GUEST BLOG: Squats, Truth, and Lies

Soul-Filled Saturday

 

 

I’ll say, ‘I strap this yoke on and go up and down and up and down ‘til it hurts and that’s no problem because I throw that freaking weight down when I want to because I am choosing which yokes I put to my service. Because I am free. I belong to Jesus. And his yoke is easy.’

Squats. That’s the exercise I hate. And I don’t say this lightly because I like to stay positive about hard work. In fact, I generally refuse to complain about any single part of bootcamp since I choose to be there and am grateful for the privilege. So even when I feel like complaining, I focus on staying engaged.
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GUEST BLOG: Lions and Tigers and Boldness

Soul-Filled Saturday

Boldness with God is a challenge. In our youth, we occasionally might have thought of God, just a tad, as the face of the “great and powerful Oz,” flashing with rage and condemnation as we approach the throne. That hallway to the throne of Oz seemed pretty long to Lion and he bailed. We sometimes feel the length of that perceived hallway to God’s throne and do the same. I believe this is because we are familiar with our smallness and the words in scripture which remind us of it. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? God to Job. Chapter 38 verse 4. Read on if you dare.

Another problem is, when we think on God’s might and power and authority, we often mix in our past experiences of what that means: Our parents on a bad day, for example, letting their crazy shine before all humankind while they command our cooperation. I have wielded my crazy before my offspring and I often think, later, tail between my legs, that I better make sure my kids aren’t transferring that mess to God. God is perfectly wild, perfectly authoritative, and commanding without shame. God calls it like it is, and sometimes that makes us tremble.

But, and this is big, we don’t have to be afraid to be ourselves in front of that kind of creation power. The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8 ESV). Have your closest companions said that about you when your intensity is on full display? Who but God commands such strength and yet is our one dream-come-true for comfort and acceptance

The awe we hope to muster is the same kind, on a smaller scale, that one would have for giant waves in Hawaii. If you are just purely afraid of surfing them like most normal people, you won’t get to shred them up and appreciate their tubularness. (Cringe, real surfing buddies at my shameful lack of coolness. I am the mom of a teenager and it is an artform I enjoy).
Think about those waves. Don’t you, just a little bit, envy the surfer? If she gains the skill and courage to try, she can be right in the center of their crystalline power. It takes some outright child-like trust to go there. Otherwise no one would do it. No one would get on the surfboard, and no one would go down the hallway, and no one would pray. And n
o one would know how real the love is, how easy the burden is, and how light.Boldness is welcomed by the God of Creation. He prefers it to milquetoast. That means yelling at him can’t hurt him. That means grief is allowed for as long as it takes. That means confession. That means ugliness and fear and cowardice are handed over to him. Let him take it from you. The hallway is short. The compassion is great. The waves are safe.

GUEST BLOG: Moving to the Heart of Protest

Soul-Filled Saturday

Churches being torn apart… people being torn from faith…These are always places where God can shine through and bring healing.

Many, many people are seeing communities, businesses and churches torn apart.

It’s happening all over the globe.

And wait, it has been happening forever. Let’s talk about church.

Schism is the birthright of the Protestant church, right? Know your church history? Martin Luther called out the authorities on their abuse of power and said, “In Jesus, we all have the freedom to speak freely with our Creator.” The Church (the only one at the time – powerful in more ways than we are used to) didn’t like it one bit. A lot of nasty stuff happened after that which ML never hoped for. The Protestant church was born. (See the word “protest” in there?)

Protest can be straight from the heart of God. He wants us free and he wants us to protest anything that keeps us from our freedom to worship and/or our freedom to live lives reflecting his gifts.

But protest can be too much, too soon, too far and wrongheaded. (Methinks thou protesteth too much!!) Protest is often used to cover our weaknesses. It often comes from a slithery place instead of a light-filled one. And in our woundedness we can’t always tell the difference.

Protest often comes from pride or lack of experience .

