Today I came face to face with the invisible wall that holds me back from true surrender to God.
That wall. I’ve felt it for a while now. No matter how much I learn or grow in my relationship with Christ, I still feel the wall’s presence. It keeps me from ever truly overcoming. It keeps me bound by anxiety. I find even in the midst of serving Him in ways I never have before, I can still feel the weight and pressure of the wall. Victories, though worthy of praise, are only partial, as I’ve never been able to fully scale the wall.
I recently began co-leading a small group in my women’s bible study. That sentence alone speaks volumes as to how God has moved in the heart of and life of this social-anxiety-ridden, people-pleasing, introverted, non-risk-taking, confrontation-fearing, timid Daughter. Victory has been achieved in that I am able to push through the anxiety of leading and speaking, able to push through the fear of what others are secretly thinking about me. I am free enough to push through and serve.
But is partial freedom the only freedom I’ll ever know?
The wall that fifteen minutes ago, I prayed about. As I read Jennie Allen’s book, Anything, in preparation for this week’s bible study meeting, I prayed:
God, I know I’m on the cusp of full surrender. I don’t think my heart is fully ready to sincerely say, ‘God, I’ll do anything for you.’ I’m still so held back and bound by something. I feel like I’m teeter-tottering on top of the wall that keeps me running full-speed to You. What is holding me back? What can I not let go of?
Then I continued reading. Jennie (in her book) told me that the thing I most fear is the thing that is most controlling in my life. She asked me: What are you most afraid of losing?
I stopped and I thought because I wanted to answer it right and honestly.
The thing I fear the most is losing everyone I love around me…having no support system…being alone.
Jennie told me to stare it in the face, to picture my life alone. I did, and I cried. It hurt and it scared me.
Snot and tears pouring down my face, and heart beating through my chest, I was finally able to identify THE WALL. The wall keeping me from full surrender:
God isn’t real enough to me for me to have true comfort.
I don’t fully believe that I am never alone. I don’t know how to feel His Presence. My relationship with Him isn’t real enough to me.
I have been His for 27 years, but today I asked him to become REAL to my beating heart. To become real to the heart he’s inhabited for so long. How many of us live with someone for decades and never put the effort in to really getting to know them?
This life isn’t about having a safe routine,doing the same thing every day. It’s not about desiring a baby and asking my genie God to make all my dreams come true.
This life is about knowing God.
Who is He? Is He truly my first & foremost, my all-in-all? Who am I in His eyes?
This life is about experiencing God.
Playing it safe has kept me from needing to see God come through for me. I am learning that it is through risk that God becomes more real.
In order to demolish the wall, I will take more risks. I will intentionally put myself in situations where His Power alone will carry me through. When I recognize fear and anxiety creeping in, feeding me with doubt, I will recognize that as a cue from God, telling me to do it anyway.
He and I are in this together. This relationship. I’ve always been pursued. It’s time for me to scale the wall and run fast and full of freedom, in pursuit of Him.
July 31st, 2014 was a day to celebrate! It was my husband’s birthday. We had gone out to celebrate with our whole family. All the girls in our family were also planning and preparing to go to the Coast the next day to celebrate my Grandma’s 80th birthday! We were making more summer plans to go camping and enjoying the summer life that so many love here in Bend. But that never happened.
That night we had relatives staying with us and I had said good night to them. I fell asleep snuggling next to my husband, Sonny, and my seven year old daughter, Rhynn. At about 1:00am Sonny was awakened by a loud thump. He felt Rhynn next to him but couldn’t feel me. When he got up to try to see what had caused the thump he saw me slumped over, wedged between the bed and the dresser, and I was having a Grand mal seizure. He immediately noticed I wasn’t breathing. He ran to get my Aunt and Uncle and asked them for help. They thought maybe a tree had fallen because of how loud the thump was. They called 911.
The paramedics showed up and rushed me to the hospital (Rhynn never woke up in the midst of all of this. I believe an Angel was in the room protecting her). My sister followed close behind. I don’t really remember much of this. I just remember being scared and confused. I was paralyzed on the left side immediately. I couldn’t move my arm or my leg and half of my face was paralyzed. I do remember, however, having an MRI and then being told I had tumors in my brain. I had Melanoma for the second time in my life.
Over the next four days of my stay in the ICU it was a blur from the drugs I was on. I went home and waited for the swelling to go down so they could do surgery. What I thought was one night was actually four nights before they could perform surgery on me. In those four days, friends and family came in and out of my house, one after another, encouraging me, praying for me, loving me and my family.
My diagnosis was three to six months to live, three months with no treatment and six months with aggressive treatment. The Doctors didn’t think they’d be able to remove all three tumors (I didn’t know this at the time). Two nights before surgery my long time friends, Joe and Katherine, came to my house to pray over me. Immediately afterwards I lifted my left arm up, something I had not been able to do, then I got up and started walking. My brother-in-law later commented he wouldn’t have believed it had he not seen it with his own eyes! That was one of the many miracles that I’ve experienced since then.
The night before surgery we had about 100 friends and family come over to pray over me, sing worship songs and they took turns telling me how much they loved me. Afterwards Sonny made a video of me for my kids. I wanted my kids to hear what I thought was most important, in case I didn’t make it through the surgery. I told them I loved them, that Jesus loves them. I told them through many, many tears how much I love them, that when we belong to Jesus He will pursue you and that they always belong to Him. I said the things I never thought I’d have to say to my kids for them to watch when I was gone.
