A Samsonite Past

Shortly after I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I began planning a trip to Europe with a friend of mine. I never had any of the typical high school or college experiences, so I had these ideas of grandeur to make good on one cliche – backpacking through Europe: a 20something girl, traveling through a half-dozen European countries, hopping trains, and making memories. Dad quickly put the kibosh on that one when he explained that I’d never be able to pack all I wanted or needed into a backpack and traveling the ancient, cobblestone streets, with a rolling suitcase behind me, just wouldn’t have the same appeal.

So in October of 2007, complete with a great traveling companion and more bags than any one person would ever need, two single girls set out on the trip of a lifetime. I remember dad telling me, as he was trying to fit all of my suitcases into the trunk on our way to the airport, how I would never be able to handle all of my own bags and that I was taking way too much stuff with me. Of course my independent, I-Can-Do-Anything-I-Want, self said I’d have no problem finding a guy on the airplane or at the baggage claim to help. And I didn’t. Chivalry isn’t dead; you just have to know where to look for it. I had all the assistance I needed to put my bags in the overhead bins or to pull them off of the baggage carousel. But what I hadn’t planned on was a cranky, middle-aged, taxi driver in Madrid, Spain.

Armed with my traveling expertise and what little broken Spanish I still knew, I negotiated a flat fee taxi fare before we ever put a bag in the trunk. After our 45 minute ride to our hotel had turned into an 1.5hr tour of every back road and alleyway there was to downtown Madrid (unknown to us or our taxi driver, the main streets had been closed due to a bicycle race) I felt really good about negotiating that fare up front that now would have been double had we been paying off of the meter. Good that was until he abruptly pulled over on a side street, dumped all of our bags on to the curb, insisted we get out of the taxi, and pointed in a general direction saying in broken English “Your hotel! Your hotel!”. The moment he drove off, leaving us stranded and dumbfounded, I turned to my friend and plainly said, “that’s NOT our hotel”. suitcases

After 7+ blocks, walking the busy Gran Via (uphill), lugging behind me two full-size suitcases, two carry on bags, and a personal bag, I could do nothing more than stop and begin laughing hysterically thinking “if dad could see me now he’d be saying ‘I told you so'”. Those words haunted me the rest of the trip, included as I was flying back and missed our connecting flight in Chicago and I found myself running barefoot (no time to put my shoes back on after security) through the terminal, trying futilely to catch another connecting flight, only to arrive at the gate, bags in hand, as the connecting flight was pulling away. I had never hated baggage so much in my life as I did at that exact moment.

These memories are what have come to mind each day this week as I woke up every morning with a song on my heart, Suitcases by Dara Maclean.

How can you move when they’re weighing you down? What can you do when you’re tied to the ground…You carry your burdens heavy like gravity. Just let them go now, there’s freedom in release. You can’t run when you’re holding suitcases. It’s a new day, throw away your mistakes and open up your heart, lay down your guard, you don’t have to be afraid.

Have you ever tried running with a bunch of suitcases? As you can see above, I literally have, and it isn’t easy; it’s downright exhausting. Now think of those suitcases as your past and give them a name:

  • Shame
  • Fearluggage
  • Abuse
  • Hurt
  • Bitterness
  • Anger
  • Blame
  • Failure
  • Worthlessness
  • Betrayal
  • Offense
  • Unmet Expectations
  • Broken Hearts

Can you imagine running, or even just walking, through life carrying all of that baggage around? People do it every day. Now think of your relationships – every one of those bags that you hold on to gets carried in to that relationship. Add to that, the baggage your partner brings, and before you know it you’ll be so weighed down by the past, you won’t be progressing forward any more.

You can probably guess what I’m going to say next – my one reoccurring theme: this isn’t God’s best for you! Carrying around your hurts, your brokenness, your baggage isn’t what God wants for you. It’s just like the new series my church has started, Found in You. In Him, in Christ, we have been redeemed, we have been washed clean of our past, and we have been made righteous in Him.

2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 1:7
In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. 

When we were redeemed and made righteous in Him, our past was wiped clean. Every bag we once held on to was thrown away. God keeps no account of our past we have been forgiven of. It’s only us, and our human nature, that continues to bring it back into the present. His word very plainly tells us that over and over again:

Psalm 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

1 Peter 5:7
Casting all your care upon Him; for He careth for you. 

Favim.com-12254Micah 7:19
Once again You will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under Your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!

Those cares and sins are the bags we hold on to. The baggage of our past. God has a plan for every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11). When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the plan (or flight) we had for ourselves got replaced (rerouted) with the plan (flight) God has for us. But the more baggage you hold on to, the more you’ll get held back, and the more likely you are to miss the next flight and have to be rerouted to another one.

God’s mercy on us will always bring us back to our final destination in Him when we repent and seek Him, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be the person standing at the gate, holding all of your bags, as you watch your plane pull away and wait for the next one. No, God’s standing at the ticket counter saying “Give ME all of your bags. You don’t have to worry. You don’t have to care. I’ll take your cares and lose them over the Atlantic ocean and make sure you have everything you need when you arrive at your destination and I’ll exceed any expectation you might have.” Trust me, it’ll be one flight where you won’t mind having your bags lost.

