The past few weeks, I've hardly slept. I keep waking up in the middle of the night, finding myself scrolling through survivors' stories, news reports, the Roy Moore campaign race, constantly looking to see who has been accused and who's admitted to it. I keep finding myself awake at 4:00am every day, listening to the stories of heartbreak and pain that drudge up my own past. I keep scrolling through #ChurchToo hashtags, spreading the light on the awful, dark, hidden stories of people who have experience sexual abuse in the church, and, many times, how horrendously religious people treat victims. I keep rubbing my eyes and wiping away tears at painful stories that ring too closely to home. My stomach has been in knots trying to figure out how to help, how to share, and, if I'm honest, if it's even worth it help, because it feels like it'll only be a drop in the ocean.
The #MeToo Movement has taken off and exposed celebrities, CEOs, producers, TV hosts, pastors, you name it, there's an allegation and a #MeToo story behind it.
The world has seen the bravery and courage from men and women of all walks of life, who have come forward to share the truth. We've seen perpetrators give apologies and recognition to their inexcusable behavior, resign from their positions, and leave the public eye. Many still refuse to leave or recognize their behavior, despite cases being built against them. The world is experiencing is the heartbreaking way many people have responded to survivors sharing their stories. Online hate grows and looms. If you listen in to the news and tune in to social media, you'll stumble across a newscaster covering someone's story and you'll start to hear what those who doubt, or simply don't want to believe, have to say.
When I find myself sitting awake at 4am, I so badly wish I could come up with just the right thing to say. I wish I could sit at my laptop and think of the perfect answers and tell the whole world how to make sense of it all. I wish I could figure out the best way to help victims and survivors. I wish I could make sure this never happens to anyone else again. I wish I could erase all of the pain and hurt for all of us.
But I can't, and no one can.
But the one thing I can do is use what I know from my own #MeToo story and the stories of those who I've walked with and use it to help the world respond lovingly when they hear the terrible things that have happened to victims of abuse.
There's so many things you can do to stand with a survivor to help them heal, and also sooo many things that can really, severely damage them in their healing process.
Here are some things from my perspective as a survivor, and survivors that I've walked with and who have shared their #MeToo stories with me.
T H I N G S T H A T H U R T:
When you hear a survivor's story or someone sits down to tell you theirs, the most important thing to do is respond in a way that affirms them and makes them feel safe. If you know of an abusive situation that is happening or has happened in the past, don't push the victim to tell you details they don't feel comfortable sharing. Let them know you believe them, you support them, and you are there to listen whenever they need it. These are tips to help you navigate your relationships with the people in your life who have experienced sexual abuse because your heart may be in the right place, just trying to do your best to be supportive and loving, but you can inadvertently hurt them. These are extremely important skills to have, as 1/3 people will experience sexual assault. So when someone in your life experiences abuse, you can be prepared and ready to respond with open, loving arms.
Here are some don'ts that you should steer away from at all costs:
T H I N G S T H A T H E L P A N D H E A L
When you're walking with a victim on their journey to healing, remember to do your best to help them heal. As a victim, you often feel alone, misunderstood, and like no one will fight for you. So, as someone on the outside looking in, try to make your loved one feel comforted, understood, and like you will be their advocate. You won't always know what to do or how to help, but just trying can make a world of difference to someone who is experiencing the aftermath of abuse. Here are some "do's" to help encourage you to keep fighting for your loved ones in helpful, loving ways that will help them heal.
This can be a lot of information to take in and a lot to process. Just remember that making an effort to take these steps is appreciated and is helping, even if you don't feel like it. It may seem like a lot of do's and dont's, but it's all just precautions to make someone who has experienced one of the absolute worst things you can go through feel safe and comforted. Trauma is very painful and can last a lifetime, so being sensitive is important.
You may feel like your efforts aren't worth it, but they are so important in the life of a survivor. If we all make efforts and take a stand for victims, we can truly change the world and change the way that survivors are treated. We can help heal those who have been beaten down and broken. We can fight for the truth. We can be a voice for the voiceless. We can make those who feel marginalized feel loved, cared for, and supported. We can love the forgotten and ignored like Jesus did. Your choices to advocate for survivors are making a difference. Thank you for doing what you do, and keep fighting.
For statistics, facts, and resources on how to help survivors, visit https://www.rainn.org/. To talk to someone to receive 24/7 support, call 800-656-4673 for the National Sexual Assault Helpline. To hear stories of survivors or share yours, contact us here on the blog under the contact page.
Mary's first few years as a mother were extremely eventful to say the very least.
The announcement, the birth, the manger, the angels, the wise men, the escape, the return, a lot was happening everyday on top of motherhood of Jesus.
It would be impossible to say that Mary was not a woman who was in ministry.
When you look at those crazy, first few years with Jesus, there's a lot of tragedy and heartbreak, but also a lot of joy and trusting in the Lord. God uses pain to refine, and those years of motherhood for Mary were years of growth to prepare her for the ministry that was ahead.
When you look at the life of Jesus, we can see all throughout His ministry that a lot of women were supporting him by traveling with Him and His disciples, supporting Him financially, and were there at the core of His ministry.
In John 2, Jesus performs His first miracle at a wedding, at Mary was there seeking His help, supporting Him.
