Would You Recognize God in Human Form? Many Christians Wouldn’t…

The religious leaders of Jesus’s day were certain they had God all figured out. In reality, they were so far off base they thought Jesus was demon-possessed and plotted to have him killed. Bottom line: he wasn’t whom they expected, and their religious misconceptions kept them from recognizing God in human form.

If God visited the Christian Church today, would we be so shocked and offended by His theology that we would do whatever it took to silence His message? Surely not! we say. We know God, we know what He’d say, and we know we’re doing what’s right.

Maybe we shouldn’t be so cocky. History does has a tendency to repeat itself, after all. Instead of scoffing at the epic error of the religious leaders, I think we should consider this question:

How did religious authorities who dedicated their lives to studying the scriptures manage to get so far off the mark without realizing it?


Photo by Clifton Johnston as seen on Flickr

After answering that question, we need to examine our own thinking and faith to make sure we aren’t following in their footsteps.

While many believers today spend a lot of time berating sinners and loving religious leaders, Jesus did the opposite.  He spent a lot of time berating religious leaders and loving sinners. His harsh words of judgement were not for the prostitutes, thieves, and murderers in his company. They were reserved for the religious experts of the day: the Pharisees.

The Pharisees were a large, influential  religious sect focused on rigid observance of the Law and Traditions of Moses. They were honored among Jews as religious authority figures. Ironically, while they were immersed in Scripture, they knew little of the God to whom the Scriptures referred.

Here are some characteristics of the Pharisees as the bible describes them:

  1. Loud and Proud. The Pharisees were proud of their good works, and they wanted everyone to notice. Matthew 23:5-6 tells us They do all their deeds to be seen by others…and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues...” Jesus told this parable in Luke 18 to describe the heart position of Pharisees when they prayed: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
  2. Self-righteous Hypocrites. In Matthew 23: 2-3, Jesus said, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.”  Pharisees went to great lengths to appear righteous by following the rules, but inside they were evil. They prayed loud, long prayers in public, but behind closed doors they did what was evil in God’s sight. Jesus called them “white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones.”
  3. Focused on scripture while ignoring God. Pharisees forgot that knowing about God included being in a relationship with Him and being taught by Him. John 6:45 puts it this way: “It is written in the Prophets: `They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.” Sadly, the Pharisees’ relationship with God began and ended with the study of scripture, and this prevented them from accurately interpreting the scripture as well as current events. For example, they knew scripture had prophesied the Christ would come from Bethlehem, and because they thought Jesus came from Galilee, they rejected him as Messiah. Of course, they never bothered asking Jesus what his city of birth was. They just assumed they knew.
  4. Focused on being and appearing RIGHT. The pharisees often had arguments with Jesus, many of them public. When Jesus put their theology to shame and pointed out their hypocrisy, rather than repent, they became enraged. They spent hours concocting questions for Jesus that would confuse Him or cause Him to deny the validity of their teachings so they could win the ongoing argument. When that didn’t work, they plotted to kill Him. They preferred to be murderers rather than be  “wrong.” They couldn’t be in relationship with Jesus because they were too arrogant to be corrected and unwilling to be taught, thinking they already understood everything perfectly.
  5. Blind. The Pharisees were blinded by their own arrogant thinking and hardness of heart. They were incapable of seeing truth because they were so locked into the “rightness” of their screwed-up theology. John 9: 39-41 tells us,“Then Jesus declared, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.’ Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, ‘Are we blind too?’ ‘If you were blind,’Jesus replied, ‘you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.’
  6. Lacked empathy or love for people. The Pharisees  saw everyone’s sin but their own. They believed the remedy for that sin was giving sinful people more rules to follow. Matthew 23:4 tells us that “they tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” Rather than bring sinners to the Father, they drove people away from God with their legalism. Jesus told them in Matthew 23: 13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.” 
  7. Legalistic. Pharisees lives revolved around rules. What to eat, what to say, what to wear. How often to pray. Etc, etc, etc. They’d taken the laws of Moses and written an “amplified version” so to speak. For example, God’s request that his people rest and reflect on Him one day a week (sabbath rest) birthed a whole new set of rules revolving around the what the Pharisees believed actually constituted work and what didn’t. God’s request that they give a tenth of their income as tithe birthed a set of regulations about what things needed tithing and what didn’t…even down to counting out individual tea leaves or other spices. This zealous rule-following wasn’t inspired by their desire to please God, but by their desire to appear righteous.
  8. Heavily influenced by Satan. While pharisees saw themselves as God’s appointed messengers, Jesus called them “children of Hell” and “sons of the Devil.” Wow, what a scathing description! Not only were they terrible at representing God, they were actually siding with and working alongside the Enemy. John 8: 42-44 shows this clearly.Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on My own, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to accept My message. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out his desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, refusing to uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him.”