So don’t be someone who holds on to your past, to all of those bags. And don’t allow that baggage to define who you are. There should be only one thing in life that defines us – Christ. I don’t want my past to define me. I want who I am in Christ to define me and my future. The only piece of baggage I want to take into my future – into a relationship – into a marriage one day – is the suitcase labeled “Redeemed and Righteous in Him”. Let go of your Samsonite past, throw your suitcases into the ocean of forgetfulness, and look ahead to the future God has for you! He’s got a first class seat waiting for you, but checked bags aren’t allowed, so pack light.

Philippians 3:13
…BUT one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. 

Putting Feet to Your Faith

  
I can remember growing up, one of my favorite songs was, Screen Door by Rich Mullins. It seemed that it was always playing on our drives from the rent house to the new house my parents were building at the time (ah, the ’80s – a moment of silence please for this great decade). As a kid, I used to laugh at the lyrics because they were so preposterous. Why would someone ever put a screen door on a submarine?! But as I got older, I realized how poignant the words really were.

Faith without works is like a song you can’t sing. It’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine. 

I wish I remembered who first said to me “it’s time to put feet to your faith”. It has been a statement to live by in this Christian’s life – although I haven’t always done so, I resolve to live this way from here out.

Thinking back to writing about Cannonball Faith, having faith is one thing. But are you actually using what God gave you?

I’ve had my ups and downs at my job over the past 10 years, and there’s been more than one occasion where I would come home set on the idea that I was going to quit the next day. But I never did. Which is a discussion for later on being in the right place, at the right time, in God’s will. But every time I’d come home and begin to gripe about the current situation, I’d be asked “What are you doing about it?” Which of course my response was always “I’m praying about it. I’m praying the right job in.” <— pretty sure that’s the adult equivalent of your child coming out of Sunday school and asking them what they learned, only to receive the ‘one-size-fits-all’ quizzical response of “Jesus?”.

But you know, praying about it, and believing by faith are both great things to do…but God didn’t give us faith and the Holy Spirit to just sit around on our keisters being armchair believers – believing by faith, but not LIVING by faith – not putting works (action) to our faith.

The Bible is full of examples of men and women who not only believed by faith, but put that faith to action until they saw results. Two specific examples come to mind of literally putting feet to your faith: Peter walking on water and the battle of Jericho.

Peter had faith. He had great, walking-on-water faith. But remember too, he had the same measure of faith we’ve all been given. He could have stayed sitting in that boat, watching Jesus on the water. He could have answered like most Christians do when it comes to believing for something by faith – if it’s God will, then He’ll bring it to me. But he didn’t. He put feet to his faith and stepped out of that boat on to the unknown, on to the water. (Matthew 14)

It’s the same for the Israelites and the battle of Jericho. They could have easily camped outside of the city walls and used their faith, praying every day, for those walls to be removed. But no, they used their faith and obeyed God and what he asked of them and put their feet to work. They marched, and blew the ram’s horns, and gave a shout just as God had directed them to do so, and as the song goes, the walls came tumbling down. (Joshua 6)

Matthew 17:20 speaks of mountain moving faith – speak to the mountain to move and it will move. I really wish there was an asterisk after this verse though. So many get stuck on believing and confessing that they forget to put action to it. If I could put an asterisk next to this verse it would say “Speak to the mountain to move and it will move, however, if God puts a shovel in front of you, put it to work until that whole mountain is moved.” and then refer everyone to James 2:17 that “faith without works, is dead”.

This is where I think a lot of Christians get hung up with the believing and confessing part without the action part of faith.

When one of my aunts received a diagnosis of cancer years ago, it was a big blow. I love her dearly and for very selfish reasons did not want to see her die – she’s my spiritual rock, my go-to, my intercessor. So I began praying about it and received my own new revelation of God’s word and the wisdom He gives us. Believing for healing is great…but you better know you’ve heard from God and have had a come to Jesus meeting before you make the decision to believe by faith ONLY. God gave us doctors, He gave those doctors great wisdom and medicine – it takes just as much faith to believe for that medication to do what it is supposed to do and for those doctors’ hands to be guided by wisdom as it does to sit back and just believe for a supernatural healing. And just because your healing came through the actions you took guided by the Holy Spirit, doesn’t make it any less of a miracle and it doesn’t make you any less of a good Christian believer for doing so!

With this rhema, I drove myself up to her and sat down to ask her “Are you choosing to believe only for a miraculous healing because that’s what God has told you to do, or are you making that decision out of fear of the unknown with treatments and surgery?” When I went to see her a few weeks ago, she talked about that weekend when I came to see her several years back and as she said “preach to her and bring her back”. Which is definitely what I did. I had a boldness that weekend when I went to her and got in her face about it – I had my faith to believe for the miraculous, but I also had the guiding of the Holy Spirit in what action to take with that faith.

By the way, my aunt, she’s still here….and she’s cancer free, praise God! She put feet to her faith.

So whatever you are believing for in your life and using your faith for, are you putting feet to that faith? Are you putting action to your beliefs and confession? Or are you just going to be the armchair believer?