When I went to bed that night my son, Randon, who was 18 at the time, came into my room and told me he didn’t want me to do treatment because he didn’t want me to be sick the last three to six months of my life. That was the first time I had heard that diagnosis. I was shocked and confused. We cried together, talked about how it would be one day at a time, fighting all the way. I told him I needed him to pray for me and believe that God would heal me.
My pastor, Steve, came the next morning before surgery to pray for me. I don’t remember it but I’m so thankful for him and the church family that we love so much. They have been such a big part of my journey with their generosity. I was told the entire waiting room was filled with our church family and family members, standing room only. The Doctors ended up removing all three tumors! I stayed in the hospital for about a month, or maybe longer. I don’t remember exactly how long. I don’t remember a lot of it. It was still being said that I would probably only live for six months with aggressive treatment. There is no treatment for Melanoma cancer. Today it’s been over a year since my surgery. They were wrong. God is good. I have continued to say “You’re talking Science, I’m talking God. My God is bigger than Science”.
Joy and her husband, Sonny, live in Bend Oregon with
their four children ranging from six to twenty-one years of age. You can learn more about Joy’s journey through her blog where she inspires many with her transparency, strength, and hope in Christ.
She and her family repeat a daily mantra together:
“I am powerful and what I believe changes the world! So today I declare: God is in a good mood. He loves me all the time. Nothing can separate me from His love. Jesus’ blood paid for everything. I will tell nations of what He has done. I am important. How He made me is amazing. I was designed for worship. My mouth establishes praise to silence the enemy. Everywhere I go becomes a perfect health zone. And with God…Nothing is impossible.”
Fear is not my friend.
It never has been.
It never will be.
Fear has done nothing but reek havoc on my life, paralyzing me in a web of lies and confusion. It has gripped me in believing the worst instead of focusing on truth. Many times it has kept me from stepping out into God’s best and hindered my passion to pursue and love the way Christ has commanded. It has caused me to fear the unknown and what is to come. It is NOT MY FRIEND or YOURS. It is, however, a friend to the biggest deceiver, satan himself.
If we choose to “be-friend” this lie, it can ruin us. So why do we continually welcome this unfaithful, lying, deceitful so called “friend” into our lives? Horrific circumstances happen. Sin happens. Tragedy happens. It can shake us to our core causing crippling effects both physically and emotionally.
I have learned that when I am entangled in this web, it’s because I forget who my God is…I doubt His ability. I question His sovereignty. I waiver on His unfailing love for me. And sometimes, I shamefully choose to sit and stay in the comfort of it all because it has become EASY. Battling fear can be draining. And when we try to battle on our own strength, we fall, we crumble. We become slaves to “our friend” fear.
God’s word says, “For God has NOT given us a spirit of fear, but of POWER and of LOVE and of a SOUND MIND” -2 Timothy 1:7.
These three things- power, love and sound mind, are a recipe for defeating the enemy when it comes to a spirit of fear.
Know the POWER of the living God that lives in you!
Know the LOVE of Christ that cast out ALL fear!
Know the peace of a SOUND MIND -His peace that will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
Fear cannot dwell in a heart who’s mind is focused on the things of God. We have the freedom to choose…Fear…OR…Faith.
Our God is so much BIGGER! And our FAITH in Him has to be Greater than our fear.
Jesus tells us, ” In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have OVERCOME the world.”-John 16:33
Our faith can rest in that…He has OVERCOME!!!
I want to leave you with this absolute truth bathed in a promise that God will be with you NO MATTER the trial, no matter the tragedy, no matter the sorrow, no matter the pain, no matter the fear….
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do NOT be afraid; do NOT be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”-Joshua 1:9
Cheryl is passionate about Jesus and making Him known. She serves as a leader in women’s ministry and on the worship team of her church. She believes that by His stripes we are healed and we are nothing without Jesus, but EVERYTHING with Him. She believes there is freedom that awaits all our brokenness, all our mess, all our shame, and all our past if we turn our lives over to Him. She is married to her college sweetheart and they are blessed with three beautiful children.
Sometimes God answers our prayers and we see right away what He has done. There are big crisis prayers and little tiny prayers, but His answers aren’t always what we expect.
In the journey of life, we have unexpected trips to the Emergency Room, moments where we look around for the adult, then discover “You are the adult”. God reminds us who is in control at the times we have no control.We were certainly aware of prayer in that experience. This year, my six year old had some fluke tummy-upsets on our 4th of July trip. No fever, just needed the tummy to empty itself. (too much sugar and fun at Grandma’s house?) In between the first and second round, we quietly sat in the bathroom at my parents’ house at 4:30am.
After we prayed for her to be healed, we discussed that God made our bodies to throw up if something bad was in them. “God’s way of healing you may be to have you throw up again.” “It’s not the healing you would like, but you’ll feel better.”
After I said that, the profound wisdom hit me.
How many times have I thought God didn’t answer my prayers because it wasn’t the answer I wanted or the answer I was looking for?
