Who am I to Judge?

I have to admit that I am one of the most judgmental people in the world.  I tend to keep my judgments to myself, but they are there.  They seep into my thought life before I even have a chance to realize they are there.  I hate it and when I realize what has happened, I try to make it right, but the judgment is endless it seems. 

I also have to admit that I’m a slow learner.  I cannot count how many times I have had the following thoughts and subsequent conversation with God.

Me- Hands raised high, eyes closed, singing “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty”  Eyes open, look around, feeling a bit self conscious.  “Did anybody hear my singing?”  “Was I on key?”  “Do my armpits smell?”  “Maybe I should keep my hands down today.”  “Should I sign?”  “I know the signs for this song.”  “Oh my gosh.  Look at the way that person is raising their hands during worship (or dancing or clapping or anything else that isn’t exactly what I think they should be doing).”  “I wonder if they do that just for an audience or if that is really how they think they should worship.”

God- How dare you!  That person is intimately involved with me right now and you could be too, but you’re too busy judging their relationship with me.

Me- Head hung low.  You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I want to worship with reckless abandon.  I’m so sorry.

These kinds of conversations are a direct result of my judgmental attitude and happen frequently.  They don’t just occur within the walls of the church for me, either.  I distinctly remember a dinner with my youth pastor at Home Town Buffet (it was the best Yuma had to offer at the time) and in the middle of our conversation, he asked me, “Why do you judge every girl that walks by?  Does it make you feel better?”  I was shocked.  I was even slightly defensive because I was truly unaware that I was doing anything.  Jeff pointed out that every time a female walked past our table, I looked her up and down several times.  After he mentioned it, I realized that what I was doing was judging each and every one of them.  I was looking them up and down, looking for faults.  Without even realizing it, I was trying to find fault in every person around me, based on nothing but how they looked/dressed.
I was on the other end of that judgment this weekend.  I LOVE my church.  I love the people and the leaders and just the way it has become home so quickly in my heart.  I tell everyone I can about my church and want everyone to experience it at least once in their lives.  It’s funny though, because if I were to write everything down on paper of what I thought I was looking for in a church, my church would have very few of those items.  Typically, I feel safe and at home in larger churches with very rehearsed and planned out worship and preaching.  I like mega churches and I like churches that have full time worship pastors who wear skinny jeans and believe that the lighting in the room is just as important as the acoustics.  I like churches that have fancy posters for the sermon series and who have a pastor on staff for everything from preaching to cleaning the toilets.  You get the point. The church I just described is not my church.  My church is modest in size, sometimes we don’t have a drummer, 90% of the songs we sing are from the 90’s or earlier, there isn’t ANYONE on staff who wears skinny jeans and the lighting is the same as in my home, overhead lights that only turn on or off.  BUT, my church is my home.  The people there are amazing.  They make you feel welcome and safe and every week, I leave feeling challenged and encouraged in my walk with God.  I wouldn’t trade my church for anything and I’m proud to call it home!

There was a young couple (my age, I suppose) who came into service a bit late on Sunday.  They came in and quickly found their seats and as I watched the young woman, I felt such conviction.  She looked around at everyone in the room, listened to the music and everything else with a little smirk on her face.  You could tell this was not her cup of tea (I’m trying not to sound judgmental).  I was hurt, though.  I want every person who comes through the doors to love Warrenton Christian as much as I do.  I was frustrated and had to work hard not to be offended by her blatant judgment.  It was while I was working through those emotions that I realized I had been her in so many churches and I had probably offended people along the way.

Judgment is a nasty little pill.  I have wrongly judged people and had to bite my tongue later.  I have wrongly judged situations and suffered because of it.  In judgment is not how we have been called to live.  We have been called to live in love and how can we love if judgment has blurred our vision?  Through my judgment do people see Jesus or do they see another Christian who claims to love but is really just another judgmental hypocrite?  When I judge whether out loud or internally (which I am painfully aware of the fact that I do not hide well), do people want to know Jesus?  Do they respond to His unending love or do they respond to what they see as intolerance and ignorance?  Check out this really good research articles on how the unchurched view Christianity.  Is this mainly because of judgment?

