You've been called by God to do something in the ministry. But when you go to the folks whom you thought would support you, you find something other than approval. And so you question your calling. Surely you heard God wrong.
What if what you were actually looking for was permission? And not confirmation? The two couldn't be more different. Understanding this can be crucial to maintaining your sanity.
Looking for permission can look like: quitting your ministry because a certain church does not accept you.
Not writing your book because a publisher turned you down.
Or not starting your podcast because you couldn't get in with the 'in' crowd.
It can look like quitting your blog because you feel overlooked in your hometown. Or giving up on music because the record label turned you down.
Understand that when Moses went to follow the calling that God placed upon his life it was not because Pharaoh and his army approved. It was because God said so. He had confirmation from God. He didn't need permission from men.
'Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales;' 1 Timothy 4:7
Our family doesn't do fairy tales. Our family goes the gospel of Jesus Christ and the wonderful truths found in the scriptures. Our family does singing and praising and worship. Our family does truth. We do not seek refuge in stories that would undermine the truth of the gospel. There's too much at stake.
I waited 15 years before meeting my miracle baby, Joy. Her smile could light up the room. Her world is full of colors and light and of the sounds of mom and dad praising Jesus. We're gospel singers, after all. But there is a force, a real demonic host that exists and that the scriptures intently warn us about.
The battle is real.
The war is intense.
I'm not famous. I have a radio show and I write for the Huffington Post. I've also done interviews to support my two albums which have received radio airplay. I've learned some things about platform and I'd like to humbly share them with you.
Your platform is not who you are. It will never be who you are. If it ever becomes who you are, you will quickly become soul-sick. Your platform will either be too big or too small for you. So just don't go there. My radio show and writing are just facts. And if God wills it, they could both be gone tomorrow. As could the emails of guests who would like to be on my show. I know this as God makes this painfully clear to me on a daily basis.
And you probably think I'm going to give you the usual spiel about how you don't want a platform and about how you should be happy if only one person shows up. I'm not going to tell you that. And here's the reason why. For some of you there is this holy tension between your life as you see it and your life as you imagine it to be. And for some of you there is this thing inside you that won't let you rest and that truly believes you are going to be on a stage of some sort someday.
And I believe you.
Because I felt the same way.
To Our Correctional Officers:
You do not hear these words often enough, but here goes. Thank you.
We see you.
We hear you.
We support you.
Day in and day out you enter a world which few of us will ever see. And if I were honest, few of us would even want to. It is a world that is brutal and which scars you like a military battle you are waging in chapters. 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks out of the year.
For you the time goes slowly by with nothing to do but watch walks or showers or the mundane task of overseeing inmates as they make their noodles in the microwave. The hours of your life inch alongside the men or women who are also waiting, locked up, incarcerated for crimes which they have committed.
And you hear the insults.
And the threats.
And the clanging of metal upon metal.
They call this place, 'the clink' for a reason.
Firstly, let's define the word critic. It is, according to Webster's, someone who, 'tends too readily to make captious, trivial, or harsh judgments; faultfinder'. This is someone who is looking to find fault. This person is not your friend and they do not have your best interest at heart.
This is not someone who is to be confused with the person who, in love, tells you what you need to hear.
Or who lovingly tells you something you won't like.
Those friends are doing the hard work of steering you away from oncoming traffic or are helping you to back away from that cliff edge you are currently standing on. On this the Bible says, 'Faithful are the wounds of a friend'. So, now that we're clear, let's get back to talking about the one whose opinion does not matter: the critic.
I saw the words written there in black and white, cold as ice and dark as night. Words explaining to me, or whoever else might be reading them, to show some respect for your rapist.
To not hurt his feelings.
To consider that he is a human being who will respond differently if you show him some respect. That you must not treat him as some vile attacker, but must be thoughtful in your dealings with the one who would abuse you.
I had been assaulted sexually by someone when I was in high school. And I wondered to myself, had I shown him enough respect? After all, while he was busy committing a crime, I was busy trying to defend myself and to keep what shreds of self respect I had remaining. Where was his respect for me?
