"Fistfight For Your Beauty"

Hi TBL readers! 

I have been reading a lot of books lately but none of them WRECKED me as much as Get Lost, which is a book about finding your true love by getting so lost in God. I thought that this book was only for teen girls and boy was I mistaken! I read the first couple of pages and it immediately started to challenge and convict my love-thirsting heart! Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Dannah Gresh about Secret Keeper Girl, the Penn State Scandal and her upcoming book, "Pulling Back The Shades" and here is what she had to say:

FD: Who is Dannah Gresh in five words or less?

DG: A girl who loves God. (Chuckles) that's the shortest way to put it. 

FD: What led you to start the Secret Keeper Girl Ministry? 

DG: It was totally a God vision. I was sexually active at a young age which led to a series of disappointments. So when I had a nine year old girl of my own I decided to take a stand. The things we believe when we are nine affect the decisions we make when we are in our teens and adulthood. Moms know that they need help starting a conversation that is age-appropriate.

FD: Is there a story behind the name, Secret Keeper Girl?

DG: After I wrote my first book which quickly became a best seller, my husband and my publisher sat me down and said you should write about modesty and I have to tell you that that was the hardest thing for me to do because I like to shop! I like clothes and fashion so I was not excited about that idea but I said I'd pray about it. As I did, I found that a girl appearing older than she actually is one of the top five risk factors for a very early sexual debut. The name Secret Keeper came out of that first book on modesty to say that it was valued and noble to keep the secrets of your beauty to just one man. Modesty is not about being ashamed of your sexuality; it's about prizing it. Prizing it so much that it's a gift and a treasure worth keeping! So that is kind of where the name came from. We found out that the values for modesty and sexuality were formed much younger than most of us considered. If you wait until your child is 13 or 14, you've really missed it. Especially in the inner city where temptation is greater, the culture is pressing you harder and harder to grow up, it's really important to start that conversation when they are younger. 

FD: Are you still residing in State College, PA?

DG: Yes, we live on a farm with horses and llamas (chuckles)

FD: While reading your book "Get Lost", I love the fact that you brought up the Penn State scandal, making your book relevant to the issues going on during our time. What is one thing that struck you about this particular story?

DG: When you are to be a virgin there is a stigma associated with that.  The greatest travesty in the Sandusky Penn State scandal wasn't that there was a man who did that horrible evil thing but there were well able men who knew that he had done it, yet turned a blind eye and that's what tolerance leads us to. It brings us to a place of such complacency that we are able to tolerate things that are evil and my concern at the same time is that there is no tolerance for virginity. If you talk to a student at the Penn State campus today, who is a virgin they will tell you that they feel stigmatized and that they are often told that it's a mindless decision, the fact is that it takes a lot of willpower and character to make that choice and it's the healthiest choice too, but there is just no tolerance for that. Take for example Tim Tebow. Football player, great role model but then when it's discovered that he's a virgin there is mockingly a $1 million ransom placed and they recruit people to take his virginity. There is no respect for it.  At Penn State, I have been sounding an alarm for a call to virginity. I did a TED talk last year on developing a tolerance for virginity (view the clip here--> http://bit.ly/1f9TsJm) . Not even from a Christian standpoint but from a medical point of view, we were created for monogamy which is very difficult to argue in terms of sexual chemicals and how we were designed. 

FD: Tell me about your upcoming book, "Pulling Back The Shades" which is in response to the popular book, 50 shades of Gray.

DG: I was actually in Indianapolis with Priscilla Shirer and Dr. Juli Flattery and Christian women were coming up to us saying that they were reading this book, 50 shades of Gray. Priscilla invited us to a national talk show and it just struck a cord that we really needed to go deeper with it. The thing that really hurt out hearts was when one of the biggest Christian publishing companies did a survey that revealed the most read book amongst Christian women was 50 shades of gray. The church is not very good on talking about sex. Christians want to hear about sex, they want to know what God says about sexuality. So it's a very edgy book. Jesus broke the traditions of the day because He was not very tolerant of the Jewish tradition that kept Him from rescuing hearts. When He met the woman at the well, He broke many of those traditions. He spoke to a woman. A Samaritan woman. And then He talked to her about her sin. It was scandalous to talk about sexuality and sin in that day and age but he was untouchable. But He did it to rescue that woman. So Dr. Juli Flattery and I are taking our prompting from that story and the topics that Christian women have questions about today that are really taboo in the Christian field so we are going to break Christian tradition not biblical law to bring them the help they need to be rescued. We're talking about erotica, spanking, sex toys and things that the Church has shied away from. We are addressing what are the longings of her heart? What is leading her to a well of water that will never satisfy her thirst?

