Faith over Perfection…

This is part 3 of a 3 part blog series over 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

Salvation is available because of our faith, not our perfection.

As a type A, slightly OCD, complete control freak – I have this innate, unhealthy, even sinful desire for perfection. I don’t even notice it sometimes but I strive to control, organize, and micromanage everything to go as planned and when I mess up, I have a really hard time forgiving myself. While I’m grateful every day for the grace I have received through Christ and while I’ve learned through that to extend grace to others, I’m not so great at extending it to myself when I mess up. I hold myself to a standard of perfection in so many areas of my life when Jesus wants me to see myself through his eyes and He holds me to a standard of Grace.

Maybe that’s you too? Or maybe you’re just like me about 11 years ago? Maybe you, too, carry an invisible (or maybe even sometimes visible) check list of do’s and don’ts to be a perfect Christian or perfect wife, daughter, employees, mother, Sunday School teacher, etc. This is not living in freedom and this is not living as God has called us to live. Until I got to college and plugged in to a community of believers on campus, I had always lived such a legalistic life and held others to the same; a life of judgement on myself and others. God calls us to more. Perfection can no longer be our standard – GRACE must be our standard if we are to live the life of Freedom that God has given us the authority to do  through our salvation!

In 1 Peter 1:8-9, Peter writes, “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of our faith, the salvation of your souls.” <—- Salvation = the outcome of our faith!! 

Because of our faith, we obtain salvation! Salvation is not the byproduct of our perfect Christian lives, ladies! It’s by our faith! So hang up your checklist, hang up your obsessive need to control, your perfect big plans for this big American dream life because God is not concerned if you have gotten married yet, bought that dream house or climbed that next step on the corporate ladder. God is not concerned where you are in life compared to others your age. God does not want our perfect plans or our tired attempts, he wants our hearts and he wants our faith and it’s only through faith that we will obtain salvation.

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Your Pain is Valid…

Part 2 of a 3 part Blog Series on 1 Peter 1:3-9

Read part one here.

Your pain is valid.

Whatever is is that you are feeling, it is valid. God is not surprised when you are hurting, He is sovereign so just as He sees your pain, he warned us that trials would come and he allowed it to happen.

1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Peter speaks of the trials we face and of our faith that is refined in these fires we walk. I know for certain that my faith in Christ is stronger because of the trials I’ve faced.

You won’t recognize the brightness of the sun if you’ve never wandered through the darkness. 

In the book of Exodus, the Israelites wandered through the wilderness for 40 years before they made it to the other side for Joshua to take them through to the Promised Land. When the crossed the Jordan River, Joshua instructed them to lay down an ebenezer, a stone of remembrance, one for each of the 12 tribes, so that for generations to come, all who came upon these stones will be reminded of all that God had done for the Israelites.

I’ve written this to you before but I feel it important to say it again. I was always told growing up that “God will not give you more than you can handle” and I need you to hear me when I say that that is not true. It’s a down right lie. God allows us to endure trials that are much more than we can handle. He does that so that we are drawn closer to Him, to refine our faith, to teach us to cast all our worries at the feet of Jesus, to depend on His strength and not our own, and to recognize that He is in control!

When my friend said, “I know that my problems are nothing compared to others but it still hurts.”, I realized just how common it is for us to feel this way. We think to ourselves, “There are people who are without a home and are going to bed on a cold street tonight hungry, my problems are not that big of a deal, I can handle it, I’ll get over it.” and we don’t deal with our pain. Is it true that others are hurting in ways that are different and seem more dire that what we are facing and maybe they are? But the pain that you are feeling is real and it’s valid and it needs to be worked through.

A few weeks ago, I was dealing with some pain that I wasn’t sure how to work through it. It happened at church, my feelings had been hurt and it was keeping me from wanting to go to our church for a few weeks. I sat with my friend Anna one day and shared this all with her and the most beautiful thing happened. She listened. She validated my pain but acknowledging that those situations are painful. And after all that was said and we had changed the subject a couple dozen times, she said something in a completely different context that opened my eyes in a new way.

She said, “I believe that sometimes God allows certain painful situations to happen so that you can be a part of the solution and help make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.” 

God spoke to my heart right there as I sat in her recliner and Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians came to mind.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” -2Corinthians 1:3-7

Sisters, we are not alone in our suffering. Jesus suffered and it is by that suffering that we have grace and can rejoice in our salvation. Recognize your pain and your brokenness, seek the God of all comfort and allow Him to heal your pain.

