Many people think the middle of the road is a comfortable place to walk, but let me tell you, in polarizing conversations, where many assume extreme positions, balance often draws fire from both sides. I have friends and followers from many walks of life who hold widely varied opinions, and I don’t expect many of you to agree with me. I do not apologize for what I express if you disagree; still, I hope to present my thoughts in such a way that you can at least understand where I’m coming from.

By and large, this post is addressed to Christian circles and will be peppered with Bible verses to support what I assert, though I hope others will hear what I have to say as well.

A little over a week ago, a story broke in the news that brought a heinous and long-hidden sin to light. In my opinion, the organization that covered the story is hardly reputable, but within hours the main players stepped forward and issued statements confirming it.

When I first read the story, I didn’t have time to really articulate my thoughts, so I posted an article on Facebook with a quote about the parents’ and a police officers’ failure to report the crime immediately and expressed my anger and sickness over it, along with a brief call to action. When I returned to Facebook several hours lately, I had been both publicly and privately reprimanded for my words, and of course, there were hosts of other opinions in my social media streams. Then, as the weekend progressed, these opinions started cropping up in offline conversations, and by the time Monday rolled around, I was feeling alone, and frankly, depressed. I wasn’t going to be heard without being made to feel bad about myself, so I decided to avoid the topic altogether.

But in my quiet times with God this week, it just kept coming up.  Finally, this morning I just asked God to give me His heart and His words on this topic.

I don’t know the motivation of the person(s) who tipped of the magazine: perhaps it was to discredit this well-known family, perhaps it was not.

I don’t think it matters.

Regardless of motivation, I firmly believe that God orchestrated this exposure. Yes, I just said that God wanted this to come out. (You okay over there? You’re looking a little red in the face). The God of the Bible intends those of us who are His children (as this family testifies to be) to live lives of light, not darkness and secrecy.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (John 12:46).

“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth” (John 18:37).

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Ephesians 5:11-13).

Those who argue that this only came out as a result of a petty vendetta are blatantly ignoring that God’s fingerprints are all over it.

I also believe God brought this sin into the light because He is a God of justice. Now let me clarify my view of justice for those who may not be aware: I do not believe God’s justice is about giving people what’s coming to them – no, God’s justice is about making things right. In exposing this sin, God is saying He wants to make it right for the victims, for the perpetrator, and for the parents.

The victims? I can tell you from personal experience, not only did they not have a choice in what happened to them, they didn’t have a choice in how it was handled. They didn’t get to choose their level of interaction with the perpetrator after the fact, nor did they choose how they were treated or by whom. Someone argued that these young women chose to have their names redacted from official documents, but I’ll counter until the day I die that doing something because you think (or have been told) you should is absolutely not the same as choosing to do it. In my spirit, I know that God has opened this up again for the healing of the victims.

There’s been a lot of speculation about why the perpetrator did what he did. Again, motivation is  less than important here: what the perpetrator did was wrong. In my opinion, he did not receive the right consequences (as set up in the laws of this country) at the time, and since the statute of limitations has expired, I believe whatever fallout comes from this revelation now is appropriate. (Are you sure you’re okay? I swear there’s steam coming out of your ears.) I imagine the perpetrator lives with a lot of guilt that he may be able to deal with more openly now, and I declare with many others, God wants to heal him, too.

The parents are the hard ones for me. I cannot imagine why any parent would jeopardize the safety of certain children in favor of another. Then I read their statement and the statements of those who defend them and see (in essence) that they did what they thought was best. According to the police officer involved, when they eventually followed the right avenue in dealing with their son (sort of), they lied. In fact, it seems as more and more comes to light, they have actively buried the truth. It makes me wonder if they did this in their own home, if they silenced the ones who needed to talk about it, perhaps in the name of forgiveness. Everything about this situation screams reliance on self-wisdom and fear, and yes, we have all made critical errors in judgment as a result. So, along with the consequences that are sure to come with this, I believe God wants to change these parents’ hearts from poor judgment and fear to His wisdom and faith in His goodness, and in so doing, heal them.