FD: Wow. This is going to be POWERFUL. Can't wait to get my hands on that book! When does Pulling Back The Shades come out? 

DG: comes out in March of this year.

FD: Great! Looking forward to it. How many daughters do you have?

DG: I have two daughters, including one who we adopted from China. She will be touring with the SKG team and will be ministering to some of the girls one on one. I am so excited to share this opportunity with her! We had moms and daughters all over the country donating to us so we can go. There was a girl who attended a Secret Keeper Girl event and she came forward and gave her life to Christ. She heard about us coming to New York City and she wanted to help. So she did a Christmas bake sale so we could be invited to come. We raised money to buy some of our own resources to give to the Secret Keeper Girl attendees, and give away CDs from One Girl Nation. Brooklyn Tabernacle will be the first event kicking off our 10th anniversary year of Secret Keeper Girl so we are really excited!

FD: wow, praise God! That's so awesome to hear.

DG: The moms that I really want to reach out to are the single moms on very limited income, that couldn’t afford the book nor the free resources we will be giving out that night. The risk is higher for her daughter just because she doesn’t have a dad in her life and New York is the epicenter of the world! 

FD: What small group resources do you have available?

DG: SKG has a series of books between moms and daughters. Research indicates that moms' fears will reduce greatly if moms have conversations about modesty, boys, friendship, and true beauty. The moms and daughters that attend our Brooklyn Tabernacle event will receive the book on friendship. It's important for girls to have the right friendships so that book will be amazing for girls to have. Several moms took these tools and had small groups and bible studies with their girls!

FD: Final question before we go, if you had the opportunity to sit with a middle school girl who is battling low self-esteem, has a poor body image, and struggling with her sexuality what would you say to her?

DG:  The first thing I would say before anything is that whatever we feast, whatever we dwell on, becomes what we believe. If you're listening to Beyonce, and songs like "Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me", then she is going to believe that she is not perfect. Not even the women on the cover of the magazines look like that! It shows me she has been dwelling on the wrong things.

I would ask God wisdom that would help her to dwell on God's truth, she is at the center of the battle over her soul. She is the damsel in distress! God is fighting for her and so is Satan. It's a fistfight for her beauty! But, we know satan is the father of lies and God is the Father of truth!

I would open up scripture where it says in Psalm 45:11 that God is "enthralled by your beauty". I would help her look through scripture until she has an entire list of scriptures and I would call her every day to feast on that truth. There is nothing I could say, it only matters what God can say. Slice out the lies of the enemy. Choose who you're going to cooperate with. The liar or the creator of your soul?

Thank you Dannah, for empowering us through your ministry to bridge the connection between our moms and daughters. Can't wait to see you THIS Friday January 10th!! 

Moms and Daughters of New York City, we urge YOU to take a stand and be there to partake in this awesome event for both you and your precious girl. Be empowered. Grab some FREE goodies, Be encouraged. Start the uncomfortable conversation. YOU can do it! Because the enemy surely will. Let's win the fistfight for our beauty!

**the event is primarily for moms and daughters ages (7-12) but Brooklyn Tabernacle would like to extend it to all women who need to hear what God thinks about them! I will be there, will YOU? **

To register, please email your name and your daughter's name to btkids@brooklyntab.org. See the picture below for more info to this FREE event!!!

For Freedom Christ Has Set Us Free...

