On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Ten.

“But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more.”- Psalm 71:14

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It is a beautiful thing when circumstances and the seen stop mattering. I don’t mean that they do not hurt, or they aren’t hard, or that we can ever be completely unfazed by them. No. The beauty comes from the truth that in spite of the hurt, the hard, and the challenge- We recognize what matters in light of eternity and what does not. What a glorious thing to set down the temporary reality and lean hard into the Eternally Real.

Chapter 24 of On Milk and Honey is all about joy. (It is in fact, titled, The Joy Within). If you gathered anything from reading the book, I hope you caught on to the truth that joy does not come from anything that is man-made or man dependent. Our journey has taught us that only God can supply the joy we desperately need. You see, God is so concerned about our joy that He makes it His responsibility. He tells us time and time again that joy is found solely in Him. It has become my mission in life to spur others on to seeing God in all things. Not only that, my purpose in this season is to show you that He is good in all things, even in suffering.

So, in light of that, in this last week of the On Milk and Honey blog series, let’s talk about you.

God has placed you here for a reason.

Not just on this earth, but in this blog realm.

I have a feeling that you have participated in the reading of this blog or book because you or someone you are close to is walking through the unexpectedly hard.

I have a simple question for you: has this hard become your joy?

Meaning, are you allowing God to use this hurt, this trial, this different, to glorify Himself and show you and others around you that He is good in all things and He can be trusted?

Are you wallowing in the hurt or are you leaning on the cross?

Now, don’t hear me wrong: grieving is a huge part of that. The world needs to see sinners who have found their hope in Christ, not robots who are putting a spiritual bandaid on their tribulations.

Yet, as people are watching you walk through this thing, whatever this thing is, are they being led to the cross and the hope found in Christ or are they merely being led to a person walking through something tough?

Here’s the reality:

This trial is much bigger than you.

In your own strength, you are helpless to find victory in it.

In Jesus, the victory has already been won.

And- if God has allowed it to pass through your life- He wants to use it in a mighty way.

You see, I used to the be the person that would watch the youtube video or read the blog, find encouragement, yet never see my own stuff in it.

And then, the Lord called me to more.

He assured me that He wanted to use each and every detail of our story for His glory and our good.

He strengthened me in the moments that I felt vulnerable and unsure.

He continues to be the Holy Banner of this beautiful journey, and truly, only He could cause me to firmly cry out to the world that it is well with my soul.

So this week, the Personal Challenge is this: think long and hard, pray authentically and ask God to show you how He wants to draw you more deeply into this mission of allowing God to use your specific suffering and challenges to cause the world to see more of Him and His grace. It may not be a blog or a book (or it may be!) but make yourself open to whatever He deems is right. Maybe even start out each day saying this simple phrase, a posture of open hands to symbolize the posture of your heart:

Lord, to all that has been, yes.

To all that will be, Amen.

As He reveals this to you, it would warm my heart so much if you would let me know (by posting on the Facebook page, on this post, wherever!) what you feel He has revealed to you.

The Community Growth Challenge is to let someone you love know what you think He is calling you to do, and to ask them to keep you accountable to follow through with the steps it will take to be obedient in this.

The Pay-It-Forward Challenge is this:

I believe with all my heart that some of you will be called to lead a small group study with this book. You can use the Lessons Learned section, you can use this blog series, or you can do your own thing. I would simply ask that if you feel that tug on your heart that you would be willing to step out of your comfort zone and ask those you feel called to ask to participate. Remember, He is responsible for working in hearts; we only have to step out in faith.

Friends, it has been a JOY to walk through some of the important themes of On Milk and Honey with you. I cannot wait to see what He continues to do with the words He has given me; and I am expectant to watch Him do wonders with the stories He is writing in each of your lives. Remember- if you are in Christ- our platform is always Jesus, and the details of our lives are intricately written out by God’s heavenly, holy hand.

He is worthy of all the glory and all our trust.

All praises go to Him, forever and ever.

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Rejoicing (or Mourning) With Others When it’s Hard.

