Wrapping Up A Grace-Filled Year

 

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20

 

There is no verse more fitting to conclude my year-long intimacy fast than Galatians 2:20. The 1,000+ words I’m about to type can’t even come close to summarizing 2011 as eloquently and simply as Galatians 2:20. Perhaps I should just stop typing now…

On second thought, you all know I’m far too long-winded to do that. ūüôā

Wow! WHAT A YEAR! What an intimate, challenging, powerful, humbling year! I cannot believe 2011 has already come to a close. It seems like we began our journey only a few days ago. But the year is set in stone. Another year of life in the books. A year we will never get back. Did you make the most of yours?

There are SO many different ways I could structure this final “Kissless ’till Next Christmas” post. And SO many words I could type. So many things I never had the time to share throughout the year. But, I figure the easiest way to summarize this fantastic journey is by answering some really common questions I got throughout the year, and since the year has ended. Ready for a little Q & A?

Q: Did you REALLY make it the WHOLE year without sharing even as much as a kiss?

A: I sure did. Absolutely. Without a doubt. Did it. Made it. Loved it! It was not an easy year, by any means. It did not come without great sacrifice, bouts of loneliness, apprehensions. At times it really hurt. At the beginning of the year I tried to rekindle a relationship (void of the physicality) with my then-boyfriend, but that wasn’t what God had asked for. He had asked for all of me. 100% of my heart. So I had to cut myself off from a wonderful man and move forward with my pledge to our King. Is that normal? Probably not. But was it worth it? Without a doubt. I am a woman who honors my commitments, and I made a commitment to God. There was nothing that was going to deter me from my promise. Satan tried, Satan failed. People tried, people failed. There was plenty that could have distracted me, but as time progressed, God revealed Himself in such beautiful ways. As time progressed, He cleansed my heart of temptation. He cleansed my heart of lustful desire. He cleansed my heart of negativity, apprehension, fatigue. He cleansed my heart of so many of the emotions and desires that young adults get caught up in. And when my heart was scrubbed clean, He filled it with so much Light! So much hope! So much joy! I would say that after the third month, reliance on a guy was the last thing on my mind. I was, and continue to be, so wrapped in such an intimate and filling relationship with our Lord, that words can’t even do justice for His sufficiency. His grace was enough.

Q. So you didn’t even date?

A. Nope! No dates for me. I feel like half of the people reading this, who have never met me, must have this crazy image in their head of a pale, lonely girl locked away in her apartment with a metal chastity belt strapped on like underwear. HAHA! Get real! Just because I wasn’t out hooking up, dating, or searching for a relationship, doesn’t mean that I wasn’t out living life like a normal woman! Throughout this year I continued to hang with friends and have fun. By tom-boy default, most of my closest friends are guys. I spent plenty of time with them! Heck, I was training with the football boys the entire year. There was no avoiding the smelly testosterone! But, contrary to popular belief, it IS absolutely possible for a girl to have normal, healthy friendships with guys. Those friendships are made even stronger and healthier when you take any chance at physicality completely off the table. I’m not naive. I know how a man’s mind works. I’m well aware that some of their thoughts likely weren’t as pure as mine. But I’m also a firm believer that men aren’t as one-tracked as society makes them out to be. And I have plenty of amazing male friends who would back me on that. Consider it field research. Women, if you want a man to treat you with respect, earn their respect. Don’t assume it will be given. Especially when you are the one teasing them with what you wear, how you act, and the games you play. It comes down to respecting each others’ hearts by being intentional in your actions, intentional in your interactions, and intentional with your words. No dates for me, but so many amazing friendships developed.

Q. Now that the fast is over, have you kissed anyone? Are you going crazy?

A. Probably the most frustrating, and most common, question that I’ve gotten since the end of 2011. *Deep breath* If, by now, you are STILL under the assumption that this year-long fast was simply and solely based around the physical component, you are so far off track. Biblically, fasting and prayer are emphasized as sacrifices to God. In denying ourselves of something, we are showing obedience and discipline to the Lord. We are trusting that He will provide for us, answer our prayers, and nourish us with what we lack. Psalms 35:13 so beautifully states, “I humbled my soul with fasting …” People fast in all different ways. Many will fast from food and drink, some will fast from activity, etc. I was simply moved to fast from intimacy. Not because I was some wild girl before, not because I wanted to cover up my past and let everybody know that I was new and changed. Absolutely not. Why would I have given up an entire year of my life just to prove a point to people? Get real. If those were my motives, I never would have made it. I was solely moved to make this sacrifice by God, alone. And I am so glad that I did. He has changed my heart, piece by piece, from the inside out. He has given me new perspective, new appreciation, and new drive. Those of little faith may assume that a fast only leads to great hunger. But a fast supplemented by the grace of Jesus Christ, leads to wisdom, refinement, perspective, and faith. His grace is so sufficient. I never hungered and never thirsted for intimacy. His love was too abundant. I stand now with arms high and heart abandoned, chained only to the love of Jesus Christ. I have not kissed a boy since my fast ended. And I am planning on saving my next kiss for a man I feel God has very purposely placed in my life, and perhaps has designed for me to marry. I don’t know that man yet, but I know he will come along on God’s timing. And I am more than willing to wait…

Q: Do you feel like you missed out on anything this year?

A: Not at all. And I say that in all honesty. The Lord assures us that if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. He assures us that if we honor Him with our time, our talents, our hearts, He will honor us with blessings, adornment, and comfort. That Man comes through on his Word! Ha! This has been the most unbelievable, fulfilling, overwhelming year of my life! I have lacked in nothing spiritually or emotionally or physically. He has flooded my heart with humbling grace and perfect love. He is all I need. Anything after Him is just icing on the cake. Blessings that I look forward to receiving and then distributing for His Glory and His name! Maybe I sound crazy to some, but I am being absolutely honest. And absolutely transparent. I can promise you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if you give a piece of yourself to the Lord, as much as you can muster, He will complete you. He will free you from the bondage of this temporary life, and reveal to you what Life in Him looks and feels like. Man, it’s amazing. And it only gets better. No matter your circumstance, your history, your background, your present…HE has a future for you! And it’s beyond your wildest dream.

Q: What did you learn through all of this?

I was so naive to think that when I began the fast, I knew exactly what God was going to do in my heart and to teach me. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew what He had in store. Man, was I wrong! If I tried to list everything the Lord has revealed to me this year, I would run out of blog space! He taught me what it means to seek His face. What it means to be a Godly woman, and what that looks like. What a Godly man looks like. What it means to truly be in a Christ-centered relationship. He taught me trust, compassion, love. True love, and what that entails. He taught me dependence, unbridled faith, unashamed Life in Him. He revealed to me boldness, courage, and heart. He revealed to me what it looks like for my will to align with His. He taught me the joys of the fruits of labor done in His name. He taught me how to read the Word with clarity. He taught me how to boldly pray. How to constantly pray. How to fearlessly pray. He taught me how to love others based on the foundation of my love for Him. He taught me that He will teach me my whole life. That I will never have it fully figured out, but that it all is based in the root of love. God’s love for us, God’s love for His Son. His Son’s love for us, our love for Him. He taught me more than I can teach. He taught me Truth.

Q: What’s next?

Now that the year is over, a new year begins. And a new journey begins! It is time to live life unashamed. It is time to live life for His glory! As I take on the uncertainty and excitement of this new year, I hope you all will join me! Join me in following the steps I take in my walk with the Lord. Join me in redefining our lives based NOT around the odds and chances of the world, but based solely around God’s Odds. Devalue the doubt and live boldly!

The odds are in your favor! Do you believe?

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In Response to “Mo-vember”

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” –James 4:10

It’s hard to believe that it is already mid-November. ¬†Ten and a half months into my year-long intimacy fast, and I have

never felt so alive!

If you are in-touch with pop-culture, I’m sure you’re familiar with “No Shave November”–a month dedicated to raw masculine appeal. A month defined by spectacular, untouched facial hair. A month honoring the finest form of upper-lip artwork…the mustache. That curly-haired lip caterpillar is so spectacular, it redefines a month. Turning what used to be “November” into “Mo-vember”–a true honor for the studly ‘stache.

Though I’ve had a few friends joke, here and there, about the name of the month corresponding with my name, it wasn’t until recently that I paid much attention to the title–and for unique reason.

You see, this month has been marked by incredible emotion. Intense highs, stunning lows–ultimately, immeasurable blessings. ¬†The three most notable events stand at the forefront of my mind. First, the conclusion of my 16 year soccer career–a loss in the NCAA tournament that closed one of the most extensive and defining chapters of my life, and ended my college career on the LSU Soccer team. Secondly, being voted by my peers and crowned the 2011 LSU Homecoming Queen–an overwhelming introduction to the newest chapter of my life, and a humbling honor that has countless layers of significance to my heart. ¬†And lastly, winning the online fan vote for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award–an award with an overall winner still yet to be named, but with a message of support that floored me. Literally.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago, in the aftermath of so much intense emotion, that I was walking to class and passed a group of college co-eds. As we shuffled by on the sidewalk, I smiled and waved, and they hollered out in kind support. “Congrats Mo! What a crazy year! You deserve it all! Everybody, it’s ‘Mo-vember!'”¬†Little do they know, the things they yelled have turned my world up-side-down these past few days, and have stirred my heart to a new place.

