Silencing the Lies

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The voice of rejection was loud and clear this morning.

I wasn’t good enough.

I wasn’t beautiful enough.

I was too emotional.

I wanted too much.

I didn’t want to deal with the thoughts as they volleyed around in my mind. One after the other slowly beating me down, wearying my soul. “If I just keep myself busy,” I thought, “then they’ll just go away.” This obviously isn’t the healthy answer, but I thought it’d bring momentary relief from the mental boxing match I was experiencing.

The thing about lies is that the longer you ignore them the bigger and more believable they become.

Lies, when not dealt with, patiently wait for the best (or rather worst) times to visit unannounced. Things are overwhelming at work? GREAT! Someone close to you is sick/dying/depressed? PERFECT! You’re struggling financially? ON MY WAY! And those are exactly the moments the lies sneak in– using the opportunities that every day life allows them.

The only way to deal with lies is to combat them with the Truth. It’s a simple attack plan, but not always an easy one. Just like weeds, lies need to be pulled out from the root, and sometimes we need people to help us through the process. I was reminded of this as I sat across from a friend at dinner this week. Something had happened earlier that day that brought me some shame and lies and instead of burying the burden I laid it out for her to see. In that vulnerable moment, she spoke Truth to my heart and immediately I felt the weight of it all released.

This is why community is so important: we weren’t meant to fight alone. There are people needing us to remind them of the Truth when the lies have been trying to choke it out. And I get that it’s the 21st century and we are independent and do what we want when we want, but God designed us for community for a reason.

To put it in practical terms, the Truth, or the Word of God, is our offensive weapon when the lies come. It is 100% effective 100% of the time. But we’ve got to use it. We’ve got to declare the Truth when the lies come. We’ve got to unsheathe our sword and go for the jugular. Or in Holly terms, punch the lie in the throat. Either way, silence it with the Truth of the Word of God!

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what. (Hebrews 4:12-13, MSG)

Back to this morning, and the barrage of lies coming at me. As I said, my plan was to ignore and busy myself. In between tasks I sighed out half-prayers like, “Please, God.”

And without any big theatrics, He simply responded: You are my beloved.

“But God, that person doesn’t love me!”

“You are MY beloved.”

“I’m sad and feeling rejected here.”

“YOU are my beloved.”

As I repeated the lies, He repeated the Truth. With each exchange, my heart softened a little bit more and I began to accept that I truly am His beloved. All the lies were silenced with the reminder of who He said I am.

A beloved, according to the great internets, is a much loved person. Reading that again brings such a silly smile to my face. I am much loved.  I find comfort in that and will hold it close to my heart. It’s my ammo for the next time the lies try to beat me down.

“I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and I will call her who was unloved, ‘My beloved.’” (Romans 9:25, NET)

I’m not sure what lies are beating you up today, but I do believe that the Word of God has the power to silence them. You don’t have to be a slave to them any longer, but can walk in the freedom that God’s Truth brings. Ask God to speak Truth to your heart. He’s willing and He’s more than able.

If you need someone to share some Truth with your heart, just like I needed, then I would be honored to do that for you. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Jesus Is Our Daily Bread

If you’ve grown up in the church you’ve been reciting the Lord’s Prayer ever since you memorized it in early morning Sunday School where you enjoyed Bible stories on flannel-graph boards. The Lord’s Prayer was given to us by Jesus as an example of how we should pray. We tend to take the red letters statements pretty seriously in the Bible. In a way it’s become a seemingly common prayer that can be heard in movies, found on wall hangings and even used as inspiration for works of art.

The simplicity of the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t take away from the depth or power behind it. Like I said, Jesus prayed it so it’s not some wimpy prayer meant to be recited haphazardly without a thought. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I’ve done more times than not and have spent most of my life skimming over it like it was NBD.