Let’s bring this a little closer to home by examining ourselves.

  • Are we prideful about our good works, and do we need others to notice them?
  • Do we pretend to have it all together and hide our failures behind a Christian facade?
  • Are we so busy examining scripture that we’ve neglected to spend time in God’s presence listening to His voice and getting to know what He thinks?
  • Do we hate admitting we’re wrong? Will we do anything to win a religious argument?
  • Are we so locked into our theology that we are unteachable and blind to any truth that doesn’t line up with our thinking?
  • Is our legalistic or judgmental attitude turning people away from God?
  • Do we follow our own religious traditions and preferences as if they were God’s commands and teach them to others as if they were necessary religious requirements?
  • Are we inadvertently working on the side of evil by believing the Enemy’s lies?

We don’t want to repeat the tragedy and folly of the pharisees. If any of the above descriptors are true of us, then we need to pay attention. It’s easy to get prideful and set in our religious ways.

Do we have any religious preconceptions or misconceptions that would keep us from recognizing God if He were to appear to us in the flesh at this time in human history? Please comment below…I would love to hear your thoughts.


Feature Photo unaltered by Dionisio Leltao as seen on flickr


God-Sized Dreams

Dream for a moment. Let your imagination run wild. What could you accomplish while on this planet that would bring you unfathomable joy and substantiate your entire existence? What could you do that would echo through the ages, unforgotten?


Photo called Imagine by Antoine Perette-Dat as viewed on Flickr

Many scoff at such dreaming, thinking it a waste of time…especially Christians who believe its their obligation to focus on their practical, moral duties. But is that how God sees it?

No one can out-dream God. Think about it. He’s the one who imagined sunsets and romance, fireflies and waterfalls. Personally, I think many Christians have forgotten the importance of dreaming. Following Christ shouldn’t halt our dreaming. It should magnify it a hundred times over.

Of course being a Christ-follower affects the substance and size of our dreams. Before He changes us on a heart level, our dreams are naturally small…not in their scope but in their significance. We dream of building a successful business, of owning a custom home, or becoming someone our dad could be proud of. We dream dreams that reflect the fallen priorities of our fallen world.

These small dreams deny the magnitude of our potential. They can be accomplished in our own small strength, and are subject to our limitations and weaknesses. They are not God’s idea, nor are they fueled by His miraculous power.

In God’s economy, small dreams produce nothing of eternal value because they build our kingdom rather than God’s. The motivation behind them is small because it is self-serving.

  • They pad our egos
  • They cover up our insecurities
  • They band-aid our pain

God must do His expansive work in us so that we have the capacity to envision and embrace His great dreams. When our hearts belong to the God who spoke the complexities of this world into existence, we gain the ability to dream God-sized dreams that reflect our true nature and our true calling.

Because God-sized dreams are accomplished in His miraculous strength, they are limitless in nature. Ephesians 3:20 (New Living Translation) puts it this way: “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we can ask or think.”

The Enemy works overtime to ensure that we fail to see the beauty and significance of these incredible God-sized dreams. He tells us that relinquishing our small dreams is a huge sacrifice which will cause us to lose our individuality and our freedom.

  • He tells us that if we give God permission to redefine our dreams, He’ll make mindless drones of us.
  • He assures us that God’s dreams for us will be miserable, dangerous, or downright boring.
  • He tortures us with visions of moving to sweaty jungles or war-torn cities to do missionary work.
  • He mocks us constantly, driving us back to our small dreams.

In reality, the only people whom God sends to remote jungles are those whose hearts leap for joy at the prospect because they were born with that very desire pulsing just beneath the surface of who they are.

God’s great dreams are the realization of our untapped potential. They capitalize on our God-given abilities, passions, and interests. They are imagined by Someone who knows us intimately and understands what will satisfy us.

