Who Am I?


In the show “Hannah Montana” Miley Cyrus played a young girl who had “the best of both worlds”. She was a normal kid by day and a superstar by night. Each episode revolved around Miley’s constant struggle to keep her secret double life under wraps. After four seasons the series wrapped up with Miley finally finding peace as she revealed to the world who she really was. In the end she no longer had the daunting task of “keeping up an appearance” and bearing the burden of trying to be someone other than her true self.

People project a certain image of themselves for many reasons. A person may want to showcase certain qualities they possess for a job interview by projecting  an image of confidence and professionalism. So they may carefully choose what they will wear in order to best communicate those characteristics that they want the employer to notice. Unfortunately, there are those who project a false image of themselves in order to gain something they desire. A person may project an image of trustworthiness and sincerity in order to gain the confidence of another, only to use that trust later to harm the individual. The horrific testimony of those victimized by Jerry Sandusky are an example of how he projected this type of false image throughout his life while in reality he was found guilty of committing the most evil crimes. While Jerry Sandusky is an extreme example of hidden secrets and leading a double life, there are some of us who regularly project an image that may be something other than the “real” us.

Many times we exert so much enery trying to project an image to the people around us because we fear that if they knew who we really were they would judge us, ridicule us or reject us. Although our motive for projecting a certain image may not be driven by selfish desires, those driven by fear and insecurity are no less damaging.

I clearly remember a time in my life when I lived my own double life. I had two sets of “friends”, two different physical appearances, two very different attitudes that drove two very different behaviors. There was a certain image I projected to my parents, employer and certain friends in school and a completely opposite image I projected to my other set of so-called “friends”.  It was an exhaustive juggling act attempting to ensure the lines didn’t get crossed and I ended up exposed. Trying to keep my darker side secret was more than I could handle. What I allowed people to see on the outside – the image that I was happy, had it all together – was in complete opposition to what was really happening on the inside of me that was visible to no one. I was lost, full of shame and regret, and completely falling apart. I worked very hard keeping that part of me sealed away from the outside world.

But God saw the very part of me that I thought was hidden from view from everyone. When I reached my lowest point God revealed Himself to me when I turned to Him in desperation. And through the overwhelming love I felt from Him through my prayers of hopelessness and through believers who reached out to me, I was able to bring into the light my darkest places.  I repented of the things I had been doing and experienced the freedom from the burden of having to keep such destructive secrets and behaviors in the dark. And what I thought would happen when I imagined being exposed was nowhere nearly as bad as my worst imagination. While there were those who did turn away from me, it was for my best that they were no longer part of my life. Those who really cared for me were overwhelmingly supportive.

I began to spend time working on a new image – an image in Christ. Through discipleship with strong, Godly women, reading my bible and prayers of newfound hope, I began to understand my true identity, my identity in Christ. The more time I spent in His presence the more my life was transformed into His image. I began to believe who He says I am in His word and not who others said I was or how I saw myself. I no longer had the desires to do the things I once had. My desire was to do the things that would be pleasing in His sight. I no longer was insecure about who I was, I gained confidence in who I am in Christ. I no longer feared someone finding out about the real me, I rejoiced in the fact that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by my Father in Heaven (Psalm 139:14). I was no longer bound by guilt, shame and regret. I was captured by freedom, victory and His unconditional love for me.

In Christ I am fully redeemed and I am the righteousness of Christ. But I still live in a sin-filled world and although my soul (my mind, will and emotions) desires to do what is right, it doesn’t have the ability to do so (Romans 7:18). So, my journey is not over and I am still daily seeking God’s presence until the time when both my soul and my spirit are aligned. It’s not until I stand in His presence in heaven and out of the presence of sin on earth that I will be fully glorified (Romans 8:18, 1Cor. 15:53). But until that time I have the assurance of who I am in Christ. I know that as a believer, if I am projecting any image other than that of Christ then I’m projecting a false image. My identity in Christ is the only legitimate image I was created to project. Anything else is an illegitimate, false persona that He never intended for me.

