Heart Condition Part II – Heart Transformation

Now that we recognize our poor heart condition, we have to come to a place where we truly want to see the harsh realities of what lies deep inside our hearts.  Only then can God begin to help us identify all the areas of our hearts that are rotten or cold, the areas that we would overlook on our own.  Since God is the only One who can show us the truth about our hearts, then it makes perfect sense that only He can transform our hearts.  We may be able to jump start the process by our own strength, but we will always run out of energy and wisdom, grow tired and depleted, and the transformation falls short.

I’ve identified some keys to making room in your heart for God’s transformation… this process also lines up with the Christian 12 Steps, with a focus on God’s transforming power.

Humility and Surrender:  Admit and accept the deficient and bankrupt state our hearts are naturally in. Begin to humble ourselves enough to actually ask God to show us the details and the scenarios in which our hearts are less than pleasing.  Look for pride, lust, deceit, greed, slander, addiction, jealousy, envy, hate, competitive nature and all the things that can start off subtle and be hidden by simple justification, white lies, excuses, or the desire to succeed at any cost.  Ask God to root these things out so we can see them clearly, and don’t turn and run from the truth but face it head on.  Allow it to bring to you to a place where you know you are nothing without God’s help.

We must surrender all of our hearts to God, piece by piece, as we acknowledge each area that He shows us… accepting that He has the answers, the power and the keys to bringing about change.  We have to step back and stop trying to figure things out or cover things up. Full surrender in each area must take place before God’s supernatural transformation can take place within our hearts.  God transforms hearts that are fully surrendered and given over to Him, and that means ALL areas of our hearts, not just 90%, or all areas except one or two… He sees deep into our hearts so there’s no fooling Him…  When we hold onto certain areas of our hearts to manage on our own, we are only depriving ourselves of victory.

Confessing and Repenting: Admit these things God shows us about our hearts, our lives, our actions, our past and our present are true.  Seriously consider what we have done and how we got to this place. Write these things in a journal and pray over them; be ready to accept the fault rather than shifting the blame.  Ask for forgiveness, with a sincerity and a deep remorse.  Ask God what you can do to make it right and earnestly seek His will to make the changes necessary so these mistakes are not easily repeated.

We all mess up and fall back from time to time, there are no perfect people… but true repentance is turning from your ways towards God and seeking Him and His ways with all your heart.  If there is no change, but a shallow confession and we plan to return to the same displeasing ways, that’s not going to result in a heart transformation.  If there are areas we aren’t willing to confess and change, ask God to reveal what’s holding us back and go back to surrendering. Sometimes further healing is necessary, so be ready to go to any lengths to learn what to heal from and how to heal.

Intimacy: To seek God’s will for us and and learn what our hearts should be filled with, we need to learn about God by reading His Word in the Bible, praying to Him and resting in His presence.  Everyone has different ways of praying and meditating on Christ, so don’t be afraid to try different techniques.  The more we know about God as we study the Bible and sit and pray with Him, the more our hearts will be open to His transformation.  If something is keeping us or blocking us from being able to connect with God, we may need to confess and turn to Him so we can feel comfortable praying and connecting with Him again.

Through intimate time with Jesus and in His presence alone we are transformed, healed and given wisdom way beyond what we could initiate on our own, therefor knowledge of God’s character and intimacy with Him is vital.

Dependence: Full transformation can never be achieved in this lifetime!  This is a lifelong process and we need continued dependence on God to continue regular transformation.  As soon as we fall back, our heart condition worsens. This is a lifestyle choice… a choice that leads to a healthy dependence on God. Regularly reading the Bible, praying alone and with others, staying committed to serving and walking side by side with the people God calls you to, obediently participating in Bible studies, healing groups, accountability groups, and utilizing the 12 Steps and other biblical tools and materials… through all of this we will depend on God to transform, teach and build up our hearts… and keep us focused on Him. God is the only One who can consistently and holistically sustain us and provide us with abundant life. This world is filled with too many things that will attempt to turn our hearts from God and destroy them, but by depending on God each day, our hearts can be transformed and we can rise above it all.

To sum it all up:  Without consistent surrender, repentance, and the active presence of God, we can have some level of revelation but it will lack life application and supernatural transformation.

HUMAN SEX TRAFFICKING – How can you help?

