Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall


On June 12th, 1987 Ronald Reagan stood behind a podium in front of the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. President Reagan, in referring to the wall that had become known as the symbol of Soviet oppression, said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”. Those words are known as the most famous words of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Twenty-nine months later on November 9th, 1989 East Germany finally opened the Berlin Wall and by the end of that year work began to dismantle it completely. Although there is much debate over the amount of influence President Reagan’s words had on the destruction of the wall, it was an important moment in Cold War history.

During that time period there was an “invisible” wall of mistrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. Secretary Gorbachev had openly expressed his desire to increase freedom among the people living in the Eastern Bloc countries through glasnost meaning “transparency” and perestroika meaning “restructuring”. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall ushered in a change among the political climate of the time which eventually led to the dissolvement of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War by the early 1990’s.

The invisible wall between these two superpowers is very similar to the invisible walls that exist in our own lives – walls created by things that have become a stronghold that keep us imprisoned in the bondage of sin and unforgiveness. Many times these walls of strongholds are built by unforgiveness we have toward someone, by a feeling of rejection or betrayal from broken trust, unhealed wounds caused by hurtful words and actions of others and guilt from our own actions we deem too shameful to ever be forgiven.

Over the years I’ve come to know many women with such great potential to experience freedom, peace, joy, financial breakthrough, and fulfilling, loving relationships with their spouse and families. Many have come so close to seeing the sledgehammer swing to begin demolishing the walls that hold them captive. But each time they get close to demolition day the same lies, doubts and insecurities upon which their walls were built begin to consume them once again and all bets are off. God stands by waiting to shower us with His love, forgiveness and freedom from strongholds but many times our walls are so fortified that even a Navy Seal couldn’t break through them. And every time we turn away from God’s wrecking ball of freedom before our walls are shattered, the walls become even higher, stronger and more fortified.

During the Cold War the relationship between the former Soviet Union and the United States could not move forward until the invisible wall that separated and divided the two was torn down. It was not a physical barrier that kept the US out but a symbol of the guarded, protective and fearful nature of the communist government.

After we have been hurt, rejected or betrayed by someone, it is our nature to react the same way. Much like Mr. Gorbachev, our desire to be transparent and allow others to see what we are really hiding behind and our desire to bring into the light all that we have covered in darkness, must be stronger than our desire to continue to hide behind our walls.

Mr. Gorbachev spoke of being transparent but until his actions backed up his words, the Soviets remained veiled behind deception. We too must take action in order for the process of eliminating the barriers to our freedom in Christ can take place. We must not simply say we are forgiven, we must believe that when Jesus died on the cross and we confessed with our mouths that we believe in Him, then our sins were forgiven. Period. Until you truly believe that, you cannot begin to walk in the victory that freedom in Christ offers. You will remain in a perpetual cycle of discontent marked by an inability to find fulfillment no matter how hard you try. When you try to repair your problems on your own, you will find yourself continually striving to breakthrough what only God is able to tear down. You may come close to breakthrough when you try on your own but you’ll find yourself giving up every time just before it happens. True breakthrough happens when you surrender to Jesus Christ and allow Him to heal the broken places of your heart. You were never meant to do this life on your own. You were created to be in relationship with your Creator.

Are you tired of laying more bricks in an attempt to further fortify the walls around your heart? It’s time for the walls to come down so true and lasting healing can begin to take place. Stop trying to fix everything on your own and stop believing that over time things will get better. The truth is that the innermost hurts and insecurities that hold us captive from the freedom we long for can only be healed by the love and forgiveness found in Christ. Just as President Reagan in 1987 spoke to the oppression against the people of the former Soviet Union, my challenge to you today is to Tear Down This Wall! Your willingness to respond allows for your relationship with God to begin to move forward and for perestroika to take place. Let today mark the start to the restructuring process of your life being built on the foundation of the Rock.

Off the Beaten Path


Recently while on vacation I decided to get some exercise by going on a hike at a nearby state park. I love to hike at home so I figured it would be a great way to get in some exercise while enjoying the local area. When I got to the park I asked the ranger if the trail was shaded. She confirmed that it was because the trail went straight into the forest and there were plenty of trees. She gave me a map and showed me exactly where the first trailhead began off the main bike and walking path. I headed out on the main trail after double checking the map. The trail I intended to take was a little over 2 miles. I knew I’d be done in about an hour so I left my water bottle in the car. And since the ranger told me the trail was shaded I didn’t bother with putting on sunscreen or my hat and left both in the car. I stopped at the big color-coded map at the beginning of the bike and walking trail to make sure one final time that I took a look at where the trail began. I took off thinking “this is gonna be great!” – you can see where this headed but keep reading, it gets better.

I came to the point where the trails began and they were marked just like the ranger had told me they would be. The problem was that they were marked by color, not name. I had memorized the name of the trail I was going to take. But it was ok, I was sure the color was green (wasn’t it?). Green was the first trail off the main path just like the one I wanted to take so it had to be right. So off I headed into the woods. About 10 minutes in it struck me that there was an awful lot of sun beaming down on me. I’m not quite sure what I was thinking but Florida doesn’t really have woods, at least not like woods we have in Tennessee. Their idea of woods is a gathering of tall, stick pine trees with little tuffs of greenery on top. Yes, there were various points of shade along the path where a really big pine tree offered a sprinkling of shade but for the most part my very pale, unsuncreened self was walking directly under the intense Florida sun. “That’s no big deal” I thought, it’s only going to take about an hour so I should be fine.

I started to notice some of the wildlife in the area as I passed a small pond filled with water lillies. There were many birds gathering there and it was a really beautiful spot. I kept walking on the my green path and felt confident it was the right one each time I came across a tree with a mark of green paint on it that assured me I was still on the green trail. I reached a point where I had to choose to go right or left. Both were marked with a sign showing a green arrow pointing in each direction. I was a little confused because I didn’t remember there being a fork in the path I had chosen. It was just a big circle that would have brought me right back where I started. Oh well, I was sure it was the right trail so I picked a direction and kept trekking along.

