Thursday, May 31, 2012

Oddballs And Behavior Plans

Comparison is a killer, I know. But I often sit in church, looking around, wondering if I'm the oddball. I wonder if anyone else has a past similar to mine, if anyone else struggles with the things I do, if anyone else feels like an oddball. I'd bet my life that there are many, but we all sit quietly in fear of being ourselves. To be sure, we all look alike. We all fit the mold. I don't see a single person that looks like an oddball. But I wonder how many of us feel like it.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the silent, fearful oddballs just might be the majority of the church!

We are a hurting people who have been fed a pack of lies since we could hear and understand. We've been told by preachers, teachers, authors, women's and men's ministry leaders, evangelists, etc. that our heart is evil and deceitful. Because of that, an unspoken {who am I kidding??...sometimes spoken} behavior plan has been put in place for us to abide by. They're not called rules, for that would be blatant legalism, but they're definitely a list of shoulds and should nots:

We should...
have a daily quiet time that includes Bible reading, study and prayer
read the Bible in its entirety at least once a year
attend church every Sunday and Wednesday

We should not...
drink alcohol
have tattoos
wear our jeans too tight
socialize too often with non-Christians

Those lists could be a mile long. And I've tried to live by them. Christian behavior plans only work for so long.

What happened to allowing Holy Spirit to guide us into truth? Do we think He won't do what Jesus said He would do? Are we so prideful that we have to bypass Him and make a list of rules for Christians to live by?

To the oddballs: We were given a new heart {a good heart} and made holy when we entered relationship with God. We don't need to try to live by a behavior plan. We simply need to trust that He will lead us to live a life that is for our good and His glory. Find the freedom to live in grace. Then find the courage to speak up!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


I've lived without life for a long time. I didn't even realize it. In Waking The Dead, John Eldredge says, We need to drink in beauty wherever we can get it--in music, in nature, in art, in a great meal shared. These are all gifts to us from God's generous heart. Friends, those things are not decorations to a life; they bring us life. (p. 214)

I've spent years going through the motions. Last October I decided to make a change. At the time, I had no idea how significant that decision would come to be. I decided to start and finish something. November and December were filled with turmoil, and I wanted to quit. But January rolled around with renewed purpose and more changes. In January, I learned to persevere, and for the first time in my life, I found an inner strength I didn't know I had. I finally felt a spark of life. By the time February was over, I knew what it felt like to be fully alive!

Since then, I've been overwhelmed with life...being alive! God is reminding me of the things that make me feel alive and is giving me opportunities to put them to use:


I've always loved music and loved to sing. I'm one of those annoying people who sings along to every song on the radio. However, over the past few years, I'd gotten to the point that I was pretty much only singing on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings in church choir. Honestly, I sometimes didn't even enjoy that. But over the last couple of months, God has used the talent of an amazing friend to give me songs to sing that speak my heart. Along the way, I get to write here on my blog, and even write some for the music project.

I continue to run. What started out several years ago as a torturous activity to drop a few pounds has become my favorite hobby! When I let several days pass without running, I miss it and feel like the walking dead. When I finally do run again, I feel life coursing through my veins. God has used running to teach me endurance and perseverance and to show me a strength I didn't know existed inside me.

Now that I have life, I realize how desperately I needed it. I hope I never allow myself to quit drinking in the beauty. I never want to be that parched and thirsty again.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pressure and Pain

I gave birth to three children, and had epidurals with all three (and as early in the labor process as the doctor would allow!). I was not one of those brave moms who wanted to give birth naturally. I am not a friend of pain and have no desire to experience it if not necessary. I felt absolutely nothing as I gave birth to my first two children. (Little did I know what my body was actually experiencing and how much time it would take to heal.) But my third child was a different story! My epidural had somewhat worn off by the time she decided to arrive, and when the doctor said I'd feel some pressure, I think he understated how much. To be sure, I didn't feel pain, but I definitely felt pressure. Thankfully, I was at least numb to the pain!

My friend and I were discussing pain and pressure. He commented that pressure, which most of us feel, might be pain if people weren't numb. He posed the question, How much would hearts hurt if they weren't numb?

Read it again, and personalize it:

How much would my heart hurt if it weren't numb?

