In Our Backyard: An Interview with Nita Belles

In Our Backyard

Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing author Nita Belles about her newest release, In Our Backyard. Currently she serves as the Managing Director of the non-profit In Our Backyard and the Regional Director for Central Oregonians against Trafficking Humans (OATH). A former Associate Pastor, she holds a Master’s Degree in Theology with a concentration in Women’s Concerns. 

Add In Our Backyard to your library today! You’ll get an ebook that is dedicated to raising awareness on human trafficking and it’s effects.    

Tell us more about your new release, In Our Backyard. What was your main inspiration behind writing it?

I felt there was a need for an easy-to-read book that tackled the horrific, but hushed facts about both labor and sex trafficking.

Some of my biggest inspiration was and continues to be notes and emails from those who have been informed by the book and are now doing something to stop human trafficking. Even more than that, I am overwhelmingly inspired by the notes and emails from survivors and/or their families who have read In Our Backyard and are receiving services and getting their lives back. I said when I started this, “If I could only help one person. . .” and I’m filled with enormous praise for a God who continues to multiply that number.

The book includes many stories of labor and sex trafficking victims, both children and adults. I tell stories of what it’s like to be a victim of these crimes, as well as stories of being a perpetrator—how the drive for more money and power feeds and increases that monster within. Woven throughout the stories are statistics and facts about human traffickingand ideas of ways that anyone can become involved in this fight. There are study questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate small groups who want to learn together.

What are some experiences that you have had in the field when trying to find and help set free victims of human trafficking?

Victims are often traumatically bonded to their captor, a condition commonly known as Stockholm syndrome. Often times I get word that someone wants out of the life, or has escaped, only to find that by the time someone arrives to help them, they have gone back to their trafficker.

The most rewarding moments are seeing survivors begin to come alive after they have been recovered. After her escape, one survivor was taken to a beautiful shelter. I stayed with her all day while she recanted her horrific story to multiple law enforcement personnel. As I was leaving the shelter that evening, she grabbed my arm. She said to me words I will never forget, “Today I am free. I am no longer a prisoner.” After living as a prisoner, locking herself inside closets so she wouldn’t be sexually assaulted in the middle of the night, she now lives free and happy. She sees her family, works full time, has her own home and is a valuable asset to her community. She is happy and free to love, to laugh, to worship regularly at her church. She is a beautiful example of a person coming alive.

Does your definition of human trafficking differ from how the public typically understands it? If so, what is your definition and what are the main differences?

The public rarely thinks of labor trafficking when human trafficking is mentioned, but labor trafficking is rampant in our country. It happens in restaurants, nail salons, farming, in people’s homes as maids/nannies, factories, really, any place that labor occurs could be an opportunity for a human trafficker to exploit someone. Typically, but not always, labor trafficking victims are foreign-born nationals.

Sex trafficking is often thought of as Asian women brought over in containers and kept in massage parlors. While that does happen, the large majority of sex-trafficking victims in the United States are American born [Click to Tweet!]. Once they are in “the life” it is very difficult to get out.

This world is real. While all trafficking stories share some similarities, here is no “ordinary” way that people are trafficked.

Many conversations about human trafficking focus on what happens in other countries, yet you emphasize that it is happening in the United States, literally “in our backyard.” How does trafficking in the U.S. differ from that in other countries? 

In some foreign countries, human trafficking is a part of their accepted culture to the point that there are laws that protect it. In the United States it is a part of our culture, but in more subtle ways.

In foreign countries it’s not uncommon for a person to go to a corner cop and ask them where they can buy sex. Here in the United States, for the most part, our law enforcement and other government do everything they can to enforce laws. Now we just need to continue to improve those laws, improve training and awareness about human trafficking for law enforcement, and provide better and more services for those who are getting free from this atrocity.

What are the best ways we can educate ourselves and our loved ones about the dangers of modern-day slavery?

My first suggestion must be to read In Our Backyard.  I compiled the best information I know in the book.

Second, talk about it! All the traffickers ask is that we remain silent about this, or pretend it doesn’t happen. We must not do either of those things. Go ahead and organize a community or church event. Bring in a speaker and then have opportunities at the end of the event for people to get involved in some way.

Awareness of the warning signs is the best prevention for our loved ones. [Click to Tweet!]

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Keep yourself informed and get In Our Backyard today!   

