GUEST AUTHOR: KRISTINE MCDOWELL
Ever since I was a little girl, loving all different kinds of people was deeply instilled in me. My little world was very diverse and unique. My brother was born with special needs, and that alone created a lot of opportunity to become friends with many special needs kids and peers. God used my family and community dynamics to imbed within my heart a deep passion for people and the diverse beauty within each family, community, and country. In a world that keeps trying to press us into carbon copies or shove us into stereotypes, diversity is everywhere. There is not one person that is exactly like another. People are the pinnacle of God’s creation, His most amazing handiwork. His vast and infinite creativity is seen in each and every life, culture, and heritage. This reality is often lost and muddied as the world continually battles diversity with conformity. Our different cultures, upbringings, and the media can often shape who we believe is important and what is beautiful. Different theologies and doctrines have strayed time and time again from the truth,putting people and God Himself into a one-size-fits-all box. This sad pattern of conformity has been happening since the fall of Adam. Sin has a nasty way of tainting and destroying that which God made good. Diversity in people is God-made goodness and it is worth celebrating. He gave us diverse ethnicities, cultures, personalities, families, communities, abilities, and experiences. There is so much mystery and marvel within one person, let alone each little pocket and place on our earth. It’s incredible.
It is so important that TRUTH is talked about, celebrated, and taught within our homes and community circles. I am very passionate about celebrating people and teaching my children the value of diversity. I really believe if we don’t talk about different kinds of people, cultures, and social justice issues in an age-appropriate way and in light of a Biblical worldview, then our kids will form ideas based on their limited experiences and the world’s philosophies. They will come to accept bullying, prejudices, and hate crimes as inevitable (or possibly even acceptable) instead of avoidable. Celebrating diversity teaches our kids the importance of showing kindness and compassion, listening and learning, and loving others with different perspectives. It builds our kids’ confidence by reminding them that each person possesses his or her own unique beauty. It communicates that we are each an essential, important piece in our family and community, and that each life is as equally valuable as the next, regardless of skin color, ability, passions, beliefs, or backgrounds. Celebrating diversity is more than just inserting phrases like “be kind,” “Jesus loves you,” and “God made everyone special” into our conversations with our kids. It is venturing deeper by creating opportunities to teach, discuss, and practice loving all kinds of people, just as they are, so that our families can develop a heart for the world and a hunger to know the Creator behind each masterpiece.
Here are a few simple ways you can begin cultivating diversity with your family:
1. PRAY FOR MORE DIVERSITY WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY
If you don’t already have a lot of diversity within your family, friends, church, or neighborhood, start praying for God to send a variety of people into your life. We live in a predominantly white, middle-class, conservative community and didn’t see many obvious avenues to mingle and make friends with people very different from us, so we began to pray. It’s been amazing to see how God has expanded our community within the last year. If you have a diverse community as a parent, your kids will too, and experience is one of the most powerful teachers!
2. BE A LEARNER
You may know the famous quote by Albert Einstein, “the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.” Don’t get so set in your own way of thinking that you cannot meet a situation, a person, a culture, or a belief with compassion. You may still disagree at the end of the day, but never stop being a humble learner. LISTEN to those who are different than you and seek to put your own lens on life down and look through theirs for a moment. With all that is happening in our world with racism, refugees, wars, poverty, and beyond, it is so important to listen and learn FIRST before speaking, debating, or posting on social media. The way you speak about people you disagree with or don’t understand will rub off on those closest to you! Especially kids, they watch and listen to everything!
3. MAKE YOUR HOME A SAFE PLACE FOR ALL KINDS OF PEOPLE
Our house is a gathering place for all of the neighborhood kids and many others. We want our home to be a safe, loving place for everyone who walks in, so we made it a rule: “Everyone must feel safe and loved.” We don’t tolerate bullying, name calling, or prejudices. We just don’t. If kids or adults insist on playing or talking in ways that are disrespectful or unkind, they are asked to take it somewhere else. This boundary line helps us emphasize the importance of kindness, respect, and healthy conflict resolution.
4. CREATE SPACES TO HELP YOUR FAMILY DISCOVER DIVERSITY
Create spaces to help your family DISCOVER diversity.
We have a whole corner in our playroom dedicated to celebrating diversity. This corner includes a myriad of children’s books intended to help our whole family learn more about other cultures and facilitate discussions that possibly would never happen otherwise. It has toys and items from different places around the world that my sister has brought back on her missionary journeys. We also desired to have way to represent different ethnic groups within our country and around the world, especially since our pocket of the U.S. is not very diverse. I researched diverse dolls for our girls, but ultimately, due to budget and having a little boy join the bunch, I decided to create peg dolls for my children. I made two different collections. One was an American set, reflecting several diverse ethnicities, but in more generic clothing. The other was an Around-the-World set that represented different cultures across the globe. After several months of researching, ordering books, and making peg dolls, my diversity corner for the kids was ready just in time for Christmas. It has been really fun being intentional about growing in this area as a whole family. We read books and play with the dolls often. The peg dolls have been a great tool. They leave lots of room for the imagination and can be played with using Lego’s, blocks, doll houses, and other stable toys. The boys and girls in our neighborhood ages 2-11 have enjoyed playing with the dolls. It’s quite fun to see such a simple toy be enjoyed in SO many ways. We use the dolls with our kids to talk about all kinds of issues and people in age-appropriate ways while having lots of fun at the same time.
The process of developing a diversity corner and my desire to see others celebrate the beauty of diversity in their own lives resulted in the creation of a project called Radiant Ruth. Radiant Ruth is a place of ideas, tools, and avenues to cultivate a love for all people. It can be found on Facebook and Instagram, and features book lists, products, companies, blogs, ideas and more to celebrate diversity in your home and in your community. Through Radiant Ruth, I will also be launching hand-crafted peg doll collections designed to cultivate diversity. I really desire to encourage and enable others as I continue to learn and live out my passion for diversity.
PURCHASE KRISTINE'S HANDCRAFTED RADIANT RUTH DOLLS HERE:
Kristine is a beautiful Jesus-lover, and celebrator of diversity who is sharing her passion project Radiant Ruth with the world. Kristine is wife to Pastor Jason McDowell and mom to three gorgeous kiddos.
Today is a day we can use to help others feel the love of Jesus. There’s a lot of hate in the air today because of the political temperature of our country, but above anything else, remember you’re a citizen of heaven, God’s child, saved by grace. Today is a day we can leave the labels at the door and treat everyone the way God sees them: precious, loved, and designed by Him. Today we can speak up for justice for those who don’t have a voice for themselves. Remember that if you chose address someone as an “illegal” or use their heritage or ethnicity to make negative implications to describe them or label them, you’re choosing to ignore the label that God has put on them: loved. They’re children of God, they’re actual people, and today we need to take action to help people see the labels God has put on them. We need to use our words and actions to help remind others that God loves them so dearly that He sent His son to die for them. Take action to be a loving, grace-covered, justice-seeking Jesus lover today.
Confidence was something I thought God would teach me a lottt differently than He did. I thought I would have confidence when I woke up one day and God had miraculously blessed me with 3ft mermaid hair and I would look in the mirror and see Gigi Hadid’s face, but confidence is alllll about who God is and who I am in Him, and pa-raisssse Jesus that it is.
Confidence is something we all struggle with now and again in every stage, no matter your age, gender, or walk of life. It’s always on the table because it manifests in different ways like appearances, identity, and relationships. And if you’re trying to find who you are and search for the answer in yourself, you’re never going to find the key to being confident in your own skin.
