  They have attitudes such as “Well, why don’t they just get another job.”  “I mean, they are choosing their lifestyle.”  And deep down in their heart, what they really believe is that they are better than people affected by this industry.  Deep down, they believe that people in the industry don’t deserve love because they are somehow less than.

And that breaks my heart.

It breaks my heart for the Christians with that attitude because it’s a symptom of not having the fullness of grace and redemption operating in their own lives.  You can’t give grace to people in the sex industry if you don’t have grace.  You can’t give mercy to people in the sex industry if you don’t have mercy.  You can’t show love to people in the sex industry if you haven’t received love.

forgiven-muchJesus said that the sinful woman loved much because she had been forgiven much.  We should all desire and seek after the ability to love much.  This means we have to be forgiven much.  Now, I’m not saying go out and intentionally sin so that you can receive more forgiveness.  On the contrary.  I’m saying, recognize your great need for His grace and mercy each and every day.  Recognize that no matter how much deliverance you experience, there is always more to experience.  Live a lifestyle of repentance and dependency on God’s forgiveness.  The more you do that, the more you will love people.  Crucify haughtiness.  Crucify self-righteousness.  Crucify judgment.  Recognize that without His grace, mercy, and love we are each and every one of us, wretched!  Our own righteousness is filthy to Him.  His righteousness, the righteousness He has so freely shared with us, even though we don’t deserve it and never will, is supposed to make us more like Him: better and better at loving people, even people we may have deemed as unlovable.

The truth is that people in the sex industry are anything but unlovable.  They are so incredibly precious to my Father.  He loves them unconditionally.  They are each beautiful unique expressions of His image.  And they are His lost sons and daughters.  He aches for them to know Him as a Father.  He groans to be reconciled to them.  He desperately longs for them to walk in their true identities in the Kingdom.  He yearns to wipe away their tears.  He desires to shower them with affection.   His heart burns with passion for them to know His love!

So, why the sex industry?

Simply put: Because God loves people in the sex industry.

Isn’t that enough?

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How The Prodigal Son Should Have Ended

I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

prodigal-sonFor most of my Christian walk, I’ve completely identified with the younger brother.  Drawn to what the world had to offer, in defiance of the Father’s will, defeated by the world, humbled and fearful of the Father’s wrath, hanging my head as I vied for a servant’s position in the household, then overcome by His unexpected grace and mercy, and ultimately fully aware of and troubled by the older brother’s lack of compassion and understanding.

But over the past few years, God has led me through some intense healing and deliverance.  The theme of this recent season has been learning what it means to be a true son of God.  I’ve learned a lot about my identity in the Kingdom and that has changed everything.  It’s changed how I relate to God.  For the first time ever, I began experiencing Him as a father.  And I found out that He is a really really good father!  It’s changed how I view the Kingdom of Heaven.  For the first time ever, I don’t see it as some far off land that I may get to be a part of one day.  Instead, I realize that it is at hand.  I am already a part of it and I am an Ambassador of Heaven living in a foreign land.  I represent the culture of Heaven here on earth and it’s my privilege to spread that culture.  It’s changed how I feel about myself.  For the first time ever, I feel like ALL of the promises in the Word are for me.  All that He has really is mine!

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And for the first time ever, I realize that in this season of my life, I actually now more closely resemble the older brother in the parable.  I know my place in the family now and I’m busy serving my God as a true son.  And, I have very little desire for the things of the world when compared with the things of God. 

So now, I have a decision to make.  Will I behave just like the older brother in the parable, or will I rewrite this story?

Option One: The Original Story

I’m serving my Father in His house, tending to my own inheritance all the while there are prodigal sons and daughters living out beyond the reach of the family.  My Father watches at the window waiting for them to return, desperate to get to them before anyone else in the household does.  Who knows what they might do to them?  The disgrace they’ve brought the family is reason enough to rough them up and send them packing. 

But, that’s not my Father’s heart.  He weeps for them.  He watches for them.  He longs for them.  He’s come to me and to others several times entreating us to go look for them and bring them home.

But who has time for that?

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The Prodigal Son Driven Out

Give it up Father!  Just forget about them if they don’t want to be a part of this family.  Look around at how well things are going here!  Everyone’s happy.  Everyone’s needs are met.  We’re working together to build and expand your household.  We’re getting stronger.  We’re getting fatter.  We’re getting richer.  Our enemies come to try to rob us and we easily send them packing.  We’ve got it made in the shade.  Who needs all those dirty, stinky, needy prodigals coming in here and screwing up what we’ve worked so hard to build?     

One of them came back the other day.  And Father actually threw him a party.  He gave him fine clothes and gifts!  Can you imagine?  Father is acting just like these prodigals: hasty, irrational, extravagant, and indulgent.  It was so wasteful.  All that I’ve worked so hard for was just given to this scoundrel.  I had to say something.  Father made a big point of telling me that this prodigal wasn’t just His son, but that he was my brother.  Well, Father can go on thinking that if He wants, but that wretch is no brother of mine.  Let him prove himself first.  Maybe then I’ll accept him.painting1

Uggh!  Now that I’m the older brother, I just hate this part of the story.  I want to rewrite it.  I believe the whole reason Jesus told this story is so that we would rewrite it!

Option Two: An Alternate Ending (How it Should Have Ended…And Still Can)

So many of my brothers and sisters have left and are living out lives they were never designed to live.  My Father’s heart breaks for them.  He paces before the window every day, watching and praying for their safe return.  I can’t bear seeing my Father like this.  I can’t bear the thought of what my brothers and sisters might be going through.  They are living without the protection and provision I enjoy as a son of this household.  They are living without the Father’s love and blessing and guidance. 

There’s so much to do here, but I can’t get them off my mind.  My Father loves them as much as He loves me.  And I love my Father.  So when my Father’s heart breaks, so does mine.

So, I went to my Father one day and I said, “Father, send me out to find these lost sons and daughters of yours.  Give me authority to tell them how you really feel about them.  Give me provision to journey to the ends of the earth to find them!  Give me authority to bring them home to you.” 

tumblr_li7zmaRFW71qhmhdfo1_500With joy, He gave me everything I asked for and sent me out to find them.  In ways, it was tough to leave the safety of the household and venture out to where I might be mocked or abused or even killed.  But I knew that I had the support of my entire family behind me.  So I mustered up all the courage I had and decided to care more about my lost brothers and sisters than I did for myself and my own needs and safety. 

And when I found one of my brothers face-down in the muck of a pig pen, it made it all worth it.  He was dirty and stinky and half starved to death.  I ran to him and got right down in the pig poop with him.  I got filthy dirty, but I didn’t care.  I took no thought of what people might think when they saw me covered in muck.  All I was thinking about was rescuing my brother. 

My brother was beyond surprised to see me.  He couldn’t believe that I had actually left home for the sole purpose of finding him.  He thought the family had written him off.  He thought Father hated him.  He thought he was too dirty to be accepted. 

mudkids-1I brushed the mud off of his face.  “There you are,” I said.  I told him he was my brother and I loved him no matter what he had done.  I told him all about how the Father wept for him and longed for him.  I told him, “This isn’t who you are.  This pig pen doesn’t define you.  You’re a member of a wealthy and royal family.  Come home, brother.  Father and I love you!” 

