Not By My Strength, But His

Ever heard of a life verse? It’s a verse from the Bible that speaks to you and usually defines the way in which you walk in your daily life with Christ. 

Do you have one? I do. One I even decided to tattoo on my arm as a reminder to live out its truth daily:

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

It’s what has kept me going on the days when I didn’t think I could do anything. And this day was no different. 

This day was supposed to be a day of rest. 

It had been a long, trying, emotional week prior to the holiday break. Mental health crises tend to spike at this time, as many kids are anticipating an extended period in places they may not feel safe. My heart and mind were heavy, and I was just ready to shut the impact of trying to meet all these needs off.

Knowing that at times we have to do this, to ever meet these needs in the first place. 

This day was supposed to consist of hot coffee, book fairs, and wrapping gifts. Not navigating the healthcare system with a 6 month old. Not waiting for hours for tests to come back. Not trying to muster the ability to just get past the check-in desk without losing it, since I had lost my wallet. Had no ID. No cash. No card. Nothing but the two Starbucks I had brought in with me. 

As I looked down I saw it. The tattoo. My first. To commemorate my life verse. Phil 4:13. And so if I believed it, how was I going to apply it here?

I remembered back to a time I used up all MY strength to do what I could with all the things. And it depleted me. Made me physically, emotionally, and spiritually sick. I stepped out of God’s will, which was the exact opposite of His strength. It was during that time I found this in a book I read, an explanation of what that strength meant. Its source.

I had enough of the other way. I knew if I walked in MY strength, I would fail. I would get in the way, and mess things up. So I got on that elevator, work ID on to replace my actual ID, pushed that button and prayed. 

God…I can’t do this without you. Send me your strength. Give me your power to push through this day. Give me your words, give me your patience to deal with the medical staff. I need you, because without you I don’t have the strength to make it through this day.

That’s what it means to live out a life verse. To do more than just slap it on an arm, a mug, a post, whatever. But to know what it means in the context of your relationship with God and live it. 

Are you living out your life verse? 

It’s All About the Heart

“Yes, she is a pastor.”

“Oh, really? I never would have guessed that.”

This was the response received in the cabinet section at the local home improvement store. The comment made when my husband advised the sweet lady of my second “vocation.” It wasn’t the first time I had been told this. It was a comment I heard as I got one of my many tattoos. A comment I hear quite often, actually.

This time, I simply smiled. Went about the cabinet selection business with manners and kindness, but on my way home began to wonder, What exactly is a pastor supposed to “look” like?

Since for me the Bible is my standard for living, and the place I turn to for guidance, I looked for Scriptural evidence that pointed to some means of dress or appearance that pastoral staff should adhere to. Some likeness that a pastor should possess. Was it dress? Was it appearance? Was it how they wore their hair? Jewelry? What is it?

First, I went to the reference many use when determining “appropriate” dress for clergy, especially that of women. Now. Let’s be real. We critique the dress of women far more than we ever do men. How their hair is worn. Whether it is long or short. Too much makeup, or not enough. Choice of clothes. Body types. We do not do this to men, or nearly as often. So, here we go:

And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. 1 Timothy 2:9-10, NLT

However, this is mostly taken out of context, because anytime we use Scripture to make a point, or when trying to determine what God says on a subject, we must also take into account the historical and contextual evidence at the time as well. Paul was not talking to EVERY woman. He was talking to those who were placing their value in material things. In expensive jewels and clothes. It had nothing to do with dress. It had nothing to do with hair.

To clear this up, look at The Message version: And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.

Paul is saying, “Be holy. Do the work of God, and stop worrying about your appearance. You will be beautiful, because you are working for Him, not because you dress a certain way.”

We don’t get this message because we focus on appearance. Our human nature is to focus on what is outside. We focus on hair. We focus on clothes. We focus on jewelry. Someone’s home. Cars. Jobs. And yes, even tattoos.

When what God focuses on…is none of those things.

So what a pastor “looks” like, pours from that-his or her heart.

A pastor looks like Jesus. Not in appearance. Because I look nothing like him in physical appearance. But I do in heart. In action. In speech. In how I love on others. How I work for justice. How I forgive. How I help. How I use my voice.

Because I remember also hearing this when I told someone I had become a pastor: “That doesn’t seem too far-fetched. You were always taking up for the less than when we were younger.”

