Tattoos or Jesus, which one will it be?

JCP-4475I vividly remember a close family friend telling me that I was disobeying God by getting a tattoo and because of its permanence, I was in a state of constant defiance. He quoted scripture (from memory, of course) to back up his point from which the core of his unsolicited advice originated. (This was after the tattoo was already there. What was I to do about it, except put on the heavy cloak of guilt placed before me?)

I was 17 years old.

I have since added several more tattoos…and piercings to my body. This one is especially meaningful to me.Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 3.40.06 PM

For years I’ve been reading different views on this subject. It is interesting and at times crazy how defensive people can be with their written words. The ALL CAPS and number of exclamation points following the scripture references that, in their mind, confirm and validate their rightness. It leaves me wondering, “Why would I ever want what they have? How could I ever follow the God that they profess to emulate?”

As I’ve said before, “I can justify absolutely anything.” I am a Master Justifier. Maybe that is the case here. I am justifying the fact that I, a follower of Jesus, willingly marked my body.

This will cause debate. There are some of you reading now that are already irritated. That’s good. Whether you’re irritated over the thought of someone being able to love Jesus while tattooing their body, or you’re irritated over the people who are irritated…take this moment to ask yourself, “Why does this bother me so much?”

Here is what I have to remember, I am accountable to God. When I approach the throne of grace, it is not while locking arms in a group of others. It is alone. It is personal. It is intimate.

Let’s think outside of our comfort zones for a moment.

What if, every sin that you have ever committed or thought about committing was written on your body? Adultery, stealing, murder, gossip, abuse, pornography, envy, gluttony, betrayal, denial, blaspheme… Which one would you want across your face?

Things don’t have to be written in ink to leave a permanent mark. Try these labels on for size…shamed, guilty, jealous, abandoned, greedy, whore, liar, addict, alcoholic, convict, loser, hypocrite, enabler… Though not written in ink, individuals clearly wear these labels.

If God really does see past our flesh, into our hearts, what does he see? I envision Him seeing a heart covered in permanent markings.

And then Jesus came…and all of that changed. He is our Intercessor, Savior, Redeemer. He stands in the gap of all of our different perceptions and definitions of “right” and “wrong.”

God sees us through His son. His perfect son. So we no longer have to argue who is more right than wrong, or justify anything. Once we see Christ for who He is, we are given the invitation to lay down all of our judgements, isms, character defects, labels and prejudices at the foot of the cross.

No matter whether you think tattoos are “right” or “wrong,” the cross is enough. Whether you have thought about stealing from someone or have actually stolen, the cross is enough. Whether you have always seen yourself as damaged because of an image that was self inflicted or projected onto you by someone else, the cross is enough. It’s enough.

It’s about a personal relationship with the One who paid it all.

Let’s visualize ourselves removing the lenses through which we currently see everything while asking, “Father, please help me see everything, including myself, through your eyes and from your perspective. Transform my perception of others, crushing all misconceptions.”
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As you think of the person whom you consider marked up, damaged and pierced, remember, they…I, have a place to bring all imperfections and lay them down. The foot of the cross. Right there beside all the prejudices and judgements. Once there, they are all the same.

In Christ, there is no condemnation.

To The One Looking For A Second Chance…

JCP-A piece of earth drenched in the splendor of HeavenMaybe you don’t even realize that’s what you’re looking for?
Maybe you’re searching for a way out of your current circumstances?
Maybe you’re longing for someone to look at you, truly seeing you for the first time, and say, “I know. I’ve been there. I’ve walked in those same shoes and I made the single choice to step off the crazy train.”?

Maybe you think you’re beyond a second chance?  Sweet friend, no one, created in the image of God, (and that’s all of us), is ever beyond a second chance. No one. You are worth saving.

There is life to be lived.
There is beauty to be had.
There is light to be shared.

However, it will not work in isolation.

~ To read the rest of this post, please join me with the community of “People of The Second Chance” by CLICKING HERE

The Shame Game

“Y’all, the holidays are rapidly approaching. Are you ready for this…there are 9 more Saturdays until Christmas. We are being plunged into that time of year when patience is low, demands are high and sleep doesn’t fit on our to-do list.

