Turn the Other Cheek

“But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:39‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I once got into a debate with someone regarding the above scripture. I was dealing with a cruel individual and a Christian Friend of mine, in an effort to help me, quoted this scripture. I was encouraged to not defend myself against my enemy but allow the cruelty to happen.

I have a firm belief that we are to love our enemies but that does not mean we are to be doormats. So I refuted this advice. This friend of mine and I are both strong minded individuals. He thought he was right and I thought I was right. Thus, our debate ended up in an argument that led to ending our friendship. There were other circumstances in the mix also that led to cutting off communication but nonetheless this argument was definitely a key factor.

Recently I downloaded an app that is full of sermons and other great biblical tools. I opened it for the first time today and the first sermon that popped up was “Dealing with Mean and Demanding People.” It’s a three part sermon series by Pastor Mike Fabaraz. I spent the morning listening to the first two parts. The common denominator in both messages is this: turning the other cheek is meant specifically to those who persecute us for being a follower of Christ. It is not meant for those who bully us, assault us, steal from us, demean us, etc. for the purpose of fueling their own toxic thinking and solely to hurt us. We are allowed to defend ourselves. God does not call us to be doormats.

The picture for this post is of the app to encourage readers to download the app and check out these sermons specifically. If you listen to them, share your thoughts in the comment section. This post is NOT to say that I’m right and my friend was wrong. This post to raise an awareness to many, including myself, who struggle with the correct interpretation of this verse as well as who are seeking instruction with how to deal with the toxic people in your life.

One last thought-learn from my experience. Never let a debate about scripture come between you and someone you care about. The enemy comes to seek and destroy and he will use every angle possible to do that-even debates over scriptural context in God’s word. If you feel your pride swelling up, take a step back, pause and pray. Ask God to help you both share the same understanding (like in Philippians 2:2) of the scripture in order to keep solidarity in your friendship or relationship. Think about this; if the devil’s raising up his own army, what better tactic for him to attempt to be victorious then if he can get God’s army to turn against one another, right? May the Lord and my friend forgive me for allowing my pride and my need to be right to sever what was an intense and spiritually intimate friendship. May the Lord bless those who read today’s post and especially to those who are able to experience the sermons mentioned first hand.

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I’ll See You Soon…

“I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.”

‭‭2 John‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There’s a movie titled Dear John. It’s a love story about a couple who spent most of the beginning of their relationship in separate countries. Their occasional face to face encounters were short lived because other commitments kept them going in different directions. The bulk of their relationship consisted of letter correspondence.

Throughout their relationship, the couple never said goodbye. They parted ways and ended their letters with “I’ll see you soon.” To them, “goodbye” was something final and permanent. Because they wanted to be in each others’ lives, they chose to part ways with a sentiment that would remind them that they would be together again no matter how long they were apart.

Even when their relationship seemed to be permanently over, it’s really not the end. The final scene leads the viewer to believe their relationship rekindles. There’s also a voice over of the woman reading a letter to the man. The letter closes with this:

“…no matter how many years go by, I know one thing to be as true as it ever was, I’ll see you soon.” Those words are a depiction of an incredibly powerful connection and a love that was never ending.

In the scene where the relationship ends, the man burns all the letters he ever received from the woman who was rejecting him. Oh how I’ve “cleaned house” to rid myself of past relationships in an effort to heal a broken heart and move on. In fact I recently unfollowed certain social media pages just to forget about a close friend whom I’ve parted ways with. A close friend that I used to say “I’ll see you soon” to. A close friend that if I’m being honest, I loved as more than a friend but a real relationship never came to pass.

The very day I decided to remove all that reminded me of him, Dear John aired on TV. My hardened heart tempted me to change the channel but the Holy Spirit prompted me to keep watching it. Truth be told, I didn’t get why until I tried writing this post. I’ve deleted two drafts and quit writing briefly before realizing what the Holy Spirit was showing me.

God used this movie to remind me He keeps people in our lives in His way and for His reasons. Some people come into our lives to help us develop our character, to test our patience and to stretch our ability to forgive. These are people we sometimes beg God to remove from our lives but He keeps them near us-sometimes too close. But there are others who’s purpose in life is to grow our hearts to a love that supersedes anything we could ever imagine (like what God promises in Ephesians 3:20.) These are the people we want to keep that God may take away. He does this, not because He doesn’t love us but because He knows that heart break grows a compassion that produces more love. I am a walking testimony to that.

If you’re reading this-I believe God has a message for you through this post. God wants you to know how much He loves you and just how deep He wants to grow His love within you. If you’ve written off the idea of loving someone or ever being loved, don’t say goodbye just yet. Instead, place your wounded heart in Jesus’ scarred hands and let Him fill it with a love that will make you feel as though you’re going to burst. The process is painful and overwhelming. It will bring you to your knees and even make you sob. But oh the joy that is felt when you are filled with a heart that is hand crafted by Jesus. Don’t say goodbye to love my friend, simply tell love, “I’ll see you soon.” It’s then and only then that our joy will be complete.

Do Not Go Down the Rabbit Hole

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.”

2 Timothy 2:23 NLT

I cannot count the number times I have failed obeying 2 Timothy 2:23. In fact, I once had a superior describe me as this; “She tends to argue but when she argues it’s because she’s usually right.”  Of course hearing such statement brings an increase in pride and an inflation in ego, at least for me it did.  It also made it justifiable for me to continue to argue.  After all, it’s pointless to argue if you’re wrong but if you know you’re right then you should argue, right? WRONG!!!

