Wild Torch: April 23, 2018


Art communicates the soul of man. All forms showcase His glory through the story of humanity: God’s masterpiece.                    
Wild Torch celebrates this fusion of art and story as we view conceptual art alongside the very literal journey of women affected by the commercial sex industry. The average age of entry into this industry is 12 years old. This is not a choice, but buying her is. Adults in strip clubs, women working online, or prostituting on the streets all have a reason for being there, and many of those reasons were not a matter of choice. But Jesus Said Love is about restoring power, awakening hope, and empowering change.
With every bite you eat, sound you hear, movement you watch, and piece of art you touch, we invite you to join us in restoring our community. Watch and experience beauty rising from the ashes and see real women who have overcome insurmountable pain and used it to carry fire! In this decadent goodness, we pray that your soul is filled with the magnificent reality that you were made to carry fire.   

Tables and tickets go on sale this Thursday, February 1st. The past two years have been sellouts so we’re encouraging those who want to come to reserve tables and tickets sooner rather than later. 


Last year, VIP Torch Bearer guests enjoyed a private dining experience at the Palladium prior to the event at the Hippodrome. This year they will enjoy a new culinary experience featuring an accomplished local chef.

Flame Thrower guests will enjoy a lively private pre-event party at Cultivate 712 complete with heavy hors d'oeuvres and beverages. In addition, you will be seated at ROUND tables at the Hippodrome! No more long rectangle tables. 

Sparkler guests will also enjoy an intimate pre-event gathering at the Hippodrome.

If single tickets are more your style, we are offering single VIP Torch Bearer, Flame Thrower and General Admission levels. These are very limited in number.

You can get all the details including sponsorship details by visiting WildTorch.com. Can’t make the date, but still want to be a part? Sponsor a table and we’ll fill it. Or purchase tickets on behalf of someone else. We’ll make sure those seats get filled. 

We want to personally invite you to join us April 23 for Wild Torch at the Hippodrome Theatre in Waco. It will be an joyfully explosive night!

We hope you’ll carry fire with us,

Brett & Emily Mills

Breaking Chains and Broken Branches

I have a chance here, to either brag on my friend and author Elizabeth Oates or publically put her on blast for meddling in my business with her new book, Mending Broken Branches: When God Reclaims Your Dysfunctional Family Tree.  

Last month in our NL I wrote about breaking chains here at Jesus Said Love, you can read how that plays out in our work often times here . And while I’m not a strategic planner, (I haven’t yet mastered the 12-month newsletter content calendar plan) God is most definitely one of order. He knew about my friend’s new book, that it would land in my lap just after I had written about breaking family strongholds, and that you would be reading this now. 

So what I need to tell you is this: before I write one word of review, open up your Amazon and order Mending Broken Branches NOW; because this book is about to start flying off of shelves and be on backorder if it’s not already. You’ve been wanting a book club, a Bible Study for your Sunday School, your women’s group, your marriage class for 2018 so here it is. For those of us who are friends with Elizabeth currently, say your goodbyes to quick text responses for a bit because she’s about to be very busy. So busy, I don’t know how she’s going to continue teaching her 5:30 a.m. yoga classes. I think Kathy Lee may be getting ahold of her copy soon and need Elizabeth on her show, if this is the case, I will be headed there as her assistant. I’m not kidding, this is no Jenn Hatmaker style exageration. What Elizabeth has landed on is gold; it is timely, and will gain a national ear. 

I’ve known Elizabeth for years off and on, we have lunched together, yoga’d together (she is SUCH an amazing instructor), I have read her books, seen her invest in our Waco community, eaten at her home, we’ve shared a hotel room and attended conferences together. She’s a thinker and a doer. She’s a planner and a fighter. She’s feisty yet humble. She loves Jesus and knows rejection. I have a hard time with people who act like they’re not limping, and from the outside… Elizabeth looks annoyingly perfect. But wait until she opens her mouth… then she’ll put you at ease. What I know is that while the title of her book is pretty self-explanatory, what is unseen is the grit and gut work Elizabeth has had to do behind closed doors. No one but Jesus has held the many tears that must have been shed while writing this, surrendering this, braving the thoughts that swirled around in her mind to release this work into the world. 