As I kept on walking…and walking…and walking I began to check my clock. I was 45 minutes into the hike and it was really, really hot. I thought “I sure could use some water about now” but figured that it was only about 15 minutes until I finished my hike and was safely back to the car so I would be fine. I kept on going still feeling confident by those trees marked with a green stripe. I continued on for what seemed quite awhile only now I wasn’t thinking about how lovely the sunny, Florida forest was. I began to think things like “wow, I haven’t seen another soul on this trail. Am I the only one out here?” and “I wonder if the ranger took mental note of me and knows that I haven’t returned yet” and “what did Bear Grylls say to eat if you ever get lost in the woods?” I stopped under a little piece of shade to check the time. I was now an hour and twenty minutes into the hike. “Ok, surely I’m almost to the end” I thought. I surmised that the information was wrong and the trail was longer than 2 miles. So I kept walking.

I looked ahead thinking that the parking lot would be in site as soon as I rounded the approaching corner. But suprisingly it was not the parking lot I came upon. It was a huge lake. I could see that the path went all the way around the lake, the really big lake. I felt a little twinge of panic come over me. I found a tiny piece of shade and sat down to take a look at the state park website from my phone. Surely they had a map on the website so I could see where I was and quickly get back on track. Nope, no map. So I searched other sites, blogs, topical maps, wikipedia, anything that might have a map. Nothing. I checked the time again. I was now 1 hour and 45 minutes into my hike. I started wondering “why in the world has my family not called, texted, sent out a rescue team or something?” Don’t they know I should’ve been back by now!?”

Finally I came across a blog from an avid hiker who described in detail each trail at this state park down to the most minute description like “the trail turns left by a bush that’s 2 feet tall next to 3 pine trees on your right”. I read the entire thing before it hit me – I took the wrong trail! I was supposed to follow the blue trail, not the green. I read in detail how to get out of the mess I was in until I noticed that she wrote the blog 4 years ago. Who knows that could’ve changed since then? I sat there completely miserable, hot, thirsty and wondering “do I go the entire way around this huge lake which will take me back to my car after a 9.8 mile trek or do I go back the way I came after I’ve already walked close to 4 miles?” I decided the only sure way to get back to where I started was to go back exactly the way I came. So, there I was. Lost, hot, thirsty, a little worried and a lot frustrated. I got up, made an about-face and headed back the way I had came. About an hour and 45 minutes later I arrived back at my car. I sat there for another 20 minutes drinking every drop from the now hot water bottle I had brought with me as I tried to cool down. I looked over at the map, sunscreen and hat sitting in the passenger seat and thought about the lessons I’ve learned, as a Christian, through my mistakes. Here’s a few I want to share:

  • In your walk with Christ be prepared for anything. You cannot assume that just because life has been good and you’ve never faced any major difficulties that it won’t happen to you. Take everything with you along the way – your bible, prayer and friends who will hold you accountable. You never know when you may need them.
  • Know what you’re getting into when you choose to follow Christ. Make sure you’re always headed in the right direction as you follow Him.
  • Stay on the path no matter what. And if for some reason you get off the path, figure out how you got to where you are, where you made a wrong turn and make sure you never do it again.
  • Even when things get challenging in your walk and you face difficult circumstances always take time to notice the good things along the way. There are always positive things to give thanks for even in the middle of the negatives.
  • Know that things are always what they seem. You may think you’re out of the woods but you may not be. Don’t get too self assured. About the time you start to think “I got this” is the time you realize you don’t.
  • No two situations are the same so what worked for someone else may not work for you.
  • You’re not helpless and neither is your situation so don’t even let those thoughts enter into your mind.
  • Don’t expect others to come to your rescue. It may be just you out there so don’t rely on others to save you. God is the only one you should be relying on.
  • Don’t go so far into it that you think it’s too late to turn around. It’s never, ever to late to go back to where you started.
  • When you do go back, go back EXACTLY the way you came. Don’t try to look for a short cut but follow the path you took as you return to what you know is assured.
  • Pay attention to the inner feeling that you may be headed in the wrong direction. Stop and evaluate the situation instead of just pridefully plowing ahead assuming that you cannot make a mistake.
  • When you get back on track stop and give thanks that you’re headed back in the right direction.
  • Search for the lesson in your mistakes, seek forgiveness for the choices you made that took you off the right path and then forge ahead toward the end goal with renewed strength.
  • And next time, stick to a nice walk on the beach.

It’s Complicated


There is a relationship status option on Facebook that says “It’s Complicated”. Whenever someone changes their relationship from “married”, “engaged” or “in a relationship” to the dreaded “it’s complicated” it tells me, in most cases, one thing – that a fight has occured and neither wants to be the first to apologize. There’s even a song from the 1980’s called “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”. Why is it that those two little words can sometimes be the most difficult to utter? Often our apologies come in the form of a written note or card because for some reason we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to look the person in the eye and say “I’m sorry.” Why is that?

There have been many sermons, studies and books all exalting the freeing power behind forgiveness. We are told that unforgiveness will hold us in bondage – that it’s like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die. It’s a ball and chain that we drag around and will never be free from until we forgive those who cause us pain. It’s like a deadly virus that consumes us from the inside. There is no doubt about it – unforgiveness is toxic and it is vital for us to forgive others so healing can begin to take place and the bitterness and resentment we harbor can be removed from our lives. Sometimes the person you need to forgive may never apologize or the situation may not be one in which an apology is an option. However, that is not an excuse to not forgive the person.

But today I want to focus on the other side of the situation. What about when you are the one who needs to seek forgiveness instead of being the one to give forgiveness? When the circumstance allows for it and you are the one who needs to be forgiven then it is up to you to initiate the process. Because in many situations, long before the forgiveness can take place, there is a need for an apology.

