GUEST BLOG: God’s Story

Get up. Then show up. Then be the best you can be. You will constantly be blown away by our amazing God.

 

My name is Krissy Culler, and I am No Ordinary Woman. Neither are you! We are each made in God’s image according to His plan, and our lives are a continuation of God’s story — the one He started in eternity past, the one He continued in the Bible, and the one that lives on in our world today. The Bible is not a set of dead words; instead it is a living story of which we are all a part. Live every day like you are part of His story.

“Not Ordinary” takes many forms. As a child, I was an awkward tomboy with a mind for numbers and stars in my eyes. I was so sure that I would be an astronaut that I made a college decision based on the number of astronaut graduates. But God had a different story for me. A Kenny Chesney song is running through my head when he jokes about the persona he took on in pursuit of women (“I was a doctor, a lawyer, a senator’s son…Brad Pitt’s brother and a man on the run”) and my life kind of reads like that, although my pursuit was a little more righteous–trying to find God’s will for me through my work. I was a fighter pilot, a leader of midshipmen, a math teacher, an aide, a volunteer EMT, a satellite communications specialist, and an information technology executive…and throughout my career (which I will talk about more over the coming months, so please tune in!), He brought me challenges to strengthen my character and my mind, successes to know that when we are faithful, He is good; and he brought me the lowest of lows to keep me humble and focused on Him.

If you are faithful, God does not make mistakes. So first, you must get up. Every day on this earth is a gift, so I encourage you to get out of bed remembering and praising the gift of this life. Go from the warm bed to the cold floor with faith and hope…and live for today. God willing, today will be another huge step on the road of this amazing journey…but no matter what happens, it is a day to remember Him.

Get up. Then show up. To get something out of life, you must put something in. Hard work really does pay off. Turn off the television and take a walk, read a book, call a loved one. Pray without ceasing…and never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them.

Get up. Then show up. Then be the best you can be. You will constantly be blown away by our amazing God. Through his word, through the people around you, through His magnificent creation, and through YOU, He will turn your past into today’s struggles and opportunities, and give you hope for tomorrow’s glory and His ultimate victory.

Don’t be ordinary. Be the best you can be.

The amazing Krissy Culler has been a friend for many years. She defines “No Ordinary” in every way. She is a trailblazer for all of us and, for her, I am thankful. She is much more than that, though. She is a deep thinking and soul-filled daughter of the King. My life is enhanced by her friendship, and yours will be by her words. I am definitely tuned in. I hope you will be, too.

Check out the day that Krissy got to hang out with that amazing drummer guy from that 80’s band. You know the one!—————–>

GUEST BLOG: Traffick Free: Combating Human Trafficking

GUEST BLOG: Traffick Free: Combating Human Trafficking

Traffick Free evolved from the concern of a few individuals who met through a monthly social justice meeting at Park Community Church.

by Sangeeta Sunny

We think sex trafficking is so far away, so distant from our homes and our families. We see it as an issue faced only by people in foreign countries. We see it as women who chose to participate in street prostitution. But the extent and coercion of human trafficking is so expansive that there are more people being exploited now than ever before in history.

Sex trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry in the United States with between 14,000 and 17,000 people being trafficked into the country each year. The sex trade happens at truck stops, restaurants, massage parlors, homes, and online. Traffickers force people into commercial sex at an average age of 12-14. These are often homeless or runaway children who are manipulated into a relationship with the trafficker. Other children are forced into survival sex out of desperation for basic needs and are then threatened into ownership by a trafficker. Chicago is a national hubspot for trafficking. The Cook County State Attorney’s Office ties this to the presence of a large international airport and to Chicago being a large convention city. In the City of Chicago alone there are an estimated 24,000 women and girls being sex trafficked. This overwhelming number fueled the construction of Traffick Free – an organization dedicated to social activism to help women and girls involved in commercial sex in Chicago.

For the next few years we hosted events like the Run Against Traffick 5k. We have worked with the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, the United States Marines, and the Illinois Department of Labor. We have also partnered with the Young Women’s Christian Association to train volunteers in human trafficking as part of their 40-hour sexual assault curriculum. While building awareness we also worked behind the scenes to find ways to help survivors.

Through our experiences and conversations to learn about what was going on in Chicago we quickly realized that there was a desperate need for emergency services. An emergency shelter is a place to access safety and ask for help without a long term commitment. Several other organizations were already providing long term shelter or building awareness but no one in Chicago was offering a place for women and girls to transition out of commercial sex.

Do You Know?

Our friends at Traffick Free are doing amazing work in Chicago. Trafficking is not limited to large cities. In many cases, traffickers prefer small towns because of a there is no way that would ever happen here thinking. Human trafficking is not a developing nation problem, or a women’s issue, or a big city problem. . . it is everywhere and it is a human problem.

