1101C Main Street: This is (Not) a Testimony

I was eight years old when I first began doubting the existence of God. It would be years before I’d ever explicitly deny His existence at all. But as a kid, I just thought it was too much to believe that there was someone there designing the cosmos. Somehow, the idea that a single particle exploded and created infinity existence made more sense, but that’s a story for the sequel.

I don’t know why it was so hard for me. I was raised in church. My dad talked to me about the Bible. I even remember a couple of times he read Scriptures with me, but it just never all clicked together. It should also be said, I was raised in a decaying church, but I didn’t know anything at the time about deadness and complacency. I didn’t know religion was all I was seeing. I was told every week to get saved and accept Jesus into my heart, never knowing he wanted more than my heart.

That’s how it works, isn’t it? People come to the altar and say an ABC sinner’s prayer, and they become part of the Christian club. We give them a new Bible, a t-shirt, some mints in a gift basket, and then we schedule a day for them to get baptized in someone’s swimming pool. Then the next week, we get to change the numbers on the church’s attendance board.

Remember this, kids?                      

I found out you can go to church your whole life and never know who Jesus is. ‘Cause I sure did. And by the time I got to college, my best friend had become an atheist, and I didn’t know Jesus enough to tell her she was wrong. When she would spit out all these random facts, I didn’t know how to argue. I’d been on the fence about God’s existence for so long that by the time she got done with me, it was really easy for me to get jerked down to the side that said He wasn’t real. I was tired of not knowing.

Home had been really difficult when I was growing up. My dad was gone most of the time working, and my grandmother was very hateful towards me. She was a good woman, and I think she loved me, so I don’t say that with any resent in my heart. I know she was very ill, and had dementia when she died. I can look back and see where she’d probably had it for years, which I believe contributed significantly to how she felt about me. She used to say things about me to other people that just crippled me. But the one thing she said that stood out the most was when she was on the phone talking to one of her friends, and I heard her telling the story about how my parents just wanted one baby, and my mom pitched a fit until my dad gave in and had me. After telling the story, she said, “And look what we got.”

The first baby they had was my older brother. Growing up, he had Bipolar Disorder and ADHD, and probably some other things going on, too. There are two types of Bipolar Disorder, and he had the kind that made him very violent, defiant, hypersexual, and angry. So growing up in that environment, there was a lot of fear that he was going to hurt somebody, kill one of us… He used to get angry and threaten to kill everyone and burn the house down. I spent years knowing in my heart he would really do it one day. He never did, but when you spend your whole life preparing for something you know is about to happen, the trauma is as real as if it had.

Typing the words to explain what else my brother did is, even now, very hard. I’m sure you can read between the lines and figure it out… I was twelve when it started, and I began to really act out, which threw gasoline on the fire with my grandmother. I started cutting, hanging out with a bad crowd, and became suicidal. I was really messed up. By the time I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college just to get away from home, so that’s what I did.

It was my first semester when I decided there was no God. Then with my entire life preceeding me, I did the only thing I knew to do in order to cope, and I started drinking. Heavily. About that time, a new friend come into my life who was a Christian. She kept inviting me to go to church with her on campus, and I always turned her down. One week, I finally gave in.

The church was very different from anything I’d ever heard before. For the first time, someone was telling me I needed to get saved and told me why. I began to hear for the first time about unconditional love, and how strong it was for me. I heard about the love of a Father. And what really got to me was when I heard Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross out of obligation to his Father. He did it in love, and love for me. He could’ve walked away, but he didn’t. Why not? That became the million dollar question in my mind. Why would Jesus, if he was God in the flesh, NOT call angels to come take him down from the cross? Either he was unable to cry out for rescue, or he loved us enough to die. There could have been nothing in between.

Jesus had been a real man who walked the earth. I never doubted that. So between the drunken nights, I set out on a mission to discover if he was who he said he was.

I was in our campus pastor’s office every week asking questions. He never got angry with me, and was so patient. He always answered me in a way that left me thinking. He gave me a few books, Scriptures to look at, and always prayed for me. For the life of me though, I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t find the faith that would overcome what I believed to be facts and logical explanations. Nothing in me could believe it. Nothing.

