How to Study the Bible

Do you struggle to pick up the Bible and read it? Are you someone with multiple versions and study tools but no clue how to use them? The purpose of this post is to help you find a way to ease Bible reading into your life and create sustainable reading patterns.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Matthew 5:6

From one of Christ’s most known sermons comes an admonition with a promise: thirst for righteousness will be filled. Why? Because God desires a people that desire Him; He won’t leave you stranded when you search for Him. The point is not perfection. The point is just to start.

There are many ways to approach the Bible. One of the easiest methods is known as the S.O.A.P. method.

S.O.A.P. is a simple way to break down any scripture and make it practical. The anacronym stands for:

  • Scripture
    • Read a passage from the Bible and write it down in your journal. Some people choose to write out the whole scripture because it helps them remember it. Others paraphrase it or just write the reference.
  • Observation
    • Write down any observations that you make about the passage. For example, note who is speaking, who are they talking to, why they may be talking about that subject, etc.
    • This is also a good time to note any questions you may have about the text. For example, note any terms you are not familiar with, so you can research them and find their meaning.
  • Application
    • This is when you start translating the scriptures you read into your everyday life. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find answers by digging deeper for contextual meaning.
    • Write down questions you have about the Scripture. Dig deeper with a concordance to find other scriptures related to the one you read, and read them too. Use a dictionary and commentaries to discern contextual meaning of words.
    • Translate what you learn into actionable steps you can apply to your life.
  • Prayer
    • This is where you connect with God and talk about what you have learned. Ask Him to help you commit the Word to memory and apply it to your life.
    • It’s a good idea to write down prayers in your journal because they can serve as mile markers on your journey when you look back on your writing and see how God has answered them.

S.O.A.P. is an effective way to approach any scripture and make it practical, but it is not the only way to read and learn. You can also do a noun study focused on a specific person, place, thing, or idea. You can also focus on a specific book and read that. This article goes into detail explaining five ways to approach Scripture. This article shows you how to deep dive on a scripture with the Inductive method.

Whatever method you choose, commit to it daily for at least a week. New habits form into lifestyles after a month of exposure to them.

What tools do you need?

First and foremost, you need a Bible. There are many different translations available. Choose a Bible that translates the established Canon with accuracy. Some of the reputable versions include the New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), New King James Version (NKJV), and the Amplified Bible (AMP). Pick one that is reputable, in your native language, and clear enough that you can read it without too much of a struggle over language. While it is not harmful to read a translation Bible, it is important to know the difference between versions and translations. Only versions go back to the actual original text to translate them forward into modern language. This can be an important distinction when it comes to accuracy in the text.

When you study, it is a good idea to have something to take notes. It is helpful to keep a journal. Journaling records progress and can be a source of encouragement when you are feeling low. Many new journals have a space at the front for an index. If you list your prayers by page number, you can easily go to specific ones as God answers them, update them, and reflect.

If you are not opposed to writing in your Bible, it is a good idea to have Bible-safe pens and highlighters to mark Scriptures that stand out to you. Because Bible pages are usually thin and printed on both sides, you want a highlighter specially made for it. Anything else will bleed through to the other side of the page. Bible highlighters are available at any major book store. Safe writing pens are also available.

If you are finding yourself studying on the move, consider screenshoting what you read and type your notes in a writing app on your phone.

Need a Plan?

If you learn best by having a plan to follow, you are in good company. Most readers respond well to being told a given plan of verses to read through a specific frame of time. There are even Bibles organized to read them in chronological order.

Many Bible reading apps offer free reading plans. Here is a link to a free reading plan from Billy Graham ministries.

Do you connect to better to music than writing?

If music is your thing, consider downloading the free app, Verses.

Verses gives you scripture in theme-based playlists. Most of the songs have a gentle, folksy acoustic style, and they are sung by talented artists. It is a good way to get scriptures stuck in your memory. A reader is also available to audio read the Bible.

Final Thoughts

Reading the Bible is all about connecting with God on a daily basis and inviting Him into our everyday lives.

The goal is to hear from God and find direction and comfort for your personal situation.

The most important tool you have to accomplish that is your consistency.

Overcome your fear and doubt by turning the page and doing the work.

From Genesis to Revelation, God’s Word is your guide to abundant living–so do not neglect it.

Charles F. Stanley, “Jesus, Our Perfect Hope”

The Thorn is Not a Thorn

Today is a day of thorns.

When this story goes to post it will be Good Friday, the day commemorated in Christianity as a day of fasting and penance for the torture and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

We remember Christ in his sufferings and call it “good” not because of what he endured but why he endured it.

Since the very beginning of time, God planned to send his only Son into the world to redeem and bring back to himself what was lost and stolen by sin (John 3:16-17). We as a people stepped away from him, but God stepped two steps towards us.

When Jesus Christ came into the world, this promised Messiah, this prophesied King and Redeemer, was expected to come with a mighty army to overthrow the Roman rule–but he didn’t. He was expected to overthrow physical restraints on his people, topple Rome and make Israel politically free–but he didn’t. Instead, Christ preached about freedom of hearts and minds–freedom that can’t be taken or shaken by circumstances.

Jesus was expected to be mighty and physically strong, yet he came as a baby needing the help of others. All hope seemed lost at the end, on Good Friday, when he hung defeated and dead on a cross. A crown of thorns pierced his head and mocked the idea that he was a king at all.

Christ wasn’t the only one to bear thorns.

Thorns became a metaphor, following Good Friday, of putting up with some crippling difficulty.

The Apostle Paul wrote about it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. He had something he had to wrestle with that bothered him so much that he prayed for God to remove it. We still don’t know what Paul wrestled with, but the response to his prayer stands true still: God shows his power through our weaknesses.

Today, we haven’t gotten away from the crown of thorns.

One of the strongest women I know comes from the hills of Kentucky. Though she has traveled the world and lived in other cultures like Japan, she still has the pluck of a mountain woman. All the time I have known this ginger-haired woman, she has been thin and frail. While she worried about feeding her children, they worried about putting meat on her bones. Even as a teenager, you could lift her feet off the ground with a good bear hug. When you thought she couldn’t get skinnier, she got sick, couldn’t eat, and lost more weight. She developed COPD and struggled to breathe, but she kept smoking.

One day, I stepped outside to light a cigarette, and I went to take in a breath of air, and I couldn’t get one. I literally couldn’t breathe.

Betty Eubank

That was the end of cigarettes for Betty. Still, it didn’t resolve her COPD. There were expensive treatments ahead but no cure. The disease itself was painful; medicine could at least ease in that. Still, for the most part, Betty rejected it.

How can I call this a Thorn in my flesh when I look at all Christ went through for me? This little bit of stuff I deal with is nothing compared to that.

Betty Eubank

Instead of worrying about her disease, Betty focused on her faith. She turned to Christ and developed a deep faith and patient trust in God’s will for her life. She doesn’t fear COPD. In fact, most days she barely acknowledges it. If she is in pain, she doesn’t talk about it. Instead, she lets her weakness remind her of Christ and all he has done to reconnect her with the love of the God that made her.

SPOILER ALERT: Christ doesn’t stay dead on a cross. He ends up coming back to life after three days in a burial tomb. He walked and talked and was seen by others for a short time. Then he went to Heaven to prepare a place there for all that believe in him and choose him as Lord. The end was just the beginning.

What end are you facing in your life today?

What thorn stands between you and happiness? Pray and ask God to help you through your weakness.

If you are still not sure about this Jesus, it is not too late to get to know him. Read what he did in the Bible’s Gospel of John. The heart of the Father in Heaven is to love you and restore a relationship with you. It has never been to condemn you. Return to Him today.

Pumpkin Donuts, Burned Churches, a Confident Hope, and Rising from the Ashes of Defeat

It wasn’t your normal doctor’s appointment. It wasn’t a date night either. It was a chance to sit across the table with a friend, share a meal, and listen. It was a chance to debate whether or not two diabetics should be ordering pumpkin donuts with cream cheese frosting…then ordering anyways and laughing.

If you had told them in that moment that the pumpkin donuts story would go on to mean so much more, they would have snapped you a quizzical look as if to say, “girl! Stop playin’!”

But that is exactly what happened when, just a few weeks later, Covid took the life of one of them.


We never really know what moments will last forever. Sometimes, it is a text or a phone call. Sometimes, it is a picture or a long string of words. Sometimes, it hides in the pockets of a stranger. Sometimes, it is the arms of a friend.

Still, 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 and 1 John 2:27-28 encourage us to have confidence and hope in the fact that we will be reunited with our passed Christian loved ones if we remain steadfast in our faith in Christ.

I believe that when you truly love someone, you love them without borders. You give of your time and talent sacrificially, and you listen more than you speak. It is the kind of love that empowers you to be your best self and bring out the best in those who know you and experience your love.

That influence doesn’t stop with a grave. You listen to a song or go to places you once shared together, and you hear their missed voice again. Love that is true and whole lasts forever and transcends death.


On New Years Eve ringing in 2018, the Rose Hill United Methodist Church at 314 E. Church Street didn’t know their special service would be their last. The next morning, January 1, 2018, an accidental electrical fire completely destroyed the century old church.

Firefighters at the scene of the Rose Hill UMC fire in 2018
Early 1900s church destroyed by fire
Burned out and destroyed stained glass windows
A cross forms in the rubble as the church burns

That moment could have ended the congregation, but it didn’t. With support from the community, the people continued to meet together wherever they could till a new church could be built. After four years and nearly four months, on Sunday, March 27, 2022, the church celebrated its first service in the new church building.

  For us, the fire was a new beginning.

Long-term Rose Hill UMC member, Ronda Rivenbark
The new church building at Rose Hill United Methodist Church

Hope rises like a Phoenix, from the ashes of shattered dreams.

S.A. Sachs
The Bible saved from the Rose Hill UMC fire still carries ash from the church fire

How do you start over when everything you have loved and held dear is gone?

Where is there room for joy in the midst of suffering? Peace in spite of pain?

Can you ever truly be happy again when all you feel in this moment is the ache of loneliness and disappointment?

Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of something you held dear, the pain you feel–though deep–is temporary. Somehow, you have to determine that this loss, this pain, this diagnosis will not stop you from living your life to the fullest possible. You give it your all; you don’t let feelings dictate your outcome. You remember the good and let go of the bad. You rebuild better with vision for the needs of your future. You keep looking forward…pressing forward. THAT is what hope does.

