When Grace Meets Consequence

We preach love and grace but often forget to explain the harsh reality that may come along with the actions of a person’s decisions. Almost giving the false notion that “grace” exempts us from judgment and often harsh consequences. It is a dangerous and in my opinion, false way of viewing the gospel of Jesus.

Throughout His word, He warns us and challenges and sometimes commands morality. Not because He wants a dull life. On the contrary, because He doesn’t want us to have to deal with all that comes with choosing sin. I say choose because yes, it is a choice. I am not ignorant enough to know that sometimes things are out of our control BUT we know when we fail on purpose. He wants a life lived well and lived abundantly. Free from guilt, shame and the self-inflicted weight that sin brings.

There is a fine line. I encourage you to walk it with caution. Never underestimating His grace and his power to forgive. Equally never overlooking the pain that comes simultaneously with the web of lies, deceit, and immorality. The weight of sin is not a joke and not meant to take lightly. Christ suffered and gave His life to cover it. But it is our responsibility to work out our salvation. Not to earn but to appreciate and value the gift that was given.

As a cliché example, having sex outside of marriage is common. Many of my friends are single moms and dads because they chose not to wait. There was no commitment. Just sex. Just sex is never simple. We commit with our bodies, and souls meet. Intimate moments and naked bodies ingrained into our memories. Lust, desires, envy, shame, guilt, pain, jealousy, all brought on from CHOOSING to have sex outside of marriage. Do you want to know how I can say that? Because it happened to me. I will tell you the truth because of how it has affected not only myself but others around me.

Choosing to gossip tarnishes your character, breaking the law ruins reputation, taking drugs or getting drunk may do both as well as possibly taking your life. We say and do things out of emotion and carelessness but lack the mindset that our choice may cause a lasting effect on ourselves or others.

A character is earned and shouldn’t be given automatically just because we say we are forgiven and Christian. It should do just the opposite. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard because of who we represent.

I encourage you today, to ask for forgiveness and to appreciate the weight that was lifted when you chose to become a Christian. I also encourage you, to tell the truth of what sin can do. Don’t settle for allowing the enemy to make light of how truly detrimental one decision can do to change your life forever. It is because of LOVE that this truth has to be said. It is because of LOVE that I never want you to live less than a whole, I love you enough to not want you to remain broken.

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One Well of a Woman

Willing to share it with anyone willing to lie. To lie in her arms, to lie in her bed. Her well runs deep with love. Spilling every bit of herself, quenching the thirst of any man while dehydrating her own.

She avoided confrontation. The looks and stares, she got what she needed to survive in the heat of the day. Away from the other women who would indeed degrade.

But there was one man unwilling to lie. To allow her to lie to herself. A man who saw past the shallow response and committed to diving deep into her soul. Without a bucket, He got to the bottom of that well of lies she so effortlessly spilled. Drenched with shame, her well, remained dry.

He told her everything she ever did. Who is this man?

A man who needed to go to this place just to meet this woman right where she was, in hiding. This man who left His friends and their opinions behind to look into her eyes and tell her that she was worth more. Worth so much in fact that He would soon die for her.

The once harlot branded woman was let in on the secret. A secret she believed and was given permission to share. She went on to confront the men who accepted her lies and she told them the truth. That she was changed, that she was loved. Her newfound boldness dragged out of hiding and into the crowd, making her one well of a woman.

What kind of love is this? The kind that brings life to a thirsty soul. A love unconditional enough to change our condition.

Broken, ashamed, filled with regret, and blocked from a community with others. We hide out just like this woman. We exert more energy than necessary just to stay hidden. Avoiding the confrontation that could set us free.

But Jesus, the one who calls us deeper still and who meets us where we are. Who wants us to dig into our own well of lies. The ones we so easily shrug off as unimportant to mention. The decision is yours to make, to dig deep or to stay in hiding.

Want to dig deeper? Here are a few challenges to help get you started: 

Read  John 4 and take a few notes of what sticks out to you. 

