Sunday, November 2, 2014

Bodies are Not Commodities

Last week I did an interview with a local news station about human trafficking. I did this in light of an extremely traumatic event that took place in my life in January of this year. I have taken a long time to talk about this incident because of the impact it had on my personal life. I realized, however, that this is now a part of my story, and my story needs to be told. When life hands you unsettling events, It is often because you are to use that opportunity to talk for those who do not have a voice. Because the interview is short, I decided to write this blog as to tell the full story. 
This January I had the opportunity to travel to London and Paris for some missions work/sightseeing. I was so incredibly excited to go because my dearest friend, Tiffany was going, along with her parents (that I adore), and our missionary/evangelist friends Mark and Susie. Although we arrived first in London, all Tiffany and I could think about was our day trip to Paris the last day of our trip. We’d seen Paris our entire lives in such a romantic light, we even planned all our outfits around the day we went to Paris. We wanted to look extra special that day. 
After we disembarked our high speed train to Paris, we were greeted with a group of women from a local church that were going to help us navigate the city. Our train let off on the top floor of a building that also housed an underground metro station. Europe is built up and around so many historic buildings and monuments that the infrastructure we are so used to in America, with roads and parking garages, is virtually inexistent. Because of this it is common, and expected, that we will do most of our traveling and touring via the subway system. I have traveled in several subway systems in Europe, but without question, the Paris system is the hardest to navigate with many tiny halls, and SO MANY PEOPLE. (Paris is much bigger population wise than I ever imagined) As we descended the escalators into the metro station, a tall, dark headed, Albanian man tried to say something to Tiffany. When she replied back in English, it was clear that, not only did we not speak french, but we were American. He continually looked back in our direction, winking and making nonverbal flirtations. This is very typical, European male, so you don’t really think a lot about that type of thing. We struggled to keep up with our guides through the maze of halls, and when we got to our first train, he got on the same car with us.
What followed is almost completely a blur to me because I went into something of a state of shock. I am so thankful for my friends recounting the events to me following the event. What I can testify to, however, is the feeling that I had. I have never been more terrified, or scared in my entire life. And this fear is like nothing I have ever felt. Not like a fear of heights or airplanes, but a full on dread, as if something almost demonic were going on in the situation. 
Each subway had probably six or seven cars, and each train made up to 15 stops. It is highly unlikely for someone to get in the same car with you, then follow you around to your next train. When we got off the first train after our stops, the young man got off with us. We went through another maze to get to our next train and that is when Tiffany’s mother, Edie, noticed that the young man had gotten on that train as well…and he had gathered a friend. They stared at us with dead stare like they were hunting their next victims for another 10 stops or so. The subways are so packed that often we would have to split up the group to make room. it was very easy to get separated from one another, or to miss your stop. When they got off with us, they met up with a third Albanian man and followed us to our last stop. 
It is difficult to describe how hard it is to keep up with a group moving fast through a Paris Subway station, but imagine trying to walk down the stairs at a major league sporting event AFTER the game is over. It is nearly impossible, yet they had set their mark and got on our third subway car. At this point these young men were making absolutely no attempt to hide their glares. This car was much less crowded than the other two. At this point my heart is racing, we are both tearing up, and I get the most nauseous feeling in my stomach, as if I am going to get sick. The adults formed a circle around us and began to pray. Tiffany’s mom looked at the young men and screamed “NO!” I truly believe we were fighting a spiritual battle in that moment, because they got off at the next stop. 
When we got out of the subway, neither Tiffany or I wanted to stay in Paris, we begged to go back to London. I had to stop when we finally got off the street because I thought I was going to be sick. We met up with a local pastor later that day and asked him about what happened. He said that we had come face to face with a sex trafficking ring, that this happens all the time in Paris. We were targeted because of being American, how we dressed and did our makeup, and because Tiffany was blonde. Europeans are not targeted nearly as much because American’s bring a higher price. The justice system is very perverted because of the money involved in the human trafficking business, with many government officials even being involved. The young men also change hands with other men quickly, many times before they even get the women out of the station, so tracing the victim to the captor is near impossible. 
There is one person brought into sex trafficking in the world every 30 seconds. There are more slaves on earth at this time than any other time in human history! I truly believe that human trafficking is the 21st century holocaust and I want to tell my story and share with the world that I am “in it to end it.” 
I have been so incredibly moved by the work and ministry of Christine Caine and the A21 campaign. They are bringing these captors to justice and rehabilitating the young women who have been thrown into, what Tiffany described as, “A fate worse than death.” I have made the decision to become as involved in this fight as I can. I encourage you to be aware of what is going on in our world, fight back, lift up the plight of the voiceless in prayer, and join me. Human trafficking stops here. It stops here because that easily could have been my best and myself. 
In closing, I’d like to end on a humorous note. My parents took both my sister and myself to watch the movie Taken when it was released a few years ago. We were both traveling overseas without them and they wanted us to be aware of what goes on. Of course, at the time, it just seemed like a Hollywood movie, and I never thought something like that could happen to me. This was so close to the experience that Tiffany and I had, it still gives me chills.  Two girls travel to Paris and are greeted at the airport by a handsome Albanian man named, Peter. Peter shares a cab with the girls, gets their address, then proceeds to bring men back to abduct the girls. 
When I got off the plane in London, I had a text from my dad reading, “Don’t get in the car with Peter.” He proceeded to tell me if something happened he would try to get me, but he didn’t have the same set of skills Liam Neisen had in that movie. Touche Dad, Touche. Luckily… we didn’t get in the car with Peter, and because of that…we are telling our story. 
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary,
they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,
 and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Twenty-Five Again?