I don't like pain. As with childbirth, I don't even want to consider pain. The mere thought of it sends me searching for something to stop it before it begins. I want whatever is going to most effectively dull the pain the quickest. Most people do...because pressure is much more manageable than pain. And there are a variety of ways to numb pain:


Unfortunately, what we don't realize is that when we numb the pain, we can't feel anything...even joy.

What if we quit numbing our hearts and actually allowed ourselves to feel pain instead of pressure? What if we actually allowed ourselves to feel the wounds of betrayal, abandonment, abuse, lost love, death?

We'd survive.

It might hurt like crazy; we might scream; we might cry more tears than we thought possible; we might wish we were dead; but we'd survive. Then we would have the opportunity for healing...because unless we first feel pain, we don't even recognize the need for healing.

God wants to heal our every hurt: physical, emotional, spiritual. Whatever the source of our pain, He wants to heal it...for our good and His glory. And most importantly, He wants to heal our hearts. He wants us whole and free. He wants us to feel and experience!

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Light In The Darkness

My bedroom door stays open, at least cracked, every night. It's been the habit since the girls were babies. I want to be able to hear them if they were to need me during the night. Due to the door being slightly ajar, light from the lamp above the kitchen sink seeps into the bedroom. It allows enough light into the bedroom to enable me to see if I have to get up during the night. I'm so accustomed to the light, I hardly notice it.

However, the girls had friends over a couple of nights ago for a sleepover. Since I like to sleep, I closed the door to drown out the noise of five loud, giggly girls. The bedroom was pitch black. Of course, with time, my eyes adjusted to the dark, and I could make out shapes in the room. As usual, one of the girls needed to tell me just one more thing, and opened the door to come in. The light immediately exposed the darkness. And it seemed brighter than usual.

As Christians, we walk in the Light. He is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps. 119:105). We depend on the Light. But there are times when, for one reason or another, we choose to close the door to the Light, and walk in darkness. At first, the dark seems darker than ever. After a while, our eyes adjust, and the dark doesn't seem so dark any longer. We begin to think we can make our way through without the Light. Until one day, the door is cracked ajar. And the little bit of Light that we allow back into our lives seems brighter than it ever has before. Since He will never force His way in, we have a choice: close the door again, the darkness becoming darker than before; leave the door slightly ajar, experiencing only thin rays of the Light; or swing the door wide open, basking in Light that reveals our good and His glory.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I walked along the sidewalk, minding my own business, careful not to intrude on her personal space. She skipped in the grass, swinging ponytail wrapped in a pink bow, unaware I existed. Her parents walked a few feet ahead of me, deep in conversation. They occasionally glanced back to make sure she hadn't strayed too far off the path. I closed in as she slowed, inspecting something on her feet. She glanced up, and saw me...a stranger... a potential threat. She snapped out of her innocent meandering and ran into the safe hands of her parents.

Thou wilt make known to me the path of life... (Psalm 16:11, NASB)

Sometimes I meander and wander off the path. There are absolutely times when I choose to step off the path and go my own way. Those are times of defiance. But sometimes, it's an unintentional wandering, and I don't realize the lurking dangers the enemy has prepared for me. Like the little girl knew where her parents were, I know where my Father is. I know He's watching my steps. And I know that sometimes He allows the meandering and wandering. More importantly, He allows wants me to run to the safety of His arms when I look up and realize I've put myself in danger. Even more amazing, there are times when He sweeps in like a superhero and rescues before I even have the chance to run to Him!

That's right - he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you - under them you're perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. (Psalm 91:3-4, The Message)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Small Town Scarlet Letter

She's the talk of the town
Stringy hair, slender figure
She gets around

They know her name
Spread the gossip
Add to her shame

Not nearly enough
The dollars come nightly
Feeding the kids is tough

Husbands pretend not to lust
As wives decide
Their attitudes are just

She is invisibly labeled
Tainted and Toxic
By hypocrites 'round the Table

She pays daily for her sins
And silently wishes for grace
But in her small town, nobody wins

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Price of Talk

Talk to me.

That one sentence strikes fear in my heart like not much else. I can't pinpoint exactly why or when the fear began. But for someone who has spent most of life calculating and measuring words, talk is definitely not cheap. It is extremely pricey.

