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A girl with stories

Lent: On Ashes, Dust and Healing March 2, 2017

Filed under: His truth,Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 9:32 pm
Tags: , ,

The streets were still lined with beads and remnants of “Fat Tuesday”. Driving to work that morning, I stopped at the light at a busy cross street in St. Louis. Anyone familiar with this area would tell you that South Grand in St. Louis is a place celebrating diversity and individuality. There on the corner, was a sign that read, “Ashes to Go: Drive-thru prayers for Lent”. I know people who took off work on Fat Tuesday. We need a drive-thru for Ash Wednesday.

 

 

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Being a born and raised Baptist girl, Ash Wednesday wasn’t on my church’s calendar of events. For me, it was something my Catholic friends at school did. I was told it was unnecessary because of Christ’s sacrifice and we went right through to Easter Sunday. The Lenten season was all about preparation for the annual Easter Pageant at church complete with costumes and chock-full of livestock to roam the aisles. I loved it. That is all but the crucifixion scene. I wasn’t able to watch it until I was in high school and even then, like the sun, I couldn’t bring myself to look directly at it. I was much more comfortable skipping right from the miracles in Cana to the resurrection.

While I knew in my heart that the death and sacrifice of Jesus was the remission of my sin and the reason the resurrection was possible, it wasn’t until college that I was confronted with the importance of observing Lent and repenting of the sin my life as I reflected on the sacrifice of Christ. I was encouraged to remind my soul that I am made of dust and to the dust I will return-reminded of my finite and fallible nature and that true repentance and confession beget a sense of mourning.

In scripture, dust and ashes are used in all kinds of ways. First, it is out of the dust that God made human-kind. From the dust of the ground He formed Adam and breathed life into him (Genesis 2:7). We see the dirt or “from the dirt” representing things finite and created after the fall in Genesis 3 (Psalm 104, Proverbs 10, Matthew 6, 1 Corinthians 15).

All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.
:: Ecclesiastes 3:20 ::

Similarly, we see the Bible pointing to dust or ashes as a synonym for being brought low by another (1 Kings 20:10, 2 Kings 13:7). Throughout the Psalms and into Isaiah there are frequent analogies of dust or ashes representing what it feels like to be overcome and subjugated.

Dust or ashes in scripture are often an outward expression of repentance in grief or sorrow over sin and the effects of sin as a reminder of how deserving of death (dust) and in need of a sacrifice (ashes) we are as fallen men and women. (Joshua 7:6, 1 & 2 Samuel, Nehemiah 9, Job 2 & 42)

The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground in silence; they have thrown dust on their heads and put on sackcloth; the young women of Jerusalem have bowed their heads to the ground.
:: Lamentations 2:10 ::

While these are not the most uplifting things to study, the problem is that without the dust and ashes, there is no life, no healing, no forgiveness. We can come to love dust and ashes as the means to a glorious end. This is what the Lenten season has become for me.
We know that in the Old Testament and in the temples of the New Testament Jews, there were sacrifices made for sin. These burnt offerings were burned to consumption-only the ashes remained. Ashes are a true sign that something of value has been sacrificed. Someone humbled themselves to confess sin and knew sin would have to result in death to the point of ashes. Jesus, as the full representation of God on earth, did so much with ashes and dust in the way of healing. He didn’t just do away with the old system of sacrifice and offering, he fulfilled it once and for all.

A couple of stories involving dirt or ashes keep surfacing in mind. In the old testament, there were instructions for what to do with a woman who was accused of adultery (See Numbers 5). She was brought to the temple where the priest would mix dust off the earthen floor of the temple with the water that had been sanctified. She was given an oath to repeat before God as she was instructed to drink down the water and dust mixture to purify her and decipher if she was truly guilty.

Similarly, in John 8, Jesus is coming through eastern Jerusalem around the Feast of Tabernacles which means a whole bunch of travelers were in Jerusalem to celebrate. He was in the middle of teaching in the temple when the religious leaders decided to interrupt him and make a spectacle of a woman supposedly guilty of adultery. Levitical law required both guilty parties to be stoned, but in this and other cases, solely the woman is held responsible. When the Pharisees fill Jesus in on the law saying they should stone her, their aim is to put him in a dilemma in front of all who were listening. Jesus responds not addressing her sin but theirs.