I want my life to reflect Christ into the lives of other people I meet.  I want to be transparent enough and honest enough that there is not any doubt that Jesus is love.  I want others to know that it is only because of His grace that I am who I am and I want that to be viewed as a positive thing.  My quick and endless judgements can easily leave a bad taste in others’ mouths and when I talk about Jesus, all those judgments do is misrepresent His love and His grace.  His love, His true and perfect love, is about sacrifice and I want people to know that when they meet me.

I have to admit something here.  I began writing this blog this morning  and then took a break when Micah woke up from his nap.  We Skyped with my mom, ate lunch and then went to run errands and our last stop was the park.  When we got there, there were a couple of middle school aged kids and Micah and I, but about five minutes into our play time, a truck pulled up and out jumped a little boy who could not have been older than four years old.  His mother stayed in the truck and was doing something on her phone.  No big deal, until the kid started going down the slide while Micah was still on it, jumping in front of the camera as I was trying to take pictures of Micah and demanding that I push him in the swing.  Judgment flooded my mind.  I was so frustrated with that mother who was sitting in the truck and allowing her child to ruin MY time with Micah at the park.  As I was leaving (because the other little boy had knocked Micah down one too many times), my heart began to soften.  I realized how judgmental I had been and laughed at the fact that I was just writing about this issue a couple of hours earlier.  As a Christian, my response to this woman should have been compassion.  Who knows what is going on in her life.  Maybe someone is in the hospital and allowing her son to play at the park while she received updates on her phone in the car was the best option for her and her family today.  Or maybe she was just lazy and was on facebook and just didn’t feel like mothering her son today.  Either way, she did NOT deserve my judgment, but rather deserved my love and compassion.  I should have asked her how I could serve her today.

So, here is my challenge today (for me, first and foremost).  Stop judging.  Make yourself aware of just how many times each day you judge other people and begin to fight against it.  Fight against it with love and compassion.  Stop yourself and ask how you can better represent Christ to that person… how you can serve them and love them sacrificially.

The Proof of Your Love- For King and Country

If I sing but don’t have love
I waste my breathe with every song
I bring, an empty voice
A hollow noise

If I speak with a silver tongue
Convince a crowd but don’t have love
I leave a bitter taste
With every word I say

Chorus
So let my life be the proof
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You
And what You’re made of
How you lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
So let my life be the proof
The proof of Your love

If I give to a needy soul
But don’t have love then who is poor
It seems all the poverty
Is found in me

Chorus

Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
When it’s all said and done
Ooh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
When we sing our final song

Only love remains
Only love remains

Chorus

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I Lied

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and when you leave it, you think, “I MUST remember all of what was said because that was HUGE and some day it will be VERY important!”?  I remember every detail of conversations like that and as I continue to move through adulthood, with my own life, my own family, my own etc., those conversations often flood the forefront of my mind because now is when they are important to me.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat at the dinner table with my family of four and faintly mentioned something about body image.  The beautiful, inquisitive 13 year old who sits across the table from me every evening asked a question and I lied.  I lied because of the VERY important conversation that had been tucked away in my heart for so many years.

One of my mentors told me once that she makes certain to positively comment on her body when he daughter is around.  She explained that she did not want to pass down a legacy of negative body image, but rather of health and positivity.  She said that even if she isn’t feeling great about herself, she will purposefully force herself to compliment herself, out loud, in earshot of her sweet, precious daughter.  She told me of one time that she was getting ready and happened to be in her under garments when her daughter walked in the room.  She had no less than twenty seconds ago, picked apart her body while looking in the mirror, but now, with her daughter in the room, walked to the mirror and out loud praised God for perfectly piecing her body together.

