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

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

There is little more humbling than to acquire a platform and then have nothing to say.

This is the great fear of everyone who has ever spoken in public, with the exception of narcissists who think they always have something important to say.

I have never had this problem.

I have the opposite dilemma. Though I am not fooled into believing everything I say has meaning and importance, I DO find myself talking too much.

It’s really hard for me to control my mouth.

I LOVE to talk! Matter fact, I’m talking right now! I don’t even write these blogs half the time, I just speak them using the voice feature on my phone or some other device!

But there are times when I really do need to just shut up.

On two occasions now I have decided to fast from unnecessary speech. The tongue is the most difficult thing to control, but I cannot relent. I know in my heart that I would benefit from shutting my mouth. Of course this is far more difficult to implement than to say. Usually, about two days in, I start complaining again.

I hate being a complainer!

I grew up in an environment where complaining was considered “expression” right along with curse-words. In a house of four daughters and one often exhausted single-mother, whoever spoke the loudest (or screamed rather) was the one who was heard.

Being loud was a survival mechanism.

It has taken me 33 years of my life to come to the realization that this is not only unhealthy, but that I am behaving in a rather infantile manner when I shout and complain. There are plenty of other maladaptive, manipulative behaviors we humans exhibit, these are just the ones I struggle with.

Anyhow, revelation of this maladaptive behavior I still carry has not aided me any in correcting it.

I still yell. Occasionally I hit something.

I try to make that something a half rack of weights rather than a door or wall (it’s not people anymore these days, thank God), but my lifestyle does not afford me that flexibility every time I need it.

So… After hearing for years from my husband that I am:

1) a little crazy and

2) I need to be quiet (yes we are still married)

I have now heard the same thingfrom my mentor. The good news is I finally got a mentor! The bad news is, he basically just told me that I’m crazy and I need to shut up more!

Now I have to go back to my husband and tell him that I have heard the exact words he has been telling me for years and yet now they finally struck a chord (facepalm).

*in my defense, it is always easier to take correction from someone who is not I am not emotionally tied to… which is why everyone should have a mentor.

Nevertheless, here I stand. Responsible for my own actions.

After all of my frustration and rumination over the past and how I grew up in my home, on the streets, and in the clubs all that matters is self control.

I don’t get a pass because I got dealt a crappy hand.

There is no magical prayer that is going to cause God to get me to shut my mouth from complaining or ranting on my children. (I tried that and it worked but only for a little while.)

The hard cold reality is that I need to stop it. I need to exercise self-control.

I have a choice to make every single time that maladaptive, frightened, angry, toddler Monica decides to show her ugly face. I have a choice to look that person I used to be squarely in the eye and tell her that she doesn’t live here anymore.

And the only way to get my point across clearly is by saying nothing.

I’m going to let that little tyrant stomp her feet and scream until her face turns blue and not open my mouth or share a word of what she is thinking.

I will wait for the chaos in my mind to dissipate.

When that childish, has-been, shadow of me passes out like a toddler on the floor with no more energy left, I’m going to sing and dance around my house with the victory of Christ!

I will have come one step closer to shaping my home into the home it was always meant to be and I have always wanted it to be. I will truly be able to say with each passing day “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

I will lead the way!

I will embrace the influence I have in my home as a woman of God. Just because something is bubbling up inside of me, doesn’t mean I have to speak it into this world! It may not be the right time, context, or in the right spirit.

Discernment is my best friend, but my ride or die is Silence. She’s got my back when nobody else does… even myself.

For all of you fellow crazies out there I just wanted to let you know I love you with all my heart with the love of Christ and you are (still) not alone.

Don’t ever change for anyone but the Lord. All else is vanity.

He knows your heart because He gave it to you and it is His own. You, we, will overcome. Till next time.

Your sister,

Monica

All of us have struggled with insecurity and people pleasing at some point in our lives.

We are afraid, somewhere deep down, that we will be intentionally left out, neglected, or worse… that no one will even see us.

For some of us, these things actually happen.

In our early formative years we are exposed to abuse and lies in such high doses that our fears are reinforced. We lack God-fearing parental figures that should be speaking life to our fear and telling us the truth: that God does see and love us and that He will never leave or forsake us.

We begin to form our lives around these lies, decision after decision. We spend years trying to fit in and measure up, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out who we really are. There has been so much compromise, however, that we rarely know where to begin.

People pleasing always leads to compromise of integrity and muddied self image.

You cannot go through life attempting to make people around you happy while simultaneously ensuring your identity and character do not suffer.

This should be a problem isolated to those who have not been found in Christ. Still, so many Christians struggle with the opinions of others and allow their desire for approval to dictate the way they behave. They allow this desire for approval to inform who they are.

The biggest issue with this behavior is that it is directly opposed to the gospel.

People pleasing stems from who we think we are, not what we do. It is a behavioral consequence to a misinformed identity.

Every human is a “being” before they are “doing”.

That is why Jesus so often discussed the state of the heart as the real issue. Who you ARE determines what you DO.

This subsequent, sinful behavior (yes, people pleasing is a sin) is a symptom of our separation from God. Paul goes so far as to say that he would not be a servant of Christ if he were going about people pleasing. This is a thing that pagans do, not children of God.