It’s May 28th, 2011, the last night of the MISFIT Conference. Pastor Tim Ross speaks. He begins by telling his testimony of sexual abuse.  I connect with him because of my story of being sexually abused. He has my undivided attention.  Then, he says something that I’ve never heard a Pastor say so candidly. He was a porn addict for 12 years. My mind was wrecked and I knew that my life was changed forever.
I’m usually laughing and full of life, but when a few of us went out to eat afterwards, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t get my jaw muscles to fake a smile. I was uncomfortable. I felt a knot forming in my throat, right in my jugular! But whom would I tell? Who would understand that a 22-year-old Christian FEMALE was addicted to pornography? I resolved to take this secret to the grave. Clearly, God had other plans! I went to the bathroom to take a breather and come back out as “regular Fatima”. As I headed out the bathroom, I saw my friend patiently waiting to find out what was wrong with me. I couldn’t hold it in anymore, so I told her. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders! I thought my battle was over, but God’s work in me had just begun.

A Day of Silence for the forgotten ones, #ENDiTmovement

I didn't update my status or tweet, but I did do my usual scrolling of the News Feed to see what everyone else was up to and I thought of this:
1. Do our voices really matter if we are not using it to edify and encourage one another?
2. Does what we have to say REALLY matter if we are not utilizing it as a tool to be a voice to the voiceless?
Most of what people say on facebook are just OPINIONS and self-absorbed, not pre-meditated, not calculated,  not strategic in any form, just THOUGHTS about SELF and OPINIONS of OTHER PEOPLE
For those participants of the Day of Silence who aren't victims of sex trafficking, or any form of sexual abuse, now you get to empathize with how we (survivors) feel. Watching people carry on with their personal lives, with the perception that these people are free because they did not go through what we (survivors) went through,  desperately hoping that someone will notice that we went missing, someone to save us and give us the tender love that EVERY child deserves.
Unfortunately, people who come out of sex trafficking and others form of sexual abuse, be it molestation, rape, domestic violence, feel like they are finally FREE because they are now living in a world they thought was free because they weren't trapped like we (survivors) were so we perceive that "it shouldn't be that hard to get back to normal" but we (survivors) are mistaken. We sadly come to the realization that these "perfect people" are not exactly perfect after all. In fact NO ONE is. Its hard for us (survivors) to come to terms with that. How could you not be perfect? You weren't raped, molested, abused! You had a perfect choldhood! So, we start to get bitter, angry that society is not as welcoming and accepting as we thought. We begin to walk around with paranoia attacking over our brains and with the mindset of "dont trust nobody, don't love anybody, dont tell anybody ya business" because aint nobody looking out for ya, aint nobody holding you down, you're responsible for yourself". We (survivors) have a hard time being in community, so we (survivors) rebel against the thought of living in community even though we (survivors) really need it to survive. We (survivors) need a support system and others to hold us accountable. We crave it. 

"Empire State of Mind, MLK Jr. & Faith That Moves Mountains..."

 Today, was a special day for me. Today marks my three year anniversary of being a born again New Yorker!! I remember January 15th like it was yesterday. I sat with tissues in tow, water-drenched eyes glued to the TV, listening to Don Lemon on CNN as he gave the latest updates about the news in Haiti. 7.0 Earthquake. Women. Children. DEAD. After three days of being bed-ridden, crying, praying for my brothers and sisters in Haiti who had not yet had gone to be with the Lord but were still main characters in what seemed a total nightmare, I conjured up the courage to get out of bed, determined to put my compassion to use and DO SOMETHING. BelTiFi, the organization I co-founded and was working with at the time, had a series of events lined up with community partners Haitian American Caucus (HAC), American Red Cross, Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN) to help people in New York locate their relatives in Haiti and raise money.

I trekked my way to New York City, with nothing but the clothes on my back, small suitcase, and a leg brace I was rocking at the time due to a sprained ankle. As soon as I touched down, I went to WORK! It was a beautiful time to be in New York. You saw the passion of The People. I not only felt proud to be Haitian but an American as well. In addition to volunteering and reaching out to the Haitian-American community, we had a newly-developed organization to establish. At the time, I had recently dropped out of school and was out of work for about a month. The organization seemed so promising at the time and I had nothing going for me back in Philadelphia so I made the decision to stay here in New York and take a chance of living out my dreams. From that moment on, I was building an organization from ground-up, modeling, job-hunting, attending church weekly, and just plain happy that I was thriving, I was officially in an Empire State of Mind!

//He Knows Me. He Loves Me.

