While the world is striving to attain perfection, I realize the only perfect One took my place, as a perfect sacrifice, on a cross. Through Him my weaknesses are made strong. I'm not afraid to be different, because I AM different. I'm a child of The Most High. I can be imperfect because I am loved by a Perfect God.

Praying for Direction. Lift by Prayer. Working for Peace. Labor by Power. Driven by Love. Love by Patience. Living by Faith. Live by Presence. Held by Hope. Learn by Faith.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Confession of Love

Senior year of High School, myself and three of my friends had to do an ethics project. Our topic? Human Trafficking.

Yeah, I know who really knows anything about it? It doesn't happen, well maybe it does, but definitely not in The Land of the Free. I'm not sure any of the four of us knew what we were getting into.

Two weeks later we gave a two hour presentation on the topic, complete with a slide show, handouts, and a guest speaker from World Relief. The class was captivated and the teachers were impressed. We got the only A they have EVER given on an Ethics Project.

Does it end there? I really don't think it's possible for me to look at pictures like this:

Children are abused in Pedophile Rings

human trafficking Human Trafficking and People Smuggling: Transnational Crimes
Children are forced to work in poor conditions with little or no pay

Women are forced to work in poor conditions for little or no pay, and are also sexually exploited

and not expect my life to change. But really, what can I do? I'm just a twenty something girl. Trying to live my life, follow my dreams.... what dreams I know of...and trying to follow what God wants me to do.

CNN is currently doing a Freedom Project. This is one of the articles they posted.

Abolishing sex slavery by helping one girl at a time

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN

Atlanta, Georgia (CNN) - When Christine Caine talks about human trafficking, she speaks without punctuation, the words and sentences and paragraphs pouring out in a rushing stream that reflects the Australian's passion for rescuing victims and eradicating the crime.

In 2007, Caine, a globe-trotting evangelist and motivational speaker, was walking through the airport in Thessaloniki, Greece, and saw numerous handmade posters with pictures of young women who had disappeared.

"I thought, 'How could you have so many kids missing? How could this be possible?'" she told CNN.

And then someone clued her in: These girls were victims of human trafficking.

"I thought, 'Human trafficking? That doesn't happen, that's ridiculous,'" she said. "Then I went online and did some research, and I was stunned."

Estimates of slave numbers today range from about 10 million to 30 million, according to policymakers, activists, journalists and scholars. (Related: The challenges of counting a hidden population)

And according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 79% of human trafficking is sexual exploitation.

Caine recounted witness reports of girls being placed on platforms and sold in auctions reminiscent of the slave trade in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries.

"No human being has the right to buy and sell another human being," she said. "People are not commodities for sale."

In some Greek brothels, Caine said, trafficking victims who get pregnant are smuggled across the border to Bulgaria, where they give birth and the babies are sold into pedophile rings.

"You begin to wonder: How depraved can humanity get?" she said.

But rather than sink into despair, Caine, 44, decided to do something about it.

In 2008 she founded The A21 Campaign, which focuses on sex trafficking in southeastern Europe. The name derives from the goal of "abolishing injustice" in the 21st century. The task seems overwhelming, but the focus is on helping one victim at a time, Caine said.

"The kind of girls we work with are girls that are taken, stolen, brutally raped and then often sold into brothels and forced to service up to 35 or 40 men a day," she said. "They are sold for money, and it's slavery. It's modern-day slavery."

'Why didn't you come sooner?'

She related the ghastly story of a young woman from eastern Russia who was one of 60 girls and women duped by a fake employment agency into signing up for non-existent jobs in the Greek islands.

They were crammed into a shipping container, where half of them died en route to Turkey. The survivors were locked in apartments, where men in police uniforms raped them for days.

The victims were put on tiny boats to take them to Greece, but when the Greek coast guard approached, the traffickers tossed most of the women overboard “like excess baggage,” Caine said. They all drowned, she said.

The traffickers got away with five women, who were forced to work in an Athens brothel. Acting on a tip, Greek authorities raided the brothel and rescued the women.

The Russian woman was brought to The A21 Campaign's shelter the next day. She didn't trust Caine or the staff, thinking they, too, might be slick-talking traffickers. She asked why Caine had gotten involved, and Caine told her how the posters in the airport had prompted her to action.

"I'll never forget how she looked at me and, with tears streaming down her face, she said to me, 'If what you are telling me is true, if you really care about us, then why didn't you come sooner?'" Caine said. She could offer no good answer.

The A21 Campaign has shelters and transition houses in Greece and Ukraine, and plans to open a shelter in Bulgaria, Caine said. Each shelter can accommodate 12 victims, and each house can support a total of 12 victims and staff.

The facilities have a "post-trauma restoration process" in which victims receive medical and psychological care, legal assistance, and vocational and life-skills training aimed at keeping them from being re-trafficked or falling back into the sex trade for lack of options, Caine said.