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).

“It is from the LORD that one gets justice” (Proverbs 29:26).

“What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

To me, the only good thing about this situation is that it has been brought to light, and that now, there can really be justice for everyone involved.

Many of you know that because of my personal history with physical and emotional abuse, I now advocate for those who cannot speak up for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). I believe this advocacy comes from the heart of God, and I will continue to publicly stand with and for all abuse victims by proclaiming His heart for justice (or right healing).

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations…A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged until he establishes justice on earth” (Isaiah 42:1, 3-4a).

“The Spirit of the LORD is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).

“But to you who fear my name, the Son of Justice will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves” (Malachi 4:2).

The perpetrator and his parents have had a platform for years, and are more than capable of speaking up for themselves. While I pray for changed hearts, they do not need my defense. They are in the hands of a good God, and we would do well not to try and short-circuit the work He is doing.

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal” (Job 5:17-18).

“We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our own good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:9-13).

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

There can be no healing without exposure. For anybody. We would do well to remember that before jumping to hasty conclusions based on limited understanding. Especially those of us who claim Christ (the one who will not falter until justice is established) in our lives.

“Everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” (Ephesians 5:13).

 

 

 

When I Think of Spiritual Fitness…

Today, I am participating in a blog hop surrounding the release of Mary Graziano Scro’s Intentional Fitness, where we’re discussing what it means to be spiritually fit. You can find links to other posts here. Please feel free to post your thoughts on spiritual fitness in the comments, or on your own social media.

I can think of no greater model of spiritual fitness than my dad, who is celebrating 35 years in Christ today.

Believe it or not, I didn’t plan this post specifically for today. It was just that every time I was considering what spiritual fitness meant, I thought of my dad, kneeling in prayer over the various couches our family has cycled through, which he has done every morning since I can remember (before I can remember, even).  It was my dad who woke us up every morning after his personal time with God and led my family through Scripture reading and memorization and prayer. While I don’t agree with my dad on everything, I think it’s appropriate to honor his spiritual example today, because I can’t think of anyone else whose spiritual discipline I admire more and aspire to be more like.

To me, spiritual fitness is equal to spiritual wellness, and I base my entire wellness philosophy off of one verse in the book of John.  It’s Jesus talking, and He says, “I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it to the full.” Contrary to popular prosperity theology, it’s not about having more or doing more or even being more, it’s about thriving in what you have, what you do, and who you are. A fit and healthy spirituality comes from knowing God, and how do we get to know people? We talk to them, and they talk to us.  This is the foundation my dad gave me.

As I mentioned, my dad gets up every morning, kneels down, and prays for people and situations until his prayers are answered. When I asked God to make me a prayer warrior six years ago, this is exactly what I had in mind: consistency and persistence in prayer.  It’s rare now that a day goes by where I don’t talk to God in some capacity, but I’ll be honest, the longest I’ve prayed over any person was three years, so I still have a long way to go. I’ve learned that intercession is entering into the burdens of others, and that gets agonizing at times, especially when things don’t unfold when and how I think they should. Still, when something comes up that is so much bigger than me, there is no one I’d rather talk to about it than God.

My dad loves the Bible, and he made sure it had a prominent place (and not just literally speaking) in our home as my siblings and I grew up. When I was younger, I think the discipline of reading the Bible often overshadowed that it was God-breathed and dynamic, something to be treasured. As I’ve grown in my own faith, I’ve come to realize the Bible as one of the means through which we get to know God and His heart. I struggle to love all of it, especially Old Testament history books. (I’m working my way through those now – thankfully, I’m in Job, so…almost done!) Still, I’ve come to at least respect the passages I’ve wrestled with the most, and God always leads me to just the right passage when I need comfort in what is happening around me.