One morning after her early morning class (I have a push/pull thing with 5:30 a.m.), in the midst of publishing Mending Broken Branches, she confessed. The publisher was postponing the release...again...this was a game of waiting and surrender and it had Elizabeth in a raw and tender place. What I saw in her eyes, in her tears, and in her words were proof that this book was birthed from an authentic place - and THAT, is where Jesus produces good fruit. I knew then, that this book wasn’t another goal-laden achievement, it wasn’t based on her talent or her seminary degree, this book was an offering to the Lord.  

So let me tell you a bit about the book now that you’ve already ordered it (seriously, if you’re a one click Amazon person then what are you waiting on?). The goal of MBB as Elizabeth states is to grieve your past, equip you for the present, and help you build a healthy future. Sounds simplistic? Well, we’re talking generational dysfunction here so, no. However, the gift of Mending Broken Branches is that while Elizabeth dives into depression, trauma, addiction, sexual abuse, divorce, forgiveness, reconciliation, and some seriously heavy topics, she has made it manageable. This is like the Cliff Notes (I’m old school) version of counseling and hard core research on many of these topics. She has pulled from some incredible sources and even provided multiple charts and appendix’s for application. The type A people, the doers and the feeling repressed, can now get on board. Elizabeth’s words rope around your hand and heart like a shepherd toward green pasture. 

Some of you haven’t eaten good green grass in decades or drank from a crystal clear stream your entire life. You’ve been stuck in your unforgiveness and dysfunctional coping mechanisms  like a stray dog living off of urban trash and polluted gutter run-off. That’s not what you were made for, but it’s all you know. You’re the dog that bites your kids heads off when they jump on your lap full of joy. You’re the friend who talks more about other people’s information than your own because even though you’re 30, you still aren’t sure who you are and what you have to offer this world. You’re far more than the information you retain. You’re the coworker who is perpetually Eeyore, bringing depression and anxiety to bear on all those around you because you don’t understand how much you’re actually worth and won’t step a foot in a counselor’s office. You’re drowning in wine and margaritas, spending and lust, social media, pride, and greed. You keep telling yourself to move forward while working your way backward. You’re stuck. You’re not where you want to be. You’ve continued to behave like a child because you weren’t loved up into adulthood. You don’t have close girlfriends. You observe others vulnerability, but lack language to contribute yourself. You are scared to be honest, because being honest means pain, and pain means grief and grief takes time… and who’s got time right now? 

Truth is - we all do. I remember Ann Voskamp saying that the only way we stop time is by entering eternity, which is the present. You carve it out. You choose this day. This is necessary work, because you are truly God’s living and breathing masterpiece, the temple of the Spirit, the only way this broken world can see Jesus today with skin on. Elizabeth is vulnerable with her anger toward God, resentment and unforgiveness towards others, her minimization of her own trauma, and is shameless in recounting her losses. It is evident, she has done some deep soul work and has gifted us with its fruit. And while she meddles, her writing is “full of grace and seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). She is confident in the power of Christ and the comfort of the Spirit. 

One of the hardest parts of any type of recovery work is getting a handle around it. People, Elizabeth has given you handles! You don’t have to learn to ride the unicycle of recovery anymore. It’s not so deep and philosophical that your head is spinning and your heart is clueless. You’ve got a good sturdy bike here to ride into recovery. Mending Broken Branches is a beautiful start toward your healthy future and it’s for everyone, because we all have broken branches… even Jesus. 

Breaking Chains


Halloween isn’t the only time skeletons make an appearance. I’m convinced the skeletons that jump out of the closet at Christmas are sometimes scarier. And the older you get, the more you find out about what you thought was your semi-normal family (whatever normal is). I think growing up, the tendency is to keep the shiny smiles on for the kids so as not to spoil the “magic”. We don’t know how to talk about Aunt Susie’s affair or Uncle Matt’s raging addiction with our kids. Should we? Don’t you hide that sort of thing?  You would never hear as a child of how your cousin got fired from her job because she stole scripts from the doctor or worse, how a raging mental illness nearly cost your grandma her life. The adults shuffle off to a corner and whisper the news, hoping to shield the children from the hard, cold truth of this broken world. The news that our families are messed up, and as I have learned, so is our spiritual family.