I passed them in the grocery store, identical outfits for their identical status, seemingly about two years old. Their dresses were beautiful, and they lay perfectly on each of them as they stood tall and proud, not a care in the world. They were both holding a cookie, a ploy most likely from both the management and their momma to keep them entertained while she finished her shopping. One would twirl, and the other would giggle in glee, cookie dripping from her lips as she laughed. “Look, mama, look,” said the second girl, as she spun and spun and spun. It was a miracle, and I could not help but watch. Her mother glanced over, giving a half smile, and replied, “Wow, honey,” as she contemplated whether to buy butternut or acorn squash. As we made eye contact, she looked over at me with a somewhat smug grin and said, “I hate to tell you but you’re staring at your near future!” and chuckled. I gave her the most sincere smile I could muster up and simply said, “They are absolutely beautiful.”

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We had just left two doctor’s appointments, one in which surgery was recommended and one that gave us another recommendation for another specialist. I had the girls in their stroller, the only way I can really grocery shop these days, and I was trying to hurry so that I could get the girls home to give them their boluses. We had passed four people already who had said something along the lines of, “Almost naptime?” or, “The one in the front looks like she’s about to take a nap”. The girls’ demeanor often appears tired to a watching stranger, for reasons I’m not quite sure. Maybe they are tired; or, maybe it’s just plain hard to spend their whole day in a series of work-outs that we tag as therapy and stimulation. It’s one of those things I just don’t know, along with a stream of others.

“Let love be genuine…rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”- Romans 12:9a,15

Let love be genuine.

Rejoice with those who rejoice.

Mourn with those who mourn.

Is your love for others genuine?

What I mean by that is, when you are in the grocery store and someone’s story looks drastically different than yours, are you able to be authentically happy for them or do you find yourself comparing?

If this story doesn’t ring a bell, apply it to your life in a different way.

When your friend makes a perfect score and you barely pass.

When an acquaintance posts she is engaged on social media, and you haven’t been on a date in two years.

When your co-worker’s husband sends her flowers, and you can’t remember the last time yours simply said, “I love you”.

When the facebook post that has gone viral announces he is healed from cancer, and you just got word yours is back.

When the blogger is talking about the woes of her special needs’ twins, and you simply wish you had yours back.

Do you rejoice- not just by mouth but in heart?

Friends, it’s hard. It’s so difficult to not filter everyone else’s story through our own lenses. In our house, we face this every day. As friends have babies and praise God for the, “happy and healthy”, I cringe. Knowing if I am bothered because I truly believe God should be praised regardless of health or happiness or if I’m watching their life unfold and I’m just plain jealous is sometimes a hard thing to determine. When we go to kids’ birthday parties and they are all running around and exploring the world and sharing a table full of goldfish and puffs, at times, I have found myself wondering how in the world I am supposed to rejoice in what appears to a life so “other” than ours. There are days when, if I’m honest, I would love to be the trendy food blogger rather than the blogger who encourages those in their suffering.

So, how do we rejoice when others rejoice without just faking it altogether?

And- on the other hand- how do we mourn with those who mourn when it seems like at any given moment, the mourning of those around us could absolutely consume?

Jesus.

“This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.”- Psalm 118:24

This has become my mantra and recipe for attempting, sometimes feebly, to do the above. In order to have the strength, ability, drive, and authenticity to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, we must take into account that the Lord our God is above all things.

We must believe, with every ounce of our being, that His plans for each of His children are not only intricately planned and laid out, but that they are good.

We must remember that He promises us that, in Christ, the darkness has already been overcome and no night will ever end without the promise of the morning dawn.

We must cease looking at mourning as lesser than rejoicing, for our God said that those who mourn are blessed (Matthew 5:4).

He who made every season of every life promises us that He is working all things for our good.

And- as I have said many times before- a gentle reminder to each of us that this life is not about us yet our God is for us. Two truths that MUST go hand-in-hand.

As the Scriptures tell us in 2 Corinthians, Paul was going about, preaching the Gospel, risking his earthly life, and offering healing to others, all the while begging God to take away his own thorn.