What do your five husbands represent?

Make a list and write it out. If you are having a difficult time, ask Jesus to show you. This is a list to be shared between only you and Him. A list of things that you avoid and hide or that may be keeping you from having a community with others.    

Admit that you have been messing up

It may be keeping you from living a full life. Admit that you may have been wrong so you can do something about it.

Ask for forgiveness.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. Just be open and honest with Jesus as you talk to Him.

Accept His love

Part of truly knowing Jesus is knowing that He loves YOU. That He loves you so much that He won’t allow you to stay the same. He wants you to let go of the compromise and to accept a life full of freedom. Oh, and please know that just like this woman, Jesus died for you, too. There is no sin too great or too big for Him.

Step into community

Realize that NO one is perfect. The more open and honest you are with yourself and others the deeper friendships can go.

It will not be easy

Actually, it can prove to be really embarrassing and honestly hurts. No one likes to admit that they aren’t perfect. I promise you will be okay and you can get through this.

Repeat. There is always more that Jesus wants to bring out. It’s not fun but it is necessary if you want to know Him more and to live your life to the fullest. Never stop digging deep.

P.S. I love you and will be praying for YOU as you challenge yourself.

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Loves me not- for anyone feeling unwanted

For hours at a time, you wonder how different things could’ve, should’ve or would’ve been; if only:

If only I were better looking. If only I didn’t make as many mistakes. If only I tried harder, made more money or was skinnier. If only I weren’t, me. Maybe I would be happier. Maybe I wouldn’t still be alone. Maybe, but maybe not.

Let’s be real. Dating is awkward. You meet someone through mutual friends, similar lifestyles or a promising dating site. Then much like a job interview, you rehearse every move. Certain to reveal only the very best self at all cost.

Inevitably, mistakes will be made. Your best outfit won’t always be clean. Your makeup-less face will be exposed. The quirks will come out. Oh, and I hate to spoil it for you but everyone farts.

The perfect individual you put forth so much effort into becoming will eventually grow tired. All of the dating advice you took will go out the window the second they decide that you “just aren’t what I’m looking for.”

Sounds fun, right? Well, it can be but we are doing it wrong.

Instead of trying to be perfect, why don’t you try being yourself? The you that you are without an audience. Whether you are a silly weirdo, a nerd, or actually the coolest person to walk the earth. Whatever you are, be it one hundred percent. One hundred percent of the time.

If you are desperately trying to alter your personality into what you think someone else wants, you will be disappointed, and so will they. At some point, you will either get sick of living the lie, or they will fall in love with a fraud. You might even grow resentment toward something you chose to do.

You might have experienced being cheated on or were the unfaithful one. Maybe you have never been given a chance, yet somehow feel the bitterness of feeling unwanted. Regardless of how it shattered, few things are worse than a broken heart.

I won’t pretend to have answers, but I do know one thing. You are enough. You are incredible and in spite of your flaws, one day someone will take notice. In hindsight, my worst heartbreak was my fault. Not because it didn’t work out but because I wasted so much time trying to get the attention of “the one.” Guess what? NONE of them were it.

In fact, my husband was off living life without me. When we met, I was rolling on the floor laughing at who knows what. He thought I was the weirdest person and maybe I am but I’ve learned to own it.

While you wait, I hope you learn to live life without a significant other. I hope you explore new places, earn the degree, save for a house, meet new friends, create beautiful things and eat a ton of good food. If only you took a chance on yourself. One day, you’ll be so in love with, YOU,  that the “one” will simply be an added bonus.

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To the Lesbian Who Cussed Me Out

The clicking of her high heeled shoes drew attention to a short skirt and low cut top she so arrogantly flaunted. I approached her and got a whiff of alcohol on her breath as she breathed out flames of disgust.

“This is a church, isn’t it?” the words slipped out of her smirking lips. A sly smile indicating mockery put me in defense. The nod of my head confirmed that she was in fact at the wrong place. Tension fogged up the room as people started to huddle around us. My thudding heart and sweaty palms preparing for battle.