We see her at many stages of His life throughout the New Testament, and you could argue that it's just because she is His mother, but Mary's dedication to Jesus's ministry was not just her dedication to the ministry of motherhood, it was an active role in His ministry leading up to His death and resurrection.
When Mary accepted to be the mother of Jesus, way back when the angel Gabriel first visited her, she was not just accepting to carry, deliver, and raise a child. She submitted her life to God, to use it for whatever He had for her. Culturally, Mary sacrificed a lot.
When a lot of us look at Mary, the first thing that comes to mind is a picture-perfect, gentle and quiet woman who is esteemed greatly by everyone, world-wide, but when Mary agreed to carry Jesus, she was giving up her whole reputation with her community. She was a hard-core, devoted, all-in kind of woman who had a really bad rep with a lot of people because of her pregnancy with Jesus.
There were many people who believed Jesus was the Messiah, and they believed the prophecies of the Old Testament that prophesied He would be born of a virgin. However, there was also a lot of people who weren't happy about Jesus being the Savior who completely doubted His deity. Because of that, by default, they believed that Mary was a harlot who got pregnant out of wedlock, which was an extremely big deal in Middle Eastern culture, 33 B.C. A part of her old life had to die, and the new life that God had for her began. And if we can learn anything from Mary about ministry, it's that growing hurts, and it is not easy.
Mary had a very important role in Jesus's life, but she wasn't the only woman facilitating Jesus's ministry.
Mary the sister of Lazarus and her sister Martha walked along Jesus many times in His ministry.
In Luke 7:36-50, Matthew 26:6-13, and Mark 14:3-9, Mary washes Jesus's feet, which symbolized many things, and it was a very important in Jesus's life to set the tone for how He viewed and respected women in front of the Pharisees, especially in a time culturally when women were considered very lowly. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus is at the Home of Mary and Martha who were opening their home to Him. The sisters are seen again in John 11 when their brother dies and Jesus resurrects Him. A very big piece of apologetic evidence that the Bible is true is that women were even mentioned in the whole Book, especially playing such important roles in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection.
Another woman who played an important role in Jesus's ministry was Mary Magdalene.
Mary was a woman Jesus healed of 7 demons, and she is seen in Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1-19; Luke 8:2; 24:10; John 19:25; 20:1-18. In Luke 8, she is raveling with Jesus, the twelve, and other women, serving alongside Him as He preached from town to town.
Luke 8: 2- 3
Get. It. Girl. These ministries were lit.
Not only were these women on the ground with Jesus, serving with Him and His disciples, they were working to support Him financially. In John 19, Mark 15, and Matthew 27, Jesus is crucified and buried by many of these same women. And, when Jesus rises from the dead, the first people He visits are Mary Magdalene and His mother.
I heard from a small group of Bible teachers and professors at a school I attended that in their own opinion, a woman's place in ministry was to her husband. If you were married, your one role was supporting your husband so he could do his ministry. If you wanted to be in missions, you should marry a missionary and support him. If you wanted to do a ministry, your options were children's ministry or women's ministry, which was a very limited range of things.
As we look at these passages in scripture, however, these women weren't doing those things! These women were seeking how they could serve the Lord, and they were doing it.
Mary, Jesus's mother, really set up a foundation for women serving with Jesus and facilitating His ministry by whatever means they could. Another thing a teacher told me was women should be married and when you are married, your only goals should be to serve your husband and raise your children as a stay at home mother.
That never sat well with me, because I knew from from a young age that God was calling me to full time ministry, talk about conflict.
Here's what I've learned from Mary and the other women serving Jesus:
We're not all called to serve the same way.
Another thing to remember is there are a lot of differences between denominations that gauge what your opinion might be on how women can serve, but different doesn't mean wrong. Some women are 100% called to be stay at home wives or mothers, they serve in ministry like Mary did, mothering her child, teaching Him and growing Him, building their home. Some women are 100% called to be boots on the ground, serving locally, globally, or in whatever capacity out on the battlefront, like Mary Magdalene was with Jesus. Some women are called to be businesswomen, they have a career, they work in retail or an office. Some are called to serve financially, like the women in Luke 8. Some open their homes and use their hospitality, like Martha. Some are married women who have their own ministries and serve in a way different from their spouses, like Joanna and Susanna. Some are called to be speakers and teachers, spreading Jesus. There's a million possibilities, and those are just a few of the women who served with Jesus during His life, not to mention the women of the Old Testament or in Acts and letters from Paul in the New Testament. Ministry looks different for everyone. The most important thing I've learned from Mary and these women is that I, and no one else but Jesus Himself, dont have the right to look at a woman and tell her what she should or should not do in ministry. I'm not saying we all just jump ship from doctrine and live a crazy Joel Olsteen life where we do whatever makes us happy and no one can tell us differently. We should keep each other in check and always take advice on how to live out a Biblically sound life as ministers with our ministries. What I am saying is that I can't look at a stay at home mom and say that because her calling is different than mine, she's wrong and not serving the Lord correctly. I can't tell a woman who's a stay at home wife who's called to financially support that church that isn't serving the right way. I can't look at a woman who's a CEO and tell her she should step away from the ministry field in business world to serve in women's ministry. I can't tell a woman who leads a women's ministry to back on up and serve in the global missions field.