Did you know that the recent devastating fires in Colorado were most likely started by one small spark caused by a single lightening strike? One spark that caused 2 deaths, the destruction of 300 homes, and the evacuation of 35,000 residents and fueled the worst wildfires in the state’s history.

On Sunday, June 18, 1972 an obscure headline at the bottom of page 1 of The Washington Post would most likely have become irrelevant history had it not caught the eye of two young reporters who decided to dig deeper. Their curiosity and subsequent findings launched the investigation that would later be dubbed Watergate. One small story that ultimately changed American politics forever and resulted in the first resignation of a US President.

The social network Facebook was created in a dorm room on the campus of Harvard by four young college students who created a website to compare two people’s pictures side by side to determine “who’s hot and who’s not.” This seemingly useless game created for Harvard students has now become the world’s largest social network site with over 600 million users worldwide. One small, creative idea that led to the creation of a media giant that has influenced an entire generation.

And just like these examples, two small words, I’m sorry, can be the spark that ignites the process in which forgiveness and healing begins to take place. While it is true that there is power in forgiveness, I believe there is also power in apologizing. I am constantly dumbfounded by the number of people unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and to admit when they are wrong by apologizing. There are numerous reasons for this which I shared in a recent blog called “He Did It!……No, He Did It!” But my point is that when you are willing to humbly say the words “I’m sorry” you have the ability to set in motion a chain of events that can have the power to bring healing, restore relationships and bring closure to unresolved conflict.

Often I hear the question “who do you need to forgive in order to break free from the bondage of unforgiveness?” Today my question to you is “who in your life needs to receive an apology from you?” Don’t let two little words stand between you and a relationship that needs restoring. And don’t let your pride keep you from being the one to take the first step forward and say “I’m sorry”. Today is the day to uncomplicate things and let the healing begin. It’s just two little words – how complicated can it be?

Why Me?


I’m having a pity party today and you’re all invited to join me. I’ve been kinda sad the last couple of days and really feeling sorry for myself. I want so badly to do the right things but just can’t seem to avoid failing on a regular basis.

I think it all started the other night when I had eaten pretty good throughout the day but then when it came dinner time I enthusiastically said “let’s order pizza!”. I started thinking about all the times my mind thinks one way but then my flesh heads off in a completely different direction like “why do I say I want to eat healthier but just suggested we order pizza knowing full well that I will eat my fair share and feel guilty afterwards?”

Why do I head out the door to go to CrossFit then wimp out and go on an easy hike at a nearby park instead? Why do I say I want to read the bible more and spend more time with God but then sit down and watch a TV show that makes me feel dumber for having done so? Why do I spend way too much time checking social media sites or reading blogs when I should be spending time with my children who are growing up right before my eyes? Why do I vow to have more grace and patience with my grandmother who lives with us yet still get so frustrated when she asks me the same question for the fifth time? Why do I commit to being less selfish but find myself constantly thinking ‘what about me’? Why do I plan to cut down on spending but then give in so easily to temptation when I see a cute purse or a great pair of shoes?

I ended my negative rant with comparing myself to “better” Christians (big mistake) and thinking “Why me?!”

“Why can’t I get it together? Why do I have to keep struggling with the same stuff over and over? What’s wrong with me!?”

It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit whispered to me “you have the right question but the wrong perspective.”

I started to think about what that meant. I was hiking at the time at the park (after chickening out of CrossFit yet again) and was just emerging from the woods to the area where the path takes you around a lake. I looked up and saw a group of ducks all moving across the lake in a single file line. I stopped and just stared in wonder at the beauty and amazement of God’s creation. My thought in that moment was “why me?”.

Why God, when I’m in the midst of my pathetic whining, You allow me to see how You designed Your creation so perfectly and purposefully? Why do You allow me to feel how much You love me in the very moment that I’m complaining about how terrible I think I’ve got it? Why do You reveal Yourself to me at a time when I least deserve it?

Why do I have a husband who loves me and is committed to our marriage when others are dealing with infidelity, addiction and abuse? Why do I get to be the mother to two amazing young men while I have friends who have children in and out of rehab or worse, jail? Why I am blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom when I know many single moms who have to work more than one job to just get by? Why am I in such good health yet have friends who have to go for cancer treatments every week?

Why am I able to freely worship You and study Your word while just this week Christians were killed during their Sunday morning worship service in Kenya? Why do you allow me the privilege of ministering to young, military wives when I feel so unworthy? Why am I so blessed?

With tears streaming down my face, again I asked “Why God? Why me?” And again the Holy Spirit whispered to me saying “because there is nothing you can do to deserve my blessings. I bless you because I love you. And even though you mess up every day, I know you love Me with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And even when you make wrong choices, I know you want more than anything to be in the center of My will for your life.”

I don’t know why my life is so blessed when there are so many who are suffering, lonely and hopeless. There are so many things in this world that doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair. I will never understand much of what occurs this side of heaven.

What I do know is that we live in a sin-filled world where there are many horrible things that happen. I also know that while God is in control and He does allow these things to happen, He does not cause them to happen nor is it His desire for there to be so much suffering and pain.

I also know that it’s all temporary. The bad that happens in our world will come to an end some day. God will restore things to the way He planned for them to be from the beginning before sin entered into His creation. And I do know that what the enemy intended for harm, “God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).

I know that even though I fail every day, God’s love for me is unfailing. I know that when I think I’ve got it bad, all I have to do is look around to see how very blessed I am and that there are others who need my prayers and encouragement. I know that when I’m in the middle of a pity party that God loves me too much to let me stay there for long.

I know if you are onboard the pity train right now God wants you to change your perspective so you can see how very much He loves you and He wants to bless you with an abundance of His peace, joy, healing and freedom. He wants you to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to seek His will for you life, not your own. I know He wants to return to you what the enemy has tried to take. I know that like me, you have so much to be thankful for if you’ll just look around.