I helped him to his feet and together we headed home.  All the while, he hung his head and kept rehearsing his apology.  He kept asking me if I was sure he would be welcome.  I reassured him over and over again that no one would turn him away. 

 When we drew near to the house, he grew increasingly nervous and considered turning back several times.  “Don’t,” I pleaded.  “Just wait until you see!  Everyone will be overjoyed to see you!  I guarantee you Father will be head over heels for you!” 

Finally, we reached the edge of the property and here came Father, running out of the house and down the hill toward him!  Father’s arms were wide open.  There was a huge smile on His face and tears in His eyes.  My brother just dropped to his knees and hung his head. murillo

But just then, something miraculous happened.  Every member of the family who had heard what was happening immediately left their work in the fields and joined the Father in running down the hill to greet our brother who had returned.  It was amazing to see my family with one heart and one purpose following in the footsteps of our great Father. 

The party started right then and there as the Father and everyone after Him hugged and fawned over my brother.  We all helped him into his new clothes and we reminded him over and over again the he was a true son of this family.  We fed him and helped him heal.  We held his hand and loved him.  We never treated him any differently. 


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And he grew strong and confident.  And now, whenever he and I hear of another lost son or daughter, we go out together after him or her.  And we as a family celebrate over and over again, every time our brothers and sisters come home.  We’re constantly throwing parties.  And I love it!  I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other family.

Which is more powerful: Courage or Compassion?

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I’d like to propose the idea that these two qualities are actually two sides of the same coin and are not fully operational separate from one another. Compassion without courage is completely ineffectual and courage without compassion is equally pointless and can sometimes even be cruel.

Allow me to explain.

What is True Compassion?

985b9e5017f743dfac13c55a2a9fd034Compassion literally means, “co-suffering.”  It’s way more involved than simply sympathizing with someone.  It’s even more involved than empathizing with them.  Compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another person’s suffering.  It is love-in-action.  It’s a mother, who can’t swim and is deathly afraid of water, jumping into a deep pool to rescue her drowning baby.  This is the perfect love that scripture talks about.  It’s the love that casts out fear.  It doesn’t work without courage.  Without courage, compassion is nothing more than apathetic sympathy.  Without courage, compassion is just a weak fleeting emotion.  Without courage, the child drowns.  But with courage, compassion saves!

What is True Courage?

Courage without compassion is a bit tougher to explain. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens you.  It’s the strength to act in the face of pain, fear, or grief.  Here are three scary scenarios to consider:

–          Skydiving. (Facing Fear)

–          Stealing a car. (Facing Fear minus Compassion)

–          Jumping into water to save a child even though you can’t swim. (Facing Fear plus Compassion)

All of these require acting in the face of fear; acting when there is the threat of pain or grief as a result.  But do all three of them qualify as true courage?

How-Scary-is-Skydiving1–          Facing Fear: There’s nothing wrong with skydiving.  If you’re into it, knock yourself out.  I don’t get it, personally, but I do recognize there are some inherent benefits from taking such a risk.  For instance, many people experience a deeper sense of self-realization which makes them braver in other areas of their life.  If I can survive jumping out of a plane, I can survive this board meeting.  But other than that, it doesn’t accomplish much.  Thus, I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it “true courage.”  I’m much more comfortable qualifying it as “nerve” or “grit” or “boldness.”

car-thief_0–          Facing Fear Minus Compassion:  Stealing a car also requires nerve.  However, I can’t get over the fact that an act like this more closely fits another definition.  “Cowardice” is defined as a trait wherein fear or excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good, and of help to others or oneself in a time of need.  Stealing a car may be scary, but it’s not right, it’s not good, and it doesn’t help others.  Acting in the face of fear can sometimes be attributed to an excessive self-concern.  When this is the case, it’s not courage.  In fact, it’s the total opposite of courage.  It’s full-on cowardice!

praying2–          Facing Fear Plus Compassion:  We’ve already established the power of these two working in tandem.  It’s the compassionate love the mother has for her child which would cause her to perform such a courageous act.  When jumping into the pool, she’s not thinking about the risk involved if she acts.  Rather, she’s thinking about the risk involved if she doesn’t act.  This is true courage.  True courage acts in the face of fear whenever there is something worthwhile at stake.  This is the type of courage that Jesus had when He faced the cross.  Another phrase for it is “sacrificial love,” the kind of love that lays down its life for the life of another.

Are you living a truly courageous life?  Is your cause worthwhile?  Is your cause worth dying for?  

Courage + Compassion = Salvation   

Courage plus compassion always compels us to do what is right even in the face of danger.  And it often leads to salvation!

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For example, I cannot get over the long series of compassionate courageous acts found in Exodus chapters 1 and 2.

Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boy children of the Israelites because he feared they would grow up to be warriors who would oppose him.  He feared their courage minus compassion. But it turns out that it was courageous feminine compassion which posed the real threat to him not masculine might.  In those first two chapters, we see compassionate act after compassionate act performed by women which ultimately lead to the rise of the deliverer and the abolition of the Hebrew slaves.  Their acts ultimately led to salvation.

Read it for yourself.  Here are just some highlights.

Acts of Courageous Feminine Compassion in Exodus 1 and 2:

1.  The midwives refuse to kill the boy children, a direct defiance of Pharaoh’s orders. They basically were willing to die so that these babies could live.

2.  To cover for why they didn’t kill the babies, the midwives boldly tell the Pharaoh that Hebrew women are just tougher than Egyptian women and they have the babies before a midwife can get there. (Can you imagine telling a king that the women of his race just aren’t as tough as the women he held as slaves? And God blessed the midwives for it by giving them families.)

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3.  Moses’s mother puts her baby in a basket. This may at first glance seem heartless, but, upon closer examination, is actually very compassionate. How hard it must’ve been to part with your baby in the hopes that he may have a slim chance to live.  This was a self-sacrifice.

4.  Moses’s sister bravely follows Moses’s basket, wanting no harm to come to her little brother.

5.  Pharaoh’s daughter keeps baby Moses even though she knows she is directly disobeying her father’s orders. Because, that’s just what we women do. We see a stray, we bring it home. We see a baby in a basket, we bring it home. Compassion. We’d rather ask our father or our husband for forgiveness than ask them for permission when someone or something helpless is involved.c000501a7c43f8aa04b950d6985454927788ef8b8daaee3609f995be73b73d7f

6.  Moses’s sister boldly talks to Pharaoh’s daughter about finding a Hebrew nursemaid for the baby. This would’ve taken considerable bravery since, she would’ve had to reveal that she was hiding in the reeds watching this whole thing take place (Pharaoh’s daughter had been BATHING in the river when she found Moses…can you say “creeper”?).  Furthermore, she was a slave who had no right to address the Pharaoh’s daughter.

