Fear is the Final Defense Tactic Against God’s Goodness

Every single good and worthy thing I have ever done has been preceded by fear. A lot of fear.

Fear is a tool used by Satan to debilitate. It is his last ditch defense against God’s will for us, against God’s blessings, against injustice being addressed.

And the lie is that we have to wait for fear to dissipate before we can act.

Except, who ever changed history devoid of fear? When did God ever shy away from showing us a fear-filled hero?

You see, our fear is the stage God displays HIS might upon.

…like Peter stepping out onto uncertain waters

…like a proud Syrian Commander who could not fathom washing in a dirty river

…like a Queen who stepped out in bold humility, in all her beauty and warmth and strength, to move the heart of a stoic King

…like a prostitute who wept before the feet of Jesus in a room full of men

…like a young slave who gained the trust of a Nation and a Pharaoh and healed up the brokenness of a family who hated him

…like a boy who held out his lunch toward the hands of a kind Savior

…sometimes fear does not go away, and you have to step out and stand up and kneel down anyway.

And that’s when God moves the waters. That’s when God heals. That’s when God saves his people, and the hearts of the broken, and the nations and the families who forgot to love in the first place.

That is when God does miracles…

Don’t be afraid of fear: God is just beyond the curtain of it, waiting to do his work.

From Victim to Healed: The Journey of Lament

No matter your story, no matter the type of abuse or level of abuse you might have endured, all sin wounds. And simply because all sin wounds, there is grief in the world.

Here it is: the truth about pain: it must be grieved before it can be gone.

Brokenness doesn’t go away. It must be forced to leave. If you let it, pain it will turn your heart to ugly stone. It will rot your soul until all that comes out of you is the stink of hurt.

Hurting people, hurt people.

If YOU are hurting people. And if you find that you cannot apologize or open your heart or show true emotion. If conflict follows you and relationships fall into the crevices of pride…if you lie a lot…then you have pain in your life you haven’t grieved and it’s eating you whole. It’s eating you a hole.

Maybe your grief isn’t that complicated. Maybe it’s impossible. Maybe you can’t even say what happened to you. Or maybe you’ve let fear own you.

It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter even one second out of eternity.

Because Jesus already paid it all, didn’t he? And when he died the blood he spilled reached all the way back to the first light of the first start beam, and all the way ahead to the final light when the last beams fade.

God isn’t in time. He’s over time. So when God bled he covered all time.

And you…are…covered…too…

What The Past Decade Has Taught Me

When I turned 20 I couldn’t imagine myself at 30. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I would survive the next ten years: depression was so dense around me.

I knew God was good and there, but I just couldn’t seem to reach him. Like he was an ever-moving target…and there always seemed to be a veil in front of me.

I’ve since learned that God isn’t far away at all, he is near. He bends down so low to reach us that the wind carries his breath on wings invisible and the dark tones of the sea surface are merely mirroring his infinite depth.

I’ve learned that a good friend is worth the weight of gold. Because when life is full of wonder and new babies and delight, you need a Celebrator beside you. And when life is dim and heartbreaking and everything rips apart, you need a Champion beside you. A Shoulder.

And no one ever told me that Love could change you so: sometimes its feathers and you fly, sometimes its heavy and you grow. But oh! how it changes just everything.

I’ve learned that losing a pregnancy is a strange kind of grief…because only you felt it and only you know that someone is missing from the day-to-day. And every once in a while a flutter reminds you that there is a little body absent from the dinner table. And you wonder…How is it possible to miss a soul you never met? But I’m grateful that it is.

I’ve learned that Motherhood is mostly just the practice of repetitive release. Release of expectations. Release of yourself. Release of controlling the outcome. Release of all the opinions…until you finally find that life you always wanted. Until you finally find the joy in Motherhood is in the imperfection of it, because that is where God meets us most bold.

I’ve learned that hard work is a given. Pain is inevitable. And grief is a part of life. But also so is joy!

I’ve learned that the people who love you, who actually love you, will always want the best for you and not just for themselves. Selfishness is rampant and generosity rare. Be rare.

And I’ve learned that confrontation often reveals true character…on both ends.

I’ve learned that vulnerability is scary but worth it. And I’ve learned that being the same person at home and in public is both possible and freeing. But most of all, it’s what we are called to: humble authenticity.

Here is where the story unfolds…here at the end of a decade that began with sadness and all the empty things but ends hand-in-hand with a good man and three precious little children I get to call my own.

Here…where I learned that God isn’t just enough. He’s too much. He’s everything. And everything is perfect, because that’s exactly what I need.

This is what 10 years taught me, the sacred lessons that all the brokenness tried to keep from me: God doesn’t weave in and out of our lives like a bird diving underneath the surface over and over, beads of wet slipping off it’s feathers…God simply resides with steadfast love so deep it overflows and reaches out from the furthest crevices of the universe.

God is

And that is the most profound lesson of all, isn’t it?

Dear Super Bowl…you are the single most trafficked event in America: a rallying cry

Sexual brokenness is everywhere.

