Let’s Talk about Sex

It’s been three days since we’ve been home from The Idea Camp and my head is finally coming up from the water. In our two days in Vegas, I came away with so much more than I thought I would. In fact, the way the conference is set up lends itself to a much more interpersonal and in-depth learning environment than many other conferences. I was going through my notes to try to summarize for you all that I have, but it’s just too much! What I did find is that I jotted down a lot of quotes, so I will leave them for you. Forgive me for not knowing who said some of these things. But I know the people who made these statements all have a heart for Jesus’ truth and love to reclaim all that has gone wrong in this world as it relates to human sexuality. So here it goes:

On Sex and the Marriage Bed (all by Angus Nelson):

It’s important to talk about sex with your spouse and diffuse any unrealistic expectations.”

“We make relationships about us. The reason why the marriage bed is the heart of God is because it’s not about me.”

“What an exchange, if two people can serve each other in safety, love and selflessness.”

“Tell your man everything you respect about him and honor him. When you disrespect the man, you neuter the man.” (insert scissor motion here)

On Beauty for Ashes: Relational Healing for the Church (all by Dawn Carter):

“Dealt with is not the same as healing from.”

“The power of story: mirroring that which should have been as God intended.”

“Understand the role of your authority as a child of God in the Spiritual realm.”

From Charles Lee:

On implementing great ideas: “Friendship is not enough, you need the right people on the team.”

On sexual abuse and sin: “The Church has gotten good at confronting people, but not in walking with them.”

From David Trotter:

“If you are thinking about having an affair, keep in mind you will lose things you never knew you had.”

From Chris Clapp Logan and Ryan Russell:

“Things parents may not be aware of when their kids get on-line:

  1. They assume their kids are good and wont’ get into anything they shouldn’t
  2. Their kids are searching for love and affirmation
  3. Their kids have become callous to sex

“Know your kids friends online as you would off-line.” ~ Chris Clapp Logan

“True recovery is found in Luke 5 because sometimes it takes the power of God through community to bring about healing.” Nicole Wick

On Human Trafficking:

“Instead of being a temple builder, be a well digger.” ~ Mel McGowan

“The whole Church must participate, it takes the entire body of Christ.”

On Jesus and Justice (Bethany Hoang and Gary Haugen):

“At the end of the day, it’s about spiritual formation. The work of justice is given to us to shape us into becoming more like Jesus.”

“When you do the right thing, for the right reason, God has your back.”

“Prayer is the filter for our work, it shapes it and punctuates the day.” (regarding their 8:30 and 11am prayer times as a team)

On practical insight to discouragement in the work of justice (by Gary Haugen):

“Jesus asked us to be His disciples in fallen world. He doesn’t take us out of it, He leaves us in it.” Expect the world around you to be fallen… because it is.

“Spend time in prayer, do your work in community and be intentional about finding the joy.  Joy is the oxygen that makes obedience possible.”

On practical 1st steps to enter into the work of human trafficking (by Bethany Hoang):

“It really is one step at a time. Pick a target country or city. Focus your passion into that particular place. Have prayer time with a few others. Read a newsletter. Get close to the victims.”

On Restoring America’s Sex Trafficked Women by Annie Lobert:

“The world throws us away, the Church needs to love them through the pain, expecting them to fall.”

“Grace is more powerful than we realize.”

“90% of prostitutes are trafficked by a pimp.”

On Trafficking and Orphan Care:

“The church is the hope for the orphan crisis Every person has to play and every church has to engage in this crisis.” ~ Chris Marlow

On Sexual Orientation:

“The authenticity of friendship is that the outcome is secondary.” ~ Andrew Marin

“We have to pause and listen to the human story. We have to let love work its way through incarnation.” ~ Greg Russinger

Sexual orientation is not about an issue, it’s about people.” ~ Charles Lee

On sex and the family (Jud and Lori Wilhite):

“We are missionaries in a foreign world. Our hand is to the plow. We don’t expect our culture to think the same as us and yet we still engage and don’t separate ourselves from our culture.”

