Tag Archives: Grace

Breaking Bad: The Purpose

image courtesy of sattva / freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of sattva / freedigitalphotos.net

Maybe you’re wondering how this all fits together.

My original desire to break bad, which erupted after a difficult year, led to a crisis of conscience in many ways. Quite honestly, for those six weeks, I was perfectly fine with falling back into all those (lust) sins that so easily entangle. It can be difficult being single in today’s world, especially as part of the church. I’m not one of those single Christian women who is going to sugarcoat how hard it is by telling you that I quote Bible verses that keep me going and bring me back on track. It just doesn’t happen all of the time. Sometimes, Scripture consoles me and brings me understanding and wisdom. But when it comes to my purity and singleness struggles, I find very little solace in the Word. I’m not afraid to admit that, because I think God meets me in my honesty. In addition, Christians in general are terrible at comforting singles. Save for one, my married friends are collectively the most terrible people in the world at understanding my single girl struggles. It’s like they forgot what it’s like to be single in a sex-crazed world. Friends who have been married only a couple of years—and who three years ago were crying next to me—have taken up spouting verses and Christian idioms at me when I struggle with remaining pure and being good. So I have stopped confiding in them about my issues, because even when I tell them nicely that they’re not helping, they still fall back on those outdated practices.

Save for one. There is that one married Christian woman who helped to bring me back from the edge of breaking bad. She listened. She cried with me. She shared her own struggles with loneliness in her marriage—not to distract or compare, but to share that she struggles, too. And she never once shared a Bible verse or beat me down with the Bible—she only promised to pray for me and to encourage me. And I know that she did—because the day I confided in her about wanting to be bad and cried with her about being single and the day she began to pray for me is the day I met God in a worship song as I cried over Chris Evans’ mercy soul.

You see, there’s this delicate balance between our sin struggles, God’s grace, and our calling. I think, in many ways, that breaking bad is where much of our PureID™ is formed and found. Our sin struggles are where God meets us, where He talks to us about our identity as He is purifying us, where He places a call on our lives to bring others to Him in specific ways. It’s where He begins the refining process, even if we’re not ready. I’m not “fine” with my sin anymore—but I’m also not beating myself up about it like I used to. In essence, I think I’m beginning to understand grace more simply by being broken for the mercy male.

I wish I could tell you what this means for me and mercy males—but I don’t know. Here’s what I do know: I know that I haven’t quite broken bad yet. I am still struggling with daydreaming and lust. But for the first time in the midst of this struggle, I have felt the Lord draw closer to me. I’ve had the Spirit intercede for me with words and groans that I don’t understand. And last night, I prayed in depth for all the mercy males I’ve known in my life, and I prayed for the ones I don’t know—like Chris Evans. After I finished, I tried to fall asleep but couldn’t for three miserable hours—and God tenderly let me know that it was because I wasn’t finished praying for them. Once I did (at 12:30 a.m.!), sleep came easily.

I want to know what’s next in my calling to the mercy male more than anyone. But I believe wholeheartedly in Luke 16:10, which says that whoever is faithful in the little things will be faithful in the large things. I also believe in the parable of the talent, that when God entrusts us with something—small or large, He is the one who will multiply it, if we are faithful and we trust Him. And though it isn’t “little” at all, I think that, right now, my job is simply to pray and intercede for the mercy male—all of them, some of them, one of them. Where that leads next, I don’t know. But I now know that if you allow God to work even amidst your greatest sins and struggles, your breaking bad can lead to His greater good.

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I Surrender

ID-10027894I haven’t purposefully been avoiding blogging or anything like that…I think I wrote a blog and let you know that I was just stepping back and trying to get my focus in the right place. I also needed to prioritize…and let me just tell you, when you plan to prioritize and put God in His rightful place in your life, stuff happens–and it’s not always good stuff.

The last two months, I have really found myself struggling–caught up in the “sins that so easily entangle.” After a solid six months of not daydreaming, there I was, caught up in my thoughts. I have no idea how it happened…I just know that I kept entertaining them until it was too late.

I’ve never been here to tell you that I have it all together, because obviously I don’t. But I am here to tell you that when you decide to surrender to the Spirit, you will be attacked–not just by Satan, but by your own flesh who “does the things you don’t want to do.” Paul was right. The Christian life is a struggle…but thank God for grace!