God gave us all the same measure of faith to use in our lives. The outcome of that faith, (the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen – Hebrews 11:1) however, will be dependent on you seeking wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit on what action to put with your faith. If your New Years resolution was to get healthier and lose weight, you can believe, and wish, and pray for it all you want…but until you put action to it and change your lifestyle and change the way you eat and change whatever else God directs you to change, you won’t see the same results. Are you believing for a new job? Don’t just use your faith and pray about it, but seek God on the steps He wants you to take – where to begin looking, where to put resumes in, who to speak with, etc.

Faith is a precious gift from God to us. Don’t let yours become stagnant and dead, having no action behind it, or pretty soon it’ll be as useless as a screen door on a submarine!

Toss the List – Part 2

A few days after I posted ‘Toss the List‘, my father posted two great articles on Facebook from Charisma Magazine.

When God dealt with me, and my list for a husband, back in 2002, He didn’t leave me without some guidelines of what to believe for and look for. But what is important to understand is that it’s not MY list, it’s God’s list for me. I sought after God and what He wanted for me and my husband.

I don’t look at this list every day. I don’t even look at it every month. I’ve had 12 years with this list, so trust me, it’s imprinted on the very depths of my soul at this point. But I also don’t share it with others – this is something between myself and God. I’ve seen what can happen when women share their lists; magically Mr. Wrong starts doing everything right to fulfill that list. The last thing I want is Mr. Wrong parading in Mr. Right’s clothing – I’ve encountered enough wolfsheeps for a lifetime.

I can’t tell you what is right or wrong for YOUR list of the spouse God has for you. That is between you and God. But I can honestly say if God had a general guideline for all of us, these two articles written by  J. Lee Grady, for his blog Fire In My Bones for Charisma Magazine, are superb and yet so simple in their truths.

As Christians, the unbeliever should be a non-negotiable for relationships. When I first moved back from living overseas, I was spending time with a guy I had grown up next door to – he was/is an Atheist. I enjoyed his company. We had a lot of the same likes and interests, and definitely the same sense of humor. But when I brought one of my brothers along with us on one of our “friend dates” and I saw the disappointment in his eyes that he later vocalized, I knew these were waters I didn’t need to be treading. Which also goes back to the dangers of casual dating when you don’t see a future there, even casual friend dates…someone always ends up with feelings involved, even if it’s unintentional.

So I hope you all take a moment to read these articles that were written last year around Valentine’s Day (or as many of us call it, Single Awareness Day). And please, PLEASE, pay close attention to the very first one – The Unbeliever and “Missionary Dating”.

10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry by J. Lee Grady

My wife and I raised four daughters—without shotguns in the house!—and three of them have already married. We love our sons-in-law, and it’s obvious God handpicked each of them to match our daughters’ temperaments and personality.

I have always believed God is in the matchmaking business. If He can do it for my daughters, He can do it for you.

Today I have several single female friends who would very much like to find the right guy. Some tell me the pickings are slim at their church, so they have ventured into the world of online dating. Others have thrown up their hands in despair, wondering if there are any decent Christian guys left anywhere. They’ve begun to wonder if they should lower their standards in order to find a mate.

My advice stands: Don’t settle for less than God’s best. Too many Christian women today have ended up with an Ishmael because impatience pushed them into an unhappy marriage. Please take my fatherly advice: You are much better off single than with the wrong guy!

Speaking of “wrong guys,” here are the top 10 men you should avoid when looking for a husband:

1. The unbeliever. Please write 2 Corinthians 6:14 on a Post-it note and tack it on your computer at work. It says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB). This is not an outdated religious rule. It is the Word of God for you today.

Don’t allow a man’s charm, looks or financial success (or his willingness to go to church with you) push you to compromise what you know is right. “Missionary dating” is never a wise strategy. If the guy is not a born-again Christian, scratch him off your list. He’s not right for you. I’ve yet to meet a Christian woman who didn’t regret marrying an unbeliever.

2. The liar. If you discover that the man you are dating has lied to you about his past or that he’s always covering his tracks to hide his secrets from you, run for the nearest exit. Marriage must be built on a foundation of trust. If he can’t be truthful, break up now before he bamboozles you with an even bigger deception.

3. The playboy. I wish I could say that if you meet a nice guy at church, you can assume he’s living in sexual purity. But that’s not the case today. I’ve heard horror stories about single guys who serve on the worship team on Sunday but act like Casanovas during the week. If you marry a guy who was sleeping around before your wedding, you can be sure he will be sleeping around after your wedding.

4. The deadbeat. There are many solid Christian men who experienced marital failure years ago. Since their divorce, they have experienced the Holy Spirit’s restoration, and now they want to remarry. Second marriages can be very happy. But if you find out that the man you are dating hasn’t been caring for his children from a previous marriage, you have just exposed a fatal flaw. Any man who will not pay for his past mistakes or support children from a previous marriage is not going to treat you responsibly.