Are you struggling to find your identity? Have you allowed others to tell you who you are? As a believer, have you lost sight of the promises of God that say you are forgiven, blessed, a new creation set free from the bondage of sin, accepted and redeemed. Or are you someone who has never known that it was even possible to be forgiven and set free from the shame and guilt of the darkest areas of your life? It is possible for those who believe in Jesus, who died for your sins so that you could have a new identity in Him. If you’re in an identity crisis in your life, seek God and surrender your life to Him. He will give you a new life and a new identity, one set free from the weight of trying to be something other than who He created you to be. No matter who you might think you are, you are loved and chosen by God and your true identity is in Him.

Ignoring the Warning Signs


My youngest son Scott has been fascinated with all things Titanic for several years now. He has read many books about the most well-known ship in history and knows countless facts and details about the fateful night in 1912 that she hit an iceburg and sank. One year for his birthday we visited the Titanic museum and spent hours looking at actual pictures and artifacts from the ship. There is just something about the Titanic that most of us find captivating.

Scott recently shared with me some incredible circumstances and procedural failures that occured leading up to one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. I was astonished at the number of missed warning signs that, had they been heeded, could have prevented such profound calamity. The ship received a least 6 ice warnings the day of its sinking but most were ignored.

One of the warnings came late in the evening and detailed a large number of icebergs in the Titanic’s path. But because the wireless system had been down the day before, the crewman on duty had a stack of priority passenger messages to send out. He wrote down the warning, set it aside and it was never delivered to the bridge.

The crew on duty in the crow’s nest, whos specific assignment was to look out for ice, were doing so without the use of binoculars because the prior shift had misplaced them. When the crew did spot a huge iceberg directly in front of the ship, the first officer misjudged the distance to impact and hesitated to give a command. After a 30-second delay, he made the decision to slow down and attempt to turn away from the iceberg. If the engines had been left at full speed and Titanic turned immediately after the iceberg was spotted, the ship would have likely missed the iceberg, with a fair distance to spare.

Finally, the ship’s builders advised White Star Lines that the ship could hold many more life boats than the number that was legally required. But White Star chose not to add any additional lifeboats even though they knew they didn’t have nearly enough for all the passengers onboard because ironically they felt it would be too expensive for the most luxurious and costly ship ever built. Because of this decision and lack of preparedness among the crew, many lives were lost at sea that could have been saved.

So many times our lives are like the Titanic disaster – filled with warnings of imminent danger that we both ignore and are ill-prepared to handle. When we are living in a cycle of destructive behavior it seems like everyone but us can see that we are forging full steam ahead on a collision course full of damage and regret. But we seem blinded to the glaring obstructions right in front of us, many times until its too late to avoid them. Why is that? Why do we choose to ignore the obvious when we know the actions and decisions we are making are hurtling us toward personal and relational destruction? I’ve been in that very place in my life and have wondered many times why I continued on a course that I knew was going to lead me down the wrong path.

I had responded to the gospel and believed Jesus had died for my sins when I was 13 years old. I asked for His forgiveness and according to God’s word, I was born again. Like the Titanic I was a magnificant new creation – unsinkable and a beauty to behold. But without the proper preparation and the right people in place to keep me afloat I quickly fell for the doubts of the naysayers who said that I really hadn’t changed. Without people in my life to disciple me and teach me how to walk out my new faith long after the emotional experience of responding to the gospel had passed, I found myself ill-equipped to battle the deceptive ways of the enemy. I thought that if I made a mistake, I didn’t deserve to be blessed, to be happy and to live a life worthy of being called a Christian. The first mistake I made led to the next and I quickly found myself believing the lie that God no longer loved me because I didn’t measure up. I had failed Him and I deserved to hit that iceberg head on and the resulting damage was inevitable for my life.

But I learned in time that unlike the Titanic, a life in Christ is unsinkable. There may be icebergs in our lives but through repentance the resulting damage of our sin can be repaired if we will seek God’s forgiveness and turn away from our sins and back toward Him. And unlike the staff and crew of the Titanic, we must be prepared and we must be aware of the warning signs when they appear. The key to being prepared is building strong foundations in our lives based on the spiritual truths of the bible. We must have people in our lives that will speak the truth to us in love and let us know when we have veered off course. We must spend time in God’s presence through prayer and reading His word. We must get involved in small groups to build relationally with other believers who can encourage and disciple us in our walk. We must attend and serve in a local church. And we must commit to daily seek God’s will for our lives through obedience to His commands.

