I Am a Sinner. How About You?

Christian.  Failure.  Fake.  Which one of these words doesn’t belong?  That’s a trick question, if you ask me.  Someone, somewhere, one day decided that the word Christian was synonymous with the word perfect and it appears the whole world has bought into this idea.  I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed but this is horrible for a couple of obvious reasons.  First, no one on this Earth has ever been perfect except the Son of God.  Second, even it it were possible to attain perfection, the definition of what that looks like is a moving target.  It’s like you tell people you are a Christian and people immediately place unrealistic standards on your behavior that set you up for eventual failure.  Now here my out when I say that I absolutely think Christians are held to a higher ethical and moral standard and people should see us as ‘different’.  What I am talking about here are the unrealistic standards of perfection people seem to hold you to when you mess up and are *gasp* human.  And what’s worse, we Christians do it to other Christians all.the.time.  They look something like this:

  • You are a Christian but you lose your temper and post something on social media out of anger/hurt/betrayal.  *Let the stone throwing commence.
  • You say you are a Christian but you are in a bad mood (because we do occasionally get in those), you’ve been waiting in the check out line at Walmart for thirty blessed minutes and your hormones are all out of whack because you messed up your birth control (again).  You lose it on your kids in the check out line when they ask you for a Skylander/Shopkins mystery box for the fifty ninth time in three minutes.  *Elderly couple from your church standing in the next line whisper about how you need to “get yourself to the alter next Sunday” because surely you are a backslider with a temper like that.*
  • You are a Christian and you stand your ground and tell people when they are participating in sin or refuse to buy into the idea that if the world accepts something, we should too.  Even at the cost of going against our own biblical standard.  *You are a judgmental, hypocrite and need to get off your “high horse” and recognize your own sin*
  • You are a Christian but you stand up for yourself when someone wrongs you and cause a disagreement.  *You must not be a Christian at all because no Christian would ever cause a disagreement or speak up for themselves*.

The list could literally go on forever.  Maybe you’ve been in one of these situations I’ve mentioned above.  People love to use the word hypocrite, judgmental and self-righteous; just to name a few.  But here’s a news flash for all you folks reading this blog.  A Christian is a sinner SAVED by grace.  That’s it.  And you know what grace means?  It means “the free and unmerited favor of God”.  So basically, we get the favor of God, even though we don’t deserve it.  Even though we sometimes do things we shouldn’t.  Even though we sometimes say things we wish we hadn’t.  Once we accept Jesus into our spirit, he resides there.  Our spirit then, by default, is perfect because Jesus is living there and he makes it new.  It’s our flesh that we wrestle with daily.   We sin, we fall short, we are undeserving.  It seems like this grace would be easy enough to accept and also give but we’ve placed these unrealistic expectations on each other and our enemy uses them like a deadly arrow, piercing us right through the heart.

I often think of my walk with Christ more like a run in a race.  I imagine myself running along, the sun shining on me, the wind blowing my face like a cool breeze, I can see the finish line and I am feeling great but then out of no where, and I trip and fall over a giant rock right in my path.  It’s not just a graceful fall either, it’s a dramatic, somersault, broken bone, bloody shins kind of fall.  I almost got to the finish line but got the wind knocked out of my sails and didn’t make it.  Can anyone relate?  Those rocks in our path as we are running our race with Christ can be the lies the enemy tells us when others place unrealistic expectations of our Christianity on us.  He takes what that elderly couple whispered behind your back in the check out line and he manifests it until it takes up so much room in your thoughts that you believe you are a fake, a failure in your walk with Jesus.  Pretty soon you aren’t focusing on the task the Lord has for you on this Earth, or the talents he has given you.  You are focusing on other lies that the enemy is feeding you through this measure of perfection that we hold each other to.

