Tears to Joy

Tears to Joy: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Answered Prayers

In August, I told you about two women I met in Tanzania who lived in fear that their husbands' outbursts and beatings would lead to their deaths. (Click here to read the original story). They were afraid for their children who cowered in terror as they watched their daddies beat their mommies. The ladies shared that their families told them this was their lot in life, because after all, they married these men. They can't go to the authorities like we do in the U.S. because wife beating is readily accepted by many in the culture.

My heart broke as I listened to their stories between their sobs. Unless the Lord intervened, they had no hope. Both of these women prayed to receive Christ as their Lord and Savior and I encouraged them to cry out to the Lord on behalf of their husbands. I told them that even if God did not change their circumstances, He promises that His presence will be with them and that God would change them. I left their homes with a heavy, heavy heart.

When I left Africa this summer, I brought these two women home with me in my heart. I've not ceased praying for them, asking God to stop the beatings and asking God to make a way for them to go to church (Their husbands forbid them from going to church).

I received an email last week from a Tanzanian pastor who told me that Robi and Ghati are not only attending church, but that the beatings have stopped. Praise the Lord! God heard our prayers!  In a situation where everything seemed hopeless, God intervened. He rescued these women not only from the power of death and sin, but from the abuse of their husbands.

I ask you to join with me in praying that God will draw these two men to Himself. While the beatings have stopped, the two husbands still do not know the Lord. Pray that God will radically transform these neighboring families.

If you are in what seems like a hopeless situation, call out to God. He hears you; I promise. He may not answer immediately, but He hears you and sees your situation and He will respond.


Monday, November 26, 2012

"Our Own Little World"

Several friends and I have been actively working with a ministry to rescue women from prostitution. We've had some interesting encounters, and I asked one of my friends who is really burdened for these women to write a guest post this month. I pray that your heart will be moved to pray as you read her article below.

Many of us go through our daily lives without a thought of “human trafficking” falling into our mindset. We go about believing that this is a lifestyle that does not affect our family, our thinking, our spirituality, and that it does not touch our day to day living. To describe what exactly human trafficking represents is to say that it falls into two markets, one is a forced labor what many think of regarding our past history of slavery in America, while the second is the sexual exploitation of a human being. According to the UN there are approximately 2.5 million people who are trafficked or sold for both markets and 1.2 million of those people are children. These 2.5 million souls have been taken from 127 countries and sent into 137 countries to be sold and it does not matter of the economic or education status of the countries that are doing the exploiting. The profit made through selling another human being was $ 31.6 BILLION in 2007 while 49 % of that profit was generated from industrialized nations that totaled $ 15.5 BILLION. Due to supply and demand, Atlanta is on the rise of becoming the countries leader for sex trafficking and child prostitution, there is an area twenty minutes from the capital that has been known since the 90’s to traffic in young girls who average in age from 13 and 14. The traffickers use the truck stops from all over the country to go undetected. As of this summer there are currently 43 missing children in the state of Georgia, and these children are either runaways or have been kidnapped but all fall prey to the life human trafficking. But yet still how many of us believe that this is a topic which simply does not affect our own little world?

The majority of women in this industry have been sexually and/or physically abused by a family member, friend, or neighbor before ever arriving onto the streets. Behind every hardened face, behind every skimpy outfit and stiletto heels, behind every fake smile, and behind every tear there is a story. A story, that is not of a fairy tale, but one that has brought them to this point of their lives, that entails a complete void of faith, hope, love, mercy, and compassion. There was one pimp/trafficker who once said, “Thank you to all the fathers, stepfathers, and neighbors who are out there and have gotten your little girls ready for me.” But yet still how many of us believe that this is a topic which simply does not affect our own little world? Many of the men, who are the traffickers, have suffered physical abuse or neglect themselves. There are countless young children both boys and girls that are being raised by their mothers within these shady motels, they watch, hear and see firsthand how their mothers are treated by both men and other women. They see and hear of their mothers’ selling their bodies, engaging in drug and alcohol use to deaden the pain in order to be able to keep on going to the next man whether it is to pay for the next high or because there is a quota that must be met or they will be beaten. People do not envision as a child selling themselves or living in a motel where sex and drugs are being sold. Some are there due to a series of poor choices in their lives and others are there not because of choice but that they are being forced into a world of darkness with a belief that there is no return to freedom. We must not judge them or despise them; they are human beings whose soul is loved equally by our God just as He loves you! But yet still how many of us believe that this is a topic which simply does not affect our own little world?

It is very hard and discouraging to be praying and eating with a girl, then five minutes later she has to rush out to get in her “zone” or for a girl to want prayer for her salvation but only to climb into a pick up minutes later. A verse that is always in the forethought of my mind when visiting with these girls is Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” I often am reminded of this verse even unintentionally, because every time my heart will break over discouraging news/events relating to these souls. So I must keep my sights on God’s agenda and not of my own. The only difference between these girls and myself, is the saving grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ through the unconditional forgiveness of my Heavenly Father.