When Rose Hill UMC needed help, they found out that they were not alone. “Our community really stepped out to support us in a lot of ways,” said Ronda Rivenbark. “We didn’t do any fundraisers, but other churches, organizations, and even kids did them for us and gave the money to us. There was a Gospel Sing for us and many love offerings. One man even gave us his house to sell to benefit the church. Meanwhile, our lawyers were going above and beyond to get what we were owed from the insurance.” All the donations helped with repairs to bring the congregation safely back to their own fellowship hall where everything had to be stripped and replaced because of the damage. Community partnership helped propel the congregation forward from the fire and is honored in the new building today. “The Baptist church down the road took us in for a while, and they really loved on us. Before that, we missed only two services before Pastor Chris Leak took us to a nearby motel to meet,” said Rivenbark.

Resilience isn’t something we always know we have until we are challenged to use it. Truly surviving tragedy is not really the goal, though; you want to make it through the hard times and live better on the other side of them. THAT takes the wisdom of a visionary leader. Sometimes, that is someone else like a friend or mentor giving you sound advice about your life. Other times, it is a business partner coaching you. In the case of Rose Hill UMC, it was the new pastor and his wife, Dave and Linda Bundy.

Dave and Linda bring an exuberance about youth and community outreach that is evident in the new building. The new building cost 3 million, and it accounted for space for every considerable need of a family-oriented church. Space for children and youth ministry, workout classes, and community meeting space was included in the new building. A gym with a basketball hoop is the dual purpose of the new fellowship hall. “We wanted to provide a place for kids in the community to come and shoot hoops if they want to because we have nothing in our community recreation center for basketball,” Rivenbark said. A new kitchen and pantry space make room for a food pantry open to the community every Tuesday morning. “We are a small congregation with country people,” Rivenbark said, “but we rebuilt with community outreach in mind.”

Community outreach was the heart of the message on the first Sunday in the new building. Pastor Dave Bundy preached about the prodigal son from Luke 15, and he challenged the congregation: “What role do you see yourself playing as we move forward? For four years and (nearly) four months, are you looking from afar to see (the people in need in our community) and proclaim ‘welcome home’?” 

That message is echoing here today. Beyond the ashes of your defeat, have you put much thought into the life you want to lead after all this? Do you have a safe place to confide your feelings that can give you wise, Biblical council?

The Rose Hill UMC congregation will be celebrating the new building officially with a service the whole community is invited to at 11am on April 9th. It is a service that reflects the thankfulness they have felt for all four years and four months of support they had from others.

As you push forward past the pain in your own life, look closely at your life and the people who have supported you. Remember that friend or family member who brought you a meal, took you on errands, cleaned your house, watched your kids, or just sat and listened to you. Don’t dismiss all that effort as something you were owed because you didn’t earn it; it was a free gift to you. What are some tangible ways you can show thankfulness to those who have been there to support you in such ways? Challenge yourself to be more intentionally grateful today.

Shabbat, Sabbath, and Lent: Religious Traditions of Christianity and Why They Are Important

What Is Shabbat?

In the language of the Jewish culture (Hebrew), the word for Sabbath is Shabbat (pronounced shuh-baat). In Jewish culture, work of all kinds stops for 25 hours from the sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. Special meals, prayers, gatherings, and services are performed over the course of those 25 hours, but the prep for them starts as early as midway in the week before them. You can read more about those traditions here.

What is Sabbath?

Like so many Jewish traditions, Shabbat celebrates God’s providence in the past. The Sabbath celebrates God’s providing and protecting hand throughout the past, present, and the future. Sabbath is also about God the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and it was moved to Sunday for multiple reasons. According to this article from Christianity Today, it has been suggested that the Sabbath changed to Sunday as more people outside of the Jewish culture came to believe in Christ. To pick a day that was not tied to Jewish tradition alone, the early church chose to remember both the start of Creation and the resurrection of Jesus Christ by making the Sabbath on Sunday (since both happened on that day).

How Sabbath Differs

Shabbat and Sabbath are both a day off work to rest and draw closer to God. However, the Sabbath has far less traditional obligations in Christian culture. Most Christians just go to church on Sunday and are done with it. Others go out to eat or cook something special at home that they don’t normally have through the week. Still, others make intentional sacrifices–like going without tech devices for the day–to show reverence to God. In short, religious traditions for a Sabbath revolve around church attendance and personal convictions.

Where Do They Both Come From?

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and everything in it. He did all this work in six days and rested on the seventh day. That seventh day of rest was later made into a rule for God’s people to follow:

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 20:8-11, NIV

Why Sabbath Is Importantp

As Season 1, Episode 2 of The Chosen demonstrated, Sabbath Rest is about spending time intentionally off work and with loved ones and fellow believers to pursue the presence of God. It comes as an overflow of our act of faith and God’s gift of provision. In Exodus 14, Israel was rescued out of slavery in Egypt and sent into a “promised land” full of impossibilities. Every step into the new world took extraordinary Hebrews 11 kind of faith, and God rewarded them with protection (Exodus 13:12-22), food (Exodus 16:4), clothing (Deuteronomy 29:5), and conquerable land. Still we find ourselves fearful, wandering, questioning God, and reluctant to take even one day to think about our relationship to Him and try to get closer to Him.

Selah: Pause and Consider This

In Isaiah 43:2, God made His people this promise: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

In Exodus 14, God parted the Red Sea to help the Israelites escape the Egyptians, and he folded it in on and drown those that dared pursue them. In Joshua 3, God parted the waters again all the way down to dry land by carrying the Ark of the Covenant across a body of water. In Daniel 3, three men were thrown into a blazing hot fire for not worshiping a statue. A “fourth man” showed up in the fire and kept all of them from burning or even smelling of smoke. It was so miraculous that the King who threw them in the fire removed them and made a new law showing support and allegiance to the God able to do that miracle.

Does looking back on the God that did all of this make a difference in how you approach the impossible things in your life today? Does thinking about his past deeds help you desire to spend more time with him today? What gets in the way of you truly resting in the presence of God on your Sabbath? When you compare yourself to the characters in the show, are you tripped by your past like Mary? tied to religious rituals like Nicodemus? stuck in relational conflict like Matthew? or too afraid to stop working like Simon?

The Chosen Episode 2 from THE FATHER’S HOUSE on Vimeo.

What is Lent and the Liturgical Calendar?

At the time of writing this post, we are in the first week of Lent on the liturgical calendar. The liturgical calendar is a year-round cycle of events that helps Christians get into a rhythm of prayerful, thankful acknowledgment of God at work in their lives. The calendar transcends denominations because God didn’t make them; it focuses on specific events leading to the two most holy events in Christianity: Christmas and Easter.

Lent is a period of 40 days of fasting honoring what Jesus went through in the wilderness prior to Easter. It runs from March 2nd to April 16th and excludes Sundays so Christians can break their fast and celebrate their faith. Lent starts with Ash Wednesday, and on this day, many Christians put ash on their foreheads to remind themselves of how finite life is; we all return to dust eventually. For the next 40 days, Christians choose some food to avoid, and they become more intentionally prayerful and generous. They give to the needy more. They think about Christ more. They read more of the Bible and devotionals. It is a time to remember the suffering of Christ on the cross, examine our own hearts, and allow God to further shape us into the image of Christ we are meant to bear in this world.

Closing Thoughts

We have the right to take physical rest whenever and wherever we want to, but our souls only find rest in the presence of God. As we surrender to our need for Him, God calms our anxious minds and fills our reservoir with peace. Surrender is not a passive thing. Consider Matthew 11:28-30. The same God who said he would do whatever it takes to buy your ransom in Isaiah 43:2 also says you have a yoke and burden to bear (just not a heavy one).

What burdens have you allowed yourself to take on lately? What does the Bible have to say on those issues? Never take a thought as a truth in itself; always hold it up to the light of Truth by comparing it to the Gospel. More of what we hear in our heads is coming from a negative place not a scriptural one.

Consider joining Sacred Ordinary Days to help you get into a practice of communal living in God’s presence through the liturgical year. It can also help you to create a sustainable rhythm in your prayer and personal worship time as you learn to live in harmony with key events in your field of faith.

Godmothering: The Power of Mentoring To Change Lives

“Profound Accord” by Tracey Penrod

A year ago or more, I bought this print from my friend Tracey Penrod. The image spoke to me of friendship and motherhood…of dreams yet to be fulfilled. I kept both the impressions and the artwork to myself until today. With permission from the artist to reprint her work here, I tell you that today, this image speaks to me about mentoring others.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is about giving back to the world some portion of what you have learned in it. When I write to you, dear reader, it is my attempt to help you learn and grow from my experiences.

But, actual mentorship gets more personal than a conversation like this. Mentorship is face-to-face and walking out life together with someone that can learn from you.

Why Do You Need Mentorship?

If you are young, the Bible says you are supposed to be mentored (into godly character and living) by older, more experienced Christians. So, in part, you can say mentorship is a part of developing your faith. But it is more than that.

To be a mentee makes you have wings to fly in your business, relationships with others, and personal life. It helps you more clearly define who you are to yourself and others. That clarity is immeasurably important–especially in business–because you have to be able to advocate for yourself to get ahead in this world.

Why Should You Be A Mentor?

If you think back to when you got started in your adult life, you did not do it alone. You had parents, teachers, or other business owners answering your questions. Most of the time, they did that all for free just to help. That is what mentorship is: selfless sacrifice for the good of others.

If you still don’t get it, think about how you want to be remembered and celebrated when you die. Will your funeral be Ebenezer Scrooge with one faithful employee that shows up–if you are lucky? Or will it be Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose passing was felt around the world and, when he died, a funeral train carried his body 3000 miles through 9 states for people to gather at the tracks and say farewell to his body as it passed.

What I find surprising about death is how much it tells you about the person. You learn things you never knew about them when they were alive, and you find out just what they meant to you emotionally.

Such was the case with my friend, Juanita Green.

What is a Godmother?

It wasn’t till she passed that I realized who she was to me. Juanita was a godmother to me, and by that I mean she poured her life sacrificially as a mentor. Pastor Jim Wall, the Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church, used 1 Corinthians 4:15-17 to show us that the church “is desperate for some spiritual mommas and daddies”. Do the needs of the early church still stand true today? The answer is: absolutely!

Lisa Bevere coined the term “Godmother” for this in her latest Bible study, Godmothers. It means someone who is investing actively in the lives of other people around them. They do life with these people and show them God’s love in practical ways. They invest even to the point of taking a risk because they see value even when it isn’t there yet. They make sacrifices and sometimes live frugally because it is more important to them to make other peoples’ dreams come true than their own.

