October 31, 2017

Guatemala. Day One.

We’ve been asked a lot about our time in Guatemala. Honestly, so much happened! It’s hard to give a quick answer to such a loaded question. So I thought I would do one blog per each day we were there (4 days). I’ll upload photos on my Instagram and Facebook that will coincide with this post so you can get some visuals of what I’m describing.

So...without further ado…

Day One.

We landed in Guatemala City. As we exited the airport, we were instantly surrounded by hundreds of people waiting for their loved ones to exit. Many of them were dressed in the traditional Mayan garb. They greeted their traveling family members with posters and balloons. It was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen. We met Lee (the founder of Redeemer’s House) and one of his key leaders, Jonathan. Jonathan is from Guatemala and was with us the majority of the trip. I loved listening to Lee tell us about the ministry and then hearing about the ministry through Jonathan’s eyes. This is his country. His people. It was moving.

We went to the mall and had lunch with Ramiro, Shirley, and their two sons. Ramiro is the pastor of a church in Zone 17 of Guatemala. He was saved after being in and out of prison for drugs. Ya’ll have to understand that the majority of Guatemala is basically divided up into five classes: The really, really, really rich (I’m talking EXTREME wealth), the rich (who probably make less than the average American - just to put this into perspective), the poor, the really, really, really poor, and the destitute. The majority of those living in Zone 17 would be considered the really, really, really poor. The fathers work for about a $1 a day and then spend it on alcohol. So many of the mothers enter prostitution and/or the children begin selling drugs. The house may have four walls (if you can even call what we saw walls) and tin roofs. Nothing is really closed off so during the rainy season, their belongings (what little they have) get soaked. The street is lined with cow intestines and guts. The music is loud. The kids are out playing soccer, some as young as two or three. As soon as we got out of the van, my eyes started watering. Ramiro bounced around. He was so excited to introduce us to the people he KNOWS God called him to. He walked us through his little church. They have a projector, a beat up screen, an old speaker, a delipidated drum box, and two or three classrooms for the children. The “main auditorium” was tiny. Probably just a bit bigger than my master bathroom. Ya’ll, we have so much. But that’s for another time. He was just so excited. He explained that during the week, they teach the kids how to read and write. They also tell the children about Jesus. The parents are often times incredibly resistant. They will drop crap through their windows onto the outdoor grill that they use to feed the kids. They will blare their music on Sunday mornings so it distracts from the worship and the message. But Ramiro is undaunted. As we were about to walk out of the church, Lee asked that we pray over the building and Ramiro’s ministry. They would love to purchase the apartment building the church is in so that they don’t have to deal with the distractions. They rent the rooms for under $200 a month. To purchase the building, they’d need $35,000. We placed our hands on the columns and each of us prayed in our own language. I was sobbing. One of the most powerful moments I have ever experienced. Jesus was in the room with us, ya’ll. I prayed so hard for Ramiro and Shirley and their boys. That Jesus would just empower them to continue to penetrate the extreme darkness with His light.

As we were leaving, Lee pointed to a house and explained that one day, he was delivering beds to a mom and her several children. He noticed a man was just watching him carefully. It took Lee a minute, but he realized that the man was a pimp and the mom was a prostitute in the house with the kids present. My heart split in two. We asked Ramiro about the situation and his reply, “Well, I started a community group there.” WHAT THE HECK. But that’s just Ramiro. Undaunted.

While we were driving away, a fairly nice SUV with several lighter skinned, well-dressed men pulled in. It was obvious they didn’t belong there. And they didn’t. They were just dropping off the drugs that would soon be distributed and sold.

Our next stop was Zone 18. The most dangerous zone in Guatemala...which is saying something. We were told to either take off or to hide our really nice jewelry and to leave our phones in the van. I think I had a vague understanding of what I was about to walk into, but ultimately, it was Jesus Who just calmed my nerves and gave me the strength to walk around. I had such an eery peace about me. It was wild. We parked right across from a soccer “field” (really, just a stretch of dusty land). The kids were having a ball (get it?). None of them had phones. Or toys. People just stared at us. They had probably never seen a white man there before and DEFINITELY not a white woman. Houses were stacked on each other. Wild dogs roamed the streets. We didn’t spend much time there, because after walking around for a bit, it was made clear to us that we were not welcome. But once again, we stopped and prayed over Ramiro. Well, I was asked to pray. To pray that Jesus would continue to give him inroads to the people's hearts and the plans and resources to start a church there as well. And so I wept as I prayed over this man who had an unspeakable amount of courage.