Nefarious Documentary on Human Trafficking

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time

I was recently introduced to the hit TV show, Once Upon a Time. In this show, fairy tale characters are under a curse which has forced them out of their "perfect world" into another world, where they are no longer themselves. Life in fairy tale is in vivid color, but in Storybrooke (real world) it is more gray. I was thinking about the show and comparing it to real life on earth. God created us to live in a perfect world, but we have all been cursed by sin. Sin has thrust us into another world, one marred by its destructive power. Even though we live in this world, the Bible compares us to aliens just passing through (foreigners, I'm not talking UFO stuff here). In the show, only one person can save the people of Storybrooke. The same is true for us. Only one person, Jesus Christ can save us from the curse and give us abundant life.

My great-uncle passed away last night, reminding me that this world is not our home. Why is it then that we spend so much time and energy on things that will pass away? Black Friday -- need I say more? Since when did we become more focused on Black Friday sales and what we can get than on being thankful for what we have. After last year's near death excursion (ok, so maybe not near death, but it was scary), I decided to forego the annual event this year. This holiday season, I want to focus on what is really important -- on things that will last for eternity. I don't want to take the people in my life for granted. I want to be more focused on relationships than on material things this year. I hope to focus on all the blessings in my life and on the Giver of Life. I want to live my life in vivid color, and not settle for the dull shades of gray offered by this world.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Show a Little Respect

This semester I am teaching a Dating and Marriage course to high school students. As part of the curriculum, we talk about what men need most from their spouses, and what women need most from their husbands. Can you guess what these are?

According to research, men need to feel respected, and women need to feel loved. So, with that said, what do you do when your husband's actions are anything but respectable? I wrestled with this for several years when Michael's illness was at its worst. There were times when his mania sent him into rages, and the last thing I felt for him in those moments was respect. I kept quiet about his actions, because I didn't want to disrespect him to others, but in my heart there was very little respect and he knew it.

The less respect I showed him, the less loving he became toward me. This seemed to create a cycle where we both felt alone and unloved -- to put it in Gary Smalley's language, our love tanks were running dry.

I had to learn that even if Michael's actions were not worthy of respect, he as a person made in the image of God was valuable and worthy of respect. I began looking for things each day to praise him about (trust me, some days this was hard), and I worked hard to control my tongue. The result? The more I worked on my reactions, the more loving he became toward me. You know what else? The more loving his actions became toward me, the easier it became for me to show him respect.

So, how do you respect the unrespectable (granted, Michael was a great man of God, but his disorder often led him to make really poor choices)? You respect the fact that they are God's creation. You look for the small things that are worthy of respect and focus on them, instead of the negative qualities. You bite your tongue and don't share everything you think. You pray and ask God to help you. The Bible doesn't suggest that wives love their husbands, it commands it. Ephesians 5:33 says, "However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Finding Hope in the Chaos

When I opened the door to our home, I gasped at what I saw. Clothes covered every inch of the living room. Socks littered the newly vacuumed floor I’d left that morning. Belts were hanging from the ceiling fan, and camping supplies were strewn all about. I raced for the phone to call 911. I couldn’t believe it! “God, no! How could someone break into our home now?”

As I reached for the phone, I heard music playing in the back room. I slowly crept toward the doorway when I saw Michael flinging clothes out of drawers and tossing them across the floor. He had emptied every drawer, every closet, and every cabinet looking for some tool he had lost. Having no self-control whatsoever I cried, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”  Surely he had some reason for this insanity! 

Now, for those of you reading, let me tell you in those moments I didn’t have Bible verses flooding my mind reminding me that God works all things for the good of those who love him. In that moment I became unglued.

How is it that Michael was the one with a diagnosis, yet I was the one shouting and seemingly out of control? I realized in that moment that I couldn’t go on living like this. Something had to change.  I didn’t even know what to pray for anymore. Life was so desperate.

While you may not be able to relate to my story, many of you can relate to the emotions I felt in that moment. There is good news – there is hope!

Paul writes in Romans 8, “…hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

When there seems to be no hope, God is there. He is with you. He sees around the corner and he cares about your present. Imagine, God himself, is praying on your behalf. He loves you with an everlasting love and he will help you in your weakness. Cling to him with every ounce of your being!

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Modest is Hottest

Any trip through the mall and you see way more skin than you ever wanted to see. Even thought its cold outside, many girls are sporting skinny jeans and tight shirts that leave nothing to the imagination. My heart hurts for these girls who have no clue about what message they are sending (or maybe they do and that breaks my heart even more). 

Many of you know that I teach biblically based courses to high school students during the school day for elective credit. This semester I’ve been teaching a course called Dating and Marriage. It’s a great class – one of my favorites to teach due to student interest. Last week, we had a group of college students from Mission Georgia come and share.

As these young ladies shared with the high school girls about modesty, I couldn’t help wishing that all teenage girls could hear this talk. They talked about the importance of modesty and they gave some practical tools for making sure that your clothes are modest.  I want to share a couple of those here.

1.  Make an L-shape with your right hand. Touch your index finger to your chin. The top of your shirt should not be lower than your thumb.