Are there warning signs in your life that you are choosing right now to ignore because you think you deserve to crash head-on into the iceberg you’re facing? Have you failed to prepare and instead of minor damage, you may receive grave damage when you do hit an iceberg? If you are a born-again Christian, do you know that you are an unsinkable, magnificant new creation? Do you know it’s not too late to repent and turn back to God in order to get back on course? Don’t let the avoidable sink you and cause your life to end up a tragic tale of missed warnings. Let this be your warning – it’s time to start building an unsinkable life in Christ.

In a Fog


I’m not really sure what causes fog. I know there are certain conditions that must occur in the atmosphere for fog to be present, but what they are doesn’t really matter. Some days it’s just there and today was one of those days. What I do know tabout fog is that there are some times that it’s thicker than at other times. I also know it makes it difficult to see both the things that I know are there even though I can’t see them and the unknown things that I will only be able to see once I get through the fog. This morning when we turned the corner and headed straight toward my son’s school it looked at though the school was gone. We joked that we might as well go back home because he couldn’t go to school if the building had disappeared. Even though we knew it was there, we could no longer see it through the thick fog.

After I dropped him off and headed home I noticed the sun shining through the fog. The heavy fog had completely hidden the school building but the brightness of the sun could not be masked. It was not completely clear but there was no doubt that it was there. I thought about the years I lived my life in a fog. I spent many years unable to see that God was right there with me because I was living in sin that obscured Him from my view. I was unable to see what was right in front of me because I chose to focus my sight on my circumstances and not on Him.

This morning’s dense fog made me curious so I looked it up to find out more. Because of its characteristics, the term “in a fog” came to be used as a term for something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought processes. Looking back on my life I can definitely see that the way I chose to live my life obscured the way I saw things. And when you aren’t seeing things clearly you can easily become confused and misguided. Because of my immoral behavior and poor choices my view of what was true and what was real had become distorted. Somewhere along the way I had lost site of the truth of the gospel. I had forgotten about the redemptive power of my faith in Jesus Christ. I lived as though I was powerless to overcome the temptation of sin. I failed to see the way out that God had provided for me. (1Cor. 10:13). My life had spiraled so far down that the fog of my sins had completely blinded me to the love and forgiveness of my Savior. Not only was I blinded to what was right in front of me, but I had no hope for what the future held. The road ahead was hidden and I couldn’t see where I was headed. I just knew I was going in the wrong direction.

But God is faithful and He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20). He had never left me. I had turned away from Him. When I was in 7th grade I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that He forgave me. But over time I believed the lies of the enemy that said God wasn’t pleased with me because I had failed to live up to a false standard I had placed on myself. I wrongly believed that if I wasn’t perfect then God wouldn’t love me any more. I never understood that I would continue to miss the mark throughout my life because I was and still am a sinner. So when I did fail, the guilt and shame of my sin caused separation and distance between me and God. But God’s grace allowed me to see that His forgiveness is still available to me today just as it was when I first received it in 7th grade. His forgiveness by no means gives me a license to sin. However, I know if I do sin and I’m truly repentant in my heart, He will forgive me now just as He did then. Now my obedience to God’s commands is not SO He will love me but it’s BECAUSE He loves me that I want to obey His word. There is no longer a pattern of blatant sin in my life because I have been set free from the control that sin had over me through Jesus. Now sin doesn’t have any power over me – through the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I can now overcome the temptation to sin. And I no longer carry the false burden of having to earn God’s love – I’ve come to understand that He gives it freely and all I have to do is receive it.

Just like the sun is what burns off the fog that covers everything on a foggy morning like today, it was the Son that made the fog in my life completely disappear. And like the sun today, God’s light cannot be covered up no matter how thick the sin is in your life. He’s always there shining through the darkness if we’ll just look up to see. As I look out the window now the fog has lifted and there are clear skies ahead. Where I couldn’t see my future before because the fog of my sin obscured what lie ahead, now my future is filled with hope. I’m no longer confused by what I see around me. I now clearly see God’s direction in my life because I spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. The veil that kept me from seeing the truth has been lifted and I see the direction I want to be going in. I still make wrong turns sometimes but I never allow the fog to become so dense I can’t see my way back to the Son.