This conversation, I remember, made me fight tears the whole way through it.  I remember thinking, “I want to do the same for my daughter some day!  I want to do the same for the girls who are in my life intimately!”  The legacy that has been passed down to me is a legacy of weight loss and dieting and therefore an inherent displeasure with my body and weight.  Without meaning to, the women in my family spend a lot of time focusing on weight and we have passed that down from generation to generation.  I see it in my grandmother, my mother/aunts and now in the generation of women of which I am a part.  This is NOT the legacy I want to pass down to the next generation.

So, when the 13 year old asked her question, I lied.

I said something like, “I like my body.  I am not worried about what other people think.  I try to be healthy and try to make sure that my husband is pleased with my body, but I don’t let either of those things define me.  God gave me everything I’ve got; He made me knowing that this would be me and I’m happy with that.”

After I said it, there was a weird feeling that rushed over me.  I wanted all of the things that I had just said to be true, but in my heart, I knew they weren’t.  I struggle with body image just as much, if not more than most women.  I am not pleased with every inch of my body (mainly because I feel there are too many inches around and too few inches lenghtwise, lol) and if I had all of the money in the world, I probably would waste a large chunk of it altering things about my body.  I want to be taller, thinner, prettier, …ier.

None of what I said to the impressionable girl across the table was fully true, however, I knew it was my opportunity to change the cycle of such a negative legacy.

(I have recently had the incomparable honor and opportunity of “junior editing” Shannon Ethridge‘s new book and I HIGHLY suggest that when it comes out, every person reads it because there is a section on body image that has the most amazing story of changing negative body image legacies.  I wish I could share it with you right now, but it is my joy and honor to point you towards Shannon’s book for now.)

I guess the question I have to ask myself, though, is one of morality.  We teach the 13 year old that lying is not okay.  She is often grounded or on restriction from some privilege because she hasn’t been entirely truthful.  In our home, we tell her, there is no circumstance when lying is acceptable.  Yet, I lied.  I broke our own rule.  I had good reason, but I still lied.  Was I wrong?

There is the whole idea of “fake it until you make it” and I think that was my intent when I told the lie.  I want what I said to be true and I suppose that if I speak it often enough, it will be true (out of the heart, the mouth speaks?), but I feel like such a faker in the meantime.  I desperately want to leave a legacy of contentment, pleasure and gratefulness when it comes to body image to the girls I have the privilege of encountering, but do I have to lie to do it?

My prayer is that it won’t be a lie forever.  I pray that I am able to love what God has created and that I am able to some day speak the truth when I attempt to pass down a legacy of health and appreciation.  My prayer is also that I am not alone in this.  How devastating it would be to work so hard to pass on a beautiful gift of loving our bodies only to have the world/other women contradict what I am trying to do.  I don’t want my daughter(s) to leave me only to find out that the world won’t accept her for who she is, no matter what she looks like.  I want my daughter(s) to be confident in who they are and to surround themselves with women who feel the same way; women who will also pass on a legacy of positive body image.  I can’t do this alone.  None of us can.

Barlow Girl- Mirror

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, Have I got it?
‘Cause Mirror you’ve always told me who I am
I’m finding it’s not easy to be perfect
So sorry you won’t define me
Sorry you don’t own me

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be?
Who are you? Who are you?
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, I won’t try

Mirror I am seeing a new reflection
I’m looking into the eyes
of He who made me
And to Him I have beauty beyond compare
I know He defines me (Yeah)

Who are you tell me
that I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you? (Yeah)
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try

You don’t define me (You don’t define me)

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you?
Yeah!
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try
Yeah

Who are you to tell me
That I’m less than what I should be
Who are you?
Who are you?
Yeah
I don’t need to listen
To the list of things I should do
I won’t try, no, I won’t try

Worthy of the Calling

“Remember, you are an ambassador of our family.”

