Christ in Me

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today I surprised my mom at her church. It was a blessing to see the joy on her face when she saw me. It refreshing to be back in a church. It’s been a bit since I’ve attended. It was also refreshing to see a man I’ve covered in years of prayers. In church worshipping and engaging in fellowship with other believers.

After church I was blessed to have a quick conversation with this friend. He paid me a compliment that’s resonated with me all day. He told me I have a light in my eyes. A light that is life. I’ve been compliment about my eyes many times but no one has ever seen that in them.

My first response was to point out the tired and purple bags hanging from my eyes. He didn’t allow me to negate his observation though. He simply stated he wasn’t talking about what was below my eyes but what was in them. He said he could see Jesus and a love for people in my eyes. When he was finished I responded with a confirmation that I do indeed love people.

What he said resonated with me because Ive never been complimented that way before. But his words resonated me for another reason too. I thought about the times I don’t act loving toward people-the times I lose my temper, grumble, complain, hold a grudge, take things too personally, or deliberately choose to be rude or unkind. I actually thought I was presenting a falsehood to my friend and that I should message him the “real” me. I wondered if in those moments do my eyes show the opposite of life? At my worst, do they exude death?

Tonight, before writing any emails or messages, God led me to Psalm 139. Reading this chapter showed me what God sees in me (and you.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He made all the delicate parts of us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We are wonderfully complex, a marvelous display of His workmanship. Every moment of our lives has been laid out before Christ before we even existed. Including every bad moment and sinful act we engage in. Yet His thoughts about us are precious! And Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts-they’re higher than ours.

Today’s conversation was Christ orchestrated for both my friend and for me. God used my eyes to hopefully breath more life into a man who’s felt dead inside for years. But God also used my friend’s words to remind me of who I am in Him.

The next time the enemy tries to define you as anything than who you are in Christ-meditate on Psalm 139 and worship Abba with this chorus from Jeremy Camp:

“So come and empty me

So that it’s you I breathe

I want my life to be

Only Christ in me

So I will fix my eyes

‘Cause you’re my source of life

I need the world to see

That it’s Christ in me

That it’s Christ in me”

This chorus alone reminds us to empty ourselves of all we think we are and fix our eyes on Him-our source of light and life. When we do that, it’s inevitable that others will see His light and His life through our eyes!

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What Fruit is Your Tree Producing?

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

For the past few months I have been obsessively craving oranges. I can eat six of them or more in a day sometimes. Definitely can eat several over the span of a week. But I’m a bit weird with how I eat them. I can’t peel just one and then eat it. I have to peel several at a time and store them in a dish so they’re readily available whenever my belly craves them. If I don’t peel them all at once, they tend to sit, rot and get wasted.

Tasting the juicy sweetness of a ripe orange and throwing away one that’s mushy and covered in a fuzzy green substance reminds me of God’s calling on all of us to be fruit bearers. In Galatians (Chapter 5 verse 22 and 23) we read about the fruits of the Spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, kindness, perseverance and self-control. These are all characteristics God requires of us to display in our day to day lives. Reading the list sounds easy and I am confident there are many times practicing all of these have come natural to all of us. But what about the times when it doesn’t? Let’s look at some scenarios.

When a person cuts us off on the road it’s human nature to react in a harsh manner (not practice gentleness.) when someone wounds us deeply or continues to disappoint us, it’s human nature to stop loving them, maybe even feel hatred toward them. When we’re grief stricken if feels impossible to experience joy. Addictions make it incredibly challenging to practice self-control. When life feels out of control it’s easy to worry and be anxious instead of choosing to be at peace fully trusting Abba. If you’re a parent dealing with a toddler meltdown or a disrespectful know-it-all teenager it’s super easy to lose patience. On days when we’re just feeling grumpy it’s easier to lash out at others rather than practice goodness and kindness.

Then there’s the concept of being known by our fruit. If we are a person bearing good fruit we should be identified as such. But what about those who constantly bear bad fruit? What about the people who cross our paths who appear to be mean-spirited, toxic, hard-hearted or down right evil? What about those people who seem so hard hearted that no amount of prayer covering seems ever possible that they will ever change?

First and foremost if you’re a Christian who’s known for bearing bad fruit (maybe you hold grudges, is unwelcoming, always arguing, gossips, harbors hatred toward others, loses your temper easily, over spends/over eats or even over works) it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror, confess these attitudes and behaviors and ask God to cut off the branches that aren’t bearing good fruit. Until you refuse to repent, you will be a tree that produces bad fruit and bears a false witness as to what being Christ like is all about. If you repent, God promises to prune you in a way that will make your tree overflowing with His fruit once again (John 15:2.)

Dealing with nonbelievers who bear bad fruit is a bit more challenging. None of us hold the power in our human strength to change a human heart, including our own. Part of bearing good fruit is being a seed planter for those who bear bad fruit. If you have any knowledge of botany (which mine is very limited) you know that some plants actually populate from having their seeds spread elsewhere. This happens in both plants and weeds which means Christians can plant both good and bad seeds in the lives of those whom we cross paths with. If we want to be good fruit bearers, we have to be good seed planters also (read Mark 4 regarding Jesus’ parable on seed planting.)

