Mountains of Matthew // The Sermon on the Mount and Then Some

 Here is the second installment of my Mountains of Matthew series.

This one focuses on Jesus’ sermon on the mount. However, due to the extensive length of this passage, I am not going to include it all. Feel free to read it all on your own.

Jesus’ sermon begins in Matthew 5 and goes all the way through chapter 8.

The main theme of this mountain is: we must go to the mountain to be taught. 

In this sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches about and touches on a variety of subjects. Coming off the mountain of temptation with the Devil and from an intense forty day fast just a few chapters prior, He is full and ready to pour out His wisdom. He gives the famous Sermon on the Mount, declaring the blessings that are to follow the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who seek righteousness and are persecuted.

From that He moves into topical teaching, leaving almost no topics left unspoken on: Salt and light, fulfillment of the law, anger, lust, oaths, retaliation, loving our enemies, being generous, how to pray, fasting, making eternal investments, anxiety, judging others, how to treat others, spiritual fruitfulness and building a proper foundation of faith. He basically gave us a road map on how to live. Some of the language may seem strange at times but we have to keep in mind the culture and audience Jesus was speaking to.

Out of all those things, one stuck out to me in a way that it never has. I read over the whole portion of scripture in which Jesus was teaching on this mountain and what He decided to teach me about came from His lesson on lust.

So, that’s what I am going to unpack for you today.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:27

Now, now. Don’t freak out and go clicking off this page. I know that is a passage of scripture surrounded with contention and some taboos. It is a bit daunting and to our modern-day culture, its language comes across as extreme. Myself even, up until now,  have found it as a passage I knew about but avoided using because of its language. But, God is always good, always wise and always revealing new things to hearts open to understand. So, as He prompted me to stop on this part for the first time I did.

Being a theology major now, my view on the Bible is changing. A simple thing I’ve learned is about Biblical repetition. Numbers have significance in the Bible as well as repetition, any time you see either of these things, pay attention and look for correlations of wording and or repetition of the numbers. In short, repetition = emphasis.

We see a repetition of basically the same sentence twice in this passage. I bolded them for you to see. It was that repetition that grabbed my attention.

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“For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body to be thrown into hell.”

“For it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into hell.” 

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The only difference to be found is in the two phrases in italics. I looked up the original meanings of each phrase using Blue Letter Bible (wonderful website for helping with more textual studies of the Bible) and this is what I found.

thrown into = Greek: ballo = to be thrown or let go of a thing without caring where it falls.

go into = Greek: aprechomai = to go away, to depart.

Now, after all of that, this is what started to be revealed to me.

Lust comes in many forms.

It isn’t just a term reserved for sexual desires, it is applicable to so many things in our life.

We can lust after relationships (both romantic and platonic), we can lust after jobs, materialistic things, physical appearances, money, status, and yes the lust that this passage mentions.

Lust, in summary is desiring in an unhealthy way. To clarify, there is nothing wrong with having a desire for something/someone. Desire, if used in a healthy way, can be the fire that drives us to succeed in our goals. Desire, if used in a lustful way, can be the fire that drives us to obsession. This is the line that boarders in lust and obsession, healthy desire and unhealthy desire.

Let’s talk about the unhealthy side, the one we all, myself included, struggle with in some respect.

When we lust after things, we are really overlooking our voids and God’s power to fill them for what we have convinced ourselves will fill them. We look past God and into our inner, fallen and selfish selves. We try to fill our voids with money, fun, things and people when in reality, those things may work for a moment, but there is still a hole in our hearts. Lust is the result of the bleeding in our hearts that we haven’t allowed God to heal. Girls seek to fill daddy issues with relationships that lead nowhere, searching for affirmation from a boy who will never fix them. Or for men its searching to be as masculine as possible to overcompensate for the lack of manly guidance as a boy trying to grow into a man. There is a void. We have discontentment in our heats from not feeling significant so we search for significance with materialistic items or through friendships that add absolutely no value to us. There is a void. Our attempt at filling this void shows that we are devoid of handing over a certain area of our lives to God. Lust, at its core, is really just a root of pride and hurt. Pride + hurt = a dangerous combination.

When we seek what we want over what God has planned for us, we encounter a two-step phenomenon. This is why I broke down the different phrases back in the passage. When we first start walking in lust, we’re throwing away what is right for what seems satisfying. As Christians we are ballo, having our trust in God thrown away, without the care of where it falls. This can be momentary or the first step in a long trip down the path of lust. If this ballo continues to happen, if our lust is not stopped, healed or evaluated, we walk into aprechomai,a departing from our trust in God entirely. Unfortunately, a lot of people live their lives in this place. Their wounds have been deep, their past has been painful, their hearts have been bleeding for so long that their lust driven actions have simply become their reality. That hole, that void cannot be filled by the things of earth. I don’t belive that everyone who reads this post has been being eaten alive by lust, but that doesn’t mean that someone reading this post hasn’t or is starting to discover that their heart is being pulled on by lust.