He was watching others’ thorns get tossed into the sea in the blink of an eye. He was a faithful messenger. Why was his thorn not going away?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”- 2 Corinthians 12:9

As this truth reached Paul’s heart, he was able to say, with all of who he was, that He was content with his weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ (vs. 10).

For the sake of Christ.

For the sake of Christ and what He has already overcome at the cross, we are able to rejoice and mourn with every individual God places in our lives.

He gives us limitless strength and ability to not compare, but to combine ourselves with one another as members of one body and find joy in all the details of the story He is writing.

In truth, we are not living out individual stories; but rather all of our lives are separate but interwined chapters in God’s glorious book.

He is the Author, and one day, we will see His story in perfect splendor.

Friends, as each of us walk through our own stuff, may we fight the temptation to look at our neighbor’s story in envy and instead, may we praise the One who chose each of our journeys with utmost care and wisdom.

May we remember that there will be no mourning in heaven (Revelations 21:4); but while we are still on this earth, might we choose to help shoulder the grief of our fellow sojourners.

May we not see another’s joy or sorrow as taking away from our own; and instead, might we put another’s life before our own, following the footsteps of the Author and Perfector of our faith, trusting in the righteousness of Christ alone, and relying on the Holy Spirit to do it all.

Let’s not look at a snippet of another’s life and arrogantly believe we see the whole picture.

This weekend, may we all trust our Creator to do His job; simply determining that we will rejoice and mourn in the corners He has called us to do so in- knowing that they are not opposites but rather partners in helping us see God in all things, at all times, in all ways.

Each of our stories plays a valuable role in the kingdom of God, and no details are wasted when His perfect hand holds all.

All glory go to Him and Him alone, with infinite reason to always rejoice in His provision and love for us.

Thanks be to God.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planning of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”- Isaiah 61:1-3

“The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light, but the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. Your sun shall no more go down, nor your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light and your days of mourning shall be ended…I am the Lord; in its time I will hasten it.”- Isaiah 60:19-20, 22b

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On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Nine.

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I woke up this morning excited to share these words with each of you. His Spirit had already determined what He wanted me to focus on for this week’s blog series, and as I pulled up the Bible App verse of the day, I smiled as I read these words:

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty One who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.- Zephaniah 3:17

How appropriate.

It seems that our souls are quieted most when His voice becomes louder than all the other things surrounding us.

Many of you have expressed how much you connected to the words in Chapter 22, the chapter entitled, Grace. On page 119, I state these words,

“If we are unaware of His provisions, it is not because He is not giving, it is because we are too worried about getting what we think we need and not trusting His gifts.”

Too worried about getting what we think we need.

Not trusting His gifts.

Sound familiar?

Even in this season, over a year later, I find myself still learning and re-learning these truths.

He must become greater, I must become less (John 3:30).

I know this is the key to experiencing true life and peace, yet the process burns at times and feels much more unnatural than I would wish.

How do we focus on His gentle yet loud singing over us whenever we are so blatantly aware of the world’s screaming?

“The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works. The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all his works.”- Psalm 145:13-17

Maybe it’s time we stop thinking, “What’s in it for me?” and, instead, start proclaiming, “I’m in it for Him”.

When our praises are ever before Him, when we are fixing our eyes not on the seen but on the unseen, when we make a choice to see eternity in the midst of the fleeting, that’s when His singing is most clear.

We must make a choice- daily- to push the noises of the world into the background in light of a holy and true God.

Not because we always understand what He is doing.

Not because our days are perfect, our life is always comfortable, and things consistently go our way.

Because of Christ and Christ alone.

Because, in Christ, we have the choice to let Him live out all our days- the choice to focus on the eternal beautiful around rather than the seemingly negative- which, by the way, is all temporary. He is making all things new (Revelation 21:5).

How perfect that our God wanted to seer this on our hearts on a Monday.

On a day in which the world might tell us rejoicing is hard; might we fixate on the God who says rejoice in all things.

The truth is, praising His holy name isn’t just fitting on Sunday, or Wednesday, or at church, or bible study, or when you feel like it.

Praising Him should be the overflow of our hearts at all times, simply because He is God and He is worthy.