She eased in slowly as if to test the waters. Small talk banter quickly ceased and then without hesitation she fired the first shot. Slurring words cut through the silence like a razor blade when she asked, “Where do you think gay people go when they die?”

It was the first time anyone ever asked me such an audacious question. I took a deep breath and prepared to fire a shot right back. Only looking into her empty eyes left me feeling the sting of her rapid fire. I was wounded.

Racing thoughts flooded my brain. Desperately searching for the answer that would satisfy my Christian conscience. You see, I know the Bible well and what it says but who am I to decide the fate of all the gays? So, I took a deep breath and uttered the only answer I felt to be true. “I am not God, who am I to decide where anyone goes?”

Choice words escaped her resentful undertone while making blanket accusations aimed at all Christians. Anger turned to a pain in a matter of seconds. The wound started to throb. Except for the wound I felt wasn’t from her at all. It was from whoever led her to believe that all Christians are full of hate. Led her to believe that having an opposing viewpoint meant intolerance. Led her to believe that being a Christian meant that we condemn.

To the Christians who hand out free tickets to hell. As though you are speaking truth. The God I know hasn’t given any human such boastful authority. I challenge you as a Christian to go back and reread the printed words. I urge you to be cautious in your presentation. Cautious of whom you are claiming to represent. Yes, stay true to your beliefs but they mean nothing without love.

To the LGBT community, I plead with you not to assume that we are all the same. Or that our disagreements equate to bigotry. I am capable of loving without sharing exact beliefs. I can be your friend without trying to change you.

Love to me is unconditional. Love to me is being able to tell my truth while having an open heart to listen to yours. Love means hurting because you feel pain and getting to know your story. I just ask that you please, don’t take away our rights to speak our minds.

I ask both parties to consider the humanity and to find similarities behind the passion we so desperately want the other side to understand. I ask that before trying to state our argument we first learn each other’s hearts. I promise both pump red.

Lastly, to the lesbian who cussed me out, let’s hang out.

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Wrinkles-Learning to live life on purpose

 Salt and peppered eyebrows burrow as he squints to find a reflection through the fogged mirror. With a frail hand, he wipes away the steam. Each crease on his face tells untold tales of a life well lived. Many of us sadly, will never have the privilege to earn such wrinkles.

It was 6:00 a.m when I got the call. The shaking, monotone voice on the other end shared devastating news. There had been an accident and PJ, along with another, didn’t make it. This name may be insignificant to you, but to many, he was a well-liked individual who could make anyone’s day. A life so full of talent and possibilities, all of which he never saw. At just twenty years of age, he had barely begun to live.

It is incredible how one incident can change your soul. The accident happened years ago but still, I think of him when a milestone occurs. Things that seem as though they should be a right of passage like living on my own for the first time, making the mistake of having a credit card, or using an iPhone. The joy of getting married, getting my first real job or finally buying a home. Endless experiences he never had.

People die every day. We can all think of someone who’s life was cut too short. It was on that early morning when I realized the power of death and even more so, the significance of life. I started to evaluate relationships I had with my parents, friends, coworkers and random strangers I encountered.

Death shows no prejudice. It reaches the young, old, rich, poor, and famous. It will eventually make its way to the prestigious diplomat and the lowly beggar. It finds its way to every corner of the earth and leaves a hollow mark. One day death will come for me, too. I want to be satisfied when it does.

I’ve wasted far too many days living in regret, in fear, and indebted to everyone else. I have hoped for and dreamed but have given up as soon as it got too difficult. As soon as the critics left their opinions, I shriveled in defeat.

I do not know if I will ever look in the mirror one day to see a wrinkled face. I do not know if I will ever have children, meet the president, or go on the Ellen Show. These are all uncertain dreams I have no control over. I do however have control over how I live each day. I choose to live on purpose. I choose to live with intention. I choose to live in order to change the world around me.

