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Redemption

Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption

Hope For My Enemies Brings Freedom For Me

May 27, 2015

 

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Today I was a witness to a crime. I had left church and headed to the gas station to fill up my tank. While standing there I began to hear screaming. I looked up to see a man choke-holding a woman in a car, silencing her as she is screaming for him to let her go. Men rush to her aid while I promptly called 911 to tell them what was happening. The husband sped off in his car, and I stood alongside his terrified wife as we waited for the police.

“He’s never done that before.” she tells me. “He was mad. I just wanted to give him space.”

The police finally arrived and I was told my 911 call was my statement and was free to go. I left the woman, thanking God she was alright.

As I was pulling away, I found my thoughts wandering to the husband. He was a monster. How could any man ever treat a woman like that? Better yet, how could she somewhat defend his actions? She should leave him. He’s an abuser and abusers deserve no mercy.

This reminds me of this past week, reading about how the oldest Duggar son on that TLC show 20 Kids and Counting was exposed to having molested his sisters and some other girls when he was younger. The internet and social media have blown up, calling him, yes, a monster. People have told his wife she was letting her kids be put in harms way and she should leave him. He’ll always be a sicko, they’d say. And the hateful speech goes on.

At some point in our lives, we’ll all encounter the consequences of the fall.

Our broken world gives way to broken people who sadly make broken choices. Whether it’s to beat their wife or abuse their sisters, people make wrong decisions. But the thing I’m coming to wonder is, do bad choices, no matter how severe, make one eternally evil?

Almost thirteen years ago I fell victim to the poor choice of a broken person. My boyfriend molested me. As I spent the better part of last year finally starting to deal with the ramifications of that moment, I found myself caring about my abuser. I wasn’t worried that he was out there hurting more people or angry that he was some sociopath with little to no remorse, instead, I found myself hoping he was ok. I wanted to know that somewhere in his journey, he found healing. Healing from whatever broken place lived in his life that made him make that horrible choice so many years ago. I wanted to know he had somehow run into Jesus and found redemption.

Just as much as I wanted myself to be better, I also wanted my abuser to be better.

So often Jesus spoke of loving our enemies. Even when nailed to the cross, Christ took a moment to ask for forgiveness from the Father for the very men who had put him up there. When the guilty criminal who hung next to him sought redemption moments before he died, Jesus forgave him. He didn’t tell the man he had made too many wrong choices or that he was too messed up to receive such a pardon- no, Jesus gave grace and he gave it freely.

I think so often when we are wronged we’re quick to label the one who wronged us as forever a villain. We blanket them with descriptions, damning them to a future that we believe is fitting for them. We make ourselves judge and jury, when the truth is, that job is given solely to Christ and Christ alone. What we can’t see is that in choosing to believe the worst in them, choosing to cast judgement and wrath upon their soul, we are fastening our hearts to the chains of resentment, anger and bitterness. Our enemies may become an earthly prisoner, but we become a spiritual one.

Seven years ago my good friend Tony was shot to death while out as a police officer doing a routine traffic stop. The man was cold and calculated. Even during his trial, he showed no remorse and even clapped when the jury pronounced he’d receive the death penalty. My heart wanted to hate him. To be honest, there are some moments that I still do. But I also pray for him. I pray that in the quiet darkness of his lonely prison cell, Jesus’ light will shine upon him. That maybe, just maybe, the man I believe to be the lowest form of human in the world could be offered grace and found forgiven.

If I can’t believe that God can forgive and redeem the worst of people, then there’s no hope for my own redemption.

Girls…some of you have known great pain. Pain that reaches to depths of darkness I cannot even comprehend. And for a lot of you, that pain was given to you at the hand of another. A broken human, who in a dark moment, made a wrong choice. A horrible choice. Yes, their actions were most certainly wrong. Yes, you have every right to feel the feelings you do. Your hurt is real and understood and appropriate and I stand with you in it. Let that be clear. But please, let this be clear as well.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the broken places I’ve been, it’s that hoping for God to redeem my enemies allows for freedom for me. When I can believe that God is big enough to change the heart of my enemy, then I’m also able to fully believe he is capable of healing me. If I know that God will reach to such hellacious depths to rescue someone I felt was so horrible, then I know there is no place I could ever run to where God would not seek me out to redeem me.