5. The addict. Churchgoing men who have addictions to alcohol or drugs have learned to hide their problems—but you don’t want to wait until your honeymoon to find out that he’s a boozer. Never marry a man who refuses to get help for his addiction. Insist that he get professional help and walk away. And don’t get into a codependent relationship in which he claims he needs you to stay sober. You can’t fix him.

6. The bum. I have a female friend who realized after she married her boyfriend that he had no plans to find steady work. He had devised a great strategy: He stayed home all day and played video games while his professional wife worked and paid all the bills. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either” (2 Thess. 3:10). The same rule applies here: If a man is not willing to work, he doesn’t deserve to marry you.

7. The narcissist. I sincerely hope you can find a guy who is handsome. But be careful: If your boyfriend spends six hours a day at the gym and regularly posts closeups of his biceps on Facebook, you have a problem. Do not fall for a self-absorbed guy. He might be cute, but a man who is infatuated with his appearance and his own needs will never be able to love you sacrificially, like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). The man who is always looking at himself in the mirror will never notice you.

8. The abuser. Men with abusive tendencies can’t control their anger when it boils over. If the guy you are dating has a tendency to fly off the handle, either at you or others, don’t be tempted to rationalize his behavior. He has a problem, and if you marry him you will have to navigate his minefield every day to avoid triggering another outburst. Angry men hurt women—verbally and sometimes physically. Find a man who is gentle.

9. The man-child. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m suspicious of a guy who still lives with his parents at age 35. If his mother is still doing his cooking, cleaning and ironing at that age, you can be sure he’s stuck in an emotional time warp. You are asking for trouble if you think you can be a wife to a guy who hasn’t grown up. Back away and, as a friend, encourage him to find a mentor who can help him mature.

10. The control freak. Some Christian guys today believe marriage is about male superiority. They may quote Scripture and sound super-spiritual, but behind the façade of husbandly authority is deep insecurity and pride that can morph into spiritual abuse. First Peter 3:7 commands husbands to treat their wives as equals. If the man you are dating talks down to you, makes demeaning comments about women or seems to squelch your spiritual gifts, back away now. He is on a power trip. Women who marry religious control freaks often end up in a nightmare of depression.

If you are a woman of God, don’t sell your spiritual birthright by marrying a guy who doesn’t deserve you. Your smartest decision in life is to wait for a man who is sold out to Jesus.

8 Women Christian Men Should Never Marry by J. Lee Brady

Last week my column “10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry” went viral. More than 1.2 million people have shared that message so far—most likely because so many single men and women are seriously asking for guidelines on finding a compatible mate.

In response I received numerous requests to share similar guidelines for men who are looking for wives. Since I am mentoring several young men right now and have seen a few of them marry successfully during the past few years, it wasn’t difficult to draft this list. These are the women I tell my spiritual sons to avoid:

1. The unbeliever. In last week’s column, I reminded women that the Bible is absolutely clear on this point: Christians should not marry unbelievers. Second Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (NASB). Apart from your decision to follow Christ, marriage is the single most important decision you will ever make. Don’t blow it by ignoring the obvious. You need a wife who loves Jesus more than she loves you. Put spiritual maturity at the top of your list of qualities you want in a wife.

2. The material girl. One young friend of mine was engaged to a girl from a rich family. He saved up money for months to buy a ring, but when he proposed she told him he needed to go back to the jewelry store to buy a bigger diamond. She pushed her fiance to go into debt for a ring that fit her expectations. She wanted a Tiffany’s lifestyle on his Wal-Mart budget. I warned my friend that he was stepping into serious trouble. Unless you want to live in debt for the rest of your life, do not marry a girl who has dollar signs in her eyes and eight credit cards in her Gucci purse.

3. The diva. Some macho guys like to throw their weight around and pretend they are superior to women. Divas are the female version of this nightmare. They think the world revolves around them, and they don’t think twice about hurting somebody else to prove their point. Their words are harsh and their finger-snapping demands are unreasonable. Some of these women might end up in leadership positions at church, but don’t be fooled by their super-spiritual talk. Real leaders are humble. If you don’t see Christlike humility in the woman you are dating, back away from her and keep looking.

4. The Delilah. Remember Samson? He was anointed by God with superhuman strength, but he lost his power when a seductive woman figured out his secret and gave her man the world’s most famous haircut. Like Delilah, a woman who hasn’t yielded her sexuality to God will blind you with her charms, break your heart and snip your anointing off. If the “Christian” woman you met at church dresses provocatively, flirts with other guys, posts sexually inappropriate comments on Facebook or tells you she’s OK with sex before marriage, get out of that relationship before she traps you.

5. The contentious woman. A young man told me recently that he dated a girl who had serious resentment in her heart because of past hurts. “Before I would propose, I told my fiancee she had to deal with this,” he explained. “It would have been a deal-breaker, but there was a powerful breakthrough and now we are engaged.” This guy realized that unresolved bitterness can ruin a marriage. Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” If the woman you are dating is seething with anger and unforgiveness, your life together will be ruined by arguing, door-slamming and endless drama. Insist that she get prayer and counseling.