The Personal Growth Challenge this week is this: In the morning before you even get out of bed, begin praising Him for who He is- not the gifts, but the Giver Himself. Praise Him for His power, His might, His sovereignty, etc. Make your own list and make it personal, but start each day out with praises of His name.

The Communal Growth Challenge will involve you making a point to steer the conversations of your life around His sovereignty and His goodness. For some, this might be easy, as your work or home environment alludes to these interactions already. For others, this will be a stretch. Remember, He who is in you, if you are in Christ, is greater than He who is in the world. With Him, this is possible.

The Pay-It-Forward Challenge is to write down the list of those qualities of God that you are praising Him for one morning, and then, anonymously pass it on to someone you think might need the encouragement.

Friends, God is who He says He is.

He is worthy of all praise.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter what.

May we trust heavily on His provision and His ways no matter what the cost.

Blind Spots.

I have blind spots.

These don’t necessarily affect my structural vision, yet they do affect my spirit; some sort of spiritual blind spots if you will.

It occurred to me yesterday that one of the missions behind this ministry is for me to be able to authentically share my blind spots in hopes that you will see the blind spots in your own life and be able to not only recognize them for what they are but be freed from them.

I don’t want you to have to learn the same lessons over and over again like I have had to do.

They say experience is the best teacher, and I pray that it can be the experience of others God places in our lives as well.

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So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness.- Ezekiel 20:10

Our family has been in the wilderness for what seems like forever. As I read though the old (and new) testaments, I am comforted that we are in good company.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.- Matthew 4:1

When He led the Israelites to this wilderness, God made it pretty clear- okay, very clear- that He was doing this so that they would know He was Lord and turn back to Him.

Why do we have to go to the wilderness in order to see Him most clearly?

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I get it. I get it because this wilderness of life He has us in has caused me to seek Him like never before.

I get it because I see those around me offering prayer for friends and family that find themselves in the wildernesses of life.

But sometimes, it’s just plain hard.

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I am physically and emotionally exhausted this week.

To make things clear, the girls have had sleep trouble for almost two years now. They slept through the night for a few glorious months, and then the unknown reared its head yet again. For those problem solvers reading, we have thought of it all. We have consulted all of our physicians, numerous times, and nothing seems to quite line up. So, this waking up a few times a night has been our norm for what seems like always. I can handle no sleep. What pains me is watching my sweet girl writhe and scream in pain for hour upon hour. While rest would be nice; I would stay up a million nights in a row instead of watching her cry like this for one. We are going to the doctor today to do some labs and talk through some estimations of things we could change or do, yet as I felt myself feeling extra worn down yesterday afternoon, the phone rang.

Anytime my caller ID reads, ‘Genetics’, my heart flutters.

Spoiler alert: here comes a blindspot.

Because of some confusion between organizations, we were told that information had been construed and things were not as clear as they seemed and by the way, there is only one other person with this mutation and no studies seem to be going on at this time.

I hung up absolutely devastated.

I began questioning God’s authority and ways in my head, and practically cursing Him in my heart.

“Why God?”

(Yes, that question I have preached for you all to not ask- replaying in my mind on repeat).

I determined in less than two minutes that yes, God was going to get the glory in our story; but that certainly in light of this He could not be for us.

I started thinking about what Hugh and I were going to do that night in order to mask the pain- you know, those temporal go-to’s that may be individualized but are point-blank idols used to cope.

Within one phone conversation, my faith was weakened.

About ten minutes later, our genetics team reached out to me again. They apologized for the miscommunication, said they had spoken to other resources involved, and that the information from prior conversations still stood.

Still more families with this mutation.

Still publications being written up.

Still more knowledge waiting to be unveiled.

While I was relieved; more than anything, I was so ashamed.

Friends- things are not always as they appear. God is for us, and just because the circumstance takes a turn, this truth still stands. Don’t let one situation with man break the trust you have been given in the Father.

This particular blind spot not only led me to repentance of my unbelief and distrust; it also led me to some beautiful conversations with my Lord.