A year ago, God answered a prayer for healing. My friend had been battling cancer and was suffering greatly. Her health took a sharp turn in just two weeks. I was grieved and asked Him to either heal her completely or take her home, “but please don’t leave her like this!” She’d been battling osteosarcoma and had just turned 22. The next day, she passed away early in the morning.
I wanted God to restore her to her pre-cancerous self. He chose to remove her pain for eternity. This was not the healing I had prayed for, was it? I wanted Him to answer the prayer my way.
But sometimes, “it’s not the healing you would like.” Maybe we are allowed to endure things for deeper healing. Maybe the healing is still coming. Maybe we are allowed to experience something sad so we can offer strength and comfort to others when they have a similar experience. We validate their pain with “me too.” “I know what you are feeling.” “I’ve been there.”
Don’t lose hope when God’s answer is not the one you asked for. We don’t see or know everything. At BraveGirl Community, we are committed to praying with you. We have seen prayers answered, and even when bad things happen, God can turn them around for His glory.
When we remain faithful to God in trials, it is a slap in the face to our enemy. You are never alone.
The video below is Rachel’s testimony when she’d successfully battled cancer the first time. I believe it will bring hope and encouragement to you today! (And for you email subscribers, here’s the youtube link )
How can we pray for you today? Leave a comment and we’ll be sure to respond!
BraveGirl Tammy ran her first triathlon this weekend. I’m sure her family was there watching and cheering her on to the finish line. I can picture it now, “Go Mommy, Go! You’ve got this! You can do it!” And then finally, “Congratulations! You did it!” at the end.
Each one of us has our own race to run.
In the heat of the race we all need encouragement. We need endurance. We need to hear our names and remember who we are. We need the reminders, “Keep going! Don’t give up! You’ve got this! You’re almost there!”
You are deeply loved.
God planned for you and loves you as a parent loves a child from the very idea of conception. He thinks about you all the time. He has been your cheerleader, advocate, and supporter since the beginning of time.
He loves you so much that He let His own Son die for you, so that you can live with Him forever.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)
He loves you right where you are. Yes, even in our mess, He loves us.
God is love. 1 John 4:8 (NIV)
His perfect love casts out fear. His love casts out jealously. His love casts out anger. His love forgives.
When His love fills your heart there is no room for past hurt or pain.
You are deeply loved. When you love the One who loves you a champion is born within.
He calls out your name and says, “You’ve got this! Hang on! Don’t give up!”
Do not be afraid today. By our faith we know who wins.
For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 1 John 5:4
His love gives you courage. Let the past go so that you may be healed and set free. Let the present go if it is keeping you from Him. You cannot move forward if you continue to hold onto the past.
His love gives you the courage to do the right thing. Make the right choice. Christ will draw you away from the shore into His embrace and His love will crash over you, fill you, and make you brave.
God is for you. God is not against you. God created you and He loves you.
When you know you are completely loved you show love to others.
May your hearts be encouraged and your souls nourished by the depth of His love today…
Would you believe me if I told you I have learned in the past year how to win every fight? Especially if it’s not my fault? All I have to do is picture a traffic light.
I’m sure that you have had somebody close fight with you. You don’t know where it came from, or the magnitude surprises you. Your knee-jerk reaction is one of pain and perhaps retaliation.
This is when you need to visualize a traffic light. Big time!
Green! (Quick to LISTEN)
Stop all noise. Virtual and otherwise. Turn off your phone, get away from people, find some solitude and quiet. Especially if you are reading a comment on Facebook or a text message. Take time to come down from your initial emotional reaction. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you. Maybe go for a walk. Pray. Remove yourself from the situation for a minute. Perhaps you are just an unfortunate recipient of somebody’s pain and hurt, and it has nothing to do with you at all. Are they under a lot of stress? Have there been recent changes or losses in their life? What may have caused them to lash out?
Yellow. (Slow to SPEAK)
We want to answer immediately. Often, though, our emotional response is less than gracious. Giving yourself a day or two (if possible) before responding can also open an opportunity for explanation. Maybe their intent did not come through in their words. What they meant to say and what they actually said could be two different things. You can ask questions to clarify, giving the benefit of the doubt, and possibly receive a resolution immediately.
If you are genuinely upset, a vague “rant” on Facebook will stir up curiosity from many not involved. Leave them out of it. Instead, if you must talk to someone—choose only one. Speak to them directly if you can. The digital age often results in misinterpretations with lack of facial expression. Emojiis just don’t cut it compared to tone of voice.
Red. (Slow to become ANGRY)
Assume the best about this person. If you’ve had a great relationship until now, a fight is upsetting. Why? You are afraid of losing this friendship. You clearly value this person and what they think of you—which is why you feel so wounded. Don’t throw away what you have in a moment of pain. Remember why you like them. Pray for them. Ask for reconciliation. Will this matter a month from now? A year from now?
“Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.” ~Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)
If you didn’t immediately recognize our traffic light, it’s found in James 1:19. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This, my friends, is how we win the fight. We choose love.
Sometimes, we will have to love from far away, but often “hurting people hurt people.” There is a hurt inside that person that is spreading like a wildfire. You can choose to respond in love and stop the cycle of hurt.
How can we pray for you?
