Paradigm Shift

With Christmas approaching, my typical American ten-year-old son is working feverishly on his wishlist. Most of it consists of trivial toys and fads. Some of it could be considered educational, like an erector set for building his own robot and more Legos (because the large plastic bin full still isn’t enough). But most of it is just plain frivolous.

We started reading a book together about people living in trash dump communities. I strongly recommend the read: “Witness: True Events from a Society Living, Working and Dying in Trash.” As we read the first few chapters together, he was shocked to learn that there are people in the world who don’t have adequate living spaces to shelter from the elements, clean water, or access to proper nutrition. He has been aware for some time of homelessness and poverty in general, but this was a new, real, tragic detailed account of communities surviving around public dumps. Worse than that for us to comprehend are the horrific injustices and crimes against humanity that are a daily occurrence in those impoverished areas. At one point, even though I was filtering some of the more violent descriptions, he said, “Mom, stop. I need a break. This is too much.”

We have had our struggles in life and there have been times when we had to “tighten our belts” to get through a few months. But it usually consists of backing off eating out and skipping the movies. We’ve been blessed to never be literally living on the street for any period of time. We did have to spend one night in the shelter after fleeing an abusive situation, which was definitely a perspective-changing experience. But we never had to dig through garbage for a meal or sleep under a bridge. Never once have I been faced with a decision to sell myself or my children into human trafficking to survive.

Immediately, my son and I, both heartbroken, started discussing “what can we do?!” We feel so far away and so detached from such societies. We talked about making a difference to the homeless and poverty-stricken in our own community. We even talked about preparing to take a mission trip to visit these communities and truly help and “get our hands dirty.” We’re making a list of things we can do now like supporting our church’s involvement with Trash Mountain Project by helping with care packages to be sent to these trash communities.

And then the conversation shifted to something incredible… My ten-year-old boy offered to relinquish his Christmas gifts. “With the money we could save on buying presents for us, we could send them soap and gloves and boots to help,” he suggested. We agreed that this year each of the kids would only receive one small gift from me. And for advent this year instead of drinking hot cocoa and watching “Elf,” we will do acts of kindness, serve the needy in our community and put together care packages for “the least of these.” As a mom, my heart swells for my son’s compassion for others and willingness to sacrifice.

Today, if you are content in your “cushy world” and don’t want your perspective of the world completely shattered, don’t look up And definitely don’t  read the above mentioned book.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Ugly Self Promotion

As women, we are taught from a very young age that self-promotion is ugly. We’re not supposed to brag about our accomplishments. Today while teaching a community education class to a group of female entrepreneurs, one woman pointed out how much more true that notion is towards christian women. We are expected to be submissive, quiet, meek and mild. While all those qualities are good, they don’t serve us well in the business world or in ministry.

This, of course, got me thinking. First of all, where did we come up with this idea?! At what point did we decide that a christian woman should be a mouse that disappears into the background? How can we be successful business women, mothers, leaders in the community and yet authentically live up to biblical expectations and christian character?

Allow me to present “Exibhit A”: Proverbs 31. This chapter of the Bible describes the godly woman that is the example for all of us. This is the bar that has been set. There are several apparent attributes to point out about this female standard: 1) She is successful in business. 2) She plans ahead. 3) She is well-known and has a good reputation in the community. 4) She embodies strength and honor. 5) She does not tolerate gossip and idleness in her household.

How could a woman acheive any or all of those characteristics while being a doormat? In fact, she sounds to me like the strong, independent woman so many of us aspire to be. Clearly the Proverbs 31 woman is an example of gentle assertiveness and humble self-promotion. I would even say this proves we are called to be leaders in our homes, businesses, ministries, and families.

God created each of us (men, women, and children) for a unique purpose. Part of fulfilling that purpose may involve letting people know what you do for work and/or His kingdom. Or when you do something wonderful that God has created you to do and someone notices, it’s okay to simply say, “Thank you.” It’s not egotistical or prideful to humbly accept a compliment. And self-promotion can be done in such a way that it is not prideful or conceited. Think of it as making others aware of what you do and that you’re eager to serve rather than “tooting your horn” if it makes you feel better.