"To be known is to be loved. To be loved is to be known" 

As 2012 comes to a close, this time I am more excited than anxious. okay well, maybe a balance of the two. This year, I was faced with harsh truth specifically about myself and my relationship with God. I don't think when I made that solemn pledge to follow Jesus that I knew exactly what I was getting into. I mean, in all actuality who does? and I think Abba knowing us too well, designed to be that way. This year, I have had to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit more than ever.

Needless to say the least, the Honeymoon is over. Has been for quite a while now. I know so much of what He expects from me. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But I rest in the fact that He already knew what I was doing before I even thought it. He knows everything about me, even the parts I didn't share in my testimony video. He knows the rot of my selfishness, procrastination, doubt, lack of faith, struggles (pornography and food which i'll write more about later), my dreams, my exaggerated visions, my perfectionism, my fear of rejection, failure, success. How I hate to be embarassed and taken advantage of. He knows me. He knows everything about me. Yet, He still loves me.

"Unwanted Defenses in Community" | Marian Amo

If I got a dollar for every time I heard someone explain their irrational behavior as a “defense mechanism” I would be rich right now.  We call it “defense mechanism” like the scientific categorization of it justifies the nonsensical attitudes that come from it.  Defense mechanisms look like this: you not talking to someone for over extended periods of time because he or she ‘ruffled your feathers’, breaking up with someone so they don’t break up with you first, guilt tripping someone so you won’t have to take responsibility of your own shortcomings, acting uninterested in someone you are interested in so you don’t feel vulnerable, playing mind games, disengaging and systematically marginalizing someone because you feel threatened by them or just playing the silent, nonexistent treatment on someone because they failed to prop up your ego. The only thing those behaviors defend is our own pride and fears. Unfortunately, Christians have bought the lie that these defenses are acceptable and should be regarded as normal.  Well, they’re not, and even more importantly, they hinder us from being blessed and being a blessing to others. Last year God taught me a very simple but fundamental truth about serving alongside fellow Christians; we are a community, accept that and get over it. So hiding behind our “defense mechanism” isn’t going to be much use.

What does being a community mean? It means that not everything is about you. It means you can’t treat one person like they don’t exist because that person is connected to everyone else you care about. It means you’re not the only person given a calling to do something great or the only one chosen for a particular gift. As much as I believe that there are specific things only each individual can do, I believe that those calling only manifest in power when they come alongside others. You don’t own a position, I don’t own a ministry. Community means that God can use and call whomever he so chooses to do the work that needs to be done. God is not interested in our cliques or our crews. His will is above our preference for certain people.

God tells us to love one another. When God commands something, it’s not only because it reflects who he is but because it really is to our own good. Christians need to love each other because they are the ones God has chosen to work together for his glory. You can’t leave a church every time you encounter conflict. You can’t keep running away whenever things don’t go your way. You and I are in community. We are gifted with many different talents, there’s no room to be territorial over one area because it was never designed to only be for you or me. Whether we like everyone or not, God’s plan has made it that we will work with those we fellowship with. He never designed church to be a place you come, sit and then leave until next Sunday. Church is us when we look in the mirror. It’s us living as genuine Christians. So when we bring in divisional mentalities we only end up hurting ourselves.

Truth be told, most “defense mechanism” are just the excuses we give to not properly address the issues we face with people. I’m not saying that it’s easy to let your guard down. In fact, it rarely is. But let’s stop making that our scapegoat. Let’s seek after God for the areas of brokenness and hurt. Let’s fight past our emotions and chose to forgive. Let’s battle with the doubts we have about God’s character through his word, let’s wrestle against the spiritual laziness that often hinders our consistency with God. Let’s not be ashamed to ask the Holy Spirit to continuingly create godly desires in us because we naturally crave the things of this world. Let’s learn to communicate; that means ask, listen and wait to speak rather than ASSUME, DISENGAGE and then CONDEMN. Whatever it is we do, let’s STOP excusing poor attitudes, corrupted beliefs, and selfish mentalities.