You’re going to have many role models as you grow up. From your parents, teachers, family members, and friends, life will give you many examples to follow. You might even look up to musicians, pastors, or celebrities one of these days. Whoever you choose to hold in high esteem, I hope those people point you to Jesus. Above all, I hope you pattern your life after His because there is no greater person to value than the Son of God.
Besides the four Gospels, there are numerous passages in the Bible that shed light on Jesus’ example. The twelfth chapter of Romans finishes strong, offering a clear picture of how Christ followers should strive to interact with and respond to others this side of Heaven.
Here are ten ways to live like Jesus:
1. Love genuinely. (v 9)
It’s easy to love my own. I love my people, the ones I most relate to, naturally and genuinely. Love becomes a challenge, and often near-impossible, when I’m faced with those who look, believe, or sin differently than I do. It’s easier to write someone off or label them than it is to love them. So how do I demonstrate true affection when it becomes a struggle? The answer is Jesus. He loves each one of us with a deep, authentic, unfathomable kind of devotion. If I am to show this love to the ones I find hard to accept, I have to tap into His supernatural resources. I have to dip my cup into His stream of mercy until it overflows and naturally pours out of me. Walking in genuine love is possible with Christ.
2. Honor others. (v 10)
It’s been said before, Your life is not about you.” When I get wrapped up in my to-do list, I forget to really see others around me. And if I don’t notice people, I can’t reach them for Christ. Honoring others means I put my own agenda on the back burner so that God’s plan might be furthered through me. What does it mean to honor others? Maybe I go out of my way to do something unexpected and unrequested for someone, whether they’re a friend or a stranger. Perhaps I put somebody’s needs before my own. Any time I sacrifice joyfully, not for recognition or reward but because I want the light of Christ to shine, I’m magnifying my Savior. Jesus himself modeled honoring behaviors by healing, forgiving, and serving. He won many to His cause through this radical, loving actions.
3. Serve your Heavenly Father with passion. (v 11)
The passion I need in order to serve God comes from nurturing an honest personal relationship with Him. I think about my best friends and how none of them started out that way. It took time, back and forth communication, and a deep understanding of a person’s character before a deep friendship based on trust could develop. It’s no different with Jesus. When He walked the earth He got real, eating meals, forging friendships, and making memories with the disciples and other followers around Him. I have to be as intentional in cultivating a relationship with Christ as I am with my favorite people. The passion I feel for serving Jesus is a direct correlation to the amount of time I spend with Him.
4. Rejoice in hope, have patience in tribulation, and pray continually . (v 12)
Jesus set the bar high on this one. He relied on the Father’s plan, trusting that as His purpose was carried out in human form, Almighty God would raise Him back up to immortality. Christ rejoiced in knowing mankind would have fresh hope to be reconciled to God because of the cross. He stayed in close communion with his dad, often retreating to pray. Because He talked to God so much, He had the ability to display remarkable patience in the face of persecution and accusations. He willingly suffered. He possessed true joy. He did it all for me. For you. For all of creation. And because He lives in me, I claim these characteristics in the midst of my circumstances. Whatever darkness I’m confronted with, if I respond with joy, patience, and prayerful meditation, people around me will take note. They’ll see something different – they’ll see Jesus.
5. Help those in need and be hospitable. (v 13)
I’m extremely blessed to live in relative opulence. I have a roof over my head, some cash in the bank, a cozy bed to sleep in, a pantry full of food, and a little family to dote on. I haven’t been given these amenities because I deserve them or so that I can kick back and luxuriate my way through life. I know that “to whom much is given much is required.” I’m in a wonderful position to take my money, time, talents, and material wealth and pass them along to those who are lacking. I gravely sin when I hoard these blessings and refuse to open my house, wallet, food, and heart to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the orphan. Jesus walked the path of charity. He’s calling you and me to join Him – so I’m slipping on my shoes and rushing to catch up!
6. Bless your enemies. (v 14)
“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If ever there was an acceptable time to curse an enemy, I’d say the moment that they’re nailing your wrists and feet to a cross, piercing you with a sword, and mocking you as you die ranks pretty high on the list . I don’t get mad about a lot, but if you disrespect my Lord, I’m ready to throw down. I get angry when I read about the suffering Jesus endured at His crucifixion. Then He goes and speaks a blessing over the ones who are murdering Him, and I’m chagrined, much like Peter after he cut off the centurion’s ear in defense of Jesus. My only real enemy is Satan. My existence is reduced to petulant dramatics when I spend it dwelling on revenge. I want to live the way Jesus died – offering forgiveness even as I’m being wronged. Blessing those who may never feel anything but contempt for me and what I stand for.
7. Share in the joys and sorrows of those around you. (v 15)
Jesus wept when he heard the news of a friend’s death. He celebrated weddings and feasts with family. He had compassion. He delighted in local children. He immersed Himself in the joys and sorrows of those He loved. He’s equally invested in me. One way I want to follow Him is to entangle my life with the lives of my companions, however messy it might get. I can show up. I can laugh, cry, hug, and listen. I can encourage and even talk some sense into them when need be. I can share my junk because they’ve shared theirs too. I can link arms with these kindred spirits I’ve claimed as my own and forge through the muck towards Jesus.