Arguing one’s point is ungodly and counterproductive.  Arguments rarely end in a positive manner with friendships or relationships still intact nor do they draw people closer together.  In fact, the book of Proverbs gives us two examples of how arguments and angry words do the complete opposite. In Chapter 18, verse 19, we read that “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”  Proverbs Chapter 26 verse 4 warns “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.”  I personally have lost a handful of relationships after engaging in hurtful arguments.  One in particular ended over very different opposing political views.  Another took a long hiatus because of multiple mini arguments over subject matter that I don’t even recall the details of now.

In the category of politics, I have argued about abortion, women’s marches, equality, presidential candidates, racism, etc.  I have argued about religious beliefs both with believers and non-believers.  Unfortunately, I have argued about far too many less trivial things also.  If I listed all those this post would never end.  I have a fierce personality and my mouth tends to start running before my brain has time to keep me quiet.  I’m slowly learning to practice pausing and thinking before speaking.  But there are days I am making very slow progress if any at all.  HAHA!

Ironically, I recently found myself tiptoeing into two separate arguments on social media.  One was an anti-education post that completely goes against my beliefs and values in education.  The other one was actually an effort to help someone avoid arguing and turned into a debate about arguing.  I could feel my insides just getting fired up about both posts and especially regarding comments made to me by the posters.  I could mentally see my platform in front of me and a fully prepared speech on the tip of my tongue that would open with, “First of all…” I’ve been told I should be a good lawyer because I definitely can argue well.  Not that that’s something to brag about.  But, I also felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Don’t go down that rabbit hole” and I knew that meant something like, “this is not my circus and they are not my monkeys.  Do not exhaust your energy engaging in an argument with either of them.  Surprisingly, I actually listened this time (usually I’m too fired up to listen to God’s gentle promptings and fight the battles in my own flesh.) and opted to take a weekend hiatus from that social media site to reset my priorities.   I also deleted the comments I had already posted.

I spent a good part of my evening thinking about the concept of going down the rabbit hole.  This ideology is related to story of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice was enticed to go down that rabbit hole and entered a world full of all kinds of crazy abnormalities.  I started relating some of the characters Alice encountered to those we engage with on social media and how that all ties in with arguing.  Social Media is the universal source of arguing these days isn’t it?

Just like in Wonderland, in any social media argument you will encounter the Queen of Hearts whose view is inevitably “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”. Everything is black and white in their minds and they’re solutions are typically punitive.  Then there’s the Mad Hatter who’s certifiably crazy and makes comments that leaves most readers scratching their heads or feeling slightly disturbed.  Of course there’s the White Rabbit person who either has bad timing with their remarks, or is ever fretful in their commentaries.  And what media argument would be complete without the Cheshire Cat tapping into their multiple personalities and fueling the fire by secretly taking dual sides or talking about others behind their backs.  The Cheshire Cat characters are definitely the most toxic as they are the pot stirrers who keep the discord going all while looking like they are the best friend to all parties involved.

Admittedly I have played the role of the Queen, the Hatter and the white rabbit on far too many occasions.  Worse yet, I know I’ve been a Cheshire Cat a time or two also.  Not necessarily with malice intent or as an effort to destroy a relationship but I’ve kept the embers of anger, hurt and conflict burning by dwelling on the argument and discussing it with others who weren’t a part of it. I’ve ignored verses like Psalm 37:8 that tells us to stop being angry and turn from our rage and Ephesians 4:31 where we’re told to put away all malice, harsh words, brawling, etc.  Malice, harsh words, and brawling are all descriptors of arguing.

Fortunately for Alice, going down the rabbit hole didn’t bring total disaster.  After all, a Disney movie usually has a happy ending.  In the real world however, when we choose to go down the rabbit hole of arguing, the only ending we get is one that results in an ending of a relationship, perhaps even an ending of mutual respect you once shared.  Even if you feel you’ve “won” the argument, is it worth celebrating if it cost you the relationship?  That raises the very question of where we place our value.  Is it more valuable to be right or is it more valuable to have relationship?

Personally I believe that relationship holds far more value than being right.  I’ve learned this the hard way.  For example, I have a best friend whom I rarely agree with.  The only thing we probably truly have in common is a love for Jesus, family and our friendship.  Everything else we tend to be opposites on.  In the early stages of our friendship we had a few arguments.  Only one that I can recall ended up in no communication for two weeks.  For a friendship that talked daily, two weeks was a very long time.  During that time frame I reflected a lot on what was said and actually considered ending the friendship.  But I loved this person too much to never have them in my life again.  So I bent my pride and reached out to her.  It wasn’t easy.  Neither of us believed we were wrong.  But we both could agree that we shared words that hurt one another and we could apologize for that.  We also both chose to forgive and move past it because our friendship was far too valuable to throw away.

I wish I could say that was the case for other relationships in my life but sadly, there are some that the argument outweighed the relationship and that person is no longer a part of my life.  Those were times when the offender refused to apologize for attacking my character or wanted continue to argue.  I felt it necessary to emotionally protect myself by no longer having them in my life.  I still love them, but I simply choose to love them from a distance.  There are times you have to set boundaries in your life to protect your emotional well-being.  These situations aren’t about who’s right and who’s wrong.  They are simply about choosing what kinds of behaviors we will allow in our lives and being able to cut off anything that is toxic or will undermine the character God defines for us.

Please know I am not saying we shouldn’t have opinions or strong convictions.  The Bible is full of beliefs we as Christ followers are to cling to.  We should never compromise our belief systems.  But when talking to someone who opposes us, we should do what Jesus did.  He didn’t argue.  He had the spiritual wisdom to recognize a trap and he never went down the rabbit hole.  Time and again the Pharisees would ask Him questions to entice him into a debate.  Each time Jesus disappointed them.  There were times Jesus wouldn’t even answer them (think of the woman caught in adultery when Jesus ignored the Pharisees and drew in the sand.)  When He chose to answer them, He would use one liners like “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or “Render unto Caesar what is Caesars’s.) Other times He spoke in parables to make His point.  Often times His own disciples didn’t understand what He was saying but Jesus didn’t debate them either.

