Read all about it!

Yes, I know I’m being totally “extra” right now, but it’s also totally warranted!

All in ONE MONTH…

I have been invited to speak (plans changed but you still NEED to check out this conference),

launched our home church,

got an AMAZING coach & new friend to walk with me during this church plant,

shared on the Third Millennial Church podcast about my passion for people and social media,

finished an e-book (I’ll post the link as soon as it published)… and SO much more incredible stuff I can’t even share yet!

So, I’m super sorry I have been out of touch on the blog. Definitely thinking of you all and praying for you every day!

I’ll be back to posting soon about what God is doing in this next season of my life.

For now, check out this timely word on your social media use.

See you on the flip side 😉

Your sister,

Monica Gary

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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 don’t understand. I made an appointment for 8:45am to have my oil changed. It’s now 9:10 and I’m just being helped…

When I pulled up to the service bay it was full on both sides, so I reversed to a location where I could see which opened first. Some guy pulled in front of the bay on the left.

I sat sour and waiting impatiently as I watched him pull in. Another car went in behind him, then another.

“I was disrupting myself, aghast with the proposition that I might be no more important than the next human.”

I felt tension building in my right shoulder as I lamented the loss of time. I already had to wait longer because my husband was called into work so now I have to shuttle home.

“Maybe I’m stuck so I can worship in my car,” I thought. I hadn’t really gotten time to before leaving the house. I turned on my Bethel Pandora station. I began so sing along to “So Will I” and then chuckled to myself as I realized my ignorance.

Poor me. I must wait an extra 20 minutes for a free oil change and sit in an air conditioned car free to relax in the presence of God.

The tears formed in my eyes. They were opened once more…

The man who went ahead. All those ahead of me, all those behind me; we are all the same. I am no better. It wasn’t the inconvenience that disrupted me. I was disrupting myself, aghast with the proposition that I might be no more important than the next human.

By the time I got to the check-in the Lord had renewed my joy. The young man helping me was grateful. He let out a relieved laugh as I told him the story.

Within 1/2 hour I have been ignorant, anxious, amused at myself, broken for others and finally restored to peaceful.

I’m so glad it’s over but I pray I don’t soon forget how common I am, and how uncommon God’s love is for me, for all of us.

Remember that today.

Your sister,

Monica

I have been SOOOOO busy!

That word even feels exhausting to say, sometimes doesn’t it? We try to lessen the blow by renaming it: hustle, grind, etc. whatever street-savvy buzz word fits the bill to make us feel better about spending less time with our families in order to advance our career or even our callings.

Fortunately, I have been busy with all the right things!

Not the kind of busy that has that negative connotation; the kind we mention silently as we pass the friend at church we have been promising to get coffee with for the last 6 months (I’ve done that too and it feels awful).

No, I have been Biblically busy.

Didn’t know that was a thing? It is.

I looked it up with the fancy search option in my Bible Gateway app and found out that there is only one place “busy” is mentioned in a positive context. (at least in the HCSB version)

Anyhow, it is a great analogy for the busyness I have been caught up in. The scripture is all about preparations for Passover and offering up burnt offerings.

Except for me the only thing burning off is that excessive sinful nature marbled through my heart.

What a sweet scent that must be to my Father!

There are days I have fallen short, WAY short, but let me tell you… I am finally hitting the stride of righteousness I have longed for!

It hasn’t been this consistent since I first realized Jesus was ACTUALLY God (go figure) and I am going to share with you the secret to how YOU can have it too, even starting today!

Ready?! Here are the 6 steps to a more righteous life!

1) Wake up (a given like writing your name on the SAT)

2) Worship (kinda weird if you’re not used to it or you are vocally challenged, but it’s what you’ve been freed for! Ps- if you can’t think of a reason to worship refer to step one)

3) Pray (same concept as worship but without musical notes and you get to ask for cool stuff to happen)

4) Read the Word (if you don’t have a Bible here’s some info on how you can get one for FREE)

5) Live it (I know, the struggle is real, but so is the Spirit!)

6) Ask forgiveness promptly when you sin (don’t worry about rejection because, spoiler alert… He already forgave you!)

That’s it!

That’s what I’ve been up to! I made it sound kind of easy, but the truth is this IS the only way.

Christ is the only way.

Wanna please Him? Me too! All we have to do is get busy following!

This is how we follow. Wake up and give God the first part of your day. Let Him have a crack at transforming your heart and filling your mind with His word before you subject it to social media or rush hour chaos. (hint: you navigate these things much better when you put Him first)

Oh, and one more thing… take naps! From what I understand Jesus took LOTS of naps.