It took me years and years of self-hatred, self-reliance, social anxiety from identity crisis, and terrible eyeliner to come to this little place of just getting a tiny idea understanding confidence.
I went through stages of thinking “if I only had ___ [some kind of physical appearance] I’ll be beautiful and confidant”. Let me give you a spoiler alert on that one: never happened and never will get solved that way. The abusive relationship I had been in left me thinking:
a. he wouldn’t have hurt or used me if I was pretty or valuable
b. I have nothing to offer and no one will want me after what he took from me
and c. Figuring out how to become gorgeous is the only thing that will make me sure of who I am and make me satisfied in life.
If I knew how to articulate in writing the sound a buzzer makes on Wheel of Fortune when someone guesses the wrong phrase, I would insert that right here. I quickly learned that a, b, and c are all complete lies that we’re making me absolutely miserable. I spent a bazillion dollars on hair extensions, eyelash extensions, make-up and retail therapy using my “If I only look this way” theory. After a year that left me exhausted from trying my own bad advice, I finally realized what was happening and knew I needed to try a new route to confidence. I knew the Jesus-ey, Hobby Lobby-inspirational pillow solution was to get to “find my identity in God.” I do really love Jesus and Hobby Lobby is like my favorite store, but I was so over cliche, Christian fluff that I didn’t understand. How do you actually “find your identity in God”? What are the actual steps? I needed someone to just write a list and make me a Google docs slideshow of what I needed to do. I prayed and prayed and God just told me, plain and simple, to get to know Him. If I wanted to be sure of who I was I needed to be sure, first and foremost, of who He is.
If you’re struggling with confidence or need an encouragement boost today, I gotchu boo.
These are the simple but powerful things that helped me get out of my head and into getting to know Jesus.
Getting to know why God is and what His character is, is the only thing that will ever help you be confident in your skin. Without God’s love, faithfulness, and hope of everlasting life, we ultimately have no purpose. Without God’s gifts and blessings, we would have nothing. All of our abilities and talents are from the Lord. As a believer and follower of Jesus, I love my life to serve Him, so I really have to know the foundations of Him to be sure of my identity and purpose in life. The best and easiest ways to get to know him are through prayer and reading His Word. Prayer is just coming before God and talking to Him, so chat with God, outloud, silently, in a note, in a letter, just talk to Him. You can’t go on a date and get to know your tinder pick without starting up a conversation, so go on a date with Jesus to get to know what He is all about. The Bible is another awesome way to understand a little bit of God. The gospels are a great way to get to know Jesus, through the narrative of His life. The Old Testament speaks a lot about God the Father’s loving, faithful, kind, powerful, and graceful personality, and shows how He is such a good Father to us. The New Testament, Acts and onwards, is focused a lot on the Holy Spirit and how He [as part of the Trinity] is all about giving us the wisdom, calling, and conviction that God wants for us, and shows how important it is to God to empower His people to be emboldened to share His love with others. If you get to know God and your life is entrusted to Him, you will be so much more confudent yourself.
When God was teaching me confidence, He put confident women all around in my life. Family, friends, co-workers, and mentors in my life to show me how it’s done. The women that mentored me showed my through guidance and wisdom how to be confident in God and showed me what confidence looks like in everyday life. I went on a missions trip with co-workers and the was blessed to learn from one of the most confident, strong, bold women I’ve ever met who taught me to fierceness love Jesus, follow without fear, ask lots of questions, and don’t be off-put or discouraged when you get asked a lot of questions. A dear, super sweet, super gorgeous, super wise cousin taught me how to work with Jesus through the out of control, downward spiral, want to dye my hair blue crisis kind of moments, and also how to bravely and responsibly be accountable for mistakes and learn from them. She helped me see the constructive side of criticism. A really hard, but really effective tone of growth came from getting fired from my ultimate ministry dream-job. It was full of mistakes and learning, but it made me fall so hard on Jesus and so deeply into His identity. These are just a few shiny gem stories in 21 years of the bad, ugly, and missing-the-point, ultra-low confidence moments, but the Lord used them to change my life.
Satan loves to strip down our identities, dredge up the past, and make our future’s seem blurry and wildly terrifying. If he can make you obsess over appearance, interactions with others, what people are saying, and fear of the future, he can take away some of the plans and work God has for you. You can be a gorgeous, mermaid, supermodel of a person who only dresses in Dolce and Gabonna evening gowns, but if you start obsessing over your physical features or the mistake you made 4 years ago, you’re confidence is shot. No amount of self-help or hair extensions will repair an identity crisis. God doesn’t look at anyone and see the labels they put on themselves from failures, bad choices, good or bad appearances, or past mistake. God looks at a person and sees the label that Jesus has covered them in; if you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, know you’re saved by grace through faith, and it is not of yourself but a gift of God, not by your works but the saving grace of Jesus’s death and resurrection, God looks at you and sees a forgiven, free, and fiercely loved child of God. Your mistakes are things that God can work through and heal through His grace, not labels that define who you are.
When Satan throws you know what and it all hits the fan, throw a whole lot of identity right back in his face. If he brings up anything about who you are, what you look like, what you are like, what you did, what you didn’t do, and what is to come, get up, get loud, and say
“I am nothing but a child of God, so do not tell me I am anything else.”
There are no words that will give you more confidence than those. Rebuke Satan right out of your day, out of your house, and out of your identity. If Satan brings up your past, bring up his future, and your hopeful, Jesus-filled one.
Confidence comes from the free gift of salvation. Ephesians 2:8-10
Confidence comes from knowing God designed you, made you, and loves you.
Confidence comes from knowing that when you mess up and make mistakes and sin recklessly, God will never leave you, forsake you, or say I’m done. Confidence comes from knowing that God will never grow tired of you, but always welcome you home with open arms.
Romans 8:1; John 10:28, John 3:16; Romans 6:23;
When you’re absolutely sure of who He is, you will be absolutely sure of who you are, in Him, and you will never feel more relieved, at home, at peace, and confident about everything there is to who God made you to be, and the blessed assurance of His love.
The past few weeks, I've hardly slept. I keep waking up in the middle of the night, finding myself scrolling through survivors' stories, news reports, the Roy Moore campaign race, constantly looking to see who has been accused and who's admitted to it. I keep finding myself awake at 4:00am every day, listening to the stories of heartbreak and pain that drudge up my own past. I keep scrolling through #ChurchToo hashtags, spreading the light on the awful, dark, hidden stories of people who have experience sexual abuse in the church, and, many times, how horrendously religious people treat victims. I keep rubbing my eyes and wiping away tears at painful stories that ring too closely to home. My stomach has been in knots trying to figure out how to help, how to share, and, if I'm honest, if it's even worth it help, because it feels like it'll only be a drop in the ocean.
The #MeToo Movement has taken off and exposed celebrities, CEOs, producers, TV hosts, pastors, you name it, there's an allegation and a #MeToo story behind it.
The world has seen the bravery and courage from men and women of all walks of life, who have come forward to share the truth. We've seen perpetrators give apologies and recognition to their inexcusable behavior, resign from their positions, and leave the public eye. Many still refuse to leave or recognize their behavior, despite cases being built against them. The world is experiencing is the heartbreaking way many people have responded to survivors sharing their stories. Online hate grows and looms. If you listen in to the news and tune in to social media, you'll stumble across a newscaster covering someone's story and you'll start to hear what those who doubt, or simply don't want to believe, have to say.