I know God longs to spend time with you and is always by your side even when you feel all alone. I know that God says to cast your cares upon Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matt. 11:30). I know that while we will always have to fight our sinful nature and sometimes I feel like I’m losing the battle, the bible says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I can live victorious in Christ because the battle was won when He overcame death on the cross.

I know it’s time to quit focusing on how bad you’ve got it and start focusing on the One whose love for you is immeasureable and unconditional. It’s time to claim victory over the sin you struggle with in the name of Jesus. And I know it’s time for the pity party to be over, don’t you agree?

A Change of Fate


In Disney’s latest animated blockbuster, “Brave”, the movie’s heroine Merida is described as “impetuous” and “determined to carve her own path in life.” She defies her parents and the custom of her day in order to determine her future’s course. Because it had been promoted relentlessly, my whole family could quote lines from the movie before it was ever released. And my son has a knack for imitating other people’s voices and accents so every time the movie trailer comes on TV, Scott says in a thick Scottish accent, “If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya?” I’m laughing now as I write this because I just had him come say it for me and it cracks me up every time.

There was a time in my life when I was very much like Merida. I was free-spirited, independant and believed I was in control of my destiny. And just as the impulsive red-headed Merida, I would make rash decisions based on my emotions. Although I believed I was in charge of my destiny, I spent little time considering the consequences that the choices I was making would have on that destiny. And many times, just like Merida, my hasty, emotional decisions unleashed chaos in my life.

Today the idea of trusting in myself and attempting to control my own fate is something I want no part of. The old “been there, done that” comes to mind and believe me, where I was going and what I was doing was was not working. Back then, the way I figured it, the outcome of my life was inevitable and I didn’t hold much hope that is would be a favorable one. But I thought that I, alone, could change that fate – I honestly believed I had the power to change the course of my life. But what I didn’t know then was that as long as I continued to live in sin, the course my life was taking would never change and I lacked the ability to change it no matter how hard I tried.

The other problem with thinking I had the power to change fate was that I didn’t take into account my impulsive nature and my emotions that always got in the way. So even though I tried hard, things seemed to be headed toward the fate I thought I had the ability to alter. I had put all my trust in myself to overcome the hand that I had been dealt. But after several poor choices and their negative consequences, I began to believe that I really didn’t have any control over my fate and my life was spiraling toward the end result I had once believed I had the power to change.

It was fifteen years ago when I reached my rock bottom and I decided it was time to quit trying to run my own life. I had messed it up to the point that I had almost lost my marriage, I was in debt, and I had no hope for the future. It was in those darkest moments I realized that I really was in control of my fate – only it was definitely not in the way that I had imagined. I finally understood that in my attempt to control and thus change the course of my life, I was actually steering it in the exact direction I wanted to avoid. And I can now see that if I had continued, my life would have turned out just like I had come to expect it to. But thankfully God had a different plan for my life. He had created me with a destiny and a hope. But until I surrendered control to Him and sought His will for my life instead of my own, I would never reach the pre-ordained, perfect destiny He created me for.

What I learned in that difficult and challenging season of my life was that my fate was still dependant upon my choices. But at that point, I made a choice that would put my destiny in God’s hands, not my own. My future would no longer be dependant upon a predetermined outcome influenced by my choices, my circumstances, my family history, or what someone else negatively spoke over my life. It would be based on my faith and trusting in God’s promises for my life. In the spring of 1998 I chose to surrendered my life to Christ and began to put my trust and my faith in Him to determine the course of my life.

Fate implies an inevitable, usually unfavorable outcome. I learned the hard way that when you believe in fate you are saying that your life course cannot be changed and there is no hope to overcome your wrong choices, your mistakes or your misfortunes. The course has been set and you’re living each day moving toward an unavoidable conclusion. You may believe you can change your fate but as young Merida and I both discovered, taking your fate into your own hands only produces chaos. While there are those who are able to temporarily alter their fate by the choices they make, they will never be able to change the final outcome when they choose to live in sin. The bible says the wages of sin is death. If we choose sin over God our fate will always be eternal death (Romans 6:23). Our fate is ultimately determined by our unwillingness to surrender control of our lives. But God alone determines our destiny.

But when you live by faith, you are not affected by circumstances, past mistakes and wrong decisions. Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not based on our negative thoughts or how things appear to be going in our lives. Faith means we are trusting that God is in control even we we cannot see the evidence of it. And when your faith is in Him you have hope in a destiny He predetermined for you, one that will have a great and noble end.

If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya? Your answer should be a resounding YES! The first step is coming to the realization that you are not in control, God is, and that you are in desperate need for Him to be both Lord and Savior of your life. And while He does give us free will to make our own choices for our lives, our choices will never lead us to the destiny we were created for. We will simply become overwhelmed and frustrated as we hurdle toward a fate we were never intended to encounter. The next step is to surrender your life to Christ and to put your faith and your trust in the One who determined your destiny long before He ever created you. No outcome you can imagine in your wildest dreams will ever compare to His good and perfect will for your life. So break free from the burden of trying to determine your own fate and let God lead you into your destiny – your life will never be the same!

Why Commitments Don’t Cut It Anymore


The word commitment is so overrated today. I hear it and I cringe. It’s overused to the point that it no longer holds any value. Think about it. Our President is committed to fixing the economy but the economic outlook is worse than it was when he first made that commitment 4 years ago. Brad Pitt is committed to Angelina Jolie yet 7 years and 6 kids later we barely have a ring and no date is set according to the committed couple. Others are committed to ending the war that has no end in site or fighting obesity as they introduce bacon sundaes as their new summer treat and others offer up single portions that could feed a family of four. How many of us have committed to weight loss as we head out to the movie and eat a 5 gallon bucket of buttered popcorn and wash it down with a 200 ounce soda? Is anybody really committed to anything these days?

