This is NOT a Testimony

Remember when you got saved, and you felt like you could charge the flames of hell armed with nothing but a squirt gun?

What has held me back more than anything is my self-consciousness. If you don’t know my story, here’s a hint of it:  I was a cutter for ten years. I started wearing short sleeves after I came to Christ, but I found out it brought more stares than I could handle. So, I went back to long sleeves all year long, and along with my scars, I hid who I was.

I played with the idea of getting a huge sleeve tattoo of just lyrics from songs I’d written, just so I could have the freedom to wear short sleeves in the summer and not feel too out of place. Or I looked into expensive laser surgeries, and I planned on how to have the procedure like most people plan for retirement. I figured the tattoo would be a cheaper option. I stopped at a tattoo parlor today just to ask about my theory and the price of that theory.

I can’t really tell you what went through my mind. So… Why don’t I just show you what I walked away with?

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If there’s anything I can tell you with confidence, it’s that the Word says we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies. Here’s mine. He was willing to bear the scars it took for my freedom. I’ll gladly bear mine for His glory. Look what He got me through!

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That was Grace

I hope I’m at liberty to share this, and I don’t think anyone in power will mind. But let’s get personal for a minute…
I have a job I’m really struggling with. I’ll be honest and say when I started the job, the first week, I was a wreck. I had no idea what I’d gotten myself into. I might be even more of a wreck these days, because I’ve gone from being very unsure about my job, to being desperate to hold onto it. Not because I need my job… But because I love it. So there’s more of an urgency to do it right and do it well. And, so far… Both of those things are a problem. It’s a fun job with fun people. But it’s tough.
I’m about three months into it now. One day during the first month, I made a horrible, horrible mistake; one that would have and should have gotten me fired. For the first time in my life, ever, I was a no call, no show. The next morning, I still hadn’t talked to a manager, and I begged my church family not to make me go back. They insisted and the pastor’s wife took me herself. Thank God I didn’t have a choice. 

So, what happened? I honestly wish I had a good answer. At the time, I wish I could have told them I was in some horrible accident, or I was hospitalized with a rare unpronounceable disease. But, they didn’t see it that way. Two managers sat me down at the end of my shift, and before the job was ever even mentioned, one of them said, “First off… Are you okay?”

They didn’t even ask initially what had happened, or what my excuse was. They were concerned for me. ME. Yes, eventually, the job was discussed, but their first concern was not about the job. And I was blown away. They were very glad I wasn’t in an accident, and that nothing was wrong with me they couldn’t pronounce. I expected to have the book thrown at me, and that would be if I kept the job at all. I waited for a bomb to go off that I’d heard ticking in my head all day, only to realize there was never any danger. In fact, the managers even raised me one more: There was no consequence. Only forgiveness. And as I walked away from the meeting, I remember thinking that I’d just stared grace and mercy in the face. That’s what it looked like. I’d just seen it.
Since then, I can honestly say I’ve stepped up my game. I wanted to make up for what I’d done, and began to put my heart and soul into the job. As I reflected on that meeting again recently, I remembered a post someone had put on Facebook. It was a picture of a child with a pained expression, with a caption that said, “Spilled milk is easy to clean up. Wounded hearts aren’t.”
Business, party, or personal, I’ve learned a major lesson in life from this job. And these managers taught me that good employees, friends, and relationships in general are built solely by our encounters with them. They could’ve fired me, but they showed grace. My response was to give them my all in return. My son has spilled drinks, and I’ve jumped onto him. I feel so bad about that. What I did was way worse than dropping a glass.

And then, what a display of Christ… They could’ve quoted him. “Go, and miss work no more.” They pretty much did. Because of their reaction that led to my reaction, I now love my job. I’m even more grateful for my second chance now than I was when I got it, because I would have been missing out on what I have now. Just, praise God… 
Jesus is the most powerful name there is. But our words hold a lot of power too, and how we use them can either lift people up or tear them down. That’s just basic Christian principle. So why don’t we apply that? Why do we hit the roof over trivial things that won’t matter tomorrow? And why don’t we use the opportunities given to us to empower and uphold one another? Why don’t we show love? When did we start messing this up?

If you’ve said hurtful things to someone, or if you ever reacted to a situation in a fleshy way, seek forgiveness. Make it right. Even if your reaction stemmed from something they did wrong, your anger did nothing to change what they had done. And really, what’s the point? “It’s okay, I forgive you,” will create a much better relationship than saying, “What are you, stupid?!” Lasting relationships are built on a Godly foundation; one of mercy, truth, and love. Anything outside of that, and there’s no foundation at all. You’re just building a shack on sinking sand. 

And pray! Pray for a heart like God’s that is slow to anger and quick to love. I promise, you’ll see the fruit. Not always in your lifetime, but certainly one day. But more often than not, you’ll began to see that the relationship is changed for the better. 
Extend grace. Walk in love. Be patient. And it’s my prayer for you that you will be the kind of person that people walk away from saying, “That was grace.”