7.  Moses’s mother agrees to nurse Moses (and now gets paid to do so-paid to nurse her own child) knowing that she can’t tell him the truth and she will have to hand him over to another woman to be his mother. At that point, I think I would have taken my baby and my money and gotten out of dodge. But Moses’s mother knows he will have a much better life in Pharaoh’s courts than he will in the slave pits. So, she sacrifices a relationship with him so that he can have a better life.

Of course, we know the end of the story.  Moses grows up and, after facing many of his own fears, he acts with courageous compassion to liberate the people of God.

Compassion-Share-ItI don’t know about you, but that just stirs me up!  If you’re like me and you have a heart for evangelism, a heart to see the lost and broken be ransomed and redeemed, I urge you to work hard to develop courageous compassion.  Jesus exemplified it, and so can you!  His courageous compassion is what brought salvation to the world.  Your courageous compassion is what will bring people to Jesus so that they can experience that same salvation.  It’s time to rise and shine His perfect love.

What are you waiting for?  Go love like crazy!

10 Things Men Can Do to End Human Trafficking

all-that-is-necessary-triumph-of-evil-edmund-burke-quotes-sayings-picturesThis is going to take courage, men.  Good thing you were created for courageous acts!

1. Absolutely refuse to be complacent.  The end of complacency begins with rejecting the false assumption that trafficking is a “women’s issue” and realizing that it is a human issue.  Women are only one half of the equation.  The fact of the matter is that men and women are both victims and perpetrators in this global pandemic (Click here to learn more about male trafficking victims).  However, women are disproportionately the victims while men are disproportionately the perpetrators, according to the 2012 United Nations Global Trafficking in Persons Report.   Thus, if the majority of perpetrators are men, then good men have a responsibility to stand up against this injustice.  We need you to lead the fight by standing up for true masculinity; a masculinity that respects and empowers women and does not buy or sell them as if they are commodities.

Furthermore, we must reject the false assumption that trafficking happens only in large cities, or on rare occasions, or only in foreign countries. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, human trafficking is the second fastest growing criminal industry, just behind drug trafficking.  If you don’t think this issue has or could possibly reach your small town, this is where I break from the statistics and ask you to simply think about how much illegal drug activity happens in your town or even your very own neighborhood.  How many people do you know who have been affected directly or indirectly by illegal drug use?  Is there anyone in your family who has used illegal drugs?  We probably all know at least a dozen people who have been on illegal drugs or have been affected in some way by this industry.  And there is not a town in America that does not have some part of this industry taking place.  Now think about this:  a drug dealer can sell a drug one time, but a trafficker can sell a person over and over again up to 40 times a day.  If it’s not in your small town yet, it soon will be, especially if good men like you refuse to do anything about it.  It’s impossible for illegal entrepreneurs to ignore the possible profit margins.  And since the demand to purchase sex is on the rise in our overly pornified culture, traffickers are rising up to meet the increased demand with an increased supply.

Which brings me to my next point two points: refuse to be a part of the demand!

supply-and-demand-image12. Refuse to purchase sex or patronize anywhere sex is sold.  This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s surprising how many people believe that prostitution is a victimless crime.  If sex for sale is in demand, then supply has to go up to meet that demand; this means that the number of trafficking victims goes up.  Wherever sex is for sale (whether legal or illegal), there will be trafficking!  According to the 2013 U.S. TIP Report,  “If there were no demand for commercial sex, sex trafficking would not exist in the form it does today… Too often, trafficking victims are wrongly discounted as ‘consenting’ adults. The use of violence to enslave trafficking victims is pervasive, but there are other—more subtle—forms of fraud and coercion that also prevent a person from escaping compelled servitude.”

END THIS DEMAND!  Trafficking is a business and it operates on business principles, i.e. supply and demand.  In a market where women as seen as disposable, if the demand decreases, eventually so will the supply.  Men, this means not even patronizing legal businesses where sex or sexuality is for sale (e.g. strip clubs, bikini bars, sex toy shops, massage parlors, etc.)  All of this feeds the beast.  Any purchase of sex whether legal or illegal feeds the demand and results in more and more women being forced or coerced into the industry.

punch-computer-33.  Refuse to buy or even look at pornography.  This includes soft porn (music videos, movies, TV, etc.)  I chose to put pornography in its own category because so many believe that pornography is separate from the sex industry and is therefore okay to look at and that it doesn’t hurt anyone.  However, watching pornography is just as much a part of the demand for commercial sex as is patronizing prostitution.  In fact, I would go so far as to say pornography is the root of the commercial sex industry.  The pervasive normalization of pornography in our culture is the heart and soul of what is fueling the demand.  It is what is raising up men who want to purchase sex and think its okay to purchase sex.

Dear brothers, the porn industry is high-jacking your sexuality and selling it back to you.  In this case, you are the victim.  Porn is destroying not only your image of women as human beings, but also your image of men as human beings.  It is dehumanizing you by selling you on a lie: that women are hyper-sexualized nymphomaniacs who are always available for sex and exist to satiate men’s sexual appetites and that men are nothing more than mindless, unfeeling, amoral beings entitled to degrade and dominate women.  Porn is eroding your character, desensitizing you to the issue of human trafficking, and destroying your ability to experience healthy intimacy.

It’s time to take back your masculinity.  Reclaim your humanity!  You are not amoral and unfeeling; you were created to uphold justice and to have compassion.  You were created to protect and uplift women and girls not to degrade and dominate them.  Just say no to an industry that is fueling slavery while simultaneously forming you into someone you are not!

black-father-son-shaving4.  Disciple younger men and boys.  The words you speak and the choices you make now are setting the standard of masculinity for the next generation.  You can rest assured that your sons and younger men within your sphere of influence are watching you and they are picking up on your values.  They’re watching to see how you treat women and what you say about them.  The rest of culture is grooming them to become consumers of sex and women.  Will you challenge culture by standing for the truth?  Your influence is more powerful than the influence of the culture, but you have to exercise it thoughtfully and on purpose.  The two best things you can do are to take a stand for purity and to love and respect your wife.  Don’t degrade her, don’t make comments about women’s appearances, and don’t glorify sexual conquests.  Correct boys and men who reflect a desensitization to degrading women.  

We live in a culture in which the words “pimp” and “player” have a positive connotation.  Men, you can change this by teaching younger men that “pimp” is not synonymous with “cool” because pimps are traffickers.  Teach boys that women are to be respected and protected not dominated and disposed of.  Teach them by example!  Because, trust me, they’re much more likely to do as you do rather than do as you say.

5.  Raise awareness.  Everyone has their own circle of influence.  Take it upon yourself to learn everything you can about the issue of human trafficking and then start telling people abut it.  Start with your family and your children, then branch out and tell your friends and coworkers.  If you have a small group at church, bring it up there.  Talk to your men’s group about it.  If you’re not a speaker invite someone who knows about this issue to share with your group (I’d be happy to oblige), or show the film, Nefarious (trust me, it will get your group talking).  It’s available for instant streaming online now.  There is a plethora of resources out there.  The more people who are aware, the less indifference there will be.  The less indifference there will be, the more change can happen.