One night after service, I asked the pastor what someone actually had to do to become saved. He asked me if I’d ever heard of the ABC sinner’s prayer, and I said, “No, I know what that is… But how do you get saved? It can’t be that easy.” He offered to pray with me, and I declined.

I began walking around my little college town, really torn and lost in thought. I didn’t know it was God trying to get my attention. I said a prayer in my head to the God I didn’t believe in and said, “If You’re there, prove it.”

I called the friend who had invited me to church and asked her to meet with me. After a trip to McDonald’s, we retreated to the playground and talked for a long time about her mom and how we’d had similar stories. She said she and her mom had both been praying for me. I still had so many questions, but I couldn’t find the words to ask any of them. She finally looks at me and says, “Jessie… God is knocking on your heart. If you don’t answer, your heart is going to harden, and it’s going to get a lot harder to hear Him. You need to talk to Him.”

I said blankly back to her, “I don’t believe in God.”

After she left, I continued my walk. I found myself in the residential part of town going down main street. I passed by this house with a for rent sign in the front yard. I had been looking for a new place, and the door was standing wide open. No lights were on, no cars in the driveway… Even though it was after midnight, I thought, why not? I looked around to see if I saw anyone, and I didn’t. So I proceeded to the house.

As I make my way up the three steps to the front door, I kick something. It was too dark for me to see what it was, so I got my phone out and looked down. Of all things… It was a Bible. I made my way through the rest of the house, checking it out and making sure that the coast was clear. When I was sure I was alone, I went back to retrieve the Bible. I took it to the corner of what I believe was the bedroom, sat down, and started to read by the light of my phone. There was a little bookmark sticking out of II Corinthians, so I opened it up to there first.

I began at chapter 10, and knew from my research that I was reading Paul’s words. I read about how he was shipwrecked, beaten, starved, imprisoned, and tortured for preaching the gospel. I read how he knew he couldn’t boast for what he had done or take glory in it because he knew it was the power of God that enabled him to do what he did. It didn’t stop him from begging The Lord to take away a thorn Paul kept in his side. Who in their right mind would want anything that caused them so much pain? We don’t know exactly what Paul was referring to when he talked about the thorn, but we know God’s answer to his prayer was perfect. When Paul asked Him to remove it, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee. My power works best in weakness.”

In that moment, it dawned on me what Paul was saying, and what the Holy Spirit was saying to me. Paul willingly went through what we went through for no other reason except he saw The Lord. And I don’t mean saw Him like the disciples saw Him. Paul had an experience with God on his way to Damascus that completely changed him. It was so real and so theology-altering, it left his heart with no other choice but Jesus.

Here I was having my own experience. I felt doubt and fear falling off of me. For the first time, I felt like I was really encountering the real, living God; the one who went to the cross only because He loved me. And like Paul, my experience was leaving my heart with no other choice but Jesus, too. No one would willingly go through what Paul went through unless they had seen God. And how could a man willingly bear the cross unless he had truly been The Lord?

The Holy Spirit directed my attention to II Corinthians 12:10, in what would be the perfect final blow to my doubt. In my entire belief system caving in on me, what was crushing me the most was the idea that I wasn’t good enough for God. Then I read what Paul said to God’s answer:  “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Noted.

 

I found my knees, and I cried out the most pitiful prayer I could come up with. I realized I didn’t even know how to pray, which was not a good time to learn that. Still, I prayed. I prayed the only thing I could think to say. I’d heard our campus church band playing Hillsong’s From the Inside Out weeks before, and I asked God to consume me right there, to forgive me, to save me… And when I left the house, I left a dead man in the bedroom.

The whole night had been pretty bizarre. I called my friend first thing in the morning to tell her what had happened. She was overjoyed, but thought I was nuts for leaving the Bible there. I put it back in the doorway because, even though I hadn’t been a Christian for very long at that point, I figured stealing a Bible was probably a sin. So we waited until she got done with her classes that morning, and then I took her to the house where it happened.