We want happiness for our families, but what we fail to understand is that real happiness is not void of pain. The Old Testament talks a lot of happiness, a state of joy. We confuse nostalgia for happiness. We continually seek the old when God is desiring the new, the present. And I believe a new kind of happiness waits for you, for me, for every woman who walks through the arms of Jesus Said Love. It’s a happiness that can’t be robbed by circumstance or the latest news of a family member falling off the wagon. A happiness that is grounded in wisdom.


Proverbs 3:18

“Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”


Wisdom and happiness are kindred sisters. Wisdom calls out to us as invitation to see clearly, think rightly, and act according to the truth. Wisdom is always full of mercy and grace, not denial. Wisdom seeks restitution and reconciliation, but not by becoming entangled in codependent behavior. Wisdom is a good judge between what is ours to handle and what is ours to let go of. Wisdom never forfeits integrity for the sake of comfort or false happiness. Wisdom is patient and is proved in the waiting. Wisdom is found in the Holy Scriptures and in the presence of Christ. EMBRACING wisdom becomes a tree of LIFE as this Proverbs says. In order for wisdom to produce happiness we must CLING to her, there is no loose grip in this equation. And God’s wisdom is able to break chains!


This Christmas, Brett and I realized with fresh eyes just how subtle the chains can look - tied around our own necks, hands, and feet. Chains our families have been wearing a long time. Every family has them, even the most spiritual ones: denial, manipulation, racism, addiction, martyrdom, mental illness, fraud, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, hatred, passive aggression, gossip... the list could go on.  Some of them are chains that have “worked” for Brett and I to get along in life, but they don’t produce happiness. They are not chains we wish to pass down to our children.


The glory of Christ’s birth as sung in one of our favorite hymns, O Holy Night, proclaims:


“Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother; and in His name all oppression shall cease.”


Wisdom can read between the lines of this and discern that those we “hate”, those we deem unacceptable, intolerable, our enemies, are our brothers...our kin. They are sometimes the ones who raised us, bore us, built us, taught us, and did their best to love us as they knew how. Wisdom shows us God’s heart is always bent toward breaking chains so that we might come together. But breaking chains is not easy, it’s not magic, and it takes cooperation with the Holy Spirit. It takes honesty, grit and a level of humility that most of us hide from. We don’t want to be wrong, ashamed, embarrassed and so we hide.


The women you helped through ACCESS this year and through our outreaches across Texas are breaking chains of their own AND in their families. And let me tell you, the ties that bind them are strong. One of our friends shared with us that she doesn’t remember a single woman in her family who was not a prostitute. She is now out of the life and choosing a different path for she and her son, her Boaz. She is breaking chains. She will be clinging to wisdom and fighting for a happiness that cannot be taken away. Another of our friends has been exploited by her family since childhood, she didn’t know another way but to succumb to being used. She is now learning boundaries and how to discern who has her best interests at heart, and who is using her. This is breaking chains for her life, and her three children. Another of our friends is choosing a recovery home indefinitely to begin again and raise her child in, she knows that trying to “do it alone” is a recipe for failure. She is breaking chains of selfishness and addiction by living in community and raising her son to walk in the wisdom of God.


We ALL have chains to break. Jesus didn’t simply come to theoretically set the world free, He came to set YOU free. You and your family.  We are committed to breaking chains here at Jesus Said Love, in our own lives, in those we reach, and in culture. We very literally believe Christ can do this for us, and with us. Would you consider giving monthly toward Jesus Said Love in 2018 to help sustain our efforts in awakening hope and empowering change? Every gift empowers us in breaking chains.

#MeToo, Now What To Do?

“Hey Mom, can I take this call in my room? My friend is really upset.”  This girl, my girl, carries so much in her soft heart...always has. She amazes me with her tender care toward others. Daughter retreats to her room to listen and console a friend from another school across town. After a good 30 minutes, my love emerges, resuming life and reengaging with us, unphased.  After the table was cleaned and dishes were as done as done would get, everyone scattered across the house and toward their bedtime routine. I caught her alone and cleared my throat, preparing my nonchalant, prodding tone. You know, the kind where you slip your voice down ½ a step and channel little Baja California surfer vibe, as if to suggest that you are completely unshockable? 