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6.  Join a group to end the demand.  There are several groups dedicated to raising awareness, ending the demand, and caring for victims.  Join one of these groups and let your voice be heard.  We’re stronger when joined together than when we are apart.  Groups such as these will keep you stirred up to attack this issue head on and will keep you informed about the latest developments in legislation, prevention and aftercare.  If you’re in Illinois, check out End Demand Illinois  a campaign which is dedicated to shifting law enforcement’s attention to sex traffickers and people who buy sex, while proposing a network of support for survivors of the sex trade.  Another such group is The ARMED Campaign (Association of Real Men Ending the Demand), an extension of Eve’s Angels founded by Anny Donewald.  which is a movement to get MEN educated and advocating to end the demand of sex trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children.  Men who join this campaign, take the following pledge:

THE PLEDGE:

I’m taking the pledge to protect women and children from the dangers of Sex Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. I also pledge to never sell, purchase, contribute and/or aid in any way, the criminal act of trafficking and/or purchasing sex from any woman or child.

 
7.  Support legislation and legislators who are attacking the demand.  For so long, the victims of trafficking have been criminalized, while the traffickers and those exploiting the victims were met with few if any repercussions.  Within such a system, trafficking is fostered.  Thankfully, attitudes are begin to shift in the U.S. and law makers and law enforcers are beginning to recognize a need to revamp the system.  However, they need the support and pressure of constituents to expedite the process.  Support politicians who are pushing to criminalize pimping and purchasing sex and who recognize prostitutes as potential victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.  This is known as the Swedish Model of prostitution laws (and hint: it works.) Write your congressman and to tell him/her how important the issue is to you and that you are in favor of adopting the Swedish Model in your state.  

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8.  Financially support ministries, organizations, and NGOs who are working on the front line and in aftercare.  These are the people doing the hands-on work with trafficking victims.  We can pass law after law but without people actually going after the victims and offering aftercare, no one will be rescued from this injustice.  According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the sad fact is that there are currently less than 100 beds in aftercare facilities available for underage victims of trafficking in the U.S.  Law enforcement officials are beginning to recognize that many women and girls taken off the streets are victims rather than criminals.  But, if they have no aftercare facility to which to send them, they have no choice but to send them through the judicial system in which they are criminalized.  

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Pat Bradley, Crisis Aid International

These aftercare facilities generally rely on donations to operate.  That’s why it’s so important to give to reputable organizations.  One of my favorites is Crisis Aid International which is based in St. Louis, Missouri.  Since opening in 2012, Crisis Aid has provided service for more than 25 American victims of sex trafficking ages 14-24 years old.  Theirs is a holistic approach.  According to their website,  the girls “are provided a safe loving home with their own bedroom.  They receive a variety of services and opportunities including basic care, professional counseling, medical and mental healthcare, more than 60 life skills programs, educational opportunities, recreational activities, and more.”  When I met met with Crisis Aid’s founder, Pat Bradley, in early 2012, he told me of their plans to build a second wing to their facility which will house up to 11 minors.  But they need donations to make this happen.
 
9.  Change how you view women.  Especially promiscuous women and women in the sex industry.  Please realize that no little girl wants to grow up to sell herself.  Every woman seemingly in the industry by choice has a story.  
 
download (1)Sex work is traumatizing.  In fact, many studies show that people in the sex industry commonly experience as much or more Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome than men who have been in war.  So, before you think, Well, if she respected herself, she’d just get a different job,  you have to ask yourself, What has happened in this woman’s life that has brought her to a place where she is “willingly” being sexually traumatized for eight or more hours a day and convincing herself that this is what she’s worth, that it’s worth the money, and/or that she likes it.
 
It’s also important to realize the way in which our current culture is grooming girls to see themselves and their sexuality as a commodity and a way of being seen.  There is tremendous pressure put on girls and women in our popular culture to conform to this standard.  So, before you judge that girl in your Twitter feed who posted that inappropriate pic of herself, realize that she is simply conforming in order to survive in an overly pornified culture.  The appropriate response is compassion, not judgement or pity.  Check your heart, brothers.  If there is judgement, pity, derision, or shaming in there, then you’re heart is no different from the hearts of those who would degrade and abuse her.
 
10.  Empower women.  Operate in the opposite spirit.  If you want to combat the degradation of women, then do the opposite:  empower them!  Honestly, it’s ridiculous that this even has to be said.  But it does.  Seriously, only insecure men are afraid of empowered women.  And I know you’re not insecure.  You’re a real man!  And true men treat women as equals, in the home, in the marketplace, and within the church, and have no fear that their own positions and/or masculinity is somehow challenged by gender equality.  Rather, true men see the value in partnering with women as equals.  “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9rosie
 
And let me just propose that if you, your business, or the ministry you are involved in does not allow women to be in positions of leadership or to teach men, you are part of the problem.  You’re saying, “Yes, I’m against trafficking.  But no, I don’t believe women share equal humanity with men.  Men are superior to women and have every right to be in sole authority over them.”  Yeah, that’s a contradiction in terms.
 
But please don’t take my word for it.  Before you spout any Pauline theology at me, check out these resources by people who have studied the issue and are far more articulate than I.  After you’ve read all three of these articles AND the books they reference, then you can argue this point with me.
 
 
So what do you say, men?  Are you courageous enough to take up the cause?  I believe that you are!  Stand up and fight for justice!  It’s what you were born for!
 

The Parable of the Slave

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This is my story.

This is the story of the Bride of Christ.

This is your story.

There once was a certain girl who grew up in the land.  She had been a slave for as long as she could remember. Everyone she knew was a slave.  And the life of a slave was all she knew.

There arose in the land a great king who was righteous.  His heart broke for the people who were enslaved in the land and His anger was kindled against their taskmasters. He took note of the slave girl and He loved her from the moment He saw her.  In fact, He loved her so much that He immediately went to her and rescued her from slavery.  He brought her into His castle and ordered His servants to exchange her dirty, tattered garments for the finest garments of the kingdom, put shoes on her feet, and rings on her fingers.  A party was thrown that very night in the castle in her honor.  There was more delicious food than the girl had ever seen in her entire life. She was overwhelmed by the generosity of the King toward her.  As the party rolled on into the night, and the she had eaten more food than she could hold and laughed and smiled more than her cheeks could bear, the King stood up and announced His plan to adopt her as His very own daughter.  And so He did.

And all was well for a time.  The girl loved her new life. And the King loved her with a father’s love.  He took great delight in seeing her thrive in the kingdom and feel secure and full of joy.   But eventually, the girl ran into one of the taskmasters who had formerly ruled over her. “Who do you think you are?” he scoffed at her.  “You were born a slave.  You’ll always be a slave.  Those fancy clothes don’t fool me.  I know who you really are.  You don’t belong in the King’s kingdom.”

And the girl remembered her former life and fell into despair, thinking, “He’s right.  Who am I to be favored by this king?  Surely I am not truly loved by him.  Who am I to walk around as if I am His true daughter when I am not even worthy to be His servant.  There has been a mistake.”  It was at this time that she withdrew from the presence of the King.  She took off the beautiful clothes He had given her and put back on her filthy rags.  She kept to herself and her shame drove her deeper into despair.

