Sunday, April 26, 2015

I said sex in church

I've written before about how I told God that if He wanted me to speak publicly, I would do it because I knew that I could, with His help. What I haven't written about was the time that He made it clear to me that I was going to be talking about some difficult topics and I said, "Okay, but not about sex. I don't want to stand up in front of people and talk about sex."

If you ever feel the need to tell God what you don't want to do for Him, 
be prepared to hear Him laugh at some point, 
when He sets you up to do precisely that thing. 
Today's Christian church has a huge lack of understanding and support when it comes to single parents, especially single mothers.

In twelve years of attending various single-event single mom ministries, I have heard two messages, if any message is shared at all. Either we are given the salvation message or a message about how we should focus on our children and lean on Jesus. In other words, "don't even think about dating or marriage. Jesus is your husband now."

And who would deliver these messages? It was either pastor of the church or a happily married woman. While we always appreciate those who give their time, it is honestly difficult to accept encouragement from someone who hasn't walked in our shoes.

As my friend Tina and I prepared to speak at the conference from this weekend, we knew we needed to present topics that women like us needed to hear about. This is what we came up with:

Living Victoriously
     The stereotype isn't accurate (You are normal.)
     Our weaknesses are our strengths
     Enjoy your children while you can.
Know Your Worth
     God wants more for you than you want for yourself.
     God will meet you where you are, but He doesn't want you to stay there.
Battle Strategies
     Save yourself first (Take care of yourself.)
     Keep your focus on God
     Be vulnerable
     Be prepared for the comments. (This was fun. lol)
New Relationships
     Desperately want to remarry or the thought makes you want to hurl, which perspective is healthier?
     Forget all the advice you have heard before.
     How to know if you are being respected once you are in a relationship.

We are both so excited about the feedback we received from our sessions. We were able to speak freely, from our hearts, about what God has shown us over the years. Because of that, we had to talk about some things that don't often get talked about in church. 

Tina and I both brought up sex a few times during these sessions. Much to Tina's surprise, we did not get struck by lightning. Much to my surprise, we didn't get kicked out before it was over. 

It wasn't until afterwards that I remembered I had told God I didn't want to speak about sex publicly.

When I shared about my past over lunch, I danced around the topic a bit. I talked about how my distrust of men grew because they "only wanted one thing" and "would get it and not call" (and how I didn't take any responsibility for my bad choices at the time.)

I also alluded to the times God rescued me from the brink of REALLY stupid and dangerous decisions... but I didn't ever say the word... sex.

When I did say it later, I didn't give a whole lot of time to it. I didn't dwell on it. But I did tell the single moms in that room some things that I've needed to hear in the past.

When talking about being respected and not settling for less than what God wants for us in new relationships:

"Sitting at home on the couch and watching a movie is nice, but it is NOT a date. 

Coming over to do his laundry while you cook him dinner is NOT a date. 
Sleeping over is NOT a date. (Even if it's just sleeping.)
Sex is NOT a date."

Then, I later told them this,

"We have to talk about sex a lot because we have to deal with it a lot. Those of us who choose to abstain until we are married are up against a great struggle, both internally and externally.
God makes it clear in His Word that sex outside of marriage is a sin. But I am going to tell you something you won't hear often enough. I want you to know that if you choose not to abstain, or if you fall into temptation, God still loves you. God isn't angry with you. 
God may be disappointed with your choices, but you aren't going to Hell for having sex. 
Are you living your best life? No. 
Are you experiencing the relationship God intended for you? Nope.
But God still loves you. 

If you slip up and end up having sex, you can not let yourself be pulled into a downward spiral of guilt and shame and let that pull you away from your relationship with Him."

For a woman who could barely speak in public at all a couple of years ago... saying that from the pulpit is a huge step.  I have a feeling this is the first of many times this subject will come up. There are a lot of things about sex that need to be talked about among single moms. And frankly, I don't think God is going to let me get away that easily.

I am sure this is not the last time that Tina and I will address a group of single mothers, encouraging them to live their best lives, the ones God wants for them. I am looking forward to letting Him use us to help them find their way.  
Speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
~Ephesians 4:15-16

Friday, April 24, 2015

Mama's joke

"Come over here young lady!" said the woman sitting in the collapsible chair near the curb. Our group stopped, and the girl she was pointing at moved a little closer, but not too close.