How do we do that? We practice the fruits of the Spirit at all times. Think about being a comedian performing on stage for the first time. Your audience boos you and throws rotten tomatoes at you. This is the epitome of being exposed to bad fruit bearers and toxic people. It’s also human nature to want to defend ourselves and to pick up those rotted tomatoes and throw them back. Instead, God calls us to give them good fruit. Sticking with this analogy let’s say when someone throws rotten tomatoes at you, you pull out fresh ripe ones and ask them to join you for a salad. If someone steals from your apple tree, bake them a pie with what’s left. By doing so, you will be planting seeds of the Spirit that God can use to grow your enemies into good fruit bearers also.

This is definitely easier said than done. Trust me-I struggle daily with practicing any of this. I tend to live out my feelings instead of practicing self-control. I lose my temper and throw gentleness, kindness and goodness right out the window replacing them with anger, harsh words and unforgiveness. I wallow in my sorrows and give the enemy my joy. When I try problem solving in my own human wisdom, I get engulfed in worry and anxiety which suffocates any ounce of His peace within me. There are days I make a conscious effort to choose His fruit instead though. Just like choosing healthy food gives your body more energy, choosing His fruit gives my spirit a supernatural energy boost that produces more fruit within me. The more we pour out into others, the more He pours back into us. To keep using a scientific analogy, this would be a spiritual osmosis!

Whether you’re in a season of seed planting or fruit bearing remember three things-one, just like growing a garden or planting trees takes a length of time before the plant is fully matured and fruit is produced, so it may take years before you see changes in those you are discipling to, including even your own children. That’s where consistency, perseverance and the power of prayer play their biggest roles. Just because you can’t see anything growing, doesn’t mean there aren’t roots forming beneath the surface. So don’t give up.

Second, you may not be the person God uses to fully change their hearts. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3:6 that he planted the seed but Apollo watered it and only God actually made it grow. This verse reminds us that some hearts may take more than one person to soften and that no matter who God uses, He ultimately gets the glory. It’s His power alone that truly changes hearts. We are just His tools.

Lastly, and this part is a sad reality, some hearts will never change. Choosing the fruits of the Spirit is a choice. There are people who choose to be hard hearted and no effort will ever change them. (Matthew 21:19) I believe God will show you when it’s time to walk away from such a person and surrender them fully to the Lord. We can still pray for a miracle in them but walking away means protecting ourselves emotionally and avoiding getting spiritually burned out. You may not agree with this last concept but just remember Judas was a prime example of such a heart. He walked right beside Jesus and betrayed him. Jesus never pursued Judas after the betrayal because He knew there was no changing him.

Jesus forgave Judas and He calls us to forgive our enemies also-even if they refuse to change. Forgiveness is definitely a seed that when planted can produce amazing fruit in ourselves and in those we choose to forgive. Jesus modeled this as He was hanging on a cross enduring excruciating pain, pushing himself up just to take a breath, and said “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So what seeds are you planting? What fruit are you producing? What is your spiritual tree bearing? Strive to plant seeds that inevitably produce trees that bear His fruit.

God’s Undeserving Gift Of Grace

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I have felt an insurmountable measure of grace lately. I don’t think I’m doing anything differently to deserve it. In fact today started with a very scary moment that I did not respond to in a godly manner at all. Yet God extended His grace to me and even used a co-worker to gift me a treat I throughly enjoy. Did I mention she had no idea, when she brought that gift to work, that I was going to have the morning I had. That’s God. That’s His Grace.

Yesterday I worked a 13 hour shift and I was exhausted. When I get run down I do not bring my A game emotionally or spiritually. Listening to christian radio on my drive home I heard a song that just strengthened me and revived a spiritually energy within me. It’s called “Broken Things” by Matthew West. Here are the specific lyrics that stand out to me:

“If grace was a kingdom, I stopped at the gate thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made…The pages of history they tell me it’s true

That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use It’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak All the misfit heroes You chose Tell me there’s hope for sinners like me…”

And the chorus bravado is like this:

“Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King I wish I could bring so much more But if it’s true You use broken thingsThen here I am Lord, I’m all Yours”

The words in the song speak to me because I am a broken thing. So are you. We all are. It’s empowering to think that God does not seek out perfect people. He seeks out the lost and the weary, the sinner, not the saint and uses all of our mistakes for His glory.

The Bible is full of examples of God’s grace being extended through some serious sinful acts. Google “grace” and see for yourself. If you have a Bible app called You Version (which is what I use and love) search the word grace and find every scripture in His word about grace in multiple editions.

For me personally-Grace means I am forgiven and loved every time I fail Jesus. It means He keeps His promise to never leave me nor forsake me no matter what I do. It means that because I’m forgiven I should practice patience with others and choose forgiveness over bitterness because the Lord forgave me. Unforgiveness is a stronghold for me and extending forgiveness to my enemies is a work in progress.

What does grace mean to you? Do you know that you’re loved in spite of your mistakes? Do you know that your sins do not define you but that grace does? Do you know that the guilt and shame you’re carrying around does not come from Jesus?