Today is January 11, 2014…. Human Trafficking Awareness Day… What can you do to help stop sex trafficking?

You can:
*Agree not to purchase or view pornographic material
*Refuse to purchase sex or services within the sex industry from ANYONE and speak up when you know someone who does
*Get help and find accountability if you are someone who struggles with sex addiction
*Choose NEVER to tolerate sexual abuse (which leads to trafficking for many)
*Vow to protect all women, children and others who are at risk.

Most importantly, you can bring about change in your community by viewing human sex trafficking as a crime that CAN be stopped! The victims are not statistics or lost causes, they could be your son or daughter, sister or mother…. And they may enter into a situation that progresses to trafficking without even realizing it will end up there. Your voice could save them….

Thank you for your support as we fight this battle to set the captives free through the power of our Lord Jesus. Only through Him can we overcome!

Temptation Is Directly Linked To a False Identity – R.E.S.T. Group 11/25/13

Our R.E.S.T. support group met tonight… it was so good to spend time with the girls and talk openly!!

We talked about temptation and addictions.  The things we’re tempted with are linked to our insecurities and the false identities we take on…. to cope with the lies we are told and to face our insecurities, we give in to temptation and then we try to justify it and force ourselves to believe that things are fine.  We begin to develop false identities ourselves based on the lies we buy into and when this happens, our decisions are not based on who we truly are.  We start by saying we’ll give in to the temptation only once, and convince ourselves we have things under control.  Giving in to the temptation eventually becomes a coping mechanism that we get comfortable running to, and when this happens it can become such a part of us that it’s hard to resist, let alone identify as a problem. Giving in to temptation only provides us with a sense of temporary and false fulfillment.  We will be left feeling empty and more unhappy afterwards, and extremely confused about who we are.

Many temptations are clearly not going to be good for us including overindulging in food, abusing alcohol or substances, lying to others, or giving in to sexual temptations and being unfaithful.  The list goes on!  Other times the temptations are disguised as good things, but what makes them dangerous is that they come to us at the wrong time. For example, sex in itself is a beautiful thing, but when done at the wrong time and outside of God’s plan for us, it can be harmful.  Or we may decide we want a boyfriend/girlfriend or make a commitment to get married, and then we end up in a tough relationship that could have been avoided if we just would have waited for God’s timing.  Some of us may be presented with the opportunity to make more money for our family, then we find ourselves wrapped up in work as our family fades away.  These temptations and many more can all come as blessings in disguise.  This is one of Satan’s oldest tricks.

No matter how much you know about temptation, how long you have avoided it, or how close you get to God, you will always be faced with them… you should always be on guard and never assume you’re exempt from old or new temptations.  Even Jesus was tempted.  Although He resisted, when Satan left Him we are told he planned to return at a more favorable time to tempt Jesus again (Luke 4:13).  This is a reality of the world that we’re all faced with.  No one is exempt…no one!  But Jesus offers us hope because He displays freedom and victory despite Satan’s attempts to destroy Him.  Anyone who accepts Jesus is given this same power and authority… sometimes we just need God’s help to activate it.

Freedom is being able to move out of temptation as you reinforce who you are in Christ… being comfortable in your addictions and repeatedly giving in to temptation is enslavement.  I’m not saying that freedom is in perfection, because none of us is perfect and we all fail, including me!  What I’m trying to say may sound a little backwards, but freedom is actually found in the act of recognizing our weakness, and choosing to ask God for help… that is what brings you to a place of freedom, a place where temptation looses it’s power.

How do we fight off temptation?

  • Acknowledge your struggle and stop justifying, avoiding or playing the victim.  Realize that Satan is a real force trying to take you out and he’s not playin’, so you shouldn’t either!
  • Get connected to a support group or recovery group, and reliable people you can be accountable to.  Be willing to talk about your struggles and temptations with a person or a group you trust.  Be sure your accountability partner(s) are accountable themselves!
  • Next, don’t even allow yourself to entertain the thoughts and possibilities of acting on those things that you know you have struggled with in the past.  As soon as a temptation enters your mind, pray and ask God if it is something He wants for you.  If it is something that will push you farther from God, it can’t be anything good!
  • Quickly try to identify your insecurity/area of weakness that relates to the temptation, what lies you believed about yourself to make you insecure, then seek the truth about who you are… not who you think you are, but who GOD says you are.  This truth will help you dismantle the insecurity.