"I really believe there is a life beyond everyone's past, and there is a hope and a future. And if you commit to the process of restoration, you can overcome the obstacles and hurdles and the pain and the suffering and be made whole," she said.

Although Caine is a prominent preacher with an Australian megachurch, The A21 Campaign is not just for Christians, and the shelter staff doesn't try to convert trafficking victims, she noted.

While few people would publicly endorse human trafficking, we assent to exploitation every day by our consumer choices, Caine said.

"It happens when the world closes their eyes and pretends something isn't happening," she said. “We want a whole lot of goods and services and we don't really want to pay, but it's got to come from somewhere.”

Many products are cheap because they’re made by 5-year-old children working 19-hour days for no pay, she said.

"When you no longer care about the process of how something gets to you but you just want the end result, then you close your eyes to what's going on."

Awareness at the local level

The A21 Campaign has almost 16,000 followers on Twitter, and its Facebook cause has more than 46,000 members. The campaign's website lists 21 things individuals can do to fight trafficking and aid victims. These include buying fair-trade products, volunteering, lobbying politicians, and organizing fundraisers and awareness groups.

One such group is Louisiana State University's Tigers Against Trafficking.

The group's first awareness and fund-raising event was a 5K run; the group's members would have been happy if 10 people had registered but were astonished when it ballooned to 360 participants, said LSU fourth-year law student Natalie LaBorde, who co-founded TAT in 2009.

That first effort raised $10,000 for The A21 Campaign, she said. Other events followed, with about 75 to 100 volunteers working every event, LaBorde said.

"I am so passionate about A21," she said. "I mean, that's like my other family."

LaBorde became involved in the movement while spending a year working with another of Caine's ministries in Australia. She was there when Caine returned after seeing the posters in the airport in Greece and conducted some of the early research that led to The A21 Campaign, she said.

LaBorde returned to Baton Rouge in 2008 with a new mission.

"I knew I had to find a way to connect university students with this incredible cause," she said.

"Our thing is to address trafficking on a global and local level," she said. In addition to A21, Tigers Against Trafficking works with a local group called Trafficking Hope, she said.

Tigers Against Trafficking has helped students establish similar groups at four other colleges, as well as Baton Rouge High School, LaBorde said.

"One of the most exciting things about Tigers Against Trafficking is seeing it live on" after she and the other founders graduate, said LaBorde, who hopes to become a human rights lawyer.

Caine: Don't try to do everything

Caine said she was in court recently for the trial of a trafficker. The judge asked the defendant why he engaged in human trafficking.

"People are so much easier (to traffic) than drugs," the man replied. "The sentencing is a lot less, and you can just kick them and they'll do what you say."

"I can't even believe somebody thinks like that," Caine said. "That's the dark side, that's the evil side. But I think, by and large, most people would think that's very evil and say we've got to stop that from happening.

"My job is to help put tools in people's hands and say, 'Yeah. Together we can stop that from happening.'"

"Often, I think, because we think, 'I can't do it all,' we end up being paralyzed. So we do nothing," said Caine. "But if we understand we can't do everything but we all must do something, and we all find the one thing that we can do, then we'll find that together we will all make such a huge difference and we'll be able to put a stop to this."

Do you feel angry? Disgusted? Outraged? Want to do something? I was reminded of how I first felt when I learned the gruesome details of The Modern Day Slave Trade.

I decided I was going to volunteer at World Relief. Needless to say, I got distracted...and maybe a little scared, and didn't go.

I'm reading a book called A Woman's Passionate Pursuit Of God  In it the author, Karol Ladd, describes a "woman who lived with a singular focus and a passion for Christ. Amy Carmichael was sold out to the Lord, devoted to prayer, and committed to serving Christ through helping others in need.  She was a woman with depth of insight and a desire to live for God wherever He called her."

Convicted? I certainly am. I definitely need to step up my prayer life and be committed to helping others in need. However, Amy's life work doesn't end there.

"Born in 1867 in Northern Ireland, Amy developed a compassion for people at a young age and had a true sense of social concern. At the age of 17, she began teaching a Sunday School class to the girls who worked in the local mill in Belfast.  The class quickly grew to over 500 ladies, yet at the age of 24, Amy felt God calling her to the foreign mission field. She began her missionary work in Japan with a fervent desire to win souls for Christ, but after 15 months, she had to leave Japan due to illness. Amy didn't allow a few little interruptions to stop her from spreading the gospel [that would preach!!] Eventually her missionary work took her to India, and it was there she became aware of the terrible plight of the young girls sold into temple prostitution. Amy soon became know as Amma (the Tamil world for 'mother') because she courageously began to take in and protect children who had been sold into child prostitution."

