Monthly Archives: September 2013

Porn’s Biggest Secret

Your-No-is-Her-Hope-Standard

So, porn… I’m gonna be quick and to the point. Pornography is helping fuel human trafficking. I personally know stories of human trafficking victims who have been forced to make porn.

Do adults have a right to view pornography if they want? Yes, they do. However, due to the internet, children and young adults are being introduced to it at younger and younger ages. Most of them stumble across it accidentally.

This accidental introduction creates more people with porn addictions, thus the demand for porn increases. How is this demand being met? Human trafficking.

We have launched a campaign inspired by recent actions in the UK. Our goal is to petition gov’t to make internet providers put filters on pornographic images unless a customer wants access to them

Reducing the demand for porn will reduce the trafficking of women & children to meet the demand. Will you join me in saying “NO!” ?

1. Visit UnBound’s site to learn more.

2. Spread the word to your friends via social media & email! Use the hashtag  #no4hope

I am saying “no” to human trafficking! Will you join me? #no4hope —> click to tweet this now!

3. Sign the petition right now!

This isn’t about politics or religion. It is about people. These are real people I have met and people I care about. Will you help me spread the word and say “NO”?

Sharing is Caring

Leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under current events, Fire, Global, human trafficking, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

The Dirty Gospel : God Isn’t Fair

madewithover

I discovered this weekend that I hate the woman Jesus healed. I’ll back up just a second for a few of you new readers. We are in the middle of a series called The Dirty Gospel. Loss & Depression then a post about God’s love being a severe and painful mercy.

This past weekend I was at World Mandate conference (more on that Thursday). Louie Giglio spoke on Friday night about the woman with the issue of blood in Luke 8. But this is the part that stuck out to me:

A man named Jairus pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his dying daughter. On their way the woman with the issue of blood reached out and touched Jesus. At that moment Jesus stopped and healed that woman. Yippee, right?

Not for Jairus. While this woman was getting her healing, a messenger came and told Jairus that his daughter was dead. Jesus was too late. Jairus was first and she cut in line. This is where I realized that I despised this woman.

Well, not this actual woman. But what she represents in my life. All those times where I am begging God, but it seems that He is too busy helping others. I am crying about my financial lack, only to learn that someone else received a significant amount of money as a random gift. What the heck, God? It isn’t fair that they have so much and I have so little.

We have been in the process of adopting for almost four years. FOUR years. In that time I have seen so many families bring home their little kids. I guess Jesus was too busy helping them that He forgot about my waiting family. They only had to wait a year. It isn’t fair.

We planted a church in a city that didn’t seem to care about God. In our first few months in Seattle we talked to 2,000 people about Jesus. Want to know how many came to church? Two. Just two out of two thousand. Meanwhile in another American city, revival is breaking out and churches are growing out of their spaces. God, we are doing what you asked us to do. Why isn’t anything happening? This isn’t fair.

Maybe for you, it is marriage. Or family. Your friends seem to be having all the luck with romance and babies. Perhaps you have been working hard in your career only to watch a co-worker get the promotion.

Waiting for God to move, only to watch Him part the waters for someone else. All the while, we feel like we are dying just like the daughter did. Jesus was too late. He wasn’t fair.

I have died waiting for a Savior who seems to have gotten distracted.

When I see people around me getting what they are desperately seeking from God, I cringe. Because in my little way of thinking I somehow conclude there is now less for me. Maybe Jesus used up all His magic sprinkles for their miracle. Will Jesus run out of His miracles before He gets around to me?

I think that when Jesus is working on behalf of someone else, it means I am still sitting on the to-do list. Maybe He will get around to me, maybe not. Fingers crossed I don’t die waiting to find out.

Then I remember the truth and I take heart.

The story ends with Jesus going to Jairus’ daughter and raising her from the dead. Jesus didn’t just show His power in her life by healing her. He did something bigger and more unexpected.

And that’s what we hope in. There are days it feels like we watch another get our blessing. The spouse we want, the kids we crave, the bank account we dream of, the job we’ve worked hard for and the recognition we think we deserve. And maybe it isn’t fair.

Fair = reasonable. Not sure about you, but I’m glad God isn’t reasonable when it comes to the Gospel. I don’t deserve it and if He was fair then I’d be a goner.

The Gospel isn’t fair. It is more than that. It is ample, generous, and extravagant. —> click to tweet.

