The story of Easter brings many messages and applications when you dive deep into the actual events of the days leading up to Christianity’s main event. One such message hit me last night on Good Friday. I was watching the Good Friday live stream of Mosaic from the comfort of my living room and a line jumped out at me: “Jesus was still the victor while He was suffering”.
In our society to suffer is often times looked at as a punishment or as an attribute to the life of one ill equipped or in other words… a loser. If you are winning at life then you are happy, have everything you want and are in optimal health, right? Those of us that have been around a bit know that suffering is a natural part of life. At some point, we are going to go through a season that we don’t want to be in whether it is a job where we are belittled everyday, a family member that tries to constantly sabotage our efforts or a health condition that changes our daily living habits. Maybe you’re the only single person in your circle or maybe you just can’t find a circle and you feel lost and alone.
I, for one, am dealing with aloneness and worth issues stemming from a set of current circumstances in my life. Are these circumstances permanent? Most likely the answer is no, but being able to navigate the unfun seasons without letting it rip you of your worth can be difficult. This is just one of the life applications we can glean from Easter.
Jesus also had a horrible set of circumstances He had to walk through while He was still the Victor. He was betrayed by a close friend and handed over to Roman soldiers who stripped Him of His clothes, repeatedly beat Him, hurled insults at Him and taunted Him as the King of the Jews. These Roman soldiers could easily be present day bullies who live to demean, insult and ridicule others. These soldiers even went as far as to crown Jesus with thorns and nail Him to a cross for His unbelievably slow and painful death with a sign adorned to His cross stating He was the King of the Jews. The mockery continued until He breathed His last breath. And it wasn’t just the soldiers who ridiculed Him the entire time it took Him to die… The onlookers and another criminal hanging beside Him joined in spitting, taunting and laughing at Him until He breathed His last breath.
But what did Jesus do during this time of extreme hate and ridicule? He simply uttered the words “Forgive them for they know not what they do”. Jesus knew that He was the victor despite His circumstances. He knew His worth was not tied to what was happening that day. He knew that He was just walking through a moment and that another moment was coming – a moment that would change everything. His ridiculers might have had fun for a while, but a day would come when His ridiculers would see Him in a new light.
The same is true for each of us. We may have to walk through some unpleasant seasons in our lives where someone treats us harshly, doesn’t appreciate our talent or good nature or is just hell bent on ruining our day, but we can still be the victor in these moments. Our self-worth is not determined by who other people think we are; our self worth is determined by who God thinks we are …co-heirs to His throne to be exact.
A couple of excerpts from “So Will I” by Hillsong say it perfectly:
“And as You speak, A hundred billion failures disappear, Where You lost Your life so I could find it here, If You left the grave behind You so will I…...
I can see Your heart, Eight billion different ways, Every precious one, A child You died to save…”
That’s who you and I are. Really. That’s who everyone is, really. A precious one, a child Jesus died to save…
Carrying this knowledge deep in your soul is what allows you to walk through the grey seasons without loosing your worth. It does not mean you walk through muddy waters thinking you are better than everyone else or deserve better and mount up resentments. What it does mean is that you simply go through the muddy waters with the knowledge that you are fiercely loved and cared for and you continue to learn and grow and do your best, trusting God to carry you through the rough parts and asking for guidance along the way.
As I sit here staring out the window on a warm and dreary day in Northeast Florida, listening to the sound of rain falling onto the trees and grass, I really can’t believe it’s almost December! Time sure does fly whether you’re having fun or not. Seriously.
While my time in Jacksonville hasn’t been the most exciting of times, it sure has been a necessary time of personal healing. When I came here, I was confused about everything and that confusion spilled over into my confidence both personally and professionally. It is really amazing when you can look back and see God’s hand leading you through the past year and I can definitely see Him in mine.
I had an opportunity to get on with the major media player in town, but due to my mental and emotional state it would have been a disaster and I can see God’s hand in leading me away from that job in a miscommunication of interview times. Even though the job I did land barely allows me to make ends meet, I have yet again enjoyed favor in the company and have been able to chart my own course in hours, lunches, time off and the lateral move into a better fitting department. Looking back, I can say that I needed a lower key job while I was going through a time of personal healing so that I could make my way back to the confident, intelligent, go-getter that I am.
