Love in the Midst of Apathy

I was watching the movie Interstellar last night and one quote really struck me.

“We can care deeply, selflessly about those we know, but that empathy rarely extends beyond our line of sight.”

How heartbreakingly true this is. I used to think that the opposite of love was hatred, but in recent years I came to learn that in reality, the opposite of love is apathy.

When we turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of others. When we refuse to help somebody in need because it would inconvenience us. When we cling tightly to our resources instead of using them to improve the lives of those less fortunate. I’ve been guilty of all of these things throughout my life. This is apathy.

I pray that God would continue to break my heart for the vulnerable and the exploited. I pray that He would open my eyes to the suffering of those beyond my normal line of sight. I pray that He would give me the courage to obey His command to love others for His Glory.

Deeply. Selflessly. Sacrificially.

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35


My Journey to End Human Trafficking

Dear friend,

Please allow me to share a part of my journey with you so that you’ll have a better understanding of where I’m coming from and where I’m headed.

When I moved to Korea in July 2011, I had a very limited understanding of the depth and breadth of human trafficking. Over the next five years, through a series of profoundly impactful mission trips, outreaches to Red Light Districts, documentaries, conferences and conversations, God would open my eyes and break my heart for the vulnerable, the oppressed and the exploited, specifically those trapped in the nightmare of sexual slavery.

I learned that there are between 20 000 000 and 30 000 000 slaves in our world today (55% of whom are female and 26% of whom are children). I learned that each year, over $32 billion is generated by human trafficking. I learned that after drug dealing, it is the second largest criminal industry in the world. I learned that, contrary to popular belief, human trafficking occurs in every country worldwide. I learned that we have the responsibility of using the freedom we have been blessed with to take action on behalf of those whose freedom has been stolen from them.

As my understanding of this horrific international epidemic grew, I became filled with compassion and conviction. Compassion for the plight of the enslaved and conviction that as a Christian, I am called to love and serve “the least of these” as Jesus instructed. It is this compassion and conviction that has inspired me to pursue further training in the field of Anti Human-Trafficking.

From September 24th 2016 to March 5th 2017 I will be participating in a Justice DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With a Mission.) This six month program is designed to equip people with the education and opportunities necessary to take a long term stand against human trafficking locally and globally.

The program consists of a three month lecture phase in Los Angeles, followed by a three month international cross-cultural outreach phase. Though the exact location of the outreach has not yet been announced, we do know that we will be working with various ministries on the front lines of the war against human trafficking in the areas of prevention, intervention, restoration and reintegration.

Your prayer support would be deeply valued and appreciated. Here are my top three prayer requests:

1. Protection: Partnering with Anti Human-Trafficking ministries around the world can be dangerous work. Ultimately, we are standing in opposition to the powerful forces that profit from this exploitation and brutality. Please pray for protection for the team physically, emotionally and spiritually.

2. Finances: The total cost of the six month program including all flights, travel insurance, tuition and food/lodging is $10,000 CDN. I will be using my savings to cover some of these costs. However, since I am still paying off student loans, any fundraising that I am able to do to offset the cost of this program will be a huge blessing for me financially.

3. Obedience: My primary goal is to bring God Glory by sharing His Love with the vulnerable and His Hope with the oppressed. Please pray that my heart would be softened to clearly hear God’s voice and to boldly obey His leading during and after the program.

Thank you so much for your support. Your kindness will have far reaching effects. If you feel led to partner with me by contributing to this work financially, you can do so by following this link. Many blessings!

Your partner in the Gospel,Natasha Spiers

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Inner Selfie

Have you ever taken a selfie? If you answered no, you’re either a. lying b. living under a rock or c. a very rare breed, indeed.

You can’t be on the internet for three minutes without being bombarded with glamorous pictures of friends and strangers alike, begging for your attention, appreciation and approval in the form of a like or a double tap. It’s no surprise that ‘selfie’ won the award for the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. We are a generation that is obsessed with ourselves.

