No Fortune-teller Necessary – Presidential Prayer Team

Do you know the future of our country? Do you want to?

Join me today as I post for the Presidential Prayer Team. Click HERE to read my devotion.

*As always, this direct link will only be good today, 6/30/12. After today, you can use the link, then choose 6/30 from the drop down menu to read today’s devotion.

Carol

Dare to Dream – Presidential Prayer Team

Are you concerned with the leadership in the White House? Join me today as I post for the Presidential Prayer Team and dare to dream. Click HERE to read my devotion.

*As always, this direct link will only be good today, 6/29/12. After today, you can use the link, then choose 6/29 from the drop down menu to read today’s devotion.

Carol

The Car Ride I Fell in Love and Should God Use Jedi Mind Tricks?

I should have known when he showed up with Levi’s and roses he was a keeper – the Levi’s on his hips and the flowers in his hands. It was my birthday or close to it anyway, and he’d told me to dress nice.

I was in hose and a Sunday dress, so I was anxious when I saw him through the window approaching in jeans. It was only our second date; perhaps I’d overdressed. My heart raced and my cheeks flushed to match my dress. Fighting the urge to bolt back to my bedroom and change, I took a deep breath and waited for him to ring the bell.

I paused just a second not to seem over eager but not long enough to have him looking through the window and see me waiting there. With a deep breath, I opened the door to his steady gaze and a grin. And melted.

“Hi.” I smiled back not sure if my mouth was hanging open.

“Happy Birthday,” he said thrusting the roses my way.

We said a quick hello and good-bye to my parents and headed to his dad’s white Cavalier with the light blue interior. I beamed. When the smile you have inside cannot be contained, you beam. Alan fiddled with the radio before we left the driveway, scanning the stations until he found a song to his liking.

And then he sang. This six-foot-five, brown-eyed boy, who stole my heart with a glance and a grin, sang. His mellow voice had a soothing quality, and I leaned back in my seat to drink it in. In a few minutes, he punched a button to change the station again. He’d stop on a station, sing a few bars as if trying on a jacket, and then change it again.

He must have known the words to every song on every station. It didn’t matter if it was country, rock, easy listening or golden oldies. He sang. And for once, I was quiet – listening. I wished that ride would never end. But eventually, we landed at the restaurant. He jumped out of the car and appeared at my door. Opening it, he held out his hand.

“You ready?” He asked me.

I smiled in return, accepting it – accepting him. Hand in hand we walked, blue jeans and high heels, through the doors of the Steak and Ale and into our forever.

Happy 15th Wedding Anniversary, Alan! I knew on our second date you were a keeper. I love you now more than ever!

DOUBLE FEATURE!


There are many things in life I’m not sure about.

But one that I’m almost positive of is this. Respectfully speaking, God should take some cues from my two–year-old.

You see, she can ask for things in a way you can’t refuse. If God took cues from Grace, we’d have more missionaries than Starbucks. Adoption would be so popular, you wouldn’t leave your child out of sight more than seventeen seconds for fear someone would snatch them up to add to their own happy family. And the ushers at church would look more like bouncers because they’d need huge muscles to carry the overflowing offering plates.

Follow my (albeit crooked) reasoning…

I’m also posting at the Internet Cafe today. Click HERE to read the rest of my devotion.

Carol

Recycle Your Marriage

“What are you going to do with that?” she reached her wrinkled hand across the generations between us and placed it on mine.

“Umm. Throw it away?” I said in more of a question than an answer.

“Oh, this would be great to make little ornaments.” My husband’s grandmother recycles everything. She saves butter tub lids, the little cotton in the tops of the medicine bottles, and the inner wrappers from the cheese cracker boxes. She comes from a time when you didn’t throw anything away.

Even with the focus on going green, we live in a disposable society. Paper napkins, cups, and plates make washing dishes a thing of the past. At the doctor’s office, you’ll be handed a throwaway gown, and the airline gives throwaway pillows.

Unfortunately, we’ve also bought into the idea of disposable marriages. When your husband leaves his wet towel on the floor or your wife never looks your way, the world tells us, toss ‘em. It’s the same disposable mentality we find on aisle 6 of the grocery store.

Care must be given to things meant to remain. We brush and floss our teeth each night hoping they will last a lifetime. We hand wash the china passed down from our great-grandmother to protect the gold from rubbing off the edges. Hours are spent bringing old muscle cars back to their original glory. Time and effort are necessary in restoring or maintaining something we plan to keep.