My soul? Should I be sending him a gift basket now or at least an apology letter explaining my lack of kind words?
Here is where I need to back up and provide some context. The admonition for women to respect their rapist came from a religious publication which lays down the rules and regulations for the followers of the Jehovah's Witness religion. The religion I grew up in. The religion I trusted.
You tell me you like my hair.
I tell you I liked your song.
We tell each other there is nothing wrong with being lukewarm when we all know better. We encourage our friends to call each us if they need something and sometimes we mean it. But sometimes we don't. We say you can call us for help with your project, but we don't mean it. We don't want to be bothered and we don't want to come to the party.
I do it.
You do it.
We need to stop doing it.
I hope all is well. I know it's been some time since we've spoken. Actually it's been six years. And yet the memories float around me like leaves on the autumn breeze and I am unsettled. Sometimes the past impressions you've made crowd around me and drown out my present reality. I miss you all. And though I'm not really surprised by the way things turned out, I wish it could be different. I wish you could be here now. But this was the choice that you made.
And looking back now I always felt somehow that I did not fit into your world. Like a sawed-off puzzle piece I was sort of left out to do my own thing. And filling out medical histories and doctors' forms is stressful now. Because I either don't know all the answers or because I forgot them. And the hardest of all is feeling that I was somehow never good enough and that you rejected me. It feels so personal. Because maybe it is.
We see a lady or a man, a woman or a child and they are obviously in need of help. We stop, we consider and we turn away. And we do it for a variety of reasons.
Because we're scared.
Because we do not know the person that well.
Because it would be an inconvenience.
When God is calling us or asking us to help lighten the load for someone else and we don't, we can expect a ripple effect. Here are some of the things that can happen when we decide not to help.
Friends, it's that time of the day again. You turn on the T.V. You flip the channels. Or you listen to the radio. Either way, you catch the news. Another war. Another senseless tragedy. Another victim of violence.
How do we make sense of it all? Before you can dare make a judgment, somebody has already made it for you.
The incident must be framed in some way in order to make it look like there are divided teams here.
Black people are the problem.
Cops are the problem.
Homeless people are the problem.
Prison guards are the problem.
Politicians are the problem.
When I was a kid, I was allowed a degree of freedom that my child will likely never be allowed. You can pass by entire communities without seeing a single kid outside and it's been that way for years. Kids playing in their own front yards is considered unsafe. Okay. What do we do, then?
We keep them inside. But the regulations don't stop there. We can't let kids play outside, but we need to re-motivate them to want to exercise...because they're getting too fat. And being fat is unhealthy. But it doesn't stop there.
Have you ever wondered why Christianity seems so bland?
Have you ever wondered if things could ever be different?
Peel open your Bible and you will see a different story. A story not of blandness, but of adventure of danger, of travel and of exploration. If you read the book of Acts you will read about the day of Pentecost when 3,000 people were saved in one day. You will hear tales of the Apostle Paul traveling into foreign lands and spreading the gospel.
Hi there reader,
I have a question for you. Do you consistently make yourself smaller in order to feel worthy and to be loved? Have you ever tried to disappear just to fit in and to not make waves? Let me tell you a story.
When I was young I noticed that others had a problem with me just being me. So I got smaller. And smaller. Until one day I was eating very little and trying to physically take up as little space as possible. And one day God woke me up to the problems I was creating for myself in denying myself the room that I needed to grow.
Does this sound like you?
When I was growing up, no one was concerned with my comfort and the truth was not withheld. I dare not judge the reasons with which this was done, I just wish to state the facts. Things were told to me as they were. Even when I was little. And I survived.
And now things are different and I have been saved; I have become a Christian. Things are better and things are wonderful, but in one way they are really strange. I'm meeting people now who care about feelings.
And they lie. And I lie. And we lie to each other.
But we do it because we really care. We are Christians, we have been saved, but we regularly are not telling the truth. We do it to make each other feel better. But it doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel insecure.
I've missed it again.