It lingers in the darkness of every city and town, it rages through our homes and our schools and our churches. It reaches to grab hold of the youngest and most innocent, leaving a trail of slaves writhing in the deceit of all the promises and all the false allure.

People say that sex is fun. Yep. It is.

People say that sex should be exciting. That it should be whatever is best for you.

And that is where Jesus stands bold in the gap of “expression” with his arms stretched out, bleeding. Where we are uncertain and curious and fallen he is steadfast.

People say that Christians don’t even know. That we have a limited and old-fashioned and hypocritical view of sex. After all, the scandals…you know? Those priests and pastors with dark secrets and layers of sin even God himself cannot look past? Plus..we miss out on so. much. fun.

But wait…

Didn’t God even just say, be fruitful and multiply?

Didn’t God even create this world for men and women. Is he, after all, so surprised by our longings? Sexuality was not an accidental byproduct of creation. God is intentional, and only ever so.

Lean in. And listen close…God does not create sexual brokenness: we invite it when we discard God.

If I. If You. If We…only listened to the One who is Eternal there would be no brokenness in this place. The arena of sexual brokenness would be nonexistent.

There would be no rape. Abortion would all but disappear. There would be no sexually transmitted diseases. No AIDS. No incest. Fatherless and Motherless and Children would nearly disappear from the planet. There would be no pornography. No abuse within an industry labeled as “Adult Entertainment”. No cheating or affairs. Less divorce. Better marriages. Stronger families.

But all of this doesn’t really matter, does it? Because we kind of want those things, don’t we?

We lament the existence of child pornography but we secretly long for the touch of a strangers hands on our skin. We cry out against brothels but we consume image after image of harmless fun even after story after story is told of abuse and coercion and exploitation.

And we run to express ourselves and cover our skin with inked images of seductive women.

Really…we want most but not necessarily all of the darkness of sexual brokenness.

And everywhere men are taken in by the allurement of it all and leave behind a hurricane of disaster in pursuit of their own fulfillment.

And then we grieve the loss of innocence.

And then we grieve the shame inflicted upon us by unwanted actions.

Sexual brokenness is darkest this day of all others. But all days sexual brokenness is everywhere.

This day of sport and hard work and dedication and gatherings of friends and food and hilarious commercials, its all so marred by the behind-the-scenes. But it doesn’t have to be.

You want to change the world? Change yourself.

You want to change the statistics? Change what you absorb.

The only person you control is yourself. And if you can’t, you are part of the problem. If I can’t, I’m part of the problem too.

We cannot simultaneously grieve the existence of darkness while secretly beckoning it near. Because the dark will ALWAYS win if Christians do not stand against it.

We led the fight to legally end slavery. We cross oceans to further The Gospel. We have spoken the truth against all odds and stood in the gap of culture for centuries. Across time, and from the beginning, God has repeatedly intervened and brought about justice for the least. And we are commanded to do the same.

I know that feeling of belittling. I know that feeling of shame and fear so tangible your eyes lose focus and your breath cannot escape from your lungs. I know the feeling of sexual abuse.

And today, when so many others are feeling the same, when men and women choose to exploit and engage without question in acts behind closed doors…the depth of sexual brokenness reaches far beyond four walls and a bed.

Men and Women of God may we not stand silently by. May WE act with honor and boldness and on behalf of those who are used. May we love those who are labeled. May we turn our eyes in disgust at the subjection of human bodies.

Search your own heart before you point that finger. Lift up the face of a stranger and show her the face of Jesus. Freely offer worth to the broken in all the humility of the heavens.

Jesus stretched out his arms for you. And your worth is great. And Jesus also stretched out his arms for them…and their worth is great.

Now go and act like it.

Praying Honest Prayers

I collect thoughts like a child collects pebbles on a rocky sea shore.

Some of my thoughts are lovely, colorful, and I will keep them forever. Some I will discard immediately. Others are ugly and useless but it still takes a while to let them go…

…you know the ones.

We are told to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Honestly, that just sounds exhausting. But something I’ve learned about creating new habits, the longer you do them, the easier they become. What is initially self-discipline becomes automatic.

Ah!

Taking every thought captive doesn’t necessarily mean consciously inspecting each thought, it goes much deeper than that: it also means thinking honestly.

Eh?

I used to be a habitual lier. I started lying to cover abuse, and then shame, and it grew and grew until I had so many lies they were like those ugly little pebbles, only I didn’t know how to open my fingers and release them. Even deeper, I often lied to myself and God.

I am learning. I am learning to be honest and to tell the truth. First to God. Then to myself. Because it is actually really difficult to present all your thoughts openly before the throne of grace when your thoughts aren’t even honest.

I always felt I needed to pray these eloquent, somewhat emotionally distant prayers. But now, I often find myself praying in earnest…

God, I don’t know how to feel. I don’t know what to do. I need some direction. Show me what I ought to do. Change me. Make me more like you. Heal my heart. Make me brave.

Praying honest prayers has changed my life.

I am more prone to honesty and less prone to fake emotions.

When you can’t be honest with God, you’ll never be honest with anyone else.

