The Crooked Path: A Redemption Story

Until recently, I thought a childhood that included an introduction to Jesus seemed normal in America.  More often than not, individuals stray from a childhood relationship with Christ.  Perhaps we stray in High School or College with poor decisions.  Sometimes that straying is a conscious decision to pull away from God as a result of a life event.  In nearly every case, it’s a result of the enemy meddling in our thoughts and with our hearts.

It becomes a crooked path from Christ, away from Christ, and hopefully back to Christ.

In the book “Saving Me From Myself” by Brian “Head” Welch, the reader is taken through a biographical example of how a child accepts the gift of salvation and then crumples under the snare of Satan. The story of Brian, as the former lead guitarist for the metal band Korn, is fascinating from several levels.  It shows the long-term impact of evangelism. It illustrates the persistence of the enemy. It demonstrates how far we can veer from a righteous path. It shows the absolute beauty of grace and redemption.

I read this book, cover-to-cover, in one night. It was a story that kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the night…long after my typical bedtime.  My fascination with Brian’s story was driven by his return to Christ.  Our God loves us through thick and thin.  He loves us when we are disobedient.  He loves us when we make horrible decisions.  He loves us when we return.

Each of us has a story of the enemy trying to impact our lives.  Each of us has an even better story of that grace and redemption. Brian chose to share his story very publicly through total life style changes, through quitting the band, and by publishing multiple books.

Some thoughts to ponder:

  1. What is your story?
  2. How has the enemy meddled in your life?
  3. How have you persevered in your walk with Christ?
  4. Who are you telling as an example of God working in your life?

Remember that no matter what your story is and how you’ve traveled…God loves you.  Your crooked path has a chance at redemption.

~Emily

“In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” ~Ephesians 1:7

Save Me Cover

Gossip or Guidance?

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” – Ephesians 4:29

When I was a young Airman, I had a supervisor tell me that I was the type of person who thrived on chaos and created drama.  That statement hurt me to my core and allowed me to have some self-reflection time about the type of woman I wanted to be known as.  And guess what? I decided I didn’t want to be known as someone who was involved with chaos, drama, turmoil…and gossip.

Gossip is such an uncomfortable topic.  It’s uncomfortable because so many of us fall into the gossip trap at some point in our lives.  There are varying levels of gossip…the seemingly innocent gossip…the outrageous made-up gossip…and even the justifiable gossip cloaked in truth. There are different players in the game of gossip.  There is the initiator, the contributor, the facilitator, and even the victim.  I know that I have been involved in each of the roles and if I’m honest, in each of the levels of gossip too.

Erin and I were recently talking about the fabric of our friendship and how we’ve never had a fight.  We’ve never gossiped about each other.  We hold each other accountable.  We disagree with one another. Heck we have even disliked decisions that the other made, but we have never fought. Why? I believe there are several reasons.  Our friendship is built on trust. It’s built on respect. It’s built on love. And it’s a friendship that is built on Christ.

What would happen to us, as Christian women, if all our relationships were built on trust, respect, love and Christ?  What if we treated all of our relationships as ones without chaos, without drama, without gossip?

Would we be happier people? Would we accomplish more? Would we reflect Christ’s love for all of His people?

Obviously, you can’t know if all your relationships are built on mutual trust, mutual respect, mutual love, or mutual relationship with God.  But you can know if you will exhibit these traits.

Let’s go back to gossip.  Women typically love to talk. And we love to talk about each other.  We are a catty group of humans.  It does not matter what label you put on yourself, women are at fault for talking about each other.  Christian women too.  Ours however, may be more dangerous gossip than that of the non-believer.  Why?  Well, we mask our gossip as “venting” or worse as “seeking council” from other Christian women.

Please know this, I believe we need to seek wise council.  Occasionally, we need to vent.  If we keep our thoughts, dreams, and prayers to ourselves then we are unable to be held accountable by other Christians.  The distinction between wise council seeking and gossip is when you make the decision about whether or not the conversation will make its way back to the subject.