And that was day One. I was blown away. I couldn’t get over how much Ramiro loves HIS people. How much HE is willing to sacrifice to reach them with the love of Jesus.

Redeemer’s House is known for Orphan Prevention. Lee and his team have opened five centers that feed and teach children. He would like to connect these centers to local churches in Guatemala. The dream is that the churches will ultimately become the centers, because the CHURCH is the vehicle of the Gospel and what Jesus is using to change the world. He is working with two pastors now: Ramiro and Pablo (I will tell you about him later). Most of the churches in Guatemala are not solid, Jesus Churches. But more on that later...

January 24, 2017

For All the Momma's

I was texting a sweet friend of mine yesterday and we were discussing kids (seriously though - is that all I talk about these days?). We each have a few. And she told me that she would love to have another baby, it’s just that some days she feels so much like a “momster” she’s not sure she should. Then she asked me if I ever feel that way. Ya’ll, I just laughed. Errrrrrrday. For instance, I just lost it on my four year old and started yelling, “STOP IT!” because she was crying and carrying on a little bit too much for my fancy as I was putting her down for a nap. Nevermind that she had been to three church services this weekend and missed her nap yesterday and was out all morning with me shopping. Nevermind that. I just got frustrated that I had to deal with a weepy little thing when I felt exhausted myself. And I yelled. And then my heart broke. And a little voice started whispering that I was going to ruin her and that I’m the worst. You guys, I have a terrible time telling that voice to shove it. But I need to!

Here’s what I think…

If we truly LOVE Jesus, then we will love our kids deeply. That’s what 1 John 4 is all about. The overflow of our love for Jesus spills out onto other people. And if we truly KNOW Jesus, then we also know that we are just stewards of our children. They are actually Jesus’s. He specifically chose you and I for the kids we have because He knew we would be the best equipped to care for them. Let that sink in. I don’t have your kids because I wouldn’t be the best mom for them. And you don’t have my kids for the same reason. Wild. It’s like He’s sovereign or something (I write that sarcastically of course). The Psalms say that our Heavenly Father also knows we are completely human and more often than not we are going to get it wrong. And this is the part that’s the most strangely comforting to me. I truly believe that Jesus will fill in the gaps, however gaping they may be. And that doesn’t mean I cop out. Nope. I do what I can to the best of my ability and then I trust Him to flow the grace over what I get wrong.

I love Psalm 4:5, “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” I do what I know is right and what I know He’s called me to. And then I trust Him. I trust Him that He will finish the good work He’s started in my life and in my kids’ life. I’m not going to get it right all the time. More often than not, I’m going to give my kids a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal after a morning of TV so I can make some phone calls and a day of running errands all afternoon with no naps and forget to brush their teeth for the third day in a row just to get them to bed somewhat on time with very little crying (from me of course).

So here’s a thought for us young momma's:

Don’t fret the small stuff. If you need to eat out and order in more often than not during certain seasons, ya’ll, just go with it. I don’t think there is any reason whatsoever to feel like a failure. We have three under four and there are stretches of time where home cooked meals at a certain time just aren’t feasible. But you know what? Our kids love to eat out! And we love to invite their grandparents to join us. We’ve just started a “No Phone Til After the Meal” policy so we get some time to be together. I’m not dismissing the importance of meal time. Especially as your kids grow up. I’m just saying that we tend to put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and in the attempt of trying to create the most perfect family times, we run ourselves ragged and are spent and unable to truly enjoy our time together.

Don’t get so caught up in what needs done that you forget who you are doing it for. We try to carve out fifteen minutes of alone time with each of the kids every day. It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes it’s more. Sometimes it’s less. But it’s a goal that keeps us accountable and forces us to slow down. I’m a task oriented person so adding this to my “To Do” List may sound cold. But it’s honestly a great way to make sure I stop and BE WITH my kids.

Take a break from Social Media. Really, does this need an explanation? And here’s another thought: Be real about what you post. And maybe use some discretion? Sometimes, we have an awesome day and I just choose not to post about it. Why you ask? Because this awesome day was sandwiched between two horrible days that I also didn’t post. And when you scroll through my feed, if all you see is the awesome day in the midst of your horrible day, well how are you going to feel? So, that’s why. I think we need to keep each other in mind. And just remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side. Doesn’t mean there aren’t ant hills.