First, he knelt and wrote in the dust. While we don’t know what he wrote, we do know that this same finger drawing in the dirt is the very same that wrote the law these leaders were referring to (Exodus 31:18). After, Jesus asks those who had no sin to start her death sentence, they all end up leaving. He asks her who condemns her. There he is asking a question we know he knew the answer to. He asks for her benefit just as every question regarding our sin is one he asks for our benefit. As she tells him her accusers are gone, he tells her he isn’t condemning her either. Spiritually, she stands free. Here, the God who formed us from dust, stooped down to write in the dust. He offered her forgiveness not because he ignores sin. He could offer forgiveness that day knowing he would die for her.

Law and grace do not compete with each other; they complement each other. Nobody was ever saved by keeping the law, but nobody was ever saved by grace who was not first indicted by the law. There must be conviction before there can be conversion.
:: W. Wiersbe ::

 

 

In the very next chapter of John, Jesus is around that same area where he and the disciples cross paths with a man who is blind and has been since birth. The word says that Jesus noticed him, which is worthy of pause because it’s likely many people walked by this man blind his whole life and never noticed him. The disciples started to debate the cause of the man’s blindness, agreeing that it must be sin, but whose was it? Jesus let them know that this man’s lack of sight was an opportunity for healing and the glory of God. Again, Jesus stooped down to touch the dirt. This time, he spat and made it mud to spread on the man’s eyes. Some theologians say this is a picture of the incarnation with the first man being made of dust and Jesus, as a member of the Triune God, stooping low to become human in order to heal us all. The Creator God became human, touched the earth, truly saw one of the most unseen in society, and touched him to give him sight. This gift of healing was given to a man who didn’t recognize Jesus as anything more than a prophet.

 
People immediately started asking him how he was healed. We can see it asked four different ways and each time the man just gave testimony to the events. He had no way to answer on the how. Wanting a break down on the miracle of sight via dirt is fair enough. We all certainly crave the answers to “how”. It’s very official and efficient, but it’s a sure-fire way to avoid the bigger question… “Who?”

 

We want to understand the mechanics of a miracle instead of simply trusting the Savior. Understanding the process, even if we could, is no guarantee that we have experienced the miracle.
::W. Wiersbe ::

 

 

Looking at the observation of Lent and rituals like Ash Wednesday, we can ask the same questions. “How does this help you draw close to God?”. It’s a fair question and we can give testimony to fasting and praying or participating in a service, but the better question when it comes to the miracle of grace that is being nearer to the Lord…It’s always, “Who?”. “Who is the one who brings beauty for Ashes? Who is the one who heals you through sacrifice? Who is this one brings life to the dust?”

 

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s,

and on them he has set the world.
:: 1 Samuel 2:8::

 

 

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
:: Isaiah 61: 1-3::

 

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout My Best Friend June 27, 2016

Filed under: Discipleship,His truth,Marriage — Amanda Lynn @ 9:10 pm

Once upon a time, in the year 2004, two girls jumped in a church van and headed toward Miami on an old school Southern Baptist youth mission trip. These girls, 15 and 16 respectively, knew each others’ first names and that was the extent of it.

 

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Their very first picture together, prepared to board the aforementioned church van. Embrace the awkward. She’s on the far left. The other is short & rocking a youth choir t-shirt…”2 Testify”. Bless.

 

On that trip, there were many hours in the van and they forged a friendship based on similarities. What made the friendship work for 12 years and counting are their differences. They stayed friends through high school and even as one headed off to college. E is the girl in the picture below. She was dealing with things lots of teenagers have to face which happen to be far past their maturity level. In the midst of all that, she retained a contagious sense of humor and a joy.

 

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The two girls ended up at the same Southern Baptist university hating when people assumed they had picked the school based on one another. Because, ain’t nobody got the money for that kind of loosey-goosey decision-making. Anyway, it was there that their friendship was stretched and strengthened.