6. The controller. Marriage is a 50/50 partnership, and the only way it works is when both husband and wife practice mutual submission according to Ephesians 5:21. Just as some guys think they can run a marriage like a dictatorship, some women try to manipulate decisions to get their way. This is why premarital counseling is so important! You don’t want to wait until you’ve been married for two weeks to find out that your wife doesn’t trust you and wants to call all the shots.

7. The mama’s girl. It’s normal for a new wife to call her mom regularly for advice and support. It is not normal for her to talk to her mother five times a day about every detail of her marriage, including her sex life. That’s weird. Yet I have counseled guys whose wives allowed their mothers (or fathers) total control of their marriages. Genesis 2:24 says a man is to leave his parents and cleave to his wife. Parents should stay in the background of their children’s marriages. If your girlfriend hasn’t cut the apron strings, proceed with caution.

8. The addict. So many people in the church today have not been properly discipled. Many still struggle with various types of addictions—to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medicines or pornography—either because we don’t confront these sins from the pulpit or we don’t offer enough compassionate support to strugglers. Jesus can completely set a person free from these habits, but you don’t want to wait until you’re married to find out your wife isn’t sober. You may still be called to be married, but it is not wise to tie the knot until your girlfriend faces her issues head-on.

Your best rule to follow in choosing a wife is found in Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” Look past the outward qualities that the world says are important, and look at the heart.

Toss the List

GEN-checklist-for-you-vet-header

I began writing this blog several days ago, but then the lists of the holiday season took over. Ironic, I know. There were lists of what needed to bought. Lists of what needed to be wrapped. Lists of what needed to be made. Lists and lists of this and that.

I’d consider myself to be an avid list maker. Making lists is my own personal happy place – it can even give me a semblance of control over something or a situation by making lists. I can even think of countless nights over the years where I couldn’t go to sleep because my mind was in “list mode”. Maybe it’s just a woman thing, but I think in general women come by it naturally. Whether it’s a grocery list or a list of attributes and qualities of a future spouse, women start making lists in grade school. And we don’t just see Point A to Point Z, we see every other step in the alphabet in between, along with the bullet points and foot notes.

Now don’t get me wrong, lists can be a good thing. They can keep you on budget at the grocery store, they can help you remember things to do, but lists can go to the extreme too. So when does the list making go too far?

Like I said, girls start young with the lists. The grade school game of M.A.S.H. is all about lists. But as those young girls get older, and their hearts a little more broken, those lists start getting longer.

I had a pretty long list many years ago. And I justified those lists because of a word that had been spoken over me by a prophet to not settle for anything less than God’s best. I knew what I wanted and I wanted what I knew. But as my lists grew longer, my age older, and my self-esteem lower, God began dealing with me and my incessant list making.

It all started pretty simple, like most of my conversations with God do. “So tell me what is on your list?”, I heard Him say as I began rambling off everything from height and eye color to being a man like my father. I even spent time justifying each of those bullet points in great length with God. But then God really got my attention when I heard Him say, “Do you not trust Me?”.

Never, before that moment, had I looked at MY lists as being a way of not trusting God with my life and not living by faith.

That’s when He reminded me of what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”. So I tossed MY list and began seeking God on what HIS list was for me.

Tossing my “husband list” all happened several years ago. And I thought I was done with the lists after receiving that correction from the Lord, until that is, I saw I had started using them in other areas of my life again.

Over a year ago I had heard from God to go and visit another church. But I didn’t want to – I was at my lowest (self-esteem) and heaviest (weight) point in my life. I didn’t even want to go to church and see people I’ve known for years, much less go somewhere different and meet new people.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I LOVE my pastors and my personal relationship with them, but I wasn’t in love with my church. I had my list though! Foolishly, I shared it with God again (apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time). “God, if I can just have XYZ and ABC, even 123 if I really want to be real about what I want, I would have the perfect church!”. Let me add a little bit of advice here: there is no such thing as a perfect church. There is, however, such a thing as the right church for you – it might be for life, or it might just be for a season, but that is why it’s important to be led by God.

Not surprisingly, God didn’t answer me this time. I can see Him now smirking and shaking His head saying “Didn’t we have this SAME EXACT conversation a few years ago?”

So I went on. Running from what God had told me to do and holding tight to my list every Sunday morning. Pretty soon, I began to see things change at church and I began to see those things on my list get checked off. I actually got really excited….there was MY list, coming to life before my eyes! We were having these amazing moves of the Holy Spirit in our services, with praise and worship leaving behind the “production” aspect of it all and going back to the roots of my youth with tried and true (and anointed) hymns, but it still didn’t feel right.

How could it not feel right though if I was getting everything I had wanted?

That’s when I felt that urgency rise up again at what God had told me to do before. I guess that’s why it didn’t feel right because I was still looking for what I wanted for myself, not for what God wanted for me.

Even after my first Sunday visiting a new church, I still was holding things up to MY list of expectations. Which is exactly what most lists boil down to – expectations. So I sought God and heard Him say, “Do you not think I can be the same God there as I am at any other church, any other service?” And I heard again what His word says: “I knew YOU before I formed YOU” (Jeremiah 1:5), “I know the END from the BEGINNING” (Isaiah 46:10), “My plans for you are good, not bad” (Jeremiah 29:11), so “Seek Me and I will gladly give you your heart’s desires” (Psalm 37:4), “If you know these things, and believe by faith that they are true, then why are you limiting what I have planned for your life with your lists?”