When I find myself sitting awake at 4am, I so badly wish I could come up with just the right thing to say. I wish I could sit at my laptop and think of the perfect answers and tell the whole world how to make sense of it all. I wish I could figure out the best way to help victims and survivors. I wish I could make sure this never happens to anyone else again. I wish I could erase all of the pain and hurt for all of us.
But I can't, and no one can.
But the one thing I can do is use what I know from my own #MeToo story and the stories of those who I've walked with and use it to help the world respond lovingly when they hear the terrible things that have happened to victims of abuse.
There's so many things you can do to stand with a survivor to help them heal, and also sooo many things that can really, severely damage them in their healing process.
Here are some things from my perspective as a survivor, and survivors that I've walked with and who have shared their #MeToo stories with me.
T H I N G S T H A T H U R T:
When you hear a survivor's story or someone sits down to tell you theirs, the most important thing to do is respond in a way that affirms them and makes them feel safe. If you know of an abusive situation that is happening or has happened in the past, don't push the victim to tell you details they don't feel comfortable sharing. Let them know you believe them, you support them, and you are there to listen whenever they need it. These are tips to help you navigate your relationships with the people in your life who have experienced sexual abuse because your heart may be in the right place, just trying to do your best to be supportive and loving, but you can inadvertently hurt them. These are extremely important skills to have, as 1/3 people will experience sexual assault. So when someone in your life experiences abuse, you can be prepared and ready to respond with open, loving arms.
Here are some don'ts that you should steer away from at all costs:
T H I N G S T H A T H E L P A N D H E A L
When you're walking with a victim on their journey to healing, remember to do your best to help them heal. As a victim, you often feel alone, misunderstood, and like no one will fight for you. So, as someone on the outside looking in, try to make your loved one feel comforted, understood, and like you will be their advocate. You won't always know what to do or how to help, but just trying can make a world of difference to someone who is experiencing the aftermath of abuse. Here are some "do's" to help encourage you to keep fighting for your loved ones in helpful, loving ways that will help them heal.
This can be a lot of information to take in and a lot to process. Just remember that making an effort to take these steps is appreciated and is helping, even if you don't feel like it. It may seem like a lot of do's and dont's, but it's all just precautions to make someone who has experienced one of the absolute worst things you can go through feel safe and comforted. Trauma is very painful and can last a lifetime, so being sensitive is important.
You may feel like your efforts aren't worth it, but they are so important in the life of a survivor. If we all make efforts and take a stand for victims, we can truly change the world and change the way that survivors are treated. We can help heal those who have been beaten down and broken. We can fight for the truth. We can be a voice for the voiceless. We can make those who feel marginalized feel loved, cared for, and supported. We can love the forgotten and ignored like Jesus did. Your choices to advocate for survivors are making a difference. Thank you for doing what you do, and keep fighting.
For statistics, facts, and resources on how to help survivors, visit https://www.rainn.org/. To talk to someone to receive 24/7 support, call 800-656-4673 for the National Sexual Assault Helpline. To hear stories of survivors or share yours, contact us here on the blog under the contact page.
Mary's first few years as a mother were extremely eventful to say the very least.
The announcement, the birth, the manger, the angels, the wise men, the escape, the return, a lot was happening everyday on top of motherhood of Jesus.
It would be impossible to say that Mary was not a woman who was in ministry.
When you look at those crazy, first few years with Jesus, there's a lot of tragedy and heartbreak, but also a lot of joy and trusting in the Lord. God uses pain to refine, and those years of motherhood for Mary were years of growth to prepare her for the ministry that was ahead.
When you look at the life of Jesus, we can see all throughout His ministry that a lot of women were supporting him by traveling with Him and His disciples, supporting Him financially, and were there at the core of His ministry.
In John 2, Jesus performs His first miracle at a wedding, at Mary was there seeking His help, supporting Him.
We see her at many stages of His life throughout the New Testament, and you could argue that it's just because she is His mother, but Mary's dedication to Jesus's ministry was not just her dedication to the ministry of motherhood, it was an active role in His ministry leading up to His death and resurrection.
When Mary accepted to be the mother of Jesus, way back when the angel Gabriel first visited her, she was not just accepting to carry, deliver, and raise a child. She submitted her life to God, to use it for whatever He had for her. Culturally, Mary sacrificed a lot.
When a lot of us look at Mary, the first thing that comes to mind is a picture-perfect, gentle and quiet woman who is esteemed greatly by everyone, world-wide, but when Mary agreed to carry Jesus, she was giving up her whole reputation with her community. She was a hard-core, devoted, all-in kind of woman who had a really bad rep with a lot of people because of her pregnancy with Jesus.
There were many people who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed the prophecies of the Old Testament that prophesied He would be born of a virgin. However, there was also a lot of people who weren't happy about Jesus being the Savior who completely doubted His deity. Because of that, by default, they believed that Mary was a harlot who got pregnant out of wedlock, which was an extremely big deal in Middle Eastern culture, 33 B.C. A part of her old life had to die, and the new life that God had for her began. And if we can learn anything from Mary about ministry, it's that growing hurts, and it is not easy.
Mary had a very important role in Jesus's life, but she wasn't the only woman facilitating Jesus's ministry.
Mary the sister of Lazarus and her sister Martha walked along Jesus many times in His ministry.
In Luke 7:36-50, Matthew 26:6-13, and Mark 14:3-9, Mary washes Jesus's feet, which symbolized many things, and it was a very important in Jesus's life to set the tone for how He viewed and respected women in front of the Pharisees, especially in a time culturally when women were considered very lowly. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is at the Home of Mary and Martha who were opening their home to Him. The sisters are seen again in John 11 when their brother dies and Jesus resurrects Him. A very big piece of apologetic evidence that the Bible is true is that women were even mentioned in the whole Book, especially playing such important roles in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection.
Another woman who played an important role in Jesus's ministry was Mary Magdalene.
Mary was a woman Jesus healed of 7 demons, and she is seen in Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1-19; Luke 8:2; 24:10; John 19:25; 20:1-18. In Luke 8, she is raveling with Jesus, the twelve, and other women, serving alongside Him as He preached from town to town.
Luke 8: 2- 3
Get. It. Girl. These ministries were lit.
Not only were these women on the ground with Jesus, serving with Him and His disciples, they were working to support Him financially. In John 19, Mark 15, and Matthew 27, Jesus is crucified and buried by many of these same women. And, when Jesus rises from the dead, the first people He visits are Mary Magdalene and His mother.
I heard from a small group of Bible teachers and professors at a school I attended that in their own opinion, a woman's place in ministry was to her husband. If you were married, your one role was supporting your husband so he could do his ministry. If you wanted to be in missions, you should marry a missionary and support him. If you wanted to do a ministry, your options were children's ministry or women's ministry, which was a very limited range of things.
As we look at these passages in scripture, however, these women weren't doing those things! These women were seeking how they could serve the Lord, and they were doing it.
Mary, Jesus's mother, really set up a foundation for women serving with Jesus and facilitating His ministry by whatever means they could. Another thing a teacher told me was women should be married and when you are married, your only goals should be to serve your husband and raise your children as a stay at home mother.
That never sat well with me, because I knew from from a young age that God was calling me to full time ministry, talk about conflict.
Here's what I've learned from Mary and the other women serving Jesus:
We're not all called to serve the same way.