Maybe nobody has told you this today but I’m here to tell you that the devil is a LIAR and the father of it.  As a matter of fact, the bible says there is no truth in him.  Let me say that again.  There is no truth in him.   So that means that all those lies you believe about yourself, all those measures of perfection and criticism that we hold each other to, they are all lies.  The bible tells me Satan is literally incapable of telling the truth.  Any negative emotion or feeling you have about yourself is an untruth from the pit of Hell. You feel worthless because Satan is using others to convince you that it’s true?  Well, sister, let me tell you, you are worth far more than rubies in the eyes of the Lord.

I have felt like a failure in my own walk with the Lord recently.  I have been made to feel like I am a fake.  And it has been a terrible struggle of spirit and flesh ever since.  I questioned who I was in Christ.  I pondered my walk with him and reflected on my words and actions to see if I had veered off the path of righteousness.  This morning, I was even contemplating going to church at all.  I was having a pity party in the largest fashion.  But as I was talking with God, he reminded me of Peter.  Peter was a disciple of Jesus and his list of accomplishments was great.  He was one of Jesus’ inner group of three.  He wrote two books in the bible.  By all means, he was a true follower of Christ.  But you know what else Peter did?  He also often spoke without thinking and was impulsive.  He DENIED Jesus three times, even after Jesus told him he would do this.  What a failure and fake he must have felt like denying Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross!  Peter was a human and by all standards, humans are subject to the attack of the enemy.  I can’t be sure but I can bet that the devil had a hay day playing with Peter’s heart and mind over the denial of Christ.  If he would have believed the lies of the enemy and given up on his walk with Christ, he would not have been able to go on and preach the gospel after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.  And what a shame that would have been.

I am a sinner.  Through and through.  I’ve never claimed to be perfect or to know it all. I will mess up again probably before I post this blog.  BUT I am also saved by grace.  I have a God who gives me forgiveness and mercy especially when I don’t deserve it.  You are a sinner too.  You can also be saved by grace, if you aren’t already.  But let’s agree on something, ok?  Tomorrow let’s wake up and begin truly seeing others through the lens that God uses.  He knows we are sinners.  He loves us anyway.  He knows we are sinners.  He gives us grace we don’t deserve.  He knows we are sinners.  He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it.   My study bible describes Peter and sums his life lesson up like this: It is better to be a follower who sometimes fails than one who fails to follow.

John 8: 44 ” He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for their is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his a liar and the father of lies.  

 

Love, Actually.

Ah, love.  It’s perhaps the most overused and misunderstood word in the English language.  Between hearing it commercialized in songs, movies, books and TV shows and then out of the mouths of people in our lives, I think we are almost becoming desensitized to it.   Don’t get me wrong, a new baby wrapped up in a tiny receiving blanket, or my children’s chubby hands wrapped around mine as we walk together definitely gives me the feels.  But overall, I think we just don’t think about what it means to love anymore.  And if we do, its some weird sensationalized version of what society has convinced us that it looks like.  Certainly not a biblical love.  But who really cares what society says love is?   I mean, its most recently given us jumpers for men, so ‘society’ has questionable judgment, at best.  What I really care about is what my Creator, the God of the universe, says love is.  His definition is how I want to love.  So I turned off my TV and silenced my phone, locked my kids in the basement (just kidding.  I don’t even have a basement) and reached for my bible.  I read scriptures on love and waited for the Holy Spirit to speak.  Here’s the verse that stuck out to me the most this week:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  1 Peter 4:8

I’ll admit, the Holy Spirit stepped on my toes all week long as I sought out the truth in this verse.  At first glance, its kind of like, “yeah, yeah we gotta love each other real hard.  I get it.” But its so much more than that.  To cover over something means to cover something so that it cannot be seen.  It’s not saying to make an excuse for a sinful behavior or to sweep our sins under the rug but to cover them completely out of sight of anyone but God.  So wives, when you husband offends you or is involved in a sinful behavior what do you do?  Do you analyze his comments or behaviors with your girlfriends over coffee?  Or do you take it to God in prayer?  To be in line with the word and love our spouse the way God wants us to love, we need to completely cover our spouse’s sin and take it to the Lord in prayer.  No one hates to hear this more than me because I, A. analyze everything to death and B. talk to my sister on the phone every morning.  Sometimes it is just so nice to complain to someone who always takes my side. But if I want to align myself to the word and show love to my husband, I shouldn’t point out his sin to anyone but God.  God doesn’t need us or our girlfriends/sisters to convict our husband.  How’s that for a #truthbomb?