Now before you roll your eyes, click away from the page, and dismiss me as a self-promoting narcissist, I encourage you to read on. Because the reason this phrase turned my world up-side-down, is likely not the reason you would assume.

Don’t get me wrong, the group that shouted their support–as well as all of the fantastic individuals who have written on my facebook wall, tweeted me, texted me, emailed me, and extended their love–have done so with the purest of intentions. All of your overwhelming love and encouragement and affirmation has meant more to my heart than I will ever be able to express. You have given me such joy, you have humbled me, and you have filled me with a passion that is overflowing. To all of the LSU students who voted for Homecoming, to the countless individuals who voted for the Lowe’s Award–often over and over again–, to every person, coach, player, and fan who has ever supported me through my soccer career…”Thank You” just simply isn’t enough. I don’t even know how to put into words the appreciation I have for you. The respect I have for you. The love I have for you. I wish there was a phrase so much grander than “thank you”. I wish I could hug each of you, look you in the eye, and share the passion I have for you. But I suppose I will leave it at a resounding “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” until the day I can shake your hand.

However, all of the praise and attention that has come in the past few months, and this month in particular, has truly humbled me to a new place. A place unfamiliar.

The phrase that has repeatedly echoed with the most intensity is, “What a crazy year!” I’ve heard similar dialog from others in the form of, “Wow, what coincidence that so much is happening all at once!”, and “This has been a storybook year for you.” While these comments and congratulations certainly make my blood pump and excite me, the fact of the matter is that they violently humble me. ¬†And the most humbling element of all is that I should not be surprised.

I’m sure at this point you’re thinking, “Wow, this chick has got some real ego issues.” But I promise I am getting to the point. Hang with me.

Time and time again, the Bible assures us that if we make sacrifices for God, we will be rewarded. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. If we humble ourselves before our King, He will lift us up.  If we place our faith in Him, He will carry us.  That we are in this world, not of it. And if we can make ourselves uncomfortable in our own lives and obey the Word, we will bear fruit.

That is what this year has been all about in my personal journey. ¬†Humbling myself to the King as best as I know how. Stepping away from my physical wants and desires and turning completely to God. ¬†It has been a hard year. It has challenged me, it has hurt at time, it has left me vulnerable, embarrassed, weak, sometimes lonely. ¬†It has taken every conscious thought of every single day to remain focused and remind myself why I am traveling through such an awkward journey. ¬†Ultimately, time and time again, it has led me to the foot of the cross–pleading for answers, and weak in my inadequacy.

And now, as the year of an indescribable journey is coming to a close, He has followed through on His Word. What? Wow! Why does that shock me? I am supposed to be a solid believer. I am supposed to know that He will do what He says He will do in His Word. ¬†I am supposed to have undoubting faith. So why do I find myself stunned at the end of this year as He lifts my spirit with such fantastic blessings? I suppose, yet again, I’m reminded why I am so human. Aren’t we all?

There is nothing coincidental about this year. Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God: for he that comes to God must believe that He is King, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Read that again. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. He rewards our efforts to know Him more. ¬†Trust me, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. I fail, daily. I sin, hourly. But when all is said and done, I find great humility in constantly seeking to know Him more. Constantly and diligently striving to give more of myself to Him, as best as I know how. At the end of the day, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God blesses those efforts. God smiles on those who love Him and those who use the platform He has blessed them with to glorify Him and His Kingdom.

That brings me to the next thing they hollered–the line that brings me to me knees at the foot of Christ. “You deserve it all!” What great intention so many have had in telling me that. I truly do appreciate your kind regards. ¬†And I do understand what people mean when they express this form of congratulations. ¬†But at the end of the day, I deserve nothing. We earn nothing.¬†I’m sure you are thinking, “Where is this girl about to take this? That’s a kind compliment. Why does she always have to get so deep?” Haha. I know, I know. But there is a great lesson in great success.

Great athletes, great intellects, great entrepreneurs, great missionaries, great service men and women…all great individuals share commonalities. They work incredibly hard at what they do. They invest time, energy, effort, money, and passion into their talents. ¬†They set themselves apart by their work ethic and determination, and often times they are rewarded in outstanding ways. ¬†But at the end of the day, they earned nothing. We deserve nothing. We deserve death. We are sinners and we lie and we steal and we cheat and we lust. We are totally fallible and unworthy of God’s love. ¬†BUT IN FAITH WE GAIN EVERYTHING. ¬†Because Jesus Christ died on the cross, we gain salvation! We gain hope! Because God loves us so incredibly much, He sent His own Son to die for us. Because of THAT, alone, we gain life.

Wow! What a concept to wrap your mind around. In all we do, we deserve nothing. But God loves us so much, He yearns for us to love Him and to use His blessings to glorify Him! Every success I’ve ever had is due entirely to God. My health, my soccer career, my athletic achievements. All are due to the glory of God. I would be nothing without His grace. Every accomplishment, every blessing–from the smallest in scale to the grandest in size–are all due to God and His infinite glory. I deserve nothing. We deserve nothing. But we gain everything through God.

I am nothing. But Christ Jesus inside me is everything! We ALL share the ability to host the King of all Kings in our hearts. Every single one of us. No matter your past, no matter your present–you hold an unimaginable future! Let’s be diligent, let’s be faithful. Let’s seek Him FIRST.

¬†“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.” –Psalms 149:4

I want to know God more. I want to love God more. And because of that deep, active desire in my heart, God has blessed me with this mind-blowing month of “Mo-vember”. ¬†Such a silly phrase. I wish “God-vember” rhythmed¬†better. This is NOT “Mo-vember”. This is a great month of active blessing. ¬†I hope ALL who see the earthly successes in my life know that those successes are trivial to the spiritual success of knowing Christ Jesus. ¬†I hope people will yearn to love God with the same intensity they yearn to succeed. ¬†I hope people will praise our King like they praise our athletic figures, movie stars and musicians. ¬†I hope people will see, through my journey, that GOD FOLLOWS THROUGH ON HIS WORD.

It is not important what you wear, how you look, where you live, what you drive. ¬†It is not important how many championships you have won, how many trophies you have, or how popular you are. ¬†It is not important that I have broken records, been crowned Homecoming Queen, and won popular fan voting for the Lowe’s Award.

It is important that we know God. It is important that we love God. And it is important that we diligently seek Him, and give Him praise in all we do. I promise you, with every fiber in my being, that if you put God first, you will know His blessings.

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” –James 4:8

Imagine This…

Imagine you are a warrior that sneaks your way into a rival Kingdom. A Kingdom that you despise. Loath. Hate. You are praised by your people for infiltrating the Kingdom, and you are glorified for mocking the rulers of that nation.

While in the realms of the Kingdom, you make it a point to break every rule, resist all authority, and destroy all you can.  You degrade the people, you rob and destroy and disrespect. You murder all who try to stand up to you.  You take great joy in ruining all that you can find within the Kingdom; disgracing the authority and criticizing the nation. The longer you terrorize the nation, the more you are praised by your people.

After years of evading capture, antagonizing the locals and degrading all authority, you are finally caught red-handed. You are seized by authority and brought before the rulers of the land.  You are soaked in the blood of those you have murdered and robed in the garments you stole and the jewels you confiscated. You are guilty, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the penalty for your crimes is death.

Not a simple and swift death. A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death. ¬†A death that kills you before your life is taken–a death that degrades you, pains you, rapes your dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is your penalty. This is how you will die.

But as you kneel before the rulers of the nation, head hung in shame, awaiting your gruesome verdict, you feel a hand rest on your shoulder. When you look up you see the Prince of the Kingdom has risen from his throne and stands in front of you before the King. Before your fate can be sealed, the Prince takes a stance in your favor.

“Take my life, instead,” you hear the Prince say. “I will die in his place.”

You are stunned. Confused. Speechless. You had never met the Prince before this moment. You had never spoken with him or done anything for him or done anything for his people. Choking back tears and stumbling to catch your breath, you ask a humbled ‘why’?

The Prince simply replies, “Because I love you.”

Though you can see the King’s heart is broken, he nods in approval and your life is spared.

The Prince dies in your place.

A gruesome, humiliating, painful, slow death. ¬†A death that kills him before his life is taken–a death that degrades him, pains him, rapes his dignity and spirit in a calculated, excruciating manner. This is YOUR penalty. Yet this is how HE dies–even though He did nothing wrong. He simply offered to save you.

After the Prince’s death, you stand face-to-face with the King again. ¬†Your clothes are no longer blood-stained. You have been bathed, fed, cared for and groomed. You stand in front of the King–a King who has just watched his own son die in your place–free of all charges. You are found innocent. Acquitted on all counts.