Can I just encourage you to pray brave and courageous prayers of honesty today? All those pebbles you are clenching, it is time to toss them back into the waves and move on.

Be brave. Because God isn’t surprised by you or your sin or your brokenness. He just loves you. And he longs to reside in fervent communion with you.

When Abuse is “Normal”

About a year ago, when I began timidly wading through the mess of my brokenness, I began experiencing distance in many of my relationships. This was completely unexpected.

The books I was reading and the questions I was asking…the stories I was beginning to share…all of it opened a door to a fresh kind of heartbreak.

There were two main responses: encouragement and doubt.

The people who encouraged me told me I was brave. They told me that Jesus was clearly working in me and healing me in deep ways. These people listened to me and cheered me on. They validated me. Agreed with me. Told me they were honored to watch my journey. And the dearest ones cautioned me to keep my heart in check so that bitterness would not overwhelm my healing.

The people who doubted me told me I was “playing the victim”. They told me if I really loved Jesus then I would have forgiven all the brokenness, and that forgiveness means trusting your abusers even if  they have never changed or apologized or admitted to their actions. They disagreed with me. Questioned whether I was full of hate. Told me I was lying. Ultimately, many of them stepped out of relationship with me or our relationships drastically changed. Because when abuse is “normal” it’s actually really hard to see it for what it is. It takes a level of personal willingness and bravery. And you know what? Its ok if you get there ahead of others. Its lonely. But its ok.

I cannot say how deep the hurt goes…when you have come from dark to light, from suicide to joy, from self-harm to confidence and then you are brushed aside as you begin to speak out loud all the things…

It’s like all the years of abuse happen all over again in an instant.

Its exhausting…

Can I just say, that if you identify with this for even a moment, you are not alone?

There is a road along which the broken walk toward healing and wholeness. It’s a journey that begins with deep valleys and crevices and ends in joyous calm.

Right now, you might only be able to crawl. That’s ok.

Right now, you might feel like going back. That’s ok. But don’t.

How you feel right now is not a reflection of the outcome of your journey. It’s just a small part of your travels.

Behind you, there were the scars and the tears and the heaviness.

Ahead there are healed wounds and joy and peace for your soul.

Oh! Lift up your face. And look, and look, and look…don’t you see that? That dark horizon changing? That is the hope you’ve been waiting for.

Now go and catch it.

Even if you have to crawl…

5 Lessons I Have Learned About Discipling Children

Can I just share with you that discipline is an enormous learning curve for me?

I question and doubt myself until I am in tears.

Did I speak too harshly? Not sternly enough? Did that behavior deserve a swat? Should I offer MORE grace, LESS grace? Did I remember to hug and reconcile afterwards? Was he just tired or overwhelmed or not paying attention? Did I misunderstand?

All the self-doubt can be brutal.

God has kindly placed people in my life to show me what surrendered motherhood looks like, and Oh! how I treasure those relationships.

Here are a few lessons I have learned in the last 5 years of parenting.

1. Its impossible to strive for what you’ve never considered…

What do you hope for your children? What do you want to teach them?

You will make about a hundred thousand mistakes in your parenting journey, you will sin against your children, you will treat your spouse poorly in front of them, you will fail your children. You will. This is life and this is REAL life. The question isn’t how do I be a perfect parent? Because there is no such thing. The question is how do I honor God through this journey of parenting?

2. Your actions absolutely speak louder than words…

Want your children to be polite? Kind? Thoughtful? To have great friends? To pursue a life they love? To be confident? To have self-discipline, generosity, integrity?

Well honey…then YOU need to be polite, thoughtful, confident, self-disciplined, generous.

Yep. It’s hard. Actually, it’s kind of impossible…but go and do it anyway. And pray A LOT along the way. A LOT!

3. You’re not raising children, you’re raising adults…

That precious babe in your arms will one day be someone’s best friend, they will walk through joy and tragedy with those they love, they will fall in love, and have babies of their own.

We are literally raising the next generation. It’s a sobering and honorable task.

4. The pain of a moment passes away easily when your heart remains humble…

We have had some pretty awful days with our kids. Like days where you are pretty sure they drank two Red Bull’s and someone forgot to tell you…days where you are pretty sure you actually just lost your mind. Days when locking them outside seems like a fantastic idea…true story.

The pain and discomfort of the rough days and the hard moments of discipline really do fade when you keep your heart open toward your child.

This means, treating your child with respect and utmost dignity. This means not keeping a record of their wrongs. This means apologizing and seeking immediate reconciliation when you have wronged them. This also means standing up for your own worth and fully expecting to be treated with respect and dignity as well…and then freely forgiving when your child apologizes.

Discipline doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating or unhealthy. It can and should be conducted with integrity and all the love.

5. It really does take a village…

Parenting is much easier when you live your life in community. Not only do YOU get practical help but you also LEARN from those around you…and so do your children.

I am thankful everyday for the people in our lives who love us with grace and truth and honesty. We are uplifted and encouraged and when necessary we are confronted lovingly.

This is so good and important!!

Dare to live vulnerably in community.

Dare to discipline intentionally.

And dare to actively love your children as God loves YOU!