Human trafficking will continue as long as we turn our heads. Perhaps you are feeling the nudge to take action. Let us know, so that we can support your work. Where to start? Educate yourself. Donate to groups doing this amazing work. Look at the work of the 30th Judicial Alliance in our home area. Answer the nudge–you may have the true solution.

The Basics (from our friends at Traffick Free)

Click Here to visit Traffick Free

Definitions When people think about slavery, they usually think of the traditional chattel slavery that was seen in America’s past. That form does still exist in certain countries, but slavery has evolved, and now most often occurs in these forms:

BONDED LABOR: People become bonded laborers by taking or being tricked into taking a loan for as little as the cost of medicine for a sick child. To repay the debt, many are forced to work long hours, often all year long. They receive basic food and shelter as “payment” for their work, but many may never pay off the loan, which can be passed down for generations.

FORCED LABOR: People are illegally recruited by individuals, governments or political parties and forced to work, usually under the threat of violence or other penalties.

TRAFFICKING: The transport and/or trade of women, children and men from one area to another for the purpose of forcing them into conditions of slavery. Human trafficking ranks as the second largest criminal industry globally, second only to drug smuggling, and equal with illegal weapons transactions.

Statistics

  • there are more slaves now than ever before in human history – approximately 27 million around the world
  • the cost of a slave has decreased from $40,000 in 1850, to $90 in 2008
  • it would cost $40 per family to buy all bonded laborers in the world – Americans spend this much on chocolate each Valentine’s Day
  • 17,500 slaves are brought into the United States every year
  • slave labor is used to produce much of the goods that we buy, and it is currently very difficult to determine if that is the case
  • in 2003, The New York Times labeled Chicagoland as a national hub for trafficking – most victims are from Latin America and Asia
  • exual exploitation of minors is lawfully considered human trafficking approximately 325,000 children in the United States are subjected to sexual exploitation every year
  • the average age of entry into the commercial sex industry within the United States is 11-12 years old
  • Data and statistics on human trafficking are very limited, because the crime is largely invisible – most of these values likely underestimate actual figures. While the issue of modern slavery is global in scale, many experts believe that it can be brought to an end in 25 years – if we are able to sustain our attention on the issue.

sources: freetheslaves.net, reuters, newyorktimes.com, usdoj.gov

Recent Posts

Freeway: Launches February 7th

What is Freeway?

On Saturday, February 7th, No Ordinary Women will launch its first (Em)Course for EmPowerment and EmPurposement.  Many questions have come our way about Freeway.  Let’s start with some of the basics. The course starts the first Saturday in February at Begins February 7th at 10 am. Register now at the SHOP tab. 10 am with our friends at Blue Ridge Books on Main Street in Waynesville.  Freeway was created and is published by the amazing People of the Second Chance out of southern California. It is so phenomenal in transforming lives that it is the only pre-packaged course that made the cut for us at No Ordinary Women.

How do I sign up?

Head over to our SHOP tab and sign up through the website.  Materials must be ordered and shipped to us. Registration closes on Saturday, January 24th at midnight.  We are limiting this course to 20 amazing women, so please sign up quickly to secure your spot. http://www.noordinarywomen.org/?product_cat=courses

Why $30?

The course fee pays for all of your course materials, including workbook, journal, online resources, small group materials, and snacks!  (Honestly, it’s a $100 value before you even figure in the wealth of learning from fellow course members.)

Will I benefit from Freeway?

Here are some questions to determine whether you are a good fit for this (Em)Course.  As always, the more “yes” answers means the better fit.

  • Are you weary?
  • Do you long for real conversation where you can be your true self?
  • Do you long for sharing without fear of a vulnerability hangover?
  • Do you find yourself hunting for escape from life through Facebook, Buzzfeed quizzes, meaningless television, alcohol, or writing blogs?
  • Do you question your purpose and calling?
  • Underneath it all, do you find fear? Guilt?
  • Are you a felon? (Just making certain you’re still reading—of course, felons are welcome, too!)
  • Do you feel abandoned and worry that you’ve lost the ability to trust others?
  • Do you question why God would actually choose you?
  • Have you screwed up so much that you’re not sure you can be loved?
  • Are you trying to shed some pounds of guilt, lack, betrayal?
  • Does your inner voice keep telling you to be more? Be better?
  • Do you feel like you’ve just become stuck in the calm waters and feel a rut coming on?
  • Do you ever find yourself just going around in circles? Do you start out great and fizzle and come around again and, man this cycle is exhausting?
  • Do you just want a good cup of coffee on a comfy couch?
  • Are you afraid that real change only comes from being able to be still and focused enough to journal seven straight pages with multi-syllabic words on theology?
  • Do you long for someone just to listen without trying to fix anything?