Then, something unique happens. Rather than being escorted from the Kingdom and taken back to your people, you are welcomed to stay. Not simply to stay in the land–you are welcomed into the Royal Family. Your life is not only spared, you are invited into the castle and crowned as royalty.

After everything you did to their Kingdom and their people, they forgive you. They call you one of their own. You sit in the Highest Court.

Humbly, you hang your head in shame and again ask why…

“Because we love you,” the King replies.

“What did I do to deserve this freedom? What did I do to earn it?” you ask.

Nothing.

“…then why?”

“Because we love you.”

*****

Did you enjoy that story?

Does it sound familiar?

That is love.

That is salvation.

THAT IS THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.

*****

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Fearless Failure

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline.” –2 Timothy 1:7

What is your biggest fear?

Think about it…what scares you?

Are you scared of snakes? Spiders? Heights? Are you scared you won’t be able to provide for your family? Job instability? Financial insecurity? Are you scared of the bullies that degrade you? The men that hurt you? The tears you may cry? Are you scared of injury…what about death?

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Everyone is fearful of something. No matter if you are a 300 lb. lineman, a 3rd grade ballerina, a 57-year-old business man–or anyone in between–we all face fear. When I sit back and think about the things that have scared me over the years, I can’t help but notice a pattern. Whether directly or indirectly, all of my personal fears are linked to one topic: failure.I think the majority of our fears are rooted in the same thing–the fear of failure. ¬†The fear that we will let down the people around us, the fear that the people around us will let us down, the fear that we will let down ourselves. ¬†So many things are so very scary…

When I was very young, I was haunted by the fear that I would be kidnapped and hurt. Granted, I grew up in the early 90’s, an era when child abductions hit the media like a firestorm. To make matters worse, my parents went to church with John and Patsy Ramsey, the parents of JonBenet Ramsey. For those of you who don’t know, the JonBenet Ramsey murder was one of the most publicized unsolved murders of our time. JonBenet was 6 years old. I was 7 years old. When a 7 year-old hears things on the news and sees her parents so emotionally invested in the tragedy, it is hard to wrap your head around the complexity of the situation. So, my mind only went one place–I am next. The “bad guys” are coming for me. Almost nightly I would have nightmares that I would be taken and that nobody would help me or find me—that my parents would fail at protecting me.

Through my young schooling, I was fearful of getting bad grades. ¬†I wanted to be the best that I could possibly be, and I wanted to make my parents as proud as possible. ¬†I have always been a perfectionist, and I have always been competitive. ¬†I was reared under a sister who was brilliant–literally, a borderline genius. (This is a girl who was kicked out of her second grade class for arguing with her teacher that negative numbers did, in fact, mathematically exist and that the teacher was incorrect in teaching the other students that 5 could not be subtracted from 3. Seriously? I was the kid that was kicked out of my second grade class for sniffing glue, getting dizzy, falling backwards out of my chair and hitting my head on the whiteboard. Haha. This is also the girl who would play “the classroom game” ¬†with me when we were little and try desperately to teach me about exponents and exponential factors…I was 6. She couldn’t understand why all I wanted to do was dance to Spice Girls when there were derivatives to learn!) To say the least,¬†we were very different, but growing amidst her brains and my competitive spirit, it fostered a desire in me to be better, to be smarter, to be the best. And, later in life, any time I failed and didn’t do as well as I know I could have on a school assignment—I failed myself. And, in my eyes, I failed my parents.

Fast-forward through a decade or so of fears and failures. To list all the times I’ve failed would take another decade, so I will simplify by saying that I’m a failure. Aren’t we all? And while my fears and failures molded and shaped me, the worst was yet to come. For the sake of saving time and space, I will not rewrite my testimony (you can read back in the “My Story” portion for details) but I will share with you my most epic fails.

In high school, I feared non-conformity. I feared a lack of control, and I feared judgement. I feared food. I fell into an eating disorder that crippled me, consumed me, defined me. In highschool, I failed myself.

In college, my father failed me. My hero, my best friend, my everything. He feared…he failed…and he fled. On January 3rd, he put a gun to his heart and pulled the trigger. In college, my father failed me.

That year, I feared the pain I felt. I tried everything I could to fill it. I drank, I partied, I lost myself. I feared the darkness and I feared the weakness. I failed to hold my own head high. That year, I failed my innocence.

Later on, I feared for my own life. I failed at driving. I wrapped my Jeep around a tree and feared I would never be saved. I choked on blood and hung broken and battered. On that drive, I failed myself.

Between those points and since that time, I’ve failed and failed and failed.

How do you recover from a life defined in failure? How do you emerge from a life constrained by fear?

We will FAIL constantly. Others will constantly fail us. We will fail others, and we will fail ourselves.  The people around us will fail, circumstances will fail, expectations will fail. You will fail at reaching goals, your friend will fail at supporting you when you need it most. Marriages will fail. Job opportunities will fall through and fail. The stock market will fail, the government will fail. Your boyfriend/girlfriend will fail to provide you with the love you need. You will fail at filling your emptiness with drugs and sex. You will fail tests, fail deadlines, fail budgets. We will slip, and we will fail.

BUT GOD NEVER FAILS.

In the days of my youth, God comforted my worries.  He worked through my parents and protected my heart. God Never Failed.

He calmed my worries over grades and school. He blessed me with the desire to persist and to learn. God Never Failed.

As I battled with bulimia, He clung tight to my body. He protected my health, and nourished my soul. God Never Failed.

As I stared at my daddy’s lifeless body, He wept alongside me and lifted me up. God Never Failed.

As I battled depression in a drunken stupor,  I gave pieces of myself away to boys. But God fought for my purity like a relentless warrior, and though I was battered and broken, He held my virginity with poise. God Never Failed.

As I hung upside down and choked on my blood, He appeared to my heart and found His way in. God Never Failed.

I tell you all this to inspire your hearts! Life is hard. So hard. And we’re really bad at it. We are fallible humans and we mess up constantly. We fail and we fear. We fear and we fail. But as it says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. ¬†In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Jesus Christ DID IT! He came and He lived so perfectly. He never failed. And He never will fail. He died for you. He died so that you can ALWAYS be given new life! So that you can ALWAYS start fresh, clean the slate, and turn a new page.  As he hung on the cross, your fears and your failures were nailed to the cross alongside Him! When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts, we accept a spirit of POWER and LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE! We welcome a spirit of forgiveness and grace and second chances!

We serve a God of second chances…we serve a God of LIFE! Alone, we are nothing. We are failures and we are bound by fear. But in CHRIST, we are infinitely strong! We are indestructible! We are SAVED!

What is there to fear?!

At the end of my days, I don’t want people to say that I lived a fearful, timid life. I want them to say that my spirit was POWERFUL in Christ, that I LOVED like Christ, and that I was SELF-DISCIPLINED through Christ.

How will you be remembered…?

Lost In the “In-Between”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ¬†–Jeremiah 29:11

Have you ever found yourself at a place in life where you are stuck in transition? Maybe you are there now. In between two phases of life: the time between college graduation and the start of a career–the time between two jobs after a layoff–the time between relationships–the time between two decisions. No matter the circumstance, it’s a state of “in-between”, an adjustment period, that we often find ourselves resting in. ¬†A movement away from the familiar and the known–a movement into change and uncertainty. ¬†While the lucky handful can move through these transitions quickly, we often find that this phase is the toughest, most confusing time. ¬†Not only is there uncertainty moving forward, but there is also a lack of passion and drive. ¬†When you’re not sure which direction the “light at the end of the tunnel” is coming from, how do you know which way to look?

Lately, this “phase” of in-between has been a recurring theme amongst so many of my friends, as well as amongst some of the individuals I disciple. ¬†And while everyone’s individual scenarios are different and unique, the general theme of discontent has remained constant. In listening to each of them share their hearts, I began to realize a few key things: #1. We are all so human. No matter where we are in our walks as believers, we are all so deeply human–struggling with the same emotions, insecurities, conflicts, and self-serving mentalities. #2. As humans, it is so easy to get tripped up and tangled in these mentalities. ¬†It is our nature to allow ourselves to become fixated–whether it be on positive triggers or negative triggers. ¬†We are creatures of habit. #3. Thank goodness we serve a fantastic King that has immeasurable patience and loves us so passionately. Because… #4. So many of us get lost in the “in-between”. (Myself definitely included!)

As I prayed and prayed over the matter, I dug into the Word and was immediately humbled by such a familiar verse. ¬†A verse that we often list off, but may not fully understand at times. ¬†As we’ve discussed before, the Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. ¬†In every circumstance, a passage can take on new light, new meaning. ¬†It is up to us to drown ourselves in the dialog of our King and open our hearts to His truth and His will. ¬†It is up to us to nourish ourselves with the Word so that, at a moments notice, we can pour His truth into others with conviction and love. Jeremiah 29:11 carries such beauty and truth.

When caught in an “in-between” in life, it’s easy to stand stagnant in our faith. ¬†After all, with so much else to figure out and take in, it seems harmless to put our pursuit of Christ on the back-burner for a while. He understands, right? There is too much else going on. ¬†Too much that needs to be organized, too much that needs to be sorted out, too many other decisions to be made. ¬†Once we are comfortable again with life’s circumstances, we can pick back up where we left off in our faith…right?

