Sixteen years ago I spent my nights working on a puzzle into the wee hours of the morning.

While I should have been resting for school the next day (I was only seventeen), my mind was too busy for sleep. I was carrying a baby no one knew about. No one who cared anyway.

I told him.

I told him and he didn’t believe me.

I knew something was off when I got sick leaving Woodson High school that evening.

We were supposed to be in night school. We were both there, him a legal adult trying to earn a diploma and me a recovering, lonely young girl.

I went to the True Love Waits purity conference. I recommitted myself to God. I meant it. How could this happen?

So now, each night I focused on piecing together a puzzle until my eyes were too heavy to keep open… piecing together something felt good.

My life could never be put back together.

Not with a baby on the way. I would never go to college. I would never teach like I dreamed of; like that prophetess lady told me at revival.

“I was carrying a baby no one knew about. No one who cared anyway.”

I would have a baby. Then I would struggle for years with alcohol, drugs, working in the sex industry, and ultimately fight for my life trying to leave the abusive relationship that this pregnancy commenced.

But God knew the big picture even when I was blind.

I am in college now. Only four classes from completing my diploma in theology. Will I go on to get my MDiv? Why not?

That baby I became pregnant with was a boy. Brian was born weighing in at 1 lb 8 oz and they said he wouldn’t live.

He is sixteen now. He is honest and has a strong love for the Lord. I birthed four more after him.

At this moment they lay sleeping peacefully upstairs along with my husband who basically rescued me from that horrible relationship with my ex.

And I sit here piecing together a new puzzle, recalling all Jesus has done in my life.

I hear the still small voice reassuring me that, though my desperation looks different these days, He is all I need. I hear Him tell me that it’s ok if I go alone because I am never truly alone.

I see visions of the ministries yet to be birthed through my dedication to Him. I can see it now.

I’m finally starting see the big picture.

It’s beautiful!

I hope you learn to see yours as well. Keeping our eyes fixed on the faithfulness of Jesus always helps the vision.

Till next time.

Your sister,

Monica

Advertisements

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

I’ve been here many times. It never gets easier.

The person I look to for guidance seems to have less and less of it to offer until one day I realize they can no longer lead me.

It’s a sad thing. I develop close relationships and real affection for my leaders, and they for me. But relationships change.

I’m a hard charger and it’s not in my nature to stay long with one leader, teacher, or mentor. Even when I have tried God has an uncanny way of removing them from my life.

I’ve lost people to death, relocation, and plain old outgrowth more times than I would like to mention, but I’ve learned to have peace in these times.

“Leadership is just something we do in the interim until a person can lead us back.”

I’ve come to know, not just as a bible verse, that there is only one Teacher.

He is my Heavenly Father. He will never leave me and I will never outgrow Him.

Besides, that’s not how it’s supposed to be anyhow. We are supposed to be family. Leadership is just something we do in the interim until a person can lead us back. It’s a beautiful relationship when it works, but it only works with really humble people who can withstand the pride check.

I’ve met leaders like this, the ones who could take critique from their mentees, and grow from it. They are few and far between.

I hope you all know how special you truly are who can do this.

For the rest of us, let’s remember:

In the end all we have is One Teacher and love for one another. The world will know us by that love. Let’s focus on that more than we focus on being the “leader.”

Your sister,

Monica

I feel like I’m totally acing this school year already!

I shopped Walmart online and they delivered most the school supplies right to my door with no shipping cost, I’ve effectively lowered my kid’s expectations for acquiring a new fall wardrobe, and I’ve got all my books and tuition paid.

Yup. I’m going back to school too! I can’t believe I’m only 6 classes from graduating with my Theology Diploma!!

Of course it will take me almost two more years because I have this very important mom and wife thing that come first. Then there is church. Then there is writing and social media ministry… also I have to workout and eat and sleep at some point.

People often ask how I do it all. I can never say this enough… I try to do God’s will for me. Nothing more. Nothing less. And I utilize LOTS of patience.

