“Do you feel seen by God?”

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.” (Isaiah 41:10)

About to step into a situation where I had not received some important information, God placed uneasiness in my heart. This uneasiness caused me to pause in prayer. The minute I stepped my toe in the situation, it took a bizarre turn that one would see in the movies. Once I put my toe in what I thought was a calm ocean, a storm bellowed towards me. I could not see what had been forming out in the ocean with my naked eyes. I had only sensed a slight warning just a short time before. I wanted to return home once I realized the storm was upon me, but I knew that this was a storm with God’s help I would swim my way through.

The winds of fear and doubt beat against me in the first part of the storm. I cried to the Lord to help push back the enemy’s winds of fear and doubt knocking me about in the inside as to undercut my trust, faith, and strength. Then gusty winds subsided as I prayed for the Lord’s wisdom to know what to do. What a relief, it appeared the worst of the storm had past. The sunlight peaked out behind the clouds. The Lord knew that I needed a break to regain my strength and bask in the warmth of His faithful presence.

Then dark clouds rolled in quickly, and before I knew it, I was in the eye of the storm. I had thought that I was fighting one thing in the first part of the storm, but in the eye of the storm I saw clearly the core of what I was fighting. I did not have the perfect response in the storm, but that is not what is important. I think a lot of us try to do whatever we can to avoid the storms all together. That does not seem to work. You prepare for the storms everyday of your life as you choose to grow in grace and faith in Jesus Christ who strengthens your mind and heart for the storms. The Word of God, Jesus and His Word, the Bible will help you fight the storms of life.

As I mentioned I did not have a perfect response in this storm, but the truths, which I spoke and stood upon, leveled my ground and slayed the lies of the enemy. Bruised up and wounded emotionally, I took up the Sword, God’s Word and spoke the truth with the little strength that I had left. I felt stronger as I spoke His truths, but it was really hard because it was like pushing back heavy weights.

The next day I was exhausted on all levels and not sure what I had to give that night on the prayer team at church for our monthly gathering of worship, prayer, and teaching. I thought about not going, but God nudged me and said, “Go.” While taking my seat for our prayer team meeting, our leader looked my way and said somethings to me that she could not have known if it was not for God’s Spirit speaking to her. I was stunned. In that moment, God was saying to me: “I see you.” I knew what you were going to face, I was with you and I am always with you. Through her, God gave me a big hug and then for the next several weeks, I felt His love cover me like a blanket at night as He wrapped me up under His wing. El Roi, one of the Hebrew names for God means “the God who sees.” Receive this encouragement: God sees you!

When was the last time you felt seen by God?

How did God specifically show you that He was with you?

How are you preparing your mind and heart daily for the storms of life?

– Mary Carmen

 

Will I find faith in the earth?

“However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18:8

When was the last time you were stunned by captivating beauty created by our undeniable God? It happened for me the first week of this new year when I roamed far enough away from the porch lights to see the sky full of stars. Orion’s belt seemed only a few football fields away. Lord, how can anyone see this and not believe you are the Creator, I thought. Not expecting a conversation, I heard within my soul, “Will I find faith in the earth?”

Will you find faith in the earth? How could you not? The earth is full of your splendor. Then, I asked myself, where is my faith when I’m not stunned by the beauty of the Creator, when I’m not aware of His Presence, when I’m wrapped up in my agenda and swallowed by the demands of the day? It wavers. Standing under a clear sky full of stars my faith soars, clouded by pressure it drowns.

If you, Lord, are going to find faith in the earth, it must start with me. What am I not believing you for right now? What dreams did I abandon last year because I was too tired to believe?

I love the stories in the Old Testament where the Israelites go into battle praising the Lord. “Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.” Now when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.”

As we go into this new year, with challenges ahead, both seen and unseen, how can we demonstrate that type of faith?

Just as Jehoshaphat said to the Lord before entering battle, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 2 Chron 20:12

How will faith be found in you?

In His Unfailing Love,
brandi

Word of the Year: Possible

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

I was enjoying dinner with girlfriends after Christmas. As we sat eating tasty Torchy’s Tacos, we talked about Christmas gifts, new movies, and 2018. That’s when the idea of a “word” came up. The intention is to ask God to give you a word to help define how you want to grow in character and know Him better through the year.