I’m not sure if the husband I witnessed today will hurt his wife again. I’m not sure that my abuser won’t molest another or that my friend’s killer will ever repent of his actions. I can’t say that whoever wounded you, whether big or small, will ever regret what they did or even apologize. I’m not sure we’re ever meant to know. But I do know this, tonight I will say a prayer that God will meet them in their dark places, hoping that they will accept grace,  while I thank Him that he so lovingly meets me in mine. I hope you’ll do the same.

Faith, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life

I am Praying for You

April 22, 2015

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If you’ve ever left a comment on the Community Board, emailed us, or reached out in any other way, we’ve probably told you that the writers of AGLM are praying for you. And if you’ve never been told that, I’m telling you right now: we are praying for you! We believe prayer is a necessary and powerful time with God. Since we are mostly an online community, we don’t get the opportunity to sit next to you, hold hands with you, and reach out to God with you in prayer in person.

So we say that we are praying for you- which we are- but I wanted to use this post to write it out for you. I am excited to get to know each of you more, and I know this post isn’t about me, but it’s about my heart for you.

Has anyone prayed over you before? Maybe your answer is no. Maybe you’ve been prayed over 1,000 times. Either way, put your name in this prayer and know that we are for you because Jesus is for you. Read this prayer over a friend too!

Let this prayer be a battle cry for when you feel anything less than absolutely loved.

Read this as if we were sitting next to each other.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Heavenly Father,

You are the joy of heaven and earth. You are far more beautiful than we can know. You are set apart and high above any other love of ours. You are the light in us.

We fix our eyes on You as You hold us in the palm of Your hand, God- how could we be afraid?

We see You clearly as loving and merciful and just. We know You are for us.

How glorious You are to consider my prayer for these ladies. I rely on You to teach me about Your grace and mercy every single day. Only You can know my entire heart and how to restore it.

God, I pray for the hearts of our readers. Thank You for the community of A Girl Like Me, Jesus. You have connected us all over the world as a sisterhood to learn more about You. May they be encouraged by the words of this blog and realize that they are not alone both in their hardship and in their joys. May the women of this ministry feel Your presence in the reading and writing of these posts, the community board, and every other conversation.

We seek Your presence, God. We want to learn from the community of the Trinity and how to live in community with each other. Jesus, You have been above our every mountaintop and below our every valley. You know us and You don’t leave us to defend ourselves. God, we realize that we need You- in our hurt, in our depravity, we call You sovereign.

 

Father, I lift my friend {                     } to You.

You created her and You know her.

I pray that as she walks through the joys and trials of this life that You would make Yourself known to her.

God, in her work and in her rest, let her feel satisfied just with knowing You.

Thank You for the unique gifts that You have given her. They matter.

Thank You for the heart you’ve put inside her. It will change the world.

Thank You for guiding her. Give her patience to wait and realize what You are up to.

Thank You for her family and friends that challenge her and point her to You.

Build up her mind, Father, to be ready to stand up against the attack of the enemy. Don’t let her believe the lies that she isn’t good enough, smart enough, old enough, anything less than enough. Guard her heart from anything that is not of You.

 

When I am worried, You reassure me with your love.

When I am anxious, You calm my heart.

When I am weary, You invite me to rest in You.

When I am alone, You come near.

When I am afraid, You tear away the lies.

 

Lead us into the light of your Word and let us consider only You, God. We stand on Your gospel as the ultimate truth. Thank You for loving us so that we can know how to love each other.

 

Amen.

Faith, Fear, God, Identity, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life

Remain

February 25, 2015

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“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:12-17

On January 31st, as those words covered the gathering, my heart grew and my life changed. Brendon and I stood at the altar, surrounded by the dense tropical forest of south Florida and more love than I have ever felt in my life.

Everything is new. My last name. My official state of residence. My college degree. 2014 was a year of discovery in my life and God began clarifying my dreams for His purpose. Since we all rang in the New Year with sparkly dresses and noisemakers, or for me, my parents and their friends eating chocolate cake and playing ping pong, life has been a flash mob of wedding planning, marriage, settling our home, and living on a tour bus.

