Stepping Back Into The Ring

IMG_1408_ppQuite some time has passed since we met here, in this space.
Enough time to have my hair bleached blonde, travel thousands of miles and remove any doubt that writing is part of who I am. I need it for my sanity as my lungs need air to breathe.

I have been writing.
Sporadically.
Going longer periods between has caused inner turmoil for which there is no other cure than meeting you here, more frequently, and being my fully authentic self.

Something happened last Spring. Something that would change the trajectory of my future.
I decided it was time to wean off some prescribed medication that I had been taking every day for 2 years for degenerative disc disease & chronic pain in L4, L5 & S1 of my spine.

Each one of our children was going through battles of their own which many times presented as a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

I fell back into my eating disorder. Hard.
I was all in.

We were being pressed from every side… and I wasn’t handling it well.

We will dive into the most difficult year in the life of our family, through stories from the depths of my memory. Which means there is mentionable room for error. I thought I was being authentic before, but Darlins’ as the song says, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

I should probably let you know that some subjects call for a 4-letter word (or two). I don’t mean to offend. I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. “Progress not perfection“, is my mantra.

This is a safe space to be vulnerable. I want to lead by example and to pretend I don’t say the “s” word, even when writing is lying, and we don’t want to build our relationship on a lie.

So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that’s what Jesus did, so I won’t.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on everything, although I do consider myself a master of my personal adventures. I believe I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience, not the other way around. (I’m 99.99% sure Oprah said that on Super Soul Sunday. I’m borrowing it now.)

What I will do is keep it real.

I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey.

If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.

Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts. I hope that you will visit often, leave encouraged and know that no matter what, you are not alone.

Remember this truth, God does not change and He is never surprised by anything. He created you with great purpose and there’s nothing you or anyone else can ever do to ruin that.

Love & Gratitude,
Signature

 

 

 

#ProdigalDaughter #Ransomed #Redeemed #Restored #Renewed #Refined #POTSC

Here’s the Church…Now Where’s the Steeple

Church on a hillThere was a rhyme my friends and I used to say in elementary school. I’m not sure where it came from or if children still clasp their hands together with interlaced fingers, making up the people. It went like this…

“Here’s the church (Hands with fingers intertwined, pointing down)
Here’s the steeple (Pointer fingers together and up)
Open the door (Thumbs come apart)
See all the people.” (Turn hands up and wiggle fingers still intertwined)

When we were a little bit older, we changed the verses to say,
“Here’s the church
Here’s the steeple
Open the door
Where are the people?
Across the street
in the bar
Open the door
There they are!”

We would all laugh, not realizing that one day we would be the very people, across the street, referring to the bar as our sanctuary.

Any time someone new visits my current church, they always say the same thing. “This doesn’t look like a church! Where’s the steeple?!”

“It doesn’t have one.” I reply. “I like it that way.”

The church I grew up in was what one imagines a southern church to look like. Beautiful. Big. Stained glass windows. Wooden pews. A tall pulpit where the preacher stands, adorned in a long black robe and satin collar. The organ plays while the choir prepares to sing hymn number 400 and something. The brass pipes stretch way into the ceiling releasing sounds both beautiful and intrusive. Not long into the service, my creative mind was far into a daydream of… singing on stage or writing my next bestseller from the back porch of my California home, looking out over the pacific ocean.

Things have changed a bit. I wear jeans and red lippy and when the band starts to play, sometimes I even close my eyes, embracing the goosebumps rising on my skin. The God I’ve been chasing my entire life is right here, so tangible I feel as if I could touch him. Praise pours from my lips more like a prayer than a monotonous canticle of which I had grown so accustomed.

When I least expect it, tears well up in my eyes, spilling over and down my cheeks. I cling to the promises spoken in the lyrics written by those who love Jesus and aren’t afraid to admit they struggle. People like me. Now when I’m in the service, I’m engrossed in the message. Sure, I tweet a quote or two, but for the most part I’m all in. I’m hearing stories that I’ve heard all my life, only now I get it. I’m there. I’m in Jerusalem when Jesus walked the road. I’m at the well when the woman unknowingly serves water to the Savior. I’m in line, waiting to be baptized by “John the Baptizer.” I’m in the crowd crying out in confusion as they nail the hope of the world to a cross.

I don’t think a church has to have a steeple to make it legit. Jesus didn’t wear a name tag that read, “Hello, my name is The Messiah.” And yet, people found him. They believed him. They followed him.

If anything, I’ve learned that sometimes the things with the most beautiful shell are rotten on the inside. Sometimes the things one might pass by at first glance are filled with life giving promise. Promise that we are all longing for.

