Masking My Testimony

I remember the first time I watched Phantom of the Opera. I was entranced by the costumes and masks during the ball scene. It was all beautiful; each mask detailed and with intricate designs. When I became a senior in high school, I got to go to my own masquerade, a prom. Finding a mask to match my dress, posing with it during pictures, it was all a blast. But you see, masks are only pretty on one side. The intricate designs, lace, beads, and colors are only positioned on the side that everyone sees. The other side, the one you see personally is often constricting, covered in itchy fabric, and sweaty if you’ve been wearing it through any kind of activity. Masks often make it hard to breathe, finding one that fits perfectly to your face is quite the challenge.

In life we often wear masks like we attend balls every day. We hide our true selves with fear that if anyone knew, we’d be cast away, thrown out like trash. We teach ourselves to believe that everyone is perfect except for us. We teach ourselves to think that only when we have it all together, only then can we be loved. Yet, our God sees us with these masks and says: “Take them off!” He loves you as you are. As my pastor says, “God doesn’t hold you at arm’s length until you’re perfect and have it all together, He embraces you as you are and lets His love change you over time”.

I’ve hid behind these masks, comfortable in the solace they bring. Then I heard God’s voice say “Enough, daughter, quit hiding your story because I can use it for my glory”. It’s about to get real, I’m opening up something here I’ve never opened this publicly before. They say there are not little or big sins, it’s all the same to God. This is true, and I believe it. With that though, I believe to us there are big and little sins. Their size though is not dependent on how evil they are, for they all separate us from God. Their size, to me, are dependent upon how much they impact our personal lives. I am who I am, the mistakes that I’ve made are in the past and covered by His blood. I no longer claim shame; guilt can no longer reside here. In community there is healing, and if me opening up this raw place in my heart is what it takes to create a safe place for someone to say “Me too”, then that’s what I’ll do. This is the story of my biggest sin, the one that tries to still haunt me to this day. The one that tries to rear its ugly head and say I’m unworthy of love. This sin, it doesn’t define me, by it once did.

It started out as just plain curiosity. When you’re a toddler and trying to discover your body, you’re not completely sure what everything is and what it’s purpose is. So you explore, and try to understand the design you were created with. As I got older, I realized that it had become a habit, the idle curiosity had become a vice. God convicted me and I realized that what I was doing wasn’t meant for that time in my life. I knew I needed to stop, but I kept going back to it. It was a comfort, something that got me through long nights. When I was old enough, with access to technology, it intensified. It became a regular thing. I prayed about it regularly, the guilt ate at me day and night. Its control on me was stronger than I would care to admit. In my own power, I would quit. I would celebrate a day being “clean”, a month, and then I would fall, and I would fall hard.

I believed that if anyone knew, then they would throw me away like yesterday’s smelly trash. I figured everyone would be disgusted with me as I was with myself. How could they love me, knowing it, when I didn’t even love myself. I remember one church service, I went to the altar, as I had in times past. But this time it was different. I gave it all to God, and God told me that He had bridged the gap that my sin had caused between me and Him. I felt free, but I doubted that I could truly be free. Could the chains that had bound me so long truly be gone? My doubt eventually pushed away all hopes and faith that God could heal such a broken thing. I fell back into the habit again. It’s amazing how much temporary comfort a sin can bring. If it didn’t bring fun or comfort, we wouldn’t run to it like we do. That comfort didn’t last long though. The comfort was replaced with the old guilt and shame. Only this time, the load was unbearable. The guilt weighed me down until I couldn’t walk up straight. The shame condemned me until the light in my eyes was gone.

There were times I would muster up some strength, surely this is the last time, I thought. I was sick of it. I was sick of me. How could someone so weak ever be used for anything. Every night the enemy would whisper “it’s okay, it’s your life, your body, do what you want”. Then, in the morning he would whisper again “You’re filth, you’re dirty, no one can ever love you. You have to love yourself, because there’s no way anyone will ever forgive you”. When I would try to quit, he would tell me that God could never use me, my story wasn’t relatable, no one would believe it. You see, you don’t hear stories like this from girls. In the world’s eyes, this is something to celebrate. They say: “You’re exploring your body! Good for you! Know yourself! Find what makes you happy.” In the Christian worldview, we are ashamed to even mention its name. Sure, guys struggle with this, but girls, that’s gross, unthinkable.” I say enough because I feel like God says enough. Enough of this story that says I am perfect. Enough of this story that says I can’t struggle with this kind of sin. Enough of this sin binding me and chaining me down from God.