I came into the picture nine years after my dad came to know Jesus, and I doubt I have any memories for another three years (give or take) after that. He’d had lots of time to mature spiritually before I came along, and I’ve even seen growth from him since I’ve been here.  So, I guess more important than inheriting his disciplined prayer life and knowledge of God is inheriting his ability to grow.

In September, I’ll be one-fifth of the way to where my dad is (time-wise), but even if God gives me the time to get to thirty-five years with Him, my spiritual fitness will still not look exactly like my dad’s.  Still, I’ll follow his example by knowing God more and more, and becoming the person HE created me to be.

***

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We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus, but can’t find Him. Why ? Because many who bear His name (Christians) are not spiritually fit enough to walk in His ways. And how do we know what “fit” is in a world that is increasingly void of any mention of the name of Jesus? How do we hear His voice to know His ways with so much godless static assaulting us every day, from all directions? We’re told in the book of Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Is this working out of salvation anything like other workouts we’re familiar with? Will this workout take discipline, denial, and diet? Will it require intentional effort, possibly even a daily commitment? The answer to all is a resounding yes! Intentional Fitness teaches about spiritual fitness using physical fitness principles and analogies. We work out physically to take care of our bodies; we work out our salvation so others can see Jesus. Only by being intentional about our own spiritual health can we live life to the full – the kind of life Jesus created us to live and died to make possible. And only then can we bring the Kingdom of God and His love to a world in desperate need of both.

This Is My Euroclydon

Today, in celebration of the release of Jacqueline McDougall’s Fearless in Euroclydon, I’m participating in a blog hop about my own life storms. I hope you’ll be encouraged and share your own life storm stories in the comments, or on your own blogs and social media to encourage others.

I remember it well.

Our theme was Gadget’s Garage. Gadget stood for God’s Always Doing Great, Exciting Things, and it was based on a song they taught the kids that year. I wasn’t able to be as involved as I would have liked that year, because I was working. That night, though, I was off, and my dad thought I should go help.

It was in a season when I was actively avoiding kids’ ministry, so the prospect of spending a night at VBS with a bunch of rowdy kids wasn’t exactly appealing. Then we got there. Almost as soon as the kids arrived and got settled into the lesson, a storm started to build.

A few of us went outside to monitor the situation.  The clouds were building and starting to swirl, and before long, the sirens were wailing. We hurried back inside to shuffle the kids to the tornado-safe areas of the building.

“I didn’t even want to come tonight,” I muttered to one of my friends.

Soon, the power went out and we were lighting candles in the kitchen, and trying to keep the kids calm.  (Which was hard, you know, since I was freaking out a little bit myself).

My friend Beth suggested singing some of the VBS songs with the kids, and so we did.

“God’s always doing/Great, exciting things/He gives new life/Through what Jesus brings/He gives me joy/My heart shouts and sings/God’s always doing/Great, exciting things.”

Let me tell you, there’s nothing like being scared out of your wits, and singing with other people, everyone at the top of their lungs. It makes the fear go away.

And I guarantee everyone who was there that night remembers – not so much about the storm, but about lighting candles and singing together. I know it’s one of my favorite memories, and I’m glad I went that night.

About two months ago, I was sitting at the doctor’s office for the first time in six years, yet another place I didn’t want to be. (Ironically enough, yet another place my dad insisted I go). I had no idea what was wrong, except that something was wrong, and I was panicked, because I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to ignore it anymore, and I was going to have to deal with it on my own.

A snippet of a song jumped into my head and looped around as I waited for the doctor.

“You walk with me through fire, and heal all my disease” (Kari Jobe, Healer).

I didn’t sing that out loud right then, but it brought me a lot of comfort: God was bringing this into the open to heal it, and He wasn’t going to leave me alone. And even though it’s been a hard season, He’s teaching me to take better care of myself, and He’s brought me not only closer to Himself, but into a community of believers as well.

