It Really Is About Balance


Forget itOne of my favorite words is balance. It reminds me that staying in balance is a key goal for my life. Life can seem like tightrope walk of trying to keep from straying too far in one direction or the other. When I get out of balance, it impacts every area of my life. Extremes in any area of your life can cause you to lose focus on what’s really important.

This is why I love this picture. It’s all about balance. We all go through difficulties in our lives. People hurt us and let us down. We make mistakes, some with lasting consequences. We make choices that prove to be wrong.

And when those times occur, we have to remain in balance. Life’s hurts and challenges have a way of pulling us to extremes. Sometimes we are so wounded that we carry the pain or unforgiveness for far too long and it holds us back from moving forward with our lives. It can take over our thoughts and cause us to lose our joy and lose our focus on God and His goodness in our lives.

The other extreme is when we fail to learn from our mistakes. For some of us, we continue a pattern of poor choices that keeps us bound in a cycle that never allows for progress and change. Many times we blame others when in fact it’s us that keeps the cycle going.

The key truly is balance. Bad things will happen. You will experience hurt and disappointment. You will make mistakes. But let those times be a lesson. Ask God what He wants you to learn from those times. He will show you. And forgive others and yourself during the difficult times in life so you can move on. Don’t stay stuck because you can’t let go. Stay in balance.

Out of Balance


We all have a past. We all have things we are ashamed of or wish we could change about ourselves. We all have people in our lives who have hurt us, rejected us and played a role in forming who we are today. The degrees of our brokenness varies based on our past, our wounds and our current circumstances. But no matter who you are or what you’re going through, you feel like your pain and your unhappiness is the worst and no one else can possibly understand.

thMJT7OP2AAnd so we seek happiness. We want to put our pain, our regrets, our shame and our mistakes behind us and wipe the slate clean. We believe that if only (fill in the blank) could happen then we would be happy. And sometimes it happens and we are happy, for a moment. But then we find that the happiness doesn’t last so we seek something else that we believe will bring us happiness. And many of us spend years, some their entire lives searching for that one thing that will bring them the peace and happiness they so desperately desire.

And we know those people and we know their struggle and we hurt for them and we desire for them to find their happiness. We love them through their darkest times as the Bible calls us to. Even when we know that what is really making them unhappy and the real reason they can’t find peace is because the sin in their life has caused them to be separated from God. But we love them and continue to point them toward the answer they seek but are blinded to.

They are blinded because until they find their identity in Christ, they will be in a constant state of trying to discover who they really are. And that desire to be someone other than who you currently are stems from not knowing who you are in Christ. God designed us to seek our identity so that in our search we will eventually be pointed toward Him. And He is where true happiness is found because apart from Him there is no such thing as true happiness.

But in our love for the hurting and our compassion for them in the midst of their struggle, we cannot lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day they don’t have a happiness issue, they have a sin issue. They are lost and are in desperate need of a Savior. My concern is that we are out of balance as Christians and in our attempt to love people and have compassion for them, we have become desensitized to sin and the things that God says are wrong. We are becoming over sensitive to our fear of not wanting to offend people and in turn it’s causing us to become soft toward sin.

This is a subtle way that the enemy is deceiving Christians. We must have empathy and grace toward the lost sinner. But we cannot be deceived into simply feeling bad for their struggle and forget that at the end of the day the real issue is that they are a sinner in desperate need of a Savior. We can feel bad for all that someone has been through but we can’t forget that what they are doing is still wrong. Their sin is not their right. It’s not what they deserve to make them happy. It’s sin.

Let’s love them, but let’s love them to Christ.

Filtered


thR6RG5FG5Have you noticed how everything, and I mean everything, is filtered these days? Rarely do we take a picture any more without adding a filter to make it look better. And if I ever saw a celebrity in person I’d probably not recognize them because they’re all photo-shopped in the pictures I see of them.

So it makes me wonder, why we feel the need to filter our lives? Why do we want to try to improve on what God created us to be? Why do we need to change the appearance of our original selves? Are we really that unhappy with who we are? Don’t get wrong. I’m certainly not judging or saying I never use filters. You will not see a picture of me that doesn’t have a black & white filter! So, I am guilty of doing it too.

But back to my thought. People struggle with letting their real selves be seen and heard. People even filter what they say instead of just saying what they mean. Why is that?! I have some thoughts on why we feel the need to filter.

