Last night I realized that my current favorite worship song requires only 4 chords on the guitar!!! Needless to say I spent some time worshipping and crying my eyes out because, let’s be honest… who doesn’t cry when Reckless Love comes on?!

(Unless of course you have defense mechanisms against the “feels” )

I stayed up late enough to find this out because I was having trouble sleeping. My heart was full and a bit broken at the same time (a common paradox for anyone in ministry.)

I was rejoicing in the fact that our oldest daughter and our niece were just baptized!

Rochelle’s baptism:

Jayla’s baptism:

Praise the Lord!

On the other hand, I have had some very real, very constant let downs.

I’m not one to get crushed by the big stuff. It’s the little every day battles that eventually wear me down.

Last night was one of those nights. I was depleted.

So I went to my prayer room, plugged in my phone (that was almost dead from overuse playing meaningless game apps that brought me absolutely NO peace), and proceeded to search up guitar chords so I could get right in the presence of my Savior.

Amid my sobbing a certain line stuck out to me. “When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me. You have been so, so good to me.”

Instantly I remembered that this reckless love holds a unique answer to my heartache. Not only did Jesus pursue me in a way that could not be defeated even by my worst sins, but we are to pursue others the same.

It is by loving like Him that I walk in freedom.

I must love in a way that is unrestrained and is not limited by sin or emotions or even real, unjust events that occur. Absolutely NOTHING can take precedent over the love of Christ flowing unhindered through me and into this hurting world.

This is what God calls “good.”

Still, I don’t like it.

I don’t prefer to be “the one” who is “always” patient and feeling let down. I want relief. But I’ll tell you this:

The Lord has also shown me some deep truths about Him that I may have never learned if I were not experiencing what He goes through while loving us.

“When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me.”

And THAT is the real goal in life. To know God and be known by Him.

We do this by following Jesus.

Becoming Christlike is a journey that is full of pain at times. The reality is that we are going to have pain in this world regardless of our beliefs. But, when we are redeemed and have hope in the Lord, His Spirit can meet us right in the middle of despair and comfort can begin to flow in and from that wound.

When you deny the Lord access to these places, you deny Him the canvas upon which He would display your miracle.

You may not be able to handle the darkness but He can. Open up today. Call on Jesus who is your truest friend. Pour your heart out. You won’t regret it!

Maybe you’ll end up like me… starting with agony and ending in authentic smiles of gratitude and joy.

May He heal all your wounds, even now. Even today!

Your sister,

Monica

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This weekend hundreds of families will dress up, head to church services, argue with toddlers about how much candy they are allowed to eat, and check off the obligatory bi-annual religious activity until Christmas rolls around.

We tend to blame these casual church-goers as if this is all their fault.

It’s not. Jesus has made it very clear in His revelation to John (the book of Revelation) that the church will be judged first.

We have the responsibility to be active ministers of reconciliation. What this does not mean is inviting people to church services and then lamenting when they fail to connect with the gospel our pastor preached.

It does mean that we are to preach the gospel.

Sound weighty? It is. Glad we are on the same page… or did you think that Christ gave His life just for you?

I grew up hearing that Jesus died for me. That if I were the only person in the world who needed saving, He still would have given His life as a sacrifice for my sin. I believe that it true. However, I am not the only person in the world.

I have the personal responsibility (which is a joy) to share that forgiveness with the world.

It is unfair and downright disorderly that our apathetic behavior as Christians must be addressed so often from the pulpit.

Our leaders should have the freedom to preach the word and instead they are trying to rally us to do what Christ already commissioned.

When Jesus shows up and shows out we don’t need to be told to “tell it on the mountain”. In fact He told people not to speak and they STILL couldn’t hold in the good news!

This makes me question if the church at large is really walking with Christ like we claim or if we are no different than “Easter Episcopals” and “Christmas Catholics” (as I have heard these seekers called).