So much has happened on the spiritual side that I don’t even know where to begin. God has been speaking into my heart through some of the pastors here in town as well as my home tribe in LA. Don’t you love it when the devil comes at you with brute force and God leads you to a church service where the pastor affirms your stance, gives you confidence and breathes new life into you? That happened to me this past year. I had a Stephen Minister who is part of a local Celebrate Recovery call me stupid for surrendering a certain area of my life to Jesus and actually abiding by His word in this area. He did more than just call me stupid, he was actually trying to coerce me to see things his way so he would have an open door, which I shut and dead bolted immediately. To say this caught me off guard is an understatement. At the time I was going through Redeemed Esteem at Celebration Church, which is a book and corresponding program for those who have past abuse in their lives. I was already in extreme emotional upheaval due to the class, but the devil likes to strike when he thinks we are weak. The trick is – if we are surrendered to Christ and actively putting Him first in our lives – we’re actually stronger than ever regardless of what we might look like to others. I let this man steal my joy for about a month. I had an opportunity to lead big group one night and I couldn’t do it because he was there. I hadn’t fully digested what had happened, how it affected me, why it affected me that way and fully given it to God so I just wasn’t ready. While I do disagree with the fact that he is a Stephen Minister – limited Stephen Minister I should say – I can be in the same room with him now and I pray for his spiritual maturity because he needs it. I kind of drifted, what I meant to say is that the very next day – I went to hear Russ Austin over at Southpoint Community Church and he spoke an entire sermon on the issue with which I had just been challenged. My friend looked at me and said, “ That was for you!”
The last minute, last seat in the Redeemed Esteem class at Celebration was also intended for me. It might even be one of the main reasons I came to Jacksonville. A lot of healing took place in that class. Strongholds that I have had for years vanished in that class. I have shared previously that I have never been able to see myself correctly in that I tend to see someone much heavier in the mirror. I literally freaked out one day because my wrist looked so small. Truth is I think I was seeing as it really is for the first time that day. I like what I see when I look in the mirror these days too. I have a new confidence that I didn’t have before participating in that class and I am grateful for it. I told the leader / author, Patricia Newton, that I am interested in facilitator training so that might be something on the horizon in the new year as she is working to get the corresponding study guide published and on the market. The book is available online and in select stores for those interested.
I have also been challenged to start tithing. I have to admit that I have never been a tither. Namely because I tend to be on the poor end of the prosperity spectrum, but in a recent sermon by a guest pastor at Celebration I felt God hit me over the head. I knew it was my time. I know that when you put God first, God blesses that area of your life and the one area I have yet to give Him is my finances, which by the way, are at a level of devastation that I didn’t even experience in LA! And so I tithed for the first time a week ago. It hurt. I cried. I’m a gluten-free, diabetic who needs to eat. I have a car that is literally on its last leg. I have too much debt to mention. My identity was stolen earlier this year creating more debt that I am fighting. My job is not sufficient, but I knew that when I took it – it was suppose to be a get my wits back and move on sort of position. I didn’t think I’d be there this long and so with all of this going on – I have started tithing! I mean with all of that facing me it seems like a no-brainer – I need to put God first in my finances and I am doing just that despite the fact that I have no idea how I am going to make it through each month. From now on I do the following with each check I receive: pay God, pay myself, and manage the rest. Period. End Point. Ditto.
Celebrate Recovery has been another major healing factor in my life and I also believe this to be one of the reasons I came to Jacksonville. I was just too busy in LA to get involved in CR, but once I moved to Jacksonville, I had all the time in the world. Celebrate Recovery has been the other major component in helping me get my groove back so to speak. After attending the same CR for a while, I was able to move onto the leadership team and start being the women’s small group facilitator. I also help out in big group on occasion and was able to give a mini-mony at this CR’s Anniversary party. After giving my mini-mony, I was approached by a couple other CR’s in town to give my full testimony at their meetings. A few months later I received a surprise email asking me to give my testimony at the Mandarin area meeting and I said yes even though I hadn’t bothered to flesh out a 20 minute testimony and would only have a few days to get it written in order to submit it for review. I am so glad I said yes! I was able to flesh out a close to 20 minute testimony and really enjoyed being able to share my story of transformation with others. That first night is special to me and the crew over at Mandarin UMC were so welcoming. An interesting thing happened that night that I want to share: During the pre-service prayer, where leaders pray for the band, host and speaker, I felt the room grow warm to the point we were all flush. A wave of calm swept over me that was so powerful that I had to ask the angels present to take a few steps back because I felt like I had swallowed a chill pill or muscle relaxant and needed this calming energy to fade just a little bit or my testimony would be rather interesting! The amazing thing is that the energy dissipated just enough for me to be fully there, but also be fully calmed. My nerves left and did not return. I was fully comfortable up in front of everyone and was able to maintain a good speaking flow and a lot of eye contact with the audience. It truly is amazing when the angels come close! Another cool thing about that night is that there were about ten female newcomers all my age in the audience. I, of course, did not know until afterwards when the group walked over to CR 101 and I over heard them saying they were all first timers. God is so Good. I truly hope that my story of transformation helped them to open up to the transforming love of Jesus Christ and to keep coming back to CR of course! I am also excited to do it all again over at the Chets Creek CR in the new year because if there is one thing I love talking about – it is Jesus and what all He continues to do for me.
