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

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that happened this weekend.

How did I end up on a runway in Trump International Hotel wearing a couture gown made by designer Andre Soriano?!

The glitz and glamour of which little girls dream about materialized in the blink of an eye and here I am looking like Jessica Rabbit mingling with people this lowly trailer park girl was never supposed to hang with.

But God!

I knew He was in the thick of it right from the beginning.

My childhood friend Katherine called me and asked to meet because she felt the Lord prompting her to reach out. We bonded like never before. Weeks later she called she with this opportunity and I ran out the door in high heels to get fitted for a dress!

When I arrived I noticed a beautiful women quietly standing to the side. She had a presence about her that was even more pleasant than her appearance.

She introduced herself as Maria Magdalena. Given my relation to this biblical figure I was surprised and pleased at her boldness. I would meet Maria once again at the networking function on Saturday.

Katherine and I arrived a bit late to the function but right on time for what the Lord had planned. We chatted and made introductions.

One woman spontaneously began to pray for me and it set my course for the rest of the weekend.

I prayed for her as well.

“It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.”

Nearby, Katherine was discussing her massage therapy business and demonstrated a hand massage for one woman. This women, poised and elegant, began to pour out her heart about a recent loss she had experienced.

I watched Katherine’s face change as she grasped for the appropriate response but alas there was none. I leaned in and hugged the woman.

She shared more about her grief and I asked if I could pray for her. “Yes, please!”

Before we could begin Maria Magdalena approached and said, “are you praying without me?”

“We are going to pray and lay hands on this women, would you like to join us?” I responded.

There in the middle of the cocktail party the three of us encompassed this women and prayed aloud, each as the Lord prompted.

It was magnificent! True splendor!

Following that event I was able to pray for yet another women. Morgan Murtaugh will be the youngest woman elected to Congress and I intend to pray this young lady all the way through. I say “will” because I believe in her and what she stands for. When I asked her how I can pray for her she said, “guidance.”

Right before the fashion show Morgan sought me out and asked me to pray for her once more. This girl is a gem, y’all! I am so honored to be a part of her journey!

So that is what the fashion show turned into for me. Same thing as always…

Ministry, but with makeup and hair!

The dressing up part was so much fun! I got to live out the Cinderella story for a day, but it’s like I tell my daughter Evelyn who is obsessed with princesses…

The thing that made Cinderella so beautiful was her heart.

It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.

Sure, I looked amazing because I was wearing couture and had my hair and makeup styled. But I felt amazing because my heart was overflowing.

I am amazing because of the Holy Spirit and I got to remind people of that each time they complimented me!

The following day I was back to sweeping up crumbs and dirty dishes. I get to serve the little disciples we are raising instead of high powered fashion designers and congressmen and women.

But I left a glass slipper…

Only it is the example of servitude instead of a shoe, and it only fits on those who can squeeze their ego into it.

May your ego be small today and your service remarkable!

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

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

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

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