The point of it all.
I was sick in 2009, but over time, I've forgotten the things that I had learned. And now I'm back in school. The school of sickness. And it's all coming back to me now and I'm remembering what I learned. Let me share with you the lessons I learned in sick-school.
I was scrolling through my facebook feed when I stumbled upon a picture posted by a happy mom and dad that said, 'we're so proud of you!' that then went on to list the accomplishments of their daughter that so caused the mom and dad to exclaim their happiness publicly.
And I was soul-crushed.
A million moments in my life pass by more or less unnoticed when a random post like the one above can rip into my existence and shatter my otherwise pleasant mood.
And I am undone.
I had always thought that the miracle was the part that you waited for, the part that you prayed for and the part that took the real amount of faith and courage. And in many ways it is. But what I have found after getting my miracle is that the need for faith is not left in the past, but is real, ongoing and necessary to meet the day to day challenges you will face.
If you're letting someone use you to get something they want, you really need to stop it. If someone doesn't love you enough to simply enjoy you without strings attached, then I have news for you: it isn't love.
I don't mean to ruffle feathers and I certainly don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but every once in a while it is necessary for tough love to be dispensed, hence the title of this blog. The word Christian is a not a code word for chump, even though some people think it is. Scripture just doesn't back that up.
Once upon a time there were some roosters who felt more like they were hens and so the law decreed that they could now enter the hen house.
This story is not about drugs or alcohol, but is about the things that we need to let others do for themselves.
I had a wonderful idea to help some of my friends out with a promotion they were running. It was a great idea, in fact. But it would mean having to put up a little bit of money. I had the idea in my head that maybe I could pay for it myself and then we could get the ball rolling.
But God stopped me.
I used to call you and you used to call me. But now you don't call me, so I don't call you. I sensed you were doing the slow fade and so I gave you your space. But inwardly I was sad, grieving for another friendship lost for seemingly no reason.
I would really like to get to know you. And I would really like you to get to know me.
Except I can't.
Because I'm afraid of being judged.
In school when the bullies were rampant and the going was hard, I never called out for help. I believed that there was no point because the adults in charge could see what was happening and yet, did nothing to protect me.
At home when things were rough, I never called out. I didn't believe that anyone would listen or, for that matter, care.
When I was sick or had a problem, I do not ever recall crying out or asking for others to come to my rescue. I cannot remember looking to the adults to help me out. I always felt like I was on my own.
Have you heard the worship music at your church lately? Why would you want to attend church with those jokers? They're not as spiritual as you are. Maybe you should skip going to church today.
And have you seen the youth pastors? They sure are a joke with their trendy haircuts and skinny jeans. I don't know if I'd trust them. Maybe you should skip going to church today.
When the world wants to confuse the issue of who is permitted to use a washroom where a little girl is going to the toilet, we will suddenly have to care.
There will be no choice.
We are unprepared and maybe taken off guard, but now our eyes are open.
We will care about this because this matters to us.
What I am suggesting is that when we wake up and decide to care about this issue that we could wake up and decide to care about the other issues too.
There is a strange expectation for us as Christians to 'sell' Christianity to others. We don't want to seem like Debbie Downers. We don't want to be a Christian Killjoy. We want to be upbeat and joyous and to show people that we, well, are happy.
But what about when we're not.
Do we sometimes pretend?
I think all of the fussing would be akin to saying this. 'Sally, we need you to make some cookies for the lunch group. But not too many chocolate chips. And definitely cut back on the raisins. We don't like oatmeal and we want you to use only a certain type of flour. Now get to it and feel it this time. We want you to succeed and to do a good job.' I think Sally might say thanks, but no thanks. I cannot imagine that Da Vinci would have had a committee of bloggers critiquing his every brushstroke and deciding whether or not he was true to the expectations that they have. How would they feel about all of that long hair?
I committed an act of self-sabotage. I had said I wanted to do gigs, lots of gigs. So I signed up for a service that would match people needing musicians up with those who fit the bill. An offer came in, but I was absolutely frightened.