Back then, I didn’t look much different. My hair was a different shade. It still had the same unruly curls. I had no tattoos. I didn’t dress in the same way as my peers. I wore big earrings. I didn’t speak differently than I do now. I had the same dialect, and at times…well, I was loud. I spoke up with passion that was seen as anger. And, well…I may now have better word choices-but at the core, the personality is still the same. The same hair adorns my head in a different shade. I have tattoos. And my dialect is still strong. My voice still loud, passionate, and dying to be heard when speaking for those whose voices aren’t asked to be at the table. I am still the same young girl, just not ruled by the desires of the world. I still look like her, I just love like Him.

That, my friends, is what a pastor “looks” like.

They “look” like one called to reach the least of these. With the personality and gifts God has created in them. They “look” like their Jesus. With the love to reach those who need to know that they too are loved for who God created them to be. Not who the world thinks they should “look” like.

They may just “look” like me.

He is still working through you

A couple years ago I was on fire. Passionate. I was pretty certain that God had placed a specific calling on my heart. I knew I had heard him, remember the events. The time. The place. Who was around. What He said to me.

I had a plan and a purpose. A focus. A desire.

Then…I didn’t.

Then…I began to question if what I heard was real. Did He really speak to me? Was I really called to do that thing?

What happened? Well, many things. The world, mainly. Satan, more than likely. People, because they can get in the way. So, I listened to the world. I listened to Satan, and I listened to those people, and I doubted that call. Doubted if it was ever mine.

Doubt can creep in during the midst of some of God’s work and gifting when different motives are at work. Doubt can creep in during the midst of His speaking when other’s are speaking something different. Doubt can creep in when we are waiting for Him to move our mountains, because someone is telling us we are not capable to be used by Him. Doubt can leave the purposed feeling like they have no purpose.

Doubt kills vision. It kills focus. It can stifle a call.

Same power, now and forever
No You’re not through
Same words, can speak to the mountains
And make them move
I know the God of the old is the God of the new
I know that You did it then and You still do
You still do -Terrian

Faith brings purpose and vision back to life. The faith that God will not keep His purpose from being accomplished, even if the world or man gets in the way, God is still moving mountains. Providing power to the people the world deems not capable, and reassuring us that He isn’t through with us yet.

Whatever doubt you may have today. Whatever dreams or calling have been allowed to die, I pray you remember God still has a purpose, plan, calling, and vision that is just for you!

I do not own the rights to this video, lyrics, or music.

The one who “sees” you

Ever had to do an assignment in which you were asked to think about your funeral? Never. Well…I had never been either, until reading through the next chapter in the weekly devotional my husband and I have been completing together.

Full disclosure: We are on our second round. Really our first and less than half. Let me explain: We got through the first few weeks upon first starting it, only to stop because of a misunderstanding. We misunderstood the others motivation and motives. We also only read it halfway. Meaning we did none of the actual written work.

So…we started over. From the beginning, because sometimes this is what you have to do in marriages, even long ones-start over.

But really? Funeral planning? Who wants to think about that? No one, really. We didn’t that night, either. But I did think of this: what would I want to be said about me upon my leaving? What would I want to be known for? Essentially-how do people see me? Do they even see the real me at all?

I now know. How he sees me, anyway. My husband, that is. A small part of the things he sees me do, that he knows bring God glory. The things he knows about me. My likes. Dislikes. My passions. My gifts. The things that time, commitment, and pure respect allow a person to see.

This-that pic above-was what I walked into on Sunday morning. I wasn’t going to share this. Thought it could be one of those humble brags. And I am trying to watch those. Watch how they may make others feel, because I know how I tend to compare. Worry at times if my gifts. My talents. Heck, even just me…are good enough compared to others. And I know I’m not alone. The constant bombarding of pics and accomplishments on social media ensures we are not alone in these feelings.

But, I realized something later.

I didn’t put this together. I didn’t slap pictures on this board. I didn’t even choose those that would be placed there.

My husband did.

I have wondered at times how others see me. How I am viewed by those that encounter me, spend time with me. Am I a good mother? What would my kids say about me? And yes, if I were to go tomorrow, who would write my eulogy? What would they say?