When we say, “God I can’t be faithful anymore”, He gently whispers to us, “I know- but I can. Your faithfulness has never been the key- in fact, your lack of faithfulness was what led me to the cross in the first place. My faithfulness is the key, always has been and always will be.”

For the wives and mothers out there: there are days where it feels like my energy is spent and I just simply can’t be a good wife and a good mother.

I truly feel like I have no more to give.

I grieve this and wish it wasn’t so but after caring for the girls’ needs and handling the unpredictable things that appear throughout the day, some days- many days- loving Hugh the way he deserves feels like just too much.

Yet God.

He reminds me that He has not only called me to be the girls’ mom- He has called me to be Hugh’s wife as well- and this calling was not only first but is a covenant between the three of us. You see, being a wife and being a mom is a congruent calling and because it was His calling, I can trust Him with the responsibility of making it happen.

Is anyone feeling me here?

Friends, He is God.

Nothing is too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17).

Don’t let a blind spot in your own human perspective prevent you from the joy and peace that comes with trusting Him in all things, outside of worldly appearance.

Don’t confuse your vision with His heavenly vision.

As Hannah Whittall Smith said, nothing but seeing God in everything will put an end to all complaining and thoughts of rebellion.

Nothing but seeing God in everything.

I beg each of you- learn from my blind spots and choose to see God in your story not in spite of all the details but simply because He is Lord.

He is Lord, let Him do what is good in His eyes (1 Samuel 3:18).

In all things.

In whatever way He sees fit.

For his kingdom and our good.

Always.

And, with every breath and every thought and every move we make, not just with our mouths but also with our minds and our hearts and our actions, might we cry out with all the saints,

To God be the glory.

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On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Eight.

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“Never yield to gloomy anticipation. Place your hope and confidence in God. He has no record of failure.”- Mrs. Charles L. Cowman

What if.

There are so many times in this season of waiting that this question was-is– on the forefront of my brain.

What if the test results came back abnormal?

What if they didn’t?

What if this sickness ends up in the hospital?

What if the girls begin to regress?

What if new medical problems are right around the corner?

What if we never sleep again?

What if we never get answers?

What if we do?

What if, what if, what if?

As I have said many times before, I believe consummation with the things of this world is one of the biggest joy-stealers we need to fight against. It is when we lose sight of heaven that our whats, whatever those whats are, seem large and absolutely in charge. We all do it. It starts with one simple thought and suddenly we have gone down the rabbit trail of story-making and we have determined something as truth that has not an ounce of reality to it. Sometimes, it begins affecting our relationships with those around us, as they are playing a role in our made up stories that they are not even aware they are playing.

Is anyone feeling me?

You see, these what-ifs, while seemingly harmless, formulate anxieties and worries that begin to seep into our spirits and poison our attitudes.

And, have you ever noticed that 9 times out of 10, our what-ifs aren’t exactly positive, easy, or pleasant?

“…and may the Lord do what seems good to Him.”- 1 Chronicles 19:13

While this verse was taken out from the midst of a battle against the Ammonites and the Syrians that the Lord had asked Joab to enter in to, I believe it applies to us as well because getting our hearts to a place in which this is its very cry might just be the thing that dissipates our what ifs altogether.

If we know God is for us, we might not wonder about what’s next so often, for we will know that it is His best.

So often, I believe we are frantic about the future because we are not confident in what God is doing. We don’t feel certain that His plans for us are good and His ways are perfect.

Friends, instead of asking, ‘What if this thing ends this sort of way?’ or, ‘What if this detail occurs in my life?’ , wouldn’t it be freeing to poise this question to the depths of who you are:

What if my God is in absolute control?

What if He has seen all the details of my life and called them good?

What if this story He is writing is for a bigger purpose than simply my comfort?

What if I could begin each morning claiming this as truth and end each day confident He was still sovereign?

What if, what if, what if?

I spent so many years of my life not realizing that victory was available in that very moment; that I didn’t have to wait for my circumstances or emotions to change to begin trusting in the God over all.

Don’t let that be you.