The Real Fairy-Tale

Remember when THIS was enough to chase the bad guys away?

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Yeah… The stuff childhood adventures were made of. Typically at my house, we were so poor that all of our swords were more like sticks. Or once in a while, we’d come up with plastic hollow swords from the dollar store. But no matter what they were made of, they could always cut down a bad guy and save the day. Sometimes, we even rescued a princess with those sticks. We were hardcore ninjas, for sure.

Remember when you first got saved, and that wooden sword was enough? You were on your knees swinging that thing around left and right, and every bad guy that tried to hurt you was killed. And you always got your princess.

Then, one day, the giant comes. The real giant. And he doesn’t give a damn about your princess. He’s out to kill you. Suddenly, your sword becomes his toothpick, and any armor you had been wearing, you’re rattling around in it like loose change in a pocket. Then you realize, the wooden sword isn’t enough anymore, and taking this bad guy out is going to require more than a stick.

If you’re in that battle right now, then you know that helplessness the princess feels. You are at the mercy of a hero that, let’s be real, you hope is on the way… But you don’t really know. You’ve heard the happily-ever-after stories; those stories just don’t help you now. Even though there are a million and one stories about how the hero came to save you, you fear your story won’t end as well.

We know how God has rescued people. Not just people, but entire nations. He has rescued kings and peasants alike, and has never left anyone behind. In fact, the bible is full of those stories. Then, in the ultimate act of love, He rescued all of us once and for all, when He sent Jesus as a sacrifice in our place.

You are not a helpless princess. You were never meant to be locked in a tower. When God steps in, you have so much more than a sword. You have hope, and strength, and a relentless love on every side of you. You have a thousand angels on your left, and ten thousand to your right. You have a God who goes before you and a Savior who stands behind you.

Wooden swords are okay to play with when you’re young. But the only thing, the ONLY thing, that will cut the enemy down to size is the sword of truth that only the Word of God can equip us with. And the truth is that His grace, His love, His mercy will always be enough reason for us to fight.

United Humans

It feels like years since I’ve posted anything. Sorry about the absence. Life has been too busy for much extracurricular axtivity, but I hope this makes up for it.

We get into disagreements with people we look up to and admire. We get hurt by them. Parents let us down from time to time, or they ultimately let us down. Siblings hurt our feelings. Managers or supervisors can be nasty. Friends can disappoint. In turn, we get wounded by their actions. And wounds breed bitterness that can carry into our relationships, or get internalized into self-destruction.

All the mean and nasty junk that we see or that gets done to us is from the enemy. God deserves no credit when evil happens, but we blame Him all the time. We shake our fist to the heavens and say, “Why did you let that happen?!” But if you’ve walked with Jesus for very long, you know truth is found in him. And the truth is, all that nasty stuff is beautiful.

I love United Pursuit. Like… Love them. A lot. I loved them when I was in Kentucky. (Did I mention I’m back in Knoxville? I’m back in Knoxville.) So when I moved down here the first time, I thought it was mesmerizing just to live in the same place they did.

My church has a smaller sister church in downtown Knoxville near Market Square. I always wanted to go, but never got to because of other plans. So Sunday, at the last second, I got invited when I had no other plans. When I walked in and saw the stage, I thought it looked very familiar. The unique little light bulbs standing bare on their poles, the piano with no back to it so you could see the strings as they struck their chords, and the cool Fender steel back that I would kill to have five minutes with… I didn’t know why it looked so familiar. I’d never been there before. Then it dawned on me:  United Pursuit filmed countless music videos on that stage.

It wasn’t even a stage. It was a setup on a concrete floor in a bare and dim room. United Pursuit should be playing in some extravagant cathedral, right? No, I’m wrong. No way they play here. So I ask a guy, very sheepishly, “Um… This is going to sound insane. But by chance, had United Pursuit ever played here?”

The guy laughed. “Yeah. They’re here every Tuesday night playing Love Wars.”

I died.

I was starstruck just being in the same room where they had played and filmed. That’s a big deal. I got invited back on Tuesday night, but I honestly don’t know if I could handle it. They’d have to mop up my drool if I went.

The guy went onto say, “You don’t have to be starstruck. They’re as human as human gets.”

I don’t know if I’ll be there tonight. But what an awesome concept, that the people we idolize and love and admire might eat, sleep, pass gas and make mistakes like the rest of us. We need Jesus because we are human, and live like humans; selfish and evil by nature. It’s the ultimate uniting factor in life.

The problem with putting people on pedestals is that the higher we put them, the worse it’s gonna hurt when they topple over onto us. We can put Jesus on a pedestal all day long, because we first put him on a cross. And he will never fall down. Our humanity is what brings royalty down and the homeless beggars up. It puts us on the same playing field.

So, forgive where it is needed, and love always. Be gentle in all you do. Because we are all the same and beautifully united by the simple fact:  We are human.