Hillsong came to Jacksonville for their Hillsong NIghts tour and it was incredible. I tried to explain to my friend that the energy of that night is what it is like to go to Mosaic every Sunday. She couldn’t quite believe me, but its true. I miss the energy of Mosaic and it was nice to have that energy back at Hillsong Nights. The next day I went to Celebration to hear Brian Houston speak on what would become a talk for the dreamers of the world. At the end, my friend, yet again, turned to me and said, “That was for you!”. Little did she know that during that sermon God breathed a new project into my life.
I have only been in Jacksonville a year, but a lot has happened. God definitely had a reason for ripping me out of Los Angeles and bringing me to a moment of stillness so that He could take me up a level so to speak. I am hoping to refresh my website over the month of December revealing a new look and vibe for the January 1st 2016 post. I am also going to be expanding into the vlog/video world in the new year. This is the project that God breathed into me over Hillsong weekend. I have finished the brainstorming phase and am moving into the content creation phase which will be followed by deciding on a home for the content and of course, production. I do not yet have a launch date as I don’t yet know if this content will be on my site, on YouTube or somewhere else so stay tuned as info becomes available. Lastly, God has laid it on my heart to work on a memoir in the same vein of my CR testimony only on a much larger scale. I probably won’t start on that until the video content is off the ground, but you never know because God’s time table and our time tables are not always the same.
I guess it is sufficient to say that I am grateful for 2015 and excited to see where God takes me in 2016. My motto is always Stay Gypsy… Stay in His Wind.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of You!
P.S. my friend Ruth is currently trying to fund a well through Generostiy.
Her project page is give.generosity.org/ruthwarner
Feel free to read up on all the amazing work of Generosity Water, donate to my friend’s Well, spread the word, buy some goods or start your own Well Project! If you’re not the charity type, 2016 is a great time to start on a new path.
I am a Rom-Com geek if there ever was one. When I say Rom-Com, I am referring to the film genre of Romantic Comedy. In fact, if a movie is not a romantic comedy, then I most likely have not seen it. What can I say? I just love romantic comedies.
If you are not familiar with this genre, I can enlighten you on the main plot points. (Note: men can be leads in this genre, but to simplify things I am using the common female lead) We usually meet the lead character in a low point in her life. She is usually single or in a bad relationship and she is usually battling some sort of career dilemma. She almost always has some character flaws that need to be tweaked as well. More often than not, the lead character will go through a small metamorphosis brought about by an external situation, whether it be a new job, a break-up, the marriage of a friend, the death of someone close, etc. This small change usually brings about a determination to focus on what can be controlled in life, like a career or a long-standing passion that has been ignored. Once the lead character is on this new journey, we see her begin to change on a deeper level as she struggles to make her dream a reality. Sometimes the main character struggles so much, that she wants to give up, but she usually preservers thinking that this undertaking is all that she has left in life.
I pause here because God recently made it very clear to me that this is where I am. I feel lost. I do not see anything changing on the career front or the personal front. And so I have done the one thing I can do, and that is put my writing back on the front burner. I mean, if God keeps telling me that my job is to write and that He will handle everything else; then I should write, right?
I cannot lie and say it has been all roses because it has been anything other than roses. I have not been able to open a door much less a window and I cannot give an answer as to why this is the case. I am trying to count my blessings, but I am facing the grim fact that I might be spending a very hot summer in a condo without air conditioning. I have been tossing around the idea of getting my own place, but after crunching numbers, I have come to realize that I can actually afford to be in the exact neighborhood I want to be in provided that I wait one year and pay off all of my debt. Insert sad face here.
I can say that I do have a decent day job with a laid-back company that has the high-class problem of growing by leaps and bounds. This company also allows for flexibility as long as I am getting my job done and that is a major plus too. I know there are many more pluses in my life, but this whole not being fulfilled at work and wanting my own place and needing to make more friends and not being in a relationship and turning 34 in a couple of weeks and watching my chance to have my own family fade away and missing the family that claim me as their own and wanting a reason to be 2800 miles away other than the fact that I like it better than the South… all of it has really had me beat down this past month. There were days I did not even get out of bed. I was just in a deep depression. Nothing in my life makes sense and on top of that, I have felt that I am in an answerless season. A season where I just have to trust that everything I am doing right now is going to lead me somewhere good.