Today so many people are too quick to give up. They start a new excercise plan in January and by March they’re done. They quit their jobs before they find another one and then don’t have the money to pay the bills. They quit school, sports, clubs and organizations that they were once eager to begin. They try going to church when things aren’t going right in their lives and then quit going when God doesn’t change things fast enough for them. They quit their marriages when things get a little tough and their spouse doesn’t do everything exactly like they want them to.

Committment means that a loyalty and dedication exists through an emotional obligation to someone or something, it is being bound to something or someone emotionally. The problem is that our emotions change and when they do we think it must mean it’s time to end our commitment. We view commitments as something that is non-binding and holds little weight, especially when it comes to relationships. Divorce has become far too common an option among troubled marriages. In many cases one party wants to fight for the marriage and to seek help through counseling to work out the problems. But the other party simply wants out. The collateral damage can be far reaching and long term.

What is needed in marriages today is not for the couples to be more committed to their relationship. What is really needed is for couples to understand fully what they entered into when they said “I do”. Marriage is much more than a commitment – it is a covenant between two people. By definition a covenant is a promise or pledge between two parties to do something specific. It is binding and it is guaranteed. When two people stand before God and recite their marriage vows they are entering into a covenant relationship that is not intended to be broken.

I recently read this quote and thought it speaks to the seriousness of the covenant between a husband and wife. “Jesus had VERY strict standards for marriage. Why? Because marriage represents the covenant relationship between Himself and His church. The husband is meant to be a picture of Christ, His leadership and His sacrificial love for His bride. The wife is meant to be a picture of the church, responding in reverence and adoration to her Groom – following Him with total faith, joy and abandon.” – Peacefulwife’s Blog (www.peacefulwife.com)

If we, as Christians, are to model Christ-like behavior to others, it must begin in our marriages. When we have strong, healthy marriages, not perfect marriages but marriages that fight through the tough times, we become an inspiration to a lost and hurting world. Married couples are like two canoes in a river. Unless you paddle toward one another the current will cause you to drift apart. You must purposely paddle toward each other in order to stay together. How do we do that? We must honor the covenant we made before God and not be so quick to throw in the towel. In humility we must seek help when things begin to unravel. We need to have Godly counsel in our lives to hold us accountable to our vows. We need to stop thinking that it’s all about me and what I want and seek to better understand our spouse and what their needs are. We need to make sure our priorities are right and that God and our spouse come before ourselves. We need to purposely work on our marriages no matter how long we’ve been married by having date nights, communicating with our spouse when things are going well instead of just shutting down, and attending conferences and seminars on how to have a better marriage. We need to pray with and for each other. It takes work but it’s worth every bit of effort you put into it. God designed it that way.

God created marriage to be a blessing and many people act like it’s a curse on their lives. They think that the way they felt when they first fell in love is supposed to last forever and when life sets in and the honeymoon is over then they decide to bail because it’s just too hard and the feelings aren’t there anymore. The enemy wants nothing more than to destroy marriages because he knows that an attack on marriages is a single shot that has many casualities. He begins with causing cracks in the foundation through unrealistic expectations, unforgiveness, mistrust, and insecurities.

If your marriage has cracks in the foundations instead of giving up it’s time to start filling in the cracks and then building on the foundation to ensure your marriage will last. Your marriage is a covenant relationship, a binding promise made before God. It is not a frivolous commitment that can be broken on a whim of emotional disatisfaction. Begin with repenting to God for your sinful attitudes and actions that have been damaging to your marriage. Then seek Godly counsel to begin to restore and repair the cracks in your foundation. Pray to God to bring restoration to what the enemy has try to ruin and then release your marriage to Him. It’s not up to you to fix it. It is up to you to put your faith in God and to trust in His promises. Don’t just recommit to your marriage, make the decision to honor the covenant you entered into with your spouse. God is faithful in his covenant promises, the least we can do to honor Him is to be faithful in ours.

Is It Really Worth It?


The funny thing about knowing that your child will be heading off to college in a few short months is that there is a sense of urgency that overtakes you to wrap up every loose end that you’ve put off until now. The wisdom teeth that should’ve been taken care of a year ago, the allergy shots that should have been started 2 years ago and sorting through clothes to donate to Goodwill have all suddenly made their way to the top of the “To Do” list. I am the quintessential procrastinator and I am sorely paying for it right now as we madly dash around town to various doctor and dentist appointments.

One of our first stops was a follow up visit to our favorite allergy doctor. We talked about symptoms and specifically we discussed nightime congestion and the use of over-the-counter medication for relief. The doctor explained how the medications work and what the trade-off is when you use them. He said “you can get almost immediate relief and breathe freely through the night but I must warn you that 12 hours later you will be more congested than before you ever used the medicine in the first place. It’s up to you to determine if it’s really worth it.” Wow, isn’t the temptation to sin exactly like that?

Every day we are faced with temptations, some carrying much more potential for damage than others. It’s one thing for me to be tempted to eat ice cream and to give in to that temptation but it’s quite another when you are tempted to commit adultery, have a drink after having been sober for an extended time or to choose to do something unethical at your workplace that could cost you your job. But we must understand that there is no harmless, little sin. All sin is devestating to our souls and leads to death. However, sometimes we are overcome by our desires and we find justification to give in to sin knowing that there will be instant gratification in doing so. But what we many times fail to consider is that the consequences that come later will cause us to be in a far worse condition than before we made the choice to sin in the first place. Even if we are already knee deep in sin it will never be worth it to choose to sin more. And long after the false sense of fulfillment that comes immediately after choosing to sin has passed, we are left with a feeling of emptiness along with the mounting damage sin causes and the weight of guilt. Most of the time we cannot foresee or possibly imagine the ultimate destructive results of our momentary choices. But in that moment we find justifications to make the wrong decision, even in the times when we have some sense of what the outcome will be. In our minds we determine it will be worth it and we choose the trade-off.