The issue with me, though, isn’t that I fell: the issue is that I feel like I fell harder than most. In truth, I didn’t. God sees my sins as no bigger or smaller than any other sins; I’m the one who has the issues seeing them for what they really are. And even worse, I am the one who has the problems forgiving, forgetting, and moving forward. I allow myself to stay down, to remain entangled, to stay distant from God during those times instead of accepting forgiveness that’s offered and moving forward. But the issue is bigger than just my sin: the issue is that I think I can conquer sin on my own.

I CAN’T.

I know that’s not a surprise, but it has been and remains a hard pill for me to swallow. If I can’t do anything to conquer my sin–if I can’t behave better, make covenants, control my circumstances, try to be the best possible me–then what can I do? I mean, I guess…

I CAN SURRENDER.

I don’t even know that I’m aware of what true surrender looks like, because I don’t know that I’ve truly ever surrendered my struggles to the Lord. But I do know that I want to explore what that looks like over the next few posts. I don’t know how frequent they will be, but I do know that I want to talk about it, because while I keep trying new things to keep me from sinning, I know that they are just stop gaps to the true surrender and acceptance of grace that I’m called to. I know it’s something we all struggle with, and I know it’s something we need to talk about more in the church. At some point, I have to recognize that I can’t do it–I can’t do ANYTHING, and that only God can. So starting today…I surrender.

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I Surrender (Hillsong):

Here I am
Down on my knees again
Surrendering all
Surrendering all

Find me here
Lord as You draw me near
Desperate for You
Desperate for You

I surrender

Drench my soul
As mercy and grace unfold
I hunger and thirst
I hunger and thirst

With arms stretched wide
I know You hear my cry
Speak to me now
Speak to me now

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

Like a rushing wind
Jesus breathe within
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Like a mighty storm
Stir within my soul
Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

Lord have Your way
Lord have Your way in me

I surrender
I surrender
I wanna know You more
I wanna know You more

Good Grief

crying doll by Theeradech Sanin

image courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / freedigitalphotos.net

My father died today. I don’t think that there’s three points that I can give you in a blog format to help you learn more about yourself through the death of my parent. So I’m just going to unjumble my thoughts and let them flow here, and I pray that God will bless you in some way as you read.

If you’ve read my testimony, you know that I didn’t have a great relationship with my dad. Celebrate Recovery helped me do a lot of grieving and releasing, but especially with my father. It was good to grieve the father I didn’t have, the father I always wanted…to let go of expectations and begin to accept the reality of who my father was. To release my feelings of rejection and revel in the acceptance of my heavenly Father. I continued to do that for the next five years, never really desiring a full-time relationship with him for many reasons. As more and more information about the man I called “Dad” has surfaced in recent weeks, I know that God has been protecting me by removing that desire from me. Instead, I have accepted him as the flawed, sinful man that he is and loved him from an appropriate distance. I am thankful that God indeed protected my heart and gave me the strength to set healthy boundaries.

A couple of things happened as I began to grieve a few weeks ago when I was alerted that my father was on his death bed. The first thing I noticed was that I couldn’t stop thinking about this one person with whom I had unfinished business. Death tends to bring out those unresolved situations in our lives, making us uneasy with leaving loose ends. Eventually I realized that what was on my mind was, “If I died today, is there anyone to whom I would need to make amends?” There was. I guess because my own father never realized the “error” of his ways and never sought to make amends with his children, I wanted to break that cycle. I could say “I’m sorry” and I could make amends. I wanted to start a new kind of cycle—one of grace and pure love modeled after Christ. And while I had been concerned because there had been no one to talk to about my situation (other than God), I eventually realized that I didn’t need to talk to someone else about it. I needed to talk to the offended party. So I sent an e-mail today. It was hard, and I cried more over that e-mail than I have cried for my deceased father. But I felt a burden lift once I pressed “send.” Life is too short for unfinished business, unforgiveness, and loose ends.

Second, I realized that I wasn’t carrying any burden towards my father. Finding out a few really terrible things about him in the last few days, I thought I would feel heavier about things. When I confessed his deplorable acts to a friend, she assured me that who my father was is not who I am. I reassured her confidently that I didn’t feel that anyway—and it was true. I felt disconnected from that because I had forgiven him. But I also felt disconnected from that because my identity is not in my earthly father anymore. I have secured my identity as a princess of the King and a crazy but amazing pushy prophet girl, and because of that, there is no burden for being my earthly father’s daughter. Whatever heinous acts my father may have committed, they do not belong to me…I have been cleansed and forgiven. I am my Father’s child.

