Admission: The First Step to Freedom

Words have felt stuck in my throat.  They are stuffed down and unable to come out.  It has been a while since I have written.  I have not even been doing my personal journaling.    

Describing my words as being stuck, stuffed and unable to come out is a reflection of how our lives can be at times as well.  I do not know about you but I have definitely encountered periods of time where I felt stuck, stuffed down and unable to shake it off.     Continue reading “Admission: The First Step to Freedom”

Easy Going

“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:2, ESV)

A common lie that I have caught myself falling for is this:

“The only thing of value is something I have to work hard for.” Continue reading “Easy Going”

We Are Being Lied To

I look in the mirror, and I do not like what I see. The labels of failure, loser, outcast, and idiot all whirl around inside my head. Do you ever have days like that? I’m talking about those days when we do not feel like we measure up. We find ourselves comparing ourselves to those around us. We don’t feel as well put together as the people we see and know. Continue reading “We Are Being Lied To”

Lessons from The Lion King 

I’ve been searching and searching for how to fix this funk I’ve been in lately.  The more I search and read the more deflated I’ve been feeling.  I just beat myself up over and over again.  I’ll never measure up.  I’ll never figure out why I am so irritable.  I’ll never be content.  The more I search, the more this is enforced and believed.  God keeps whispering to me to quit searching and just go back to the truths of who I am.    Continue reading “Lessons from The Lion King “

Free Devotional Series

Our friends at Trueface have released a free 7 day devotional available on YouVersion.  It’s titled “Two Roads: Please God…or Trust Him?”.  You can find it on the YouVersion Bible app on your phone or click here for direct access.  Neil and I have started it and it has brought about some great conversation.  Hope you enjoy!

-Melissa

****Over the summer months we will continue blogging but we will also slow down a little along the way so we may not post every Tuesday. We hope you enjoy your summer!

 

Priceless

When something goes wrong with the HVAC unit at my home, I have someone I call for help. He has all the knowledge and ability to repair and perform maintenance on the unit, but that’s not the main reason I call him. Of course, those things are important, but there’s something much more important to me. I trust this guy. He does what he says he is going to do. He is dependable. He is honest as well. One time, he made a minor mistake, but he owned up to it immediately. I would have no problem leaving him a key to my house for him to go in while I wasn’t there in order to complete a job. Continue reading “Priceless”

Daddy is Pleased

As I watched my son graduate from college recently, I was beaming with pride. A quick google search provides this definition for the word “proud”: feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements, qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely associated. That about sums it up. I know the hard work he put into his education. I know how he put great effort into learning things he wanted to learn, along with things that he did not necessarily care much about. I know how he was met with great professors who walked along beside him and encouraged him over the course of his college years. I also know there were likely professors that were not so easy to get along with. He persisted and prevailed through it all, good and bad.

Although I am thrilled to see him accomplish such a task, I am even more pleased with the young man I know that he is. It’s not all about what he does or doesn’t do. Whether he succeeds or fails at any given task, I have seen first-hand what is inside of him. He is loving, caring, passionate, driven, and discerning. Those qualities are always there (and others as well), despite what circumstances come his way. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow, and I look forward to seeing the impact he will have in the world as he moves forward from this point in his life.

While the emotions of this milestone continue to swirl around within me, I am reminded of something. THIS is how God views us, his beloved children. He is so proud of us. He is pleased when he gazes upon us. He loves watching us be who He created us to be. Yeah, He likes to see us achieve goals and cross finish lines, but whether we do or don’t, he loves us the same. He knows what is inside of us because He created us. We are free from any condemnation (Romans 8:1,2). We are beautiful, forgiven, and complete in His eyes (Colossians 1:14 and 2:10). We are never separated from His unconditional love for us (Romans 8:35-39). He has chosen each of us to bear fruit that He has prepared for us to bear long, long ago…even before we were born (John 15:16).

For those of us who are parents (either biologically or those who have chosen to be one in the life of a child who doesn’t necessarily share the same genes), as we look at them with loving eyes may we remember that we have a Heavenly Parent who looks at us in a very similar way.

-Neil

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Too Risky to Trust?