Last week, I taught at Celebrate Recovery meeting. Afterward, I had several people approach me and pour out their hearts, saying how something I shared had touched them deeply. Several others complimented on how powerfully and eloquently I’d delivered the message. I caught myself starting to say something cheesy like, “to God be the glory.” I stopped myself and just said, “thank you.” I realized in that moment that God gets all the glory because my message pointed to Him and it’s okay to accept a compliment. My message was not powerful just because I’m a good speaker all by myself. God gave me the gifts, talents, abilities and anointing to carry out a specific task. When I use those gifts to honor Him, He is glorified. It’s not about me. It’s about the work He does through me. Saying “thank you” when someone says “good job” doesn’t discredit God’s power and anointing.

A mentor of mine who often has pearls of wisdom flowing from her very being told a group of women once, “We should take a cue from men. They enter the world with confidence. It doesn’t matter how much weight they gain or how they look compared to the next guy. They say, ‘Look at me! I’m a man, created in God’s image, and I’m awesome.'” She’s absolutely right. While we women are wasting time comparing our (unique) selves to the other unique women in the world, worrying if we’re the right size, shape or color and wondering how we’re being perceived, men are getting the jobs we want and filling some of the roles we were designed to perform.

Today, know that you are uniquely powerful as God created you to be. Walk in that by confidently speaking about what you do and accepting compliments graciously with a simple, “Thank you.”

“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. -Joshua 1:7

The Rules of The Game

My background is in property management. I used to manage large apartment communities with hundreds  of units. Each year, I’d have to complete continuing education classes. As a property manager, I had to know the law around the Landlord Tenant Act. The main thing I got out of it was the law generally falls on the side of the tenant. So many times landlords would charge the dickens out of someone who would move out, or make human errors on the charges. But the majority of the time, the tenant would give up and say, “oh well. I’m stuck with that bill now.” They won’t question its validity or show up to a court date to appeal.

The majority of property management companies I know of have a strict “don’t ask, don’t tell policy.” If the tenant doesn’t ask the right questions, don’t tell them what the law is or how to remove false charges. They don’t want tenants to start figuring out that the law is actually in their favor. If they knew that, many of the charges and collections would be debunked.

We, as believers, often are like these tenants. So often we just accept things the way things are because “that’s just how it is.” The world beats us up and spits us out. The enemy puts false allegations against us. Thoughts of unworthiness and insignificance creep in. Miracles don’t seem to happen anymore. Maybe God used the miraculous during a time when it was needed in the early church (read Acts). But he must not use them anymore because we just don’t need miracles. The world just is what it is.

If we only knew that the “law” is already skewed in our favor. How differently would we live if we truly took God at His Word? What if we truly believed and behaved out that the enemy has been defeated? What if we truly understood that God is the same big, miracle performing, mind blowing God He was to the early church? What if we began to see that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so we could be victorious?! The rules of this life are stacked in our favor because that’s how God set it up. God doesn’t favor one person over another. The same miracles and favor He pours out on one, He freely gives to another. All we have to do is ask and believe.

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57

Performance vs. Worship

Music is one of my passions. Few things can cut through to the very soul like music can. Music is powerful. It can bring a grown man to tears. Or it can stir feelings of joy.

In the christian community there are two major types of music. Both can praise God. Both can point to Jesus as Savior. Both serve a purpose in the life of believers. There is a time and a place for each. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial for church leaders, worship leaders and attendees. Just like when I go to a concert, I want to know what type of music to expect, so should it be in the christian music genre. Sure, the style varies greatly from venue to venue. One assembly may use traditional hymnals and an organ while another has a full band with electric lead guitars and words on a projector. Not all hymns are worship and not all contemporary songs are performance based. The style is impertinent really. Lyrics and posture are crucial.