So much change. GOOD change! And in all of this movin’ and shakin’ I realize that there is one single thing in life that is constant. And that is the truth of the gospel of Jesus.

God remains. That’s it. He is steady. He is faithful.

 

“…as surely as the sun rises, He will appear…” hosea 6.3

 

To the ladies of A Girl Like Me,

The six of us writers are for you. We are for you because God is for you.

We want to challenge you and walk with you in life.

He cares about you deeply—deeper than what we can possibly know.

In times of distress and in times of joy, admit it!

Let your community bear burdens alongside you and celebrate with you.

God remains in every instant of our lives,

in every country of our world,

in every cry of our souls,

in every promise that He has said.

Rest in His faithfulness today.

 

Choose to speak life.

Choose to be encouraging in a society of criticism.

Choose to reject hate and replace it with compassion.

 

May we be a group of women- quick to run to Jesus, ready to obey God, sensitive to the Spirit working in this ministry, confessing our dirt and sharing our joys, embracing the growing pains and always armed with the Truth of the gospel of Christ.

Whatever changes you are facing, whether it be moving to a new place, switching schools, stepping into a new season of any kind, may you face that new season of life with such grace. Grace that Jesus laid down His life for.

So here I sit, in the back of a tour bus somewhere in north Florida, feeling like a baby calf that was just born- covered in goo and awkwardly wobbling around on my new blogging-legs. Honestly, I just want to write something that will stick with you.

And all I can think of is a Snowy Owl. Snowy Owl parents fiercely protect their young. They know their babies weaknesses and defend their nest. They perch on the highest branch of the tree to look out over the community seeking to provide adequate food. Instinctually, they adapt to change in the climate. They know when their babies are ready to fledge… to fly out of the nest for the first time. To courageously start the next part of their story.

Isn’t that like God?

To protect us and love us in our weaknesses.

To provide for us and prepare us for change.

To be ever-present and all-knowing.

To be our guardian as we face new beginnings.

And remain with us through all time.

 

“…the Lord will fight for you. you need only to be still…” exodus 14.14

 

May we all be fledglings.

Ready for what is to come.

Consumed by His love.

With faith to fly.

 

 Here are a few lyrics to the song “I Will Follow” by Vertical Church Band:

When the sea is calm and all is right // When I feel Your favor flood my life

Even in the good, I’ll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves // When I wonder if You’ll keep me safe

Even in the storms, I’ll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are // I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart

In the good things and in the hardest part // I believe and I will follow You

Faith, Forgiveness, God, Redemption, Uncategorized

A Bear Introduced Me to Jesus

February 11, 2015

Young woman waiting for the train

I began my relationship with Jesus via a bear…not a real one but one that was a man dressed up like a bear. Now that is not the way most people start their journey with Christ, but what I know is that when I was 6 during a show at church for kids, God drew me to Himself. That’s where it began but certainly not where it ended.

We all have struggles that we just can’t seem to get past, sins that we pray would go away but are still lurking in our minds every day, and the guilt of that specific time when we really messed up. Or maybe it’s something that happened to you that wasn’t necessarily your responsibility, but you feel like you’re still tainted, scarred, and you just want it to be erased.
I grew up being the church girl, and I really did love God! I wanted to to grow in my relationship with Him and tell my friends about Him. But, probably just like you, I still remember the countless times in high school and college when I thought to myself, “Why do I keep doing this? Why can’t I stop? If others only knew how bad I really am for what I do and think…”

I wanted to obey God because I knew he saved my life when I was 6 years old. But still I would have selfish, lustful, straight-up-mean girl thoughts about others. I knew it was wrong because it wasn’t “Christian”, but I didn’t know how to stop.
I would fight myself to get rid of these “dirty” thoughts. I hid my sin because I knew it was not honoring to God, but it was just making me feel worse and worse.

I wanted a way to restart. I wanted a way to go back when I first decided to follow Jesus, to be able to STOP doing what I didn’t want to do, and to erase all the sins I kept committing. I wanted to be the girl that God wanted me to be. I knew that I would find joy and freedom there, but I didn’t know how to get there.