"No," said the woman, "Come over here." This time a little more stern, but still with a friendly smile.

Mira's hesitation was understandable for someone who was new to the group. We were standing on a crowded sidewalk in Los Angeles, in an area known as Skid Row. While we were told it had been a "calm day" out on the street, we had already seen illegal drugs, domestic violence, gambling, and heartbreaking poverty.

The thing is, Mira* wasn't new to the group, I was. In town for a long weekend with my brother, I had contacted the Dream Center to ask for a tour and to see if I could serve anywhere. They gladly let me go to one of the saddest and scariest places in L.A. and hand out hot dogs and cold water.

Maybe Mira was just being careful, but when the woman called to us for a third time, I walked right over and stood just a few inches from her. She smiled and said, "What do you call a dog with no legs?"
Confused, I asked, "What?"
"What do you call a dog with no legs?"
"I don't think I know."
"It doesn't matter what you call him, he ain't coming!" When I laughed she pointed at Mira and told me, "Now you go tell her that joke. Tell her it is from Mama. That girl needs to smile more. Her smile is a gift! She needs to use it!"

That's when it dawned on me what was going on. Mama saw us out there ministering to people on Skid Row and Mama thought maybe Mira needed a joke to remind her to smile.

I told her thank you and then added,  "Now I have one for you."
"How do you know when a farmer is good at his job?"
"I don't know," she said thoughtfully, "When he brings in a lot of crops?"
"How about when he's out-standing in his field?"

Mama's grin was huge. "That is a good one. I'm adding that one to my arsenal!" she declared as she put out her hand for a fist bump. As I walked away with the group, glancing over to see Mira working a little harder to keep a smile on her face, Mama called out to us, "Have a blessed day!"

What an awesome reminder Mama was!
It doesn't matter what you have or don't have.
Use what God gives you to serve others.

Whether it is an arsenal of jokes or a simple smile, God wants you to use it to touch people. And if you aren't using it, He just might send someone to remind you. :-)

For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command you, saying, you shall open your hand wide unto your brother, to your poor, and to your needy, in your land.
~Deuteronomy 15:11
*True story, but name changed

I only took a few pictures that day, but I wanted people to see where we were and what the Dream Center does there. I will definitely look for an opportunity to go back.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Take heart

You are going to make it. Just sayin'.

Wait, did you think this post was for you? Maybe it was... but today it is for me too.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~Romans 8:37-39


Saturday, April 4, 2015

God bless Goliath

Everyone has giants in their lives that need to be slayed. Your giants could be trials, sicknesses, addictions, or even people. They make us feel like tiny David, up against a Goliath. Satan is constantly at work, and can manifest in so many ways. It is not uncommon for him to find a Goliath in our lives, and work through that person to try to destroy us and our testimony. One in particular is tormenting me at the moment, but I have complete faith that God will work this out as well.

Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all 
strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, 
and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
~Ephesians 6:11-12

When Goliath's wrath ramps up,
I remind myself that I'm not battling flesh and blood.
Anger at him isn't going to do any good.
Retaliating, arguing, fighting to get what I want
especially when all I want is peace
won't help the situation at all. I should pray.
I've reminded myself of this often over the years.
O Lord, oppose those who oppose me.
Fight those who fight against me.
~Psalms 35:1

And while I've prayed for God to rescue me from situations,
prayed for God to make Goliath see what he is doing,
how he is only ultimately hurting a child
who loves him to no end,
I recently realized that merely saying "this is of the devil"
and dismissing the person who is being controlled
isn't what we are called to do.

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!
~Matthew 5:43-44

That's not so difficult, right?
How hard is it to throw a "God bless Goliath" out there
during my prayer time? Not difficult at all.
But I also know that my God isn't a fan of lip service.
He wants us not to just do what He says, but to mean it,
because flippant prayers don't change the world.

Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you.
~Luke 10:19

Why would God give us authority and power like this through Him
and not expect us to use it fully? Why would we want to? 
When God calls us to pray for our enemies,
He wants nothing less than direct and purposeful prayers,
and sometimes, He tells us, it takes more than that.

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?”So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” 
~Mark 9:28-29

How seriously are you taking attacks of the enemy?
How badly do you want to see change?
Your prayer life should reflect those answers.
Goliath's tactics ramping up? Drop to your knees.
It's time for specific, deliberate prayers, petitions
in the name of Jesus to shut mouths, open eyes and turn hearts.