Ever since my twenty-sixth birthday, I have been living a lie... a lie that, although another year is added to my life, somehow I plan to remain twenty-five. Why twenty-five? Well twenty-six sounds too close to thirty, and let's not even start to think about the dreaded twenty-seven. Imagine then, will you, how I am feeling facing the terrifying twenty-eight this week. Do you realize that means that somehow next year I will be one year away from the three-decade mark? Surely I've mixed up the math somewhere...I refuse to believe this is the truth. I mean I don't look close to thirty. I don't act close to thirty. And I certainly am not where I thought I would be at the age of twenty-eight....key word in that phrase I...

That being said, this time of year inevitably brings a standard amount of contemplation to the current state of affairs in the life of Miss Bre. (yes, almost twenty-five again, still a Miss) Some of these things bring me optimism, others, inevitably doubt, or regret, or feelings of fear or failure. I generally start making a list of things I've failed at in my feeble perception of what reality is, what the truth is, and start vowing to change. (these vows, of course, bring on compulsive behaviors of their if I am not allowed to eat sugar, or spend money on clothes, or any other number of vices after my birthday strikes 12 am July 7th)... beating myself up over expectations that have placed on myself.

It's a vicious cycle 
           ....and it's going nowhere.

I live in a generation that is obsessed with speed. Obsessed with information overload, of rushing life, and then we are miserable when the "quick fix" we seem to have found isn't everything we hoped it would be. You can use any example you want of this phenomena, but I want to take a few minutes and talk to you about my favorite subject, the think that keeps me awake at night, the thing that brings me untold amounts of misery, the thing that I will never stop believing in, regardless of how many times I fall down...and it's worth examining again at twenty-almost-eight...


I'm a cheerleader for love. I believe love is the answer, and love always finds a way. Now before you get carried away and judge me, or think I'm talking about some teenage feeling that is synonymous with infatuation, let me explain...

I'm not perfect. I never have been, I never will be. For years, however, I was of the opinion I was pretty close. I did everything church told me to do, I read my Bible everyday, and I loved Jesus (or I thought I knew what that meant). When I went to college I studied systematic theologies, I knew what all the great theologians of the church had said about Jesus, I knew what the disciples said about Him,I knew what my parents, my church, and my culture had said about Him... but I had never really answered the question for myself, What will I do with Jesus, who do I say Jesus really is?

It is the question that defines your life, and somehow, in the midst of leading worship and preaching to others, I'd never given account for who I really believed He was. I'd never needed to. My life had been nearly perfect from the outside...until one day...I really needed God.

I've often spoke of my college years and the turmoil that happened both in my physical body, my mind, and my relationships. I found myself away from God, my family, and any real connection with truth.

I'd go into a rampage or other outrageous behavior so 
quickly and smoothly that no one, 
least of all myself,
could do anything to stop me before I'd ruined the situation
completely. (relationships, finances, opportunities)
Problems I kept thinking would eventually go away,
kept getting worse every year (relationships) was though I was addicted to my own pain

...In those days, it never occurred to me to ask for a miracle.