Here recently, I was freed from this sin. I’m not saying it doesn’t try to sneak in again. It does. I’ve learned to say no. I tried so many times with my own strength, and I failed every time. With God’s strength though, it’s an entirely different battle. Freedom to say no, doesn’t take away the shame and guilt, surprisingly enough, they still hang out on my doorstep. Even with the door closed, I can hear what they say to me. Then, God said enough to them loitering. I went to a church service and the lady speaking talked to use about our masks and how we need to desperately lay them down and let them go. We are not fine. We do not have it all together. We don’t know what we are doing. We can’t do life on our own. At the end of the service, they had an altar call. One of the ladies on stage shared her story, and asked if any girl had something done to them and still felt shame, still questioned, still hurt, to come to the altar, and they did. I prayed for those girls, hard; I was heartbroken for them. Then, she said: “I have one more thing I feel like I need to say, if there are any girls who have done something, anything, this covers a vast majority of things, but if you have, I want you to run, run up here.” And that thing, that sin that brought me so much guilt and shame popped up in my mind. I’ll be honest, I didn’t go at first, and when I did, I didn’t run. I walked up to the edge of the altar area, with my head down. It didn’t matter how long it had been since I had sinned, or how many times I had asked for forgiveness, the heaviness was there. I put my hands up and started to cry. Then, a friend came up and hugged me and prayed for me. I don’t know what she said, I couldn’t hear a thing, but I know what I felt. I know God took away the shame and the guilt I had been bearing for far too long. Once my body and brain had calmed down some, I heard God probe me with a question: “Are you willing to share? Are you willing to share in the place where you share everything? Are you willing to let go of this perfect identity, to create a safe place for others? Are you willing to create a place where there is no condemnation, no guilt, no shame, where someone who is struggling can say ‘me too…’? I want to use you to create a place where the enemy’s hold is no longer present because My children who are struggling no longer feel alone in their struggle.” I juggled these thoughts in my mind, for a few seconds, and then I said yes. If this is what it takes for true freedom, if this is what it takes to be open and honest, yes Lord.

My friend, I don’t know what you are struggling with. I don’t know what you’re hiding, but I can tell you from experience that letting it go, out in the open, is the best choice you will ever make. That thing you’re hiding because you’re scared, it’s not as strong as God. God loves you, He sees you, He sees the struggle. You are not alone. He is pursuing you. I’ve sinned a plethora of sins. I’ve lied, I’ve cheated, I’ve cursed, I’ve ran the other way when God gave me a calling. My brother, my sister, we all struggle and that voice telling you that you are the only one, is a liar. Let God show you His love through the community of His believers. I know you may have been hurt in the past, but the people that love God, Christ’s followers, they will embrace you as you are and love you through it.

You are loved. Your sin is not your identity. You are a child of God and He desperately wants to heal you. Let Him complete the work that He has started in you.


Pumpkin Spice and Jesus

On September 1st I made my students look at me with questioning eyes because of my excitement over it being the first day of the first month of fall. I’m pretty sure they questioned my being an adult because of how excited I got. I love fall. I love the leaves changing colors and falling to blanket the ground. I love the smells of bonfires and the cheers of football games. I love a good cup (or two) of hot apple cider. I even love the storms. The fall festivals that have too many people and too many delicious calories. The extra layers of clothes that cause one to feel comforted. The windows open on a windy day and laying on the couch with a blanket has been the source of some of the best naps I’ve ever experienced. The pumpkin pies and family gatherings. The corn mazes. I love the color pallet of fall, the deep hues, rich in color. Seriously, it’s all just wonderful.

