The Love of God


Ephesians 3: 18  “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”

Oh! And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

When someone is about to confide in me but hesitates, I often say, “Look. I’ve done and seen pretty much everything there is to do and see. I won’t be offended and I won’t be surprised.”

It’s the truth. If I were to list off my sins, my mistakes – well, many of you who know me would actually be offended, because it would blow your mind how different I am today than I was even a decade ago.

Beth Moore says one reason we can’t understand God is that we try to humanize Him. Oh sweet Lord, how true that is. When we try to grasp how much – or how, period – He loves us, we can come up short.

Oh, especially when we’ve lived lives unsure of the love of anyone, right? The love of any human being? And when – if we’re lucky – we find out that we were wrong – that he or she – or they – actually do love us, well – that presents a beautiful challenge.

What do we do with our lives when we realize we were living them under the wrong assumption or belief? The first thing that we understand, friends, is the depth of the mistakes we made because we believed we were unworthy of love.

So – what constitutes an unforgivable offense here? Just by looking at my life, and the lives of people I know, here’s a quick list I compiled.

“God couldn’t love me because I’ve had too many sexual partners.”

“God couldn’t love me because I lied – all the time.”

“God couldn’t love me because I manipulated people and tried to control them.”

“God couldn’t love me because I had a baby out of wedlock.”

“God couldn’t love me because I haven’t lived a mature, responsible life. I’m not a success, I’m sometimes lazy, and I don’t make as much money as I should. It’s my own fault.”

“God couldn’t love me because I have doubted His love for me for years.”

“God couldn’t love me because I got divorced.”

“God couldn’t love me because I don’t look, think, or act like all those other Christians.”

You know what? Beth Moore also said that belief is not a feeling – it is a choice. And she is right. Some days or moments it’s easy to feel God’s love. Because it was a “good” day – no one got mad at you and you didn’t make an insanely huge screw-up. Or something bad has happened and God came through for you in a big way.

But most days we’re just human. We make mistakes, hurt someone, or let someone down. Maybe we get in trouble at work, at school, or at home. And satan comes strolling into that hot mess and just tells us how worthless we are. And if you’ve heard those words come out of the mouths of people, his voice sounds an awful lot like theirs. And you believe it.

You have a choice, my friends. The choice to believe the Word, not the words of satan, not the words of people who are also screwed up and don’t know how to love you like they should.

Make the choice. And while you’re at it, encourage someone today. You never know, y’all. You never know how much they might need it.

The Freedom of Biblical Law


That’s an oxymoron, right? Modern-day Christians are given one axiom in regards to the Old Testament law versus the love-driven, Spirit-driven, Jesus-driven life of the New – and that is that the Law no longer applies. This belief – this precept – is pounded into us.

We like it that way, don’t we? That way, all we have to do is love. And that provides us the perfect shelter of all kinds of wonderful things – pre-marital sex and homosexuality to name two current topics of intense debate and discussion (although we gloss over pre-marital sex and living with our partners pretty quickly.) In the name of love, we can love whomever we want to – and then take it further. We can sin with total abandon.

If I haven’t lost you already, please keep reading. Because what we are being told chokes us – the Law – is in point of fact what sets us free. Christ said, “you shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32). Of course He was referring to the Word, and y’all, the Word includes the Old Testament. That’s right.

Don’t be frightened by this. Consider the good news of Hebrew 10:1 in that “the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come.”

Whoa! Consider what Beth Moore said on the subject of this verse – and this doctrine – “The law poured concrete into God’s mold for human relationships, but it also whispered a kingdom to come in which order, sanity, health, and decency dwell under the safe shadow of Christ’s scepter. Jesus’ second coming will usher in a world in which children can’t be sold for sex or shot in their schoolrooms.”

The key world here is “order.” Not “sacrifice” or “altar” – “order.” The Law of the ancient prophets isn’t applicable in that we don’t have to go through a priest to get to Christ or to God, and we don’t have to sacrifice animals and food to please God and ask for forgiveness, or even to celebrate what He has done for us.