Open your Bible and study what He says about grace. Listen to Matthew West’s “Broken Things” and other songs that remind you that grace wins every time. Let go of your shame and open your heart up to receive His grace. It’s then you will experience the peace that surpasses all understanding. God bless and may you feel His grace shine upon you every day.

When It’s Hardest to Forgive

“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:21-22‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you were raised Christian, ever visited a Sunday School class or have been witnessed to, I am confident you’ve heard a message about forgiveness. The plan of salvation alone consists of confessing our sins and Jesus forgiving us. Christ’s death is the epitome of forgiveness both to those who crucified Him and for those He died for. As He was hanging on the cross already beaten and tortured, He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Throughout the Old and New Testament there are many passages on God and Christ forgiving sinners. We aren’t just forgiven. God calls us to forgive those who “trespass against us.” If you’re anything like me, being forgiven is easy. Forgiving others can be a very tough pill to swallow especially those who aren’t even sorry.

There are people in this world who may hate you, hurt you, and lie about you because of their own toxicity. Perhaps they’re jealous and insecure, sociopathic or narcissistic even. The stories of Jezebel, Joseph’s brothers and even Saul’s murderous behavior toward David are prime examples. The Pharisees even blasphemed against Jesus. Yet there are multiple scriptures that tell us to forgive. In fact a few verses even say love your enemies and pray for them/do good to them.

Here are a few more scriptures on God telling us to forgive:

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too. ””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭11:25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Over and over God tells us to love our enemies, be kind to each other and to forgive each other. When someone we love hurts our feelings or disappoints us-it tends to be easy to forgive them because our love supersedes the offense. It’s hardest to forgive those who’s offenses supersede the ability to love that person. That’s where surrender to God and an obedient heart comes in to play. That’s where seventy times seven needs to be applied.

You may come across someone who will never be sorry for the wrong they did to you. You may want to just avoid them or ignore their existence. However, there may be circumstances where you cannot ignore or avoid them. You may have such a justifiable aversion to them that being kind to them makes your skin crawl. Our wounded hearts don’t want to forgive. Our defenses don’t want to be around them let alone offer them grace or kindness. But God says “Forgive them.” God says “Be kind to them.” God says “Love and pray for them.”

Seventy times seven means we forgive every offense, every time. I think it also means we may have to forgive the same offense over and over as a means to truly let go and fully forgive our offenders. Think about it. How many times a day do you dwell on the offense? Ever have arguments in your head between yourself and the offender? Ever think unkind thoughts or call them vicious names in your mind? Gossip about them maybe? Can you feel roots of bitterness growing and consuming you? Do you think any of that hurts your offender? Trust me-it does not. Your offender is most likely not even thinking about you. If their not sorry for their actions then they’re certainly not dwelling on them either. Our dwelling only keeps us wounded and keeps us from forgiving.

We combat this by choosing forgiveness. When a negative thought pops in your head-confess in your mind or aloud that you forgive the offender. Dwelling on specific actions they did against you? Name them aloud as you declare that you forgive these offenses. Confess each and every hateful thought you entertain and give it all to Jesus. When circumstances arise that you have to engage with that person, force yourself to be kind. You may have to fake it until you make it but if you do this, you will cut off all roots of bitterness and walk in the freedom of having a forgiving heart. You will make it to forgiving your offender(s).

Your enemy may never change. Our greatest enemy will never change so why do we expect our human enemies to change? We cannot control the behaviors and actions of others. We can only control how we respond, what we hold on to and what we let go of. We have a choice to forgive or to hold a grudge. Holding a grudge steals our joy and makes us more like our haters. Always choose to forgive. Even if you have to say it 490 times (which is 70 X 7 by the way) choosing forgiveness makes you more Christlike. That forgiveness may be the exact stepping stone Jesus uses to bring your enemy to salvation. After all-Joseph told his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” (Genesis 50:20) You never know how God will use your forgiveness to save the lives of others also.

A Little Faith

“Then he asked [her], “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?””

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:40‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This past weekend I was updating my playlist on Spotify. When you look up a particular artist the site will make suggestions of other artists in that same genre. I was downloading some 1990’s pop music and came across Mandy Moore. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’m a Mandy Moore fan so I downloaded a couple of her songs. One in particular was a rendition of “Have A Little Faith in Me.” I didn’t give it much thought then but later that afternoon when the song started playing God spoke deeply into me and the tears just flowed.

Are you familiar with the song? Read these two stanzas and I’m confident some if not most of you will be moved by them:

“When the road gets dark

And you can no longer see

Just let my love throw a spark

And have a little faith in me

And when the tears you cry

Are all you can believe

Just give these loving arms a try

And have a little faith in me…”

I immediately thought of my children and my heart’s desire for them. I long to be their constant and their comfort in this life. They are teenagers and faced with so many temptations and distractions from what God made them to be. I have to admit we aren’t diligent in attending church every week and our family prayers usually only occur during meal times and bed time. Family devotionals are non existent because of busyness and my being too tired to battle with them over a five minute reading. We do have talks about God but sadly they’re foundation is more sandy than on solid rock. I take full responsibility for failing in building a stronger spiritual foundation for them and my heart worries about their future far too often.