There were also times he avoided his naysayers altogether.  But here’s a list of what He didn’t do:

  • Jesus never said, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
  • He never became defensive nor did He defend Who He was. By this I mean He never engaged in a debate or argument about Him being the Son of Man.  He stated it time and again but He didn’t argue with anyone who disagreed.
  • Jesus also never defend His character. Jesus’ enemies were right in their own eyes and there were many who slandered Him for Who He presented Himself to be and the ministry He led.
  • He didn’t have a publicist write a formal speech to address His naysayers. He just kept on doing His thing and ignored the Queens of Hearts, Mad Hatters, White Rabbits and Cheshire Cats of His day.

Time and again the Bible tells us, we are to be just like Jesus.  Which means, instead of arguing, we can choose to ignore.  Instead of debating, we can choose to pray.  When someone entices us into an argument, we can choose to be like Jesus which may mean not responding to them at all.

Before you post something that you know will open up a rabbit hole into Argueland, pause and ask yourself is it worth the energy you’re going to waste defending your opinion?  Better yet, don’t post it.  Post a verse, a fun picture or a joke instead.  Social media platforms don’t change the world anyway.  They simply create a greater division that already exists because people are too focused on being right and less focused on being in relationship and fellowship with one another.

We are all entitled to our opinions and belief systems.  We are not entitled to share or impose them on someone else.  If Jesus didn’t force His beliefs on anyone during His ministry, why do we feel so entitled to do it now-especially on social media?  I can’t promise I won’t fall prey to another argument but for now, I am choosing to listen to the Holy Spirit and not go down the rabbit hole.  People change the world by praying and being Christ like not by arguing or posting controversial things on Social Media.

The Wisdom of Motherhood

“Hear the instruction of your Father; do not forsake the law of your Mother!”

Proverbs 1:8

Today was Mother’s Day.  An obvious choice for a sermon, the minister preached on Proverbs 31.  However, the surprising theme of the message was not about women being the Wonder Woman described in this chapter (a woman most Christian women have compared themselves to more than once and most likely felt they could never measure up to-myself included.) Today’s theme was about wisdom and honoring women of valor because they are very wise women.

I was raised by a single mom.  When I read Proverbs 31 and compare it to my mom, honestly she measures up far better than I do.  If you read Proverbs 31 in a literal sense, my momma brings her husband (and others) good, not harm all the days of her life.  She knows how to select fabrics.  Growing up she sewed clothing for me and my dolls (we had matching outfits).  She made me dolls and crocheted versions of Care Bears.  To this day, she raises Alpacas and uses their fiber to make many beautiful things.  She is a very creative and talented woman.  I have never shared this passion with her and the only sewing I can do is repairing loose buttons and using iron tape to hem things.

“She gets up early and tends to her household.”  My mom was always the first one up, making sure my brother and I were ready for school or church and getting us to where we needed to go on time.  (Me-I’m always running late and my kiddos and I leave in a rush most days. In fact, today I woke them up late and they ended up having Hershey’s bars for breakfast and we were still two minutes late for church.) I am the first one up but I like to ease into my days enjoying the quietness of the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, some days reading my devotionals, other days reading a book.  My kids do get fed nutritious meals on a daily basis so don’t misinterpret the Hershey bars for breakfast statement.  That was a rare occasion and the chocolate bars were leftovers from the S’mores that were made at last night’s bonfire.

“She considers a field and buys it”-my mom has owned several homes and maintained them well.  She grew a few vegetable gardens and even knows how to can food items. She could make noodles from scratch.  I have no desire to own my home.  I tried helping my daughter grow a garden last year and I believe we managed to produce 2-3 tiny green tomatoes.  Nothing else bore any produce.  I do not have a green thumb-another thing I simply am not passionate about either.  I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to make noodles from scratch either.

Something from Proverbs 31 my mom and I do have in common would be verse 20; “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  My mom always had an open door for displaced people and stray animals.  Okay if I’m being honest, I was the kid who brought home every stray animal I came across but she never told me I couldn’t keep them. At one time, I had six pet cats (this was obviously before I discovered that I am in fact, allergic to cats-Ha! Ha!)  My friends always knew they were welcome in our home.  In fact, some spent time at my house when we weren’t even home.  There were many occasions that family members, for various reasons, lived with us.  Her generosity instilled in me a passion to someday be a key player in implementing homeless to housed programs throughout my country and God willing, all over the world.

I could go on but I am guessing you get the gist of the kind of mom I was blessed with and the fact that I am fairly opposite of her.  Doesn’t make me a bad mom.  Just means I parent differently.  My kids still learn the things I am passionate about and what I am not skilled at teaching them, I rely on others to teach them.  I’m secure enough in my mothering to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and to no longer beat myself up when I make a mistake.  I don’t like to cook and my kids know that.  But they love my sloppy joes and pancakes.  They also know that I love to baking and think I make the best homemade frosting in the world.  My son thinks I throw a football like a girl but he knows he can count on me to throw a football, play catch or shoot hoops with him if he asks.  My daughter is incredibly liberal (not how she was raised) but she knows she is allowed to speak her mind.  In my home we have an open communication policy.  You are allowed to say what you’re thinking knowing that you will be listened to.  But, you must then allow the other person to speak and give the same respect of listening to them, even if you do not agree with what they may be sharing.  There are days they may get a candy bar or even cookies for breakfast but my fridge is always stocked with healthy food choices and I spend 1-2 hours every other week doing food prep to ensure the healthy snacks are easily accessible for all of us.