It’s eye-opening to see yourself through the eyes of another; even if at first the pictures staring at you from a board are a bit jarring.

I asked my husband in passing who dared to display an entire board of ME, to which he calmly responded, “Me.” Thinking nothing of it, I later did. A lot. This is how he sees me.

My husband didn’t know me as that little girl in that “then” picture, but he knows about her. He’s heard the stories, and for a good part of a year he watched me fight to find the parts of her I let die. Find the parts of her I held back because someone put her light out once. He listened to the parts of the little girl that didn’t have a voice, that came out to roar. Sometimes in not so loving ways. And he still honored her. The little girl she was, and the woman she is now.

He knows my coffee and how I like it. He could go to Starbucks and order it, and wouldn’t have to ask me beforehand what I wanted. He’s the one who knows I like the Holiday Blend and buys it in bulk-just because. He sees her. He cares for her. He honors her. Even when she hasn’t had her coffee, and is irritable.

He knows where I enjoy my coffee, and knows it includes a blanket, a Bible, or a book. He knows I have an extreme fondness for Christmas, and DIY’ing costumes, decorations, and themed costumes and holiday decor. He knows this. He may shake his head, and think some of it is silly, but he honors me. Respects me.

He knows I have several tattoos on my body, but there’s one that’s special. He knows my life verse, and that tattoo is it. He knows this, because he knows me. He honors me.

He has supported every ministry endeavor I have been “called” to, even if some I was not able to accomplish. He listened to me, heard my sorrows. Shared in my adventures. Some that even involved slime, duct tape, and whipped cream pies. He has prayed with me and for me, and knew without ever complaining that he was a “co-children’s pastor,” “co-Liberian pastor,” “co-whatever” by default. Because he knows God. He honors Him, and in turn honors me, and what I am called to do for Him.

He is responsible for the motivation to pursue dreams, because he didn’t allow me to sit and wallow; or give up on them. He touted them, praised them, helped me even tweak some. Because he honors me. He honors the gifts God has given me.

He has seen me fail. He has seen me rock babies, and grandbabies. Sweat over test results. Triumphed over small kid victories. And climbed every parenting hill and mountain with me. He has been by my side for surgeries. Been my nurse, and for several weeks after wrist surgery even carried my bright blue purse. He watched me cry after an important meeting didn’t go so well, and told me how great I was…even if I left the meeting feeling so less than.

He sees me as a superhero, and has said as much (even in said meeting) . He believes it even when he knows I have been anything but at times. He has been patient when I not so. He has been strong when I have been weak. He has seen the worst in me, been through the worst with me; and never faltered.

He has seen mistakes. He has seen mountains moved. He has seen wavering. He has seen steadfastness. He has seen hidden pain. He has seen healing. He has seen the frayed edges often hidden behind the surface, and he has stayed to watch the edges become seamless again. He has watched me come unglued, and has patiently waited for God to put me back together.

He has seen bad.

Yet still chooses to see good.

At the end of the day, this is what it takes to be a godly man. Because God sees our bad, but still chooses to see good too.

God sees our worst, and helps us become our best.

He knows us.

He honors us.

He respects us.

Ours has not been perfect. My goodness, no. But we have one thing that insists we stay the course and see each other past the worst we sometimes give: God.

Maybe you don’t have the one. You know the one. The one all the dating apps tell you you’ll find. Maybe you haven’t found the one who “sees” you just yet. Who sees past your habits, quirks, crazy desire for kettle-cooked chips, or those things others just don’t tolerate for long. You can search for the ONE: God. He is the ONE who sees you. Everything about you. And still sees you with nothing but love. Honor. Respect. Just reach for that ONE.

With Him you can rest assured someone always sees you.

So what if I am beautiful?

Can you begin to hate a word? Like cringe every time you see it or hear it? Has that ever happened to you? Because it had happened to me.

See, I had begun to hate a word. I hated what this word had come to define in culture. What the world had taught women about this word. What the mere mention of it demanded when it was uttered.

I hated the word “beautiful.” And I had begun to honestly hate beauty.

…and apparently in 2019 I was struggling with it, too; since I had to convince myself it was OK just to say it (this was found on my camera roll from March of that year).

Its meaning had become twisted to me, and in an effort to find the girl that still lived inside this body, I had many conversations about my own beauty. My own self-worth. The things that made me feel unworthy. Even made me a target as a young girl of bullies, and even later of the adult kind.