But is it ever really worth it? You may think it is at the time. I may enjoy a piece of cheesecake and think “I can work out later and burn (some of) those calories so it was totally worth it”. But the problem with that way of thinking is that I fail to account for the long term damage a little bit of indulgence in the moment can cause. Over time my giving into the cheesecake every once in awhile becomes more frequent and thus harder to overcome. It’s the same with sin. We think just a little indulgence here and there won’t hurt but over time the damage builds, our ability to resist decreases, our justification turns to entitlement and our desire to seek forgiveness fades. Each time we choose to sin instead of choosing to turn away from sin, we are placing a new brick in the wall that we are slowly building up around ourselves – a wall that keeps God and those who want to help us out. The higher we build the wall, the harder it is to tear down.

So what do we do to keep that wall from being built? We must resist sin in the first place. And how do we resist sin? We spend time daily in the presence of God. The enemy is an expert at deception and he wants nothing more than for us to fall into his traps and make sin the lord of our lives instead of Jesus. But Jesus died for our sins so that we can be set free from the bondage that takes places when sin controls our lives. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we no longer have to be bound by sin. The more we spend time in the presence of God by talking with Him through prayer, worshipping Him through music, serving others and giving, and by building our faith through reading His word, the less likely we will be to fall into the traps laid by the enemy. There is nothing wrong with building a wall in your life as long as you are building a wall of protection from temptation laid with a firm foundation of discipleship instead of building a fortress that isolates you from the righteousness of God.

The choice is yours to make. Do you want a fortress built on the long term consequences resulting from the short term false sense of satisfaction that sin produces? Or do you want to build life long protection against the destruction sin causes so that you may have lasting peace and joy? As our allergy doctor said – the choice is yours but I must warn you, if you choose to sin in the moment, you will be in a far worse condition later than you were before you chose to sin in the first place. It’s better to begin now to seek God for the healing you need in your current condition than to continue to build the fortress that will only make it more difficult later. Make sure whatever you choose, that you consider if it’s really worth it. Jesus did when He decided you were worth dying for on the cross. He could have made the choice for instant relief but He knew if He did then things would only be worse later. He resisted the temptation of the moment and chose to suffer knowing the long term consequences of His short term discomfort, even the excruciating discomfort He suffered, would result in victory over sin for all who seek forgiveness and believe in Him. There has never been a choice more worth it than His choice on the cross. Remember that the next time you are faced with the choice to sin, and then think about the moment Jesus decided you were really worth it.

The Man in the Mirror


I’ve always really liked the Michael Jackson song “Man in the Mirror”. I guess you could say it is my theme song for my oldest son, Ryan. We have spent many summer evenings driving in the car with the sunroof open, windows down and wind blowing as we sang along to the classic by the King of Pop. It’s one of our favorites so whenever it comes on the radio I think of Ryan and smile. He and I went to South Africa on our first mission trip together when he was just 12 years old. It was a great trip and we met many amazing people. He experienced something extraordinary that had a great impact on his young life. But it was two years ago when we returned to Africa that changed him in a way I could never have imagined. We went to Kenya, again as members of a mission team, to minister to children living at an orphanage near Nairobi. We also visited Kibera, one of the world’s largest slums where we spent time with children who lived there. Afterwards we took a walking tour through Kibera and witnessed the most deplorable and shocking living conditions anyone could imagine. Ryan captured the experience on film and the images are some of the most disturbing yet oddly beautiful pictures he’s ever taken.

Tomorrow Ryan will graduate from high school. While he has been an exceptional student and has made many friends in school, he is not your typical teenager. It was the final day in Kenya and we returned to the orphanage to say goodbye to the children we had spent the prior week with when we held a vacation bible school for them. We knew it would be difficult saying goodbye because we had grown so close to them in such a short time and many of them were very attached to certain members of the team. There was one little girl in particular who had not left Ryan’s side the entire week. Her name was Grace. It was obvious that Grace was not as strong as the other kids and we assumed it was due to some health problems. But when we went back to say goodbye we were told exactly what was wrong with her. Grace had a severe heart condition and was not expected to live much longer. Ryan was devastated. In a short time he had come to love this little girl and was saddened to know that her life would be so short-lived. In the moments he took to say his goodbye to Grace, I stood nearby and saw my 16 year old son become a man. I watched him hug this small child, place his hand upon her head as he prayed for her, then shed tears as she gave him the only thing of value she owned – a black and white bracelet made of string. In an instance my son went from a privileged boy living in a country blessed with an abundance of wealth, to a young man who would never receive anything more valuable than the gift from a small child in one of the most impoverished areas in the world. His life would never be the same. In an instance he understood what truly mattered in life.

This morning as I stood behind my son as he did a final check of himself in the mirror before heading off to graduation practice, I saw the man in the mirror who God created to make a change in this world. A man who dares to boldly follow Jesus in a world that tempts him and pulls him from every dark corner. A man who has chosen to listen to His Father in heaven instead of the thousands of negative influences he has faced over the years. A man who many said “you just wait until he becomes a teenager” assuming that like many his age, he would end up compromising his faith yet has remained faithful and steadfast in his walk with Christ. A man whose gift of compassion has drawn the hopeless to him for encouragement and hope, and made him a true friend to friendless. A man whose commitment to his church and pastors has made him a reliable and dedicated servant and  leader. A man who has lead by example to those who have looked up to him. A man who has been a light in the darkness of all that surrounds our children today. A man who has been asked many times “why are you always so happy?” because he is filled with the joy of the Lord. A man who makes a positive difference in the lives of those around him. A man who has been the most protective and loving brother anyone could hope for. A man who has been an incredible son and makes us feel honored to be his parents. A man who will some day make an amazing husband and father. A man whose future is filled with endless possibility and whose life God has destined for greatness. A man who will make the world a better place.