Sure, sometimes waiting for God kills us. It kills our flesh to make room for something bigger. If we watch a dream die, it is because God is going to call forth something bigger and more grand than we were ever imagining.

Remember how only two out of two thousand came to church? God did a miracle with those two girls. He birthed a church. They gathered a critical mass of friends and our church began to grow and take off. What seemed like death was God’s way of bringing life.

The Gospel is dirty because it kills us sometimes. It kills our misperceptions and wrong expectations. It kills our selfish ambitions and pride. But, God never leaves us dead. He raises us up into the life He has destined for us.

*** Want to get posts sent directly to your inbox a few times a week? Subscribe via email in the sidebar! ***

Sharing is Caring

Leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

13 Comments

Filed under Faith, Fire, The Dirty Gospel, Uncategorized

The Art of Moving Mountains

image

photo source unknown

Moving mountains is quite tricky really. So often I hear sermons about how God can move our mountains. Faith of a mustard seed and all. I believe that with God I can move mountains. And yet, there they stand before me again. Daunting peaks and valleys, frozen ice patches splattered along the ridges.

They seem so magnificent and their beauty scares me. How can such a thing move, God? And yet I know it must. I know it doesn’t belong here. It blocks me in and hides me from the things beyond it’s peaks.

Mountains are situations, experiences and views of ourselves that block us. They trap us. They stop us. These past few months I have wondered why I don’t say to my mountains, “Move!”.  As I have thought about it, I identified three common reasons why I make friends with my mountains instead of moving them.

1. Having a mountain is a good excuse. It’s a good reason to stop and an excuse for why I can’t or shouldn’t. What better reason than to say, “Well, I guess I am off the hook. There is a mountain in my way.”. Such an obstacle is a good reason to pitch a tent at the foot of this giant.

I could make a nice life here at base camp. Sure, base camp is more of a place of survival rather than living. Soon I might forget how nice heat is or electricity. Or forget about indoor plumbing. I might start to believe that I was made for nomadic camping instead of being planted in the land God has for me.

When I get weary of pressing on, excuses look good. I like the excuse my mountain offers me. You guys go ahead. I have a mountain. I’ll meet you on the other side…maybe.

2. Often I don’t move my mountains because I am freaked out what might be on the other side. Most likely it is better than where I am now, but it still scares me. Yes, there could be a flash flood here. Yes, the winters are harsh and long in the shadow of the mountain. Yes, I am always blocked and unable to move, explore or grow. Sadly, I have learned to live like this. And knowing what to expect brings some comfort. Can I really thrive on the other side of the mountain?

3. This realization knocked the wind out of me: Sometimes I don’t move my mountains because I need them. I get resources from the mountain. I rely on the animals living on it for my food, it’s snow melts into my water and it’s caves are my shelter. In a way it replaces God meeting my needs. Why trust Him for water when I can just get it from this muddy pond? The mountain provides me with some identity as well.

Our mountains mark us. Maybe you are the girl with the eating disorder. Or the man who never had a father. Financial crisis is your go-to. No matter who says they love you, you will always be the one who was rejected. We cling to our mountains because they have been feeding us for years.

We aren’t made to live in the shadow of daunting, haunting mountains. We were made to move them. —> click to tweet.

Moving mountains isn’t easy. In fact, I don’t really know how it works, but I do know that we are called to do it. We look at God, take Him at His word, pray like our lives depend on it and start walking.

Maybe when we approach it, the mountain will disappear. Perhaps the image of the mountain will remain and we will find that God gives us the supernatural strength to walk straight through it’s rock core.

There isn’t a formula, and I don’t know exactly what God is going to do to move your mountains. But I know He will. I know He promised. We aren’t made to live in the shadow of daunting, haunting mountains.

We were meant to live free. We were created to live without inhibition. We are destined to move mountains. 

*** Want to get posts sent directly to your inbox a few times a week? Subscribe via email in the sidebar! ***

Sharing is Caring

I would love to know your thoughts or experiences on moving mountains. You can leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

5 Comments

Filed under Faith, Fire, My Life Thus Far, Whimsy

The Dirty Gospel : A Severe Mercy

I’d like you all to meet my friend that I have never met. Well, never met in person. We found each other on Instagram somehow and I began following her story through her pictures. I started The Dirty Gospel series a few weeks ago. Last week I talked about finding God in the midst of loss and depression. I was overjoyed that Bethany agreed to let us in on what the dirty gospel means to her. This week Bethany is sharing her story. 

photo-3

Many years ago, I read the book  A Severe Mercy and it shook me. It is among a handful of books that shaped who I am today.

