RADICAL Liberation!

Have you had a liberation moment; a moment when you have a realization of how free you REALLY are? Free from the judgments and opinions of others.  Free from the debilitating internal dialogue you abuse yourself with. Free of your life’s circumstance. Free from what the world expects from you. Free from your past.  Free to live and believe for a beautiful and God honoring future. Have you ever felt so liberated?

Yesterday America united to celebrate our liberation and freedom as a nation; we celebrated and honored the fight it took to receive the liberties we are afforded daily. We as a nation can agree on the goodness of freedom; it’s the governing of our freedom that divides the red and blue lines of society.  What does it look like to govern our personal freedom? How do I daily live out my radical liberation moments? 

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My name is Brittany Priess and I know the strong grip and slavery of sin in my life.  I also know the sweet freedom that comes from encountering the saving grace of Jesus.  I know the struggle of freedom and living in freedom daily.  One of my primary weapons when governing the freedom I’ve been given through Christ is a short verse from 2 Corinthians. This verse is short, sweet, and super memorizable. 

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

When I am struggling to live in a place of freedom I recall this verse, and ask myself some questions:

Where is the Spirit of the Lord?...in me. 

What comes with the Spirit of the Lord?...freedom.

What does this mean for me?...I am free, I have authority to live like it. 

Another thing that has helped me in governing my freedom is having a right understanding of spiritual freedom. Culturally being free means that we get to do what we want.  Many people celebrated yesterday by eating and drinking as much as they want, doing whatever they want because work is closed, or by shooting off all the fireworks all in the name of ‘MERICA! That is all well and good, but as believers we are called to do something a bit different with our freedom.

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh ; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:13-14

We are set free for the sake of Love.  We are set free so that we can love those the Lord puts in our lives. You and I are called to use our freedom to humbly love others; we are to choose loving others over our own flesh’s desires. 

I have been freed from fear and empowered to love people without fear of rejection or abandonment.

I have been freed from lust and empowered love others with a pure heart and holy intentions. 

I have been freed from hopelessness and empowered to love my creator and delight in His trustworthy heart. 

I have been freed from death and empowered to laugh at the days to come and have joy in all circumstances. 

The real fight for freedom comes after the smoke has cleared and the boom of the fireworks has stopped ringing in our ears. Let us persevere in freedom; in the words of George Washington in the broadway musical Hamilton, “Winning’s easy young [wo]man, governing harder.” 

What have you been freed from and empowered to? How will you be free today? 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

  Brittany Priess is a Criminal Justice Major that has traveled to 20 countries, served tirelessly with local youth, is a gifted speaker/trainer/leader and is passionate for   missions, marginalized and manicures! She is THE perfect guest blogger for Belle & Sparrows! 

Brittany Priess is a Criminal Justice Major that has traveled to 20 countries, served tirelessly with local youth, is a gifted speaker/trainer/leader and is passionate for missions, marginalized and manicures! She is THE perfect guest blogger for Belle & Sparrows! 

Tiffany Savage
23 More Verses

Every other month we have the sweet privilege of serving some remarkably brave moms at Exodus Ministries in Dallas. These are women who were convicted of non-violent crimes, incarcerated and lost their children along the way.  Through this yearlong program, they are reunited with their children, learn how to parent and do life in a new way.  We typically eat a meal together, share life’s stories and do a Bible study. This time however, we skipped dinner and went straight for dessert!  It was homemade pies, coffee and the story of Rahab.

While reading her story in Joshua, Rahab was labeled  “the prostitute” in the very first verse.  We talked about how being a prostitute might have made her feel and words like shame, abuse, outcast, and unworthy were used. We then talked about our own pasts and the regrettable things we had done, those very same words were used to describe how our past sins made us feel.

Don’t you and I all too often get stuck wearing the labels from of our past? We are forever marked by something we did- a bad decision, a wrong choice or series of decisions and choices we wish we could erase. Maybe labeled by someone else or self-labeled, we ultimately deem ourselves unusable for anything of worth.

I love Rahab’s story because her past did not define her. She went on to do much more than what her profession declared her to be in verse one, in fact her story continued for twenty -three more verses.

Sitting around that table last Friday, we were a group of vastly different women all with different labels once given to us. We too declared that our pasts do not define us.  Our pasts are part of the story that is still being written by a God who is far more creative than we could ever imagine, and when we trust Him with the pen for our lives, there are still many verses yet to be written. 

For His Glory!