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by people who trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us how to feel.

Yesterday, October 19th, by the grace of God, I reached my 12th year of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society (most days). The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless.

And then something changed. Have you noticed how everything starts with a decision?”

Join me to read the rest of this post at The Shame Game continued…
Love filled Hands

The Ugly Side of Truth

What I say, “I would write even if I only had one person reading.”
What I mean, “I love when I hear that someone has connected with my writing. I hope I have 10,000 more just like them.

What I say, “The number of followers on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my blog…doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m reaching the person who needs to be reached.
What I mean, “I love affirmation! When I see the number of followers steadily rise it gives me a rush. When I see the number go down it makes me wonder what those people didn’t like about my message.

What I say, “I write as an expression, never paying mind to what people might think when they read my thoughts.” (I literally just laughed out loud at the absurdity of this comment while typing it.)
What I mean, “I hope this changes someone’s life and makes me the hero.

The more “followers” I have, the more I want.social-media
The more you “confirm” my value, the more I want to hear.
The more “likes” clicked on my status, the more validated I appear.
I want you to think I’m a wonderful person with an endless capacity for charity.
Truth be told, was it not for grace, you would see the wretched person I am.

I realize I’ve just completely sold myself out and admitted that I’m an affirmation junkie, a seeker of self, a slave to ego…then I add Jesus to the equation. I open my hands and ask him to strip away those things that entangle me. I beg him to remove everything hindering my spirit from walking closely with him. I cry out in frustration that I would allow myself to be the one thing standing in the way of complete freedom in my Savior. It’s exhausting!

And then He whispers to my heart, “Worthy, precious, child, if you did everything perfectly, what need would you have for forgiveness? If your every decision was selfless and pure, what need would you have for grace? If when you stand before the mirror, you are without blemish, why did I give my life to set you free? Some days I will give you moments while others will be hours, but not a day will pass where I will not give you the realization that everything good comes from me. Never a day will go by that I don’t show you that the breath you’re breathing and the next breath and the next are not possible without my willing them to be. It does something for your soul to approach me, recognizing your absolute dependence on me.

My journey has been one of gut wrenching pain, inexplicable happiness, bountiful blessing and tragic loss. I know the superficial feeling of superiority when surrounded by people of earthly importance and I know the sacred peace of weeping with a mother whose baby just took her last breath. I am both a woman in recovery who has seen addiction at its ugliest and a wife, mother and business woman striving to make a difference in the short time given on this earth.

I am learning that when my mind attempts to steer me toward self, I choose Jesus. Sometimes it’s just in the nick of time. I don’t say long, elaborate prayers. I don’t always drop to my knees or fall on my face (though at times that’s the only way to find reverence.) There’s no formal monologue. Most of the time it is a word or sentence. It’s simple enough for a child to recite yet powerful enough to calm my anxious heart, “Jesus. My Jesus. Not my will. Not my way. Yours. You are able to do far more than I could ever ask or think. You created me with great purpose and I trust Your plan. You have never deceived me and will never lead me into a place where You are not there waiting for me. Please drowned out all the noise that attempts to distract me from my real purpose. Unshackle me from the bondage of self.

Maybe you can relate to the confessions in this post or maybe you now view me as a lying, Jesus freak. I cannot concern myself with your interpretation, only with my delivery. I can only hope that by sharing my struggle, you will feel less alone in yours.

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. You don’t ever have to be alone again.

 

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Miley and Me

Well after days of nothing but ridicule and criticism we can all agree that Miley Cyrus has received as much or more attention than her PR agents planned for. Quite honestly, I believe that they are the ones laughing.

You’ve heard the saying, “Negative attention is still attention.”

I saw only clips of her performance, but it was enough to get the picture. After realizing that I didn’t even know she had so drastically changed her appearance, or come out with a new song, it was clear that though her marketing team may not be working for longevity, they are rather genius.

Every time I scroll through Twitter (she reportedly received more than 300,000 tweets per minute during her performance), turn on the news or radio or google anything, I am bombarded with the comments, still shots and derision aimed at Miley. She’s everywhere and those of you complaining of her openly risqué behavior and wanting to guard your children from her influence, are the very ones promoting it.