I'd played gigs before, yes, but not like this.
This was a festival, a community get-together and we would be the main act.
Surely, they didn't want me and this was all a mistake. Instead of talking about it, thinking about it or praying about it, I...
This blog post could have just as well been titled, 'who is my neighbor?', but I digress.
During my fifth year at school, we were required to undergo a hellish experience called, 'Drown-proofing' with all of our classmates down at the local pool.
I was extremely overweight in the fifth grade.
I didn't just lose you.
I lost me.
I did not realize that most of me was bound up with you. My soul, my identity and my self-worth were all dependent on a look from you.
And I was left in shards.
I had always heard that food was the way to a man's heart, but I don't really do biscuits and gravy. I have the gluten intolerance, you know, and the other things that make that hard. I could make you some Quinoa and a salad if you want, but still the fears linger that I should just make you a casserole.
At the ladies luncheon the others talk of all the food they're going to bring and I just sit there silent. I know that I could sing a song, or by God's grace, even write one and I wonder if I'll ever be good enough. Dear husband, will your heart be led to think you might have had it better some other where or in some other place if you had only had a casserole?
Right now I am fat.
Do not tell me that I don't look fat or that I'm not as fat as someone you know. I am fat and that is that.
I used to be thin.
I had a baby and gave in to a constant craving for potato chips when I was pregnant. They said I would lose the weight when I breastfed. Yeah, that didn't happen. I actually gained 20 pounds.
I then started to counted calories.
My body was afraid to let go of the fat it felt it needed for the milk supply. It should not have been. I tried to tell it not to. It didn't listen.
We often hear the question posed about those who are involved with people who would abuse them and it is this: 'why does she stay?' Understand that the abused can be male or female, young or old, married or not. Sometimes we are abused by our 'friends' or other associates, and so the context runs the gamut. But here are some reasons that an abused person has trouble breaking free.
The church that added 3,000 was not a fancy church. It had not stained-glass windows. It didn't have amazing programs and it didn't have a world-class worship team. There was something that this church had, however, and it was all that mattered. It had the Holy Spirit. It also had the Word of God.
When I became homeless it was due to a lack of support. Community support, that is. No one becomes homeless in a vacuum.
In the Bible there are many absolutes. Examples of these are to not commit adultery or fornication, to not tell lies or to steal and so on. But there are many areas which are not expressly encouraged or forbidden. The apostle Paul says about such things:
He put his hands on me. I told him not to. He persisted anyway, taking my self-worth to the ground where my body already lay. I held on, desperate for a way out of the situation I found myself in. Later when the details of this crime were discussed by the professionals and the adults, a looming shadow of doubt was cast on all the events of that day.
I heard things like:
'Girls always say 'no' when they really mean yes'.
'You led him on'.
'You had to have been making out with him before that happened.'
Maybe you are a deeply practical person and feel you have no time for dreams. Maybe you have been through too much and are prone not to take risks. Maybe you don't believe that dreaming is for you because you don't have what it takes to follow through.
I have struggled with patience my whole life. Well, struggled is putting it mildly. I sloughed it off and wished to do everything in a hurry. No waiting, no problem. Things got hairy whenever I had to wait for something. The Bible has some surprising things to say about patience and about where it comes from.
If we believe what we say we believe how can we keep from singing? Even through times of sorrow and of deep suffering, we can still have a deep satisfaction in our hearts. How can we not, if all the promises in God are yes and in Him amen?
I lay prostrate on the hospital bed, writhing in pain. A nurse reached over to turn off my epidural, the sole lifeline between me and the depths of a torment so indescribable that I thought I would die. My baby was stuck.
The doctor who could help was 45 minutes away, but I knew I wouldn't last that long. I had waited 9 months for the moment when I would meet my daughter and now I feared that I never would.
I struggled for breath as my body seized under the weight of the contractions. The ebbs of pain, once like waves lapping the shore, had now merged into one enormous undulation that threatened to take me under. I was undone.