Lynde Griggs

Tiffany SavageComment
The BRAVERY of One
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It was the bravery of one who answered the call to go on an international mission trip with a new ministry. She paid her deposit, filled out her application and applied for a passport. She sent out support letters and began to make arrangements for her small children that she would be leaving; all for a trip she knew little about. But her answer was still YES.

Jesus, you make me brave. You make me brave.
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave. You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

Once the training began, she realized there were parts to the trip she had not expected.  She learned would be giving her testimony, but she already committed- so she painstakingly leaned into the trip’s agenda. She shared her testimony with teammates during training, revealing that those deepest, shame-causing secrets had only been told once before.

Jesus, you make me brave. You make me brave.
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave. You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

In Guatemala, with shaking hand and voice she shared her story with a group of moms from the local elementary school. She revealed how trying to "fit in" led her places she never expected to go. The boundaries she once set for herself were crossed and crossed again and her feelings of worthlessness became all too familiar. She soon became unrecognizable from the girl she once was and all of this came at a big price and had severe consequences that ultimately led to years of disappointment, shame and guilt. Finally, she came to a crossroads: if Jesus could forgive ALL of her sin, could she forgive herself?  She made the decision surrender EVERYTHING in order to be fully free.  

Jesus, you make me brave. You make me brave.
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave. You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

It was her bravery to share that opened the heart of another who listened to every word and realized that she was not alone in her feelings of unworthiness. It was her bravery to share about the redemption and restoration Jesus offered that was the catalyst for this Guatemalan woman to accept the gift of salvation and surrender her life to Jesus. 

Jesus, you make me brave. You make me brave.
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave. You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.

None of this is possible without the ULTIMATE ACT OF BRAVERY.  It is ONLY because of JESUS and his bravery to take our sin to the cross and die the death we deserve that we are made worthy, we are restored, we are healed. 

But HE was pierced for our transgressions,

HE was crushed for our iniquities

the punishment that brought us peace was on HIM,

and by his wounds WE are HEALED.

Isaiah 53:5

 

To God Be the Glory!

Lynde

Tiffany Savage
Let Me Sow Love - guest blog post
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Guest Blogger Eli Hammonds of Exodus Ministries in Dallas, TX

We met Eli at the beginning of the summer and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with her and the work of Exodus Ministries.  We knew right away that we would be partnering long term with this ministry.  Eli is beautiful, funny, SUPER talented, loves Jesus and has a heart for the hurting the size of TEXAS!  Sit back and enjoy some time getting know Eli like we do:

Where do you work and why did you chose this career path?
I am privileged to serve on staff at Exodus Ministries – we reunite mothers with their children where wounds from incarceration and addiction are present. We teach them how to be loving mothers in a safe, uplifting environment. I’m not sure that I chose this path, per se… but the Lord was clear that this was the path for me.

My role[s] here include: Children’s Director – I get to love on these kiddos every day, oversee an incredible volunteer team and schedule. Creative Director – I run our social media, do our photography/video and writing. I also serve as one of the Resident Managers here – I live on property as a “House mom” of sorts. 

What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
I would’ve trusted the process more – doubted less. I would’ve spent less time trying to please people.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
I had my physician tell me about a year ago to “say no more often” – My “yes’s” were effecting my health.

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
Wow – I feel really grateful to have served alongside some really incredible leaders throughout the last ten years. My college pastor and his wife, Rob and Medea Peabody, are ones I’m consistently inspired by. Their faith is real – not flashy or for anyone else. They walk in integrity and grace. Other than that, my mom is my very best friend, and my first phone call in any situation.

What is your biggest challenge?
I remember a church leader encouraging me years ago, before I was serving “in the trenches”, to “lay the hurts that I feel at the feet of Jesus” and when I learn to do that, I’ll continue to see freedom and breakthrough. This is an every day challenge – sometimes I think I know better, or want a situation to end differently – especially in working with former addicts and their children. I sometimes get caught up in the “why” – “why did __________ have to happen this way?” but I’m learning every day that the Lord loves His people more than I ever could. The deeper I understand this, the less pressure I put on myself to be perfect and/or to rescue.

What are you currently reading? 
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.

What is your favorite movie?
The Holiday, Little Women J

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 If you could tell people in no more than 2 sentences about your organization to make them want to get involved what would you say?
Every day we get the opportunity to love those this world won’t care enough for, and the Lord is changing the trajectory of their lives. The nationwide recidivism rate is about two-thirds [67.8% - the rate in which ex-offenders return to prison within three years], but for those that complete the Exodus program, it is 0%.  