My friends talked about their chosen words as discipline and sacrifice. I jokingly replied that their words are so noble, I will choose greed just to offset them. I didn’t have my word and begin thinking about what word will help me trust the Lord in 2018.

I thought about the word “miracle” as I pondered what I am hoping for in my love relationship with the Lord. I long to have fresh experiences in my story of God turning the things that seem impossible into the possible. I battle being spiritually sluggish (for that matter, physically as well- that could be another theme word for my year: “Movement”). I want a refreshing wind to blow over my soul.

When Jesus spoke the words above in Matthew 16, He was referring to the rich man being willing to follow Jesus and surrender his possessions which represented his priorities in life. Jesus expressed that riches hinder a person from coming to Him as it’s very difficult for those insulated by wealth to see their need for His saving grace. When the disciples asked Him “Who can be saved?” Jesus replies, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Possible. What comes to mind? I think of “able,” “doable.”  The official Merriam Webster’s definition is, “being within the limits of ability, capacity, or realization.” Let’s take each of those.

Ability. Are there things I don’t seem “able” to do? Even when intellectually I know I can. For instance, can I wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning to spend more my time with God and His Word? It sounds simple but God’s Spirit makes it possible for me to have discipline to go to bed and wake up earlier. I’ll keep you posted.

Capacity. Are there people who are in need of God’s love but I feel so limited to give it? Is there ministry which seems like I don’t have the capacity to tackle? God’s love can flow through me even when I want to give up. I can continue to pray for and love those who seem far from Him and believe God’s Spirit is moving. I am hopeful to begin a Bible study with those I live around because God can make it possible when my time is limited and people are busy. I am prayerful Sacred Story will grow beyond my capacity because God is able.

Realization. Are there things that I’ve put out of my mind as being possible? Dreams, goals, or possibilities I don’t consider anymore because either I’ve tried many times to tackle a thing and it’s not been successful or I feel like my circumstances limit something as possible. Personally, I think about financial, relational, and physical goals. Can I renew my vision to see some things that have been hard as possible through Christ? Also, I’ve had a desire to make an impact internationally on those who are living very difficult stories. I’ve had the joy and privilege of traveling to Athens, Greece in the last few years to give into the lives of refugees. God, are there dreams You have that I have not considered?

Sacred Sisters, I covet your prayers for me to experience the God who makes all things possible. Leave a comment below with what you desire to see as possible; I’d also love to hear if you have a word or phrase for 2018 so I can pray with you.

~Laura

 

Joseph’s Role in the Christmas Story

Joseph, to whom she (Mary) was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-20

Joseph often gets overlooked in the Christmas story. Sure, his presence appears in every nativity scene we put out for display this time of year. Yet we forget the journey he took and the price he paid to carry out his role. A role he was involuntary cast in – unlike our Christmas pageants, there was no volunteering or auditions for Joseph.

His journey starts out with a dream and expectation most young men have: to marry and have a family. It is intriguing to think about how Mary and Joseph chose each other. Were their families in the same dinner group at the synagogue? Did Joseph notice Mary in his “Foundations of the Jewish Faith” class and ask his family to help secure the betrothal?

We know Joseph is a young man of good character who holds a deep reverence for God. The Scripture calls him a righteous man which is the same word describing Zacharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6) and Simeon (Lk 2:25). God “casts” people in roles of significance who can be trusted with His message and are willing to exercise faith in His promises even when it’s unpopular or misunderstood.

It is clear that both families valued their faith and taught their children to do the same. Betrothal in the Jewish culture is taken very seriously. Even before the couple consummates their marriage and live together as husband and wife those around them recognize the couple as married. That’s why the reality that Mary is pregnant must have hit Joseph like a ton of bricks.

I can only imagine the struggle to have a conversation. How does she explain? “SO. . .an angel appeared to me and told me that I was going to become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.” Hmmm. . .that’s a creative solution. “Mary, how could you do this to me when I’ve pledged my devotion to you? Our future looked so promising.” Or perhaps Joseph did believe her but didn’t think it was the right thing to marry a woman who was bearing God’s child. “Yikes, I don’t want to mess up God’s plan. How can I be the earthly parent to the Messiah?” No matter what conclusion he drew, the fact of the matter is that his world is rocked.