Another thing to remember is there are a lot of differences between denominations that gauge what your opinion might be on how women can serve, but different doesn't mean wrong. Some women are 100% called to be stay at home wives or mothers, they serve in ministry like Mary did, mothering her child, teaching Him and growing Him, building their home. Some women are 100% called to be boots on the ground, serving locally, globally, or in whatever capacity out on the battlefront, like Mary Magdalene was with Jesus. Some women are called to be businesswomen, they have a career, they work in retail or an office. Some are called to serve financially, like the women in Luke 8. Some open their homes and use their hospitality, like Martha. Some are married women who have their own ministries and serve in a way different from their spouses, like Joanna and Susanna. Some are called to be speakers and teachers, spreading Jesus. There's a million possibilities, and those are just a few of the women who served with Jesus during His life, not to mention the women of the Old Testament or in Acts and letters from Paul in the New Testament. Ministry looks different for everyone. The most important thing I've learned from Mary and these women is that I, and no one else but Jesus Himself, dont have the right to look at a woman and tell her what she should or should not do in ministry. I'm not saying we all just jump ship from doctrine and live a crazy Joel Olsteen life where we do whatever makes us happy and no one can tell us differently. We should keep each other in check and always take advice on how to live out a Biblically sound life as ministers with our ministries. What I am saying is that I can't look at a stay at home mom and say that because her calling is different than mine, she's wrong and not serving the Lord correctly. I can't tell a woman who's a stay at home wife who's called to financially support that church that isn't serving the right way. I can't look at a woman who's a CEO and tell her she should step away from the ministry field in business world to serve in women's ministry. I can't tell a woman who leads a women's ministry to back on up and serve in the global missions field.
It's not my job to tell anyone what their call to service is or what God's plan is for their lives, my job is to serve Jesus in whatever way He calls me, be faithful, and give it my all.
If someone is truly seeking the Lord and earnestly wants to serve Him, it's not my place to get in the way of that, and if a woman is truly seeking God's will and praying and searching His word to see how He wants her to serve, I can't step up and say sorry honey bunch, that's not allowed. And if you think a women is not serving Jesus in a way that she should be, what you do need to do for her is pray. Pray that if she's wrong, God will reveal the truth to her and bring people in her life to mentor her in a godly way back on the right path. Pray that her ministry succeeds in bringing people to Jesus and loving them the way that God did, and pray that if you're incorrect about anything, that God would give you wisdom and truth.
Mary left, and continues to leave an incredible legacy of how to serve the Lord with your life. Her life is an example of how to be faithful, how to live a favored life, how to be obedient, how to give ministry your all, and how to be confident in God and His promises. We see it in the birth of Jesus, His early life, His later life, and even after His death and resurrection [Acts 1:14]. She was devoted and her treasure and hope was in the Lord. Her life was a life that was dedicated to God. Mary was the woman behind the Savior, and because she said yes to God, we have been saved by grace and can live a life for Jesus.
Matthew 2:13- 17
In the first few two chapters of Matthew and Luke, it's established pretty quickly that Mary's pregnancy and delivery of Jesus wasn't ideal and a picture perfect scene from What to Expect When You're Expecting. There was a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, and Mary's character is displayed. She was a strong woman who was super confident and so sold out for whatever God's plan was. Her fiance, Joseph, was also a super solid guy who loved the Lord and was also all int for raising Jesus, whatever that was going to look like for him and Mary.
In Luke and Matthew chapter 2, a lot goes down really quickly. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem to register for a census, and Mary goes into labor without a place to stay. They were short on options, so Mary delivered Jesus in a super unconventional space, and his first crib was definitely not from her Babies-R-Us gift registry. Meanwhile, an angel of Lord was stopping by to announce the birth to some shepherds tending their flocks. Then, a chorus of angels came to the shepherds praising God, and the shepherds proceeded to find Mary, Joseph, and the new baby, and they started telling everyone what they had seen and heard. While all of this was happening, a star appeared in the sky to celebrate the birth of Messiah. There were a group of magi, who we all learned in sunday school were the infamous "three wise men", which was basically the biggest heretical issue you probably learned as a five year old, because there's no indication in the Bible as to how many magi there were, and they definitely didn't arrive to see Jesus the night of his birth. [This magi thing drives me a little bit bananas, it's like a whole deal. 🤦] The magi were very skilled magicians and astrologers from Persia, so when they saw the star, they were really into it. They traveled to find the King of the Jews, but when they arrived in Jerusalem, the king of the region at the time was not into the news that a baby, who would be king, had been born. King Herod had some really serious narcissistic issues, and he wanted to find Jesus to knock out any future competition. He sent off the magi to find Jesus and told them to report back when they found him. The wise men found Jesus, they worshipped Him, and they gifted him very expensive and symbolic gifts for a King. God sent an angel to visit the wise men and Joseph in dreams to let them know that Herod was bad news and the magi needed to get out without a peep and Mary and Joseph needed to get out of Jerusalem and into Egypt ASAP.
To me, this is a really important part of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph's story. They were forced to flee in the middle of the night to save their lives from Herod's killing spree that was about to happen, targeting all baby boys up to two years old. Jesus's family was, by all definitions, a refugee family. The family didn't even head back to Israel until Herod died, and they moved to Nazareth to stay off anyone's radar.
I've said this a million times about the journey that Mary was on during these first few years, but this is a lottt to swallow.
If there's one thing I know about crisis, it's really difficult to be obedient when it's all going down. In the middle of crazy whirlwinds, I have a terrible tendency to freeze up and over think literally everything that's humanly possible to overthink. My natural reaction is to find a couch, turn off all the lights, out on giant sweatpants, eat all the Ben and Jerry's that I can get my hands off, and binge watch Pretty Little Liars and Pinterest my dream wedding. I need one million years to make a decision, especially when it's a crisis.
Mary had no time to freeze up and shut the world out. She was a new mom who got woken up in the middle of the night by her husband, telling her they had to run because someone was trying to kill their baby, the Savior of the world.
I'm sure at this point Mary was really ready for all of the wild scenarios to be over. She finally had her baby, she was offically married to Joseph, and it was time to start motherhood. Biblical scholars think that the magi got to Jesus around the time that He was 2, so there was a little bit of cool down time before this happened.
Mary got the word from Joseph about the dream he had from God, and she had to get up, throw her hair in a bun, and get on the road to Egypt with her toddler. Moving internationally is not an easy thing, especially being a parent with the stress and fear this couple had for their child's life. It's also not an easy thing to travel by foot to another country with a toddler.
All of this to say, this was a serious, serious crisis, and it's very hard to be obedient when you feel like the ground is being pulled from under you. It's so clear in the Biblical evidence leading up to this point what grounded and godly person Mary was. Mary had trusted God when she found about her pregnancy, when Joseph didn't believe her story, when she had to travel late in her pregnancy, and she was obedient to God in all of these things. Mary knew that even when the sky was falling down around her, if she was obedient to the Lord, he was going to take care of all of her needs. Obedience in trials is one of the hardest things to keep, but even though you're headed head first into the dark, it's not dark on God's end. Mary was, above all things, dedicated to serving the Lord with her life. This was another time in her life that she would look back on and realize how faithful God was.
By the time Mary delivered Jesus, she had been through a lot. A lotttt.
