We call it many different things. A “white lie”, “twisting” or “stretching” the truth, “impression management.”

The reality is that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all telling lies. We do it daily. Entire lives are built in the sinking sand of illusions we believe and create for ourselves.

I wish I could say I am different, but I lie too.

I lie to myself when I speak negative things over my marriage or myself. I lie when I tell myself that I will not overcome obstacles to my ministry and that my timing is better than God’s. I don’t do this with many things. Only the most important. I haven’t lied about trivial matters since I was a child.

I dedicate myself to truth and yet I still lie.

Thankfully, I’m a terrible liar. REALLY terrible! I tell on myself, usually within minutes. I just love truth! I seek it, seek to live and speak it, and do so at all costs.

Last night I became less of a liar.

I identified the things I wanted to say as false before they came out of my mouth. It gave me enough time to submit those thoughts to the Lord and process them in a more healthy way.

I couldn’t have held my tongue had I not been face down praying for it.

Moments of anger and fear are like this. They turn us into liars. More accurately, we revert to things that serve us momentarily even though we know they are wrong.

“God gave me the characteristic of self-control, but I need Him to show me how to use it.”

Have you ever told someone “I hate you!” in the heat of an argument? Have you accused someone of cheating on you because you’re still traumatized from past experiences? Have you told yourself no one loves you and you’ll always be picked last?

See, we’re all lying.

None of that could possibly be true. Love is eternal so hate isn’t real because it can be destroyed. Suspicion and low-self-esteem aren’t real either. These are all lies of the enemy and will ultimately meet the same demise as him; oblivion. Interestingly, even the act of calling myself a “liar” is a lie.

So I want to share with you the solution to all this. How to not to lie. It isn’t simply to speak the truth. That is impossible to do since we are often unaware of or temporarily blinded to truth.

You must be filled with the Spirit.

There is no other way.

I’ve prayed for many things. Peace, patience, joy… but I already have these things the moment I accept Christ as my savior.

The fruits of the Spirit are fabulous but they only work so well as we choose to submit to the Spirit. God isn’t going to give me more self-control to speak truth. He gave me the characteristic of self-control, but I need Him to show me how to use it.

The only thing God can give me more of is Himself.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. I’ve had too many seasons of being distracted by the things of God where I forgot about Him and was seeking after holiness in futility and spiritual dryness.

I’m grateful that the only real solution to my problems is the presence of God.

My prayer today is that you all be filled with the Spirit. We are called to be vessels and its impossible to be a courier of something you aren’t in possession of. Chase the Lord today! Seek, knock, ask… and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Let us desire Him with all our heart!

Your sister,

Monica

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Sometime in our lives we are all the “One.”

The one God came after and left the proverbial ninety-nine in doing so.

But why? Why would He leave His people like that? Does anyone ever consider the inverse of what is happening here???

We cry like babies during Reckless Love because we identify with the one, not the ninety-nine. That group wouldn’t be bawling joyfully because they got “left”… or would they?

Let’s break it down.

A few things are going on in this “leaving” and I believe it is of the utmost importance that we as a church begin to identify with the ninety-nine more than we do with being the “one.”

This is why:

1) The “One” is special… therefore we all want to be this

Reality: if you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior you cannot presently identify as this “one.” It’s great to reflect and show gratitude that God sought you out and brought you that mighty long way, but real gratitude produces action… namely that we do what Jesus has done and go get the next “one”

2) God left the ninety-nine, but He returned

The best description of this “leaving” and what it entails can be found in John 14:23-31. Jesus has to go away. If we love Him we keep His word. We then become a “home” of Jesus and the Father along with our counselor the Holy Spirit. It is not just Christ we have but the entire trinity living with us! Jesus left and it hurt that we were no longer the center of attention but we were ultimately empowered to do what He did and even greater!

3) The Ninety-nines are supposed to leave the ninety-nine and find “ones” that become more ninety-nines

This is basically the same as my first point but necessary to keep repeating. Stop making everything about you! It’s not about (just) you! It’s about the body of believers as a whole and we are still missing body parts because some of our ninety-nine have done nothing more than trade night-clubs for church-clubs.

We are out of order.

The answer to the world’s brokenness lies within the perfect love of Jesus lived out through us. We must go.

Go love each other.

Go love the one.

Go get the one.

Jesus came to seek and save. This isn’t about attraction and marketing. It’s about getting in the trenches with the lost and carrying them out on our backs if that’s what it takes!

Please share love today. Put as much effort into loving your neighbor as you do into serving abroad in missions.

Pray for people out loud. Pray for people in public. Pray for eyes to see the brokenness on their faces.

It will haunt you and bless you, but it is our calling.

With a heavy heart for the lost I’m begging you to courage-up and get your hands moving on the plow today. I want my Sunday morning to be filled with praise reports and new faces, not the ninety-nine still trying to be the “one.”

I love you all dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

Every so often I glance over my website to check the flow and feel of it. I want to make sure that my readers are engaged and not distracted. Uplifted (even through my difficult posts), and not weighed down.

I noticed something interesting today as I skimmed the site.

There is a hard, clear shift in the visual content beginning with the first post after my husband returned from his deployment in Afghanistan, and in every post thereafter.

It looks brighter and happier!

Now, I had noticed earlier on that my posts were not particularly joyful from a visual perspective though I have tried to maintain solid hope and truth in the articles nevertheless.

The point is that I had initially tried to change it and failed.

I found myself unable to commit to the “happy” persona it seemed I must have in order to be a well-received, Christian writer. I couldn’t commit because it was not authentic… and I’m terrible at faking it, or as I’d rather call it, “lying”.

A rip-off is a put off and that’s what faking it eventually produces: repulsion.

I just can’t do it!

I’ve heard that there is a certain persona one must maintain when in the public eye. I have heard that there is not much wiggle room for pastors. If anything there is less.

We Christians tend to hold our leaders to an impossible standard of holiness and perfection. Perhaps this is because we have too often placed our hope in them instead of the Lord?

I refuse to be part of the insanity.

I appreciate leaders who do not subject themselves to such things. My own pastor says often that if you are looking for the pastor who has it all together, he’s not that guy. While I share on a much deeper level than generalities, I concur. None of us have got it all together.

The difficult part is acknowledging our shortcomings and being willing to walk through the obscurity.

Anytime we are following God’s will there is going to be obscurity. When certainty abounds it is likely we have inserted our plans into the places God had intended to work miracles.

Where are you today?

Do you have it all figured out? Is the master plan going along swimmingly as you climb the ladder? Is everything is measuring up to what you imagined?

If it is you are settling for less.

I want to encourage you to make peace with the unknown. It is in the dessert where God prepares us for the Promised Land. It’s okay to be lost in the desert for a while. It happens to all of us. It will all make sense later.

Being on the other side of this I can tell you that it doesn’t last forever and there is always hope.

Don’t hide.

Don’t isolate.

Don’t try to be what you think you’re supposed to be when God has approved you with His own blood!

He’ll work it out. All you have to do is stay close to Him. Most importantly, remember His love for you and saturate yourself in the Word. My bleakest situations have been those I failed to confront with the truth of scripture.

If life is about how you see it, choose to see the truth.

Your sister,

Monica

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

All of us have struggled with insecurity and people pleasing at some point in our lives.

We are afraid, somewhere deep down, that we will be intentionally left out, neglected, or worse… that no one will even see us.

For some of us, these things actually happen.

In our early formative years we are exposed to abuse and lies in such high doses that our fears are reinforced. We lack God-fearing parental figures that should be speaking life to our fear and telling us the truth: that God does see and love us and that He will never leave or forsake us.

We begin to form our lives around these lies, decision after decision. We spend years trying to fit in and measure up, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out who we really are. There has been so much compromise, however, that we rarely know where to begin.

People pleasing always leads to compromise of integrity and muddied self image.

You cannot go through life attempting to make people around you happy while simultaneously ensuring your identity and character do not suffer.

This should be a problem isolated to those who have not been found in Christ. Still, so many Christians struggle with the opinions of others and allow their desire for approval to dictate the way they behave. They allow this desire for approval to inform who they are.

The biggest issue with this behavior is that it is directly opposed to the gospel.

People pleasing stems from who we think we are, not what we do. It is a behavioral consequence to a misinformed identity.

Every human is a “being” before they are “doing”.

That is why Jesus so often discussed the state of the heart as the real issue. Who you ARE determines what you DO.

This subsequent, sinful behavior (yes, people pleasing is a sin) is a symptom of our separation from God. Paul goes so far as to say that he would not be a servant of Christ if he were going about people pleasing. This is a thing that pagans do, not children of God.

However, it is not the sin itself that is so deadly but our separation from the Lord, which is breeding ground for sin in action.

People pleasing and desire for approval of man is no different. Many people have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and wonder why they remain at a distance from God in this area of their life…

May I propose that distance from God cannot be compartmentalized? You are either distant from Him, or you are not.

The difference between a nonbeliever who is distant from God and a Christian who is distant from God, is that the Holy Spirit is received within the believer…

Distance from the Lord as a believer is actually not possible.

The perception of that disconnectedness is based, always, on sentiment and the decision to believe a lie about who you really are.

When we neglect to continually “receive” the Holy Spirit (just admit it, we all have times we’d rather kick Him out), this creates a type of “distance” whereby insecurity creeps in and boldly declares:

“You are not enough. Prove it!”

Placating and seeking approval of other sinful humans occurs solely because we forget that we have already been justified.

To counter this, we must remember who we are in Him. Namely who He is and what He has done for us, and then allow that holy identity to dictate our actions.

The anecdote for bouts of people pleasing (and the compromised integrity that comes along with this evil perspective that man’s opinion matters any, if at all) is to be reminded that we are loved and justified by the Lord.

Not only that we are loved in the comforting sense but that we are loved in the sense that He disciplines us.

Scripture says the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. We do not limit ourselves to receiving only feel-good experiences, but we are open to receiving His correction knowing that He has paid the price and made us acceptable.We will never be rejected!

This is an indispensable facet of the issue because our whole purpose for people pleasing is the desire to avoid negative feedback; desire to avails rejection.

In the Lord, discipline is administered from a loving God who refuses to leave us the way we are, andWILL NEVER REJECT US!

Once we know we are loved in this way, forgiven in this way… man’s opinion remains just that; an opinion.

It does not become fact.

It does not become something that we need to strive every day to live up to so that we can be accepted by the world. A world, mind you, that still rejects our Lord.

We can rest in Him and find strength in the fact that Jesus endured the same struggle. Jesus said the student is not above his teacher, and God loves us just as he loves Jesus!

Jesus speaks this love when He prays in chapter 17 of John:

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.

I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.

I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.

John 17:20-26

We can be confident of these things because of Jesus’s prayer:

1) We are enough. We are complete in Him and community with one another as a reflection of Him.

2) We are loved and known beyond what we can possibly imagine. We are loved by the Father just as He has loved Jesus!

3) All glory we have is from God and rightly belongs to Him. Keeping any for ourselves is a symptom that we are believing a lie: that we have separated our “glory” from His.

So, next time you are tempted to please someone (including yourself since that is ultimately what “people pleasing” is), remember Jesus’s prayer.

Remember these truths.

When you are rejected, it is not you the world is rejecting but Christ in you.

When you are accepted, be a vessel that flows both ways bringing the glory of heaven to earth and the earthly praise back to the Father.

May you walk in truth today, knowing you are complete, loved, and accepted by the God who has brought you out of bondage to yourself and others.

My prayer for you is that you never again return to that barren place.

Your sister,

Monica

Over the last couple of weeks it has come to my attention that there are certain things, certain patterns, in my life that I do not possess the power to break.

Of course I am aware that without the Lord I am unable to do many things. But what I’m talking about here is habitual, patterns of sin and my frustration in not being able to overcome them.

These patterns of sin have a way of wearing us down. We battle them in our own power for so long, trying to move the mountain of self will run riot, and then give up. We decide to just “live with it”.

When I came to Christ I walked away from many things that I knew were not glorifying to Him and who I wanted to be in Him.

Other things, these habits, were not so easy to leave behind.

In fact I discussed one of these things in my last blog post. It happens to be something that many of us struggle with. Especially the moms out there.

As usual God was right on time with an answer.

No sooner had I published the blog post, than I received a solution. Sitting in my Theology and Practice of Ministry class, I listened carefully to the wise words of my teacher (a woman with twenty plus years of ministry under her belt, the type of woman we need more of in the church).

Her words, though convicting, fell like a soft embrace around my open wounds of doubt. “I know the Lord is capable, but I am incapable. Why can I not change my behavior?” I bemoaned.

“They are patterns. You must pray “God, cause me ________.”

As wonderful as this sounded and comforting as it was (because any option was better than nothing and I had exhausted them all), my hope was seasoned with reservation.

Thank the Lord only a mustard-seed-sized faith is enough!

Since that day (exactly six days ago) I have begun every morning with that prayer.

“Father, cause me. Cause me to be more kind with my words and tone toward my children. Cause me to walk in Your Will and not my own.”

Make me do it!

Order my steps in Your Word!

There was a time I hurled similar words at my earthy parents, but they were meant to be challenging rather than submissive.

I now bring that same zeal, that same stubbornness, to the Lord in my request.

I have always been rough around the edges. Unrefined, raw, and wild. I thought for a long time that God wanted me to calm down. To be pleasant, sweet and light like some of my Christian sisters. Not so. As I wrote recently in a private worship moment:

“I was wild and running from You

Never wanting to be tamed

Come to find all You desire

Is that I’m wild for Your name”

It was quite a relief to realize that I was not in sin because of who I am; I am not fundamentally flawed in some way. God has made me exactly as I am supposed to be and redeems me from sin I impose upon His perfect creation.

I was simply misusing my zeal!

He made me to be passionate, wild, and even aggressive at times. This is a reflection of Him and His kingdom!

Does this look tame to you? Because it’s the image God chose to use to describe Himself and His people are in His image…

The problem is that I kept taking the ‘easy’ way out (in hindsight it was SO not easier!) But, it was less work upfrontto throw my will and weight around than to go toe-to-toe with an Almighty God and beg Him to “make me do it” His way.

Now, I ask. And He answers!

Each day becomes easier as I press into His will and choose surrender. His yoke is truly light in contrast to the weight I was lugging around!

And the best part? I get to be me! Thereal me who is found in Him! I don’t have to sacrifice my zeal, I just have to re-purpose it. To rightly purpose it in a way that honors His will instead of my own.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because He loves me and He made me!

He alone knows the plans for my life and He has designed me specifically for each task.

You are no different.

I pray that this simple prayer is a blessing to those of you who still struggle like I have. I’m sure I will continue, as is our life in this flesh, but I pray all of us find increasing freedom with each new day.

Be who you truly are in Him. Submit that self to His will daily, beg for His intervention, and watch the miracles form from the inside out.

This, my friends, is how we change the world! One person at a time; starting with the self (which only God can change).

Until next time, may you be encouraged and conscious of the God who is always lovingly conscious of you.

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