Me: “Hey, everything okay with your friend?” 
Daughter: “Oh, well, she’s just really upset with some boys who’ve been teasing her at school, they’re talking about her butt and stuff.” 

My tender girl proceeds to recount the ways a couple of teenage boys at school have said to her friend, “Man, I want to touch her a** so bad” when she stands up at her desk in class.  And yet another guy, blocking her in from getting around him, taunting her about her rear end. Her brave friend continually says, “back off or I will hit you!” But this seems to feeds the lust, the fight, the desire to dominate. 

Nothing has changed much in 28 years. My first week of middle school, 6th grade, 1989. I walk onto campus, clothes still smelling new, and head to the cafeteria for lunch. What happened in a moment left a permanent mark: He was an 8th grade football player with muscles and a mullet. He appeared older than your average 8th grade guy, perhaps he was held back. He could have been a vision from 90210 as I recall, strapping and handsome. I’m standing with my backpack in front of the Dr. Pepper machine outside the cafeteria doors when he comes striding down the concrete ramp. He eyes me, and I can’t quit looking at him, middle school is so new and the people are so tall. He seems so big and terribly cute. Without stopping his gate until he’s face to face with me, before even saying “hello”, this 14-15 year old swipes my crotch. There I am, a new 6th grade girl on campus, now paralyzed. 

“Did anyone else see? What do I do?”  My head swims.

I giggle nervously and feel my body go completely warm, my heart rate increases. Again, I am 12 and this happens at my school cafeteria. A place dedicated to my safety and education. The reality is, I knew this feeling. I had been molested prior to 12 and had hoped and prayed that a new beginning in middle school would mean a fresh start with my body. It’s as though I was marked. Did my earlier offender somehow tell this guy that I was “easy”?  How did this guy know he could touch me there? How did he know I wouldn’t say a word?  Through middle school, my beautiful growing body developed even more curves and those invited further scrutiny.  I was a good, achieving athlete and honor society student. I was also called a host of names by boys that the darkness used to both lure and torment me. I never breathed a word of this until I was 18 and away from home. 

I ended up calling the mom of my daughter’s friend. They have a good relationship and this eased my heart broaching such a tender issue. I wanted to tell the truth about what I had heard, and empower this good mama to listen hard and advocate fiercely. Mom to mom (and listen - we have GOT to be willing to “go there” together Mama’s), we talked of our own history with sexual harassment as young girls; how we took different routes, wore more pants and not dresses, avoided telling anyone of what happened, and minimized our own suffering. In every place we discredit personal or cultural trauma, it is brought to bear in our adult lives, in marriage, in relationships, in parenting. 

Because pain has to purge and someone will bear the brunt of it. 

One of the most damaging things we can do to our children is minimize, discredit, ignore or shame them when they bravely share about a situation of sexual harassment or abuse.  Furthermore, your children are listening as you process the news of sexual misconduct in Washington and discuss #metoo with your friends. They watch and learn and pick up intuitively more than they have language for. They will mimic and model what you lay before them...or run and retaliate. Mothers, how you speak of victims...your silence, dismissal or support will tell your kids whether or not they can trust you. Fathers, your mocking, belittling, or advocacy toward victims will reveal your character and prompt their reenactment. In fact, I believe our kids are trust detectives, subconsciously gathering evidence of why or why not they can communicate honestly with us. When discussing sexual harassment and sexual assault, minimization can sound like: “Well if that’s the worst thing that happened consider yourself lucky, at least you weren’t …..” (I have literally had this said to me by Jesus-loving friends.) Discreditation like: “Oh honey, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it, maybe you’re taking yourself a bit too seriously.” Shaming: “Well if you’d learn to dress decent maybe that wouldn’t happen.” If dressing “modestly” was the root issue, then women wearing full burkas would never be assaulted or harassed. No. Immodesty does not cause someone to harm another. 

So here’s the thing, I am concerned that our daughters and sons are clueless about how to define sexual harassment and sexual assault. I want to give us, as parents, aunts, aunties, uncles, friends, babysitters, teachers, ALL of us some action steps for our kids (and they are OUR kids) so that they are H.E.A.R.D.