So, I have a new rhyme. It goes like this…

buckhead-church“Here is my church
There is no steeple
You’re welcome inside
We’re all imperfect people.”

Screaming through closed lips

I have the answer to the question all of us wrestle in the depths of our soul. I’m walking around with the key to eternal life. I have the ability to provide hope to the hopeless and shine light in the darkness. How can I not tell absolutely everyone I meet about Jesus? How can I not share that this week symbolizes the entire purpose of my life as a follower of Christ? How can I not be joyful always?

IMG_1946May I be honest with you? Today…I wasn’t joyful. Today, I didn’t emanate the light of the world. Today, I kept to myself, annoyed by most everyone whom I felt got in my way. Today, I made excuses and rationalized my weaknesses.

Jeff Henderson made a statement in his message on Sunday that will forever stay with me, hopefully at the forefront of my mind. He said,
God is not your punisher, He’s your rescuer.
Don’t miss this. Read it out loud.

God is not your punisher
,
He’s your rescuer.

IMG_7819He went on to say, “If more people knew this truth not only would they not drift away from church or from Jesus, they would run to Jesus. They would run to their rescuer.”

Isn’t that a powerful word picture? Who came to mind when you pictured someone running into the shelter of the Savior?

This is big. Understanding of this one thing could change absolutely everything.

If I believe this, can I honestly look into the eyes of the postal worker stamping “certified mail” on my state tax return and not tell him about the peace that passes all understanding? When seeing the downcast demeanor of the girl behind the check out counter, how could I not tell her about my Jesus who rescued me from myself?

I keep within me this overwhelming gratitude for what my Savior did for me. Sometimes it’s so powerful I cannot contain it. I have to lift my hands or close my tear filled eyes and say out loud, “Thank you. Jesus. Thank you for saving me. I was lost, but now I’m found. Thank you for grace that saved a wretch like me.”

If grouped into categories, I would be with the worst kind of sinners. There are “Christians” I know who would not be associated with me in an effort to protect and promote their own reputation. And yet, the Savior of the world calls me by name and reminds me that I am his chosen one. Was I the only human being in need of saving, still he would have died the most gruesome of deaths to rescue me from eternal darkness.

It’s almost too much for my brain to comprehend. It certainly isn’t deserved or earned. I want everyone to know this God…the God of my rescue.

What if, just this week, we viewed him this way?
What if, just this week, we approached the throne of grace with a new-found hope and praise on our lips.
What if, just this week, we embraced the sacrifice and acknowledged that the maker of heaven and earth paid the ultimate price for our freedom because…He thinks we’re worth it.

The King has paid my ransom and by his wounds…I am healed.Face and Cross

To listen to Jeff’s message click HERE
To check out the entire series #WhyInTheWorld click HERE

Enhanced by Zemanta

My Beautiful Readers…

I’ve missed this community so much. I hope you are able to hear the sincerity in my written voice.
photo
The last time we talked I said that I would be sharing the exciting changes that are happening. I never came back and did that. The truth is, I got busy. Really, really busy. And now, well, I’m not so busy and here I am. That sounds much like you are getting my leftovers. I realize how not cool that is.

This year, my faithful friends, I vow to meet you here more often than “every now and then.” This place, here with you, is the energy drink when reality wears me down. Selfishly I want this to be a place where I can expose my wounds in hopes of finding a comfort. That’s what my ego wants anyway, but I will not be getting away with that. The winds of change are stirring, leaving me unsettled and excited.

What is God up to?

He is changing my heart. This is not the first time. It isn’t comfortable. It goes against every ounce of my human nature. It is, however, necessary in order to fulfill His plan for my life. He is drawing me away from the place of comfort and towards the place of risk.

He is providing everything I need at the exact time I need it, not a moment too soon nor ever too late. When this happens… when He makes it so blatantly obvious that He alone provides for and sustains me, it shows me how faithful he truly is. It makes me feel closer than ever before to His plan and purpose for my life. It helps me trust His design.

This year, I want to care more about how many people know love, compassion and Jesus than how many followers I have or don’t have on Twitter. I want to be quick to help without caring who gets the credit. I want to mean it when I pray, “Thy will be done.” even when it’s hard. I don’t want to be embarrassed or hesitant when people ask me about my faith.

So what does this mean?

I’m not totally sure? I have an idea. Some things are already in the works. Things that require time, energy and resources. Things that have no monetary gain. I know God will provide. He is my Great Provider and all I have to do is look at His track record to remember His faithfulness.

I also know that I am one of the few who has been given the opportunity to pursue my passion. It’s quite sobering to think about how much Chris has sacrificed so that I can chase this dream of mine. I also know, were he not in full support it would not be possible for me to follow the path of what I believe to be my destiny.