I began to really search what it meant to be a follower of Jesus despite my sin and the struggles I faced. I read a lot of books on what the gospel really means. I went to a church that explained the gospel so clearly in a way that I had never understood it before even though I grew up being a “church girl.”

Something began to click and I felt like I had been given a restart every single day and even every single moment. Even on my worst of days, God revealed to me how I could have a clean slate, a do-over. I knew I would still struggle with sin, but I realized that even in the midst of my struggle, Jesus gave me a gift when I first received him when I was 6 that trumps any gift I could ever receive.

One of my favorite Christian authors explained the gospel in a way that made total sense to me…

When you make the decision to receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, he not only forgives you by wiping your “slate” clean, but then he takes your clean “slate” and writes on it “RIGHTEOUS”. So not only have your sins been completely forgiven, meaning God chose to completely remove your sin, but then he chose to mark you as PERFECT!

Stop for a second and just think about that paragraph above as deeply as you can. If you understand it, it should revolutionize your entire LIFE!

He doesn’t just forgive and forget. He literally makes you a perfect daughter in His sight, and he wants you to believe this even more so on your worst of days when you feel like a complete mess up because those days will still come.

It’s ok if you don’t have it all together. It’s ok if you mess up and just don’t understand why you still struggle even though you pray every day. God knows your struggle. He knows your pain. And he is with you the entire way. It’s a journey, and it’s all for your good.

The difference is that you no longer have to feel guilty because you aren’t!

You no longer are damned or screwed because God sent Jesus to die in your place so that you could receive Jesus’ perfect life AS YOUR OWN! There is nothing you can do to screw it up once you are His. The gospel is a mystery and entirely beautiful because through the gospel, Jesus gives us a new life, a do-over, a restart forever.

I want to end with what the Bible says about this since it actually has power compared to my mere words :-)

Here is what Romans 8:22-25 says about this with my added comments in parenthesis,
“the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction

(no matter how bad you think your sin may be or how good you think you are):

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified

(or made “right”)

by his grace as a gift

(nothing we could have ever done on our own to earn this),

through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation

(which means Jesus bore all God’s wrath IN YOUR PLACE)

by his blood, to be received by faith.”

 

This amazing news will change your life the more you begin to understand it and give God the praise and glory for it.

Will you let it change your life?

Faith, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life

Monday’s Truth

November 10, 2014

I’ve read it over ten times. Day five. This post in my devotional book is one I go back to. One that no matter how many times I’ve read it, it somehow always brings me to tears. It’s a message my soul needs repeated. It’s a message I feel you need to hear.

So I’m sharing it with you today. Day five. My breath of grace. My hope for today. I hope you are blessed.

 

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DAY 5: CURED AND CLEAN

Taken by: Comforts From the Cross (by: Elyse Fitzpatrick)

“His disciples said to him,
“You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say,
‘Who touched me?’”

MARK 5 : 3 1

“Excluded. Unclean. Defiled. For twelve desperate years she had struggled against her body. Blood poured from her, and that blood not only brought about personal distress but also made her a societal outcast. If she was a married woman, she would have been unable to have sexual relations with her husband. Even if she was precious to him, he could not take her into his arms. Married or single, she was excluded from participation in normal family life. If she had children, she was excluded from participation in normal family life. If she had children, she couldn’t lie in bed and play with them. Anyone who sat on a chair on which she had sat would be unclean and would have to wash ceremonially and then offer a sacrifice at the temple. When the family went to the temple on a holy day, she had to stay home.

To live in such isolation after childbirth was expected in those days, but the new mother was surrounded by a loving family, all waiting the day when the priest finally declared the mother clean.

But the isolation experienced by the bleeding woman wasn’t the usual week or two; it was twelve years. Twelve years without access to worship. Twelve years of gossip whispered behind her back. Mothers would have warned their daughters: “Don’t go near; she’s unclean.” Twelve years without a caress, a touch, an inviting smile. Twelve years of desperate exclusion, loneliness, and shame.