2.  Stretch as high as you can and then bend over and touch your toes. If you feel a draft, your either your shirt is too short or your pants are too low.

Modesty is less about dress and more about character and self-respect. We need to teach young girls these qualities from a young age so that dressing modest is a non-issue when they are older. 

I want to leave you with a video clip on modesty that I think is hysterical. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

American Legacy

"Jorjanne Flake, we need to see you in the front office please." Trembling and wondering what she did wrong, Jorjanne made her way to the office. She opened the door and was handed a sheet of paper. "We want you to read this to the entire school tomorrow," they said. She wondered what it was. Ahh, yes.
You see, last week Jorjanne was asked to write about what she would say to the founding fathers of our country if she could talk to them today. Her essay was chosen to be read to everyone at school. (Yes, I am one proud mama.) In light of yesterday's election, I thought I'd share her remarks. Regardless of how you feel about the election's outcome, we have many reasons to be thankful. I challenge each of you reading this to commit to pray daily for our president -- for when God intervenes, then we shall surely see change!
Jorjanne's essay:
If I got to talk to our founding fathers I would be full of questions.  I would be sure and ask the about the Constitution. And maybe tell them about our government now and compare it from back then. Also I would tell them that they made the United States strong.
The Constitution you wrote was very good. It helped the United States in many ways like, the right to vote, the right to bear arms, the right to run for office, the right of free speech, freedom of religion, and the right to an attorney.  These are important because they all give us rights. The right to vote lets us choose who is in office and that’s good because then you have a say in what happens in your country. If you don’t like the leader you can vote for someone else.

Thank you for making our government have checks and balances through the judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch. Checks and balances means that no one person or group has all the power. In other countries, a king has all the power over the people and the people are often treated like slaves. The people can’t worship who they want, and they can’t say what they want because they don’t have a Constitution like we have. They live in fear of their leaders, and we have peace.

The government now is much different than it was in the 1700’s, because back then only white men could vote. Today, everyone over the age of 18 can vote if they are a citizen of the United States of America. Also, now there are no slaves anymore. Slavery is illegal in America.

Thank you founding fathers, for everything you did to make the United States a better place. The Constitution was very well written and continues to govern us today. Checks and balances was a nice touch. Thanks to your hard work, I live in a free country today.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How thankful are you?

November is the month where we verbalize our thankfulness. Millions of people are using social media to publicly list one thing they are thankful for each day this month. Why is it that we only focus on thankfulness one month a year? Every day that we live and breathe should be a day of thanksgiving.

Yesterday, I went to a women's event and heard Lysa Terkheurst speak. She shared about King Jehosophat from 2 Chronicles 20. He had just been told that his nation (Judah) was about to be defeated. He cried out to God and God told him to send a group of men to the front lines of the battle field and have them sing songs of thanksgiving to God. What? This is crazy! Another army is about to annihilate you and you send a choir to the front line to sing about thankfulness?? Jehosophat obeyed and God destroyed their enemy. Go God!

The Bible is filled with other examples of men and women who gave thanks to God, and when they did, God showed up in remarkable ways. It was only after Jonah utttered a prayer of thanksgiving that the big fish vomited him out onto dry land. Daniel was thrown into the lion's den because of his prayer of thanksgiving and we all know how that story ended.

So, I have to wonder, how would we experience God's work in our own lives if we spent every day in thanksgiving? I challenge you to give thanks not only everyday this month, but everyday for the rest of your life.

In order to get us into a mindset of thankfulness, I'm asking each person who reads this to comment with one think for which you are thankful. 

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Quiet the Hurry

Weeks like this one leave me longing to find a gentle, quiet stream to sit beside and be still. While it has been a good week, it has been an insanely busy one. There is something about streams that evoke peacefulness and rest to those in its path.

As I quieted my soul one morning this week, the Lord led me to John 7:38.  “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” I pondered this verse, partly because of my affinity for nature, and I meditated on the truth that the Living Savior lives within me because of my faith in Christ. Think about that. God himself lives inside of those who believe. Wow!

While thinking about this, I was reminded of something Henry Blackaby told me years ago as a young missionary. He said, “When people meet you, do they walk away describing you as a sweet young lady, or do they say, ‘I see the presence of the Lord inside of you”? Hmmmm. Do others see Jesus in us? Is he truly like a stream of living water that flows within us, bringing peace and rest to others who come into our lives?

I admit that most often my life exemplifies busyness and hurry – not peace and rest.  As if I needed to be reminded of this, someone special to me was recently asked to mimic me as he walked the runway at a fashion show. He literally ran off the stage to symbolize the hurry in my life.
I am trying to consciously refocus my affections so that I am not enslaved by busyness, but intentional with my time. It’s hard to change us “Martha’s” into “Mary’s” but I’m praying that God will mold me into the vessel that best displays His glory. (If you don’t know the story of Mary and Martha, you can read about it in Luke 10.)

What about you? What are some strategies you have for overcoming busyness? Trust me, I could use the tips, especially as we approach the holidays.