I know God wants the best for me and that He knows better than I ever could of what I need. So I made the decision to allow peace to be my umpire (Colossians 3:15) and I tossed my lists along with all of my expectations. I don’t want to limit what God can do and what He wants for my life.

His word says says in Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Don’t put God in a box limited by your lists and don’t narrow Him to your own expectations and ideas for anything in your life: be it a spouse, a church, even a job. You might not know what the future holds, but that’s where you have to let faith take over. As I have started being led by peace and allowing faith to take over my expectations and lists, I’ve seen God show up big time in my life with a new excitement about church. When we toss our lists and stop limiting God in our lives, and we start walking by faith, we’ll see Him show up bigger than ever before!

Does Practice Really Make Perfect?

Last year, around this time, I was Christmas shopping in Target and came across this book: Never Have I Ever, My Life (SO FAR) Without a Date by Katie Heaney. Of course, I snapped a quick photo of it and sent it to Berta, jokingly saying “Hey look, it’s a book about ME!”

Well, I was mostly joking, but part of me was actually a little excited because that meant there was someone else out there like me (for the most part – the dating ship sailed a long time ago). No longer was I some mythical, sparkly unicorn alone in a world full of stallions and asses (yes, I said asses…after trying online dating and the slim pickings that are left over once you reach a certain age, that’s the only word that adequately describes some men you will encounter).  But right there in front of me, in print, was someone else who had the guts to actually share her real self with the world.  This blog is about as close as I’ll ever likely to get to her courageousness in putting something so personal out there.

It’s been two full decades since I sat in a Wednesday chapel service in 7th grade listening to someone talk about Godly and ungodly relationships. We were each handed two hearts; a blue heart and a pink heart glued together. At the end of the message, the speaker then asked us to remove the pink heart from the blue heart without leaving anything behind. After much trying, it was evident that the task before us was impossible. The two hearts could not be removed from one another without tearing and leaving pieces behind on the other heart. Once those hearts separated, they would never be whole again.

This example, of hearts intertwining in a relationship, really stuck with me, and obviously two decades later still does. I wish this analogy could be used with every young person before they reach the age of dating. Will it save everyone from heartache? No. My heart was still broken in high school. But it only took one painful time to know that wasn’t something I wanted to do again. I knew I only had one heart to give and I wanted to give as much of that as is possible to the man God has for me. I just wish I could yell it from the rooftops to today’s youth that the old adage of ‘Practice Makes Perfect’ is a lie straight from hell.

I’ve been listening to my favorite ministry tape series this week on my lunch breaks. It’s amazing how much they still minister to me. For 13 years these tapes about Godly friendships, relationships, and marriages have spoken to me, at different points in my life, new rhema words from God every time.

In 2001, a precious pastor from Australia did a marriage seminar at our church. At that time I was just coming out of a nasty breakup – my only real breakup to this day. I was young, and completely naïve. I had spent two years dating on and off again with ‘D’, but more importantly, I was head over heels in love with him. Well, I was in what I thought at that time in my life was “love” – it was anything but love.

Now, at 32, I look back to my 17-19yr old self and thank God for His protection on me at that point in my life. When I broke up with ‘D’ for the last time in 2001, using a few choice words, I was devastated and my self-worth was non-existent. He knew I had made a decision to save sex for marriage. But somehow, by God’s grace and mercy, he never once pushed me to change my mind. It was absolutely a God thing, because at that age, and as in love as I thought I was, I would have probably caved quickly.  Sounds like a great guy, right? I mean he wasn’t pushing me to sleep with him or anything. Well, that’s what I thought too until Christmas vacation when he went to visit his dad. It didn’t take long, once he was back, for the rumors to make their go around. He wasn’t pressuring me for sex because he was getting it elsewhere. Over his vacation, his father had bought him a prostitute.

Feeling absolutely worthless and undesirable, with the rug yanked from under my feet, I turned to those ministry tapes. I turned to God. I truly believe, with every fiber of my being, that not only did God completely protect me in that situation, but He then hid me away to save me from any further heartache, to save me for my husband one day (FYI God, I’m ok if You are ready to unhide me).

I hear stories now from other friends of things that were happening in our circles at that time, and in the years to follow, and know that God kept me from all of that to protect my heart. Our hearts are far too fragile to be spreading them out, leaving pieces of them behind with each failed relationship.

Listening to the tape series this time (the millionth time), I heard something this week with a new revelation. Dating and breaking up over and over again is nothing but practicing for divorce. Practicing for divorce!

Frankly, I used to be ashamed to admit my inexperience in the dating world; my inexperience in all things really. My good friends can testify to me being the most awkward flirter ever – I either come across as super friendly or a bitch. But you know what? I’m ok with the inexperience (and trust me it’s taken a long time to own up to that – it’s a conscious, daily effort at times). Practice might make perfect when it comes to learning a new instrument or playing a sport, but practicing relationships with the wrong people will never amount to anything perfect by God’s standards!