Here's a timeline recap from Luke chapter one and two :
Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, Gabriel tells Mary that she will be the mother of the Lord God in the flesh, Mary, the virgin, is found miraculously with child, she tells her fiance, her fiance doesn't believe her, her fiance is visited by an angel of the Lord, he finds out that everything she said was true, he takes his pregnant fiancee on a very long, mandatory trip to register for a census, Mary arrives with her fiance Joseph, very pregnant, there is no room at the inn, Mary delivers her baby, and then places him in a manger, because that was her only option.
This woman was a tough cookie, and a tough cookie who relied on the Lord who highly favored her.
Mary was hardcore, and she was not messing around.
Back in Luke 1:26-38, when Mary first got the most incredible news in her entire life, Gabriel also tells Mary that she was highly favored by God. Gabriel also tells her that the Lord was with her.
How was Mary living in favor with the Lord? What did her life look like?
Some Biblical Scholars believe that when the angel tells Mary "The Lord is with you" In Luke 1:28, he is actually saying, "The Lord be with you " and meant it as a common greeting and blessing, like we see in Judges 6:12 or Ruth 2:4. But the other theory is that he did in fact mean "The Lord is with you", and it could be referencing the presence of the Holy Spirit with Mary. In the Old Testament, not all believers had the presence of the Holy Spirit. It wasn't until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that all believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they accept salvation. So, in the Old Testament and prior to Pentecost, there wasn't a promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In Numbers 27:18, Joshua has the presence of the Holy Spirit, but He is not all believers. In Judges 3:10, it's made clear that the Holy Spirit came upon believers for a period of time, but He would leave, like in 1 Samuel 16:14, when believers stopped submitting to Him, or they would stop obeying and go with their own fleshly wants.
If the latter of these ideas is true, and the angel meant to tell Mary that the Holy Spirit of God was with her, that tells us so much about her character. Mary was abiding with the Holy Spirit, she was settling down at home with Him. She submitted her life to the Lord, and made her decisions and choices prayerfully and with guidance from God's Word.
Another really obvious thing that we observe see from Mary's life is that she was a virgin, which meant she was following God's Word about marriage, and it was something she took seriously. She made a commitment of purity to the Lord because she knew that His way of doing things would be the best way for her to live her life, and have a marriage that God blessed, which you can see He really did.
In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth makes a prophetic statement about Mary and gives a blessing to her: "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary had no doubts in God. That's why she jumped on board, straight away, when she got the news about Jesus. She trusted God right from the start, and knew that He would not leave her hanging. She was confident in the promises He had made to her.
I think one of the most telling things in the Bible about Mary's character is her song in Luke 1:46-55.
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
Mary was highly favored with the Lord, not because she was perfect. She was a regular woman with a regular life, but what separated her was that she loved God with a fierce and trusting love. Her spirit rejoiced in God, her savior. She was humble. She knew of how abundant God's mercy was. She knew of all the incredible things God had done for her people, and she was completely confident that He would extend that to her. She knew God's heart, and sought after it. Mary was not a perfect woman, she didn't have it all together, she wasn't living an insta perfect life, but Mary was a woman who was confident in God above all things. She was a very strong woman and her strength came from God, and that's what kept her fighting.
It's hard to look at the life of Mary sometimes because it's hard not to feel like you won't be able to measure up to the way she lived her life. No one else will carry the Savior of the world for nine months or raise Him. No one else will support His ministry the way she did. We won't get an announcement from and angel about the birth of Christ and have to give birth to God incarnate in a manger. But, we all have a calling on our lives from God. We all have a purpose, and God has a plan for each one of us. It seems like we'll never live up to being the perfect Mother Mary figure, and we won't because she wasn't perfect or flawless either. We won't be virtuous women of God 100% of the time, all day every day, because we're people. We're sinful people in a messed up, hard to swallow, sinful world. But, we do have a Savior who forgives relentlessly and loves beyond what our brains can think. We have the legacy of a woman who lived a highly favored life, a woman who we can strive to be like. We can live in God's mercy, we can be confident in Him, we can soak up His love, we can walk in His forgiveness, we can say yes to Him without questions, we can be all in when He calls us. We can live in the legacy of Jesus, a man who was born of a woman who lived a highly favored life.
Something that seems to always get overlooked in the story of Mary and Joseph is the portion of time between when Mary tells Joseph that she's pregnant with the Lord incarnate, he doesn't believe her, plans to divorce her quietly, and when the angel tells Joseph it's all true.
Matthew 1:18-24 gives a brief overlook of the birth of Jesus and includes this lapse of time when Joseph thought his fiancee cheated on him.
The part that seems to get shuffled over is that Mary and Joseph must have both been absolutely devastated. Mary gets the most incredible news of her entire life, the most privileged position, and she can't share her initial overwhelming excitement with the man she's in love with. She must have been terrified.
Think about stepping into in those 33 B.C. sandals for a hot minute:
Mary is pregnant, and Joseph, who will be the provider for her and her future child, doesn't believe her when she says she doesn't have a secret baby daddy and now he wants to divorce her. This is the man she's absolutely in love with. Imagine that conversation she had to have with him. She told him the story of Gabriel visiting, that she was still faithful to her fiancée and her vows to wait for her husband, she must have told him how excited and terrified and bewildered she was that God had chosen her, and Joseph didn’t believe her. Imagine being in his place, seeing the woman he loves expecting, knowing there’s not a chance that he’s the father, and trying to scramble to put the pieces together. Was she crazy? Did she have an affair and come up with some ridiculous cover up story?
I can’t imagine anyone being left without a broken heart after this all had taken place.
The Bible gives no exact timeline for how long it was before Joseph had a chat with an angel of the Lord, but I can almost garauntee you, it probably felt like years for this couple.
This period of time is only briefly narrated and doesn’t contain many details, but the feelings of infedility and betrayal don’t mix well with a pregnant woman’s feelings of abandonment, lonliness, and fear, so it’s safe to assume, these weren’t happy days. If I was Mary, I’ve always imagined I would feel so scared of being alone, not necessarily even by Joseph, but I would be so afraid that God had somehow forgotten me, that God wasn’t loyal, that He wasn’t faithful.
But Mary was a woman who loved the Lord, a woman who God favored and favored highly. She had committed to the Lord to mother the savior of all mankind, and she was in no matter what fears, tears, and broken hearts were tossed in her face. Mary was just getting started with her faithful, lifetime, ministry commitment to her son, and it started off with a very broken heart.
Some of the very hardest times to trust God is with a broken heart. It's hard to feel like He's there, present with you when it hurts so deeply that you feel like you can't breath. It's hard to believe He has a plan that's greater than all other plans for you when it seems like you're completely alone and you don't even want to get out of bed because the pain is so strong. But our God is not a God who abandons. Our God adopts us into sonship. He is faithful. He is loving beyond understanding. He loves you so much that He sent his son to be born through this woman to live the life you could never live and die the death that you deserve so that you can be forever forgiven and spend this life and the next with Him. That's not the heart of an abandoning, drop-out dad who forgets you. That is the heart of a Father who loves you relentlessly, even when you feel alone and forsaken.
Some of the best advice that I ever received was to live with the attitude and mindset of a son, not an orphan. Orphans are without a parent, they have to worry about who will provide for them, what their future will be like, they don't have someone always there to comfort and love them in the darkest of times. A son has a Father. A son doesn't have to worry about where his food comes from, where he will stay, who will provide for him, because he has a Father who takes care of it all for him. They have an inheritance, a bright future. When everything turns upside-down and everything goes dark, a son knows he has a Father who will come to his rescue and take care of his every need.