Thankfully, the lust in our hearts is not stronger than the Healer of our hearts.

I love this quote by St.Augustine, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.” 

The first step to overcoming lust in our lives is finding healing in God. Remember how we talked out how lust is a result from a lack of healing? How is it rooted in our fear of handing over that certain area in our lives to the Lord? When we allow God to touch the hurts in our life, they no longer have any more power than what we choose to give them.  Healing starts the process of filling the void. However this time, since we are filling it with God and not the things that we’ve lusted after, the hole will actually stay full.

The second step to overcoming lust in our life is finding contentment in God.

After our wounds have been healed, we can start removing the lustful things because we now have something better to replace them with. Loneliness is replaced with love. Discontentment is filled with deliverance. Hurt finally receives healing. We find contentment in the Lord when we turn over our hurts to His hands, resting in the knowledge that He has the power to turn them into distant memories. When we are living lust driven lives, we push God to the side. Healed lives bring God back in. Start reengaging with God. Read His word, find the verses that go with the things you have struggled with and declare it over your life. Pray it out, it can be easy to trick yourself into believing  you’re alone when you stop talking to the person who never leaves you.

On another note, do what you can in the physical to help aid the contentment process in the spiritual. What do I mean by this? Unfollow that person. Block that website. Block the other websites too. Fast social media. Get a financial accountability partner. Set a spending limit. Say goodbye to that group of people who influence you in the worst way. Go to the gym and work out that anger. Clear out your secret stash, no if ands or buts about keeping anything. Get a mentor who you will allow to speak into your life no matter what. I don’t know what you struggle with, I don’t know what your stumbling block is but here’s the thing, its always going to be a stumbling block until you move it out of your path. Seeking contentment in the spiritual is wonderful, highly encouraged and something that cannot be omitted from the contentment process, but know that there are things in the physical realm you must do to get full healing.

To close this post, know that the Lord was speaking to my own heart while writing this. I have areas of my life that have some prideful hurt within them that I need healing in. If you found yourself recognizing lust in your life over this post, you’re not alone. This week, every morning, I am going to start my day with this prayer and I welcome you to join me:

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Lord, I thank you for this day and all the blessings within it.

Today, help me walk in contentment. 

When the hurts in my heart try to lead me from your satisfying love, remind me of who You are, what You do and what You can do if I let you.

Heal my heart and remove anything within it that stems from lust.

I am healed, I am content and joyful in the name of Jesus. 

Amen.

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Until next time, keep climbing the mountain.

-Maggie

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Mountains of Matthew // Temptation

This is the first of a series of posts that I will be writing as a part of a personal Bible study I’ll be doing in the book of Matthew. I recently learned about how Matthew uses and emphasizes mountains more than any other gospel and that each mention of a mountain has a significant lesson behind it. Take it as a big sign from Matthew saying, “This is some good stuff!”

This may be a bit messy, but hey, that’s really just how my thoughts work.

Below is the portion of scripture that this post is based off of. What is in bold or italics are things that stuck out to me.

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The Temptation. 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

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The main theme of this mountain is: we must go to the mountain to be tested. 

Directly following this entire passage is the passage of scripture that introduces Jesus’ ministry. The header that divides the two passages literally says in my Bible, “Jesus Begins His Ministry.”

I find this to be no coincidence, any time in my life I have felt the call to step out, the enemy happily pranced in and took me to my own mountain of temptation. We’ll just call this phase the bending before the breakthrough.

The enemy attacks many areas of Jesus’ life in his tempting. In many respects, our tempting (or bending) will be very similar to Jesus’.

Twice the enemy acknowledges and tests Jesus’s identity. He questions, “if you are the Son of God..” then do this. This not only questions Jesus’s identity, but His God-given authority. You see, the enemy knows our calling and gifts just as well as God does. He probably knows our value and the magnitude of our calling more than we ourselves know. Because of this, he is going to try to make us second guess those things so we will never have the courage to pursue and grow them. The greatest victory for the enemy is the day he is able to discourage you. I love how both times Jesus has a reply, a response already to tackle the enemies crafty jabs. Why is this? Because Jesus knew who He was and Who’s He was. The evidence of this can be found in the pages of Matthew to come.

Takeaway from this? Don’t forget who you are and to Whom you belong. You ARE a child of God. You have all authority, this includes the authority to tell that darn devil that he can get his temptations and go back to where he came from.

The enemy will also always hit us where we are weak. Jesus had just came out of a forty day fast. The man was hungry and physically weak. Yet, His inner spirit-man was full. So full that when the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, He was willing to go.

Two points I want to make on this: 1.) When we build up our inner man, we can face anything. 2.) The Spirit WILL lead you into the wilderness.