A few Sundays ago, I had the opportunity to lead communion at my church, which means I spent days preparing. And by preparing, I mean seizing every opportunity to pray (in the car, in the shower, in bed, etc.) because nobody wants to be the person to mess up communion. In my prayers, I’d ask God to give me some kind of encouraging word for His people. Something that would be fresh and not the usual Sunday morning pep rally speech.

And for days, Jesus said nothing.

It was a bit nerve wracking, to say the least, and I worried that maybe I’d get up there Sunday and just do the normal communion spiel. I’d heard it about a thousand times up to this point so I could wing it if I needed to but really hoped that wouldn’t be the case.

When I walked into church that Sunday, I was resigned that maybe God wasn’t going to speak to me about communion. As worship began, it became very clear that God was speaking. It wasn’t in my timing, which He has a tendency of doing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. So there, in this personal moment with me and Jesus He said, “I am your daily bread.”

There’s so much to that statement.

Jesus. That beautiful name. The name above every name. The name that will bring every person to their knees in worship. There’s power in His name. There’s no other name like it and no other name that holds such authority.

Is. This one small word reminds us that Jesus is….now….currently…presently….at this very moment our daily bread. That is comforting in the midst of your struggle or need. Jesus isn’t some past help. He is here when I need Him.

Our. As much as Jesus is here for me He’s here for you, too. He’s mine, He’s yours, He’s ours. Christianity was never meant to be lived singularly. We were made for community and it’s only fitting that communion would be done in the midst of that community. It is available for us all as a Body of believers. Jesus’ bread or rather His body, which the bread represents, was broken and used to make us whole.

Daily. Not our bread for just Sundays. Or holidays. Or when we feel like it. He’s meant to be partaken of each and every day. The fact is we need Him daily, but we so foolishly think we can pass on that daily bread. “I got this,” we try and convince ourselves. In my independence, and mostly my stupidity, I thought that it showed strength to try and do things on my own. The fact remains that I need Him. Not just daily, but moment by moment. In the highs of life and certainly in the lows.He wants us coming to Him to supply our needs for that day. In doing so, we will see and know His faithfulness because He’ll always provide.

Bread. This bread is the bread of life. No Wonder Bread here, but bread that sustains us and gives us all we need as we face our day. We can try and satisfy our needs with other things (or people, or hobbies or jobs or money), but nothing and no one can satisfy like Him. Everything else is just counterfeit.

One of the things I love about communion at my church is the way the children respond to it. There’s a lady at my church who makes fresh unleavened bread each time and the kids love it. When they come forward with their parents they grab not just one piece, but two or three. They smile as they do it and I can’t help but smile back. If only we could keep that kind of child’s heart with things– such joy and hopeful expectation.

So, today and every day may you be reminded that Jesus is your daily supply of all you need. 

Love: A Costly Gift

Love- A Costly Gift

There once was a woman who was known around town as “the sinner”. I imagine that means she was a whore. Giving herself to any man in exchange for a buck or two. There were times, I wonder, if she wanted to do something else but didn’t because she’d been doing it for too long. It could be that over time she got comfortable with her title. Wore it like a badge of honor.

Sinner.

“That’s what I’ll always be.”

But then Jesus comes along. We aren’t told how the woman knows Jesus, but it’s clear she had been greatly impacted by Him. So much so, that when she heard Jesus was at Simon the Pharisees house (also a badge worn with honor) she went to Him. She was unhindered by social cues or even common courtesies, but had an undaunted desire to give lavishly to Him.

What does a sinner have to offer Jesus anyway?

First, she offered Him her tears. Those tears held the shame from all those years and all those mistakes. Tears that she had held in for so long in order to not feel were now falling freely in order to wash His feet. As they fell, they seemed to purify her as well. The toxins of her past no longer bottled up inside. In those tears was hope and joy because that is what she found in Jesus.

Her hair she used as a towel to dry His feet. This detail alone would have enraged those in attendance. Women were not allowed to have their hair down in front of anyone but their own husbands. Somehow in that moment she was not concerned about anyone’s eyes, but only those of Jesus. Her thoughts were focused on Him alone.