The door of the house was still open, and the Bible still where I’d left it. In a moment of bravery, I decided to call the number on the house’s for rent sign and see what was up with the strange find. I was careful in my questions, because I didn’t want the lady to think I was too crazy. But I did ask her why the door was standing wide open. Apparently, a neighbor had called her that morning to let her know the door was open. She said that something had come up that prevented her from getting to the house to lock it. As for the Bible, she didn’t have any explanation. Everything, she said, had been cleared out of the house months before, but I was welcome to keep it.

Stolen Bible.

Before we left, my friend got the idea to try and find out who lived there before to see if the Bible had actually belonged to them. We looked in the mailbox to find names (careful not to take or damage anything), and we found two. A quick search on Facebook and Myspace proved one to be an atheist, and the other a pagan. The Bible definitely wasn’t theirs. I remembered that most Bibles had a page at the front where names and dates were written. The Bible seemed to be in decent condition, but two pages were missing. Guess which ones.

Sharing testimonies is to the church what Baseball is to America. It’s a pastime. We all do it. And I guess if I were telling this story behind a pulpit, this is where you’d expect the ending. But if I’m honest, the only thing that happened at 1101C Main Street that night was I realized I had been wrong to doubt God. That’s been seven years ago, and I have days when I feel like I don’t know anymore about Him now than when I started this journey. I have days when I’m still trying to figure out why He loves me. I have days when I am so weak… I don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but I know what it’s like to have one. I’ve spent my whole saved life praying and waiting for God to come in and take this thing away, and it’s never happened. I get frustrated and angry and sad, and I’m guilty of trying to dig the thorn out myself, simply because I have days where I can’t take it anymore. And I ask God why it’s there, and I beg Him to remove it. Yes, I definitely have my days…

I set out on a mission to prove God was real. As far as I’m concerned, I succeeded. But my testimony hasn’t ended, because when that mission was complete, I set out to prove my story was real, and what happened in that house was real. I had to prove it to other people, and to myself. I find time and time again that I can’t prove it because I keep failing in life. I keep falling down, over and over. No matter what I do, I can’t get it right. All because of this stupid thorn.

But, that’s okay. Because we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. As I walk with Jesus through this oftentimes ridiculous life, I learn that testimonies are little more than markers of a point in time when we looked to Jesus with our hearts in our hands, crumbling and weak because we’d tried to care for it ourselves, and said to him, “I don’t know what to do with this anymore.” And that means I have a new testimony every single day, in every single moment of weakness, because I am constantly having to give my shattered heart back to God.

So, like Paul, that’s what I boast about. Most of the time, I am weak, I am broken, I am sick, numb, hurting, angry, distraught, and probably crazy. It isn’t that I was messed up; it’s that I AM messed up, and thank God I am. My story doesn’t come from an abandoned Bible or an open house. It comes from my brokenness. And that’s the testimony that sets me free.

Now, I’m going to share one more thing with you.

This website first launched in April of 2011. It’s been a crazy time, for sure. I’ve loved every subscriber and random reader I’ve had, and I’ve treasured you dearly. All I ever wanted to do was share something, anything, that would make a difference to your own walk with The Lord and your lives. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’d like to think five and a half years of writing, I’ve done something to be worth it all.

When I first started this website, it was for my music. God quickly shifted it into something way more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. And I’m honored to have had the support and encouragement you all have given me to continue all this time. I can’t say enough how grateful I am.

I’m not going to say “unfortunately,” because we know when God is on the move, nothing is unfortunate. But I’ve been praying hard into different things lately, and I feel like it’s time now to call this website complete and move on to other things. If I’m meant to be nothing else in this life, I’m meant to be a worshipper. I have stacks and stacks of music, and that’s all I have. I’ve never been able to take it any farther than paper.

Now, I’m fine if all God wants me to do is sing in my closet to Him. If that’s the only reason He wants me to write, I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with not walking in my calling. This website could go viral tomorrow, and be useless in the Kingdom if it wasn’t in His plan.