Talk..real talk...the kind that gets past the often a one-shot-per-person deal for me. For example, when I first met with my counselor, I was extremely apprehensive about what I expected to be in-depth conversation. When she first said, Tell me why you're here, my heart felt like it might pound out of my chest. I put on my brave face and started and deep. I was giving her one shot, and if she didn't dive deep with me, I didn't plan to return. She kept up, engaged by asking thought-provoking questions, and most importantly, didn't judge. She made it safe for me to talk. Of course, that's her job.

But there have been plenty of times when that one shot has proven itself too expensive, and I've learned to cheapen my talk. I've learned that scratching at the surface to reach the layer beneath is often uncomfortable. It's what I desire, yet the very thing that scares me. I need depth like I need air, but like an asthmatic, I often find myself gasping and groping for what should be so easily attainable.

I'm figuring out that this is a broken part of my heart that needs healing. I'm not sure of the exact incident when the damage occurred, but it was definitely in my youngest years. Approximately 30 years later, I'm ready for healing...for freedom from anxiety when I hear Talk to me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The New Song

Isaiah 43:1 was the calling. The preparation had taken place in prior months, but on that hot August day when the speaker read these words, I knew God meant them for me:

…Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

As I tossed and turned in bed alone that night, I prayed the whatever, wherever prayer. Whatever you want me to do, wherever you want me to go, I’m willing. My life is yours. My children are yours. I surrender.

In the months and years that followed, I thought I had a pretty good idea of God’s plans for me. In reality, maybe they were my plans for myself. I was sure I was going to be a women’s event worship leader. The one thing that bothered me was that I didn’t believe I had a testimony. Of course I could tell about the day I accepted Christ. And I could tell about the calling. But I believed my relationship with God to be based upon my behavior.  And I’d been a pretty good girl.

Then I jumped off the good-girl cliff. That ugly experience was my beautiful undoing. It was the breaking that God used to draw me to Himself. Even so, I was certain He had revoked His call. And even if He hadn’t, I was no longer a worthy representative for Him.

As I began to experience grace and mercy, I began to write. I believed God had graciously given me a second chance to be used…a chance to share His grace through my story…although He seemed to have taken away the possibility of using my passion for singing.
He put a desire in my heart to communicate authentically and transparently with other people about grace and mercy. He gave me the desire to encourage others through valleys. Selfishly, even now, I want to be the person for others that I wish had been available to me.

Over the course of the last two months, God has unexpectedly surprised me by placing a music project in my hands. It’s overwhelming to know that He is giving me an opportunity to use my voice, as well as some of my words, to sing the new song He’s given me.

This new song is one of deliverance. He led me from a place of legalistic religion to unconditional love. He gently tugged at the mask I wore for so long, wanting to expose the beauty of the new heart He created.  He broke down barriers of pompous pride, and in their place, built bridges of mercy. He loosened the shackles of shame, carried me through the valley of fear, and lifted me to a safe place where my heart could awaken.

The desire God's given me is to see people be captured and freed by Love and set in a place where He makes all things new.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Unwrapping My Daughter's Words

I have cryed, I have lied but you still love me. And I love you.

Those are the exact words {misspelling included...which I love} that my daughter wrote on the mother's day card she made me.

My heart absolutely melted at those words. My first thought was, Oh, yes, baby girl, how I love matter what!

Then I immediately thought how appropriately those words describe my relationship with my Father:

Dear God,
I have cried. I have lied. But you still love me. And I love you.

There's so much to unwrap in those few words:

I have cried...
because I was afraid You'd no longer love me
out of desperation
over ridiculous things
because I felt completely alone

I have lied...
too many times to count
about more things than I care to remember

But you still love me...
and I can't even comprehend why
and I'm so thankful You do

And I love you...
because You first loved me
because Grace is continually saving my life
because You offer second chances over and over

Yes, God, I have cried. I have lied. But...You still love me.

And I love You.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Prayer In the Valley

From what I read and hear, it seems that Christians pray more often during difficult times than in good times. The idea is when people have a reason to be desperate, they cry out to God. When they feel things are under control, they don't need to pray. I've always wondered about that because the opposite is true for me. When life is sailing along smoothly, I find it easy to pray and be thankful, to pray for others. But when I'm walking {sometimes crawling} through the valley, I don't want to pray.

