The Past: Refine You
or Define You

We all have a past. Some of us have unimaginable pasts. Some of us have pasts without major incident. But we all have one. In the past, it’s where we were; in this present, it’s where we are; in the future it’s where we’re headed. But what I’ve seen more times than not—is our past is what makes us or breaks us. In short, does my past define me or does my past refine me? Over the years, I’ve trolled the bible looking for good verses to encourage me about my past. One of my favs is Galatians 6:15, “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” And where “circumcised” is, we can fill in anything from our former life. For example, “whether we have been addicted or not,” “whether we have been mistreated or not,” “whether we have been rejected, neglected, defected or not.” Whatever was part of your past, with Jesus, doesn’t define you because with him you are a new creation in your present. You are refined by Jesus in your heart, not defined by circumstances in your past. I could keep going with the verses. But if you are struggling with feeling defined by your past, maybe do a bible word search on “new creation,” “born again,” “freedom,” and let God’s timeless, irrefutable truths and promises speak to your heart. Just because you had a bad chapter doesn’t mean your story has a bad ending. I hope this encourages someone today.

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People-Pleasing

“I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) See, before Paul made the decision to follow Christ, Paul followed people. They wanted him to persecute people? He did. They wanted him to stone people to death? He did. But then Paul accepted Christ. Finding himself at a precipice, Paul realized he could not serve two masters, people and Christ. Paul chose Christ. He would transition from people-pleaser to Jesus-pleaser. And if he could—we can. Author and Counselor, Lou Priolo says there is a word for our current day “people pleasing” syndrome and it’s “idolatry.” It’s looking to a someone or something to do for me the things only Christ can do. And if we get really raw, here: people pleasing is idolatry, idolatry is a sin. It is a direct violation of the number two commandment: “You shall not make idols.” (Exodus 20) People-pleasing is a sin but if we identify it as such, that’s actually GOOD news! One, Jesus already paid for that sin with his life! Two, there is always a way out of sin with Jesus! Here are 3 super-uber-simple tips I’ve practiced to move from people-pleasing to Christ-pleasing. Full-disclosure: it’s not been completely eradicated. As people have come and go, sometimes when a new person comes, depending on their position or role in my life, I can find myself people-pleasing all over again. So this formula is one I keep handy. And reapply!
1. Pray each morning, “God lead me to please you today” and every night, pray, “God help me to please you tomorrow.” The Bible says, “you do not have because you do not ask.” If you truly aspire to please God, ask God for it!
2. Christian counseling. Being proactive and “wanting to stop,” is “flossing and brushing.” But getting Christian-counseling is extracting the cavity! There might be a root canal (cause) to why you keep people-pleasing. Don’t be afraid to seek counsel for it.
3. Read “People Pleasing” by Lou Priolo and “Approval Addiction” by Joyce Meyer

I hope this encourages someone today!

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Sometimes Love Has
To Look Away

Sometimes love has to look away. There’s a heart-wrenching moment in the bible when Jesus was on the cross and cried out to God, “why did you forsake me?” I would surmise that in his final moments, Jesus felt like God left him. And if you leave someone, you look away. Sometimes, love has to look away. I’ve watched loving parents have to let go and look away from a child. I’ve watched loving children have to let go and look away from a parent. In my experience with a loved one, for years I held on with my proverbial “looking glass,” until a friend suggested that that might be what’s holding him back from God’s best. Why did God have to look away? Billy Graham wrote, “Jesus was without sin, for He was God in human flesh. As He died, all our sins were placed on Him. In that moment, He was banished from the presence of God, for sin cannot exist in God’s presence.” Now, though, we can be saved on Earth and party forever in Heaven! If you have someone you love, and you need to look away for their betterment, I get you! [*Note: just because we look away, doesn’t mean we cease to pray!] You and me have each other if we have to look away. We are not alone in this. Arm-in-arm, we have each other for strength. And BONUS: we also have this gridlock, united battle-line of prayer! Jesus doesn’t need our eyes on those we’re praying for to do his work. Together, we keep our eyes (& prayers) on Him. And He’ll keep watch on them.

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Cracked Not Ruined🏺🧡

I’m aware of my chips, frailties and cracks. See, there was a decade in my life where I ran from God-–and when I came back to Him—I retained just enough of my “cracky-ness” to not forget how far He brought me. So this verse has profound meaning: 2 Corinthians 4:7, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” Cracked? It’s ok. You’re not the Mona Lisa in a museum. You’re a clay pot out back. And things like chips and cracks come with that. But you’re also not damaged and disposable! Think about it: GOD can shine more through cracked pots than perfect pots. We cry about our crackyness. Some of us even throw ourselves away! But maybe we should give thanks and receive it? Cracked pots can render two cool results: 1) when I changed the way I saw myself it changed my life’s trajectory to a greater purpose 2) a newly cracked pot can see me in mine and not despair their new condition. But wait there’s more! Ironically in God’s economy, despite being cracked, we’re *filled to overflow* with the goodness and glory of God. I’m not just blowing platitudes either! This is what GOD says about us! And no one knows cracked pots better than God the Potter, who made em. I hope this encourages someone today.