For guys and girls alike, the pressure to appear attractive, cool and desirable comes at us from every angle, every day. We’re expected to look like we have it all together and force a smile for the camera, regardless of what turmoil we may be facing internally. We are taught that as long as our photos are glossy and bright, it doesn’t matter what our hearts look like. But what price are we willing to pay for the perfect shot?

I admit that I have fallen prey to the never-ending pursuit of achieving the world’s definition of beauty. One day, as I was doing my makeup, I had a revelation. I was trying to get my lip gloss just right when God spoke to me.

“Being pretty isn’t enough. It’s time for you to put more focus on being pretty on the inside”

Ouch. As always, God was right on point. How long had I spent looking in the mirror? How much time do I spend on becoming more attractive in the areas that really matter? What would I see if I could take a selfie of my heart?

We’ve all encountered people who are absolutely gorgeous… until they open their mouths. It’s easy to recognize internal ugliness. Anger. Jealousy. Unforgiveness. Complaining. Bad-mouthing. Gossiping. Crude jokes. Negative remarks.

The Bible is clear about what real beauty looks like.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment… Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” – 1 Peter 3:3-4

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Is God instructing us not to put any effort into our physical appearance? No. He is declaring that the kind of beauty that truly matters lies in our character. The world puts so much focus on outward appearance that far too often, the inside is left to shrivel up and rot away. We start to believe that our appearance is what determines our value and worth. But God warns us about this very thing in the Bible:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of… all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27

“Your beauty should come from within you; the beauty… that will never be destroyed and is very precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4

So, how do we obey God in this area? How do we put pretty into practice?

Responding with grace and forgiveness to those who hurt us.
Being friendly to the person sitting alone.
Not always trying to be right in a conversation.
Not talking behind somebody’s back.
Going out of your way to help others in need.

True beauty is reflecting the love of Christ in everything we think, say and do. It is Humility. Compassion. Gentleness. Patience. Grace. Generosity. Sacrifice. And above all else: Love. Loving the Lord with our whole heart and loving others in His Name.

What a testimony our lives will be when we can take a long look at our selfie, smile with confidence and say, “I am proud of who I see.”

Abba Father, please help us to become men and women of true beauty, beauty that radiates from a heart that seeks Your Face above all else. Help us not to become slaves to the world’s ideals of beauty but transform us from the inside out until we embody the fruit of Your Spirit and our lives become a reflection of Your Love. Thank You for never giving up on us. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

FOMO

Fear Of Missing Out, more commonly referred to as ‘FOMO” is a modern day epidemic among the Millennial generation. But what’s the real deal with this new addition to the long list of acronyms we’ve become so familiar with? Have you ever felt that pang in your gut when you scroll through a series of fb photos of all your friends having an awesome time at a party… that you weren’t invited to? That right there, that’s FOMO rearing its ugly, accusatory head. “You weren’t invited for a reason. You’re missing out on something incredible.” Dictionary.com provides a little more clarity, sharing that FOMO is “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.”

Don’t get me wrong, social media can be a great tool. It can help you stay in touch with friends, bring awareness to the things you care about and show off those sick new kicks (dang, Daniel!). But, on the flip side, there isn’t much that can make a person more insecure and self doubting than the barrage of images we see online daily. Before social media, people weren’t constantly exposed to the ‘awesome, fun-filled’ lives of everybody they knew (ha!).

The sad truth is that these sometimes candid, often completely contrived, snapshots only capture a moment in time. They simply do not represent the full reality of the situation. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve posted a pic of myself having a seemingly fantastic evening with a group of smiling people. What isn’t shown in my pic, however, is how lonely I felt later that night, the argument I had with my friend and the fact that I didn’t even enjoy the food I was eating. But boy did it look like I was having the time of my life!

So, if it’s all a matter of perspective, where does this intense fear of missing out really stem from? Fear of missing out is more accurately a fear of being left out (FOBLO didn’t sound as catchy). Why are we so determined not to be left out? For me, FOMO hit me where it hurt because it played on my already present insecurities. In my mind, if wasn’t invited to an event, it meant I wasn’t worthy of being invited. Was I not cool enough? Friendly enough? Cute enough? Did they not like me? Had I offended them?