So my question for you is this:

Where do you fit into this story of salvation? Will you simply place yourself next to the “sinner” in the pew and hope for the best? Or worse; will you see yourself as inconvenienced instead of blessed by their presence because they’re sitting in “your” seat? (yes, Baptists I’m talking to you)

How about we all resolve now to risk the ego and live the dangerous grace that Jesus exemplified? Surely we can sacrifice our comfort zone in response to a sacrificed life.

My prayers are with you as you live boldly for the Lord as a powerful witness of His presence and live this Easter.

Your sister,

Monica

The first time I tried to write this article I found myself beginning by listing all of the things that are so difficult in my life right now.

I was making excuses.

Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind (my sinful, fleshy mind) I would still rather not take full responsibility for what I am going to share with you. Something tells me I’m not the only one.

The story goes like this:

I was busy yesterday and trying to get away for some sanity time at the end of the evening. Finally, I put myself together and was on my way out the door. My oldest son was helping take the puppies out so I wouldn’t come home to yet another mess.

He is helpful like that. Brian is always stepping up to help whether he has asked or not. I would like to take credit for this, but I believe it is more in spite of my parenting than because of my parenting.

Some people are endowed by God with a servant heart.

Brian is one of those people. I was one of those people as a child… and then the world broke me.

In fact, I can recall the exact moment when I decided I would stop serving other people; the moment I threw deuces to the rest of the world and decided to just “do me.”

One afternoon, as I visited with a friend, someone asked me for something. I think it was to get an apple for them from the kitchen or something like that. Something simple. Immediately I jumped up and went to go get it.

Why not?

As I walked into the kitchen I heard a voice behind me say, “good dog,” followed by a room full of hushed laughter.

No, this is not some story about how I was bullied by my friends.

It was one of my own family members sitting in the living room that said this to me. One of my sisters who had been encouraged by our parents in her taunting because it was “funny” and she was “just having fun”. Nevertheless, the part of me that cared started to harden that day.

With each subsequent request or need for help that I refused, my heart hardened even more.

This went on for years.

Now, as Christ is healing me from this, I realize I still have a long way to go. I had become like that critical mean voice in my head. Sometimes daily, I battle with it so that I don’t spill it onto my own children.

Each time, I have to turn it over the the Lord because I have proven no match against my own flesh.

So yesterday, as I ran to the car to get my much-needed “me” time (because it’s mine and not the Lord’s right?), I fussed at my son for not helping properly in the way I would have done it.

While he was helping, I fussed at him.

I caught myself and stopped. Then I hurried into my car, dropping my phone on the driveway in the process.

As I drove away I lamented my broken phone. The Lord put on my heart to consider where I am placing value.

“You would become so upset, so angry over a broken, lifeless piece of technology… And yet you fracture your son, your own son, and move on with no regard for what you have done?”

Ouch.

I hate that I still have this struggle against my flesh. I have known this struggle for sometime. I know why I do it. I know that Ido it less. I just can’t change it as fast as I would like… and that’s not good enough for me.

Such is the frustrating process of sanctification.

Sure, there are professing Christians that make few, if any, changes to their lifestyle. Personally, I could never live that way.

I have been forgiven so much that I consider even the smallest sin to be a terrible offense to my Father. I know He forgives me. It is because He forgives me that I want so much to please Him.

I know He was pleased when I returned to my son (I called him as soon as I realized what I had done) and asked for his forgiveness. I explained what the Lord had revealed to me about my behavior and that it was not my son’s fault that I had a bad attitude.

This process is always painful.

So the point of this particular post is simply tell you (for those of you who are enduring this as well), you are not alone.

We all struggle…

We all sin…

Those of us who are passionate about serving our loving God in a way that honors the Spirit He has gifted us are brokenhearted when we fall short. If we were not, we might do well to question why we have chosen the label “Christian.”

So, if this is you… if you find yourself in shoes like mine, rest assured you are in good company. There are many who toe the same line each day, learning to surrender old habits as we are being made new.

We are in this together my friends. Let us then, share our struggles openly and encourage one another. Please be in prayer for my continued sanctification as I will be also for you and yours.

