Why You Should Practice the “F” Word

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“Rebekah, stop saying mean words to your sister Hannah! She loves you,” I corrected my oldest daughter a few days ago. We have had quite the battles with the tongue lately.

“Noooo! She does not love me!” Rebekah shouted.

“When I was little, she took my paci out of my mouth and it was sooo rude!”

I looked at Rebekah and had to laugh as it reminded me of her pacifier obsession a few years ago. Weaning her from those green rubber suckers was such a work-out! She found them no matter how well Jeremiah and I hid them. I had no idea she remembered Hannah trying to steal them from her.

The conversation reminded me that some things just don’t die off in life or are that easily forgivable even to a young child. Whether it’s a hurtful word or action, an unmet expectation, or a harm done against us that we just can’t seem to move past, forgiveness is really, really hard. It is an act of the will. It is a choice that we are commanded of in Scripture because we have been forgiven of so much. But that doesn’t mean the sting and pain will disappear over night.

I love what Atlanta-based pastor Charles Stanley once said:

Forgiveness does not recant the fact that what happened to us was wrong. Instead, we roll our burdens onto the Lord and allow Him to carry them for us.

IMG_0368_blogWhen we remain in bitterness, anger, and resentment, we remain in our chains. But when we choose to break off those chains, rolling our burdens onto the Lord, we find freedom because He is carrying the load for us. We find peace, love, patience, gentleness, joy, abundant life, transformation and more.

It is only in Jesus’ strength that we can truly forgive someone who has deeply wounded us. It is only by His hands that we can walk through the fires that seek to destroy our hearts. And sometimes he asks us to do hard things: To confess our harbored bitterness or go to the person who has offended us. Sometimes, we have to be really brave and forgive ourselves.

Do your wounds run deep from pain inflicted on you or pain that you have caused? They may not be quite as small as a pacifier offense, but don’t neglect that the hurt is real. Last year, I went through a 12-step recovery ministry at our church in Dallas called Regeneration.  Our leadership from the front strongly encourages people to go through the program because we all have areas where we struggle. During my time, I had to participate in a personal moral inventory where I had to write down every sin committed against me and every sin I have committed against another.

It was a grueling process. And not only that, I had to confess it to two trusted mentor friends. I somewhat dreaded the evening I was to confess. I was a bit terrified of what my friends would think but to my surprise, it was one of the most freeing and healing moments of my 32 years of life. I was accepted, not judged, and met with compassion and understanding. There was just something about writing my sins down and knowing that Jesus had died for every one of them. My sins were why he had to come. And he loved me unconditionally. And not only my sins, but the sins of the whole world. It was also in that process where I was able to see more clearly what I needed to forgive.

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The truth is that forgiveness isn’t always a one time deal. It is something we need a great deal of help on and it doesn’t always mean slapping a band-aid on the wound and saying, “Just forgive. Get over it.” The wounds have to be exposed, brought into the light, and cleaned out deeply before they can fully heal.

Forgiveness is also something that has to be practiced. It’s something of a discipline. All I really know is that it’s something of a God-thing. It is only by His power that we can truly forgive.

Remember that Jesus is always there for you when you need to confess: I hurt. I can’t carry this burden of bitterness anymore. Please help me forgive so that I may live a life of freedom and help others in turn.

What do you need to forgive today? Are you practicing the command to forgive?

Starting Celebrate Recovery

My pastor Todd speaks regularly from the stage about how the healthiest people in our church body are those who’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery and have dealt with their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” in light of Scripture.

I’ve held back from going to CR for a long time because I didn’t struggle with alcohol addiction or drugs or anything like that. I struggled with other “minor” things you know and I didn’t need a silly program to help me out. God and his Word could help me fine.

Well last Monday, after a long three months of my husband and I deciding to commit, we went to our first meeting. The first part of the night included corporate worship, a personal testimony of someone who’s gone through the 12-18 month program, and a separate introduction for newcomers. One guy on stage introduced himself and said, “I’m a believer in Christ who struggles with pornography.”

My eyes grew wide and I looked at Jeremiah, whispering, “That was really awkward.”

The guy went on to share more about the program.

It was rare to see people so open about their struggles publicly in a safe environment, but I knew God had taken them through a process- the process I was there for.

When it was time to go to our open group consisting of about 15 or so women (they split up men and women), we went around in the circle of complete strangers and shared what we think we struggle with. I was nervous, but when some of the women began to share I realized that none of us were alone. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I was hearing. Then it was my turn. I got a little teary eyed and pushed these words out:

“I don’t want to be here. It’s my pride. But I’m a believer in Christ who struggles at times with anxiety, anger, and control.”

To my surprise, after I confessed those struggles I felt like a balloon that had been popped with a needle! There was such relief and I was one step closer to freedom.

Reflecting on my time that night, I realized that my thinking was so evil and carnal regarding the “bigger” sins. Who was I to think that my sins were less damaging? Or that I was “above” CR? The hard truth is that we all struggle with something and sin is sin no matter what. Perhaps the reason we are Christians is because we don’t have it all together. We must depend on God alone.

I admit, I still have pride in my heart that God is working on and I know it’s going to be a humbling process. I didn’t even want to write this post or really let you know that I’m going through the program. I fought hard at telling you the truth.

But I want to be as authentic as I can with you about my faith and where I’m at.

Well, I probably won’t always write official posts about what’s going on in my life through CR but I’m sure you’ll see glimpses of what I’m learning through my writing. And I hope that whatever God decides to teach me that it will encourage you in your struggles.