 For more information on Nita Belles and her work, please visit www.inourbackyard365.org

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Happy Fourth of July! Celebrate with a Cobbler

Berry Cobbler

The Fourth of July is a historic U.S. holiday filled with warm weather, rich traditions, and most importantly good food!

This Independence Day, make everyone’s mouths water with affordable, easy-to-make recipes from Jonni McCoy’s Healthy Meals for Less: Great-Tasting Simple Recipes Under $1 a Serving.  

Using the Healthy Meals for Less recipe below you can bake a delicious Berry Cobbler for your friends and family! Bring your culinary creation to your Fourth of July celebration.

Find more delicious desserts and dishes when you get Healthy Meals for Less today!

Berry Cobbler

Serves 6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Filling:

4 cups fresh or frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or boysenberries)*
½ cup brown sugar
2 T. whole wheat flour
½ tsp. lemon juice
1 T. water

*My favorite combination of berries is 2 cups blueberries with 2 cups blackberries.

Crust:

3 T. cold butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup low-fat milk

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, combine the berries, brown sugar, flour, lemon juice, and water. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once a thick sauce forms, remove from heat, and pour into a greased 2-qt. baking dish or bread pan.

In a large mixing bowl, make the crust by cutting the butter into the flour with a pastry blender until the mixture is fine and crumbly. Add the brown sugar, baking powder, and salt, and mix. Stir in the milk to form a sticky dough. Drop dough by spoonfuls onto the berry mixture, covering all the berries. If desired, sprinkle the crust with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar. Bake at 400° for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. If desired, serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Cost per serving (1¼ cup): $0.51

Nutritional Analysis Per Serving:

Calories: 189
Fat: 7 grams
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Fiber: 5 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 342 mg

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Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

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Forgiveness Always Wins

Sara Horn

Today we have the pleasure of sharing a guest post from Author of the Month, Sara Horn on the topic of forgiveness. Sara has written more than seven books including the popular My So-Called Life as a Proverbs 31 Wife and her latest release How Can I Possibly Forgive? Rescuing Your Heart from Resentment and RegretGet it now!  

He walked into their church on a Wednesday evening and they welcomed him. As they did every week, the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church settled into a time of Bible study, with no idea that before they were through, Dylann Roof would pull out a gun and murder nine of them solely for the color of their skin.

We have no words when something like that happens. How could something so ugly, so vile, and so heartbreaking happen in a place that should never know those things?

But then we hear the words of the victims’ families, words they spoke to Roof after he was arrested and he stood in court to hear the charges against him.

“Hate will not win.”

“I forgive you.”

“May God have mercy on your soul.”

No one might expect any of these families to utter those words in the aftermath of what happened, but they did. Through muffled sobs and obvious pain, they released what our world would say was their right—to hate, to seek revenge—and relied instead on God’s grace to sustain them. They made the choice to put their trust for justice not in man, but in their Heavenly Father. Though Roof had showed no mercy where their loved ones were concerned, those families instead looked to God for his mercy in their time of need, and for his strength in their time of sorrow.

They forgave someone who didn’t deserve forgiving.

As believers in Christ, we know that forgiveness should be our auto response but generally it’s not. Maybe that’s why the Bible talks about it so much.

Here are just a few of the verses we find in Scripture about forgiveness:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)

“For if you forgive others their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

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Shortly after I’d turned in the manuscript to my last book, How Can I Possibly Forgive?, I was confronted with a situation that required forgiveness—and brought its own share of deep pain, hurt and a realization that my trust in this person had been sharply betrayed. Though they were sorry for their actions, there were lingering consequences—consequences which directly impacted me, though I’d done nothing to deserve what I suddenly faced.

In that moment of my friend’s confession, I realized I had a choice: forgive this person, or withhold forgiveness. I could willingly keep a suddenly broken, far from perfect relationship and take steps to repair it, or I could cut it off completely. Though it was difficult, choosing to forgive my friend reinforced what God had taught me in the previous months before.

Not every situation we encounter will result in a renewed relationship or friendship and in certain cases, it shouldn’t. Some relationships can be toxic, or distracting. Sometimes we’ll encounter someone who refuses to be sorry or admit any responsibility for what’s happened between you. Sometimes filtering a relationship out of your life is necessary.

But is forgiveness still possible in every situation? I believe it is [Click to Tweet!], especially when we think less about that person’s unforgivable actions and more about the forgiveness God extends towards each of us.

Forgiveness is intentional.