Broken hearts feel like the end. Telling someone the truth and them not believing you is a terrible feeling. Mary was facing the bleakest and darkest of times, all alone. She probably felt like she was losing everything important to her: family, who thought she had dishonored them by being an unwed mother, her fiance, her reputation, it was all quickly collapsing. But Mary fiercely loved God, and she was a daughter, with an inheritance in the Lord, and a Heavenly Father who was going to take care of her, even in the bleak, hopeless, broken-hearted moments.
When you think of the Christmas story, what do you think of?
Usually we jump straight to the couple looking for a room, no hotels available, some shepherds and angels sing praises, and Jesus is born, O Holy Night, then somehow we tie Santa and the day after Christmas sale at Target into that. But, there's a whole story within itself we often overlook that happens before Mary and Joseph end up it Bethlehem and the Messiah is born.
It all starts with Mary:
Jewish girls had been waiting for centuries to learn that they would be the mother of the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets wrote about. Isaiah 7:14 prophesies that Jesus would be born of a virgin and belong to the line of King David, so all the lucky Hebrew ladies qualifying were hoping and waiting to get the news that Mary got.
There isn't a lot of background on Mary in the two gospels that tell the story of the birth of Jesus, but there are a lot of key pieces of information about Mary in the angel Gabriel's announcement to her of her upcoming pregnancy with Jesus. In Luke 1:26, Luke explains that Gabriel was sent by God to tell a girl in Nazareth she would be the mother of the Messiah. Nazareth was a very small village known for agriculture, so Mary wasn't coming from the Ritz in Beverly Hills. She was a normal, Jewish girl living her life in a normal, Middle Eastern village. Luke goes on to tell how Gabriel announces the pregnancy in verse 28: "And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus."
Twice Gabriel calls her favored with God, which gives us a lot of insight on this girl's character. Also, Luke includes that Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, who was in the lineage of David. The other thing we hear a couple of times in this passage is that Mary is a virgin.
Let's pop a tent up here for a second:
This is usually the part where people skip to the part in their Bible that has a picture of a Precious Moments nativity scene, but this is a lot to process. Mary is a normal girl, living her super average life in Galilee. She's highly favored with God, which tells us that she is walking with the Lord and living a really honorable lifestyle. Also, add engaged and soon to be pregnant to the list. And one more thing, she's a virgin, and the person she will grow and carry for nine months is the Son of God.
I really feel like Mary does not get enough credit. If I had just gotten a super overwhelming message from an angel of the Lord, I wish I could say I would be as instantly faithful and brave like Mary was, jumpin all in and trusting God right off the bat, but in all honesty I would probably cry a lot, eat a lot, and say "hey I really need some time to emotionally process all of this for like two weeks if that's okay". But Mary didn't hesitate for a second because she was so confident in God and she knew He would keep his promises to her.
This is a lot of amazing and really frightening information, and it's not from someone you know and are comfortable with, not your mom or grandma or friendly kindergarten teacher, it's from an Angel sent directly from God Himself, I seriously could not even imagine.
The angel came to Mary, he gave her the most wonderful news she would ever hear, she asked how, and when Gabriel told her with God all things are possible, and this woman said sign me up.
That is the essence of a woman of beautiful and noble character. Mary didn't skip a beat because she loved God dearly, with all of her heart, and she knew that if it was in His hands, she was all in. She was going to be a mother, a mother with no husband, carrying a baby that was not her fiance's, and she would be the mom of the Savior of the world. Mary was a normal girl. She wasn't Beth Moore or Mandisa. Jesus loving people didn't know her name world-wide. But Mary had a burning fire for the Lord. She was the one that generations and generations of women had hoped to be. She was the woman who had the honor and privilege that God had picked out, just for her, that no other woman would ever get again. Mary said yes, I'm a servant of the Lord. That's a look at the woman behind the Savior.
Today I'm so blessed to be able to celebrate #girlsday and think of all the amazing women in my life who have poured into me, been there to cry with me, teach me, lead me, love me, be real with me, and show me the real-life example of what God calls women to be. Feminism gets a bad rep in the Christian world. In a lot of christian circles, if there were two f words, and feminism would probably be the other one. It’s often portrayed poorly by women who think they need to put down and belittle men to be considered equal. To me, that's an even better reason to stand and display a godly representation of feminism. I don't want to stand for feminism to diminish men, but to follow the example these amazing women have set for me and instead of tearing others down to try to create an equal platform for women, demonstrate how the Lord has equally gifted and called women, just as men, and remind people how cherished and loved women are by God. We've come so far in the last hundred years from where we were for equality, and there's still more work to be done, but to be done with the love of Jesus and grace of God. It's so important to take a stand for and celebrate women, not just for yourself, but for the next generation, the women who don't have a voice, and the women who don't understand how beautiful, loved, and gifted they are by God.
As a Christian, finding your calling in life can be very difficult. When we talk calling, we’re talking about the God given call on your life to serve Him in whatever way He designed you to serve. For some people it’s full-time ministry, for some people it’s being a stay at home mother, and for others it’s showing the light of Jesus in the corporate world. Discovering your personal, individual calling can be tricky simply because we live in a world where we want an instantaneous answer from heaven about the framework of our lives and, as we all know, that’s not usually how God operates. Each individual believer has to spend time with the Lord in prayer, scripture, and through experience to discover their calling. For some people, they know at age eleven at Bible camp. For others, God develops their passions and drive for their calling in college. Sometimes, people are in their late sixties before they come to know Jesus and follow His direction for their lives. We don’t all hear the same way, and we aren’t all on the same timeline. The good news is, most people will tell you everything I just said. The bad news is, people don’t tell you that figuring out with Jesus what your call in life is, is only the beginning.
In my mind, I thought it was pretty simple after you get step one down. I’ve had a call for ministry on my life since I was a teenager. Over the years, God has developed passions, giftings, and talents for me to use in more specific areas of ministry. That alone is not an easy train ride down the mountain of figuring life out. Getting to a place of knowing where I wanted to serve was worked out through God using the most terrible, painful, heart-wrenching experiences in my life. Once it became more clear to me, I figured the hard part was over, all the doors would open, God would give me a ministry, everyone would warmly welcome me, and we would all be besties and it would look like the Jesus-loving version of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Spoiler alert: It was not. I’m speaking from a place of only knowing what I [think] God wants me to pursue with my life for a few years. I’ve just dipped my toe into the side of the pool, and it’s been the most challenging years of my life. People don’t tell you that, and it’s unfortunate that they don’t because the most challenging, gut-wrenching, and tear-filled times have given me the most growth, benefit, and ministry experience.
Another thing that people don’t tell you is when you’ve found what you want to pursue, it can also simultaneously be the most discouraging time in your life. Before I submersed my life into ministry, I had no doubts that it’s what I wanted to do. When I actually started to jump into it, it felt like the sky was falling. The spiritual warfare gets heavy when you become a threat. Being a God-loving, Spirit-filled, calling-driven individual makes you formidable in the spiritual realm, and that’s when the enemy comes at you hard, and usually he aims straight at your identity. As a believer with a purpose, the easiest way for the enemy to derail you is through attacking who you are. If you view yourself as a worthless, shame-filled individual and you're focused on your own insecurities and pain, there isn’t a lot God can do with you until you get out of that pit. No one will tell you is that these discouraging times are some of the most important and instrumental in becoming firm and strong in your identity in the Lord.