Chocolate or Vanilla? 
Chocolate, but I prefer popcorn over anything sweet! 

What’s your best advice for handling criticism?
I think it’s important to listen to constructive words – words meant to build and not destroy. Though I’ve learned to take everything to Jesus and ask Him for His heart on the matter. As humans, we can spew negativity in the name of Jesus, but Jesus never did that. It was His loving-kindness that leads to repentance. 

 What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
“You can’t draw from an empty well” – I always heard it, but never truly believed it. I viewed self care as weakness and selfishness. The first year working at Exodus, I did not take care of myself. I ate terribly, I didn’t take time to do things I loved, I continued to pour myself out every day, white-knuckling it and trying to navigate this area of life and stories of trauma I saw every day. Needless to say, it did not work out well. I gave away my joy, and was not useful to anyone in that season. I’ve learned since then what things make me come alive… cooking a good meal, taking time for a bubble bath, essential oils, and yoga!

What do you find are biggest stumbling blocks and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?
My biggest stumbling block would have to be me, and the way I think things should be. It all comes down to surrender. If I truly believe that God is for me and not against me, there’s not a single thing I will face today that can take me from that love.

What’s next for you?
I currently serve as the Children’s Director/Creative Director/and one of the Resident Managers here at Exodus. That sounds like a jumble of different roles, but if you’ve worked for a ministry before, you probably understand. I would love to one day be able to focus on solely the creative side of things, while still serving with a local ministry. I’ll be at Exodus as long as the Lord sees fit. 

What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
My favorite prayer, and what I try to live by, is the Prayer of St. Francis. It says: 

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen
Thank you SO much Eli for jumping in and answering ALL the questions in such a truthful way!  It is our privilege at Belle & Sparrows to watch the work you do and to get to be a very small part of your world! Keep up the AMAZING work you “good and faithful servant.”

If you would like to learn more about the ministry Eli does we would LOVE for you to jump in with us on a local trip to go serve alongside her.  Our November Exodus trip is full but January has room – come GO with us! 

 

Blessings,

Tiffany Savage

 
Tiffany Savage
Come and Go with me

Does the title of this post make you want to continue singing a song? If so, it will let me know what time frame you either grew up in student ministry or were a student youth leader. You are probably a "Jesus Freak." 

 "Come and go with me to my Father's House....." This song by Audio Adrenaline came out in 1993 and is FOREVER etched in my mind.  There are some great things about this song that stick out me as a missions  leader:

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1.  We are all called

2. Come go with us

3. We want EVERYONE to end up in that "Big House" with us one day right? 

Our Father's House is big enough for all of us, we all have access to it, we can all feel loved and cared for there without judgment-what more could we ask for?  It truly is THE best house!  

"My Father's house has many rooms: if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" John 14:2

Every month I have an opportunity to take women to serve other women and share their commonalities.  However, THE best part is seeing women share the truth of love, grace, mercy and worthiness to other women while inviting them into "their Father's House." 

I would love you to go with us, share with others and partner with us along the journey - I can't promise anything more than an experience, but step out in faith and you WILL be forever changed! 

Blessings,

Tiffany Savage

Tiffany SavageComment
This is the dream

Today while looking at different ministries we are interested in for possible partnership, I was on the website of one in Haiti. Thinking about ways that we might bring a usable skill or craft to the women, I looked at their Needs List. I clicked on the tab that said "Sewing" and on the list and it stated burial gowns.

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My eyes filled with tears and I wanted to UN-SEE those words and go back to the picture of the cute little brown-faced girl I had just seen in her new pillow case dress. But there I sat, staring at my screen. 

Wondering what, how, why?  My heart is breaking for these mothers, families and caretakers who have to face this reality. But in a county devastated by the worst poverty, pummeled by natural disasters and governmental corruption; I imagine the need for a burial gown is all too common.

While this is only one small need for Haiti: you could easily substitute any "need" with a different country and the demand would be equally staggering. Questioning our own resources, time, skill or even desire; we are either moved to into action or inaction. And sometimes the shear immensity of such need can overwhelm, leaving us paralyzed by it’s enormity. 

But...WE CAN ALL DO SOMETHING.

Katie Davis said beautifully in her book, Kisses from Katie,
“It may take place in a foreign land
or it may take place in your backyard,
but I believe that we were each created
to change the world for someone.
To serve someone.
To love someone the way Christ first loved us,
to spread His light.
This is the dream,
and it is possible.”

So, we choose to go... and we choose to serve… and we choose to love.

For His Glory,

Lynde Griggs

Tiffany SavageComment