When we focus in on making our spirit strong, not matter our external conditions, we will be able to come through to a breakthrough. When we come to these intentional seasons of being in the wilderness, we can be reminded of the promises of Isaiah 43:19 and James 1:3. God will make a way in the wilderness, the testing of our faith will produce endurance. March forward into your wilderness, take the narrow road and learn the lesson of endurance.

The enemy will tempt our trust and respect of God. Next to discouraging us, another mission of the devil is to make us demean God. If we don’t trust God, we won’t trust our calling. In Jesus’ temptation, the enemy asked Him to throw Himself down because surely angels would save Him. In my opinion , Jesus’ response is certainly appropriate, but while reading I felt like God spoke to me about how Jesus was demonstrating the awareness of free will. Sure, He probably could have saved Himself or had the angels or God step in to save Him, but in the end, just because something can be done, it doesn’t mean it should be done. We can do a lot of things, and often when acting in free will, we won’t always see the results of our actions because of God’s immense grace for us. But that doesn’t mean that our decisions are without consequence. What may seem like nothing in the natural, could be something that takes away from the supernatural calling around us.

What’s the takeaway? Trust God, respect His boundaries and use your free will wisely. 

Lastly, the enemy will tempt your pride. 

The enemy led Jesus up on a “very high” mountain and showed him the vast kingdoms of the world and the riches they possessed. He tempted Jesus with being the owner of them all if He would bow down and worship him. Obviously, this was not a hard one for Jesus to fight, He already has possession over all the kingdoms, He had a hand in creating them! But the message left for us is a big one. Pride must die in us if we want anything of Heaven to be done through us. This is the last tempting of Jesus before He went on to start His ministry. I think the fact of the mountain being “very high” is a fitting term. Have we not heard it said, “First pride, then the crash – the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.” Proverbs 16:18

Pride is the enemy of our calling. When we place ourselves above others and away from humility, it’s a dangerous place to be. If Jesus would have failed this one temptation, it would mean the faith expressed while facing the other two would be ruined. If we fail this one temptation, we can pretty much kiss the breakthrough phase goodbye. Humility is key in the pursuit of our calling. Humility is key in our time on the mountain. Humility is key in  our time in the wilderness. Humility is key when we get out of the wilderness.

Final takeaway? Don’t lose your humility. When the tempting things of life come along, season them with humility, grace and truth. After that, then evaluate. What’s of the Lord will pass through those things; what gets stuck in the process reveals what isn’t suppose to be.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and would love your feedback!

Until the next installment, keep climbing your mountain.

-Maggie

Pieces.

Vulnerable post, because well, I’ve felt pretty vulnerable lately.

College has taught me so much in such a short amount of time, but one of the greatest things its been doing for me is revealing my own character. And despite my best efforts, or what the worlds outside perception of me is based off my actions may be, I’ve seen how deeply selfish I am.

Despite what good deeds I may do in the external, despite the kind words I may say and the nice ways I make others feel, my internal reality holds a much different picture. Selfishness. Pride. Walls lined up all the way around my heart. A love for others that was only halfhearted. An open book with selective information penned for others to read. If there is one thing that’s been painfully revealed to me these past few months is that my inner person is not as lovely, compassionate and healed as I thought she was.

I say all this not to make you think less of me, I say this because I know we live in a society that values and strives to prefect the art of perfectionism. We make our lives picture and caption perfect, showing all the highlights but seldom giving a viewing of reality. Behind the happy dorm snaps I post, inspirational Facebook status and filtered Instagram post, it is so easy for me to hide the hurt that my hearts been carrying.

I digress from that because in the midst of the changes and inner hurts, Gods goodness is still good to me. He doesn’t make vulnerable my heart just to leave it that way. Yesterday as I was writing a long paper for school, the song Pieces by Bethel came on in my suggested YouTube shuffle and it’s words could not have been more timely, peaceful, convicting yet comforting than they were. It was the message I needed that I didn’t realize I needed..

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Unreserved, unrestrained
Your love is wild
Your love is wild for me
It isn’t shy, it’s unashamed
Your love is proud
To be seen with me

You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

Uncontrolled, uncontained
Your love is a fire
Burning bright for me
It’s not just a spark
It’s not just a flame
Your love is a light
That all the world will see
All the world will see

You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

Your love’s not fractured
It’s not a troubled mind
It isn’t anxious
It’s not the restless kind
Your love’s not passive
It’s never disengaged
It’s always present
It hangs on every word we say
Love keeps its promises
It keep its word
It honors what’s sacred
‘Cause its vows are good
Your love’s not broken
It’s not insecure
Your love’s not selfish
Your love is pure

You don’t give Your heart in pieces
You don’t hide Yourself to tease us

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I realized in that moment yesterday that I give my own heart in pieces. My heart is broken, its distrusting, its insecure, it becomes passive when the other party involved seems not to care, it disengages when it doesn’t feel listened to, sometimes it is so over ran by impatience that it is restless, it’s prone to over-thinking, it gets selfish and only listens to the point of its own interests.. I don’t know when I stopped giving it all together to people and places, but I realized yesterday that that was the true condition of my heart.