God knows what makes you smile. What lights you up. What makes you feel alive. He knows who you are and what you were born to do. He has dreams for your life that will blow you away. If you think you’ve gotten a handle on what that might be, dare to dream bigger. Dare to trust that God has something even more incredible in mind. Something only He can empower and accomplish through you.

I am curious…what God-sized dreams have you been pondering these days? Please comment below.

Featured Image called “Dream” by Allegra Ricci as seen on Flickr

How Teens Explain School Shootings

The recent school shooting in Florida has adults across the country asking the question: “Why does this happen?”
To get satisfying answers, I thought it might be prudent to bypass all the theorizing of social experts and go straight to the source: today’s teens.
During my high school advisory class, I posed this question to 15 of my students, ages 16-17: “Why do you think some teens choose to murder their own schoolmates?”


Photo by Jo Christian Oterhals as shown on Flickr
I wasn’t questioning a hand-picked group of kids. They were a random mix of students with different backgrounds, socio-economic staus, and academic standing. They were more than happy to enlighten me, and their answers were astoundingly insightful and original.

  • Not one student blamed the availability of guns.
  • Not one person blamed lack of armed security guards
  • Not one students blamed first person shooter games
  • Not one person blamed bullying

Here are their top explanations for why some teens become mass murderers:

  1. Teen shooters are lonely people with no real connections to their peers. They feel like they don’t belong or fit in. Because they are completely disconnected, they lack empathy. People they shoot aren’t really people to them…they’re just targets.
  2. Teen shooters are entitled. Adults are so worried about hurting kids’ feelings these days that everybody gets a ribbon. Kids grow up never learning how to handle life’s disappointments or deal with failure, loss, or rejection. They expect everything to be easy. When it isn’t, they get angry.
  3. Teen shooters are not emotionally resilient. They can’t shake off insults or disapproval from peers. They get stuck in their current painful reality, and they lack the perspective that problems are temporary and high school will end.
  4. Teen shooters haven’t experienced enough consistent discipline by parents to predict the consequences of their choices. Kids away with too much these days and aren’t given enough healthy limits. When they do cross the line, they aren’t given meaningful consequences. When teens’ bad choices don’t cost them, they start to believe they can get away with anything.
  5. Teen shooters project their rage instead of internalizing it. Kids who commit suicide often blame and hate themselves for their painful circumstances. They own it too much. Teen shooters are the opposite. They blame and hate everyone around them, and they don’t own anything. They feel the need to lash out and punish.

These answers gave me a whole lot to think about. I walked away from that conversation with a new respect for my students’ understanding. They aren’t just theorizing about school violence. They get it because they live it. I think we’d better start listening to them if we have any hope of solving society’s issues.
Of course I realize that their answers may not paint the whole picture, but they are at least worth talking about. Instead of arguing about the availability of guns or the lack of guns, maybe we need to spend more time exploring the deeper questions like “Why are teens disconnected, entitled, emotionally immature, undisciplined, and angry?”
Like every other problem on this planet, teen shootings are a heart-level issue. Hearts must be examined in order to identify and expose the corrupted motivations driving our heinous actions.

I am extremely interested to hear your thoughts and responses. Please comment below.

Unaltered Featured Image by Matthias Weinberger via Flickr

Belief Trumps Action

They say actions speak louder than words. So what speaks louder than actions? Consider this:

What I believe is more important than what I do.

Ten years ago, I would have argued strongly against that statement.  I spent most of my  Christian life focusing on my words and actions, assuming that God did the same. Keeping my behavior in check was what defined me as a believer. Performing was what I did best. It was my comfort zone…


…until the bottom dropped out of my life, and I couldn’t perform perfectly anymore.  Dealing with an ugly divorce and two life-threatening illnesses took precedence over obsessing about my Christian witness. During those years, my fear and pain grew to the point that I could barely function, let alone do the good works necessary to feel and appear righteous.

God met me there. What He had to say was surprising.

While I was worried about my lack of ability to perform, God was more concerned with the false beliefs driving my good behavior. Such as:

  • I have to be perfect to be loved
  • God will be disappointed in me if I fail
  • I deserve punishment

I was shocked to learn that God’s priority wasn’t ensuring my good behavior. He wanted to cultivate truthful beliefs, from which all good behavior flows. He lovingly showed me my ugly motivations and attitudes. He asked the hard questions, like:

  • “Don’t you trust that I love you?”
  • “Why are you striving when I’ve come to give you rest?”