Show God’s Heart

1 John 2 has some strong words for those who claim to know Christ but hold on to hatred and unforgiveness towards others. I have to admit–I struggle with this one two. What it is trying to say is that God is not a god that plays favorites; if we want to be like Him and claim to be his, we have to be less and less prejudiced with our love. It also means that we have to be willing to forgive when people mess up–because they will…we all do. If you are honest with your own relationship with God and you show who you are with actions not just words, you will exhibit the character of a person who is what they say they are. THAT is a person people will follow and trust.

Make Room For Love In Your Timeline

All throughout the New Testament, Paul’s letters open and close with reminders of what he did in the presence of the people he was writing to. They also talk about people he left or sent to them as examples and witnesses of what he was saying. All those verses are good examples of what it looks like to make yourself available. Paul wasn’t always able to physically be where someone needed him to be, but he was always with them in spirit. I think that is an important thing to note because we all struggle with time management. Nevertheless, he made it a point to make time to communicate to the people he cared about. We should do likewise.

When is the last time you sat down with the people you loved and spent quality time with them doing something they cared about? When have you last told your loved ones that you love them? As a mentor, you need to be clearly communicating all that to your loved ones, but you also need to be available for the people you mentor.

Being a spiritual momma and daddy is about every interaction you have. It’s being available and sharing your life–not just leading a meeting.

Jim Wall, Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 gives us a picture of what this looks like in a family setting. It shows us parents who make their faith a part of their everyday living. They teach their faith to their children and children’s children. They set up reminders around the house of the goodness of God.

How does that translate into mentorship?

Mentors need to see themselves as spiritual parents and grandparents. They should make faith a part of their everyday lives and live it out with their mentees in a true honest friendship relationship.

Believe To The Point Of Taking A Risk

Every great person in the Bible had someone believing in them when they were not yet great. That is what Jesus did with the disciples—especially Peter. How could Christ look at the man that would deny him three times and still say, in Matthew 16:18, that he would be the rock on which the church would be built? He said this not just because he was God. He said this because he believed in Peter and saw his potential even before there was evidence of it.

To be a good mentor, you have to be willing to do the same thing. Sometimes you have to trust someone when they are not currently getting it right or being trustworthy. This can be a risky thing to do because sometimes you have to invest in them in ways you don’t know how they will end up. Paul did that with a former slave in Philemon 1:18-19. He offered to pay off the debt he owed for him! And guess what happened to Philemon after that? Scholars believe he went on to pastor a church that changed a whole city!

The Risk Reward is a Legacy

The legacy you leave behind when you are a mentor is the people you invested in. It is their lives living on after you, leaving a mark in the world, that you have made different. Whether that is one life or one million doesn’t matter. What matters is that you didn’t keep it all to yourself. What matters is that you took the risk to gain the reward of a legacy of lives touched by your presence in it.

That is the risk Juanita Green took at the end of her life. She did not always live life well, but at the end of it all giving and mentoring was the refining fire of all her former selfishness (as she would have called it). She was not the first important mentor in my life nor will she be the last, but I think it is important to note here that she left the impression she did on me in just four months. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference that changes a life for a lifetime. It just takes a heart open and willing to love.

A father [or mother] who serves the destiny of others above serving his own, will, in the end, fulfill his destiny.

Pastor Bill Humphries

Guard the Root! The Importance of Writing Down Your Vision

When God begins to show you your purpose and calling, there are some important steps you need to follow through with to help you keep on track to seeing those goals realized.

In this post, we will dig into the scriptures and discuss the importance of writing down your vision, guarding your influences, and avoiding dream killers.

Write down the vision and make it plain on tablets that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time but at the end it will speak and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it because it will surely come; it will not tarry.

Habakkuk 2:2-3, NIV

Write the Vision

  • Physically writing is part of committing the message to memory for yourself and future generations.

Habakkuk is not the first or last time that God told someone to write something down. We see the same instruction to write given in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Revelation.

Did you know that Jewish synagogues all across the country open scrolls of the Torah during their Shabbat to read from the same selection of readings? Every year, they read the complete Old Testament (Torah) this way and remind themselves of the faithful character of God.

Physically writing stuff down matters. It creates a record to remember something important and it serves as a guide map to the road ahead.

  • Writing your vision is also submitting to the power and voice of God to fulfill it.

We know that the Bible is the unaltered word of God. We recieve it like a set of precious letters from our Father. We honor it as the guidebook of our lives. That is Biblically-based Christianity. But did you realize that we wouldn’t have that letter, that guidebook, if it weren’t for a series of people saying “yes” to writing it down?

In a similar fashion, God wants to partner with you to see amazing things happen in your life. It starts by seeking him, getting quiet, and listening.

For more details on hearing from God about your calling and writing it down, check out this blog.

  • Writing captures long-range goals and gives you an action plan to avoid common mistakes.

I love the practicality of the book of Proverbs. Solomon spent a lot of time giving advice on avoiding foolish mistakes. In Proverbs 29:18, he warned that lack of vision causes careless living. We know that mistakes are going to happen as we grow in discovering our callings, but we can avoid many of them by having a vision to focus on and commitment to Godly character as we grow.

Part of Habakkuk 2:2 said to write the vision down so the person reading it could run with it or implement it. When you have a written vision, it’s not just for you. People down the line will catch your dream and come along the journey to help you fulfill it.

Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Matthew 7:6, NIV

Guard Your Influences

  • Bad influences can be dream killers.

Especially when your dream is new, it is precious to you. Some days you want to share it with the world; other days you want to protect it like Gollum did the ring in Lord of the Rings.

You are not wrong to treat your dream like a precious pearl and protect it.

If you share your dream with someone who doesn’t believe in it, their advice can stop you from pursuing it altogether. If you share it with someone who doesn’t have the same heart as you, it can send you down the wrong path in how you pursue it. All of that really matters if you want to be successful and see your dream fulfilled.

  • Learn to discern the pigs in your life.

This lesson has been a hard one to learn, and I am going to speak directly to the artists here, but it really applies to anyone.

If you are serious about your art, your art is your business. As you build your business, it is important that you are careful about the culture you establish for your business by the people you allow to partner with you in it.

You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16, NIV

What you allow to speak into your business will breath life and make it grow, or it will kill it at the root. This is why I titled this post, Guard the Root!…it really is that important who you allow to influence you.

  • Develop an elevator pitch.

Not everyone you meet is going to be someone that partners with your vision, and that’s okay. You don’t need an army of followers to believe in what you do to make it successful.

Whether or not someone supports you, they still want to know what you do. This is what an elevator pitch is for. An elevator pitch is what you would say to a potential client/friend/family member/supporter if all you had was five minutes in an elevator with them. Think of it like your testimony in a nutshell. Tune in next week for more on how to write your elevator pitch.

Bottomline: Don’t tell everyone everything; give them the elevator pitch and listen to their heart. Pray for discernment to be able to know when something is not right and when you shouldn’t be listening to it. Don’t go past the elevator pitch or waste time listening to a resource that reveals it doesn’t support your vision.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Psalms 1:1-3, NIV

Gather Wise Counsel

  • Plant your root in the water of the Word of God.

We all make excuses about the amount of time we have to read the Bible, but that is all they are: excuses. If you want to be serious about your vision, you need to make sure it is a godly one, and you need to protect your heart while you pursue it. There is no other way to do that than through studying the Scriptures.

God doesn’t have a time requirement. He will take as little or as much as you can give him, but he does want your heart. Don’t just sit down with a Bible verse and think that is enough time to really answer your questions.

Let the Word of God be your primary resource for knowledge and wisdom. Take all your questions to God in prayer and seek answers in His Word. God will show up and answer you because he delights in the hearts that diligently and desperately seek Him.

  • Invest in doing the research and development of your craft.

Get a good concordance or index that can show you where topics are mentioned multiple times in scripture. Get a good commentary to dig deeper behind the meaning of the words you are reading. Most theologians start with Strong’s Concordance and Matthew Henry’s Commentary. I have a copy of both and reference them, but sometimes I get as much from the index and footnotes in my Bible. The key is to read the Bible in context and not take things to mean something they do not. Look for more about studying the Word in context in a future post.

Investment does not just mean money; it means time. Whether it is time reading the Bible or time learning a skill, your vision will need you to invest time in learning how to make it grow.

None of us are born with all the knowledge we need to be successful, nor can we accomplish success overnight.

  • Give yourself time to develop a network of support and encouragement.
  • Give yourself time to develop your business acumen and marketing skills.
  • Give yourself time to develop mastery in your craft.
  • Give yourself time to develop your working schedule and culture.
  • Give yourself time to develop steady clientele.
  • Glean from godly friends who are successfully following their visions.

When God calls you to something, it is important to find like-minded people who are living out their callings to encourage you in yours. They will have wisdom from their experiences to help you navigate through your journey with less stress and discouragement. This blog can be one of those resources for you. If you aren’t already a follower, make sure you join at the end of this post, so you don’t miss future posts. (It’s free!)

Godly friends are friends that are not perfect people but people who believe what you do about God and live transparently with their faith. They don’t tell everything to everyone; they share important things with a chosen few. They exercise wisdom and kindness; they greet everyone in genuine love.

Godly friends are not going to be just like you. They may be farmers, business people, healers, helpers, pastors, or servants. Whatever gift they are called to operate in doesn’t matter. What matters is that their faith and work ethics inspire yours.

Additional Scriptures

If you would like to do a deeper dive on this subject, here are some additional scripture verses I would encourage you to read. Scriptures are listed in order of where they are found in the Bible.

  • Proverbs 4:23
  • Proverbs 11:14
  • Proverbs 27:17
  • Isaiah 30:8
  • Jeremiah 31:33
  • Luke 14:25-33
  • 2 Corinthians 5:12-21
  • Galatians 5:7-9
  • 1 Timothy 4:12
  • 1 Timothy 6:20
  • Titus 2:6-8
  • Hebrews 11:1
  • Revelation 1:19

Final Thoughts

God is calling artists everywhere to rise up and use their talents to bring Him glory. I have met writers, painters, musicians, sculpturers, dancers, gardeners, and bakers who have all caught the vision to use their talent for the glory of God. None of these people, by the way, were struggling, penniless, artists.

There is no short-cut to success, but God can anoint and bless your vision if you choose to believe and follow Him.

We all have different missions in life but, I believe, they all root back to a ministry of reconciliation on Earth (2 Corinthians 5:12-21). If what we are doing does not point people to Christ, it probably isn’t a godly vision for us to pursue.