Tonight is my second week (taking a deep breath). Maybe it won’t feel as awkward?! Hmm. Probably. not. Yet. We’ll see.

Whiter than Snow

Last week, while we were eating out I gazed out the window and snow started sprinkling out of the dark sky, covering the sheet of snow on the ground. It was heavenly. So clean. Fresh. Pure. I could almost taste it. I laughed and smiled like a little girl.

I was reminded of the verse in Isaiah that says: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isa. 1:18

Sin stains. It’s dirty. Evil. Wicked. It breaks the heart of God. It has separated all of us from His love. Its pathway leads to death.

Sin doesn’t deserve to be made whiter than snow.

But because of Jesus’ suffering on the cross, his resurrection, and our repentance and belief in Him, we’re made clean again. The crimson stain is blotted out because of his shed blood- as if we’ve never rebelled at all.

Today, even though there’s no blanket of snow keeping the ground warm here in Dallas, I feel like a little girl leaping for joy that my sins are forgiven, but also perplexed why God chooses to save us?


Leading Yourself Well

1161714_kids_under_treePhillip Brooks, a 19th century clergyman once said that “Character is made in the small moments of our lives.”

Typically, the real test of character is not in one huge defining moment but is in the daily choices made every day and that includes in the mundane details of life.

In college I read a really impacting book called Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. In it, Sanders asks some really challenging questions when it comes to leadership. They have really made me think and realize that I’ll never lead anyone past how I am leading myself. This could potentially be a scary thought, but more so, it’s really challenging and encourages me to grow.

These questions have spurred me on to have a clearer vision for what it means to produce character in my life. Here they go:

Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead, we must master our appetites.

Do you keep self-control when things go wrong?

Can you handle criticism?

Can you turn disappointment into a creative new opportunity?

Can you exert discipline without making a power play?

Are you a peacemaker?

Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?

Do you depend on praise from others to keep you going?

Can you forgive?

Do you welcome responsibility?

Do you “use” people or cultivate people?

Question for discussion:  Why do you think it’s important to lead yourself well? What struggles have you had in leading others?

A Passion for Marriage

sex-was-gods-idea-01Recently, my friend Cheli challenged me with something simple and profound. She said what if I lived my whole life with a passion for my marriage? Just how different would my marriage look?

I haven’t run into too many people who say they want to have a lifelong passion for their marriage. I often hear of a passion for a career, a life-long goal, sport, hobby, or whatever but not necessarily for their marriage. If we were passionate about working hard at our marriage, I bet people would stay together. Any time we have a passion for something, we tend to invest tons of time into that one thing. We can’t go a day with out it. And our life just isn’t complete without.

I’m determined to begin viewing my marriage with more passion. It’s not that I haven’t before but I want to have the mindset that my marriage is the most important thing than anything else right after my relationship with Christ. In the end, I think my son’s life will be most impacted by the kind of relationship I have with my husband, even more than the relationship I have with him. Did I love and respect my husband well? Did I show my son truly how to love another person with passion?

I sure hope so.

What does it look like for you to have a passion for your marriage? If you’re single, what does it look like to start becoming passionate about having the kind of marriage you dream of and working hard towards that?

12-year old speaks out on abortion

Abortion. It has happened to one out of four women in the church today (yes, the church). Abortion is familiar territory in my husband’s family. Sitting on her couch one day, my relative chose to reveal the pain she still carries today 35 or so years ago. Hers was performed in the 70s when free love and free sex danced among the streets. When not much was known about abortion- just that it was a procedure.

“We [her husband] just did it not knowing what we were doing,” she told me. “I’m sick to my stomach every time I think about it. The loss is still with me knowing we have a baby in heaven.”

It felt surreal to hear about her pain– the emotional, physical, and spiritual toll it has had on her. She knows it and desires to educate others about the trauma she experienced and deals with today.

The bottom line is that God’s grace is still near. His forgiveness is real no matter what what we have done. And she knows that. But sadly, it will never take away the pain she senses every day. This video of a courageous 12 yr. old girl stirs my heart to action– especially now that I have a greater glimpse into just how deep the pain cuts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOR1wUqvJS4]

I am Second

cornFor several months, I had seen billboards for I AM SECOND here in Dallas and never knew what it was. A few weeks ago, my pastor Todd did a message on prayer and showed a powerful video of a woman sharing her story of the hardships she faced growing up, living on the streets, and eventually giving herself to prostitution. Our whole church was really moved by her story and at the end of the video, we found out that Karen was a part of I am Second. Not only that, Todd had invited her to be a part of our service. She talked with us about prayer and giving her life to Christ. It was really awesome to have Karen there.

Countless real-life stories fill the site of I am Second. There are people like Brian Welch formerly from Korn, Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys), Joe Gibbs, Stephen Baldwin, Jason Castro (I just love the way his story was done) and more. It’s truly incredible to hear their stories and how God intervened in their life and how he wants to do the same in ours. His grace is for everyone to accept no matter where we’ve come from or what we’ve done. That’s exactly why Christ came- to free us from sin that ultimately chains us to bondage. Condemnation wasn’t the reason he came, but because of his love and grace alone towards all people. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear. I truly hate how this message has been distorted by “religion” and false teaching. It has clouded the truth that Christ will do everything it takes for us to know him and be set free from sin. He has no concern for religion but for a relationship. This reality has invaded my life and I can’t help but speak about it too.

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