If you were dating someone who you were really serious about and truly wanted to build a relationship with, that would consume a great deal of your time and attention, yes? Text messages, calls, dates, conversations, meals together, activities together–you would genuinely enjoy that person’s company and work to maintain a healthy relationship with them. Now let’s say you’ve been getting more and more serious with them and they have been reciprocating the affection and love. They have been doting over you, loyal to you, fun, communicating well…all signs point to this being a fantastic relationship. Then one day everything stops. They don’t call, they don’t text, they don’t come over. ¬†They won’t return your messages, they won’t respond to you on facebook, they won’t even make eye contact when you see them. ¬†When you go over to their house to try to talk, they don’t answer the door, they don’t let you in. ¬†You are left completely in the dark. ¬†When you finally do hear from them, all you get is an “I’m busy.” “I’ve got more important things to do.” “I’ve got too much going on.” 2 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 4 months pass–haven’t heard from them. 6 months pass and all of a sudden the phone rings. Your text message inbox fills up, your facebook status feed blows up, that person is back at your door with a smile on their face, prepared to pick right back up where you left off. Is that relationship going to be the same immediately?–No. ¬†They haven’t invested an ounce of time or attention or interest in you for half a year. They haven’t loved you–they deserted you–too wrapped up in the stress and worry of their own lives to even care to acknowledge you. ¬†And while we are BLESSED to serve a God that infinitely loves us, patiently waits for us, and instantly forgives us–the point of the matter is that if we ignore him when He’s inconvenient for us, we lose time to learn more about Him and grow in our love for Him. ¬†He knows us inside and out, but we cheat ourselves of time to know Him better and love Him more. And if we are cheating while He is loyal, how is that a healthy relationship?

God never brings us to a place to “shelf us” for a while, until He needs us again. He never places us in storage or abandons us. ¬†Every single circumstance and every single phase we find ourselves in, throughout our lives, is perfectly constructed by God to be used for His glory. ¬†Our greatest growth often occurs through our greatest struggles. Imagine the growth we could achieve in our relationship with Christ if we remained faithful to Him during the most uncertain times. Are our relationships amongst one another not strengthened in the same way? Faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, love. ¬†These are all qualities that build solid relationships amongst people–so what is any different when it comes to building a solid, loving relationship with Christ? I think it is easy to get caught up in the “here and now” of daily life. Especially when we hit awkward seasons–phases of transition, phases of uncertainty, phases of confusion, phases of “in-between”. ¬†But newsflash: in those times, who can offer you greater faithfulness, devotion, trust, support, attention, and love than the perfect, magnificent God that created every inch of you?!

I think it is normal to take loved ones for granted at times. I know I have. I have done it since I was young. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that I really started noticing that my behavioral patterns with my family weren’t ideal. You see, when I am in public or around friends and acquaintances, I always strive to put my best foot forward. I strive to wear a smile and keep a positive energy and a positive attitude. To be totally honest, that can get a little draining. I’m not trying to insinuate that I’m “fake” when I’m out and about, I just genuinely enjoy bringing positivity with me and seeing people smile…nothing makes me happier than hearing laughter. I’ve never been a fan of drama, so I make an effort to let those around me experience the best of me–you never know whose life you may be touching. With all of that said, it’s hard to run on a full tank 24/7. So when do I shut down and recharge? Either in my alone time or when I’m with family. After all, they are the ones who know me best–they know my heart, they know how I tick, they know my intentions. The only problem with that is that when I shut down, I get grumpy. I get snide and a stubborn and bossy. I’m human too after all, and I admittedly can be quite ¬†the handful sometimes. ¬†I need to vent. I need to reboot, I need to let loose some pent-up tension. ¬†So who bears the brunt of my darker side?–the people I love the most. Do they tolerate me with patience and grace–every time. Do they love me unconditionally–without a doubt. Do they always selflessly support me–without fail. But is that fair to them–absolutely not. Is that loving–not at all. Is that nourishing to our relationships–no way. So why then, did I always pick those times to reboot and to let out my frustration? BECAUSE I KNEW THEY WOULD LOVE ME NO MATTER WHAT.

Man, talk about a sad mentality. ¬†I’m almost ashamed to admit that I fall victim to that mindset at times. But then again, don’t we all? And haven’t we ALL when it comes to our relationship with God? ¬†It is easy to take for granted the things that we know are constant and unfailing in our lives. ¬†“It’s no big deal, God will love me anyways.” “I know this is the wrong decision, but God will forgive me.” “God will understand if I focus on this issue for a while instead of focusing on Him first.” It’s so sad because it’s so true. We rationalize all the time. Especially when we are stuck in “in-between” phases in life. But those times are the times God longs for us the most. ¬†Those times are the times that He wants to use us. Those times are the time He wants to teach us and to challenge us and to help us grow!

So step back and take a look at where you are right now. Are you lost in the “in-between”? Are you working to figure things out on your own the best you can and forgetting that God wants nothing more than to reveal to you all the answers? Stop. Put God First. Pursue God now. Run towards Him as fast as you can. Take a look at Jeremiah 29:11. He is promising you that He wants you to prosper and that He plans to give you hope and a future. It may not come in the exact package you ordered. It may look very different from¬†what you expected. ¬†But put your faith in Him, put your trust in Him.Don’t take God’s love for granted, don’t cheat Him. Love Him now like you love Him when everything is going well. Seek His face–seek His guidance. He longs to love you NOW.

There is no “in-between”. There is here and now. And there is God, always.

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 6)

Picking up again, let’s continue to dig into what it looks like to be a Godly man. I realize this study is taking quite a while, so I am going to begin to pick up the pace a bit. After all, I am still eager to break down what it looks like to be a Godly woman, as well as what Godly relationships should look like! There is so much, still, to cover. However, I appreciate you all continuing to follow. The feedback I have been receiving from both men and women, alike, has been so beautiful. ¬†I am humbled in your interest and so affirmed that the words decorating this blog are inspired by and blessed by God. ¬†So, if you are just joining, take a look at parts 1 through 5 of this study before you read this portion. But here goes…

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife, temperate, self-controlled…

…respectable, hospitable…

Chivalry is dead. How many times have we heard this saying? ¬†It’s become an all-too-familiar mantra in our society. ¬†But who’s to blame? Who’s responsible for the murder? Are the men to blame…or the women? And is chivalry truly lost–or is it harbored in us all, stifled by the norms of our culture–left unlearned and uncultivated?

My opinion: I blame the women. And I blame the men. But I don’t blame them for the death of chivalry–I blame them for giving life to the silly phrase. For exacerbating the problem. ¬†For giving in rather than rising up and requiring more. Is chivalry dead–no. Is it wounded–MOST DEFINITELY. And who’s truly to blame for that–Satan. ¬†Before you dismiss me as crazy, give me a chance to explain. You may find that I support your side of the argument, after all.

Throughout this entire study of what it looks like to be a Godly man, one of the most prevalent reoccurring themes is that living for the glory of God is NOT easy. ¬†I’m not trying to fool anyone here. ¬†It’s tough stuff striving to live a righteous life. ¬†We fail a lot; both men and women alike. ¬†We are fallible, we are human. That’s our nature. ¬†Fortunately, we are saved by grace. And every time we fall, God gives us the opportunity to stand up, brush ourselves off, and start fresh with a clean slate. ¬†We can never fail too many times, His love is unconditional. ¬†He is always prepared to forgive us and always proud to love us. That’s what Jesus Christ’s sacrifice did for us.

So why, with all that said, do we not capitalize on that forgiveness and that grace? ¬†It is offered to us in¬†limitless quantity. Yet when we stumble and we fall, we settle for a life in the dirt. ¬†Is it guilt that binds us? Is it fear? Guilt and fear aren’t in God’s dictionary–so why do we allow them to be in¬†bold¬†in ours? ¬†This portion of the 1 Timothy verse addresses a man’s responsibility to be respectable and hospitable. ¬†Two terms that many may argue are framework terms to define chivalry. They are powerful requirements, they are character attributes that take work and commitment. ¬†Yet God calls us to strive for them. ¬†So why do we settle for less?–because Satan makes anything “less” SO much easier.

It’s no secret that our society’s view on manners and behavior have drastically changed over time. ¬†Men used to open doors for women. Now women kick down doors for themselves. Men used to court women patiently and lovingly. Now Vegas offers quicky-weddings and quicky-enullments in a package deal. Women used to respect themselves enough to hold on to their purity until their wedding day. Now we have middle schoolers pressured to have sex to feel accepted and popular–to “keep up” with society around them. ¬†I don’t mean to be crude–I mean to be REAL.