The King took note of her absence and sought her out.  When He found her alone, He asked, “Why have you withdrawn from me?  Where are your fine garments?  You are my beloved daughter.  It is my desire for you to grow up before my eyes because I delight in you.  I delight in beholding you.  I delight in knowing you.  I delight in blessing you.”

The girl wept at the King’s words, but could not bring herself to believe them.  “Your words cannot be true,” she retorted. “How could a king love a slave as His own daughter?  Those clothes don’t belong to me.  They don’t change who I am.  All they have done is cover up the filth from my years as a slave.  I don’t belong here.  I don’t belong to you.  I should go back to the slave pits.”

And the King wept to hear her heart.  “But all I have, I have given to you.  Anything and everything in my kingdom is yours.”  But the girl would not accept any of it.  She felt too unworthy.

About that time, the slavemaster came to the gates of the castle to demand her life be turned over to him.  And he brought with him a great host of oppressors.  “Return the slave girl to me, for she is mine!” He yelled up at the castle. “She was born a slave and she will die a slave.  She has no business in your kingdom, let alone your family.  I will fight for her tooth and nail!  Surrender her now!”

At this, the King’s passion was kindled.  He called to himself His only begotten Son, the heir of the kingdom, and the captain of His army.  “Son, the time has come to fight for the life of my daughter.  The slavemaster has demanded she be given up, but I will not stand for it.  She is my own and even if I must give up my whole kingdom for her, so be it.  Even if you, my only flesh and blood son, must die for her, so be it.  All the power and authority of my kingdom I give to you to leave this castle, descend to the slave pits, and defeat the slavemaster and his host.”

The Son of the King took no convincing for He had already fallen head over heels in love with the girl.  The passion in His heart toward her matched the passion in His father’s heart for her.  “Father, I am more than willing to fight for your daughter, my beloved.  I will conquer this foe even if it means my own death so that she might stay here in this kingdom and remain with us forever, knowing how much we love her.”

And so, the King’s Son led His army into war.  Two mighty hosts crashed into one another in the slave pits all on behalf of the life of one slave girl.  And for a time, it seemed as though the army of oppressors had the upper hand.  The Son of the King and the slavemaster went head to head in combat.  The Son of the King fought gallantly, but the slavemaster eventually dealt a mighty blow to the Son of the King, knocking Him off His horse into the dust.  He lay there on the ground for what seemed like three day.  But then, just when it seemed that the slavemaster had won, the Son of the King rose up off the ground, drew back His mighty sword and slew the slavemaster.

Now, the King had taken the girl up to the highest tower of the castle so that she could watch the battle that was being fought on her behalf.  “Do you see my Son down in the slave pit fighting for you?” He asked.  “He has fallen in love with you.  He is willing to lay down His life so that you might live.  This is the greatest love of all.”  And the slave girl wept to see this mighty prince in battle all because He loved her.  “Daughter,” the King said.  “I have always loved you.  You did not choose me.  I chose you to be mine.  Now it is my desire and privilege to see your joy be full.  Do you love my son who loves you and would give His life for you?”

At this, the girl looked fully into the King’s eyes and said with all sincerity, “Yes.  I love Him.  I love Him with all that is within me.”

The King beamed with joy to hear her choose His son.  “Then it is settled.  Upon my son’s return, I will give you in marriage to Him.  His name shall be your name.  His inheritance shall be your inheritance.  And you will KNOW that you are my true daughter, once and for all.  And none shall be able to deny it.”

And so it was that when the Son returned, He sat down at the right hand of His father.  The former slave girl exchanged her tattered garments once again, this time for a beautiful wedding gown, and the King’s Son received her as a bride unto himself.  And the Son loved her.  And the Father loved her.  And she loved the Son and she loved the Father.  And she came to know her place in the kingdom, her place in the family.  She walked in the authority of the King, not ruling over others, but serving and loving others as the Son had loved and served her.  She made a way for others to be exalted just as the Son had made a way for her.  She spent time before the eyes of her Father, the King, serving in His courts, sitting at the foot of His throne, listening to His wise words, and reclining her head in His lap.  And she knew once and for all, that she was His true daughter.  And the Father and the Son took great delight in her.

And it came to pass, that one day the King took her up to the top of the highest tower again.  “Look down into the slave pit, Daughter, and tell me what you see.”

“I see slaves at work, trying so hard to please their taskmasters so that they might find one small moment of relief, joy, anything.  Father, my heart is moved with compassion for them.  I used to be just like that.  But because of your love for me and the love of your son, I am free.  Father, your love is so great.  Would you not take them in and adopt them as you have done for me?”

The King beamed with fatherly pride to see that His daughter had developed a heart just like His own.  “That is exactly what I desire.  Long have they been oppressed and long have I waited for you to feel what I feel and think like I think.  You finally know your true identity, your place in this family.”

“It is only because of your unconditional love that you showed me, Father.  It’s only because you and your son were the only ones to love me with no agenda, no strings attached, while I was yet a slave, unworthy of such love.”

“Daughter, it is the thrill of my heart for you to know my love, but the people down in that pit, they don’t know it.  But I love them the same way that I love you.  I want to adopt them in to this family.”

“Don’t they know that your son has defeated the slavemaster?”

“No, Daughter, they don’t know.  And they won’t know unless they are told.”

“Then send me, Father.  Let me go to them and tell them.  Who better to go than the one who knows what it was like to be a slave and now is truly free because of your love?  Let me bear the love you have for them.”

This was exactly the will of the King.  So He sent her out as an ambassador for His Kingdom. She was to represent her family, her bridegroom, her father, her King.  She declared the King’s unconditional love everywhere she went and expressed it through her actions.  Many accepted this message of freedom through His love.

And thousands of slaves became true sons and daughters of the Most High King all because one slave girl dared to believe what the King said about her.

All I Wanted Was To Take Her Shame Away

This is a very embarrassing post.

 But part of overcoming your fears means laying aside your pride and being able to laugh at yourself.  Besides, even though what I’m about to share with you and the rest of the internet (i.e. the whole world) is one of my most embarrassing moments, it also happens to be one of my most profound encounters with the Holy Spirit and, for that reason, is worth sharing. It never ceases to amaze me how God speaks to me when I least expect Him to and how He can redeem every moment of our lives (even the embarrassing ones) and turn it around for our good and His glory. gbhouse2

It all started around this time last year.  It was a few weeks before Christmas and, upon the suggestion of a friend, I had driven to Evansville to check out the annual Aurora Gingerbread House Competition.  Being a cake designer, I’m intrigued by any pastry-based competition and was particularly interested in the hefty cash prize that was awarded to the winner.  It didn’t hurt either that the proceeds benefited Evansville’s homeless (spectators need only bring a canned good or perishable item as cover).  The only hitch was that beyond assembling a store-bought gingerbread kit, I had never worked with the medium, therefore I felt it necessary and wise to do some reconnaissance before actually entering such a competition.  I concluded I may enter the following year, but first I wanted to scope out the level of competition and ask the designers as many technical questions as I could about working with gingerbread without revealing my agenda.  Sneaky… 

The day was fantastic!  I highly recommend this event to anyone, whether you’re a seasoned pastry chef, a kid who likes to play with icing, or just a looky-loo in the Christmas spirit.  They have a few different competitions for people of various skill levels including a kid’s track, each with its own prize.  It was so much fun to meander from table to table with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the artists assemble their creations with a Christmas choir signing in the background. gbhouse I saw every type of gingerbread house imaginable, from the very traditional to Santa’s summer retreat to a working gingerbread cuckoo clock to a haunted gingerbread house.  This intricate gingerbread bird house was my favorite and ended up winning first place in the professional division. 