But the Law is much more than that. Matthew Henry, a wise man whom I use often to discover the context of verses that, on their own, mean one thing, but taken as a whole with a chapter or book, can mean quite another – put it like this: “Here the apostle (meaning Paul, the author of Hebrews), by the direction of the Spirit of God, sets himself to lay low the Levitical dispensation; for though it was of divine appointment, and very excellent and useful in its time and place, yet, when it was set up in competition with Christ, to whom it was only designed to lead the people, it was very proper and necessary to show the weakness and imperfection of it, which the apostle does effectually, from several arguments. As, [t]hat the law had a shadow, and but a shadow, of good things to come; and who would dote upon a shadow, though of good things, especially when the substance has come? Observe, 1. The things of Christ and the gospel are good things; they are the best things; they are best in themselves, and the best for us: they are realities of an excellent nature. 2. These good things were, under the Old Testament, good things to come, not clearly discovered, nor fully enjoyed. 3. That the Jews then had but the shadow of the good things of Christ, some adumbrations of them; we under the gospel have the substance.

First of all, what is “Levitical dispensation?” Well, “Levitical” refers to the Levites, a segment of the Israelits of the Old Testament set aside as priests. Easton’s Bible dictionary defines “dispensation” as “[t]he method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation.” Therefore, how the Levites carried out God’s plan towards their fellow men, while of “divine appointment,” could not compete with Christ. At the time, it was a necessary thing for the Israelites. But Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection denied its usefulness when that curtain in the Temple was rent in two!

Matthew Henry acknowledges that the Law had its own weaknesses – and you don’t have to guess what the most important one was. It was that no one could follow it to the letter. And even if a person did, the sheer willpower of doing so would delete all actual closeness with God, because there would be nothing genuine left over to give to Him. God knew that. He wanted to give them a blueprint for how to live their lives in a pleasing manner to him and to each other. Here is the key point: to each other. He gave them direction, He provided a way out of immoral and chaotic worldly living. And when they – inevitably – screwed it all up, He gave them a way to make peace with Him, with each other, and with themselves.

But the ultimate goal wasn’t the Law – it was the love of Christ. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness do not negate the Law – they make it possible. By that, I mean they make our lives worth living when we fail. All the sins the Law listed are still, in essence, sins today. Some of them are more about what we feel and believe in our hearts rather than what we act out, but they are real, and they are relevant.

The Law brings freedom because it ushers Christ into His rightful seat at the table, folks. Just like we know our kids need boundaries for security reasons – and not just physical safety – we know in our hearts we need rules and order to survive what is truly an anarchic world – but taking it further into the depths of those very same hearts, we know we need the Law to thrive in it!

Blessings y’all!

Down & Out in the Mommy ‘Hood


Blessed morning to y’all! Might I first say the only reason I even have time to attempt – praise God if I actually finish – writing this blog post this Friday a.m. is because my children are temporarily quiet and still. Won’t last long – better hurry.

We leave for vacation next week. I am desperate for it and I don’t even know how to get what I want while there. Peace. Quiet. Time away from the kids. But…that’s not a family vacation, is it???

It’s been years since I escaped to the mountains, solo. I don’t really want a weekend away. I think what it boils down to is that school just let out, so the endless lists of homework, school projects, end-of-year parties, hands out asking for money – all this is over, and my brain is so mushy and confused I don’t know what end is up.

Yep. Down and out in the ‘Hood. Mothering is a challenge. There is no other way to describe it. Even I saw enough Disney movies to think that I’d be like Mary Poppins with my children, not Cruella de Vil. Yet, here I am – I just need the grey streak. Wait – I’m sure that’ll happen on its own soon.

Breaking up fights. Kissing boo-boos and holding a screaming crier – and you did it yourself, kid! How much sympathy is too much here?

Explaining why playing on the iPad or Mommy’s computer – 24/7 – is not a great way to spend the summer. Assigning worksheets so their brains don’t turn to mush, and explaining why I don’t know why your step-mother doesn’t do it during the summer, her being a teacher herself and all – that is, if in fact she doesn’t, or you, precious oldest son, are just trying to manipulate me. Either way, do the worksheets, kid, and I’ll add an extra one every time you sass me.

It’s enough to make a mother lose her mind. As I take a Bible study break from tedious chores like vacuuming the dirt that one man and two boys seem to spit out of their mouths all over my clean floors every day – I am confronted with a peaceful nature scene.

A waterfall. In a shady glen. Oh, take me there. Please Jesus, take me there. Actually, Jesus, just come on and get us. I’m ready to go. Do mothers vacuum and wash dishes and iron and wash clothes in heaven? If we do, I am positive there is some amazing reward we don’t get here on Earth!