It is a daily choice to “forgive freely,” as we find in the meaning of the Greek word charis or charizomenoi. Do a word study as I did—it was interesting to me how often the word “forgive” is used as a verb. Something to act on.

If we believe that “love is a verb,” as the popular phrase goes—then doesn’t it make sense that forgiveness is a verb as well?

Here are three truths about forgiveness we can remember and act on, starting today:

1. Forgiveness is possible with God’s help. God loves to help us come back to him, and when we are dealing with a hurt that brings up pain and resentment and other negative emotions, we are inching or sometimes leaping away from him. But forgiving someone will never keep us at arm’s length from God; our forgiving actions will only bring us closer to him.

2. God expects us to forgive. This has no room for negotiation, friends. God wants us to forgive. He wants us to forgive our enemies who do us wrong, forgive our friends who say careless things, forgive our family members who make us want to cry or tear our hair out. He wants us to let it go, and he expects us to do it. Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

3. True forgiveness releases hard feelings. The person you need to forgive may never offer an apology or admit any wrongdoing. But your forgiveness for their wrong releases those feelings that keep you from walking forward, maybe even from starting a new friendship or pouring into your current relationships because you’re afraid or because you now have great doubt and mistrust of other people.

Other emotions could be holding you back from the plan God has for you. When we keep kindness and compassion in our hearts (Ephesians 4:32), it’s difficult to hold anger and cynicism at the same time. Get rid of the junky feelings —get rid of those negative emotions that come when we refuse to forgive someone. Offer up forgiveness, breathe in God’s grace, and let that grace shine out to others.

That day my friend came to me with news that hurt our relationship could have been the last day we spoke. But instead, it was the day God led me to lead my friend back to a renewed and right relationship with God. It’s now been over a year, and I have had the blessing of watching my friend grow stronger in their relationship with the Lord, something that might not have happened had forgiveness not occurred. You never know how God will use you for his purpose if you make yourself available to be used. [Click to Tweet!]

The families of the victims of the Emanuel AME church shooting chose to show God’s love to Dylann Roof despite their own human pain and emotion. Roof reportedly wanted to start a race war, but he failed. Because of the actions of those families—not of hatred but of hope, not of spite but sincerity—Roof lost. But there is hope even for this killer.

Even through the process he will undergo for conviction and sentencing, he may still have time to confess, repent and receive salvation as one victim’s son implored him to do, the same opportunity Jesus offered to the thief who hung next to him on a cross. We never know how God may use what those family members willingly offered—grace and forgiveness—to change a killer’s life.

Hate will not win.

Forgiveness always will.

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Get Sara’s ebook, How Can I Possibly Forgive? today!

 To learn more about Sara, visit her website at sarahorn.com, sign up to receive updates and receive a free printable of Forgiveness Scripture Memory Cards to help you in your own study and pursuit of forgiveness. It IS possible!

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Jared C. Wilson’s Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo

The Prodigal Church

Today’s post features an excerpt from Jared C. Wilson’s newest release, The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto against the Status Quo.

In The Prodigal Church, Wilson challenges church leaders to reconsider their priorities when it comes to how they “do church” and reach people in their communities, arguing that we too often rely on loud music, flashy lights, and skinny jeans to get people in the door.

Add The Prodigal Church to your Vyrso library!

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 The wider evangelical church is suffering terribly from theological bankruptcy. Brothers and sisters, we ought to recover the roots of real Christianity before those who care are too few to do anything useful about it. Part of that recovery will involve identifying some of the factors that contribute to the problem. Some of these will be difficult to consider, but we ought to consider them anyway. Some of the problems we might explore are these:

1. Pastors are increasingly hired for their management skills or rhetorical ability over and above their biblical wisdom or their meeting of the biblical qualifications for eldership.

Our shepherds are increasingly hired for their dynamic speaking or catalytic leadership rather than their commitment to and exposition of the Scriptures, and for their laboring in the increase in attendance rather than the increase of gospel proclamation.

Now, of course, none of those contrasted qualities are mutually exclusive. Pastors can be both skillful managers and biblically wise; they can be both great speakers and great students of Scripture; and they can both attract crowds and proclaim the gospel. The problem is that, while they are not mutually exclusive, the latter qualities in each contrast have lost priority and consequently have lost favor. We have not prospered theologically or spiritually when we emphasize the professionalization of the pastorate.