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Your sister,

Monica

When I was a child I lived in Fairfax county in Virginia where there were so many different cultures I never had the opportunity to see myself, or anyone else, as different.

We were all different and that gave us a sameness.

As I aged, I began having experiences with people who did not think like me and had no problem being vocal about it.

Visiting family in West Virginia one year, I experienced my first drive-in theater. It was wonderful. However, my enjoyment came to a screeching halt when I heard a young white boy use the N-word. I told him, very directly, not to say that around me. He conceded. The young black man he was speaking about could not have said what I said, how I said it, and gotten the same result.

I suppose this is what white privilege looks like.

In my young adulthood I attended a party… partied way too hard… and became pregnant by a young black man I had just met. I was barely 19 and already had one son. The young man who impregnated me was in school and leaving shortly thereafter. Abortion seemed like the perfect solution to an already frightening situation.

My friend who hosted the party drove me to an abortion clinic.

Later I discovered that she had logged into my AOL messenger (for those of you who know what that is) and had been propositioning men for sex, pretending to be me.

One of the messages this “friend” sent out invited one man to “do anything” he desired to me because “I could just have an abortion. I got pregnant before and I killed the baby because it was black .” This is what racism looks like.

I was heartbroken over my decision already. She twisted the knife. I quickly realized that

1) this young lady was not my friend

and

2) she was closet racist

I had never seen evidence in all the years I had known her. Our mothers were friends for some time and I had never known her mother to speak that way either.

Racism is often quite hidden. But only for those who are not people of color.

Whether we want to address it or not, this issue still causes division within the church.

A fellow minister and friend of mine is a pastor in a local county nearby. He just recently informed me of the “sister churches” that became divided into seperate churches, one black one white, during the Civil War and have never reunited. His church is one of many that has been touched by the depravity of racism.

“The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.”

He and I discussed ideas for bringing reconciliation between the churches. My friend has a long road ahead of him if he chooses to embark upon this task. But all of us are responsible to address this within the church and outside of the church walls, in our communities.

I grew up in a home that had many issues I identified with stereotypes of black communities in America. Most of my friends were black as a result, though I lived among many cultures. I assumed they all had broken homes, parents with addiction, and borderline or actual poverty.

Unbeknownst to me, I had used my limited exposure to part of the black community (my friends who did have these issues) to define an entire race of people.

In high school I joined the Awareness of Black Culture club. I quickly realized that my perspective had been more informed by society’s view of black Americans than by their culture and who they really are.

I lived among, went to church with, partied with, and went to school with the black community and STILL I was misinformed about their culture, issues, and as a result their value.

No let me be very direct in saying that I did not value them less than myself or anyone else. I had simply failed to recognize the contributions that they have made and continue to make to this country and also the world at large.

The one thing that I was blessed not to miss out on was the black community’s contribution to the church.

It was in a very small, historical predominantly black Baptist church where I first experienced the Holy Spirit. I witnessed and participated in worship that was truly free. I saw grown women dancing as freely as this child out of pure joy in the Lord. I heard honest testimonies of broken people that had been redeemed by the Lord.

There has always been a transparency in the black community, weather in the world or in the church, which I have greatly admired. I took it upon myself to be just like this. Always real. Sometimes real to a fault, but honest nevertheless.

I want to call you all into action on this as well.

Let us not leave the dialogue about race in yesterday just because today is not a holiday that draws attention to the power and value of the black community.

I want each of you to take an honest inventory of your own heart in relation to how you perceive people of color.

I want you to write it down.

I want you to pray over it.

You can tear it up when you’re done, or burn it… Just do it for goodness sake!

Write it all out and turn it over to the Lord so that we can truly begin moving beyond hate, stereotype, and the racist expression of these things.

The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.

If somebody like me who is so engaged in the black community could STILL have misunderstandings,then surely all of you can take a few minutes to evaluate your own thoughts on the matter.

Won’t you?

I thank you for joining me in this effort and I pray that God reveals to you places that need to be healed and forgiven if and where they exist.