Let’s imagine you take a topic to someone you trust and respect…simply to vent or to get guidance.

If you talk about someone and never intend to bring it to him or her, then it could be gossip.

If you talk about someone and intend to bring it to him or her after seeking council, then it may not be gossip…it may truly be seeking guidance.

“Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.” – Psalm 101:5

Let’s flip the script now.  Let’s imagine that someone is coming to you for a venting session or because they are seeking your guidance.

If you aren’t sending them to speak with the individual to resolve the situation, then your guidance is not holy…it is likely part of the gossip.

If you join in the venting session because you’ve been hurt by the individual, then you are contributing to the gossip.

If you ask them what their role is in the scenario, or if you ask them what they intend to say to the individual, or if you encourage them to speak to the person…then you are stopping the gossip. You are providing guidance.

“He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.” – Proverbs 11:13

There’s a fine line between gossip and guidance.  It’s a hard line to see, but it’s an easy one to cross.  Our flesh wants the confirmation that we have been wronged. We crave the vindication that we are right and that we are justified in the gossiping.  As humans, we desire someone else to come beside us and share our outrage at injustices…perceived or real.

But what would happen if we stopped the gossip?

What would happen if we started building our relationships on trust, respect, love and Christ?

If we stopped gossiping and replaced that with truth talk directly to the people involved, wouldn’t we start building trust, respect, love…and show how Christ would have functioned?

There are relationships that are toxic. Ones that eventually need to be severed. But for the average relationship, trust and respect are started with honesty.  Honesty can be sometimes harsh or sometimes softer, but should never be expressed in a deliberately hurtful manner.  Honest talk builds healthy relationships.

“He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, Therefore do not associate with a gossip.” – Proverbs 20:19

 Let’s band together as Christian women to refine one another. Together we can start to stop the gossip within our homes, our churches, and our workplaces. Let’s identify the flaws and press into the Lord with our desire to do better.

~Emily

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”               – Psalm 141:3

 

 

 

 

@#!*% Swear Words

I use swear words while driving.

It feels slightly cathartic writing that…like it’s a true confession.

I actually use swear words more than just while I’m driving.  My parents had a philosophy that words were just words…you just needed to know when it was socially acceptable to use particular words.  They taught my brother and I to expand our vocabulary and to become selective in which words we chose to use.  Words matter.  And the meaning behind each word matters.  It’s not enough to say “kind” when you really mean “considerate” or “gracious.”  My parents taught me that the meaning behind each word is important and that the use of a particular word should be deliberate.  They taught us that there was a need for cuss words, but that we should be selective when we used them.  It’s a thought that I’ve carried my whole life.

And until this last week, I didn’t think much of it.  You see, this last week my 7 year old gave me a vocabulary lesson.

I was driving and he was in the back seat. For whatever reason, I chose to use a particular word…and it’s one I chose specifically for it’s meaning.  My son said, “Mama, you shouldn’t use that word…it’s a bad word.”

So I seized the opportunity. I thought to myself, “I have this wonderful teaching moment…I have a chance to be as amazing as my own parents!”

I replied to my son, “Buddy, there aren’t any bad words…there are just words that we associate with having bad meanings.  When I use that word, does it hurt you?”

Very cautiously, very slowly, very guardedly, my little guy replied, “No….but I’m pretty sure it hurts God.”

Gut Punch to the Mama. Seriously, kid?!?!?!  I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me.  What in the Sam-Hill am I supposed to say to that?!?!?! (See, I’m still struggling with swear word replacements!).

“You know what Buddy, you’re right.  That probably does hurt God.  I’ll do my best to stop saying those words.”

I have never subscribed to the thought that the Bible specifically bans the use of curse words. However, there are plenty of scriptures that discourage the use of profanity.

“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.” ~Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

 “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.” ~2 Timothy 2:16 (NIV)

 What I have always subscribed to is the thought that our mouths either build up or tear down. This is true for the Christian and for the non-Christian.  Essentially, the words we choose can help or harm others.