I think it goes back to the deep-rooted concept I held for so long that if something is wrong, it must be because God is angry with me and no longer loves me. I must've done something to deserve His punishment.

I now know that God loves me no matter what, that He is always working for my good and His glory. Still, old habits die hard. My first instinct is to believe God has removed Himself from my situation and is waiting for me to clean it up. That couldn't be further from the truth. He's the one who gets down in the valley with me to lift me out. Still prayer doesn't come easily when I need to be praying most. I often utter, Help me. Maybe that's all I really need to pray anyway. God doesn't need a list of reasons why I need His help; He already knows. And He's already waiting to rescue me.

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:1-2, NIV)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Will Trust In You

My friend, George Vinson, {who recently guest posted here} wrote a song several years ago that has become one of my favorites. It's fascinating to me how lyrics can mean something to the writer, but something totally different to the listener. I know and appreciate the story behind I Will Trust In You, but when I apply the lyrics to my life, they fit just as well:

When I am alone
I will trust in you
When all hope seems gone
I will trust in you
When I am afraid
I will trust in you
And I can’t find my way
I will trust in you

It’s you I trust
Your word I praise
I will not be afraid
When I am alone
I will trust in you

When I am ashamed
I will trust in you
When I am to blame
I will trust in you
When I am confused
I will trust in you
And I can’t seem to choose
I will trust in you

It’s you I trust
Your word I praise
I will not be ashamed
When I am afraid
I will trust in you

When I am alone…
I will trust in you…

(Listen here)

The words that pierce my heart and bring tears to my eyes almost every time are:

When I am ashamed...
When I am to blame...
When I am confused...
And I can't seem to choose...

Those are the places I lived for so long...confusion, blame, shame, not knowing what choice to make. The difference between the story of my past and the lyrics to this song is that I didn't trust God. I thought I knew best, and by the time I realized I didn't, I was afraid to trust Him. I was afraid He was angry with me, and ultimately, no longer loved me. I thought His love for me was based on my performance. I didn't trust in Jesus' completed work.

For so long, I couldn't say, I will not be ashamed.

I've been learning that even when I am to blame, even when I am ashamed, He still loves me. He's still faithful. He's still trustworthy. Even when I am confused, I can trust He sees clearly. Even when I can't seem to choose, I can trust that His plans will be fulfilled.

No matter the circumstances, may my story {and yours} now and forever be...

I will trust in you.

**George recently shared his story and song at Hunter Street Baptist Church. You can watch it here.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Shofar, A Word, And A Battle

I absolutely wouldn't classify myself as charismatic. Far from it, in fact. However, I've been meeting with some charismatic ladies in a group study setting. We recently went on a field trip to a charismatic church where I encountered all kinds of things I've been warned against. I was a little freaked out to begin with and had a few questions for the person sitting next to me. In fact, I kept telling her, This is foreign to me. Knowing my background, she'd just nod and smile. {Seriously though, I thought I might run for the door when I heard the shofar for the first time!}

But as I settled in, God whispered healing words to my heart. He told me He was with me the very day I quit believing I was lovable. He told me He doesn't see me as I see myself; He sees what He created me to be...His bride.

As the night came to a close, something else I'd never experienced happened. The pastor asked several people on the church's ministry team to "speak a word" over some of us ladies. {At that point, I was intrigued, but at the same time, ready to bolt. That's just one of those things us Southern Baptists don't do.} Esther was first to speak. Guess who her word was for? Yep! Non-charismatic me. I thought, Of course, it's me. I've been sitting back here weeping like a crazy woman, hoping nobody noticed me, but knowing everybody did! Who wouldn't have a word for me?!

I still don't know if I buy into "speaking a word," but God must've given Esther the words for me. I won't get into the specifics of what she said because it still kind of freaks me out, but I'll share the general idea. She said she saw the old, dead parts of my life falling away, and a new bud bursting forth, as if in a new season of life, in which God will fulfill the dreams He's placed within me. As I listened, I sat stone faced without moving a muscle, but my mind was racing...She can't possibly know what's going on in my life! God must be speaking confirmation through her.