Today, might you stop letting the, ‘what-ifs’ lead your steps and guide your decisions and instead, let the Sovereign God of the universe still your heart and instill truths in your soul that you desperately need to allow to penetrate into the moments of the coming week.

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The Personal Growth Challenge is this: I want you to repeat the phrase above, “May the Lord do what seems good to Him” whenever the what-ifs begin to rear their anxious heads. As much as you can remember, might you claim this as true in all the details of your days.

The Communal Challenge is to consciously be aware of conversations with others in which you are analyzing the unknown and attempting to gain knowledge of the future (or just plain what-iffing with a friend); and instead of beating yourself up for it, use that as an opportunity to encourage another to trust God and stop trying to figure out the things we were not yet meant to know. Gently remind a friend that the layers of each of our lives will be unveiled in His perfect timing.

The Pay-It-Forward Challenge involves simply tagging someone who you think might need to read this post, or sending it their way via email or sharing.

May we not allow our minds to soak in the stories we make up in our heads, formulating various scenarios that could possibly happen in order to gain some pseudo-control, and instead, might we fix our eyes on the One who says,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave or forsake you”- Deuteronomy 31:6

He is with us in all things.

Amen and amen.

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An Open Apology to those that Don’t Follow Christ.

To those who do not follow Christ:

I am sorry.

I am so, so sorry.

As Christians, the moment we truly started following Christ was life-changing. Suddenly, the same book that some of us  had heard from the pews of our churches came ALIVE in our minds and hearts, and every word from its pages felt like nourishment to our weary souls. You know the moment where you are really thirsty, and you finally get a cold glass of water, and you simply chug it til you cannot drink anymore?

This is kind of how reading God’s word feels to a Christian, only infinitely more satisfying.

When those who follow Christ gather together and begin to authentically learn to love God and love people more, we are not sitting around talking about you and what a heathen you are.

Actually, quite the opposite.

Most of the time, we fuel passion in one another over God’s Word and remind each other of the truths that we are being taught and encourage each other to not believe the lies that infiltrate the world around us, knowing that we have been there done that and it only leaves us wanting. We authentically open up about what a mess we are and praise God side by side in light of His immeasurable grace to us. If you are ever mentioned, non-believer, we mention you in love. What I mean by that is this: God instills a thought into our heads that reaches our hearts and suddenly, we begin to see you how He does: fully loved and equally undeserving of the grace He offers yet tragically unaware of your need for Him to uproot your futile attempts to find life and instead, find life in Him. We pray for ways to share this truth with you because we never want you to feel like some kind of project, and in the midst of that, we forget that only by His Spirit will you be drawn to these truths anyway.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the ways in which we have tried to do this Christian thing on our own.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for the times where we allow secondary matters to become primary; and alongside that, I’m equally as sorry for the times where we pretend tolerating sin is loving someone and we don’t state truth for the sole purpose of people-pleasing. We skirt around what God’s Word makes completely clear out of fear of seeming judgmental, or narrow-minded, or simply because we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable ie ourselves.

You see, when Jesus was on earth, He hung out with prostitutes, drunkards, and the like, but he was never there to tell them their sin was excusable. He was there to tell them that He was about to walk the bloody road of the cross to demolish their sins, but not for the sake of letting them bask in it.

He wanted to free us from the things that were keeping us from Him.

His entire ministry on earth was centered around showing His authority, looking at the hearts of those he came in contact with, and growing and seeking out those who had faith to believe.

Along with that, you never saw Him arguing with those who couldn’t see truth for what it was.

He would answer questions when asked, never becoming defensive in conversation, for He knew that the victory had already been won.

Non-Christian- I’m sorry for the times that we, as Christ-followers, have forgotten yet again that Christ already won the victory and that we are not responsible for changing hearts to grasp that; only God is able. I’m sorry for the times we have made a public defense instead of a private plea to the God who knows and sees all.

And on matters of the heart, the thing is this:

God’s Word says that if a man looks lustfully at a woman, he has already committed adultery in his heart.

A thought of hate equals a murderer within the mind.

While following through with these in action might bring more complication and public ridicule, I am here to tell you that if left to my own flesh, I am the whore.

I am the drunkard.