I’m going to be focusing on my YouTube channel, and probably launching a new site soon. Once those things are up and going, I’ll be back to share links. Anyone who wants to follow me on Facebook can do so. You can find me by searching for my email. It’s hidden.in.christ@live.com. If you have trouble finding me, just email me and let me know. In the meantime, I have no plans to delete this site. If there’s anything on here you’d like to use in your group, church, blog, whatever, then please feel free.

If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this:  Love The Lord. Love Him with everything you are, and pursue Him. Scripture tells us to seek first the Kingdom, and all things will be added unto us. We make it so complicated when we try to live and think in our own flesh and understanding. God is a massive, powerful, mysterious King, but we never had to climb the mountain in hope of figuring Him out. He came down to us. So don’t overthink it. Jesus made it so simple. Just love Him. Everything else will come and happen and be, so just love Him.

Thank you again. You’re all so amazing.

Goodbye, friends! :’-)

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You Okay, NASA?

​Yesterday at church, the pastor said someone was having bad dreams and he wanted to pray for them. A lady came. forward and said it was her. You could tell the pastor thought there was someone else, but no one else moved.

Here’s the crazy I dreamed up last night:
There were a lot of scenes. You know how dreams jump around? I don’t remember how it started out, but it had something to do with my old high school. In another scene, I was looking at “maps,” but not really maps. New houses were showing up radically close to our back door, and I was trying to figure out from the maps who was building these houses. I was back in the house I’d grown up in (the one that burned down) for this whole dream. It’s almost like I went back to maybe 17 or 18 years old.

Now where it gets relevant…
I’m standing on my front porch, and it’s like there’s water everywhere. Huge puddles in the yard and on this tiny porch. There was one of those old-fashioned iron buckets just floating in front of my face. For whatever reason, I didn’t think that was weird. In my hand, I had the end of a water pump. It was old school, like the bucket, and there was a hose attached on the end. I kept trying to put the hose down in the water and use the pump to put it in the bucket. The bucket would never fill, but the puddle would go away. Just for a minute, though. A new one would show up. It was like the water was coming out of the ground. 

The whole time this was going on, the sky kept changing. I noticed one time that it was completely dark. I looked out beneath the roof over the porch, and immediately it started to turn to day again. Slowly. I went back to pumping the water, and it did it again. Then I looked up over a hill, and I see all these people walking by, looking up and looking scared. I realized something was wrong, and the sky went dark again. 

The only part of my house that was actually “my house” was the back bedroom where my grandmother used to sleep. That was strange because that’s the room where the fire started. In the dream, none of that had ever happened. I didn’t even remember it. The only thing out of place was the wall across from the bed was separated from the rest of the house by about a foot, and the bottom half had no wallpaper. My dad was back there in her bed, and I asked him what was going on, but he didn’t know.

I went back outside to find some of the people who could tell me what was happening. I look up then to see the moon, but it’s HUGE. I need to mention now that I’m colorblind, and I’d never seen the color that moon was. I couldn’t even tell you what color it was. 

Then, a group of four or five men come up behind me. I ask them if they know what’s happening. One of the men puts his hand on my shoulder and says, “The world will be gone in a month. Earth is about to get hit hard.” 

I didn’t know this man, in the dream or in real life. But he saw I was upset, and just put his arm around me. Once, he pet my hair. I wasn’t bothered by the contact at all. I kept saying it couldn’t be true. My own death kept going through my mind, and I didn’t want to die. 

By the time I walked away from the men, I think I’d decided to kill myself before the meteor hit. (Not even sure it was a meteor.) I walked back into my grandmother’s bedroom. My dad was still laying there. There was a computer set up across from the foot of the bed. The wall that was cut off was now at least five feet away and now totally void of wallpaper. The skies looked ominous. I get on the computer to look up what’s happening and see if I can find what’s going to happen. Sure enough, there’s some huge mass heading towards earth, and it’s predicted to hit in a month.