It's not my job to tell anyone what their call to service is or what God's plan is for their lives, my job is to serve Jesus in whatever way He calls me, be faithful, and give it my all.
If someone is truly seeking the Lord and earnestly wants to serve Him, it's not my place to get in the way of that, and if a woman is truly seeking God's will and praying and searching His word to see how He wants her to serve, I can't step up and say sorry honey bunch, that's not allowed. And if you think a women is not serving Jesus in a way that she should be, what you do need to do for her is pray. Pray that if she's wrong, God will reveal the truth to her and bring people in her life to mentor her in a godly way back on the right path. Pray that her ministry succeeds in bringing people to Jesus and loving them the way that God did, and pray that if you're incorrect about anything, that God would give you wisdom and truth.
Mary left, and continues to leave an incredible legacy of how to serve the Lord with your life. Her life is an example of how to be faithful, how to live a favored life, how to be obedient, how to give ministry your all, and how to be confident in God and His promises. We see it in the birth of Jesus, His early life, His later life, and even after His death and resurrection [Acts 1:14]. She was devoted and her treasure and hope was in the Lord. Her life was a life that was dedicated to God. Mary was the woman behind the Savior, and because she said yes to God, we have been saved by grace and can live a life for Jesus.
Matthew 2:13- 17
In the first few two chapters of Matthew and Luke, it's established pretty quickly that Mary's pregnancy and delivery of Jesus wasn't ideal and a picture perfect scene from What to Expect When You're Expecting. There was a lot of unexpected bumps in the road, and Mary's character is displayed. She was a strong woman who was super confident and so sold out for whatever God's plan was. Her fiance, Joseph, was also a super solid guy who loved the Lord and was also all int for raising Jesus, whatever that was going to look like for him and Mary.
In Luke and Matthew chapter 2, a lot goes down really quickly. Mary and Joseph are in Bethlehem to register for a census, and Mary goes into labor without a place to stay. They were short on options, so Mary delivered Jesus in a super unconventional space, and his first crib was definitely not from her Babies-R-Us gift registry. Meanwhile, an angel of Lord was stopping by to announce the birth to some shepherds tending their flocks. Then, a chorus of angels came to the shepherds praising God, and the shepherds proceeded to find Mary, Joseph, and the new baby, and they started telling everyone what they had seen and heard. While all of this was happening, a star appeared in the sky to celebrate the birth of Messiah. There were a group of magi, who we all learned in sunday school were the infamous "three wise men", which was basically the biggest heretical issue you probably learned as a five year old, because there's no indication in the Bible as to how many magi there were, and they definitely didn't arrive to see Jesus the night of his birth. [This magi thing drives me a little bit bananas, it's like a whole deal. 🤦] The magi were very skilled magicians and astrologers from Persia, so when they saw the star, they were really into it. They traveled to find the King of the Jews, but when they arrived in Jerusalem, the king of the region at the time was not into the news that a baby, who would be king, had been born. King Herod had some really serious narcissistic issues, and he wanted to find Jesus to knock out any future competition. He sent off the magi to find Jesus and told them to report back when they found him. The wise men found Jesus, they worshipped Him, and they gifted him very expensive and symbolic gifts for a King. God sent an angel to visit the wise men and Joseph in dreams to let them know that Herod was bad news and the magi needed to get out without a peep and Mary and Joseph needed to get out of Jerusalem and into Egypt ASAP.
To me, this is a really important part of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph's story. They were forced to flee in the middle of the night to save their lives from Herod's killing spree that was about to happen, targeting all baby boys up to two years old. Jesus's family was, by all definitions, a refugee family. The family didn't even head back to Israel until Herod died, and they moved to Nazareth to stay off anyone's radar.
I've said this a million times about the journey that Mary was on during these first few years, but this is a lottt to swallow.
If there's one thing I know about crisis, it's really difficult to be obedient when it's all going down. In the middle of crazy whirlwinds, I have a terrible tendency to freeze up and over think literally everything that's humanly possible to overthink. My natural reaction is to find a couch, turn off all the lights, out on giant sweatpants, eat all the Ben and Jerry's that I can get my hands off, and binge watch Pretty Little Liars and Pinterest my dream wedding. I need one million years to make a decision, especially when it's a crisis.
Mary had no time to freeze up and shut the world out. She was a new mom who got woken up in the middle of the night by her husband, telling her they had to run because someone was trying to kill their baby, the Savior of the world.
I'm sure at this point Mary was really ready for all of the wild scenarios to be over. She finally had her baby, she was offically married to Joseph, and it was time to start motherhood. Biblical scholars think that the magi got to Jesus around the time that He was 2, so there was a little bit of cool down time before this happened.
Mary got the word from Joseph about the dream he had from God, and she had to get up, throw her hair in a bun, and get on the road to Egypt with her toddler. Moving internationally is not an easy thing, especially being a parent with the stress and fear this couple had for their child's life. It's also not an easy thing to travel by foot to another country with a toddler.