It was also there that E went on one of the school’s mission trips. GO Turkey 2009 was the start of something beautiful. She told her best friend (*spoiler alert* that’s me!) she was paired with this quiet guy who was “so weird” and “would be really awkward to work with.” Turns out, she fell in love with that guy and he was pretty crazy about her from the start. They married in Tennessee during the summer of 2010 when it was approximately the-surface-of-the-sun degrees outside, but they were so superbly happy they didn’t give two figs about the heat. (True story, a mosquito had landed on their officiate’s Bible so he smacked that sucker closed right in the middle of their ceremony…because West Nile.)

 

 

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SO happy!

It was a privilege to stand up in their wedding and witness their lives coming together. There is no way any of us would have been able to predict all the laughter, heartache and victories the Lord would work in and through them in the six years between that day and now. What I can say for certain is the Lord has taught me so much through watching these two lives.

They’ve shown me what it looks like to have long stretches of waiting for answers, for results and to have your faith tested by this daily grind of trusting again and again.

As a single, I get to witness a husband loving his wife straight into the heart of Jesus, pointing her toward grace and repentance because he loves Jesus even more than he loves her. He lays himself down for her in big and small ways. And not to be outdone by a boy, I also get to see a wife loving her husband just a bit less than her love for Christ as she trusts what he says about the Spirit’s leading even when the Spirit leads them into scary, dependent places.

I see a couple who have had opportunity to lose heart in the hard times, who are honest when it sometimes feels unfair. They’ve taught me that asking questions about the timing of children is a tender and sacred place which should be tread lightly upon and respected. They show me the highest calling for a man is not to be husband or father, but to be a disciple who makes disciples and that the highest calling for a woman isn’t to be a wife or mom, but to be a disciple who makes disciples. She will tell you that her husband makes her a better disciple and loves her despite and right through seasons of joy and pain. He’d say he’s no stranger to tough times and can face them with more courage by leaning on her strength.

 

When she could have had a high-paying job in any arena she chose (this girl is uber smart) she chose to serve and not be served. She teaches children in a non-traditional school, some refugees and recently adopted, because she is passionate about righting injustice and seeing marginalized people dignified. He has been working very hard to earn a degree in counseling at a prestigious seminary as he is incredibly invested in the souls of people who are hurting and needing a safe place to be heard and to hear truth.

 

When the Lord called them to live out their hearts for urban ministry, they bought the most amazing old house in a zip code suburbanites find cringe-worthy. They love the children and families of that zip code well. They get to have impromptu Jesus conversations with neighbor kids which start with the kids asking what their tattoos say because…street cred, they have it in spades 😉  #straightouttamemphis

 

If you ask me, I’m happy to tell you, these two have been and will be one of my favorite living gospel stories. They are some of my every day heroes and I couldn’t be more proud to be one of their people.

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So when in St. Louis, head a bit north and find a couple with an adorable puppy who will feed you homemade Thai food while they talk with you about the rich history of St. Louis neighborhoods, community development and ask about what you think about the refugee crisis. I can also promise you that you will leave with a laughing cramp in your side and a sense of genuine encouragement.

 

These folks are the best kind of friends.

Good friends will tell you what they know about God. Best friends will let you in on the questions they’re asking Him. Being present to those unanswered questions is an unparalleled gift as their sister in Christ.

 

messers

 

Resolute: On Being a Yes (Wo)Man November 11, 2015

Filed under: Discipleship,His truth,Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 11:36 pm

Pinky promises are a big deal. Just ask any kid under the age of 13.

My parents raised me to keep my word and to trust other peoples’ word on things. Maybe a little too much. My friends will tell you that I’ll believe anything. (You say gullible, I say trusting.) 🙂  Being a counselor, I sometimes have to call peoples’ bluff, but I hate to do it.

 

The word has somethings to say about how we do or don’t keep our word.

James says to “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” That way your language won’t be used against you as it could if you made big promises.

Eugene Peterson puts Jesus’ words on this topic in Matthew 5 this way… “Don’t say anything you don’t mean. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

 

See, our nature of “bearing false witness” shows itself when we feel like we have to add so much emphasis and promise to our words. “All in” and “For sure!” don’t always mean someone is so sure that they’re all invested.

This also shows up when we suspect falsehood in others. Just as making big promises brings the suspicion that we don’t mean to follow through, so we suspect in others.