I think deep down this is why I knew from the start with ‘T’ a couple of years ago that things weren’t right and he wasn’t the ONE. Oh, but “you should still go on a date with him, it never hurts getting in a little dating practice”. I think I can hear God laughing now. I knew then that I didn’t want to ‘date around’, but it took an abscess and a root canal (literally) to get my mind focused on staying the course, WITHOUT practice. God, if you’re reading:

If I ever end up in that boat again (which I never plan to), would you mind giving me a sign that isn’t so costly to my bank account? I’d be forever grateful.
Yours Truly, Gertie

So, here God, take my heart. It’s yours till you see fit to give it to the husband you have for me. No more practicing for failure and practicing for divorce. I’m setting my sights on You and on Your perfect plan. Experience or not, I’d rather fumble my way through life with the right ONE man God has for me than be some expert at it all with a lot of torn up hearts left behind. My ‘Never Have I Ever’ list might be really (REALLY) long, but that’s ok. It’s time to stand up, be proud, and take ownership of that list.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Gertie.

  
When I started blogging two and half years ago, this is not the place I ever expected to take it. If you know me, then you know, humor is my MO. Sarcastic humor, none-the-less. It’s how I cope with things, especially when I feel uncomfortable – it’s a wall I could put up. And on the cusp of my 30th birthday, with the pressure to try online dating one more time, writing a blog about it seemed to be the logical next step. I mean because the first two times I tried it, it was so successful. See there’s that sarcasm again.

But there are only so many funny encounters with online dating you can write about before it just becomes negative. And becoming negative is a slippery slope into bitterness. That’s the slope I was falling down over the last two years. Falling might not be the right word – sledding down on a rocket, at super-sonic speed, might be more accurate. It didn’t really hit me, that that’s what I was doing though, until Berta and I talked one night and she expressed her concern in not wanting to see me become the bitter, single 30something girl. We’ve both seen that girl in a story before, and trust me, it doesn’t end well…That girl? She’s now a 40something bitter, single girl.

All I knew, coming out of that conversation, was that I did not want to become that girl. Bitterness is the quickest way to let go of your dreams, and letting go of my dreams is the one thing I can’t do. Why is that? Because I know God loves me enough to see those dreams He placed in my heart become a reality. So I did what my heart and soul know to do best; I cried out to God, asking if He was still there – still in the middle of it all – because I didn’t feel like He was.

There is a song that always seems to come to my mind in times like this: Storm – by Lifehouse
………”I know You didn’t bring me out here to drown, So why am I ten feet under and upside down? Barely surviving has become my purpose, Because I’m so used to living underneath the surface. If I could just see You, Everything would be all right, If I’d see You, This darkness would turn to light. And I will walk on water. And You will catch me if I fall. And I will get lost into Your eyes. And I know everything will be alright………”

That song exactly summed up how I felt, and had felt for more than two years now. But all I kept thinking about was how friends had all told me that I needed to find contentment in my singleness.

Contentment?! Obviously none of them had been single in their 30’s. Why should I be content with something I know is not God’s best for me?

But then, God.

Just as He had been telling me all these years to “wait“, He reminded me of what he spoke to my heart sitting in service at the Southwest Believers Convention in 2013 and I knew it wasn’t about finding contentment in being single, it was about finding who I was in Him.

Matthew 6: 32-33 (NLT)
“These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” 

God still has some work to do with me…I’ve got to learn to listen to Him and obey the first time He tells me something. I’d save myself a lot of heartache in the end for sure. But this time (I’m not going to lie, it’s the second time around), I obeyed and stepped way out of my comfort zone. And what have I been rewarded with? CONTENTMENT! and excitement and anticipation and happiness! I have found that I have a new excitement about church again, an anticipation of what God has in store for my future, and in general a new happiness that I know now can only be found when you seek God first.

So look for a lot more posts like this. Luke 6:45 “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks…” or in my case, the fingers type and boy, oh boy, do I have a lot more to type. All in due time, dear readers. All in due time. Gertie is letting go of any negativity and bitterness and letting God’s contentment take over.

Cannonball Faith

  
Ever have a time in your life where you took a big risk? A leap of faith?

I’m in the middle of one of those “leaps” right now. But have you ever felt opposition hit you head on as soon as you take that faith step?

Sometimes I wonder if the moment we take that first step, a big, flashing sign goes off in hell reminding Satan to try his best to keep us from taking one more step. It can be physical opposition or it can be mental. Sometimes our minds can be our own worst enemy when it comes to living a life by faith.

Trust me here, I’m preaching to the choir on this – I need it more than anyone right now as I have quickly realized that taking a leap of faith is both the scariest and most thrilling thing ever.But It’s easy when you take a leap and don’t see immediate results to feel like that leap was a failure. However, you only risk it becoming a failure if you let fear take hold. That’s when I ended up texting a trusted friend, asking “Have you ever taken a leap only to feel like it was more of a belly flop?”

Her response? “No leap is ever a flop if it’s done in faith.”

Have I mentioned before I have some of the best, Godly friends in the world? I can’t imagine doing life with out such people to turn to.

