The Way You Dress Reveals What You Really Believe About Beauty

Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion…. (Pr 11:22).

When I was younger I would dress immodestly for attention. You see, there was something broken inside of me that needed mending. In my teenage mind, the only way to fix that problem was to get more people to affirm me in the ways I felt incomplete.

Beauty has a way of doing that. As the enemy twists and distorts our minds he can actually get us to believe that beauty is more about my body than it is about my heart. He twisted that story in my heart for YEARS. It wasn’t until about 7-8 years ago that I finally started to understand what beauty was all about.

Here’s the thing though, what I am finding is that the enemy takes new places in my mind to twist and distort. He goes after my job and ministry performance. He speaks words of deception into me about my role as a mother and wife. He loves to use the same tactics he did when I was a teenager to get me to believe things that just aren’t true. Therefore, creating a sense of insecurity in me where I go looking for things that really hold no value and only lead me down paths of bondage.

Truth is, I have never met a woman who isn’t beautiful, but I have met many who believe they are not. This believe simply turns into insecurity where now she must prove she is attractive and beautiful and so I see grown woman acting like I was as a 16 year old girl who was just looking for someone to affirm her as lovely and beautiful.

I’m not saying I’ve got this whole thing figured out. I still have my moments of insecurity and fear when it comes to my appearance, but they are few and far between now instead of commonplace like they used to be. I believe once we start to appreciate God more, than it’s not that we find ourselves more attractive and therefore feel better about ourselves. It’s that we find Him to be more satisfying and so we start thinking less about ourselves. The mirror isn’t our greatest concern. We’d rather spend more time looking at other people than at ourselves.

So today I’m resting in the fact that the most beautiful parts of me are unseen. It’s my heart and the time, energy and attention I give to loving others. Yes, that is the most beautiful gift I can give the world and that is something I long to grow within me.

Father, thank you that you have made me beautiful and that you are making me even more lovely as I grow in my love for you and for others. Use my life to draw others to your Son, Jesus, I pray, Amen.

This One Encounter Could Have Ruined My Life Had I Chose Differently….

27 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death….(Proverbs 7:27)

A few years ago, when I was working at Chik-fil-a during a time in my marriage when things were difficult a man showed up in the restaurant who seemed to have a bit of a fancy for me. He just kept coming back. I’ll be honest, he was a very attractive man and something about our quick encounters made me think that maybe he wasn’t just showing up for that spicy chicken sandwich.

My mind and heart became bombarded with deadly thoughts about this man. Not sexual, but little thoughts about him that I knew would eventually lead me to turn my heart away from my husband. I knew I had to do something quickly to protect the integrity of my covenant faithfulness to my husband.

Because you see, the enemy loves to throw us off course when things are rocky at home. It’s his bait and beloved, we cannot take it.

Finally, I said this to man while passing his table,”__________, I think you have a problem. You come here all the time!”

He shot back, “I came here to see you.”

A bit shocked and taken off guard; I knew what I said next had the potential to change my life.

For the next five minutes I talked about my husband as much as possible. I knew I had to. Covenant faithfulness was on the line. We made small talk about a few other things after that, but I never saw him again after that night. For that, I am grateful.

Ladies, please, don’t follow the bait. I know he’s cute and he pays attention to you. Maybe things are difficult at home and you’re starting to question whether or not you made the right choice in marrying your husband. Stop entertaining those thoughts, please I beg of you- repent. Covenant faithfulness is on the line. Beauty never comes from abandoning faithfulness, but blessing follows those who stand firm even when it doesn’t always feel good.

That’s what I had to do. You see, I really wasn’t standing firm just for my husband. I was standing firm for the future of our family, the generations to come and ultimately for God. I’m not trying to make myself look good here, I’m simply saying that we must, with all diligence guard our lives against unfaithfulness on all levels. To miss this important, key discipline, simply destroys not just marriages, but friendships, and other meaningful relationships.