I’m going to be painfully direct, blunt, and straightforward here. So if you don’t want a harsh reality check then skip the next two paragraphs. ¬†This is going to call out men and women, alike–no one is safe. Men: get over yourselves and man up. For real, man up. ¬†Stop settling for what’s easy. Stop settling for what’s temporary and fast because you don’t want to put work in. ¬†You’re weak if that’s how you function through life. ¬†The quick-route requires low integrity, low discipline, and low self-esteem. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what the rest of the world praises and exaggerates. ¬†I don’t care if that’s what your friends or your teammates or your buddies are doing. ¬†Grow a set and be different. ¬†Set a better example. ¬†Stop numbing yourself and be a REAL man. There’s no more “This is fun now while I’m in college, I’ll man up later when it matters…” ¬†Man-up now. It matters NOW. You have the power to be a real leader. ¬†You have the power to inspire. You have the opportunity to experience grace and be strengthened in Christ. ¬†Stop trying so hard to control it all on your own–you’re not good at it.

Women: it’s not all the men’s fault. ¬†We are just as big of messes as they are. ¬†Stop making it easy for them. Stop settling–better DOES exist. ¬†Stop giving to the temporary and start valuing yourself. ¬†Snap out of the self-esteem issues–there are people that are much worse off than you. ¬†There are people who are truly suffering. ¬†You comparing your beauty to other women’s beauty and then giving yourself up to men in order to feel desired–it’s a tired routine. ¬†You are worth a King’s life. ¬†Start living like that carries value to you. ¬†Start living like it matters to you that Jesus Christ died for you. ¬†We are fallible humans that are easily tempted. Stop teasing men. ¬†How can we expect them to treat us with chivalry and respect and hospitality if we are tempting them and teasing them and inviting their imaginations to wander? ¬†If that’s what makes you feel better about yourself, I feel bad for you. ¬†Have some self respect. ¬†If you want more from men, there has to be a give and take. ¬†RESPECT THEM BY RESPECTING YOURSELF, FIRST.

Satan is having so much fun with our world. ¬†He is tearing it down, bit by bit, and celebrating our society’s slide towards heathenism and self-obsession. ¬†What adds fuel to his fire?–When we confirm his corruption by feeding into phrases like “Chivalry is dead.”¬†Chivalry is NOT dead.¬†¬†Nor will it ever be. ¬†They may be few and far between, but there ARE men out there who are striving to live righteous lives. ¬†There ARE men out there who are holding fast to what the Bible asks of them and who ARE respectable and hospitable…and temperate, and self-controlled, and faithful, and all of the above. ¬†Have those men lived perfect lives? NO! Have they never slipped of failed or denied Christ? Of course not! Nobody is perfect. ¬†But there are men who desire to be BETTER. ¬†I believe that with my whole heart. ¬†If you are one of those men, you have my respect. You may be different…you may stand out…you may not be accepted as easily because you make different choices than the average man. ¬†There is NOTHING wrong with that. ¬†In fact, celebrate it! Because YOU are a real man–and you will be rewarded. I can promise that because our King promises us that.

Stay encouraged, men. Fight the good fight of faith. ¬†And stay encouraged, women. ¬†The less we settle, the more it requires of men. ¬†You deserve the best, so require the best. ¬†Don’t let that self-worth waver. ¬†Men and women, if we want to improve this world, if we want to be a generation of change and righteous growth, we HAVE to require MORE from one another. ¬†We HAVE to hold one another responsible and we have to be unashamed of standing out–no matter how much scrutiny or doubt or criticism we fall under. ¬†Chivalry is very much alive because the words of the Bible are very much alive–nothing should ever shake our belief in that.

(to be continued…)

Under Attack

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. ¬†In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” ¬†John 16:33

Satan is clever. ¬†He is sly, and smooth, and cynical. ¬†Satan is patient. He waits calm, and quiet, and still. ¬†Satan is smart. He is crafty, and tricky, and subtle. ¬†It’s almost been a full month since I have posted last. ¬†Can you believe that?–a month. When I began this blog, I was posting every single day. ¬†Heck, I was so eager to write and to share, I was writing 3 to 4 posts a day, and saving them so that they could slowly filter out. ¬†I was on fire! Passionate, burning, uncontrollable. ¬†Obsessed.

Have you been there? Riding strong on a spiritual high? Invincible in His grace. ¬†Unashamed and impossible to silence? Thirsty for the Word and nourished by devotion. ¬†Obsessed? God fills your thoughts, He fills your time, He fills your mind. ¬†Every decision you make is decidedly executed with Christ in mind. ¬†Every word spoken is delicately selected and the words pour from you with energy and passion and joy. ¬†There is a light-heartedess in your spirit. ¬†There is a curiosity and a desire and an eagerness to learn and to share. ¬†You scoff at your old ways, baffled by how you could have ever been tempted by that which was earthly–how you could have ever been so naive. ¬†Committed to living for Christ–committed to maintaining this sprinter’s pace and committed to being the absolute best example you can be for your friends, your family, your co-workers. ¬†Committed to being different.

Then 6 months pass and you find yourself in an uncommon moment. ¬†A moment of free time in your crazy schedule–a moment of quiet time that you typically would have filled up with another check off the “to-do” list. ¬†But in that moment you take the offered breather and you think…life is still on course. ¬†It is comfortable, steady, placid. ¬†You flip through the elements of your “world”. Work…school…family…finances…schedules…vacations…boyfriends, girlfriends…sports……………faith. Hmm, faith. Well you went to church a few Sundays ago. You prayed a few times when your best friend’s mom was sick. You tossed a few coins in that homeless man’s cup. ¬†You wrapped up all of your emails with a “God Bless!” Oh, and you posted a few Bible verses on facebook and Twitter. ¬†You let your mind wander, you feel that guilt start to boil up, you list off mental excuses and exceptions. Then you rationalize that you will read your Bible more often. You’ll go to church this Sunday. ¬†You’ll start praying every night again.

Have you been there? Be honest. Are you there right now?

I am.

I’m ashamed. Ashamed because I know¬†Satan is smiling. ¬†In a swift six months he has done it again. ¬†He has slowly and steadily weaseled his way between myself and my King. ¬†I know what you’re probably thinking–“Oh my gosh, she’s about to tell us that she cracked. ¬†She had to have broken her ‘Kissless ‘Till Next Christmas vow. She didn’t make it! She…” ¬†Take a deep breath. All is well. I am still going strong on the intimacy fast. In fact, stronger than strong! Yes, the first few months were tough, but we serve a fantastic King. And He lifted that temptation and pressure with ease. So no, I haven’t struggled with the intimacy element of the fast, but I have allowed Satan to sit down at the table and deal his hand of cards.

Just so you know, I’m choosing to share this next portion with you, because I want you to see just how human I am. ¬†Ever since I began this journey, I’ve received so many messages and comments challenging my position. I think people, especially young people my age, have been so confused as to why I would ever start an intimacy fast.–For God? Are you crazy? You’re a senior in college. What are you trying to prove? Who do you think you’re better than? Oh man, you must just be the perfect Christian. ¬†You’ve got that whole God thing figured out, huh? Guess you’re ‘Holier than Thou’. Bible-thumper. Jesus Freak. Blah…blah…blah…–You name it, I’ve heard it. ¬†And while it breaks my heart that people are so apt to put up walls so quickly, I hope some people can come to understand that I’m just as human as everyone else. ¬†My walk is filled with just as many ups and downs. My relationship with Christ is filled with just as much confusion, and inconsistency, and challenges.

Case in point: the place I’m at right this moment. ¬†The other day an executive producer from Fox flew in to spend the day filming me so that they could show my story on an episode of “The Real Winning Edge”, a nationally-syndicated, Christian-based television program that runs on their network. Holy cow. ¬†That is a big deal for a number of reasons: #1. It was overwhelmingly humbling that they wanted to tell my story. ¬†I’m still so incredibly honored to have even been a part of their production. #2. A CHRISTIAN-BASED television program on a major network like FOX? That’s rare. So rare. And so special. #3. This was a project with a great deal of money invested into it, and it was all for the glory of God. All three of those things still boggle my mind. ¬†And the reason I explain it all is so that you can appreciate how rare, how special, and how divine this whole production truly was. A once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity. ¬†How could anyone be anything but overjoyed to be a part of something like that?

I wasn’t. ¬†I woke up that morning irritable, cranky, hateful, and shrewd. ¬†My precious mom had flown all the way in from Georgia to help me throughout the day, and from the moment I woke up I was nothing but short with her. ¬†We had a production schedule that was so jam-packed there was hardly a moment to breath, and this was a day that needed to go off without a hitch. ¬†I was bloated, I was stuffed-up, I was hot, my skin was breaking out in rashes, I was miserable. ¬†Throughout that morning, I was able to put on a smile for the producer and crew, but anytime I got behind a closed door or alone with my mom, I turned into a monster. ¬†Everything was going wrong, we were off-schedule from the start, and I was as cruel as cruel comes. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I felt so terrible. I couldn’t wrap my head around why I was so hostile and irritable, and filled with empty tears. ¬†The best way I can describe it is to say that I felt like I was about to explode. ¬†I was at a breaking point….