“Talking to your kids about sex is not a purity message, it’s a gospel message.”

On One in Six Women (Crystal Renaud):

According to Crystal’s research, 1 out of 6 women are consumers of the sex industry. This number is fast growing.  This ranges from erotica, films that are becoming more “relational” to attract women, and phone sex. Regarding the healing process, Crystal uses the acronym, “SCARS.”

  • Surrender – not just the behavior, but surrender your woundedness to Christ and to the process of recovery.
  • Confession – (James 5:15), Admitting the struggle
  • Accountability – Partnership on a daily basis. Know what your triggers are and tell someone.
  • Responsibility – Say you are sorry and repent to those you have hurt.
  • Sharing – God never wastes an experience we’ve had.

So there you have it… some snippets of what’s been swimming in my head all week-long. I pray it is encouraging, I pray that it will be useful as I continue to share it with those around me.

The Church and Slavery

This week, the Idea Camp bloggers are writing about slavery. You can’t have a discussion on sexual issues facing the church today without going there. The blogs have been informative, stirring and provoking. I encourage you to read them and educate yourself on this very real issue that is taking place in our own back yards.

In conversations I’ve been a part of with several church leaders locally, the question that remains at the forefront is:

“What can the church be doing?”

According to the A21 Campaign,

“The average age that people are trafficked into forced prostitution is only 12-14 years old, and we have a responsibility to ensure that this upcoming generation does not fall victim or add to the future demand for trafficked victims. Through education and awareness, we have the ability to help prevent human trafficking and inspire young people to be a part of a cause that is worth fighting for.”

Education.

Awareness.

Prevention.

Supply and demand are key words to this conversation concerning the church. If the demand is not there, the supply becomes limited.

The Church is what Jesus had in mind to bring hope to a lost a dying world. It was designed to be the refuge where people should come to seek transformation through discipleship and love when they are struggling with the propensity to add to the demand. The Church is where young girls should be taught how not to lose sight of their worth as women who are made in the image of Christ so they do not fall prey to human trafficking. The Church is where we should be reminded of how all of us were bought with a price by the blood of Jesus and with this blessing comes great responsibility.

I’m looking forward to hearing from others on this issue at the Idea Camp in hopes that the Church will be more likely to take its place in this fight to end slavery.

A Few Resources :

Take a look at this series from Oakland Local.

Watch the video at the end of this previous post

Washington Times

ABC News

Anomalies and Other Things

The One Who Showed Mercy by Christopher Koelle

I am an anomaly. An Iranian-American-Jesus-follower who prays for the peace of Jerusalem.

We left Iran when I was four because of an impending revolution which eventually abolished separation of religion from state. I left England at the age of 6 to come to the U.S. because immigration laws were much different then. My family was welcomed, my dad was given a job and we created a life that led me to education and opportunity.

I love Muslims. Not just because you are supposed to love everyone. I love them because some of them are in my family.

The memories have not faded from the day the planes flew through the buildings, nor do I ever wish to forget. I remember where I was sitting, what I was thinking and all the events of that particular day.  I remember crying in the bathroom because I had a visceral realization sometime on the afternoon of 9/11/01 that my 5 month old son who had only experienced love, would one day understand hatred. I remember for a long time being angry at Islam. Angry it stole away the country I was born in. Angry for the people I loved who were now under an oppressive expression of it. Angry it had now crashed into my home country and taken thousands of lives and shattered millions in the wake of it.

In the book of Luke, an expert of the Law asks the Teacher, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

The expert asked another question, “Who is my neighbor?”

And so begins the story of the Good Samaritan… a Jewish man falls into the hands of robbers. He is beaten and left to die in the street. After a priest and a Levite, two of his own kind, pass him by and continue on about their business, a Samaritan stops and takes pity on him. He bandages his wounds, uses his oil and wine to soothe the pain, takes him to a safe house, cares for him and pays for his recovery.