However, it is not the sin itself that is so deadly but our separation from the Lord, which is breeding ground for sin in action.

People pleasing and desire for approval of man is no different. Many people have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and wonder why they remain at a distance from God in this area of their life…

May I propose that distance from God cannot be compartmentalized? You are either distant from Him, or you are not.

The difference between a nonbeliever who is distant from God and a Christian who is distant from God, is that the Holy Spirit is received within the believer…

Distance from the Lord as a believer is actually not possible.

The perception of that disconnectedness is based, always, on sentiment and the decision to believe a lie about who you really are.

When we neglect to continually “receive” the Holy Spirit (just admit it, we all have times we’d rather kick Him out), this creates a type of “distance” whereby insecurity creeps in and boldly declares:

“You are not enough. Prove it!”

Placating and seeking approval of other sinful humans occurs solely because we forget that we have already been justified.

To counter this, we must remember who we are in Him. Namely who He is and what He has done for us, and then allow that holy identity to dictate our actions.

The anecdote for bouts of people pleasing (and the compromised integrity that comes along with this evil perspective that man’s opinion matters any, if at all) is to be reminded that we are loved and justified by the Lord.

Not only that we are loved in the comforting sense but that we are loved in the sense that He disciplines us.

Scripture says the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. We do not limit ourselves to receiving only feel-good experiences, but we are open to receiving His correction knowing that He has paid the price and made us acceptable.We will never be rejected!

This is an indispensable facet of the issue because our whole purpose for people pleasing is the desire to avoid negative feedback; desire to avails rejection.

In the Lord, discipline is administered from a loving God who refuses to leave us the way we are, andWILL NEVER REJECT US!

Once we know we are loved in this way, forgiven in this way… man’s opinion remains just that; an opinion.

It does not become fact.

It does not become something that we need to strive every day to live up to so that we can be accepted by the world. A world, mind you, that still rejects our Lord.

We can rest in Him and find strength in the fact that Jesus endured the same struggle. Jesus said the student is not above his teacher, and God loves us just as he loves Jesus!

Jesus speaks this love when He prays in chapter 17 of John:

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.

I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.

I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.

John 17:20-26

We can be confident of these things because of Jesus’s prayer:

1) We are enough. We are complete in Him and community with one another as a reflection of Him.

2) We are loved and known beyond what we can possibly imagine. We are loved by the Father just as He has loved Jesus!

3) All glory we have is from God and rightly belongs to Him. Keeping any for ourselves is a symptom that we are believing a lie: that we have separated our “glory” from His.

So, next time you are tempted to please someone (including yourself since that is ultimately what “people pleasing” is), remember Jesus’s prayer.

Remember these truths.

When you are rejected, it is not you the world is rejecting but Christ in you.

When you are accepted, be a vessel that flows both ways bringing the glory of heaven to earth and the earthly praise back to the Father.

May you walk in truth today, knowing you are complete, loved, and accepted by the God who has brought you out of bondage to yourself and others.

My prayer for you is that you never again return to that barren place.

Your sister,

Monica

Over the last couple of weeks it has come to my attention that there are certain things, certain patterns, in my life that I do not possess the power to break.

Of course I am aware that without the Lord I am unable to do many things. But what I’m talking about here is habitual, patterns of sin and my frustration in not being able to overcome them.

These patterns of sin have a way of wearing us down. We battle them in our own power for so long, trying to move the mountain of self will run riot, and then give up. We decide to just “live with it”.

When I came to Christ I walked away from many things that I knew were not glorifying to Him and who I wanted to be in Him.

Other things, these habits, were not so easy to leave behind.

In fact I discussed one of these things in my last blog post. It happens to be something that many of us struggle with. Especially the moms out there.

As usual God was right on time with an answer.

No sooner had I published the blog post, than I received a solution. Sitting in my Theology and Practice of Ministry class, I listened carefully to the wise words of my teacher (a woman with twenty plus years of ministry under her belt, the type of woman we need more of in the church).

Her words, though convicting, fell like a soft embrace around my open wounds of doubt. “I know the Lord is capable, but I am incapable. Why can I not change my behavior?” I bemoaned.

“They are patterns. You must pray “God, cause me ________.”

As wonderful as this sounded and comforting as it was (because any option was better than nothing and I had exhausted them all), my hope was seasoned with reservation.

Thank the Lord only a mustard-seed-sized faith is enough!

Since that day (exactly six days ago) I have begun every morning with that prayer.

“Father, cause me. Cause me to be more kind with my words and tone toward my children. Cause me to walk in Your Will and not my own.”

Make me do it!

Order my steps in Your Word!

There was a time I hurled similar words at my earthy parents, but they were meant to be challenging rather than submissive.

I now bring that same zeal, that same stubbornness, to the Lord in my request.

I have always been rough around the edges. Unrefined, raw, and wild. I thought for a long time that God wanted me to calm down. To be pleasant, sweet and light like some of my Christian sisters. Not so. As I wrote recently in a private worship moment:

“I was wild and running from You

Never wanting to be tamed

Come to find all You desire

Is that I’m wild for Your name”

It was quite a relief to realize that I was not in sin because of who I am; I am not fundamentally flawed in some way. God has made me exactly as I am supposed to be and redeems me from sin I impose upon His perfect creation.