Do we have to break up fights? I know the Bible tells us no tears will be shed. No pain will be felt. But come on. Kids? In heaven? Someone is gonna stub their toe on those streets of gold and then randomly punch another kid for being there to watch it happen.

Ok. Some levity. Kids aren’t kids for long; they grow up and go away and never come back. Ha! Some humor – last weekend at our Memorial Day party, I had to take the pitcher away from my friend’s daughter, telling her she couldn’t have any. “What is it?” she asked. “Mommy juice?”

That’s right girl. This Mommy needs her juice. Only it’s 10 a.m. and they frown on that.

In truth, my son leaves soon for the summer. It always depresses me and makes me angry. It’s stressful and I worry and I need to let that mess go. I know. Acting like this year is going to be different by just ignoring those feelings doesn’t help. Nor does yelling at my wonderful children, who are in dire need of an attitude adjustment – and a darn good spanking.

So. Here we are, moms. Down and out. And summer has barely come a knocking. What’s a mom to do?

Refresh with the Word, with prayer. With a well-mixed cocktail with your girlfriends. Go shopping. Do something fun every once in a while. And accept the drudgery and the fights and the boo-boos because, for real, one day you will wake up and there will no longer be sassy mouths to feed. And you will miss it. Wipe away the tears. Let go of the anger. Smile. God bless!

Forgiveness Isn’t a Hallmark Card


Well, it’s not. It sounds that way when other people do it. They look so beatific and peaceful. But when it’s my turn – your turn perhaps? – it’s hard and my stomach is tied in knots. I’m angry and hurt, frustrated, heartbroken even – and forgiveness is just too much work.

I was given a reprieve from work about, oh, 14 years ago. I headed to a park nearby because it was such a beautiful day. And even though God and I weren’t on the same speaking terms we are now, I still talked to Him and prayed – and even read my Bible. But we didn’t have the intimate, restorative relationship we have now. Which totally debunks the whole “miracles don’t happen anymore” theory I have heard lately and the idea that if you aren’t as close to God as you should be, He won’t help you.

Y’all, that is a bald-faced lieGod knows your heart more thoroughly than anyone on the face of the planet – even if you don’t know His. And sometimes, He comes through for you in a big big way just to show you Who’s boss. Like He did for me that day.

I didn’t come to the park thinking about a significant person in my life. I didn’t even talk about him to God that day. I just thanked God for the beauty around me, and asked that He provide the money to make up the hours I wasn’t getting paid at work that day. Somehow.

Well, He didn’t. He gave me a much bigger gift – the present of forgiveness For some reason, He laid miraculous, supernatural forgiveness of this significant person on my heart that day. The truly amazing thing was that on that day 14 years ago, or so, I didn’t even realize how fully I had forgiven this person!

I just knew my hatred of him was gone. In the years to come, in his presence, I would no longer cower, or grow angry. I would usually laugh at the stupid, inane lies he told me about myself. Sometimes I would even laugh out loud. Oh y’all, I still do! It’s been more than a decade and that forgiveness is still a daily part of my life about this person!

However, here’s the thing people: this isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to work! This was truly, really, believe me – a miracle. God doesn’t make forgiveness this easy on us 99.99999% of the time.

Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Here’s someone who has hurt you and maybe even done unspeakable things to you – and not only are you supposed to forgive this person, but also you’re supposed to do it gracefully, effortlessly, despite the very real repercussions that you may have to suffer through – for the rest of your life.

You think I don’t have those? I sure do. Those things done to me – those things I did to myself – I have to live with that awful nasty terrible ugly crap too! Consequences aren’t just born of what we do; they’re born of what others do to us.

Forgive, huh God? Oh yes – you’ve maybe even heard it said that forgiveness isn’t just about the other person – it’s really for you. So you can go on without a stained conscience and with peace in your heart.

Well, let me tell you something – I don’t think that’s the whole point of forgiveness, and if you disagree, let me turn your attention to Mark 11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (KJV)

Did you get that last part? If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Now that’s a pretty big problem huh?

Forgiveness isn’t usually a miracle and it’s rarely easy. It’s a choice you may have to make every day for an indeterminate amount of time! I’ve spent years forgiving people. YEARS.

And yet – how many years has someone – or some people – spent forgiving me?

What is Endurance?


Sometimes, I get so tired of studying and pondering the Word that my brain hurts. Today is one of those days. And guess what I stumbled upon in my journal? Yep. Endurance. Awesome Lord. I get it.

