Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Speak Up For Injustice: Human Trafficking.

The first time I became fully aware of human trafficking was on a date night, watching Liam Neeson's Taken. The movie tells the story of a teenage girl who travels to Paris with a friend where they are kidnapped by an Albanian trafficking gang and held at a house where the gang prostitutes women. The movie follows Liam Neeson's character (who just happens to be a former CIA operative) as he tracks down his daughter and avenges her kidnapping with some killings along the way. Fortunately (as is the case with most block-buster movies), the daughter is found and the family continues on with their lives.  

Aside from the violence, language and some far-fetched reality, I distinctly remember watching the movie and feeling so sick at the fact that human trafficking is very real. Happy endings and having a parent as a CIA op are generally not the norm for many victims who have been captured or sold into slavery.


The reality is:
There are more slaves in the world today than at any other point in human history, with an estimated 27 million (more than the population of Australia) in bondage across the globe. Men, women and children are being exploited for manual and sexual labor against their will.


The average age of trafficking victims is 12 years old. Women and children are often kidnapped into the industry or sold into it by family under desperate circumstances. The average age of victims continues to grow younger as clients seek "fresh" product. (From A21 campaign).


These statistics are absolutely sickening. And there is so much more I could write about how this breaks my heart - and those of my fellow writers here at Life on a Hill, but there are just not enough words that could convey the harsh reality of human trafficking.

Statistics like these often leave us feeling helpless and wondering what we can do. How can we, in our eloquent suburban lifestyles, make a difference in the lives of those affected by the trafficking industry? The reality is that we have two choices:
1) Do nothing.
2) Do something.

But what can we do?? What can we do to somehow make a difference in the lives of those whose freedom and dignity has been snatched away from them?

I know, I know - doing something stretches us. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It makes us wonder if what we're doing is the right thing or even enough. We might think that any contribution we make to helping others will never be enough, and so we give up before we start. Not all of us can go and be the 'hands and feet' to those caught in the midst of the trafficking industry, so what's the point, right? Will our efforts even be noticed or make an impact?

We at Life on a Hill have asked these same questions. But, we believe that we have the potential to make a difference. And while it may seem small compared to the enormity of the trafficking statistics, we know that we can't just sit by and turn our backs. 

You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know. (William Wilberforce).

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. (Proverbs 31:8-9).


So, what are we going to do? How can we speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves?

We all have a story to share - a story of rescue, transformation, forgiveness and grace. We all have a story of how God has picked us up from our darkest moments and brought light into our lives. And it is these stories we need.

Life on a Hill are producing an ebook - a collaboration of testimonies in order to impact and encourage others in their walk and/or those who are yet to hear the Good News. This ebook will be sold and all money from the sales will go directly to the A21 campaign. (You can read about A21 here).

We have found freedom in Christ, and we would like you to get on board with us to help bring freedom and transformation to those whose lives have been destroyed by slavery and trafficking.

If you are interested in being involved in this project, or if you have any questions, please send us a message (via comment, the contact form or email: lifeonahill@yahoo.com).

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3,4).



Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Look at Me

It was a day like any other.
Or so I thought.
Wednesday morning, I got all the kids ready for school, kissed Taylah good bye at the car, Bridie goodbye at the path to her class, and BJ goodbye on the preschool mat, just as I always would.
I had no idea that this was all about to change. 

The girls were fine; even at 7 and 10 they have no issues with PDF’s (public display’s of affection.) BJ however, is apparently the opposite. At just five years of age (and I mean just- he hasn’t been five for a month yet), it’s not cool to have your mum kiss you in front of people. That’s a truly terrible idea, cause what if people look at you?
It apparently, should never be done. 

Holding back the tears that threatened to prick my eyes at this blatant rejection, I left the class obviously devastated, and questioning every parenting practice I had ever employed, wondering what I had done wrong. Surely most mothers are not rejected by their five year olds. Aren’t I supposed to be the apple of his eye for a little while longer yet?

Over the next few days I tried to coax conversation out of him, and reason that perhaps the others were looking just to make sure I did give him a kiss, but it was to no avail.
He remained adamant that it was ok to be as affectionate at home as I liked, so long as I didn’t do it in public.
What a lovely, luke warm sentiment.