The Samaritan is identified as the neighbor of the man who fell into the hands of robbers. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jews who intermarried with gentiles. Because of this, they were despised by pure-blooded Jews for having lost their Jewish purity. The two people groups had a long history of animosity towards each other.

It’s really easy to love a neighbor who has a lot in common with you. It’s easy to love a neighbor who is kind and generous with you. Loving someone different from you and does not agree with you is hard. It requires surrender, humility and grace. I believe what Jesus is telling this expert is your neighbor is often the one person you despise the most.

My Bible says this about Jesus: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In Romans 12, it says things like, “hate what is evil and cling to what is good…bless those who persecute you…be willing to associate with people low position…if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink…do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I wonder if  mine is the same as the copy they have in Gainesville Florida.

Topless Bar Proposal in San Pedro

The proposal for the topless bar in San Pedro is creating quite a stir among residents. There are mixed reactions from those who are vehemently opposed to the establishment, to those who are looking forward to a new entertainment experience, and those who are indifferent and think a person should have the right to earn a living in any field they wish. After all, we live in a country which prides itself on choice.

Unfortunately, those who are supportive of a local strip club, or even indifferent, seem to be overlooking the long-term effects and big picture of the industry which seeks to find a home in San Pedro. First of all, while freedom to pursue a career of choice is a high value, no woman grows up with the big dream of becoming a stripper. Most women fall into the trade either ignorantly or from desperation to earn a living and feed a family. Secondly, before making a decision to support the bar, citizens and decision-makers should be well aware of what they’re opening the door to. For example, according to a 2005 report by the US Department of State Trafficking in Persons, 600,000 to 800,000 men, women, and children are trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80% are women and girls, and up to 50% are minors. That number is purportedly up to 2 to 4 million each year since 2005. In addition, approximately 80% of that trafficking involves sexual exploitation and 19% involves labor exploitation (www.dosomething.org). So if you think this kind of thing only happens in Thailand, you are sadly mistaken. You can read back articles from the Daily Breeze, Los Angeles Times, and Texas Monthly magazine for a more in-depth look at human trafficking right here in L.A.

You may wonder what this has to do with a local topless bar possibly featuring a host of American “girls, girls, girls.” Well, like any other capital venture in these United States of America, the topless bar industry and the porn industry are built on supply and demand. The greater the demand for services, the more a business is able to increase its supply. And we can learn from many of our celebrity friends that sex addiction begins with a little something, and then grows into a lot of something uncontrollable. Like the use of substances, a little bit can often end up not being enough. Therein lies the connection to the use of pornography and prostitutes in America. More than 70% of men from 18-34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month, 28% of those admitting to sexual addiction are women, and 47% of families said pornography is a problem in their home (www.safefamilies.org). With this kind of “demand” right here in America, a topless bar not only increases but supports the illegal and inhumane trafficking of persons and the exploitation of women and young girls.

For many of us San Pedro families who make daily drives through the intersection of Gaffey and Channel on our way to schools, the Little League field, the soccer field, Home Depot, Target, etc., this establishment would be working directly against what we are working for.  We who are trying hard to keep our marriages together. Those of us who are trying to keep our children from growing up at a much faster pace than we did.  And for many of our young girls who are growing up without fathers, we need to work overtime to insure our girls grow up with healthy self-images that are contrary to what is shown to them on television and billboards for strip bars. A topless bar conflicts with the goals of many in our community who are working hard to improve our schools by encouraging our kids to take their education seriously and giving them real choices and tangible ways to bring dreams to reality.

Take a stand San Pedro. Take a stand for healthy community and healthy families. For a city people will want to invest in. Take a stand for human rights and against the trafficking of innocent persons. Take a stand for your children. Call Councilwoman Hahn today and lift up  your voice for those who can’t be heard.