That she was desperate is clear. She “had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had” (Mark 5:26). We can imagine that year after year she heard about women in other villages who were cured, so she rushed to uncover their secret, scraping up the necessary payments, yet she “was no better but rather grew worse.” Every penny she could get her hands on went to doctors who only exacerbated her condition.

I can’t imagine what terrible indignities she suffered at their hands. This wasn’t modern medicine with its tidy gynecological offices housing highly trained physicians who write prescriptions for hormonal therapies and perform sanitary procedures. No, ancient medicine consisted of the most base herbal preparations, poultices, and methods that not only failed to cure her but made her suffering worse. She was unclean and her uncleanness had bankrupted her. And still she bled. Days and months of disappointment followed by months and years of shame and isolation. She could touch no one; no one wanted her touch. And now, all hope was gone. She had no money left, so even if a cure could be found, she couldn’t afford it.

Then she heard reports about a holy man who loved unclean women and welcomed them as followers. Many had been ill like her. Some had been possessed by devils; others had been notoriously wicked, but he had healed and welcomed them all. Amazingly, hope began grow within her breast again. Perhaps she thought, I have no money to pay him. I can’t touch him because I’m unclean. But even so, she believed, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well” (v. 28). So she waited until his followers and the crowds were passing by, and she slipped into the press. Keeping her head down and her shawl up, she furtively pushed her way ever closer to the One. There he is. If I can just stretch out my hand past these others! I’m almost there; please don’t let me be discovered. There! With my fingertips I brushed his cloak. Immediately, she felt her body change. The blood stopped. She was healed. The crowd moved on, but she stood still—a whole, clean, honorable woman at last. She had finally received all that she hoped for, but she was soon to learn that her expectation had been far too small.

From the midst of her reverie she noticed the crowd halt. The Master was speaking, “Who touched my garments?” (v. 30). An icy shard of fear pierced her heart. What if this holy man finds out what I did and takes my healing from me? What if he is angry because I’ve made him unclean by my touch? Will this simply end in more shame, more separation? While his disciples pointed out the size of the crowd, the woman bravely made her way to him. In fear and trembling she “fell down before him and told him the whole truth” (v. 33).

How did he respond? He called her “Daughter.” This is the only time that Jesus actually called a woman by this name; it was a sweet acknowledgment of relationship and endearment. Instead of pushing her away, he drew her close. Daughter-Don’t be confused. Jesus wasn’t stumped about who had touched him. He knew this woman’s name (even though we don’t). It had been written on his heart for twelve times twelve million years—yes, forever. This woman would have been satisfied with physical healing, but her Savior would not. He forced her to come to him and be in relationship with him, to fall down before him, to come out of the shadows and into the full light of day. Our Savior loves to give us gifts, but the best gift of all is himself, and he won’t let us slink off, back into darkness and isolation. No, his love will pull us out of our shame, defilement, and fears, and then he’ll speak gently and lovingly to us. “Daughter, be at peace.”

Because Jesus is completely pure, he isn’t concerned about becoming defiled by touching us. He’s not afraid that our uncleanness will contaminate him. Instead he draws us near; he speaks to us in love. He sees our desperation, our bankruptcy, and our uncleanness, and he calls us “Daughter.” If you’re like me, it’s easy to find a measure of satisfaction and peace in knowing that our sins are forgiven and we’ve been cleansed. But our Savior wants more than that. He’s taken us for his bride, and he isn’t satisfied when we hide from him or try to use him for our own purposes. Yes, we want to be clean, and he wants that for us too; but clean strangers aren’t what he’s after. He means to have a wife. And so he continually brings us to points of desperation when we have to fall before him, broken and bankrupt, and then he speaks lovingly to our hearts and draws us up into his presence.

Don’t be afraid to go to him now. He isn’t fazed by your sin; he isn’t afraid that you will contaminate him. In fact, as you get close to him, his holiness will infect you. Go ahead, daughter; press in through the crowd of all that threatens to block access to him—your shame, pride, destitution, and uncleanness. Touch him out of your desperation and find him patiently loving and awaiting your arrival.”