Right before lunch, my mom sat me down on an empty couch we found while we were waiting for the crew to gather their equipment. ¬†Without saying much, she simply took my hands and began to pray. ¬†My mom must have prayed over me for 4 or 5 minutes, but time seemed to pause. ¬†As I heard her intently and diligently praying words of simple beauty and earnest request, I found myself in that “moment” I mentioned at the beginning of this post–a moment of stillness and peace that I hadn’t experienced in far too long. When had my passion softened? Where had my enthusiasm and spirit and energy been hidden? Was it beneath my heavy summer school load? Had I overshadowed my eager faith with the complications of my crazy schedule? When was it that I allowed my time to be filled in front of the TV at night, rather than in the Word?

I realized that Satan had been sneaky.  He had been slow and subtle and sly, as he usual tends to be.  As the months had passed since the beginning of the year, Satan had been patient.  He had slowly and purposefully distracted me, simple moments at a time, from growth in my faith.  It started with missing my quiet time in the Word, one night, because I was simply a little too tired.  Next, it was putting off posting on my blog, because I had a school assignment I had procrastinated on.  Then, missing church, too exhausted from workouts throughout the week to pass up sleeping in just one day.  Little things became often things. Often things became regular things. Regular things became forgotten things. And six months later I found myself weak enough to be vulnerable to attack.

Have we not all experienced it? Mountain-top spiritual moments, followed by gradual valleys in our faith. ¬†Too busy, too tired, too tempted. I found myself weakened to a dangerous point on that special day, a day I typically would have rejoiced in, made the most of, and celebrated for Christ. ¬†On that special day–a day dedicated to the glory of God–a day specifically devoted to sharing the gospel and sharing how our magnificent King has moved in my life–a day perfectly constructed to inspire and teach and love–Satan attacked. ¬†I was overwhelmed by a spiritual warfare and under absolute attack. You see, Satan knows how to hit us the hardest. ¬†He knows where we hurt the most. ¬†For me, when he bullies me, he doesn’t aim to affect anything around me–he goes straight for my body. ¬†He attacks my health first. ¬†My body ¬†has always manifested grief and stress physically. ¬†I get sick, I get hives, I run fever. I battle nausea, my skin blisters, my stomach nots. ¬†He loves to toy with my body, he always has. ¬†And he knows how ill I truly become. Then, he attacks my emotions–capitalizing on my resting depression, capitalizing on my quick irritability and my trauma-proned anxiety. He wraps me up in my own head, distracts me with myself, and laughs as I weaken.

You see, that’s how Satan works. ¬†He slides in, inch by inch, when we allow our lives to run us. He waits, patiently, gradually distracting us. He takes small opportunities, wins small battles in our spirits, and then when he deems fit, overwhelms us and wins us back. ¬†He makes us feel like we’ve fallen too far. He makes us feel like if we go crawling back now, asking for forgiveness, God would surely judge us. ¬†Others would surely judge us. ¬†We’d slipped up yet again, surely we’re out of chances.

WRONG! So wrong. So fantastically wrong. ¬†Don’t let yourself believe Satan’s lies. ¬†Don’t let yourself get tangled up in guilt! As my mom prayed over me, I literally felt a cloak of anxiety, depression, fatigue, heat, weight…lift completely off of my back. ¬†And where the nasty cloak lifted, a cool and reviving stream tickled up my spine. ¬†An assuring, comforting, loving GRACE blanketed me in peace. ¬†With the freedom from that cloak, a fresh page was turned. ¬†I was breathed new life, literally relieved from attack. ¬†Do you understand? God never tires of turning that fresh page for you. ¬†Guilt, depression, anxiety, hatred…these are all things of Satan. These are all things that God yearns to relieve us from! Jesus Christ died on the cross for our souls so that God can turn a new page every single time we come to Him. The rest of that day I was alleviated from my angst. Rejuvenated, positive, and able to rejoice in the purpose of the moment. ¬†My mom’s tiny hands and heart-felt prayers packed more punch than Satan could ever handle. How? Because she called on the Holy Spirit. ¬†She prayed to a God that makes Satan look like a chump. ¬†She prayed to a God who assures us that no task is too big or too small for Him to overcome. ¬†She prayed to a God who yearns to hear our prayers and to work through us. ¬†Through those simple, sweet hands, she silenced Satan and freed me from an attack that had been in the works for months.

You guys, I stumble. I stumble and fall and stumble again. ¬†I let Satan get in the way. I let my schedule get in the way. I’m dismissive to conviction and I ignore God, daily. But, you guys, life is a marathon, not a sprint. Runners in marathons need fuel–FUEL YOUR HEARTS WITH SERVICE FOR OTHERS. Runners need water–HYDRATE YOUR SPIRIT WITH CONSTANT PRAYER. ¬†Runners need rest–REST IN THE WORD OF GOD! Serve. Pray. Read. I often have to remind myself, that I am literally filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is literally living in me. What’s impossible? Nothing. ¬†What can’t be overcome? Nothing. Satan is good at waging war. He will be patient and take small battles. The only thing preventing us from freeing ourselves from his grip is OURSELVES. Set aside time, set aside pride, set aside self.

Be revitalized! God is ready to turn your page and reignite your passion, too.

Be still. Know that He is God. Know that HE has overcome the world…

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

“Fight the good fight of faith…” 1 Timothy 6:12

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 5)

Wow…that may have been the longest span yet that I have gone without posting. I am deeply sorry. I FINALLY have internet set up at my new place, but these past few weeks have been a whirl-wind. Now that I am settled in, you can expect more posts to start flooding in. I want to get back on a daily schedule of writing, and I have no excuse not to. I have missed you all! So let’s pick up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, 3, and 4 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7‚Ķdetailing what it looks like to be a Godly man.)

‚ÄúHere is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.¬†2¬†Now the overseer is to be above reproach,¬†faithful to but one wife,¬†temperate…

self-controlled…

Self-control. ¬†In the past, every time I read through this verse, I subconsciously lumped together the neighboring terms, “temperate” and “self-controlled”. Afterall, from the surface definitions I knew of them, they were virtually the same term, and applied to the same principles. ¬†However, as I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned more about the magnitude of the written Word. ¬†The Bible does not repeat itself unnecessarily. ¬†Its pages aren’t filled with synonyms in order to add density and depth. ¬†Each word has been recorded with purpose and magnitude. My greatest growth in the Word has occurred when I have taken the time to break down verses piece-by-piece, and truly learn the complexity of the image that the words are painting. Each and every word can take on countless forms–that is the beauty in the living, breathing Word of God.

So, then, what does self-control mean with respect to how a Godly man is called to properly lead? ¬†I think the first words that typically flood our minds when we hear that term are: restraint, discipline, and words synonymous with reigning ourselves in and holding back. ¬†While there is some truth in those definitions, self-control is a much broader topic of character. When I think of self-control, the first word that comes to my mind is maturity. Think about it–from the moment we are born we are constantly, consciously and subconsciously, learning traits of self-control. ¬†For example, we start in diapers, progress to pull-ups, and eventually underwear–that is learned self-control of our bodily functions. We begin life unable to hold our own heads up, eventually learn hand-eye coordination, and work to the point of exercise, training, and complete cognitive awareness of our bodies at all times–that is learned bodily control. ¬†We begin life with emotional outbursts, progress to becoming aware of our feelings and triggers, and eventually grow to the point of being able to monitor, communicate, and alter our emotions–that is learned emotional control. ¬†We begin making incoherent sounds, progress to learning written and spoken words and structures, and eventually progress to being capable of writing novels, speaking to groups, and communicating effectively–that is learned language control.

If you look at these four examples, there are similarities amongst all of them. ¬†Primarily, there is a clear coddling period at the beginning of each cycle. ¬†There is a time where we are fully reliant on the care of others. ¬†We are unable to care for ourselves and constantly require the nurturing of another. ¬†Secondarily, there is a phase where we are learning large sums of information and making significant strides in development. ¬†This phase, too, is impacted by others. ¬†We are taught by example, experience, and interaction. ¬†The information is engrained in us by those who are further in their journey and more self-controlled. ¬†And in the final phase of each cycle, there is refinement and progress still being made, but we are largely self-controlled, aware, and matured. ¬†There is that word again–mature. ¬†As we mature, in life, we gain discernment, judgement, discipline, and wisdom. So often the term “self-control” carries a negatively slanted connotation. ¬†As if self-control specifically and independently applies to the ability to reign oneself back or inhibit oneself from doing something. ¬†But in actuality, that term applies to a well-rounded definition of maturity, development, and awareness. ¬†So how does this relate to being a Godly man? Here goes…

As believers, we begin our journey in raw form. ¬†I don’t care if you have been attending church your whole life, or if you had never heard the Word of God and experienced a miraculous “coming to Jesus” moment that changed your life radically. ¬†The moment that it “clicks”…the moment we are saved…the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts…the moment we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are in raw form. ¬†You see, there is nothing more powerful than the Holy Spirit, and there is nothing more powerful and capable than our King, but we, as humans, are weak. It goes back to the “Position .V. Condition in Christ” study that we did. ¬†We are filled, but we still wear a heavy, fleshy coat that weighs us down with things of this world. ¬†And when we are saved, we are born again; with rebirth–we are raw. ¬†In that time, we are completely and whole-heartedly, dependent on the grace of God alone. ¬†We are incapable of understanding even a hint of the magnitude of His power, and we are raw forms in His hands. ¬†But He is the most fantastic nurturer. ¬†He gives, abundantly–forgives, unceasingly–and loves, unconditionally.