“I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole.” -Comedian Chris Rock, regarding his daughter

Dream Center

Shelly has been volunteering faithfully at the Dream Center in Los Angeles for about two years. She has served in their Adopt A Block Program, Food Truck Ministry and Prayer Ministry. More recently, she has been discipling a group of teen girls once a week and preaching in the food chapel before dinner.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to follow her around while she did her thing for a few hours. The Dream Center is really an amazing place, I’ve never seen anything like it. Joel, one of the full-time staffers there gave me a mini tour along with the history of its development. Basically, God gave Pastor Matthew, a 20-year-old white dude from Arizona a vision to put a church in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, to serve and love the neighborhood around it.  That dream turned into a much larger ministry where now they reach over 40,000 people each month from low-income families, homeless individuals, at risk youth and those struggling with various addictions. The Dream Center provides basic necessities, discipleship and skill training in an effort to bring people to a place of self sufficiency. More recently, the DC has begun a ministry called Project Rescue which aims to bring back hope to those who have had theirs stolen through human trafficking.

I met some people with amazing testimonies yesterday. One woman, who is not much different from you and I was there with her three boys and husband. They lived a “normal” life until her husband got carried away with drugs and ended up losing everything. They came to the Dream Center where her husband was rehabilitated. They were housed and cared for there, he found a job through a volunteer and now they are saving up to get back out on their own.

A 60-year-old man who came to the DC 5 years ago, homeless and addicted to heroin and meth for 18 years was running the chapel after having completed a degree from their Bible institute.

One woman I met said something that has stayed with me. She said, at any point you could walk up to someone at the DC and ask them to tell you their story and they will tell you what God has done for them without holding back. I asked if they are taught how to give their testimony or something as part of the discipleship program and her response was:

It’s just a part of the culture.

She went on to quote Revelation 12:11.

“The overcame him with the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.”

Yesterday, I was visibly reminded of how God sent Jesus so our broken lives would be restored.  But our restored lives  continue with a different purpose when we feel rehabilitated or recovered. Our broken lives have cracks that are not fully sealed, so the light of Jesus can shine through so others can see. It’s important to speak of this, share with others and give glory to God.

Today, Jon Acuff summed up the Gospel in four words.

Be sick, be loved.

The DC is a place where those with all kinds of sickness are brought back to wholeness as they are loved by Jesus through human hands.

Have you been to the Dream Center? How have you seen God through your own transformation or through the lives of those around you? Remember, people overcome the darkness of this world by the blood of the Lamb AND the word of YOUR testimony!

Do Something…But What?

Today’s message at church was intense. It started out with a word on discipleship from Dr. John Perkins who brings intensity without even trying. Then,Pastor Chris went on to preach Daniel 1.

The story of Daniel is about a man who resolved to stay obedient to God in the face of opposition.  He knew himself well enough to know that it would be the food offered to him that would cause him to succumb to the indoctrination that was taking place during the time of captivity. He could handle the literature, he could handle the new language and he didn’t mind if someone called him a different name. But the food would cause him to cozy up to the ways of the Chaldeans and turn his heart towards the things of the world and away from the God he served.

Chris spoke about taking a stand. Doing something is better than nothing. This came straight from the heart as he just returned from Israel and Royal Family Kids Camp walking through history and with people who are suffering and have suffered and the hand of the world’s systems. Following Christ and teaching others to follow Christ does not happen without taking a stand for those in captivity. It does not come without a cost for freedom. Do something, is better than doing nothing at all.(Luke 4)

I often wonder what it is God would have me do.

There are so many things to take a stand against.

Murdering innocent babies

The poor

The homeless

Human trafficking

Slavery

Abused and abandoned children at risk

Mistreated and marginalized elderly

Mistreatment of the handicapped

The list goes on an on. Each person has to ask God, “Where should I serve?” “Where should I stand?”

My heart is broken for those who have become victims of human trafficking. As I learn more about it, the more outraged I’ve become. But not outraged enough. I’m not sure what “doing something” actually looks like. I’ve been told it’s not a good idea to walk into a massage parlor to ask questions because that could compromise the work of law enforcement who are attempting to do something. I could give money to an organization, but that’s not the kind of “something” I think I should do. I could start frequenting strip clubs and massage parlors in an attempt to build friendships with the girls but that isn’t conducive with my “mom schedule.” So what to do?