So I want to encourage all of you to focus on the same goal this fall. Seek the Lord and His will in every day. Your child’s schedule does not have to dictate your life. Neither does your husband’s or your church’s.

God will show you where He has made room for all these people and activities in your life as you seek Him.

Keep Him first even when life gets busy. Especially when it gets busy. You’ll be surprised at what God can accomplish through you when you stay tuned in for the next direction. Your children will be happier, healthier, and closer to Christ in witnessing how you navigate these times.

If you don’t hear from me much, I may be buried under books and papers but you are all still in my prayers.

Have a blessed school year and don’t ever get so busy that you can’t take time to be loving.

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

I sat in my husband’s office yesterday listening to him share about a church someone recommended to him. Being the vigilant theologian I am, I immediately knew what was off just by the denomination.

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I looked up the website anyhow. I was still kind of looking to prove myself right but I tried to be as non-biased as possible.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this church does not welcome women in their leadership.

” ________ churches are governed on the local level by “sessions”, a group of men that have been set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church”

My heart sped up a bit as I tried to convey to my husband that he had found yet another church that couldn’t get with Jesus’s position on the role women play in the body of believers.

His response? “Let’s try to keep an open mind”

O-kaaayy…

I moved on. At least I tried.

After about 15 minutes of trying to silently process what had just happened, he noticed my demeanor and asked our kids to step out of the room. He stared at me.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Then correcting myself I stated what I really believed:

You don’t want to talk about it.”

He already knew.

What he didn’t know was the pain it caused. That I could not wrap my brain around being “open minded” regarding such things.

“If the website said ‘churches are governed by a group of white people set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church’, we would immediately know something was wrong, not try to be ‘open-minded’,” I said angrily.

He asked why I was angry, assuming it had to do with what I want to do in ministry. I had to explain the greater implications of this type of discriminatory mindset in our churches.

The fact that I had to have this discussion with my own husband who loves and respects me (and whom I follow unashamedly), brought a harsh reminder that we need to keep talking about this.

The church is finally making moves to attain racial reconciliation and yet our homes are still afflicted with ignorance.

I am applauded for changing an alternator one day and the next I’m supposed to be open-minded about establishments (that are meant to reflect the heart of God) telling women that we are “valued and equal” in a tone like they are expecting to get a medal for being so progressive.

I don’t need you to tell me my value. My Lord told me who I am. Likewise, I look to Him to tell me what I can and cannot do in His Church.

I am deeply grieved by the number of women who have been conditioned to accept this treatment as tolerable and even ideal.

Women who have heard things like what I just read in this church’s belief statements:

“Doubtless the presence of women serving in positions of spiritual leadership can undermine the God ordained role of spiritual headship that their husbands (and other husbands) are to play.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if a women serving in a spiritual leadership role undermines your “authority” and she’s not even your wife, you’ve got some other issues that need to be worked out with the Lord.

I’m not out here trying to gain support from our brothers to speak up against this disorder. I tried that already. It was ridiculously unsuccessful. (Likely because they are unaware of how bad it really is just like my husband was.)

This article is for us women.

Let this marinate:

There is only one teacher. That is God. If you are a willing vessel He will teach through you with all authority.

One of the most interesting, yet heartbreaking things I recently learned was the history of the deacons’ white gloves in African American churches.

The purpose of the gloves was to cover their hands as they served in white churches because they were not allowed to touch white people. To this day many churches still have their deacons wear gloves and don’t know the painful history.

Women who serve proudly in churches that relegate them to “appropriate ministry roles” are devastatingly similar to the deacons who still cover their hands.

You walk around in bondage to man-made rules oblivious to the freedom that is available to you, often doing so proudly.

That’s not your fault. Nobody told you how it got this way.

It’s time to take the gloves off.

Weather man or woman, if this article got your blood pumping and you need to decry the error of what I have written… I plead with you to first fully examine your own position in the presence of God.

Come correct and we can have a necessary dialog.

Worst case scenario, we disagree and I keep speaking truth because that’s what I was made for. Regardless, I’m going to love you all anyway… because I was made for that too.

May you be broken and blessed by this today.

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