I tell my dad we have to go, but he won’t get up. I see a large knife in his hand. He says he’s staying right there, but asks if I’d turn on some music for him before I go. I realize he’s giving up, and the knife is to protect him from people who might break in. I turn on some music for him.

I go back to the porch. I look up and I just said, “Jesus.” I woke myself up when I said it because I’d said it for real. Not just in the dream. 

I can almost always figure out why I have crazy dreams because I can see things that were influenced by the day before. Like I might see a dog at work, and then later dream I’m playing fetch with one. That kind of thing. And before I went to bed and had this dream, I heard this noise that sounded like an ensemble of trumpets. It was coming from outside. I decided it was just a really weird horn or siren and didn’t think much more about it. But certainly no talk of meteors, the end of the world, or anything like that. 

Have you had any crazy, bizarre dreams about the end of the world? Mine was pretty out there. I don’t think there’s any asteroids spiraling towards earth right now, but… I think I might do a quick checkup on NASA and see how they’re doing.

PS.  I was looking back through my site trying to find my salvation story, and I realize I’ve never shared it. I’m both horrified, and super excited. Expect that soon. It’s an awesome story. 🙂

I’m a Murderer

​I remember one time when I had just started going to a new church, Gabriel was almost three years old… We were leaving service, and as I was putting him in the car seat, he asked me very flatly, “What is God?”

When he asked me, I was dumbstruck. Not because he asked the question, but because I didn’t know how to answer.

Tonight, I’ve spent time with The Lord. Not spending time, like playing guitar and thinking, oh, that’s a good song. That’s pretty. I mean, I’ve been laying in a puddle of my own snot and tears. I’ve been spending time with The Lord trying to find the answer to the question I did not have for my son. Because I realize the last seven years of my life, I’ve been in the church. But I’ve never been encased in the presence of majesty. 

I’ve been close. I’ve been close enough that I felt the heat of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been mesmerized by it enough just to run my finger across the flame of the candle, but never bold enough to be consumed by it. I don’t want to burn for all eternity, but I’m not even willing to hold the match when it starts to hurt.

I’m Paul. I’m the chief of sinners. I’m the worst of the worst of the worst. Paul was a murderer of Christians. The blood on my hands comes from the sick I didn’t pray for, the orphans and widows I didn’t care for, and the imprisoned I didn’t visit. Those I did not love, I murdered.

Is God not mercy? Is God not hope? Is He not an ever-present help in times of trouble? What is He, if He is not a Father to the fatherless, and power to the powerless? What is He if He is not a King? Either we believe He is who He says He is, or we don’t. Either we believe He is love, or we don’t. Either we believe He is Lord of all, or we don’t. But if we call ourselves Christians, we reflect what we believe God is. And I’m tired of making God out to be a complacent God.

What is God? What if He’s us? 

What if we’re Him?

Don’t read into that as a hippie new age doctrine. It’s in the Bible. And if we’re to believe the Scriptures are true, then when it says we are the body of Christ, we probably are.

Lord, forgive me for being a murderer. Forgive me for being a liar and a thief. Forgive me for how I’ve represented You. Convict every thought in my mind and every deed in my heart. I’m sorry I ever ran from Your fire. When Your candle was placed before me, I’m sorry I turned away. And I’m sorry for being a poor excuse for a Christian. Forgive me. 

To all of you, forgive me. 

Refugee

There are songs you get stuck in your head, and songs you get stuck in your heart. Some Sundays ago, our worship leader shared a new song with us called Refugee that he had written. I could only remember the chorus, but it became my new anthem.

“This won’t last forever,
This won’t last forever,
I promise, I promise.
The storm will soon be over,
The storm will soon be over,
I promise, I promise…”

I shared it with my son, who my mother has kept away from me for over a year now. One day, I’ll share the story with you about why he’s gone, but right now all that matters is he’s not home where he belongs. And left up to my mom, he’ll never come home.

He used to sing so much, and he really got good. I was impressed. It broke my heart when I got to see him and when I asked if he still sang, he would say no. So I don’t get to hear him sing anymore. All I have is old videos and recordings, and a prayer that God will give him his voice back. But one day right after hearing Refugee, I sang it to him. He didn’t seem to pay much mind to me, and just went on.