And as she thought about Him she kissed His feet. Those beautiful feet which brought such good news to her weary soul. How could she not kiss them?

Then, she took her jar of precious ointment and broke it. Not one drop of the contents would be saved, but all of it poured out on Jesus’ feet. The woman had taken her most costly possession and in an act of extreme adoration gave it up in worship to Jesus.

Amazing how when beautiful things are broken they can bring a sweet smelling fragrance of adoration and love.

As the woman showered Jesus with love, Simon thought to himself, “Hmphh, but she’s a sinner. Come on Jesus, you should know that.” He kept his disgust to himself as he watched her unapologetically love Jesus. Disgusted at the woman’s indecent behavior and Jesus for allowing it.

Poor, stupid Simon got caught up in his critical and judgmental thinking. Quickly pointing at someone else’s sins while forgetting he had his own.

But at least I’m not her.

Stings a bit to hear. To hear how similar Simon can sound and to know that I’m often swept up in my own pious thinking. I mean, come on, I invited Jesus over for dinner. Give me some credit.

When He came, because He’ll always come, I treated Him like a commoner. I say it’s because we’re just “that comfortable” with one another, but somehow dishonor veiled itself as familiarity. The intimate greetings we once exchanged have become the awkward side hugs between acquaintances or the cold distance between lovers sleeping back-to-back.

What was it that caused the woman to have such a zealous love? The fact that she knew she was loved and forgiven.

This is where my heart begins to ache, because I know it’s her realization of His love for her that causes her to act. Her expression of love was not meant to earn His love, but in response to His love. All the tears and all the kisses were in gratitude for what He had already given her. When you’ve seen a love like His you want to reciprocate and she did in the only way she knew how.

God, I want a love like that…again.

Not that I’ve ever lost His unconditional, unfading love, but I’ve forgotten how generous of a gift I had been given when I had been so undeserving. I, too, had been a whore freely giving myself to lesser loves. I had been the unclean woman. The sinner.

Then, there He was and in an instant His love did for me what I could have never done for myself: forgive. I need a renewed revelation of that love. To stop trying to earn it or work for it, but to catch a glimpse of it in such a way that it brings me back to my knees in awe. And in that moment not care about the tears, or the stares, but to be consumed by it allowing myself to cover Him in kisses and pour out my most costly worship at His feet.

My prayer for you is that you would catch a glimpse of the great love He has for you and that it would cause your heart to worship.

I need help!

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I need help!

They say that’s the first step to the road to recovery. Step 1: Taken.

Step 2: Well, let’s not rush things.

I’ve been thinking about this for a few weeks now. I was talking to a friend and she was sharing her long “to-MUST-do” list with me and in typical Holly fashion I offered my services. She kindly refused them while thanking me for the offer.  She proceeded to take care of everything herself. I watched her as she ran herself ragged and all I could think was “Stubborn girl, just let me help you.”

And then Jesus said, “Exactly.”

“Oh, your gonna chime in on this one? Great! Glad you agree….”

“Sounds like someone else I know,” Jesus replied with His rich sarcasm coming through.

Acting shocked, “WHO could you possibly mean? It couldn’t be ME. I’d NEVER do that.”

But He knew it and I knew it– He nailed me. And He was right. Cause He’s Jesus. So, there’s no use telling Him He’s wrong.

I’ve been doing things my way for a long time now. It’d be easy to just blame my childhood for that. Until the age of 13, I was doing my very best to take care of myself. My biological mother was in the picture, but I figured out quickly that my needs weren’t at the top of her priority list.

I’m just not sure that excuse is going to work when I get into Heaven, though. When I’m asked why I did or didn’t do something I’m not sure throwing my mother under the bus will help me at that point. Plus, I’m 30 now and I’ve spent more time away from that toxic environment than I was in it.

I know why I don’t ask for help. I think it boils down to two main reasons:

1) If I want something done right, I’ve got to do it myself.