Side Note:  Aurora, Inc. is a really great organization!  You should check out their website and their blog, http://aurorahelpshomeless.wordpress.com/

When I left the event, I still had plenty of time to kill before my husband, Blake, got home.  I think he was at a speech tournament otherwise we would have most definitely been together.   We really are best friends and would prefer any activity together rather than solo and thus usually find a way to accompany one another even on our individual adventures.  This aspect of our relationship is great, but it makes Christmas shopping for one another nearly impossible.  We usually just buy each other’s gifts together, wrap them together, and then act surprised on Christmas morning.  But, since I was actually out alone for once, I decided to take advantage of the situation and stop by Eastland Mall to pick him up a few secret presents. 

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As I drove across town, it dawned on me that I must have drank one too many hot chocolates at the competition.  And by the time I got to the mall, I was under a full-fledged code yellow.  I had to go…BAD!

 Have you ever tried to find a quick parking place, close to the door, and close to a bathroom at a busy mall on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of the holiday shopping season all while nervously squirming in your seat so as not to endure a wet trip home?  I had traded one near impossibility for another.  Finally, after driving around for what seemed an eternity, the heavens opened and the hallelujah choir began singing as a car pulled out near the back side of JCPenny.  I couldn’t have been more relieved (well, that’s not actually true, I was in desperate need of greater relief); I knew that there was a small bathroom located at the back of the store just inside the closest door.  I thought to myself, “This is perfect!  Surely there won’t be anyone in this bathroom.  Most people don’t even know it’s here.” 

frequenturination Wrong!  After running awkwardly into the store with my knees together, I swung open the bathroom door to see that the line of perturbed, exhausted women ended just beyond it.  I squeezed my way in, desperately praying that I could hold it until my turn.  The good news is that I made it to the stall.  

The band news?  Well, this is going to take some explaining.  Bear with me.  This was the holidays and I was sporting the obligatory few extra holiday pounds but I still wanted to look nice in my skinny jeans and sweater, which is why I decided to wear my secret weapon and trusted ally: Spanx! (Don’t hate.) These weren’t just simple Spanx either.  Oh no!  These were full-body, over-the-shoulder Spanx; the kind you have to take off all of your clothes in order to remove.  Well, there was simply no time for any of that nonsense (finally getting into the stall had actually increased the urgency of the situation, if you know what I mean.)  If you’re unfamiliar with the design of this type of Spanx, this is the part of the story in which it’s unfortunately pertinent I explain to you that they have an opening which, in the case of an emergency (of which this was one), allows the wearer to utilize the bathing suit pullover method.  Ladies, you get me.  Fellas, ask your wives because that’s all the details I’m willing to give. 

Let’s just say, it did not go well.  I had waited so long to go and was so close to my goal that I lost control. There was nothing I could do, but try my best to get as much fabric as possible out of the line of fire and pray the damage was minimal.  By the end, I was wet, my hand was wet, the Spanx were wet.  To top it off, I felt a lot of pressure to hurry knowing that there were only two stalls and a slew of irritable women waiting on me to exit just outside the door.  I cleaned up as best I could with tissue paper and thought I had all but taken care of the problem.  I zipped up,  thoroughly washed my hands, and made my way out into the busy mall.  That’s when I learned a hard lesson:  spandex is like a sponge.  It feels dry to the touch, but actually retains a ton of moisture.  In other words, spandex lies.  My trusted friend had betrayed me. 

Slowly, I could feel my jeans getting wetter and wetter.  I tried to find a mirror so that I could do that move where you check yourself out all while pretending not to check yourself out.  But it was impossible!  People were everywhere!  The mall was packed with frantic holiday shoppers. I knew my pants were wet, but I didn’t know for sure if it was noticeable.  So I pulled my sweater down as far as I could and decided to make my way to the next nearest bathroom to assess the damages.  There was no way I was going back to the cramped and crowded restroom from which I had just escaped and face the same angry line of women.  The only problem?  The only other bathroom I knew of was all the way across the entire mall in the food court.  What could I do?  I had to go for it.  Surely my pants weren’t that bad.  But as I made my way there, every pack of laughing teenagers walking behind me made me as paranoid as a turkey on Thanksgiving. 

images (1)I finally made it, only to see a sign reading “Under Maintenance” and a janitor directing me and other traffic to a different bathroom upstairs.  Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Eastland Mall, but “upstairs” means walking up a completely open stairwell directly above the dining area of the food court.  And at that moment, the last place I wanted to be positioned was above a huge crowd of people who were eating.  But what choice did I have? I made my way upstairs and joined a long line of women waiting along a wall in a hallway to enter a tiny bathroom.  Finally.  I could rest and hide my shame for a while.  I took refuge by placing my back against the wall and pretended to look at my phone.  Nervous thoughts raced through my head as fast as I was aimlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed.  I was so ashamed.  I kept wondering how bad it was and how many people had noticed and what did they think and how was I going to get out of here and how could I be such a screw up!  I was so caught up in my own spiral of shame and self-loathing that I almost didn’t notice the family behind me.

A mom with four little girls ranging in age from nine to four were clumped together along the wall.  The mom was visibly and verbally annoyed with the eldest girl who was talking in a very high-pitched winy voice.  My attention was divided between them, the slowly moving line, snippets of Facebook posts, and my own self-defeating thoughts so it took me a while to realize that this girl wasn’t just being a brat.  She had a legitimate complaint, a complaint with which I could empathize.  She had to GO!

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As she hopped back and forth on one foot, bent over with her hands between her knees, bemoaning to her mother, “I gotta go bad! I can’t hold it,” my current quest faded from the forefront of my thoughts and I became increasingly worried for this little girl.  I tried to act nonchalant as I began paying closer attention to this family.  The mother was not in the mood to handle the girl’s current crisis and reprimanded her for making a scene.  It’s understandable.  She was powerless to help her little girl.  She couldn’t make the line move any faster and no one was offering her their place.  I’m sure this mother had been shopping all day, fighting the crowd, with four unruly kids in tow, spending money she could have used on bills or food, and was more than a little frazzled.  All she probably wanted was to get these kids to the bathroom and get out of there.

women-line-bathroom-400x400But, I felt so bad for this little girl and I was genuinely worried that she was going to have an accident right there in the hallway.  It didn’t seem like anybody else cared, so I vowed that when we finally got into the bathroom, I would let her go in my place.  As the line inched closer and closer to the bathroom doors, the girl’s cries became more and more frantic, “I really, really can’t hold it!  I’m gonna go!” and I became increasingly nervous for her.  I was so relieved when we finally made it into the actual bathroom.  Eventually, there was only one woman in line in front of me, but she was completely oblivious and seemed to be lost in her own world.  