My hope in all of that revealing?

God doesn’t give His heart in pieces.

And knowing God’s track record of changing my life and the way I live, He won’t let me keep my heart in that condition.

He’s everything that I am not, and He is everything that the people that have hurt me in life aren’t. He can be trusted, He always engages, He is always present, He is always good and sticks to what He said He would do.

My hope in sharing this with you is that perhaps while reading this you discovered you’re giving your heart away in pieces too. If that is you, I pray that you start asking God to help you make your heart whole again, I know that’s one of my new prayers and here are the verses I’m going to start declaring over my life:

“How good it is to sing praises to our God,
    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the exiles of Israel.
 He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
 He determines the number of the stars
    and calls them each by name.
 Great is our Lord and mighty in power;
    his understanding has no limit.” -Psalms 147:3-5 

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”-Revelation 21:3-4

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”-John 14:27

I pray for your heart to be at peace as I start the process of healing for mine. I’m not called to live a life thats anything less than wholeness, and neither are you.

-Maggie

Beneficial Buying List!

Hello everyone!

The Christmas season is upon us again and I am so excited! Last year I made a FaceBook post with a list of business that had suggestions of unique and purposeful products to purchase. I love to make my buying power go far beyond my initial purchase. I love when I know I’m buying something that gives back to someone or even whole communities in need!  This year I’m doing the same, however, I’m adding a lot more to it! In the post below, I have categorized different beneficial businesses for you to buy from with the link and a brief description. Happy shopping and please share so that others can learn about all the awesome businesses below! (P.S. I’m putting a star beside the businesses I have personally bought from. )

JEWELRY 

LEATHER GOODS

BATH 

JOURNALS 

BAGS

  • *Freeset Bags & Apparel: employing women rescued from Kolkata’s largest red light district, recycled sari and jute bags + custom tshirts + high quality scarves, http://www.freesetglobal.com
  • *Esperos: each purchase helps to fund one year of schooling for a child in need, http://www.esperosbags.com
  •         Mulxiply: bags, homegoods & jewelry benefitting surviors of human trafficking, http://mulxiply.myshopify.com/

CANDY 

CLOTHING

  • Garment Collective: ethically sourced, made by survivors of sex trafficking in Nepal, http://www.garmentcollective.com .
  • *Sudara: handmade by women in India rescued from human trafficking,

             https://www.sudara.org/collections/PUNJAMMIES?    gclid=CKD9ovngz9ACFRIlgQod48MNGQ  .

HOME GOODS 

  • *Saribari: beautiful handmade quilts, made by and supporting women rescued from human trafficking in India, http://www.saribari.com

CANDLES 

SHOES

MISC.

It’s Not About Us.

This week, through a conversation with a friend, I was reminded of a ministry story I have from my trip to Italy.

We had been asked to speak at a local church on late notice and I ended up giving an impromptu message along with two of my teammates. After we shared the head pastor took the stage. Even though he was speaking Italian, I could tell what he was saying. Midway through his thank you’s to us, it dawned on me that he was talking about me. He never said my name, but I just knew that he was. He finally stopped to allow the translator to translate and sure enough.. My thoughts became reality, he had been speaking about me and now was asking me to come forward to pray for him to receive a healing.

I was more than happy to do so, however.. In the back of my mind I just couldn’t understand why God would want me to pray for this pastor. Me? Of all the well and wonderful people on my team.. He would single me out.

Now this may not seem like a big deal to you all reading, but let me explain to you why it was a big deal to me at the time. We were in Italy in March and a few months before the trip I had been diagnosed with a condition that zaps my energy when I eat certain foods (gluten mostly). Italy is not a place that is very friendly when it comes to trying to avoid wheat. So all that week I has been struggling with my own need for a healing, even that night my own condition had me feeling unwell. Yet, here I was, in my mind the least person qualified to pray healing for someone being chosen to do so.

Fast forward to this evening. At school we are having a Fall Revival and as we prayed and worshiped, God placed it on my heart to pray for a friend who struggles with insecurity. Just like the story of the Italian pastor, He asked me to pray healing over an area of someone’s life where I, myself, need healing. Insecurity is something I struggle with and something I’m seeking to let go of in this season and yet here goes God again, calling me to do what I don’t feel qualified to do.

In the end it was my experience in Italy that gave me the confidence to pray for my friend tonight. In Italy I fully believe that God pushed that pastor to choose me because He wanted to instill in me a life lesson and that lesson and message is this:

It’s not about us. 

It’s not about the messenger, it’s about His message. 

It’s not about what we can do, but about what He is able to do through us.

He can do so much with our lives. He can use us in the mightiest of ways even despite our past/present situations. He uses the broken, the wounded, the ordinary and the imperfect to do His will and work everyday. Even when we’re fighting battles ourselves, He can use us to help others obtain victory over theirs.