The subject I’m addressing today is joy despite a trial, and endurance plays a huge part of that process. Here are a few words that I love, love, love – that are synonymous with endurance:

ability   capacity   courage   fortitude   grit    mettle   persistence   tenacity   

                                      vitality   cool   moxie   pluck   starch

So. God is pretty clear on how our perspective should change when under the fire of suffering. And that’s the courage, the fortitude, the moxie – to endure. To endure without quitting and to endure in a lasting way, because if we quit – if we don’t last – what was the point of the whole thing?

Our pastor, Thomas Hammond, preached about all this, and it resonated because it’s human nature to quit when things get hard – a job, a marriage, a friend, a dream – and that’s when satan sneaks in, I think, to taunt us as to how huge a miserable failure we are.

But we’re not, y’all. We’re just people. And so who or what can you reach for when you’re tempted to quit? God, of course – and the Word. But find people you admire who have thrived despite adversity. Call on them for guidance and encouragement. They won’t mind – someone did the same for them when they were about to chuck it all and lose their pluck.

That ONE Child…


Yeah, if you have more than one kid, you’ve got THE ONE. The difficult, touchy, teenager-at-four kind of kid. The one that makes you want to pull your hair out and stick a fork in your eye at the same time. Every. Single. Day.

To say that I have some personal experience in both being that child and having one of them is an understatement. I’m not a child psychologist or whatnot. But I do have some common sense. Here’s why they’re (I’m) like that: something happened.

It doesn’t have to be life-altering awful. It could be that they’re stuck in the middle in a big, loving family. But they feel left out, forgotten. Or just different from the rest of the family, and therefore weird or odd or strange.

It could be for many reasons. Hang in there, parents. That’s my advice. But how about some Biblical perspective?

Jesus was, at the time, caught eating a meal with sinners and tax collectors. It would be like a pastor sitting down to table with a roomful of strippers. It’s just not done.

Why isn’t it? The answer to question is what Christ posed in the passage taken from Mark 2: 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

It’s not the “good” child that gets all the grease. It’s the squeaky wheel. It’s the one who needs more direction, guidance, and frankly, love. Because for for whatever reason, that kid doesn’t think he gets enough of it.

It’s easy to get frustrated. To give up. To yell. To uses sarcasm. To be utterly worn out by this insane child. But here’s the thing, y’all – Christ didn’t call us to give up! He called us to keep going.

Pray. Seek His refreshment. Count. To. Ten. And…repeat!

refresh

And one more thing: don’t compare one child to the other. Children are different as the rest of the people in this world are different. They require different responses during discipline, different methods used to teach coping skills, and unique ways of showing love. You can do this, cause God’s GOT this. Blessings y’all!

My Mental Health Story


If you don’t have mental health issues, what does awareness month mean to you? Probably nothing. And I wouldn’t blame you.

The question is, what should it mean to you? And the answer to that varies. Does someone you know struggle with any of the following: depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, body image disorders, and dare I include gender identity issues? Yes. I dare. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, excessive thoughts/complaints about health, anger or aggression or violence, delusions/hallucinations, or even denial of problems?

Well then. The answer to the question is that if you know them well – if they’re a frequent part of your life – you need to be as aware as you can of what the problem[s] is and how to handle it, especially if you have children and/or mental health problems of your own.

But what if by “frequent” I mean someone you work with, but aren’t friends with, for example, or a family member of some sort? Chances are, if you don’t have experience with the proper handling of mental health problems, this person – or these people – make you angry or uncomfortable, to say the least.

It’s easy to judge. On all fronts of dealing with mental illness, it’s easy to judge. Some say their mental health doesn’t define them. Personally, I think that’s an easy way to think of yourself as someone free from the intense burden of grief over your life.

It absolutely defines me. Let’s see. Severe clinical depression. Panic/anxiety disorder. PTSD. Body image disorder in the form of bulimia. I lost 20 pounds in one month. I was a size 8 when I started losing weight. I was skin and bones when I was done. I thought I was beautiful. It made my Daddy tear up and ask me what in the world had I done to myself.

“Even if you hadn’t been born with genetic mental health disorders, after what has happened to you over your life, you’d have at least one,” said my first therapist. That was 18 years ago. I was a baby then, a 19-year-old myself!