I remember reading it and thinking this is the kind of marriage I want to have. A marriage with no “creeping separateness”. I wanted a marriage where we always remained open with each other. I wanted a marriage where we were friends as well as lovers and just loved being together. I got the impression from the book that they had that. And I remember sobbing when the writers wife died.

His conclusion in the end of the book is that his wife dying was God’s severe mercy to him, because it was her death which led him to a relationship with God. It was in her death that he was able to find God in a way he hadn’t been able to with his wife alive.

In the past year I have had two such severe mercies. Two struggles which have come into my life that I never would have wanted, but that have shaped my relationship with God in ways that nothing else could have.

photo-2

When I was in college I begged God not to give me a child with special needs – seriously prayed nearly every day for a year that He wouldn’t!

I thought if God did allow me to have a child with special needs He would be cruel, sadistic, and unloving.

Now I stand at the other end of that prayer, not only having a daughter with special needs but with severe special needs – a daughter who ( according to specialists) is unlikely to ever walk, talk or live on her own.

I can see clearly, from where I am now, that God giving me this child wasn’t cruel –  it was deeply loving. It was His mercy and grace to me.

I want her. I can’t imagine life without her. She has showed me, in ways I never could have understood without her, that God is love. She is a severe, and at times painful, grace to me. But she is still grace.

photo-1

When my husband was diagnosed with stage three melanoma there was one prayer that was never far from my lips, “God, don’t let it progress to stage four. Please, Lord!”.

Two months ago, God wrapped His arms around me and whispered His presence into my heart as I read the PET scan that told us my husband’s cancer had indeed progressed to stage four.

And I thought of that book I had read so many years before.

Even in this, God shows His love.

The Gospel is messy in my life because God cannot be controlled. He continually does things I don’t want Him to do. He isn’t made in our image.

God hasn’t come to me in the ways I’ve wanted Him to, but He’s come in the ways I’ve needed Him to. —> click to tweet

This doesn’t make Him unloving, it makes Him GOD.

In all of our lives there comes a time when we pray, “Please, God, anything but ____”.  There comes a day when something happens that we absolutely didn’t want, that we don’t know how we’ll face, something that we don’t understand.

The same happened for Jesus.

Christ Himself prayed that very prayer in the garden, “If there’s any other way…” Oh, God, please not this. Anything but this.

It is the ultimate severe mercy for all of us, and even for Jesus Himself, that God answered His prayer for another way with “no”.

So, today I am grateful for severe mercies. I’m thankful for the heavy, messy, and sometimes painful love of God.

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

*** If you consider yourself a praying person, please pause and say a prayer for Bethany’s husband Bryan. He is continuing to fight stage 4 melanoma ***

Sharing is Caring

You can leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

photoBethany Stedman is a mom and writer who often wishes she was saving the world with a super hero cape, a quill, and some rocking literature. Instead she spends most days playing peek-a-boo with her baby girl, reading Goodnight Moon, and racing around the house with her preschooler. She’s completely addicted to Pinterest, peanut butter, and Doctor Who (yup, nerd to the core). She blogs about life with God, parenting, marriage, and anything else that comes to mind at www.bethstedman.com. Come stop by and say hello.

18 Comments

Filed under Faith, Fire, The Dirty Gospel, Uncategorized

Like Norma Rae, I Stick It To The Man

*** Disclaimer: This post is meant to poke fun at my teenage self and not to disrespect the National Honor Society ( which is a great group BTW ). I was a dramatic teenager, that is all. ***photo

 

 

You have probably assessed from this photo that I am a really smart cookie. I mean like, totally smart…Err. Well. Okay, I’m not super smart. But, once I did get invited to join the National Honor Society.

Of course I did what all good teens do, I stuck it to the man. I’ve decided to tell this story by breaking it down into 3 steps anyone can follow when deciding to “stick” something to the “man”.

1. Identify ” the man”

For me, I was able to identify “the man” one day at the beginning of my senior year in high school. I was invited to join the Nat’l Honor Society (NHS). It was probably some fluke clerical error. I’m not being modest, it was really most likely a clerical error. When I got the letter in the envelope I was beyond elated.

This feeling of shock and awe was then superseded by the question every 17 year old asks themselves.

“Does this in any way conflict with my convictions and values?”