We are unique but somehow tied to the same moon and seconds allotted per day. What will you choose to do with yours? Whatever living life to the fullest looks like to you, I hope you live. Your passions are there for a reason. The things you think about that no one else seems to care for are meant for you to pursue.

Choose to live life on purpose. Wrinkles are guaranteed to none.

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Secret Handshake

I’ve been told we met when I was just three years old. Introduced by my parents, some would say it was arranged. You became everything to me. Secret handshakes and hip-hop dances were shared between us.

As I got older, I started to move on. Instead of dancing with you, I danced with my other friends. Since they didn’t think you were cool or fun, I would leave you out. I ignored your calls and learned to live without you.

When I was 16, I officially gave my heart to someone new. Someone more popular, someone who introduced me to things I had never known. I would see you at parties in the back, waiting for me to talk to you, but I was too drunk to care.

Drinks became heavier, the nights longer, and pictures posted of the fun I was having. New friends, old friends. Beach trips. Pool parties. Halloween costumes. Unafraid to show off my perfect twenty-year-old body. On top of the world.

You always answered when I called and never made me feel bad for leaving you out. Until one day when you said that I could no longer only call when I needed you. That you deserved to be either everything or nothing at all. So, I thought long and hard and chose nothing. I was wanted, popular, adored and wasn’t willing to give that up.

Somewhere in between all of the attention, my once bright smile began to fade. In a crowded room, I felt alone. Who am I without you?

I ran as fast as I could. My heart racing. I knocked and knocked but you weren’t home. I had been so caught up that I didn’t even realize you had moved away. None of my new friends knew who you were because I hadn’t bothered to introduce you.

I tried to move on. To find someone new, each attempt worse than the last. No one knew me like you did. No one knew the steps to our dance. No one knew our secrets. I finally decided to give you one last call. Then there you were. I didn’t have words to speak so I said nothing at all. I sat in silence like a fool.

I had missed my chance.

It was morning and a flowered box fell from my closet as I went to grab a shirt. Inside was a love letter you had written. A poem that read, “Neither depth nor height can separate me from you.” I looked up and knew in that moment that you had never left. I did. You had never changed, I had. Jesus, I am forever Yours.

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I watch the wind tremble through each blade of grass like fingers wrapped in my hair. Silence takes over as I feel the tightness in my throat left over from a deafening scream. How could you? A statement echoed one too many times.

One step forward, three back, and eighteen sidestepped. An intended right turned so very wrong. Somehow I ended up here, a broken mess. Unable to speak a word of what happened to anyone.

As I drive away, I no longer recognize the big brown eyes staring back at me. Each drop of rain somehow in sync with tears falling slowly down my cheek. Jolted back to reality with the thud of windshield wipers; I am forced to accept what I had just done.

A haunting past keeps me up at night. Nights turned weeks and eventually years. Years cemented to the past I cannot forgive. All the while wearing a porcelain smile. One more nice word spoken to me and I just might break. How can I accept love when I have knowingly betrayed the love of my life. My own tongue—a dagger gashing my entire being. Worthless. Unforgivable.

Have you been here? With the extra weight of your mistakes leaving you unfit for your calling? Welcome to being human, you are not alone anymore. Using what seems like a safety pin I am slowly chipping away at my cemented heart and hold onto a verse found in Ezekiel 36:26, “ I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you, your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

I encourage you, just as I am, to face your past head on. To accept it, ask for forgiveness and accept the unconditional love that only Jesus can give. To Him you are worth it, to Him, you are everything.

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The Mat- 4 Lessons Learned from John 5

To paraphrase a story from the Bible, John 5 tells of an invalid man at a healing pool. Many blind, lame, and paralyzed would lie at this pool and wait to be healed by stirring waters.

Imagine being unable to move for years, 38 to be exact. You watch as people leave this pool, able to walk again, regain their sight, tongues loosed and able to speak, while you helplessly lie there. When Jesus asks if he wants to get well, the man responded, “ I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me”

Isn’t this just like life, not only is this man an invalid he was alone and people kept stepping all over him. When you are down, circumstances often keep you down. So, that’s the end, life is hard, we stay waiting for another 38 years living in despair.