Friday morning, we’re on the way to school, and I’m still in the negotiating process. By this point we have agreed that it will be ok to hug outside the classroom so long as it’s not done inside. We can’t have anyone seeing us at all.
I figured this was a suitable agreement, because honestly, I get it. I’m not the kind of person who loves knowing others are looking at me either. Surely it’s best just to let him dictate the rules and I’ll abide by them. I’d hate to make him uncomfortable and scar him for life.

Now if it hadn’t been for the night before, that might have seemed a perfectly valid option.
Unfortunately, I soon realised it wasn’t.

You see the thing was, that that Thursday night had seen us have our quarterly ladies evening at church, and I had been one of the key speakers for the evening. An appointment that I would normally not relish doing and would avoid at all costs. On account of me being like my 5 year old and not loving all the people looking and stuff.
I really only volunteered (yes I put my hand up which is even crazier), because I loved the topic and I knew that speaking was something God had been really challenging me on lately. That whole pushing you out of your comfort zone so you have to rely on Him thing. Don’t we all love that?

Turns out, I kinda did. 
Public speaking, whilst being public and not loveable, is also a lot of fun, and something I know that God has built me for.
And I wouldn’t really mind it. If people weren’t looking at me and stuff.....

Kinda defeats the purpose though.

So the thing is, (and this is the point that I realised as we were driving to school that Friday morning, on the way to get my external classroom hug), is that as disciples of Christ, we are actually supposed to have people looking at us; it’s part of the gig. You can’t show the world Jesus if you just hide where they can’t see you.
And as a parent, part of my responsibility is to train my kids to be comfortable with eyes on them. And not in a show off ‘everybody look at me, look at me!’ kind of way. But in a ‘I’m a leader and a follower of the Son of God. I have a responsibility to my king to serve Him with my gifts and talents, and show the world the power of the Cross.”

So where does this leave me?
How do we get from hiding cuddles to living a public life that demonstrates the love of Jesus?

At this point, I think I still go with the outside cuddles, cause let’s face it, he’s five and everyone needs to start small. But I need to be aware that one the struggles he will need to overcome if he is to be an effective disciple of Christ, is to get rid of the fear of being seen. As he grows, I am required to talk him through those concerns, model in my own life overcoming them, and providing safe experiences where he can practice in front of others.
And most importantly, I need to train him to hear the voice of God, so that when his Heavenly Father calls him to do something that will take him out of his comfort zone, he will not hesitate to follow. 

The goal in parenting is not to somehow avoid emotionally scarring my child by pushing him (though that would be great :)), but rather to help him push through and avoid the scars that come from missing the call of God on his life. 

Which when you think about it, is actually a pretty awesome job. 

Written by Jess

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Have You Made a Decision or a Commitment?

The reason that the church is not making more of an impact in our society is that many church members made a decision about Christ, but have not made a commitment to Christ. {Charles Stanley}

Last year, I made the decision to join the local gym. Due to the nature of my husband’s work, I wasn't able to get out and go for a run as often as I wanted to, so making friends with the treadmill (even though I despise it) was the next best thing.

But it wasn't good enough to just sign up. That was the easy part – making the decision to join. My gym pass looked no good dangling from my keyring if I wasn't going to use it for its purpose - I also had to make a commitment to go. Even when I didn't feel like going, even when I could justify a dozen reasons why I couldn't/shouldn't/wouldn't go – there came a point where I had to move forward from my decision and actually commit to going. And that was the hard part.

My commitment in going to the gym meant making sacrifices (rising early, when I would rather lie under the covers for an extra half hour) and readjusting the priorities of my day to make time for it. If I wanted to look after myself, I knew I needed to make the time. It was no good to just wish I could go to the gym and be healthy, I needed to commit to action as well.

The same can be said for my relationship with Jesus. When I was a little girl, I made a decision to follow Him. Over the years, I’ve maintained my decision, but I haven’t always been committed. I haven’t always given my all or turned up to follow and obey Christ like I said I would all those years ago. There have been times where I’ve wandered. There have been times when I haven’t felt like going to church or meeting with other believers. There have been times where I haven’t prayed. And there have been times where I haven’t picked up my bible in months. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with my decision, or that I regretted making it – the truth was, I lacked commitment. I became lukewarm in my faith – neither hot nor cold. And guess what God’s word says about being lukewarm?

So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16).
Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 7:21).
Makes you think long and hard, doesn’t it.