As the girl’s voice reach a frenzied climax behind me, a stall opened up, and I practically pushed the lady in front of me into it.  I pressed forward on her shoulder shocking her back into the present moment, pointed at the open stall, and commanded, “Go!  Go!”  She let our a sudden, “Oh!” and slowly sauntered into the stall as if she had all the time in the world.  

We had almost made it.  All that needed to happen was for one more glorious door to swing open.  I watched those doors like a hawk waiting for even the slightly movement.  And that’s when it happened.

The room went silent.  There girl’s urgent pleas had suddenly ceased.  I turned around only to see the saddest sight:  a little girl peeing her pants in the middle of a crowded room.  It all seemed to happen in slow motion.  Shock settled on the room.  Everyone just stared at her.  She just stood there, frozen, as her pants became more and more saturated and the liquid slowly pooled on the floor.  You could have heard a pin drop.  No one knew what to say or do.  And that’s when the mother did something I will never forget.

Without acknowledging the little girl besides directing an extremely aggravated huff and a very conspicuous eye roll in her direction, she turned to the next eldest in her brood,  handed her charge of the two younger girls, and said quite loudly and quite hatefully, “You take your sisters to the bathroom.  I’ve got to go tell your father.” 

Then…she walked out.  She. Walked. Out.

She left this precious baby standing in a puddle of her own urine.

I was stunned.  The little girl was stunned.  Her sisters were stunned.  The whole room was stunned.  

headinhandsThe little girl still just stood there in the middle of all of us, too frightened and ashamed to even step out of the puddle on the floor.  Her sisters were huddled together and inching back away from the liquid as it spread out along the bathroom floor.  The devastated little girl looked up at me with shame-filled eyes from the midst of her mistake.  My heart just broke.

Just then, a stall door opened.  I told the sisters to go ahead and use that stall.  They dutifully obeyed, relieved someone was finally telling them what to do.  I looked the little girl in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to come stand over here by me?”  She nodded her head, and sheepishly muttered, “yeah…”  That first step out of the puddle was all it took to release the tears.  She sobbed and sobbed as she took her place in the corner of the room with me.  I wrapped my arm around her shoulder.

In that moment, I didn’t know what to say.  All I wanted was to take her shame away.  I loved her in that moment.  I wanted her to know that it was going to be okay.  I wanted her to know that it could’ve happened to anyone.  I wanted her to know that it didn’t matter what anyone thought about what she had done.  I just wanted to give her her dignity back. 

We stood there, side by side, me hugging her shoulder against my hip, her quietly sobbing, me praying, her whimpering, me directing traffic to go ahead and cut in line.  Finally, I felt the Holy Spirit release me to talk to her.  I bent down, looked her in the eye, and just started asking questions I prayed would take her mind off of what had happened.  

“What’s your name?”  Ruth*

“How old are you?”  Nine

“Where are you from?”  Mt. Vernon*

“What grade are you in?”  Third

“What’s your favorite subject in school?”  Reading

“Really!  That’s awesome!  I used to be an English teacher.  What’s your favorite book?”  Some YA title I didn’t know. 

“I’ve never read it.  What’s it about?”  

She began relaying to me the plot of her favorite book.  And as she told me all about who she was and shared with me something she was interested in, the shame melted from her face and I saw her true countenance.  Her face was so bright and beautiful; it was practically glowing through the tears.  She remembered, even if for a moment, her true identity, which wasn’t defined by this one mistake.  She wasn’t the girl who peed her pants.  She was Ruth from Mt. Vernon who likes to read!  She had a name.  She had interests.  She had a personality.  She had a heart.  She had a soul.  She had dignity.  She had worth.  (The Holy Spirit is a genius.  He knows just how to handle every situation.  Just ask Him.  He’ll give you the words to say.)

It was a glorious moment.  And I just wanted to stay in that moment with her and talk about how wonderful she was.

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But, in an instance, the spell was broken.  Her mother burst back into the room.  She said nothing to Ruth.  She walked right past us, disgustedly glared at Ruth from the corner of her eyes, and momentarily stared daggers at me.  I stood up.  I had no desire to interfere with this woman’s parenting.  She was probably embarrassed too.  Maybe she didn’t know what to do or say.  Maybe she was trying really hard not to be angry.  Maybe she was keeping quiet so as not to reveal how much her anger had gotten the best of her.  We’ve all been there before, trying to keep it together because we know we should, even though we’re on the verge of a breakdown.  

Ruth and I watched as she yanked handfuls of paper towels out of the dispensers and commenced to silently mop up the urine on the floor.  She then forcefully slammed the wet towels in the trash.  

Just then, the sisters came out of the stall.  The mother growled at them, “Come on!  We’ve got to go buy your sister some pants.”  She still  hadn’t said anything to Ruth.  The mother, once again, stormed out of the restroom.  The sisters followed and Ruth hung her head as she joined them.  And just like that, she was gone.  

The woman who was next in line offered for me to go ahead.  When I got in the stall, I just stood there for what seemed an eternity trying to process what had just happened.  In that moment, I was so mad!  I thought, “I just know that woman is going to march her through the mall and everyone is going to see!   How could she do that to her?!”  Then I regretted not offering to go buy the pants for her or at least stay with her until the family bought the pants.  But no, I had done exactly what the Spirit led me to do.  I was okay.   “But why didn’t she stay with her while the dad bought the pants?  Why didn’t she protect her dignity?”  I was mad again.

I was so shaken, I didn’t know what to do.  So, I just did what comes naturally when you’re standing in a bathroom stall, I unzipped and sat down.  It wasn’t until then that I even remembered why I was there in the first place.  I looked down at my own soiled pants.  They were noticeably soaked through in the back.  Then, I finally made the connection between Ruth’s shame and my own.  I hadn’t thought about it until that very moment.  And I felt Jesus say within my heart, “I am your High Priest.”  And the Holy Spirit immediately brought to my remembrance Hebrews 4:15-16 which says, “Our High Priest is able to sympathize with our weakness, because He was tempted in every way that we are tempted but didn’t sin.  That’s why we can come boldly before His throne of grace and receive mercy for our sins and find grace to help in the time of  need.”  

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I just wept and wept.  I wept to know this High Priest who was tempted in every way I am tempted.  I wept to know this King who understands me.  I wept to know this intercessor who forgives my sins and erases my mistakes.  I wept to know this God who stooped down and became a man because He cares for me.  I wept to know this Lover whose heart breaks for me, who wraps His arms around me, who talks to me about who I really am and what interests me.  I wept to know this Savior who just wants to take my shame away and restore my dignity.  I wept to know this Warrior whose anger is kindled when I am abused and misused.  I wept and wept to know my Jesus who loves me.  