2. Get way too worked up and then OVERREACT. 

It did not take me long to determine that the NHS was in grave conflict with my beliefs. It was quite distressing actually. I knew that it was a good thing to have on my college application…but, no. I would be the one 17 year old high school student to throw my fist in the air and demand change.

I would stop the injustice that the Honors Society helps promote!

Rich kids don’t have to work, they aren’t responsible for feeding and putting to bed their younger siblings while their single mom works her night shift. Children from poor families have to work jobs after school and that takes away from their study time. Plus, they can’t afford tutors and study aids like children from wealthy families.

That means it is more likely for a rich kid to maintain a higher GPA and therefore be invited into the NHS. Any student knows that being a part of the NHS is an advantage for college applications and scholarships.

We can then assume that the rich kid will have a leg up over the poor kid thanks to the NHS. They will be more likely to get accepted into college and receive financial assistance.

The system clearly favors wealthy families over poor families! Then the rich college grad kid gets the better job and the poor kid works for him. My high school had a nearly all white NHS. Now, it has turned into a race issue!  Is this even America people ?!?!?! Is the NHS even constitutional??? ( this is the overreacting part )

It still amazes me that the NAACP hasn’t gotten into this issue.

3. Tell “the man” to his face that he is evil.

Well, I promptly wrote a formal letter to the National Honor Society headquarters telling them that I would NOT accept their invitation. I informed them that I could not be party to an organization that essentially discriminates based on socio-economic status and in turn adds fuel to the cycle of poverty! I have morals and I have values!

I am sure my profound and insightful letter sent the office into a tail-spin. It’s amazing they ever recovered from my clever attack.

Next, I told the NHS sponsor teacher at my high school what I had decided about the organization as a whole and told her I felt it was unethical for her to support such a group.

There is a chance that I also tried to convince the NHS chapter at my school to band together as students in order to boycott the Society. Together our voices would be heard! Sure, we won’t get college scholarships, but this is humanity we are fighting for!

My insight into class struggle was lost on them as well.

Mom, Dad… I’m not sure if I ever told you all this. I doubt it will surprise you though.

Rest assured that I did go to college and graduate with a degree in political science. Maybe I will work for the NAACP and take up this fight again. Or maybe not.

We can’t fight every battle in life. But, some days you need to write your congressman. And some days you need to stick it to the man.

*** Want to get posts sent to your inbox a few times a week? Subscribe via email in the sidebar ***

Sharing is Caring

You can leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Dirty Gospel: Loss & Depression

Welcome to week # 2 of The Dirty Gospel series. This week I am talking about finding God in loss.

photo

I was in drinking lemonade in Egypt the day he died. I was 16 and on a trip to Africa with my dad.

We were never supposed to be in Egypt anyway. The plane leaving Amsterdam had to make an emergency landing due to engine failure. We missed our connection in Egypt so we were put up in a casino for four days until we could get another flight further into the interior of Africa.

I remember walking into our hotel lobby where my dad pulled me aside.

He told me how my mother had called the hotel to deliver the news. My friend Jeremiah had been killed by a drunk driver. The car was turning into Jeremiah’s driveway when a drunk driver slammed into them. Jeremiah didn’t make it.

I cried. I felt lost. I missed the funeral because I spent the next two weeks in Sudan.

Fast forward a decade and many more grieving moments. I was pregnant with my second child.

Sophie was just about 18 months old at the time. We always knew we wanted another child, and here the sweet baby was! Unlike Sophie, this pregnancy had me sick night and day. It was terrible.

But it got worse.

When I went to the doctor she was unable to find the heartbeat. We should wait a week and come back we were told. Just in case the baby wasn’t as far along as we originally thought. Friends, family and our church rallied around and prayed that God would do a miracle and and a little heart would start beating…thump, thump…thump, thump. It didn’t. God didn’t perform a miracle. The baby was gone.

At 11 weeks, I lost our baby. My terrible morning sickness continued for several weeks until my body recognized that there was no longer a pregnancy.

In the months to follow, I had post-partum depression. I wasn’t mad about the miscarriage, I wasn’t even sad at the time. I felt nothing. Not a single thing. A veil just went between myself and everything around me. I played with Sophie, talked with friends, did all the normal things…but I wasn’t really there. I had couldn’t rally my emotions back into gear.

I didn’t know that a miscarriage could cause post-partum depression. I just thought I was “off”.  Thankfully my hormones leveled out and after three months I was back to my old self. But those were rough days. Lost days to be honest. I know what I experienced was a very mild compared to what a lot of people with depression go through.