Some of those conversations sounded something like this: “They are jealous. You are gorgeous. Skinny. You have great style. Women are jealous. And men want you.” That was the general consensus. And I hated it. I didn’t want to be beautiful. I wanted to be anything but that.

I didn’t want people to look at me and only see a face. Only see a body. Decide to either hate it, or worship it in some twisted way. I wanted people to see the woman beyond those things. The things under the surface that are me-that I believed truly measure beauty. I wanted them to see my heart. My integrity. My spirit. My compassion. My drive.

And it became this deep desire of mine to want others to know that beauty is not the skin you are in. It’s not the body you clothe, or the clothes you wear. It’s not your hair. Your weight. Your shoes. It’s none of these things. That’s what the human eye sees, and the eyes make all kinds of unnecessary judgments.

Beauty is under the surface. It’s how you love others. Care for them. Share in the burdens and struggles of others. It’s how you show kindness to those who have been unkind. It’s how you carry yourself and keep going in the face of adversity.

It’s the spirit that lives inside of you.

That is beauty, and from this day forward, I (you) will be seen for that standard of “beautiful!”

The following is an excerpt from my first self-published devotional. The 30 day devotional takes readers on a journey through various myths of beauty, some lies we believe about measuring up, and who God says we truly are. You can purchase your Kindle or paperback edition by following the link HERE!

Staying truly connected

One of the things we all crave is connection. We are all looking for someone with whom we can feel we can share our lives. Our secrets. Our dreams. Our hearts. We want connection. 

Connection also requires vulnerability. Vulnerability requires us to bear all. Bearing all causes hurt. When we become hurt, we retreat, and the one thing we want to do most of all is disconnect. 

In an effort to avoid the same pain. The same judgment. The same wounds. The same abandonment. The same rejections. The same patterns.

I realize in my effort to avoid hurt, I became a staunch advocate for disconnection. Some of it was for good. I learned some good things from my time of burying my head in the sand so to speak.

But I also learned that disconnecting is not always the answer.

It keeps us from hearing about the ways in which we can be a healer in a hurting world.

For instance, as I sat listening to the story of my fellow sister in Christ tell of a dying daughter, stuck in her native land of Liberia; I researched other missions in Liberia. I found so many things that I knew nothing of; simply because my hurt had caused me to disconnect. In my selfishness. In my focus on myself, I had shut out the voices of the needy around me.

I learned that some of the very people that had encouraged me in the past, I had shut out simply because I had shut off some of the noise of some who hurt me.

Case in point, when I heard the voice mail. I heard a voice of a woman who adored me. She missed me. Even if it was through a post. An encouraging message. When I saw another in the church cafe, I realized I hadn’t seen her in months, but she remembered me, because I had an encouraging word to speak. She was a partner in my ministry, and I had shut her out, simply because I wanted and needed to silence one or two negative voices. Because I focused on a few who had hurt or caused harm.

But I did learn some valuable lessons. Disconnection revealed that sometimes you have to be your own cheerleader. That you have to dig down deep to find the core of who you desire yourself to be. Because when you disconnect. You find there are not that many people cheering you on any longer.

That the one ones who do are often not the ones who live in the same area code as you. Even share the same family tree. When social media connections are cut, so are the connections and conversations. And no one comes looking for you. No one is cheering on your accomplishments. Or wishing you well on your next big test except those who have still been burning up the phone lines. You learn that some are actually willing to still come looking for you. Drop off goodies at your job. Swing by just to say hello. Check on you when you have been silent for a while.

Some even in different zip codes. That’s true connection.

You often learn that mere strangers can encourage you far more than those you thought actually “knew” you.

You learn about “connection” when you disconnect.

You learn that some were around just to keep up. Small towns are like this. We connect to see if you were really who “you used to be.” We all do it, and really, unless it’s for the reasons I’ll mention below, and we are not seeking a connection in order to have gossip worthy tea for girls night out to talk about the “boujee” pastor (wink, wink) or to make ourselves feel good for whatever reason…then just disconnect.

