The Mighty Morphin Protestant Ranger

“I love doing preposterous things,” He replied.  “Why I don’t know anything more exhilarating and delightful than turning weakness into strength, and fear into faith, and that which has been marred into perfection.”

-The Shepherd (Hinds Feet and High Places Novel)

 

As a little girl, I loved watching The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on TV.   If you don’t know who the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are, then you probably weren’t a 90’s kid from America – and you probably didn’t wake up at 6am every Saturday to make sure that you didn’t miss an episode (like me).  Call me obsessed if you must, I’m not ashamed.

I loved dreaming about what it would be like to have superhuman powers.  In fact, I still love pondering the thought.  I wanted to know what it would feel like to change the world, to make a difference, to be strong and brave, and to fight off evil villains (and to fly of course… but I digress).  Little did I know – that being a Christian is very similar to being a Power Ranger – just take away the skintight bodysuits and the fake alien monsters, and BAM we’ve got ourselves a party!

But in all seriousness, my dream of wanting to be a superhero also had it’s downsides.  Growing up, I was a sore loser, I didn’t like being told that I couldn’t do something, and I really struggled to make room in my life for failure and defeat.  I was constantly trying to prove myself and my worth to others – both to kids my age and adults alike.  Until Jesus got a grip on me.  Then things began to change.  I will still admit, however, that I don’t enjoy losing.  (Just ask my teammates after a soccer game or call my parents for a play-by-play on family game night.  It can get ugly if my heart isn’t lined up with God’s.)  The struggle is still real, and the fall still hurts when it happens, but at least now I have Someone to catch me when I stumble and make a mess of things.

This past week in Vancouver, on my week long mission trip with Calvary Chapel and XXXchurch, I got sick.  (Like “nasty cough and boogers” kind of sick.)  I didn’t plan for this, I was not happy about it, and I felt like I was going to burden my entire team rather than bless them.  How could I possibly please God on this mission trip if I was sick?  How could He use me if my voice was gone and my throat was sore?  Needless to say, I was frustrated.  But once I actually took the time to listen to what God had to say about my weakness and sickness during that week, I ended up learning quite a lot.

  • It’s not about me.  It’s always been about Him.  Yes, God created me with my personality, my looks, my passions, my abilities, and my talents.  Yes, He made me with a purpose – but I mustn’t ever forget the very crucial fact that HE MADE ME.  I cannot take credit for who I am, all the glory must go to my Creator.  He provides me with opportunities, with relationships, and with second chances.  He’s the one who found me when I was lost and who planted my feet back onto the right path.  He doesn’t need me, but He wants me.  He already had a Son, but He chose me to be His daughter – to inherit all that He has to offer.  Every word of inspiration and love that flows out of me is because of God – He puts breath into my lungs.  (He also invented the cough which gets the nasty stuff out of my lungs, yay God!)  Every step of faith I take is because He gives me the strength to move forward.  I can do nothing apart from Him.  All of that testifies to His character and to His righteousness, not my own.  I’m the vessel.  I’m the clay pot and He’s the potter who molds me according to His pleasure.  And THAT takes the weight off of my shoulders – no longer do I need to feel obligated to perform or to please the world around me.  I have an audience of One.
  • When things don’t go my way, trust God anyway.  I was sick the day I arrived in Canada with the team.  I wanted God to heal me immediately (because I am so flippin’ impatient), but He didn’t.  Why?  Only He knows the real reason.  Did God make me sick? No. God is good and God is love.  He is a live-giver, not a life-taker.  But was He glorified in my sickness? Heck yeah.  Once I humbled myself enough to let Him deal with me, my pride, my fear, and my insecurity – He was glorified.  During prayer one morning with the team, the Lord spoke to me, He said, “Sam, my sweet child, if I don’t heal your sickness, if the trials continue to come, and if you feel as though I have forsaken you… will you still trust Me?  Will you still know that you are Mine and that you are loved?”  In that moment, I cried.  I cried because my answer was no.  I didn’t trust God or His plans for me.  I didn’t and couldn’t understand why He wouldn’t make me better so that I could go and do all these awesome things I had planned to do for Him.   I mean, that’s what He wanted from me, right?  Psshhhh, wrong.  After grumbling for a few days, I realized that all God wanted was me… not my good intentions or my good deeds.  He just wanted me.  I had to have the kind of faith that could say, “I am enough to please my Heavenly Dad, even without my works.”
  • My worth doesn’t come from my actions, it comes from who I am.  I have said this and written about this so many times, but for some reason – it still hasn’t seeped down into my thick skull.  God loves me because He made the decision to love me before I was even born and before my parents even knew what my name would be.  Before I took my first breath, He picked me, all of me – and He knew that I didn’t come with a return or exchange policy.  (Now, that’s commitment.)  He chose me to be a part of His family, knowing full well about my crazy antics and my big mouth.  So when I had to miss one of the outreaches this week in Canada because I was stuck in bed with the “cold from hell,” I should have felt contentment and peace instead of inner turmoil and agitation.  Why was I so upset?  Who was I to complain anyways?!