When you find yourself on the road to your call in life, when you’re pursuing Jesus with all of your heart, when you dive into the pool head-first, don’t get discouraged. When you’re giving ministry your all but you feel the empty feelings of loneliness, cling to Jesus tighter and keep fighting. When people tell you why they think you should step away from your ministry, why making money or having fame is more important, remember God’s love for you and why you need to share it with others. When your character, heart, and emotions get a full attack from the enemy, rebuke Satan and his work, strongly proclaim God’s power on your life, and remind the enemy you are a child of God, and no one may tell you anything different.
The ride won’t be smooth. The grass won’t always be green. It won’t always be a happy sitcom about best friends loving Jesus, but there is nothing that has more worth, value, or satisfaction that knowing what God is asking you to do, and doing it.
Written by guest author Cassidee DeVeau
[for the homegirls]
Picture with me, that you are a flower amongst all the other wild flowers on top of a hill. Then all of a sudden the wind, rain, and billowing clouds come closing in on you. You suddenly lose sight of the sun that you were enjoying and the gentle breeze, and now you are focused on this harsh weather that seems to be coming out of nowhere. Do we ever feel like that flower that gets tossed to and fro by the winds and the storms of this life? The flower that longingly hopes it will be a sunny day, a day filled with warmth and sunshine? But instead you’re feeling overwhelmed by the storm that is coming in.
Just like this flower on top of a hill longingly hoping for the warmth of the sunshine to provide its nourishment, healing, and transformation… We as women need to be longingly in need of our Sonshine, Jesus. There will be times in our lives when the winds of discouragement, and the rains of loneliness and clouds of depression will come. But when the rain or the trials of this life may come we as women can have true joy, because of the two rays of promise that we are going to talk about tonight. So don’t focus on your feelings of loneliness, anger, bitterness, and discouragement… but focus on the Sonshine (Jesus) and His promises to us when we go through trials. He will be the One who will nourish our hearts when we are defeated, will heal us in His time, and will transform us into His likeness.
Have you been going through a storm in your life recently? Does it feel like you will never see a glimpse of the sunshine again? Do your trials rob you of your joy? Do you wonder “Why me”? Why do I have to go through this? Let’s choose today to not be held back by the storms raging around us, but to focus and follow the Son (Jesus) who brings about sunshine in our lives. We can sing in the rain in our trials by focusing on this ray of promise; that He will grow us.
"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but the people who don't do anything about it."
When God calls people to something, He usually isn't discreet about it. If He burdens your heart or directly calls you to an area of service, generally speaking, it's pretty clear. Sometimes the means and the exact direct and game plan are fuzzy, but it's easy to identify what God breaks your heart for. For myself, God has made it clear to me the last few years what my ministry calling is. For one thing, it's the global church. The other, very big thing, is ministry and awareness for sexual abuse survivors. I can tell you I have literally no idea in the world how I will serve in those two areas long term, but there's no denying that they both have a big ol' chunk of my heart.
My problem is, as I'm sure many Christians feel, I don't know what God will do with that, so I put it on the back burner sometimes because I don't really know what to do about it.
On sunday, a lot of different conversations from that week had led to me talking to God in the car, on the way to a pre-church Target run, about starting a ministry. I realized I went to a gigantic church, and besides a few events, there isn't a ministry directed solely for sexual abuse. But statistically, in a church where thousands of people gather every week, that means thousands of those people are victims. So amidst of telling God He should do something, He said to me, "Oh lil' lamb-chop honeybunch, that's why I made you." [In my head Jesus frequently calls me lamb-chop and honeybunch] So then, in my sassy and very "realistic" [pessimistic] nature, I said, "yeah ok Jesus. How does a kid like me, who's young and WAY under-experienced/underqualified, even begin something like that? Mmmmmm, yeah, no."
Funny thing, usually when you put your sassy-pants on when you're talking to Jesus, He gives you a little reality check moment swiftly following. So I went to church and the first twenty minutes of the sermon, the pastor was talking about this ministry that trains young people for a year, then sends them out to church plant, and they plant eleven churches a day. Eleven. a day. They feel God's burden and direction, and they go. Then, following that intro, the message was following up in the series our church is on, called "Favor with Kings". Favor with Kings is a book, by Caleb Anderson, that's about God's purpose and the passions He gives us, developing a plan of action, empowering people, and the dreams God puts on our hearts. Do you see where this is going?
After the service, I headed to a luncheon with some of our church's global partners from Congo, Camille and Esther Ntoto, founders of Africa New Day. Africa New Day is a ministry that is dedicated to empoweing and creating opportunities for the underprivileged, and is centered around ending gender violence, along with equipping the next generation of African leaders. Esther and Camille live in the Eastern region of the Congo. Eastern Congo is extremely war torn. The country as a whole has a net-worth greater than the United States because of the natural resources, but because of the governmental corruption and the violent war and militia groups, the wealth is stripped from many of the Congolese people, which causes extreme poverty. 3.5 million Congolese children are not able to attend school. The country experiences violent tribal conflict, which is mostly a result of the history of the country. In 1885, the Belgian king, King Leopold II, enslaved the Congolese people to harvest and profit from the rubber and ivory. 10,000 Congolese died at the hand of King Leopold's slavery from starvation, forced labor, the dismembering of hands, feet, and limbs as punishment, and intentional extermination. Leopold also divided the Congolese people into tribes by measuring their facial and body features, which is why the Congolese people today have various tribes which result in tribal wars. In the Congo, rape is used as a form of warfare. Because sexual violence is so destructive and causes deep pain and trauma, it's an extremely effective and common form of warfare. At this meeting, Camille and Esther shared parts of their stories and why they started Africa New Day. They explained that Africa New Day has a ministry for men that tackles the root of the problem in sexual violence. They teach men how to be leaders, to fear and love God, the correct and Biblical version of masculinity, and how to respect and treat women in a godly way. They have a ministry for children to educate them, to keep them in school, to grow them in God's word. Their ministry for women is directed towards literacy, vocational skills, restoration, and helping them break the cycles of violence. They also have ministries for leaders and a media ministry.
Wowza. By the end of that, Jesus had out-sassed me a little bit. Before the ended, Camille had referenced that quote from Einstein, "The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but the people who don't do anything about it." Just a little Jesus punch, right to the face. He made it abundantly clear that the purpose He has given me is not to be ignored. He is working in GIANT ways. And He is definitely not afraid to let you know that, trust me. I get so caught up in my own self. I'm just a kid, I don't have a lot under my belt. But God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called. Don't get me wrong, I have no idea what in the world, in what capacity, I will be working in this ministry just yet, but God is making it clear, I will be doing it.
We serve a God who is a lot bigger than our ideas, our inadequacy, and our unqualified resumes. Our job is not to tell God it's not possible, our job is to jump on the Jesus bus and say let's do it. It's easier said than done, and it's a life-long process, but God didn't make His Church to be a people that sits and waits for Jesus to return, He made us to be the light to the broken world. We're His workers. We're the tools He's going to use to bring healing, redemption, and love.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
About: Africa New Day
The topic that I've been avoiding and avoiding and God has been bringing up over and over to me is racism. I have been running to the hills trying to get out of this one. I'm from Utah, one of the most predominantly white places in the country, and I can tell you after visiting home last week that no one's conversational topic of choice up in Utah is racism. Injustice doesn't really become anyone's topic of choice until it happens to them and they're fed up with it.