All of this to say, this was a serious, serious crisis, and it's very hard to be obedient when you feel like the ground is being pulled from under you. It's so clear in the Biblical evidence leading up to this point what grounded and godly person Mary was. Mary had trusted God when she found about her pregnancy, when Joseph didn't believe her story, when she had to travel late in her pregnancy, and she was obedient to God in all of these things. Mary knew that even when the sky was falling down around her, if she was obedient to the Lord, he was going to take care of all of her needs. Obedience in trials is one of the hardest things to keep, but even though you're headed head first into the dark, it's not dark on God's end. Mary was, above all things, dedicated to serving the Lord with her life. This was another time in her life that she would look back on and realize how faithful God was.
By the time Mary delivered Jesus, she had been through a lot. A lotttt.
Here's a timeline recap from Luke chapter one and two :
Mary is visited by the angel Gabriel, Gabriel tells Mary that she will be the mother of the Lord God in the flesh, Mary, the virgin, is found miraculously with child, she tells her fiance, her fiance doesn't believe her, her fiance is visited by an angel of the Lord, he finds out that everything she said was true, he takes his pregnant fiancee on a very long, mandatory trip to register for a census, Mary arrives with her fiance Joseph, very pregnant, there is no room at the inn, Mary delivers her baby, and then places him in a manger, because that was her only option.
This woman was a tough cookie, and a tough cookie who relied on the Lord who highly favored her.
Mary was hardcore, and she was not messing around.
Back in Luke 1:26-38, when Mary first got the most incredible news in her entire life, Gabriel also tells Mary that she was highly favored by God. Gabriel also tells her that the Lord was with her.
How was Mary living in favor with the Lord? What did her life look like?
Some Biblical Scholars believe that when the angel tells Mary "The Lord is with you" In Luke 1:28, he is actually saying, "The Lord be with you " and meant it as a common greeting and blessing, like we see in Judges 6:12 or Ruth 2:4. But the other theory is that he did in fact mean "The Lord is with you", and it could be referencing the presence of the Holy Spirit with Mary. In the Old Testament, not all believers had the presence of the Holy Spirit. It wasn't until after the death and resurrection of Jesus that all believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they accept salvation. So, in the Old Testament and prior to Pentecost, there wasn't a promise of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
In Numbers 27:18, Joshua has the presence of the Holy Spirit, but He is not all believers. In Judges 3:10, it's made clear that the Holy Spirit came upon believers for a period of time, but He would leave, like in 1 Samuel 16:14, when believers stopped submitting to Him, or they would stop obeying and go with their own fleshly wants.
If the latter of these ideas is true, and the angel meant to tell Mary that the Holy Spirit of God was with her, that tells us so much about her character. Mary was abiding with the Holy Spirit, she was settling down at home with Him. She submitted her life to the Lord, and made her decisions and choices prayerfully and with guidance from God's Word.
Another really obvious thing that we observe see from Mary's life is that she was a virgin, which meant she was following God's Word about marriage, and it was something she took seriously. She made a commitment of purity to the Lord because she knew that His way of doing things would be the best way for her to live her life, and have a marriage that God blessed, which you can see He really did.
In Luke 1:45, Elizabeth makes a prophetic statement about Mary and gives a blessing to her: "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Mary had no doubts in God. That's why she jumped on board, straight away, when she got the news about Jesus. She trusted God right from the start, and knew that He would not leave her hanging. She was confident in the promises He had made to her.
I think one of the most telling things in the Bible about Mary's character is her song in Luke 1:46-55.
46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord
Mary was highly favored with the Lord, not because she was perfect. She was a regular woman with a regular life, but what separated her was that she loved God with a fierce and trusting love. Her spirit rejoiced in God, her savior. She was humble. She knew of how abundant God's mercy was. She knew of all the incredible things God had done for her people, and she was completely confident that He would extend that to her. She knew God's heart, and sought after it. Mary was not a perfect woman, she didn't have it all together, she wasn't living an insta perfect life, but Mary was a woman who was confident in God above all things. She was a very strong woman and her strength came from God, and that's what kept her fighting.
It's hard to look at the life of Mary sometimes because it's hard not to feel like you won't be able to measure up to the way she lived her life. No one else will carry the Savior of the world for nine months or raise Him. No one else will support His ministry the way she did. We won't get an announcement from and angel about the birth of Christ and have to give birth to God incarnate in a manger. But, we all have a calling on our lives from God. We all have a purpose, and God has a plan for each one of us. It seems like we'll never live up to being the perfect Mother Mary figure, and we won't because she wasn't perfect or flawless either. We won't be virtuous women of God 100% of the time, all day every day, because we're people. We're sinful people in a messed up, hard to swallow, sinful world. But, we do have a Savior who forgives relentlessly and loves beyond what our brains can think. We have the legacy of a woman who lived a highly favored life, a woman who we can strive to be like. We can live in God's mercy, we can be confident in Him, we can soak up His love, we can walk in His forgiveness, we can say yes to Him without questions, we can be all in when He calls us. We can live in the legacy of Jesus, a man who was born of a woman who lived a highly favored life.
Something that seems to always get overlooked in the story of Mary and Joseph is the portion of time between when Mary tells Joseph that she's pregnant with the Lord incarnate, he doesn't believe her, plans to divorce her quietly, and when the angel tells Joseph it's all true.