This is not our home…

Last week I received a call from my life long best friend – you know, that friend that you grew up with, knew you during your awkward middle school days, cried with you during your high school breakups and who made 5 walmart runs for more hair dye because orange was not the desired shade of “summer blonde” you were going for when you were 19 – yep, that’s her! We live a couple hours away from one another and now have “adult” lives and do not talk every day or even sometimes every week but you would never know it, we pick things up right where we left them each time and never miss a beat. She held my hand as we buried my mom and she stood by my side on my wedding day. When she hurts, I hurt and vice versa. She’s the Cristina to my Meredith. The Lane to my Rory. The Rachel to my Monica. Through thick and thin, she’s my girl.

Now when she called, I was out running errands and as I pulled up in the Kroger parking lot, I could hear her tone shift as she said, “Case, I know that God is good. Like I KNOW that He’s good! But with everything going on around me – I’m just having a hard time seeing it.”

I sat there in my car in my cozy parking spot for over an hour just listening to my best friend tell me of how her heart hurts for so many people and families that are going through unthinkable trials in our community back home. I sat and wept as we talked about families who are spending their first Christmas without loved ones that are no longer here. We talked about the pain felt by those who know they are spending their last Christmas with a loved one who is sick and also those who are sick and are walking through fire as they fight for their life. And then she shared areas where she is hurting and she said these words:

“I know that my problems are nothing compared to  what others are dealing with but it still hurts.”

I’ve been mulling over this conversation for several days now and as I flipped open my bible to one of my favorite passages, I felt the weight of this scripture a little differently. I’ve written a few ways that I have heard God speak to me through this passage and it will be shared over the course of a 3 part blog series. My prayer is that whether you are currently walking through fire, just came through it or you’re headed towards it, you’ll find peace and comfort in God’s word.

Our Inheritance is Worthy of Rejoicing!

In 1 Peter 1:3-5, we see a beautiful depiction of the Gospel. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”

I LOVE the description given of Heaven –

  • English Standard Version – our inheritance, imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in Heaven for you.
  • In the Holman Christian Standard Version, it uses the word “uncorrupted”.
  • In the King James Version it says, “incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”
  • The New Living Translation puts it this way, “an inheritance that is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

Y’all, this is our inheritance and through it all – every dark day, every valley, every fire – we can rejoice! This road is hard but through it all, our salvation is worthy of rejoicing! This world in which we are living is the exact opposite of what awaits us in Heaven with our Jesus. This is not our home! This is just a temporary stay – that cheap motel where you lay your weary head on that long road trip. This place is perishable, it will fade away, it is defiled, it is corrupt – the exact opposite of our eternal home reserved for us in Heaven. And whatever is bringing you pain today, no matter how hard your circumstances, it’s only temporary because this world is only temporary! This world is not our home!

 

Jesus is Enough…

I attended a women’s event for a popular Christian author last month. At this event, there were women of all walks of life from young girls to grandmothers who have all read the words of this author and have been moved by her many stories. At the beginning of the event, the author’s daughter and son-in-law shared about a recent project they had released which was a book that they co-wrote all about Christian dating. The book was geared towards teens and young women. The gist of the book was to chase after God and He will lead you to your future spouse and give you your “happy ever after”.

I sat there, a newly married woman of two years with no children, listening to excerpts from the book about how both the guy and girl had been encouraged by their parents and church leaders for years to pray for their future spouse and to write them letters to which they gave one another on their wedding day. I grew more and more annoyed as everyone else was soaking it in.That’s when it hit me. This is what is wrong in our culture today.

I don’t think this is something we need to encourage in our young women. It’s just not healthy. What happens to the woman who never gets married? Our culture doesn’t know how to handle single-hood, older generations make comments about how their standards are too high and that’s why they will never get married. They spend countless nights thinking that something is wrong with them and doubting God. They think to themselves, “but God, your word tells me that if I seek you, you will give me the desires of my heart; that you have a plan for my future and it’s full of hope yet here I am – lonely and still waiting for you to give me these things I deeply desire and have been praying for since I was a little girl.”

And it doesn’t stop with marriage. What about the young women who have been planning, not only their weddings for their entire lives but also their baby showers, and child dedications, and soccer games and family vacations with their children that they have already named in their heart? We have wives who cry themselves to sleep because they can’t get pregnant or have had countless miscarriages and they are whispering the same prayers as the single woman and it is because we have cultivated a culture where we map out every detail of our picture perfect lives, stick our favorite hope filled scripture to it and wait for God to give us our desires.