One reason is that we are fearful. We don’t want to say what we’re really feeling or show our real selves because we fear we will be rejected. I believe this is the greatest fear people face today. We are so afraid to show who we really are because we think people won’t accept the real us. That if they knew the truth about who we really are (our thoughts, feelings, struggles), then they would judge us and want nothing to do with us. So we use a filter.

thPNRJ9V7OSam Smith even said it when he accepted his Grammy Award the other night – he said “Before I made this record I was doing everything to try and get my music heard,” Smith said. “I tried to lose weight and I was making awful music. It was only until I started to be myself that the music started to flow and people started to listen.” Wow, why did he feel such pressure to be someone he wasn’t? Was it fear of rejection? Insecurities? And look at the outcomes when he simply decided to be who he was. No filters.

Another reason is control. We get a false sense of being in control when we can hide our true self. We long to be our own boss of our lives. To surrender seems weak. But the truth is there is power in surrendering to God and allowing Him to be in control. There is safety and security in His arms. We let ourselves believe that we’re in control of situations when we keep our real selves hidden. We convince ourselves that people can’t hurt us or control us as long as we remain in control. We keep a wall up and never let them into the inner sanctuary of our hearts where our real feelings and thoughts live. But it’s all a façade. It may appear on the outside that we’re in control but inside it leaves us feeling completely out of control. It’s just another filter that hides what is real.

thVC85JMWZThe final reason we filter our lives is because we think that if we can be someone else, we will be happy. We think that if we can be the person we are pretending to be then our lives will be happy. We believe that if we hide our real self long enough that eventually all the hurts, wounds, insecurities and mistakes will just go away. We think that who we really are will just disappear and people will believe we’re really the person we’re pretending to be. We’re deceived into thinking that if we can just make our real self disappear then all our problems will disappear too.

God sent Jesus to die on the cross and to set us free from everything that makes us not want to be the real us. He never intended for us to feel the need to hide from who He created us to be. We are not a mistake that needs to be filtered because God doesn’t make mistakes. He loves us and accepts us. Without filters. He may be the only person you can trust will your real self but you CAN trust Him. He will never reject you if you let down your guard and trust Him to see the real you. He longs for you to share your true feelings and thoughts with Him. There is nothing about you that He doesn’t already know. So why not just open up and be free to share the real you. No filter. There is peace and joy that comes with being who you were created to be. We need to stop hiding behind a filter. It just may be distorting what God meant for the world to see.

Leave It To A Professional


thQQATP0ODHave you ever tried to fix something on your own only to find that you made a bigger mess of it than before you started? I have. I have fully replaced my yard twice because I over fertilized and under watered. Then there was the time I almost ended up divorced over wallpaper removal and replacement. Oh, and there was the time I thought I could fix a borrowed chainsaw. If only I’d just left it alone I wouldn’t have had to replace it with a brand new one. Some things are better off left to a professional, especially when it comes to people.

I used to get frustrated at people who refuse to believe the promises of God’s Word and walk in victory over their past and present battles. I’m not talking about the unchurched, non-believers who don’t know what the promises of God are. Or even Christians who believe in God and go to church on occasion. I’m talking about the born-again believer who knows God, who reads their bible, prays, serves in the church and is surrounded by fellow believers. No matter how many times they’ve heard the message, attended the small group, been prayed over, and encouraged – they refuse to accept who God says they are and continue to walk in shame, condemnation and insecurity because they believe the lies of the enemy and who he says they are. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to believe who God says they are and to be free from the bondage that held them captive.

th3NQ7U036I could see that they were missing out on the peace and joy that God was waiting to pour out on them. The life they dreamed about and deserved was within reach if they’d just take hold of it. Why didn’t they simply trust God and His word? Maybe it was fear, feelings of unworthiness, too many lies in their head, too many deep rooted wrong beliefs that were too hard to overcome. My frustration came from the fact that no matter how hard I tried or how much encouragement I gave them – I couldn’t change them.

I came to realize it’s not that they didn’t want to believe it, they just hadn’t reached the point yet where they do believe. God showed me I needed to have a lot more grace with people. I also learned there is a fine line between wanting to be used by God and wanting to be God. Pride can prevent us from having grace and from allowing God the room in our lives to speak through us. I pray for God to use me as a vessel to speak hope to the hopeless yet when I have the opportunity to do so I battle against sharing my own thoughts and advice versus hearing from God what He wants to say to them. Knowing when to shut up and knowing when to let God speak up has long been my struggle. How can I be used by God to speak to those in need of direction without trying to be their Holy Spirit and trying to “fix” them?