So I began really thinking about faith in my every day life and started thinking of “leaps” we take every day. You may not fervently seek God in prayer over every little thing you do in your day, but just leaving your home each morning is a step of faith if you really think about it. Yes, some steps and leaps are bigger than others. But to God, THEY’RE ALL THE SAME!

His word says in Luke 17:6 (NIV), “He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you!”

Faith as small as a mustard seed…that’s really small in case you were wondering. Like minuscule. And I’ve got at least that much faith. I wasn’t saved at the age of 4 and have grown up in church and ministries to not at LEAST have that much faith. So then I began thinking to myself, if I don’t question those little faith steps every day because I trust so wholeheartedly in my faith, then why am I even questioning the big leaps? I have enough faith to take on the biggest of leaps!!

And that’s when Facebook spoke to me.

Has that ever happened to you? Just when you need it most, someone posts something or shares something that is just what you need to hear (or read). Some people might be opposed to social media, but I kind of love it for reasons just like this.

“Many of you are being violently fought by the enemy because he sees what your future holds. Think of the good that will follow, and don’t let a challenge intimidate you. God is GREATER than your GREATEST opposition.”

It really hit me then; I not only have enough faith to take the biggest of leaps and not worry about failing, but I serve a God who is bigger than EVERYTHING!

So be encouraged in His word and in your faith. You might not think it’s very big or that you can stand up against whatever you might be facing, but you can!

(Fair warning. I like analogies. So just go with it.)

It takes faith to jump from a diving board. Oh boy do I know that to be true…you’re talking about a girl here, who can’t stand the thought of water deeper than her 5’3″ height – although I love snorkeling, so go figure that one. Back to the diving board. If you are on the diving board and getting ready to take that big leap, and of course the only way to do it is to do it BIG, so you decide to do a cannonball. You take a step back before taking off, jumping, and tucking your knees to your chest. That cannonball is about to be the most successful cannonball ever as long as you don’t let fear take hold of you. When you let fear take hold in the middle of that cannonball, you let go of your grip, and most likely end up in a painful belly flop (or side flop, or back flop, but a flop none-the-less).

What does all of that mean? Have CANNONBALL FAITH!!! An all-in mentality. Let go of your fear and take hold of your faith and before you know it, you won’t just be doing cannonballs anymore, you’ll be stepping out and doing your own Peter walk on the water!!

When God Says “Wait”

  
I’m going to go in a bit of a different direction with this blog. I promise not to disappoint, but I want to share a bit of my heart. And if you don’t like religion, well tough, because God is the center of my being, so deal with it. But I do hope you read on.

Being single and in your 30’s is no easy thing to walk out. It means you’ve now spent more than a decade of not only watching your friends get married, but also start their own families. You watch as everyone else lives out the desires you hold deep in your heart.

Watching everyone else live out the very thing you want most in life is difficult; like pouring salt in an open wound. But then you hear that still, small voice inside say “wait”.

You attend another shower, wedding, birth, party and think “when will it be my turn?” But then you hear that still, small voice inside say “wait”.

You see friends, some happy, some unhappy, and think “any relationship would be better than none”. But then you hear that still, small voice inside say “wait” and you remember the words spoken over you years ago – you ARE more precious than gold, settle for no less.

When you hear the Lord speak to you, telling you to “wait”, you take notice.

But “waiting” is so easy, in theory. In action, you want to do anything but wait and one can liken it to wading through a pool of honey – as if the harder you try to move, the more stuck in one place you become.  And from there, it’s a quick spiral into doubting your own self-worth.

But again you hear “wait”. So you…wait.

At this point all you can do is seek God and find the calmness in His promises.

So two years ago I began studying the Psalms that the Lord laid on my heart. For months I meditated on them. I underlined every time the word “unfailing love” appeared. It was through this time, months spent reading and re-reading the Psalms, that I began having a new rhema of God’s unfailing love for me.

Psalm 21: 2-7 (NLT)
For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. He asked you to preserve his life, and you granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. The unfailing love of the most high will keep him from stumbling.

While the first part of this passage stands out (the desires of your heart!), the last promise of His unfailing love spoke volumes to me. Not only will His love never fail me, His love will sustain me and keep me from stumbling.

For two years, this is the truth I have held on to. And as I began having a revelation of God’s love for me, I began hearing bits of God’s heart and His desires for me, placed into my own. I no longer just heard “wait”. I heard the reason behind that “wait”. I began to see God weaving His story for my life, His promises, and for the first time I truly understood that His “wait” meant He was orchestrating the greatest love story of all and it will be worth all the “wait” in the world.

Does this mean I don’t have difficult days feeling down? No. But it means I wait, sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently. Does this mean God has revealed it all to me these past two years? Not at all. But it does mean that I’ve hidden away in my heart those things He has revealed. I can’t share it all with you 😉 Just know the last two years haven’t only been a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs with online dating. The last two years have taught me, to wait on God and His best. They’ve taught me to sit in the stillness of the night and listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to my soul.  But most importantly, they’ve taught me that when God says “Wait”, He’ll follow it up with “now take a leap of faith”.