I guess what I’m saying is, “More will be revealed.” I miss sharing my story, I miss this community, and I’m going to do better.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Jesus is Lord…and you know it

I saw a billboard on the way to Nashville and then again coming home. (It was double-sided) I couldn’t take a picture at 70 80 mi. an hour, so I recreated it. Which was easy since it was black and white…no color…absolute, with no room for misinterpretation.

BillboardBoth times it made me cringe and physically sink down in my seat. I felt defensive and embarrassed when I read it.

This post is really going to rub some of you the wrong way. Feel free to stop reading now.

I am returning from a trip where God was present. He showed up. His spirit was alive and well. Jesus was glorified and the worship was sacred. I’ve not seen this kind of community, maybe ever. Interestingly enough, not one time did I feel defensive or shamefulfrightened or remorsefulregretful or resentful…you feelin’ me?

Who knew a billboard could get me this riled up? Or maybe I am just that tired of so-called “Christians” belittling others under the guise of sharing Jesus.

I’m not asking you to condone behavior. I’m not asking you to pretend. I am however asking my Jesus lovin’, God-fearing, friends to avoid making this way of life so dang unattractive.

There are hotties who love Jesus. There are married couples enjoying sex more than once a week, who love Jesus. There are those who watch Modern Family and still love Jesus. Why are we not speaking out? Why is the voice of the Pharisee so much louder than the voice of the Jesus follower?

Stop assuming that people who are living a life that you consider to be less than “good” will be attracted to scare tactics. Shame is not attractive. Fear is not attractive. Guilt is not attractive to anyone…not knowingly.

So, stop it. Stop. Stop using the name of Jesus as a way to be passive aggressive. Just…stop.

Jesus did not attract people by condemning them. He did not come to accuse, he came to save. And as followers of Christ I can’t help but know that we are to do the same.

There need not be accusations in our words and our actions, in our face, in our…anything! Denunciation does not draw anyone, if anything it pushes them further away.

So if you are threatening people with hell to bring them to their Savior, how about enticing them with heaven? How about sharing your personal story of freedom.

How about sitting down and listening to their story. Relate, empathize, be compassionate. Be attractive in a way that has nothing to do with outward appearance.

I believe in heaven and hell. The thought of anyone spending an eternity suffering is unimaginable. This is not about that. That’s an entire post in itself. That said, Tell me how many people you think see or hear a passive aggressive message like, “Jesus is Lord and you know it!” decide that they want our way of life?

There is no life in judgment. There is no life in statements that make people feel small, guilty or shamed.

I don’t want to be the traveling judge and jury. I want to be one who brings light, gives hope and shows purpose everywhere I go. Whether it be the grocery store, doctor’s office, work…everywhere I go. Though I fail often, it’s worth working towards.

What’s your first thought when reading the message on this billboard?

Easter Hangover

It was the mid 90’s. I was driving someone else’s car down a main road in the city where I was living at the time. Dawn was just about to break the horizon when it occurred to me. It’s Easter morning. I had been up for several days with the help of stimulants in the form of pill and powder and was now starting the brutal decent down from my high. I usually didn’t know what day it was so I’m not sure how I remembered it was Easter.

This picture etched so vividly in my memory… As the sun peeked over the horizon and poured it’s light into my eyes, tears ran down my sunken cheeks. “Easter…I wonder what my family is doing? My mom has already called half a dozen people by now exclaiming, ‘HE IS RISEN!’ while waiting for their reply, ‘He has risen indeed’ and will be preparing for Sunday service and dinner afterwards.”

I was 18 years old. I would spend 8 more years in mental anguish and self-inflicted torment before I surrendered control of my life in the rooms of AA.

Last night I attended the Easter service at my church. It was the best service I have ever been a part of on this important Sunday in the history of our heritage. I was sitting on the back row of the balcony and could see everything going on. Different kinds of people from all walks of life flooded the auditorium. I had a stressful time getting myself and 3 children ready to attend and quite honestly, I just wanted to check off attendance, hear the same old “Easter message” and get home to my pajama pants.

God had other plans.

I sat behind a row of several children. During the music I glanced over to see an adult holding two of the little girls up. They were fully in the moment with hands lifted in praise to the giver of life. “They get it.” I thought to myself. “I want to get it like they do.”
Our hands are lifted highGod wasn’t stressed out about what I would wear to gather in this place. He didn’t care if I stuffed myself into my spanx. It didn’t matter if I had make-up on or my hair fixed. He just wanted me. He wanted me to recognize His goodness. He wanted me to bask in His grace. He wanted me to see, first hand, faith like a child.