2) If I let you help me, it means I can’t do it myself. It means I need someone else– that I’m NOT enough. It means admitting I’m weak and needy and somehow deficient.

Ya, I may be a slight control freak. If you don’t do it the way I think it should be done I’m just going to have it fix it anyway. I’ll cut out the middleman and save everyone some time.

The second reason, however, is the issue at hand. Like a strong-willed child determined to tie my own shoes– I’LL DO IT MYSELF! Stand back, Jesus, I got this. The truth is, I do NOT have it. I’ve gotten by ok for awhile. I’ve made due, but the truth is I’m doing it on my own puny strength. In my ignorance, that has felt like enough.

Until now. I’m one straw away from an anxiety attack or mental breakdown.

I can’t do it anymore. I won’t do it anymore. There’s just TOO much. There’s TOO many things I don’t know how to fix, which I sometimes wonder if that is Jesus’ new-found tactic. If she doesn’t know what to do, she’ll admit she needs me. It’s like me and Jesus are in this perpetual thumb wrestling match and up until this point I’d been yelling foul and make Him replay me thinking somehow I’d win the next one. I’m tapping out, Jesus. DING, DING!

That’s all He’s been waiting for, really.

It’s about time I asked for help. What about you? What have you been doing in your own strength?

I’m going to leave you with Hebrews 13:5b-6. Every time you read it may you be reminded and encouraged knowing He will NOT, He will NOT, He will NOT leave you helpLESS, but He is your very present help in time of need.

for He [God]Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!] So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?

Shame: God’s Favorite Tool

Oh, it’s not?

Then, why do we keep living (and acting) like it is?

I started attending church as a little golden haired cherubim. My perfect ringlets bouncing with each step into the stone encased architecture. My little hands folded on my lap while I sat on the worn, wooden pew. My eyes clenched shut during each prayer. And I was an angel each year in the Christmas program (even though I always wanted to be Mary).

I participated in sword drills in Sunday School. Sat through every awkward dating/sex talk in youth group. Attended a small, conservative Bible College and then later on a larger, more liberal college where I studied Greek and all things Bible. I feel like I’ve seen a lot. The good and the….not so good.

I’m not here to start finger pointing at my fellow Christian family members because that’s no more Christ-like than the topic I want to discuss. My heart has been softened recently in regards to the Church and I don’t wish to speak ill of it. With all conviction of heart though, I feel like something needs to be said in regards to shame.

Negativity, name calling, shaming (call it what you will) should NEVER be used to spur people on to growth.

I get it, some people are big on “calling out sin”. I call it like I see it. You see the flaw in that kind of thinking is that God speaks things that aren’t as if they were. (Rom. 4:17) You may see a sinner, but He sees a saint. Before you get up in arms, let me reassure you, I am not ok with sin. I just think the finger pointing, “calling out” business is the wrong way to deal with it.

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Let me give you a for instance here to drive the point home on a practical level. It’s real easy to pick on girls who dress “inappropriately”. Sure, no one needs to see cavernous cleavage or butt cheek curvature, but telling those girls they look like whores isn’t going to solve the problem. The more you speak something over a person, the more they are going to act like it, think like it and believe themselves to be it. There’s a deeper issue there than her need to expose her body for attention (or even just her preferred fashion choices). There’s a girl who should be built up and called up higher in love. A girl who should be told she’s treasured and worthy of love. A girl who should be told that she’s loved whether she looks like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman or looks like Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. It’s a worth issue. Bottom line, Jesus loves her booty out and all.

It’s not like I haven’t been the biggest culprit when it comes to this, friends. Let me assure you. I’ve done my fair share of shaming. I’d just rather be a woman who calls worth out of a person instead of clothing them with shame. I want to empower the sinner (ugh, even saying that sounds so religious) with words of freedom. I want to bring a refreshing word to a thirsty soul.

One Tough Mother

Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thess. 5:14-18, The Message)

This past week, I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor to 8 of the most amazing girls I could ever meet. Other counselors may try and convince you their campers were the best, but they are wrong. I’ve heard it said before (in regards to Mission trips mostly) that you go with the intention, the hope of being a blessing, but in reality you are the one being blessed.  That’s what happened to me this week. I went thinking I’d be the one giving of encouragement and love and even though that did happen– what I got in return was nothing short of a beautiful revelation.

Did this revelation take place in a chapel service or during a time of prayer or bible study? No, it happened in the middle of a game…correction, in the midst of torture.

You see, at Camp Judah we participate in a camp wide Special Event each day in the afternoon. The directors concoct games that over 150 people (campers and counselors together) can participate in– cabin verses cabin and team against team. For those of use who are severely competitive this is a very SERIOUS event. Chants are shouted as the teams gather at the specified meeting point. The environment full of athletic energy and team pride.

One such “game” we participated in this week was lovingly dubbed the “Tough Mother”. It was a scaled down version of the Tough Mudder competition, which I now know I will never sign myself up for. Our Tough Mother was less than a mile long, but full of obstacles and stations that you and your teammates needed to complete together. Your team in this type of event is essentially only as good as your weakest member. And for my team, that member was me.

No, really. I was the weakest link.

But, the directors said counselors would be participating and who am I to back down from some good competition? So, there I was at the starting line wondering what I had signed myself up for– would I even be able to complete the race? Would I let my girls down? Where among the course would I be throwing up my turkey sub from lunch? I gave my girls a quick pep talk, giving them some last minute pieces of advice. Letting them know I might bark orders at them at some point along the way. With a final high five and “We’ve got this!” the horn sounded and we were off.

I made it across the pool, alright. I scaled the fence (scale may be too graceful of a word). More like, I flung myself over a fence. We stepped inbetween tires. Climbed up a wet, tarped hill. Pushed a tractor tire through a maze. Climbed down a steep ravine wall. Ran through a creek. Up another hill. Jumped into a canoe and paddled (with our arms) across the length of a pond. Crawled on our bellies under a tarp while being whacked with foam javelins. And in our second to last station cared a log up a hill.

It was in the middle of the hill that I had my revelation that I referenced earlier. By this point, my body and mind had been stretched in ways that it had never been before. I wasn’t just exhausted, but I found myself very literally unable to breathe. And I stopped. I was done. I couldn’t take one more step. And in that moment, my girls rallied around me in a powerful act of support. Each one telling me how proud they were of me and how we COULD finish. We WOULD finish.

I placed my arm around the log and made our way to the top of the hill. We had a carpet race to complete and then the final leg to the finish line. By this point, I still couldn’t breath, but found myself literally connected to one of my girls. She had grabbed my arms and put them around her and she kept me moving as the rest of our girls placed one carpet square in front of the other. We inched our way across the parking lot and had somehow managed to pass the other team. We ran down the last hill, hand in hand, in triumphant glory.

We had not only finished the race, but won it.

I became a pastor’s kid when I was adopted at the age of 13. Needless to say, I’ve been in church a lot. Sundays. Wednesdays. Conferences. Missions trips. Summer camps. There’s been things, people, circumstances that have hurt me and over time my heart has hardened towards the Church. I’ve always loved Jesus, but His people, not so much. I’ve seen people change churches for petty reasons. Spreading gossip and slander. Holding offenses. People taking instead of giving. The more I saw, the more my disgust grew.

And for a long time that’s how I felt. Disgusted with the Church, with His people. I’ve read and studied my Bible long enough to know this wasn’t good and that I needed a change of heart, but that’s kinda where it ended. I didn’t pray and ask God for help with that area in my life because I preferred to be secretly angry and offended. It was EASIER that way. (See my previous blog titled: Easy vs. Simple)

A few months ago, God started gently working on my heart though. I had agreed to attend a special camp meeting with my friend. The pastor shared bible story after bible story about how God would take something or someone broken or seemingly insignificant and bring about victory. It was a powerful message, but at the end he asked us to get into groups of 4 or 5 people and to pray for the Church. It was in that little prayer group where I could see God gently nudging me. Not in a “Holly, get your crap together and love these people that I’ve asked you to love”, but more of “I love these people, Holly. They’re not perfect, but I love them.”

That short time of prayer started something in me…a softening of my heart. And it was during the Tough Mother where things really came to light for me. In the midst of a VERY difficult physical situation, at the very end of myself, I found myself encouraged and carried by a group of girls who loved me. Who cared more about us finishing as a team than winning a race. They didn’t belittle me for my lack of strength or my desire to give up, but spoke life and encouragement when I needed it most.

That’s what we are called to as the Church. As the verse in 1 Thessalonians exhorts us to do: encourage stragglers, reach out to the exhausted, and pull them to their feet. My girls lived that out for me in one of the most practical, tangible ways possible. And it makes me want to do that for those in this race with me. I want to be the type of woman, the type of Christian, who comes alongside someone who is struggling and inches away from defeat and tell them, “It’s ok. You got this. We’re doing this together!”

Let’s focus on finishing this race as a team instead of pointing out each others weaknesses, shortcomings and imperfections. Let’s speak life and encouragement to one another offering an extended hand to help pull them along.

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Easy vs. Simple

Nothing about life is easy.

Relationships take work. Money doesn’t appear at my front door in the form of an over-sized check. People I love die. People I dislike prosper. Bad hair days are more prevalent than good hair days. Laundry keeps piling up. Bills too. Pounds come off slower than pounds come on.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Most things in life, especially “things” worth having, don’t come easily. Love takes sacrifice and time. Money takes long hours– sometimes at a job that makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Getting healthy means sweat and self control.

Christianity is no different. There’s nothing “easy” about it. Frequently, I’ll hear people say, “You just don’t get it, Holly. What you’re asking me to do is hard.” This usually comes in the form of a text message from a teenager in my youth group. Or from the lips of a friend sitting across the dinner table from me. Hearing those words weigh heavy on my heart because I know its not ME asking them to do or change anything. And secondly, who ever promised it would be easy? Whoever said that is a liar. And they should be shot, but I digress.

Jesus never promised easy. But when I read His words, I see simplicity in His instructions. Easy and simple are two very different things.

I’ve been thinking about the rich young ruler recently (Mark 10). We see a man who comes RUNNING up to Jesus and falls at His feet asking how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus lists off the commandments and the man reassures Him that he’s obeyed them since a young boy. Apparently, following those were “easy” to him.

And then Jesus gets real.

“Go. Sell all you have. Give it to the poor. Come. Follow Me.” (In my words…) Pretty simple instructions. Nothing complicated there. Yet, the man walked away sad and grieved. Why? Because he had lots of stuff– and must have liked the fact that he did. Give up my beach front home? My bright red sports car? My season pass to the Yankees games? My imported bear fur slippers? Come on, Jesus! What you’re asking me to do isn’t EASY?

Exactly. It’s not. We are told repeatedly in the Bible that we’d encounter difficulties, trials, and hardships. Jesus told us to count the cost– aka– “This journey ain’t gonna be easy. You up for it?” You mean, I’m not promised health for all my days? Or a million dollar making smoking hot husband? Or a car that isn’t a piece of crap? Or the strength to not hit my snooze 10 times before throwing myself out of bed each day? Nope. Instead we get handed a Cross with the simple instructions to carry it and follow Him.

It’s not going to be easy. Actually, its going to be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. At times, it will feel like your heart has been ripped from your chest. I can’t sugar coat it, but I can tell you that following Jesus has been the most fulfilling, beautiful adventure I’ve ever had the honor of joining. I’ve exhausted myself with tears, but I’ve also felt my lungs filled with an unquenchable joy. I’ve known peace in the midst of chaos and disaster. I’ve seen provision in the midst of poverty. I’ve seen hope in the midst of darkness and depravity. And I’ve encountered a Love deeper, stronger and more sweeter than anything I could have ever imagined.