I am not one who trusts easy. Throughout my life, I have leaned more towards waiting for others to prove their trustworthiness before letting down my guard. I have erred on the side of caution, assuming the worst in others. Self-protection often seems much more important than anything “trust” could offer. Hurt, rejection, betrayal, and a dose of what seems like an inborn tendency to mistrust have all led to this perspective. If those were not enough, my own failures in being trustworthy have added to the belief that trust should be regarded as something dangerous and bound to wind up in disappointment.

Trust is worth the risk.

Wow, what a ridiculous bolded sentence. For those of us who struggle with trust, those five words might strike us as annoying, at the very least. They likely have garnished a quick roll of the eyes. I will admit, I often do not believe that sentence, either. At any given point in my life, only a handful of people experience me turning off my self-security system and allowing myself to trust. So, why would someone who seems to fear trust so greatly bother writing about the “benefits of trust”? Despite my trust being violated many times, the times that it has been honored and treasured by others have been worth telling about. Those moments have been worth the risk to press forward in the realm of trust. I want to try to give you some ideas of why this is…for me, anyway.

Trust lets me be loved.

When I do not trust, I put on a mask. I hide myself from others. The most they get is what I want them to see, and I do not want them to see the real me. Therefore, when I do not trust, there is no way I receive any true love from anyone. This does not mean others do not love me. They may love me deeply. However, my mask and other methods of self-protection block any love offered to me. I do not get to experience it. The best I get is for others to like my performance (my mask). Many times it winds up with me pushing others away (rejecting them before the perceived rejection I think they will offer me if I let them see the real me).

Trust helps me grow and mature.

As I let others into my life, they get to see me. They get to see my true struggles. They get to share in that with me. They get to walk alongside me. As they love me in those ways, they also get permission to speak to me about those things. These moments help me to see things I cannot see myself. Everyone needs a mirror to see what’s really going on with themselves. Trusting others does something very similar.

Trust protects me.

Self-protection cannot be relied upon for lasting security. It may feel good, especially when we are fearful of being hurt. However, it is a lie that we can protect ourselves in this life. We need others. We are built for relationships, and part of that is needing the protection we can offer each other. As I mentioned before, we need mirrors to see what’s going on with ourselves. We may have something deadly going on that, without someone lovingly pointing it out, would go unnoticed to the point that it really hurts us and others around us. It may be the way we speak to those who work under us, how we handle our child’s discipline, or the way we neglect our spouse’s needs. Trust opens up the door for us to be enlightened to how we are affecting others around us and ourselves.

Trust is one of the most important things in our lives.

God has been very clear about trust. Above all else, He wants us to trust Him. He wants us to believe Him. He has demonstrated his love for us in such magnificent ways in order to win our trust. When we don’t trust Him, we lack the truth and we lack the ability to be loved and to love others. Without trust, we are lost. Faith (trust) is a gateway to experiencing His grace. When we fail in trusting Him, we will fail in trusting others, and vice versa. Our trusting of people and God go hand-in-hand. We cannot even trust who we really are outside of trusting who He says He is. Did you get that? Add that to the list of what trust does. Trust allows us to see and experience who we really are. That is something self-protection and mask-wearing can never do.

-Neil

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Not Enough

How often do you feel like there’s not enough of something? There’s not enough time, not enough energy, not enough help, and somedays I feel like I’m just not enough. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have gone through my list of “not-enoughs” before even getting out of bed in the mornings. I wake up already behind. My to-do list is longer than the time I have for the day and I’ve barely had my eyes open for five minutes! I get out of bed defeated.

The concept of scarcity was presented to me through reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. In her book she quotes another author, Lynne Twist. It reads, “What begins as a simple expression of the hurried life, or even the challenged life, grows into the great justification for an unfulfilled life.” Waking up defeated starts my day unfulfilled and that theme usually continues throughout the day. When my mind is constantly focused on not having enough time, money, energy, help, etc. then there is no way for me to see what I do have and what I am capable of.

Gratitude is lost in the “not-enoughs”. She goes on to quote Lynne Twist and says “Once we let go of scarcity, we discover the surprising truth of sufficiency. By sufficiency, I don’t mean a quantity of anything……It is an experience, a context we generate, a declaration, a knowing that there is enough and that we are enough.”

Fear is usually lurking in the background. If we stop and really think about what is going on when the “not-enoughs” are consuming our thoughts, we will usually find fear rooted in there somewhere. Fear of what others will think when we can’t get it all done. Fear of failing. Fear of being exposed as a failure. Fear of what we think is true becoming true: that we are not enough. Shame tells us that we are not enough. Shame tells us that something is wrong with us. It feeds the fears. It feeds the scarcity.