Why do we care so much? Why can’t we move on? We have experienced the shock factor from many artists, athletes, actors and actress’. We sure do love a “train wreck” as was stated several times in social media. Then it hit me. The people responding to this with such disdain come from 3 different places…

ReligionHide your husbands and sons! Look away! Don’t be tempted to look on the sinner lest you be influenced and driven to stumble!

Stop using God as a reason to verbally dismantle someone who His son died for. I don’t think He’s cool with that.

Jealousy – (I would pair gossip and drama in this category too) Well I would (i.e. could) never look like that, sing like that, feel free enough to express myself like that, so it must be wrong!

The green-eyed monster is a tricky one! Look out! All the while you’re going along with the flow not realizing that it is you acting the part of the foolish one.

JudgementLook at her, up there, grinding on that married man! I’m sure her parents are really proud! It’s disgusting!

Careful! Be ever so careful when pointing out and enhancing another’s seemingly bad decision. Tomorrow, next week, next month, maybe next year, something you are keeping in the dark will come out into the light and you will think back to the moment you said hurtful things about someone else out of your lack of willingness to understand their circumstances.

Miley and I have many similarities. I’m not a celebrity or millionaire. I don’t know what it’s like to be unable to walk into the nearest grocery store without being mobbed by paparazzi. I could never pull off the outfits she wears. That being said, if I looked the way she does there’s no telling what I would proudly accentuate myself with?

However, everyday I ask the world around me through my words, behavior and responses to things, “Do I matter?” “Am I good enough?” “Do you like me?” “Can I make it in this life where everyone is disposable (or so it seems)?

* I retweeted a picture yesterday of Will Smith with his family and their reaction in the audience during Miley’s performance. Will SmithI wish I had thought through that a little more.

Reason being, if my insides were viewable from my outsides, I would receive the same reaction. Maybe your thought life is as pure as the driven snow, but mine is not.

Whether it’s road rage, envy, disappointment, you name it, I am constantly praying throughout the day, “God, please direct my thinking.” I have burned this image of the audience into my brain as to easily access it in my memory when I am thinking or acting ridiculous.

Jesus doesn’t play the shame game. So why do we? I wore shame far too long before I exchanged it for forgiveness and grace. I thank God everyday that social media wasn’t what it is today when I was going through my time of “discovering myself.” My life would be very different.

For those of you saying, “I will never tell my daughter that Hannah Montana is Miley Cyrus.” I think you’re just silly. We all forge a path. Some of us walk in the steps that others have made while some create new tracks. Mistakes, well, it’s all part of the journey.

I don’t know Miley’s definition of mistake, but she leaves no room for question that she is no longer a child and wishes not to be treated like a child.Miley then
Miley now

If you ask me, we all have a little bit of Miley going on. It may not be visible on the outside, but it’s no less there.

all media was taken from my good friend Google
* The picture of Will Smith and his family’s reaction to Miley’s performance was later corrected as their reaction to Lady Gaga’s performance, as you can see in the bottom right corner. This is a wonderful example of how cut away shots can be paired and used with anything.

When Beauty is a Beast

I am currently mentoring several young women who are entrusting me with their story and a place in their journey. I’m not even sure how it happened, nor do I feel equipped to mentor anyone, but God doesn’t call the equipped, He calls the willing and provides the equipment.

To be honest, it helps hold me accountable for my thoughts and what I’m telling myself. I think God brought these young ladies into my life as much for me as he did for them… maybe more.

It’s no secret that my relationship with food and exercise is less than ideal. For those of you who don’t know, imagine a really nasty divorce from someone who tried to kill you, but you have to live in the same house with them after the separation. That’s a pretty accurate depiction.

I do great most of the time, but when the body image monster sneaks up on me, it does so with a vengeance. I go from being comfortable in my skin to feeling like the reflection in a fun-house mirror. Feelings are constantly changing, so I have to hang on and wait for the change. It’s hard.

The other day I was walking through a department store looking at the clothes. Remembering when I fit in sizes much smaller than the ones I wear now. I felt myself getting negative the further down skinny lane I strolled. Years of excuses flooded my mind.
I had an eating disorder so I have to be careful about exercise and restricting my food.
I’ve had 3 children with the last one being a c-section. My stomach will never look the way it did before.
I gave up alcohol, I’m not giving up my Starbucks drinks.
If I have to go without chocolate and caffeine, I will not be of any use to anyone.
And so it goes. The mental cyclone.