Right now, stop and put your hand over your heart. Feel that. It’s your heartbeat. It means you are an alive human. And, it means you just answered “yes” to several of these questions. It means that Freeway was written for you. We’ll let those folks who have it all together get up and do laundry on Saturday mornings. The rest of us will gather together at Blue Ridge Books and get rid of those things that are holding us back from freedom.  Worried that you might miss a week?  We’ve got that covered. Stop what you are doing now and sign up through the web site.  I don’t use the word life-changing lightly, but I do use it for Freeway.

Begins February 7th at 10 am.  Register now at the SHOP tab.

Begins February 7th at 10 am.
Register now at the SHOP tab.

GUEST BLOG: A Deep Freeze Prayer

Today’s blog comes to us from ZealousMom, our dear friend Susanna Barbee.  Susanna is an educator, writer, and woman of deep faith.  Check her out over at zealousmom.com.

It was so cold last night that our front door stuck shut. The temperature this morning was one degree. They are calling it a “deep freeze.” Local schools have closed in an effort to keep children safe from the cold.

As we put our two little boys to bed yesterday evening, I felt so thankful to God for our warm house, yet in a way I felt guilty for having it, knowing that others do not. While we picked out story books and brushed teeth, the boys ran around in their cozy flannel pajamas excited about the snow, oblivious that some people are walking the streets on these freezing nights looking for a place to sleep.

And I want them to be somewhat oblivious, for now anyway. They have plenty of time to worry about themselves and other people.

I know that God works in mysterious ways.  Those words are not actually in the Bible anywhere, and it’s become somewhat of a cliché to say them, but it doesn’t lessen the sentimental or spiritual strength.  There are several Bible verses that allude to God being a hidden God and working in ways we do not understand.

I don’t need proof that God works like this. I have felt it and have seen it in my own life. There have been times where I’ve thought, “Lord, I can’t do this.” But I do it and I pray about it, and eventually, His reasoning comes to light.

So I am sure God is working in a mysterious way when He allows His people to sleep out in the cold on these extraordinarily frigid nights. Perhaps they have not asked for His help. Perhaps they have, and He’s working in a way we do not understand.

We have a local homeless shelter, but it can’t hold everyone, so I know there are people out there struggling to find warmth, warmth on their bodies and warmth in their hearts.

susannaboysAs a mom, I’m quick to think about children during these cold times. Even if they have a house, they may not have heat or firewood. These kids go to school and see their peers dressed in nice coats, talking about ski trips, eating packed lunches with hand-written notes from mommies, while they have no coat, no fun trips, and no sweet notes. This breaks my heart. I ask God, “Why?”

But then I think of the slaughter of the innocents and other times in our history where children were persecuted. And I remember that God always has a plan. As a mere mortal, instead of figuring out that plan, I merely pray that He show it to us sooner than later. I pray that these children at least have someone in their life that loves them, someone who can articulate their dire situation. It saddens me to think that their sweet souls may lose the magic that a young soul deserves to have.

On these frosty nights, as you say your prayers, thank God for warmth and heat and family. And pray for those who do not have any of those things. And especially pray for the children who may have never learned the act of prayer. In the end, we are all one on this earth. Despite our human views and opinions, we must pray for one another, help one another and love one another.

It’s the only way God would want it. And it’s the only path to true fulfillment.

At No Ordinary Women, we believe that God whispers answers and plans to the one He is equipping to do His work. In our beautiful mountain setting of Haywood County, we are approaching 300 homeless children. Is God whispering the answers to you?

Celebrate Normal Times–Come On!

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]ith a new year comes new promises.  We promise to lose weight, stop smoking, cease threatening to ping our children with a frying pan (is that just a Southern mama thing?), keep a spit-shined house, run a marathon, be bigger, better, stronger.  POWER.

Not to belittle the great pop theologians, will.i.am and J-Beebs, but there is something inherently misplaced in our background research when we make these promises. The flip side of each one is a judgment that we are just all wrong.  A promise to lose weight, in and of itself, has no misgivings. It is a choice to live healthier and longer.  Except.

All too often it collapses under the density of shame.  Our resolutions, and promises, and commitments, and New Year; New You statements cause us to implode as we look at every pore of our lives through the highest magnifying lens available.  As we study the flaws and the creases, we begin to see us as only those past bad choices and future foibles. We see ourselves as unworthy.