Joseph is in a tough place. By outward appearances, Mary broke the law where the consequence of adultery is death by stoning. He could show off his zeal for the law by making a public display of her. Joseph evidently loves her and wants to avoid calling attention to her pregnancy as he knew others will assume adultery. He decides to use the divorce laws and give Mary a written divorce privately.

Have you been in a difficult place where you don’t know what to think about a situation? A person you trust and respect broke the “rules” and it appears as if he or she is at fault. The natural tendency is to assign negative motives and cynicism to the person’s decision(s); yet you wonder if there’s more to his or her story. Perhaps the person has indicated there is more. What is the right or just thing to do?

I suggest praying something along these lines, “God, I don’t know what to believe. Help me to avoid coming to quick conclusions and to listen to the him or her while also listening for Your voice to guide me in how to proceed. Deliver me from deceptive thinking – any way the enemy wants to twist this situation or make me think badly of a person or people doing Your will.”

I love that God is big enough to get our attention when we genuinely want to know His will. Through a dream, the angel of the Lord reveals to Joseph that he can be certain what God is creating in Mary is from the Holy Spirit. AND the angel reassures him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. . .” Joseph, you have what it takes to depend upon Me in this supernatural story and to stand up for Me and for My purposes in front of those who will discount or shame you.

Joseph’s courage astounds me. He was willing to be Mary’s protector and provider as he adjusted to a drastic change in his story when he didn’t know what the next day would hold. Not to mention months and years. He trusted God to give him wisdom beyond what he could imagine as he became the parent of the child who is the Messiah, the God-Man.

I pray for qualities like Joseph: willing to see people and circumstances from God’s perspective even when it means being misunderstood; taking a stand for the Lord when it’s unpopular or looks downright foolish; not so “set in my story” that God can’t intervene and redirect me; willing to surrender where I live, what my career looks like, and allow my personal life to be “upside down” for the sake of offering His message of forgiveness to the world. “For he will save his people from their sins. . .”

I pray you find fresh awe in your spirit while reflecting upon the Greatest Story Ever Told. Merry Christmas~

Laura

 

Do you have peace?

“And this will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests!” (Luke 2:12–14)

I am always delighted when I read a familiar passage around Christmas time and the Holy Spirit illumines the Scripture and provides new insight. It proves, yet again, that you can never plumb the depths of God’s Word. There is always something new to understand and apply. In this case, I’m indebted to John Piper’s advent devotional for His teaching on these verses. Subscribe to his excellent devotional here.

In this passage the words “peace to those on whom his favor rests” give me both comfort and gratitude. I have overlooked this important clause for years.

We all crave peace. How do we become “those on whom his favor rests?” (v. 14). It is clear in this passage that the peace we long for is not offered to all. Did you catch that? This promise for peace is only for some. Is. 66:2b tells us “…These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit.” Humility comes from understanding our sinful state before a Holy God and trusting in the truth that Christ stands ready to forgive. God reconciles us to Himself because of Jesus. When we see ourselves rightly before a Holy God, recognizing our tremendous need, He produces a humble and contrite heart which is so precious to Him and so compelling to the world.

Another translation of this verse says “peace for those with whom He is pleased” (ESV). Hebrews 11:6 tells us “without faith it is impossible to please God.” God is pleased with those who, through faith, trust in Christ and place all their hope in Him. Romans 15:13 also reminds us that the God fills us with all joy and peace through belief in Him.

Isn’t it wonderful to receive this offer of peace and to rest knowing that Christ came to give us something that cannot be taken from us?

Even in the midst of uncertainty in this world and fear that can easily grip us, peace is always available. That’s why it’s called the “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). It’s the kind of peace that is not logical or attainable outside of Christ.

I’ve experienced this kind of peace again and again throughout my life as I have walked through challenging situations. Just recently as I waited for results of a breast MRI, I was tempted to become anxious. The Lord gave me peace through His Word and the prayer support of dear friends and family. The results ended up being negative and I praised the Lord for His peace and presence knowing I was in His hands.