Thank you God for the privilege of being Ryan’s mother. Thank you for your grace and protection over his life. Thank you to our friends and family who have covered him with their prayers over the years. Thank you to all those who have influenced his life by being an example of what it means to be a passionate follower of Christ. Thank you to the Godly men who have demonstrated to him how to honor God with his life. Thank you to his pastors and leaders who have led him to become the man of God he is today.

We are blessed with amazing people in our lives that we know love our children and have stood with us in prayer for them. There is no greater gift as a parent than knowing your child knows and loves Jesus. But the second greatest gift is having friends who know and love Jesus and love your child as their own. It takes us as parents laying spiritual foundations, an abundance of God’s grace and a loving spiritual family to do this parenting thing right and we are blessed to have all three. Thank you to all who have played a part in raising our Ryan. We can say with great confidence “Mission Accomplished”.

All You’re Ever Gonna Be Is Mean


When I think of mean, I think of the Grinch (among others).  And I’m sure if I were to take a poll most people would say there is someone in their life, whether it be a family member, a boss, a co-worker or a neighbor who they think will never change and will always be a mean person no matter what. Taylor Swift even wrote a song describing her mean person as “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me. You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing. All you’re ever gonna be is mean. Why you gotta be so mean?” Unfortunately there are those who may be in your life who will never change. You may pray for them and try everything you can think of to win them over with kindness but they are unwilling or unable to change. As a Christian, does there ever come a time when you should walk away from a key relationship in your life or are we expected to just keep forgiving and praying no matter how bad it gets?

This is undoubtedly a difficult situation with no real easy answer. But I do believe there are certain circumstances that calls for us to step away from unhealthy relationships and before restoration of that relationship can take place, there must be defined boundaries in place. I have experienced this in my own family where a particular situation became so unhealthy and the person’s behavior so over the line, that the only solution was to completely cut off any and all contact with the individual. This was an extremely difficult decision because as Christians we are called to forgive and to walk in grace. But we are not called to be emotionally abused, controlled or manipulated by others. There are times when enough is enough.

Sometimes no matter how much you forgive, how much you pray, how much you encourage, how much you share your faith and God’s power to transform lives – some people just aren’t going to change and that’s hard to accept, especially when you believe in the God of miracles who can change anything or anybody. But the person has to be a willing participant for God to change them and that is not always the case. And when this happens, we need to guard our own hearts and protect our own emotions and remove, at least for a time, toxic relationships from our lives. In most cases it doesn’t have to be forever because it may be the very thing that makes the person realize they cannot continue their behavior without consequences so they may be motivated to change.

But unfortunately, I can’t promise you that the person you have to walk away from will ever change. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. And I can’t give you scripture that specifically says it’s ok to walk away instead of continuing to forgive no matter how mean they are. I can show you scripture where one of the disciples asked Jesus how many times they were to forgive others who continued to sin against them and Jesus answered seventy times seven, basically meaning as many as it takes. (Matt. 18:21-22). I can show you scripture where Jesus told his disciples that if they did not forgive those who sinned against them then their Father in heaven would not forgive them (Matt. 6:15). Jesus even told them “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also” (Luke 6:29). So, is there ever justification to remove friends or family from your life when they treat you badly? There is an instance where Jesus was sending His disciples out to share the gospel and He told them “if anyone does not welcome you, shake the dust from your feet (Matt. 10:14). There are those people who are determined to not follow Christ, but instead they choose to continue in a perpetual cycle of sin. I believe when we encounter these people in our lives, God is saying to us that it may be necessary to move on when they are unwilling to listen because they are imprisoned to their sin.

When people are held hostage by sin, many times they take it out on others. It doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong to deserve to be the target of their harsh words and actions. It simply means that they will lash out at anyone whose life reveals the darkness that is present in their own life. I don’t believe that God intends for us to be a target of people’s anger and outbursts simply because they are miserable in their own lives. I don’t believe He expects us to continue in familial relationships that are poisonous to our lives and our children’s lives. I do believe we are expected to forgive but I don’t believe that forgiving always means allowing others to mistreat you. There are examples in the bible where Jesus did have a righteous and justified anger toward the behavior of others (Matt. 21:12, Matt. 23). But in His anger He never sinned. If you are in a situation where you have a family member or close friend who continually crosses the line of respectful and acceptable behavior toward you and you have forgiven or overlooked the behavior to the point that you have decided the relationship has crossed over into an unhealthly situation, it may be time to disengage from regular contact with them. In my particular situation, after much prayer it was decided that we could not continue having contact with someone that was clearly in need of help. Years of unresolved anger, rejection, bitterness and unforgiveness had left her depressed and feeling out of control. Her response was to attempt to control and manipulate those closest to her. The ensuing result took its toll on our family and brought strife into our home. After forgiving and attempting everything we could think of to bring about a change in the relational dynamic, the line was crossed and the relationship had to be severed.

We had no set time period in mind for how long this would last but we entered into that decision knowing our intention was a temporary severance of contact. We began to pray for God’s wisdom and guidance to show us when the door could be opened to begin restoration. That time was a week ago and we reached out to make the first step toward reconciliation. But before the door was opened we sat down and discussed boundaries. We knew we could never go back to the way things were. If there was going to be reconciliation it was going to have to occur within healthy, well-defined boundaries. After years of dealing with this relationship we knew what the problem was. After years of following Jesus and studying His words we could recognize the symptoms that caused our family member to act the way she did. But just because we had identified the problem and the reason behind it didn’t mean the problem was fixed. We now have to begin the process of healing years of verbal attacks, manipulation of emotions and attempts at controlling that created mistrust and distance. I can’t promise the outcome will be favorable, that is up to her. I do know Jesus loves her and desires desperately for her to relinquish control of her life into His healing and comforting arms. He is the peace she so desperately seeks and our hope is that this time around our lives may reveal Him in a way she’s never seen before. Time will tell but for now we have hope that all she’s ever gonna be in the future is redeemed, forgiven, loved and restored into right standing with God.