Here are a few indicators of which type of music you’re listening to, leading, or singing. Performance lyrics talk about or to God. Performance posture makes the singer/leader/band the focal point. Performance puts on a show and strives for perfection. There are many wonderful and talented performance bands in the christian arena. They provide excellent entertainment while pointing audiences to Christ. However, worship lyrics speak to God. They should align with scripture and exalt God to His rightful place as Sovreign Lord. Worship posture makes God the focal point. Worship leads people into the presence of God and offers their best as a fragrant incense to the Holy One. There are several anointed worship bands currently. I use the term “annointed” because it requires far more than technical talent to lead worship. There is a calling and special choosing by God to lead worship.

Recently, I have played in bands of both type. In fact, once in the same night. The first band I sang with was the opener for the evening. The leader hoped to prove that he was a talented leader, worthy of a bigger stage. The songs he chose were to show off his skills as a musician and showcase his abilities. Not necessarily a bad thing. As we sang and exuded energy, I felt the crowd watching me. I had a keen sense that any sour note would be noticed. We were performing. The point of the song set was to entertain and create and energetic atmosphere. Moreover, we used tracks as filler music under the musicians which does not allow any deviation from the rehearsed song order.

The second band I played with was the near opposite. The worship leader had the intention of creating a space in the middle of the event that would usher people into God’s presence. She chose songs that spoke to God and gave Him honor for giving us a second chance, turning our messes into something beautiful as only God can. As we sang the songs, many people in the crowd had their eyes closed and hands raised in worship and reverence. I did not feel critiqued, but instead like an empty vessel for God’s use. There were no eyes on my and so there was no pressure to be perfect in and of myself. Furthermore, the worship leader did not use tracks so she had the freedom to repeat a chorus or bridge as she felt led. It required more attentiveness and skill from the musicians to follow her cues as well as hold their own musically without the assistance of pre-recorded tracks.

I would challenge you to discern which type of music you are listening to or leading. Is it performance or worship? Are you on an amphetheater stage or a church platform? Is the purpose of your venue to put on a show or draw people into the presence of the Almighty? Is your audience in the crowd or on the throne?

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. -Psalm 66:2

Who’s Number One?!

Whenever the Bible introduces a concept for the first time, there is significance in it. The first time worship is introduced is an unexpected context. It is found in Genesis 22 when Abraham is about to take his only son, Isaac, to the top of a mountain to sacrifice him.

“And Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’”

If you’re not familiar with this story from the Bible, I encourage you to read the entire chapter. But this story started long before this moment. You see God had promised to make Abraham the father of many nations. Isaac was his only son and the fulfillment of that promise. The Bible tells us that Abraham loved Isaac very much. In fact, all of Abraham’s hopes and dreams rested on this young man. This was not just his son, but the physical embodiment of God’s promise realized in his life.

We know God’s purpose in the request for sacrifice of Isaac was for Abraham to prove that he trusted the Almighty God implicetly. Spoiler alert! God did stop the sacrifice and provided a ram to replace the boy. But Abraham didn’t know the end of the story. Can you imagine that moment? Preparing to hike up a mountain to kill your son (as if that’s not a fast track to a therapist’s couch) but also the future legacy God has promised.

And that is the moment God uses to introduce us to the term “worship.” Abraham told the men accompanying them that they were going to worship and would return when they finished. I don’t believe he was a man who lied regularly. Conversely, he couldn’t say, “Hey, we’re going to climb this mountain so I can murder my son. Be back in a jif!” Abraham used the term “worship” for a reason. He knew his mission was to put God first.

That is what worship is. Whether referencing worship in song or worship as a lifestyle, worship means putting God first. But take it a step further. Worship is sacrificing the thing that is most important to us. Worship is setting aside what we value most in that moment and giving God his rightful place as first in our lives. In fact, the Hebrew word in this scripture means “to bow down, to give reverence.”

Take the time to give God reverence and acknowledge him as first in your life whether in song or choices throughout the day. Are you willing to be obedient and sacrifice your will, ideas and plans for the future? Whatever the thing that is most important to you right now… give it to God.