It is imperative that our brothers and sisters of color know that they are not alone in this fight and that we are willing to wage war, even on our own flesh, to better unite with them. We are to bear one another’s burdens and when we refuse to, in the light of truth, we are in sin for not doing so.

I love you all and pray you have a blessed day that is full of revelation, hope, and restoration.

Your sister,

Monica

If you’re at the point in life where you have more athletic clothing than night-on-the-town attire (or the male equivalent: an SUV in lieu of your souped-up, kit enhanced Honda), then you likely remember themovie with a cute, little fairy named “Krista” who saved the last Rainforest.

This adorable, yet fierce, young fairy spends most of the movie moseying about an enchanted-like forest as a tour guide to her shrunken protégée, Zak the tree-killer.

Zak grows the same appreciation for the forest that we do as the movie progresses. The producers did a fabulous job of showing the natural wonders of the Rainforest while adding just the right touch of magic.

They made us fall in love with that forest!

… only to see it burning to the ground at the hands of Zak’s evil, tree-chopping bosses.

The pinnacle of drama came about when Hexxus (the super-demon trapped in a large tree) was released due to poor tree marking. Hexxus set about destroying what was left of the rainforest, including the fairies who were looking after it.

Krista held the only hope for survival.

As a child, I sat holding back tears as I watched little heroine fairy throw herself into Hexxus’s mouth, carrying only a “single, tiny seed” as her weapon. My sadness rapidly gave way to joy as the branches of a new, more glorious tree began to grow from within the very thing that was supposed to end it all.

Whipping sounds still ring in my ears as I recall the roots lashing out and planting into the ground. A massive trunk emerged, encasing Hexxus and closing him in until nothing was left but his eyes and then…

POOF! Nothing.

The last of Him went up in a puff of smoke.

The new tree began to produce limbs. Magnificent buds popped up and opened all accompanied by lush green leaves. It was breathtaking! When I thought all of the flowers had bloomed, one more opened… and in it was Krista!

Forest saved. Bad guy vanquished. Happily-ever-after was possible again!

Fast forward 25 years…

I’m listening to Pandora and a beautiful song comes on. Just instruments. I smile. Out loud I say to myself, “why does this make me so happy?!”

Turns out it was the song that played during the scene tree grew at the end of Ferngully! It’s incredible how our brains retain such associations! (Though sometimes not so much)

Anyhow, I immediately started wondering why the movie touched me in such a deep and memorable way.

The answer is truth.

Anytime a story touches our heart it is because there is a divine and eternal truth within that story, whether we recognize it or not.

Somewhere deep within, I needed to believe that the most horrible part of me was able to be redeemed. I was like that tree which held Hexxus. No one wanted to touch it, not even to chop it down for fear of releasing the darkness. I was untouchable and evil

Until Jesus showed me grace and gave me faith.

I sought the Lord and found Him. I realized the gravity of what He had done for me. I was given a gift of faith to believe, with all of my being, that He had sacrificed Himself. He abandoned Himself, by choice, to the darkness of this world. He was believed by many to have met death once and for all as He hung lifeless on a cross.

The wait of three days was long enough for hope to fade as He lie in a tomb. (It can feel as though you are in that tomb yourself when you are without faith.) A Savior lost to the darkness while trying to redeem me from the very thing nobody else wanted to touch.

My sin. That ugly word we despise.

Even I didn’t want to touch it. I didn’t want to acknowledge it. But the day that I did, was the day I realized how desperately I need a savior and how beautiful He truly is.

Confessing my destitution primed the way for the gift of faith God had wanted to give me all along.

Like an eight-year-old child watching a happily-ever-after ending, I sat crying with an overwhelming joy that was etched so deep within my heart that nothing could ever remove it… and everything would remind me of it;

Of Him. My Jesus!

He gave everything in exchange for my nothingness just so He could be with me and heal this world through me.

I have been given a gift that my finite hands cannot hold, so I must share it. If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus, I invite you to explore who He is through scripture.

You are not alone on this journey.