I remember one night in my dorm room, literally lying on my floor, waling at what had become of my life. I was in an incredibly abusive relationship that I was convinced I could never get out of, I'd had a doctor told me I'd never sing or publicly speak again, and it seemed like all my plans were falling apart. I remember, in that moment, crying out to God.

I believe a certain amount of desperation is usually necessary before we're ready for God.

Once you've had enough you can't do it anymore, you consider the possibility that there might be a better way...That's when your head cracks open, and God comes in. 

Until your knees finally hit the floor, you're just
playing at life, and on some level,
you're scared because you know you're just playing.
The moment of surrender is not when life
is over..

it is when it begins.

I picked myself off that floor and made a decision to listen for the voice of God. I'd been ignoring Him, afraid of what He might say to me. And I was expecting a rant on how much I'd failed Him, my family, my church, myself...but that wasn't what I got. I didn't get a discourse on the atonement or a detailed description of a literal Hell...

I opened my heart to God, truly, honestly, and brokenly...
        perhaps for the first time in my life...
                    And LOVE rushed in.

I expected, I deserved judgement, but what I got was unconditional love.

For years I'd viewed God as a principal, someone waiting for me to mess up so I could crawl back to forgiveness, but I knew nothing of the actual character of my God.  

When Christ was asked what the greatest commandment was, He answered in Luke 10, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, you soul, mind and strength," then He went a step farther, "the second is like unto your neighbor as yourself." 

I remember reading that and thinking, "I can't love my neighbor as myself...because I hate myself." I'd had so many terrible names spoken over my life, and I battled them in silence. Many from others, some from the voice of the enemy as I laid on my pillow at night. I'd been called insignificant, ugly, a failure, fat, untalented, unusable, unlovable,and not good enough. 

And somehow I'd allowed those voices, those names, those titles, to become louder in my mind than the voice that whispers in all our ears our true names the moment we are born. The name only our God knows, "You are my greatest miracle, you are the greatest miracle in the world." But I hated myself. I couldn't stand the moments sitting in front of my mirror getting dressed in the morning for class, forced to stare at someone that had went to every possible human measure to make man love me, to feel accepted. 

       It was at that moment I realized...I hadn't really
          been loving God...And that broke my heart.

For years I'd loved God because I was supposed to, not necessarily because I knew what love was, or that I needed my Lord. In that moment of desperation, however, I realized that the joke of a relationship i was in was not real love. (lord knows I'd tried to convince myself somehow, in some twisted way it was.) And maybe God's plan for me could be as simple as this...

               Bre, I love you enough to lay down my life for you.
                  Glorify me in your life by bringing love into the 
                     World I've created...start with Me, then move
                       to loving yourself, because I have never 
                         Stopped loving you.
                      Then, extend that extension of Divinity inside
                    You, to your family, to your church, to your 
                  Friends...And finally you will have the ability 
              To accept true love, true acceptance from someone else

I spent my life over complicating God, writing 20 page papers on theology, and trying to sound smart when it came to the nature of the Creator. But in the moment I really needed Him, He spoke to me in terms a preschooler could understand. I remembered those thoughts I had as a child about God, His goodness, His dependability...and I tried in some small way, to return to that way of thinking.
1 John 4:8 reads, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

What a crazy, mixed up thought...When god was speaking to me, I in no way resembled the "Christian" I'd been brought up to be, with all the rules, regulations, and labels. God was calling me back into His Kingdom with one word...Love. 

In a lot of ways I don't think I had healed from hurt that had happened in my life as a teenager. People antagonizing everything about my life, looking and hoping I'd fail. The sickness that threatened to take my voice. The loss of my cousin and my aunt in their tragic deaths. The years battling various eating disorders, begging for carnal beauty. But God was calling me to the answer, and the answer, His answer, can always be found in His identity..."Love."

The love I speak of has nothing to do with human emotions, and everything to do with the ultimate sacrifice of a perfect God that looked beyond every fault I would ever have and saw my need for redemption, and my capacity for love. Nothing can separate us from God's love. It can heal the world. It can change revolutionized mine.

But then there is human love...
    You know, the stuff of movies....
        The stuff of fairy tales....
             The stuff of our dreams....
                  The hope of a "happily ever after"....

