How to Step Into Brokenness

A Trafficked Boy (Exodus Road)

A Trafficked Boy (Exodus Road)

We want to believe our God is big. He is the Creator of the universe, after all. He came up with the idea of clouds, the mechanics of a blinking eye, and the creative humor of the duck-billed platypus. But we struggle to see Him as big when the world is so broken.

I am just now starting to understand our view of God is limited because we do nothing but sit on the sidelines. We feel overwhelmed by the need in the world and our own smallness, so we do nothing.

We believe God is uncaring toward the broken and the enslaved, but we miss our part in the present redemption of this world.

Each of us should pray about where to make a difference, and then start doing it. This is what Matt Parker the Executive Director of Exodus Road did at the Indian Rescue Mission in Mumbai. Read how it changed him:

Victims of human trafficking are not lost forever, unless the very last one of us gives up.

And till the day they are free, I choose to hope and set my eyes on the horizon. There I see freedom coming–  freedom for victims of human trafficking and freedom for me as I seek it for them.  Freedom is the very aroma of God and love is his firm step.  I have never known joy as I know it today, as I too take up the smell and step of God.  Justice is the mix of these two elements, freedom and love.  When both are present, the Kingdom of God is realized.

Last night I witnessed the slavery of over two hundred women.  On my left sat a young virgin and on my right a young girl maybe twenty years old. Both for sale. All for sale. And I wanted this justice fueled by love for them so very badly.

This work that we are doing is a powerful thing in my own life. It stretches beyond my comfort, calls me to be courageous in the face of fear, costs me greatly and has shown me the face of God in ways that have surprised me.

Many people claim to know God.  If the work of rescue has taught me anything, it is that I know very little about God and am a fool to claim that I do.  I now believe that he is so much bigger than I will ever comprehend and his love, justice and mercy are equally unfathomable.

This is a big story, after all, that we are living.  A story of impossible odds, brokenness and courage, passion and justice.  It is the best story I have ever read, and I still do not know how it will end.  

I am forever changed, and we are only at the beginning.

I am inspired by Matt and the way he chose to step and join God in giving literal freedom to the slaves in Mumbai. He refused to pout and blame God for not freeing them, and instead acted.

He continues to do the same thing, every day. If you are not sure how to step into this world’s brokenness, please consider helping Exodus Road as they rescue those enslaved for the sex trade and manual labor every day. Learn more about how to make a difference here.

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Not Always Hope, Not Never Hope, But Sometimes Hope

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

I have had a few people ask me why the name of this blog is Sometimes Hope. “If we are called to trust God all the time,” the question starts, “why isn’t your title Always Hope or maybe Keeping the Hope?” I even struggled with this a bit myself. After some thought, here are three reasons I can only Sometimes Hope.

Sometimes I Fall Down the Stairs

Recently I was going upstairs to get my oldest son. I wanted him to clean up the kitchen. I was about halfway up, and then I had a seizure. Not that I remember the seizure. I recall walking up the stairs, then a second later being on my back with intense pain on my shoulder and back.

Having a seizure in such a dangerous place was bad enough. My kids’ response was even more difficult for me to handle. They all apologized to me like it was somehow their fault I had my seizure. As if they could have prevented my pain somehow.

To know that my children feel guilt about any seizures I have makes me sick to my stomach. My kids have enough pressures in their lives. They don’t need to feel responsible for me having seizures. But they do.

In moments like this, I want to curse God and die, like Job’s wife suggested. Questions of His faithfulness rage in my soul, like Asaph in Psalm 73:1 – 2:

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.

In this moment, I have a choice: to trust the past faithfulness of God, or to view my current circumstances as evidence of His character. 

Sometimes I Let Myself Slip

There are days when I choose anger and resentment. Once in a while, that choice lasts a week or longer. I just let go of my kind thoughts toward God. I rage and allow my hatred to fester.

If this is how God is going to treat me, screw it! I may as well live my life away from Him. It’s so much easier to just walk my own path. No worries about this Getcha-God bringing sorrow into my life for some unknown reason!

My anger fuels this desire to step away from the God I have known for over twenty years now. Because my life is not working the way I think it should work. Because I have pain and my children have guilt. So I walk away and make my own path, in small ways.

I go through the motions of my faith without allowing any connection to my spirit. I don’t sing the worship songs. I don’t pay attention to the sermons. I let my Bible gather dust. I refuse to pray to God for any reason, even if it’s just to thank Him for our dinner. Slowly, I slip away from God and reassert myself as the master of my own domain.

What I eventually discover terrifies me though. I was not created to walk the Never Hope life. It is a land of confusion with no signposts to guide the way. Some may call this weakness, but I am not able to make my own path without the guidance of my God. Put differently, the antagonist from The Avengers movie Loki had it right:

You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

I Remember Whose I am

The moment always comes. Like Samson, who shook himself and realized he was without strength because his hair was cut. Like Peter, who heard the rooster crow and realized Jesus knew the denial would come. Like Asaph in Psalm 73:23-26, I realize what a fool I’ve been:

Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.