I can’t count the number of times I heard this statement growing up.  My parents would say this as I left to go to a friend’s house most often, but they would also throw it in there pretty much any time they wanted me to be on my best behavior and they weren’t going to be around to monitor it.  In fact, I literally, just heard this phrase come out of my mother’s mouth last Sunday as I was walking into a restaurant to meet up with my in laws.  I was in a bad mood and not thrilled to be spending my afternoon at a legit Chinese restaurant (I’m a VERY picky eater) rather than at the beach like I had planned, and my mom said, “Put a smile on your face; get it together.  Remember, you are my ambassador.”

I hated the phrase as a child and I hate it as an adult.  Ever since our 13 year old moved in with us, I find myself saying so many things I swore I would never say to my own kids, but I haven’t said the ambassador line.  I remember feeling the pressure as a child.  It felt that if I messed up, I would inadvertently bring my family down with me, even if my mistake had nothing to do with my family.  Granted, we lived in a small(ish) community and most people knew everybody’s business, but it was so much pressure to feel like I had to represent my family with my behavior.  My behavior, my mistakes, my successes, my, my, my… they all should have been mine, not my family’s.  When I heard the phrase earlier this week, I thought to myself, “Not anymore!  I’m an adult, with my own family… I represent ME!”

Do I really represent me though?  In Ephesians, Paul tells me that I don’t.  Paul reminds me that I represent Christ.  He encourages me to live a life worthy of the calling I have received.  In this verse, Paul tells me that I am Christ’s ambassador; I am responsible for representing Christ.

The pressure I felt when my parents reminded me that my successes and failures reflected directly on them wasn’t motivating as a child.  It felt like an overwhelming burden that I should not have had to carry.  So, why does Christ ask me to carry his burden in this same way?

Maybe it has to do with how and where the burden is placed.  For some reason, I don’t view my responsibility of being Christ’s ambassador as daunting of a task as I did being my family’s ambassador.  I think it is because Christ doesn’t place the burden on me.  He loves me and teaches me and gently leads me.  He doesn’t send me out to the wolves and say, “go get ’em tiger!”  He goes WITH me and when He expects me to represent Him, He tells me that His grace is enough.

I fail EVERY day at being love to the world.  I am judgmental and prideful and stubborn.  I have prejudices that are so ingrained in me that sometimes I don’t even recognize them.  I’m busy and don’t make time for people.  I, I, I… I could go on and on.  But that is the thing, it isn’t about me and my failures!  When I commit my life to Christ and when I focus myself on Him first thing in the morning and as often as needed throughout the day, I fade into the background and Christ shines through.  Being Christ’s ambassador isn’t a burden because He steps in when I fail and reveals Himself in both my successes and failures.

So, my friends, here’s your challenge.  Are you willing to allow love to be who you are?  Are you willing to fade into the background so that Christ can represent Himself through you, to let the Light shine though?  Are you willing to live a life worthy of the calling?  It is tough and it may seem overwhelming, but remember that He isn’t expecting perfection… He simply asks to be in front.  My parents put me out in front when they reminded me of my role as an ambassador, but Christ doesn’t do that.  He requests that you represent Him and then says, “and I’ll lead the way… I’ll put myself in front, if you let me.”  So let Him.  The task is much easier to endure when we allow ourselves to take a step back and allow Him to lead the way.

Live Like That- Sidewalk Prophets

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of those
Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true

People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
I’m longing for the world to know the glory of the King

I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You

If love is who I am
Then this is where I’ll stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

It’s Over Already?