You may have circumstances in your life right now causing you much distress and anxiety. During the Christmas season these situations can become heightened and cause deep sadness and even depression. If you have trusted Christ, you need to be reminded of the peace He offers us because He looks upon you with favor, His beloved child. Claim this peace. Fight for it when Satan tries to steal your peace and joy. You are loved with an everlasting love and nothing (nothing!) can separate you from His love.

Jesus says, “…my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

There is simply no deep, soul-satisfying peace in this life without accepting the Gospel for hope now and for hope eternally. 

Merry Christmas and may the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Col. 3:15).

~Courtney

The Justice of God

“God will credit to him righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Romans 4:24)

We don’t have to look far to see injustice in the world especially during this year of paramount natural disasters and countless women rising up to tell their stories of sexual abuse. Many might question “Where is God?” in these events and “Why did He allow them?” “Isn’t He a just God?” Because unjust events occur does not compromise or diminish that God is a just God. In fact when we think about evil and suffering, the God who suffered unjustly through the death of His perfect Son, Jesus Christ affirms He can be trusted. No one knows the most horrific act of injustice like Jesus Christ.

The Biblical understanding of a judge is a person who has authority and who does what is good and right, refuting a modern viewpoint of a judge who is cold and acts unjustly. A judge first listens to the facts and then executes wisdom to discern the truth. Because of God’s omniscience, He can rightly discern the hearts of man. For “the Lord knows the thoughts of man” Psalm 94:11. Though it might look like evil people are prospering as the Psalmist cried out for justice in Ps. 73. Hundreds of passages in the Bible affirm the time of judgment for every person. “They will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” 1 Peter 4:5.

God’s perfection gives great comfort that He is perfect in judgment. He is the “I AM,” the Holy God, and the only true God, so we can 100% trust Him to act justly. He not only acts justly but is just. To act unjustly is impossible for a perfect God. The fact that our God is just gives us great comfort and assurance when we don’t see retribution currently for the wrongful acts committed against us. Without God’s final judgment we have no assurance that goodness prevails. In recent times we have seen goodness prevail specifically in the media regarding powerful men experiencing the consequences for sexual misconduct towards women in the workplace. Not everyone will experience this justice in their lifetime for evil acts committed against them, so if not now, God assures us that justice will prevail.

Justice is rooted in the gospel. Jesus gives us assurance that whoever believes in Him will not be condemned (John 5:24). We still have to give an account before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). “God will credit to him righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:24). God imputes His righteousness through faith based on Jesus’ righteousness. Christ is your righteousness. What a relief that our righteousness is not dependent on our record. Our faith unites us with Jesus and when God looks at us He sees our union with Christ and sees the righteousness of Christ as our righteousness. The doctrine of final judgment gives us certainty that justice will prevail over all the wrongs in the past, present, and future.

– Mary Carmen

Community requires Courage

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” John 10:14

I’m the kind of person who just gets life done. If there’s a more efficient way to get things done, I’m on it. Never make more than one trip if you can carry all the bags at once. I will cut off circulation in my arms lining the bags up to both shoulders. I go on and on like this until life breaks – We weren’t designed to live life on our own, to get life done by ourselves. We were made for community.

I love the image of the shepherd wrapping the lamb with the broken leg around his shoulders. The view from up here is bigger. I can see further into the distance and onto my little, once efficiently self-managed world below. There is a sweet sharing of the same air, cadence of breath and heartbeat. I can’t hide my tears. You feel every weeping contraction on your neck. This is community. This is the inescapable sharing that binds hearts together. I know my Shepherd and my Shepherd knows me. How do I do this with His people?

I love people. I enjoy people from all walks of life. I love your stories. I love hearing about your struggles and journeying into the depths of your heart. I love my big beautiful community of friends. I love to dream with you. I’m quick to cry with you. I will cheer you to that finish line. I would never burden you to carry my bags, but I’m ready to carry all your bags with you. This is community, right?

“Maybe – communion can only happen when not only our strong parts are broken and given, but when our broken parts are also given. Maybe communion happens not only when we’re broken and given – but when we give each other our brokenness” writes Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way.

Maybe – I don’t know community at all.