Matthew 1:18-24 gives a brief overlook of the birth of Jesus and includes this lapse of time when Joseph thought his fiancee cheated on him.
The part that seems to get shuffled over is that Mary and Joseph must have both been absolutely devastated. Mary gets the most incredible news of her entire life, the most privileged position, and she can't share her initial overwhelming excitement with the man she's in love with. She must have been terrified.
Think about stepping into in those 33 B.C. sandals for a hot minute:
Mary is pregnant, and Joseph, who will be the provider for her and her future child, doesn't believe her when she says she doesn't have a secret baby daddy and now he wants to divorce her. This is the man she's absolutely in love with. Imagine that conversation she had to have with him. She told him the story of Gabriel visiting, that she was still faithful to her fiancée and her vows to wait for her husband, she must have told him how excited and terrified and bewildered she was that God had chosen her, and Joseph didn’t believe her. Imagine being in his place, seeing the woman he loves expecting, knowing there’s not a chance that he’s the father, and trying to scramble to put the pieces together. Was she crazy? Did she have an affair and come up with some ridiculous cover up story?
I can’t imagine anyone being left without a broken heart after this all had taken place.
The Bible gives no exact timeline for how long it was before Joseph had a chat with an angel of the Lord, but I can almost garauntee you, it probably felt like years for this couple.
This period of time is only briefly narrated and doesn’t contain many details, but the feelings of infedility and betrayal don’t mix well with a pregnant woman’s feelings of abandonment, lonliness, and fear, so it’s safe to assume, these weren’t happy days. If I was Mary, I’ve always imagined I would feel so scared of being alone, not necessarily even by Joseph, but I would be so afraid that God had somehow forgotten me, that God wasn’t loyal, that He wasn’t faithful.
But Mary was a woman who loved the Lord, a woman who God favored and favored highly. She had committed to the Lord to mother the savior of all mankind, and she was in no matter what fears, tears, and broken hearts were tossed in her face. Mary was just getting started with her faithful, lifetime, ministry commitment to her son, and it started off with a very broken heart.
Some of the very hardest times to trust God is with a broken heart. It's hard to feel like He's there, present with you when it hurts so deeply that you feel like you can't breath. It's hard to believe He has a plan that's greater than all other plans for you when it seems like you're completely alone and you don't even want to get out of bed because the pain is so strong. But our God is not a God who abandons. Our God adopts us into sonship. He is faithful. He is loving beyond understanding. He loves you so much that He sent his son to be born through this woman to live the life you could never live and die the death that you deserve so that you can be forever forgiven and spend this life and the next with Him. That's not the heart of an abandoning, drop-out dad who forgets you. That is the heart of a Father who loves you relentlessly, even when you feel alone and forsaken.
Some of the best advice that I ever received was to live with the attitude and mindset of a son, not an orphan. Orphans are without a parent, they have to worry about who will provide for them, what their future will be like, they don't have someone always there to comfort and love them in the darkest of times. A son has a Father. A son doesn't have to worry about where his food comes from, where he will stay, who will provide for him, because he has a Father who takes care of it all for him. They have an inheritance, a bright future. When everything turns upside-down and everything goes dark, a son knows he has a Father who will come to his rescue and take care of his every need.
Broken hearts feel like the end. Telling someone the truth and them not believing you is a terrible feeling. Mary was facing the bleakest and darkest of times, all alone. She probably felt like she was losing everything important to her: family, who thought she had dishonored them by being an unwed mother, her fiance, her reputation, it was all quickly collapsing. But Mary fiercely loved God, and she was a daughter, with an inheritance in the Lord, and a Heavenly Father who was going to take care of her, even in the bleak, hopeless, broken-hearted moments.
When you think of the Christmas story, what do you think of?
Usually we jump straight to the couple looking for a room, no hotels available, some shepherds and angels sing praises, and Jesus is born, O Holy Night, then somehow we tie Santa and the day after Christmas sale at Target into that. But, there's a whole story within itself we often overlook that happens before Mary and Joseph end up it Bethlehem and the Messiah is born.
It all starts with Mary:
Jewish girls had been waiting for centuries to learn that they would be the mother of the Messiah that the Old Testament prophets wrote about. Isaiah 7:14 prophesies that Jesus would be born of a virgin and belong to the line of King David, so all the lucky Hebrew ladies qualifying were hoping and waiting to get the news that Mary got.
There isn't a lot of background on Mary in the two gospels that tell the story of the birth of Jesus, but there are a lot of key pieces of information about Mary in the angel Gabriel's announcement to her of her upcoming pregnancy with Jesus. In Luke 1:26, Luke explains that Gabriel was sent by God to tell a girl in Nazareth she would be the mother of the Messiah. Nazareth was a very small village known for agriculture, so Mary wasn't coming from the Ritz in Beverly Hills. She was a normal, Jewish girl living her life in a normal, Middle Eastern village. Luke goes on to tell how Gabriel announces the pregnancy in verse 28: "And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus."
Twice Gabriel calls her favored with God, which gives us a lot of insight on this girl's character. Also, Luke includes that Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, who was in the lineage of David. The other thing we hear a couple of times in this passage is that Mary is a virgin.