Disconnection isn’t always good. But reconnecting in the same ole way isn’t what’s best either. Why? Because our way of connection is a facade. Connection is simply that. Connecting. Not putting on a false face or persona that we hope to portray for the outside world in the hopes that someone will resonate with it. We connect by reaching out to others in our broken down places. And I mean reaching. Not for our smart phones through a media app. I disconnected from over 500 Facebook friends for almost a year, and I felt more connected than ever. What’s that say?

Connection is acts of mercy. Connection is seeking justice. Connection is loving the lost. Connection is showing love to the unloveable.

Connection is encouragement. Building someone up. Showing support for someones accomplishment.

Connection is choosing to accept someone who may be different than you, and being willing to at least LISTEN to their perspective.

Connection is coming to the realization that we all grow, and instead of standing in crowds and gossiping about it, we can stand in awe and applaud someone’s growth together.

Connection is raw, emotional, honest, true, intentional, genuine, and too often rare. In these days of darkness and despair, it is what we all desire and crave, and even with these apps at our fingertips it’s really what we have the least of.

You want to be connected to me? Be a little less like that connected troll calling out that all the wayward ways of everyone’s past from high school in small towns, and be a little more like the connected qualities listed above. Otherwise, don’t be offended if your request is declined. I promise I’m not being “boujee,” just selective.

The Battle: Part 2

I didn’t want to go.

It is 7:45 pm. The service started at 7:15, so I am sure to have missed some of it anyway. What is the point in showing up 30 minutes late? Plus, I am exhausted, I have been in the nursery for 3 solid days and I could use this night off to simply sleep, right? I should just go back to my cabin and do just that.

Those were the thoughts I had. But I didn’t skip it. I went to the service anyway. Sat through. Had a couple chuckles. Took a couple good notes. Thought, “Oh, that’s a good point.” Had a couple more points resonate.

Until close to the end. The last point.

“Salt causes pain.”

The speaker Susie Shellenberger went on to describe the pain we as Christians can cause other people. The “salt” we can toss onto the wounds of others.

Gossip. Criticism. Envy. Jealousy. Lack of encouragement. Sabotage. I had participated in some, and I had been a victim to all.

Yes. Pastors are not immune to hurt. Pain. We have deep wounds that others throw salt on from time to time. But if that wasn’t the one piece of confirmation that was making me shake in my seat, it was what she said next that sealed it for me.

She described a worship leader that ministered under King David, Asaph. Asaph was gifted. Talented. He could perform beautiful music, and he was on fire for God, but somewhere along the way he began to fall into the comparison trap, and questioned whether it was better just to give up. Questioned what ministry was all for.

Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain. If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is! Psalm 73:13-16

I felt that. All of it.

Salt causes pain. We throw salt on already gaping wounds, and I had been an entree filled with salt-laden spots. I had endured criticism because I didn’t do things the “way they were done before.” Because I wasn’t like the person who came before me. On my job my work had been sabotaged because I was too loving, and kids liked me. Really…what it boiled down to? Good, old-fashioned, mean girl envy. A very hurtful kind. The kind that leaves you feeling depleted and defeated. I thought I had found my calling in ministry, but apparently people had other ideas.

I wanted to give up. I saw no purpose in continuing to minister. What was God’s purpose in it all. If loving people was too much for some, and made people hate me? If being called meant criticism, comparison, or an ache that I was never going to measure up to the standards of some, then why keep going? This isn’t what I signed up for. I should be happy. Not constantly worrying if I was good enough.

Or left wondering if He had just passed me over.

I was Asaph. I was tired of seeing everyone prosper, and feeling like I was seeing no fruit, and being completely taken advantage of, or not seen for my heart.

I didn’t want to come to this service.

And I definitely didn’t want to do what happened next.

Susie asked for anyone who had been hurt, or had salt thrown into wounds to raise their hands. I did. My act of obedience. No one would see me raise my hand. Quick. Put it up. Put it back down. God will see. I can get it over with. Be right with Him.

But then I felt it. That shaking again. That shaking that meant uncontrollable tears were about to flow and I knew I was not going to be able to stay in my seat.

God, please. I raised my hand. I obeyed. I really don’t need to go to the altar.

But His response?

Yes. Yes you do. You need to go and lay those hurts down at my feet. Lay all that has been said and done down, and pick up what I have for you, and only you.

So I did.

Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel leading me to a glorious destiny. Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:23-26

I was Asaph.