We’d so hope that the love of the truth in the hearts of those who follow Jesus would show plainly that their simple “yes” and “no” are enough. Our word should be sufficient. Too often, straight answers are hard to come by. Couching something in “christianese” doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. It just makes it more insulting than an honest “yes” or “no”.

 

Resolute: res·o·lute  ˈrezəˌlo͞ot/
adjective: purposeful, determined, and unwavering.
synonyms: tenacious, unshakable, steadfast

 

I resolve not to be a “yes woman”. I resolve to be careful with my promises and to try not to manipulate with my words. I resolve to honor people with what I agree to and to offer the truth even when the answer is “no”. I resolve to love with my words and to keep believing the words of others. I resolve to keep promises and to not make the ones I cannot. I resolve to offer grace and forgiveness when promises fall through.  I resolve because He is my resolve this year and always. And He is faithful!

 

 Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His promises and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.

:: Deuteronomy 7:9 ::

 

I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse!

The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True…

:: Revelation 19:11 ::

 

 

Within the Veil June 26, 2014

Filed under: Freedom,His truth — Amanda Lynn @ 4:08 pm
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The day was finally here, the tenth day of the seventh month. Everyone in the camp knew it was coming and made their preparations for their once-a-year Day of Atonement.

It had been many years since the day their grandfathers told them about when Moses came down off the mountain where he met with God. They had heard the story over and over of  how Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he didn’t know his face had become radiant from speaking to the LORD. It shone so much that he put a veil over it. 

This was the day where the covenant of law given on that mountain had to be kept. The people couldn’t keep the whole law so there had to be a sacrifice on their behalf.

On this day, no one in the camp of Israel could work. Not even the servants. This way, everyone waited to be made clean before the Lord. He had commanded them to rest while the sacrifice was made on their behalf to cleanse them of all their sin.

 

The “Tent of Meeting” was there with all its mystery in the center of their camp. This was the tent where the Spirit of Yahweh God chose to reside. This was the God of their ancestors; of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob. This tent where Holiness resided was right smack dab in the middle of a sinful people who were dearly loved. The only people who went into this place of meeting were Moses and their high priest, Aaron.

The Lord had given Moses everything he needed to know and told him to pass it on to his brother, Aaron. Moses told Aaron not to go into “the Holy Place inside the veil before the mercy-seat” all free-wheeling or else he’d die.

See, this place where the Spirit of LORD dwelt was made up of 2 compartments that were divided by a curtain called a VEIL. And within that veil was the place called the Holy of Holies. Inside this place, was the ark of the Covenant which represented the Covenant Promise the Lord made to His people. The ark held the written Law God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai as well as some of the Manna, Israel’s dessert sustenance…God’s merciful provision in their wandering. 

 

 

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What made this Most Holy Place the most holy was what was on top of the ark. This space was called the mercy-seat. Two angels fashioned out of gold were on either side of the mercy-seat of the ark.

 

It was over this mercy-seat that the Lord chose to let His Spirit rest like a cloud and relate with His people.

 

So with some very detailed instructions including lots of washing, clean linen, and the choosing of acceptable animal sacrifices, Aaron went into the Most Holy Place to give sacrifice for alllll of Israel’s sin. He sacrificed for his own sin and the sin of his family first so that he was pure to even go into the veil to commune with God. If he didn’t do this first, then he would have died upon entering the veil.

This is how serious God is about sin coming into His presence. Sin is destroyed by the presence of Life and Holiness. Every. Time.

After sacrificing for himself, Aaron was told to sprinkle the blood onto the mercy-seat 7 times to atone for the sins of the people.

 

God accepted this sacrifice, but there was also a live animal waiting outside the Holy Place. Aaron went out of the veil where, still in the Tent of Meeting, he would place his hands on the head of the animal and confess all the sins of the people of Israel. After placing all these sins on the head of the animal, he would let it go into the wilderness. Then, Aaron left the tent, where he’d been instructed to take off all his clean linen garments, wash again then burn a sacrifice for his sins and the sins of the people.

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Fast-forward about 1,500 years with this same nation of Israel and you will find them using this same process. The veil remained separating the people from the Holiest Place.