But as I learned today, Proverbs 31 was not written to be a list of super hero traits we moms must aspire to be.  As pastor said today, “Proverbs 31 may be the final chapter of wisdom.”  He continued by explaining that “wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully.”  Later he stated that “being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about being perfect, it’s about learning to live life skillfully.”  When we learn this, we become women of valor, women of wisdom.  He suggested a great way to gain wisdom is to “Read and Plead.”  This means reading a chapter of Proverbs daily as well as seeking God and asking Him for wisdom.  He quoted James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”) to back up this suggestion.  He also explained how God in His infinite wisdom, references wisdom repeatedly as a female character.  God made women to be a source and example of wisdom.

What I walked away with today is this; the best thing I can do for my children, myself and to honor God, is to walk in His wisdom and to strive to be a woman of wisdom.  Proverbs 3:18 describes wisdom like this, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” This is definitely a verse I am going to meditate on and strive to be.  Hearing that verse this morning instilled a desire to be the tree that is so rooted in an unshakable faith that my children or anyone who encounters me can feel blessed to take hold of because they see Jesus through me and gain wisdom by knowing me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are moms.  I pray your day was blessed and that this post reminds you of the amazing mom/mum that you are.  I pray this post inspires you to measure yourself to wisdom only and to seek God for an increase whenever you feel lacking.  I also pray that you stop measuring yourselves to the literal version of the Proverbs 31 woman and embrace the woman you are, exactly as God made you.  Jesus did not gift us all to be seamstresses, grow luscious gardens or even to be morning people.  But whatever gifts He’s given you, use them for His purpose and glory and shine like the amazing gems you all are.  In case you forgot how valuable you truly are, Proverbs 31 tells us we are more precious than jewels (vs 10), that we surpass excellency (vs 30) and that when we fear the Lord, we are to be praised (vs 31.)

Show Me Love

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭13:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I seem to write a lot about love. More so, God seems to put this word on my heart a lot and so I write about it. I’ve written about different types of love, the cost of love and what real love is. This weekend, God has really been pressing on me to write about breaking down walls in order to give and receive love. The walls I’m referring to aren’t that of someone else-they’re the walls we build around our own hearts to keep us from getting hurt.

There are a variety of reasons those walls are there-perhaps your parent deeply wounded or abandoned you. Maybe a lover or spouse was abusive or cheated on you. Maybe you grew up around members of the opposite sex who were abusive and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Maybe you’ve gone through a string of relationships feeling used and disposable because that’s how past lovers treated you. Maybe you’re like me and select “all of the above” as your reason for hiding your heart behind those walls. Whatever the reason, each disappointment or heart breaking experience added another brick or layer and your wall is probably at a point where no human in their own strength could ever break through it.

I watch a lot of romantic comedies and Hallmark movies. I love Love. I love watching couples meet, flirt, date, share a first kiss, fall in love, face conflict that nearly tears them apart yet and in the end see love conquer with them living happily ever after. My favorite fairy tale has always been Cinderella. Realistically speaking I don’t wait for a prince on a white horse to show up with a glass slipper and whisk me off to his castle but I do long for a man who would cross the ocean and travel through Hell or high water just to be with me. I think some of that stems from watching so many romantic movies.

Movies are a great source of entertainment. I work two jobs and my second job is actually working at a video store so I obviously love movies. Romantic movies can give us a false sense of what real life romance and love are really all about, but they can also model what grace and forgiveness look like. Take for instance the Hallmark movie, All of my Heart, Inn Love, starring Lacey Chabert. In this movie, Lacey’s character is small town girl with dreams of being a successful baker and owning a country inn. Her fiancé is a big city financial guru who moved to the country and joined in on Lacey’s character’s aspirations. They’re character set-ups are really polar opposites. Every love story has to have a climax-the moment where viewers think the couple is breaking up or will never end up together. In All of my Heart, that moment comes when the big city fiancé takes a temporary job back in the city to help make ends meet and starts displaying old characteristics that Lacey’s character isn’t attracted to. Obviously they’re wants start to pull them away from each other.

At one point, Lacey’s character gives the engagement ring back telling her fiancé to give it back to her when he’s ready to come back to the life they were building. Then there’s a few minutes of scenes showing them living apart and both very unhappy. In the end the fiancé realizes a life with the woman he loves is more important than any successful business adventure or financial gain. He leaves the city life for good and returns to the small town, goat farming, inn keeper life devoting himself to celebrating his fiancée’s accomplishments. Of course the ending is written to lead the viewer to believe the couple lives happily ever after.

Here’s where grace and Forgiveness comes in to play. Never in this movie does Lacey’s character attack or speak hurtful things to her man (her fiancée also never speaks unkindly to his woman either.) When he returns to the home they were sharing, she greets him with open arms and embraces him. There is no punishment or even thought of punishment or spite displayed. She does nothing to make her fiancé prove his love for her or make up for nearly abandoning her and their relationship. She simply welcomes him home and shows him love.

Then there’s my heart. When I watch these movies I tend to think about how I would handle such scenarios. With each conflict I’ve watched in these types of movies I tend to have the same response-put up a wall, don’t forgive easily and make the other person prove his love. Unfortunately, this is how I’ve handled many relationship issues in my own life. Why? Because I unknowingly have punished new relationships for past lovers’ mistakes. I’ve also been far too prideful to ever admit that to anyone or myself, until now. I have a wall built around my heart. I’ve blamed men from my past for having this wall. I naively believed God was going to send me a man so out of this world that would have the super strength to demolish this wall and then I would know it was safe to love him. But let’s be real-God is telling me I need to open up my heart and let Him knock down this wall because my fortress is not only impenetrable, I think it’s covered with barbed wire to ensure nobody can even try to climb over it!