A college friend once shared an observation that shook me to the core. She said, “Everyone always saw you as person who didn’t need other people. More people would’ve been closer to you if they thought you needed them.”

Creating community with the people I love means I must be willing to put the bags down, let you carry a few and soak up the trips back and forth between your heart and mine. It’s ok to let you hold my hurts, my shame, my disappointments, my hopes close to your neck, that place of inescapable sharing that binds hearts together.

Do I have the courage to be vulnerable this holiday season?

I’m suddenly stunned by how self-centered this question truly is.

If the Shepherd had not allowed His body to be broken for us, there would be no holiday to celebrate. There would be no Emmanuel, no God with us, no community.

How can we do community differently this Christmas?

Community, Pirouettes, and truths from Hebrews

Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It may seem impossible to you, but there actually is a connection between the words from Hebrews above, pirouettes, and community for me.

I still have my very first pair of pointe shoes. As a dancer for 15+ years, I ended up with quite a collection, a collection that included different sizes and even different colors. Some pairs would only last a few days of Nutcracker performances before being worn out. All would be molded perfectly to my feet after hours of practice. But I only saved that very first pair because it’s the first pair that marked the milestone of accomplishing the feat of twirling on my toes.

And twirl I did. Before the pointe shoes, there had been just arabesques and grand jetés. But with the point shoes came the real fun: pirouettes. The French word pirouette literally means “to whirl about.” One pirouette is fun. But two or three, that is when the whirling really begins. There is a secret to perfecting the pirouette…

Spotting.

Without getting too technical, spotting is simply locking your eyes on one singular object and remaining fixated on it as your body turns until the very last millisecond. Then the head snaps bringing the eyes 360 degrees until the gaze locks back on the singular focus.

A singular focus. It’s needed for pirouettes; it’s even more necessary in my relationship with the Lord. The author of Hebrews directs us with the following words, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:2

But how often I fail on my own at fixing my eyes. I can know that Christ is my one focus, but I can so easily become distracted. To succeed, I need the Lord, the Holy Spirit and that’s also where community comes in.

My community “stirs me up to love and good works.” My community “encourages me,” reminding me of, “the Day drawing near.” The author of Hebrews penned these words and as I read them, I’m reminded how thankful I am for my community.

How so very thankful I am that in my life, there have been some incredible women who invested in me: The wife, mother, and youth ministry leader who shared her daily life with me as she raised her children; the sorority sister who took me under her wing as I stepped onto a college campus and into a sorority; the women at the camp I worked at during my college summers who let me make mistakes, learn from experience, and guided me as I learned what servant leadership was all about; the incredible wisdom that was shared with me from a woman who poured in weekly to me as I set out in full-time youth ministry after college, helping to shape my prayer life and my daily surrender to the Lord.

And then the rich community I have today. Friends who love me, challenge me, pray for me and with me, and who consistently point me right back to the Lord. In a month when there’s a significant focus on gratitude, I am so very thankful for the community I’ve been blessed with that helps me with my “spotting”, with my focus on the Lord.

*Sacred Story is honored to have Ranelle Woolrich as a guest contributor this month. Ranelle grew up in Oklahoma, but having been born in Texas and raised by parents who were Texans, has always called herself a Texan. After graduating from the University of Kansas, she went on staff with a discipleship youth ministry in Missouri. In 2004, she returned to her roots in Houston and spent the next ten years teaching in both middle school and elementary schools and serving in school administration. In 2013, she joined the staff of Grace Bible Church in Houston as the Women’s Discipleship Director

Koinonia Texting

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Recently I’ve been reading a book called “Body Life” by Pastor Ray Stedman. It talks about koinonia – the Christian fellowship enjoyed by believers especially as they utilize the gifts God has given them. It got me thinking about an example of koinonia fellowship I’ve been benefitting from in my life lately.

In our increasingly technology-based world, personal relationships can suffer. We tend to become more isolated when we’re hurting and maybe retreat inside ourselves, not wanting to share. At least that’s what I’ve seen can happen in my own life.

I’m privileged to be a part of a group of women who meet once a month to encourage and support one another through fellowship, love and prayers. We are all involved in ministry of one kind or another which can be draining (as well as encouraging)! What’s so wonderful about this group is that we can share how we’re REALLY feeling without fear of judgment. Beyond our monthly meetings we have begun a text group which has become invaluable to every one of us.