When I begin to notice one of our children lying or cheating, or being repeatedly mean to their siblings the first thing I want to do is ask my mom why she thinks they are acting up.  Then I want her to go to her “How to fix kids” manual and tell me what to do!  True, my mom might have more experience than me and it’s certainly ok to request that she pray for my children, but if I want to show the love of God to my children, his manual is the only one I need.  My mama can’t change the sin in my children’s hearts, only God can.  A mama blog can’t give you some magic advice that washes sin away and no psychologist can cure the sinful nature we are all born with.  If you want to show biblical love to your children, take them to God in prayer.

What about that sassy little broad at work that is having an affair with the boss and has a snarly comment for every little thing you say?  Surely you can just show her some fake, “bless your heart” kind of love and get by with that, right?  I mean there has to be some kind of clause that exempts us from having to bite our tongue when it comes to people like her. I  have had co-workers who have literally made my skin crawl  and I’ve been sooo guilty of shamefully putting on a fake front and playing nice.  One thing society has taught us to do very well is to show this vomit-inducing fake love to people.  We gloss over our eyes, and hearts, with the expertise of an Oscar winning actress and pretend to be a loving friend when in reality we are gossiping about her (or him) the first chance we get.  I got news for you, and me, sister.  We might be fooling the whole world with our fake love, but God sees right through us.  And he doesn’t like it.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to make God mad!  If we really want to practice what we preach and show the love of Jesus, we must choose to not gossip (no matter how despicable the person) and take it to God in prayer.  Ouch.

The last part of the verse says we are to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Hospitality is another one of those words that has gotten totally twisted.  And thanks to my arch enemy Pinterest, it’s managed to get even worse.  I mean, who has time to hand paint tiny little turkeys on cupcakes for Thanksgiving, anyway?  Who are these people and when do they sleep??  But hospitality actually puts focus on the guest and *gasp* NOT THE HOSTESS.  This knowledge in and of itself is actually thrilling news to me.  I am so relieved to know that God doesn’t care one ounce if my floors are spotless or if I’ve polished my silverware until I can see my reflection.  He doesn’t care how staged my house is with throw pillows, rugs and fancy lamps.  The pressure is off, ladies.  At least in the “all about me” department.  Focusing on others might require that we sit and listen without interruption, that we pray with a friend, that we have clean sheets and a comfy couch but it will never require a trip to Hobby Lobby for more throw pillows.  Can I get an Amen?  Or maybe even a Hallelujah?

All of these things lead me to one truth: to love deeply and offer hospitality we must crucify the flesh daily and resist the urge to expose the sins of another.  Instead, we have to take it to God in prayer.  Let’s work hard to redefine love based on God’s definitions and not what society tells us it should be.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.  Proverbs 17:9

Who I’m Not.

This week has been the worst one in recent memory. I called the police when someone knocked on the door during the day and didn’t answer when I asked who it was. I got totally freaked out that the super creepy guy down the road was trying to stage a home invasion. Imagine my relief when I opened the door and the policemen hit me in the arm with an envelope from UPS. Whoops. Looks like I wasted tax dollars. My bad. I have felt excruciating pain all week to what I chocked up as a pulled muscle from a zumba class, because you know, I’m getting old and am a weakling. When the pain was finally making me want to punch puppies and kittens, I went to the doctor. I have pluerisy in my lung. Didn’t see that one coming. If my darling children miss one more day of school for this menopausal weather they may beat each other to death in a wildly savage rendition of Hunger Games. And then today, my feelings got hurt. My character was called into question by someone who has taken little time or energy to know me and while I know it was just an attack from Satan himself, it hurt. My greatest fault is caring to much what others think of me. I may not be the friend that remembers every birthday or special event, or who goes above and beyond in some Laverne-and-Shirley episode of life, but I am the friend who thinks of you, prays for you and would give you the shirt off my back if I knew you needed it. The season of life I am in right now is just hectic. Moment to moment I am surrounded by three children who simultaneously need me to love them, wipe their butts (well, not all of them need that), feed them something they don’t deem ‘disgusting’, help them with homework, find their favorite toy, kiss their boo-boos. I mean, no sane man would make it out alive. But anyway, I cried. A lot. And to be honest, I haven’t cried like that in a long, long time. It wasn’t so much the situation but rather the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Thankfully, my support system is awesome and didn’t let me stay down for long. Shout out to my homies who keep it real for me everyday and remind me who I am. You know who you. **ahem, nick, anna carol, steve, olivia, jenny, jana and mallory.** Anyway, I have nothing funny, light hearted or articulate to say. Only this poem that came flowing out once Jesus picked me up and dusted me off. Maybe you can relate. Tonight, it’s all I’ve got to give.