Don’t disqualify yourself today. Don’t look at who you are and what you have and think that He could never use you.

If He can use me, He can use you.

He made a shepherd into a king.

He used a donkey to speak and change a man’s life.

He used a prostitute in the genealogy of Jesus.

Oral Roberts, the founder of the university I attend was a amazing speaker and evangelist and you want to know a fun fact about him? He was born with a stutter.

My pastor failed his public speaking class in college and now he pastors one of the largest mega churches in the south.

God can do so much through our shortcomings, failures and imperfections.. As long as we hand them over to Him with a willing heart.

It’s not about us, it’s about Him.

The moment it becomes about us, I believe we lose the ability to do what He intended us to do.

When we go to pray so that we can get the glory for the miracle, it is no longer is about giving Him the glory.

The moment we go from serving others so that we can make it about them to, serving others for our own personal gain we lose a tremendous amount of blessing.

Be used by Him and for His glory today.

Don’t allow your feelings to get in the way.

No matter how unqualified you feel remember this:

God doesn’t just call the qualified, He qualifies the called. 

And that, my dear friend, is you.

Winter Always Changes Into Spring.

I was in the Chickfila drive thru, waiting to order a frosted coffee (you should try one if you haven’t yet), when I noticed a single rose-bush planted by the sidewalk.

Around me, it was a really rainy and gloomy day. Rain drops danced down my window and the skies were grey and dreary.. Yet, here was this rose-bush with a single, bright pink bloom in the middle of it.

I started thinking about the seasons and how they change. I started thinking about how summer always vanishes into fall and how winter always changes into spring. 

I also started to think about how we experience emotional seasons of life. We have summers, falls, winters and springs. Sometimes life is sunny and carefree and other times its mild with transitions. Sometimes our lives feel as dry, cold and dormant as the winter.. We feel so lonely and isolated that we can’t remember the last time we figuratively saw a ray of sunlight..

Maybe you’re in an emotional winter right now. You lost a job, relationship or loved one and that loss has left you feeling so helpless. Maybe you’re in what seems like a endless blizzard of problems, trials, and pain. Everyday seems like a struggle as you battle your sickness, anxiety, depression or feelings of incompetence.

You’ve felt stuck in this winter, this struggle, this season for so long that you see no hope in sight.

Looking back at the rose-bush, I had another thought. From where I was in my car, all I could see was the single rose blossom. Like I said in the beginning of this post there were rain drops on my windows and the lighting was dim. From that distant, blurry vantage I couldn’t see that the rose-bush was actually covered in rose buds! The closer I got to the bush, the more buds I saw.

Now going back to our emotional winters, often times our perception can be off. We can get so focused on our pain that we can’t perceive that our winter is almost over! That although the feelings of that season are still there, our circumstances are changing.

I was brought to Isaiah 43:19

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not perceive it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

-God

All around the rose-bush were the signs and conditions of winter, yet here it was blooming anyways.. Why??

Because winter ALWAYS changes to spring! Always, always, always!!

Be encouraged today!

You may not be able to see it or feel it, but your spring is coming. For all you know its already here, you just haven’t perceived it yet.

Spring is a season of new life, of growth, of color and joy.

What was dead, dormant, and lost in the winter is about to come back to life! God is going to do something new, He’s already begun!

Never forget that.

Never forget that God is always working things for good in your life.

Never forget that God loves you, cares about you, and is always doing something new.

He’s a God of restoration, revival and renewal.

Never forget that even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.

And never, ever,  forget that winter always changes into spring.

-Maggie

After the Red X Fades.

Yesterday, as most of you saw on social media, was #ShineALightOnSlaveryDay.

For those of you who are not aware of what that is and managed to miss it, it is a movement initiated by the organization END IT  to raise awareness about human trafficking. (Read more about it here, enditmovement.com)

For me, it was really encouraging to see social media overflowing with red X’s and people sharing the overwhelming statistics about human trafficking. I volunteer for an organization that’s working to eradicate trafficking in India and have personally walked into a brothel there and met the men, women, and children who are daily affected by it. My heart broke to see the hundreds of women who day in and day out are treated like an object to be used. My reality was changed when I realized that the young children playing in the brothel alley, would someday (and that someday would be soon) be stripped of their innocence and take on the same life as their parents and probably their grand parents before them. The never ending cycle of abuse would continue, generations upon generations will keep living in that same run down brothel.. Unless, something is done about it. Oh, and the really sobering thing is, that was only one brothel.

 So now you understand why yesterday was encouraging for me. It was wonderful to see so many people take an interest in “ending it” and to see a “light shined on slavery”, but at the same time it was bittersweet.