Most of all though, I love how my life happens in fall. As a teacher, summer is my time of adventure, I get to go anywhere, do anything, try everything I want, without worrying about my students and the lessons I need to plan. But summer is not my season of rest. Don’t get me wrong, my spirit feels rejuvenated and relaxed after a good summer. However, fall is the time when everything slows down. The students get into the routine of school again; all the beginning of the year, school craziness, calms down, and I get to live in this beautiful life God has called me to. In the fall I’m surrounded by responsibilites, lesson planning, church events, and spending time with family and friends on the weekend – a very scheduled life. There is something very sacred about this time of year though. A time when everything quiets down with a hum of life around it. It is easy to feel mundane when you see yourself doing the same things over and over again, if you’re not looking for the joy. There’s joy in doing the same things over and over again because you become consistent, well-practiced in what you do. There’s joy in the quiet moments you sip on pumpkin spice lattes with a friend. There’s joy in the crowded fall festivals and letting yourself eat a goodie you usually would refrain from. There’s joy in cheering your students or children on in their favorite sport. There’s joy in the marshmallows and bonfires, sitting surrounded by people you care about.

God created us to live a life here on Earth and while we are to live with eternity in mind, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy this life. There is a tactic that the enemy sends our way. The enemy wants us to believe that we cannot enjoy this life because it will mess with our eternity. This enemy wants us to be so consumed with worry over eternity and what we can do for it that we forget the simple things.

I struggled with this for such a long time. I was not secure in my place in Christ. This insecurity caused such turmoil when I realized I had been enjoying life in things that were temporal. Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by God’s grace. God’s grace is not something that just stops. it is renewed every morning (Lamentations 3:23). My friend, if you have given your life to Christ and have accepted Him as your Savior, you’re living eternity already. You are already living a life for Jesus, using your time to worship Him through the tasks that even seem mundane.

There are seasons when God will call you to adventurous things, things that are scary and maybe even life-threatening, but fall reminds us that God also calls us to seasons of rest and enjoying this life He created. God created us to live, to show joy in our everyday lives. To live with the peace that we are saved. That peace and joy will shed light into the people around you. They will ask why you can enjoy life so easily. And God’s love is the answer. Living everyday life with the joy of Christ, with the peace of salvation, is a great testimony for the people around you to see.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Realize that Christ is your security. He has created you to love through the things you do each day. You can worship Him through your actions: having coffee with a friend, giving your best at work, loving the people around you. You are in this season for a reason, and it is a chance for you to grow.

Here’s The Truth

With everything going on around the world, I feel the need to speak life. I know we each have our personal hurts and problems we face in our day to day lives. With everything going on, I know a lot of people are hurting and feel vulnerable because their hurt is out for everyone to see. The hurt is amplified all around us. No matter what you are going through, let this life be spoken into you. These are truths.

  • Your cries are heard

I Peter 5:7

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 John 5:14-15

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

  • You are seen, your good parts, the parts that hurt, all of it.

Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Job 34:21

“For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”

Psalms 33:13-15

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

  • You are not alone

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Samuel 12:22

“For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.”

  • You are loved

John 15:9

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

Ephesians 2:4-6

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raise us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”

1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Here is the thing, my friend, you are loved, you are seen, you are heard, and you are not alone. I know life hurts. I know some nights you cry yourself to sleep. I know you fight and sometimes you cannot fight anymore. I know because I do too.

I felt the need to write all of this in mainly scriptures, because my words can encourage, but His Word can heal. His Word is what can provide peace. His Word is love. If you skipped over all of the scriptures, I ask you to read this last one. Know that you are precious in His eyes.

Psalms 139:13-16

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were not of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”


My Crazy Bathroom Solution

For as long as I can remember, I knew I was supposed to read my Bible and pray every day… I’m sure you’re wondering what the title and reading my Bible has to do with each other, but just wait; you will see the connection here in a bit.

The struggle with these disciplines – reading my Bible and praying – has been going on for just as long as I have known of them. As I have grown, I have realized that reading my Bible and praying is not to be a habit but to be a part of an on-going relationship with Jesus. I love Jesus, I really do. However, a lot of the time, I love the idea of Him, more than I truly love Him. I hate admitting that, but it’s true. I want to love Him more, but my actions remind me that my heart still has a long way to go. You can see the lack of love in my heart in the mornings I push snooze instead of waking up to pray, the times I spend on Facebook when I could be reading His Word.