Third, I realized the significance of sexual sin in my generational history. Numbers 14:18 says, “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” I know that my grandfather and father’s iniquities have visited the generations below them and through me, and that is important for me to accept and understand in my continual quest for purity. Indeed, though I am my Father’s child, I now have some idea as to why I have struggled so mightily in the area of sexual purity. However, what grace and love the Father lavishes on us, that I can not only call myself His child but that I can receive forgiveness and cleansing from the sins of my forefathers. I am ready to break the cycle and bring forth a generation of purity. My tears have not been wasted; they have been collected by a loving Daddy who intends to use them to cleanse future generations as they walk in their PureID™. What joy that brings me!

So I stand here not crying, but instead praising! Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and I thank You, Jesus, for the opportunity to experience this blessed, good grief. Amen!

That Lyin’ Pride: Me Me Me

peacocks by tina phillips

image courtesy of Tina Phillips / freedigitalphotos.net

It’s been a hard summer. I’ve experienced some hurt at the hands of others, and recently, one of those friends reached out to me to get together before she moves away. I had reached out to her to meet and she had said she would like that and had to “check her schedule” and get back to me. However, she never got back to me. Weeks went by, and she sent me some other communications, but nothing about getting together. I was really hurt but had felt as if I had been the one who had given relentlessly in the relationship, so I refused to remind her about my invitation to get together. Then a few days ago, she let me know she wanted to get together before she moved. I looked at my phone when I got the message, and promptly typed, “I would like that. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” I then promptly waited 24 hours before attempting to set up a time to meet with her. As I reflect on my actions, I realize that instead of being loving, I was listening to the voice of pride.

One of the loudest thing pride says to us is that “everything is all about me.” It is easy to see pride’s “me me me” attitude when we are simply making choices that revolve around us.  However, when we are hurting, that is when pride makes its biggest moves. It begins to tell us that our feelings are the most important. We have all been there—in that place where we want others to feel what we are feeling, to experience the hurt that they have doled out to us. That’s what I wanted to happen in my situation with my friend. I wanted to prove a point; I wanted her to realize that I was doing to her what she did to me. I wanted her to understand my pain. Instead of focusing on restoration, I was focused on justice. And while justice is one of God’s traits, He tells us that vengeance belongs to Him (Romans 12:9). Pride, though, tells me that I should be the one who avenges my feelings and tries to make the other person pay.

So how can I fight the prideful attitude of me me me? James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” It is difficult for me to give grace when I am hurting because I’m so focused on my own feelings. But I think one of the things that I tend to forget is that grace is the counter action to pride. I know the opposite of pride is humility, but how can I practice humility? This Bible verses says that God gives us grace when we are humble…so I think we have to practice humility by giving more grace as God gives to us. The right thing, the graceful thing for me to do with my friend would have been to answer her other texts and love her as I’ve always loved her. Even though my pride says that I’ve given far more than I’ve received in this relationship, grace tells me to depend on the Lord for strength to give even more. When pride says to wait for her to respond, grace tells me to seek her out continually, just as the Lord continues to seek me out—because as I continue to do these things, I becomes less like my flesh and more like Christ.

I’m not saying this is easy—as you can see, I still struggle with the right way to handle relationships and the best ways to fight pride in my life. But one thing I do know is that I want to receive more grace from God—and in order to receive grace, I must give grace. And if it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), I want to give more grace and less pride.

How can you give more grace and, in turn, fight pride in your life?

The God Identity: Grace

Identity by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

I spent this past holiday weekend with two people who have hurt me recently. One is a younger girl friend that has leaned heavily on me this past year, only to disappear during the last few months when I’ve been struggling. The other is a friend of hers—a guy who used me over the course of the last year to meet his touch and attention needs yet ran the moment I became vulnerable with him. When I realized they would be attending the beach weekend, I prayed about whether to go. I asked my best friend, who told me to stay home—and I countered by saying that I was rusty in the area of grace and needed to practice. I even encouraged my bestie to show some grace to a girl in his life that had recently hurt him. So I went, had a blast spending time with friends besides those two, and tried to show grace for those two while keeping appropriate boundaries.