As I write this, I don’t know what other storms might come, just that they will.

And another song comes to mind – an old song, possibly one that no one reading this blog has even heard of.

“Though the angry surges roll/On my tempest-driven soul/I am peaceful for I know/Wildly though the winds may blow/I’ve an anchor that is sure/That will evermore endure/And it holds/My anchor holds/Blow your wildest then, oh gale/On my bark so small and frail/By His grace I shall prevail/For my anchor holds/My anchor holds” (My Anchor Holds).

So for me, I guess, the best way to be fearless in life’s storms is with music – precious songs that remind me of who He is and what He does.

***

Congratulations, Jackie, on the release of Fearless in Euroclydon. It’s been such an encouragement in my life, and it’s an honor to join you in bringing it to the world.

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In Fearless in Euroclydon, a book on bold Christian living, Jacqueline shares how God has been with her and models how to stand boldly in all circumstances.

The word Euroclydon makes one appearance in the Bible, and speaks of the violent storm Paul faced in Acts 27. Several online dictionaries reference Euroclydon as “a stormy wind from the north or northeast which caused the ship in which Paul was traveling to be wrecked.”

Jacqueline’s personal definition? The worst storm imaginable.

In the last 15 years, she has found herself in the midst of the following:

• Cancer
• Suicide of a close loved one
• Divorce
• Mental Illness
• Struggles with besetting sins
• Children away from the Lord

How does one survive such storms?

Jacqueline shares how she moved from control to surrender, and from anxiety to standing fearless in the storms of life.

 

Entertaining Angels: A Review

“God wants you to know you’re beautiful, inside and out, and you have no reason to doubt Him or the people He’s put in your life to remind you of your beauty.” ~from Entertaining Angels

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About Entertaining Angels (from Amazon):

Madison Andrews can’t face her reflection in the mirror. All she sees is a big, fat nobody. Yet, deep inside she longs for something more, something that’s not skin deep. Along comes Zach, the new guy in high school. He’s smoking hot and totally out of her league. She somehow catches his eye, and he makes her feel beautiful for once. But just as she gets close to Zach, her nerdy best friend, Chase, won’t let Madison doubt her true beauty, no matter how many meals she skips. Dark forces are at work, darker than the lies and mocking from her peers, stopping her from amounting to her full potential. With her newfound Christian faith, can Madison find true happiness in her own skin amidst the battle of angels and demons?

About Emerald Barnes (from Amazon):

Emerald Barnes graduated with a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing at Mississippi University for Women. She resides in a small town in Mississippi and has the accent to prove it. She’s an auntie to three beautiful nieces and two handsome nephews. She’s a Whovian, a little bit of a nerd, a reader, a writer, and a family-oriented person. God is number one in her life, and she thanks Him continuously for His love and favor.

She blogs on WordPress and Blogspot and you can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

My Review:

I give Entertaining Angels by Emerald Barnes 4 out of 5 stars.

Like most of us, Madison Andrews doesn’t like what she sees when she looks in the mirror. In spite of assurances from her best friend, she remains convinced no one else likes what they see when they look at her, either. Even with the heavy subject matter, Entertaining Angels is nevertheless a sweet, inspiring read.

I’ve been overweight (and teased and/or poked at about it) since I was a little girl, so I get Madison. I loved seeing a character so real about her view of herself. I identified as she put on weight: “Could they tell that I’d put on some weight? Gosh. I hoped not, but how could they not? I was huge.” I identified as she longed to be noticed: “I glanced at Zach again and wondered what it would be like to be loved, or at least liked by a man like him. But hot guys didn’t want me.” And I identified as God pursued her, and she found ways to avoid Him.

In a few instances, certain characters responded to Madison being antagonized by insulting the antagonist’s body type and actions. I fully expected those characters to come to the conclusion that their comments equally as damaging as what was being said about Madison, but they never did, and that was a little disappointing.