If you’re living in the fog of sin, first of all know that fog was never intended to be lasting and permanent and neither was the sin in your life. God never meant for you to remain in the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – so you can be set free from the prison that sin holds you in. Secondly, you must look up to the Son. Look to the forgiveness that Jesus offers when we believe. The light of His love is right there shining through the fog in your life. Look to Him and believe – when you do the fog will disappear and you can begin to see clearly the love and peace of the One who has been right there waiting for you all along. Isn’t it time for you to stop living in a fog?

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.

High Expectations


Have you ever had a moment with your children when you realized that they had no clue how to do something that you had assumed they knew. Or maybe it was a co-worker and you saw them struggling to do something that you figured everyone knew how to do. Have you asked your child to hand you the pliers and they stare at you with a look that says “what you talking ’bout Willis?” Sometimes we just assume that someone knows something just because we do – but obviously that’s not always the case.

Recently I took my son to open a bank account. We sat down with the new account person and got everything set up. She explained that Ryan would need to make a deposit of at least $5.00 to finish the process so she escorted us over to the teller and informed her that he would be depositing a check to open his new account. Ryan had a paycheck that would serve as his first deposit. Although Ryan had another bank account, all the deposits made to it had been direct deposit. This was the first time he had actually made a deposit in person. As we all stood there waiting for him to complete the deposit slip, sign the check and hand it to the teller, he just looked at me and said “I don’t know what’s going on. What am I supposed to do?”

In that moment I realized that the teller, the account manager and myself had expected him to know how to do the deposit simply because it was a common thing that we had all done so many times. What I failed to consider was that making a deposit is not something automatic that everyone knows how to do without some instruction first. Ryan felt confused, unsure and embarassed. This was something completely new to him and he needed someone to guide him through the process and explain each step before he could be expected to do it on his own.

Ryan’s experience at the bank made me think about how I had felt as a new Christian. I remember how it felt being in a bible study and being asked to look up and read a particular scripture and everyone expected me to instinctively know exactly where to turn to in my bible. I remember feeling completely panicked as I looked for the verse for what seemed like forever. I remember hearing religious terms and phrases and having no idea what they meant and how afraid I was to ask because everyone else seemed to already know their meaning. I remember thinking that because I was born again I had to be perfect. If I made one mistake I felt so ashamed that I didn’t even want to be around anyone from church because I thought they were all perfect and never made mistakes. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I just knew I wanted my life to be different and I wanted to do things right in the eyes of God but I didn’t know how to do it or even where to begin.

Years later I am now by definition the “mature” Christian, although most days I still feel like I have so much to learn and so much further to go in my faith walk. But there are many things about the Christian faith that are now second nature to me. At least now I know exactly where to turn to in the bible when asked to read a scripture. But it has taken a very long time to get to that place and I didn’t get there on my own. There were other Christians along the way who understood that they could not expect me to know everything there is to know about how to be a follower of Christ just because I had been saved. Some things needed to be taught. And with grace, compassion and patience they discipled me in the foundations of our faith.

As believers it is our responsibility to teach new believers how to follow Christ beyond just Sunday mornings. We are to teach them foundational truths like lordship, repentance and forgiveness. We must guide them through spiritual disciplines like reading and studying their bible, serving their local church and spending time in worship. We must show patience and understanding as we help them learn to pray and we must be compassionate when they fail in their walk so they never feel condemnation. We must model for them how to be obedient to God’s commands. But as the church are we truly busy making disciples or are we just too busy and they are left to make it on their own? When new believers perceive that we think they should know how to do everything without being taught then they are made to feel inferior, ashamed and embarassed.

Many new believers simply stop attending church and disconnect from other believers because they don’t understand how to follow Christ and the first time they make a mistake or make a wrong choice they feel like they’ve failed and that they don’t fit in. They feel that way because they’ve never been taught grace, mercy and forgiveness. It’s not intentional on our part but we must remember how it was for us as new believers. What we do have to be intentional about is making disciples. If we consider ourselves Christ followers then we must follow in His ways and teach those who are new disciples. Jesus never expected that His disciples would just know what to do after they made the decision to follow Him. He knew they were like toddlers just learning to walk so He helped them by lifting them up when they fell and walking with them as he showed them what it meant to be His disciple. Jesus had high expectations for His followers but He never expected them to meet those expectations on their own. He walked alongside of them every step of the way. Is there a new believer you know who needs you to walk alongside of them? Ask God to help you fulfill His great commission: “therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:19-20). Let Him guide you as you help guide others in obedience.

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.