Let's pop a tent up here for a second:
This is usually the part where people skip to the part in their Bible that has a picture of a Precious Moments nativity scene, but this is a lot to process. Mary is a normal girl, living her super average life in Galilee. She's highly favored with God, which tells us that she is walking with the Lord and living a really honorable lifestyle. Also, add engaged and soon to be pregnant to the list. And one more thing, she's a virgin, and the person she will grow and carry for nine months is the Son of God.
I really feel like Mary does not get enough credit. If I had just gotten a super overwhelming message from an angel of the Lord, I wish I could say I would be as instantly faithful and brave like Mary was, jumpin all in and trusting God right off the bat, but in all honesty I would probably cry a lot, eat a lot, and say "hey I really need some time to emotionally process all of this for like two weeks if that's okay". But Mary didn't hesitate for a second because she was so confident in God and she knew He would keep his promises to her.
This is a lot of amazing and really frightening information, and it's not from someone you know and are comfortable with, not your mom or grandma or friendly kindergarten teacher, it's from an Angel sent directly from God Himself, I seriously could not even imagine.
The angel came to Mary, he gave her the most wonderful news she would ever hear, she asked how, and when Gabriel told her with God all things are possible, and this woman said sign me up.
That is the essence of a woman of beautiful and noble character. Mary didn't skip a beat because she loved God dearly, with all of her heart, and she knew that if it was in His hands, she was all in. She was going to be a mother, a mother with no husband, carrying a baby that was not her fiance's, and she would be the mom of the Savior of the world. Mary was a normal girl. She wasn't Beth Moore or Mandisa. Jesus loving people didn't know her name world-wide. But Mary had a burning fire for the Lord. She was the one that generations and generations of women had hoped to be. She was the woman who had the honor and privilege that God had picked out, just for her, that no other woman would ever get again. Mary said yes, I'm a servant of the Lord. That's a look at the woman behind the Savior.
Surprise! There's a brand new, free devo coming that's just in time to get you all prepped for the Christmas story!
I've always been so intrigued by Jesus's mother Mary, and her story behind the Christmas story that everyone knows. Mary is one of the most universally known Bible characters, but there's a lot about Mary that gets overlooked. She endured so much heartbreak, ridicule, hardship, and pain with a deep love for God and incredible trust in Him. Her story is worth digging into. So, set a reminder for December 4th and get a brand new devotional every day, all week December 4th-8th! Tell your friends, tell your mom, tell your crew, and mark your calendars ❤
C O M I N G D E C E M B E R 4TH!
Photo: Kyle Loves Tori Photography
Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we're now in the full swing of the Christmas season. The Justin Bieber Christmas Album is on repeat, and I've been digging through my closet to put together some Christmas event-going outfits. 2017 Winter fashion is simple, textured, and sleek, so I have 3 formulas for holiday fashion this year:
S E M I - F O R M A L
For more formal events, go for easy pieces that speak for themselves. The holidays are the perfect time to wear anything with sequins, and long sleeves with a short hem flatters all body types. Tights or stockings will keep you warm and classy in a piece like this sequin cocktail dress. When you wear something flashy and eye-catching, keep your jewelry to a minimum, like this Sole Society fabric wrapped cuff. Above-the-knee hems usually call for a heel closer to the floor, so these pale-pink d'Orsay flats from Gap.
D R E S S Y - C A S U A L
When you're headed to an office event or a church christmas party that's more on the dressy side but not quite to cocktail dresses and blazers, keep it simple and sweet. Take a piece you'd wear everyday like this lace-up back sweater and dress it up with a skirt. This black mini-skirt is a great versatile piece that you can wear with basically everything. If short isn't your style, then wear something in the same family like a long black maxi dress and layer a fun, textured sweater like this over it. Add some fun, flirty earrings and a bangle, and you'll be ready to eat Christmas tree shaped h'orderve platters all night long.
C A S U A L
If you're off to a casual Christmas get-together with friends, keep it Khloe Kardashian. Wear your favorite pair of high-waisted jeans with an easy black bodysuit. No muss, no fuss. Go for a neutral color palette and add metallics like these gold bangles and earrings. Top your outfit off with your best black heels and you'll be the best dressed in the white-elephant gift exchange.