How do you move forward from hurt? How do you face someone who has hurt you and willingly forgive her? How do you draw a fine line between forgiveness and trust? We struggle with the answer to these questions, but the answer is simple: grace. But while the answer is simple, grace itself is hard, and here are two reasons grace has been difficult for me:

  • Grace hurts. Christ died for us while we were still sinners. He was crucified—a very painful death process that involved excruciating pain for hours and hours. There was not only physical pain, but the emotional pain of being separated from His Father and abandoned by His friends. So grace, by its very nature from the original Giver of grace, is painful for the one who gives it. This morning while rehearsing our worship set, I burst into tears in the middle of a song about Jesus rescuing us. I cried through our whole worship set. I have cried all day because of the intense emotional pain I felt this weekend—the pain of closure, the pain of the changing friendship with my gal pal, the pain of fighting against my flesh since last Wednesday, the pain of my own need for grace. But I also know this is a tiny fraction of the pain Jesus suffered for me—so I need to suck it up.
  • Grace is God-centered, not feelings-centered. Grace usually asks us to act the exact opposite of what we are feeling. The moment I saw the guy who had hurt me, I wanted to hit him with my car. When he said he left something we needed at his house, I wanted to make him and everyone else suffer without the items. When he got sick with diarrhea and spent part of the weekend in bed, I wanted to laugh and make fun of him. Instead of doing these things, I tried to push down those feelings and think about what God would do. When I saw him, I greeted him with a smile. I offered to and did take him to his house to pick up the forgotten items. I asked if he was okay after his bathroom bouts. I even left later from the beach than I originally wanted so that he and his friends could enjoy a boat ride. I wasn’t perfect, though: I did laugh at his “predicament,” I was annoyed about leaving later, and I was less than nice to him on occasion. But that was a reminder for me that I, too, need grace—from God and others. Grace is not just about serving those who are good to us; grace is about serving the undeserving—those who don’t love or serve us. Jesus died for all sinners, and that includes me and you.

Grace may be challenging but I have to keep working at it. The more I stop focusing on my feelings and start focusing on God, the less pain I will experience. I won’t be perfect at showing grace in this lifetime, but I can keep practicing. And since practice makes perfect, I look forward to reaching that state of perfection with God—when there will be no more crying or pain.

Mind Matters: Moving from Rejection to Acceptance

A few years ago, I had a crush on a colleague of mine named Ed. (That’s his real name—he deserves credit for this one.) Ed and I were both student ministers serving at different churches, and I had no idea what to do about my crush. If you know any prophets, you know that prophets HAVE to tell people where they stand with them. So in true pushy prophet girl nature, I sent him a birthday card (it was NOT his birthday—humor) in which I let him know I had a crush on him.

accepted by basketman

image courtesy of basketman / freedigitalphotos.net

Ed sent me an e-mail in return that was quite simply the sweetest rejection I had ever received. In it, he noted that he had been in my situation before, and he wanted to be as grace-filled as possible in letting me down. He also promised that there would be no weirdness between us as friends. I was disappointed, but I don’t even remember if I cried: what I remembered was that I felt accepted and I felt grace, even in the midst of being rejected.

Thinking about all the rejection that I’ve personally faced is tough, but that one grace-filled acceptance reminded me of three keys to handling rejection—whether you’re on the giving end or the receiving end:

  1. Remember that rejection is not always personal. In my story, Ed was in a new relationship that he wanted to see through. (FYI: that relationship became his marriage.) Sometimes, it’s not the circumstance for you. But remember my previous blog about God accepting you? Well, He also knows what’s best for you and has plans to prosper you and not to harm you (Jeremiah 29:11). And that job, that person, or that circumstance may not be what is best for you now, but God knows what is and He is saving you for that.
  2. Weave grace and acceptance into rejection. The way Ed handled me was filled with grace and acceptance. Why? Because he had been in the same situation before. We have all been rejected in our lives, and we know the pain it can cause. So if we want to be emotionally mature adults, we should strive not to cause that kind of pain but instead to deliver acceptance and compassion to others (Ephesians 4:31-32). So remember rejection feels like and aim to improve the experience by asking God for His compassion to help you—whether you’re giving or receiving it. Pay acceptance and compassion forward.
  3. Use both rejection and acceptance to grow and move forward. In my case, I was not ready for an Ed (a boyfriend). I looked at myself and began to see ways that I could improve my communication, my emotional health, and a number of things that God needed to work on in me. So is there something you could improve about yourself? There is a God who accepts you, just as you are, but He doesn’t want to leave you that way. Truly accepted people become truly accepting people (Cloud and Townsend), and we should keep growing in Christ to build up ourselves and His church (Ephesians 4:15-16).

Experiencing rejection can be a time for growth, but it can also be a time to experience grace and acceptance. In fact, choose to make acceptance the norm in the midst of rejection. You can say no and deny others when necessary, but the challenge is, can you do it with grace and compassion?