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So Much More Than a One Night Stand

“We step into freedom. We step into all He has for us.” (Bethel Music)

It is ironic to me that the same month as I have been focusing so much on freedom I will also be launching my oldest son out into the world as he graduates from high school in just a few days.

And it makes me think of Om.

I met her in a bar on the street of Bangkok. She works in the sex industry and as she shared her story I was surprised to hear that she was only a few years younger than myself. She also shared that she had a son the same age as my own. And for just a brief moment, I felt like we had so much in common. For that moment, we were both just mothers who loved their sons.

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And then it hit me that our lives could not be further apart. We both want the same things for our sons and want to give them the best future possible. But, I have options and resources to do just that. She has little to no options at all. Poverty has robbed her of any choice but the streets.

Her story impacted me then, and this week as I prepare to attend my son’s graduation and celebrate that special day, it hits me in a whole different way.

Last Friday people from all walks of life and all across the country took a one-night stand for freedom – giving up what they would have spent on entertainment for one night to help set a girl free.

This was such an important and powerful night as we gave a voice to the voiceless and shined a spotlight on an issue few rarely even speak of.

The ugly truth is that we live in a world where in too many places women and young girls are still exploited. Maybe that exploitation doesn’t affect you directly … but maybe it should.

If we were more “affected” perhaps we would do more about it … talk more about it …. raise our voices more about it … and demand that the world change. And when I think about all that could be done if more people simply cared, I start to imagine a very different world than we live in now.

A woman deserves the right to choose freedom. And not just for one night, but for every night and every day of her life.

Freedom is so much more than a one-night stand. It is something we should daily live out – longing for it, living it and passing it on.

Scripture tells us that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Our freedom can truly set others free. And perhaps we can only live a free life, by setting others free.

We are rescued to rescue. Redeemed to redeem. Set free to set free.

Make any Friday your Freedom Friday. Take the pledge and learn more here.

 

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I Will Be 214 the Day Women Achieve Income Equality

Two hundred fourteen: That’s how old I would be the day women across the world finally achieve income equality.

According to the World Economic Forum, we are 169 years away from the day the global economic gender gap is projected to close. The Swiss foundation even designed a calculator to determine how old you would be by the time this happens. Select your gender and country and date of birth, and not only will you see your projected age for that date, but also your country’s current information, by gender, on annual income, healthy life expectancy, the rates of labor force participation, and the percentage of literacy achievement.
Read more

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What We Choose to See

Until recently, I had no idea I had glaucoma and to be honest that was a word I didn’t think I would be using or even thinking about at my age. I didn’t need glasses until I was in my early 30’s so this whole eye thing still feels relatively new to me.

When you have glaucoma, pressure can build up in your eyes and bring on what is called an “acute attack”. And without prompt medical treatment, you can lose your eyesight.

With my travels to remote parts of the world, I took this diagnosis a little more seriously. I didn’t want to be far from treatment in the event of one of these attacks.

So, today I go in for a minor eye procedure. It’s nothing too serious or life-threatening, but I am amazed at what I have learned from it already. This procedure will create slits in my eye, a drain so to speak, to relieve the pressure and prevent an acute attack. In other words, it will preserve my sight.

Days ago I returned from Thailand where walking the streets will open your eyes in a way you might not be prepared for. The red light districts are overwhelming. The streets are booming with wall to wall people, music is blaring and girls are being sold everywhere you turn. It is modern-day slavery in every sense of the word.

You see things you would rather not. Things that are shocking, degrading, heartbreaking, and infuriating. Things you could live your whole life without seeing and still be perfectly content.

When we have seen too much, we get overwhelmed and don’t know what to do with that feeling. It is as if we almost go blind to the need. It is simply too much pressure.

The pressure can build leaving you overwhelmed to the point that you just want to shut down. You become numb and can’t see anymore. You lose your sight … and you lose sight of the bigger picture.

And then you meet a young girl that you have the opportunity to help – a girl that has been rescued. And it is as if all that you have seen comes pouring out.

The pressure is relieved and your hope is restored. You regain your sight and can once again see the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan and remember that he chooses to use you … if only you will choose to see.

Check with me tomorrow and I’ll let you know for sure, but I’m told that the first day after this procedure your eyes feel a little strange, a little itchy and uncomfortable. But, it should only last about a day. The recovery is pretty simple.