A hollow shadow, broken within.

The seeds of sadness have crept their way in.

A faint cry from the girl who once lived carefree

is hushed and pushed down deep inside of me.

I’m not sure the exact moment that quieted me for good

but the ground beneath me fell where I once firmly stood.

A think crack in my vessel slowly growing larger each day.

Until all at once I was empty and had nothing left to say.

Hopeless despair slowly fills up my soul, it’s so hard to even think.

I’m swimming with emotions but I’m beginning to sink. 

I think of times that once made me strong

and before I even know it, I’m whispering a familiar song.

“And I know they’ll be days when this life brings me pain,

but if that’s what it takes to praise you, Jesus bring the rain.”

Jesus, I whisper but a little louder this time.

Oh Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, precious friend of mine! 

I remember there’s hope for my broken heart.

When I’m persecuted and lied about and unjustly torn apart.

I don’t have to accept inadequacy, worthlessness or defeat.

I can cry out to Jesus on Heaven’s mercy seat!!

His word tells me to be the salt of the Earth

but I can’t do that when I allow lies from Satan to steal my self worth!

Unbelievers think I should be perfect since I follow him

they don’t understand the only one who’s ever been perfect is he who lives within.

The devil uses people, the past and my faults,

to make me believe the “saltiness” has been taken from my salt.

Jesus picked me up today, despite my wounds and broken pot.

He said, “Rise up woman of God and let me tell you what you are NOT!”

You are NOT defeated, and you are not a fake,

You are NOT up for grabs for the devil to take!

You are NOT without a father to lift you up when you fall,

and you are NOT going to give up on the purpose for which you’ve been called!

You are NOT alone and you are NOT through, for you are NOT without the Holy Spirit,

He lives inside of you. 

Thanks, God.  From a perfectly imperfect woman just trying to make it to Heaven.

Zip it. Zip it Real Good.

“Be careful little mouth of what you say, be careful little mouth of what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down with love so be careful little mouth of what you say.”

It seemed innocent enough at the time.  I didn’t mean any malice or ill-will.  In fact, I wasn’t even angry; mostly bored.  Late last week, after Nick left to take the kids to school, I called my sister.  We chatted for a minute about our long to-do lists but then I started telling her about this, that and the other that was driving me crazy about ole’ hubbyicious.  She listened, chimed in occasionally and we hung up.  I honestly never thought another thing about it.  I wrangled the smallest fry into his clothes, Nick came home to pick us up and we left to take aforementioned small fry to preschool.  I was riding shotgun singing along with K-Love like I didn’t have a care in the world when it happened.  My precious little baby pipes up from the back seat and says, “um, dad?  Mom was talking about you on the phone to Gigi when you were gone.”  DANG.  Where is the eject button in this truck anyway??  I’ve not had a near death experience but I’d imagine it goes something like what happened to my heart at that moment.  Like, at the risk of sounding to ridiculous, I am not ashamed to tell you I considered just tucking and rolling from the moving vehicle.  What?  It seemed like a viable option at the time.  I also envisioned pretending to choke on the protein bar I was eating, forcing myself into an uncontrollable coughing fit or just throwing my phone to Luke in hopes that it would be a giant distraction. But no.  Instead I sat there, holding my breath to see how this was gonna pan out.  Little bit goes on to tell daddy word for stinkin word what I said to my sister on the phone.  And I thought the little turd was watching Spongebob.  I hadn’t said anything that was marriage-ending so that was good 🙂  but still.  You all.  I was so ashamed.  I felt like I had betrayed this precious man who loves me despite the fact that I never get up on time, always make us late, continue to keep a filthy car despite his utter annoyance with it, and the list goes on.  Thankfully, he wasn’t to mad and only fussed a little because I have ‘diarrhea of the mouth’.  I, on the other hand, have continued to think about the conversation and the impact my mouth has on those around me.