I’ll see you next week! Until then, safe travels on your journey…

Why Good People Die and How We Should Look At It

When I was growing up, my summers consisted of road trips across the country from North Carolina to Colorado. Through the Carolinas you could see rolling hills covered in evergreens and blue-purple mountains frosted in a thin layer of fog. The road west spiraled around steel arches in St. Louis and over paddleboats in the Mississippi river. The river ran wide and crossing it opened a whole new prairie landscape. Gone were the trees. Gone were the hills. Now we were driving through endless flat fields of grass and grain and corn. We were in the land of the cowboys and the setting of many western films that I saw as a kid. Before too long, we were in Colorado and pulling into my grandma’s yard.

Grandma’s house was the kind of house that always had room for everyone. Though it was just a three bedroom double-wide, beds sprung up from the floor and in the travel camper when family arrived. Some of the best memories of my childhood revolve around summers in that house with all my Kunau cousins gathered from Colorado and Texas.

The eldest cousin was also the only boy cousin, and we all looked up to him. We would run around the yard getting into grandpa’s garage full of junk, exploring the yard for Indian paint brushes, catching crickets, and digging up carrots in the garden. One year, there was a three wheeler to ride, and we all took turns letting Christopher drive us around the yard. It was excellent country-style fun.

My Aunt Glenda was the kind of woman who never left her room without her makeup on and her hair fixed. She was a true Southern lady. She was soft spoken in person, but she had a lot to say on paper. When we were apart, she wrote the most beautiful letters and cards to us. In these letters, she often encouraged me in my writing.

In 2007, she wrote, “make time in life for what gives you pleasure…writing is part of who God called you to be. Keep writing!”

This letter meant a lot to me. It inspired me as an artist, and I used it in one of my paintings.

I did not think it would be my last letter from her.

My Uncle Dennis was my mom’s eldest brother. He went off to Bible College where he met and married Glenda. The two of them spent many years in ministry together in Colorado, Carolina, and Texas. Most of this happened before my time. I remember Uncle Dennis more for his second career in security at the county jail.

My Uncle Dennis was a jokester. He loved the Three Stooges and often made similar facial expressions. He teased and joked more often than he was serious. When he was serious, there was profound depth to his wisdom and insight. He was also a gifted musician and played the steel guitar.

I remember Dennis and Glenda as two halves of the same whole. They worked well together and never seemed to have disagreements. Perhaps that is why we had to say goodbye to them together.

Saturday, October 6, 2018, Aunt Glenda went on to be with the Lord. She was only 69. Yesterday, October 13, 2018, Uncle Dennis joined her. He was only 66.

Though both of them had health troubles, it is hard to imagine losing either of them at such a young age. My cousins, Christopher and Charity, are shocked by the loss.

How can anyone find meaning in loss especially when it is the loss of both of your parents? What hope, what reason, could God have in taking them away?


The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.

Isaiah 57: 1-2

The legacy of righteousness is that there is no sadness left for us in dying. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, the God who made us. For those that follow Christ, death is only the beginning to eternal life in Heaven. Today, my aunt and uncle are having church in Heaven. They have joined the angels in singing praises to God. They are shouting hallelujah to the twang of a steel guitar.

Though they will be missed here on Earth, there will be a day when we will be reunited with them. This is the hope we have in Christ.

May we all live a life worthy of the righteous legacy, and may we be happily satisfied at the end of this journey.

A Biblical Perspective on Overcoming Hurtful Words Between Siblings

When I was a growing up, I moved a lot. I had one sibling. I saw cousins on special occasions. I made friends, but they were hard to keep when I moved. The one constant friend in my world was my sister, but I did not treat her as a friend at the time.

I thought that being big siswas a job description. I corralled my little sister away from trouble and, sometimes, into it. Like a wild stallion, she bucked against being controlled and resented me for it. My control and her desire for freedom created friction in our relationship that would last into our thirties.

In my stubborn effort to control my sister, I said a lot of things that I regret now. My biggest regret now is that I never trusted her to make her own decisions. It took me too many years to let go of the need to control and protect her. I regret the years I lost misjudging her and devaluing her unique individuality.

As adults, we had to learn to treat each other as equals and respect our right to live our lives differently. As adults, we had to learn to love each other without judgement. My sister was the first to learn and show me that in our relationship. Her humility and patience has spoken volumes to me.

Where would we be today if we had learned all this earlier?

I’ve always been blessed with the gift of words, but that is not the same thing as being a responsible steward of how I use them. Sometimes being skilled with words just makes it easier to hurt someone with them. It’s not true that words can’t hurt us; words cut deep and leave lasting scars.

How do hurtful words effect us when we are children?

When kids say hurtful stuff to kids, we call it bullying. We counsel bullies to stop bullying and victims to not take their words to heart. When adults say hurtful stuff to kids, however, it sticks with them. Whether they want to be this way or not, kids are like sponges; they absorb what is said and done to them when they are young, and it shapes the adults they become. Hurtful words spoken to a child become issues they have to face in adulthood. When kids say hurtful things to adults, they challenge the adult’s ability to keep a level head. They make the adult feel disrespected and devalued and want to hurt them back. It is the challenge of an adult to not retaliate in revenge or hurt but to reinforce rules and boundaries and think before they speak.

It’s not always easy to be the adult when your feelings get hurt. I faced this recently when I visited my two nieces. The two angels that used to be enamored with everything I brought to do with them were now engrossed in their phones and barely saying “hello” to me. The auntie they referred to as their own fairy godmother was now out of magic. If they said anything at all to the adults around them, it was incredibly hurtful. They were 10 and 12 and already acting like teenagers.

In my great frustration, I wrestled with giving the girls a piece of my mind. I felt checked in my spirit about doing so. I felt God leading me to pray instead. I went online and found a prayer that spoke to the hurt I was feeling and I prayed it over my family.

Proverbs 4:23 instructs us to guard our hearts, but constructing healthy boundaries among the family God has placed us with is extremely challenging. In the gap between fresh hurt and restored peace, the words with which we choose to express our emotions can be critically wounding, or soul restoring. To process emotion as our Savior would, it’s best to talk out our conflicts with Him in prayer.

Father, praise You for family. You tell us that it’s not good for us to be alone, and therefore have placed people around us that impact our lives and move us away from the loneliness of solitude. “The Lord is my strength and my song,” Exodus 15:2 reminds. We must remember that the family we live with is not responsible for our happiness. They are not charged with the status of our hearts and souls. And they cannot control how we feel, nor leap into our minds in an effort to understand the depth of our emotions.

When we are misunderstood, or a family member misunderstands us, we feel hopeless to plead our case. Help us to hold onto Exodus 15:2. You are our strength. The inability to filter our thoughts is a cue to hand them over to You. In the moments when silence is Your answer, help us to be patient. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit, inspire us to recall who You say we are. Loved. Forgiven. Saved. Purposed. Unique.

Thank You for the comfort of family. The warm embrace of a mother and father, siblings, and extended family. There is something about being related that earns our trust easier other relationships. When and if that trust is broken through abuse and/or abandonment, we pray for your protection physically, and Your guardianship of our hearts and minds. Empower us to seek help and counsel from You, and from others trained to help us remove ourselves from danger and harm. Anyone intending to harm us or treat us abusively is never +w You intend us to linger with.

We confess all of the words we wish we could take back. Because of Adam and Eve’s mistake in the garden, our sinful nature can lead us down paths that we know are wrong, and into mistakes that we had no intention of making. Yet because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are forgiven over and over again when we confess to You in our Savior’s name. Help us to pass the same compassion on to others who wear on our hearts and patience. Bless us to be patient and wise, to seek You first, and speak kindness. Convict us when we are wrong, and strengthen our resolve to apologize.

Hurt within families can destroy relationships permanently. But with Your guidance, anything, and anyone, can be restored. You are our Healer. In You, we find peace. Our hope lies in You. And our faith can pull us across any divide when we let go and let You determine the way. Luke tells us “when these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near” (Luke 21:5-28). Jesus is coming. There’s no doubt about that. We want to follow Him fast and focused until He returns to take us home, or we arrive home in heaven to Him.

In the midst of conflict and hurt, it’s easy to be bitter. Misunderstanding can breed justification for cutting off a relationship like a dead tree branch. Payback and comebacks replay in our minds. Vindication runs on repeat. But God, You tell us to focus on You (Colossians 2:19). Let the world explain away, but let us listen to You first.

God, You are there in the pain we cannot bear, do not understand, and want to run from. Hold us and help us. Help us to endure long silences until we are sure You have inspired our choice of words. Quicken our hearts to forgive, and to pray for those on the other side of disagreements. Bless those who hurt us, and help us to be a blessing that shines bright in Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer by Meg Bucher, Crosswalk.com

When someone close to you hurts you, it hurts more because it feels like a betrayal. Someone close to your heart turned on you. Yet, Christ tells us to pray for people like that. Luke 6:27-38 tells us to bless and pray for those that hurt us. In times when you want to hit back, take a step closer to Jesus instead.

Kismet: A Biblical Perspective on Soul-Mates

When I was a teenager, I had a crush on this boy named M. Linger. He was just a few years older than me. He was handsome and genuinely kind to everyone. He had medium brown locks that flipped casually around his dreamy brown eyes. Everything about him seemed effortless and cool…from the casual way he invited people to church to the 1967 Mustang he had fully restored. He had a magnetic personality that just attracted people to him. I wanted to be his friend. I dreamed of being his girlfriend. But I couldn’t say two words to him.

I happened to come to church early one day and run into him. For a moment, it was just the two of us alone in the hallway. A thousand thoughts ran through my head: this is your one chance! Say something! Maybe he will see how great you are and fall madly in love with you.

What brilliant, dazzling wit did I say, you ask? I looked up at him and heard my voice squeak, “I just ate, and my food is still digesting.”

Your food is still digesting? Really, Rebecca? That was the best you could do? Great, you’ve just ruined it for us, thanks!…

I don’t even know where that response came from, but I was mortified. As M. Linger just smiled at me politely and moved on, the internal monologue continued to degrade me for my mistake. It was one of the first times I ever tried to really talk to a boy I liked, and it would be the last time I ever let one intimidate me that much. Needless to say, nothing happened with M. Linger. He moved away, never to be seen or heard from again, but I still swoon when I see a finely crafted Mustang like his.

1967 mustang

Somewhere in my childhood I got it in my head that everyone has this one special person that they are supposed to meet and fall in love with and live happily ever after.

I considered it my mission in life to find my person.

I looked for him in every eligible guy I met and filled countless journals with my hopes and dreams about him. Sometimes I had little “signs” that this person or that person was “the one”. Other times I felt a “connection” with someone. Many times I thought I heard from God on the subject. I just knew that this person was meant to be for me; we were kismet.