1. HEAR THEM: Whether it seems big or small, listen to their stories. Ask thoughtful questions and make sure you are giving them the freedom to speak as they need to. Do not minimize their experiences, but affirm how and what they are feeling.

2. EDUCATE: Teach your kids important terms now. Teach them appropriate touch and play. Let them know that THEY determine who is allowed to touch their body, not others. “No” means “No”.

  •  Harassment: "Harassment" is legally defined as repeated, unwanted contact. This contact can come in any form, from in-person contact to internet or phone communications. Harassment via text message is yet another form that can be very brutal, emotional and scary for the individual being harassed.  Harassment can also take the form of cyberbullying. David’s Law is a new piece of legislation that has now gone into effect in Texas making cyberbullying a misdemeanor offense and creating clearer channels of communication in reporting an offense.
  • Sexual harassment: Harassment (typically of a woman) in a workplace, or other professional or social situation, involving the making of unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks.
  • Sexual assault: “It’s actually harder to define than you’d think. According to the United States Department of Justice, sexual assault is “any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient.” Sexual assault is basically an umbrella term that includes sexual activities such as rape, fondling, and attempted rape.” (https://www.self.com/story/sexual-assault-definition)

3. ADVOCATE: Become a voice! Don’t stand in silence and pretend to ignore the issue that is affecting every fiber of our culture. Support initiatives that awaken hope and empower change. Shop Lovely and wear our “Not an Object” shirt to show your support!  Sign the FreeHer Manifesto at freehermovement.com

4. REPORT : 

  • If you have been physically assaulted or raped, call 911 or a trusted individual and go immediately to the hospital and request that a rape kit be administered and police report can be filed. 
  • To talk confidentially about a situation, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or chat online at online.rainn.org.
  • If harassment has happened via text or social media, do not delete, but save as evidence and report it school or police.
  • Schools:  If your child is harassed or grabbed/assaulted/stalked at school, encourage your child to tell a trustworthy teacher or counselor immediately. Always record the incident in writing using dates and a detailed description making sure to cite any witnesses. Begin reporting it in an email to the administration (a school counselor, dean, principal and/or teacher if applicable). This is important as emails are a paper trail and can be used as official documents if necessary. Request an appointment with the counselor, dean or principal as well as the teacher in whose classroom the incident occurred. Every school should have protocols on the issue of sexual harm/offense/harassment.

5. DEFEND: Defend your children, defend yourself, defend others. Go WITH your child, your friend, your coworker to the meetings with teachers, administrators, etc. Do NOT make them speak with their offender if they do not want to. Do not ask them to “forgive and forget” and thereby negate their pain. Encourage counseling and talking through action steps together. Shut down harmful conversations and stand up for others being harassed. 

Finally, men, we NEED you. The victims of sexual violence are still largely women, however, we know it happens to you too...and many of you have remained silent. Culture has told you to be embarrassed and darkness has sought to emasculate you.  We need your voice. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse affects men and women alike. This is not a gender issue it is a HUMAN issue that affects all genders. And while the issue of sexual abuse has always been a part of human history, we have not had an accepted social obsession with sexual dominance and violence. Pornography and commercial sex have never been more accessible and acceptable than now. Nine years old is the average age that a boy views porn. Video games and YouTube are imbedding pornographic content in cartoons while Amazon is selling children’s shirts with sexually explicit content on them saying “Blow job is better than no job.” No lie, on Amazon. 

The cultural message has been: sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are part of what it means to be a woman or child. The message men have culturally received is one of dominance and power over women and children. But a new message is emerging, and the backlash will be widespread: we are “Not an Object”. We are humans with hearts and souls, made in the image of a beautiful God. As Christ followers, we must follow the way of prudence, temperance, justice, self control, kindness. We are people of virtue and noble character. We are not savages lusting for control and gratification at the expense of another. We are redeemed. Let’s live like it and empower, defend, and support the next generation in doing the same. 

Emily Mills

Founder, Jesus Said Love


Transitions are awkward and are often not given the grace or attention they need.  When I think of transitioning jobs or perhaps the move that I am in currently from one home to another, it rouses up a restlessness that leaves me clutching for the worst. Fast food, too much social media, and a total avoidance of exercise become the norm in a season of transition. Transitions also make me cling co-dependently to relationships with my husband, kids and closest friends when all else seems out of sorts - this is painful for all of us. When all has been uprooted, nothing feels safe. I am there, but not yet. I am here, but not really. I am almost, but not quite. Who truly can say they enjoy transitions? 