Friends, if we want to see revival, we must choose to live lives that are faithful, even when it’s difficult. To the married man or woman who chose to stay faithful and their spouse did not, I am deeply sorry for what you have had to go through. God can bring beauty from those ashes. Just don’t let the pain of that experience become how you define that person, or any future relationships. Truly, He is a God of redemption and so friends, today, don’t take the bait. Choose to believe good, Godly things about the relationships God has entrusted to you. It’s not really about you. It’s about something so much bigger. Because had I chosen MY happiness during that season, I probably would have taken the bait, but my happiness didn’t matter. Instead, my decision to choose to be faithful brought great blessing in my life and I pray it will do the same for you.

Father, forgive us. Too many times we have been unfaithful. Lord, please restore what the locusts have eaten. Please heal families. Please restore years of brokenness. We come to you in humility, asking for your help, today, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Defensive Switch

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it…. (Pr 4:23).

Years ago, when I was coaching an 8th grade girls basketball team we were facing an opponent who had one player that we just couldn’t stop. It was obvious she was their best player and that they could not win without her.

Going into the fourth quarter it was an extremely close game. Knowing that this girl had the opportunity to run away with the game on us I made a quick defensive change. We pulled out one of the oldest tricks in the books; the box and one. Which simply means that one defensive player is going man to man and everyone else is in zone. I put my best defensive player on their best player and it sent their whole team into confusion. The coach and players weren’t sure if we were playing zone or man to man. This simple shift in the defense threw the whole team off and we ended up running away with the game after making that simple defensive switch.

The enemy loves to make defensive switches on us too. Throwing us into confusion and trying to get us off course. Since we’re not sure exactly what he’s throwing at us, instead of focusing on the weapons of warfare God has given us, we give in and succumb to his deception.

I don’t want to live a deceived life. I want to live a freed one. Had this coach taking the time to really pay attention to what was going on and educate himself on different types of defenses he would have most likely known what was going on. Friends, the enemy has studied you too. That’s why it’s so important that we prepare ourselves for the tasks ahead by first being very aware of our motivations and the things that drive us. We must be willing to ask ourselves hard questions about the Lord’s purposes and will for our lives. Just like this coach, we must prepare ourselves better. Without preparation we will fall. I’ve seen it happen in my own life.

I can guarantee that coach went home and figured out what happened and why after that game. I’m certain he was ready if someone ever threw out a defense like that again. But how many times, when life has been difficult for me and thrown me a curve ball have I become defeated and discouraged instead of driven to be prepared better the next time?

Sometimes God has to allow for the same journey to repeat itself in our life because we haven’t yet gotten to the point of surrender. We’ve yet to get into the training room of His grace and prepared ourselves and our hearts for what lies ahead. Instead, we’ve given into our discouragement and anger, maybe even anger towards God.

Friend, know that the enemy would love to throw a box and one on you and get you off course. Don’t get mad at God that it happened and you weren’t prepared for it. Rejoice that He’s always growing us up in Him. Life didn’t stop because you messed up. Don’t live in that place of shame. Keep moving forward with humility and a willingness to admit your wrongs and learn from them. That my friends, is when the grace of God meets us with new power for the journey ahead, in Jesus name.

Lord Jesus, I just want to say thank you. I want to listen well to your voice and hear your songs of victory. I want to prepare myself well for the journey ahead. I want to live a fully surrendered life to you, in Jesus name, Amen.

After You Leave This Earth

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing…..(Psalm 146:4)

Yesterday while having a conversation with a beautiful teen who I mentor we started discussing the brevity of life. It really is true, as they say, that you can’t take things with you. However, there are some things we can leave behind that will continue to grow and flourish after our departure.

Sadly, one of the things we can leave behind is bitterness. Another is shame. While still pride and fear, insecurity, and doubt can all be left behind after our departure as well. You see, problems don’t just fix themselves; they grow. Even after we leave. Unless we’re willing to do the hard work of healing and pulling up the roots, everything I’ve named will only grow all the more, in the hearts of those closest to us even after we leave this earth.

Thankfully, there are other things we can leave behind that will grow a beautiful Kingdom, a glorious city in the ones whom we invested in during our lifetimes. Things like love, peace, joy, faithfulness, hope and steadfastness. Yes, all those things will continue on after us and flourish if we spend time pouring into the people whom God gave us to love.

Something God has been showing me recently in my life is that we were not necessarily made to build things; we were made to grow things instead. To plant little seeds, water them, and care deeply for them. Yes friend, that is Kingdom work. We may think God wants us to construct this great, extravagant building and grow really big programs, but I believe our time would be better spent by planting seeds, investing in the harvest and growing people up in the wisdom and knowledge of God.

Does that mean we’ll need a bigger building someday? Maybe, but what we should be preparing for is not a bigger building, but a bigger investment of our time, love and devotion to people.

As my grandfather left this earth only a few short days ago I know there were many good things he left behind. You can say the same of your loved ones who have passed. What if we all took those good things and started pouring them back into others, not so that life becomes about ourselves, but it becomes about a garden full of people who we planted God’s love and mercy into for the sake of those coming after us. That they might eat of its fruit and be refreshed in its love.

Yes Lord, I want to plant a beautiful garden. I want to pour into people and be faithful. I want to love the sheep and care for them well. Yes Lord, make me like you, each and every day, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Hidden Idol

Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them…. (Ps 135:18).

While reading this Scripture this morning in the Psalms I simply asked the Lord, what idol do I trust in? I was surprised to hear the word, “fear.” I didn’t think fear was an idol. I always thought it was things like exercise, food, money, etc. But fear? Fear isn’t something I can see in the physical realm, but all those things I struggle with have fear attached to them.

The Israelites had big issues with fear as well. It kept them from pursuing the Lord wholeheartedly. It also made them do foolish things, just as it has done for me.

Fear is the whisper behind the words of the enemy. It’s the constant voice trying to steer us off course and make us believe that if we don’t _____________ then surely, something bad will happen.

Fear twists my heart and my thoughts into a place of perceived control. Once the enemy can start to twist your thoughts he can begin to control your decisions. Now, instead of trusting in the name of God, you’re bending your need to his voice. Truth be told, I would wager to say that those of us who trust in fear aren’t even aware of it. For me, it takes a real digging into my Spirit to see just what’s really going on inside of me.

But you see dear friend, fear doesn’t take us anywhere, it holds us. In fact, it bounds us up. Locking us up behind all those twisted little whispers sent from the enemy. If life feels safer to you in that prison, pay attention, you are not living in freedom. I understand because I’ve been there too. The only way for you and me to be free is to start with repentance and then receive the grace of God for our lives. Yes, fear cannot stand at the hands of a loving God who counts our steps and marks our ways. It is true that He will give us a renewed and revived vision as we place every fear before Him as He joins us with greater faith.

Lord Jesus, I don’t want to live in fear. I want my thoughts to be pleasing to you. I want them to bring you glory. Let it be so, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

How to Find and Experience Contentment

But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. (Ps 131:2).

I love seeing my daughter happy and content with what I’ve provided for her as her mother. She is so sweet to me and whenever she has a bright face filled with joy and peace I too get taken into her moment as we share in God’s peace and joy together.

She doesn’t always accept what I give her though. Sometimes, she wants more and sometimes she needs it, but there are other times that she doesn’t. She can’t see what I can see and so me not allowing her to play with something that will harm her, to her, feels like punishment. But she doesn’t know that within my hands are what she needs and that I would never let her go hungry. I will always make sure she has what she needs.

Contentment is a funny thing though, isn’t it? At least for me, finding contentment has not been about finding the right job, getting enough money in my bank account or moving to the right location. Contentment has really been about a state of mind. A place I go with God, not because He’s given me what I want, but because He’s become everything I need.

Truly, we can worship God and rejoice in Him no matter where life takes us or where we find ourselves. However, we won’t find true happiness if some location, person or thing becomes what feel like we need in order to have true peace. Peace is not a thing or a person. No, peace is the presence of God in every place and in every season available for us. Yes, we find it in His shepherd’s field of delight and joy.

