Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

The following was originally posted March 29, 2010. It's being reposted here today as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In 2010, I wrote a series of blogs titled Slavery in America. This particular blog in the series is on worship and jubilee. 

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I talked about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi in the summer of 2008. It had been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church. He asked me, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

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Slavery in America: A Conversation with International Justice Mission

In honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, this is a repost of an interview held with International Justice MIssion staff member Lauren Johnson in early 2010. IJM currently is one of the world leaders in combatting slavery today. 


Last month I visited the International Justice Mission headquarters, not far from the Pentagon and just outside our nation’s capitol.  It was a beautiful day. The air was crisp and cool and the ground layered with the remnants of the recent snow storm.

Inside IJM headquarters - aka HQ -, you’ll find a quant, but inspirational photo gallery. The walls are lined with telling photographs of beautiful people who are part of IJM’s work abroad. Each face on each photo tells a different story of survival, of redemption and of justice at work.

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The Road to Justice Begins at a Stop Sign

Have you ever broken a bone? I have. When I was 11 or 12 years old I broke a finger playing in what was likely a fierce game of handball. You read that right. I was one of the cool kids who played handball in elementary school (green with envy? I thought so).

The thing with breaks is, in order for them to heal correctly, they need to be reset, realigned or readjusted to the way they were designed.

When I first learned of the realities of modern day slavery, it felt like a bad break. How could things be so off set, out of order, out of place and in desperate need of healing and resetting? I felt a burning rage boil up in my gut and an overwhelming desire to barge into a brothel or brick kiln to rescue the oppressed and give the oppressor a piece of my mind, or, let's be honest, my once broken middle finger gesture.

My New Year's Resolve

I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. This is likely because I know I could never keep them. You know the popular resolutions well.  Get-up-earlier, actually-exercise-for-the-love, go-to-bed-earlier, read-the-one-year-Bible-without-missing-a-day, cut-out-sweets, I mean, who am I kidding? I could never keep those up for an entire year. That’s 365 days! (I’m not good with math so hopefully I got that right). I don’t make resolutions because I can’t keep them. I end up feeling like a failure come March or April when I’ve lost all steam to uphold such resolutions and I go on a colossal binge of all things unhealthy and unorderly. Is anybody with me?

Resolutions may not be my thing at the start of every New Year, but to resolve, that I can work with.

Resolve means to ‘decide firmly on a course of action.’ I can do that.

You may be familiar with a guy named Daniel from the Bible. He’s the guy who was thrown in a lion’s den and lived to tell about it. He was also a man who influenced culture and didn’t allow the cultural waves to carry him away from the path he was on. Daniel was an Israelite. He was one of God’s chosen people. He was living in Jerusalem when the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded and took what he wanted from the area, including Daniel.

Without warning, Daniel was kidnapped and under the King’s orders, he was to learn the Babylonian way, culture, language, literature, etc. He was also ordered to adopt the diet of the King’s men, a beefy diet of meats, carbs and wine (I’m doing a round of whole30 at the moment so all of that sounds delicious right about now. It’s only day 2; I’m in trouble.).  

In Daniel 1:8 it says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine…”.

Daniel was bold. Essentially, a slave, he told his new boss he didn’t want to spoil himself with what the earthly King Neb (we can call him Neb for short don’t you think?) considered fitting because Daniel lived for a better way serving God, the King of all Kings.

We are people of culture. We were born into a particular culture during a particular time period for a particular purpose ordained by Jesus long ago. Culture is not bad. But there are cultural trends that are not of God and are not pleasing to Him. As a Christian, I want to be like Daniel. I want to live my life according to what’s good and pleasing to God and not according to my wavering culture.

So here’s my resolve for 2017.

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My List of Best Reads of 2016

It’s the end of another year. Can you believe it? I’m sure I’ll be writing 2016 on everything for at least another month because I can’t believe 2017 is here already! Whether I like it or not, time is flying and it’s the time of year where I like to think back on what books I’ve read and compile a list to share. So let’s get to it!

In no particular order the following books made my 2016 best reads list.

Create vs. Copy by Ken Wytsma. This book is a gem. I learned a lot about theology of creation and how it informs, inspires and spurs on creation and innovation in my own life in community with others. I enjoyed this book so much I wrote more about it and the personal impact it had on me in a blog you can read here.