Overall, however, I think many women (young and old) will identify with Madison and her story. The message that we are beautiful and we are loved as we are is powerful and much-needed.

Happy Release Day, Mary Graziano Scro!

This is a pretty special day for me. It’s my first release as a book marketing manager with Booktrope where I’ve been with the project from the beginning. I’m incredibly excited and honored to be a part of Mary Graziano Scro’s team at Vox Dei Publishing, helping bring Intentional Fitness to the world. I love Mary’s work because she uses real life illustrations for spiritual parallels, and you know me and my mind for illustrations.  And I can’t even begin to tell you how much fight this woman has in her – it’s just incredible!

Congratulations, Mary, and happy release book! I’m so honored and blessed to be a part of your team, and I look forward to working together as time goes on.

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About Intentional Fitness:

We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus, but can’t find Him.

Why ? Because many who bear His name (Christians) are not spiritually fit enough to walk in His ways. And how do we know what “fit” is in a world that is increasingly void of any mention of the name of Jesus? How do we hear His voice to know His ways with so much godless static assaulting us every day, from all directions?

We’re told in the book of Philippians to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Is this working out of salvation anything like other workouts we’re familiar with? Will this workout take discipline, denial, and diet? Will it require intentional effort, possibly even a daily commitment?

The answer to all is a resounding yes!

Intentional Fitness teaches about spiritual fitness using physical fitness principles and analogies. We work out physically to take care of our bodies; we work out our salvation so others can see Jesus. Only by being intentional about our own spiritual health can we live life to the full – the kind of life Jesus created us to live and died to make possible. And only then can we bring the Kingdom of God and His love to a world in desperate need of both.

About Mary Graziano Scro:

Mary Graziano Scro is an inspirational and lively author and speaker who intuitively weaves analogies and personal testimony with practical biblical teaching. A graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, Mary’s mission is to encourage others about the awesome life God has planned for them, if only they are willing to choose wisely in their everyday lives (John 8:31-32). Mary and her husband Don live in Marshall, Va.

You can connect with Mary on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

This week we’re also doing a blog hop where we’re discussing what it means to be spiritually fit.  The schedule is as follows:

May 21st: Sherry Torgent
May 22nd: Joan Sanusi
May 26th: Tina Hunt
May 27th: David Brannock
May 28th: Lydia Thomas
Please feel free to chime in with comments, or write posts of your own! We’d all love to hear your thoughts.
Mary will also be joining Jacqueline McDougall’s Fearless in Euroclydon Facebook Release Party next Tuesday evening at 7:30 PM CST, and giving away two ecopies of Intentional Fitness. It will be an evening of celebration and encouragement, and I hope you’ll join us!

Sobering Look at Sex Trafficking

Please join me in welcoming fellow author RJ Conte to the blog today.  Her novella, The 12th Girl in Heaven, a modern retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, releases on Amazon on June 2, and accompanies a Beauty and the Beast retelling, The Hotline Girl, released earlier this month.

RJ joins me today to talk about a subject that burdens both of our hearts: sex trafficking.  I’ll let her take it from here.

***

Hello!  I’m RJ Conte, wife to a quiet, easy-going, and brilliant engineer, and mother to two adorable toddlers.

I’ve known Lydia since we were both teenagers, and I love her writing.  I’m so thankful I got this opportunity to promote a very unique novella, and subject that has become close to my heart!

You can check me out on Amazon and on my blog, BlondeRJ.

And please come to the Facebook release party right from your own computer, of The 12th Girl in Heaven.  There will be prizes and giveaways and more information, as well as lots of fun.  You’re all invited!  🙂

To read an excerpt of the novella, click here!

To read an interview of one of the characters, Gidget Paige, click here.

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For the first six months of 2015, I focused on a brand new venture: taking two fairy tales and turning them into modern adaptions, with a focus on serious psychological issues.  The Hotline Girl was the first, and it was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in a suicide hotline.  That one was a bit more lighthearted at times, but had its very sad and serious moments, as could be expected with its setting!