Division, schism and multiplication can look like a baby in the womb whose cells are dividing into perfect life and growing larger or it can look like cancer.

Churches being torn apart… people being torn from faith…These are always places where God can shine through and bring healing. But protest and division are not always from God’s heart. As women, we must rise to leadership on the wings of heaven, not on the newest slick saying or argument.

Be wise, women.

GUEST BLOG: Supple Soulfulness

Soulful suppleness is sooooo much more lovely than our checklist and our accomplishments.

Women just want to be superheroes. We want to be gorgeous and captivating, smart, kind, and capable in all the areas of life we are responsible for. We want to be witty whizzes and have fun doing it. We secretly want to be the best but we say we are our female friends’ biggest supporters.

One of our greatest obstacles to superhero status (other than the fact that no power comes from within us, but from beyond us), is all that “shoulding” we do all over the place. The should-pile is beginning to stink to me.

We love to tell people about our belly rolls and how we should get rid of them. We commiserate about our messy homes like just-breaking-news (when they aren’t really messy and especially when they are) as if “shoulding” will somehow elevate us beyond the voice of the inner critic.

We tend toward legalism by starting new “plans” to overcome areas of chaos in our lives.

But the most important question is not about our do-gooding. It is: are we listening?

A prayerful life-listener know when the tasks come first. She also knows when the beauty of the mountain sunset comes first. She knows she needs to feed on beauty to be healthy. She knows she needs to hear the wind and the crow and the rain. She knows which day to skip the laundry for a cuddle with that precious little one. She knows when, even though she may be devoted to healthy foods, it is a nachos and beer night.

Soulful suppleness is sooooo much more lovely than our checklist and our accomplishments.

Listen, sister. Listen.

The thing that makes you beautiful and perfect comes from the outside, enters your being, and shines back out. Do you want to appear like a list to others – all choppy and hard-lined and striving?

Or like a flowing river over rocks and moss, glistening and tumbling toward the sea?

 

GUEST BLOG: The Gift of Wings

Only…. Jesus has called us to do only one great thing in his name: love one another.

 

I have heard it many times before. Someone has endured an injustice. Their life is forever altered. Their understanding of who they are and what they have to offer – or even who they have been – is damaged. They know that speaking out will help others. But they are either afraid of speaking out because of continued grief or harassment, or they are afraid of hurting those who have done the damage. So they keep silence.

I have also heard this many times before: Someone gets hurt. They are angry. They give up on trying to maintain their ideals. Perhaps forgiveness, hope, faith and courage are too far out of reach. Anger, retaliation and revenge are close at hand. They lash out and harm either the one who did the damage, or someone else who got in the way. They refuse to be “the wounded.” So they become the wounder.

Finally, I have also heard this far, far, too many times. The one who did the damage was… the church. The supposed Church of Jesus Christ. The faithful. The salt and light.

And maybe the harm was even done in the name of God – and defended as righteous.

Only…. Jesus has called us to do only one great thing in his name: love one another.

Most forms of church hurt are not nuanced versions of love – no matter how they are painted by the wounder.

I have been the wounded. Stories of being the wounded (and the wounder) are for another day.

This week I have been in a deep spiritual recovery.

It is a long journey and I had a little break. I seemed to be better – healed. Until I was offered the chance to love a part of the body of Christ again – to leap and fly – to trust that it can be better with prayer to a mighty God who knows I need strength and wings and will provide them.

You, too? Burned? Hurt? Wings clipped? Chopped off, Maleficent? Your story isn’t over.

Your fear and caution are healthy. One cannot fly, after all, without wings.

The question to begin asking now is whether those wings, sheared in such an untimely way, were given by those who committed the brutal act. Who gave the wings? And in our pain, have we attributed their gift to the wrong giver?

The church most certainly did not give us wings. The wings were given by God. To serve the church. No matter how broken. I know your pain. But I am convinced that nothing, not even the church, can separate us from the love of God. And even the church needs our wings.

To be continued….

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

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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?