The first thing that ran through my mind when I heard this song was how deeply I long for my children to trust me. As their mom and the person responsible for molding them, I long for them to see that I have 20+ years of experience ahead of them and I only wish to use my wisdom to protect and guide them. As I was dwelling on these thoughts I felt the Lord tell that’s exactly how He feels about me and all of His children. He longs for us to trust in Him and to rely on His eternal wisdom to guide and protect us also.

God then reminded me of a text conversation I had with my daughter the week prior. It was past both our bedtimes and she texted me because she was afraid. She had watched a video on an end of the world prediction (stating the world is suppose to end April 18th) and it was so realistic to her that she was in a panic. I tried explaining the biblical version of the end of the world in an effort to bring her some peace of mind but it was ineffective. I felt myself getting frustrated because I was tired (I did mention it was past bedtime, right?) and being a believer in the Bible’s version of End times, I knew this prediction was utter nonsense. So of course I thought it was ridiculous to be panicked over nonsense.

I finally told her she had a choice to make. She could choose to believe her mom or to believe that video. She never answered that choice but after a few more texts she ended up falling asleep. I however was too on edge at that point to go back to sleep so I ended up watching an hour of a movie.

God used my own words to speak to me. He pointed out I (and you) can choose to trust God or we can choose to trust in our circumstances. When we have a little faith in Him (even faith the size of a mustard seed), we can move mountains (Matt 17:20.) When we choose to trust in our circumstances we build our foundation on sand which means our security and stability is ever changing, completely unstable and can be washed away with every ebb and wave life splashes upon us.

Did I mention that my daughter has admitted to not believing in God? Did I also mention that my son is struggling with his own rebellion that is not becoming of how he is being raised? My heart breaks for my children. My heart is desperate for them to be free of strongholds and walking in a close personal relationship with Jesus. My heart is filled with angst and guilt for the lack of effort I’ve made in developing them spiritually.

Yet God is faithful. He reminded of His work with Abraham and Isaac, Hagar and Ishmael, Jacob and Joseph, Moses and his mother, Hannah and Samuel, and of course Mary and Jesus. Each story is one of a parent or parents crying out to Abba over their child and God being faithful to protect them and bring salvation upon every one of them. He is calling me (and you) to trust that He will keep His promises over our children as well. Just as He did for those in the Bible, He will protect and bring salvation to my children and yours in His time and always in His way.

Take note-faith without actions is dead (James 2:17). So we need to plant seeds of salvation over our prodigal children. We need to cover them with prayer day and night. We need to call out the enemy and his henchmen binding up the enemy’s lies. We need to profess the blood of Jesus over ourselves and our children. And we need to NEVER stop believing in God’s ability to turn their hearts back to Him.

Just now God reminded me of St. Augustine. This was a man raised by a God fearing mother (St. Monica) and a pagan father. Although Augustine was raised in a church, when he reached a certain again his father sent him away to a place that exposed him to many worldly cultures. Monica’s heart was in total anguish. At one point, Augustine denounced God and even created his own religion. It was only when he had been stricken with a near fatal illness that he turned his heart and belief back to God and became an evangelist of his time. Just another example of a prodigal son whose prayer warrior momma refused to give up and whose faith moved mountains that brought about salvation.

Are you a prayer warrior momma bear like me? Are you an armor bearing dad who’s in the trenches willing to engage in spiritual warfare for your child’s eternity? Then fight with the faith of Gideon and pray with the persistence of this woman in Luke 18:

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’

Victory for our kids is certain by the power of Jesus Christ and the strength of our persistent prayers! Can I get an AMEN?!

‭‭

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.

Hypocrites and Holy People (or Sinners Saved By Grace)

“…He [Christ] gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:25b-26 NLT

How’s your sin life? Yes you read that correctly and no, there is no auto correct typo in that question. How is your sin life? Many devotionals focus on a person’s prayer life or their walk with Jesus but how often do we focus on the path we take in our daily sins or with ongoing strongholds that continue to set us back spiritually? God doesn’t want us to dwell on our past or worship our sin but I believe He definitely wants us to examine our hearts and allow Him to cleanse us from all that keeps us stagnant in our relationship with Him.

I’ve been called many hurtful things in my lifetime and a “hypocrite” is one of them. Truth be told, I’ve even referred to myself as a hypocrite thinking this description made me more real than sanctimonious. In fact, I had planned on titling this post “I am a Hypocrite” and writing more of a confessional than a devotional. Looking up the definition of a hypocrite and seeing what God’s word says about this word changed my mind.

The dictionary defines a hypocrite as; ” a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion…” (Merriam-Webster) God’s word describes a hypocrite as someone who puts on a show in their faith for attention and public praise (Matthew 6:2, 5 and 12.) The Bible also tells us hypocrites honor the Lord with their mouths but their hearts are far from Him (Mark 7:6.) One common word to define hypocrite found in both the dictionary and the Bible is “LIAR.” There are times I am an attention seeker but one thing I am not is a liar.

Lying is the top character trait I have zero tolerance or grace for. The lack of grace is obviously a flaw in my own character and one I continue to have to surrender to the Lord allowing Him to soften my heart toward. After all, if Christ died for my lifetime of sins, I definitely need to be able to forgive someone who has lied to me or lied about me, right? I guess this post is a bit of a confessional after all and my lack of grace for liars is confession number one.