God doesn’t want us to be lukewarm. He wants us fully committed to His plan and His purpose. We might look good on the outside when we talk the talk and say the right words (even the Pharisees were good at that), but are we fulfilling God’s purpose when we aren’t fully committed?

Being a committed follower of Jesus Christ means sacrifice. It means denying yourself and picking up your cross every single day. 

Sacrifice. It means you keep on going – even when you don’t feel like it and your human flesh cries out No

It means more than keeping a pew warm on a Sunday.

It means getting up half an hour earlier to spend time in God’s word when I would rather sleep.

It means forgoing a takeaway meal to give that money to a family in need.

It means forgiving when I would rather retaliate.

It means letting go of a comfortable, cushy lifestyle and being open to wherever God leads me.

If I want to grow in Christ, if I want to fulfil his purpose in me, if I want to make a difference in this world and live a life that brings people to know Him, then my life needs to be committed. Every single inch of my being, fully committed to Him and for Him.

My decision to follow Jesus was made years ago. Now, I’m ready to move forward and commit my all. Are you?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind… (Luke 10:27).


Debbie writes at Aspiring Mum.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

We All Need Saving

The Lord works in mysterious ways. Or so the cliche says, and maybe it's right. Sometimes there doesn't seem to be very much normal about the way God does things.

I never thought I would be selling alcohol for a living. Let's face it, it's not going to make the top ten list of any Christian Occupations any time soon. I'm sure many people frown on it; hey I probably would to, and even did, until I realised that it was not the hiring team at Coles that put me in this position, it was God himself.

Since working in this environment, to say my eyes have been opened is an understatement. The world is such a different place when you're unsaved, and haven't met Jesus. It's so different. 
You think different, talk different and believe different.
That shouldn't come us a surprise really.

Just today, we got into a conversation about whether working at Coles is meaningful. I argued that to the person you are serving, it is, because you're giving them what they want, but in terms of the big picture, selling people grog really has no purpose at all.
'What big picture?' One of the girls asked me.
'What are you talking about?'
It hadn't occurred to me that she might not think beyond what she is living now. That her very life is based on her present needs and desires, whilst I live mine with an eternity mentality.

They all know I'm 'religious' (a term I hate, but accept because its easiest.) Today I was asked if Boatman and I were both of the same belief system when we met, and was it because our families bred it into us.
'Yes for me, no for him.'
'So he chose to be religious?' Said with extreme incredulity.
'Yep,' whilst I try to read the look on her face.
'It's not a cult,' I added for extra... I don't know what, but just in case.

Turned out she wasn't thinking cult, but drug rehab. Because when you live your life seeing people taking drugs constantly and consistently, and when you work in a liquor shop and alcohol dependence is in daily evidence, rehab seems the only viable reason why you might in fact choose 'religion.'

Her response bothered me, but I couldn't think why. I wish I was the kind of person who was bolder and braver, or perhaps could actually think up something clever on the spot, but by the time the thought popped into my head, the moment was over. But all I wanted to say was, 'it's not just the addicted that need saving.' 
Followed closely by, 'it's a valid lifestyle choice.'

I find myself having this conversation frequently. Another colleague just assumed my church attendance was because my family raised me that way. 'Yeah they did, ' I answered, 'but I also chose this for myself.' My faith is my own, my decision.
What a novel idea.

I suppose I can understand their skepticism. I'm a together person. I work hard and have a lovely family with strong values and generally well behaved kids. I'm a high achiever who tries to be kind and a blessing to everyone. What on earth do I need God for?

And again, it comes back to the fact that every single one of us needs saving. 
Even if we don't realise it.
Even if we can't see it.

I've always grown up with the teaching that we should preach constantly, and if necessary, use words. It's been inbuilt into me that if I just live like Jesus, everyone will see how different I am, and want Him to.
Nice idea.
But it's not working.

Because to those who have no idea about God, (and let's face it, this generation, they are completely clueless), they are not going to attribute all my sparkling qualities to Him. That's just craziness, because God doesn't even come into their thought process.
These people need talking to. They need the gospel presented to them. Not in a preachy, dogmatic way, but in a way that graciously points them towards the truth. The truth that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
It's not enough to hope that our light will shine bright enough; we need to practice AND we need to preach. One without the other, is not going to work any more, if it ever did. 