There’s a song from the 90’s by Robin S called Show Me Love. It’s the inspiration for the title of this post because it’s been playing through my mind today. The first few lines of this song describes my heart to a tee-

“Always been told that I’ve got too much pride,

Too independent to have you by side

Then my heart said, all of you will see

Just wont live for someone until he lives for me…”

Character was definitely God’s word for me in 2018 but I am thinking love is too. Maybe it’s a sub part to my character? I’m not certain but I do know this-God is showing me the walls that have to come down so that I can freely and unabashedly love those already in my life and everyone God will continue to bring into my life.

What about you? Do you live behind walls of false security? Are you governed by pride? Are you holding on to past wounds and guarding your heart in an unhealthy way? I pray Ezekiel 36:26 over you and stand on God’s promise to “give you a new heart and a new spirit. May He remove from you this heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” May you and I become fully surrendered and allow God to demolish the walls we’ve hidden behind for far too long. It is only with a surrendered will that God can really show me (and you) love.

With These Broken Wings

“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:31‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I do not respond well to rude or arrogant men. I do not respond well to anything that I interpret as rude, arrogant or controlling especially if it’s a man that displays it. I am not a man hater, nor am I a feminazi. My reactions stem from my experiences with men who repeatedly did not act as a man should.

I grew up with a single mom. My biological father abandoned us when I was only two. When I was three years old, my mother married the man I called “daddy”. For four years I felt the most love and security I have ever known. God blessed me with a man who chose to raise me as his own child even though we had no genetic ties. I firmly believe it’s the reason I love so many children as as if they were my flesh and blood. But my daddy died. And I spent the remainder of my childhood and teenage years being raised by a single mom.

I grew up around alcoholics and abusive men. One of these men screamed at me so much that I vomited. Another took me into a room, turned the lights off and started yelling just to scare me because he knew I was afraid of the dark. I never had a male teacher that I liked or respected. To this day I struggle with male authority because I am simply inexperienced with it.

After my daddy died I longed to feel loved and secure again. My mom did her best and she worked hard to provide for us. I know she loved me and she made a lot of sacrifices for me. She’s the reason I have the strength to persevere through the trials I face as a single mom. But she couldn’t replace the love I lost. She couldn’t give me the amount of love two parents give. After all, that’s humanly impossible. So when I became a teenager I chased after that love through boys and dating relationships.

Most boys I had crushes on didn’t give me the time of day. The ones who did tended to be trouble with a capital T. My senior year, I was blessed to meet a young man who became my boyfriend all through college. He was funny, kind, loving and very protective. He definitely seem to be the answer to what I had been missing. But we were young, immature and hadn’t the first clue on how to make a relationship work. Our relationship eventually ended based on the decision that we were better off friends than in a romantic relationship. When it ended, the void began again.

Over the next few years I found myself drawn to men who had zero desire of settling down and making an actual commitment. They were mostly looking for a woman who wanted to party in various forms. Time and time again I was left disappointed and feeling undesirable. Yet I kept chasing after this desire to be chosen. I defined my self worth based on whether a man would choose me or not. Because I was rarely chosen, I convinced myself I had no value.

Since that college relationship, I’ve had two other long term relationships. One produced my two children. The other occurred a few years ago. Neither filled the void, made me feel loved or protected. Both brought more insecurity than I was able to handle. One was dangerously toxic and consisted of years of being emotionally torn down. The other should’ve never happened because I was incredibly broken and hadn’t even begun healing from the first one. A bird who tries to fly again with broken wings only ends up hurting itself more. That’s exactly what happened in the latter relationship.

Bitterness engulfed my heart like a neglected garden overtaken by weeds. I grew critical and more distrusting of men. I closed myself off to dating. To be honest, I also had some very angry moments with God. Many times I asked God what I did wrong to deserve such maltreatment. After all, suffering can be the result of our own mishaps. But it can also be something that God allows to happen or even brings upon us as part of His refinement process.

Through the years God has tugged at me to begin the healing process. That starts with laying down my brokenness and surrendering my past completely to Him. That is not an easy thing to do. As exhausting as it is to carry around heavy burdens, they’re a constant reminder to stay guarded and work as a shield to keep me from getting hurt or broken again. But God won’t heal me if I’m not willing to tear down the wall and lay my burdens down. He beckons all of us to come to Him, weary and heavy laden, and promises to give us rest. (Matthew 11:28).

Another part of the healing process is confessing my bitter heart and choosing to forgive those who have wounded me. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to forgive the man who abandoned me or the one who yelled at me. I certainly don’t want to forgive the one who cheated, the one who lied, or the one who was only interested in me for “one thing.” I don’t want to forgive the one who continues to text me harassing messages and just recently admitted to “hating my guts”. But want to and have to are two different things. I don’t want to forgive them but God tells me I have to. Not for their sake, I have to forgive them for my own. I also have to forgive them as an act of obedience to God. (Ephesians 4:31-32.) Right now I’m at the stage where I can confess my unforgiving heart and seek God’s help in changing my desire to choose forgiveness.

Once I choose to lay my past down and practice forgiveness, I then have to face my fear of getting hurt once again. This doesn’t mean I start chasing after relationships or become a serial dater. This means I seek discernment in establishing healthy friendships and even professional relationships with men. This also means learning to understand and decipher how men communicate to avoid becoming easily defensive or even shutting down. Too often I’ve assumed the man I think is offending me is like the others from my past. Eventually, God willing, it will mean opening my heart up to the man He will send me who will choose to love, respect and protect me. If that happens, it also means not punishing this man for the mistakes of those from my past.

Lastly-and this one is key-God has been teaching me that no human being, male or female, parent or spouse, can provide the love and protection I truly desire. He is the only One who can. (Jeremiah 31:3; Deuteronomy 31:6) No one I chase, nothing I seek comfort in will ever fill the void I have like Jesus can. Chasing after anything or anyone else is idolatry and God

refuses to have any other gods before Him. (Exodus 20:3)

When a bird breaks its wings, the wings can be immobilized and the bird is ground bound. Although tying the bird’s wings down keeps the bird’s travel abilities restricted, its a necessary part of the healing process. When the wings are healed, the restriction is lifted and the bird can soar once again. When the human heart is broken it becomes immobilized too. It can shut down and even become paralyzed,metaphorically speaking. It’s in these moments we need to allow God to wrap Himself around us and heal us from the inside out. His healing brings wholeness, renews our spirits and strengthens us to soar on wings like eagles.