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The answer for them was the same for me. Instead of trying to fix our problems through our own strength and abilities, we need to trust Jesus. I need to trust Jesus. I need to always remember that God is God and I’m not. And even though I may have areas of my life that I’ve surrendered to Him and have victory over, I have other areas that I’m still struggling in. So, I’m no different from those who have yet to find their peace and victory. We’re all a work in progress. Who am I to gauge how far along someone should be on their journey or to get bothered because their roots run deeper and their battle rages stronger than mine?

I want to see God to heal the brokenhearted, restore the broken, bring hope to the hopeless and victory to the defeated. The peace I have when my frustrations rear their ugly head is that He is more than able. He did it in my life and He can do it in theirs. It’s not up to me to make someone believe that the promises of God are for them. But it is up to me to believe it for them when they can’t believe it for themselves. They may have given up for now but God hasn’t given up on them so neither am I. So until they believe it, I can stand in the gap and believe for them. Who in your life needs your grace and needs for you to believe for them until they believe for themselves?

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.

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”.

He Did It! ……No, He Did It!


If you’ve spent any time around children you’ve heard this line. It starts with a broken lamp, a crayon-inspired work of art on the bedroom wall or a knock on the door from the neighbor who has come to report someone ran through her flowers and trampled every one of her precious tulips. The “event” is usually followed by that look from mom that strikes fear in any and all children within it’s range and almost simultaneously the arms go up, the fingers point and the first terrified little voice shouts the accusation, “he did it!” followed by “nuh uhn! he did it.” What is it that is in us from a very young age that causes us to want to place blame elsewhere?

There is no doubt that we are all born with an unwillingness, or at very least, a reluctance to take responsibility when we are at fault. Even in the garden of Eden Eve blamed the serpant and Adam blamed Eve. For most of us our knee jerk reaction when faced with accusation is to point the finger at someone or something that made us choose to do wrong. Who hasn’t uttered the words “the devil made me do it”? Recent news stories filled with finger pointing, transferring the blame and complete unwillingness of people to accept responsibility for their actions has me thinking – why are we so unwilling to humbly say “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”?

Due to ridiculously large sums of money awarded in court cases and a culture that glorifies and sensationalizes bad behavior, we live in a time when even those caught red-handed claim innocence by some reason or another or they label themselves a victim of a grand scheme by others to bring them down. We celebrate those who continue to break the law and offend and disrespect everyone on the planet yet never utter the words “I’m sorry.” (think Linsay Lohan, Kanye West, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, need I go on?) No matter how obvious it is where the blame lies, everyone seems to make choices with no thought toward consequences because they’ve learned to defer responsibility onto someone or something else. Most mornings I hear a news story on TV that begins with “Who’s to blame for _______?” (fill in the blank….high gas prices, growing unemployment rates, high levels of obesity in America, increases in government spending, etc.). I think one of the most unbelievable examples I’ve seen recently is a group of college students who sued their college because they couldn’t find a job upon graduation. Nine graduates of a New York law school filed a $225 million dollar lawsuit on the basis that the school they attended should have anticipated the current recession. No seriously, they did. Fortunately a judge dismissed the case stating that “although we all sympathize with those who are having difficulty finding work, their anger and angst are misdirected.” Other lawyers unsympathetic to the new graduates said “The people who are applying to law schools are highly educated, they know how to read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.” And the fear of litigation has caused many doctors, hospitals, school systems and companies to put in place preposterous policies to protect themselves. Extreme insurance costs have driven many small companies out of business and as consumers we pay the price through sky high insurance rates resulting from frivolous lawsuits. But all of that doesn’t seem to stop the mentality of “deny all, admit nothing and blame somebody else” which is prevalent in today’s society.

So again, why such an unwillingness to admit fault? I think the answer is really not  as difficult as it may at first seem. We are sinners, sinners who are filled with pride.  Pride is one of the most common things the devil uses to entice us into sin because pride is the opposite of the humility that, when present in our lives, points others to Jesus. Pride wants to take credit for favorable outcomes and place blame on others for the unfavorable ones. Pride blinds us to the reality of our situation by obscuring the truth. It causes us to overestimate our own righteousness and self worth which prevents us from repenting. Pride causes us to rationalize and justify our own wrong behavior. Pride masks our selfish attitudes which causes us to come to the conclusion “I don’t deserve punishment because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Pride has kept many from accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior because to admit our sins and acknowledge that in our own strength we can do nothing to receive eternal life requires humility and a reliance on someone other than ourselves. In his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis said, There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine they are guilty themselves.” We are all guilty of the sin of pride yet our pride keeps us from wanting to admit it.