I have grown up singing the old song, “be careful little mouth of what you say” and have now taught it to our children.  Well, my little mouth says a WHOLE l0t from day to day.  Right in front of those little ones I am trying to teach to be kind and Christ-like with their words.  From my high horse I’d tell you that I never talk about anyone or any situation at all, let alone in front of my kids, but I like to stay down here in humbleville these days.  And the truth is, I do talk.  No, I’m not calling anyone cruel names or being all-Malificient vicious but I talk, nonetheless.  Maybe someone annoyed me at the grocery store or maybe I am unhappy with a choice that a family member has made.  Perhaps someone has gotten under my skin and I can make a joke about it to someone else (although I am not particularly funny, this is something I do more than I care to admit.) And dog-gone-it if I don’t just open my yapper and talk right in front of my children.  Yes, I usually think they are occupied with something else but Luke is living proof that they actually can listen and do something else at the same time.  Sad face.  It is one thing to do something sinful in front of adults but quite another to do in front of children.  As their momma, they are watching me to see what I am doing.  Like it or not, I have been teaching my children that as long as you do it in ‘fun’ or behind closed doors, it is okay to express your disdain with someone else.  Well, that is enough to make me want to puke.

Now, what about the listener?  My little sister, the one who should (hopefully and perhaps) look up to me, is also hearing me talk ill about someone.  She is a married woman too, you know.  So, let’s think about this.  I called her before 8AM and began to complain about an absolutely fine fella and set the tone for her day.  Not only did my negative attitude toward my husband affect her, it had the potential to affect her marriage as well.  What if she began fixating on the fault in her spouse, like I was so selfishly doing with mine?  I think that’s what they call the trickle down effect.  And it’s alive and well.  Satan loves the trickle down effect.  He wants us to find fault in others, spread negative attitudes like the plague and become so entangled in our own selfish worlds so that we are preoccupied with everything but Jesus.  Idolatry at its finest.

Finally, there is the one whom my soul loves that I have hurt with my careless words.  In Genesis, God makes it clear that the two are to become one flesh. I have no choice, then, but to believe that when you hurt your spouse you are also hurting yourself.  No, I didn’t say anything horrible, just the usual wife-like complaints, but I still spoke of it in front of our child.  His child.  I, without intending to, planted a little seed about what marriage should look like.  If I continue down that road, I would be watering that little seed until he has his own opinions, the wrong opinions, about how a wife should treat her husband.   And you know what?  One day that little fry will be a husband, as will my other son.  I want them to learn to be Godly in all their ways and yet, here I am, the mouth of the south, talking about their daddy.  Ephesians 4:29 says this:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

God makes it pretty clear that not only are we not to talk about someone else but we must say things that are helpful to the listeners around us.  We have to continually be watching and paying attention to our surroundings, constantly aware of the needs of others.  My children need a Godly mother to show my daughter how to be a wife and to teach my sons what to look for in one.  My sister needs a Godly mentor and example.  My husband needs a Godly wife who lifts him up and supports his walk with the Lord.  I have made a new commitment to be all those things, and more, to those around me.  Not only that, but if your mouth needs a zipper like mine did, I encourage you to heed God’s word and say goodbye to the gross, unGodly habit of careless talk, too.  My prayer is that I can be so consumed with Christ that it is contagious 🙂