It was bittersweet to see people so passionate about ending human trafficking yesterday, but knowing that most of them wouldn’t be today. They may entertain a passerby who inquires about the faded red X on their hands and share what they read about human trafficking to them, but it won’t go too far past that. You see today as all the red X’s of yesterday are fading, the deep dark mark of human trafficking is still present. There are still 45 million enslaved around the world and by the time you’re done reading this post depending on how fast you read 10-20 people have just been sold.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that yesterday and the awareness that came with it is great. Really, that is SO awesome that so many shared about human trafficking and that is so needed. But the thing is, to really “end it”, it’s going to take more than just a annual push of awareness.

 It is going to take everyone continuously raising their voice and lending their hands.

It’s going to take on going education and dedication to bring about total eradication.

 It’s going to take people finding their way to fight for the freedom of others long after the red X has faded.

 You might say, “Well Maggie that’s great and all, but how do I fight for freedom??”

I’m about to share with you 5 ways that you can fight for the freedom of others and I pray that each person who reads this will be inspired to take at least one point and do something with it. 

1.) Don’t stop with yesterday.   

 Like I said, raising awareness is SO needed. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” You would not imagine how many people genuinely do not know about human trafficking. Whether it be on a local or global scale, people need to know about it. The way for an issue of this magnitude to go away, the topic of it cannot fade. Maybe for you, its making a weekly or monthly effort to raise awareness. In this day and age our voice can travel around the globe thanks to social media. Set a reminder to make a post centered around the issue of human trafficking and post as often as you can on the issue. It does take more than awareness, but the continuation of raising awareness is an easy way to get involved with ending human trafficking,

2.) Educate.

“We are only as blind as we want to be.” -Maya Angelou

 Truly get educated about human trafficking. It touches many more industries than most realize. It touches the spa industry, it touches forced marriage, organ harvesting, surrogacy, pornography, forced agricultural labor, adoptions, child soldiers, begging, camel jockeys and so much more.

Here are some links to documentaries/videos to help educate you. Be warned once you see what is in these videos, you cannot unsee it. You cannot say that you didn’t know what was happening in the world around you or keep to the “ignorance is bliss” mentality. Evil, once truly acknowledged, demands a response.

It’s A Girl,

The Village of Stolen Kidneys,

 youtu.be/EE6cdPTkD5k

The Innocent Casualties of India’s Surrogacy Industry,

Children for Sale,

Born Into Brothels,

Those are just a couple of documentaries out of hundreds.

3.)Donate.

You may not have to time to run an organization that works to end human trafficking, but there are others out there that do and they need your help!

It takes resources for anti-human trafficking organizations to do what they do. Checkout and maybe begin to support these organizations:

A21 Campaign,

https://www.a21.org/donate.php?linkid=2325

END IT,

https://give.enditmovement.com/solo/donate

Trafficking Hope,

 https://secure.squarespace.com/commerce/donate?donatePageId=544e573de4b0f3ba72f156f2

Project Rescue,

 projectrescue.com/take-action/donate

IJM, http://www.ijm.org/give?c=if-freedom&gclid=CIC4_5b1lcsCFdgGgQodio8JkA

 And lastly the non-profit I volunteer for, Freedom Trade International,

http://www.freedomtradeinternational.org/pages/take-action

4.) Make your purchases matter!

There is a really neat thing called a freedom business that you must know about! They are businesses that employ former trafficking victims and give them a dignified way to generate an income. I’m sure that there are a lot more than what I know of, but here are the ones that I buy from and support:

Sari Bari,

http://saribari.com/pages/about

Sudara Goods,

http://www.sudara.org

Love Calcutta arts,

http://lovecalcuttaarts.com/

 Freeset Global,

https://freeset.us/

Loyal Leather,

http://www.theloyalworkshop.com

+ a few others I have yet to buy from but know about (some are freedom businesses, others donate their profits or a % of profits to anti-trafficking organizations.)..

Blushe Hair,

No-Kink Hair Ties

Legacy Candle Co.,

http://www.legacycandleco.com/

3 Strands Global,

http://www.3strandsglobal.com

& The Tote Project,

http://www.thetoteproject.com/

5.) Volunteer!

If the issue of human trafficking deeply affects you, then find a place where you can actively volunteer to change that issue. Maybe on a local spectrum or internationally, you can use your gift of freedom to fight for someone else’s! The organization I work for is constantly looking for new volunteers, so I am sure that the organizations listed above and the one’s that are around you are looking for volunteers too! Your skill set can be used in a variety of ways, from tech skills, to social media skills, photography, graphic design, and creative crafts skills! You are needed somewhere, because somewhere out there is a person trapped in human trafficking that is waiting for someone like you to come along and rescue them.

Slavery is real, but together we can end it.

In order for #ShineALightOnSlaveryDay to no longer be needed,

#ShineALightOnSlavery day must become everyday.

Until all are free, we must keep fighting and I hope this encouraged you to find your way to fight today.

Will you come with Me?

WANTED

“Bold, brave adventurous souls to accompany me on an exciting voyage.