The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. After reading and loving Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children by Batterson a couple years ago (review of this one is also on the blog if you’d like to learn more), I was thrilled when I received The Circle Maker as a gift from my friend Monica. Batterson tells story after story of transformation taking place in so many lives because of prayer. While reading this one, I felt compelled to wake up a little earlier than I normally would (read: I only hit snooze once instead of 3 or 13 times), to spend a few minutes praying intentionally for people in my life. I have to tell you, I had some incredible conversations with the very same people I was intentionally in prayer during this time. Pausing, acknowledging God is at work for all people and He is good in and through all circumstances, changes everything.

Play with Fire by Bianca Olthoff. Rather than describe the book here, head on over to the blog to read through a fun conversation Bianca and I had about Play with Fire.

Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin. “The Bible is a story about the reign and rule of God” make for wise words from Wilkin. This little book is packed with insightful truths and practical helps regarding reading and understanding the Bible. I wish this book had been around 20 years ago! Wilkin identifies for the reader, the main theme of the Bible is creation-fall-redemption-restoration. We see the same 4 big ideas told over and over throughout the smaller narratives found from Genesis to Revelation. She also offers 4 practical ways to engage with scripture which will help us remember the Bible is about God. Yes the Bible informs us and our lives, but only through the lens of who God is. Reading and learning as much as I did from Wilkin inspired me to write a 2 part series on Reading the Bible which you can find here and here.

Favor with Kings by Caleb Anderson. Nehemiah. What a story right? Favor with Kings is a look at the memoirs of Nehemiah as He was used by God to lead the charge to rebuild the city walls around Jerusalem with the Israelites who had recently returned home from exile. The overarching idea of the book is every person has a mission from God and the mission is always about people. Nehemiah led in the rebuilding of the wall, but more importantly, the rebuilding of morale and joy for God’s people.

Giddy Up Eunice by Sophie Hudson. I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover but I completely did on this one and I’m glad I did. The title alone captured my interest and I just had to read a book titled Giddy Up Eunice. This is a book for the ladies. And it’s not full of potpourri, butterflies and doilies.  Hudson uses hilarious and insightful storytelling to discuss three very different stories found in the Bible of the unique relationships between Elizabeth and Mary, Ruth and Naomi and Lois and Eunice. All stories are of very different circumstances, yet all with the underlying truth women need each other. We need women older than us who can mentor, encourage us and pass on their wisdom to us. And in return, we need to do the same for the generation of women rising up behind us. I may have genuinely cried laughing reading this one. Pick up two copies because you’ll want to gift to an important woman in your life too.

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf. I may have cried a river reading this book but for a different reason than above. I first heard of Katherine and Jay’s story via a video clip of them at Catalyst West several years ago. And last February, I watched Katherine talk about her life streaming from The If:Gathering conference. In her mid-twenties and with a newborn and Jay in law school, Katherine suffered a massive stroke. Hope heals recounts the story from both Katherine and Jay’s unique perspectives. What I loved most about the book is while they wrote it to share their story of stroke and recovery; they did so in a way telling of the story of God. It’s about who He really is and the hope and healing only He can bring. Earlier this year I drove to a little Christian book store in Brea, CA to meet Katherine and Jay for a book signing. Katherine told me, “the story is God’s; we just told it.” It’s a beautiful read and I highly recommend you snag this up, along with a box or 30 of Kleenex.

One Thousand Wells by Jena Lee Nardella. Here again I judged a book by its cover. The tag line of the book reads, “How an Audacious Goal Taught me to Love the World Instead of Save it.” Intriguing, am I right? An early twenties Jena, in a unique partnership with the band Jars of Clay, set out for Africa determined to build 1000 wells and bring clean water to communities in need. Throughout the book she shares about struggles with working with the band, the struggle of bringing foreign aid to areas of desolation and maybe the most poignant of struggles, learning to live out the Christian faith like Jesus, despite status quo.

The Hatmakers were frequent flyers in my house this year. I read 3 of Jen’s and 1 of Brandon’s. Here we go:

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker. This book is about grace. It’s about accepting and extending grace. I  enjoyed the random recipes she threw in here and there throughout and some quotes of some of her followers. It’s simple, full of grace - for the love - with a bit of typical Jen humor throughout (such as the rant about yoga pants. If you don’t know what I am talking about, stop reading and immediate look up Jen Hatmaker Yoga Pants on YouTube).