Take a break from the books. I love reading. And I read 38403820394 books before Brooke was born. And they were helpful. But then they started getting in my head and messing with me and making me feel like a failure. We need guidance. We need wisdom. But every once in awhile, we also need to trust the God given instincts He’s given us and take a deep breath and rest.

Get into counseling. We went through one of the toughest seasons we have ever had with Brooke after Braxton was born. We were honestly at a loss. So we got our butts into counseling. And oh my gosh you guys. It was so helpful! The counselor met us right where we were at and gave us some incredible, practical things to do. We've weathered the storm and are on the other side of it. But we have realized how smart Brooke is (she can process things faster intellectually than she can emotionally, which can cause some crazy outbursts - a light bulb that went off during counselling) and so we are going to take her to counseling just to get some wisdom as to how to communicate with her to make sure she feels safe and loved. All of our children are unique. And some are a little more difficult to deal with than others. NEVER EVER be ashamed to seek professional help. Don't be embarrassed. Realize that most of the baggage you have is from someone who didn't quite know how to reach you where you were at and to help you. What if we could do that for our children? Why wouldn't we?

Take a nap.

Make some time for yourself.

Get some exercise.

Get in the Word. Ya’ll, this is the hardest for me. I have battled with guilt for a few years over this. My husband and I were talking about it and he challenged me to read the verse of the day from You Version every morning and then to pray it over my heart. That seemed easy enough. And so I’ve started doing that and it’s made ALL THE DIFFERENCE! I read it, pray it over my heart, and then I actually REMEMBER it because it is one verse. What a blessing this practice has been to me!

Have fun. Remember, you will never ever ever get this time back. So embrace the crazy. Stop caring what everyone else thinks. Stop trying to be in control. Be in the moment.


And older momma’s:

Love on us. We need hugs, coffee, chocolate, and encouragement. We need you standing on the sidelines cheering us on. We need to know you’ve been there. You get it. We are going to make it. It’s just a season. And that we are doing great! We need your prayers, cards, love. And we need the GOOD stories. Please try never to start a story with, “Just wait till they are…”. We don’t need any more anxiety. Give us the “You are going to miss this” stories. Leave us in tears wanting to rush home to hold our babies.

Don’t ever forget. Don’t forget what it’s like to live off of three hours of sleep. To have not spoken to an adult for ten hours. To have a messy house and to be running off of caffeine and a stray Cheerio. To struggle through the grocery store with multiple tired, hungry, greedy toddlers. Just please don’t forget. Cause we need you in our corner when we feel like the world is staring and judging.

Give us your wisdom. But when the time is right. Some of us feel like failures 95% of the time because we are so tired and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We want your wisdom. We need your wisdom. But some days we are better at receiving it than others. So just watch and wait. And then give it to us!


Love you all! Remember, as High School Musical said it best, “We are all in this together!” Happy Memory Making!

Stay Golden,

Nicole

March 14, 2016

Tales from the Motherland (or just from Motherhood...whatevs)

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to blog every week (notice I'm just now starting in March. Nice). I love to write and hopefully this goal will keep me somewhat accountable. But we shall see. Sometimes I worry I won't have enough to say (if you now me at all, you know that more than likely will not be a problem, unfortunately for you). But today was epic. So I have lots to say today.

My day started last night. But seriously. We have two kids: Brooke (3) and Ryder (1). I realize now that the "Terrible Twos" are a myth. Either that or we somehow zoomed right past two and catapulted into THREE. I wish there was a scary font for THREE. Or a sound effect of imminent doom. THREE. Don't get me wrong, three started out like any other number. But in the last few weeks, I feel like spelling three "H-E-L-L". My sweet, loving girl has started saying things like, "I won't" and "Don't do that" and "You won't". My usually submissive child throws herself on the floor when she doesn't get her way. I spend most of my day disciplining. And crying. Lots of tears. Lots and lots of tears.

We have also entered the "Scared of ERRRRRRthang" stage. Thursday morning we went to the doctor's for a well visit and Brooke basically had a nervous breakdown. We had several nurses and doctors in the room just to help me manage the situation. It was a blast. By the time we got home, I was crying. "Mommy, are you crying, too?" "Yes, baby. Mommy is crying."

Yesterday at church, Brooke (and Ryder, he was guilty of this too) spent most of the day avoiding EVERYONE. And not just avoiding...recoiling anytime anyone would get within a few feet's distance. I understand. I really do. Being a Pastor's Kid is no joke and I want to protect them from expectations and from being smothered. But I think my sensitivity gave way to all out snobbery. We cannot have kids avoiding people at all costs. And hence my predicament.