Some examples of lies rooted in false identity/insecurities could be the temptation of an affair stemming from a feeling that you are unloved or unwanted.  This is a lie and probably relates to an insecurity you developed in your past.  Or you may be tempted to go on a shopping spree, but it could be rooted in the lie that your beauty is based on your outer appearance.  The desire to drink or do drugs may come from a place of self-loathing and the insecurity that no one will have fun or enjoy being with you – again, this is rooted in a lie!

Dig deeper and ask God to reveal to you what false identities lie beneath the temptations coming your way, and more importantly, ask Him how He really feels about you! After all, He is the one who really matters… and to Him you are amazing!

Did You Know God Collects Your Tears In a Bottle?

Have you ever felt like God couldn’t possibly care about you or your situation?  Sometimes it might feel like you are all alone, and so many things seem to be going wrong.  You end up crying and crying, and wondering if God even cares about you.  My friend, God cares more than anyone on this whole Earth could ever care, and He sees all your tears.

The Bible tells us He actually collects them in a bottle.  He knows what you’re going through and if you could just look to Him, He would confirm that for you.

He cares so much about you… He knows every thought you have, every ache you have in your heart, and all of your desires.  Psalm 56:8 says “You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”

This shows me that not only does God know every single tear you’ve cried, but He keeps track of what made you cry and studies your heartbreak so that He can heal you, comfort you, and give you joy in a way that is unique to only YOU.

I like to picture God up in Heaven, studying your life, staring into your eyes, watching you while you sleep… noticing every little thing that makes you smile.  To be able to bring you true happiness, He also watches closely as you experience the pain and trials of the world.  As you shed your tears, I picture Him going to the bottles He keeps suspended on strings hanging down from the Heavens, and He pulls out the bottle He keeps just for you.  Each bottle is a different size, color and shape and He knows who each bottle belongs to.  He captures your tears and places them in your bottle, then places the cork back into the top to keep them safe.  I can see Him holding your bottle close to His heart.  I imagine tears are falling from His own eyes as He thinks of how He can draw you closer so that He can do what He longs to do.  And what is it that he longs to do for you?  Simply to bring a smile to your face… and transform your life so that you can cry tears of joy.

Remember your little glass bottle next time you cry, and remember to be close to Jesus.  He can help you turn those tears into joy, and that little bottle of yours will be your welcome home gift when you arrive at your eternal home.

– with love – Anita

Letter To All My Girls Out There! (A Letter From Anita)

Hi!

Believe it or not, YOU are the woman I desperately want to meet. You are the reason I’m writing this letter. There is so much I want to tell you and so much I want you to experience, but as the saying goes, you’ll have to see for yourself… and the choice is all yours. I really just want you to know that there is hope and a new life waiting for you on the other side. It is possible! I’m not at all attempting to minimize the tragedies, tough times and painful memories that I bet you know too well. I’ve been where you are, and I remember how hopeless it was… Sometimes it seems so dark you can’t see past today. You feel so alone it’s as if there is not a single person in the entire world that you can trust. Maybe your destructive behavior has even turned into a game where you’re competing with yourself and others to see how ‘bad’ you can actually be. Somehow, the glamorous life you once wished for has become a nightmare, a twisted lie… and you feel trapped.

There is a way out. It may seem impossible, but your future can be bright… so bright that you’re captured by truth, love and hope. There can actually come a time where the destruction you once lived in will be a distant memory. You can reach a point that the unique and unconditional love you begin to know lifts you high above this world’s purpose for you and you find a purpose that is greater than anything you ever dreamed for yourself. Your addictions and obsessions will become less and your desires will become pure. Often, your necessities and your desires will be met for you before you can even ask for them. This is something you have to experience for yourself because words cannot describe it, but I’m here to tell you this absolutely can be your reality if you begin to look to something greater than yourself.

I’m guessing you’re in a dark, hopeless, lonely place… a place that I knew all too well. I bet you’re like me and you’ve spent a lot of time trying to convince yourself that the bad girl lifestyle is what you want, and the world won’t like you any other way. I am here to break the silence and tell you how much of a lie that is. I will stand up for you, go against the majority of the world, and even become an outcast if it means that the truth I bring might save your life. If you think your body, social status and more money can bring you to a place where you will be satisfied, you bought into the world’s biggest lie. You can do better! When I was lost and slowly killing myself, I had no one to shine light into my life. I want to give you what I didn’t have… I am here to act as a light for you. Girl, I’m living proof that once you step out of the darkness, the gift of your new life will light up the dark night like a firework. So step into the light and look my way for just a minute… I’m an open book.