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.  Jen takes minimalism to a new extreme with her 7 month long hiatus of excess. Jen leads her family on a major downsizing experiment to rid the excess and refocus their dependence upon God. Jen chooses 7 areas of her life where she lives in excess and for the duration of a month for each, she lives on only 7 of whatever the theme is for that month. For example, one month she purges her closets of clothes and literally wears the same 7 articles of clothing every day for a month. Another month it’s food. She eats a variation of the same 7 foods for a month.  Throughout the book Jen shares about the lessons learned throughout the experiment. I loved this book. It’s hilarious, honest and inspiring. I’ll read this one again. It certainly caused me to consider areas of my life where I live in excess and am missing out on living life closer to God because of it.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker. Interrupted tells the story of Jen and her husband Brandon as they go through a season when they began to question the Christian status quo and they began to wonder if Jesus really meant what he said and did. Because if he did intend for his followers to live lives reflective of what he said and did, this changes everything about everything. It means Jesus cares much more for how his followers treat the people around them, than carrying out the traditions of religion. Of the three Jen Hatmaker books I read this year, this was my favorite.  

Barefoot Church by Brandon Hatmaker. In Jen’s book 7, she tells a story about an Easter service she and Brandon went to one year with Shane Claiborne as the guest speaker. At the end of the service, Claiborne creates space for people to leave behind the shoes they walked in with because later that night, he was going to take them to the local homeless community. Both Brandon and Jen were so struck by this unconventional offering. It seems to me the idea for Barefoot Church was birthed from this experience. Brandon shares about the journey he and Jen took as they left their previous safe Christian world (much like Jen wrote about in Interrupted and embarked on a church plant dedicated to being both a gathering and a sending church community. This book is not a model for how to do church. Rather, it’s a story of their church planting experience. I took away some valuable insights and overall, enjoyed this book.

So that’s it! It’s been a good year of great reads!

Here’s a list of what I’m currently reading followed by what’s next on my list.

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When Pain & Joy Collided in Congo

In the fall of 2003 I found myself standing in an open area wedged between two buildings with a young boy who had a fierce case of the giggles. I would simply look at him and he’d crack up. I will never forget the sound of his sweet laughter or his dark almond shaped eyes. He wore faded and worn pink overalls and his bare feet danced around the concrete floor as he laughed.

The memory and sound of his joy-filled laughter is forever etched in my memory. His playful laughter and the culmination of so many emotions and thoughts this particular place, triggered something within me. His joy and his circumstances were in stark contrast.

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Tags | Global

What is the Bible About? Part 2

Would you believe I was married for 7 years the first time I met my father in-law? Ha! He arrived from Cameroon dressed to the nines in a pale yellow suit. Over the course of his month long visit, I learned a little about him and a lot about my husband. 

As I got to know my father-in-law, I realized my husband had very similar mannerisms and characteristics. As it turns out, my husband is a lot like his father.

I was greater informed of my husband as my relationship formed with my father in-law.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve opened the Bible looking for the answers I think I need for the thing I think is the most urgent thing in my life.

What is the Bible About Anyway?

The Bible can be intimidating right? When you pick it up to read, where do you start?  In the beginning? (#punning). Or do you start with the words of the wise in Proverbs? Jesus seems to be pretty important. Do you start by reading about His life in the Gospel books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Whether you’re new to Christianity or have been following Jesus for a lifetime, knowing how to read the Bible and where to start can be a challenge.

Confession: I’m a 100% through and through book nerd. My idea of a hot Friday night? A good book in one hand a glass of vino in the other. I devour books as if they are a big ‘ole fat slice of pie. I love books.

Peace in Place of Performance

Culture demands conformity to a never satisfied machine while God imparts peace in place of performance.

The pressure is on isn’t it? Pressure to be all things to all people and to do all things for all people.

I hear momma’s everywhere singing an amen chorus in unison. We feel it right; intangible need to be at the top of our game in every area of life?

The expectation society places on women – well okay then - women place on women, has created a pressure cooker on the verge of imploding. The current of performance driven culture makes me nauseous.

When my husband Martial and I were first married about 8 years ago, I placed this crazy expectation upon myself to master domestic duties like it was nobody’s business. I threw myself into my job, working hard to earn more so we could reach some imaginary financial status we hadn’t even defined. I came home tired and wanting to rest, but the expectations to be the perfect home maker got to me and I’d spend an hour or two every night struggling in the kitchen to cook a meal we could stomach.

When our son Justice made his life debut, life got real, real fast. I was still working full-time, still struggling in the kitchen and on top of being wife of the year, now I had to be the mom of the year too.

The summer when Justice was one, I took him to swim class every week because that’s what you do with your baby in the summer right? It was such a challenge to sneak out of work early, race home, grab my son and his swim gear and get to class on time just so he could splash around and sing the wheels on the bus. We’d race back home, he’d eat a bar and some crackers on the way (the dinner of champions I know) and again I’d struggle to cook something worth eating. On those nights, Justice could barely keep his sleepy eyes open long enough to eat.  It was exhausting and I felt awful watching him struggle to eat, bathe and get to bed before he was beyond tired (and nobody wants to go there with toddlers, am I right or am I right?).