With the current push for Americans to recycle, the number of recyclers still hovers between 70-80% depending on the area of the nation. The divorce rate, however, lingers around 50%.

So why not recycle our marriages?

Webster’s definition for recycle is to pass again through a series of changes or treatments, to reuse, or bring back. If we want a lasting marriage (and we should), sometimes it’s necessary to pass our marriage through a series of changes to bring it back.

So what can you do to recycle your marriage? Here are a handful of ideas to get you started.

1. Discover your spouse’s love language and speak it.

Gary Chapman’s book 5 Love Languages is a great book to help you understand how to express love to your mate in the way they need it. Chapman’s five love languages are gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. Often we show our spouse love the way we want to be shown it, not the way they need to hear it. Find which love language your spouse speaks, and use it often.

2. Practice the 10-second kiss at least once a day.

You’d be surprised what a little lip-lock can do to jump-start a marriage. Make it a habit to kiss good-bye and hello each day. Then turn up the heat by prolonging your kiss at least ten seconds – the longer, the better. Even if it feels a bit awkward at first, hang in there. Before long, you’ll forget you were counting and get carried away in the moment. Trust me, some eyebrows will be rising, and they might just be your own!

3. Check in during the day.

With today’s advanced technology, there is no excuse for not communicating. Drop a quick “hope your day is going well.” Whether you text, email, or use the old fashioned telephone, contact your mate at some point while you’re apart. If you’re busy, just say so but follow with, “I was just thinking about/praying for/missing you.” A little effort goes a long way.

4. Apologize for old hurts.

If there are any unresolved issues, apologize for any hurt feelings that may have occurred as a result of you. Drop assumptions at the door and discuss the true issue. Remember, it’s important for all parties to feel like they are being heard. Use the rules of active listening, and repeat what you hear to make sure there isn’t a kink in the line of communication. Then share your feelings in a way that isn’t accusatory. Don’t forget to keep your voices low. Yelling only creates tension.

5. Pray for your spouse.
Praying for your mate is always a good idea, especially if your marriage is in dire need of repair. An amazing thing happens with prayer. When we pray for those who hurt us, our hearts soften, and we often realize where our own faults lie, as well. Prayer is free, it’s simple, and you can do it any time of the day.

If your marriage is cracked, beat-up, or you are just plain fed up, don’t be so quick to throw it out with the crumpled paper napkins. Marriages really aren’t meant to be disposable. With time, effort and a little TLC, you can recycle your marriage to last for years to come.

 

*Photo credit

Carol

You CAN Make a Difference – Interview with Street Grace

“I was first forced into prostitution when I was 11 years old by a 28-year-old man. I am not an exception. The man who trafficked me sold so many girls my age, his house was called “Daddy Day Care.” All day, other girls and I sat with our laptops, posting pictures and answering ads on Craigslist. He made $1,500 a night selling my body, dragging me to Los Angeles, Houston, Little Rock — and one trip to Las Vegas in the trunk of a car. I am 17 now, and my childhood memories aren’t of my family, going to middle school, or dancing at the prom. They are of making my own arrangements on Craigslist to be sold for sex, and answering as many ads as possible for fear of beatings and ice water baths.”

– An Open Letter from MC to Craigslist.

**This letter taken from The Polaris Project. 

Okay, I’m going to be really honest. I didn’t want to write about this. Honestly, when the topic of human trafficking comes up, I’d rather excuse myself to tie my shoes or even more mature, stick my fingers in my ears and sing, “Jesus Loves Me.” But because Jesus not only loves me, He loves all the little girls and some boys who are sold into human trafficking, I MUST talk about it.

This isn’t an easy topic. It actually turns my stomach. But what if my child were sold as a sex slave? Would I make it a priority to talk about it then? You bet I would! Each and every one of the girls (and boys) affected by this are someone’s baby. Just raising awareness is important. It’s not happening in someone else’s backyard. It’s happening in yours. And mine.

I live in suburban Atlanta, and the problem is huge. I promise it goes on everywhere. Go to the Polaris Project website and look around if you want to see some sobering facts. But this interview today shows exactly what we can do to make a difference in this global issue.

This month the featured service organization for Sheep to the Right is Street Grace. Amy Walters is the Programs Director there, and she has graciously agreed to answer my questions. Please read our interview, then visit Street Grace to see how YOU can make a difference.