Before I thought about you, your true worth and your purpose… before I was sent to come and find you… I was lost. I listened to the lies of the world from the time I was a little girl and I was tricked into believing that I would be carefree if I became more careless. I believed that I’d be rich inside if I only had more money. I believed that if I focused on finding the perfect man, he would love me so perfectly that all my problems would disappear… yet with each man it was my heart that actually began to disappear. These subtle lies almost killed me and they isolated me from what I should have believed in…

While I focused my energy on believing in anything but God, I pushed away all the good people in my life. I retaliated and became hardened, blaming my choices on the fact that I was neglected, abused, raped and manipulated. I put myself in situations where I could repeatedly be hurt because I was so used to it and it felt normal to me. This only made it easier for me to justify hurting and manipulating others. I coped with everything by drinking, fighting, using drugs, and having sex. My body was a dumping ground and my mind was toxic.

At my lowest point I was using drugs every day, anything I could get a hold of. My body’s nourishment was alcohol. I was bi-sexual and addicted to sex. I became an escort and a drug dealer. I was on probation in three different cities at one point and in over my head with legal problems. My list of friends was dwindling as they betrayed me and I manipulated them. I was hopeless, filled with despair, and saw no way out. I was an empty shell and I thought the only answer was to go harder and hope the money and drugs would make it all bearable. I was in complete darkness. My mind was filled with lies and I believed them all.

God sent me a light, a baby boy. I saw how bright the light was and for the first time I ran towards it and didn’t look back.

I hope to be that light for you. I pray hard to remember the pain I felt. I never want to forget where I was… not one miserable detail. This reminds me that miracles were performed to transform me into the woman I am today. I can see myself in you and it makes me love you more. The love I have for YOU is a gift given to me from God. Once I accepted Jesus into my life, this gift began to fill my heart and it grows every day. This gift of love can be yours, too. It isn’t available only to a select few. It is free for anyone willing to unwrap it. God is waiting patiently to give you the gift that has been waiting for you all these years. He knows everything about you and isn’t ashamed, disappointed or angry with you…He desperately wants you to open your heart to Him.

I hope that I personally have a chance to meet every one of you who this letter has touched. It is my desire to walk next to you through trials, challenges, victories and miracles. I want to cry with you, and I definitely want to laugh with you! I pray that I can get to know you so that I can share with you the hope that I have found buried in the darkness of this world. You have a purpose to serve, but it’s not to serve those you’re serving now… It’s to serve the Most High, the one who is above all the rest. True love does exist, but it won’t be found where you’ve been looking. Listen to Him calling your name…He’s written it on the palm of His hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

With Love,

Anita, Co-Founder

PS: Call me! (216) 264-9167

Second Chances

What a wonderful feeling it is to know that I have been set free from a life filled with bitter and painful memories, hopeless partying, a distorted mindset, and an endless search for love, friendships, and a sense of belonging that I could never find.  It was a vicious cycle that left me feeling empty and repeatedly cheated, realizing after each failure or betrayal that I had been chasing lies… again.  Now I live free of the addictions and distractions which used to keep me prisoner.  I need nothing more than that which God provides for me through my relationship with Him.

Unfortunately, I’m on the other side, knowing there are people still caught in this trap… but instead of feeling hopeless for them and keeping my freedom to myself, I’m determined to reach out to anyone willing to grab a hold of my hand.  I’m positive there is a way out for everyone who wants to get out, and I know without a doubt that there is hope.  The possibility of a miraculous transformation is possible, no matter who you are!  I know it’s possible because of my own miraculous story and because of countless other beautiful stories that God has presented to me.  These stories show me God’s desire to see us come to know the great love He has for us.  He wants us to know that through His love, we can be set free.

So, what did I do with my second chance?  What happened inside me once I received the revelation of God’s plan that unfolded before me as He told me all those stories of transformation?  I recognized the hope that I found was a gift.  I realized that the freedom I received was also a gift given to me when I fully accepted that Jesus died for ME.  These gifts birthed a desire deep within me to share them with others… I made a promise to God that I would bring this hope to others around the world, starting with my own city.