And then, I think of my girls. The ones who have cut marks into their skin with razors, stuck their finger down their throat to purge the pain, starved their body in hopes of starving the monster within and numbed loneliness with substances. The ones who count on me to speak wisdom from my life experiences into their heart and mind. I think of their faces and their fragile image of self. I think of all the times I talk about being comfortable in my skin. The fact that I have been chosen to speak truth about their incredible worth is confirmation that I cannot go down the road of ego-induced thinking. I have to continually humble myself before the Father and ask Him to speak what is true directly into my mind.

I also have to be vulnerable and honest about the fact that I still struggle. What better way for the evil one to derail our ability to positively influence others than by attacking our self-worth? There is a truth that never changes, “My Creator knows me and He calls me by name.”

I want to combat my extreme tendencies with consistent patterns of self-improvement. It’s difficult and I cannot do it alone. I have armed 3F9B6448myself with women who I know will respond to my irrational thinking with truth and love. Women who will come around me when I need wise counsel. Women who empathize with my circumstances. Do you have a woman like that in your life?

We all need community, Beauties. It can mean the difference between life and death. Mental, emotional and spiritual death, can be far worse than physical death. God did not create us to go through this life alone. Jesus had 12 close friends who went everywhere with him. Isn’t that a community?

I want to encourage you to reach out to a trusted source this week and speak your fears out loud. You will be surprised how much power is relinquished when shared with another. Do you believe me? Try it. It might just change everything.

Seasonal Addiction

There’s a reason why multiple case studies show that addiction is the highest during the holiday season. It’s the most difficult time to stay sober. I think in part because we’re surrounded by family that trigger all kinds of emotions. It’s also a time when everything around us says we should be feeling a certain way. For those of us who have always bucked up against conformity, we don’t like for people or things to tell us we should feel a certain way. Our natural response is rebellion.

This past October, by the grace of God, I celebrated 10 years of sobriety. I am now a productive member of society. The road was long and filled with twists, turns and dead ends. There were a lot of tears and pleading with my Higher Power. There was uncertainty among the rubble of my indiscretion. There were times when I felt hopeless. And then something changed.

I made a conscious decision to fill my mind with truth and courage. I stopped entertaining deception and falsehood. When I didn’t believe the truth of who I am and that I’m made in the image of God, I would repeat it over and over throughout the day, “God, I belong to you. Thank you that I belong to you. Thank you that darkness has no power over my mind, heart, body and soul. Protect me from evil and all who promote it.”

So if you are new to recovery or are exploring the possibility that you may have a problem with alcohol, food, drugs, pornography, sex, money… anything that is hindering you from living out your purpose, this post was written for you. If nothing else, please know that you’re not alone in your struggle. There are literally thousands of us within one city.

My prayer, in this moment, is that God will intervene and direct your thinking. I pray that you will find purpose in this season of busyness and overspending. When you are looking around for the most convenient numbing aid, I pray that you will see someone who needs your help. My hope is that you will become so caught up in helping others that you don’t have time to entertain the lies that blind. For me, helping others is key to avoid falling back into the snare of darkness.

If you’re an “old-timer” in recovery, a “newcomer” or something in-between and you’re feeling irritable and discontent (as I have been), may I encourage you take a moment and ask yourself why you’re so frustrated. Ask yourself why you cannot or will not find contentment in the current circumstances, and go from there. You don’t have to have any definitive answers, you just need to take the first step.

Are you planning your escape? What vice will you use to “check out?” Please talk to someone you can trust and remove all the power behind the lies. The first sign that I’m headed in a bad direction is when I’m conjuring things up in my mind and do not want to tell anyone. Can you relate? If so, please comment below. So many of us out there need to know we’re not alone.

Two excellent resources involving one of my favorite communicators on the planet, Jud Wilhite, are People of the Second Chance (@POTSC on Twitter) and Central Online. Check it out. You have nothing to lose.

Love and Light,
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