If your defense mechanism looks anything like what I’ve mentioned, please understand that you’re not protecting yourself and you’re definitely not guarding your heart.  The word of God says His peace, love and wisdom guards your heart, not your “defense mechanism” - whatever it is. As much as we would love for every Christian to always live like they are filled with the Spirit, the process of redemption over sinful tendencies means we will encounter some ugly things about people and ourselves the longer we are in community with people. So Paul was right when he wrote: make allowance for each others' faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you – Colossians 3:13.

Rather than trying to justify what’s wrong by a label, let’s remember that the more we love each other the easier it is for everyone to live as a community.

Marian Amo, a prolific writer of poetry and creative nonfiction is a student of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer's Guild with a certificate in publishing and working towards an MFA. Her spiritual insight can be credited to the power of God's word, her personal experiences and her personal relationship with Christ. Marian grew up in New York City and has been exposed to a wide range of cultures and ideas, which have often challenged her faith. The consistency of the word of God shown true in a plethora of different circumstances has made her capable of delivering biblical insight that is relevant and practical.

"Correcting In Love" | Nicole Crews

To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction. (Proverbs 12:1 NLT)

You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19)
Again, humility comes to my mind. You cannot be prideful and correct in love, or receive a loving correction with pride. I personally prefer when someone shoots it straight to me. If my attitude is off and my actions are poor, I appreciate to be corrected in love. Now don’t get me wrong, there have been times when my pride got in the way, or it was a tough humbling pill to swallow.  But in all situations I have grown and learned something.
It is very important to discern the differences between a loving rebuke and a harsh judgment. You cannot rebuke anyone out of frustration or annoyance. The right way to rebuke someone is in love.
An open rebuke is better than hidden love!  Proverbs 27:5
It is very important to ask God for wisdom. You have to be filled by the Holy Spirit to know the right timing and the sensitivity in tone. I noticed also, when I’m transparent and use my personal experience to shed light on a possible danger the person could avoid, they are more likely to receive it then me just pounding on them and making them drown in their misery.
Here is an example on how NOT to correct: I was very emotionally involved with my close friend's relationship. We shared a lot personal stuff and kept each other accountable. There were some things about her attitude I was not understanding and realized I became frustrated with her. One evening after prayer meeting, she confided in me about breaking up with her boyfriend and I lost it. I began to share some concerns I had with her and didn’t even realize my tone was raised. What was supposed to be a private conversation turned out to be exposed by all the people who where standing around us. I began to cry and tried to reason with her about her relationship. I was angry at the situation. She was shocked of my reaction and embarrassed to deal with this in front of other people. When I look back, I get very sad. I got ahead of myself and totally lost control. When I realized what happened, it was too late and I felt stupid. The consequences of this scenario almost cost me my friendship with her. She was very hurt by my actions and we didn’t speak much for over a year and a half. But thanks to God for His amazing grace, He has restored our friendship and is building it up. I surely learned my lesson. Please do not make the same mistake.

Now by God’s grace I seek Him first, secondly I pray, daily I spent time in God’s Word, I ask for wisdom, and wait for God's timing. Trust me you do not want to be outside of the God’s will, it will fire back at you. Sometimes we feel the need or think we have the right to speak up so quickly. There is a time and place for everything. Trust God, and allow him to correct you and others. If he wants you to do it, he will make it clear.
 If you feel the burning need to correct someone, please make sure you go before God and search your heart. Are your motives pure? Do you have a concern for the persons well being? Are you sincerely interested in helping the person? Do you want what is best for the person? Or is it about you proving a point? You want to up one on another person?  You got easily offended and need to retaliate? Your pride got in the way? Or are you frustrated with the situation?  
Once you got the green light from the Lord, you are good to go. You also don’t want to waste any ones time and beat around the bush. Get straight to the point and honestly share what God has placed in your heart to express a concern to the other person. The Holy Spirit will help you and guide you through the conversation.
It’s amazing what God’s grace can do, when you make yourself available to Jesus and allow him to do the work He has to do in you.

Nicole Crews is married to her beloved husband Todd Crews. She is a follower of Jesus Christ and ever since have loved the journey God has placed her on. Nicole has a strong desire to be used for His glory. She was born and raised in Germany and a sister of two brothers. Nicole loves going on dates with her husband, listening to her husband preach, and serving along side him in ministry. She is passionate about people, cooking and traveling.