Things had changed though. Their leadership was full of corruption and self-righteous hypocrisy. The high priest of the day was Joseph Caiaphas. They were waiting on a powerful man who would lead Israel in the fight to overcome the Romans who had taken over by now. Caiaphas manipulated himself right into being one of the most dedicated sycophants of the Roman rulers.

He got wind of a Galilean coming and stirring up trouble among the Jews. And what Caiaphas couldn’t control, he meant to kill.

What he didn’t know was that his Great High Priest and the ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, was on that Roman cross. What that high priest didn’t know was that his saving grace was on display in Jesus Christ.

 

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 

And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

:: Matthew 27: 50-51 ::

 

And the story doesn’t end there. No ma’am, no sir! Our High Priest drank the last drop of the wrath we deserve and then He rose from the dead. Conquering sin and death He lives and is interceding for us now at the Mercy Seat. He has chosen to let His presence not rest in the Tent of Meeting or in the Tabernacle…but in US!

 

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Since we have such a hope, we are very bold. not like Moses, who would veil his face so that Israelite might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes to this day, whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.

But when one turns to the Lord the veil is removed. now the lord is the spirit and where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom. and we all with unveiled faces, are beholding the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into that same image with ever-increasing glory. For this comes from the Lord who is the spirit.

:: 2 Corinthians 3: 12-18 ::

 

 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the veil, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

:: Hebrews 6:19 ::

 


 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

 :: Hebrews 9:12 ::

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the veil, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

:: Hebrews 10:19-23 ::

He who promised is faithful!

Yes, Faithful and True according is the promise in Revelation.

In this hope of glory, there will be another veil lifted…the wedding veil of His Bride.

 

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

:: Revelation 19:6-9 ::

 

 

So today, friends, we who know Him are living within the veil. Within this veil all doubt, despair, darkness, death and sin has been removed.

Within the veil, where we abide, is the assurance of unconditional love and acceptance, a Living Hope under the satisfactory provision of Christ. This place is not designed by physical hands and its’ entrance isn’t guarded by anyone. We have full access to it. Each time I breathe and feel the air in my lungs; each time I hear that gently whisper of the Love that quiets my soul; each time I see evidence of God in His creation, there I am in the Most Holy Place with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

 

Trafficking vs. The Body May 16, 2014

Filed under: Anti-trafficking,Freedom,His truth — Amanda Lynn @ 1:49 pm
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There’s another bad-news-conversation and another “no” to find a solution to.

“Opening a home for trafficking survivors is not for the faint of heart.” 

She says it with a gentle, confident tone of voice. She is one woman leading other women in pursuit of justice and she is well-acquainted with what it means to be steadfast in the work; what it means to have a devoted, long-term passion. This passion is to see the “least of these” come to a place of restoration and healing.

So where does this passion come from?

What is the source that keeps you going when you have to climb wall after wall of “No” and “Do more” and “Not enough“?

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.

And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead,

he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

:: Romans 8:11 ::

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,

who is in you, whom you have received from God?

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 

Therefore honor God with your bodies.

:: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ::

But when the time arrived set by God the Father,

God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law

so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.

Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage.

And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts,

prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father”

Now, you are no longer a slave, but a child of His.

And if you are a child,

God has made you his heir.

:: Galatians 4:4-7 ::

Since the Spirit of Christ now dwells in believers’ bodies,

getting a Christian engaged in sexual sin is the closes Satan can come to

personally assaulting the person of Jesus Christ.

That ought to make us mad enough to be determined to live victoriously.

Sins against the body also have a way of sticking to us and making us feel like we ARE that sin

rather than the fact that we’ve COMMITTED that sin.

:: Beth Moore ::

With knowledge of that truth I say human trafficking is a direct affront to the Kingdom and to the gospel.

The enemy of our souls is not a creator. All things have been created by God and for God. The enemy resorts to perverting and exploiting the very gifts of God for his own purposes. What was originally created to glorify God and bring about deep satisfaction and intimacy of spirit between two people, is often used to foster greed, power, lust and evil desires.

The things of the Spirit which we love, the joy, the peace, the unity and satisfaction in Christ….all of those things are our inheritance in being adopted into the family of God.