I really didn't want to get my foot in my mouth with such an intense topic, mostly because I felt like at first there was no reason for me to. I'm a little white girl. I've never in my life been afraid in any circumstance because of the color of my skin. I've never been harassed by the police. I've never been afraid to get pulled over. I've never been afraid to be in contact with law enforcement. The history of my ancestors is very different. I have no parents or grandparents who were beat or brutalized or harassed or were afraid for their lives during the civil rights movement that happened only 60 years ago. When Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, I didn't care to read or listen or watch or educate myself. I thought I had nothing to do with it and I frankly didn't care. But now, I live around and work with and am friends with people who are directly affected by what is happening in our country now, and they've reminded me that I am involved. Me not caring, is me being involved. Me denying that racism exists is me being involved. Me denying my privilege is me being involved. Me not asking black people or other people of color what they feel and are afraid of is me being involved. And all of that is toxic. It's destructive and toxic and is what is tearing apart the church today that so greatly needs more than ever to be united.
As I said, I've never really ever been afraid because of the color of my skin, so I can't at all understand being on the oppressed side of racism. I don't get that. But God is reminding me over and over that I have experienced being on the other side of privilege because of my gender. I can feel a tip of the iceberg of what it feels to have people claim that the thing you're most afraid of in your life, doesn't exist. My story is a story of sexual abuse and assault. I have heard over and over, not only from Christians, but even other victims, that the issue isn't even real in my life. I've experienced victim shaming and people have explained to me for hours and hours why it's my fault. People deny altogether that rape culture exists. It's not a real issue to them. Some people get uncomfortable about it, and they don't want to talk about it. They don't care at all to educate themselves, and they really don't care about the issue to begin with. Some people do care, but they don't understand it. Some people don't think it affects them at all because they're not a victim. Many, many, many people in my life, and in the lives of other victims of sexual abuse, take the side of the abuser because they're friends. Injustice and crime and a federal offense doesn't matter to them. God has used that deep set pain in my life to help me emphasize with the people who experience racial prejudice. In every situation, you need to listen to both sides. You need to listen to the victims. You need to hear the cries and heart-breaks of the people who are broken and who have been sinned against, and you need to validate them. You need to stand up for what is right. You need to speak the truth to whatever crowd you stand in front of.
The people who I've spoken to that have a hard time with or are strongly against Black Lives Matter, are against it because they don't understand it, they misunderstand it, they've seen racism or hatred come from people that say they are a part of the movement, or they are afraid that it takes away the validation from the Blue Lives Matter movement. This is what I know: Blue lives do matter. There are police officers who fight for our safety every day. They sacrifice their time and they serve the people faithfully. Many law enforcement officers are under the microscope and are criticized heavily for every move they make. Some officers sacrifice their lives. Some police officers are incredible people who have intentions to protect and serve. Some police officers have brutalized people. Most of the people who have been brutalized by those police officers are black or of color. Innocent black people have been shot by police officers. Innocent black people have been harassed by police officers. 60 years ago, black people were being beaten in the streets by police officers. I know black lives do matter. There are activists for Black Lives Matter that stand up for what they believe because they stand up for justice. They are tired of being pushed aside. They are tired of being afraid. They are doing what God has called them to do. They are doing the work of God and His church. There are also Black Lives Matter activists who have physically and verbally abused cops. Some have threatened and said horrible, disgusting things about police. Some have fed fear with racism. What I know is that you can't generalize any group of people. You have to take the time to understand. You have to educate yourselves. And you cannot say to one part of the hurting church that they are on their own. Even if you don't agree, even if politically or personally you feel strongly one way or the other, you are called as a Christian by God Himself to be there, as you responsibility as a member of the body of Christ. You can't say bye, peace out, because you don't like what they feel or have to say. You can't decide which part of justice you would like to stand up for. You are called to stand for it all. I don't know the answers, I don't know how to do this, I know a lot of people disagree, and no one likes these conversations. But I also know that I can't ignore injustice, because I refuse to be the person that people were and continue to be to me. I've heard too many times that it doesn't matter, and I will not be the person that walks away from the people who are hurting because I don't want to hurt in the way I was hurt. You have to say this stops here.
1 Corinthians 12:12-27
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
" It's more likely for an ultra-liberal atheist to care for a girl wearing a hijab than a Christian"
- Prashan DeVisser
Open up a newspaper and scroll down your Facebook feed and you what are you undoubtedly sure to see? Bernie, Hilary, and Donald. We have all eyes and ears on the election. And we all have an opinion on who should be the leader of our country. Another big one on the news that has been spotlighted due to the election and recent events is Islam. Muslims, hijabs, refugees, and Trump's idea to identify the Muslim people. But it's not just Islam, it's illegal immigrants, asylees, refugees, gay marriage, women's rights, and transgender bathrooms at target. And ohhhhh mamma there are a lot of Christians who are ticked off. We live in the great country of America where we have the privilege of having rights, and that's what our main concern is. Our rights. And we all have a piece in the blame game. There is a big concern that America and Christianity will be destroyed by a transgender guy in the women's bathroom or a Muslim refugee or an illegal immigrant or a gay rights activist or an atheist, liberal, feminist. But Christianity and America's name and integrity won't be destroyed by any of those things, it's going to be destroyed by Christians who are overtaken by fear, ignorance, entitlement, and who are more concerned with rights than the love of Christ. The world doesn't see Christians when they go on a missions trip or when they're at church on Sunday or putting an offering in the box. They see Christians when they make offensive racial jokes. They pay attention when the fear of Islam and Muslim people is replaced by aggression. They see the videos of the people who walk through target screaming with their Bibles and they say those are Christians. And seriously, why would anybody want a God that treats somebody like that. And that's the part that sucks. We should be a group of people and a community that hurting people run to. People of all religions and gender affiliations and political statuses should feel safe with Christians. That seems like a red flag sometimes, because we don't want to compromise, we are called not to compromise. And we have interpreted loving people who aren't Christian as compromise, and that is not the case. Loving and investing in people who have different beliefs that aren't true and different lifestyles that are sinful doesn't mean we accept it or say that it's okay. It's saying, I'm a follower of Christ and I'm going to show you the love that He has for you. Being patriotic and protecting your country and utilizing your gun rights isn't a sin. Having a strong political opinion is not a sin. What is a sin is making those things more important than loving people and taking an attitude of entitlement over an attitude of Christ. This is like seriously one of the hardest things ever for me because I wasn't to just open a door for a Muslim
lady at Wal-Mart and smile at a transgender guy and then pop back in to my safe Christian sub culture where I can check off my good deed for the day, pretend like everything is good with the world, and then like someone's meme about Islam on Facebook. And then, of course, I get upset that atheists and extreme liberals are trash talking Christians. But what are we showing them? I know it's cliche to pull the what would Jesus do card and you haven't seen your WWJD bracelet since 2002, but we seriously need to ask our selves, what would Jesus do? Be honest with yourself. If He was an American citizen today, what would Jesus's attitude be towards illegal immigrants? How would he act towards Muslims? What would he say about refugees? Would Jesus still shop at Target? What would His attitude towards the transgender community be? Who would He vote for?
As many of those thing that we can't say for sure, we can look at Jesus's life to get answers. Jesus was all about those relationships. He loved on the sinners and that's how they came to know who God is. Relationships. Jesus wasn't like, well you're a tax collecter or a prostitute or a murderer and I accept you for that and you just do yo thing, He spoke the truth in love and he spent time loving them.
KYLE LOVES TORI PHOTOGRAPHY