Our job, as the body of Christ is to take Him into all the places of the world where he isn't. And believe me, He's not working in a liquor shop. But once we're in those places, we are called to live differently, to stand out, to walk with God and be ready and willing to speak. To not be caught unawares like I was, thinking my thoughts 20 seconds behind the conversation, but be ready to give anyone who asks the reason to why you believe.

Because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what your back story is. Worst sinner ever, or perfect overachiever. We all need saving.
Posted by Jess

Friday, May 17, 2013

Christian Parenting. What's the Difference?

So for those of you who don’t follow me (Jess) over at my personal blog, you may be unaware that I haven’t recently self published my very first book. (Due for release mid June, you can pre-order a copy here).
Since doing that, I’ve been answering lots of questions about what is the book about, what is it’s purpose and so forth, and the one question that has really struck me is this: What’s the difference between Christian Parenting, and normal parenting? 
Asked, by a non-Christian. 

It’s a good question really? Is there a difference? I guess there should be, but what is it? As I started to talk about an extra emphasis on morality and the reason why, I felt like I was missing something. 
The quest for moral children is not just confined to the Christian faith. There are many people of all differing belief systems, (or not), who aim for a high level of morality in their child rearing. And just recently I spoke to someone who had had the most horrific of child hoods, and even she said her parents were fastidious with teaching manners and a basic respect. 
Even if they never practiced it. 
Besides that, we’ve all seen beautifully behaved children from absolutely terrible families, and then some absolute little horrors from those Christian homes as well. 
So Christian parenting is not that different at least in that respect. 

Do Christians enforce a higher standard than their unbelieving friends? 
Possibly. 
Do we emphasise different qualities as important and un-negotiable? 
Most definitely. 
Do we honour virtues such as honesty and kindness and respect for elders as a standard that must be maintained? 
Of course we do. 
Or should. 

But that in itself does not make us different from the rest of the world. It probably just makes us a little bit different from the person across the street. 

So what then, is Christian parenting? 

Why should there be books on it, and why did I, of all people write one? 

One simple difference. 

Eternity. 

What we do today, has repercussions for forever. 

Years ago, when I was an idealistic teen, I wrote a production called Jesus in Jeans, which was a modern view of the crucifixion story. We made a mechanised foam, denim cross, that travelled down the aisle, and then was lifted to the stage. 
Right in the centre of the T, there was a Velcro’d bit of denim that was removed to read a sign underneath. 
Right where the body of our Lord and Saviour would have rested. 
A black sign, with florescent pink writing, that would shine under the black lights with brilliance, reading that one word: Eternity.

   

Our God is an eternal God. He always has been, and always will be. When everything else will fail and become nothing, he will remain always the same.

Constant and perfect and impervious to natural decay.

He is forever.

And He has created us in His image. We were meant to live forever with Him, following Him, and having relationship with Him. Jesus’ death on the cross was not so we could hang out with him for a few years on earth before our bodies turned to dust in the ground. His view was big picture in the extreme; he was dying for an eternity with us.
Literally.

His focus was always on the future and what would come, and as Christian’s it’s imperative that our focus be the same. Eternity is not something that happens after your dead and buried. Eternity is now. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives and beyond.

How we live today, has the potential to change our’s or someone else’s forever.

So bringing it back to parenting; eternity is the difference. Yes as Christian parents there will be days when we do not like our offspring very much, and would just like to write that time period off the calendar. There will be times when we just enjoy the moment, and focus on the good, or possibly pull ourselves through the hard and depressing.
But most of the time, our focus needs to be on the future. Not just the immediate future (as in how quickly can I get this kid to bed so that I can have some time to myself), but the eternal future. 

Considering how our words and actions are influencing that child, and what kind of eternity will they have?

Will they see the truth of the gospel in our lives, and long for that more than anything?

Or will they wonder what the point is and chase their own ambitions?

But even more crucial to the point; will they be the kind of people who see the value in living their life with an eternity mindset? The type of children who grow and want nothing more than to fulfil the great commission set by their Saviour, because they realise that everyone should have what they do.

That everyone should have what we do.

Eternity is the difference.

Jess blogs at EssentiallyJess

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hidden in the Heart

When I was a little girl, my mum used to read me Bible stories every night. I had the most wonderful picture bible (I've sadly never found anything as good for my own kids), and a collection of Little Arch Books that threatened to take over the book shelves of our homes.