My heart aches at the news of Kim Kardashian’s decision to file for divorce. After just 72 days of marriage the model/reality TV star made this statement to E! today: “After careful consideration, I have decided to end my marriage. I hope everyone understands this was not an easy decision. I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned. We remain friends and wish each other the best.”
Divorce is a HUGE deal! It devastates lives and people’s hearts. It is not at all what God intended when he instituted the gift of marriage (giving oneself fully to another person for the rest of your lives). God designed marriage at creation. Adam and Eve were married and lived as a married couple. After Eve was created in the Genesis account, God “brought her to the man” (Gen. 2.221). This is considered to be the first institution of marriage. Two verses later, it is written, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2.24). It is clear, by these verses, that God created and ordained marriage and therefore, had a plan for the institution. God designed marriage to be a lasting union between man and woman, in which both partners reveal characteristics of God to one another that were previously unknown to their partner.
With an understanding that marriage was intended to be a lasting union, it seems obvious to assume that divorce was not intended. This is evident when Jesus says, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning, it was not so” (Mat. 19.8). Jesus responded in this way in reply to the Pharisees asking Jesus about the law of divorce in order to trick him. Even at this very early time in Christian history, there were opposing views regarding divorce. There were two main schools of thought regarding divorce. These schools of thought were formed by two different Rabbinical teachings: a) Hillel and b) Shammai. The Hillel school of thought was that a divorce was permitted in any circumstance, but it needed to happen in a discrete manner. The Shammai school of thought, in contrast, was much more restrictive and greatly opposed divorce among married couples. By asking Jesus this question, the Pharisees were testing him to see which school of thought was correct and, also to question Jesus on whether or not divorce should be permitted at all. The Pharisees were probably attempting to provide an opportunity for Jesus to go against the Mosaic Law. Because Jesus spent the large majority of his ministry ratifying and changing views from laws to love, the Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into saying that divorce was okay.
In the gospel accounts, Jesus continues his teachings on divorce and Paul, in First Corinthians, furthers the teaching. In teaching, both Jesus and Paul discuss exceptions and circumstances regarding the rules of divorce. Because sin entered into the world, God had to ratify his intentions for marriage. He did not intend for divorce, but because divorce became the reality of humanity, He set up guidelines in order to restrict and monitor it. One of the exceptions that is discussed in these passages is the fornication exception, found in Matthew, as stated by Jesus. In order to grasp the meaning of this exception, it is of utmost importance to come to a full understanding of the meaning of the word fornication and differentiate it from any other similar words.
The Greek text uses the word, “πορνεια” which is translated into “unchastity” in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This is a very important word. Πορνεια is transliterated into prorneia and is from where the English word “porn” comes. Many other translations of the Bible translate πορνεια to “fornication” or “sexual immorality.” The word fornication, in American culture, is often mistakenly interchanged with the word adultery, which is the Greek word “μοιχαω.” These words, in the Bible, are not and should not be interchangeable. Fornication refers to a sexual sin of any and all sorts; adultery is unfaithfulness toward one’s marriage partner.”. While both sins are wrong and carry heavy consequences, they are not the same and they should not be viewed the same, specifically, in regards to marriage. Jesus says, “except for fornication,” not “except for adultery.” The exception clause in regards to divorce deals only with straying outside of the marriage in a sexual manner.
To set up the next exception, Paul goes into a lengthy discourse on the subject of marriage between a believer and an unbeliever. He commands that as long as the unbelieving spouse is willing to coexist, the marriage is not to be dissolved by the believing spouse. Paul even goes on to explain the benefits of such a situation, where he says, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy” (7.14). The term “sanctified” is not referring to salvation, otherwise there would be no use in identifying a spouse as unbelieving. The term is used to describe the temporal blessing the unbelieving spouse will get because of the believing spouse. In this passage it seems as though Paul is eliminating reasons for the believing spouse to seek a divorce. If the believing spouse is worried about the effect of an unbelieving parent on their joint children, Paul assures them that the children will also experience blessing on behalf of the believing parent.