It is amazing what foolish lies our hearts can tell us.

I am embarrassed by how much time and effort I put into blindly pursuing love only to see my own heart broken, time and again, and my sense of self-worth stomped pancake thin.

In the early 90s, there was a movie called Only You that really could have been me. A young girl dabbles in fortunes and magic to find the name of the man she will marry and, years later, she gets a call from him when she is about to get married to someone else. She chases after him all the way to Italy where she meets another guy who is not him but perfect for her in every way. She is challenged to choose between her foolish notions about destiny or the truth about love.

I’ve never dabbled in magic, but I too reached a point where I had to choose between foolish notions about destiny or the truth about love.

Destiny: The Lie

Control your own destiny or someone else will. –Jack Welch

I used to believe I had to get everything right and have my life just so for love to come to me. Then I believed that if love was ever going to come to me, I had to go out and find it. I treated everything I had like some sort of prize you get into a bull pit and fight for; give life your best shot and if it doesn’t stomp you to death, you might just have something.

For destiny to work, we have to believe that the majority of what happens to us is predetermined and beyond our control or influence. We also have to believe we have one specific mate for our full lifetime. We have to trust that we can find that person–despite all odds–and keep them. There is no room in this purview for errors in judgment. If I love the wrong guy, I keep us both from our true mate. We would be constantly screwing up relationships; no one could ever, ever, be happy.

The Truth about Love

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” –Song of Solomon 8:6-7

Love is full of emotion and passion, but there are no magic signs or kismet wonders that will turn those feelings into commitment. Real love takes more than passion and emotion: it takes commitment.

Instead of one person you are supposed to be with, a Godly relationship would be one that encourages you to be with someone that has a certain set of qualities. (Qualities based on Biblical principles of right and wrong NOT a Hallmark checklist.) The person you are with should be someone that brings out the best in you and someone who reminds you, more and more, of Jesus.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in them.” –1 John 4:16

Relationships take a lot of give and take; nobody is perfect. You grow together as you live out life together. You honor each other with purity standards before marriage and you maintain that commitment in marriage by only truly sharing intimacy with your spouse.

When it comes down to it, love is really about commitment.


I may not be much of an authority on love because I have never been married, and I recently ended a five-year relationship. We were building our lives together and talking about marriage, but something was always missing. We had all the emotion and passion of romance, but it fizzled out when it came to honor and commitment. If honor and commitment were weak while we were dating, why would they be any stronger if I married him?

Wisdom from Grandmama

Some of the best advice I’ve ever had to open my eyes, came from my grandmama. She said: When you are dating, you see the person’s present and past as an example of the person they will be in their future. Imagine everything you see now (while you are dating) is a hundred times worse when you marry them. Could you live with that person? Would you love that person, now and always, if they never changed?

That’s the kind of things we should be asking ourselves when we start talking about long-range plans with someone.

A Biblical Perspective On Caring For Aging Loved Ones

When I was very young, maybe five, I visited my great-grandmother. She was crippled with arthritis and bed-ridden and she scared the crap out of me. She said, “come here let me squeeze the puddin’ out of ya'” and I thought she really could squeeze the life out of me. Of course, I know better now, but that doesn’t change the fact that my only living memory of a woman I would later love and respect is one of fear and retreat.

When I was a little older, I used to visit nursing homes with my parents. We would sing old hymns and dad would preach a short sermon. Then we would visit the rooms and pray with anyone that needed it. I remember the people would smile and mumble along to the familiar tunes. They were especially happy to see young people and stared at my sister and me as if they could drink in our youth through exposure. I remember they smelled like moth balls and looked a little frightening with their sagging jaws and skin.

When I became an adult, I volunteered at a nursing home to help teach a lady to paint. I went into her room and talked to her about her life and shared with her some fun techniques to try with her art. I got to know her and some of her life story. She didn’t seem old or scary, she was experienced and interesting with a strong, healthy mind. I thought of her as a friend. One day she had bad headaches and couldn’t see me. One day turned into two. Another day she was fine and happy to talk again, but she told me she didn’t want me to “waste my time” coming out there. I got busy and stopped coming for a while. The next I heard, she was dead and gone. I never got to say goodbye.

I think humans are funny about age. When we are born, we think it is adorable when babies are covered in drool, spilling their food, and making messes. We have compassion for their short-comings and reward every small gain they have because it is progress. But when all these things happen with an adult, we treat them with fear and disdain. We invest in plastic surgery, exotic pills, and drastic health care programs to try to stave off getting older. Nothing stops the inevitable.

It’s one thing to deal with the effects of aging personally, but what about when our parents are getting older?

My pastor, Andrew Price, says there are four stages that aging parents go through.

  1. First, they become grandparents and enjoy being able to invest in their kids’ kids without all the hard work of day-to-day parenting.
  2. Second, they become retirees and get to reap the rewards of hard work and investments. They have time to relax, travel, and enjoy life. They make great mentors for others at this stage.
  3. Thirdly, they realize they can’t do all they used to do and they have to start relying on their kids to do some things for them. During this role-reversal stage, parents worry about having enough insurance and money to cover their needs and children struggle to care for their parents without treating them like children.
  4. Fourth, they become completely dependent on others for their care. In this stage, parents are no longer able to care for themselves, so the kids have to arrange for care for them. This can become a financial and emotional burden for everyone.

Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6, NIV

There is a lot of joy for stages one and two here, but I feel a deep sadness for stages three and four. Some may say it is because dealing with aging parents reminds us of our own mortality, but for me, it is more personal than that. My parents are my heroes; I’ve always looked up to them. They are barely into their sixties, yet I am living through part of these later stages with them now because of their health.

It is hard to see your heroes get knocked down.

It is hard to see them depend on people for their basic care. It is infuriating when those people also don’t care about doing their jobs well...if at all. Strangers will never know the value of your loved ones or care to know their story the way you do.

What is also hard about stages three and four is realizing that the person you love may not be with you much longer. You’ve gotten used to life with them in it. Now you feel cheated to think they won’t be there for the rest of it. At some point, whether you want to or not, we all have to say goodbye and try to live without our loved ones. It’s not easy.

I’ve had to say goodbye to more loved ones than I care to think about, and I have never been good at it. I’ve realized that I have a lot to learn from old people, even the mean, and scary ones.

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  Psalms 90:10 NIV

Some Lessons I’ve Learned From Older People

First, take care of your health. The stuff you put off when you are young catches up to you when you are old. It pays back with interest…negatively.

Second, spend quality time with the people you care about. If you didn’t care to get off your phone and play with them when they were young, why should they care about taking time out of their busy lives to visit you when you are old?

Third, be encouraging to your children. No child deserves to be put down by their parents. If you can’t be nice to them and encourage them into being a better person, you probably shouldn’t have been a parent at all. Don’t be surprised when no one comes to your funeral.

Fourth, plan ahead. Save what you can save. Invest what you can invest. Life costs more when you are older.

Fifth, don’t live with comparisons and regrets. You can control your choices but you can’t control them for someone else. You gain nothing from holding back on your dreams and goals or comparing what you have to what others have. At the end of the day, Facebook lies, Twitter glimpses, and Instagram only shows the cropped shots. If you get too caught up in what others have, you will end up scared and wasteful with what you do have.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear (revere) him.

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, NIV

What Love Looks Like: A Biblical Perspective On Romantic Relationships

One day during my teaching career, a student came to visit during my office hours. This particular student had been struggling with more than her fair share of life issues, and it left her seriously questioning her identity and value. She had returned to self-harming as a result of the stresses in her life, and she was very angry at the people she said she loved. As she shared with me the depth of hurt and anger she is battling through, I felt God whisper in my heart: “How much love is enough love?”
I encouraged her to pour love, grace, and patience into the relationships challenging her–especially to the person she was most angry about. Then I felt the conviction myself.
In God’s eyes, there is no limit, no end, to love. Could I say I had been as forgiving, patient, or kind with my love? Probably not. I found myself looking at love in a whole new way.
The Dream and the Lie
Most of my youth was spent wishing for a handsome prince who would see me and pursue me like a precious prize to be won and treasured. I imagined him on a white horse in a suit of shining armor riding up to my front door. Then I imagined him in a long dark cloak blaring love songs from a boombox outside my window–total John Cusack 80’s style. When a man puts his heart on his sleeve and is brave enough to make his feelings known to a woman–when he risks public rejection and heartbreak to win her–it is a beautiful and powerful thing. I always dreamed of a love like this and never appreciated it when I had it.
Women today are more likely to cripple a man than to give him an opportunity to shine. We dumb down our standards and dress like dime store whores because we think that if we show more and ask for less, we will attract the Prince Charming of our dreams. We don’t just holler from street corners either; we go out seeking him. We chase men down and lure them in with deceptive double-talk and sensuality like we think a real man will want to be played more than he wants pure honesty.
Don’t Play Games
Real men don’t play games. Real men are honest and tender with hearts that crumble when they are lied to or cheated on. Real men have standards and attach like glue to a good woman when they find one. If their hearts are ever broken, they are twice as hard as a woman’s to rebuild because it is harder for them to trust again. Real men have a dream to be someone’s hero, but they doubt they will ever really meet the mark. They tell themselves they are losers more than any woman ever will. Real men have real physical needs; they might fall for a cheap whore for a moment, but the idea of marrying her and having kids with her repulses them. Real men need time with other real men. They juggle responsibilities to their jobs, their homes, and their hobbies, and they hope a woman will understand their need for downtime without being clingy or feeling ignored.
Treat a Woman as Treasure Divine
When a man gets the opportunity to love a woman the way she deserves to be loved and the woman reciprocates that love to him, the result is a love like what we see in Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman was greatly respected in the town. She was known for being wise, resourceful, and trust-worthy. The Bible says that her husband had full confidence in her–he trusted her–and he talked highly about her to everyone in town. When a woman gives a man the room to be a man, it unlocks a part of him he didn’t even know he had. Her encouragement inspires him to believe in himself and do more to provide for himself and for her. That’s what happened when Ruth gave herself to Boaz on the threshing floor. The love of a good woman gives a man wings to be the best version of himself. When he can rest in her love–when he can truly trust his love found a home with her–he will feel less like a loser and more like a hero in his own world.
Women Need to Nurture Superheroes
There is a reason why little boys dress like superheroes, cowboys, and sheriffs; they are hard-wired to fight for and defend something important. Little girls dress up as princesses not to be damsels-in-distress, but to be ladies encouraging princes to have something important to fight for and defend. Parents, let your little ones dream big dreams and pretend to be superheroes. Encourage their belief in themselves and in their importance in the world because they really ARE the key to saving the world. The very hope of the world–the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone–rests on us. Boys and girls are meant to grow up and become real superheroes. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is making his appeal to all mankind through us Christians (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Furthermore, the love God has for each of us individually shows its fullest expression on Earth in the marriage of men to women.
Love Like Jesus
When I am closest to Christ through reading the Bible, prayer, and worship, I feel his presence wrap around me in tangible ways. He brings me flowers and chocolate and we sit and enjoy a sunset together. He brings me rain and cuddles up to sleep in with me. He pulls back my hair and whispers how beautiful I am in my ear. He helps me make the bed and encourages me that I can finish that quilt to make it up next time. He encourages me to try new things and challenge myself. He tells me a joke to hear me laugh. He shows me an array of colors to remind me that he is an artist too. He knows my deepest thoughts and longings. He holds me when I cry, and he’s brave enough to love me when all I have for him are shouts of “why?!” Christ loves me with a never-ending, patience. His love is a love that can’t get enough of me. He sees beyond me to what I will become, and he loves me despite all my failings. His love is the love I took for granted and never appreciated when I had it. The good news is that this love was ready and waiting for me when I turned back to it.
I believe that Christ loves me–and all who accept him as Lord–like this so I will have a tangible example of how to show his love to others. It was his idea that I made my apartment into a honeymoon suite for my sister and brother-in-law when they were first married and too poor to get away anywhere. It was his idea to leave special gifts in the mailboxes of my co-workers at Christmas. It was his idea to talk about love today because someone somewhere needed to hear these very words: God sees you, He knows you, and He loves you right where you are right now.
Dear single hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your life. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and teach you to be a whole person and happy in Him. My friend Bill Rose Jr. is writing about and teaching on this in his sermon series, “Vows”. I found it very helpful. You can check it out here.
Dear coupled hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationship. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you how to treat your mate like a treasure. Nurture goodness and virtue in your mate and see how that returns blessings to you as well.
Dear parenting and teaching hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationships with your children and/or students. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you ways to share that love with them. Let him show you ways to nurture greatness in them because your influence is far greater than you know or can see right now.
Dear lost hearts, if it’s been a while since you felt Christ in your life–or if you have never made that first step of commitment–I challenge you to begin your journey today. We live in a sinful world, but God chose to redeem those that believe in him through the death of his one and only son (John 3:16-17). We have all messed up and fallen short of the perfection and glory that is in God, but if you believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the one and only son of God, that he died to save you from your sins, and that he was raised to life again, then you will be saved (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 10:9). Let someone know about this new commitment! I encourage you to find a good Bible-teaching church where you can grow in your faith walk with Christ and find encouragement to leave your old ways in the past. If you need help finding a place to connect, or you want more information about Christianity, comment your concerns below.
Thanks for reading!