For those of you reading who have given up trying to change someone you love who is lost in addiction. Good. You can’t. Only God can save us from ourselves. You never know what God will use to trigger the desire for Him.

To the parents who have a prodigal son or daughter…They have not forgotten the teachings of their childhood. God’s got thisLet Him have it.

To those of you going through hell…please hear me when I say that the “Christians” who are telling you that it’s impossible to be saved while acting the way you are, just haven’t experienced the kind of lost that has seemingly swallowed you. We do the best we can with what we have and that is what they are doing.

When it comes down to the core of the matter…it is between you and God, my friend. You. And. God. He has the final say and only He knows your heart. You may be acting a fool. I did for many years. You may think God has abandoned you like so many others have. May I encourage you with this truth. God is exactly where he has always been. Awaiting your return. He wants nothing more than to bless you and shape you into His purpose. He wants to love you, provide for you and protect you from the demons that haunt you.

I know this first hand. I have sat where you sit. Maybe not in the same circumstances, but desperatelongingsearchingbegging…for some shred of hope. There is hope. Today we celebrate this hope called Jesus. There is life. Today we celebrate this life in Jesus. There is salvation. Today we celebrate the Savior named Jesus. There is abounding love. Today we celebrate the purest form of love in Jesus. There is peace that passes all understanding. Today we celebrate that peace through Jesus.

Now you know. I am rather sold out to this carpenter who walked the earth for just over 30 years. He never wrote a book. He wasn’t overly attractive. He wasn’t wealthy and His crown was made of thorns, but you see, He redeemed me. What was lost is now found. What was broken is now whole. Blind eyes can now see. He took my armor of shame and replaced it with a cloak of grace. But I had to hand it to him. He was not going to strip it off of me. I had to remove it, piece by piece. It was heavy and restricting. Now…now I am free. It was more than worth the exchange. I couldn’t always see it in the moment, but looking back I wonder how I ever missed it.

My friend, journeying alone or as a companion through the desert. My prayer for you is that, in His perfect timing, God will reveal himself to you in a way so obvious and powerful that there is no denying His presence. My prayer for you is that you will come back home.

If you want/need somewhere to turn that is “come as you are” here are a few great resources.
Central Online (Their motto is, “It’s okay to not be okay.”)
Buckhead Church a division of North Point Community Church (This is my 2nd home)
People of the Second Chance (These are my people…scarred…broken and beautiful)

 

Being mere mortals

Clouds over tombsIt took me 35 years to come to terms with the inevitability of mortality.
After Elliot died, death became real…tangible.

Many things changed that morning in May.

It has been my experience that Christians are afraid to admit their fear of the unknown outside the walls of a counselor’s office and sometimes not even then can we come to terms with the truth that we have this one area of doubt in our lives where we aren’t 100% sure God will come through.

Sounds presumptuous doesn’t it?

It isn’t meant to be. It’s the way I lived my life for over 3 decades while claiming to be a “Christian.”

I am now a Christ follower, which for me, is different. It’s personal.

When I think of faith, I picture Jesus. I see Jesus instead of a steeple touching the sky. Instead of perfectly pressed black robes and intimidating marble columns. I think of Jesus…in sandals. Bearded face, dusty clothes, tousled hair. I think of Jesus.

When I think of him it’s impossible to be afraid. As soon as I take my eyes off of him, it’s impossible not to be.

Unlike the wrath of man, Jesus is the perfect balance of grace and truth.
Giving up his mortal descent to be born of a commoner, live with little and die a brutal death beside criminals. He experienced mortality to remove all of my excuses.

When the anxiety of the unknown creeps in, I must remember the Savior, who intentionally came and died as a man. He could have decided it was too difficult and called down the entire heavenly host to zap his adversaries and escort him back to paradise in a cloud of glory. But he didn’t.

Instead he chose to be misunderstood, ridiculed and put to death. He experienced the ultimate betrayal and physical pain beyond human comprehension. I can’t help but think part of the reason he walked the human path was in pursuit of me. Maybe it was to calm my heart when I don’t feel like an omnipotent God of the Universe can relate to my everyday struggle. It is then I am reminded that he too struggled with “life.” He wore human skin and felt all of the emotions I have questioned.

When I remember this truth, there is no argument. The answer is clear. Be not afraid. It adds not even a moment to my life. Be not afraid. The days, at times, seem long while the years grow ever shorter. Be not afraid. The road ahead, though wrought with uncertainty, leads to the everlasting. Be not afraid. Evil lurks, but love has won.

So
Live with intention
Love extravagantly
Be slow to speak
Quick to forgive
Eager to learn
and
Be not afraid.

Does this resonate with you? Talk to me? Why are we so afraid of what waits for us on the other side of this life?