We can’t raise our children this way. When Jesus tells his followers in the book of John that He will give us a life more abundant, it was not because He intended for all of our dreams to come true – it was because of Him alone. And because of that, I can’t encourage my sons and daughters to pray for a spouse who may never come or to pick out names for their babies they may never hold. Maybe you are reading this and calling me cynical but in reality, I want to teach my children that Jesus is enough. I want them to cling to that truth so that if they are 45 and single, they will cling to Jesus instead of their keyboard as they login to their online dating site for the 50th time that day. And if they are married and find themselves staring at another negative pregnancy test, they will know that Jesus is enough and seek Him and His righteousness instead of another blog post on overcoming infertility. And when they feel like their world is falling apart as they bury their loved ones or they lose their job, they will know in their hearts that Jesus is enough and that this world is temporary, it is not our happy ever after.

There’s a balance that must be set in place that prepares our daughters AND our sons  for life ahead without filling their hearts with plans for a life that might never come – and that is ok! There are people around the world living FULL lives without a spouse or without children despite how much they once longed for those things and it’s because they have found peace in knowing that Jesus is enough.

I want you to know that as a married woman of two years, I love my husband and I am so grateful for the life that we have together and maybe that makes me unfit to write on such a topic when so many are hurting for the life I have. I’m here to say this, my life was not complete on November 1, 2014 when I said “I do.” God never intended for my husband to make me complete, He intended for me to be made NEW IN HIM! And I promise you, that truth means so much more to me than my marriage.

We have to put a stop to this fairy tale mentality, especially in the church. We have to stop teaching our kids that if they keep their eyes on the Lord, they will have a perfect life because I don’t kow about you but the only perfect life I’m looking forward to is the eternal life that awaits me in the presence of Jesus and I’m pretty sure it will be so much more than the barn weddings and smash cakes that flood our pinterest boards. We have to stop painting false hopes of happily ever after and start preparing our sons and daughters for the battle – that this life is hard and whether you find yourself single or barren or orphaned, Jesus is enough and this is not our home.

So let’s do this thing together. Let’s stop posting, pinning and sharing #goals and let’s be real with one another and with our girls. Let’s raise up strong, independent women who will seek God’s best for their life rather than seeking fairy tales that will never come true. Let’s let them in on our secret of “hey, you will never have it all together – none of us do.” Let’s channel their energy and encourage their individual gifts toward how they can best serve God and His people. Let’s teach them that God’s plan is perfect and that we must trust Him even when His ways are not our ways.

It all starts with us. Let’s love our daughters so much that we raise them and prepare them for a life without worldly expectations and full of eternal blessings. Let’s set the example of seeking more than the American dream for our own lives and to spark an eternal flame in their hearts to seek hard after all that God has planned for their lives.

Freedom over Grief…

I sit here in my chair thinking back on all that has happened over the last 6 years. See, 6 years ago, my mom went home to be with Jesus. It would be really easy for me to sit here and wallow in sadness today, of all days, for all the things she has missed – birthdays, graduations, my wedding day, etc. And I did that for a long time – off and on, I would have seasons where I was completely overwhelmed by the weight of grief. I had a hard time allowing myself to be joyful in the Lord through the ups and downs of life because my mind was consumed by my grief. I didn’t know how to overcome it. And then Jesus spoke to me.

It was just last year. I had felt God moving in my heart and bringing me to a season of transition where I knew that God was calling me to do something but I did not know what it was and I know now that my grief was consuming my mind and blinding me from seeing what God was calling me to do. I was sitting in a worship service at church and I was writing in my prayer journal the same thing I had written countless times – “Lord, heal me. Heal my broken heart. Strip me from this grief. Heal me, Father.” And then it was like a light bulb came on. I immediately thought back to the story in scripture where Jesus tells the lame man to get up and walk for He has been healed. And I knew Jesus was talking to me. He was telling me to get up and walk – I had been healed, I had been healed all along but I just hadn’t gotten off my mat and accepted that healing. I have been given freedom through salvation in Jesus Christ yet I was living in chains of bondage called grief.

There is joy through grief. You can still miss your loved ones after they’re gone yet find joy in the Lord. You can do both and it is because of the freedom we have in Christ. But just like all of the other chains that bind us, we have to make a choice to walk in the freedom we have been given and to be joyful in the midst of our grief.