And isn’t that what happens when we truly embrace those dark and difficult places? It doesn’t feel quite right. It’s a little bit itchy and uncomfortable. We want to rub our eyes and make that feeling go away.

But, what if we allowed what we have seen to pour out – to literally drain out into the rest of our life? What if we embraced it, and shared it with others? I believe that is when the pressure is relieved and our sight is restored.

What we choose to see matters. It is the only way to bring about true change.

 

Click here to learn more about my work in Thailand and help bring freedom to girls trapped in the sex industry.

 

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How One Word Can Change Your Year

This year, I’m starting with a word – just one word. There’s nothing really special about this word. In fact, it’s a word that is used often, so often that it’s started to lose the power of its true meaning. But to me, this word is revolutionary.

Freedom.

Just, freedom.

You see, I’ve realized how much of the work that I do revolves around that one little word.

Freedom from the grip of poverty

 

Freedom from the sex trade

 

Freedom from darkness

 

But as I am fighting for freedom for the captives, I am also fighting for freedom for my captive soul.

Freedom from my fears

 

Freedom from expectations

 

Freedom from self-doubt

 

I’m passionate about bringing freedom to those trapped in darkness around the world … justice for all. But if that’s true, then I must start with myself. I need to be freed from anything holding me back. I need God to help me break free before I can help others experience true freedom. I must let go of fear, anxiety, self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, feelings of inadequacy and of never being enough. I must let go.

When Christ sets us free, we are then empowered and commissioned to lead others into that same freedom.

So I’m declaring this the year of freedom. Freedom for the captives and freedom for my captive soul. Will you join me?

Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you. Galatians 5:1

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End of Missions (Part 2)

Every Christian should live life with an open Bible and an open map. – William Carey

My great uncle was a missions pioneer. In his role as missions director at a large Christian university he began taking groups to Mexico on missions trips long before it was popular to do so. My dad was a teenager on one of those early trips with his uncle – an experience that forever defined the course of his life.

A week after he married my mom, he even took her along on one of those trips … on an unairconditioned school bus all the way from West Virginia to Mexico. And for the next couple weeks he stayed with the guys and she stayed with the girls. I’m not sure how their marriage survived.

My dad then followed in his uncle’s footsteps taking over that same missions director position and continuing to lead university students on missions trips all over the world. This was the life that I was born into. You could say that missions is in my blood … or so I thought.

Born in 1761, William Carey is known as the “father of modern missions”. His work inspired the missionary greats like Adonairum Judson, Hudson Taylor and David Livingstone.

But what I find interesting about Carey was his frustration with the church and what he perceived as their lack of missions interest. He argued that “Jesus’ Great Commission applied to all Christians of all times”, and he called out fellow believers of his day for ignoring this truth.

Looking back at Carey’s life and words make me question my own views on missions. Is missions really in my blood? Or have I simply made my vocation choice an excuse? And as a church, have we really come so far?

You see, I believe that we have all been taught from an early age what missions is supposed to be about. If you are like me then you grew up with the images of our own missionary greats lining our church halls – people who made great sacrifices to go to the ends of the earth.

Some of the best people I know are full-time missionaries on foreign soil and deserve to be honored and celebrated. But somehow in the process we have made it a choice to be a “missionary” instead of a commission applied to all Christians at all times.

We have made it a choice “to go” instead of a mandate to live “on mission” everyday.

To really simplify it, perhaps we are all called to be “missionaries” – we simply have a choice of where we live.

You see, the lines of missions are now blurred more than ever. It must be so much more than a choice to go on a trip once a year or a committee to serve on, or an annual conference to attend.

This is the Christian life that we have all been called to.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/missionaries/william-carey.html

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End of Missions (part 1)

Missions is not simply a choice to go on a trip once a year or a committee to be on at church … our work and perspective should go way beyond that. This is the Christian life that we have all been called to. 

 

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How Rescue Taught Me to Live

When the life of a baby is hanging in the balance, things become extremely clear and nothing else matters.

It does not matter how hot it is, or how far you had to hike. It does not matter how far you had to drive to even find this child. It doesn’t matter how thirsty you are or how much you desperately long for clean clothes and a good shower.

No, none of that matters. All that matters is getting that child the help they so desperately need and giving them a second chance at life.

There is something about “rescue” … the literal act of rescue … that simplifies life for me. “Rescue” helps me focus in on the one … and everything else simply fades away.

But what I have also found is that in some ways, “rescue” is easier “over there”- in those places where poverty is abundant, where the cares of the day are much more intense, but in some ways simpler and far less complicated. It’s literally life and death.