Paul continues to discuss the issue when he says, … “but if an unbeliever departs, let him depart.” The word “depart,” in Greek is “χωριζεται” which literally means “separates from.” This is the same word that was used in Jewish culture to mean divorce and was almost always used by Paul to refer to divorce. It seems that, under inspiration from God, Paul says that divorce, in the case of the unbeliever leaving the believer, is not to be stopped, if every attempt to salvage the marriage has failed. This is most likely the case when the unbelieving partner is so frantically opposed to Christianity that he or she refuses to continue the marriage.”
These two exceptions to God’s original intentions for marriage appear to be the only exceptions specifically expressed in the Bible. As I will point out in just a little while, this does not necessarily mean that these are the only valid reasons for divorce. With an understanding of what scripture says about the issue of divorce, I want to discuss how this affects us today, if at all. Even with a desire to fall within the confines of Biblical doctrine, it is often difficult to discern what information in the Bible should be taken word for word and without any liberty and what should be taken with more thought and with an understanding of cultural and societal differences. Frequently, in American Christianity, people are searching for black and white answers on any and every issue and in the case of divorce, there are not black and white answers for every circumstance. But how should society today deal with cases that are not discussed in the Bible?
I once read a book called “Christian Doctrine: Faith Once Discovered” and the author said, “the silence of the Scriptures should be respected as strongly as the clear statements.” While human instinct is to become frustrated with the silence, the author suggests that one should have respect and awe for what was purposely left out of the Bible. This, however, still does not answer the question of what to do with the silence. Author J. Vernon McGee discusses this question when he says, “I do not think one can put down a categorical rule either way for today.” He believes that each case should be judged on its own merit and to make black and white rules when there are no true black and white rules for every circumstance is simply unacceptable. It is hard to imagine that God would require a person to remain married when their life, or the life of their children are in danger. Each circumstance should be weighed and measured on their own, because there is no scriptural evidence leaning toward a right or wrong answer.
There is, however, a danger in this line of thinking. Some people seem to be taking far too much liberty in areas of silence. Where scripture is silent, a lot of people are making assumptions and not seeking wise counsel, studying the whole of the Word of God and/or seeking the will of the Lord. With couples finding it very difficult to combine their financial lives/views as well as their expectations for what a marriage should be at the top of the list for divorce and separation, it is extremely important to think, study and discuss thoroughly the Biblical view of divorce, as well as the character of God.
The issue of divorce will always be debated and discussed. Add to people’s opinions on the issues, the different perspectives that people get, along with the past experiences that they bring into the issue and the result is a muddled, confusing and frustrating set of issues that bear hugely on a large number of lives. But no matter how each person interprets God’s teachings on divorce, God’s word itself should be the basis from which we begin to take our stances. So to truly find answers to the issues that press us today, we will need to always, accurately use God’s word to help and guide the direction of our lives.
We have to look to our God for answers. As I have written about before, marriage is difficult. My first year of marriage was straight out of the drama category on Netflix. We both had dreadfully different expectations going into the marriage and adjusting to life together was tremendously difficult! The only reason we made it was because we (thankfully) both understood that we made a commitment to a LIFETIME together and did what we had to do to make things better.
Now, I don’t know Kim K.’s circumstances or if she has Biblical grounds for a divorce, but I do know that my God is bigger than any circumstance and he can change people’s hearts and lives. As I said in the beginning of this blog, my heart hurts to hear of divorce so soon after pledging to do life together forever. If I’m honest, my initial reaction was judgment, asking, “how can you know it isn’t going to work after just 72 days?” I mean, 72 days into my marriage, I had been ready to give up probably at least 70 times. I can only imagine the pain Kris Humphrys and Kim K. must be feeling. I think I know the disappointment, because I felt it; the disappointment of something not being as wonderful as you expected is a distinct disappointment that stings deep down at the core of your being.
Take care, you married people. Remember your commitment and know that God will bless you richly when you honor your commitment. Support, love and encourage your married friends, those who are struggling and those who are not.
Kim K.,
I am so sorry you are struggling through this. Marriage is sacred and it can be so beautiful. Know that God can restore everything that has been broken. Know that you are loved. Know that you are His!