Final destination? Home.

First few stops? Uncertain, but probably off the maps and charts.

Length of journey? Unknown.

Hazards and dangers? Many.

Cost to you? Your time, money, and maybe your life itself.

Rewards? God alone knows but God alone decides. 

Opportunity? One of a lifetime!

Will you come with me?”

-Christopher Columbus, 1491.

This is supposedly what Columbus posted when he was looking for a crew. He was about to set sail on his first voyage west, a pioneering journey.

I love the spirit in which this was written, it speaks to my adventurous nature and sparks up passion in me to get out there and do something!

Yet, it also speaks to my heart about what God, at some point in our lives asks us..

Will you come with Me?

God has a plan for all of us.

He designed us with just the right talents, temperaments, personalities and gifts that would aid us in the calling He created for us.

He places the gift of our life’s purpose before us, but here is the catch..

We get to choose whether or not we will accept it.

He made us with all those things for a reason, and if you ask Him, He will show you that reason.. But He will not force it upon you.

To walk out your calling, you have to want to.

To live in purpose, you must decide to.

God wants to do amazing things with you and your life, but you have to be open and willing to let Him do those things.

Today, maybe you’re already walking in your calling. God placed it before you and you ran after it with everything within you.

Some of you have been running from your calling. It’s too out there for you, you would have to give up too much to live the way God has asked you to.. God placed your purpose in front of you, but in your mind the cons outweigh the pros, you’re too afraid to say yes to God because it means saying no to yourself.

Some of you may have no idea what your calling is at all..

But, to encourage and challenge all of you today, myself included.. I want to take a look back at Columbus’s ad for a crew and replace the theme with God’s placing an ad for you to accept your calling.

WANTED

Bold, brave adventurous souls to accompany Me on an exciting journey.”

Often times the bravest thing you could ever do is doing what God has asked you to do. We must be bold and brave, our souls relying on God for direction. God’s calling for us is exciting because it is fulfilling. I promise there is hardly any greater feeling you can experience than the feeling of fulfillment.

Fulfillment comes when who we are (who God made us to be) is aligning with what we are doing (what God made us to do). You cannot find lasting fulfillment by doing anything else.

“Final destination? Home.”

As believers, we know our final destination.. Its the place that we can sing of and dream of in the midst of the most challenging circumstances.. Our eternal, heavenly home.

  “First few stops? Uncertain, but probably off the maps and charts.”

When we accept our calling, the path God sets before us appears. But, just because it appears before us, this doesn’t mean it is clear. The uncertainty of what lies ahead is the beauty of what makes our faith strong, our complete trust in our heavenly Father.

The start and finish of our life with God is quite clear; it’s the journey in between those two points that we have the chance to change our world for the glory of the one who created it.

Between those two definite points, there is the chance for God to shape our indefinite lives.

Our stops along the way can be full of freedom, fulfillment, purpose and joy.. We just have to say yes to the journey.

“Length of journey? Unknown.”

“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then it vanishes.” -James 4:14

The length of our life is unknown, we are never promised tomorrow.

Our lives in comparison to the vastness of eternity are nothing but a mist, a morning fog that is here for just a little while..

Knowing that our lives are short, that their lengths are unknown.. Would you be content with the life you’ve lived thus far if you died tonight?

Would you have felt like you accomplished greatness on any scale?

Would you feel like you gave all you had to God in the time you were given?

Would you have left a lasting impact on some person or place in the world?

If you answered no, what are the things you wished you would’ve accomplished?

(The answer to that may hold the key to your calling.)

“Hazards and dangers? Many.”

The things that your calling will typically endanger involves your comfort.

To live a life that makes a difference, you have to let go of the things that don’t really matter .

Your calling will lead you to some dangerous places, spiritually, emotionally, and possibly even physically.. It will lead you to places and things that you cannot control. Your calling will take you out in the waters where the waves are way over your head. But there is beauty in this, so much beauty..

Its when we are in over our heads into our calling that God can take our hand and guide us and where He can take our heart and grow it.

The great thing about being in over your head is that it no longer matters how deep the water is.

Because regardless of how deep the water is, God still stands tall and His love and purpose for our lives is deeper still.

  “Cost to you? Your time, money and maybe your life itself.”

Our callings do come at a cost, I won’t sugar coat it.

When God calls us to one thing, that means He’s calling us away from other things.

 What He calls us to is not always easy, in some respect it will be dangerous because here is a little secret to life..

Anything worth having will always cost you something.  

 To go up in this life, we must be willing to give things up.

Be encouraged though, what we are asked to give up is nothing compared to what we gain. Everything God has ever asked me to give up, He has always returned.

And when He returns it, it is always better than it was when I gave it up.

“Rewards? God alone knows but God alone decides.”

The cost of a calling is so high, because the reward of it is so great.

 We risk so much, but the reward outweighs the risk.