Reach out. Shoot me an email. I will take personal responsibility for helping answer your questions and leading you deeper in faith. Of course, I’ll be praying for you along the way as well.

Give it a shot. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. May your eyes be opened to Truth wherever it can be found, even in the simple things like childhood movies. God will be a light to your path as you seek Him earnestly.

I hope to hear from you. Until then, I love you all dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

When I was a child, there was only one thing my mother would ever ask for when a holiday came around. It didn’t matter whether it was her birthday, Mother’s Day, Christmas, or some other occasion…

Her one wish was always that her children would “get along.”

As an adult and having children of my own, I now find myself repeating the same request. In our home it is often a daily request.

I have come to understand that this is the greatest gift that any child can give their parent: to love one another.

This is SO important, in fact, that God says love is GREATESTeven higher in importance than hope and faith!

“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

1 Corinthians 13:13

God, our Heavenly Father, wants no less than love and unity for and from us, His children. It pleases Him when we get along and love each other! He even went so far as to inspire Paul the apostle to write that we should be of one mind to honor Him; that this way of living is “worthy of the gospel of Christ“!

“Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel.”

Philippians 1:27

This is a precious goal for Him to see accomplished in His children because He created us in His image, and He is one.

Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Interesting how the statement of God being One is immediately followed by the greatest commandment? He does nothing by accident. This passage is so sacred that it is regarded as a biblical commandment and recited daily by Jews, along with several following verses.

You know what follows? “Repeat them (these verses) to your children.”

Now, in real time where we try to flesh this out… it can be hard. That’s why He included the part about using “all your strength”. Our Father knows it is not easy! He came and died on the cross as Jesus… our Savior who sweat blood during His prayer! Yet, some of us Christians get our feelings hurt and start acting like the world owes us something. Y’all, this is NOT the way of our Lord!

Thankfully, God didn’t leave us to figure out how on our own.

We’ve got worship to bring in gratitude to a Father who IS love, in Whose presence we are redeemed by His blood and then guided by His Holy Spirit. We have received this Holy Spirit Who helps us bring forth fresh and bountiful fruit. The most important of which, is love.

We are enabled to love each other and the rest of the world as Christ loves us.

Our Father is not ignorant to why we would behave in an unloving way. He has, in His great wisdom, revealed to us the reason for lack of love in this world.

It is always rooted and selfish ambition.

Always.

(2 Corinthians 12:20, James 3:16)

It is not because of the irritating person on the train. It is not because of the mother-in-law you don’t want to see this Christmas. It is not even because of your trauma. It is you and your selfishness. I wish I could give a better, feel-good reason… but I would rather give you Biblical than “better.” However…

We have in our possession the secret to world peace. Jesus.

God Himself who came here and showed us how to live surrendered in Love. Jesus Christ, whom we are about to celebrate this Christmas. We have no excuse, with all the materialistic preparation we do, for refusing to get to know Him more intimately through scripture, prayer, worship, and meditation…

Then pursue this beautiful goal of oneness and love.

We go into this Christmas season with hearts full of Joy and we would do well to remember where that Joy came from; that it is not to stopat us but to flow through us to our brothers and sisters and to those that Jesus calls the “least of these.”

Love is for EVERYONE.

So, whether you choose to be a vessel of love for your extended family whom you would rather not see, the woman in the grocery store that has a declined card at the checkout, or a homeless man who just needs someone to sit and talk to for a couple hours so he can feel like the human being he is… Be loving!

For it is not when we love those who love us that the world is changed, but when we love those who are in need of love. Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? Isn’t this why He came to be born in the most unassuming way… so that He might redeem us while we were still sinners?

Start today, and by Christmas we will see miracles take place!

Be One. Be Love. Live in a manner worthy of the gospel.

Your sister,

Monica

Last night I shared something with my husband that had been weighing on my heart.

Something that choked me up as I spoke it aloud;

“Thank you so much for what you do for our family!” I stammered as warm tears poured down my cheeks.

You see, it had dawned on me that I live quite a privileged life. Not only because of the favor of the Lord we enjoy, but also because my husband works really hard in response to that favor.