1. Can you tell us the purpose or mission statement of your organization?

Street GRACE is an alliance of Christian churches, community partners and volunteers that supports and collaborates with individuals and organizations dedicated to eradicating the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) Street GRACE mobilizes community resources — financial, human and material — to help individuals and organizations effectively fighting CSEC through advocacy, prevention and restoration. Street GRACE is working to end CSEC in Atlanta, with a vision of ending it throughout the United States.

 

2. How did Street Grace begin? How long has it been in operation?

In 2000, Fulton County Chief Juvenile Court Judge Nina Hickson was appalled as she presided over the 1,000th case of child prostitution that had come before her. She considered this an epidemic of tragic proportions.

And she was right. The issue was brought to the attention of then-Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, who became a key champion in the fight against child exploitation. In 2005, she commissioned a report known as “Hidden in Plain View,” which revealed the pervasiveness of the CSEC in Atlanta. The report mentioned several areas that at the time were hotspots for this kind of activity. One of these hot spots was the corner of Peachtree Street and North Avenue, the very intersection where North Avenue Presbyterian Church (NAPC) sits.

Dr. Scott Weimer, NAPC’s senior pastor, was shocked. Together with Rev. Dr. James Milner, senior pastor of Chapel of Christian Love Baptist Church and chairperson of the Mayor’s Faith-Based Roundtable, Dr. Weimer co-hosted two Atlanta “faith summits” in March 2007 January 2008. With support from the Regional Council of Churches, these summits were organized in response to Mayor Franklin’s appeal to the faith community to join her in the fight to end CSEC.

While the faith summits were taking place, other local groups also began talking about CSEC. One of these groups was Unite!, a non-denominational network of churches in and around Atlanta whose community efforts included a focus on issues of social justice. Through discussions at the faith summits and conversations at Unite!, it became clear that if the CSEC situation in Atlanta was going to change, it would take the collective efforts of faith-based groups working with community organizations and elected officials.

A group of eight churches hired a consultant (Triaxia) to develop a strategic plan for churches to work together with the public, private and non-profit sectors to bring an end to CSEC in Atlanta. The result was Street GRACE, which received independent 501c3 status in 2009.We began in 2009 officially as a non-profit so we have been in existence for 3.5 years.

3. How did you personally get involved in Street Grace?

I got involved when my church, a founding church partner of Street GRACE, hosted a Lunch & Learn. It was at this information lunch that I learned that Atlanta was a city with a problem and I had never heard this before. My heart became broken over what I heard and I began doing lots of research on the CSEC issue. I guess you could say that: Not only could I not let go of the issue once I heard about it, but the issue would not let go of me.

 

4. Can you share some stats about human trafficking, just so people understand the size of this problem?

According to The Polaris Project, human trafficking is a $32-$39 billion dollar industry.

5. What specifically do you do to help girls? And what are the typical ages of the girls?

We are not a direct service provider but a vetting organization, or you could say the “information highway system”, for those individuals who want to find their place to volunteer with agencies who are front-line providers already working with at-risk children. We focus on raising the awareness level of these issues so that potential volunteers can find their place to volunteer in the areas of prevention and restoration. The average age a child is lured into prostitution is 12-14.

 

6. If others want to get involved with Street Grace, what are some things they can do besides the obvious (and very important) donate money?

As an agency that mobilized volunteers there are numerous opportunities where individuals can make a difference. Someone can go to www.streetgrace.org and look under our Volunteer Opportunities tab to see the numerous different needs of our partners. Just fill out the information form and your contact information will be sent directly to the agency working with children.

Opportunities run the spectrum of mentoring, tutoring, providing meals for homeless youth, organizing clothing closets for homeless youth, becoming part of a “village family” for at-risk girls, providing blessing bags for children that are on “Free and Reduced” meals at school, providing summer sandwiches for children who are out of school and don’t have food on a regular basis, etc. All of these things help an organization that work with children who are in vulnerable positions where the exploiters prey on the “need” of the child.

 

7. What final thoughts would you like to share with the readers?

Everyone CAN make a difference and has something to offer.

Maybe you can teach a cooking class once a month to an at-risk child. Tutoring at your local school system with children can be as simple as reading to elementary children so they can get the foundations they need to stay in school.

What about helping to provide for children in foster care? For those families who are considering adoption, would you consider adopting a child out of our foster care system who so desperately long for a forever family? Local youth groups can always have food drives and donate the food to our agencies that need the food or donate their gently used clothing. So many opportunities – so many volunteers are needed.

You CAN make a difference.

Thank you Amy! I hope you will visit Street Grace and consider making a difference today.

Carol