Starfish Redefined

“A man was walking along a beach that was covered by thousands of starfish that had been washed onto shore by the tide. He noticed a small boy picking up the starfish one by one, throwing them back into the sea. The man pointed out that this was an exercise in futility as the boy would never be able to make a significant difference to the multitude of starfish dying on the sand. The boy pondered this comment, picked up another starfish and tossed it into the sea, and said, ‘I made a difference to that one.'”

I’ve heard this story many times before, but this week, it was made very personal to me. My life is so busy and so full, that it becomes very natural to take on a task-oriented approach to life. I look at my calendar, make a to-do list, put on my blinders and get stuff done! I often feel accomplished at the end of the day having checked so many things off my list. But this week I was asked to pause and consider the lives I’m impacting along the way. Who have I stopped to connect with? Whose life have I taken interest in and ministered to?

The discussion of the starfish story brought up an interesting point, if the boy was trying to approach his task like a to-do list, he could’ve used buckets, machines, or contraptions to better leverage his time. But he didn’t. He valued each individual starfish he rescued.

As so often is the case, God provided an opportunity to put this lesson into action repeatedly this week. I was planning on spending my Friday going over my sermon notes for a speaking engagement. But as I spoke with a friend that morning, the Holy Spirit stirred in me that He had different plans for me that day. She was my starfish that day and I was able to be used to make a huge difference in her life. Had I not been open to slowing down and listening, I would’ve missed the opportunity to watch someone’s life be touched by God’s hand.

In this busy world, take the time to intentionally slow down and pay attention to the people around you. Afterall, it doesn’t matter how many tasks we scratch off our list if we didn’t make a difference to the people around us.

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” -Matthew 25:40


My three year old daughter is insistent on carrying her backpack to and from daycare every day. And everywhere else she goes. One day last week, she asked me to carry her whilst wearing said backpack. As I lifted her (and nearly threw out my back in the process) I could swear she had doubled her weight. When I asked what she had packed in her backpack, she replied, “My stuffs.”

When we got home, I opened her backpack to discover she had been carting back and forth her most prized possessions: a jigsaw puzzle, her favorite blanket, a makeup bag containing a variety of chapsticks, a bouncy ball, shoes, dress up dresses, a variety of trinket toys, etc. None of it made sense to me. Most of it was impractical and unused at daycare. As I began to unpack it and put things away, she caught me. “No!!! That’s my STUFFS!” she protested. She very angrily and in her spirited way began to repack all the nonsensical items back into the backpack. And the next morning, as she laboriously tried to pull on her backpack, she nearly toppled onto her back like a turtle! She had added even more items to the backpack. Seriously, did we buy this thing from Mary Poppins?!

This reminded me of how we react to God sometimes when he attempts to relieve us of our baggage. All the hurts, anger and resentment that we insist on packing around every day. We think we need our “stuff.” We justify its importance. “That person hurt me. I must protect myself with these walls,” we explain. “This terrible thing happened to me as a child. How can I possibly just forgive?!” we insist. “That event changed me, shaped me, and now defines me. I can’t just let go!” we say.

But Jesus paid the ultimate price. He sacrificed his life and raised from the dead so that we could live in abundance! He paid for freedom! Freedom from our past, our baggage, and our burdens. The cross was enough! And when we defiantly insist that we need to drag around our pain and scars like badges of honor, we discredit the love and victory Jesus poured out on the cross. When we worry, hold grudges and cling to resentment, we only hurt ourselves much like my toddler falling on her back under the weight of her backpack.

There’s no need to cart around your baggage anymore. Trust in God, the Creator of the universe to unpack your burdens.

“…Come to me [Jesus], all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Faith Like a Child

Recently my very inquisitive toddler was asking me questions about God, Jesus, and the universe in general. At one point in the conversation, she asked how she could get Jesus in her heart. So there in the car, on our way to school, I led my 3 year old daughter in the prayer of salvation. As soon as we said, “amen,” she asked, “Now is He in my heart, Mommy?” I said, “Yes, sweetie. He is.” She then asked, “Is God in your heart, too, Mommy?” I replied in affirmation and explained that God is in her brother’s heart as well. Then I caught myself in the complexity of trying to explain the omnipresence of God. How could a three year old understand the concept of God being everywhere and indwelling multitudes at once? I chastised myself.