8. Esteem others higher than yourself in the name of peace. (v 16-18)
But for Christ, we would all look the same to God: black hearted and full of evil darkness. It’s the second I forget about the state I was in when He rescued me that I start to walk a precarious tightrope of self-righteousness. I begin to confuse His presence, the only good thing within me, with my own disposition. I put my opinions, viewpoints, and experiences on this pedestal of self-worship. I become judge, jury, and executioner of anyone who dares to cross me. And it’s like I’ve dressed myself in the finest royal garments shipped straight from the King – oblivious to the fact that I’m actually wearing filthy, soiled rags of my own making. I’m not fooling anyone except myself. I wreak havoc on those in my wake, bruising souls and crushing spirits in the name of truth and justice. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He traded a throne for a cross. His righteousness is all I can boast in. His peace is worth calling a truce for.
9. Leave your battles in God’s hands. (v 19-20)
I cringe when I think of times in my life when I’ve let anger get the best of me and then lashed out impulsively. My heart breaks when I think about how many non-believers are turned away from saving faith by witnessing Christians duke it out amongst ourselves. When I feel justified, filled with righteous indignation, or entitled to my anger, I’m more apt to storm the battlefield without a working weapon or an exit strategy. You don’t have to be in the military to know that’s a recipe for failure. Jesus was accused of things He was innocent of. He was interrogated, beaten, and killed by spiteful, smugly moralistic men. Not once did He defend Himself or argue. Christ knew and relied on a truth that’s sometimes hard for me to accept: God is fighting my battle on my behalf. He is a formidable, undefeated opponent. If He is for me, who can be against me?
10. Overcome evil with good. (v 21)
In today’s society, evil seems to be gaining ground. At times it feels like darkness is choking out the light. I have to remind myself of one thing when I start to feel discouraged: Christ has overcome ALREADY. If I belong to Him, I’m on the winning side. Why should I live a defeated life when I share a being with His triumphant Spirit? On my own strength I can overcome little. Evil engulfs me if I try to fly solo. But I’m not alone. I’m sheltered under the umbrella of His protection. I am more than a conquerer! I have the ability through Jesus Christ to overcome the evil around me with good. I have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, and self-control on my side. I defeat wickedness by DAILY stepping in Jesus’ footprints, letting Him guide me to loving others. It’s an arduous journey – He never said it would be easy – but it’s a trip with a greatly-desired destination…my home in Heaven.
I’m praying you’ll join me in this layover-life as I attempt to humbly honor the Father, genuinely love others, and offer everything I am to the One who makes my brokenness beautiful.
I am in a unique position today. As I read and hear opinions from opposing sides of the Supreme Court’s decision on same sex marriage, my heart gets it…from both sides. My position is unique because I identified myself as a lesbian and was part of the LGBT community for several years, yet I am now married to a wonderful man and together we have a beautiful son.
I would like to apologize for Christians who are not acting like Christians towards the LGBT community. It is not anyone’s job to condemn. God’s word tells us we have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. I have no right or authority to consider myself better or more righteous than anyone else. For it is by God’s grace alone that I have been saved, through faith, which is not of myself. It is a gift of God so that I cannot boast for what I’ve done (Ephesians 2:10).
Because of my own past, I believe I have a great understanding of the hearts of those who are living within the LGBT community. When I read their thoughts, I totally get it, and my heart aches. They just want to be heard and want to love the person they love. They want that love recognized just as heterosexual love is recognized. They can’t help the way they were born. They didn’t choose it, it chose them. What is wrong with loving someone? After all…GOD. IS. LOVE. He CREATED it! Those are the same thoughts and words that came out of my mouth for several years. I knew I was born gay. I was the girl who hated wearing dresses and begged my mom for a San Diego Charger’s football uniform when I was 6 years old. My favorite thing to do was play tackle football, turn my G.I. Joe men into ruthless warriors, beat the boys in sports, walk, talk, and dress like a little dude. I was all “boy” yet I was still a girl.
So I get where the LGBT community is coming from because I was once a huge part of it. I lived the lesbian lifestyle for years and appreciated and valued everything it stands for. To this day, I have many LGBT friends and I adore them because they are beautiful people on the inside and out. Several have been in long lasting loving relationships with one another and have exemplified a strong commitment to each other for years. I believe it is possible to do that. But I also believe there’s more to it than that.
When it comes to my own personal journey as a lesbian, my parents and friends knew about it and I was free to live how I wanted to live. But something happened to me. I had developed into an alcoholic. I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous and was in and out of A.A. for a few years until I finally came to a place of complete brokenness and surrender. It was there that I began to rely on God in every moment of my life in order to stay sober. My sponsor in A.A. recommended not dating anyone while getting sober so that I wouldn’t shift my dependency from alcohol over to another person. She was well aware of how I identified myself and loved and accepted me anyway. I’ll forever be grateful for that. Her main concern was that I focused on God and healing. I didn’t dream where it would take me, but I knew it was working. I was staying sober. It was through that sobriety that I started discovering things about myself that I had never looked at before…ways I viewed men and women.
I saw great strength and power in the male gender and that’s what I wanted to possess. But I also rejected men because I didn’t trust, respect, or value them because of what I had witnessed in my life, different ways men had devalued women. I vowed that would not happen to me and I saw no use for men. I knew I could be successful without a man and would never have to deal with being hurt by one.