-Rebecca

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new
You are making me new

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Carelessly Passionate

I suppose I have been avoiding this for a long time now.  I used to blog often and unashamedly.  I used to let people into my life through my words and I used to have an intimate relationship with writing.  Writing was my outlet; it was this beautiful and friendly form of art that flowed freely and without hesitation.

I know, with clarity, when all of this changed for me.  Life got messy.  Life got REALLY messy.  I got married and all of a sudden, my life was also his life and I couldn’t find it within me to be honest anymore.  Any desire for honesty or attempt to enter into my relationship with writing was stifled my fear of sharing his life, because how can I share my life without sharing his?  As a newlywed, life seemed to revolve around the us and I struggled to find the me in the mess.

I have been participating in this extraordinary program called Building Leaders Authors Speakers and Teachers (BLAST), led by author and speaker Shannon Ethridge, since September now.  It seemed like the perfect program for me.  My entry essay explains it best.

For a few years now, I have been wrestling with my calling from God.  After realizing that being a youth pastor was not exactly what God had in mind in regards to youth ministry and myself, I began weeding through the mess of my life and God’s will in order to figure out exactly where God wanted me in ministry.  In December of 2007, I wrote the following in my journal; “I have all of these ideas about what I want to do with my life, but it is killing me that I don’t feel like I know how I am going to get there.  I want to be fully available for ministry on my own and with my husband.  I want to rescue sexually abused and addicted teens from the bondage of secrecy.  I want to write Christian living books.  I want to be a speaker at youth conferences and women’s conferences.  I want to have foster care teens in my home.  I want to be a loving wife and mother.  I want to write curriculum for junior high Bible studies.  There are so many things that I want to do and I am so passionate about them; God has made me passionate about them.  I feel that I am fully capable of achieving all of these goals, but I just don’t know how to get there.  They don’t all fit together; it’s not like one is a stepping stone to another… they all seem so random.  How do I get to a place in which I am able to do all of these things?  What do I need to do in order to position myself for that place?” I firmly believe that the B.L.A.S.T. program is the answer to the questions I asked in my journal.

            I have felt for a long time that my passions are slightly out of the “Christian box.”  I am often hesitant to share my opinions and thoughts because I do not want to cause a stir, but at the same time, my heart longs for change.  I am desperate to consistently be ahead of the curve and want to not be afraid of taking the risks that are necessary for growth in the Christian community.  In February of 2008, I wrote in my journal, “I feel like I’m on the verge of something big and along with it being big, it happens to be the most terrifying fixation I’ve ever encountered.  I feel like I am ratifying everything I’ve ever been taught and everything the majority teaches.  I fear that I am creating something so that it fits what I want it to be, but at the same time, I have this fire in my bones and it can’t be anything but of God.  I don’t want to walk out on this plank by myself.  I wish I had somebody who could hold my hand as a statement of not just support, but also agreement.  I wish I could be carelessly passionate about this, but there is so much at stake and I just don’t know if it is worth what could be lost.  I don’t know if people are ready for this and I don’t want to constantly be stirring things up.  This is not how it is supposed to be!  This is not how He intended His people to live and love Him.  I just wish I had the courage to get off of the verge and move into the unknown.”  I want people to live in the freedom that comes with a relationship with Christ, but I see so many “church people” suffocating in their misconceptions of what it means to be a Christ follower.  I want women to know that their sexuality is a gift from God and that it is something to be celebrated and not something of which to be ashamed.  These are just a few of the things I want to see change and of which I believe I can be a part.  Along with answering my practical “how do I get there?” questions, I believe that the B.L.A.S.T. program can help me “get off of the verge and move into the unknown” with confidence and a stronger ability to communicate my passions and beliefs.  The B.L.A.S.T. program has the potential to single-handedly help me launch myself into the speaking and publishing arenas to which I so desperately feel called.

One of the challenges that has been presented to me in this program is to start writing again.  It has taken so long for me to even truly consider it.  I still fear being honest and because I am this innate need to succeed, I have avoided this effort stating that I don’t know where to start.

I’m tired of avoiding, though.  I am tired to hiding.  I need to move forward with this, regardless of where I start.  I have to stop making excuses and just let this be what it will be.  I am passionate about so many things and sometimes they don’t seem to fit together, which is why I feel like I don’t know where to start with this.  What I have decided, however, is that I am just going to write about my passions and allow my writing to evolve into something unknown.  I am going to allow myself the freedom to wander for a little while.