A few days later, I was picking up someone’s shift at work. I was bagging food, something I never did, and was working alongside three new people. Everything I did was a joke, and I messed up everyone else. Normal people go on with their lives, but I’m not normal. I keep replaying that night over and over in my mind. And I hear the song.

“This won’t last forever,
This won’t last forever,
I promise, I promise…”

Several mornings, I’ve found myself dragging my feet just to get up and get myself going. I hit snooze a lot… I love my job and, really, I have a good life. My problem is just being so tired. When I get to the end of this, will it have been worth it? Is my son coming home? Will I ever figure out what I’m doing at work? Is this boyfriend going to realize he can do better? What will I do if I eventually have to realize that it was all a waste? And then I hear it…

“This won’t last forever,
This won’t last forever,
I promise, I promise…”

I have so many song ideas right now, it’s pitiful. Because if I’m allowed to say it, they’re all brilliant ideas. Some of the parts I’ve written are awesome. But parts are all I have. And when I try to play and sing, I realize I’m really not that good. I do okay, but just “okay” enough that I can share what I’ve written. I have no right to take a Bethel song and try to sing it. To hear myself is to crush myself. My guitar is falling apart, I’ve played it so much, and for what? I haven’t gotten any better.

“This won’t last forever,
This won’t last forever,
I promise, I promise…”

Last time I saw Gabriel, I was trying to get him to go to sleep. He was trying to get me to stay. I had to say goodbye to him again, and every time I do, I fear it’ll be the last time before my mom decides to bar me from all contact for another six months. He even hid my shoes so I couldn’t leave. When I told him I found my shoes, he cried. I said, “I am doing everything I can to bring you home, monkey.”

He grabbed my face with his hands like he hasn’t done since he was very little. I’ve fared pretty well to have my whole world ripped away, but if I had any sort of melting point, it was when he grabbed my face and sang to me:

“This won’t last forever,
This won’t last forever,
I promise, I promise…”

Since he was snatched from my world, I’ve died a million deaths. In that one moment, my heart was brutally crushed and shattered, and then made whole again, all in a way only the Lord could do.

That song goes on to say, “I know that you can’t see it, I know that you can’t see it, but I can, I can.” And nothing else from here to the heavens can comfort or assure us quite like knowing God is for us, and knowing that He’s writing an incredible ending to our stories. For now, just brace yourself on His goodness and faithfulness. Know that wherever you are in your own story, it won’t last forever.

I promise.

Chicken and Ice Cream

I’ve mentioned before about a hundred some-odd times that I love my job. There’s something about that place that makes it very hard to imagine myself anywhere else. I really liked my job at Earth Fare, and to be honest, I feel like it’s the only job I ever really excelled at. My job now, I’m not particularly great at. But I love it. Most of the time, everything goes pretty smoothly. Any snags in the system get dealt with easily.

Still…

There are days when I’m kicking orders and taking names. I don’t mix orders up, I don’t get confused about who ordered what, I can talk to guests about the game last Saturday and who we played, and the world is in perfect harmony. And then, as steady and easy as things are going, they can go all the way to left field. Then I have guests coming back to the window because they got the wrong food, or didn’t get food at all, and the worst part of it is, it’s very rarely anyone’s fault but mine. So I have to own it.

I love my guests. I love my managers. I love my team mates. I love the business and what it stands for. But I don’t love the times I screw up, and those times seem to happen a lot. I don’t love when I disappoint a guest or I let my team down. I don’t love when I make other people’s jobs harder by making a mistake they have to go behind me and fix. I don’t love when I fail.

I go home most days realizing I’ve fallen in love with something I’m terrible at. And that’s bad for business.

And if I’m so terrible at something that matters so deeply, how terrible am I at the things that matter even more?

Sandi Fatow tells the story about going to a prison one time for a church service, and a young woman there who came to Christ. The next time she was in that prison, a guard made the comment, “Do you hear how that inmate is cussing and ranting? I guess she didn’t really become a Christian.”