As we grow in our walks, we begin to understand the tiniest hints of His grace with both our heads and our hearts.  We begin to study the Bible, learn of His Word, and change the way we live our lives.  In this time, we begin to make fantastic strides and progressions in our journey as believers.  We begin to speak with clarity and knowledge and we learn how to communicate the hope that we have with others.  We experience fellowship with other believers, we experience and witness the power of prayer, and we become increasingly aware of His presence around us and in this world.  We gain a sense of humility, discernment, conviction, and thankfulness.  This is such a fantastic period in our walks, because our eyes are truly opened, our hearts are powerfully changed, and we begin to learn that light we feel inside is starting to be noticed by others.

Then, as we progress and grow and strive for sanctification, we develop true spiritual maturity. ¬†Now, don’t be mistaken, our walks with Christ are ever-growing, ever-humbling, and ever-changing. ¬†It is not as if we reach a point where we finally “get it” all and have no progress left to make. HA! That would be an impossibility. ¬†However, as we strive towards sanctification as Godly men and Godly women, we begin to notice true maturity in our walks. ¬†This is often defined by unshakable conviction, startling humility, and pure, organic hope and joy in the Holy Spirit. Through adversity, through successes, through everything–there is an unshakable comfort. ¬†Spiritual maturity is often marked by an abundant and faithful prayer life. An absolute faith. An overwhelming desire to continue to learn and grow. ¬†We evolve into disciples. ¬†Disciples who strive to live by the Word of God in its most literal form. Disciples who love, unconditionally, and teach, effortlessly, through their actions, their faith, and their purity.

Is there a time frame to this progression? Is there a specific age where we hit these points? Are there clear, discerning characteristics? Absolutely not. ¬†No, no, and no. ¬†Many would argue, in fact, that as we learn more and age, we lose a sense of childlike faith. ¬†Faith untouched by the ways of this world. Faith unbridled by social norms. ¬†But there is a great difference between literal knowledge and understanding, and true peace in our hearts and the understanding that we will never understand it all, but we strive to know and love Him more. In fact, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Don‚Äôt let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity.” Spiritual maturity is not defined by age, it is defined by faith.

Self-control, in the sense of being a Godly man and a Godly leader, is defined by spiritual maturity. ¬†Not simply by the ability to restrain oneself, but by the ability to control what you can control, and rest faith in all that you cannot. ¬†The ability to lead others towards an unfaltering faith. ¬†The ability to teach others and disciple in a way that is effective and hospitable. ¬†The ability to show others the light of Christ through your actions, your words, your temperament, your decisions, and your values. ¬†The ability to exercise humility, silence self-pride, and live simply. ¬†The ability to exercise integrity and to step outside of you and live for God–whether you are comfortable in doing so or not. ¬†The ability to live for Him, and be prepared to be steered the direction He leads you. ¬†The ability to lead others with you, if need be. ¬†Self-control truly means the exact opposite of what it says–because, in a Biblical sense, self-control is death to self and unshakable life in Him.

(to be continued…)

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 4)

(Hey there! Sorry i’s been a minute, had some internet issues. But here we go!‚ĶAgain, picking up where we left off. If you are just joining, it might help to read part 1, 2, and 3 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7‚Ķdetailing what it looks like to be a Godly man. Women, start making a checklist ūüôā )

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to but one wife,…

…temperate…

Temperate. What exactly does that mean? Well a dictionary would define it as exercising moderation or self-restraint. ¬†But the term really takes shape when you look at more detailed definitions: with restraint, without extravagance, in a sparing manner, without overindulgence. ¬†Umm…is it just me or do these terms go against everything our culture conditions in us? We live in a country that encourages us, from day one, to have more, more, more! It goes back to our discussion about the “American Dream”. Our society is structured around obtaining excess. Excessive money, excessive gadgets, excessive entertainment, excessive stimulation, excessive praise, excessive drink, excessive food. We glorify overindulgence. The more people have, the more they flaunt. It defines our social status. And we, as a culture, feed off of this materialism. *Sigh* It’s really twisted because it’s what we have always seen and known, which makes it even harder to break from the cycle. But, for the sake of specific example, I want to talk about food. How, you might ask, does what you eat have anything to do with how well you can lead? Well bare with me for a second, let out your annoyed groan, and hear me out.

Take a look out our nation. We are fat. Really fat–it’s no secret. A portion of that equation is due to the TYPES of foods that are produced and consumed, but an even larger portion of that is due to the AMOUNT we consume. We are flooded with advertisements, commercials, excessive fast food spots,¬†restaurants¬†on every corner, vending machines down every hall, jam-packed grocery stores. Wow, we have so much access to so much food. ¬†We are a food culture. ¬†Now think about the flip-side of things. We are encouraged to eat, eat, eat. Then we take a look around and all we see are advertisement and magazine covers with sculpted men and photo-shopped women. You’re not good enough if you’re not thin enough, or jacked enough, or lean enough. Wait a second, what? We are surrounded by this temptation to indulge and eat, but then we are flooded with this pressure to be thin and cut up. Huh? We are pulled from one extreme to the next and all we are ever left with is a feeling of¬†discontent. Where does that conflict lead us? Into sin. How? Because all of ¬†sudden we become fixated on the number on the scale and the hours in the gym. We become obsessed with calories and we become utterly consumed by guilt, envy, and self-obsession.

I’m no high and mighty preacher here. I was caught up in this sticky web of ¬†this sin once, too. If you recall from the ¬†“My Story” portion of the blog, my high school years were defined by an eating disorder. They were defined by self-obsession, self-centered focus, fatigue, and fixation. My body became my idol, rather than God. Are we not living in a culture that fosters that same distraction? If we are focused on ourselves, constantly, how can we lead effectively and glorify God in our friendships, our relationships, our jobs? If we are focused on our appearance and our confidence is defined by our personal feelings of self-worth, how can we be convicted that our worth is limitless through Christ? In snagging ourselves in this web, overindulging in so much temptation, and operating in such excess, we are not focused on God, we are focused on getting our fix.

While leading a missions trip to the Ninth Ward last year, I had the opportunity to sit down with the group of girls who had come to New Orleans with the missions team to serve. We chatted about a handful of topics, but the conversation quickly and overwhelming turned to the topic of self-esteem and self-worth. As I was listening to the girls talk and complain and nit-pick about their bodies and their appearance, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of utter shame. Not a block down the street, there were homes that STILL, years after Katrina, were stained with water lines and wasting away in their own rubble. ¬†There were kids who were running around homeless, without guidance or discipline, vandalizing and stealing so that they could simply eat a single meal that day. ¬†There was a stench that loomed through the air and a thick hum of insects and rodents that blanketed people’s yards and homes. There was a COMMUNITY that needed GOD more than any neighborhood I have ever seen, yet we, the missionaries who were there to serve and disciple and spread His love, were distracted by OURSELVES. The only topic the conversation kept pulling back towards was the topic of our own self-obsessions and feelings of inadequacy.

I sat up and interrupted the girls speaking to spill out a message that God laid so heavily on my heart that I thought I might burst: ¬†Every single time we look in the mirror and complain about what we see, what we don’t have, and what we desire, we are standing at the foot of the cross, staring up at Jesus Christ–blood pouring from his beaten and battered body, tears flowing down his scarred cheeks–and we’re staring Him in the eyes and telling Him that what He did isn’t good enough for us. In fact, we’ve got more important things to worry about. We are staring this King in the eyes and telling Him that what he has provided for us isn’t quite sufficient enough. And His sacrifices aren’t totally worth our constant and humbled praise. That WE are more important.

What? That makes me want to fall on my face in shame. I’ve done it. I do it all the time. ¬†We get SO caught up in living lives of indulgence and excess, that we distract ourselves from the simple, pure, beautiful point of it all. HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR US. ¬†HIS SACRIFICE WAS ENOUGH.

Don’t you see? I am using the specific example of food, but this can be applied to countless components of our lives and our culture. In NOT practicing temperate behavior, we kick-start a snowball effect and we become utterly consumed in everything BUT God’s love and unyielding grace. ¬†Our consumptions and our over indulgences become our focus, albeit consciously or subconsciously. They create a ripple effect and the shock waves impact so many components of our lives. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO LEAD EFFECTIVELY IF WE ARE FOCUSED ON OURSELVES RATHER THAN BEING FOCUSED ON GOD. Men, you are called to live temperate lives for this very reason. You are called to live moderately and with restraint and without overindulgence so that you can lead others, your wife, your family, to Christ. If you live a life of excess and indulgence, it’s like putting on a blindfold and trying to lead your family along the edge of the Grand Canyon. It’s so incredibly difficult, if not entirely impossible.