The last five years or so, I have tried harder than ever to build my relationship with Jesus; waking up early to give Him my mornings, praying a little extra here and there. I remember when I started really trying how I wished to live in my own house. How much easier would it be to dedicate time to Him if I could give a room over to being a personal “Me and Jesus” room? The room’s walls could be covered in prayers, and the floor with pillows, it would be without distractions, quiet and inviting. However, living on my own just hasn’t happened yet. I spent many times using this as an excuse.

“Oh I cannot focus; I’ll do better when I live on my own.”

“I cannot lay here on my bed and do devotions without falling asleep, God understands…”

And while all of this may have some legitimacy, it does not really have a weight against how Good God is and how I really need that time with Him.

When The War Room came out, that plea for a personal room for Me and Jesus really flooded my heart again. I sat on my bed, wishing for my own place so I could have a room with no distractions. Then it hit me, like a brick, the realization that I had a room with little to no distractions. I fought the idea, wrestling with how silly it seemed. I had to choose, though. Was my relationship with God worth all the silliness that others may see? (He is always worth it. ALWAYS)

I’m sure like many of my fellow adult friends still living with their parents, I love my home, it’s home. Yet, while it is the home I grew up in, it doesn’t really feel like mine. It’s my mom and dad’s house. I don’t go rearranging the furniture whenever I want, I don’t repaint a room when I decide I don’t like the color, it’s my parents’ house. I have two designated areas of the house that are mine to do with as I please, my bedroom and my bathroom. So I sat thinking about my future house and how one day I would have room that I could really focus on my devotions in. While I do not want to ever take hearing God’s voice lightly, I think that day He was the one to put an idea in my head. It was one of those moments when an idea so simple fixes an issue and you feel almost stupid for not thinking about it before.

My bathroom… How had I not given this one a thought before? My bathroom is small, doesn’t have a lot of distractions, and I could put up prayers and I could bring a pillow to sit on the floor! No, it isn’t the room I pictured in my future house, but do I really want to wait that long to spend time truly focused on God? Do I have that time to waste?

I did it. I made my bathroom into my War Room. I taped scriptures and prayers on the wall. And I bring my pillow in there when I go to pray and read the Bible.

I’m not sharing this so that you think I have finally conquered not getting up in the mornings and not spending time on Facebook instead of reading scripture. I’m sharing this because it took me forever it seemed to find a simple solution to my distraction problem. If me writing this helps you solve an issue like that or help bring you to a closer walk with Jesus, then I’ll share it. Maybe a bathroom isn’t your answer. Maybe you need a closet, or a corner in a room. Find what works for you. You don’t need to wait for a different chapter in life to be in a closer relationship with Jesus. Really, it is worth it.

I realized after a while that anyone who went to use my bathroom could see my personal prayers I had hung on the wall, but you know what? That is okay. God, many times, has called His people to a place vulnerability. Who am I to hide my needs behind a wall of confidence and “put-togetherness”? I do not know what you need to be closer to God, everyone is different. But whatever it is that you feel God nudging you to do, to give up, to rearrange, to draw closer to Him, it can only bring you more joy. I have felt God more in my small bathroom than I ever did sitting on my bed or somewhere else in the house. It helps me focus on Him. This is my journey. Now I ask that you seek and see what God has for you.

Oh Church! Where is Your Suffering?

1 Peter 4: 12-16

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory is revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, be happy; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

Not long ago, I was sitting in a church service that made me uneasy at first. I knew that it was planned for a certain minister to be preaching. He has a great ministry from everything I have seen. However, knowing the topic of what he was to be preaching about worried me. When one comes to discuss Revelations and such with a group of people, you really don’t know what you’re going to get. A lot of people are depressed thinking about the “end of the world”. At that time, I really couldn’t take any more depressing thoughts. Aren’t we as Christians supposed to be excited for Jesus’s return?