I’ve thought too as to why the blame game bothers me so much beyond the obvious frustration we all experience when we see people pointing fingers when they have absolutely no basis for doing so. One reason is that I’m guilty of it and even though I repent I still sometimes find myself falling into the trap of blaming others instead of taking responsibility myself. But the reason that stirs a righteous anger within me is that there was never a more appropriate and justified moment in the history of our world for someone to point the finger and to say “they did it” as when God sent Jesus to die for our sins. He had every right to say “But I didn’t do anything wrong, why do I have to take the punishment?” Instead he chose to receive the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He took the blame for every wrong that we’ve ever done. He endured the beating and excruciating pain of being nailed to a cross when it should have been us. He took our place when He said “I am he” as the guards approached him while searching for the one they had already presumed guilty. He willingly gave His life for ours so that we don’t have to die an eternal death as penalty for our sins. He traded His perfect life for our imperfect one. My prayer for myself is that the next time I’m tempted to join in the blame game I will remember the humility of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He selflessly took the blame on my behalf and I will say, with a humble spirit, “I messed up. I made a mistake. I was wrong and I’m sorry”.

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.

Sky Diving and Rocky Mountain Climbing


Several years ago Tim McGraw released a song called “Live Like You Were Dying” from his album by the same name. The song reached number one on the charts and earned McGraw a Grammy.  The message of the song was simple – live each day as if it were your last. Do the things that you always wanted to do, make amends with anyone you still hold a grudge against, show love to those who you hold most dear, and spend more time with God. Each of these suggestions are definitely things we all should be doing whether we are dying or not. But what if, instead of living like we’re dying, we chose to simply live like we really believed that when Jesus died on the cross He didn’t just die for our sins, He overcame the power of sin in our life?

Many people today say they believe in God and they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. But the worry, fear, doubt and perpetual cycle of  sin in their life says they believe something very different. Still others are filled with guilt and condemnation because they don’t believe they are good enough for God to love them even though they have received the gift of salvation. The problem for both is that they haven’t reached a point of understanding the full extent of what Jesus did the day He died on the cross. They believe He died for their sins, which is vital for salvation. They also believe that all their past sins have been forgiven. But what they fail to understand is that when Jesus died on the cross, He not only died for all of their sins, He overcame sin.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we know it is not up to us pay the price for our sins. The price has already been paid and it only needed to be paid once. There is no need for anyone to keep paying the price. It is finished. When we accept God’s forgiveness of sin, it is erased from our life along with the power it has over us. We are set free from the bondage of sin and the power it weilds over us. But for many, they live their life as if sin still reigns over them. They walk down the aisle of the church to the altar, respond to the gospel and receive the forgiveness for their past sins. Then they attempt in their own strength to make changes in how they act so they won’t sin anymore. At that point they are simply practicing behavior modification when they should instead be surrendering their lives to Christ and trusting in His power to overcome sin in their life. Once we are saved, we are never separated from God. But those still trapped by the guilt and condemnation of past sin feel the separation that sin causes and for this reason many end up turning away from the church. They believe that as long as they behave a certain way they will be close to God but when they don’t behave “right” they feel as if they are separated from God, even though that’s not true. They believe God and other believers will no longer accept them because they have failed. They wrongly believe that they are the only ones who have done anything wrong and that everybody else has it all together so they choose to isolate themselves. And it’s in their isolation they become an easy target for the enemy. The message of the gospel is not about doing all the right things and being a good person so God will accept us. It is accepting God’s promise that we are forgiven once and for all and trusting in Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to change our sinful nature and transform us into His image.

However, knowing our sins are forgiven – past, present and future – does not give us free reign to go sin because we won’t have to pay the price for that sin. What it does do is give us confidence in knowing that no sin – past, present or future – has any power over us. We are free from the control that sin once had in our life and from the guilt and condemnation it made us feel. We do not have to live in fear that we will disappoint God. In His eyes, we are white as snow because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus. We do not have to isolate ourselves when we do fall short because there is nothing that can separate us from God once we are born again. We do not have to feel the pressure to be a “perfect” Christian because we accept that we are sinful by nature and know we will be forgiven when we repent and turn from our sins – past, present and future. We don’t have to perform for God to love us, but out of our love for Him we choose a life of obedience to His commands. We do not have to fear death and eternal separation from our Father because the Word promises that through our salvation we will spend eternity with Him in heaven. We don’t have to live like a prisoner bound by the power of sin because we are free through the power of God. Tim McGraw sang we should live like we’re dying but I say it’s much better to live like Jesus lived, glorifying the Father by living victoriously over sin. How much better would our lives be if we all lived like we really believed that Jesus not only died for our sin, He overcame it!