So last night, I just laid awake trying to come up with some solutions. Because, friend, we ain't gonna keep livin' this way (all the ways). Am I right? I mean, I am four months pregnant (yes, I now agree with you that we are one fry short of a Happy Meal). We have got to get our act together! I came up with the brilliant idea of getting the kids involved in some free activities in the area that will get them out of their comfort zones and around others their ages. So we started with story time at the library. Or we thought we would...

Because on my way home from dropping Bryant off at work, I ran out of gas. I won't go into all of the details because he and I tell the story differently (ha - ha - ha), but it was great. So that happened. By the time we got that situated, we rushed home, threw on some clothes, and jumped in the car. We rolled into story time just as the first session was ending and the second was beginning. And you know what? It went fairly well. Except the part when I asked if my kids wanted a snack, only to see NO ONE else had snacks, which led to kids asking moms for their snacks, which led to me getting several dirty looks and attempting to secretly slip my children pieces of banana. To my defense, at the last story time we went to at another location, moms brought full-on meals for their kids. So there.

After story time, we headed home for naps. Thank God for naps. Amen?! When I went to get Brooke up from her nap, I came to the realization that she had been abnormally quiet. And as I walked past her room, I also noticed she was busy doing something. Upon further investigation, she was coloring. With a marker. On my Kindle. So that was nice. After another "We only color on paper" chat, we got up to play.

While Ryder and Brooke were playing upstairs, I snuck downstairs to start on dinner. After several minutes, I hear Brooke, "Mommy! Mommy! I have something on my foot!" I told her to come down so I could see. On her way, I asked, "What is it?" Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. She answered, "I think it's poop!" And it was. Yes, it was poop. Which was no longer on her foot. It was now all down the stairs and across the bottom floor's floors. As I picked her up, I said, "Okay, no one panic!" and I rushed upstairs to figure out what in the wonderful world happened. Well, it didn't take me long because at the top of the stairs stood, very proudly mind you, my very naked son. And then it dawned on me. I had put a pull-up on him right before nap time because the extra diapers were downstairs and I just couldn't muster the energy to get them. A pull-up would do. But it obviously didn't do. It must have bothered him cause when he got up, he was acting very annoyed with it. I figured it would pass. Oh, it did. He just figured he could go without. And that he did. I traced the poopy footprints to the scene of the crime and I will just spare you the details. I grabbed both kids, covered, and rushed them to the changing table to stop the bleeding so to speak. Then, I threw them in the tub and commenced cleaning up "Poop Mageddon 2016". Somehow, I was able to see the humor in it all. But only because Jesus loves me and helped me find it funny. Or I was high on the smell. Who really knows.

You know what though? I learned some things about myself today. I learned that I too quickly tie my kids' behavior to my identity. I want them to be good so I look good. I want them to be good so my life is easy. It's sad but true. And, I take myself and life too seriously. I want everything perfect. Everyone dressed in new clothes, eating well balanced meals, in a clean house, with lots of activities and toys, and no TV (because that's for the lazy parent - she wrote sarcastically). But that's not real life. More often than not, we are in faded play clothes, eating cheese sticks and Captain Crunch, watching Doc McStuffins and Frozen amidst piles of laundry. And that's okay.

Parenting isn't perfect. But it should be intentional. And that's what I'm learning. I try to live out my walk with Jesus so that my kids come into it naturally. And instead of getting exasperated the moment they start acting out (like kids), I try to take a deep breath and choose to see it as an opportunity to teach them the correct response. I have found it's all in the approach. The mindset. But I have to be determined. Or I can slip into self-pity and frustration and forget my littles are people whose hearts need shaped by the Savior.

The Scriptures say children are "blessing and a heritage from the Lord", "They are arrows in the hands of a mighty warrior". And I agree with Andy Stanley that my greatest contribution is not something I do, but the someones I raise. THEY are my legacy. So I'm grabbing hold of this mother thing with both hands and diving in head first. Because "the days are long, but the years are short" (thank you, Sandra Stanley) and someday "I'm gonna miss this" (gotta love that country song).

So here's to crazy, poopy, wild, insane days when we cry more than laugh and fall into bed exhausted. May we be reminded that we have to lean into our Savior. May we glimpse visions of Him through our parenting. May we love on our kids' hearts, shaping them to see their Jesus in the everyday moments. May we live in the moment.