I don’t remember when it was I finally imploded and complained to my husband about never meeting the expectation to be wife and mom of the year and the frustration and exhaustion I felt as a result. I can however, assure you it was not one of my more becoming moments.

Have you been there? Maybe the pressure cooker you find yourself in looks different than mine but we all feel pressure to be and do more than we are and are capable of right?

I distinctly remember my husband graciously telling me he didn’t expect me to be wife and mom of the year. Sure, a nice home cooked meal is great, but if it caused me to feel depleted, I didn’t need to stress over it. We could figure out a new routine that didn’t cause me so much angst. I began to realize I set the bar high for myself based on what I thought he – and the rest of the world – expected of me. I had created these crazy expectations of myself I could never keep which only caused me to constantly feel like a disappointment and a failure.

See what I did there? I set an unrealistic expectation upon myself and when I couldn’t meet it, I labeled myself a domestic failure.

Lysa TerKeurst, - she’s so wise - talks about how easy it is for a line to turn into a lie to turn into a label that becomes a liability.

The line I heard was I needed to be a domestic goddess. After a treadmill marathon, accomplishing nothing but exhaustion and frustration, the line turned into a lie I bought into, seeking approval from my husband for an expectation I had placed upon myself without him even knowing. Because I couldn’t keep the pace, I labeled myself a failure. Had I kept running at this pace, burnout was inevitable. Insert ugly liabilities. Had the unrealistic expectation not been revealed and dealt with, it could have caused serious damage to my relationship with my husband and my son, and maybe even those around me outside our home.

There is a cultural shift taking place and more and more women are talking about the pressure cooker and beginning to release the valve. Thank goodness!

Last year, the very funny Jen Hatmaker released For the Love. The book opens with Jen admitting she has a ton of help caring for her family of 7 along with all her other responsibilities. It does really take a village to raise children. We cannot do it alone, nor were we meant to.

And the fabulous Shauna Niequist released Present Over Perfect, Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Life.

I’ll trade in my frantic for simple and soulful any day! Can I get a witness?

I’ve shared some of my frantic with you. What’s your frantic and where do you need simplicity and a refueled soul?

This past summer I didn’t take Justice to swim lessons. I just couldn’t fit it into our schedule. And this time around, I wasn’t interested in futile attempts to conform our lives and what works best for our family into a schedule that just didn’t work for us.

When it comes to cooking, I’ve discovered crockpot meals - genius - and preparing meals ahead of time which has saved me hours during the week. I have more time to spend with my family and a lot less unnecessary stress.

I have learned to identify our families values and more importantly, to hold these values at higher esteem than societal or self-inflicted expectations. Sometimes this means we don’t take swim lessons right now and I don’t cook dinner every night. Sometimes it means I order pizza. Gasp! I know! The horror! And guess what? We’re still alive! As it turns out, Justice and my husband love pizza. #winning

What are your non-negotiables? What values are worth more to you than your own expectations?

Because here’s the thing, when I read about the character of God in the Bible, I read a very different story of grace and rest and peace than the story I was writing for myself.

In his book, Barefoot Church, author Brandon Hatmaker says, "Being at peace with God means we can take a breath, relax, and stop performing." 

The Bible is the story of God with the main character entering the scene as a baby. And what I learn about this unexplainable God in reading His story is He is the God who created life and delighted in it by resting with it. Even going so far in His relentless pursuit to be with His beloved children He became a little baby and babies rest a lot.

It’s no surprise then that the most restful, peaceful, delightful part of my day, is spending time with my son Justice reading and playing while a prepped ahead meal cooks or bakes away in the kitchen.

My biggest non-negotiable is my tribe before all. And for me, I am most prepared to love and to give my family the best of me, when I am in a position to be loved and to find my worth, label and peace in the One who made me to rest with Him.

Here’s my charge to you. Read and rest in the passage below. It’s Gods’ story told so you would know and live your life resting in His unwavering love and adoration of you. His love does not deplete, not exhaust, not expire. His love fuels and empowers and uplifts.

As you read, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What does this passage say about the character of God?
  2. What does this passage mean?
  3. How does this passage relate to the larger story of God told throughout the Bible?
  4. How does this passage affect my life?
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Paul Can't Keep a Secret and Neither Can I

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

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I drink coffee, read books, and travel. I’ve been able to drink coffee and discuss books with friends all over the world, simply because someone built a bridge and I made it east of the Mississippi and beyond. For this reason, I love bridges.