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How Do You Love God
With All Your Mind
If It’s Sick?

Back in 1999, after I got out of the psych ward, “loving God with all your mind,” (Luke 10:27) came with new challenges because my mind wasn’t all-there. However,  I definitely loved God with all my heart, soul and strength, so that’s where I started. I activated those parts to pray, meditate, read my Bible, get professional psychotherapy and take psychiatric meds. Romans 8:6 says, “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind there is life and peace.” Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! The answer for how [to begin] to love God with all my [sick] mind was right there in the Good Book! Oh sure, in 1999, the enemy, my sin, my illness won a battle in my mind, but God was my General who victoriously wins wars! And this was war for my mind!  So I began praying and believing Romans 8:6. I started asking, “what is controlling my mind that could lead to death?” (In my case, suicide).  Over a period twelve months, I eliminated things God brought to my mind in response to my Romans 8:6 prayer. Back then my mind was adversely impacted by gossip magazines, so I got rid of them; R-rated movies, so I stopped watching them; booty-shaking music, so I found new music; and trashy TV programs, so I found cleaner substitutes. Little by little, my mind was able to love God more wholly. A mind that loves God with all of, it leads to life. And look who’s been living since 1999! 🙂  There’s a lot more I could share on this, but gotta stay true to my 1-minute post promise! I’ll close with this: Psalm 139 says God knit us together [minds, included] in our moms’ wombs. He is the creator of you before humans conceived you. It’s no wonder that in our creation, the part he placed closest to him in heaven is the part he has us think with.  Our minds are our Northern Star, True North, our crown. Our minds aren’t on the side of our bodies, they’re on the top! To take care of that important satellite dish up there means to love God with all of it. I don’t know where you are with your mind, but if you’re challenged like I am, I hope this post brings some good thoughts to consider for it!

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I Will Have Enough
Comfort To Comfort

I imagine that akin to a car running on a tank of gas, we have a comfort-tank we run on.  Mine has never been so close to running on fumes than when I became a mom.  It wasn’t that long ago that I was jockeying between a newborn who needed comfort for feedings and sleep, and a toddler who needed comfort for boo-boo’s and thunderstorms. Back then, I’d tap into that comfort-tank twenty times a day—a discouraging cycle because of the looming “what if I don’t have any left for the next day?” Until I stumbled across (yet another) unbreakable promise from God! In Isaiah 66:13, God promises, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”   These days I’m not comforting babies, I comforting my teenage boys, addicts, a family member with cancer and the mentally ill. And true to His promise, God is keeping that tank full. But indulge me, let’s return to the car analogy for an important note. If I am the car, the gas-tank is my comfort-tank…the driver is God. If God is not the driver driving my life, my home, my heart, then I CAN run out of comfort. I can become a stalled out car on the side of the road unable to comfort others, my kids, even myself.  Whether we need to comfort our kids, spouses, friends, patients, whoever… if God’s the driver, we will not run out of comfort for others, because God will not run out of comfort for us.  Whether we have that “one” who requires gallons of comfort, or that group who require a pint each, God promises to keep filling the tank.  I had a long day today, as I write this, I feel depleted.  But I will go to sleep tonight knowing God works through the night—filling our tanks with comfort because He knows tomorrow He will need us to give some more. He’s the great Comforter, Provider…and Driver.

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Things I Know Now
I Wish I Hadn’t Learned the Hard Way

Recently I posted: It took the first half of my life to figure out who I am. Now I’ll spend the rest of my life being her. But what if we put this mantra under a microscope?  Under the scope, it’d reveal tiny-detailed mysteries that make up this mantra. Molecules of things I know now, I wish I hadn’t learned the hard way. There’s no going back, so I hope to use these to help another. Without further ado…
  1. I don’t understand God, but I trust God.
    Hebrews 10:23 says, “for God can be trusted,” and Isaiah 55:8 says, “for my thoughts are not your thoughts.”  I can’t figure out God for the life of me, Lit. & Fig.!  Yet that’s never stopped me from trusting Him. I’ve trusted Him since I was 4. And decades have shown me God is trustworthy. I don’t typically stick with people I can’t trust. But I’ve stuck with God for a longgggg time…more importantly, He has stuck with me!
  2. Earth is my timeshare, Heaven is my home.
    2 Corinthians 5:1 says, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God…”  Over the years, this has helped me understand intermittent suicidal thoughts.  God put me in my “tent,” on my birthdate so He’ll take me out of my “tent” on my deathdate. In between those dates, I do my best in this temporary timeshare…and I can because I know it’s not forever!
  3. My mind can endure a thousand storms if God is the anchor of my soul.
    Jonah 2 says, “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me…But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!”  If you are anchored to the life-saver-Savior, you WILL be in storms but you can be rescued. For me, those storms are mental. But that’s not the point. The point is, you can endure any storm if Jesus is your captain.  If you don’t know for sure, ask Him.
  4. I’d rather be in a 1000 pieces at His feet, than a 1000 miles from His presence.
    Psalm 34 says, “The Lord is *NEAR* to the brokenhearted.”  I’ve had my heart broken in a thousand pieces. So have you. But God was…wait, get this…IN EVERY PIECE OF IT. When you invite Jesus into your life, He moves into your heart. So when it gets broke, He’s in every piece of it as He puts it back together.  It’s a slow and arduous process, but the Master Surgeon wants every piece to be precisely back in place, because He dwells there. You can’t get nearer than that. Thank you, Jesus.
I hope you’re a little encouraged from these. I have a few more so this may be a part-1 to a part-2 in the near future. Lord be with you.