When scarcity, fear and shame dominate our thoughts then we can’t truly experience what we have. We miss out on the moments that make up our day. We stay self-focused.

When the “not-enoughs” are all I hear myself saying then that is a red flag that I need to step back and do a quick evaluation. What can I do with what I have? Usually I have not even asked myself that question! When I do, I’m usually surprised by the answer and quickly realize that what I had in mind wasn’t even true or realistic.

Does your self-talk usually revolve around your “not-enoughs”? If so, I encourage you to take some time to think about what is driving that. What are you afraid of? As I discussed in a previous post, I encourage you to stay small and curious. Ask questions. Look around. Look up. Be present with where you are now and what you have. Being small and curious still leads me but it allows me to live and love along the way.

-Melissa

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Be Kind and Ask Questions

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)

In this passage of Scripture, Paul and Silas are fresh off of being rejected by a group of people in a place called Thessalonica. There was some jealousy behind much of the rebellion, according to Acts 17:5. It got kind of ugly, actually. If you want to read through Acts 17:1-9, you will see what I mean.

Paul and Silas left Thessalonica at night, to protect themselves by the cover of darkness from the angry mob that wanted to make false accusations against them. They moved on to a place called Berea.

As Paul and Silas shared Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Bereans were kind enough to sit and listen. They did this, even though they were skeptical. They weren’t sure that what they were hearing was actually true. Instead of berating Paul and Silas because they were teaching something different, they chose to spend time with Paul and Silas daily. They read and examined to see if their words agreed with what Scripture said. Many of the Bereans discovered that Paul and Silas were telling the truth, and they became believers.

A segment of the group in Thessalonica rejected Paul and Silas without truly listening to them with an open mind and heart. They jumped to accusations and did everything they could to discredit them and shut them up. The majority of Bereans were “more noble”, showing fine personal qualities such as a listening ear and putting forth the effort and time to get to know Paul and Silas while working together through Scriptures to find the truth. If they had not listened, they would not have discovered the truth.

Be kind and listen in order to remove our blinders, connect with others, and discover truth.

We are often approached by others (in person, through commercials on TV, while listening to sermons, etc.) who are telling us something they believe to be true (or at least they claim to believe it). Some are speaking truth like Paul and Silas, while others are not. Either way, it is good for us to listen and examine what is being said in order to discern whether it is true or not.

First of all, it is good to be kind to others rather than jump to conclusions that are likely to be influenced by our own personal prejudices and other issues (like the Thessalonians who allowed their jealousy to drive their actions). We are often blind to our own biases that cause us to see things and people incorrectly. To take the blinders off, we must acknowledge to ourselves that this is true of us. We DO have biases that God is working to correct in our hearts.

Second, it is good to listen in order to get to know people. Even if we find that we disagree on some things, we might be able to find a new friend that we enjoy spending time with. We don’t have to agree with each other in order to be kind to, learn from, and enjoy each other.

Telling others they are wrong is not the best way to identify truth for us or them.

The Thessalonians were pretty quick to paint Paul and Silas as liars and troublemakers. When we encounter others that we disagree with, the quickest way to end any chance of real dialogue is to put up our defenses and tell them they are wrong. We must care for, listen to, and connect with others, not just to share truth with them.

Despite what we might think, we are not always right. To find truth, we need relationships with others that produce authentic conversations. I believe this is what happened with the Bereans, Paul, and Silas. They spent time together, and allowed the truth to shine through their conversations over Scriptures. I believe there were likely more questions asked than authoritative statements condemning what the others were saying. Questions are good and they open up dialogue.

Humility leads to kindness and questions.

Humility produces kindness and spurs us towards asking others questions when they present something in opposition to what we believe to be right. Believing we are always right is a self-righteous trait that produces condemning words and actions towards each other. When we are quick to point out how wrong we think others are, we remain stuck where we are. We fail to embrace and share grace (which is the very core of the Gospel).

We grow when we say let down our guard and have a willingness to learn. We may reaffirm what we already know, or we might find we need to reject something we thought was right and replace it with a newfound truth. More importantly, we may wind up with a connection with someone who we truly enjoy being around. God is relational. When we find ourselves forsaking those things that build relationships, we have lost sight of what’s truly important.

-Neil

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