I was worried. Yet, as he started and continued his sermon he did a great job expressing hope in Jesus’s return and how we as the Church, the Bride of Christ should approach the end time with a readiness to preach His Gospel, to be the Army of Christ. It was refreshing.

Then, he went on to reassure us that there are certain scriptures in the Bible that scholars believe point to our nation being the protection of Israel. If that is the case, he reasoned, we will not have to worry about being under the rule of the Antichrist. We will not be persecuted in this country because we are to protect the Children of God. The whole church cheered, I included. What a great thought! We will be the strong ones! We will somehow escape the Antichrist’s reach! We will not be deceived!

Lord, forgive me.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but REJOICE, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4 12-13

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I rejoiced with a church about the idea that I would not have to suffer during these end times. How pathetic is that? My brothers and sisters in Christ are being beaten, brutally mutilated, starved, deprived of the “glories” of this life, killed all over the world for Christ’s sake. And I’m over here, in this easy life I complain about, rejoicing in the fact I don’t have to suffer. No wonder God said that He would spew those lukewarm out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). I lack the Holiness of God and I still find this apathy disgusting. How can I claim to love Christ when I so willingly flee persecution? The persecution for preaching the gospel, the persecution for showing Christ’s love and grace to others.

Many would claim we are persecuted. “Oh, the church is being hit left and right in this country!” Really? Are you being beaten? Forced into slavery? Mutilated? Forced to watch your family die in front of you by the hands of the enemy?

Or are you just being told to sit down and shut up? You call that persecution? Really? That’s the cross you’re calling too heavy? You sit down just as the enemy has demanded. You have no strength to even stand up and say: “NO! I will not sit down and remain quiet! I will declare that Jesus is Lord!” You sit on the bench of life just watching as a world of people are walking by, mocking God, the One you claim to love. You sit with a burger and shake of contentment at a diner right outside of hell as the creations of God are marching straight in there and you are doing nothing!

How God’s Plan for Us can be Found in Our Childhood Dreams

Looking back to my childhood, I don’t really remember being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up a lot. At least not until upper elementary. But even when I wasn’t asked to, I was a dreamer. I had goals and plans for my life.

I spent the majority of my free time in early elementary playing F.B.I with my best friend. We would run through the fields with a bag of the “essentials” close at hand – walkie talkies, papers with the criminal’s information (scribbles), and of course snack – searching for the bad guy. We had close encounters with danger and had to hide a lot. We’d jump over logs and make narrow escapes from death. Those times were all in play, if you look at it from the adult perspective. Yet, from my perspective, I was practicing for the life I wanted to live. I wanted to fight evil and bring them to justice. I wanted to go on adventures.

As I grew older, playing F.B.I. became a thing of the past; maybe F.B.I. had become childish to me, or it could have been because we moved hours away from my best friend. Either way, I put it away as a childhood memory and moved on. As I entered middle school I had decided to become the CEO of a company, any company really. Now to be quite honest, I had no idea what that actually meant. All I knew is that being a CEO meant several things: you were in charge, you were important, and you could live comfortably. It all sounded good. I could rock a business skirt and jacket. I could tell people what to do. That was the life I wanted. I wanted to travel the world helping people do the right thing, and make money doing it. About the same time, I felt God call me to become a missionary. The burden was laid on my heart. I had no idea how being a CEO and a missionary could work. However, I knew God gave me dreams for a reason, so He must have a plan. And boy, did He ever.

The beginning of high school came and a natural disaster changed my perspective. Those of you who know me can probably remember the years I spent planning to be a doctor. I lived and breathed all things medical. I read books about the anatomy and physiology of the body. I planned out the schooling it would take. The image of being a missionary made more sense now. Missionary and doctor, man I could really change the world! I could tell people about Jesus, and help them live healthier lives. I could do what physical part needed to be done, and God could do the Spiritual. I could travel the world, and go on adventures. It was like the pieces of the puzzle of my life were slowly starting to come together. Somewhere in these dreams, I had decided I was also going to live on a ranch, out in the country, surrounded my nature and the people I loved.