I am the murderer.

I am the thief.

What the world calls a hypocrite is actually one of the crucial messages of the Gospel. When left to ourselves, we are all incapable of serving God. It is only through faith in what He has done for us and trusting in Him that we are able to be saved.

We don’t tell you this often, non-believer.

I am sorry.

We are so concerned with showing you Christ that we forget for you to see Him, you have to see the mess we are without Him.

We come to our private circles and we open up and we show one another our scars; yet we think hiding them from you makes His light more bright.

It doesn’t.

The truth is, in and within ourselves, we are just as messed up as you are.

And that you are.

You are messed up. When left to your own defenses, you will always choose that which leads to destruction.

So will I.

Yet God.

When you take one step of faith, He will take 99 and suddenly, you begin to see things as they truly are. Your desires begin to change, and You start to want the treasures of God and not the trinkets of this world. This comes by faith and faith alone.

What we have failed to tell you is that while our salvation may happen in a second, our sanctification- this process of becoming more like Him- takes time. So much time in fact, that we will never fully be like Him until we meet Him face to face.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that in the midst of us continuing to work out our own junk we have failed to explain to you that this Gospel is not about your sin, or my sin, or sin in general- this Gospel is about Jesus and the power He has to change each of us, no matter who we are or what we have done.

I’m sorry we have forgotten that it takes faith to have eyes to see and that if you are not reading His Word in faith, it’s going to be like dead words on a textbook.

I’m NOT sorry for standing up for the truth of His Word.

I’m NOT sorry for telling you what that Word says.

If we love someone, speaking truth to them is essential.

Yet, I’m sorry for the times my brothers and sisters have chosen a manner of defense on topics that were never meant to be a debate in the first place.

God is God and I am not.

If you want to argue about what He says brings life and what He says brings death, argue it with Him.

I didn’t write God’s Word; I just know it to be true.

Non-Christian: God is much more invested in your salvation than I ever could be; so much so that He died for it. I will never be a perfect representation of the love He has for you. I am going to fail daily, yet the goal was never for you to see a perfect person. The purpose has always been to point you to a Perfect God.

I’m sorry for the times I have pretended I am any less human than the next.

I’m sorry for the moments in which I don’t speak hard truths to you simply to save face.

I love you much, much more than that; and so does your God.

Non-believer: let’s be friends.

Let’s be friends without an elephant in the room.

Let’s be friends with you knowing that I desperately want to spend every waking moment talking to you about this God who has rocked my world and changed my life.

Let’s be friends knowing that when I do bring Him up, it’s an overflow of my heart and not an attack on your lifestyle.

Let’s be friends knowing that I really am praying that you will see the mess of me combined with the grace of Jesus and that the Jesus in me will be so attractive to you that you will be the one asking questions instead of me trying to spoon feed information.

To those who don’t follow Christ: I am sorry on behalf of myself and my brothers and sisters for doing a poor job of explaining what God says love is and what our faith is truly about.

Sincerely,

                        A broken woman who has been made whole ONLY by the blood of Jesus

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On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Seven.

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Billions of people on earth; no two stories exactly the same. When we woke up this morning, there were some grieving and some celebrating. Many people have more money and “stuff” than they know what to do with; yet no more than a few miles away, their neighbor might be wondering where their next meal will come from.

You do not have to glance at your computer (or phone) screen for long to find someone whose life looks differently than yours. At times, we watch videos of refugees and cancer and disability and murder and confusion, and if we are honest, we say a silent, ‘thanks’ for the things that our yesterdays did not hold. We feel bad for those whose normal looks so other.

Other days, we see vacations and children and parents and parties, smiles and seemingly fun times flooding across our page views, and we feel like we are missing out. We wonder how we ended up with this story and they ended up with that one. We do a silent weighing in of the surface, and it’s pretty obvious to us that we come out less.

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Right around the time of the girls’ first birthday, I started playing the comparison game. I would look at those around me, particularly the ones with two and a half kids and a white picket fence, and yearn for a life that appeared practically flawless.

I realize that everyone has their own stuff and no one’s life is perfect, yet from my perspective, their stuff looked a heck of a lot more appealing than my own.