And the quest for that love has made me a miserable, depressed, wreck for at least the last fifteen years of my life. (I should have laid low on watching tried to convince me you could find your one true love, on a sinking ship, in 3 hours...and you've got mail...never try to find true love on an internet chat room)

Everyone wants to find that one person, someone that can make you happy beyond belief, accept you and your insecurities, your flaws, and your past. Someone you can love without any reservations, and without thought to yourself or your own happiness...and the kicker, they feel and reciprocate that same love back. Perhaps the greatest desire isn't even for some emotion, but acceptance, the sense of belonging, of security...and it's Biblical. 

We serve a God of order. 
It is no mistake or coincidence that after
God created the world...with everything man would need to
survive, He created us.
And immediately God saw in the human condition
that being alone was not enough, 
so he created the first marriage, the first family,
the first love story,
the first set of best friends...and He said it was
"Very Good."

Maybe if God still offered matchmaking services we'd all be set and not have as many broken hearts??? here's dreaming. 

Here's the thing about human love is dependent on humans. Not only do you have to be in a place to receive it, you must create a space in your life to accept it.   

For years I was plagued by insecurity. I was convinced that I didn't deserve real I dated whoever would have me. When you are plagued by insecurity, you will attract those who will prey on your insecurity. So I dated men who told me I would never find anyone else, that no one would ever love me, that hurt me, abused me, that used me. Then, when I finally broke free of the bondage of that stronghold, I'd waste my life on whoever would give me any attention...I had no standards, no regulations... 

      This is just for fun.
         I won't actually marry him.
            I can get out of this at any point.
                And the dates turned into weeks, that turned int
                    months, that turned into years.  

I don't think a lot of us put enough stock in what a big deal relationships are. Especially romantic ones. When God wants to talk about the relationship He desires and yearns to have with His creation, how does He go about it? He talks about marriage, He talks about the relationship between man and woman...and that should give us a clue that marriage, that relationships...are a really big deal to God.

Then, at some point, I realized that being single was better than being alone in a relationship. That honesty with myself was better than trying to convince myself someone that wasn't right for me could somehow work... and that maybe, just maybe, the statistics didn't have to be true. That love really could last forever. That real love exists. That love didn't have to be hard. I didn't have to fight with everything to feel like I mattered. That, when it's right, it will be easy. And that I didn't have to change who I was to be worthy of it.

Even though I've always been a hopeless romantic, I think society has convinced us that the way it looks won't be like the movies. Maybe he won't have time for you, maybe he'll cheat on you, maybe that's okay? Maybe you don't need to get married? Maybe you just need to settle for "this will do."

           And I've tried it all.

Then, at the end of yet another long-term relationship that made me feel more alone than being the recluse that I normally am, I had an epiphany:

          What if Love is real, but I'm the problem?
             What if I am blocking the miracle in my life?

And it hit a ton of bricks. I'm the problem. It's time to make a decision to say yes to love, and to create a space that may cost my time, my energy, and my say yes to love. become the type of person worth unconditional love, of sacrifice, of time of another human being. And not some silly boy that doesn't have a clue about what he wants, but a real man, someone to build a life and future with. Something that could glorify God by being an example of His love, made known to the world in a real, physical way?

....because in loving others, we see God...because we are all Children of God. 

So I decided to make a change. Lord knows everything I'd ever tried hadn't worked before, and to open myself up to a miracle in my own life. To ask God to change me for the inside out to be the person He called me to be, regardless of what it cost me or how much it hurt. And through that, to open myself up to finally allow His love to guide my life. I once read a story of a woman that felt very much like I did, and she felt like God spoke to her (emphasis mine): time you're down on your knees,
why don't you just stay there? 
Why don't we stay in the realm of the answer,
rather than always returning to the 
realm of the problem?   
Let's Ask God for a new life.

And so that is what I aim to do. I'm not setting a list of do's and don'ts for this new year of my life. I'm choosing to set one overarching goal for the next however many years God blesses my life with. 

I will say yes, I will return to Love. And in turning to love, I will find God, and in finding God, I will find myself...and maybe somewhere soon, I'll find love on this earth. 

And that's where I'm at. 
     The call is not hard, it's mind-blowingly simple. 
           God is love, and I am closest to Him when I say
               No to fear, and yes...
                     To Love. 