2. The equating of “worship” with just one creative portion of the weekly worship service.

The dilution of the understanding of worship is a direct result of the dilution of theology in the church. The applicational, topical approach to Bible understanding has the consequence of making us think (and live) in segmented ways. The music leader takes the stage to say, “We’re gonna start with a time of worship.” Is the whole service not a time of worship? Isn’t the sermon an act of worship?

Isn’t all of life meant to be an act of worship? [Click to tweet!]
 One reason we have struggled to develop fully devoted followersof Jesus is that we incorrectly assign our terminology (equating worship with music only) and thereby train our people to think in truncated, reductionistic ways.

3. The prevalent eisegesis in Bible study classes and small groups.

“Eisegesis” basically means “reading into the Bible.” It is the opposite of “exegesis,” the process of examining the text and “drawing out” its true meaning. Many leaders today either don’t have the spiritual gift of teaching or haven’t received adequate training, and the unfortunate result is that most of our Bible studies are rife with phrases like, “What does this text mean to you?” as opposed to, “What does this text mean?” Application supplants interpretation in the work of Bible study, so it has become less important to see what the Bible means and more important to make sure the Bible is meaningful to us.

4. The vast gulf between the work of theology and the life of the church.

We have this notion that theology is something that takes place somewhere “out there” in the seminaries or libraries while we here at home are doing the real work of the Christian faith with our church programs. In many churches, theology is seen as purely academic, the lifeless intellectual work for the nerds in the church or, worse, the Pharisees.

5. Biblical illiteracy.

Our people don’t know their Bible very well, and this is in large part the fault of a generation of wispy preaching and teaching (in the church and in the home). Connected to this factor is the church’s accommodation and assimilation of the culture’s rapid shifting from text-based knowledge to image-based knowledge. I’ll say more about that in the next chapter, but when it comes to the text itself, I suspect that a lot of the superficial faith out there results from teaching that treats the Bible like Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. Fortune-cookie preaching will make brittle, hollow,syrupy Christians.

6. A theologically lazy and methodologically consumeristic/sensationalistic approach to the sacraments.

The rise of the “scoreboard” approach to attendance reporting, some of the extreme examples of spontaneous baptism services, the neglect of the Lord’s Supper or the abuse of it through fancifulness with the elements or lack of clear directives in presenting it—these are all the result of evangelicalism’s theological bankruptcy. We don’t think biblically about these matters, because we’re thinking largely along the lines of “what works?” and consequently we might make a big splash with our productions but not produce much faith.

Don’t treat the Bible as an instruction manual. Treat it as a life preserver.[Click to Tweet!]

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Get Jared C. Wilson’s The Prodigal Church for just $8.50!

Content adapted from The Prodigal Church by Jared Wilson, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

 

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Happy Father’s Day: 5 Life Lessons for Dad

Life Lessons for Dad

A bond between a father and daughter is both a blessing and a mystery. Girls often adore their fathers, their dad is their prince and hero. When fathers treat their daughters with compassion and respect, their daughters tend to step out into life confident and filled with love.

This Father’s Day, celebrate by sitting down to enjoy Life Lessons for Dad: Tea Parties, Tutus and All Things Pink. Author Michael Mitchell pairs touching photographs with hundreds of plainspoken parenting truths and pieces of advice that are uniquely funny, wise, heartwarming, mind blowing.

Here are five, of many, lessons from Life Lessons for Dad: Tea Parties, Tutus and All Things Pink:

1. Always be there.

Quality time doesn’t happen without quantity time. Hang out together for no other reason than just to be in each other’s presence. Be genuinely interested in the things that interest her. She needs her dad to be involved in her life at every stage. Don’t just sit idly by while she adds years to her life . . . add life to her years. [Click to Tweet!]

2. Love her mom.

Treat her mother with respect, honor, and a big, heaping spoonful of public displays of affection. When she grows up, the odds are good she’ll fall in love with and marry someone who treats her much like you treated her mother. Good or bad, that’s just the way it is. I’d prefer good.

3. Learn to say no.

She may not like it today, but someday you’ll both be glad you stuck to your guns.

4. Tell her she’s beautiful.

Say it over and over again. Someday an animated movie or “beauty” magazine will try to convince her otherwise.

5. While there’s no such thing as the perfect dad, if you’re present in her life, apologize when you screw up, and shower her with affection, you might get pretty close.

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Add this heartwarming ebook to your digital library today!

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The Next Great Move of God

The Next Great Move of God

Today’s guest post is by Jennifer LeClaire, director of the Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, co-founder and president of Christian Harvest International and Strategic Prayer Action Network, author of several books, and an internationally-known speaker.