The enemy’s plan is to steal as much of what is rightfully ours, our gifts given to us from the Father, and distort those gifts for his gain. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “See a demon behind every bush” and I think we, as Americans, are especially good at distracting ourselves from Kingdom work all on our own. However, what’s also true is that there are forces at work on this earth who are diametrically opposed to everything Good, everything True and everything Holy.

But praise the Lord for being the One who is doing a new thing!

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

:: Isaiah 43:19 ::

This is why women need the Word.

We need the word when we see evil attack the body and the Body.

We need the Word who speaks life to our broken places, to our marginalized places.

The Word brings light & life to the places where darkness & death rule over the lives of sisters & mothers & daughters everywhere.

How can the rest of the world be caught blithely cat-napping when our girls, our daughter,

 our sisters are being kidnapped and our girls are driven from being kids to being our slaves

to being our whims trafficked and bought and sold, 

as if that chain of DNA that makes you female are chains that make you invisible.

For such a time as now we will risk comfort, for such a time as now we will risk ease,

for such a time as now we will say no to oppression’s disease,

for such a time as now we will give up so our sisters can rise up.

Because there is nothing worth having inside the gate

when you’ve got sisters losing everything outside the gate.

:: Ann Voscamp ::

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My mom is hospice nurse. Every day of her work week, she abides with those who are sick or dying or injured, she sits with their families and friends. Most of us run from sadness and pain, but she went back to school after her children were raised precisely because she felt called to sit in those thin places with the hope of Christ, bearing the ministry of simple presence and comfort. She carries sadness that isn’t hers to carry because most of us cannot carry these moments alone and yet there are so few who will make peace with our despair. This is her act of worship.

Our culture doesn’t really accept hard or heavy things in our every day lives, our every day lives in which we are to be successful, to be happy at all costs, to look good and to feel good and to be good….or at the very least to be doing “just fine”.

Within myself, I’ve been able to be “just fine” too often. I can compartmentalize well. If you want me to box up the pain I hear and the stories I gather into my “trafficking box“, then I can. I can take it into myself and never let you know that it’s hard. But this comes at a cost. Because there, right there, is where pride breeds and self-righteousness sounds like “Good, they think I’m joyful and not breaking inside”. Right there, in moments of isolation and pride, trafficking has affronted the Body.

The thing about compartmentalizing is that those trafficking boxes get too full and start spill out into the rest of life. They get full of hard questions and small doubts. When waiting for “yeses” and the big “go ahead” that we need to start getting our place of refuge full, I have secret doubts. Even today, I fight against this urge to explain and rationalize away the questions.

And when all that get’s too uncomfortable, then I hear Him saying “I AM”. And I AM is all about doing new things!

In those moments of the “not yet” of the Kingdom…it’s in those moments that I believe NO ONE IS FORGOTTEN. 

In those moments I believe that ours is the God who sees us, EL ROI. 

Yes, in those moments I believe.

Believe the hard things are for our good and for his glory

Believe there are better days coming

Believe that we are on a journey toward Redemption. 

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Believe in the One who is making all the impossible things new.

What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

:: Mark 9:23 ::

When faced with times in which God’s grace isn’t easily seen, my dad says,

“It’s a terrible tragedy when we see, but we don’t have vision.”

When trafficking attacks the body, and when the Body is attacked by the enemy, when I can’t always see a victory…

In my vision is Victor.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

:: Romans 8:37 ::

 

Tornadoes & The Upended Kingdom April 29, 2014

Filed under: His truth — Amanda Lynn @ 11:03 am

To say that God is sovereign is true.

To say that He is in complete control over His creation is also true.

His character remains steadfast no matter what happens.

All His justice and mercy and love and holiness never change even a fraction in light of circumstances as we see them.

 

 

 

Today, I see tornado damage.

I see families losing loved ones, some who are just about to finish college.

I see homes and communities upended.

 

In Matthew’s Gospel account of the sermon on the mount Jesus is saying all the things that make perfect Kingdom sense and little kingdom sense all at the same time. He was blessing and making promises to those who didn’t usually receive recognition from the world. The poor in spirit, the mourners, the gentle, pure, merciful, peacemaker who thirsts for righteousness….the persecuted, they were receiving promises that wouldn’t otherwise make sense without Jesus.