Sandi replies to the guard, “She’s still a Christian. She’s just a pissed off Christian.”

No matter how long we have on this earth, we will chronically fail. It’s what we do. Without failure, there’d be no need for grace. Without mistakes, what meaning would mercy have? And with perfection, why would Jesus have ever come?

Today, a new employee comes to my window to bring me an ice cream cone for a guest. And it was the most disproportionate, crooked heap of a mess you’d ever seen on top of a cone. After my line was clear of guests, I brought her and another new girl over to the ice cream machine to show them the art. (Because it really is an art.) What I didn’t tell them was how many cones I’d thrown away, how many I’d sheepishly handed to a customer with a lame excuse about the ice cream machine being a loose cannon, or how many I’d simply had to dump back into the machine and try again. I didn’t tell them about the first time I made a large cone, going through enough attempts that I was almost in tears by the time someone else stepped in to make it for me. They didn’t see the ugly cones and tilted ice cream and missing ridges, and they certainly didn’t know about the frustration or the anger or the failures. All they saw was a delicate swirl with the perfect ‘Q’ on the top.

I think the problem with looking at “perfect” people is that we don’t see what they went through to get there. I think if we were to ask them how many ice cream cones they had to throw away, we’d be surprised. I think if we went deeper and asked about their scars and sweat and tears, we’d find out how terrible we all really are at what we do.

The good news for us is, there’s grace.

We may not know what Paul’s actual thorn was. But in II Corinthians, he admits that he begged the Lord three times to take it away. And God’s answer was so simple. He just said, “My grace is sufficient. My power works best in weakness.”

Rejoice in where you are right now, even if you suck at it. Because you’re going to get better. Forget about where you’re going, and celebrate where you no longer are. Be glad right now in what you’ve accomplished, even if all you’ve done is started praying two minutes a day, or you’ve just stopped smoking, or stopped cussing, or you’ve just learned to cuss less. Be overjoyed if all you’ve done is take one step forward, even after taking ten steps back. Celebrate, even if all you’ve managed to do is make a stupid ice cream cone that doesn’t look like crap.

Rejoice that the grace is there for you to keep moving forward. And remember, even though “perfection” isn’t something you’ll ever accomplish, God’s ultimate mission is to manifest His fullness in Your life, and that is an art He has definitely mastered.

Love Lifted Me

I’ve been vague about the circumstances surrounded the absence of my son for a reason. And one day, there’ll be a book to tell you all about it. But today, what matters is the place I’m in. And the places you’re all in. Most everyone who frequents this site or stumbles across it found it because they’re in a desperate place. Because, let’s be real… that’s kinda what this site is about. It’s about being real, and not having the mask on that makes everyone think we’re okay.

I’ve had a song stuck in my head for a while now. You know the old hymn, Love Lifted Me? What a precious reminder… In situations and circumstances that seem impossible to overcome, there’s still hope. In those moments when the enemy whispers to you that there’s no way out and the Lord won’t save you, the one thing we can know is that if we love God, things will work out for our good. The song says, “When nothing else could help, love lifted me.”

Love will fight for us. Love already fought for us and won. Love paved the victor’s path to freedom, and by the blood of the Lamb, that’s what we are; victors, and co-heirs of the Kingdom. Redemption is our plunder.

I have no idea why we have so much suffering and turmoil in this life. Oh, I can theorize and spit out Scripture… But we don’t know for sure. It’s been the age-old question asked by atheists the world over, why a God who is supposed to be all loving would allow such evil and unfortunate things to happen. And I will oftentimes say to myself, if I could just get a glimpse into the end of this story, just a hint at how it’s all going to come out, maybe walking this thing out wouldn’t be so hard.

But dear brothers and sisters, have you not heard? Have you not seen? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary, and no one can fathom the depths of his understanding.

So be encouraged tonight. Know that no matter what you’re experiencing right now in this moment, no matter what kind of insurmountable giant is facing you right now… know that when nothing else can help, God is love.

And now… I’d like for you to see something. Check this encouragement gold out.