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Looking back, I was able to attend the porn expo all three days with XXXchurch where I met so many amazing individuals – some who knew Jesus and some who didn’t.  (Cool story, 8 people got saved inside the porn conference at our booth which is absolutely ridiculous and absolutely amazing all at the same time.  That just doesn’t happen at sex expos.)  I was able to spend quality time in one-on-one conversations with my teammates, and we got to exchange stories and testimonies that spoke of how wonderful and faithful our God has been throughout our lives.  I was able to share toiletry filled gift bags with some of the women who were living on the streets of Vancouver, and I was able to bond with one special girl named Laura who taught me about overcoming and keeping a positive attitude despite tough circumstances.  The Lord spoiled me with adventures and blessings.  So even though the trip had some added surprises and difficulties, it ended up being better than I ever could have imagined (cough, boogers, and all.)

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I learned that the condition of my heart was more important to God than the condition of my work and the condition of my health.  God’s priorities are usually way different than mine, and sometimes taking a step back is necessary before taking the next few steps forward.  He’s such a gracious God.  I love that He loves me, even when I am cranky and tired and have boogers dangling out of my nose.  (Sorry, gross, I know.)  So the point and summary of this post is that the Lord was very present in Vancouver.  The mission trip was a huge success, and it was all because of His faithfulness, patience, grace, and love.  Many lives were changed, and many people were set free…  one of those people being me.

…And being a part of God’s beloved family beats being a Power Ranger any day!

Preparing for a Porn Conference: This Christian’s Walk on the Wild Side

I never thought these words would ever come out of my mouth, but here it goes… In exactly one month, I will be attending a porn conference in Vancouver, Canada.  

Now before anyone freaks out – or rushes over to their cell phones to call my parents and tell them that their 24 year old daughter has fallen off the deep end – let me tell you why I will be attending this conference.

First things first: Jesus loves porn stars.  No, really – He’s crazy about them.  He doesn’t just like them, He loves them.  And you know what else?  Jesus loves people who watch porn too.  Yes, you read that correctly.  While I was in South Africa this past year, my faith and knowledge of “who God is” was challenged immensely.  I realized that His love ran deeper than I ever could have imagined and that His healing power was greater than I ever could have anticipated.  He is a God of inclusion, and His arms are always open to receive anyone who runs to Him (no matter how dirty or how sinful that person might be).  Isaiah 59:1 says, “Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.”  

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Jesus had a talent for drawing in the people that everyone else pushed away.  The whores, the murders, the diseased, the liars, the cheaters, the arrogant, and even the dead.  Not only did he draw them in, He made it a point to chase after them.  When the religious leaders looked at a deadbeat or a criminal, they saw a waste of space – but when Jesus looked at them, He saw a daughter or a son who needed restoration and freedom.  If Jesus, brimming with perfect holiness, was willing to walk into the most dimly lit and shameful places of the world to find the people who needed Him desperately, then I must be willing to do the same.

Only God can turn our ashes into a thing of beauty.  The Lord has an amazing way of redeeming our pasts.  He can take something that was once ugly and disgraceful and He can turn it into something worthy and full of hope.  It’s my turn to get free with ya’ll.  I had a really bad porn addiction in high school, and I had an incredible talent for hiding it from the people closest to me (which meant that no one knew I needed help).  I used porn as an escape, as a coping method, and as a way to “take the stress away” until it finally began to consume me.  Some serious damage was done.  My perception on love, sex, and “healthy relationships” became completely disfigured, I felt so much shame and guilt that I started to lash out on my family members and I distanced myself from God, and I started buying into the lies that I was worthless, broken, and most definitely gross.

BUT GOD.  Those are two of my favorite words in the universe.  But God… put me back together.  He reached out to me when I was deep in my self-made pit of despair, and He pulled me out and grabbed ahold of me (despite the fact that I had no strength at the time to hold onto Him).  Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”  He cleaned me up, set me free, healed my hurts, and He told me who I was in His eyes: valuable, beautiful, righteous, blameless, cherished, loved, and most importantly… His.  He’s given me a heart to reach out to those who struggle like I did, to reach out to the women who think they aren’t worth something (or someone) of value, and to reach out to the brokenhearted and abused.  He had taken the messed up pieces of my past, and He redeemed them for His glory and for my benefit, and let me tell you… it’s the greatest feeling in the world! Now, I get to find others who are in need of hope and healing.  I get the opportunity and the honor of sharing the love of Christ with those who have never experienced love before, and it’s all because of His mercy and grace.

Even though this trip (with Calvary Chapel Ft. Lauderdale and xxxchurch) will only last for a short week in February, my mission to create change and to bring hope and love to others will last for my entire life.  It’s not going to be an easy journey.  It will be dark one, a dangerous one, and the fight will be a spiritual one.  Sex trafficking, prostitution, and pornography are all over the world.  The battle is a big one, and it’s one that ends in death, both spiritually and physically, for so many.  I was recently challenged with the thought… “What would happen if I loved those people (the johns, the strippers, the porn stars, the addicts, and the pimps…) as much as Jesus loves them? How might the world be different?  

I’ve decided to give it a go and find out.  Partner with me in prayer and with steps of faith.  Let’s be bold together as a community (all over the world) and as a united church.  We are commanded by God – Who is the Mighty Warrior fighting on our behalf – to not be afraid, so let’s be strong and courageous, and let’s inspire change. Jeremiah 32:17 says, “Nothing is to hard for Him.”

If you’d like to donate and support me in this fight, please visit:

http://ssmfi.org/missionary/samantha-stokesberry/