This year, Thanksgiving feels different. I’ve been so blessed to be able to travel to different parts of the world this year and hear the stories of people from all walks of life. I was able to listen to the stories from refugee families in Iraq who invited me in their homes to share their hearts and losses. I got to play with kids in refugee camps who had lost their parents, families, and homes. I was privileged to spend time with my friends, and now family, in Egypt who passionately the Lord, who share Jesus relentlessly, and are an example of the Church being Christ’s hands and feet, even though they live somewhere where it costs them everything. I’m thankful for new things I never thought to be thankful for. I’m thankful for clean cold water. I’m thankful for a warm home and a healthy family. I’m thankful to live in a place in the world where I’m overwhelmingly privileged, where anyone can be anything. I’m thankful for a global family of people from all over the world who have taught me things I never could have learned without them. I’m thankful for clothes and food and shoes to wear, and a million things that God has transformed my heart to appreciate. My prayer this coming year is to remember that privilege is something that not many people in our world have, and that God gave it to me to use on behalf of others. I pray that I will have a heart like Jesus to love the broken and serve them like He did. ❤️
When the Harvey Weinstein stories started pouring out this fall, no one was prepared for all that would surface with the infamous hashtag #MeToo . In early October, women and men all over social media started using the hashtag to share stories of sexual abuse, harassment, misconduct, and abuse. Survivors started telling their stories, flooding the internet. Reports from Hollywood came in massive waves, exposing producers, stars, and politicians, and the reports haven't stopped since. Among these celebrities are familiar names like Warner Brothers producer Andrew Kreisberg, Producer Brett Ratner, E! News correspondent Ken Baker, NBC and MSNBC news correspondent Mark Halperin, and Head of Amazon Studios Roy Price, faces many of us see daily on television and names we hear the news. Many of these men have denied reports despite evidence and multiple allegations from different victims, like Harvey Weinstein and That 70's Show actor Danny Masterson, who has evidence piling up against him in pending rape cases. However, some have chosen to tell the truth. Actor and comedian Louis C.K. responded to the allegations of five women of sexual harassment, released a statement to the public saying, "These stories are true." Later in his confession, he went on to say "There is nothing about this that I forgive myself for. And I have to reconcile it with who I am. Which is nothing compared to the task I left them with ... The hardest regret to live with is what you've done to hurt someone else,". Actor Kevin Spacey was accused by actor Anthony Rapp of making sexual advances toward him when Rapp was 14. Spacey responded on Twitter with this apology:
Bill O'Reilly has thus far denied sexual allegations of repeated harassment, sexual assault, and sending explicit material and pornography to a woman who made a claim against O'Reilly. It has since surfaced that made a $32 million dollar settlement with a network analyst in order to keep the allegations quiet. Many stars and bigwigs on the Hollywood scene have resigned from their positions after their allegations surfaced. Among those resigning are Steve Jurvetson of SpaceX and Tesla, David Guillod of Primary Wave Entertainment agency, Kentucky Speaker of the House, Jeff Hoover, head of NPR and New York Times editor Michael Oreskes, and President and publisher of The New Republic Hamilton Fish. The list goes on and on and on. The powerful #MeToo hashtag has started a movement, and a war for the truth.
Do you believe us now?
And where does that leave us? Where does that leave the Church?
Although the truth is emerging from both survivor and now abuser, the war has not been won. It's not even close, especially for the Church. Not only is it our God-ordained responsibility to care for the broken, speak for the voiceless, and cry with those in pain, loving like Jesus did, it's our responsibility to attack the problem from the source. There is a war being waged. Women, children, and men are being sexually assaulted, raped, and harassed. One in three people will experience sexual abuse.
We live in a world where we see that when survivors come out to tell the truth, they're, more often than not, treated as liars, covered in shame that isn't theirs. They're labeled with titles that have no place being on a victim. They're isolated even more than they already feel; left to deal with the PTSD, flashbacks, panic attacks, depression, disassociation, and sleep disorders, that survivors of sexual abuse deal with, alone. In many [most] parts of the Church, the Jesus of the Bible, the radically loving Jesus who stopped at nothing to show love to the broken, isolated, and perpetrated against, is lost in many Christian circles' efforts to sweep the "drama" under the rug. The very essence of the God we worship is lost. Boys are taught that they have no control over their bodies so don't look, and girls are taught to make sure there's nothing to look at, or whatever happens is on you. Boys' behavior is overlooked if she was asking for it. If she was showing too much, if she was flirting, if she was "putting herself in the situation", it's agreed, she had it coming. The curtains are closed, the victims are swept to the side, and more hurt is created.
The facts regarding sexual abuse are unbelievable. Only six out of one thousand sexual perpetrators will go to prison. Every 98 seconds, someone will experience sexual assault. One out of five women in college is sexually abused. 90% of victims are female. 8% of sexual crimes happen on school property. 66% of victims are ages 12-17. The list goes on forever with sickening facts. This is too big for the Church to ignore.
Something has to change.
The Church has to change.
We need to be ready to take action: care for the victims but also proactively attack the issue from the foundations. Boys need to be taught that they are made in God's image, to love and protect. They need to know they're strong and smart. The Church needs to learn to offer encouragement to men, young and old, in a society that is obsessed with sex and pornography, that teaches them that they're weak , stupid, and worthless. They need to know that if they've been perpetrated against, that it's not their fault and they aren't any less of a man, and that they will have support, love, and advocates. Women need to be taught they are loved and valued, and that their worth isn't lost in what has been done to them. They need to be taught that it is never their fault. They need to know that no matter how they've been treated, they are beautiful and treasured. Women need to grow up knowing that they aren't objects and be treated as such. They need to know that it's not their responsibility to "prevent sexual assault" with modesty. Everyone needs to be reminded that no amount of skin showing, drinking, partying, flirting, or any actions taken justify any persons being taken advantage of. The church needs to remember that sexual assault is being taken advantage of, without consent, and that fundamentally by the definition, there's absolutely no way to "ask for it". We need to all adopt the heart of Jesus, to all broken and hurting people. We need to leave the agenda of keeping a seemingly perfect, always cleaned-up facade behind, because that's not the life we were called to live by our Lord. We need to stand loyally with survivors. We need to seek the truth, no matter who is telling it.