I had known for a long time that faith without works was dead, but God showed me a deeper truth. Faith without belief is a dead faith. Belief is the fundamental requirement for a relationship with God. Not works. Not words. Just belief. Period.

You might ask, “What if I believe but then never do one good thing? Would God find that sufficient?” I would reply, “If you truly believed, you couldn’t help but do good.”

We are helpless to save ourselves without believing God. We are also helpless to  do the works of a Christ-follower without believing God. Both require belief.

In Acts 16:29-31, when the jailer asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” they replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” Notice they didn’t say, “clean up your life and then maybe God will consider saving you.”

Of course our actions are important. But we can’t put the cart before the horse. We can’t prioritize our behavior when our heart isn’t right. God isn’t impressed with “good” words and actions that spring from wrong motivations and beliefs. He doesn’t want us wasting a lifetime striving to be good without examining what’s driving us.

Our actions eventually reveal what we believe. Not what we say we believe or what we want to believe, but what we truly believe in our heart. So when we screw up, rather than beat ourselves us, we need to look deeper.  When we are focused on good behavior and ignoring what our hearts believe, we are inconsistent at best. At worst, we are hypocritical.

When God wants to make that point, all He has to do is give us an action to perform that we cannot possibly perform unless our heart…our motivating beliefs…are radically changed. Like…love your neighbor as yourself. Or do not be afraid. We simply cannot accomplish these things unless we have discarded false beliefs and embraced God’s truth.

Jesus challenged the rich young ruler in Mark 10: 20-22 to do the one thing he couldn’t do in order to expose his underlying false beliefs.

As Jesus started on His way, a man ran up and knelt before Him. “Good Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus replied, “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, and honor your father and mother.’”

“Teacher,” he replied, “I have kept all these from my youth.”

Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “There is one thing you lack: Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

But the man was saddened by these words and went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.

The young man was looking for a to-do list from Jesus to bolster his religious reputation. He was pridefully confident that he could accomplish any item on that list. Notice that Jesus saw right into that man’s heart and challenged him to do the one thing the man didn’t have the willpower to do without a heart level change.

I learned the hard way that belief, not actions, should define my walk with Christ. Without true belief, Jesus’s commands are beyond me.

While our words and actions are visible indications of who we are, nothing is more revealing, more soul-shaping, than our beliefs. Though invisible, they drive everything we do, say and feel.

While our American culture and our Christian culture both seem to push us toward a life of business and effort and “doing”, it’s important that we take a moment to rest, to reflect, and to search our hearts.


What beliefs are driving us? Are our actions an overflow of a true, living faith?


If we are true Christ-followers, love marks our lives. We are charged with task of caring for ourselves and those around us in a mature, live-giving way.  At all times and in all circumstances, we  are to be a force for growth and healing. We are never off the hook…not even when we’ve been hurt by someone else’s behavior.

Trust me. I know what it’s like to be legitimately and deeply offended. To have every right to lash out. Choosing not to do so takes maturity, insight, and crazy-committed love. The kind Jesus had.

offended 3

We tend to lean toward extremes in choosing how to handle hurtful people.  Oftentimes, we either downplay that person’s offensive remarks or actions, or we loudly and angrily confront in order to punish. We smile sweetly while we grind our teeth…or we treat the offender like they are dirt beneath our feet.

  • Either way, love is misrepresented.
  • Either way, relationships are damaged.
  • Either way, we devalue someone of importance. (Ourselves or the other person).

Let’s examine each of these extreme choices and what motivates us to adopt them.


Here are some common reasons for choosing this option:

  1. We fear confrontation. Sometimes we overlook offenses because it’s easier than addressing the problem. If this is the only tool in our belt, we will eventually adopt a victim mentality. Without knowing how to draw boundaries or protect ourselves, we become closed and defensive. If we can’t request respectful treatment from others, not only are we inviting a lifetime of offenses, but we’re also refusing to care for ourselves. We are volunteering to suffer needlessly.
  2. We  believe “stuffing our outrage” is what forgiveness looks like. We ignore offenses, telling ourselves it’s not “nice” to bring them up, but inside, we’re boiling mad. We think we’re taking the moral high ground, but we’re really setting ourselves us for resentment that grows into bitterness. This approach doesn’t keep the peace. It perpetuates a fake, false-peace.  It’s basically emotional dishonesty.