I wept to know that He had let me glimpse His heart and had done it by allowing me to feel for Ruth what He feels for me. Who was I to deserve such divine favor?  Who was I to deserve such grace and mercy?  It didn’t matter.  I was His.  He saw my true countenance, my true identity.  I wasn’t the woman who had made all those mistakes.  I was His Promise and I had dignity and I had worth.

1526__67131.1383422039.1280.1280Dearest Reader, this is the same way He feels about you.  He is no respecter of persons.  He loves you with an unbelievable love!  Let Him talk to you today about who you are.  You are precious to Him.  He isn’t mad at you.  He isn’t embarrassed by you.  He doesn’t walk out the door and abandon you in your time of need.  He’s not running to the Father to tell on you.  He protects your dignity and goes before the Father interceding on your behalf.  He’s not focused on your mistakes.  His intention in drawing them to the surface of your heart is so that He can skim them off and heal you.  He has no intention of marching you and your sins before a crowd of people.  He would never put your mistakes on display like that.  He’s more interested in talking to you about who He made you to be.  He looks beyond your faults and sees your needs.  He sees your true countenance, your true identity.  He sees your heart, your soul, your worth.  

So, if you have any shame in your heart today about anything in your life or in your past, let Him take that shame away.  

That’s all He wants to do.  

*Name and location has been changed.

CATCH A TIGER BY HIS TAIL: AMELIA EARHART

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” -Amelia Earhart

 
           Though countless women from past and present inspire my desire to tear down walls of gender inequality (many of whom you are bound to read about if you continue to follow this blog), Ms. Earhart has ever been my paragon in this respect.  Perhaps it’s because we share a birthday (July 24th), a connection which inspires me to hope we also share a similar nature: tenacious, fearless, and unapologetic.  Perhaps it’s because she was so bold concerning issues I care about: namely the rights of women to control their own lives and push beyond the list of socially prescribed career and family roles.  Or perhaps it’s because I work with so many disenfranchised women who, for whatever reason, have resigned themselves to make the best of a cultural system which exploits and oppresses them.  And it’s women like Amelia Earhart who give me hope that through the simple decision to act, we can conquer the mindset which falsely and resignedly declares “Oh well.  It’s a man’s world.” 

        And, if I’m being completely honest, it has a little something to do with the fact that when I flick through a Google image search of her, I’m mesmerized by how rad she looks in her leather jacket and aviator goggles.
 I mean, even her appearance, from her pants to her aviator cap to her grim and gritty grin, is a slap in the face of traditional gender roles.  Without words, each photo whispers “I won’t conform to your expectations of who and what I should be and that’s your problem, not mine.  So while you wrap your head around the audacity of a woman in trousers standing up for and making her own life choices, I’m going to go fly this plane.”

        While it is all of these aspects which cause me to admire her, the most inspiring thing about Amelia Earhart has nothing to do with fighting against gender inequality.  Quite simply, I’m in awe of the fact that she wanted to do something and she did it, despite the fact that it was difficult and despite the fact that it was scary and despite the fact that it had never been done.

         Start here to learn that she was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, set many other records, wrote best-selling books about her flying experiences, was instrumental in the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organization for female pilots, taught at Purdue University aviation department, was a member of the National Woman’s Party, and an early supporter of the Equal Rights Amendment.

        It’s true that Ms. Earhart disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the globe in her plane and is presumed dead, but this should not diminish any aspect of her life including all the accomplishments she achieved in her short 39 years.  The fact that she died as a result of attempting one of her goals doesn’t shake me in the least.  In fact, it reminds me of a quote by playwright, George Bernard Shaw, “Death is the ultimate statistic.  One out of one dies.”  The question for us, then, is never “Will I die?”  The question is only ever, “Will I live?”

        This is the same ideology I present to well-meaning people in my life who are at odds with some of my own life choices.  I’m often asked by family members and friends, “Aren’t you scared to travel to a third-world country?”  “Isn’t it dangerous to go to strip clubs? Especially in the name of Jesus?”  To which, I can only reply, “Yes.”  Yes, I’m scared…  Yes, it’s dangerous…  And it’s the ellipses which follows this exchange that makes me smile every time because it’s within the pregnant pause I pray the idea is eventually birthed in their minds: Why should danger and fear hinder action?

      I’m thoroughly convinced that it shouldn’t.  Under no circumstances should fear and danger ever trump the right and the desire of a person to truly live.  I’m sure fear was present when Amelia climbed into the cockpit of the first plane she ever flew, when Susan B. Anthony cast her first ballot, and when sixty Saudi Arabian women each got behind the wheel of a car as a protest against a kingdom-wide ban on female drivers.  But where would we be if these women and others like them let that fear guide their lives and dictate their actions?

        Fear will always accompany courageous acts.  In fact, true courage can actually only exist when there is risk involved, when there is truly something to fear.  Because courage is not the absence of fear.  It is, rather, the decision to act in the face of fear. And as my girl, AE, points out, “Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.”

         But courage is even more poignant in the life of a believer, because courage  can have providential consequences.  Courage is exemplified by Moses standing before Pharaoh with nothing but a staff and a word from God, declaring, “Let my people go!”  Courage is David, tiny and unarmored, swinging a slingshot around in the face of a giant seasoned warrior.  Courage is Daniel refusing to bow to the statue of a powerful king.  Courage is a sinful woman walking across a crowded room of religious people, bowing before Jesus, breaking open her alabaster box, and anointing his feet.  Courage is Jesus in the garden, sweating drops of blood, begging that the cup pass, before declaring, “Not my will, but yours be done.”  Each of these people weighed the goal against the risks, and found the goal to be worth the pain and danger.

        This is true freedom.  Not living your life devoid of fear and pain, but daring to live despite the fear and pain.  True freedom is choosing to live for a cause greater than yourself, a cause that is worth the risks involved.  For me, that cause is Christ.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I could die.  Sure.  But it’s worth it to really live and to see others live.  And if you’re a believer, death should not scare you anyway.  As Paul said, “To die is gain.”

         Be sure that you were not created to live a small, secure, petty, typical life.  You were created for a unique purpose and you were bought with a price.  Your life matters and your actions ripple throughout eternity.  So what is it you’re going to do with this one wild and precious life you’ve been given?  Where is your passion and what fears stand between you and your goals?  Why let them have any sway over your decisions?  The adventure is worthwhile in and of itself, but the goals are what make it worth the risks. The fears are paper tigers.  They look ferocious but are of little to no substance.  Your fears of the future, of what people think about you, or what they can do to you, your fear of failure, your financial fears and social fears, fear of inadequacy, fear of embarrassment, etc., etc….none of them have any real power over you.  They’re made of paper which crumples before your courage.

        So now that we have the proverbial paper tiger by the tail, how do we crush him?  It’s quite simple really: act.  Do the thing that you’re scared to do.   “Everyone has oceans to fly, if they have the heart to do it. Is it reckless? Maybe. But what do dreams know of boundaries?” -Amelia Earhart

        So, jump in that plane and find that you can soar.