It helped that I love to read. I remember pouring over those stories, and reading them time and time again. It's how I learnt about Elijah calling fire from Heaven, and later being taken in a chariot, leaving his cloak with Elisha.

I remember reading about Esther, and Ruth, and Sampson taking on the Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey. Cain and Abel fighting, Laban tricking Jacob into marrying Leah, and Jonah running from God. I was amazed by the leadership of Joshua, and the courage of Rahab, hiding the Israelite spies at risk of death.
I absorbed those stories, soaking in their magnificence and imagining a world where God does everything really big and obvious, wishing that I could see something of that myself.

It was the best way really I could have grown up; believing the impossible and trusting that the same God was still around now, ready to do something equally awesome.

But whilst I was reading stories, something else was being planted in my soft little heart. The Word of God. As I grew, and the stories grew longer and more convoluted, filled not so much with grandeur but the realities of life, I learnt more and more about the character of God.
Yes He is magnificent and huge, but He is also graceful, and forgiving and full of mercy.

My heart was captured by His beauty, and I began to fall in love with Him.

My first, and ultimately life-long true love.

I've been very blessed in many ways. My heritage has allowed me to learn of my Saviour ever since I was a babe in arms; it's something that is easy to take for granted, but has set me in good stead through all my days. Even the ones where I haven't lived like I believed.

The other day I was reading in Psalms, and I came across this verse:


I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

It was the same one I read as a young teenager, or maybe older tween. A verse which someone had prophesied over my life. It was obvious to all that when it came to God, my heart was soft. I wanted nothing more than to please Him, and His word was in me. 

It got me thinking about my own children. What I do in order to hide the Word of God in their heart?How often do I speak the truth so that it penetrates?
Do my explanations reflect the very heart of my King?
Are the words I am speaking to my children, the words of God, breathing life into them, and making them hungry for more? 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

It's more than just reading Bible Stories, though that's a great place to start.
And it's more than just living by example, and hoping our kids grab the truth by Osmosis.
There's a need to be purposeful and driven. To immerse the Truth of God's Word in our own hearts to such an extent that when we talk with our children, that is what comes out. So that there is no wasted opportunity, no moment of our lives when God does not receive the glory.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Deauteronomy 6:5-9

It's something I definitely feel challenged to do.
How about you?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Enough

It's been far too long since we have published here on the Hill. Between the five of us there have been babies born, international reallocations and husbands working away. Add to that the 17 kids between us, and as you can imagine, we are all very busy ladies.

My mind in particular has been busy lately. I've been finding it hard to sleep.
I go to bed, completely exhausted, and it seems as soon as my head hits the pillow, my brain kicks into overdrive. I think of the most wonderful life changing ideas when I'm lying in bed, begging sleep to come.
Ironically, this seems to be the time of day when I hear God clearest. I don't know why, to be honest. It's not like my mind is still really, or I'm thinking any less than during the day.
Maybe it's just because this is the only time of day He knows when little children are not likely to interrupt.  :)

So anyway, last night, I was on the verge of sleep, and like always, my mind wandered back to the page of my book I had been editing that day. I had written about fears; in particular my fear that I might never be enough for my children. That I might say the wrong thing, or not spend enough time with them, or maybe yell a bit too much. That I'll be so preoccupied with my daily to-do list I'll forget to worry about the eternal side of things.
I worry my children will grow and make bad choices. Terrible choices that will hurt themselves or others. That they will blame me. That I'll be one of those mothers that they cringe to spend time with, and try desperately to be nothing like.
I worry, I won't be enough.

And then, last night, when the house is dark and quiet, and Boatman's breathing has deepened, once again, I hear God speak.

'No. You are not enough.'

And with that truth, the weight lifted off my shoulders. 

I am not enough. I am an imperfect person who will make a thousand mistakes between now and whenever. 
But He is enough. 
He is strength in my times of weakness, mercy in my judgement. 
He is compassion in my frustration and patience when my temper flares. 
He is Eternal when I am temporary; consistent when I am sporadic, all knowing when I am uncertain.
He is everything that I am not, and all the good that is in me at the same time.

I am not enough to bring my children to perfection, but by His grace, I walk with the One who is.