A Few Too Many Hats


The Kentucky Derby is known in the sports world as “the fastest two minutes in sports”.  Many also call it “The Run for the Roses” after the blanket of roses that is draped over the winning horse. But when I think of the Kentucky Derby I think HATS! Not just any old hats but elaborately adorned, lavishly ornate, ridiculously large, extravagantly outlandish, over-the-top hats. Many women go so far as to have a hat specifically designed for them to ensure their hat will be a one of a kind. Some day I would love to attend the Derby and wear an incredibly large hat just for fun.

Most women I know have many hats – the mommy hat, the wife hat, the friend hat, the volunteer hat, the employee hat, the sister hat, the caretaker hat, the daughter hat, the student hat and the leader hat. They may have one of these hats, all of them, or some combination of hats they wear in their every day lives. Each day we don our many hats in our attempt to be everything to everybody. We place unobtainable expectations on ourselves that we have to juggle all the roles the hats represent and there is no room for mistakes or weakness. The entire juggling act leaves us feeling overwhelmed and on the inside we’re screaming “I can’t take it anymore!!”. But some how most of the time we end up managing the vast array of hats we’ve accumulated and by the grace of God we pull it together just prior to a meltdown, check the mirror to make sure we’re sporting the right hat at the right time, then go about our day as if we’ve never missed a beat.

There are times though that we cannot seem to keep it together. The hat juggling act is just too much and we drop the ball in one area or another.  So many women today live with the burden of feeling as if they’ve failed when they can’t seem to manage it all. For many this leads to depression, exhaustion, insecurity, stress, addiction and other unhealthy coping mechanisms such as overeating. The pressure for women to do it all is astounding and the truth is you can do it all – but in doing so something is going to suffer. There will be some area of your life that will pay the price for your attempt to do it all and be it all. Most of that time that area is the one that we give the least attention to – ourselves.

I spent many years working in Corporate America trying to balance a stressful job with being a wife, mom, volunteer, daughter and friend. The toll it took on my children, my marriage and myself was never worth the tradeoff of a big paycheck, big house and big vacations. I was a people pleaser who never said no until I found myself spiraling out of control. I reached an explosive point in my life where I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying to do it all on my own and it just wasn’t working. It was during that time that out of His incredible love for me, God pursued me until I relented. I gave my life to Christ and surrendered it all to Him. I quit trying to run my life and made the decision once and for all to hand it over to God. An inexplicable amount of weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt a peace I had never felt before. I felt like a high school graduate tossing all my hats into the air. I learned during that season of my life that when God says His yoke is easy and His burden is light, He isn’t kidding (Matt. 11:30). We are not meant to do it all on our own. God stands at the door knocking with the solution to the craziness of our lives. All we have to do is open the door.

The more I put God first in my life the easier I found it to juggle all the hats I still had in my closet. My roles didn’t change but my ability to manage them with peace and joy did. There were and still are many stressful moments trying to keep it all going at once but what I learned over time is that God will give me the grace to wear any and all hats He has given to me to wear. Where I run into trouble is when I try wearing hats that were never intended for me in the first place. When I begin to get that sense of being overwhelmed and things are beginning to spin a little too out of control I have to check the mirror and see what hat I’m wearing and if it belongs to me.

Sometimes I find myself in a hat that looks good on but it just doesn’t feel right. This is when I’ve said yes to something that I didn’t take the time to pray about first. It may be a good thing but sometimes we have to say no to good things simply because it would be too much for us or it’s not the right time. Usually when I’m wearing this hat it means I fell back into people pleasing mode and eagerly raised my hand when asked if there was anyone who wanted to help before I considered if I had the time or how it would affect my other responsibilities.

Then there’s the hat I put on thinking it’s mine but it really belongs to someone else. This tends to happen when I hang on to something for too long instead of enabling someone else to rise up into the role I need to lay down. Out of insecurity we cling to roles many times that we are supposed to hand over to someone else so that they may have the opportunity and blessing of wearing that hat for a season. Some of our hats are simply on loan and when it’s time to give them up we need to do so without delay.

Other hats don’t even look good on but we look in the mirror and think it looks great. I find myself in these hats when I’ve attempted to step into a role that I’m not skilled or gifted for. And as I reflect now on why I put those hats on in the first place it’s usually because I wanted to be like someone else who wears that same hat. Out of admiration or worse, envy, I grab a hat and throw it on and tell myself it looks good while usally making a spectacle of myself for sporting a hat that clearing I have no business wearing. I remember a time when I told a lady I hardly knew that I would babysit her children for her while she attended evening classes. I wanted to be that person that could help someone in need but in trying to be a heroine, I forgot that I’m not very good with multiple small children all in my care at the same time. It was not fun for me or the kids and only added stress to the mom. That was one time that I was grateful for a dear friend who was willing to tell me that although I thought the hat looked good on me, it didn’t and I just needed to get it off my head and save face while there was still time.

Just because a hat is available to be worn it doesn’t mean that you are the one who’s meant to wear it. If it looks good but doesn’t feel right, it’s on loan to you and now it’s starting to not fit right or if it looks pretty ridiculous on because it’s not your kind of hat maybe it’s time to clean out the closet and get rid of some of them. Remember, God will give you the grace to wear any hat that He’s given to you to wear. But if it’s not from God, it wasn’t your hat in the first place and it’s time to take it off. It’s never easy as a woman juggling all our hats but it’s impossible when you have a few too many hats to juggle. You may have a lot of hats you have to wear but none will ever be as important as the crown that marks you as a daughter of the King. Start each day putting on the first hat God ever gave you, the crown of a princess then let Him decide which other hats you’re meant to wear. You’ll never go wrong when you entrust your hat collection to God.