I was so caught up in these negative thoughts, that I didn’t realize I was being irrational and driven by my own insecurities. I couldn’t see that the truth was, my fear was rooted in a sense of rejection, in a false belief that I wasn’t truly accepted. The thing is, if we look to our peers (or anyone else) for acceptance, we will never find it. God is the only one who can speak directly to our identity, value and worth. And the Bible tells us that we are completely accepted by God. “Therefore, accept each other in the same way that Christ accepted you. He did this to bring glory to God.” (Romans 15:7). As hard as it may be to live and think counter-culturally, we must remember that regardless of what social media seems to tell us, God always has the final say.

So, the next time you find yourself being deceived by the FOMO falsehood, pause, take a breath and put things into perspective. You are unconditionally and irrevocably loved, affirmed and accepted through the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross. And no fb photo can ever tell you otherwise.

Escape Room

Imagine this. You and three friends find yourselves locked inside a room with no exit in sight. You spot a tattered notebook on a narrow wooden table. Scribbled in pen on one of its yellowed pages is what appears to be a secret code. Although you think that something critical is being conveyed, you can’t figure out how to decipher the contents of the message. There is an antique chest in the corner of the room and upon opening its creaky lid, you notice a series of four unusually shaped keys laying on a piece of velvet cloth.

What do the keys unlock? How will you make sense of the cryptic message? You must find the answers to these questions before it’s too late. You’ll need to be creative, clever, collaborative and quick, because time is running out! You only have 60 minutes to correctly solve all of the room’s riddles and puzzles or else your team will taste bitter defeat!

Does this scenario evoke in you excitement or anxiety? In my experience, this new craze of team building physical adventure games, known as ‘escape rooms’ is a thrilling, adrenaline pumping race against the clock. The most entertaining aspect of the game for me is the element of surprise. You never know what you’ll find in the next drawer or how the pieces of the puzzle will eventually come together.

If it weren’t already tricky enough, game makers will often include several carefully crafted decoys in order to distract and disorient game players. Their goal is to confuse you with insignificant details so that you’ll lose precious time following dead-end leads. The adventure and the challenge of these intriguing scenarios is that you can’t solve certain puzzles without first figuring out the clues that precede them. It’s the insight you gather from each stage of the game that allows you to move on to the next.

I can’t help but notice the parallels between escape rooms and my own life.

As I look back over the past six years, it is clear that God has been lovingly paving the way, one stone at a time, for me to reach the point I’m at now. He has led me through a variety of seasons, each one gently and deliberately preparing me for the one to come; seasons of loneliness, pain, growth, determination, hope, change, insecurity, blessing and healing. Some seasons evoked excitement, others anxiety, but with each step of the journey I knew that my guide was Faithful and that His goal was to restore and refine me along the way.

As confusing and frustrating as it might be at times, God, in His Sovereignty, chooses not to show us the big picture all at once. Instead, he asks us to trust Him with one step at a time, illuminating the way just enough for us to see His Hand as He guides us along the path He has prepared for us. This slow and steady progress builds our character by allowing us to develop patience, trust, discernment, humility, faith and dependency upon the Lord.

Of course, the process is rarely simple. Real life contains some carefully constructed decoys of its own. Even with the best intentions, it can be easy to get distracted by the trivial, inconsequential lures of this world and begin following the dead-end trails that leave us defeated and dismayed.

Thankfully, even when we prioritize the wrong things and lose sight of what’s most important, God is Gracious and will always be waiting with open arms, ready to lovingly guide us back into His Perfect Will. Although we don’t know how all the pieces of our lives are going to eventually come together, we do know the One who is building the puzzle. And He builds with magnificent purpose, immense power and exact precision. One piece at a time.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Transitions

It is with both genuine sadness and great excitement that I share the news that my season in Korea has come to an end.