Currently, my heart is still immobilized because I have chosen the path of self healing instead of walking through the process God’s way. He remains faithful though. He has sent me a handful of kind, godly and selfless male friends who have been encouragers, and helpers. He even blessed me with an older gentleman who treats me like one of his own children teaching me how a man should father a daughter. God never ceases to awe me that’s for sure.

Has your heart been broken? Do you feel crushed? Have you been abused or treated harshly? Do you struggle with relationships with the opposite sex? Are you longing for the freedom of walking in His healing power? Is your past keeping you bitter? Is fear holding you back from letting go or choosing forgiveness? Take a step toward the healing process by simply confessing to God exactly where your heart is, admitting to carrying around old wounds and trust Him to remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

Once Upon a Time Anger Blackened My Heart…

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:21‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Ever been so angry you could spit nails? Or better yet has anger fueled inside of you that felt like fiery volcanic activity? What circumstances or situations trigger this type of anger within you?
Anger is a normal feeling or emotion.  Even Jesus displayed anger during His short ministry.  When He saw that people turned the house of God into a shopping mall He “knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.” (Matthew 21:12 NLT)  In verse 13 He displayed more of His anger by accusing the traders of turning the temple into a “den of thieves.” Clearly the people in His time were doing something wrong and Jesus took action to right that wrong.  Clearly too, His anger was quite justifiable.

But what happens we we see or we experience wrongs being done and we feel helpless to be able to right it but acting out in anger, no matter how justifiable we think that anger is, would only make matters worse.  What do we do then?

There are many ways I have handled my anger over circumstances I cannot control.  Some ways were more positive or godly than others.  Some were downright dishonoring to God.  I’ve struggled with unforgiveness and allowed roots of bitterness to nearly suffocate my heart.  I’ve definitely allowed the enemy to bring a total eclipse over God’s light within me covering me in darkness and blackening my heart.

The concept of a blackened heart reminds me of the show Once Upon a Time. I’m a huge fan of this series.  If you’re not familiar with the storyline basically this show entwines fairy tale characters from the Enchanted Forest into other characters portrayed in a “real life” small town setting.  The first season of this show started out with Snow White’s step-mother, the evil queen, casting a curse on the entire forest and banishing everyone to this new realm with no memory of their fairytale lives.  In fact, they were all given new identities with only the evil queen knowing who they really were and continuing to be the “puppet master.”  No matter what storyline unfolds, each episode teaches a lesson about goodness and love always conquering evil and hate but never without a battle or a heartbreaking sacrifice.

In one particular episode, Snow White learns the truth of how her mother died and she’s immediately filled with such heart break that she starts to feel hatred toward her mother’s killer.  This angry state weakens her faith in good overcoming evil and she commits an evil act.  That evil act blackens her heart. For several episodes she battles with depression and despair but the love of her husband, family and friends lift her out of that pit and restores her faith in light being victorious over darkness.

When I am angriest, I pour out screaming prayers to God spewing disappointment and even questioning His love for me.  I think unforgiving and hateful thoughts and many times I hold a grudge for far too long.  Tonight was a night of tears and angry praying.  There are circumstances occurring in my life that I don’t know how to change and I’ve reached a point where, just like Snow White,  I’m lacking faith. It seems evil doers are getting away with spiteful acts and that’s not ok in my book.   I know God is in control and that’s frustrating me even more because I don’t see Him intervening.  Tonight I felt Him reminding me that David praised God and would continuously remind himself of all God had done for him but I refused. I was so angry and disappointed that I refused to praise God.  In my anger I sinned because I responded to hate by blinding myself from all of God’s goodness. And God is good-all of the time.  No matter the circumstances God is good.

In researching my Bible app to find the verse about the den of thieves, God led me to some verses on anger.  Here are a couple that stood out to me immediately and broke up the hard black stone that formed around my heart:

  • “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.”

          ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.”

          ‭‭James‬ ‭1:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper— it only leads to harm.”

          ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

  • “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”

          ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

These stood out to me because they didn’t speak to the requests I made or to my lack of faith-they spoke directly to my heart.  Isn’t that  just like God to allow us to throw tantrums yet also provide correction at the same time.  It’s as if I was pointing my finger at these circumstances and asking God where He’s at in all of this and God was pointing His finger at me saying “Get your anger in check girl!”  To be honest, these verses humbled me faster than any verse I’ve ever read about peace and forgiveness.  These verses also motivated me to give thanks to God for His correction and to write this post because during my angry monologue in fits of sobbing, I confessed that I was too angry and too disappointed to even write for Him.  Good thing God is omnipotent and knew I would end up writing this post less than an hour after saying that.

Whatever you’re dealing with-pour out your anger to God, confess every feeling you’re experiencing to Him and if you happen to sin in your angry-allow God’s correction to humble your heart.  No matter what keep, believing in His goodness, His deliverance, His provision and His perfect timing! He promisss in Isaiah 41:10 “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
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Heavenly Father’s Day

Tomorrow is the day we in America celebrate the men who are dads.  For some that is their biological dad.  For others it may be a grandfather, uncle, step-dad or honorary dad.  Still for others it stirs up feelings of disappointment, abandonment or sadness because they’re dad is either gone or not a positive part of their life.

For those who are struggling with not having a dad I want to bless you with this encouragement from our Heavenly Father in hopes that it will fill your hearts with peace, comfort and even joy.