This makes perfect sense when you consider how words impact your own day.  As an example, imagine yourself stopping before work to get a coffee. Someone in line tells you that they love your hair.  For nearly everyone, a compliment like that would automatically make you smile.  It lifts you up.  Yet if someone in the same line says something snarky or tells you to watch where you are going, you are automatically put on the defensive. You may react negatively or you may internalize the words. Either way, you aren’t smiling. You aren’t lifted up.

When considering building or tearing, I want to be a Godly woman who builds others up.  Even in a moment of frustration, my use of curse words does not build anyone up.  In fact, it caused my child to pause enough that he felt compelled to correct my behavior.

While I don’t believe that using profanity is the worst thing a human can do, I can agree that it is not glorifying to God.  As a result of my parents encouraging an ever-growing vocabulary, I have a stockpile of other words I could choose to use when frustrated or angry.   In order to become a “builder” of others, I want to glorify God with my word choices.

Like I told my little guy, I’m going to do my best to stop choosing those words.

~Emily

 “My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.”  ~Psalm 35:28 (NIV)

The Empty Seat

If your child didn’t get off the bus, would you worry where they were?  If you went to the hospital to visit your loved one and they weren’t in their assigned room, would you worry where they were?  If you had a business presentation and your partner was running late, would you worry where they were?

Of course you would! The woman inside of each of us would worry about where those individuals were and why they weren’t where we were expecting them to be.

Let me ask you a harder question.  Do you worry about the empty seat next to you at church?

I’m not asking about the seat that is empty due to sickness, injury, or planned vacation. I’m asking about the seat that is empty due to spiritual sickness, lukewarm responses to the Gospel, or flat out thinking there’s something more important to do than sit in the House of the Lord.  We are not speaking of the empty seat due to plans that backfired…we are talking about the empty seat due to someone not even planning to sit there in the first place!

This empty seat is unable to sing glory to God.  The empty seat is unable to testify to answered prayers.  The empty seat is unable to witness to the newcomer.  The empty seat is unable to serve. The empty seat is unable to teach.

But the empty seat is not silent.  No. It’s not silent.  It tells a story of apathy.  It tells a story of an Easter-Christmas Christian.  It tells a story of lukewarm faith.  This is a tragedy for the walk of the lukewarm Christian’s life.

Understand this…God does not want a lukewarm reception, nor does he want a lukewarm follower.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)

Both Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 & 24 state that the church is the body of Christ, over which Jesus is the head.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you know you should be attending church. This is where you connect with God, where you worship God, where you focus your prayers, and where you fellowship with other Christians.  In short, it’s where you are an active part of the body.

As I write this, I want to be clear that I acknowledge that I am often the empty seat.  It’s all too easy to sleep in on the only day of the week that is alarm clock free.  It’s easy to let errands and chores take precedent. It’s easy to make excuses that I don’t want to sit by myself when my husband is out of town or working.  It becomes a slippery slope of not going. One Sunday becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes a full month, and so on. Suddenly, it’s been months or years that the seat has been empty.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” ~Hebrews 2:1

I know I should be in church. I know that the Bible states church must be a priority in my scheduling. To not go is tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that causes our Lord sorrow.

 “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~James 4:17

The empty seat represents a lack of spiritual preparedness.  It represents a willingness to allow the world to be more important that the Lord.

If women worry about an empty seat on a school bus, in a hospital room, or the boardroom, then we should certainly be concerned with the empty seat in church!

Ladies, this is our chance to exalt the Lord, to learn, to encourage one another…and frankly, these are the front row seats to Heaven that we are discussing!  We are talking about seats for our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families…and we are absolutely failing them if we are not filling the seats of our churches!

Let’s start with assessing ourselves to ensure we aren’t the empty seat.  Then let’s start to look at the empty seats around us to see if there are members we should encourage to come back to church so they can fill their seat.  Finally, we need to seek the unbelievers, so that they can fill empty seats reserved for them.

Churches should be busting at the seams.  There should be a distinct need for additional service times.  It should be standing room only.  There shouldn’t be even one empty seat…

~Emily

 

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily