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 😉

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I’ve been falling off the devotional wagon a bit with all the hustle and bustle.

I love my friends and family SOOO much but if I don’t keep the Lord first and guard my time with Him, all those other relationships could suffer.

They need Christ in me… not the fleshy, frantic and frustrated Monica.

In light of our tendency to get frazzled this time of year, I’d like to pass onto you a great little list of scriptures for Advent to help us all stay focused on our Savior.

As always, you are each in my prayers and I love you dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

**List originally appeared here. Don’t forget to check out the other Christmas resources at Crosswalk.

December 2

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

December 3

James 1:17 ESV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

December 4

Luke 12:15 ESV

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

December 5

Matthew 2:2 ESV

Saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

December 6

Micah 5:2 ESV

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

December 7

Luke 12:33-34 ESV

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

December 8

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

December 9

Luke 2:8 ESV

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

December 10

John 1:14 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

December 11

Matthew 2:11 ESV

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

December 12

Acts 20:35 ESV

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

December 13

Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

December 14

Luke 6:38 ESV

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

December 15

Luke 1:46-47 ESV

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

December 16

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

December 17

Romans 6:23 ESV

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

December 18

Matthew 1:23 ESV

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

December 19

Isaiah 11:1 ESV

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

December 20

Esther 9:22 ESV

As the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

December 21

Luke 2:10 ESV

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

December 22

Luke 1:14 ESV

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,

December 23

Matthew 1:21 ESV

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

December 24

Luke 2:11-14 ESV

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Weak isn’t the same thing as wimpy.

American culture would say otherwise; especially for men.

You aren’t allowed to show weakness.

To make matters worse we’ve taken to inferring weakness from normal human emotions. If you get hurt, you must be weak. If you cry, you must be weak.

Everyday life struggles are taken as a sign of weakness for the men enduring them.

Your marriage is struggling: you must be weak.

You lost your job: weak.

You’re not making enough money: weak.

Can’t send your kids to private school, take the family on vacation, have the “right” car & house, or solve world hunger…

Weak, weak, weak!

Yes, by this fallen world’s definition it may be true. But we live by a greater standard.

One that requires recognition of true weakness and ultimately shows our God strong in us.

“we’ve taken to inferring weakness from normal human emotions”

You’ll never be able to provide enough… because you aren’t the Provider.

You’ll never love your wife enough… but you can point her to the One who does.

You’ll never be void of negative emotion… and that’s a good thing because God hears the prayers of the broken.

So men, will you be our confidently weak heroes?

We don’t need you to be strong. We need you to be real so you become strong.

We need your leadership as broken, humble men who rely on Jesus; not as pompous, “self-made” fakes.

We need to walk alongside each other as husbands & wives, brothers & sisters, mothers & sons, fathers & daughters who know our failings and choose to bare them that God may be glorified instead of our egos.

Here’s to all the real heroes out there! May God strengthen you in your submission to Him.

We honor you for choosing humility amidst a world full of pride.

Your sister,

Monica

Sisters, this one is just for you. For us.

First of all I want you to know how incredible you are. I pray for you all each day. I thank God for you and I absolutely LOVE hearing what our Father is doing in your lives!

I want to share some encouragement I received this past weekend when I was in Nashville, Tennessee. (HUGE thanks to NorthStar Women’s Network for making this possible!!)

There were so many incredible communicators (church lingo for ‘speakers’) that I was more than full at the end of the three day Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum.

The moment that set the stage for me to take it all in was my first breakout session led by Christi Straub.

“We stood in our weakness and became powerful in our unity in Jesus”

Christi challenged us to walk in the life God intends for our leadership, our marriages, and our lives in general… but it wasn’t her powerful speaking that made the deepest impact (though that was awesome!) It was the unity she helped us realize.

“If you are going through a trial right now, would you stand?” she requested.

Most of us have experienced this before. A few people stand in a church service and the rest of us (those who are coasting along in the joy of the Lord, *eyeroll) lay hands on the few and pray over them.

That day the few became the many. Almost the entire room of women stood to their feet, myself included.

We prayed together for one another. Voices cracking, snivels scattered throughout the crowd… we stood in our weakness and became powerful in our unity in Jesus.

Each woman that the enemy had desired to isolate and conquer, many in leadership positions that do not afford them the liberty of sharing their struggles so publicly; each of us were strengthened by the other that morning.

I left that place changed forever.

I’ll admit that a life of ministry is not easy. It’s worth it but it comes at a cost and there are many battles along the way.

In the past I have wondered,”How can I possibly overcome this trial? I feel like this will be the one to take me out. Maybe I should quit?”

As I stood among these powerful, humble women the lie that I was ever alone became clear as day. The question now is, “How could I lose?”

I can’t lose! Ladies, WE CAN’T LOSE!

Yes, there is nothing new under the sun. Yes, Jesus is with us through it all.

Those things are true and necessary, but know this to be true as well:

Every women in leadership is battling alongside you. Every trial you face, thousands of other women have stared down in faithful prayer… and many have overcome.

The simplest truth is that we have already won. Your spiritual enemy knows this. That’s why you get hit so hard.

Now go throw on some worship music and praise the God who is faithful! Praise the God who has brought you this far! Praise the God, our Father, who has trampled the enemy and is bringing you into victory for His glory!

Praise Him!

Your sister,

Monica

(Oh… I also met *and got a hug from* my sister Jackie Hill Perry so basically everything I do is super anointed now, just saying 😂🙌)

(Ps- be sure to check out these other awesome Jesus followers: Dr. Lorg, Lori McDaniel, Lauren Chandler, Denise Pass, Selma Wilson, Jennifer Rothschild, and so many more I will have to post another blog with recommendations later)

I have spent far too many nights staring into my device as if it was some magical cure for my restlessness. Every time it would disappoint.

I have tried many things over the years. Drugs, alcohol, sex, music, white noise, being close to someone, being away from someone; the list echoes the “tried that” rhetoric of a 12-step program introduction, each option more ridiculous than the last and none too effective.

Most of us just settle in our phones these days. I happen to be on mine right now at 11 pm transcribing this message to you who struggle with me.

The days are too long and never long enough. There is no resting place.

Not in this world anyhow.

I have finally found my rest in the Lord.

It has been quite the arduous journey, but Jesus has been there with me every step of the way.

He sat patiently waiting as I self medicated and attempted to exhaust myself into sleep; softly whispering that I need not struggle any longer.

Many nights I would draw near in prayer and worship and drift off peacefully, but there was always that bottle of Unisom on the nightstand “just in case.”

I clung to the worry that my anxiety would rear its ugly head and I would have no recourse. My pills never stopped the anxiety. They only hastened the exhaustion that was yet to come after a panic attack.

There Jesus sat, sorrowful at my choice to remain bound by this monster, awaiting my surrender.

Tonight He spoke more loudly to me.

Examining the bottle on my nightstand I saw that it was not my sleep aid, but my B-12 I take in the morning. I grasped a cold metal handle and tugged on it. The drawer would not open. I pulled again…

Something must be stuck.

A crystal clear declaration branded itself into my mind as I yanked at the drawer one final time;

“I WILL BE YOUR PEACE!”

My drawer slid loose and I reached inside, lifting a bottle I no longer needed as that peace swept over me. I set it gently on the dresser and chuckled to myself.

This is all I need. The presence and assurance of my Savior.

Sometimes it takes me a while to let go of things I try to put in His place, but He always leads me back. Gently, firmly… with love and peace that surpasses my understanding.

I am grateful. I pray you all sleep as well as I am about to.

Your sister,

Monica

I’m kind of heated that I even have to write about this, but I’ll do it anyway because I love you all.

Feel free to get mad and then get over it because I’m about to speak ACTUAL truth and it won’t feel good to some of you.

There is no “your truth.”

“Your truth” is only real insofar as you speak what is real to you… but that does not make it truth. Those are two different things. There is only one truth. When everyone can just have “their own truth,” that is called relativism.

Relativism is a worldly concept and opposed to the gospel.

If the body of Christ continues referring to our human perceptions as truth, we will be misleading the world and setting a horrible example.

I’m not going to touch on specifics because it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we stop just repeating crap that sounds good and start believing things that are Biblical and holy.

The body of Christ doesn’t exist to make everyone feel good and condone peoples’ (and their own) “version of truth.”

So here’s the real truth:

Every one of you reading this is a sinner.

You probably already know each of those sins in detail and have been doing them for a long time. Even us Christians. That is truth.

Part two: there’s a way out.

Jesus died so that you can be forgiven and find freedom from those patterns of sin.

Now here’s the hard truth:

You don’t get to walk around claiming the second part without knowing the first. If “your truth” discounts the fact that you are a sinner, it’s not truth at all. It is a lie from the enemy that’s been coated in pumpkin spice flavored, pop-culture lukewarmness and it is meant to destroy the witness of the church.

I pray to God we start taking this title of Christian more seriously or drop the act if we aren’t willing to go all in.

Sorry y’all but you can’t have both worlds. It’s Kingdom or bust.

With loving admonishment.

Your sister,

Monica

“This, then, is the judgement: the light has come into the world, and people have loved darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who practices wicked things hates the light and avoids it, so that his deeds may not be exposed. But anyone who lives by the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be shown to be accomplished by God.” John 3:19-21

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