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Am I Too Concerned With Something?

“I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,” ~David, the 131st Psalm.  In the bible, King David ticked and tocked like the rest of us as we navigate this thing called life. But one of his unique get-it-factors is David didn’t get hung up on matters “too great” for him. I don’t know what the cultural trends and stigmas were for David’s generation, but one in ours is the pressure to be overstimulated, over-processed and overly-concerned with matters. We take matters into our own hands through smartphones, addictions, vices and social media, and the matter becomes an insatiable, unavoidable concern. Maybe even an obsession. As I marinated on this verse like a chicken in Mojo sauce, it begged the question: to what expense am I willing to be overly-concerned? The cost of my sanity? health? relationships? time? purpose? I also marinated on this verse, in light of my faith. Yes, it’s true we can “move mountains” when we have faith. But I have been guilty of great faith, and little trust. No sooner do I leave the matter at the proverbial Cross by faith, then I pick it back up again and carry it away because I trust me better with it. Yikes. We are Hu-mans, not Super–mans. When our concerns go beyond our humanness, it is fruitless to be in control. It is God’s job to concern himself with matters within our humanness and beyond our humanness. It is because of God, that my matters can be in my natural world but in His supernatural sphere! That’s why He’s God and I’m not! Is there something you and I are too concerned with? First step is admission! Next step is to begin to hand it over to the Hands that can handle it.

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Like a Palm 🌴

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree” (Psalm 92:12) I took this pic today because I remembered this verse. To me, palm trees + Psalm 92:12 preach an amazing message: 1) this verse says the “righteous” flourish. Not the self-declared perfect, not the perfect-wannabes, not the judgers of others’ imperfections. But the righteous. What’s “righteous” mean? When I looked it up, it said: morally right. But how do I define “morally-right?” I can’t define it by people because no person is morally-perfect to define it. If Raul would define “morally right,” what happens when he messes up? If my counselor defines it, what happens when she messes up? If my parents define it, what happens when they mess up? Jesus Christ is perfect, and when He came to Earth as a person, He did in a morally right & perfect way. Then He was crucified for my (& all of our) immoral unrighteousness. He rose from His grave, and ascended back to where He came from. No one else has done this—furthermore, there’s empirical proof He did. So He, and His Book, define “morally right” to me. HE defines my righteousness.

2) Why did the psalmist ascribe a palm tree to this verse? Well maybe for a couple reasons. One, palm trees don’t grow away from storms. Two, palm trees don’t break in storms. Palm trees can bend to the point where they are horizontal to the ground! Palm trees endure storms, bend into them, stand up again when they pass.

3) “The righteous will flourish like palm trees.” To me, it preaches a message that if Jesus is my righteousness, then in my storms, I will flourish. The amazing irony!!! I won’t grow out from the storms, run away from the storms or break from the storms. When they come, I’ll bend into them & stand up again. I’ll flourish! I hope this encourages a fellow palm in a storm today. 🌴

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Down and Out? Find the Sun

“And God made the two great lights–the greater light (the sun) to rule the day,” Genesis 1:16. The sun has incomprehensible statistics: it is approximately 330,000 times bigger than our home planet; its surface temperature is 10,000 degrees; it’s like 93 million miles away from your living room recliner. But as incomprehensible as the sun is, it still has an approachable-ness to it, because God made it. Do you know how big and mighty God must be since HE made the sun? It’s probably like a ping pong ball in His hand. I love it when God’s sun shines on me. First, it reminds me of His promise in Numbers 6:14-25, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.” Secondly, though I don’t see God face to face or hear God on my cell, I can step outside and feel his presence on my face. Who, but God, can take a bright, shining star and have it greet you with its radiant aura? Recently, on a walk, I had burdens and stresses on my mind. But I could not escape the fact that every street I walked, every corner I turned, I could feel the sun. The sun went with me everywhere, as if God summoned it to remind me that He IS everywhere. If you are discouraged or burdened, I say find the sun. Even if it briefly peeks through the clouds and casts itself onto your windshield–be assured, God is near. The sun is not a cosmic mystery. God made it, and God made us. And though we worship God only, the sun is a daily reminder of His proximity, perfection and power to you and to me.

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