Today, LeClaire focuses on themes from her newest release The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening.  

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A Divine Crisis. . .

Natural disasters are claiming lives in America. Economic disasters are driving poverty in America. Agronomists are predicting famine in America. Politicians and schoolchildren are being shot in America. Pastors are falling into sexual immorality in America. Violent protesters are taking to the streets in America. All the while some Americans are arming themselves for another Civil War.

Christians are meeting with persecution in the marketplace.

“Without divine intervention, what we call America will be gone within the next couple of years. It’s that critical,” says Evangelist Rodney Howard-Browne, pastor at The River at Tampa Bay. “The handwriting is on the wall. Only God can save us now. This is not a game. If we don’t see a turn in the next two or three years, America as we know it will sink into the abyss and will be gone forever.”

No politician can fix the problems our nation is facing. We need another Great Awakening.

The good news is God wants to bring another spiritual awakening to America [Click to Tweet!].

Making an Appeal to Heaven. . .

The revelation of making an appeal to heaven as it relates to taking back our nation for God unfolded to Dutch Sheets, an internationally recognized author, teacher and conference speaker, through several prophetic encounters over the course of about 12 years—and it’s igniting fires of revival and awakening in the United States and beyond.

Many, including myself, believe that it relates directly to a Third Great Awakening in America.

One of those prophetic encounters was a dream a young man named Thomas shared with Sheets.

In the dream, Sheets was a boxer facing five giants in five rounds. One by one, he knocked out those giants with a single punch, alternating fists. One of the boxing gloves said “Everlast,” which is a common brand name for boxing gloves but nevertheless prophetic. The other glove said “Evergreen.” Sheets knew God was talking to him about taking out the giants in America.

“When I look at the giants in America, I get overwhelmed,” Sheets says. “I have to get my focus off the giants and get my focus on the Lord. He can do this. This is not too hard for God.”

Transforming Revival Is Possible. . .

Transformation is possible in America and indeed transforming revival has broken out in communities around the world.

A transformed community is a neighborhood, city or nation whose values and institutions have been overrun by the grace and presence of God; a place where divine fire has not merely been summoned, it has fallen; a society disrupted by supernatural power; a culture that has been impacted comprehensively and undeniably by the kingdom of God; and a location where kingdom values are celebrated publicly and passed on to future generations.

Transforming revival starts with an appeal to heaven [Click to Tweet!].

It’s time to make an appeal to heaven and many are responding to the call in what some are calling the next great move of God.

In my book, The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening, I was struck by how so many voices from so many camps in the body of Christ—Sheets, Greg Laurie, Reinhard Bonnke, Mike Huckabee, Kenneth Copeland, Howard-Browne, Cindy Jacobs, and the list goes on and on—are essentially saying the same thing. America is a nation in crisis—and God wants to wake us up, bring us in line with his heart and heal our land.

For all the doom and gloom prophecies over America, there is yet a rising cry from respected voices from various streams of the body of Christ that sense God’s heart—and God’s hope—for America even in the midst of discipline.

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Want to know more about this topic? Get The Next Great Move of God today,  featuring Dutch Sheets, Reinhard Bonnke, Jonathan Cahn, Billy Graham, and others.

You can learn more about author Jennifer LeClaire at JenniferLeClaire.org.

 

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Limited Time Offer: 3 Free Ebooks

Vyrso has created a way for Christian readers to enjoy personal reading anywhere! With affordable ebooks, a free ereader app, and one-touch bible references, Vyrso is dedicated to helping you get the best ebooks for the best price.

And through June 19, you can add these three ebooks to your library for free!

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making by Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp

Relationships

“Even though relationships are messy, they are also what God uses to rescue us from ourselves,” say Tim and Paul.

While skillfully identifying the deeper issues that keep relationships less than they are designed to be, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp show readers how to experience the great relationships as well. They convincingly testify of the power of God’s presence to bring believers to the place where conflicts actually get resolved, tough conversations turn out positive, forgiveness is granted and real love is expressed and shared.

 

 

To My Sons: Lessons for the Wild Adventure Called Life by Bear Grylls

To My Sons

Bear Grylls demonstrates his love as a father in To My Sons by offering his sons a collection of wisdom about the risks, tumbles, and victories of a well-lived life.