Contentment is really about finding what I cannot see. Yes, the job, money, car, promotion, house and whatever else are all nice, but they cannot truly satisfy the soul. I’ve met plenty of miserable people with all the things money can buy.

Contentment is about finding God in the unseen and learning to become unseen with Him. Yes friend, hide yourself in God, don’t show yourself and all your things to the world. Become a peasant, someone willing to sit with God in His stillness and grace. Then, invite others into your place of peace as you share about the beautiful love of God with them. The love you found for yourself as you dine on hidden manna sent from above in the shepherd’s field of God.

Lord Jesus, I want to be fully alive today in your presence. Fill me up to overflowing today. I long to taste of your goodness and be filled with your love and mercy. Be my delight today that I might show others your love, in Jesus name, Amen.

The Power of Surrender

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope….(Ps 130:5).

Dear friend, what are you waiting for? I have spent different seasons in my life waiting for a number of things. The phone call, the next big thing, that person to reach out, more of this, less of that. You get the idea. I have spent very little of my time, at least in previous seasons, waiting on God.

You know, you really can’t receive much from God if you’re not willing to wait on His provision. Instead I would set my gaze towards either waiting on people, which usually meant I was forging my own way ahead because I kept inserting myself into everything hoping that maybe someone would notice. There have been seasons in my life where I got what I wanted, but all of it came crashing down because, well, it just wasn’t what I needed.

The Lord wants to give us what we need, but He waits until we stop reaching for what we want.

I remember my years of singleness. People kept saying things to me like, “When I just surrendered it, I met __________________.” I used to hate it when people would tell me that, because in my mind I thought that I had surrendered it. Looking back, I’m not really sure I understood the power of surrender at all. I might give something over to God, but I would hang onto resentment towards God as I did. It wasn’t until I completely surrendered and did so with rejoicing that God fulfilled that desire in my life.

The same can be true in so many other areas of my life. I really believe that God waits until our hearts start to sing praise to fill our cups with what we want. Once we join Him in the song He sings from His throne we can dance a new song of delight with Him regardless of what our life does or doesn’t have.

I have found, at least for me, that letting go is really about finding a new treasure. It’s about embracing something that might not look like how we would have planned it, but there’s something in it that is killing old, sinful parts of us. God is always doing that if we let Him. I feel like I’m experiencing that now as I surrender many areas of my life to Him.

In this season, God has provided something for me that is so good, but it has certainly required me, on many levels to die a million deaths and practice deep humility. It is certainly hitting at my pride. It truly is slashing those old parts of me and for that I am grateful. So friend, keep singing and don’t wait on the next big whatever, but receive from God His very best for you as your wait on Him.

Lord, I am yours. I belong to you. Thank you for loving me and making more like you. Be my joy and delight. Be my hope and peace. I embrace this place, today, that you have put me in, for your glory, in Jesus name, Amen.

When I Become My Worst Enemy

They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service…. (Da 1:5).

Indoctrination is a slow process, isn’t it? I find, at least in my life, its power is hard to notice at first. But slowly, over time, something changes inside of your heart and mind when you keep listening to the same messages on repeat.

What we have conditioned ourselves to believe, whether right or wrong, often becomes our reality, does it not? Maybe that’s why, at so many levels the country is so divided, because once you listen to the same story on repeat it eventually becomes your truth. Even though it might not be true at all.

I have noticed a few negative messages over the past few months try to weasel their way into my heart and mind. I have to be so careful when they surface, because I notice that they keep me from embracing good things and instead try to suck me into a place of criticism and negativity about something or someone.

Maybe you’ve been there as well when all you could think about were the dark stories about that person or thing and so every time you thought of those it you could not have a noble thought and you felt confused and conflicted that other people could.

I often wonder what Jesus might say about the weakness of our minds. I imagine He might say something like, “Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is excellent, honorable or praiseworthy, think about those things.”….something similar to what the Apostle Paul encouraged us to do.

I think it is so tragic when we play the same bad song on repeat in our head towards another person. I’ve done that in different seasons of my life with my husband and other loved ones. It’s hard to see the good in a person when you keep dragging them down into your own pit of criticism and negativity.