Warrior Woman Part 4: The Lone Warrior 

In this fourth and final installment of the Wonder Woman-inspired, Warrior Woman series, I want to talk about the hardest part of being her: fighting alone.

My favorite part in the film happens in No Man’s Land. Diana runs out into battle and she’s dodging bullets left and right. The enemy realizes that she’s not stopping so they throw down more fire on her. Suddenly she is pinned down with bullets sparking off her shield like fireworks and not a sole around to help her advance in the fight. In that moment, she is helpless.


Images credited to the film “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

I mentioned this idea in the first blog in this series when I said:

The good news is that Diana isn’t left to fight alone. An Adam does show up for her. The point, though, is that she was not dependent on him to live out her purpose in this world. In fact, sometimes she has to fight alone even when she has him (that’s a story for another day).

Diana did have a man there to fight with her. After her short period of loneliness, he sees her from the sidelines and says to his comrades, “she’s taking all the fire, boys, we have to help her.” He stormed in after her, guns blazing, into No Man’s Land where no man was said to get through it alive. He came to help her and fight with her against the enemy, and it was only after they were together that they were able to defeat the enemy’s hold on the land.

When we are alone, the emptiness fills us with despair. We are tempted to think this time in our life will be endless. We think we will die like this: alone, unseen, unknown, unloved. When we are single and lonely, we think the loneliness will be over when we have a man. We think, “if I just had my person, then I’d be happy”, but it doesn’t work that way.

Loneliness sinks its teeth into us when we are single, but it’s especially cruel when we are married.

Diana wasn’t alone in No Man’s Land. There were allied troops around her, but they were all afraid of storming the land. Even her person did not go with her into that decision at first. If the battlefield represents life and spiritual warfare, if every step Diana took alone represented a year a woman spends alone in a marriage, then this woman had a REALLY LONG TIME of working out life on her own. She was making decisions without him, cooking and cleaning without him, taking care of the kids without him, paying the bills without him, leading the family without him,…etc. Get the point? She had partnered with someone that wasn’t on the same playing field with her at all.

Her man might have been wearing the ring, but she was wearing the pants.

If you remember from the beginning of this series, the term Azer-Kenegdo is meant to refer to a woman in marriage and her purpose as it relates to her husband. I never stressed this before because the meaning of the term was so powerful towards women in general that I didn’t want us to be tempted to think it didn’t apply unless we were married. On the contrary, I believe all women are Azer-Kenegdo women called to love and fight for truth regardless of our relationship status. We are ultimately bearing the image of Christ to a broken world and we prepare ourselves to be with him again.

Being the bride of Christ is the ultimate relationship status for every woman.

Nevertheless, we are tempted to think that loneliness is a thing of the past for a married woman. Why, then, would a married woman still face fighting alone? One of my dearest mentors walked through this in her marriage.

Her husband cheated on her and abused her. She asked him to leave. They divorced. Years down the road, they both found God, healed their hurts, and got remarried. They like to tease that their divorce couldn’t stick. Ladies, it was much more calculating than that. My friend chose to give her husband to God, pray for him, and not speak a single ill word about him. That is HUGE!

I do not have a pretty love story to compare to that. I have swooned over more boys than I can count and filled dozens of journals with my hopeless opines. Yet, none of them panned out to be the elusive One.

I thought the One would find me in my teen years. I thought we’d marry and live a happy, long life together. That didn’t happen then, nor did it happen in my twenties. I am now in my thirties, and the man I love now may very well be the One, but that is yet to be determined.

When I look at him, I see the man he is meant to be. I see his kind, generous heart and the way he welcomes new people like long-acquainted friends. I see the way he uses his talents and money to help others even to the point of sacrifice. I see the people he blesses feeling a little closer to God because of him. I see him going into prayer like it is a battlefield where he can take and leave all his worries with God. I see the light of strength, hope, and faith in his eyes.

I see the man he was meant to be, not the man he is today.

It’s hard to love a man when he is weak and lost. In his weakened state, he is needy and abusive. He takes whatever you will give with little thankfulness, and he comes back for more. Wanting to love and help, we give again until we are so buried in hurt and debt we can’t possibly seem to climb out. We get ourselves in trouble trying to save our men.

Sometimes giving is needed, but sometimes we have to let our men fall. Sometimes we have to let them reach the end of their selfishness and pride before they will turn to, hear, and obey God.

The best gift we can give our broken men is our humility before God in prayer.

Whether we are married to them or just dating them, whether our man is a stubborn man–like mine–or just a missing man–like Diana’s–we have to turn our men over to God in prayer.

Like I said, my man is nothing if he isn’t stubborn, but God specializes in stubborn and missing hearts. Sometimes it takes drastic circumstances to get a man’s attention. The apostle Paul was so stubborn that God had to stop him in the middle of a road and blind him before he would see the truth (Acts 9). Peter, too, had a problem with anger and pride that he denied until he betrayed Christ (Matthew 26:33-35; Luke 22). Disciples James and John were brothers known for being hot-tempered when Christ met them. So much so, in fact, that they were called the “sons of thunder” (John 2:24-25).

Time with Christ changed these men. Most lived lives of strong faith and built up the early church. They intentionally turned from their selfish ways and chose to live fully aware of the spiritual fight we are in and participated in it. Though Foxe’s Book of Martyrs reports that most disciples died as martyrs, it is encouraging to know that one of the sons of thunder, John, lived to a ripe old age. His heart had been so changed from a life lived with Jesus that he earned a new nickname: the “Apostle of Love“.

“No pit is so deep or so dark that God is not deeper still.” –Corrie Ten Boom

God will never ask a woman to join herself to a man that does not share her faith (2 Cor. 6:14), but we can often find ourselves in relationships with men who say they believe like we do but are actually living lost and broken away from their full potential in Christ. When a man is broken and lost, we women must seek God on their behalf. We must pray for them and uphold Godly standards when we are with them. There has to be a limit to what we will do and what we will give. We cannot sin to please them, nor can we go bankrupt providing for their needs. Nevertheless, selfless love and kindness can point them towards Christ and the repairing of their hearts. Choosing to speak kind words instead of sharp, hurtful words is important. We have to resist our desire to hurt back. We have to show the love of Christ.

How can you show more kindness and compassion to the man in your life?

Warrior Woman Part 3: The Spiritual Warrior

I have learned that a woman who is unafraid to walk in her beauty and her glory is an attractive thing. She will lure you in–be it for truth or for lies–because that confidence is the door of opportunity God created for her to use in ministry. When we are close to God, we feed our hearts on His Word, the Bible, and we shine the light of His love and blessing. When we are far from God, we use what we have to take from others. We steal, we kill, and we wound the very people we were called to love, to strengthen, and to encourage. The enemy of our souls is not other people, but he uses other people to bring about his purposes. Spiritual warfare is not just about our thoughts or the things of the air, it is also about seeing how people around you are being used to further the war.

In life and in death, through our choices, we are serving on one side or the other in this war.

We women are called to be warriors of love and truth.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. –Ephesians 6:12, NIV

It is the full armor of God that enables us to fight and fight well. The full armor of God is described in Ephesians 6:10-20.

The Armor of God

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. –Ephesians 6:13-20, NIV

I recommend doing a deeper study on the armor of God to fully unpack the meaning of these verses. There’s a lot of meat on these bones because of what each piece of armor was used for and protected in the historical sense and the metaphor that implies to the spiritual weapons. There are full Bible studies that go into depth on this scripture. Priscilla Shirer–famous motivational speaker, actress, and daughter of Dr. Tony Evans–does an amazing study on this topic. Workbooks for the study, Armor of God, can be found here. There is also a children’s book series by Shirer called The Prince Warriors that presents this story in an intriguing allegory. The series was produced in audiobooks, as well, and now has a devotional to help kids learn to recognize and actively fight against the enemy.