I belong to God, and He is mine forever. Even when I fall down the stairs and curse God, I am still His treasure. When I consciously avoid any smidgen of goodness dropped down from heaven like rain in my life, I am still His chosen one.

So I hope again. Not always, because I slip and lose my way. Not never, because I am my Beloveds and He is mine. But sometimes hope.

I am Now Blogging for Exodus Road

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Exodus Road

I am thrilled to share with you that I have joined the Exodus Road blogging team. You may have noticed this already because of the banner on the side of my posts. I want to take a few moments to tell you how I found Exodus Road, what they do, and what you can expect to see from me. Most importantly, how you can help.

It All Started with a T-Shirt

A blogging friend of mine Alene Snodgrass wrote a post about participating in rescue here. Alene introduced Exodus Road, and gave everyone a chance to purchase a T-shirt to support this organization. I bought a shirt, but wanted to know more.

What Does Exodus Road Do?

Operating primarily in southeast Asia, Exodus Road fights modern slavery through covert operations. The investigators are in the field, going to brothels, finding slaves. They partner with law enforcement officials to shut down slavery operations. And it’s working.

Over 600 slaves have been rescued. Over 325 prosecutions to date. All with 15 investigators. Amazing!

My Heart Broke

I spent some more time on the Exodus Road site. What I found broke my heart. Made me mad. Here is some of what I discovered:

Annual Human Trafficking Figures Worldwide

Annual Human Trafficking Figures Worldwide

Every single year this happens. Over 27,000,000 slaves are in the world today. You read that number right…27 million. Even though slavery is outlawed worldwide. Maybe your initial response is the same as mine — I live in America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. This must happen somewhere else. Not so fast…

US Human Trafficking

US Human Trafficking

I happen to live in Arizona, one of the key entry points for human trafficking in America. I didn’t even know. It was right under my nose. In my back yard. I was stunned.

I Chose to Step Into my Helplessness

What could I do to help 27,000,000 slaves? Or even 14,500 for that matter. I felt broken. Overwhelmed. Wrecked. Too small to help. I mean really? How can one person change this horrid epidemic of violence and abuse, where young boys and girls lives are destroyed.

But I couldn’t sit in the sidelines and do nothing, so I found a way to participate (I hope you’ll do the same).  They need bloggers to spread the word and share the stories of success. I jumped in.

Starting today, you will see 1-2 posts each month about human trafficking and the Exodus Road team. I hope these stories will open your eyes to the horrors of modern slavery. More than that, I hope you will do something to limit this evil.

Still unmoved? Read here about one young girl’s plight as a sexual slave. Many more like Sara are out there. Waiting, hoping, praying for rescue.

Will you join me in rescue?

Guest Posting with Tim Gallen

I am guest posting over with Tim Gallen today. You can read about when I was the worst parent on planet earth. Don’t believe me — stop on by and read my story. I bet you will agree after you read.

If you are visiting from Tim’s page, welcome and I’m glad to see you! Here’s a guide to some of my favorite posts:

You might also like to read some of the other guest posts I have done over the past six weeks:

Have fun poking around!

Drawing for an Ebook Full of Beauty

This is a busy night for my Tribewriter friends! Fellow artist/writer Christa Sterken has just completed a gorgeous book combining gifted photography and wonderful calligraphy overlays and Scripture. Many of these images would be beautiful as full framed prints. I would buy several as gifts for my wife, and she would be thrilled. My favorite print is below, but understand how difficult choosing a favorite was – every print is amazing.

Visually Speaking 22

Because these are so amazing, I want to give a copy of the whole book away to one of you. All you have to do is comment on this post, and you will be entered into the contest. You have until February 16, 2013 to comment. I will pick a winner the next day.

You should also head over to Christa’s site and subscribe to her blog. She has a way with words, and captures meaningful images in a startling way.

Free Gift from One of my Fellow Tribewriters

I am excited to take an opportunity to share the art of one of my fellow Tribewriters Audrey Chin. She is a wonderful poet with a beautiful voice. She gives insight into all the seasons and events of life.

Audrey is sharing a free book of poetry on the feelings and times of love just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Visit her site here and get your copy, along with regular updates from this beautiful voice.

Guest Posting AGAIN! Yes, Yes I am

I am guest posting over with Katie Axelson today. I am talking about interrupting elephants. What does that mean, you ask? Well, we all have pachyderms interrupt our plans. If you want to hear more, stop on by and add your thoughts to the conversation!

Photo Credit: pulkitsinha (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: pulkitsinha (Creative Commons)

If you are visiting from Katie’s page, welcome and I’m glad to see you! Here’s a guide to some of my favorite posts:

Have fun poking around!