Then there was the other part of me that never felt good enough as a female. I rejected many facets of my femininity because I equated them with weakness. I held onto some of those feminine traits because I didn’t want to embarrass my family, or those traits didn’t show too much weakness, or they gave me power in some way. I came to rely on those qualities for success in many areas of my life. But when I saw women that possessed qualities I lacked, I was attracted to them…qualities that were nurturing, gentle, vulnerable, loving, feminine, and beautiful. When I received attention from those females it made me feel important. The more attention I could receive, the more value I felt within myself. Plus, it was easier. I clicked easily with women because they thought, in many ways, the same way I did…because they were women. Also, I TRUSTED women. They were SAFE. That connection also made me feel validated because of that internal rejection within myself about my own femininity. Plus, women were loyal. Not so self-seeking as I believed men to be. And I would be the protector and strong one…the one always in control.
As I continued my journey in staying sober and focusing on God, He began softening my heart towards men. As I grew in Him and my heart began healing, I was able to forgive men that I witnessed hurting others. I also made amends with men that I myself hurt and used for my own selfish gain. As that process continued I began to value men and see how special they really are and how they complement women just as women complement men. I also had the gift of witnessing Godly men around me who were amazing husbands to their wives. They displayed the biblical view of how a husband is to treat his wife. I saw their wives displaying Godly character as well towards their husbands. I couldn’t believe it, my thoughts were changing. My respect and value in men and in marriage began increasing. Along with that, I began to see myself as God sees me. The more I understood who He is, the more I understood who I am in Him. I am fearfully and wonderfully made, the daughter of the One True King. Beautiful. Radiant.
I began to realize that God created men and women to BOTH serve a great purpose. We were BOTH CREATED IN HIS IMAGE, and TOGETHER, when unified with one another, we represent the full of image of God and His relationship with us. That was such a new revelation to me. I never fully understood that until I began to study His word.
Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
A little later in Genesis 2:24, God says, “a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Marriage is an earthly tangible example of God displayed among us. It also shows the beauty of how much He loves us and wants to dwell among us because He is going through US to represent HIM. God created love so that we could experience Him and use that experience to glorify Him. The way we glorify Him is using love the way He intended it to be used…to represent Him.
In Matthew 19:4, Jesus was talking to Pharisees about questions they had regarding divorce. Although the supreme court’s decision does not pertain to divorce but to same sex marriage, Jesus is reaffirming God’s divine creation. Jesus himself said, “Haven’t you read, that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but ONE. Therefore, what God has joined together, let man not separate.”
This was a very powerful statement by Jesus because He not only reaffirmed what God said hundreds of years prior, but he excluded any deviation from God’s original design by clearly stating man and woman. There’s no other way around that statement. He didn’t say, “A man will leave his mother and father and be united with the person he loves.” Jesus was/is all knowing because He was/is the Son of God. He knew what was to come in the future and that there would be this concept of sexual orientation. All He has to say is a man will be united with his wife and that excludes all other forms of two people becoming one flesh, and that’s exactly what He said.
There is also another divine representation of marriage that absolutely cannot be dismissed. A repeated theme occurs throughout the bible referring to the church as the bride of Christ and as Christ as the bridegroom.
A marriage between a man and woman represents the love between Christ and the church, where He gave himself up for her.
In Ephesians Chapter 5, Paul is talking to husbands and wives. He reaffirms just as Jesus did, as he repeats the scripture in Genesis stating “For this reason, man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Then Paul goes on to say, “This is a profound mystery, but I am talking about Christ and the Church.”
And in Revelation 21, this chapter refers to the coming wedding between Christ, the bridegroom, and the church, His bride.
Marriage is the communion WITH God and the image OF God and the symbolic representation of His Son Jesus’ loving union with the church, His people. This is a repeated theme throughout the bible.
Any of us can deviate from God’s sexual design in many other ways other than just homosexuality. God has given us free will to do so. The terms “hetersosexual, homosexual, transgender, and many other forms of gender identity or sexual orientation that exist, are all man made terms. God made us sexual beings who, when unified, were meant to represent Him and His relationship with us. We must be careful to respect The Artist’s design. Afterall, HE created US.
Jesus paid a price so that we could live free of shame and condemnation so that we could be of service to God. Because of that, I can live in a peace and freedom that allows me to love others just as He loves us. Loving Him also means obeying Him and respecting His word because God IS the word.
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God”
Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23
Love Really Wins
If we love Him, we will desire to keep His word. We will not be perfect in doing so because we are sinners incapable of living out a perfect life. That’s why we need Him in our lives. That’s why He gives us grace and His mercies are made new every morning. I personally will mess up every day. But as I put Him first in my life, He continues to transform different parts of me into the likeness of Him. That’s why I need Him in my life daily. He IS my daily bread. I cannot be transformed without Him. Apart from Him, I can do nothing according to His will, because apart from Him, I am a sinner and will carry out every sin I want. Today, I want Him to be my daily bread because I have experienced how good He is. The fruit of putting Him first in my life is by far greater than any other way I have ever lived.
Jesus sat at the table and dined with sinners hoping they would see something different in Him, something better, something especially beautiful, and choose His way over their own. That’s what He wants us to do today.