Jesus Christ lived a temperate life. There was nothing indulgent about His walk, there was nothing excessive. He wore humble clothes, He ate simple, pure food, and He defined His worth by the guidance and love of God. ¬†He never allowed great distraction in His life. By living temperately, He lived abundantly. We are called to live that way, as well. We have the power to live temperate lives–even in the midst of this bizarre society–because we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Men, in order to lead, you are called to live temperate lives. Do you have unshakable faith that His grace is sufficient? Would you be willing to run from excess? To fully trust that God will provide for you? Would you be willing to shy away from overindulgence simply to set a model for your family that simplicity is sufficient? Challenge yourself! It’s easy to read through this and “check off” that, “Phew! At least I’m not the worst at this–at least I fall somewhere in the middle. I’m safe there.” But do you? And are you? How can you minimize in your life? How can you live more temperately? What excess is distracting you from God? How can you train yourself to utilize this simple principle to become a better leader?

(to be continued…)

What Does It Look Like?: Godly Men (part 3)

(…picking right back up where we left off. If you are just joining, read part 1 and 2 of this series before reading this portion. A continuation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7…detailing what it looks like to be a Godly man…)

‚ÄúHere is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.¬†2¬†Now the overseer is to be above reproach…

…faithful to but one wife,…

Read these 5 words again. Now read them a third time over. The depth of these 5 words could fill the pages of an endless novel. Be reminded, these words are Divinely inspired. These are the Words of God. God is calling man to be faithful to but one wife. Turn to 1 Timothy 3:2…it is right there in black and white. Seems simple enough, right? Ha! You don’t get off that easy, guys. You would be doing yourself a great disservice to simply skim over this passage and take these words at face value. There is much to be learned from these 5 telling words.

There is a MASSIVE difference between a Godly man’s call to leadership BEFORE marriage verses AFTER marriage. In order to understand this passage, you have to dig back and first understand that distinction. Unless you are married, you are “single” in God’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if you are dating, it doesn’t matter if you are in a relationship, it doesn’t matter if you are engaged. Until the day that you and your Divinely designed partner take a vow of unity before God, you are SINGLE. Don’t cringe. Being single is an absolutely beautiful thing. ¬†This society makes “single” seem like some type of disease. ¬†If people hear that you are single, their first response is this muted sigh and pitiful face. Haha, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Their ingrained reaction is to feel pity for you–the forehead wrinkles, the mouth twists into a side-smirk, the first words that roll of their tongue are typically, “Aw man, I’m sorry to hear that.” or “Really?! I never would have guessed…” Heck, occasionally you’ll even get a sympathetic hug out of it. It’s actually pretty entertaining to watch people and see the timeline of thoughts that roll through their minds. Step one: the feeling of sympathy. Step two: they comfort you, as if to assure you that someone will eventually love you someday (haha). Step three: *this step is typically marked by a little glimmer of excitement in their eyes* they recognize that you are most DEFINITELY in need of their match-making services. Step four: the hunt is on. It becomes a mission to find you someone to love. Haha, now maybe I am biased, as a female, and describing mostly how other females react. I feel like in the guy-world they hear that you’re single and the typical initial reaction is a high-five. Afterall, now you’re a perfect wing-man candidate. And now you can bang out all the chicks that you want, right? You’re free to do whatever you want. Or may they feel a little bad for you because you’re only gettin’ it from your left hand. No steady lay. Isn’t that how it works? HA! The humor lies in the truth behind those last few statements.

But there is absolute power in being single. This society typically stamps “single” with a negative connotation. Synonyms include: unattractive, unlovable, desperate…or in my case, VIRGIN. haha. But the fact of the matter is that we should celebrate being single! The label shouldn’t carry a negative connotation, it should carry respect and admiration. Why? Because in God’s eyes, prior to marriage, you ARE single. Single in your walk with Him, single in your pursuit of faith. That is exactly how He intended it. He is SO jealous for your love and SO jealous for your growth in Him, that He yearns for you to be utterly and completely in love with HIM before you ever get wrapped up in another person. ¬†Remember the quote that I shared with you all a while back?

“A woman should never pursue a man. A woman should pursue a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ. In turn, God will inspire the one man, designed perfectly and ¬†specifically for her, to pursue her heart. And in his pursuit of her, he too will be drawn closer to Christ.”

Guys, do you get what that is saying? There is no guess work in your end of the deal. ¬†You may not admit it, but I know that men desired to be loved just as much as women do. And so often, single men grab any woman who¬†will give them the time of day in order to create that synthetic love. In order to feel wanted, and to feel that control over another’s emotions. To feel that ingrained desire for leadership. But just stop. Take a breath. LOVE GOD. God yearns for your absolute love. Luke 10:27 tells us to “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind…” If you can strive to do that…if you can genuinely seek that love, He will hand you the woman you are intended to marry on a silver platter in HIS timing. He WILL provide for you the woman who¬†will change your life. ¬†The woman who¬†is designed from you and for you (think back to the Adam and Eve reference from the last post.) You don’t have to search desperately and turn every rock and leave a tattered wake of women behind you in your quest to manhood. You are called to live above that temptation. You are called to train yourself in your single life. Train yourself to be a Godly man. Grow in the Word and dig in the Truth and then APPRECIATE, truly, the magnificence and beauty and grace in the perfect love God presents to you in the form of your perfect wife. Man, powerful stuff.

I’ve so deviated from my initial point that it’s nuts. Haha, sorry, sometimes I just get rolling. I told you there was great depth to those 5 words. Anyways, the reason I talked so much about the glory of single-hood is because your role as a leader in your single life is to do exactly what I mentioned above. Grow, personally. ¬†Train yourself, biblically. Strive to know Christ more. Strive to love Christ more. Strive to better yourself and prepare yourself to be a Godly man and a Godly husband–having unshakable faith that God is preparing your future wife in the same way. And recognize, that beyond a shadow of a doubt, your walk is entirely independent with Him. You are called to be a Godly man and to lead by example, but if you are not married, there is an INCREDIBLY fine line as to how much you can lead a woman. Men, the explanation of that could fill a whole other blog post. I encourage you to find a strong, male, believer who can better counsel you in the details of this principle. But, to put it quite simply, your walk and her walk MUST remain entirely distinguished and separate until the day you say “I do.” It doesn’t matter if you have been dating a girl for 10 years. You’re walks are NOT intended to intertwine while you are single. ¬†You can lead by example, but it is not your place to become her spiritual leader or spiritual teacher. That can become a messy situation when you intertwine unmarried love with spiritual guidance. A VERY messy and misguided situation.

With all of that said, your role as a leader completely and utterly changes when you say the words, “I do.” Now, we will look deeper into the specifics of marriage at a later time, but, for the sake of this transition, let’s look back at the book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. Genesis 2:24 explains marriage very poignantly in saying, “That is why a man leaves his father and his mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Woah, say what? One flesh? Yes. BOOM. There it is. The Word of God. The reason your commitment to become a Godly man and a Godly leader is SO important–when a man and a woman are married, they literally become ONE FLESH in God’s eyes. Their separate walks and united and intertwined. They are viewed as a unit. As one singular flesh. As one entity. Man oh man, men. Do you get what this means? You are called to be FAITHFUL TO BUT ONE WIFE (finally linking it back to the initial scripture). Why is this? Because in God’s eyes, when you are married, when you can call a woman your WIFE, you both are ONE FLESH.

Take a look at your body. You are one, whole flesh. If you were torn about a decision–for the sake of a decent example, let’s say that you are torn about taking another job–would it be possible for half of your body to rip away and go complete that job, while the other half of your body stays your current career? Could your torso go be a coach, while you legs are still working in a cubicle? (Okay that was a really lame example, but cut me some slack, it’s finals week and my brain is fried…) Anyways, no. It couldn’t be done. You would be destroyed. Without the guidance of your brain and the mechanics of your body all working together, you would die. And it would be incredibly painful. Apply that metaphor to a marriage. You and your wife are ONE FLESH. If you fail as a leader and take it upon yourself be unfaithful to your wife, you are ripping the legs from the torso. You will be destroyed. That flesh will be mortally wounded. Your marriage could be destroyed. Your merit as a Godly leader would be absolutely destroyed. ¬†There is no way around it. There is no excuse or permission. Satan is REALLY good at convincing millions of people across our planet that infidelity is acceptable and that you can get away with it and that it’s worth it, but guess what…Satan’s wrong. The Word of God explicitly states that a Godly man–a Godly leader–is the brain of that “one flesh” that you and your wife become. YOU are called to be the leader. You are called to possess the character to lead properly. You are called to stifle your human desires and temptations and to be a husband and a man of integrity. You are responsible for leading your walk, as well as her walk, because in marriage they become ONE walk. You are called to be a man of discipline and to love your wife as Jesus loved the church. LOVE and LEAD in a celebrated single-hood. LOVE and LEAD in a faithful marriage.

(to be continued…)