Nerve endings screamed, sending raw signals of alarm, zapped as if by electric shocks. Every fiber of my being was bathed in the sensation of white hot pain. In the midst of this mind-numbingly searing, and almost endless agony, I gave up.
The Israelites were God's chosen people and one among the original twelve brothers born to Jacob, later renamed Israel, had had a dream. In that dream he was binding sheaves with his brother and the sheaves of his brothers bowed down to his. The dream was prophetic and was foretelling what plans God had for Joseph.
The dream spoke truth, truth that the eleven brothers of Joseph did not want to hear.
People often wonder what God's will is for their life. Many set down the path of following God's will, unsure of whether they are in His will or not. But can God's will be sabotaged? In a word. Yes. How? In another word, disobedience.
Why did you make this way God? Have you ever felt like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? I have wondered for many years why I had to be so strange. When I was growing up there was a strong emphasis in my family on what one would do for a living. You knew you had to one day be able to earn money and to be able to raise a family. That is very important and I do not fault anyone for that. With that in mind, the reality of my temperament and natural form of expression would have to squeeze into a different mold than was comfortable. You see, my lifelong dream has been that of a writer and a musician. A songwriter. A singer of songs. Nothing wrong with that. But it's very hard to earn a living doing that.
It's a fair question, this, 'what do you do all day' and I think it deserves an answer. I am an investor in a long-term project which hopes to yield a high return. As part of this project I manage the daily oversight and day to day operation of my establishment in a variety of ways. I provide direction and management, which includes, but is not limited to the following areas: that of health, safety and education.
I put my foot in my mouth again. I didn't think before I spoke. I hurt you and that was not my intention. I came off as insensitive too. Please know that I care. I value your friendship too. Will you forgive me?
I just wanted to be famous and to have hordes of screaming fans who come to my shows and who think my music is awesome. I wanted to wear leather pants and to wail into the microphone while resting my boot on the amplifier. I wanted to act embarrassed as the thunderous applause went on longer than was necessary.
I'm a writer too and so I also want to be published. So that I can be famous and so that others can comment on my blogs and tell me how meaningful and important my work is.
Sure, I want to #makeJesusfamous and all that and if that happened, well, good. Because I'm in this, after all, because I'm a Christian. I love God and I'm true to His word but...
I am depressed. I am also a Christian. Can that be? Yes. You can be a Christian and suffer from depression. Take Elijah. He had a major victory and later became so depressed he sat in a cave sulking. Jonah was depressed too. He saw an entire town repent and turn to God and then he sat down and he sulked. Hard.
I am concerned for the soul of Donald Trump. In an article that will be cited at the bottom of this article, he is quoted as saying that he doesn't believe Ben Carson's conversion story. Reportedly, Ben Carson spent some time in prayer while in a bathroom after a near-stabbing. He also said that that experience changed his life. What happened to Ben Carson is not the thrust of this article, but what Donald Trump said in response to this.
I used to want other Christians in ministry to do well, but not too well. I wanted them to win, but not too often. When someone was a smashing success, it bothered me and I found it irritating. It still is a struggle for me. But here's what I found: if we all do well, some people will be saved. Other folks might receive a bowl of hot food, still others, a warm coat. Some might find a friend to lean on and some might find shelter. I'll explain.
One day Moses was tending his sheep on the backside of the desert . He saw a bush that, though it was burning, was not consumed. He turned aside to see this strange sight and it was here that he heard the voice of God.
"And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:9-10
When I was little I remember being read the story of Babar the elephant. When Babar was just a baby his mother was shot and killed. After his mother is killed Babar goes on to have adventures and to live a rich and a full life. But I never mentally got that far. I cannot remember the adventures or the rest of the story. His mom was dead. My mind stops there. The story continues, but I am stuck. I can't contemplate that life could be good or meaningful or happy ever again. His mom has died. There is nothing else.
Older godly men and women are a treasure from God and we need you. We need you who have been faithful to the word of God to show us the way. We need guidance, we need your prayers and we need your support.