But then my sweet little girl surprised me with her simple response: “God’s in my heart. And God’s in Mommy’s heart. And God’s in Brother’s heart. We love God and He loves us.” With a big grin and a simple acceptance of God’s infinite love and presence, she stated it so plainly and beautifully. God is in all who ask Him to be and He loves us far more than we can understand. Period. All we have to do is accept it.

Each night as I tuck my little girl into bed, she smiles and confidently says, “God is in my heart, Mommy! I love Jesus! And God is in your heart, too!” It is the best part of my day.

As adults we try to understand, compartmentalize and rationalize God and eternity. We try to fit Him into a box of our finite minds. Instead we should take a cue from my three year old and just accept His infinite love. Stop trying to overcomplicate things and make it all fit in your God box. It’s so simple even a three-year-old can explain it.

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” -Matthew 19:14

Wielding a Sword

The other night while tucking my children into bed, my son was telling me about his day and some of the very challenging obstacles he’s facing as an adolescent boy. And during that conversation, he began to quote scripture he had memorized at school.

“‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ [Phil. 4:8],” he proudly recited.

From there this beautiful conversation evolved as I asked him how that could be used in his own life. He had gone to the effort of reading, understanding and memorizing God’s Word. He knew what it meant and what the instruction was. Which is quite commendable for a young boy. However, he had not realized that memorization is only half the equation.

I explained to him that the scriptures are like a double edged sword: a weapon for his use in battling temptation and fiery darts of evil thoughts. We talked about what it means to pick up that “sword” and fight. We talked about how important it is to take our thoughts captive and that it’s much like exercising a muscle: a muscle of self-control. We imagined together what it would look like to put on the full armor of God and go to battle. How much preparation and practice that must require. Just like a knight of King Arthur’s court, dressing for war against a dragon that would hiss lies in his ear. Most importantly, I let him know that he’s not alone.

As I laid in bed that night, reflecting on the significance of our conversation, I wondered how many other believers miss this valuable step in our faith walk? So often, we go to church and say, “What a great sermon! Pastor really hit it home today!” And then continue through our week “business as usual.” Or we take the time to read God’s Word and pray, but forget what we learned must be applied to our life. The Word of God is a tool for shaping and growing us spiritually, but also for fighting against an enemy who would love nothing more than to see us miss the divine purpose God has on each of our lives. Everyone on the planet, Christ follower or not, has a battle they are warring. Our enemy is trying the same lies, trickery, and temptations he has used since the Garden of Eden.

Today, memorize a scripture that you can use to fight against temptation or your personal struggle. If you need suggestions, feel free to reach out to me and I’d love to point you to God’s Word! He has provided all the answers we need for life and godliness!

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Why Wait?

 Most people can’t remember their childhood prior to age 4 or 5. Usually those memories are happy, innocent and tender. Not for me. My earliest childhood memories were of being sexually molested by a man I knew as my grandpa. Some of the incidents I remember quite vividly happened in the same room where my mother was 8 feet away, chatting with her mom. In my young mind, I thought this was normal and acceptable. This was how grandpas loved their granddaughters. I thought surely my mom knew and allowed it, if not condoned these activities.

When it all came to light what he had been doing, I was around 5 years old. My parents decided to do what “good Christians” do: forgive and forget. In my family that meant we never spoke of it and we pretended like nothing ever happened. We still had family gatherings and holidays with my molester. He lived a long life next door to a daycare with no consequences for his actions. So that told me that what he did was acceptable; I wasn’t worth protecting or loving; and I was a sexual object to be used and discarded. I dealt with it by burying and repressing the memories. It wasn’t until many years later when I was married that all the horrible memories came flooding back.