So here’s confession number two-I fail in my Christian walk every. single. day. Some ongoing strongholds I have are unforgiveness and holding on to past hurts, keeping my heart closed off to protect myself from getting hurt again, cussing, worrying, grumbling and gossiping. In one confession I have managed to admit that I do not always practice what I preach. But my posts aren’t written in a self-righteous or “holier than thou” manner where I’m esteeming my walk and pointing out the flaws in yours. In my childhood, I attended a church where the pastor preached from a pulpit of self-righteousness and his flock were the ones who were “wretches”. I prayed the prayer of salvation every Sunday in that church and never felt good enough t be redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. I loved my childhood in a state of constant shame and fear of a wrathful God.

My posts are written from the depths of the muddied waters I travel through daily in hopes that my fellow mud puddle dwellers can be inspired to draw closer to Jesus and to seek His cleansing. I use my own personal experiences to show that I also strive to pursue His cleansing for my own journey. I am far from perfect. In fact, here’s a few more strongholds I struggle with:

  • I get angry and in my anger, I sin. One thing my momma used to say was “Her mouth is going to get her in trouble.” She’s been right about that far too many times.
  • I over spend and am a slave to debt. It’s why I work two jobs and don’t regularly tithe. I struggle with many sleepless nights worrying about how a bill is going to get paid or how I’m going to meet all the financial obligations I have.
  • I haven’t attended church regularly in two years. I’ve been church shopping and in a season of busyness where I choose to skip church just because I’m tired and want one full day to be home and be still. I also use the excuse that I haven’t found a church I’m drawn to as much as I was drawn to my old church.
  • I’m not always faithful in my devotionals and prayer time. Most days my prayers are more like “oh yeah hey God-I made you last again today but yeah you know I still love ya.” At night, lying in bed my prayers can become obsessive over my own needs and wants, lifetime longings and dwelling on my mistakes that I forget to pray for anyone else.
  • I struggle with lust. I’m single, never married and have two biological children. I’ve lived with more than one man in my lifetime. I’m definitely a modern day version of the woman at the well. …The list could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

For 2018, I am working on allowing God to define me and my character. I have spent far too many years defining my character based on how my critics describe me. One thing God is showing me that I am and am not is this-I am holy and I am not a hypocrite. You see when we give our hearts to Jesus, He covers us in His blood and makes us white as snow (Isaiah 1:18.) We are no longer a slave to sin but we become slaves to righteous living (Romans 6:18.) We are adopted as sons and daughters of the One True King (Romans 8:15.) God makes us holy (Hebrews 2:11).

Guess what the definition of Holy is: “specially recognized as or declared sacred…consecrated…dedicated or devoted to the service of God.” (Dictionary.com) The word consecrated means “set apart” which God shows us is exactly who we are in Psalm 4:3 when David acknowledges that the Lord set apart the godly for Himself. He shows us again in many examples in the New Testament where references are made about being a new creation, made holy and set apart for His glory. Believers whose hearts belong to Jesus cannot be hypocrites. Yes we sin. Yes we have strongholds that interfere with our relationship with Jesus. Yes we don’t always practice what we preach. Paul wrote it best when in Romans he confesses this: “…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” (Romans‬ ‭7:14-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

But we are also redeemed by Jesus and saved by Grace.

I urge you to examine your sin life and confess every stronghold you’re still a slave to. Look up and meditate on scripture that may help you overcome those strongholds that make you feel like a failure. Strive for holiness in your daily walk but give yourself grace when you stumble and fall. Don’t lie and especially don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Lastly, no matter how many times you sin today, lay it down before the Lord and see yourself as holy, but never. ever. call yourself a hypocrite.

Beautiful is a State if Mind

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way.”

‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see God’s creation or do you see flaws? If you’re like me you see wrinkles, spurts of gray hair, blemishes, and many lumps and bumps from being slightly, moderately or even greatly overweight. Maybe you even do the whole suck your gut in thing in, buy Spanx or other body shaping items in an effort to smooth our your shape and buy the expensive “perfection” make-up to hide your flaws. But no matter how much you dress up your face and body, when you look in the mirror, if you’re like me, you still see ugly.

For as long as I can remember I have struggled with my looks and my weight. When I was a size 3 I thought I was overweight. In my teenage years I would only eat one meal a day for two weeks just to drop ten pounds. Imagine what my mind thinks being a size 16 now and the discouragement I feel when I exercise but don’t drop even one pound. Honestly, I avoid scales. I even reuse to get weighed at doctor appointments. If I don’t want to know my weight when then it’s nobody else’s business either. Lol I have severe anxiety if anyone wants to photograph a full body pic of me. Most of my pics are selfies because I’ve mastered the right angle to make myself look thinner. I tend wear plus sized tops typically to cover up my Puffy stomach and love handles. I also wear high heels to make me look taller in hopes it slims out my figure. I rarely go out without make-up because I think I look incredibly old and completely unattractive without it. I struggle greatly with seeing an ounce of beauty in myself and hearing it from others is very hard to accept.