Anyway you look at it, Jesus is the only hope for the world. There is no other way for people's hearts to be truly changed without Jesus. There is no way to raise our next generation to fight on the right side of this fight without the passion, empathy, and love of Jesus. There's no way to win this battle, or any other battle, without Jesus. It's all running around in surface-level circles without Jesus. As the Church, it's our job to bring Jesus into the world, no matter how deep and dark. It's our job to carry the broken. There is no one else who is going to bring the light of Jesus to our world but us.
The war is being fought, but we have the only way to win.
The truth is coming to the surface. There is a movement for justice taking place. We are living in an age of exposure that the world has never seen before. Silence is not an option.
So Church, do you believe us now?
Tonight, while I’m falling asleep in my warm bed, in my safe home, I can’t stop thinking about the thousands of refugees I saw, and the many I had the privilege to meet, in Iraq. I can’t stop seeing their faces or the make-shift tents in the desert that are now their homes. I can’t stop playing the stories after stories they told me in my head. The stories about losing everything to terrorist groups; their parents, children, husbands, and homes. The stories of fleeing for their lives. My heart breaks and breaks as I think about them trying to fall asleep, fearful, heart-broken, and many suffering PTSD from the traumas after traumas they suffered. It’s unfathomable to imagine the pain of losing everything, and it’s even more unimaginable to try to understand that there are 22 million refugees in our world today. I pray that my heart and the heart of the Church will open more and more to the broken who so greatly need it. The people who God loves so, so much. I pray that we can love them with Christ’s love and open our hands and hearts to them, as Jesus would. I pray that we remember that our own Savior was once refugee, forced to flee his home, and treat the families who are seeking refuge as we would treat Jesus’s.
“For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”
Matthew 25:35-40 NLT
P R A Y F O R R E F U G E E S ❤
Riverdale has become the trendiest and most stylish show of 2017, and winter fashion is sprinkled with all things Betty, Veronica, and Cheryl. After I watched the season one finale, I wore red lipstick everyday for like a two weeks.
Riverdale has been known for its gorgeous aesthetics and design, so put a little bit of Cheryl Blossom in your closet with a leather skirt this season. Another way to bring some River-Vixen in your wardrobe is a half-turtleneck. It's super sleek and practical practical for your winter style, and can easily been dressed up with some signature Lodge pearls. These Topshop flats are very Betty, and super comfy and easy to wear with any outfit. As long as you steer clear from red circles and black hoods, your winter wardrobe will be solid. [hold for cheesy sitcom applause]
#Metoo Today, as we honor and listen to those who stand up and say me too, it becomes much more real and fathomable how many people have been victims of sexual abuse. Today isn't just a day to listen, it's a day to comfort, stand with survivors, and say "I believe you" back. It's so important in our world, that tries so often to cover up and ignore the truth, to be the support system that survivors need. It's not just the "right thing to do", it's a commission we've been ordained by God to love the broken and hurting, comfort the afflicted, be the voice of those without one, never ignore, and speak the truth in love. #therealtruthproject
Today I'm so blessed to be able to celebrate #girlsday and think of all the amazing women in my life who have poured into me, been there to cry with me, teach me, lead me, love me, be real with me, and show me the real-life example of what God calls women to be. Feminism gets a bad rep in the Christian world. In a lot of christian circles, if there were two f words, and feminism would probably be the other one. It’s often portrayed poorly by women who think they need to put down and belittle men to be considered equal. To me, that's an even better reason to stand and display a godly representation of feminism. I don't want to stand for feminism to diminish men, but to follow the example these amazing women have set for me and instead of tearing others down to try to create an equal platform for women, demonstrate how the Lord has equally gifted and called women, just as men, and remind people how cherished and loved women are by God. We've come so far in the last hundred years from where we were for equality, and there's still more work to be done, but to be done with the love of Jesus and grace of God. It's so important to take a stand for and celebrate women, not just for yourself, but for the next generation, the women who don't have a voice, and the women who don't understand how beautiful, loved, and gifted they are by God.
By Jody Hurst:
Simple True/False Quiz to help you clarify your own thoughts and understand if your support or nonsupport of "take a knee" is tied to whether you agree with the message of the athlete:
a. I support NFL Players who take a knee who are protesting unfair treatment of minorities in the US. (T/F)
b. I would support NFL Players who take a knee because they are trying to send a message that their taxes are too high, and shouldn't go to social welfare programs. (T/F)
c. I would support Tim Tebow's decision to take a knee at his next game in order to honor the 45 million babies who have been killed since Roe v. Wade. (T/F)
d. I would support a player's decision to take a knee after a hypothetical President said something despicable about police, which the player felt contributed to the murder of a police officer in his home town.(T/F)
If you answered True to all four, you're being consistent. You support a player's right to protest, regardless of the cause. Good for you. You win a pretend gold star.
If you answered True to only (a), you are agreeing with the current message of unfair treatment of minorities, and not simply the right of the protest action. There's nothing inherently wrong with inconsistency, just be aware of it.
If you answered True to any of (b), (c), or (d) but false to (a), then you, too, are being inconsistent. You are disagreeing with the message of the current NFL players, and not with their method of protest.
If you answered false to all four, you are being consistent. You believe no player has a right to protest by taking a knee, regardless of the reason he does so. You also win a pretend gold star.
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