If you are a skeptic or not a believer in Christ Jesus as the son of God, what I’m saying may not resonate with you. God’s word tells me this in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” I highly recommend you research the word of God. The more I have studied Him, the more I understand His divine plan on this earth and the more His Sovereignty astounds me.
Today, I sit here blown away by the work God has done in my life. Ten years ago, I would never have imagined I would be sitting here writing these words about who God is and how He has transformed my life. There are many moments, especially as I cook dinner with my husband or enjoy the sweet embrace of my son’s hugs that melt me to no end, I shake my head in disbelief. He can do the same in yours if you let Him.
If you are in disagreement with how God has designed marriage, please know that I love you in the midst of our disagreement. I realize this post may cause me to lose friends simply because of my stance on marriage. I hope that’s not the case. I’m not here to stir up trouble. I’m here to kick it and experience life to the fullest. For me that consists of being transformed into the likeness of Christ so that others may know Him through my example. He loves and because I love Him and want to be like Him, I love too. That means you’re included because He loves you and therefore, so do I.
Some things in life bear repeating. For over a month, I have been under the downspout of grace. So, this week I’m sharing what God has shown me. I’m not done with grace, and hope you can handle another dose!
“Justice is getting the bad we deserve.
Mercy is NOT getting the bad we deserve.
Grace is getting the good we don’t deserve.”
~Dr. Helen Fagan
I’ve been learning about grace. Grace is offered to everybody. You may know about it your entire life, or perhaps you don’t. Maybe you live a heavy life of imperfection—knowing you don’t measure up. Then, one day, you hear about grace and you are set free!
Matthew 20 begins with a parable about the kingdom of God. I’d always thought it was speaking about salvation, but am glad to know it is talking about GRACE!
In this parable, a vineyard owner hires workers for a denarius (a day’s wages). As the day wears on, he hires more workers at three or four different times. “In the eleventh hour, he went out and found still others standing around…’You also go and work in my vineyard.’ ”
When it comes to the end of the day, he pays all the workers the same wage, regardless of when they began to work in the day. The all-day workers are upset that the eleventh-hour workers also received a denarius, and that there was no extra pay for themselves.
“He answered one of them, Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous? So the last will be first and the first will be last.”
This doesn’t seem fair, but the truth is? Salvation is not fair. We sinned. Jesus never sinned. He died to pay for our sins. That’s the epitome of “not fair”. And? He did it because He loves us. He knew we could never be sinless, so He spent His own life-blood to pay our ransom.
An excellent example of eleventh-hour grace is given in Luke, chapter 23. Jesus is on the cross, between two criminals. One is taunting and mocking him, but the other defends Jesus. “But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:40-43)
Grace is given to all people, regardless of our stories. Maybe you’ve been a vineyard worker your entire life. You’re serving God with passion and purpose. Maybe you came to him in your childhood. Or maybe in your teens, twenties, fifties, eighties—the amount of grace offered is the same. We can’t earn grace. Our good deeds don’t outweigh our bad ones. Jesus is the one who gives us all that righteousness that we long for.
When you accept grace, it frees you to extend grace to others. We forgive others because all our sins are forgiven. I encourage you to start living in grace. Strive to do your best, but allow a do-over, a fresh start, for the days that are less than your best.
And remember, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
You will find that the more you live in forgiveness, the more peace you find within. You look behind the offense to the hurt that caused a lashing-out. You begin to look on others with love and compassion, and you transform into a vessel full of grace. It begins with one small act of forgiveness and grace at a time, but it becomes a habit and then a lifestyle.
We’re walking this road together, you and I. And don’t forget that grace is extended to you, so forgive yourself as well.
I’ll leave you with a song about Grace. It’s called “Broken Vessels” by Hillsong. It speaks so beautifully about how Jesus sees us. (If you read my posts through our email subscription, you don’t see the video links. The videos are embedded on the web page)
So, here’s the youtube link.
How about you? Are you longing for grace but unsure how to start? Leave a prayer request in the comments. We’d love to pray for you!
I remember the feeling all too well. That gnawing, churning pit of trepidation began in my gut and worked its way to my chest. I remember feeling hazy and weightless, as if my spirit was trying to escape what my body was exposing it to. I was on the edge of a sharp precipice, and my next decision would determine my fate. The boy? Well, I don’t remember too much about him in that moment. I do remember the unspoken challenge in his eyes. The “I dare you” message he was sending me. To this day, I can’t explain what made me push away except that maybe in the midst of the silent roaring between my ears I picked up on a whisper – a still, quiet voice that said, “This is not who you are. You are not his. You are Mine.” And it was enough. I didn’t free-fall into darkness that day; instead, I backed away to safety. He stopped calling. I swore off guys. Ironically, a month later I met the man I would one day marry.
Sounds like an after-school special, doesn’t it? Girl faces temptation but makes the honorable choice. Girl is rewarded with a husband. Yeah…except there was slightly more to it than that. My story cannot begin to be summed up in this one event, but that night almost fifteen years ago was a defining moment in my young life. At nineteen years old, I did make a choice. I said no. Part of me wanted to say yes, but mostly so I wouldn’t disappoint a boy who clearly wasn’t giving me the same consideration. And while I still managed to blow it big time in many ways over the following months, that decision unveiled an inner strength that could only have come from God. So why even mention that night? Because of the redemptive power of Jesus – you see, this story, my story, is really all about Him…
My favorite book of the Bible is Romans, and Chapter 12 holds a special place in my heart. Each of its’ twenty-one verses have helped shape me as a woman and continually challenge me to look at others through the eyes of Jesus. The first verse specifically speaks to Christians who struggle with temptation:
This verse…wow. It’s not one of the more popular, make-you-feel-good verses we love to quote on Facebook and Pinterest. This verse is a command to every saved man, woman, boy, and girl. It’s a verse that unapologetically declares we are to treat our bodies as if they are not really ours to lay claim to. It’s hard to hear and even harder to adhere to.