Cheers to you, sweet Momma! Keep on, Keepin' on!

June 27, 2015

Fighter

I just went for a run, which means I just listened to all of my kick butt music. I love me some hardcore music as I race to do my 2-3 miles around the neighborhood. I think I look like Rocky. Everybody else thinks I look like a zombie talking to herself.

So I had this song on repeat:

Until the referee rings the bell, Until both your eyes start to swell, Until the crowd goes home, What we gonna do ya'll? Give 'em hell -Turn their heads, Gonna live life till we're dead! Give me scars, Give me pain! Then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me - There goes a fighter! There goes a fighter! This one's a fighter! That's what they'll say to me, say to me, say to me, This one's a fighter.  
- The Fighter by Gym Class Heroes
I love that song!!! I get so pumped! Wanna know why? Because I AM A FIGHTER!!! And so are you! And as I was jammin' out to this song (and feeling so stinkin' tough because of the "give 'em hell" line - not gonna lie), I couldn't help but think about these verses...
1 Corinthians 9:26: 24: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control..." 
1 Timothy 6:12: "Fight the good fight of the faith..." 
Proverbs 24:16: "For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity." 
Psalm 3:3: "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head."
Ya'll, our adversary the Devil is out to utterly destroy us. But we (those of us who have trusted Christ as our Savior) have the HOLY SPIRIT living inside of us - the same Spirit that Ephesians says raised Christ from the dead. So YOU ARE A FIGHTER! Fight WITH Him, not against Him.

What do I mean? Lean into Him, Surrender to Him, Listen to Him. React the way He would react. Live the way He would live. Do things the way He would do things.

And always remember, you are NOT alone. Hebrews says Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and that He will NEVER leave your side.

So that anxiety, depression, insecurity, anger, addiction, lust, laziness, control, selfishness, lying, personality disorder, harshness, bitterness, gossip, hurt, betrayal - that you don't think you can ever get over? Think again.

Ephesians 1: 15-20: "For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you,remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places..."


This ONE's a Fighter.

June 26, 2015

Your Good Life is Trash

So I really wanted to take a nap (honesty), but my blogs come in bursts of angsts and I just had one. So here we go :)

My friend just texted me a few minutes ago. She was wrestling with the fact that she just told "her" story and is now paranoid that "her" story is going to ruin "her" reputation.

(Really quick rabbit trail: Your story is your story. Own it! Just as Paul owned and shared about his thorn in the flesh, so should you when God says it's time!!! Your thorn, your story, is the dark backdrop that illuminates the scandalous grace of Jesus! Preach it! If you don't have a dark backdrop, then you can't share about Jesus's grace because it has nothing to stand in contrast to and you've missed the Gospel.)

Here was my response:
You will always feel a little exposed. Even now when I talk about [my story] at times, I feel exposed because mental illness [or whatever your story is - mine just so happens to include mental illness] is just so personal. And that's why no one talks about it. There will always be a stigma. So whenever you share, you will either free people up or cause people to look at you funny. You just have to decide which is more important to you: Their freedom or your reputation. But no one can take your character and these struggles are what are making you into the wonderful woman that you are! So own them! But also remember that there is no rush to share everything at once. Go at your own pace. Share as much as you are ready to share. But you are NOT crazy. You are brave and courageous for facing these struggles and you are going to be FREE! You will learn through this whole process that the only opinion that matters is God's. That sounds so cliche - but it's true! And He has already declared you HIS - you are LOVED, ACCEPTED, WORTHY, SECURE. There is a verse in Psalms that says HE is the lifter of our heads. I love that verse!!! You can live with your head lifted high because HE is your HEALER! We all have a lot of crazy but we want to mask it. It's the difference between living free and living in bondage. The most free people are those who don't hide their depravity and as a result can celebrate the absolute and extravagant goodness of the Gospel.And that right there triggers my angst: The people who cannot (will not) face their own depravity, their own failures, their own shortcomings because I truly believe they will fall to pieces. Their perceived "good" reputation is the glue that is holding them together emotionally and if that glue ever disintegrates, they won't know who they are anymore.

I just read this in Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman:
Good [people] can depend on their good reputation to meet their desperate need for love.

Dang.