Bear Grylls knows a thing or two about adventure from mountain climbing, to setting world-records, and being known internationally as a reality star. The greatest adventure he’s experienced, though, is raising his three boys. In To My Sons, Grylls shares the quotes, Scripture verses, and spiritual wisdom he has learned through the literal ups and downs of an exciting life.

 

 

Enough: Contentment in the Age of Access by Will Samson

Enough

In Enough Will Samson opens up a thoughtful dialogue; a recent conversation was about social justice. Samson addresses the idea of finding contentment in this age of excess and outlines the ideas that drive a consumeristic mindset; the effects those ideas have on ourselves, our communities, and the earth; conclusions about the situation; and practical solutions for negotiating everyday life once we understand that our abundant God is, in fact, enough.

 

 

 

 

Don’t wait—these deals ends June 19!

Get Vyrso freebies sent straight to your inbox so you don’t have to miss any more great deals!

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3 Things We Can Learn from Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot was a true servant of the Lord! She impacted many through her lifetime and found God at every bump in the road. She is a true inspiration to all men and women looking to serve the church.

There are so many valuable lessons we can learn from her example, including:

1. Take a leap of faith

Elisabeth grew up in a home where the gospel was preached and as she developed a deep love for Christ, she saw it as her calling to spread his Word.

She didn’t waste any time—her adventure began upon graduating from Wheaton College in the 1940s. She took a leap of faith and moved as single woman to Ecuador so she could reach out and spread God’s love to the Quichua Indians.

2. Don’t quit when times get hard

In Ecuador, Elisabeth not only spread God’s love in the tribal areas, she also developed a relationship with Jim Elliot and they were soon married. They were given the opportunity to minister to the unreached Aucas tribe. Jim and four missionaries entered the area and met with the Aucas, unfortunately their tribe was fierce and the five men were speared to death.

Elisabeth didn’t quit, pack her bags, and go home. Instead she and her ten-month-old, Valerie, stayed in Ecuador and continued to build relationships with the Auca people, the very ones that murdered her husband.

3. Share your experiences

Eventually Elliot and her daughter, Valerie, returned to the U.S. When they were back, Elisabeth wasted no time in reflecting on her experiences and sharing them through various writings and speaking engagements.

She shared her experiences and expressed God’s great love for her at all times in the good and the bad. She has written many influential books that will continue to inspire those after her and encourage us to follow in her legacy.

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Elisabeth Elliot‘s life was dedicated to serving God and building up his kingdom. Christ calls us to follow in her footsteps, to take that leap of faith in order to more fully serve him, to preserve through times of suffering and love those who we have every reason to hate, and most importantly to  share our experiences and encourage others to follow in God’s footsteps.

Elisabeth Elliot Quote

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Finding Friendship: An Interview with Dr. Leslie Parrott

Soul Friends

We had the privilege to speak with Dr. Leslie Parrott, a family and marriage therapist and speaker who has co-authored many books with her husband, Dr. Les Parrott, including the New York Times best-seller, Saving Your Marriage Before it StartsMaking Happy, and many others.

What are “soul friendships” and why are they important for women looking to grow in their faith?

I don’t think that there is a woman out there that would be surprised by the thought that as women, we deeply desire great friendships . . . . In general what sociologists have discovered is that women fear a rupture in a relationship more than they fear a loss of independence. Most women I know resonate to their core that, yes, relationships matter to me.

I think of a soul friend as a deep-spirited friend. We know intuitively what it means to be a deep-spirited friend, where it isn’t just based on shared lifestyles or shared interests or the same quirky sense of humor. There’s a sense that there’s a connection that’s soul-to-soul. . . .We’re acknowledging the journey that we’re all taking and we’re walking through it together.

You’ve written and co-written many titles on relationships and marriage. What called you to write Soul Friends and focus on friendship rather than romantic relationships?

This book is different in that what I’m talking about is not just that we need friends, but how to create great friendship, which is an important thing. I myself started a small group 12 years ago that has been a central thing in my life and I can’t imagine traveling the last dozen years without the company of the sisterhood. The depth of our spiritual growth is accelerated by the gift of sharing it with a friend. [Click to tweet!] [In the book, I’m] talking about the beauty of friendship and the importance of spiritual growth, and how those two things go hand-in-hand.

 

What do you think are some of the greatest challenges for women looking to develop and maintain these deep and spiritual friendships?

There are a lot of challenges. One of those is we’re all so completely aware of our failings and there’s a timidity in [reaching out to other women] that comes from that.