This one, The 12th Girl in Heaven, is a retelling of the fairy tale, “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” which is not as common of a fairy tale, but tends to be a favorite of younger girls due to the Barbie edition in 2006.  😛

The premise of the fable, The Twelve Dancing Princesses,, depending on the version of the story, is that twelve princesses, all daughter of the same king, wake up every morning in the one big bedroom they share, with the shoes on their feet worn out.  They are exhausted all day, and can’t seem to shake their groggy sleepiness.  The king is flabbergasted, and can’t seem to figure out what’s going on.  He calls for any man to solve the mystery of what has happened to his daughters, but they are all unsuccessful.  Every single one of the men who arrive drink something the princesses give him, and falls asleep, unable to remember the evening.

Finally a shoemaker, who has worked on the girls’ worn out shoes all this time, and is in love with the youngest princesses, is smart enough to refuse the drink.  He stays awake and follows the girls down a trapdoor to a magical land where they are enchanted or drugged by a witch and dance with men all night.  He reports back to the king, who saves the princesses from their life of slavery.

I read this fable and thought: it’s a trafficking story!  What we have here are girls beguiled by a drug-dealer, and are then forced to provide entertainment for men.

My family and I moved to the Pacific Northwest last year.  We left a conservative and homey little area of north Texas, and came to the great beauty that is the state of Washington.  But, along with beauty, we realized that there was quite a mission field for saving trafficked girls out in this area.  One street over from us, a drug bust that involved prostitution and a former Seattle Sonics player happened just months after we moved in.  The beautiful little state park outside of our home is supposedly riddled with used needles, and we were warned not to hang out in it alone or after dark.  And we live in a SAFE neighborhood near an elementary school!

Edward Sumner of R.E.S.T. (Real Escape from the Sex Trade) came to my church one Sunday and sobered the entire congregation with trafficking statistics in the Seattle area.  R.E.S.T. was formed in 2009, and saves hundreds of girls each year from the life of sexual slavery and addiction to substances.  They provide them with housing, give them necessities, and mentor them along with counseling.  They are also out actively trying to prevent girls under 18 from hooking up with the wrong men.

Police estimate that up to 500 teens, some as young as 12 years old, are working as sex slaves in the greater Seattle area alone.  Look up your city.  You’d be astonished at the numbers.
In one account, a fifteen-year-old girl left a note for her parents, claiming she needed to find herself.  She was found ten days later, with an entirely new wardrobe and haircut, and informed her parents she had been held hostage.  Even after that, she still continued to sneak out and see her former pimps, having formed a trauma bond with her captors, who are good at beguiling girls into attaching themselves to them.  Meanwhile, they charge $200-250 per sexual act, and don’t let the girls see any of the money, often times keeping them hooked on drugs.

So I knew I wanted to get involved.  You don’t hear things like that and walk away.  Praying was one thing, but I wanted to do more.  And, if walking the streets looking for girls to help wasn’t in my best interest as a young, twenty-something mom, then writing a warning book might be, and raising money for this fantastic organization.  Twenty-five percent of all proceeds on this book go straight to R.E.S.T. of Seattle, to stop sex slavery in Seattle.  In this Fifty Shades of Grey culture, we need to stand up and protect women!

My book doesn’t deal with exploiting minors – its protagonist is a college girl in a sorority and part of the college party scene.  It also doesn’t have any sex scenes or yucky descriptions of male pimps.  Instead, I try to warn readers by talking about the scary side of clubbing, drugs, alcohol, and video prostitution without going into any detail that would make anyone over 18 uncomfortable.  I wanted to get the message across without writing a rated R book.  I wanted it to be an acceptable read for teens and young adults who face enormous amounts of peer pressure to put themselves in vulnerable situations.  I want to encourage them to stand up for themselves and say no.  The college years can be formidable, as the weight of doing well in school and making connections that will further you in your career can be coupled with the youthful desire to please, fit in, become a group, and to make friends.  Sororities can be the worst places for secret hazing, peer pressure, and heavy drinking.  Many sororities and schools are coming under fire recently because their former members are speaking up as to the atrocities they were forced to undergo.  I’m hoping my book is something that could be given to a female, brand new high school graduate in your life.