In His word God promises to be the Father to the fatherless.  (Psalm 68:5.) He again reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 6:18; “And I will be a Father to you, And you will be My sons and daughters,” Says the Lord Almighty.” There are also numerous verses that describe God as our “Heavenly Father.” And more that call us His sons and daughters or refer to us as being adopted as His children.  No matter what relationship you have with your earthly father, and some may not even know who their father is-God is your Father and you can know Him in this capacity/be adopted as His son or daughter when you accept His own son, Jesus, as your personal Lord and Savior.

Some reading right now may be asking “How do I accept Jesus as my Savior?” What does that all mean?  Well some believe you have to pray something called the “Sinner’s Prayer” where you confess your sins, confess Jesus as God’s son, confess that you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose again and invited Him to live in your heart.  There’s nothing wrong with that prayer but there’s a lot of human formality to it.  The Bible tells us this is how we become children of the One True God.  “…Believe in the Lord Jesus [as your personal Savior and entrust yourself to Him] and you will be saved, you and your household [if they also believe].” (Acts 16:31)  In John 10:9 Jesus Himself tells us “I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever]…” And Romans 10:9 is even more direct with this; “because if you acknowledge and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [recognizing His power, authority, and majesty as God], and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” To put it simply-salvation (becoming a child of God and securing eternity with Him) means confessing and believing that Jesus is the son of God who died for our sins and conquered death for you and for me!

Salvation makes you a child of God but studying His word, talking with Him through daily prayer and building your faith by walking in obedience to Him is what grows your relationship with Him and opens your heart to knowing Him as your Heavenly Father.  When you grow this wisdom in your heart you will learn three very important things:

1) God’s love for you is unconditional and everlasting! (“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”‭‭ Jeremiah 31:3)

2) God will never leave you nor forsake you! (“…for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or abandon you.”  DEUTERONOMY‬ ‭31:6‬)

3) God is your true Protector and Provider! (“He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions, And under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.” ‭‭PSALM‬ ‭91:4‬ and “…my God will liberally supply (fill until full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”‭‭. PHILIPPIANS‬ ‭4:19‬)

For the dads out there who are engulfed in their children’s lives fully dedicated and devoted to raising their children, thank you for your commitment and love to your children.  To those who weren’t gifted with this kind of dad or who’s father is no longer living, I pray this post blesses you and draws you to either pursue a relationship with God or if you’re already saved, draw you deeper into the knowledge of Him as your Heavenly Father.  Abba, which is a word used to describe God, means “Daddy.” So start by praying to Abba daily and see how your heart grows toward Him when you view God in this way.

I want to close with the lyrics of Chris Tomlin’s song, Good Good Father. This is a song I resented until last summer when I had to make the difficult decision of emotionally detaching myself from my biological father who had broken his sobriety and gone back to drinking.  It was just after Father’s Day that I mailed him a letter informing him of my decision.  A week later I found myself at a Christian festival hearing Chris Tomlin perform this song live and where I felt God release the chains that had hardened my heart toward seeing God as my Abba.  With a rush of overwhelming freedom I raised my hands up and worshipped my Father as tears streamed down my face.  It was His emotional healing at its best.  I pray these lyrics bring healing for those who need it also.  God bless.

“Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories of what they think you’re like But I’ve heard the tender whispers of love in the dead of night And you tell me that you’re pleased And that I’m never alone

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching for answers far and wide But I know we’re all searching For answers only you provide ‘Cause you know just what we need Before we say a word
You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

’cause you are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways You are perfect in all of your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable I, I can hardly speak Peace so unexplainable I, I can hardly think

As you call me deeper still..Into love, love, love

You’re a Good, Good Father It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a Good, Good Father (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are And I’m loved by you (you are perfect in all of your ways) It’s who I am, it’s who I am it’s who I am…

O How He Loves Me (& You)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalms 91:4 NIV

Yesterday I came home to a package in my mailbox from a darling friend I met almost 20 years ago when I lived in another state.  She was actually one of the first friends I made in that state and one of the few I’ve been able to keep even after I moved back home.  Throughout the years God used her to be a tool of encouragement for me, to be His voice when I needed accountability and to know just how much He truly loves me.

This friend’s love language is definitely the gift of giving.  At least 2-3 times a year I receive a surprise in the mail from her; a Power of the Praying Woman bible, a handful of devotional books,  a bracelet with a crown on it reminding me that I am royalty because I am a daughter of the King, even a mouse pad with a picture of my children when they were just a toddler and infant (of which I still use everyday at work.)  She’s definitely a giver, and she never expects anything in return.  The best gift I can give her is quality time by means of a scheduled phone call (because our lives are so busy if we didn’t make phone “dates” we’d never stay in touch) that entails me mostly talking about myself (because she just enjoys listening and encouraging and sincerely wants to know how she can pray for me.)  She’s even taught her son, whom I’ve never been able to meet face-to-face, but is the same age as my son, to pray for me and my children.  It’s endearing to know there’s a child out there praying for us simply because his mom loves us and treasures the friendship she and I share.  Other than my time and my friendship, this amazing woman wants nothing else from me but to see me be the woman God made me to be.

She’s the epitome of Christ-He too, is a friend who’s love language is giving.  He loved us so much He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16.)  He sacrificed His Beloved for our salvation.  Matthew 7:11 tells us;  “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him (NLT).”  He gifts us with the beauty of His creation, with breath everyday we open our eyes, and with an unconditional love that is almost incomprehensible.  He shows His love through unexpected blessings and the gift of godly friendships.