Excerpt From: Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. “Comforts from the Cross.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/5Nkjx.l

Faith, God, Redemption, Spiritual Life, Suffering

Open My Eyes

July 23, 2014

The moment right before I wake is my favorite part of the day. No phone calls to make, emails to respond to. There are no little ones clamoring for my attention or breakfast to be made or bills to pay or laundry to fold.

The world is still at peace.

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As soon as I open my eyes, I am immediately flooded with all the things the previous days have left me with. A friend grieving over losing a parent way too soon. A brother and sister in law fighting to claim joy in the midst of a deep valley. Another friend aching to have a child fill her womb and the anxiousness of not knowing if it has happened yet.

Opening my eyes means opening myself up to the chaos this world can lend. 

Of course there are my own battles I wake up to as well. Will I fail as a mother today? How am I going to believe the lies that Satan tells me today? Am I going to like who I see in the mirror? Why did he have to molest me? Why am I so royally screwed up?

Jesus….get me through today. 

And yet, I also wake up to hope. Hope that my friend’s parent will be held in the arms of Jesus when they pass. That new mercies are given to my brother and sis in law every day and God has not abandoned them in their time of need. Hope that someday, a miracle will grow inside my friend and she will have a baby once again. Hope that despite all my shortcomings, wounds and failures, I am not a lost cause in the eyes of Christ.

Because opening my eyes also means opening myself up to all the joy this world has to offer.

“…the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” -Ann Voskamp

The world is a hard and depressing place. It can cripple the soul and crush the heart. If I put my faith in this world, then every morning is a morning where I wake only to the horrors of life. And who wants to live like that?

No, I want to put my faith in LIFE, in JOY Himself.

For, “Whom have I in heaven but You?And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73: 25-26)

When I wake, I don’t want to see storm clouds, I want to see cleansing rain that chases away all the dirt. I don’t want to see the the wounds on my heart telling me I’m broken; I want to see the scars on His hands telling me I am wholly found in Him.

Open my eyes that I might see…..

Faith, God, Identity, Redemption, Relationships, Spiritual Life, Suffering

Hey There Lonely Girl

July 9, 2014

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Hey There Lonely Girl,

On some park bench in the middle of the day, there you sit. You see everything and everyone around you, and you wonder, do they see you back. These vacant benches and quiet spaces have become like an old comfy shirt to your weary and broken soul.

For to be seen, is to be known. 

Sitting in secluded corners sipping coffee, you look like you’re waiting for a friend to arrive, but you know that’s not the case. You seem confident in the loneliness, almost as though you prefer the solace. No one can see, however,  that silently your heart is screaming for someone, anyone to notice you. To come into your pain. To make you…not so lonely.
Coffee Shop Girl

Fear of your destiny to forever be abandoned, excluded, denied, rejected, and forgotten sweep over your already tired soul and you just cant imagine how this life could ever bring you joy again. You will forever be alone.

Darkness has a way of captivating our spirit. Consuming us thick and tricking us into believing that dawn will never come, only night. Only the emptiness.

But hear me when I say this, Lonely Girl- light HAS come. He has come. He has seen those spaces and places you keep hidden from the world. The things that trap you in your loneliness. He knows the thoughts and regrets that plague you in the night when you feel the most alone. He knows it all.

And the moments when your heart’s mouth cries out to be known, to be loved, to be seen, He is right there, looking right at you….and loving you.

The world will always lie to you. It will tell you that you were a mistake, too screwed up to ever be fixed; destined for solitude. But He who is named TRUTH says otherwise.

He has said that you are more precious than rubies. He has said that you are so worth loving, that life itself is not too great a sacrifice for you. He has said he would never leave you or abandon you. To Him your name is not Lonely. To Him, your name is

Holy, Righteous, & Redeemed

He is for you. I am for you. And a chord of three strands cannot be broken.

holding_hands

So hold hands with me as we hold onto to Him and together we will see just how abundant this life can be.

“For Greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faith, Fear, God, Redemption, Suffering

Dear Despair

July 2, 2014

 

Dear Despair

You used to be an old friend of mine.  We would sit for hours while you told me lie after lie and I would listen.  You saw into my heart and you knew the strings to pull bringing me closer to you and farther away from truth and peace.  You somehow shadowed my vision so that all I saw in front of me was the painful circumstances at hand.  It was as if your home was a deep pit and once I walked through the door I would fall onto your cement floor and stay for awhile.