There is also a romance, a mystery, and a crazy villain!  So I hope it will entertain as well as soberly inform.

Are you an abolitionist against the modern-day slavery of women in our country?  I am!  Together let’s stand up and warn, protect, and stop these crimes.  God bless you!

206-451-REST (7378) – R.E.S.T. trafficking hotline

***

Wow, what a challenge! Thanks for joining me today, RJ, and shedding some light on an old fairytale and a very serious crime. Sex trafficking is a dark practice, and statistics usually only cover reported crimes – a lot is happening that we don’t even know about!

Like RJ, I urge you to look up the statistics for your city or region. I’m from north Texas, and because of the conservative and homey reputation RJ mentioned above, it may surprise many people to learn that in 2013, “Texas ranked second in the nation with 2,236 incoming tips (calls, emails, tip forms) received by the Polaris Project’s National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) for human trafficking tips” (Texas DPS Report). Again, this is only reported crime. Maybe you think it’s not an issue in your community, but I can almost guarantee it is. Why? It’s an issue everywhere.

There are a lot of great organizations standing against sex trafficking, including the one RJ has mentioned. Please find a way to contribute! Let’s storm this stronghold with everything we’ve got!

 

Wilderness Adventure Gone Wrong

I used to have a blog called Wilderness Adventure. (I suppose I still have it; I just don’t update it anymore.) Its tagline was, “Abundant life in a world where I’m just passing through.”

The concept originated at a time when I had gotten so off track in my relationship with God, He literally had to remove everything comfortable and familiar in my life just to get my attention. But there, in that wilderness, He began to direct me oh-so-gently back to a right and undistracted view of Him. I remember reading in Hosea 2 at the time and identifying so much with the people of Israel, and the way God transformed the wilderness into vineyards. It called to mind beautiful pictures from Isaiah (my favorite Old Testament book, if you didn’t know):

“The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as a rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice … For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isaiah 35:1-2a, 6b-7a).

I was suddenly fascinated by the wilderness place I found myself in, because it held previously-unseen potential. God could do things with it, and if history was any indication, He would.

But, whatever God did there, I never expected to stay in the wilderness. And I certainly didn’t anticipate all of these obstacles and bumps in the road on the way to my micro-level promised land, or the incredible doubt that washes over when things don’t unfold, or the waiting. (That monotonous waiting, when I move at a snail’s pace, and life rushes past.)

I was reading Psalm 106 today for a Bible study I’m doing, and this particular psalm details Israel’s wilderness adventure, if you will. It’s not pretty, but as I said before, I get the people of Israel. I was particularly convicted reading verses 13-14:

But they soon forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test. So He gave them what they asked for, but sent leanness to their souls.

That’s a sad commentary, isn’t it? But some days, especially lately, I am right there with them.

Wherever you stand on the Israel issue, I think we can all agree they’re not where God intended them to be. It seems to be their story.

I don’t want that to be my story.

I don’t want to be characterized by ingratitude, impatience, impulsiveness, and whining.

I don’t want to perpetually be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So how do I stay focused in the wilderness? How can I be sure to be right where God wants me as His plan unfolds?

Deuteronomy 8 points the way to living and increasing in and entering and possessing the land the Lord promised. First, I must remember God’s guidance, discipline, and provision. Second, I honor God’s care for me by walking in His ways. And finally, I praise God and acknowledge His hand in my life.

Practically, it’s moving from self-focus to God-focus.

I have a long way to go, but I am confident God intends more for me than wilderness living, even if it is a restored wilderness.