For instance, one Sunday afternoon our family came home from church to find a flood under the addition to our home. After praying with my husband to find the leak, I reached out to my group of friends in a text asking them to pray as well. Not long after God answered those prayers and we found the leak; saving us hundreds if not thousands of dollars!

Other requests from the group have included prayers for a struggling marriage, favor for a new job, wisdom and strength for difficult work situations, how to best help their kids – whatever the person may be struggling with at the time. I love that as soon as we send out the request we can instantly know that our sisters are joining in prayer on our behalf right at that very moment. We can feel the love being sent our way.

We are also quick to share praises – thanking God for answered prayer and reminding each other that He is good no matter what our circumstances may look like. I was amazed to receive a text from one of my friends at just the right time; I was going through a difficult situation and wasn’t sure what to do next. In the text she assured me that God saw me, heard me and loved me even though I hadn’t sent out a prayer request to anyone! She’d had a dream the night before and felt compelled to reach out and encourage me.

This kind of community has been so inspiring to me. It reminds me that as believers in Christ we are all united by the same Spirit. How truly reassuring and comforting to know that the Lord has provided for us in this way; through the koinonia fellowship of believers.

*Sacred Story is honored to have Amy Allen as a guest contributor this month. Amy is a wife, Mom of two sweet girls, author, graphic designer, speaker, and founder of the REAL Conference. Amy openly wrote her sacred story Once Upon A Time of a redeemed marriage after infidelity, prostitutes, and alcoholism tore it apart. She is passionate about sharing the hope she has found in Jesus and the truth of God’s Word.

 

Transformative Community for Boys with Absent Fathers

“You are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14

In October, I celebrated the power of community to transform the lives of boys with absent fathers at the 25th Anniversary: Forgiveness Nashville at “The Shack” presented by The Family Foundation Fund. In the early 90’s Onnie Kirk, founder of the Family Foundation Fund knew that he must do something to address the demise of the family in the African-American community, so the Family Foundation Fund was birthed to nurture boys with absent fathers into successful, Christ-centered manhood and to inspire and equip them to be fathers that impact the destiny of future generations.

The results from the past 25 years speak to the success of the program. Here are the results: 100% of the program alumni have completed high school and continue their education in college or a technical school, or joined the armed forces or gone to work full-time. None of the Family Foundation Fund Alumni have experienced the juvenile system, and none have become teenage fathers. Fatherless boys represent 85% of youth incarcerated, 75% of children in Chemical Abuse Centers, 80% of rapists, 63% of teen suicides. Boys born to teen mothers are more than 2 1/2 times more likely to father a child between ages 14- 26.

I must say, Wm. Paul Young, the author of The Shack and the featured speaker of the evening was so warm, personal, and full of wisdom and Biblical truth. He spoke so clearly defining the Trinity which is hard to understand, and many had questions about his view concerning the Godhead. Deeply Trinitarian, he explained that God has always existed as three persons, yet One with no diminishment of personhood of each member of the Trinity. The book is fiction, and he made God, a black woman stemming from how God used a black woman to change the course of his life. Remember God is a Spirit, and God embodies all the characteristics of masculinity and femininity. God can use a black woman, burning bush, etc. to reveal Himself and that does not mean that God is a black woman or a burning bush (we so often confuse all of that). Learning to forgive was pivotal in him experiencing the community of the Godhead, one God consisting of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness is not dependent on a person changing, but it does change you. Just because you forgive someone does not mean that you experience reconciliation with that person. It takes a long time to rebuild trust and that trust might or might not be restored. The volunteers, mentors, staff of the Family Foundation Fund, mentees’ families surround the boys with a community of love and support to heal past pain and unforgiveness and to nurture, inspire, and equip them to become men who live out the gospel in their families and communities. Love grounded in the gospel releases the shackles of unforgiveness and frees us from the lie that we are alone opening our eyes to the love of God and community of faith. Forgiveness frees you to love God and others and to receive that love that we all long for- the sacrificial and unconditional love of a Holy God.

-Mary Carmen