The reward is the chance to live a life that goes beyond ourselves because God’s calling for us always involves others.

 If we live our lives for ourselves, we may gain success for ourselves.

But when we live our lives for others, we gain not just success, but also significance.

A life lived for others will not die when we die, it will out live us because it is still being lived in others, this is significance.

 I promise you, significance will always be greater than success.

“Opportunity? One of a lifetime!”

Is there anything that could be greater than achieving greatness for the One who sent His only Son out of glory so that we might ourselves enter into glory with Him?

The opportunity before us is great, because we have the opportunity to attempt greatness for God!

The opportunity is that God can use us to change the world, if we let Him.

The opportunity is that we can impact lives, save souls, heal hearts, and love those who have never been loved.

The opportunity is making a difference, with people who want to make a difference, doing something that makes a difference at the time God has called us to make a difference!

Within all of us is the longing to know that the world would have been changed in some way when we were no longer in it.

We all long to make a difference, and we all can..

“Will you come with Me?” 

 You can make a difference.

You can live a life that matters..

There’s just one question you have to answer,

“Will you come with me?” -God

Today you’re faced with this question, and God will love you no matter what you answer.

Will you live the life you’re capable of living? Or continue to live a life of mediocre comfort?

Will you accept the calling God has created for you? Will you start impacting the world in the way that only you can? Or will you reject God’s will for you and live a life that’s self centered, pleasing only to yourself and lacking purpose?

The choice is yours.

 Will you go with Him?

Choose wisely.

Jay.

Jay, I want you to know how thankful I am for you.
You taught me so many things about life, love, and people.
You are the one who taught me that just because someone is different, it doesn’t mean that we should distance ourselves.

Just because someone is different, we shouldn’t cast them aside.
Just because someone looks different or talks different we shouldn’t disqualify them.

  They doctors said you had disabilities, in my opinion they were in some ways advantages.
Your mind couldn’t reach certain depths, it was childlike and kind. You saw past color, and exterior things on the matter of appearances. You didn’t even judge the character of others, you didn’t see anything other than a person who you knew or didn’t know yet and saw them as a friend.

You’ve taught me so many lessons on that. You showed me how to love. You showed me how to smile and to be brave even in the most painful times. You exemplified strength and joy like I have never seen again in my life. Even on the days I could see you were falling, you were still fighting.

I miss you. I miss the little things you would say or the way you’d complement a complete stranger. You could bring a smile to anyone’s face. Can I be like that one day? Can I be as carefree as that? I want to. You showed me how to. I miss your jokes and your laugh and the way you’d dance around the tv. I miss your hugs and kisses and the sweet things you’d say to me. I miss your “I love you’s” and the “I missed you’s”. It’s sad to me that there will be people down the road in my life that won’t have the privilege to know you. They won’t have the chance to learn from you like I did.

Since they won’t get the chance to do that, I promise to teach them. I promise to show them that special needs kids are special in the fact that we have so much to learn from them. I promise to show them that love knows no color, no sickness, no boundaries or limit.
I promise to teach them about a world of different people, and how you had a place in it.

I promise.

-Maggie

Even so, it is well with my soul.

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.”

It Is Well with My Soul is a well-known hymn. I myself have turned to singing it many a time when things were not at all well with my soul. It’s such an inspiring song, but once I found the story behind it, I was in awe.

The man who wrote it is Horatio G. Spafford.

He wrote it in the 1870’s following two tragic life events.

When the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 occurred, it burned down his home. To bring a time a rest and joy to his wife and two daughters, he promised them a cruise to Europe. On the day of the cruise, Horatio had an important business matter that needed his immediate attention so he told his wife and daughters to go ahead without him. On the way to Europe, the cruise ship sank. He received a telegram from his wife reading two devastating words,

“Saved alone.”

Grief stricken by the loss of his daughters, Horatio caught the next ship to Europe to be with his wife during that painful time.

As they were almost to Europe, the captain of the ship called Horatio to his cabin. The captain proceeded to tell him that they were sailing over the spot where the cruise ship, and now his daughters both rested.

Overcome with emotion, Horatio went back to his cabin and began to write. From the pit of his grief and overflow of his heart he wrote these precious lines,

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.”

Today, no matter what trials or problems you’re having to walk through, let it be well with your soul.

For every battle the devil is raging against you, you already have the victory in the power of Jesus’ blood.

Whether it be the pain of grief, the loss of a job/relationship/opportunity, fear, discouragement, loneliness, or anything else that is troubling your soul..

Remember God is good and He has promises for us.

He doesn’t promise an easy life, in fact He tells us to expect trials. He does however promise that He will always be with us, that He will guide us and protect us, and that He is always working out everything for our benefit.

Let us take on the attitude of Horatio, believing no matter if peace like a river comes our way or sorrows like a large sea wave crashes against us..

No matter what happens, through our faith and trust in God..

Even so, we will know it is well with our souls.