I didn’t want to even go to that service. And I know if Satan had has his way, I would have been in my cabin sleeping.

But I did.

And I can’t say I know today what God wants from me. What God is asking me to do. I still grieve for things I can’t see. And there are still things I know I may never understand.

But I know the battle is His. Every single part of it. All the parts that may seem scary and uncertain to me. All the parts that make me angry and bitter. All the parts that are still wounds that need healing.

It’s His. And He will fight until the end for me.

I do not own video, music, or lyrics.

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The Battle: Part 1

Tossing. Turning. Up. Down.

This was the position of my body through the night, but also my head. Awake for 3 hours while the devil wreaked havoc on my brain. For 3 solid hours he attacked my purpose. My integrity. All my regrets. He tapped into all the things that made me feel inadequate, useless, and less than.

“Nothing special. Worthless. Stupid. A fraud. Not worth listening to. Voiceless.”

For 3 solid hours.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

Spiritual warfare is real. Wrestling matches with the devil are inevitable when you are one who walks with God, especially when you believe you heard Him, but for whatever reason He has now become silent.

I was in the place where God’s call on my life had been the loudest. I knew for certain what He wanted me to do. And then He didn’t open the doors to make it happen. He placed roadblock after roadblock in my way instead.

So, it’s certainly no coincidence (because I don’t believe in them) that on the first night in this very same place, the devil used this to attempt to devour me. He used the fact that I had not done what I thought God had called me to do to wage an all out assault on my body, mind, and spirit.

Guilt. Shame. Regret. Recounting and bringing up every wrong turn taken. Every chapter still unwritten. All the purpose still not seen. Until I started to believe the lies. “You are nothing special. You won’t do anything that matters. Even God left you. Even He isn’t listening.”

The devil started the battle and I let him beat me almost senseless for 3 solid hours. Until I finally said: “No more.”

I went to war.

In a cabin room, in the middle of nowhere, I turned on my lamp, pulled out my pen and Bible and disputed the devil. Silenced his voice with God’s Word.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10,17

My weapons told me and Satan that I was not inadequate, but that God would fill my inadequacies with His strength (2 Corinthians 12:10).

That I wasn’t worthless, because He counted me more special and worthy than even the birds he had given flight (Matthew 10:31).

And though I may not be doing what He originally called me to do, when He spoke to me in this place, He was most certainly with me, and was calling me to greater, simply through my obedience (Romans 8:28).

The devil may have started the battle, but my God…He will always win the war.

Note: I would like to think Satan stopped toying with me after this night, but not so. Come back for Part 2 of this story tomorrow!

Your fear is lying to you

I remember the last time I got on a roller coaster before I declared them off-limits for me. I used to love them. The twisty, the better. So what made me stop? What made me walk around with this irrational fear of them? Nothing has ever happened to me on one. No known tragedy related to them that triggered this boycott.

No. None of those.

I simply got on one, and felt like I had lost control. Of my body. My voice. My ability to choose. I couldn’t escape the stupid thing as my stomach was dropping. And when I screamed-well nothing happened. The ride just continued.

I swore them off for over 10 years. I had vowed never to feel that “out of control” again.

Have teenagers at an amusement park with you, and you will likely begin to dissect things you firmly held onto for years, because they challenge EVERYTHING! Your irrational fears are not off limits.

Which means I was not immune from being challenged by my teen daughter to get on not one, but two coasters while we were at a local amusement park. Deal was…she got to pick which one.

I could have said no. I mean. I’m the adult. I’m in charge. But was my fear of them irrational? Was I missing out on opportunities to spend time with her because something about the big metal contraptions that fling your body into the air was triggering long (what I thought buried) trauma?

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble? Psalm 27:1, NLT

So, I did it. And what happened? I was fine. There was still screaming, my stomach still dropped to my shoes, but I was fine. I had fun, even. I faced my fear. Completed the task. And I was not harmed. I survived.

Just like I have with so many other fears.

We hold onto our irrational fears, because they provide comfort. Most of all they provide a sense of control. We believe we can’t control the outcome. We can’t control the reactions. We can’t control whether we will succeed. So we hold onto that thing we just won’t do. Say. Achieve. Until our fears control us.

Which is exactly where our enemy wants us to be.