Does that sound familiar? She became aware then she took action. Once again I was convicted and reminded of Modern Slavery.

Then I got to thinking, yes.... that's kinda scary :P

Remember my post about my dream (<-- link)? Well I have an open mind... What if:

I can do all that with my local church
I can travel to other places helping get similar things set up
I can include my burden for human trafficking: after all women are abused and children are affected
I can partner with World Relief and help refugees

I cannot do any of that. I can take action, I need God's favor. Join me in praying for this. Next Thursday Laurie and I have a meeting at World Relief to get information and to see if we can work something out. :)

God wants a multi-cultural church, and a church that reaches out to those who are hurting. I want to do my part.

Confession of Love

My Vow: Whatsoever Thou sayest unto me, by Thy grace I will do it.
My Constraint: Thy love, O Christ, my Lord.
My Confidence: Thou art able to keep that which I have committed unto Thee.
My Job: To do Thy will, O God.
My Discipline: That which I would not choose, but which Thy love appoints.
My Prayer: Conform my will to Thine.
My Motto: Love to live - live to love.
My Portion: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance.

Teach us, good Lord, to serve Thee as Thou deserves; to give and not count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to toil and not to seek for rest; to labor and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing that we do Thy will, O Lord our God.
-Amy Carmichael

*** If you want more information about World Relief or The A21 Project <--- here are the links, as well as throughout the post.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Slow Fade

The same thought has popped into my head three times today, so I decided I might as well blog about it.

I was playing with Ginger earlier today. I would hide her bone under me. She would run from side to side trying to get it. But I always blocked her, good defense, lol. Finally she stopped playing, snuggled up next to me, let me pet her and started licking me.
           She quickly moved in to get her bone.

I can't help but wonder if that's how we are with the devil. We play these little cat and mouse games. But it's ok as long as we have the advantage and everything is on our terms.  Then we become comfortable, and we let our guard down. We are no longer playing with the idea of sin, but we have given in to the temptation and become distracted by the pleasures of sin. The next thing you know, the devil is running off with your soul.

I'm doing a study on Ezra and Nehemiah. They responded to problems with prayer. When Nehemiah began his work, he recognized the problem, prayed right away, and then acted onm the problem.  Prayer and action go hand in hand. Through prayer, God guides our preparation, teamwork, and efforts to carry out His will.

In Nehemiah 7, he assigns people to stand guard of the wall they rebuilt. Some were sentries, but everyone kept watch on the wall outside their house. He told them to keep the gates closed during the hottest part of the day.  They were protecting themselves and doing preventative measures. If one family didn't watch their portion of the wall, that would have been a weak spot for the enemy to come in.

If you're not listening to the Man of God, or protecting yourself, then you will find yourself susceptible to the enemy. When you are not using preventative procedures, you become a weak spot. This leaves the people around you less strong, and also allows the enemy to creep in. Then the battle comes from inside, not on the outside. Think of it as The Great Trojan Horse. The enemy wreaks havoc, creating confusion, causing dissencion, stirring up strife, resulting in spiritual death.

It's a slow fade.

Be careful little eyes what you see

It's the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings

Be careful little feet where you go

For it's the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away

It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day

It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade

Be careful little ears what you hear

When flattery leads to compromise, the end is always near

Be careful little lips what you say

For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away

It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day

The journey from your mind to your hands

Is shorter than you're thinking

Be careful if you think you stand

You just might be sinking

It's a slow fade when you give yourself away

It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself away

People never crumble in a day

Daddies never crumble in a day

Families never crumble in a day

Oh be careful little eyes what see

Oh be careful little eyes what you see

For the Father up above is looking down in love

Oh be careful little eyes what you see

Monday, June 6, 2011

Surpressing the Symptoms :: Eliminating the Issue :: Preventing the Problem

Well, there's been a lot going on lately. Not really in life, but definitely in my head. So, brace yourselves, because this is going to be a long post.

First of all, Sheena is 3 days overdue. Baby Evelyn needs to come out NOW! :)

The remainder of this post will mostly be of a spiritual sense, at least what's been going on in my spiritual life.

Things haven't been the greatest lately. It just seemed like everything was a constant battle. I was frustrated with so many things. There were so many doubts in my mind. I wondered if this was really important. If that really mattered.

I still went to church. I still worshipped with the music. I still prayed. My routine stayed the same. Then I was able to surpress the symptoms of my heart, daily growing colder. My routine satisfied my need to feel God's presence, But it didn't stir my spirit enough for me to change.

Last Sunday Nate preached his first sermon, and did an excellent job. He talked about the 7 spiritual sacrifices. There was an altar call, many people were touched and going to the altar to pray. I was in the sound booth running the visual media. I just kinda sat there. So many thoughts were running through my head. I was wondering what happened. When did it get this bad. At what point could I not realize I was wrong and swallow my pride and cry out for God's help. Yet here I was. Trying to fight off conviction. Finally I couldn't hold back any longer. Every part of me needed to just be broken, to feel God's incredible mercy and forgiving love. With tears streaming down my face I made my way to the altar.