I love how all this armor looks in battle. The film, Wonder Woman, does a fair depiction of it. In the film, Diana a.k.a. Wonder Woman, looks pretty darn cool! Not only does she have an amazing figure and looks graceful in a dress, but she is fierce and mighty in battle. This film is a depiction of the Christian woman in life and in spiritual warfare. You can read more about that in my blogs Ezer-Kenegdo Part 1 and Exer-Kenegdo Part 2.

The Importance of Armor

Weapons in combat were no small matter; how well you were prepared often meant the difference between living and dying. Warriors had to be strong and mighty, in fact, just to wield their armor; a full suit of armor is said to weigh as much as 110 pounds. The armor, weaponry, and man were so much weight, in fact, that knights had to ride special draft horses called Percherons bred to be able to carry the load.

I love that wardrobe didn’t skimp on the weaponry for Diana. Though she shows a lot more skin than a knight would have, she is clothed from head to foot in weaponry that carries metaphoric significance for us.

Nevertheless, while it looks cool…

…there are not many practical purposes for a Wonder Woman slinging a sword in the real world. Today, our weapons are the truth, righteousness, preparedness, peace, faith, salvation, walking in the Spirit, the Bible, and prayer.

This arsenal is equipped for you through your alone time with God. Make room in your schedule for getting away and seeking God through His Word. In that time alone, read your Bible, pray, and worship. Guard this time with Him!

God will show up in that time no matter how much of a mess you are or how recently you messed up. He will show up because he loves you and desires to be known by you.

Are you hurting today?

Have you lost perspective?

Are you lost in the fight?

Go to God with your troubles; he will meet you there.

Spiritual Warfare Part 2: The Fight

I don’t know if the lost woman in my apartment was mentally unstable, possessed, or just lost. What I do know is that she wasn’t the enemy. It was the lies and the voice that spoke them that was the enemy. The enemy was–and is–Satan.

Scripture tells us that our enemy roams the earth looking for someone (weak) to devour. Therefore, we must resist him by being vigilant, watchful, alert to what’s going on in the spiritual realm and keeping a clear head about it.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.  –1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV

When the lost woman started to listen to the voice of the enemy, she had a choice. She knew God. She had heard his voice, his gentle correction that she was wrong, but what the enemy was saying to her sounded better. The enemy tempted her to follow a different path by speaking to her needs and wants in a way that pleased her. He offered her a way to have power and prestige and romance by stealing it.

One of the give-aways of the Devil is that he is focused on the present. In his voice comes the urgency to please yourself now with no care for the consequences of that “pleasure” to your future. Satan entices you to sin and become a slave to that sin. He knows the consequences of sin are death–spiritually and, in some cases, physically.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. –Romans 6:23, NIV

Satan’s choices are strategic. He leads us on a path of death and destruction for a reason; he wants to win the war he started with God.

According to Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19, Satan was an angel of high importance in Heaven long before the creation of the world. He grew envious of God and wanted to be him. He attempted to overthrow God, but he was shot down. It must have been a violent and significant beat-down because Christ himself said he saw him fall “like lightning from Heaven” (Luke 10:18). He was cast to Earth where he pesters mankind in order to steal, kill, and destroy their purpose in the Earth.

And I will put enmity (open hostility) between you and the woman,
And between your seed (offspring) and her Seed;
He shall [fatally] bruise your head,
And you shall [only] bruise His heel.”–Genesis 3:15, AMP

The thief’s (Satan’s) purpose is to steal, kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness. –John 10:10, TLB

God created us to have fellowship with Him, but Satan wanted to break that bond and keep us from the closeness we were meant to have. Why? Because he didn’t get what he wanted when he tried to overthrow Heaven, and he can’t win his way back into God’s good graces to go back there even if he was humble enough to beg for it. Revelations 20 tells us that Satan, Lucifer, is destined for fire and he will take as many with him who are willing to go along with his lies.

We, humans, are not just helpless pawns in this spiritual struggle, we are the prize that both sides are fighting for.

For we are His workmanship [His own masterwork, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].–Ephesians 2:10, AMP

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We are the prime achievement of all God’s creative endeavors. The Grand Canyon, the magnificent Appalachian mountains, the stars and the planets, everything beautiful that God created pales in comparison to the greatness that lives in each of us. I love the way the Message Bible puts it: “He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing (Ephesians 2:10, MSG).”

Satan may try to get in the way of our purpose here on Earth, but he has no power to stop us. Christ overcame the Devil and any power he had when he became a human, took on our brokenness, and became our bridge to God.

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. We also know that the Son did not come to help angels; he came to help the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.–Hebrew 2:14-18, NLT

We are called to live our lives in freedom and dignity. Our freedom comes from accepting this message, that Christ died for us, and accepting Him as our personal Savior. Then, we change how we live. We pursue God through his Word because we honestly want to know Him more. We turn away from sin as he reveals our sinful behaviors through His Word, the Bible. Our freedom comes from living through the Spirit and denying our sinful, fleshly desires. We have to stay alert about the war we are in. Galatians describes what this war looks like in our everyday lives.

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom. 

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.–Galatians 5:19-23, MSG

It is a war of the flesh led by the Devil vs. the spirit led by God working in and through us. When we begin to understand this, the enemy is no longer your boss, your husband, your co-worker, or the lost woman in your apartment. No, the enemy is Satan. Instead of yelling at that lost person, yell at the Devil. Take authority over the situation by putting on the whole armor of God.

We will finish this discussion by looking at the full armor of God in Ephesians in my next post. Until then, think about these questions.

How has your attitude been lately? Are you mad at the world or are you loving the world?

How do you see yourself? Are you a priceless treasure or are you a mistake?

Spiritual Warfare Part 1: The Lost Woman In My Apartment and My Association With Her

There was once an older woman in my church who needed a ride home. I saw no harm in helping her; she seemed well put-together. She dressed in fancy suits and silks. Her hair, jewelry, and make-up displayed knowledge of both the latest fashions and what was confidently best matched to her. She was an international woman of culture, sophistication, and beauty. I saw no harm in her, so I took her home.

But one ride led to more rides. And more rides led to dinners and teas in her home.

It didn’t take long to realize that she was not normal. Her once well-furnished home had been cratered; she’d sold off much of it to maintain her lifestyle. She was existing on whatever she could sell and whatever people would give her. Though she was quite talented, she refused to work. She said she felt “called to seek God in prayer and Bible study”. She had a “yeah, but…” excuse for every Scripture you quoted for this including “…the one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

All of this I did not know when our friendship began, but I learned it over time. I knew her lifestyle was not a calling of God because God doesn’t call us to do things that don’t line up with his Word. Nevertheless, I didn’t do much to push back against the falsehoods she was believing. I would casually mention a scripture countering her belief and ask her what she thought about it. I then let it be, and I told her I wasn’t going to judge her. This kindness grew our friendship and, like an unchecked garden, her weeds filled my life.

I have always liked being able to offer a spare room in my house as a getaway for my friends. Sometimes just a short break from their status-quo was all it took to give my friends a fresh, encouraged perspective. My townhome had a perfect space for this, and I remember inviting this lost friend into my home as a getaway retreat for her.  I remember her stay landed on a weekend where I was obligated to help with a church yard sale. I invited her to come along, but she declined. I left her alone in my apartment. When I came back to my apartment, something felt off from the moment I walked in the door. My friend had been “seeking” and wrote what she felt God told her in her journal. She had left her journal out where I could see what she wrote in it. I knew it was an invasion of privacy to read her words, but I also knew that the truth of whatever had happened in my home would be there. So, I read it. The words seared me: “the pastor is supposed to be my husband”.

Everything holy within me rose up in anger against her in that moment. She had written poisonous LIES…in my HOME….about the MARRIED man of God leading our church! I was so livid that I was visibly shaking. Nevertheless, I recognized that the Devil–not God–had been whispering in this woman’s ear…in my house…and I had to tread carefully over the next few things I would say to her. I felt danger lurking in my apartment and, I’m ashamed to say, I was scared. Nevertheless, I confronted her.

I told her that I saw what she wrote while I was gone, and I asked her if she really believed it. She smiled and said she was glad that I read it because she didn’t want to hide it anymore. “Anymore!” I thought, “How long has this been going on?” I thought that; I didn’t ask that. I told her that she was wrong to say those things because God would never tell her to break up a marriage to be with a man. I told her she was not hearing from God; she was hearing from the Devil. She became viciously angry and spewed hurtful insults at me. I don’t remember what she said as much as the burning hatred in her eyes. The woman was wholly sinning and defiantly fighting hearing the Truth. It was the closest thing to a possessed person that I have ever seen.

Because this all happened in my home, I felt responsible to right the grievous wrong being done here. I argued with her for quite some time, but she would not relent from her belief that the pastor was supposed to be her husband. I had her pack up her things, and I took her home. That was the end of our “friendship”.

I knew what had happened in my home was no idle threat. I could not keep it to myself because I was certain she would try to hurt the pastor’s wife. Consequently, I went to my church’s pastoral staff and the pastor’s wife herself and told them everything. I told them about the lost woman in my apartment and all she did and said there. I remember bowing like a failed knight before her king because I felt like I had failed them. I felt guilty for not knowing better. I felt guilty for letting it get that far. I felt guilty for being close friends with her and letting the sickness grow. Though I was abused, misguided, and betrayed, I felt responsible for this clear and present danger. I let those feelings consume me.

The lost woman did not go quietly into the shadows. She continued to listen to her lies and they told her to shave her head and present herself to the pastor during worship–naked. She showed up one Sunday to do just that. Her lovely hair shaven, she had wrapped herself in a silk sari with nothing on beneath. In front of an audience of over a thousand people, she attempted to disrobe in front of the pastor. Security swarmed in and carried her out, however, before she was able to get the job done. They took her out, thankfully, before anyone really knew who she was or what she was trying to do. They were able to do this because of what the pastor did prior to her entrance.

It was customary practice for the pastor to be in prayer before going on stage before a service. The time before services was so important, in fact, that the pastor was guarded to reinforce his conviction that he needed to remain focused on the task at hand. In these prayer-prep times, the Holy Spirit would speak to the pastor about things he needed to say and attacks that were coming against him. The Sunday that the lost woman came in, the Holy Spirit had already prepared him for the attack and told him to direct everyone in the audience to close their eyes in worship. The Holy Spirit saw the attack coming and enabled the pastor to protect his flock. We sheep were directed to close our eyes and keep worshiping until the pastor told us to open our eyes. Because I was one of the obedient sheep, I never saw the lost woman come into the sanctuary. I never saw her attempt to disrobe or her shaved head screaming as she was carried out of the building. All of that was told to me later along with the news of other failed attempts to hurt the pastor’s wife.

