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

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Every Christian has something in common. We chose to make the most counter-cultural move anyone could conceive of.. surrender.

This isn’t just any surrender, it is a sacrifice so extreme (a response to Christ’s extreme, loving sacrifice) that it entails becoming “slave” to our fellow man so they can be won to Christ through our example.

We are free in Jesus, but we are freed to do something. That something is to serve!

Unfortunately, many Christians accept salvation but spend the rest of their lives bearing little fruit because they stopped surrendering. That’s not what God intended for us.

How quickly we forget that the washing of feet is a call to servitude and deeper surrender!

We would rather visit Salon De Jesus for a good foot soak after we fall into sin than work out our salvation by serving others and humbling ourselves.

Servitude and surrender are inseparable.

Jesus showed us how to do both well. When we accepted Him as our Savior we were endowed with all the qualities necessary to see the mission through. It is only by serving, however, that we grow in these gifts.

Wouldn’t you love to have a greater portion of any of these?

Love

Joy

Self-control

Kindness

Peace

Patience

Goodness

Gentleness

Faithfulness

Don’t you know that even failing marriages can be restored if only we would open our hearts to serving?

Our families, communities and government are repairable. But we must learn how to serve!

So please, have a heart of humility today?

Do for someone other than your self. Don’t waste the gifting God has placed inside you. I guarantee you will be astounded by the joy and peace it brings. I have seen it! In my next article I’ll share a surrender story of my own with you.

Please share yours in the comments so we can encourage one another?

Your sister,

Monica

Old wounds heal slow sometimes.

It took me 30 years to realize my earthly father had never really been a father to me. Though I prayed and cried much and received healing, the “loss” of my father could not be mourned in one day.

Our fathers are supposed to love, guide and protect us. For me that was not the case.

I look over photos of families and dads from yesterday and my heart breaks a little for what I missed out on. Instead of images of love I recall scenes of drama and violence.

“I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.”

Father’s Day isn’t normally hard for me because I just don’t pay much attention to it.

I grew up celebrating my mother that day because she did everything for us and so I was taught that she should get honor on Father’s Day. It was just deflecting.

No one wanted to talk about my father or the hurt that surrounded the topic of his absence.

I tried to call him yesterday. Thought it was the decent thing to do. On the other end I heard the tone for a disconnected phone. I haven’t heard from him in months, not since my brother in law passed and I saw my father at the funeral.

Everyone wanted to ignore him then too.

I couldn’t. He is a hurting human being after all and everyone should be extended comfort in a situation like that.

I had an opportunity to show the compassion I had never received from him. I sat next to him and held his aging hand. I did my best to calm everyone when he started showing out for attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t seek it so much had we just shown the love he was so desperately craving.

But none of us knew how to love well as children and our parents weren’t in the position to teach us back then.

I know how to love today.

I know that I can honor my father even though, the morning after Father’s Day, I am suddenly in tears because I don’t have one.

I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.

It is not the people of this world but the forces of another we are up against.

I can choose to hold sorrow in my heart momentarily instead of building a permanent mass of bitterness toward him.

I can share this with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the world and hope that you find strength for the same forgiveness if you have endured an absent or abusive father.

As Christ forgave and loved us, may we also forgive and love.

Your sister,

Monica

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get answers to prayers more often than others?

Have you thought to yourself: How does faith REALLY work? WHY does it work? Can faith be built up? If so, HOW?

The answers are linked to identity. It is how we relate to The Father (made available through Jesus) that determines the limit of our faith. It is the level of our faith that determines what miracles we can see.

When we place no limit on our relationship with God there is no limit to our faith and likewise what can be done through that faith.

In the book of Mark the disciples allowed their fear to challenge their relationship with Jesus.

Don’t you care that we are going to die?” they shouted over crashing waves as they woke Jesus to save them. Fear led to panic which prompted confusion about Jesus’s priorities and concern for His loved ones.

Of course He cares! We are His own!

But we forget that fact when it comes to prayer for those close to us, and even for ourselves. We react in cowardice and question God instead of behaving boldly as children of the King.

After Jesus calmed the storm His disciples said “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him!”

They figured it had something to do with who He is… Jesus knew it was because of whose He is. The disciples had small faith because they minimized the relationship.

Our faith is hindered when we misunderstand our identity.

We forget that we are not our own; that we belong to The Father. We forget that our children are the Lord’s before they are ours. Or perhaps we have never grasped this truth to begin with.

Who has a level of faith like that of Abraham who would sacrifice his own son? A faith like that of God?

That is what is required to see the unhindered move of God in this world. A faith that has no limitation can only exist where sacrifice has no limitation.

“We react in cowardice and question God instead of behaving boldly as children of the King.”

Can you let go completely and give your entire life to Him?

Is today the day you stop negotiating and choose surrender?

Only in complete surrender will you find the solid rock, who is Christ, upon which a meaningful, joyful life can be built. A life in which answered prayers are simply icing on the cake to the glorious love we have found in Jesus.

God answers the prayers of the righteous because the removal of our pride and ego has made space for His great miracles to be received.

They are already in place for us to walk in. He has prepared all these things for you before He formed you. It is your job to concede to His Truth in place of “your truths”… which are really the lies of this world.

Lay yourself at the altar with your prayers today. Lay your self there first.

I am believing with you that you will see the answers to your prayers as you submit completely to His will.

May you be humble and heard today.

Your sister,

Monica

Our second daughter, Evelyn, was sent home sick from school yesterday.

When I arrived to pick her up the nurse informed me she was sleeping. However, when I peeked around the curtain I saw Evelyn smiling and rolling over at the sound of my voice. She didn’t seem sick at all with that grin on her face, but I was told that she had gotten physically ill after lunch and barely made it to the trash can.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her lying there full of hope for a day home with mom.

The nurse also informed me that she would be unable to come to school to following day because she has to be 24 hours without a repeat occurrence. I loaded Evelyn up into the truck and we headed home.

I had a hundred things to do including writing a final I had lost the instructions for, laundry, church responsibilities, and all the normal mom stuff.

This morning she came to me with my notepad from the refrigerator requesting to use it. She wanted to make a list of all the things we could do or what we can get from the store “ifwe go,” she said.

The tone of her voice led me to believe she was already convinced that we would be going to said store and purchasing these things she was hoping for.

The cautious mom in me turned to her ready to speak unintentional words of death. Words that would slowly kill off her hopeful spirit over the years to come…

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

I cringe now as I recount my overuse of that phrase throughout the years. Why on earth have I been attempting to convince my children to be less hopeful?!

Perhaps this is why depression is so pervasive in our country. For decades we have been hearing and repeating, “Don’t get your hopes up!”

Can we pretend any longer to be surprised that 3 MILLION people a YEAR struggle with hopelessness, when THESE are the words we choose for our children? Why are the cases happening to younger and younger people?

We blame the schools, the pressures to achieve, bullying… the list goes on. Could it be that we are overlooking the most fundamental aspect of fighting depression?

Hope.

We have lost it and we have been demanding our children lose it as well.

We convince them to leave behind their high, unrealistic hopes and move forward with reason to attainable goals.

Ones that won’t crush their hopes.

The problem is that every goal needs some degree of hope to be achieved. It is not that the pressures of academic achievement are too high but that we are expecting the achievement while depriving our children of vital resources to get there.

I know a fifteen year old who is about to take college courses! She is the norm in her family. I have told her mother I think their basement looks like an academic sweatshop. (It does)

And yet, this girl and her family are some of the most joyful, undepressed people I know.

They smile. ALL. THE. TIME. It’s kind of creepy at first because it’s so odd for our society to see… but it’s really just a heavy dose of (you guessed it),

HOPE!

I have told these young ladies that I am grateful they are a part of our lives and great role models for our young girls. They are the most God-fearing, creative, intelligent, bold young women I have ever met.

I want our kids to be like that!

So, little Eve… dream on about your grocery store trip and whether you will purchase Mad-Libs or a journal if I drag you out of the house in the rain today.

Dream whatever dreams God has put in your heart today!

I promise not to crush them with my logic and desire to keep you safe. Then when you are grown and pursuing your own calling people will not have to tell you to “be yourself” and “dream big“.

You’ll already be doing it in the childlike way God desires for you.

This is my greatest hope for you… That you keep HIGH hopes and ignore the naysayings, even when the person closest to you is speaking death over your dreams.

May we all increase in hope today. May we be hope filled and hope speaking children of the Lord.

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