Happy napping and righteous living, family!

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

When I was a child I lived in Fairfax county in Virginia where there were so many different cultures I never had the opportunity to see myself, or anyone else, as different.

We were all different and that gave us a sameness.

As I aged, I began having experiences with people who did not think like me and had no problem being vocal about it.

Visiting family in West Virginia one year, I experienced my first drive-in theater. It was wonderful. However, my enjoyment came to a screeching halt when I heard a young white boy use the N-word. I told him, very directly, not to say that around me. He conceded. The young black man he was speaking about could not have said what I said, how I said it, and gotten the same result.

I suppose this is what white privilege looks like.

In my young adulthood I attended a party… partied way too hard… and became pregnant by a young black man I had just met. I was barely 19 and already had one son. The young man who impregnated me was in school and leaving shortly thereafter. Abortion seemed like the perfect solution to an already frightening situation.

My friend who hosted the party drove me to an abortion clinic.

Later I discovered that she had logged into my AOL messenger (for those of you who know what that is) and had been propositioning men for sex, pretending to be me.

One of the messages this “friend” sent out invited one man to “do anything” he desired to me because “I could just have an abortion. I got pregnant before and I killed the baby because it was black .” This is what racism looks like.

I was heartbroken over my decision already. She twisted the knife. I quickly realized that

1) this young lady was not my friend

and

2) she was closet racist

I had never seen evidence in all the years I had known her. Our mothers were friends for some time and I had never known her mother to speak that way either.

Racism is often quite hidden. But only for those who are not people of color.

Whether we want to address it or not, this issue still causes division within the church.

A fellow minister and friend of mine is a pastor in a local county nearby. He just recently informed me of the “sister churches” that became divided into seperate churches, one black one white, during the Civil War and have never reunited. His church is one of many that has been touched by the depravity of racism.

“The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.”

He and I discussed ideas for bringing reconciliation between the churches. My friend has a long road ahead of him if he chooses to embark upon this task. But all of us are responsible to address this within the church and outside of the church walls, in our communities.

I grew up in a home that had many issues I identified with stereotypes of black communities in America. Most of my friends were black as a result, though I lived among many cultures. I assumed they all had broken homes, parents with addiction, and borderline or actual poverty.

Unbeknownst to me, I had used my limited exposure to part of the black community (my friends who did have these issues) to define an entire race of people.

In high school I joined the Awareness of Black Culture club. I quickly realized that my perspective had been more informed by society’s view of black Americans than by their culture and who they really are.

I lived among, went to church with, partied with, and went to school with the black community and STILL I was misinformed about their culture, issues, and as a result their value.

No let me be very direct in saying that I did not value them less than myself or anyone else. I had simply failed to recognize the contributions that they have made and continue to make to this country and also the world at large.

The one thing that I was blessed not to miss out on was the black community’s contribution to the church.

It was in a very small, historical predominantly black Baptist church where I first experienced the Holy Spirit. I witnessed and participated in worship that was truly free. I saw grown women dancing as freely as this child out of pure joy in the Lord. I heard honest testimonies of broken people that had been redeemed by the Lord.

There has always been a transparency in the black community, weather in the world or in the church, which I have greatly admired. I took it upon myself to be just like this. Always real. Sometimes real to a fault, but honest nevertheless.

I want to call you all into action on this as well.

Let us not leave the dialogue about race in yesterday just because today is not a holiday that draws attention to the power and value of the black community.

I want each of you to take an honest inventory of your own heart in relation to how you perceive people of color.

I want you to write it down.

I want you to pray over it.

You can tear it up when you’re done, or burn it… Just do it for goodness sake!

Write it all out and turn it over to the Lord so that we can truly begin moving beyond hate, stereotype, and the racist expression of these things.

The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.

If somebody like me who is so engaged in the black community could STILL have misunderstandings,then surely all of you can take a few minutes to evaluate your own thoughts on the matter.

Won’t you?

I thank you for joining me in this effort and I pray that God reveals to you places that need to be healed and forgiven if and where they exist.

It is imperative that our brothers and sisters of color know that they are not alone in this fight and that we are willing to wage war, even on our own flesh, to better unite with them. We are to bear one another’s burdens and when we refuse to, in the light of truth, we are in sin for not doing so.

I love you all and pray you have a blessed day that is full of revelation, hope, and restoration.

Your sister,

Monica

I used to hate worship music.

This may come as a surprise to people who know me as I am today. I lead worship. My life is worship. I couldn’t see going a day without connecting to my God through this lavish response of gratitude we call “worship.”

But before I found the Lord, before I actually formed a relationship with him instead of trying to connect only through religious ritual…

I thought worship music made me sick, when it was really bringing out my pre-existing sickness.

I would squirm in my seat as I rode in the car with my older sister who loved to play Christian music… like ALL. THE. TIME. As soon as it came on the radio, I was uncomfortable. There was this foreign, sappy aura that would fill the vehicle and I couldn’t wait to get out! I never thought about asking her to change the station. Then I would be forced to have a conversation about why I didn’t want to listen to it.

I didn’t really have a good reason other than the fact that it made me queasy.

I was just avoiding the conversation because I knew I had no footing for my “logic.” I didn’t know what was going on spiritually and why I felt that way. So, as I look back on the transformation that has happened in my life and my relationship with Jesus which caused this transformation… I want to share with you some things I have learned about worship and it’s role in this fundamental change I have experienced.

1) Worship is supposed to be uncomfortable.

When I was not walking with the Lord, worship music made me uncomfortable. It was the Spirit within that music, calling out to the broken places in me that I so fervently tried to bury, that made me unsettled. In the presence of true worship the brokenness with in us is undeniable and we will never be settled so long as that brokenness exists… which it will to some extant until the death of our flesh.

When I surrendered to the Lord I developed a heart for worship. Still, it made me uncomfortable.

Now I walk willingly into those places that need healing. It is still unsettling. The difference is that I have partnered with the Holy Spirit who resides inside me and choose to trust The Lord to heal the things my flesh would rather ignore out of pride. The most powerful moments of worship have occurred when I pushed past this discomfort into full surrender to my God and His will for me. I speculate that the day I no longer praise alongside distress is the day that I have stopped worshiping altogether.

Such a God forsaken day would signal that I have forgot how to bring my brokenness to the Lord while still praising Him.

2) Worship is warfare.

I didn’t know it at the time, but just sitting in my sister’s car put me close enough to this battlefield to create in me a discord. I didn’t know what it was. I just wanted “it” to go away because “it” made my stomach flip. The memory brings to mind events of September 11th. When the planes went down, when people lost their lives, there were many of us including myself who were not close enough to see the bloodshed or hear the impact. Nevertheless, the battle was severely disruptive to our peace of mind. We were on the front lines emotionally and psychologically, without ever having stepped physical foot into the battlefield. This is the exact same thing that happened, in a spiritual sense, when I encountered praise music.

There was a battle raging right in front of me and my soul did not know how to interpret it.

The battle is still raging. Today I engage. Not only am I on the front lines emotionally, but my worship is Spirit filled. The Spirit God has given me through his son Jesus, my Savior, comforts and defends me as I walk out His will. This eternal Spirit is winning a spiritual war, one battle at a time, as I lift my hands in surrender. The Holy Spirit fights for me as I am still in His presence, surrendered to His working amid my discomfort. To be filled with the Holy Spirit during a time of praise may be the most incredible thing we can experience on this earth.I am no longer an uncomfortable, passive bystander. I am a soldier following every order of my King as we advance the kingdom.

The last and perhaps most important spiritual truth of the worship is this:

3) Worship is our purpose for being.

I recall a time as a new believer when I tried to convey this truth to someone who was seeking the Lord. Perhaps I simplified it too much… but it did not register for him. In hindsight, it even sounded to me as though I painted God as self-serving in creating us only to worship Him. This “loving” Father created human beings to serve only him? Of course that sounds selfish! My teaching was incomplete.

I failed, at that time, to comprehend and thus convey the eternal blessings and significance of serving God and glorifying Him only.

Fast-forward about six years.

Today, though I do not worship for the acquisition of blessing, I have never seen it so abundantly than when it has come to pass through the channels of surrendered worship.

If we are vessels through which the Lord works in this world, our worship of Him is the thing that clears the obstructions which may behindering the manifestation of His will in the earth.

When we surrender to Christ in us and say “I am yours. Use me as a vessel for your will; a boat to rescue men drowning in sin and uncertainty”, we become an effective warship in our worship.

So I encourage you today to do what might be uncomfortable. Try worshiping despite, and in the presence of, that disheveled feeling. Don’t back down from serving your God in the face of spiritual war. I promise you, and I know because it is His promise, that He will never leave you or forsake you. Be bold in surrender.

Be a warship that plunges into battle with the confidence that God is on your side. He is. So am I. So is your community of faith and the entire body of Christ.

We are NOT alone and we WILL see victory. May God keep you and embolden you in this day and those to come.

Your sister,

Monica