I want to talk about it more, but I don’t want to just talk about it. I want to write about it more, but I don’t want to just write about it. I want to help create awareness, but what good is knowledge without action?

When I watch videos like this, I struggle because I want to do something.

But what?

(Warning… this is very raw, but very real and powerful)

Food on Friday – Food Inc

Last night Steve and I watched Food, Inc. which is a documentary on the nation’s food industry, lifting the veil on the atrocious policies and practices of the companies that make our food.

Throughout the film, you are taken behind the scenes to see where the items that we buy at local grocery stores are actually coming from. Everyday staples such as chicken, beef, eggs, and pantry items.

Now that we have this knowledge, we are trying to figure out how to move forward without over reacting, but still desiring to make changes. Not only changes that will affect our family, the way we eat and our health, but changes to society.  On this blog, I’ve written a bit about human trafficking and human injustice, but this film took it to another level for me. It’s not only the way our food (animals) are treated but those workers who are giving their lives to these industries in order that they may be gain enough to feed their families as well.

It’s easy to get fired up about something like this and then get lazy and go back to the way I’ve always done things. But I’ve bookmarked the website TakePart which I hope to read regularly to receive updates and information on the food industry, fair trade and better ways of eating. One thing that stuck to me is that we can make a difference and basically cast a vote for reform three times a day, simply by the way we choose to eat.

I highly recommend watching Food, Inc. However be warned because you will never look at meat, soybeans, corn, farmers or grocery stores the same.

Off to the Farmers Market.

How have you found ways to feed your family better with organic, locally grown and fair trade foods?

(You can join the Food on Friday carnival by posting your favorite recipe, restaurant, tip or anything else food related then going here to share it).

Human Trafficking in Our Own Backyard

Yesterday, I was rocked by this highly informative article in Texas Monthly about the thousands of women who have been trafficked into the U.S. and forced to work in prostitution.  Although the piece is primarily focused on Houston, it cites other major cities as home to many of these covert operations that are often disguised as massage studios and spas. Los Angeles is one of the cities mentioned.

In our community, we talk about this issue frequently and what I’ve found is that most people find it hard to imagine that it may actually be happening here in our own backyard.  Now, I love a good massage and have been to many of the reputable establishments locally, so have no fear… there are still some legitimate and reputable establishments you can enjoy.  But its hard to read this article and wonder about the many places I see in Torrance, San Pedro and Redondo Beach.

The thought of these women being misled in their desperation to provide for their families and lured into a world of prostitution in “the land of the free,” is sickening.  Their stories of being moved from city to city every few weeks so they are isolated and kept from attaching to their co-workers or customers is heart wrenching. Once their debts are paid and they are “free” to go, a new struggle for survival begins.

There is a big picture story happening here in our world.  In the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few women who have come out of the adult entertainment industry.  I’ve sat and listened to the stories of several women who have been the victims of horrific sexual abuses and crimes.  I’ve walked alongside women whose lives have been crushed by the betrayals of their husbands who have been lured into the world of pornography.  I’ve wept with mothers who have discovered their young boys have gotten caught up in the traps so purposely laid out for them on the internet.

One thing leads to another.

When I drive down Lomita Blvd. and Channel Street and see the advertising for the upcoming Adult Entertainment convention, I’m grieved at the concept of one thing leading to another.  The images, ideas and opportunities that captivate the hearts of men, and even women, tear our hearts away from everything Good and will eventually lead down a path of destruction.  One look can ultimately result in a wake of lives and families destroyed.  If the demand diminishes, the supply will respond.

One thing leads to another.

According to the article in Texas Monthly, escaping from captivity may be the easiest part of the road to recovery for these women.  What do you think we can do as a community to help these victims and put a stop to sex trafficking?

There are people doing some great work on putting an end to human trafficking.  Two of these organizations are Just 4 One and the International Justice Mission.

Check them out and raise your awareness.