A few more words were spoken over other ladies, and the service ended. I'm pretty sure I was the first person out the door. Even so, I was aware that God had specifically spoken to me. I shared my experience with my husband and with a friend who has a charismatic background. Neither could disagree that Esther's words lined up with the events taking place in my life.

In the two weeks since that night, I have struggled. Obviously, God has plans for my life. More than ever, I'm aware that the enemy does as well. Conflict has been the name of the game for the past two weeks. I know Who wins the war, yet I find myself amidst a battle. I think the quote below sums it up pretty well:

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sometimes I Stop Believing

My favorite song on my running playlist is Don't Stop Believing by Journey. When I think I can't run another step, when I think my lungs are going to collapse, I think of those words: Don't stop believing.

Lately I need to apply those words to more than just running...because sometimes I want to stop myself, in others, in God.

I'm finding it hard to believe that...
  • God seems to be actually fulfilling the dream He placed within me, and that I won't screw it up somehow
  • setting personal boundaries is good and necessary
  • there are people who don't always hurt and manipulate others
Those are the areas in which I've most often stopped believing, or at least struggled with, throughout my life.

I stopped believing God would fulfill the dream. In fact, I stopped believing that God ever even gave the dream. Now that the dream seems to be turning into reality, I find it hard to believe that God would use me.

I never knew about boundaries until a few months ago. I didn't know I could have a say about what I allowed into my life. While boundaries have been good for me, there are people who don't like or appreciate the ones I've set. It would be easy to stop believing that boundaries are good and necessary.

I remember the day I quit believing that people are good and trustworthy. I closed off my heart and learned to be numb. But there have been some along the way who have shown me that people exist who don't intentionally hurt and manipulate others. But after a few recent, unexpected blows, I find it easy to revert stop believing that there are people who don't hurt and manipulate others.

I'm reminded of this little phrase tucked away in the Bible in what's known as the Love passage: Love...believes all things. Love believes God is good, and He is for me. Love believes I am valuable and worth protecting. Love believes the best of others, and offers grace for the worst. Love doesn't stop believing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Whispers To My Maker

I lie awake in those hours before dawn. The only sounds are the whirring of the fan and the hiss of the air. The numbers of time shine crimson against the darkness next to my pillow. I toss and turn fitfully, finding no comfortable position. On my back again, I try to sleep. Morning will be here soon and with it relief. But tranquil sleep won't come again just now, so I whisper in my mind to my Maker.

When will this end?
Please stop the madness.
Break what needs to be broken, and mend what needs to be repaired.

My mind drifts to unconsciousness, only to be jolted awake with the consuming fear of the earlier late-night hours. The crimson numbers discourage me as only mere minutes have passed. I breathe deeply, only to have the air momentarily constricted in my lungs before I exhale. I whisper again.

Help me!
Just get me through the dark.
Please let morning arrive quickly!

He listens to the heart of my words. Intimate conversation. Words for only His ears. While there are no audible words spoken, quiet comfort is the reply. The words of a song weave their way through my soul: Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me. Anxiety turns to assurance as I wrestle with the fading dark. The nearness of another morning promises another victory over the long night's battle. The dread will soon be over for as long as daylight lasts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Living In Freedom

You broke my bondage and You gave me my liberation

The choir sang those words Sunday. Lyrics are my favorite part of songs, and I usually try to determine how or if they apply to my life. So as I sang those words, I thought of my own story, as well as those of friends.

God has broken my bondage and given me freedom. But sometimes I travel back to those chains, pick them up and toy with them.

The same is true for so many.

Yes, God has broken the bondage of sin and has given us freedom in Him. But how many of us actually live in that place? How many of us live in freedom? Sometimes we put ourselves in bondage, and sometimes we allow others to bind us.


Jesus came to give us life. And not just life... but life abundantly!

I've experienced freedom. He's led me out of the spiritual graveyard. To return to captivity would be to dig my own grave.

What about you? Has He broken your bondage and set you free? Or are you still walking around with your spirit in shackles? If yes, what shackles bind you?...

Someone else's unforgiveness?

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. God sent me to announce the year of his grace - a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies - and to comfort all who mourn, to care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit. Rename them "Oaks of Righteousness" planted by God to display his glory.  
(Is. 61:1-3, The Message)