So today I’m choosing the joy that is mine in Christ to love people and think well of them. Not to highlight their flaws and insecurities, but to rejoice in the person they are becoming in Christ and encourage them in the ways they do shine.

Father, I am listening. I don’t want to condition my mind to think negatively. I want to be your sweet aroma. May my heart then, be satisfied in your completely, I pray, in Jesus name, Amen.

You Can’t Walk in Wisdom if You Keep Doing This….

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty….(Pr 27:12).

Years ago I was far too immature and prideful to take the advice of others. Certainly, in my mind, although I’m sure their council sounded good I was far too blind to accept their advice as wisdom from God for my life. After all, I knew better. I had these gigantic idols I had set up in my life and they needed feeding, and nourishing. You can’t walk in wisdom when you have to keep going back to feed your idol.

That was me, the girl that kept returning once more to her folly. Even when loved ones would tell me it was unwise. I didn’t listen. Truth be told, I just didn’t understand the value of listening to wise mentors in my life; people who’d gone before me and walked this journey of faith much longer than me.

Now I do. In fact, now, I crave it because I know I desperately need other’s wisdom as I seek the Lord and His ways and will for my life. I need and want people to speak hard truths into my life and help reveal my blind spots. It’s the only way I’ll truly be able to see.

Yes friend, there’s a reason why your purpose in the Lord’s will feels a little stuck. It’s because you cannot see past yourself, because you’re stuck somewhere in all the yesterdays. Therefore, don’t go asking the Lord for more Kingdom work if you can’t listen with humility about where you need to grow and change today.

Go on, take a shovel and start digging up your past. The wounds, the fear, and insecurities. It’s the only way you can be free. Invite wise people into your life on that journey and let them shepherd you as you stay close to the Lord. Listen with humility and be just that, a sheep, who follows, listens and walks in obedience with the true Shepherd of their soul, The Lord Jesus. Then listen to the other shepherds God has placed in your life to help lead you towards freedom. Smash that idol of selfishness and watch as your heart grows beyond you and starts seeing the other sheep, maybe for the very first time.

Lord, make me a shepherd and yes, grow me as a sheep. I want to listen more than I speak. I want to care well for your people. Lord, make me more like you. I want to listen to wise counsel, in Jesus name, Amen.

A Surprising Realization

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable…(Lk 18:9).

Last night, in my women’s Bible study that I lead for women walking through our churches addiction recovery ministry one of the women said something to be that really surprised me.

She said (in reference to youth Sunday), “You did such a great job at church on Sunday….. You recognized us and made us feel so special.”

Truth be told, after she said, You did such a great job on Sunday I thought she was going to comment on the message I gave. In my pride I thought, “She’ll probably make mention of how good I did.”

Instead she said, “You recognized us.”

During part of the service, while introducing my family I also made mention that I lead a Bible study for the beautiful women from the Grace house. I saw their faces light up there in the back of the church when I made mention of that.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make? Well, friend, God is teaching me that ministry is not really so much about me displaying my “gifts.” It’s about me restoring dignity in people and sharing God’s love. If I show someone they have value, then I have done so much more for them than if I share some great message or perform some great “ministry task.”

As I’ve been leading this group of women on Wednesday evenings the Lord has been showing me that loving someone is first about seeing them. Then, helping them see not the mistakes they’ve made, but guiding them towards their wholeness in Christ.

Truth be told, years ago, I wouldn’t have had much time for all of this. After all, I had people to impress. I would have been more concerned about giving a great message than about recognizing people who long to be seen.

Friend, if you want to gather a crowd, that’s easy. But if you want to do Kingdom work, than care for the sheep. Help them see how much value they have in Christ. Truly, that is Kingdom work. Maybe even more important work than all that preparation you do so you can really have something impressive to show to others.

Consider loving someone today before you create something for others to be impressed by. I have to continually remind myself of that as I seek to love others more than myself.

Father, use my life to draw others to Jesus. Thank you for loving me. I want to extend that same love to those who need your love, in Jesus name, Amen.