No…. thankfully, there is a Jesus in this story who says, “Get Up! Pick up your mat and walk,” and he did!

While this is an extreme comparison, we may also find ourselves invalid to some extent. Stuck and in need of physical, emotional or spiritual healing. Here are some things I learned from this story:

We often lean too much on others
This man’s reasoning was that no one would help him. I believe Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well because, after 38 years, you would think he would fight his way out of it.

People aren’t always willing to help
When I read this story the first time, I found myself angry. It is hard to believe that after all these years, not one person was willing to help the guy out. It wasn’t until reading it many times that I realized, the others were all in need of healing, too.

Learn to encourage oneself
The mat in this story was his comfort. He slept on it, it kept him from scraping his legs as he dragged himself to and from the pool. When he was healed, Jesus told him to pick it up and walk. To move on. Learn to comfort yourself, to take it with you because life will get difficult again.

Stop comparing your relationship with God to others
Whether it is thirty-eight days or thirty-eight years, God will move in your life when He sees fit. His ways are not ours and as a follower, you must trust in that. He has perfect timing and never lets us down.

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Hasta La Vista

We tend to be creatures of habitual rituals. Some minor, others so ingrained that we identify with them on a personal level, eventually becoming part of who we are as individuals. Relationships, hobbies, religion, politics, dreams or goals just to name a few things at the core of who we are. The problem is not within the topics alone, it is identifying with them so much that we are unwilling to admit when it’s time to quit.

In quitting, in saying goodbye, doesn’t make you a coward. It means that you realize “it” isn’t working for you anymore and instead is time to say, hello, to something new.

In fourth grade, I wanted to play the flute and join the school band. My mom rented one and signed me up at school. It didn’t take long before I realized that I actually had to practice and do it during recess. It would have been easy for my mom to force me to stick it out and maybe she should have but whatever, I wasn’t good at all and hated it. During the same time period, I discovered a love for soccer. Something I was actually good at. Again, my mom signed me up but instead of quitting it became a ritual I lived out for over 15 years.

I share this story because as a kid, I didn’t care what people thought about me. I cared that I was missing recess and hated what I was doing. I dared to try something new and it worked out for me. At what point do we stop trying new things and become afraid to say, goodbye to things we don’t actually even enjoy?

Take a moment for yourself to examine your reasons for doing something. IF it is for a purpose then put your whole heart into it and don’t quit. But if you are doing it because you are afraid to move on then say, Hasta La Vista and let it go.

Find a new dream, open your heart to a new love, make plans and actually follow through with them. This year get out of the rut, stop caring so much about what others think and find a new passion.

P.S. I would love to hear what your dreams are for 2017 and cannot wait to watch you live them out. Leave a comment here or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

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Lessons Learned from the Three Little Pigs

I was driving home the other day and for some reason was reminded of the familiar story of the Three Little Pigs. For those who may have forgotten, it tells a tale of three pigs who each build a house. One of straw, one of the sticks and the other of bricks. The antagonist of the story is a wolf who wants to eat the piggies. As the story goes, the wolf visits the first two houses and blows them down with little effort. The third home made of brick, however, remained.

Although it is a child’s tale, I find deeper meaning in between these lines. Breath. That is what the wolf used to destroy these houses. Ever hear the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” I don’t know who made that up but it is a load of crap. Words…breath… have meaning and the things we say to others or things said to us matters.

It is easy to point the finger and blame the big, bad wolf but those pigs were responsible for their own homes. Just like these little pigs, we are also responsible for the home and foundation we build for ourselves.

Wolves will come, that is a guarantee but what are you made of? We often become unraveled by words people say and give them power over our thoughts, security, and self-esteem.

Start with a strong foundation. Gather the right materials and crew and finally, build a home that is worthy of living life inside. Don’t blame the wolf because you already know he’s coming, be ready for when he does.

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