Our good reputations are our identities. It's what we are known for...good parenting, good kids, good disciplines, good behavior, good grades, good choices, good marriage, good clothes, good ministry, good church, good house, good job, good car, good vacations, good college, good work ethic, good friends, good ____________. We are good. And if we cease to be "good", we cease to be us. So when our "goodness" is challenged, it can NEVER be our fault because then we are no longer good. Yikes. Do you see how dangerous this is? Scripture screams at us in Romans 3 that "There’s nobody living right, not even one" (The Message). And we say we believe that. But when was the last time you were brutally, uncomfortably, irrationally, absolutely nothing-to-lose honest? When? Like willing to be told you were wrong, have been wrong, were never right honest?

Ya'll, your "good" reputation is going to keep you living in bondage. It will isolate you. You will never be able to be fully and completely known because you won't want anyone getting too close and potentially seeing that you aren't good. But NO ONE IS GOOD. Nope.

If you are getting nervous thinking I am saying to flaunt your sin, then you are who this blog is written to (and Romans 6, 7, and 8 - I guess Paul and I share the same angst). Yes you, my love. And bless your heart. Be free! Own your freakin train-wreck of a life because then and only then can you be healed and free and then and only then can you love like Jesus loved! And then and only then can you live the life He calls us to live!

See, if you are obsessed with goodness, then that's all you are going to expect from yourself and from other people. And instead of sin and failure pushing you to the cross, it is going to push you further away because you will feel the pressure to "fix it" yourself. You are a PR dream come true, but a Gospel nightmare. And that's miserable. Because Jeremiah 17:9 says we are incapable of being good. And Isaiah says our goodness is filthy. So you are preaching a works based Salvation and Sanctification. You will live an up-tight, fear-driven life because of the fact that you have never experienced the scandalous love, acceptance, grace and forgiveness of Jesus even though you claim to have.

If we could only see ourselves as Christ does. Then we could live as Christ lived. But we can't. And so we don't. And we perpetuate that sad cycle of living to the next generation. And people are leaving the church faster than they are coming. And I don't blame them.

Oh, that is my angst. That we would embrace Honesty. Vulnerability. Gospel preaching, grace living, help me Jesus screaming lives. Cause that's what He expects. Not my goodness. No. Never that. But my utter and complete brokenness smothered in His perfect life. Only that. Cause only when I can stop hiding behind my goodness can He live His life through me.
But You, Oh LORD, are a Shield about me, my glory and the Lifter of My Head. Psalm 3:3 (ESV)


June 23, 2015

Jesus Smelled Like Smoke

Ya’ll, I think if Jesus walked the earth today, He would wreak of smoke. Wanna know why? Because He would hang around Smokers. And Homosexuals. And Alcoholics. And Drug-Addicts. And Liars. And Cheaters. And the Homeless. And the Divorced. And the Lost. And the Hurting. And the Broken. (We don't all smoke, but you get the idea.)

You know I find it interesting that as Believers, we too often represent this guy: “Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side” (emphasis mine). Anyone know where that section of Scripture is from? Anyone? Anyone? (Sorry - I crack myself up sometimes when I write these things.) It’s from the Parable of the Good Samaritan. A Dude (a Jewish Man - which according to racial code in that day, would be the top of the totem pole) was headed on a journey and was mugged. Three guys saw him: A Priest (Jew), a Levite (Jew), and a Samaritan (the bottom of the totem pole in those days). The only one who helped him was the Samaritan (not a lot needs written here - just let that simmer).

The fact that a Priest and a Levite passed by this broken, messed up, dirty, hurting man just kills me. But how often do we do this as we walk into the doors of our churches? We pull into the parking lot, get out of the car, and pass by hurting people almost instantly. Then we make sure to leave a seat or two between "us" and "them". Now I realize most people “fake it”, but some don’t! And are we even trying to see through the masks or are we too comfortable staying clean and put together?

I will never forget the day I encouraged my friend to come back to church. She had been out for a while. Too long. She told me she was coming just as she was. In her t-shirt and basketball shorts. I have no idea what all she had been involved in to that point, I just wanted her in the service. And so I waited in the parking lot. As soon as I saw her pull in, I went running to her and just hugged her. She wreaked of smoke. We walked into the service and I experienced one of the more powerful lessons I have ever been taught by Jesus. While we were singing, both of her hands were in the air. And I sobbed. Why? Because Jesus met her where she was and walked her in the doors and sat her down and just loved on her. How did He do that? Through ME! Ya’ll, I am not tooting my own horn - but c’mon! Don’t we want to be a part of that? Don’t we want to have that kind of legacy???