I found a blog that I had written the week leading up to my mom’s passing 6 years ago. I had forgotten that I had even written it. This was the week where I knew we were going to lose my mom and yet, I had so much strength that can only be attributed to the strength of God. I included a song that had been encouraging to me during that week and it’s still one that I cling to today. No matter what roads you’re walking right now, know that we can still find joy in the Lord. I have left you with a play list of songs that have given me strength the past 6 years and I hope it’s encouraging to you along your journey as well.

 

Our Silence is Making it Worse…

I started this post yesterday but I was too scared to post it. I was afraid of what would be said by those who will disagree with me. I could visualize the silent “ssshhhh little white girl, we don’t speak of things like this” glare that would come from some people but this morning when I woke up, my husband said, “Another black man was shot by a police officer yesterday.” And I won’t let those who may disagree stifle my voice any longer because this is an important issue and now more than ever we need every voice lifted high.

I want to preface this by saying that I am in no way writing a piece that is anti-police. That is not my intent at all and if that is what you take from this than you are not truly hearing my heart on the matter. There are bad apples in every bunch. There are ministers being arrested on sex trafficking charges. There are teachers/coaches arrested for inappropriate relationships with students. There are doctors selling prescriptions on the street. We can all likely name someone within our line of work that has made a poor call in judgement. And by acknowledging this, we must be honest with ourselves and say that there are also men and women in uniform who are not apt to using sound judgement based on fear (because let’s be real, their job is scary!), prejudice, sleep depravation, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and the list goes on and on and on. There are many more good men in uniform than bad… I know a hand full of them, they are good people who are truly looking out for the good of the people. But let’s not turn a blind eye to those who aren’t.


7/6/2016: My husband and I watched the video of Alton Sterling being shot while being pinned down on the ground by two police officers in Baton Rouge, LA, last night. I recall thinking, “What is wrong with these people?” and then I rested comfortably and fell asleep. I didn’t do anything, I was upset that this has happened YET AGAIN and I went to sleep. It’s like I’m numb to it now. Black people are slaughtered in the street so frequently that I’m not even moved to say a word any more because I feel so helpless that I just go to bed.

There’s a problem here. And I think it lies in folks just like me. See, I never have to worry that my husband could be pulled over for a busted tail light and be shot and killed. I don’t have to worry that my nephew could be out on his normal run, just training for cross country, and be mistaken as if he’s running from the police and be shot and killed. Growing up, we would set up a table in front of the drug store in Humboldt during the Strawberry Festival and sell toys and bags and costume jewelry (basically anything that would sell!), I never had to worry that an officer might notice that my dad was carrying a handgun, which is registered and legal in the state of TN, and that he might be pinned down, shot and killed. And it’s because we’re white.
And the problem lies in my silence. I’m white and I don’t carry those fears and I feel so completely helpless when these things happen ALL of the time that I say nothing! White friends, we MUST link arms with our black brothers and sisters and stand with them and proclaim that Black Lives DO Matter!! And I think that there are some of us that think that this is just a black issue and that we need to stay out of it but that’s the problem!
We need politicians on both sides of the party system to speak out. Our politicians need to stop worrying about losing votes in an election year and speak up for what is right and that is getting to the root of the problem and fixing it. And before you ask, I don’t know what that fix is but we have to spur one another along to finding it!
We need our pastors to speak out about this. We, as a Christian community, need to unite as the body in which we were created and stand up for justice. You who were so vocal about our crooked justice system this week when we learned that Hillary Clinton would not be charged in the recent FBI Investigation… are you equally outraged about this injustice? We must set our agendas aside and stop swinging to the right and to the left and start fighting for an issue that is right in front of us.
So, when you see #BlackLivesMatter being plastered around, they are NOT saying that your life does not. They are not putting themselves of more importance than other races. They are not saying that ONLY Black Lives Matter. And I hear people say that they feel this way but you have to take yourself out of the equation and recognize that this is not about you. Their fear is real and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the lives of those that killed and those who were acquitted of those charges. They are taking a stand. And we should be standing with them. And unless we are standing up and rallying around the issue at hand, our silence is making it worse by not acknowledging that there is a real problem.
So I’m calling out to all of us who feel helpless and like we don’t have a voice here because the pigmentation of our skin doesn’t match those being wronged in this instance – we do! And if we do not speak up, we’re part of the problem!