The truth is, I used to think I loved change - but really what I thought I loved was in reality, running. Change or transition is not the same as flight mode. Escaping uncomfortable feelings, tangible pain, difficult people, or God is not how we transition and grow forward. We simply return to ground zero.

But I actually love the idea of growth and change. Cognitively speaking, I can call it good and necessary. It’s the only thing you can ever count on. Change is a reality of the human condition. I have touted myself as a person friendly to change - but what’s been revealed these last three weeks is ugly.  I often liked the idea of change because it meant moving on. Change meant I had to “do” something. And if I was the one leading the charge for change, I especially liked it. I was the one controlling the response mechanisms and in a nutshell: change meant problem solving which usually equals doing something about the problem. I am so down for doing something about a perceived problem. 

Transition: a passage from one state, stage, subject, or place to another: CHANGE:
a movement, development, or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another.

I sit around the table every Monday with 6 courageous women who are in transition. They are literally morphing before my eyes, week to week through ACCESS, an 8 week, paid program where women transitioning out of the sex industry gain independence within the context of belonging. Of our six women, 4 have identified as human trafficking victims and all have undergone various levels of sexual trauma. They got to inform what our 2 hour block on Mondays looked like. I asked them to complete a general survey about their desires, goals, favorite foods and such so I could glean from their input and pray about what our class time might entail. To my surprise, 4 of the 6 desired to obtain a skill in the visual and performing arts: singing or acting. My heart was bursting. Of all the skills to name - singing and acting? Of all the instructors - me? And so our time on Mondays has consisted of dreaming, writing, singing, dancing, and listening. NOTHING is more universal than music. It is the language of heaven. It is the sound from which we were created. Before there was matter, there was sound. Notice - in the creation story, God never creates sound. It simply is. Music is a connection to essence. 

And in a season of transition and change, what we desperately need is connection to our spirit. That part of us where the holiness, unshakable, loving nature of God resides. I don’t know another way to connect than song, and the women desired to sing - and so we have. We have acknowledged the transitions in their lives and the grief that accompanies death of the old. We have reminded ourselves that we will always be facing a transition and in fact, have LIVED through them all. But have we lived them well? Have we allowed ourselves grace when we’re agitated and short tempered? Have we given ourselves permission to be sad and feel lonely in this space where so called “friends”, especially friends to have “fun” with, are gone? 

What has come of this time has been amazing language and imagery. Just yesterday one of our ACCESS sisters wrote a poem and shared it with us. Immediately the others said, “Emily, put that to music, sing THAT!” I shifted and shook a little… “what, like right now? Do any of you have a melody?”  Brett came out of his office and sat at the incredible baby grand donated to JSL, he began to play a simple chord structure...back and forth….back and forth...lulling and calling me to connection. I closed my eyes and waited for a tune.  Could I give total access to the Holy Spirit, be as childlike and vulnerable with this process in front of the others?  What if the poet didn’t like it? What if it was a crappy melody? What if the words didn’t fit into the meter? Could I change them or would she be offended? Nonsense. I had to let go. I had to venture out into this kind of exposure if I desired them to do the same. And so I sang her words:
“What was broken became strong -
What was soiled, what you thought was wrong.
Strength manifesting beauty, 
Every breath given peace, peace.

Watch her grow, tears of joy hit the sky
There is power, there is power when you cry
When you cry
When you cry

She’s a light in the darkness
My firefly, oh butterfly
Watch the harvest

Stunning, graceful, hope exudes
You feel Him, know Him, He is you. 
Living through us he made us strong
Stay strong.”

The truth is, we are all in transition. Are we connecting to where God is moving us? Where God is desiring to grow us? Are we observant learners of ourselves. As we will roast the marshmallows and transition to falling leaves and carving pumpkins, can we bless all that has fallen away, can we grieve what we lost in the warmth and sunshine of summer? Can we find new mercies and joy for today?  If you need some help - cue the music. 

Emily Mills
Founder, Jesus Said Love