I’m not going into specifics here, and it’s not because I’m ashamed of the things that have happened to me – and the things I’ve done because of it – it’s because there are people involved that, no matter how hurtful they’ve been, have a right to privacy. Frankly, people who didn’t handle their own mental health issues well. I can’t fully blame them for how they treated or “loved” me any more than I can blame myself for what I did to them. They didn’t have a clue what they were doing with their own lives. I certainly didn’t either.

I first and foremost have to give anyone struggling with mental illness this piece of advice: God is HERE. I was raised in a “Christian” family. Went to church every time its doors were open. And I hated myself so much, and knew of the hatred towards me of others (in my own house), that I was convinced God was DONE. Saved and baptized at age 9, I thought my chance for heaven and happiness was over. I had screwed up too much to be loved by God anymore, and – here’s the kicker that many of you know full well – I was so, so terrible that I deserved what people did to me – violence, sexual assault, infidelity, mental/emotional/physical abuse – all the way through to adulthood.

Yes. It doesn’t stop at childhood, for example, if that’s where it started. It follows you everywhere – until you decide enough is enough. How that happens and what that looks like for you, I have zero idea. I have no experience with, for example, schizophrenia. I know enough about it, though, to realize that it takes a village to get that mess under control, and in society – regardless of where that society is geographically – it’s not “proper” to talk about it or seek help for it.

Y’all, there is no reason to live your live surviving. There is no reason to let someone else you love do that. God put us here to THRIVE! To be fruitful, to blossom, to bloom! That recently happened to me. All because I decided to take a chance.

What did that look like? To you, it might be laughable. I got out of my husband’s car and walked into our church. Alone. Up the stairs to the Upper Room. Alone. I was acquainted with one or two women in the Bible study group I was joining. That was it. I sat there, before it began, my heart pounding. Intense nausea made it hard to think. I was shaking so hard and terribly ashamed because I knew that some of the women could see me doing it. But I looked at the book I’d been given and almost laughed.

Armor of God, by Priscilla Shirer. And I felt this seed of determination begin to build, y’all. Like the person I used to be, before my anxiety made me turn into an agoraphobic. Someone who got sick on car trips from being closed into a vehicle. Someone who got dizzy and faint just walking out the front door alone.

Second, if you know someone suffering from mental illness, PLEASE take note:

1. Don’t question their faith. Faith from YOUR point of view has nothing to do with it. I had a true love of God for many, many years. It did not stop satan from taking over my life, and it did not stop me from letting him. It did, however, save me countless times from suicide attempts, for example.

2. Don’t embarrass or discourage them to make a point about your own ignorance. I get that this is frustrating and hard for you,too. Especially if you’ve never dealt with this in your own life. It seems so simple – just get out of the house! Of the relationship. Of your head.

Guys, fear doesn’t work like that. It takes over your life, and when the people who are supposed to love you make you feel small, that fear erodes all trust. I have family members I barely speak to because I do not know how to bridge the gap of lost trust. Of judgment and criticism because I wasn’t what they needed.

3. It’s ok to get frustrated. It’s ok to get angry! There is something insidious and dark taking over the life of someone you love, and you are powerless to stop it. No one would blame you for feeling like that, least of all the person it’s happening to. They completely understand! Show unconditional love – which does NOT mean you never feel negatively about that person. It means you keep coming back and you never give up.

4. Learn your place. You cannot heal anyone; only God and, at times, medical help, can do that. You are there to pray over, try to guide, and love that person. That’s it. No one expects you to be perfect, or to always handle it well. You’re human, and everyone knows it.

5. Don’t let it erode your own life. Take care of yourself, because if you don’t you can’t fully take care of someone else.

6. Give it to the Father, y’all. His shoulders are perfectly capable of carrying and bearing your burden. Lay it at His feet every time it rears its ugly head at you, and you will be totally amazed at what He can do.

Whether you’re struggling with mental health problems, or someone you know and love is, hang in there. Seek help. That may be a doctor or a medication. Don’t be ashamed of this! There is PLENTY of love out there for you! God, others – we are HERE. Comment below if you have questions or just want to chat. Bless all y’all!

Here’s a prayer I was recently told about by a wonderfully sweet woman in my Wednesday night Bible study. Let these words of love soak into your parched heart – your dusty soul – so that you are lifted up and away from the evil of satan that is clutching your body. Your mind. Your soul. May God heal you, may He comfort you in times of distress. May He send satan straight back to hell where he belongs!

Ephesians 3:  14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.