During a recent bawling session, my Creator finally spoke. His words were few, but they were powerful. My Creator, the ultimate screenwriter, simply wanted to remind me that I have not arrived at the twist. No, I am not talking about Chubby Checkers. I am talking about the twist in plot that comes in every Romantic Comedy on the market. You see just after loosing hope for the upteenth time and somehow finding a way to continue in some form an existence, the lead character encounters a twist of fate. This twist of fate usually happens after the lead character has cleaned up some of her character flaws and started chasing whatever dream is in her heart. This twist of fate can come in the form of a person, an opportunity or both. The main thing you need to know about this twist of fate, this chance meeting, this divine appointment… is that it changes everything and instantly connects all of the dots.
God was revealing my place in the movie that is my life. He was letting me know that once I arrive at the twist, everything will make sense. And I have to say that judging by my own decisions (the decision to get clean and sober, the decision to come back to God, the decision to make my writing a priority, the decision to be more aware of my attitude and make a moment by moment effort to be a light to those around me) all of these personal transformations point to one thing – the twist is on the horizon. I know where I am in the script of my own romantic comedy and I have a peace and a joy that I cannot even explain. Might I dare say, that I am HAPPY.
So the question I leave you with is where are you in your life script? Wherever you believe you are, please do not forget that while you cannot control everything that happens, you can control the overall theme, tone and message of the script that is your life.
I am not going to lie. Life can get really hard at times. Life can be really unfair. Life can beat you up, tear you down and leave you wondering why God even bothers to keep you alive. I recently found myself asking this exact same question. If I look back on my life, there have been several “death scenes” where I could have easily made an exit. I survived heart surgery at one year of age and countless surgeries afterwards. I have survived a tornado or two that killed neighbors living a couple streets away. I have walked away from a car accident that should have at least maimed me if not killed me; actually I’ve walked away from two of those. I have successfully stayed on top of Melanoma for going on seven years at this point and don’t even ask me about those seriously drunk nights when I apparently drove home without being able to actually sit up in my car. There’s also that potassium deficiency that dominated the last couple of years of my life thanks to my idiotic consumption of a bottle of vodka a day.
With a track record like this, it is easy to wonder why I am still alive and breathing. Granted, there is still time for me to make something of my life, but that does not negate the fact that I have been kept alive and it must have been for a reason. When I made this inquiry to God, I only received one sentence and it is this: you are the answer to someone else’s prayer.
As I chewed on this fact, I asked God to help me create a list of all the people currently in my life for whom I could have been an answer to prayer. The list was enlightening to say the least. What’s even more awesome is that the list is not complete. There are people I have yet to meet that I am already a scheduled answer to their prayer. I guess that’s what we all are whether we realize it or not. Every single person on this planet is an answer to someone else’s prayer. The question then becomes are we acting like it?
Earlier this month I asked God to help me grasp His love for me. You see, some pretty awesome people that are on some serious Jesus juice surround me and I want to be on it too. They have this passion and peace and joy that is contagious only I can’t seem to catch it. I do know that they all seem to be able to grasp how much God loves them and that is one thing I just cannot seem to accomplish. I will believe it for a few days or on a good week, but then life slaps me in the face again or I make a mistake or something doesn’t go my way and I for some reason assume that God doesn’t approve of me which translates to Him not loving me.
It’s strange that I have always been able to trust God when it comes to keeping me cancer free. (Back-story: I had a melanoma while my father was fighting his losing battle with melanoma. Mine was in the skin which is stage 1; his was everywhere which is stage 4) I recall begging God to just keep it in the skin so I never have to go through what my father went through and I’ve never really worried about it since. I’ve had several moles removed over the past six years with most of them being pre-cancerous. In fact I had another mole removed this month and it was while I was alone in the room waiting for the extraction that a terrifying thought occurred to me. I have a part to play in my having this type of cancer. You see, I’ve always thought the reason it was so easy to trust God with something like cancer was because I had no part in it. It was His deal and therefore He was responsible. The truth is that simply is not the case. While a genetic predisposition to Melanoma does play a huge factor in whether one is susceptible to this disease, so do one’s actions. As a young lady in the south, I did more than my fair share of idiotic sunbathing. Hell, I’d never even use sun block… No, I sir… I had to have the tanning oil that seeped the sunrays into my skin. I was also a heavy tanning bed user and considering that my melanoma was on my foot, I’m pretty sure that what I use to refer to as my “bright, warm coffin” almost actually was just that for me. I mean I even returned to the tanning bed after my father lost his battle with melanoma and after I had a melanoma. I mean my actions were beyond stupid, but God has honored my request nonetheless. I can see His hand in the timing of some of my doctor appointments, in the doctor’s I was lead to who ended up being awesome, proactive caretakers including my brand new California caretaker.