Recently I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. One that inevitably could effect my weight causing me to gain more and definitely making it difficult for me to lose any. I’ve seen one specialist so far. It was a disappointing appointment to say the least. I was told there’s no cure and nothing I could to do to get better. I cried a a good stretch of my 1 hour drive home from that appointment. I also prayed. Do you know what I prayed as tears flowed down my face-“God-PLEASE don’t make me fatter than I already am.” I kept saying it over and over again. Weight gain is just one facet of this disease yet to me it’s the only one I cannot emotionally handle. But I am a fighter and I tend to fight harder when someone tells me I can’t do something. So hearing I won’t get better has motivated me to change my diet and exercise more with hopes to prove that doctor wrong. I haven’t gained any weight but I’m confident I haven’t lost anything either.

Yesterday I watched an episode of a 1980’s comedy, The Facts of Life. In this particular episode, Blaire, the girl who prided herself on being physically beautiful with a flawless complexion and perfectly coiffed hair, sustained a head injury in an auto accident. When she saw herself with this huge cut and stitches across her forehead she threw the mirrored tray she was looking into. She saw a hideous disfigured face looking back at her. She later dumped the man she was dating because she felt like she was damaged goods. The man however fought for her. He showed her some silly scars he had gained from injuries throughout his lifetime and asked her if she still loved him in spite of those scars. She admitted that those scars had no factor in her love for him. He reminded her that she was less than perfect before the gash on her forehead but that he loved all of her in spite of her imperfections. Of course in a 30 minute 80’s sitcom there’s usually a happy ending and this episode ended with Blaire reuniting with her boyfriend.

The Lord really spoke to me through that episode. In fact as I was walking down the short hallway in my home I felt the Lord show me His scars from the nails in that were driven into His hands and feet. I heard Him ask me if I still loved Him in spite of His scars. He already knew my answer would be “yes.” I also heard Him tell me He loved me no matter how much I weighed or how flawed I thought my face looked. To God, I am beautiful because I am His princess.

I went to bed last night thinking about self-esteem. I realized our self-esteem is not determined by how others see us or value us. Honestly, I always believed my self esteem was based on the people who criticized me and made fun of me growing up. But that just gave too much power to the haters in my life. Our self-esteem is how we esteem ourselves. I can have ten people pay me ten compliments but if I only see myself as ugly, fat or just plain average, those compliments are wasted words. The opposite of that of course would be esteeming ourselves too high and ignoring those who try to correct our arrogance.

My daughter has referred to herself as “ugly” before and I cringe when I hear her describe herself that way. She is truly one of the most beautiful people I know and I don’t see an inch of ugly in her. But no matter how often I call her “pretty or beautiful”, how I esteem her is superseded by how she esteems herself. Just like the “ugly” I see staring back at me exceeds any compliment anyone ever pays me. Both of us are believing a big fat lie because the truth is-God doesn’t make ugly!

God is not ugly and we are created in His image. Even Lucifer was a beautiful angel created by God. Seriously the being He knew was going to become his number one arch enemy, God. made. beautiful. If God made His enemy beautiful why on earth would He ever make you or me ugly? He wouldn’t and He didn’t. You are not ugly. I am not ugly. We are beautiful daughters and sons of the One true King.

If you’re struggling with feeling fat or ugly, ask the Lord to change your mind and to give you His eyes to see yourself exactly as He made you. Stand on 2 Corinthians 10:5-take captive every thought that is not of Christ (seeing yourself ugly is definitely NOT of Christ), demolish every argument that is against the truth (call the negative voices in your head what they really are-LIARS!) and stand on God’s truth about you. Go out in public without that make-up covered face and let your natural beauty shine. If you choose to lose weight, do it for healthy reasons not just because you think you’ll feel beautiful if you’re a size 10. Take from the girl who used to be a size 3-no matter your pants size, you will always see yourself as fat and/or ugly if you refuse to change your state of mind and esteem yourself. You are worth loving so love yourself enough to see yourself as the beauty you truly are. (And please pray for me to really put into practice what I’ve preached in this post!)

What if Jesus had Said “No?”

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:42‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Yesterday was Good Friday. All over the world, church services were held to commemorate and reflect on the arrest, torture and brutal murder of Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us crowds gathered crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”, darkness fell for about three hours, the veil between Heaven and earth was torn, an earthquake occurred and Jesus cried out “It is finished!” giving up His spirit/dying before His side was even pierced. Lots were cast for His clothing and belongings. His body was removed from the cross and buried in someone else’s tomb.

The night before He died, Christ went off into the forest with three of His disciples. He was overcome with such emotion that scripture tells us His sweat was like blood (Luke 22:39-46) Jesus was in great distress. He knew what tomorrow would bring. He knew He was going to endure false accusations, betrayal, chastisement, mockery, being spat upon, flogging, beatings, having a crown of thorns pressed into His head, having nails driven into the bones of His hands and feet and eventually die by asphyxiation. All for nothing He ever did. He knew all of this suffering was for someone else. But what if Jesus listened to His flesh, gave into the anxiety that consumed Him that night and told God “No!” to death by crucifixion. What would life today be like if Christ had never died, had never conquered death and had never brought salvation for all of creation?