( If you are dealing with depression, I’d encourage you to visit your doctor. )

The days after the death of Jeremiah and after the loss of my baby felt so thin. I was holding on by a string. A very small string.

Where was God when Jeremiah died and the days after the loss of my child? He was filling my jar.

There is a story in 1 Kings 17 about a widow who only has enough oil and flour to make a final meal for herself and her son. Their provisions were so meager the plan was to eat their last meal together and then die of starvation.

But God stepped in. He filled their flour and their oil so it didn’t run out.

In those days of my loss and post-partum depression, God was refilling my oil. If I had been the widow I would have wanted a stocked pantry. Maybe a goat or two. But, God let the oil and flour be enough to sustain them.

In that season I wished God would have let my situation be easier. Given me all the things I felt like I was lacking in those moments. He didn’t. He simply multiplied what little I had so that it sustained me.

The days were messy, numb and confusing. Unknown to me I was in the middle of the Dirty Gospel.

God didn’t clean up my mess, He found me in it. And He never let go.

Yes, the situations got better. However, in the middle of those teary and numb moments there was something of God that I learned.

When what I have is not “enough” to sustain me, God comes. And He makes it enough.–> click to tweet

This realization that I can have “enough” in the middle of my complete lack has allowed me to develop a faith I have needed. Not just a faith to make it through the challenging moments. The kind of faith that enables me to chase dreams I have no business chasing.

That is the power of the Dirty Gospel. It replaces the need for perfect circumstances with the need for a perfect God. —> click to tweet.

Have you found God in a place of loss? I would love to hear your stories or thoughts in the comments.

*** Want to receive posts directly into your inbox a few times a week? Subscribe via email in the sidebar***

Sharing is Caring

You can leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

16 Comments

Filed under Faith, Fire, Global, My Life Thus Far, The Dirty Gospel, Uncategorized

Narrow Isn’t Small

I wrote about this several years ago, but have been visiting the idea more lately. I decided to share my thoughts on it again with you guys today.

photo

” narrow the gate that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

– Matthew 7:14

I misunderstood this idea for years. It seemed to me that ‘narrow’ meant small or plain. So tight that nothing big or impressive could get through. You humble yourself so low & make yourself so small that you can squeeze into this tiny opening that is the road on which we journey with God. Having to constantly shave things off in order to stay small enough to continue walking the path.

Shallow breaths and constantly squeezing through tight & confining spaces are the only way to make it. The ‘narrow gate’ was negative. It was bare bones. No frills. Don’t bring your iPad, your red lipstick or a good book. There isn’t room for those things. Breadcrumbs and water bottles are only permitted to accompany you here.

You see, I thought ‘narrow’ meant small. But it doesn’t. It means focused. I have had many seasons in my life that have felt incredibly narrow. Moving to Seattle where I knew a total of 6 people (the ones I moved with ), months where our paycheck bought the ingredients for peanut butter & jelly sandwiches…and little else. I had two kids. I was on bed rest with the second. Narrow, narrow spaces.

Those places were by no means small. Not simple or plain. Concentrated. Sharpened. Pointed. Narrow.

Narrow places are seasons where God realigns our hearts. Narrow isn’t small. —> click to tweet

When we squeeze into the narrow gate we are forced to take note of all the things crowding us. There isn’t room for fear, insecurity, arrogance or bitterness. When things are tight you become highly aware of what is pushing against you.

That is what comes off in the narrow places.

What grows in the painfully tight places are dreams and callings. Our revelation of who God is and our understanding of the way He sees us. I begin to focus on the things He has put before me.

The narrow gate doesn’t limit me, it releases me. It allows me to grow upwards. To become taller and reach greater heights. I can hear the echo of His voice. The faint cheering from the crowds on the upper ledges. The ones who have gone before.

I have learned that when life feels narrow, my emotions feel squeezed and my calling seems to harness me in. I don’t fight it. I focus and walk into the crack in the Rock. The place He has prepared.

I know in the narrow places I will find magnificent things. Not plain and deflating ideas, but dreams more wild than I ever imagined. When the path seems to close around me, I pull out a shovel and dig. For there is always more of God. There is always more room.

I have learned that narrow isn’t small. The narrow gate leads me to a brilliant, big life. 

*** Want to receive posts in your inbox a few times a week? Subscribe via email in the sidebar! ***

Sharing is Caring

You can leave a comment or share this post via Twitter or Facebook by clicking here.

6 Comments

Filed under Faith, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized