Have you ever wasted time trying to help people make sense of a calling God gave to YOU?

Maybe after prayer and confirmation all we need to do is get to work.

What are you going to walk boldly into that God has called you to do?

Your sister,

Monica

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Just before Christmas I was able to squeeze in a local Christmas lights sight seeing with our youngest children. Unfortunately we spent almost an hour in traffic before seeing any displays.

We sat there as patiently as we could, my husband playing games on his phone to distract himself and the girls chatting in the backseat. A little voice came from behind me…

“I wish I could name a cloud,” Monica Jr. declared.

She was probably remembering when I shared that Peter had payed for a star to be named after me when we were dating. It was a cute idea; naming a cloud.

“Well… that’s a neat idea honey, but clouds don’t last so it would be silly to name them. They’re just vapor in the sky that floats away.”

The words I spoke were oddly familiar:

Men are only a vapor; exalted men, an illusion. Weighed in the scales, they go up; together they are less than a vapor.

Yes, even the exaltation of having a star named after me would not last. That distant ball of fire and the records naming it for me would all one day be vapor just as my earthly life and name.

Along with even the beautiful flowers of this world, I will fade.

But I have a new name.

God named me.

I have new life.

That name is as eternal as the life I have found in Him.

He named me because He has given me permanence in His kingdom; a right to reign alongside His Son, even.

What an honor!

I don’t know that I ever grasped the significance of being named by God so deeply as I did the day my toddler decided she would like to name a cloud.

I don’t know that I have ever been so grateful that my Father has chosen to call me His and give me a new name.

I pray that you take seriously the implications of such a simple, yet permanent gesture. We may not know our new names yet, but we can be sure that they are everlasting just as we are everlasting in Christ Jesus.

May you walk in that new name; in truth and in confidence of your Father this year.

Your sister,

Monica

*If you would like to but have yet to accept Christ as your Savior, I would be honored to walk with you through this step! Feel free to contact me here, and I’ll be in touch ASAP 😉

We have all criticized this man. Verbally or in our mind at some point. We would be foolish to never have wondered what is really up with him.

I have been an outspoken opponent of his ministry. Viewing videos made by other naysayers and dissecting them for inspection. I have shuddered at some of the misspoken words that have come from his wife.

But it doesn’t matter what I think. We all know the old saying about opinions.

What really matters is what does Jesus think?

I’ve only got partial information about Osteen because I’ve never met the guy. The best intel I have is from a trusted source (my own pastor) who is amazed by Joel’s heart for the lost. If that really is the case then we should stop badgering the poor man (haha, sorry I can’t help but laugh at the irony in what I just typed).

But seriously. For sake of argument, let’s assume that our worst fears about Joel Osteen and his ministry prove to be true.

Worst case scenario, what would Jesus say about him?

Let’s look at the book of Mark. Chapter 9, verse 38-40 says this:

John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.

Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me. For whoever is not against us is for us.

Notice the disciples were complaining that the people were not following them.

They had removed Jesus from the equation or He wouldn’t have had to remind them of the awesomeness that His name was being preached!

Jesus is far more concerned with us finding freedom than He is with how “right” our theology is.

He knows that in Him we find freedom so that relationship is always paramount to everything else.

A right relationship with Jesus will correct any faulty theology over time. Nevertheless, none of us can say we have it all figured out; “it” being a sovereign, Holy, incomprehensible God of the universe. (Please email me if you do because I would like to meet you, Jesus!)

Jesus says leave Joel be. Let him preach because, even if the worst suspicions are true, our Lord is being glorified and people are finding freedom and eternal life!

Is my opinion of a man’s bank account more important than your salvation? God forgive me that it has been. How arrogant I was.

God will hold every teacher accountable for how he has stewarded what was given to him in this world.

Our job is to love one another and be one. That includes the preachers we love to criticize and (let’s be honest) compare ourselves to.

Every preacher of the Word thinks he/she would be the best steward of resources like Joel has if we were blessed with them. We judge our hearts more capable of handling wealth than men God has chosen to bestow it upon.

I’m not declaring that you should start trusting every pastor that preaches the gospel. I’m simply saying we should trust God and be about our Father’s business instead of publicly calling foul every time we disagree with someone.

I’ll be doing exactly that today. Preaching through blogs and Instagram and phone calls… whatever it takes. Personally I’m glad someone like Joel is utilizing that massive platform to point to Jesus.

Your sister,

Monica

She was so much more fun when you met, probably the life of the party.

She didn’t side-eye you when you let out a curse word or get uptight about movies with racist or heavy sexual themes. She had the same dark humor as you and a quick wit to boot.

Then this guy Jesus wrecked it all.

The girl you once fell in love with has become more concerned with making it to church in time for worship than staying up late with you the night before. She’s becoming increasingly more illogical and her joy (over seemingly nothing) is obnoxious at times. You feel like all she does is criticize you and you can’t do anything right in her eyes.

You wonder why she is even still with you. You don’t even enjoy the same things anymore.

Sometimes you wonder if she’s faking it; acting out some pious, religious fantasy of who she thinks she is supposed to be now that she hangs around all these other fake church people.

You miss the relationship you had before. You miss the fun and the passion. Her passion has been displaced from you and now rests securely in the Lord.

I’m here to tell you it’s time to get over yourself.

She’s not faking.

And this is better.

She does love you or she would have left you already… but you are not her world anymore. That’s good news.

It may have been nice when she relied on you for everything; helped you feel masculine and dependable. But I’m here to let you know that you were on track for a breakdown. Mere humans are not designed to be able to carry that kind of weight. Only Christ can.

If you are totally honest with yourself, you know that you never really could meet all her needs anyway. Something was always lacking. That something was someone… this Jesus she has found.

But you’re not useless. Your woman still needs you, just in a different way.

She needs you to pray for her. She needs you to hold her and speak life into her when she is struggling and chooses to be vulnerable with you. She might even need you to step up parental contribution if God calls her into ministry… but most importantly she needs you to find Jesus for yourself.

She needs the reassurance that you love her with an eternal, undying love that only God can give through you.

She needs to see you submitting yourself the the Lord, His Word and will, while she learns to follow you as the head of the family.

You need this too.

So yes, get over it. You’ll be glad when you come to find this Jesus she has realized in her own life. You’ll be able to celebrate with her and love more deeply than you ever thought possible. You’ll have real passion, and you’ll have it with her.

Now go pray with your “girl” who’s become a woman of God. But don’t worry if you can’t bring yourself to do that just yet. I guarantee she will be praying for you.

Your sister,

Monica

If you’ve ever walked into a church you’ve probably been hurt by it.

It’s when the pastor’s son bullies you and no one stops him or corrects his behavior. You’re only 7 years old but you never forget.

This is church hurt; when the place you thought you could find healing brings agony instead.

The kind of pain that lingers deep inside.

It’s when you’re a lonely teenager from a broken home where you never want to be. You happen upon a church function in your neighborhood and you are hesitantly invited… but then overhear, “why is she here.”

It was said in secret so you don’t confront anyone. The pain stays.

It is when you become a teen mother because of the abyss of loneliness in your childhood home, and you overhear the pastor bashing another pregnant teen.

You feel equally shamed. The pastor said it so it must be true.

The pain stays.

But then the REAL church shows up…

The church that is all African American and accepts a young white boy with grace and love… even though he is bald, pierced and has “S-K-I-N-H-E-A-D” tatted across his knuckles.

You regain hope for the church.

The church that throws your lonely-teen-momma-self a baby shower and cooks for you and takes you shopping for appropriate young women’s clothing to wear.

The church that lets you serve in worship and lead even though you told them you’re only a month out of detoxing from a 5 year alcohol relapse/binge.

You begin to heal a little.

The church that shows up to the hospital when your child has a seizure and to your home when your marriage is falling apart.

The church that counsels and prays for that broken marriage instead of condemning you and telling you to submit to an abusive husband.

I have seen both sides of this crisis in the church.

The pain is real but so is the healing.

I have found healing in forgiveness. The same forgiveness that was extended to me, without limitation, by Jesus.

I have also had to ask forgiveness…

The sins I had minimized as “lesser” had actually created the very same deep pain as those perpetrated against me.

That is the point. We were all guilty. That’s why we need Jesus.

He is STILL the answer to all our troubles.

He is STILL our hope and healing.

Even for #churchhurt.

May you be forgiven and extend forgiveness without reservation.

May you love the church, the broken bunch we are, as Christ loves the church.

Your sister,

Monica

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

Six years and one day ago I was baptized.

Spiritually, I felt like the chic in this photo… but with really cold bubblescause my pastor thought it was funny to dunk us in freezing water. (Just kidding, but it was legit COLD!)

Anyhow, that baptism was the cumulation of a week of fasting for my marriage (during which I realized I didn’t actually believe the gospel), a time of complete surrender, and the beginning of this ministry journey I have been on ever since.

The realization of my unbelief CRUSHED me. It was the darkest hour of my life. In an instant everything lost its meaning and there was no hope. No purpose.

I begged for faith. I received it immediately. I went right back to scripture and read about Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus.

Do you love me?” Jesus asked three times. After the third time Peter professed his love for Christ he was instructed to “feed My sheep” by his Savior.

I had faith. I had gratitude overflowing as a result. I wanted to feed His sheep too!! So I begged:

“Let me feed your sheep!”

He granted this ability along with the passion faith had produced. I had purpose! Only, it didn’t materialize as quickly as I hoped.

This eventually frustrated me.

I’m an action person. Observe, orient, decide, act. I’m such an action person that I often skipped the other steps.

This landed me in little puddles of hot water along my ministry journey.

I needed time to mature in faith.

I kept walking in my calling the best I could, awaiting the time I might be entrusted with a larger flock. Sometimes I wanted to quit. I got tired in all kinds of ways: physically, spiritually, emotionally. Sometimes I picked up other people’s demons and didn’t know how to battle in prayer to get the suckers off my back. At one point, my marriage (the very thing that had prompted my spiritual honesty) almost ended.

I was spent. I couldn’t go another day. I had allowed myself to be isolated…

And then I found a church that felt like home.

Not only could I serve here, but I was taught how to really battle in prayer. Our family was prayed over. My marriage was restored beyond belief. Our finances were restored. (We had made quite a mess of things.)

Now, I could settle in and just be a part of instead of leading so much. After two years of serving, however, the opportunity to serve again in the way I pleaded for has presented itself. So…

What happens when everything you’ve wanted suddenly becomes possible? Will you still want it? Will you ignore the naysayers (including yourself)?

The answer to these questions may uncover if your really ever wanted it at all.

My first reaction was to recoil and not be “self-promotional”. Then I remembered a sermon one of our pastors delivered about discerning God’s will. In a nutshell, it was ‘obey God, be helpful not harmful, and include room for the desires of your heart’ (God put them there after all!)

my chicken-scratch notes:

I found myself wrestling with that top right corner. The most difficult option for me.

The option that was left after I had checked the situation against scripture, prayed about it and discerned that my preferred decision is actually very beneficial… too beneficial, because it includes benefit for me.

I have to make a decision that is what I want to do.

No matter how far I separate myself from fear and shame it seems to find a way to creep up and start tapping at the door again. Perhaps my biggest struggle is sheer unfamiliarity with the concept itself.

The concept that we should actually enjoy this life.

Without struggle or self sacrifice as an option and with my dreams in front of me wide-open for the taking, I have to choose to do something that could be seemingly selfish.

The shame I left behind when I accepted Jesus as sufficient is still beckoning me to depart from my calling.

Today I’m choosing not to listen to it. I can’t know the perfect will of God in every choice I make. When I meet Him someday it will all be clear.

Until then all I’ve got is the next best step and confidence that I have walked in righteousness the best I can. I can trust my discernment even if it happens to include my benefit…

Because He loves me and wants good for me.

So I want to encourage any of you who are struggling with similar things. Any of you who have become so adept at survival that it is foreign to see things working for your good.… I’m here to tell you that this is not how it was meant to be.

God DOES work for your good!

Whatever voices are stuck in your head: be it from parents, teachers, or simply a well intended yet false message delivered from the lips of a friend… It is time to walk away from the lies!

Step into who you are and fully into your calling. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain.

Lose yourself in mountains of prayer and praise as you navigate through these times. Hide away and stay on your knees until they go numb if you must. Seek the heart of God. For it is there and ONLY there you will find your true self your true purpose… and there is no shame in His presence.

It is only there that you can truly honor Him by being who He has created you to be.

May you walk in freedom and joy every day.

Your sister,

Monica