I was simply misusing my zeal!

He made me to be passionate, wild, and even aggressive at times. This is a reflection of Him and His kingdom!

Does this look tame to you? Because it’s the image God chose to use to describe Himself and His people are in His image…

The problem is that I kept taking the ‘easy’ way out (in hindsight it was SO not easier!) But, it was less work upfrontto throw my will and weight around than to go toe-to-toe with an Almighty God and beg Him to “make me do it” His way.

Now, I ask. And He answers!

Each day becomes easier as I press into His will and choose surrender. His yoke is truly light in contrast to the weight I was lugging around!

And the best part? I get to be me! Thereal me who is found in Him! I don’t have to sacrifice my zeal, I just have to re-purpose it. To rightly purpose it in a way that honors His will instead of my own.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because He loves me and He made me!

He alone knows the plans for my life and He has designed me specifically for each task.

You are no different.

I pray that this simple prayer is a blessing to those of you who still struggle like I have. I’m sure I will continue, as is our life in this flesh, but I pray all of us find increasing freedom with each new day.

Be who you truly are in Him. Submit that self to His will daily, beg for His intervention, and watch the miracles form from the inside out.

This, my friends, is how we change the world! One person at a time; starting with the self (which only God can change).

Until next time, may you be encouraged and conscious of the God who is always lovingly conscious of you.

Your sister,

Monica

The first time I tried to write this article I found myself beginning by listing all of the things that are so difficult in my life right now.

I was making excuses.

Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind (my sinful, fleshy mind) I would still rather not take full responsibility for what I am going to share with you. Something tells me I’m not the only one.

The story goes like this:

I was busy yesterday and trying to get away for some sanity time at the end of the evening. Finally, I put myself together and was on my way out the door. My oldest son was helping take the puppies out so I wouldn’t come home to yet another mess.

He is helpful like that. Brian is always stepping up to help whether he has asked or not. I would like to take credit for this, but I believe it is more in spite of my parenting than because of my parenting.

Some people are endowed by God with a servant heart.

Brian is one of those people. I was one of those people as a child… and then the world broke me.

In fact, I can recall the exact moment when I decided I would stop serving other people; the moment I threw deuces to the rest of the world and decided to just “do me.”

One afternoon, as I visited with a friend, someone asked me for something. I think it was to get an apple for them from the kitchen or something like that. Something simple. Immediately I jumped up and went to go get it.

Why not?

As I walked into the kitchen I heard a voice behind me say, “good dog,” followed by a room full of hushed laughter.

No, this is not some story about how I was bullied by my friends.

It was one of my own family members sitting in the living room that said this to me. One of my sisters who had been encouraged by our parents in her taunting because it was “funny” and she was “just having fun”. Nevertheless, the part of me that cared started to harden that day.

With each subsequent request or need for help that I refused, my heart hardened even more.

This went on for years.

Now, as Christ is healing me from this, I realize I still have a long way to go. I had become like that critical mean voice in my head. Sometimes daily, I battle with it so that I don’t spill it onto my own children.

Each time, I have to turn it over the the Lord because I have proven no match against my own flesh.

So yesterday, as I ran to the car to get my much-needed “me” time (because it’s mine and not the Lord’s right?), I fussed at my son for not helping properly in the way I would have done it.

While he was helping, I fussed at him.

I caught myself and stopped. Then I hurried into my car, dropping my phone on the driveway in the process.

As I drove away I lamented my broken phone. The Lord put on my heart to consider where I am placing value.

“You would become so upset, so angry over a broken, lifeless piece of technology… And yet you fracture your son, your own son, and move on with no regard for what you have done?”

Ouch.

I hate that I still have this struggle against my flesh. I have known this struggle for sometime. I know why I do it. I know that Ido it less. I just can’t change it as fast as I would like… and that’s not good enough for me.

Such is the frustrating process of sanctification.

Sure, there are professing Christians that make few, if any, changes to their lifestyle. Personally, I could never live that way.

I have been forgiven so much that I consider even the smallest sin to be a terrible offense to my Father. I know He forgives me. It is because He forgives me that I want so much to please Him.

I know He was pleased when I returned to my son (I called him as soon as I realized what I had done) and asked for his forgiveness. I explained what the Lord had revealed to me about my behavior and that it was not my son’s fault that I had a bad attitude.

This process is always painful.

So the point of this particular post is simply tell you (for those of you who are enduring this as well), you are not alone.

We all struggle…

We all sin…

Those of us who are passionate about serving our loving God in a way that honors the Spirit He has gifted us are brokenhearted when we fall short. If we were not, we might do well to question why we have chosen the label “Christian.”

So, if this is you… if you find yourself in shoes like mine, rest assured you are in good company. There are many who toe the same line each day, learning to surrender old habits as we are being made new.

We are in this together my friends. Let us then, share our struggles openly and encourage one another. Please be in prayer for my continued sanctification as I will be also for you and yours.

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Your sister,

Monica