So what do you do with this verse if you feel a sharp sting of shame when you read it? What if, like me and thousands of other women around the world, you’re guilty of offering bits and pieces of your body up on that relentless altar of lust? Maybe you’re dealing with consequences of your past choices: disease, ruined relationships, emotional turmoil, or separation from God. As you read these words, you may even be thinking to yourself that your life is over. It’s hopeless. You’ve made so many wrong turns that the way back to Jesus seems impossible to find.
This is quite an uplifting letter, am I right? (insert sarcastic emoji) Hang with me, if you will, because Good News is on the way! The One who created you knows all about your sin, and His opinion of you might just sweep you off your feet. Shake off the Enemy’s lies that you are worthless, alone, or beyond the reaches of Christ’s love. My darling daughter, take a moment to consider Scripture. Remember who you belong to. Start fresh today.
Remember Who You Belong To
This beautiful truth from Isaiah says it all. You are His. He knows you, and He calls you by your name. He has redeemed you. That word – redeem – is one of my favorites. If you are a child of God, you have been redeemed. It’s eternal. Nothing you do could ever separate you from His love (Romans 8:35-39). That fact alone should make your soul leap!
He hasn’t condemned you, even if you struggle to forgive yourself. Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” If you are a daughter of the Risen King, He will never cast you aside. What’s more, His abounding grace is strong enough to break the chains of sin that paralyze you.
Read Psalm 139:1-6 and 17-18. Trust me on this. Even if you’re familiar with the passage, read it again. When my spirit needs to be refreshed, when I’m longing for a love that surpasses human capacity, or when I’m doubting my qualifications as a representative of Christ, I find the most comfort out of these verses. I marvel at a Savior who reaches out to cradle me even as I’ve wronged Him.
Take a moment to absorb the magnitude of His all-consuming love for you. You don’t deserve it. Neither do I. But it’s ours for the taking if we’ll only receive it!!
Start Fresh Today
By now, I imagine you’re feeling at least a glimmer of hope that your messy and marred life-offering can be salvaged. With a renewed confidence in His love for you, you can boldly make your next move. If you really desire to present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, you’ve got to do some turning.
There’s a well-known story found in John 8 that describes Jesus’ reaction to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Her accusers were eager to carry out a death sentence. She must have felt panic and terror, but not a lot of hope for rescue. As Jesus silently wrote in the dirt, her denouncers began to leave, one by one. I wonder what went through her mind as she faced the Son of God. He could have justifiably handed down a myriad of punishments. Instead, He tells her she is not condemned. He says, “Go, and sin no more.”
Can’t you just picture the shock and relief that must have registered on the woman’s face as she felt the weight of her sin replaced with the freedom of forgiveness? What an amazing testament to the character of Jesus! Notice, though, His parting words: “sin no more.” He didn’t say, “Eh, it’s not that big of a deal to commit adultery.” He didn’t give her a free pass to keep on living her life the way she had been. He gave her a second chance to turn things around. An opportunity to change her ways. He expected that out of her and He also expects the same from us.
So how do we go about this turning away from sin business? It can be a daunting process, but it’s infinitely worth it! It might even look different in your life than it has in mine. In my experience, I have found five things that work:
1. Pray often. Daily. Come clean before your Heavenly Father. Praise Him. Ask for His forgiveness. Pour out your heart. Bare your soul. He knows it all anyway, but there’s something about having an honest conversation with God that brings healing and clarity. (1 Thess. 5:17)
2. Read the Word. Allow inspired truth to break down your defenses. Pursue Jesus. Let Him speak to you. Believe what He says. Hide His words in your heart. (Psalm 119:11)
3. Seek Counseling. Confide in a family member or trusted friend. Talk to a pastor. Find a professional if necessary. Turning requires healing.
4. Find Supportive Friends. Distance yourself from negative influences. Get to know someone new. Be brave. Don’t walk through this alone. Be accountable to someone you trust.
5. Serve Someone. Stop thinking about yourself all the time. Get your hands dirty. Be God’s hands and feet. Meet a need. Sacrifice your time. Do it with love.
None of us can change our past. We all face temptations daily on every level. We are weak. But God understands our limitations. He knows you and He meets you where you are. He will walk with you and give you strength that’s made perfect in your weakness. If you’re reading this and you don’t know what it is to succumb to sexual temptation, I say to you: keep doing your thing, girlfriend! God’s will for all of His children is that each of us choose a path of purity. It’s no small thing to accomplish, but with the Father’s help you can persevere. And daughter, I pray that as you walk your path you will not allow your past to define who you are. Give your future to the Redeemer, and turn towards Him with every fiber of your being. He IS faithful. He’s cheering you on, and so am I!