You sat across from me and told me this life was too much for me.  You told me there would be no more money to provide for my needs.  You told me there would be no job coming to my door and my searching would go in vain.  You told me I would be alone forever and no one would ever want me.  You told me that I wasn’t worth much.  You told me death would win and I would be left only in sadness without hope.  You told me my burdens would continue to push me down and this struggle would get the best of me.  You told me there was only light if I could see it, feel it, and sense it.  You told me to put my hope only in my friends, family and others who I admired.  You taught me how to put people on pedestals and secretly worship them.  When I sat there crying you told me I had every right to be upset- I deserved to feel hopeless- I deserved to feel like the victim, to remain the victim.  In some twisted way that brought me comfort.  In some twisted way it gave me control.  You told me God was failing me and He didn’t really care at all.

For some reason I trusted and believed you.

But even in my doubts of a loving God and in my believing of your lies… truth broke through as it always ends up doing.  You were wrong.  You didn’t tell me- ” He knows what He is doing with me, and when He has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold!!” (Job 23:10)

You didn’t tell me that God may be calling me to live my life without something I never thought I could live without.  But if I have Him- I have the only wealth, health, love, honor, and security I really need and cannot lose.

You didn’t tell me that these present burdens are actually mercies from God.

You didn’t tell me when it feels like God is killing me He is actually saving me!!

 You didn’t tell me of the redemption that lies at the end of all this.  The Joy available to me in every moment.  The peace residing in me who is Jesus.

My trust has not been in God but has been in my circumstances, public opinion and my own competence!

I may not always understand… but I now see the truth.

God will provide for all of my needs.  (Matthew 6)

I don’t have to fear because God is always with me and I’m never alone.  (Isaiah 41:10)

I am worth more than sparrows.  (Matthew 10:31)  The sparrows were worth nothing… and yet God was concerned with them!  He cared for them and not one of them fell to the ground without God knowing.  If God is concerned with these birds… how much more He must be concerned with me?

Death may come and sickness may sneak in, but even death cannot overcome me or my God.  (1 Cor. 15)  There can somehow be peace present in the pain.  Unimaginable peace.  Unexplainable hope!

There is light.  When I don’t see it, feel it, or sense it…. it is there.  (2 Sam.22:29, Ps. 27:1, Psalm 4:6, Ps. 119:105, 119:130, John 8:12, 2 Cor. 4:6, 1 Peter 2:9)

God will not fail me.  (Jos. 1:5)  At times I feel as though He has dropped me from His hands.  But in those times I now see my faith is found in God, not my feelings.  He is Gracious and Holy.  Merciful and Loving.

You’re very good at persuading me to look at what God may not be doing.  But you forget that it’s all about who God is.

Dear Despair

You won’t win.  You cannot have my heart, my thoughts and my body.  I have believed your lies too often and now I see the truth.  For even when I am discouraged I will look to Him and rejoice in what He did for me, I will have the joy and hope necessary- and the freedom to follow the call of God when times seem at their darkest and most difficult.  I choose to not remain a victim.  I will stand up and shadow my eyes from the darkness so that all I can see is Him standing there with me- lifting my heavy shoulders, teaching me how to walk again up the mountain, and bringing me out of this shining as pure gold.

“We’ve all felt it- the uncertainty, pain or fear that leaves us on the brink of despair.  Perhaps you are feeling it today as you rise to meet what greets you.  We close our eyes and drink in the truth like water: He is our hope.”- Anonymous

 

Faith, Forgiveness, Redemption, The Friday Overflow

The Friday Overflow: Ministry Spotlight- Epic Beauty

June 27, 2014

10380129_741059635932254_4318560271331148500_oHere at AGLM we have the blessing of getting to meet a lot of amazing ministries that are serving a need for women unlike any other. One such ministry is Epic Beauty. Operating out of West Palm Beach, Fl they seek to be a ministry to women in crisis. Whether it’s women in the sex/adult entertainment industry or victims of domestic violence, they strive to be a place of hope and refuge for these women. They do this by doing street outreaches and even visiting adult clubs to share the grace of Jesus to the women who work there. They even started a flower shop called Epic Arrangements as a place for these women to find healthy employment and a means of income to support the ministry.