In this same sermon, Jesus speaks about loving those who seek to harm us. He said that in doing so we’d be like the Father, the Father who…
“makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

As I read this, I know that literal rain and literal sunshine have fallen on the just and the unjust…or the just as I see them.

********************************************

 

It was 6:45 one February night in 2008.

8 girls were attending a 4 hour-long Perspectives course even though the thing they wanted to do was to go back to the dorm and watch America’s Next Top Model.

That’s when the text messages started coming in from the dorm in Jackson and from families in Memphis. The tornadoes we had joked about that very morning were more real than we’d imagined. These weren’t melodramatic weather reports, they were warnings for safety’s sake. The tornado was traveling down the interstate 40 corridor headed east for Jackson. The power went out and the missionary from Peru finally stopped telling stories and started praying. We were sent to an inner hallway of the church because Tennessee isn’t much on basements.

And at 7:02, a F5 tornado touched down in Jackson in the middle of our campus before moving toward the areas surrounding the church my friends and I were taking shelter in. As the pressure changed and our ears popped, my friend Laura saw my tears and started to sing over me…

 

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

 

I sing because I’m happy,
I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

 

 

 

We sang together then. Her voice was joined by 7 others around a piano we found in a dark sanctuary.

 

And that one hymn gave way to another,

 

“I Hear the Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small.

Child of weakness watch and pray, find in Me thine all in all’.

 

 

That’s when the reports rolled in, “Students are trapped in the residence complexes.” 
“They’re saying the buildings are destroyed.” “First responders are prepared for at least 100 deaths at Union University.”

 

Families across Jackson took students in that night. Some had dozens of college kids scattered across their living rooms. By candlelight, students gave their name and the name of their dorm to put on a list.

No one slept that night.

As light broke through and the birds started singing again, the school did a city-wide head count of students to make sure the 1000’s of us were accounted for. Those families who had taken us in were reporting our names and class years to the Dean of Students. Everyone was accounted for; some in hospital beds on ventilators, some already headed home with their families, some making their way back to what was left of their dorm trying to find their grandmother’s wedding ring or their late father’s Bible with his notes still inside.

 

 

Just two weeks later, some students were still in the hospital waiting to hear if they’d walk again, but most of us made our way back down to Jackson to resume the Spring semester. Just like that…Just like that, lives were forever changed and some who had not known Christ as Savior saw the singing and the faith of their fellow students and said, “I want that!”.

CNN, Good Morning America and the newspapers were talking about the miraculous survival of Union University students. All anyone was saying in their interviews was, “God saved us! He is sovereign and made a way for us in the storm.” 

 

Aside from our miraculous survival, there were other stories to report without the happy ending. There were families who lost their children and children who lost their parents. There were mothers who lost their newborns and newborns who lost their mothers.

 

And yet, God’s character remains the same.

******************************************************************

 

Today, there are reports in Mississippi, in Arkansas, in Alabama and in Oklahoma of what tornadoes are capable of doing.

 

tornado

 

I get text messages that say, “I’m scared. The tornado is on the ground just north us of now. I hate storms. I just hate them.”

And I stand with friends in safety praying for those are face unpredictable danger, knowing that He controls and even commands the winds to obey Him.

 

 

And still…I am confused.

Faith. Grace to have faith.

His Grace to provide my faith is my only resource on days like this.

He is the only thing I know to be true on days like this.

 

David’s song in Psalm 55 seem like the best words for today.

 

Fear and trembling have beset me;

horror has overwhelmed me.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
But as for me, I trust in you.

 

 

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvLxZEU02uI

 

 

 

 

 

Open-handed Battle April 4, 2014

Filed under: Anti-trafficking,Freedom,Gender,Grad School,His truth,Uncategorized — Amanda Lynn @ 11:31 pm

What’s the last compliment you received?

How do you do accepting compliments?

What about general affirmation?

 

The other day at work, we did staff affirmations one by one. Each person had to sit in the “hot seat” while their co-workers and supervisors applauded them and their role at The Covering House. It was a good thing. And it was all fine and good until you get called into the seat.

The rules are that you cannot negate compliments and all you are allowed to say is “Thank you.” We want to do this same thing with the girls we serve and it makes sense that we want them to absorb kindness without pushing it away (whether in the name of humility or not).