Fast forward to college, my freshman year. God had said “NO”. I was frustrated and in a deep depression. However, when I followed the plan God had for me I felt a peace that passed all of my understanding. God changed my mind. In a very short amount of time, I went from being in the Pre-Med program at a private university to being a part of the Early Childhood Education program at a public university. The time at the public university was a time of huge growth for me, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. The missionary thing was still in my mind. Even though it didn’t seem as awe-inspiring to some people, teaching little children the basics of human knowledge and loving them like Jesus made sense too. I could travel the world and love on who is considered “the least of these”. I could spread the gospel and help people better their lives. It’s not what my plans had been. But it made sense.

Now, college is over. I’ve graduated. I’m sitting here on the couch, windows opened, drinking a cup of hot tea. This week has had its ups and downs; trying to teach and love 19 six year olds every day for eight hours does make one tired. I’m thankful for my day of rest. I couldn’t make it through each week without relaxing. Sometimes the papers, lesson plans, intervention paperwork, RTI planning, and trying to find ways to engage all of my kiddos has to be set aside just to breathe. I never dreamed this would be my life. I didn’t think I would get a job teaching first grade at a phenomenal school in a small town in the U.S. right out of college. I didn’t think I would spend days loving on kiddos that were not my own with every ounce of my being and then go home in the evenings to cook dinner, do laundry, and clean the house. To be quite honest, if you would have asked me any time before now in my life if I would enjoy a life like this, I would have shrugged and said “Not likely. It sounds too mundane.” I have spent up to and beyond 60 hours of working each week just to keep from drowning in this new adventure. It is everything but mundane. As I look back at my childhood dreams and ambitions, I can see where God was leading me. I can see the root of my dreams and really, it does make sense.

You see, childhood dreams are important. The Bible says in Matthew 18:3: “And he said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter in the kingdom of heaven.” When we are young, our minds our pliable. They can be taught, molded, and changed with ease, compared to doing the same when we are older. All of my childhood dreams pointed to deeper longings God had set in my heart. I wanted to be an F.B.I. agent, but really, I wanted to go on an adventure. Oh, the adventure that my life has already taken me on. No, I’m not fighting physical crimes and bringing people to justice. But I am fighting for God’s army. I’m fighting a Spiritual war every day. I wanted to be a CEO, but really, I wanted to be important. And you know what? I am important. I’m important in the eyes of my God, my Savior, my friend, Jesus. He placed that dream in me so that I would always seek Him first. I wanted to be a doctor; I wanted to help people lead healthier lives; I wanted to fix their problems as much as I could. God has called each of us to reach the dying world, the sick, the hungry. That’s what He called His church to do! I wanted to live on a ranch. But really, I wanted to be at peace. Being out in the country, to me, brings peace. I can hear God; I can see His handiwork. The clutter goes away from my mind and I can see things clearly. That’s what I really wanted. That’s what God wanted for me. I wanted to be a missionary. To preach His gospel, the Good News of His saving grace. He placed that dream in my heart so that I may passionately live out His love every day. It doesn’t mean I will travel the world and see different cultures, even though I want to. But it does mean that every day, every moment, I am surrounded by people that need His love; I see the need in their lives for my Savior, and I can be the vessel He uses to show them His love.

Your childhood dreams weren’t silly. God uses what we can understand (the physical) to show us what we cannot always understand (the spiritual). Your dreams, hopes, and desires, all point to one thing. They all direct us to our deep need for our God. The longings we have openly display the holes in our lives that He is supposed to fill. Your childhood dreams point to God’s plan for your life. His plan for each of our lives can be said in this: to Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind, body, and soul, and to love your neighbor. If you do those two things, you will go on an adventure; you will help those in need; you will be at peace; you will you know you are important, not because of who you are, but because of WHOSE you are, because of Who lives in you.