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Coming home – well, that is a different story. There are meetings, and deadlines …. practices and parties … grocery stores and laundry.

And before you know it, your life is so full that the people in our lives who desperately need to be rescued are hidden. There is simply no space or margins to even see them. Life is too complicated and most days nothing is clear or simple.

I heard a story on the news earlier this year about a group of castaways whose boat capsized at sea and they ended up washed up on the shore of a deserted island. They spelled out the word “HELP” in big letters on the beach with leaves and branches. The sign led to their rescue when a pilot spotted it from the air. This story caught my attention right away and in some way seemed so unrealistic. It sounded more like an episode from Gilligan’s Island instead of real life.

I wondered, today, with all of our progress and technology in the world, do people still cry out for help by spelling it out on the beach?

And then I thought that just like that pilot, we are all flying around in our planes. We are safe and already rescued ourselves. And if we are not careful, we will simply miss the signs.

We will fly from one destination to the other, in our hurried lives, forgetting why we were rescued in the first place – forgetting that we are on a rescue mission everyday – forgetting that we are rescued to rescue.

Rescuing babies from the mountains of Guatemala, and the slums of Uganda and Haiti has taught me so much about how to live here at home. Yes, you still have to live your life and do your daily tasks. We have to go to work and take care of our families.

But, when you view your life through the lens of “rescue” things can become quite clear. The truth is, we are on a rescue mission every day. And people all around us are crying out for help, spelling it out on the beaches of their life any way that they can.

We are rescued to rescue. That is why we are here and that is the good news that we have to share. The same God who rescued me can rescue you.

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Every Child Deserves the Opportunity to Thrive. That’s Why I Support Child Sponsorship.

A few years ago, Kevin Durant delivered a memorable speech when he received the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.

Durant looked towards the audience and smiled at his single-mother-of-two, and said, “You woke me up in the middle of the night in the summertime and made me run up the hill, made me do push ups, screamed at me from the sidelines of my games at 8 or 9 years old.”

He continued as tears filled his eyes, “we weren’t supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our back, food on the table. You’re the real MVP.”

Every child needs — deserves — this type of love. Yet, not every child gets it. Instead, turmoil plagues the lives of millions of innocent children throughout the world.

Read the rest here.

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Does God Give Us More Than We Can Handle?

A doctor travels far into a remote area of Thailand to visit a hill tribe where the people of the village anxiously await his arrival. Medical help of any kind rarely reaches this community and this doctor is offering free health care services. This is something they could have never dreamed of.

 

When the doctor arrives he lines all the teen girls up in the village. He examines them one by one. While the families wait nearby, thankful that their daughters are the recipients of such wonderful care, the doctor is secretly examining the girls to see which ones are still virgins. He then picks his favorite and tells the family he needs to take the young girl to Bangkok where she can receive more extensive medical care.

 

The family trusts this doctor who appears kind and benevolent and sends their daughter off … not knowing it could be the last time they would ever see her.

Once the doctor reaches Bangkok, he continues his residency at a local hospital – all while holding his new captive as his sex slave.

Shocking. Seriously disturbing. Infuriating.

These are just a few words that describe my feelings as I heard this true story.

 

It’s stories like this that can at times make me feel overwhelmed. It’s just too much for my head to get around … too much evil … too much darkness.

 

Even in my line of work, with all that I have seen and experienced over the years, there are still stories that get me. There are still issues that just seem too much. And at times, I just want to turn away and focus on something easier.

 

We have all heard this phrase, right? “God will never give us more than we can bear”. Seems like I have heard that all my life. My favorite variation of this phrase was reportedly from Mother Teresa, “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

 

And, that has in some ways been my motto for many years. My work is hard and pushes my emotions at times to the point that I literally think I might snap. But, I always knew it would never be too much … or more than I could handle … or so I thought.

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But this year God has been teaching me that it is simply not true.

What I am learning is that God often, and in most cases does just that – gives us more than we could ever handle on our own.

The #2weeks2rescue campaign is bigger than anything I could ever do on my own. And to be honest, there might have been a small part of me that thought I was crazy trying to raise $66,000 in just two weeks.

But, I simply could not turn away. Not from stories like this one and the hundreds and thousands more – young girls desperate to be rescued.

It’s true. God has given me more than I can handle. But as my pastor recently said, “You will be given more than you can handle, but you will not be given more than He can handle through you.”