To no surprise, the doubt kept going through my mind. What if God doesn't meet me there? What if this is like all the other times? What if everything I've been thinking is right? Then Pastor came over and prayed for me. He was speaking words of restoration, of faith, releasing expectancy. Then Amy came over. She prayed words of encouragement and restoration. That I wouldn't forget what God's promised me. He's given me too much to simply forget about me now. Then Larry came over. Sometimes I think Larry is always reading my mail. He prayed about a fresh anointing, renewing my spirit, a stronger burden and a greater passion. To "lehgo and let God". Then Sis. Randol came over. She quietly, and passionately prayed for me. Speaking to the deepest depths of my soul. She prayed against all the doubt that had crept into my mind. I can't really summarize what she said. My heart was renewed, my flesh was broken, and my spirit felt whole again. I could feel God's presence overwhelming me.

Four separate confirmations that God is not through with me. I'm so thankful He is patient. After service I found a couple letters in a side pocket of my purse. One was written in July 2007.

"As I begin to feel God's calling strong and stronger on my life, I know God has something great for my life. But I can't do what He wants me to do. As I look over my life, and do a little inventory, I realize it's because I'm holding on to something. There's this part of my life that I keep from God, because I want total control of it. My relationships. I feel like I have to make a decision. My flesh tells me not to, but my heart has such yearning for God, I cannot pacify the feeling any longer."

Even though that was four years ago, I realize that STILL holds true in my life. Looking back, I've surrendered some relationships, only to pick up others. They say you should surround yourself with people who have common goals. On a spiritual level, I have not done that. Most days I feel like I'm stuck in quicksand, constantly being pulled down. Letting go of my relationships scares me. What if I'm all alone? However I've made a decision. I'm eliminating the issue. I'm limiting exposure to these relationships. I've identified the cause and now I've started a progressive work to become stronger.

I also found another letter. It was written in August 2008. It's basically a letter of personal spiritual goals, and also things I would like to see in the youth group.

"I want to see us united as a youth group. Not necessarily on the same spiritual page, but with common goals. I don't want us to be 'stirred but not changed'.  We have become spiritual whores (referencing a previous message). We come to church and pray through, but only to relieve our conscience. Then, we go back out and make no changes to our daily lives. Our struggles remian the same, and we make no attempt to change our lifestyle. How long before God gets fed up with the emotional roller coaster? I want the youth group to know that it's okay to be separate, not just in person, but also in the person you portray yourself as. I hope, as a group, we can open our arms to the youth around us every day, and accept them...as well as each other. I was us to be a youth group that wins souls and will stand for waht we KNOW is right. When we come to church, I want us to worship God and create an atmosphere where those who can't worship God, feel His presence to receive the touch they need."

It makes me "proud" to know that as a youth group a lot of these goals have been met. They do an excellent job of creating an atmosphere of praise and worship. Keep it up!! :)

"I want to be more confident in who I am spiritually. I want to be able to discern God's voice... when He wants me to do something, I want to be comfortable enough to follow through, without fear. I want to be able to let go of my past. I feel as though I'm fighting a battle...and most times I feel like it's right between my ears. I also want to be more compassionate to those around me who are hurting. I want to reach out to my peers, to lead by example. However, not just my peers in the youth group. God can only fill as many vessels that are empty, and I want there to be plenty of empty vessels."

Ironically, this poem is a completely accurate description of everthing going through my head, and everything I feel/fear. Pastor preached on Sunday about a Balm in Gilhead. What I got out of the message was preventative measures. Staying prayed up, continuing in fasting will prevent a lot of problems, and also help me grow and move on.

Dear God,
Why do I keep fight you off?
One part of me wants you desparately,
Another part of me unknowingly
Pushes you back and runs away.

What is there in me that
So contradicts my desire for you?
These transition days, these passage ways
are calling me to let go of old securities,
To give mmyself over into Your hands.

Like Jesus who struggled with the pain
I too, fight the "let it all be done."
Loneliness, lostness, non-belonging,
All these hurts strike out at me
Leaving me pained with this present goodbye.

I want to be more, but I fight the growing.
I want to be new, but I hang on to the old.
I want to live, but I won't face the dying.
I want to be whole, but cannot bear
to gather the pieces into one.

Is it that I refuse to be out of control,
To the the tears take their humblling journey,
to allow my spirit to feel it's depression,
to stay with the insecurity of "no home"?

Now is the time. You call to me,
Begging me to let You have my life,
Inviting me to taste the darkness,
So I can be filled with the light,
Allowing me to lose my direction
So that I will find my way home to You.