Let’s explore this question through the fictitious life of a man named Jess. Jess was a 33-year-old single man. He lived in a simple one bedroom apartment in a largely overpopulated city. The name of the city isn’t important for this story. Jess believed himself to be a devout man of God. He started everyday kneeling in prayer, read his daily devotions and attended church regularly. He was a faithful tither and believed he had a servant’s heart because he volunteered one Saturday a month at the local homeless shelter. Jess believed he was a man after God’s own heart.

One Friday morning, Jess awoke to his usual 6am phone alarm. He quickly rose, wiped his blurry eyes, sniffed to relieve his stuffy nose and groggily knelt down beside his bed. He humbly bowed his head and prayed this simple prayer-“Lord today belongs to You. Whatever you lead me to do, let me do it with an obedient heart.” He said “Amen”, sat down on his bed and picked up his Bible. He read Deuteronomy 8:6 “Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him.” He said “Amen” once again, closed his Bible and proceeded to carry out his usual morning routine. He left his house promptly at 7am to catch the morning commuter train to his office.

As he walked to his train stop, Jess noticed the day seemed different. The sun was just rising and his heart felt full of all the fruits of the Spirit. He even arrived at his stop fifteen minutes early which never happened. He said a quick “thank you Jesus” under his breath for the extra moments in the start of his day to be still. Suddenly he felt a nudge and heard a whisper. “Jess do You love me?” He looked around and didn’t see anybody around. Silently he prayed “Lord is that You or am I hallucinating?” God responded; “Yes-it is I. Jess, do you love Me?” Jess quickly responded with “Yes Lord I love you.” “Then feed my lambs.” Jess looked to his right and noticed a woman with a weathered face, tattered clothing and barefoot standing in the shadows. She looked like she hadn’t showered in a decade let alone had a decent meal recently. The woman made eye contact with Jess and it was as if he could feel her hunger pangs surging through his own body. Jess moved his look away from her and silently prayed “Lord-I can’t give that woman money. You know she’ll just use it on drugs or alcohol. I’d give her my lunch but then I would have to eat out and that wouldn’t make me a good steward of my money. Can’t you lead her to the soup kitchen three blocks away? They have plenty of food to feed her…” His prayer was interrupted by the sounds of a train coming to a stop. Before boarding, he looked to his right again but the woman was nowhere in sight.

Jess’ morning at work was unusually quiet and calm. The time seemed to fly by and soon it was lunch time. Instead of eating, he remembered he had to run to the corner market to pick up a few things he needed for the weekend. It was only a ten minute walk. As he was stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for traffic to pause so he could cross, he heard the Lord speak to him again. “Jess, do you love me?” This time he immediately recognized God’s voice and prayerfully answered “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep.” As Jess was about to ask God what He meant by this statement, he was distracted by a man who was walking toward him with his arms full of books, boxes and shopping bags. Just as the man approached the curb Jess was standing on, he tripped and everything in his arms went flying to the left and ride sides of him. Jess felt a nudge to help the man but he looked at his watch and knew it would make him late returning from lunch. The “walk” sign changed and he crossed the street in haste rushing to complete his errand. He looked back only once to see the man scrambling to collect his belongings but not fast enough as traffic had picked back up and items that had landed in the street were being run over by cars and taxi cabs. Jess felt a slight tug of guilt but quickly told himself “that man was carrying too much stuff. He should’ve known better than to try to carry all of that in one trip.”

Jess made it back from his errand with five minutes to spare. He gobbled his packed lunch in record time not even thinking of the hungry woman or the overloaded man on the street. His afternoon distracted him with multiple phone calls and emails along with an expense report he had to complete by the end of the day. When he decided to take a break he noticed it was ten minutes past quitting time. He hurriedly cleaned up his desk and powered down his laptop. He had ten minutes to catch his train that was usually a fifteen minute walk. He arrived at the station just as the train was pulling away. It would be a thirty minute wait for the next available train. He slumped down on a bench, let out a frustrated huff and decided to scroll through his phone to pass the time.

Minutes went by and he heard from the Lord a third time. “Jess Simons, do you love Me?” At this point, Jess felt exasperated and confused. He wondered why God kept questioning his love for the One True King. He even gave his answer aloud this time. “Lord You know everything. You know I love you.” God replied with another one liner. “Then clothe my sheep.” Jess began again to ask the Lord what he meant by this when he noticed a young boy leaning against a post shivering because he had no coat and was only wearing a thin, short sleeved T-shirt with holey jeans. The temperature today had only reached 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) and was expected to drop below 20 degrees throughout the night. Jess looked down at his name brand down filled winter jacket he was wearing, the thermal gloves keeping his hands warm and thought about the expensive stocking hat covering his head. “Lord, please provide warm clothing and warm shelter for that young man” he prayed. The thought never occurred to Jess to give up the items he was wearing on his own back. Jess and the boy made eye contact. Jess gave him a mild smile and boarded his train. He arrived home one hour later.

At home, Jess put away the items he had purchased earlier in the day, fixed himself a simple dinner and watched an hour of TV (more like flipped through multiple channels because nothing really grabbed his attention.) He checker his watch and headed to bed. Lying in bed in the dark, he thanked the Lord for blessing him with a good day and drifted off to sleep.