It was not until I changed measuring tools that I became free.

‘To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with Him? Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told to you from the beginning? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. To whom then will you compare me that I should be like Him? Says the Holy One.’- pieces of Isaiah 40

Nailed to a tree for the sins of all, not a drop of guilt His own yet every wrong, every death, every mistake, pierced into the very core of who He was.

This Jesus. This Jesus who in a moment took on the pain and stain of all evil and all hurt so that we could move forward, forgiven and free from the things that we could have never escaped from on our own. This Jesus. This fully God, fully man, Holy One, who was there before the foundations of the earth and still chooses to be there in the midst of all of our moments. This Jesus who offers to be our refuge when all around us seems to be caving in. The only One who had every right to compare yet chose to stay silent and trust, knowing eternity awaited.

To whom shall we compare Him?

The short answer is, no one.

No one compares.

“When I got so fixated on comparing how hard our life was in light of someone else’s, I was brought to despair. When I thought of Christ and the hope and purpose He brings, the fog was lifted, and I felt free. The thing is this: we are right in thinking that there may be people around us suffering less; but as I have said before, for every person that suffers less, you can find someone who has suffered more. Beyond that, in comparison to Christ and how He suffered for us, all our trials are rags. Because of His death on the cross, we are promised that all tribulations are light and momentary but serve an eternal purpose. Furthermore the purpose of our suffering is to make us more like Christ, not more likely to be bitter at the cup in our hands. It is to make us more compassionate for those around us, not to formulate our own measuring stick of comparison in which we determine who is suffering more.’- On Milk and Honey, p.61-62

We must throw away our own determinations of what is fair and what is not. After all, from a human view, was it fair that Jesus took on the faults and messes of imperfect humans? Did it seem appropriate for Jesus to die so that we could live? Of course not! Yet His ways are not ours. He is good. He knows best. His perspective is a heavenly One and because He experienced the greatest suffering of all time, He now sits at the right hand of the Father while all the saints cry out, ‘Holy, holy, holy’.

When we cease comparing we begin truly living.

We we stop looking at our neighbor to determine whether or not our lives are blessed, we recognize how unbelievably blessed we are.

In Christ, we have been given all things.

I am not saying it is easy.

It’s not.

It’s a battle that I fight each and every day; and some days, I find myself suffocated by my own grasshopper perspective.

But God.

He assures me that the battle is not my own and He is fighting for me.

In light of the One to whom NONE can compare; we can eliminate our own comparison games and instead, give Him gracious praise for having the ability to choose all things for each of us according to His perfect plan and impeccable perspective.

Through Him and Him alone.

And when we don’t?

Grace. Always grace to trust Him to do what only He can do.

His mercies are new every day.

This week, the Personal Growth Challenge is this: Each morning, write a list of things that you are naturally grateful for (the things that naturally FEEL like blessings). Then, write below those things the hard things in your life- whatever those may be. They can be as big as a terminal diagnosis or as small as an ulcer in your mouth. Once you are finished writing (this list can be as long as you would like!) I want you to say each of these things, both the seemingly easy and seemingly hard, and say after each of them, “Thank You Lord- for this I am grateful. Help me to see this from Your Holy perspective and not my own”.

The Community Growth Challenge is to have a conversation with someone about at least two things on that list you wrote- one thing from the “naturally easy” portion and one from the “hard” portion. Ask them what they would have on their list as well.

The Pay-It-Forward Challenge may seem simple, but if you are like me, is harder than you realize: Go into a conversation with someone you are close to with the full intention of listening to them talk about their stuff. Do not listen for a while and then talk about YOU- simply take in what they are saying and offer a safe place for them to be loved. You will probably find when you aren’t thinking of YOU in the midst of it, you are able to love that person in their own journey much more fully.

Friends, may we fixate our hearts on the God who cannot be compared to any instead of comparing the details of our journeys with those around us.

He is good in all things.

“The Lord is the strength of His people; He is the saving refuge of His anointed. Oh, save Your people and bless Your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”- Psalm 28:8-9

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