Leviticus 19:32 says,
Labels bind and constrict not only those who are labeled, but also those who are doing the assigning. We are forced to bend and contort in order to play a role we were never designed for. The actors chafe under the weight of the make up and they resent the lack of movement their costumes permit. Labels create the illusion of safety and of comfort. But living a lie is rarely comfortable.
I want to talk about what happens when your family and friends make you choose between them and Jesus. There are a lot of precipitating factors that lead up to the final conclusion, and I am sure that every story is different. You may never have thought what happens in cases like these, or you might be dealing with the fallout from something like this. In either case, I wanted to share my experience of what this has been like.
I'm going to let you in on a secret. Christianity is not about living your best life now. It is not about everybody liking you and it is not about achieving financial success. We do others a disservice when we paint Christianity as your free ticket to everything you've ever wanted on this earth. You pick up your comfortable cross and you follow Jesus. Which is good, because Jesus only wants you to be happy. All. The. Time. Imagine the shock when a new believer finds out that life after Jesus isn't all sunshine and rainbows. What then?
The abortion industry in this country is like a fortified city. There are lobbyists, activists and a 1973 precedent which all guard the interior to this city. The walls are thick and they appear to be impenetrable. At times it can seem hopeless that anything could ever defeat this great and powerful city.
Those of us on the outside, who would defend the life of the unborn, often feel powerless and lacking in resources. We can feel outnumbered. If you've ever felt that way, I want to turn your attention to a few interesting verses found in the book of Genesis.
It looks like the girl who is trying to please everyone and who cares way too much what everyone thinks.
It looks like the man who is caught up in accumulating the most toys before he dies.
It looks like the woman who is building up empires for her own glory.
It looks like the person who doesn't seek whole-heartedly after God, because they might miss out on something along the way.
This is something that I could write at length upon, should the Lord desire it, but that I think today will be limited in its scope.
Imagine you are running a race of endurance which you cannot afford to lose. Imagine that you had to lighten the load. What would you do? I'm no runner, but I assume that you would slough off every possible piece of unnecessary equipment and baggage. You would travel light. And that's what I want to talk about. I want to give you a list, which is all but comprehensive, of things that you can prayerfully leave at the station.
That little hand that tugs at your clothes. It might feel like an annoyance, but she might be Jesus.
The face whose sunken eyes might demand more than you can give. Consider that she might be Jesus.
That beggar on the street who asks you for some change. Know that this poor man might be Jesus.
The downtrodden, the outcast, the sick and the broken might all be Jesus visiting you today.
When I was young and growing up, I did so outside the confines of the Christian church. I did not have any Christian friends and if I was going to school with classmates who were Christian, they certainly did not belie that fact. All that being said, I was deeply interested in secular music of all types. It was practically my life.
One day I watched a documentary called
I was running late and realized that I had lost my She Speaks lanyard. Not wanting to appear like I did not belong at the conference, I went to the registration desk to see if new one could be made for me. The lady behind the desk willingly obliged and began to chat me up. I told her that I lost my lanyard, but that it was no surprise to me as I seemed to chronically lose hold of that which I need most. As she worked on fashioning my new name tag she asked me a question. 'Do you know that you were chosen to be here?'
This might not win me friends or help me to influence people, but I used to be pro-choice. And it almost had terrible real-world consequences.
When I was in the 9th grade we were given an assignment in English class based, primarily, on opposing viewpoints. There were as many topics to choose from as there were students, and for some reason, pro-choice was one of the few topics left when my name was picked. I was only fifteen and did not actually hold to a pro-choice stance, but like any good student, I felt that a little research was all that was needed for me to make the case for something I didn't really believe in.
What if every Christian...
read their Bible and was fluent in what they believe?
Spoke to others about Jesus?
And was on fire for the Lord?
I've been guilty of this. Maybe you have been too. You see an opportunity to share Jesus. But then you stop to think. You start to analyze, rationalize and consider the consequences. There's got to be an approach to this, you think. A method, an ideology. I can't just share Jesus. Sometimes you find yourself guilty of dressing Him up.