The Reason I Write

Photo by emagic (Creative Commons)

Photo by emagic (Creative Commons)

Why do I write? I get up at 5 am most days and spend an hour pecking away at my keyboard, so that maybe 100 people will read it. Why not sleep in, enjoying the body warmth from my beautiful wife? I have to start with why I DON’T write.

I don’t write to be famous. Fame is a fickle mistress – adored for a moment, and then yesterday’s news. I am not interested in being the ice cream of the month.

I don’t write because I feel better than others. If you read my blog regularly, you already know this. I share my weaknesses and my shameful moments as much as my triumphs. I have no artistic arrogance that leads me to believe my blogging makes me a better human being.

I am not writing to get a book deal. If am ever able to write full-time for my career, that would be amazing. Truly, my dream job. I would not say no if I had the opportunity to walk away from my CPA license to be a Creative all day. But this isn’t why I write.

 

I write to find myself. When I write, I learn more of who I am and why I think how I think. When I write, I force the busyness of life to slow to a simple rhythm, the sound of letters on a keyboard. CLICK-CLACK-CLICK. There is peace and clarity from the simplicity of the moment.

I write to connect with others. My greatest hope is my words will extend beyond me and touch another person. It makes my day when my words inspire someone to be creative, or live courageously. Not because I am great, but because I have been the one crying out for help. Some days, I still am.

I write because I am called by God. This is no mystical experience, but rather a deep knowing in my soul. When I write I am aware of being in the center of God’s will for my life. I don’t have a good sense of where this journey will take me, but I am walking the path God has laid out for me.

Why do you create art in your life?

Guest Posting with Tammy Helfrich Today

I am guest posting over with Tammy Helfrich today. I am talking today about the best thing you can say when a friend is struggling. Stop on by and add your thoughts to the conversation!

If you are visiting from Tammy’s page, thanks for coming! Here’s a guide to some of my more popular posts:

Have fun poking around!

Not Safe But Good

Photo Credit: Nels_P_Olson (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Nels_P_Olson (Creative Commons)

If you read my post yesterday, you saw that I was struggling with some things that occurred in a writing group I am involved with. I am a better writer because of the teaching and community in this group, but I felt constricted over certain events.

So I did what any writer does – I wrote about it. Sometimes I don’t know how I feel until I write about it. In part, this was my way of trying to process through the difficult emotions I was feeling.

If I’m honest though, I was also looking for some encouragement and direction from friends and fellow writers. The responses overwhelmed me and drew me to this recognition:

Of course community isn’t safe. But it’s good.

If that sounds familiar, it is because I hijacked this quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Lewis was talking about the great lion Aslan, but it is equally true of any good community.

Not Safe

I wanted my writing community to be completely safe. I thought I deserved a safe environment to practice my art. Until one of my fellow writers Lauren Huss asked me this:

 If there was a completely safe environment to share our hearts, would we receive the same satisfaction?

Her question brought me up short. Like an open-handed slap to the face. I realized I was not entitled to a completely safe environment.

Indeed, a cocoon of safety would limit my growth. Part of writing is risk. If risk is removed, then the process of hitting publish on your work is somehow lessened. I lost sight of this reality because I let fear have too large a place in my heart.

There is no such thing as completely safe. This is true of any community, writers or otherwise. There is always risk in bearing our hearts and sharing our stories. We must all make a choice. Keep our story to ourselves and stay safe. Or share our story and risk rejection.

But Good

If the community is comprised of like-minded individuals, the risk is worth it. We will be challenged to not stay the same. Forced to grow up. There is always the chance that our risk will result in pain, but we can grow from that as well.

So many people responded to this post, here and in other forums, reminding me of how good our group of writer is, for me and for them. They encouraged me to stay the course, and keep risking.

Jeff Goins is the fearless leader of our community. He told me this:

You can’t really be a friend with someone until you have a fight.Conflict creates friction, which causes us to grow.

This friction is good, though it will likely hurt. Think back to when you were a kid, playing carefree on a playground. All was bliss and happiness, until you went down the twisty slide in your shorts.

Halfway down the slide, this horrible screeching noise started. As you began to wonder what the sound was, you realized it was coming from YOU. At the same time, you felt pain on your legs. Your legs didn’t agree to going down the slide apparently.

Conflict between your legs and the slide created friction. Then came the pain, immediately followed by questions.

Why did that hurt? What happened? I wasn’t expected that at all!

Then came the learning. Whether you asked your parents why it hurt or not, you learned not to do it again. So it is with community. Friction can cause momentary pain, but we can grow from it. Or, we can avoid the twisty slides for the rest of our lives.

So I choose to reject fear. I choose community. I like twisty slides. Even in shorts. Even when it hurts.