Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sunday's coming...

Picture the most beautiful place you've ever been, here on Earth, and now imagine that this is a place where there is no more pain, no more death, no more violence, anger, sadness, worry, anxiety, hunger. What awaits you is love, freedom, joy, happiness, fullness, satisfaction, laughter. If you've ever lost a child, that child is there and will run to you, perfect in every way, waiting to love you and reconnect with you. I picture my grandmother in a glorious new body, just like when she was in her youth. I can see her sitting in the most wonderful English garden surrounded by flowers, in full bloom all year round. Who can you picture in heaven waiting for you? The God who created us, who created the world, wants us to return to heaven to be with Him. Death here on Earth isn't the end, it is just the beginning. Life here is the proving grounds, our battlefield, where we are tested and tried through trials and tribulations. God gives us the tools we need to get through to the other side to be with Him forever, but He needs us to turn to Him and accept His help, His love, His guidance, His wisdom, and most of all His Son, Jesus. All He needs from us is love but we have to give it freely, it has to be a choice that we make of our own free will. Do you want your husband or wife or child to love you only because they are forced to do it? Is that love? God wants our love, He can't force it on us and I wouldn't want Him too. He is there waiting for you to turn to Him. It doesn't matter where you are in life, it doesn't matter what you've done or who you love. Nothing can disqualify you for receiving that love and forgiveness, except to reject that love and forgiveness. No one is perfect. No one gets it right all the time. All of us have issues, problems, and things that we think get in the way of God loving us. You need to know right now, that God loves you more than you can imagine just because He created you. He loves you right where you are today and He always has. Our soul yearns for that perfect love and the way we go after that perfect love can be very destructive. Money, beauty, fame, success, health, longevity, clothes, cars...none of those things bring lasting joy to us. We chase after the American Dream, or the dream from where ever you live, but it never satisfies our deepest desires to belong, to be accepted, to be loved, to be cherished. What is your dream? A big house, a car that never breaks down, kids who obey the first time, a partner that responds to your every need, a positive balance in your checking account, taking trips around the world, being loved unconditionally, finding your soul mate? God created us to live in the most perfect place imaginable. It is written on our hearts, that is why we long for it but we never know how to make it happen. We strive in life for the best but it will never, ever satisfy us the way God can. Jesus sacrificed His life for you so that you can go to heaven and live in that perfect place. There isn't anyone here on this planet that can complete you the way Jesus can. He knows exactly what you need and He loves you and He knows your deepest secrets, you know, those secrets that you will never utter to anyone alive. The mercy of God is like this: When you turn to Him and ask for His forgiveness, everything you've ever done wrong is wiped away and all He sees when He looks at you is love.

This is a picture of heaven from the book of Revelation 21:1-5 The New Heaven and The New Earth:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

This life isn't all there is. God gives us a hope for the future, for eternity. Our bodies will pass away but our spirits will never die.

Instead of living a life devoted to the things that bring you pain, live a life devoted to the ONE who gave you life and loves you freely.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 5th Trafficking Awareness Event

On April 5th, I was a part of a human trafficking awareness event at the Manadarin United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Fl.  The event was organized by Nancy Rushton, the President of the Mandarin United Methodist women.  Nancy has been doing so many things to educate the Methodist Women about trafficking and modern-day slavery!

April 5th UMC MandarinHere is the table that I set up for this event.  I baked brownies and I created a new cookie recipe, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookies.  I planned on making my signature cookie, Delightful Oatmeal Cookie, but I ran out of AP flour and I forgot to buy raisins!  I ended up using whole wheat flour instead and they came out really good!!  I also had samples of the Fair Trade ingredients that I use, set up on the table.  Of course all of my ingredients are organic!
There were a lot of other tables set up by various organizations that are operating in Northeast Florida.

Shop to Stop Slavery table My friend Robin Rossmanith had a table set up for her website, Shop To Stop Slavery.  Her website is an awesome resource for consumers to find products that are ethically produced and slave-free.  You can find things from sports equipment to jewelry on her site.  It is really helpful for holiday shopping ideas!

Reading for Awareness UMC Book Club Reading For Awareness is a book club that Nancy has started as a way to engage the members of the community and raise awareness about slavery.

Slavery awareness books These are a few of the books that were there.  Gary Haugen from International Justice Mission and David Batstone from Not For Sale wrote several of the books in this selection.

City Rescue MissionCity Rescue Mission is located in Jacksonville and they focus on helping the homeless get off of the streets and get their lives in order.  The homeless are the most vulnerable for being trafficked into slave labor and sex-trafficking.

DCF Refugee Services Program Jacksonville has a Refugee Services Program through DCF, the Division of Children and Families.  This service helps victims of trafficking receive the help they need to stay in the country, if they are foreigners and they help survivors locate services to help them become contributing members of society, from medical care, to housing, and jobs.

World Relief Jacksonville World Relief Jacksonville works with DCF and other government agencies to provide refugees and survivors of trafficking with various services.  World Relief in a world-wide agency that does some amazing things to help those oppressed by others.

I didn't get a picture of the Made By Survivors table :-( but Sarah Symons, Executive Director and Founder set up a table as well.  Made By Survivors provides women in India and elsewhere around the world the opportunity to be gainfully employed and learn a trade in order to provide for their families.  This gives these women a chance to get out of the cycle of poverty and out of a life in brothels and red light districts.

Transitions Global Last but certainly not least is Transitions Global.  Seth Johnson, their Jacksonville Advocacy Director, set up this table.  Transitions provides aftercare to girls rescued from trafficking in Cambodia.  They also provide support and a template for other organizations that establish aftercare facilities in other countries.  They do amazing work and have a very high success rate for rehabilitating these children from the pain and suffering they endured in the sex slave trade.

I didn't get a picture of the guest speaker, Crystal Freed.  She is a lawyer here in Jacksonville and a integral part of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force, NFHTTF.  She is an effective communicator about the plight of sex-trafficking victims.  She participates in speaking engagements around the city of Jacksonville and she works tirelessly to inform and educate others about being vigilant and observant to what is going on around them.  Crystal encourages the community to work together to protect children from predators and to spread the word about trafficking. Here is a news story about Crystal and the NFHTTF

I feel honored to have been invited to share in this event.  The people that are a part of this community of abolitionists here in Jacksonville are awesome and inspiring.  There are other organizations that were not represented there but they are all doing some amazing work!

Remember, together we can make a difference!