Bryant and I get invited to a lot of birthday parties that are mainly made up of people who don’t know Jesus. And I LOVE it! Usually they all know we are (drumroll please) “The Pastor and His Wife” (gag), and I don’t like that, mainly because people start to act differently. So I try to set the tone right away. I find the people off to the corner secretly smoking and walk over and introduce myself. I make sure to sit next to the designated “atheist” family member and engage in conversations about everything but church. I do what I need to do to establish a connection because isn’t that what Jesus did?

I think we fear “the others” because we don’t want to be associated with the mess. We don’t want to get messy. What will the other Believers think? That I’m condoning the behavior? That I’m participating? Won’t the person I’m with think it’s okay to live a certain way? Don’t I just need to tell them the Truth?

Oh my sweet brothers and sisters. Have we forgotten the Gospel? The Gospels? Where Jesus modeled building relationships and fostering trust? Where Jesus met people right.where.they.are? Where he cared for them and not His own reputation? He didn’t cater to the expectations of the religious. He ministered to the broken. And that’s what I want to do. I’ve lived too long listening to my fear and not to the voice of Jesus. I’ve been more interested in people knowing first off that I don’t agree with their lifestyles before they know I actually love them. I’ve pushed people closer to Hell than to Jesus. And I’m over it.

You want to join me? It’s uncomfortable. I don’t always get it right. But I make sure to always smell like smoke. Cause I think Jesus did too.

April 25, 2015

Break Free.

Speaking out about your anxiety, depression, or other mental illness is frightening. It’s humiliating. We don’t want to look weak. Or weird. Or crazy. People will look at us funny. Think we are nuts. Put us in a mental hospital. Think we are broken. But aren’t we? Aren’t we all broken? Isn’t that why Jesus Christ died on the cross - because we are so messed up we don’t even know how messed up we are (Jeremiah 17:9)? Ya’ll - It’s time we got a grip. The very thing that keeps people from accepting Jesus as their Savior is keep you from getting the healing you desperately need: Pride. Admitting you need help. You don’t have it all together. And maybe you can readily admit that: “I don’t have it all together.” But what about that insecurity that is crippling you? What about that exhaustion that won’t go away no matter how much you sleep? What about that sadness that keeps creeping in for no reason? What about your thoughts that you can’t quiet down? What about the fear that keeps you awake at night? What about the incessant control you demand to have? What about the people you are sucking dry because of your identity issues? What about your need for perfection that is debilitating you? What about it? Why can’t you face it? Why can’t you speak out about it? Why not?

We have to fight. Listen to me, I’m pleading with you. This isn’t going away. It’s just not. And it’s going to strain your marriage, damage your kids, mess with your job, and leave you lonely. It will eat you alive. I promise I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer here. But we can’t keep thinking these things will deal with themselves. That’s what Satan wants you to believe. But you have to realize he is out to destroy you.

In the world we live in, people say it’s brave to give in to whatever leanings they have. When we give in, we give up the abundant life God promises those who trust Him. We can’t keep giving in to our anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. We have to stand up. That’s where true courage lies: With those who say, “Enough! I am going to stop the cycle. I am going to fight for my spouse, my kids, my job, my friends. I am going to fight so I can be a testament to the grace of Jesus. The power of Jesus. If He can heal me, He can heal you.”

I speak openly about my anxiety, depression, and personality disorder because I want people to know that it isn’t an easy fight, but oh so worth it!!! When I was diagnosed with these mental illnesses several years ago, I was so discouraged. But then my counselor helped me to see how strong Jesus’s grace was in me. He had preserved me from some terrible decisions that could have destroyed my life. And while I battled with suicidal thoughts and nearly dissolved my marriage, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness chased me down until I couldn’t fight Him anymore and I finally surrendered. I surrendered to His love: The Love I was so desperate to feel. He met me face down in the dark. Alone. Scared. Hurting. Desperate. And that’s when Grace took over and healed me. It was a long road. And sometimes still is. But I wouldn’t trade the healing I’ve received from the hand of God for anything.

Why are you living this way? Why so trapped? Why so scared? Why so hindered? Why in such bondage? Break. Free. Jesus wants to heal you, but He opposes the proud. He will fight you if you fight seeking the help you need. The healing only He can provide. So step out in faith. I promise you the freedom you will receive will be worth more than the momentary humiliation you may feel.

Break. Free.