Her failed attempt to get at the pastor brought scrutinizing eyes on me. People that knew about my friendship with her and the incident in my apartment then associated me with her. I was now the woman that knew the woman that tried to kill the pastor’s wife and take her husband. I could not be trusted. I was guilty by association.

Because of the lost woman in my apartment–and the sinful lies she wrote there–I believed I could not trust myself to hear the voice of God again. I believed that I could serve the house of God–in volunteer positions in the church–but I could not hear from God personally. I held myself in this prison for many years.

Because of the lost woman in my apartment, I became a lost woman too.

I went into a dark depression. I questioned myself and everything I thought I heard from God. I doubted everything to the point that it became impossible for me to make decisions for myself. I remember people close to me were recommending I get professional help and calling my parents to come and check on me. I didn’t need professional help; I needed a friend to believe in me and pull me out of my mess. My mom was that friend.

I remember coming to the end of myself. I had been working temp jobs and applying for “real” jobs for over a year. Some weeks I was applying to as many as 100 jobs a week. Still, no doors were opening for me. Even the part-time jobs that had been sustaining me for two years were beginning to dry up. I felt so hopeless and lost.

I called home and begged my mom and dad for guidance. “Just make the decision for me,” I pleaded, “I don’t know what to do.” Without hesitation, they said: “Come home.”

Coming home, at first, felt like defeat. My parents had been empty nesters. My room had become storage. There was no place for me. I knew that coming home meant a lot of work for my mom to make a space for me. Nevertheless, mom and dad knew I needed the family to get through my dark time. My mother especially knew this because she had weathered many such storms herself and knew what it took to break through. Her gift to me, in that moment, was going into my old room and clearing it out so that I could come home. She not only cleared out my room, but she also cleared space in the living room and kitchen for parts of my furniture and kitchen tools. It’s not easy for a woman to give up part of her haven to another woman…even when that woman is her child. It’s not easy for two women of age to run their own separate homes to share a home together, but mom and I embarked on that journey together. Almost ten years later, I can say it has been one of the strongest and best moves of my life. The beginning was a mess. The middle was a bit brooding and rocky. The later years have been a blessing.

It took almost ten years for me to stop beating myself up for what happened with the lost woman. It took almost ten years for me to believe I could seek God and trust that I was hearing his voice again. That trust came from knowing the difference between the voice of God and the voice of the enemy, Satan.

In my next post, I will go into that in more depth. For now, let me ask you to think about these questions:

In what ways has the enemy attacked you and made you feel unworthy?

What lies has he spoken to you that you accepted as truth?

Warrior Woman Part 2: The Loving Warrior

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away. –Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Whenever I go out with a crowd, I am usually the slowest one in the bunch. I could say it is because I am shorter or heavier than most of my friends, but that is not the truth of it. It’s because, like Wordsworth, I often wander lonely and aimlessly like a cloud. I am too busy enjoying the world around me to keep up with busy steps and schedules. This truth about me was especially annoying to my siblings as we toured Europe; I was forever holding them back from seeing more because I didn’t walk fast enough. They were anxious to skim across the surface, but I wanted to “live deep and suck out all the marrow” of it like Thoreau.

What I have learned over time is that we are all different, and not all types of people get along well together. My type of person drives the fast-stepping-tightly-scheduled person crazy. Nevertheless, we both have valuable approaches to life; we are both a reflection of God’s uniquely vast character (Genesis 1:27).

Recently, I went downtown and relaxed into a sturdy cedar rocker with a cool glass of freshly made lemonade. As I rocked, I watched a diverse group of people pass by me.

There was a young quinceanera princess in a long pink ruffled gown surrounded by gold party maidens and young tuxedoed princes. I admired as two of the princes held the princess’s long train as she walked. These young men were likely brothers or cousins, but they were showing her honor. The entire party filled the city center with happiness and laughter as drones hovered taking pictures.

Near me sat a beautiful African goddess. She wore a bright yellow two-piece jumpsuit that draped and swayed in the wind like the cape of a superhero. Her hair bounced in short black curls and the sun glistened off her Hollywood sunglasses. She smiled with warm affection and waved people in as they passed. She stood for strength, femininity, confidence, and pride. People were drawn to her.

From the corner behind me darted a tiny Asian woman. She was carrying a bag of takeout food from the Thai restaurant two doors down, and she was hurriedly talking on her cell phone. Her voice was calm and low, but it commanded attention. Her steps were quick and intentional. She had all the control and responsibility of a mother in the body of a worn and tired little girl. She smelled of ginger and jasmine and freshly fried rice.

Each of these women, though vastly different, reflected a piece of the beauty of God to me. Few, if any, of them knew that though. Christ was shining through their beauty and seeing purpose in our messy humanness.

 

If you read Ezer-Kenegdo Part 1, you already know part of my story and part of the power of this word describing women. If you have not read it, you may want to pause here and do so. In this part of the story, I want to talk about the loving heart of the woman we are meant to be.

As I watched the many men and women pass me, I wondered how many of them struggle with feeling less lovable than the people around them.

How many of them felt seen and heard?

How many of them felt valued?

How many of them felt needed?

These are all things that Christ came to show us, and they are things God designed us to long for. God designed us to want Him.

I may not get along with every type of person in the world, but I am supposed to love them. In so doing, I help point people back to the God they truly long for (Galatians 6:1). The kind of love I am talking about is kindness. We Christians are called to show kindness to those who are not living at God’s best in order to inspire them towards pursuit of it (Galatians 5:13-26).

Our loving kindness is Christ’s attitude adjustment shining through. It doesn’t always come easy. In fact, there are some people I would rather punch in the face than show love to. Nevertheless, I am learning that the people who rub like sandpaper across the surface of my life are opportunities for me to grow. People in the south have a saying for this; they say “bless their heart” for such as these with all the veiled venom of a rattler. I don’t have that skill…but I sometimes really wish I did.

In what ways do people challenge you?

How can you overcome those challenges to still show them grace and kindness?

Warrior Woman Part 1: What It Means To Be A “Helper” Of Men

Eve is given to Adam as his azer kenegdoor as many translations have it, his “help meet” or “helper.”…But Robert Alter says this is “a notoriously difficult word to translate.” It means something far more powerful than just “helper”; it means lifesaver.”The phrase is only used elsewhere of God, when you need him to come through for you desperately…. Eve is a life giver; she is Adam’s ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will take both of them to sustain life. And they will both need to fight together. –Ransomed Heart Ministries

I remember the first time I ever learned about the “help meet”. I was doing a deeper study of the creation story in Genesis through a book from the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary. These books were massive, by the way, and filled shelves in my dad’s study as well as the studies of several other pastors I would come to love and admire over my lifetime. They weren’t just popular, they were the resource pastors were taught in school to consider a go-to for understanding the word of God. But Matthew Henry’s style of explaining the Bible was different. He was smoothly poetic at times and, other times, fiercely wordy. He read like a cross between Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis, and I imagined if I saw him, he’d have a long white beard and a gentle smile because that’s what wisdom looked like to me when I was a child. So this kind old Moses told me that there was a divine purpose for why Eve was made from a rib of Adam in the creation story.

…the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. —Matthew Henry, commentary on Genesis 2:22

I grew up with this knowledge that I was something truly designed to be special and treasured in this world. I was anxious to find my Adam and, like most little girls that feel this way, walk out the relationship of love and nurturing that God intended for us. I remember filling journals with my ramblings and questions: Is it this guy? Is it that guy? Again, like so many of my peers, I filled myself with shame for this longing. I felt utterly pathetic to not have a date by my sixteenth birthday, and completely worthless when he still didn’t show by my twenty-first. It is embarrassing how much I searched for him—and how much I had to say about it. I walked head first into a lot of hurt because of what C.S. Lewis calls the vulnerability of love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  –C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

Our hearts were meant to love, but sometimes love is a battlefield.

Pat Benatar would say love and romance is about fighting with and hurting the one you love, but it’s really supposed to be more like how Warren Barfield sings it; love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for. That song came out of a place of real hurt and real healing. A change of perspective didn’t just save the Barfield marriage; it saved the marriages of others who heard the song. You can read more about that here.

Women everywhere are uniting in excitement over a new Hollywood heroine: Wonder Woman. In this film, the role of a kick-butt rescuer is given to a woman. There is a scene in the film where Diana–Wonder Woman–goes out into battle in World War I to rescue enslaved people on the other side of the Germans. To rescue them, she has to cross No Man’s Land, a place where no man has been able to cross alive. No. Man. While the men are telling her not to go, Diana drops her cloak and runs into the war.

Wonder-Woman-Movie-Concept-Art

Images credited to the film “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

Diana is a fierce defender of truth and justice. She fights for love because she sees fallen mankind from a godlike perspective and wants to restore them. She can see the victory before it happens because she knows the source of her strength is with the gods, and she trusts that the gods want mankind to be healed. Diana is a symbol of what the Christian woman is supposed to be.

In Christ, we have a higher calling to love and battle. We are called to intercede for the lost as representatives of Christ in the world (Ephesians 5:1-33; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are called to fight for others with strength and courage (Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Deuteronomy 31:6). Why? Because Christ is calling back his Creation from the fall (Colossians 1:15-23).

I’ll admit that my first experience with this symbolism did not set well with me because she was fighting like Azer-Kenegdo (pronounced Azur-ned-go) with or without a man beside her. She didn’t stop to have a pity party that her Adam was not there to fight life with her (what I would have done). No, Diana ran out to battle alone because she knew who she was and what she was fighting for. I believe Christ is calling us to be bold for him and, in the same way, pursue our purpose in the world.

wonder_woman_battlefield_no_mans_land

Images credited to the film “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

The good news is that Diana isn’t left to fight alone. An Adam does show up for her. The point, though, is that she was not dependent on him to live out her purpose in this world. In fact, sometimes she has to fight alone even when she has him (that’s a story for another day). In the same way, ladies, God is calling us to rise up and see and join the fight.

To learn more, consider following the 14-Day FREE Devotional, The Heart of the Warrior, on the YouVersion Bible app. This devotional is based on a great book by this title written to tell the man’s part of the story. You can read more about it here. The Eldridges are well-known for their books on this subject for both women and men: Captivating, Becoming Myself, and Wild at Heart. You can read more on their website here.  Last but not least, you may want to consider a full getaway emersion experience here.