I basically get to sit at home in the presence of Jesus all day, reflecting on His goodness and then write about it whenever I feel so inspired (which is often). It has it drawbacks like anything else, but there are many wonderful things that I enjoy. For one, I don’t have to miss time with my children to go to work. I can be here for all the incredible, frustrating, and incredibly frustrating moments that bind a family together over the years.

None of this is without struggle, on my husband’s part or mine, but I want to focus here on his sacrifice. His selfless sacrifice.

Peter doesn’t work out of selfish ambition. When I thanked him for all he is doing (presently, it entails being away on deployment for long periods of time), his response was simply, “I asked God for a big family and I got it. Of course I’m going to take care of you.” All his hard work is a response to the grace of God shown in an answer to prayer that my husband had prayed since childhood.

Now… the backstory on why his dedication is so moving for me:

I have been without a provider.

I have been without protection.

I have been a young girl without a father.

I have been a mother without a father for my own children.

I have been a mother with a father for my children, but that man was actually relying on me to provide and he was happy to remain unemployed as I toiled in the strip club several nights a week.

I always thought there was something better. A better quality of man out there. A better way to run a family.

Then I met Peter…

This man has done nothing short of everything in his power to ensure the financial security of our home. It has never been for the purpose of being affluent or achieving some lofty, social status. It is all done in and for love. My wildest dreams are coming true, in large part, because of him. On top of being the breadwinner, Peter has been the iron that sharpens me and the embrace that comforts me. The voice that holds me accountable and stands by to soothe the delicate part of me when I finally breakthrough my pride, and my anger turns to tears.

This is what a Godly man looks like.

He is not perfect. But he is my leader.

I struggled for a long time, trying to shape Peter into the man I thought he ought to be if he were going to lead our home. If he were going to lead me. I’m not going to follow just anybody, you know. You had better know where you are going, because I sure do!

I wasn’t so sure he should be leading me.

Every so often, he was right about some important things, but Peter didn’t seem to have the adequate vigor for the Lord that I deemed necessary. He didn’t measure up to my standard of leadership. He didn’t qualify.

Then I reread this scripture:

“Wives, submit to your own husband as to the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything.”

Ephesians 5:22-24

The verb “is” became the game changer for how I treated my husband. Embracing this truth is the very thing that allowed me to shift from a nagging wife who accused her husband of trying to control her, to being a woman who cries in overflow of gratitude for the sacrifice that he makes.

The truth is, Peter IS the head of our home.

“Is” is considered a verb is because it “expresses existence or a state of being.” The Lord didn’t say that he could lead if he was a good leader, deemed worthy by me on any given day… He said that my husband IS the leader.

Leader is his state of being, not a thing I decide for him.

My willingness to walk in submission to my husband ultimately became an issue of my willingness to submit to the Word. And while I can argue with my husband all day, often getting my own way after wearing him down… you won’t ever find me arguing with the Word of God.

It was in this place of surrender that my marriage began to find true peace.

I could write on this all day (and I will again soon, I am sure of it), but for today I will leave you with this:

Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church… but wives, if he does not do this, he IS still your leader and you should honor him as such. The Word does not return void. Apply it without prejudice to your own life and watch it transform everything!

I have seen this myself, that even in our hopelessness, the Lord is faithful and just to fulfill His promises.

Love each other well and without selfish ambition, my brothers and sisters. You are the reflection of the living God who has created us. The world is looking to you, to us, for example of how our Father loves. What will they think of Him if we tear each other to pieces while claiming victory in Christ?

Follow Him, follow His Word, without reservation. That is the only way to bring about true revival that we long for.

Until next time, may the Lord keep you in His perfect peace and in harmony with one another.

Your sister,

Monica

*This is not a disclaimer where I will advise you to leave if you are in an abusive relationship. God can heal that too. If you don’t believe He can, however, you should leave because He probably won’t. If you do believe He can bring healing, you need to seek counsel immediately and ensure your continued safety while your spouse begins a process of healing and restoration in the Lord.