Also, I think there are stages and seasons of life where we feel kind of lonely. For example, if you’ve got an infant, your life is ordered around the needs of that baby and that can be a monastic experience sometimes. Or if your work schedule is demanding and you don’t feel as if you have one inch of margin for some optional activity with girlfriends.

There are sacrifices we all make on the alters of our heart where friendship feels like it doesn’t get nurtured because life doesn’t make room for it in this season, and there are also private insecurities that hold us back sometimes from risking connecting with friends.

In the context of Bible study and devotional time with God, often times there is encouragement to break off into individual “quiet time” to reflect and pray. How do you see this interacting with the importance of community and friendships?

Gary Thomas who wrote Sacred Pathways, really influenced my thinking about spiritual growth—it’s one of my favorites because I think he nailed it when he talks about how God has hardwired us all differently to lean into certain things to grow spiritually. Some of us are relational, and if we try to pray on our own we fall asleep or lose track, but if you put us in a small group we can pray for hours and our spirits come alive because we’re hardwired to grow relationally. Other people aren’t hardwired like that, they might be hardwired to grow intellectually or out in creation. All of these ways are biblical, but we each have our own growth pathways. I love that concept. It freed me up for the richness of diversity in how to grow [spiritually.]

The small group I started wasn’t a devotional, we didn’t read a book together. Our structure was that we’d come together and someone would ask one opening question. We’ve prayed together and grown together, been immersed in Scripture, and read together out of those questions. Community is important but I don’t think there’s a formula that works for every woman on her Jesus journey.

I would encourage women to open their eyes—there might be ways to connect around them that they never even thought were points of connection that turn out to be these beautiful, deep-spirited places.

How can women and moms begin to fit time for friendships in to a busy life to start creating those deep friendships? Where can women and busy moms begin to find friends?

Be willing to join a MOPS group or small group at church. Volunteer for something where you know you’re likely to connect with people who have the same values. Women are longing for this and even if they aren’t able to say, “Yes,” because of the season of their life, it leaves them feeling encouraged that someone actually cared enough to reach out and invite them.

I took a big risk when I was in that season [as a mom]—it was a season for me where my mom had some major health concerns,  I was professionally in a demanding season, I had a toddler who was a one-pound, pre-mature baby and had special needs, and I discovered I was pregnant. Life just felt undoable for me.

The surprising thing I did was not cut back, but I felt that I needed to start a small group, which felt absurd at the time. I invited six women I knew, none of whom knew each other, and I thought they would all turn me down because they were all so busy, but we were all so hungry for it that we made it work. We tried scheduling our time together and in the beginning we could only meet once every three weeks. But we did it! We would start at night after the kids had gone to bed and we’d meet until midnight. It was an unbelievable thing to make it work, but 12 years later the fruit of that is unmistakable. I would encourage anyone, even though it doesn’t seem easy, or convenient, or make sense, to risk it!

Women might have friends from different places—other moms, a friend at church, a few connections at work—but they don’t coalesce so you don’t feel this synergy with your friends. Be a little risky—don’t think in terms that [all of the people in a potential group] have to already fit together or click or connect. Don’t feel limited by what’s already happening—create a way to get together!

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Check out Dr. Leslie Parrott’s, Soul Friends: What Every Woman Needs to Grow in Her Faith to learn more about friendship, spiritual growth, and the importance of deep-spirited friendships.

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The Importance of Urban Ministry

Chicago resident Dr. John Fuder has served for over 30 years working in urban ministry, and currently trains and coaches the broader body of Christ to engage more deeply in contextualizing the gospel in their local communities.

What should the Church’s urban mission look like?

Dr. John Fuder answers in this episode of Faithlife Today:

In urban ministry it is essential that we don’t look to engage just one type of culture or one type of ethnicity, rather it is important to demonstrate Christ’s love to all communities. Urban ministry forces you to step out of your comfort zone and interact with people of varying cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic standings.

Eager to learn more about the Church’s urban mission? Get equipped with Dr. Fuder’s numerous works written on urban ministry including A Heart for the City: Effective Ministries to the Urban Community, A Heart for the Community: New Models for Urban and Suburban Ministry, and more!

Browse all books by Dr. John Fuder.

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See more interviews and lectures with authors, speakers, and scholars on Faithlife Today, a new video series showcasing powerful insights, biblical inspiration, exclusive interviews, and more—all from your friends at Faithlife.

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