 

So, I sat there getting to dole out words of affirmation.

It was glorious. I LOVE that stuff! (Words of affirmation are my JAM!)

 

However, things weren’t so fun when my name got called and I had to sit on the red chair in front of the semi-circle of my co-workers.

That’s when the a co-worker who has become more of a dear friend and sister said, “You embody meekness and fierce loyalty. You are a quiet warrior.” At this point, people agreed and the words “quiet warrior” were almost contagious, restated again and again.

And all I could do was sit there with my hands open.

 

*********************************

 

Rewind about 2 months and I was at a point where all I could see were a mounting list of to-do’s and a ticking clock. Things were all coming together and not coming together at the same time. To say our staff is being stretched in recent months is an understatement.

There are great things ahead. I’ll present my capstone, do a few other guest lectures and papers, take my licensing exam, get to be a part of opening a home for human trafficking victims…These are all amazing gifts!

With that said…I was freaking. out.

I reached out to friends and told a small circle what was up.

Since they’re the best friends (the ones who point me to Jesus the most) they said, “What is God teaching you in this season?”

 

Open hands.

That’s all I could say. They asked what that meant since it sounds very churchy, very Sunday school.

I had to say, “Ya know…I’m not sure yet, but I’ll let you know when I find out.”

I know that I hold things too tightly, I want to perform well and not disappoint. That’s what I’m having to continually open my hands to release. That and to really believe and hold onto what He says about me, to really receive the truth in what others say.

I think He’ll show me more as I obey.

 

That same night, a friend serving in Africa, who I haven’t gotten to talk to in almost a month, sent an email.

 

In that email she said:

Open hands. After I knew I was for sure coming to Africa and preparing to leave I heard over and over and over to keep my hands open. Keep my hands open for what was next and not try to grasp for what I was leaving.
It was hard. It still is hard.
These are lines from two songs I love
‘I will climb this mountain with my hands wide open’
‘If I give it all to you, will you make it all new?’
May you trust that as you walk forward with open hands, giving it all to him that he will make it all new. He will do immeasurably more.

After a couple thankful tears of conviction were shed, I realized anew how much He cares.

He is all about using those details to get me to hear His voice.

I was living with my fists clenched out of fear or out of determination or both. I was determined to finish grad school well and to serve the Lord at work and to be an encouragement to those around me, to do all that without accepting anything from the outside. And it looked a whole lot like a self-righteous girl running herself ragged once again not tapping into the Source of immeasurably more.

 

Our lives often preach a very different Gospel than the one we think we believe.

:: Sarah Bessey ::

************************************

If you’re reading this and you’re one of my sisters in Christ….do you know we’re created to be warriors?

Ezer Kenegdo means “man’s perfect match.” This is a picture of two equal weights leaning against each other to stay stable and strong. It means that women were created to be our brothers’ strongest ally in pursuing God’s purposes.

In the Old Testament, the word “Ezer” appears 21 times in 3 different contexts: the creation of Eve, when Israel applied for military aid, and in reference to God as Israel’s military helper. God isn’t a “helpmeet” in the watered-down way we’ve heard this used in reference to second-hand citizens in the Kingdom, right? No, our God is more than that: he’s a strong helper, a warrior, an ever present help in times of trouble. And we’re His daughters, created in His image.

 

 

 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,

but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons,

by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

:: Romans 8:15 ::

So with my hands open, open to receive or to give at any time (easier said than done), I will carry that name of “quiet warrior” remembering that the strength they see in me is His.

This alone is the most reassuring thing to open my hands to…His presence.

There is this very real battle going on that’s much bigger than finishing the semester or going to a wonderful job. It’s even bigger than social injustice, bigger than trafficking. This battle is being waged for the precious souls made in the image of their Creator. I am confident that if I open my hands to my Ezer, to the ever-present King of Kings, this battle will end in victory.

Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde,

for the battle is not yours but God’s.

:: 2 Chronicles 20:15 ::

You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.

:: Psalm 146:16 ::

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLPb7bfT2rg

“Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the LORD to you, `Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s. – See more at: http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/Victory,-As-An-Act-Of-God#sthash.aSE5F6kQ.dpuf