Kim Gomez, one of the founders (and future mother-in-law to our very own Tenth Aver Brendon) shared this amazing story of how God is using Epic Beauty within their community. She writes:

For the past 18 months Epic Beauty has been visiting an establishment in West Palm Beach.  I hesitate to call it a “Club” honestly I’m not sure what it was but every time we entered through the door, it felt like the pit of hell.  The women that worked there were worn, beyond middle aged, outcasts, and many had numbers tattooed somewhere on their body.  Those numbers identified who owned them.  Hitleresqe style…  We never saw anybody dance.  We never even saw many customers.  The oddest thing about it was that we were always welcomed in, the Lord went before us and made a way.  Over time, we got to know the manager, the security guy and some of the ladies.  They were working people with families, stories and dreams.  Just like us.  The first night we visited, the manager set up a small table with 2 chairs in a back room.  As Melissa and I unpacked our gourmet cupcakes, baskets of books and Bibles, and our hot pink Epic Beauty cards, the manager sent in, one by one, the ladies.  They filed in and stood before us, trying to smile and act like this was normal.  They were in all states of undress, wearing barely more than tattered underwear, trying to cover themselves with their hands or cellphones.   They were mostly older women, dark and unhealthy looking.  Many of them were missing teeth and smoking cigarettes, their eyes constantly looking at the curtain that hung in the doorway, they were anxious to get away from us, wondering how long the manager would make them stand there, exposed.  

There are so many stories being silently told in strip clubs, the tattoos are the storytellers. The tattoos quietly cry out details about the girls belief in and need for God, their regrets, their treasures, their dreams, their loves, all these messages written on their bodies, waiting for someone to notice. The one tattoo that has pierced my mind and heart and spirit, was a dark and muddy number written across a woman’s neck, she was my age (50ish) and I wondered about the grace and mercy that left me on one side of the table and left her on the other side.  Someone had tattooed that number into her flesh, so that she and the world would never forget to whom she belonged, which gang owned her. That night, when I got home, I was at a loss and cried out to the Lord, “God, how do I pray for them?  What do I pray for in that place?  How has our city let them stay in business for so long?  It’s a brothel!  One must only walk in to see that!  Are these women too far gone?  Has the degradation erased any hope?  What can we do???”   I needed to hear from my Father. I felt too small, not tough enough for the task, I felt a little scared because we had been warned by so many people to stay out of this dangerous place.  Should we stay away Lord?  One of the women in our ministry had a dream about this place, a dream where we had walked into the front door and they locked it behind us.  We considered not going any more but I knew that was not the Lord’s direction;  Mark 16:15 says to go into all the world and preach the good news to everyone, everywhere.  If we didn’t go, who would?  So I turned to the Word of God and in my weakness I became strong.  His word is my sword and the source of all knowledge and wisdom.  He led me to a scripture in Ezekiel 26 where God himself sent a message to the town of Tyre. Tyre was a city in Babylon that was extremely offensive to the Lord and God sent this  prophesy.  Ezekiel 26: 3-6  “Therefore, this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I am your enemy, O Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the waves of the sea crashing against your shoreline.  They will destroy the walls of Tyre and tear down its towers.  I will scrape away its soil and make it a bare rock.

The island of Tyre will become uninhabited

So Epic Beauty started praying this scripture over that club, this place was so dark, so sad, and so offensive.  And the Lord does Reign.  For the past 6 weeks I haven’t been able to reach the club by phone to schedule a visit, when we would stop by at night during an outreach, nobody was there.  And yesterday, praise God, we pulled up to the door and found this sign on it…  

PERMANENTLY CLOSED.  The Mermaid is uninhabited!  It’s permanently closed!  Yes, He Reigns and I will never stop praying as long as I have breath.  And the message here is this;

He calls us to call on Him for help.

If you’d like more information on Epic Beauty or would like to get involved or even start your own branch of the ministry, please visit their facebook and websites for more info.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/epicbeauty

Website: epicbeauty.org