At one time, this promise to God was just a thought in my mind… a secret dream shared only between the two of us.  It came to fruition when I met Amanda in early 2012, and was set in motion after my baptism on November 19, 2012 when I announced that I was dedicating my life to leading people to freedom and healing through Christ.  Soon enough, God’s vision manifested itself in the form of a non-profit organization through Amanda and I… just two young women passionate about testifying to God’s greatness and following Jesus wherever he leads.  In preparation for this work, I have grown through some tough trials and tribulations, and I look forward to the many lessons God will continue to teach me while I am on this Earth.  God’s refinement can be painful but displays much beauty when completed.  Healing and spiritual training is constant and under way.  Divine relationships are being formed for me throughout the city, state and the world.  God continues to mold my friendship with Amanda, my ministry partner, and He shows us the importance of love and grace.

After all the praying, studying and preparation, it became official as Amanda and I embarked on our new journey into uncharted territory.  This weekend, I accompanied Amanda and two volunteers, Sara and Jackie, as we made our way around the Cleveland area and into five strip clubs.  Armed with the supernatural love of Jesus and fun items stuffed into gift bags hand made by our volunteers, we delivered our transforming message of hope.   It’s amazing to dream about the ways that we will be able to show the women in these clubs love… and what’s even more amazing will be their amazement when they realize the giver of that love is God and they also have a place in His Kingdom.  It’s so exciting to think of the relationships we will build as we visit them regularly, and the stories that will be told by many of these women to attest to their very own ‘soul makeovers’.

In many cases, with many clubs and most management, we were received well.  In some cases, we were not.  Our Lord Jesus was not always well received and was often rejected, but that didn’t stop him from loving people and carrying out His Father’s will.  He continued on his mission and spoke truth to people, who were sometimes set free as a result.  Other times, people refused to acknowledge the truth and he was persecuted for the message he delivered… but the message was delivered either way.  I clearly see this will be a long process of building trust with the women and establishing a presence throughout the city that gives people a sense of peace about our mission.  It may take time for many to hear the message we are bringing, but that is only in God’s nature to take His time.  I am convinced that while dramatic changes may not always be visible as a result of our outreaches and the awareness we raise, the culture of the city will be transformed and God’s purpose will prevail.  I am simply overwhelmed and most definitely grateful to play even a small part in it.

I am certain that God’s plans for the women we reach involve new life, transformation, freedom and hope… and our UnChained Love outreaches will serve as a vehicle to bring all of this to the women.  Scripture tells us that God’s people’s names are engraved on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).  Knowing this, my confidence lies in Him.  Whether the women come running to us with open arms or refuse our gifts and close themselves off to the message we deliver, God’s chosen ones will eventually end up in His arms where they belong.  There is freedom in knowing that this has nothing to do with me or anyone else… it is all based on the simple fact that He is the author of all our stories, and He alone will save lives through the power of the cross.

So get ready Cleveland, because Jesus is on the move…

God’s Love Shines Through Local Clevelanders

God is making moves… Off a hunch, Holy Spirit lead no doubt, a meeting was called today to discuss possible partnership with Campbell’s Sweets Factory, a Christian based business out of Ohio City. From the details of how the meeting transpired, to the hearts of the individuals at this business, down to the meeting itself, God blew my mind… as usual! It is clear through situations like this how important it is that God provides a means to strengthen our involvement with the local church body. God is paving the way and calling out to His people to get involved. I believe He wants to prove to the women of the industry that they matter to believers throughout the city… He is setting the stage to make a huge impact on the lives of the women we are about to reach!

Amanda and I had an amazing meeting with Campbell’s Sweets Factory owner Jeff Campbell, and one of his employees, Ryan. Mr. Campbell will be praying and presenting to other people within the company about how his business, as well as other individual employees, can become involved. He has offered up his ideas including providing desserts for club outreaches as well as other forms of support for the women desiring a change of life. He also plans to set us up to present the ministry vision to a few other local churches. I look forward to seeing how God builds this new partnership into our lives and into this ministry.

I am so glad God connected us. I encourage you to stop in to Campbell’s Sweets Factory on W25th, or to their stand at the West Side Market. Indulge in their amazing sweets and show them some love… They are a business who deserves it!

-Anita