It hit me in that exam room, that God has been keeping me alive and keeping this persistent melanoma from going past my skin for six years. I also thought about my many car accidents, all of which, I am extremely lucky to have walked away from much less walked away unharmed. Those accidents were 100% my doing, God had nothing to do with those and yet He kept me alive through all of them. Then I remembered how I almost died when I was a year old due to a heart valve that wouldn’t close. I just stopped breathing and if my neighbor had not been home to rush me to the hospital, I would have died. I recalled how I endured several high-risk surgeries and practically spent the first few years of my life in a hospital in Nashville. My mother says it got to the point, that if I saw anyone who resembled a doctor or a nurse, I would just start screaming. They were trying to help me, but the only thing I knew was that when they came, it hurt.
Believe it or not, the list actually continues. Some items on the list are all my doing and some are half mine and half God’s and only one is just God’s. The fact is that regardless of whether I was at fault, God still had His hand on me, He was still carrying me through and He has had more than several chances to get rid of me, but He has chosen to keep me around. He must think I am worth something. He must have a plan for me. He must love me.
So I asked Him to help me slowly chew on this as it was going to be a long digestion. God is showing me a lot of love right now through the people He has placed in my life. People that love me right where I am and are patient with me as I continue to learn to navigate this world sober and I can truly say I have never experienced anything like it before. I can actually see His hand in everything that is happening in my life. Why I landed where I landed in LA, the people I have come to know, the jobs and internships I have held, the purpose of my current responsibilities… the dots are starting to connect.
Six months ago today, I surrendered the one thing I thought was my everything. On that day, I thought God was being mean and punishing me and wanting to take away the one thing that always got me through, but it turns out He was intervening on my behalf because He knew that if I stayed on that road, I wouldn’t be alive to write this post. When it comes down to it, we can be some dumb, defiant, stubborn, and greedy people and if we are honest with ourselves, we find that God works in spite of us much more than He works with us. However, He continuously chooses to intervene on our behalf… and if that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
Once a tissue box, now a prayer box.
They say that Jesus loves you. What about me? - Jewel
Oh, the T-word… I spoke about it last month, but it is has been a serious struggle for me this month. Yes, the word I am referring to is TRUST. I have to say that I have been in and out of church my entire life, but I don’t think I ever grasped the real, everyday concept of trusting God. I guess in a way, I have always had other people to rely on in the event I got myself in any sort of physical or financial strain, whereas, now I do not. While it is important to trust God for a roof over my head rather than a park bench, which is a reality that is extremely too close for comfort at this moment in time, my main concern is my seemingly inability to trust that God really does love me.
A Christian man at one of the meetings I attend always asks me why I’m having such a problem because as a Christian the twelve steps should come easy to me. This made me think about the things I easily trust God with versus the things I have a hard time handing over to Him and leaving in His care. What I found is the things I have absolutely nothing to do with are easy to hand over, but the things that I play a part in are the things I keep taking back. As it turns out, I have a serious trust problem. I mean the Bible doesn’t say our works makes us righteous; it says our TRUST makes us righteous. Never mind the fact that my inability to trust states that I have more control than my Creator and Sustainer. I mean come on! Yes, the choices I make and the actions I take do have consequences, but if I am honestly doing the best that I can and seeking God’s will daily, does God not honor that effort and add His touch to the situation? Did I not write about this last month?
I guess I should add that I am having a problem seeing myself as a person of worth and value which is why I am having a hard time grasping the reality of God’s love for me. All of my self-sabotaging ways are a result of this deep inner feeling that somehow, some way I’m just not good enough, but God has an entirely different view. God created me to be a blessing and not a curse. He created me for a specific purpose and has a specific plan for the contributions I will make to this world. I’ve been trying to force myself into agreement with God’s view of myself and getting absolutely nowhere except for Discouragementville. Then I heard God whisper that I am trying to make a leap where I need not make one. All I need to do is be willing to accept that what He says about me is true. If I am willing to accept that what He says about me is true then I can be willing to act like what He says about me is true and as I act like what He says about me is true I will eventually become His truth. I will become all that He says I am. I just have to be willing to accept His truth, which allows me to act on His truth, which will at some point down the road make me His truth. AWESOME.
I’ve started praying the following prayer each morning: Lord, help me to trust You. To believe that you really do love me and to know that what You send me is good. Because sometimes the best presents arrive in the ugliest wrapping paper.