 When I was a young teenage girl, I was very involved in church and youth group. At that time, it was trendy to wear a promise ring as a symbol of saving one’s virginity for marriage. It was a nice thought, but for many girls, that’s where it ended. A sweet notion.   I wanted so badly to be an unblemished gift to my future husband. To wrap my sexuality up in a little package to be offered as my most prized possession on my wedding night. Isn’t that still objectifying?! My value was still wrapped up in what I could offer in the bedroom.

Alas, it seemed the only girls I knew that were virgins on their wedding days were getting married straight out of high school. I never had a boyfriend or anyone remotely interested in me during those awkward years, so I was a lost cause. I was the dud. Undesirable and worthless. Or at least that’s what I thought.

Two weeks after high school graduation, I moved out of my parents’ home. When I was 18 I found new friends outside of the strict church bubble I’d grown up in. Those girls took pity on my naiveté and made me their “project.” How cute and archaic of me to still be a virgin. No one did that anymore! They laughed and informed me that no guy in this day and age was going to wait for sex until marriage. That’s just silly and unrealistic! It would be unfair of me to expect a man to contain his sexual desires. So, I learned how to flirt, manipulate and use my sexual prowess (apparently I had some of that) to my advantage.

Guys finally gave attention to me. They scrambled to be around me, pursued me. I was wanted, desired and attractive. And I was completely objectified. Somewhere in my deep subconscious, I was acting on the thing I’d been taught as a toddler: I’m only good for one thing. As a result, I did things I’m not proud of. I made serious mistakes and chose the worst possible partners: abusers, cheaters, womanizers, etc. That’s the kind of man that is attracted to the type of girl I’d become.

Flash forward through all the ugliness and a couple of unhealthy, abusive marriages that produced 2 children. I left my last husband (that’s a whole other story) and realized maybe I’d been putting the cart before the horse. I worked on myself and started to actually lean on God for love, comfort and healing. Initially, the thought of so much as going to dinner with a guy made me physically ill. No way would I ever remarry!! I thought I would be like the Apostle Paul: single and celibate for the rest of my life.

God showed me over time that He loves me for who He created me to be: His child. Not for anything I could do or “put out.” He loves me not because I’ve earned it or performed my way to a lovable level. He loves me simply because He IS love. Slowly and patiently He has worked a miracle in my heart and soul! He has given me a new identity.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says “You are a new creation in Christ. All old things have passed away. Behold the new!” That verse has taken on very real personal meaning for me. The old me and mistakes I made are so far removed from who I am today. I write and share my story with emotionless detachment. Not because my tear ducts are underactive. Hey, it’s a legit medical condition! It’s because I don’t relate to the old me at all! It’s more like I saw this story on Lifetime once, not that I lived it.

Don’t worry, I’m not in denial. In fact, it was working through the Celebrate Recovery 12 Step Program that caused me to search myself and make the connection between my early childhood abuse and my previous poor choices in men.

Isaiah 61:3 is my life story in a nutshell: “To all who mourn in Israel He will give beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for His own glory.” I am not anything like who I was. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. I am not damaged goods. I am a daughter of the Most High King. I am not weak. I am strong. I am not unworthy. I am a jewel to be cherished.

In my past life, I used the analogy in regards to sex and marriage, “I can’t buy a car without test driving it first!” As if the primary purpose for marriage was sex. I had such a warped, sick sense of love, relationship and sex because of the abuse I endured. I truly thought sex comprised 90% of the relationship. The other 10% could be fixed or muddled through as long as things were good in the bedroom. However, with that mentality if the sex became disappointing or lackluster, the relationship could be in trouble. In reality, I think most healthy relationships consist of the exact opposite: sex is 10% and not the main focal point. At least that’s what I hear.

In my early 30’s with two children (which, by the way, are living proof of my non-virginity) I decided to save myself (physically and emotionally) for my future mate. He will be someone who will love me for so many more reasons beyond physical gratification. A man who will love my children as his own. A man who will respect me and not try to bully me into caving to his whim. A man who puts his relationship with God first and will encourage me to do the same. A good man who truly realizes that anything worth having is worth waiting for. And I’m worth it.