Jesus met Jess in his dreams. Actually, Jess found himself watching Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying the night before he was arrested. He saw Jesus’ anguish, he could smell the salty air of the sweat pouring from Jesus’ brow and he heard the most shocking words he never imagined Jesus would utter. “No God. I won’t do it. I won’t be flogged and crucified to save the world. Adam and Eve should’ve ignored that snake. I have so much more ministry left if You keep Me alive instead of crucifying Me. Abba-I just don’t want to do it.” Everything went dark and the earth began to shake uncontrollably. He felt himself and everything around him being swallowed up by a force so great it felt as though his entire being was overtaken by another life force. Then nothing. It was if there was absolutely no existence. He awoke with rapid breathing, a racing heartbeat and his pajamas soaked from sweat. He sat up abruptly and cried out “Lord? What was that?” But this time, the Lord didn’t answer. He eventually fell back to sleep and wasn’t awakened again until the dawn’s sunlight illuminated his bedroom.

He opened his eyes, blinked a few times from the brightness then jumped out of his bed and knelt before the Lord. “Holy God, forgive me for I have sinned. Please answer me when I ask You, Father, WHAT did that dream mean?”

Then God spoke, “My son, yesterday you told me the day belonged to Me and that you would do whatever I asked of you. Yet three times when I asked you to do something, you told me ‘no’.”

“When did I ever say no to you Lord?” “When you refused to feed the hungry, help the needy and clothe the naked.” Immediate a flashback of Friday’s events flashed through Jess’ mind. He saw the homeless woman and felt her hunger. He saw the overloaded man and heard the crunch of boxes being run over by heavy traffic. His own body shivered remember the abandoned boy with no warm clothing. He felt lowly in his demeanor and sunk his head down. “Abba God, forgive me for being selfish and not obeying you. I should’ve given that woman my lunch. I should’ve spared my time and helped that man collect his belongings. I should’ve hailed a taxi for him, paid for and allowed for him to transport those items in an easier way. I should’ve given my coat to that boy, found out if he had a home or worked to find shelter for him. But what happened when Jesus said ‘No’ to You in my dream?” God’s answer sent chills through every crevice of Jess’ body, mind and even more so, his spirit.

“Beloved, if My Son had refused to die for you, this world and everything in it would not exist. You, would not exist.” That answer kept Jess frozen in a realization of what Christ’s willingness to die for him really meant. It was the exact heart opener he needed to spend the rest of his days serving the Lord with a true obedient heart and never overlooking God’s nudges and commands ever again.

What about you and what about me? How often do we say “yes” to the flesh and “no” to God? How often do we sit through broadway production like Easter church services that re-enact the crucifixion, sing our hearts out with raised hands and shout out a few “amens”, only to later in the week take our salvation for granted and say “no” to God. Thank God for His grace, Mercy and redeeming love. Thank God for His continued forgiveness. For He knows our hearts and minds and He knows ever moment of disobedience we will carry out even before its a thought in our minds. Yet He still loves us. He still protects us. He still sent His Son for our salvation. Thank you Jesus for saying “YES” to God’s plan for His life. Jesus’ YES inevitably is the ultimate factor in what has given you and me this life and secured our enteral life. To that I emphatically say, “Amen!”

Lord Above, I Need A Miracle

There’s a Third Day song titled “I Need A Miracle.” The chorus goes like this: “Well no matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, there will come a time when you can’t make it on your own. And in your hour of desperation know you’re not the only one, praying Lord above, I Need a Miracle.”

Hour of desperation is a pretty powerful lyric. How many have experienced such a time in their life? What does desperation even look like? Hour of desperation is that moment when your circumstance or situation seems completely hopeless. Maybe your jobless and you just ran out of money with rent due tomorrow. Maybe you’re in an abusive relationship and your partner just got drunk again which means it won’t be long before the angry words fly or holes get punched in another wall. Maybe you have a child who’s wandered away from the Christian foundation you built while raising her and says she has no belief in God. Maybe you married the wrong person and you feel stuck because God hates divorce or maybe you’re going through a divorce after marrying a person you believed was from the Lord but turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Maybe just maybe, you’re fighting a chronic illness or was just given news of cancer with only moments left of this life and told there’s nothing modern medicine can do. All of these situations and many others not listed are hours of desperation and definitely needs for miracles.

When we pray-God answers. He doesn’t always answer exactly the way we hope or expected, but He answers. Sometimes His answers are provision, redemption, transformation, healing or reconciliation. But sometimes His answers involved a painful refining process where our world is turned upside down and it feels as though He answered completely opposite of what we asked for. What we don’t realize is that refinement is a transforming, redeeming and healing answer that molds us deeper into His image and changes us more into who He designed us to be.

Whatever your Miracle is know this-God is with you. He hears you. And He will answer in His time and His way. When you can’t see His mighty hand moving, cling to the cross-lay your burden down at the alter and trust His way and His timing. Meditate on His word and remind yourself of these words from Jesus Himself:

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do. “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!”

‭‭John‬ ‭14:1, 6-7, 10-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If I can pray for you, please email me at http://www.thewrightwordblogger@gmail.com