God doesn’t give us that example.  Let’s travel together to the ORIGINAL New Year’s celebration.  In the first chapter of Genesis, God steps back from the work just finished and declares it good.  Seven times it is said. Like an incantation. Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”

Right now, you’re tapping your foot and waiting for an open moment so you can blurt, “But, I’m not God!  I eat too much peanut butter, and love guacamole, and threaten my children with frying pans, and listen to JUSTIN BIEBER.”  Absolutely, we are human and flawed and our moments of perfection unravel.  Which is why we need to tiptoe past the beauty in the creation of the Sabbath and the garden and intimacy over to Genesis 3.  No sooner had God spoken the beauty of intimacy for humanity than sin slithers in.  Within moments of reading, it all falls apart. Eve falls to temptation. Adam blames Eve. Childbirth becomes painful and hardwork becomes the norm; then Cain murders Abel!

Back in Genesis 1, God knew that these things were going to happen.  God knew that humans would mess the whole stinking thing up.  Paradise was created and beautiful—and then it was shattered.  I’m a science teacher by training, so I fall into counting billions of years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 3:1. Those billions were to God, and to our reading, but like a blink of the eye.  Still, even knowing that it would be messed up, God gives us the example of declaring it good. . . repeatedly.

CelebrateLet’s start doing that. Let’s join together and celebrate the days. Let’s declare them good.  Even though we know that we didn’t finish everything on our to-do lists.  We didn’t lose 10 pounds in one day.  Our kids fought loudly and with venom over who had to say the blessing. Our best plans just unraveled.  Let’s step back and find the good.  Let’s celebrate the moment.  Let’s go into the celebration with full reveling.  I know a psychologist who calls for great cognac in these moments.  I have friends who reserve the best champagne for these times. In our home, these are the moments for homemade guacamole or breakfasts of cinnamon rolls. We serve them on a CelEbrAtE plate that is perfectly imperfect.  None of these are birthdays or anniversaries.  Let’s simply celebrate that it is Tuesday.  And Tuesdays are good.  Let’s celebrate that everyone is seated at a dinner table together.  And dinner is good.  If it’s a desperate day, celebrate that no siblings were murdered.  Take out the fine china. Walking through the front door is a reason for a high five, or a chest bump, or a full out secret society handshake with hip check.  Declare a dance party.  Create a midweek playlist and sing into a hairbrush.  Go old school and play a cd from the start to the finish.  Traipse on back to Genesis 2:31. Order up a piñata. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but choose to declare it as good.

When we take on the mantle of celebration—of declaring it good—we begin to make those important changes in our lives.  Our dedication to health doesn’t change when we feel shame. Our homes don’t straighten up when we’re wondering, “Who lives like this?” We move toward our best selves when we focus on the growth, the success, and the celebration.  As Genesis teaches us, that celebration is when we’re created anew.

What is your Epiphany in 2015?

My brother-in-law, Bryan Sutton, is an amazing talent. He has shelves with statuettes of Grammys and International Bluegrass Music Awards.  He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry.  His guitar playing has been called “masterful”, “joyful,” and “glorious.”

This past Sunday, he answered my parent’s plea and provided the special music to their church’s gathering of about thirty congregants.  He sang a song popularized by the Stanley Brothers to highlight the season leading to Epiphany.

Oh beautiful star of Bethlehem
Shine upon us until the glory dawns
Give us the light to light the way
Unto the land of perfect day
Beautiful star of Bethlehem shine on

His voice and skillful flatpicking highlighted the gifts, skill, and hardwork that have brought him recognition as an industry leader.  His playing was flawless from my pew.  And that talent sets him apart.

Except, he then did something that captured the moment most fully. He invited all of us to join in with him. And, it was in that moment that the song was made perfect.

Often, we think of an invitation, a call, as going out to those with talent, those with gifts, those with previous training, and perfect pitch. Instead, it is the invitation of the flawed to join in with the flawless. The choir of voices, some strained, many off-key, and several hesitant, provides the beauty of the experience. When he invited in our flawed singing, he captured the heart of the song.

And, that’s what Epiphany is all about. Through Epiphany, more are invited. Through Epiphany, the chosen few are no longer.  The invitation is not about hesitation. It’s not about being good enough, talented enough, nor even hardworking enough.  It’s about being guided to the One who has been given the talents. It’s about joining in on the work of the One who leads without flaw.

All too often, however, we focus not on the leader, but on our own doubts and lacks. As a person who was once asked to only mouth the words in a choir, I understand the temptation to shrink away from the invitation to sing. Maybe you pull away from the calling to speak up with your ideas, or to join in a ministry, or to apply for a new position.

When we do that, and we all do, we’re missing the point of the invitation. In Jesus’ work, as in great music, there is no need for us to be flawless.  He has that covered.  Jesus knows fully the power of us joining in on the journey.  As long as He is leading us, with His perfection, we provide the choir of voices that points to Him as the true talent—and He works through our lack of harmony to change the world.

 

 

Where are you holding back?
Where are you invited to join in,
but you’re timidly mouthing the words?
Where are you refusing to bring a joyful noise?
What might Epiphany be telling you in 2015?

guitar