Friday, February 8, 2013

Day Five: Daniel Fast

I want to get something out of the way right now before I start this blog. I have had several people as me, concerning fasting, if it is appropriate to tell others you are on a fast. While I do not believe the reason we fast is for the approval of others, or to seem "over-saved", but it is deeply personal and between us and the Lord. That being said, I am writing this blog for those fasting with me, to encourage, edify, and strengthen them in their practice. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that fasting should be a secret, only that recognition is not the reason we fast.

Today is the fifth day of the Daniel fast and I cannot begin to express how incredible the past five days have been. I have started several Daniel fasts in the past with wrong motives I hate to admit. Either I was doing it because friends were doing it, or (once again, I hate to admit) I have even attempted to do the fast as a diet. Every time I attempted to fast for selfish reasons, I failed. Most of these attempts ended before the 24 hour mark hit. 

That's the thing about the flesh....
                 It is very impatient.... 

Something most know about me who have sat under my teaching for any period of time know of my tortured past with eating disorders. It took me years to even admit I had a problem, and much longer to ever speak out on this subject, but because I believe God's calling in my life is largely contingent on how He brought me through this time, I feel the liberty to speak about a very personal, very dark time in my life. I look at the decade (yes, a full 10 years) that I had a destructive relationship with food as the flesh taking up residence in my body. The majority of this time, I was living a Christian life, for several years I was serving in ministry, but the thing that woke me up in the morning, and I thought about going to sleep at night...was the flesh.

That is a story for another blog, but I use it to highlight something very important about is all about denying the flesh. Our culture feeds our flesh more food than we can process, and our Spirit takes a back burner to Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. There is always something begging our flesh to act in a certain way. When we fast, we give our Spirit the chance to be the guiding voice of our day. We allow the voice of the Lord to be greater than the voice of the world, and get really intentional with our pursuit of God.

If your fast doesn't mean anything to you...It won't mean anything to God. Fasting without prayer, fasting without the Word is little more than a diet...and trust me, you won't last.

Although I have been free from the chains of an eating disorder for six years now, I am still very conscious of my physical appearance and weight. I hate to admit this, but I cannot go a day without my trip to the bathroom scale being my first order of business. It is not something I am proud of, but it is the flesh holding onto my life in that way. I often live in bondage to the number I see, and my attitude for the day can be greatly affected by what it tells me. I could probably count on both hands the number of times I have not weighed myself first thing in the morning in the past 10 years (that I was home of course), and most of those were days where I had binged the night before and physically hid my scale because I didn't want to see the damage.

That being said...

Something remarkable happened to me yesterday. I had been on the fast for three days and many people were telling me they had already lost weight. (In all honesty I think I might GAIN weight from the diet because of how wonderful the food that I am eating is) Although I am doing this fast 100% for the Lord, I couldn't help but think in the back of my mind, how wonderful a "bonus" weight loss would be. But around 3 pm yesterday, I realized something incredible...I didn't weigh myself this morning. Not only did I not weigh myself, I didn't realize it until 3 pm.

I decided to try and make the commitment during this fast to wake up early...which trust me, is a sacrifice within itself for this lady...and spend time with the Lord before going to work. Yesterday, the desire to spend those precious moments with the Savior completely silenced a voice of the flesh that had been ruling my mornings for the past 15 years! And it is only day 5!

I realize this may not sound like a big deal to some, but anyone that has ever battled a serious eating disorder can relate to the breakthrough this was. In a small way, God was showing me that the flesh doesn't have to have power over my life and my disposition. Now, for you it is probably something completely different: a bad habit, watching too much TV, gossip, hate, lust, etc. But what the Lord is showing me through this fast is...the flesh has no claim over the word of God.

Whatever it is that you are wanting to see God do and perform in your life, HE CAN.
Whatever the chain that binds you is, HE CAN LOOSE.

I didn't even get to start on what I was going to write about tonight! But hopefully someone needed to hear that! I will write again tomorrow on something incredible God has shown me in the Word about fasting.

In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the food on this diet as much as I am. I know that I might be "weird" but I'm actually loving the vegan choices! I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but experimenting with cooking and baking is one of my hobbies :) Now, let's be clear, I am not becoming vegan after this fast and I will NEVER give up my cupcakes...but let's make the best out of the things we CAN eat! Let me know if any of you want recipes!

Cauliflower Curry
Brown Rice with Scallions, Pine Nuts, and Tomatoes
Date, Walnut, and Coconut energy bites

And Lots and Lots of Smoothies!!!!