As I sit here with just 3 days left in this campaign, I am reminded that this is not about me, and it is not about you.

It’s about what God can do through all of us … together.

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Justice For All

The word “justice” has been intriguing me for some time now. It is often misunderstood, and it is a word that can bring both fear and hope. I think many people are confused about what justice means. Some think of it simply in legal terms as someone getting what they deserve, justice being served in a courtroom.

In fact, one of my favorite shows right now is a real-life documentary about a particular murder case. Maybe you are familiar with the current Netflix hit, “Making a Murderer”. There are two sides to this real life story about a man supposedly convicted of not one, but two murders. Some people claim he is innocent and the whole thing has been a conspiracy. Others, mainly those in the governmental legal system, clearly have decided he is guilty of the crimes. They believe that justice has been served. Whether he is in fact innocent or guilty, I’m not sure. But justice -true, pure, non-corrupt- like we see in the Bible is meant to bring hope and restoration.

As Christians we should desire to see justice carried out all over the world. This isn’t a desire for violence or retaliation, it’s a desire to put things back in order, to restore what has gone wrong.

In fact, the abandonment of justice produces insecurity and violence, deterioration in the quality of life, corrupt governments, and suffering of those who have the least.[1]

Imagine with me, if you will, a river. Not just any river, but a powerful river. This river is charging down from the top of a huge mountain. Imagine the force of the water breaking through boulders, trees, and debris at an unstoppable pace. Nothing can hold it back. Nothing can keep it from continuing its endless journey. This is what justice looks like in the Bible.

it’s a desire to put things back in order, to restore what has gone wrong

The book of Amos says that justice should “roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream” (5:24 NIV). So justice should continue always and never disappoint, grow tired, or weaken. Justice should roll. The rest of this passage tells us something else equally important:

I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions, I want nothing to do with your religion projects, Your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fundraising schemes, Your public relations and image making, I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music, When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

(Amos 5:23-24, The Message)

We go to church every week, we attend Christian conferences and events, and we sing our songs of praise. And all the while we forget to be a mighty flood of justice to those in need.

Justice is important to God and reflects his character. As Timothy Keller says, “God loves and defends those with the least economic and social power, and so should we. That is what it means to ‘do justice.’”[2] In fact, it has been said that when we deny justice, we are actually hiding God’s beauty from the world.”[3]

If justice is really all about making things right again, then justice is all about restoration. You don’t have to look far for a place to let justice roll: a hurting neighbor, a homeless man outside the grocery store, a couple going through a divorce, a friend mourning the loss of a loved one, a hungry child halfway around the world, or an entire country nearly destroyed by genocide. Opportunities for restoring hope through justice are all around us.

In order for justice to be served, we have to be willing to move from guilt to action. Jim Palmer says,

You’d have to be comatose not to feel God’s hurt and anger ooze from the pages of Scripture over the oppression of the weak and vulnerable…I can’t seem to get away from the fact that the main message of God to his people about injustice is to get off our rear ends and do something! This goes way deeper than feeling guilty about doing more; I’m trying to figure out how I got to the place where the things that break the heart of God are so marginal to mine. [4]

It is time once again for justice to roll like a mighty river. It is time for us to slow down long enough to see the world around us…to wake up to the real world.

Justice may not always come in the legal sense, but things can be made right again. Restoration can begin. Wrongs can be made right and hope can be restored. True justice can be served.

I heard it said recently that we are not saved from good works but we are saved for good works. And as God is sorting out all the brokenness in the world, He is calling us to help Him put things right- restore hope.

As Christ followers, isn’t that what our lives are really about? Jesus heals, rescues, restores, and redeems- that’s our one hope and the only story we have to share.

And isn’t that what justice is all about- a biblical form of justice? A justice that doesn’t just give people what they deserve but a justice that rights wrongs and restores hope.

You see if we are not living our lives Awake, restoring hope and pursuing justice… then I don’t think God cares that much about all this other stuff we are doing to make ourselves look good- our singing, our meetings, our conferences…no none of those things are bad in and of themselves, but without justice….they mean nothing.

That’s why pursuing justice is so important. We are offering people a glimpse of an eternal hope. Where justice thrives, so does hope.

[1] Isaiah ‪1:21-23: God’s Justice, NIV Bible

[2] Timothy Keller, Generous Justice, 4.

[3] Ibid.,9.

[4] Palmer, Divine Nobodies, 146.

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