The past five years have been an epic journey of breathtaking highs and arduous lows. As monumental as this adventure has proven to be, I feel confident that the Lord is leading me into the next chapter that He has ordained for my life.

During my time in Korea, God has opened my eyes and broken my heart for the vulnerable and the exploited, specifically those enslaved in human trafficking. As my understanding of this pandemic tragedy grew, it became clear to me that I would be involved in its abolishment in whatever way possible. I prayed that God would open the right doors and He did!

This fall, I will be participating in a Justice DTS (Discipleship Training School) with YWAM (Youth With A Mission). The six month program, divided into a three month lecture phase in LA and a three month international outreach phase, is designed to provide the training and opportunities necessary to take a long term stand against human trafficking locally and globally.

I will be leaving Korea on June 30th and returning to Toronto for twelve weeks before heading to California. Leaving behind what has become familiar and stepping out into the unknown is definitely intimidating and even a bit scary, but I know that God is Faithful and I’m filled with anticipation as I prepare for the next adventure that He has called me to. Please join me in prayer as I begin this exciting yet challenging transition process.

Thank you so much, friends! I am very grateful for all of you who have been on this journey with me!

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

#100happydays

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a trend that’s been going around facebook and instagram called #100happydays. The concept is relatively simple, you post one picture each day of something that makes you happy for 100 consecutive days. The idea behind the trend is that although life is often filled with negativity, committing to taking these pictures will eventually inspire us to find happiness in the small things and to appreciate the simple pleasures of life.

I thought it sounded like a cool idea so I decided to embark on this 100 day photo adventure. I managed to complete the challenge and aside from having a lot of fun along the way, it got me thinking about and reflecting on what ‘happiness’ actually means to me.

I’ve heard many people say that their goal in life is ‘to be happy’. It seems like an obviously subjective term, but the world puts so much emphasis on what happiness should look like that in today’s society, there are a few common definitions.

Happiness = Success. Happiness = Beauty. Happiness = Wealth. Happiness = Power.

The thing about striving for happiness is that it’s a battle that never ends. “I would be happy if I just lost/gained 10 lbs.” So, you reach your goal weight. And then, “I would be happy if I had somebody special in my life.” So, you get into a relationship. And then, “I would be happy if I had a higher grades… if I had more friends… if I got into a better college.” It just. Never. Ends.

The trouble with attaching your happiness to impermanent things is that impermanent things inevitably come to an end. As author, John Ortberg so poignantly penned, ‘When the game is over, it all goes back in the box.’ In other words, when we reach the end of our lives, everything we’ve spent so long and hard accumulating to make ourselves happy ends up being worthless. What will our beloved success, beauty, wealth and power do for us then?

Before you start thinking that life has no meaning and you will never be happy, I want to assure you, that is not what I’m saying at all. Quite the contrary; there is a light at the end of the temporary tunnel!

There is a huge difference between the world’s definition of happiness and God’s definition of joy.

Happiness is directly correlated with how you feel in a particular moment. I’ve often felt happy, sad, angry, defeated, overjoyed, worried and excited all in the span of eight hours. Happiness is temporary. Happiness is fickle. Happiness is fleeting. Joy, on the other hand is something entirely different. Unlike its superficial counterpart, Joy is not dependent upon our circumstances.

The good news is that God calls us to be joyful, not happy. “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NLT) But, in a world so full of drudgery, deceit and disappointment, is this really possible?

Yes, because our joy doesn’t come from the world, it comes from the Lord. The reason we are able to be joyful regardless of our circumstances is that joy isn’t a feeling, it’s a choice.

It’s a choice to trust in God’s Sovereignty even when life doesn’t seem to make any sense. It’s a choice to praise God with your lips when all you taste is bitter defeat. It’s a choice to have a grateful heart even when your heart is breaking.

We experience joy when we choose to believe in faith that God’s Promises are true, that he has a good plan for our lives and that he is committed to finishing the good work he started in us. What a deep sense of hope and joy that brings!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty inspired. I think I’m going to start my own hashtag. #100joyfuldays. Because this whole ‘happy’ thing is so 2015.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13