He wants us to stay paralyzed and stuck. Satan will dangle our fears in front of us so we stay stuck in our past pains, hurts, and traumas. He convinces us that no one cares. You have no voice. You have no say. He whispers that your screams will go unheard. That you will never escape your past hurts. Satan convinces us to live in fear so we never fulfill God’s purposes in us, and Satan is lying to you.

Healing comes when we hand those fears to God. The One who provides the strength to help us conquer them.

He won’t let us fall. He won’t let us lose control, because He is ultimately in control. He always listens. Always hears. Nothing and no one will harm us because He is our shelter and our safety. He is our peace when our fears try to take control.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Luke 14:27

Is there a fear you are having trouble overcoming, because your desire to control your present, your past, your future have taken over? Or because you are holding onto some hurt from the past? Give your fear to Him. Ask Him to take control. Ask Him to provide you with strength and power to overcome and move forward-either facing it head on, or healing from the thing that caused that fear.

He will provide safety. And the only peace that will ease our hearts, and take control.

On finding acceptance in an old hometown

Hometowns. They can bring such feelings of security. Safety. The feeling of being at home. But there’s a flip side. Those hometowns often become the place we never feel at home. Not accepted. Only remembered for all the mistakes you made. A person you likely are not anymore

Jesus was no stranger to being rejected by His own hometown.

He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He stole the show, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching. Mark 6:1-6 MSG

This passage was one we discussed in our Sunday services. I pastor a small congregation of Liberian refugees. Their hometown is nothing like mine. Our experiences vastly different. They left their hometown and fleed from an entire continent to a foreign land. I never left mine.

Regardless of the differences, our hometowns have certain opinions and expectations of us. Because of who we were, and because of who we are now.

The same was true for Jesus. He went back to Nazareth, his hometown. He spent time teaching about His Father, the path to righteousness, and what did his peers do? Remembered his prior occupation. Took note of his family history. Who he had been, not who he was. Who he had become.

This kind of stuff is the way of life when you consider small towns. If Jesus, the Son of God was no stranger, certainly we are not either. It’s honestly pervasive throughout our human, earthly experience.

We gossip. We talk about people we don’t even know based on something someone said about a person they “used” to know. Or were hurt by. We take that as the gospel and run with it, and we fail to look beyond.

We only see what man sees.

A “new” person, as one who has “become” someone else. Left our past mistakes behind, we are only remembered for our old life by those who knew us. Know our family. Our past. We are still reduced to our past mistakes. Things we did then that we no longer do. Those who knew us then, only remember our family legacy. We can’t seem to rise up and be accepted in our born place, because so many are holding on to a person we have given to Christ. A person transformed.

A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family. Mark 6:4, NLT

Sometimes we can’t transform and flourish in our own hometowns.

Ever heard the phrase “the proof is in the pudding?” What this means, is that the proof of its true value. Its true effectiveness. Its true success. Its power is in “eating.” In tasting what was produced. Food aside, and inserting people-its in actually interacting. Knowing, and being around these people. Tasting that the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is good. It’s not based on what you hear. What someone else’s opinion is, because not everyone will like pudding. And some will only choose to remember when it wasn’t so sweet.

Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Luke 7:35,MSG

You. You decide for yourself. Do those you knew then, but have chosen a different path now, do their actions reflect truth? Do they do what they say they will do? Do they keep promises? Are they known by their fruit…the ones God produces-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

Are you still holding on to a person who has been transformed and no longer lives that way? Are you still holding onto bitterness and anger from some family history that has nothing to do with the person in front of you?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

That person has been made new, too. They just happen to live in a hometown that remembers their past. Hasn’t seen their transformation.

Next time someone comes at you with a smear campaign. Examine the pudding. Taste it for yourself. If it’s good, ignore that voice that keeps telling you otherwise, and simply believe in what you know and what you see.

And if the pudding is as bad as you were told. If patterns have evolved, never changed, still exist; and well the fruit that is still produced is a bit spoiled…then you can listen to that person who hasn’t let go. However, you don’t need to hold onto the hurt. Pray. Pray God changes the pattern. Pray God starts producing a different “pudding.”

Examine the pudding. Choose your own path to determining if the fruit is good. And don’t let those wrongs jade your opinion of a person changed by God.

Don’t allow a prophet, a new creation to be rejected in his own hometown.