John 21 – Hiding from Love

One of my all-time favorite chapters in the Bible is John 21. I’ve always loved Simon Peter. Have you ever noticed the stark contrast between John and Peter? John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, how many times is this phrase used to describe him? And who uses this phrase? John. John knows that he is loved by Jesus. He is secure in this relationship; he has such faith. Then there is Peter… good ole Peter. Peter is fiercely passionate, and yet, with all that love for our God, He still denies Him. He failed, quite miserably. He had felt needed by Jesus; the love that he felt from God seemed to be deeply rooted in the idea that he could give something to Jesus. He was so consumed with being called of God that He forgot Who did the calling. He was always on his best behavior, trying to never let Jesus down. The feeling that Jesus couldn’t love him if He knew His dark, inner struggles, constantly nipping at his feet. Then his failure brings on that terrible realization that he never will be good enough. How hurt was Peter? Have you ever been there? Can you imagine, finally finding your calling, realizing the depth of that calling, and then coming to the understanding, that, despite that calling, the One you serve will never need you? The understanding that the One you love the most is not impressed with you can come as a low blow. Am I the only one that has ever gone through this? Don’t get me wrong, this One that Peter loved, our God, loves us, wants us, but He will never need us. He isn’t impressed with your efforts and that is not really the point of it all.

When I look at John 21, I see Peter right where I seem to find myself regularly. He had just failed, and thought there was no way he could receive the love God was so richly giving to him. He goes back to what he knows works for him. He goes back to the place where he is not noticed. Nothing he does in fishing is a big deal, and even if it was, it wouldn’t matter because he’s good at this. This was his life profession before Jesus came along. He didn’t need anyone else. He could hide from the shame and guilt. I’m sure he knew, like the rest of us, that he desperately needed Jesus. Jesus was the only One who could fix the inner struggles Peter was dealing with. Yet, Peter couldn’t bring himself to go looking for Jesus, he was too ashamed. Surely their relationship couldn’t be the same after all Peter had done.

But then Jesus shows up… (I always love this part of the story.) Jesus came looking for Peter, He knew that was exactly what he needed.

Jesus shows up and the first thing He does is prove to Peter that his life can never be the same. Even fishing, his old pastime, could no longer be done without Jesus. Peter cannot catch a thing until Jesus gives it. Then after feeding Peter’s hungry soul, Jesus and Peter went for a walk, and Jesus confronted those dark inner struggles with love. Now remember, Peter had denied Jesus three times. And now, three times, Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” Some of you may know, if you look at the Greek language, the word for love is different in the questions and responses:

John 21:15-17 KJV

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”

For the sake of understanding, I’m going to rewrite this in Ali’s version:

“So when they were done eating, Jesus asked Peter, Peter do you love me, truly love me, even more than the blessings I have given you? Peter replied Yes Lord, you know I like you, and you’re my dear friend. Jesus said feed my lambs. He asked Peter a second time, Peter do you love me, truly love me? Peter replied Yes Lord, you know I like you, and you’re my dear friend. Jesus said, Feed my sheep. He asked Peter a third time, Peter do you like me? Peter, obviously upset said, Lord you know everything, and you know I like you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep.”

I can feel Peter’s frustration here. All the hurt… and to add to the whole situation, the disciple whom Jesus loved was right there. I can just see Peter’s thoughts: Come on Lord, don’t you know what I’ve done? I obviously don’t love you. I can’t. I’m not even capable of that. I failed you. Don’t you know that?  Why me? Why now, don’t you know I’m sorry? So Sorry.Why don’t you talk to John like this? Everyone knows he loves you. I can never love you like he does. Peter cannot even bring himself to say that he loves the Lord, not in the agape sense that Jesus is asking. He knows he isn’t worthy. I mean, how hypocritical would it feel to tell someone you love them enough to sacrifice everything for them when not so long before you couldn’t even claim their friendship because of your pride, your fear?

Peter is so busy drowning in his guilt and shame that he doesn’t notice what Jesus is doing. Did you notice how Jesus meets Peter where he is? Jesus meets Peter exactly where he is, to the point of changing the words He used. When Peter can’t bring himself to go looking for help, Jesus goes looking for him.

How many times does Jesus do this for you and for me? How many times does He try to walk beside you, to draw you closer? In those times, do you get frustrated? Are you so deep in your shame and guilt that you cannot feel the love and forgiveness that He is trying to give you? Your sins are not too big for God. Don’t run away from Him.