What does He want in return-our commitment to spend quality time with Him.  Just like a friend who lives in another state or even another country, in order to keep a strong relationship with Christ, we need to schedule daily time with Him, time in His Word, time in conversational prayer with Him and time to be still, listening for His guiding voice.  God wants to be up close and personal with you and me each every day.  He desires that we give Him the first moments of our day.  But He waits for us to come to Him.  He longs to hear us talk to Him like we talk to the humans we love dearly.  We can tell Him about our day even though He knew about it before it occurred.  We can express our fears, our worries, our deepest angst to Him and He will listen.  In fact, He will do more than listen. If we surrender to Him, He promises to deliver us from everything that holds us back from His best for our lives.  Did you catch that last sentence?  God is our Best Friend, because He longs to give us His best and His best is better than anything we could gain on our own.

If you’re reading this, I hope this encourages you to make Christ your best friend.  Schedule time everyday to be with Him.  Become so familiar with talking to Him, that like me, you have a conversation with Him aloud in your morning commute to work not worrying about what you look like when a passerby sees you and thinks you’re talking to yourself.

God showed His love for me yesterday through my friend’s gift.  It was a necklace with a feather charm (pictured above) and Psalm 91:4 written on a card.  He knew I would open the package in my car at the exact time Chris Tomlin’s Good Good Father was playing on the radio.  Tears flowed into sobs as I read the words of Psalms 91:4, the words my darling friend wrote in a note card and listened to these lyrics while also staring in awe at the gorgeous necklace laying in my hands;

“You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways
You are perfect in all of your ways to us

“Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think

“As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

“You’re a Good, Good Father
It’s who you are, it’s who you are, it’s who you are
And I’m loved by you
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am…”

He is perfect in all of His ways and He loves us-undeniably.

It’s Just a Little Crush…

“Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, its jealousy as enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with all his wealth, his offer would be utterly scorned.”

Song of Solomon 8:6-7NLT

Oh my goodness!  Did you see his smile?  How cute was he?  Do you think he noticed me?  Oh my gosh!  He’s coming over here…don’t act nervous, don’t say the wrong thing…he asked me for my phone number!  Now I wait for his call….

He called…we’re going out.  Could he be “the one?”  He’s so cute…he’s so nice.  Lord, I pray he’s the one…

The date was awesome and Lord-when can I kiss him again?  He’s definitely “the one.”  Lord, please make it happen in Your time and in Your will…

I don’t understand.  Why did he dump me?  What’s wrong with me?  How could he take my love for so many years and then just throw it away in a text message?  My heart is broken.  I’ll never love again…

That guy is cute…is he single…does he notice me…

A vicious cycle a woman endures when she makes the idea of love, men and being in a relationship the god of her life.  I have been that woman.  I meet someone, fall head over heels in love and get my heart broken-repeatedly.  The heartache made me bitter, skeptical and if you ask my family and closest friends, they’d say “closed off to dating” at this point.

Don’t get me wrong, I made my fair share of mistakes in past relationships.  But I also loved each one with all my being.  I talked about them to all of my friends, spent as much time with them as I could, fought hard to hold on to the relationship and in the end lost a few men who never really loved me.  Worst, I lost a piece of me each time.  The biggest mistake I made was worshiping them, putting them first in my life-even above God.

Putting others before God, no matter who it is, is a form of idolatry.  Yes, God calls us to love one another, but He also says, “You must have no other gods before Me.” (Exodus 20:3)  He repeatedly warns us that He is a very jealous God.  Deuteronomy 4:24 tells us, “The Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” God is so serious about not wanting us to worship other people that he compares Himself to a consuming fire.  His jealousy for us should devour every part of us to the point that we have no desire to worship anyone or anything else.

God put Song of Solomon 8 on my heart this past week.  He’s been tugging at my heart about idolatry and worshiping people.  When I read verses 6 and 7, the hopeful romantic in me dreamed of a love like Solomon and his wife-a human kind of love, in fact, an Eros kind of love.

Then I re-read this passage and God opened my eyes to see that THIS is how God wants me and all of us to love Him.  When I have a crush, he’s all I talk about, all I think about.  I count down the days until I can see him or talk to him.  With God, I take time spent with Him for granted.  There are days I choose to sleep in rather than read His word and I rarely stop talking in my prayers to listen to His voice.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed to talk about Him with other people.  Yet God, in His patient grace and mercy still seeks me and pursues me daily.  He has me tattooed on His heart, so why don’t I have Him tattooed on mine?  He longs for me (and you) to place Him like a seal over our entire beings.  He showed the strength of His love by dying on the cross for us and conquering death for us.  If His jealousy is a consuming fire, think how more consuming His love for us is.

God’s love cannot be quenched by water or anything else.  Paul tells us in Romans 8, “…that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (verses 38 and 39, NLT) David repeatedly reminds us in Psalms that God’s love is never ending.  And just like we couldn’t do anything to earn our salvation, we can do nothing to buy God’s love.

This week, God has been asking me, “Why am I not your crush?  Why don’t you talk about me the way you’ve talked about those men of your past?  They shattered your heart but I would never leave you wounded, broken or questioning your self-worth.  To Me, you are far greater than rubies.  To me my darling, you surpass them all.”  I had no answer for Him, only conviction in my heart and a realization of the form of idolatry I’ve practiced for far too long.

God wants to be first in my life and yours.  No matter if you’re married, single, divorced, or widowed, God wants to be first-above your spouse, significant other, even before our children.  God first, other second, ourselves third…that’s the order I was taught at a very young age yet fail to practice.  I pray this post opens up every reader’s eyes to examine where God is ranked in their life and to see if there is anyone or anything they are putting in place of God.  If you find something, confess it and know that He forgives.  Don’t shame yourself or allow the enemy to fill you with guilt.  Remember, nothing we do can stop God from loving us.  Let’s all choose to love God like the love described in Song of Solomon 8-like a consuming fire with the brightest flames.  And let’s talk about how awesome He is to everyone we meet like we would if we all had “just a little crush”.