Here are some common reasons for choosing this option:

  1. We have unresolved past wounds. If we have a history of suffering through a certain type of abuse, our tolerance for that type of treatment is small. It’s easy when we’re triggered to overreact, heaping all the anger and resentment from the past onto the current offender. As mature Christians, we need to be make sure we deal with our hurts and keep things in perspective so that when we’re offended, our responses aren’t overkill.
  2. We believe it’s our job to correct or punish the offender’s behavior. Unless the offender is our child, we must acknowledge that while we may hate their behavior, it’s not our job to punish people. That’s God’s territory. Trying to teach another adult a lesson is ultimately futile. People only change when they experience remorse.  Giving the cold shoulder, lecturing, shaming or threatening won’t ever reform someone else’s behavior. The offender will be much too busy focusing on our cruelty to contemplate what they did wrong.
  3. We believe there’s nothing worse than being treated badly. When we are hurt by others, we can get tunnel vision. The offense grows until it consumes our attention. We no longer see the offender as a human being with their own hurts and hang-ups. We stop seeing ourselves as God’s agents of love and healing. We are so focused on how we were wronged that we fail to consider how our response will affect the offender. We forget how much we have to lose by retaliating.

We don’t have to choose either of these two extremes when we are offended. We don’t have to suffer in silence or be hurtful and vindictive. Proverbs 19:11 (ESV) says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” If you can put aside the offense without holding a grudge, do so. But if anger continues to burn inside of you, you need to address the offense in order to avoid resentment. Otherwise, the bitterness will build until you explode, and the damage you do may not be repairable.

There is another option:



We need to address offenses calmly, assertively, and humbly. Leviticus 19:17 stresses our responsibility to be honest about hurts we receive. It’s says, “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” Additionally, Galatians 6:1 sets the standard for how to deal with offenses in a Godly manner. “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” 

We don’t ignore the wound or stuff our anger. We don’t vindictively punish. We are humble and gentle. We are honest and direct. We realize we are capable of the same offense if it weren’t for God’s restoration. We care about our own pain and that of the offender. We see our own wounding as significant enough to address, but we also remember that other person isn’t a monster. They are just another fallible humble being.

God deals with our ugly offenses in the same manner. As Psalm 103: 10 (HCSB)  puts it: “He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve or repaid us according to our offenses.”

The next time we are offended, let’s ask ourselves if it’s within our capacity to overlook it. If not, let’s deal with it in a manner that reflects Who we are and Whose we are.



A Woman’s Greatest Strength

Today’s modern woman is convinced that to be strong, she must be a wall.

Invulnerable. Impenetrable. Untouchable.

She has been used, taken for granted, and discounted so many times. She believes it’s because she’s weak. Her Prime Directive becomes self-protection. Her natural impulses to nurture, respond, and reveal herself are risks she thinks she cannot afford. Her tears, her empathy, and her intuition are discarded in favor of control, shrewdness, and competitive edge.

Happy elegant woman showing her biceps

She believes that if she is going to be taken seriously, she must reign in her emotions and prove herself tougher, smarter, and harder-working than the men around her.

She must never allow herself the luxury of depending upon anyone. Her only protection against the onslaught of life is her own cunning and resourcefulness.

To avoid being trampled by life, she becomes the “trampler”. She prefers to “use” rather than “be used”. In that spirit, sex becomes nothing more than a tool with which she carves out pleasure and power. She will not be conquered. She gives her body freely but gives her heart to no one.

In order to keep others from seeing her flaws, she ruthlessly points out everyone else’s. She lives on a surface level, concentrating on her appearance or her job performance. Few, if any, ever see who she really is. Her hurts, doubts and fears are hidden behind a facade of perfection.

And so she keeps up the charade. Day after day. Lifeless moment after lifeless moment.

  • She is weary
  • She is lonely
  • She is depressed

That’s because she’s living so far from her created nature. A woman walking in her God-given identity is intimately connected to people, empathetic to their pain and responsive to their needs.

Her relationship with God provides her security, so she has no need to protect herself. He tells her who she is, so she shuns pretense. She is not crippled by criticism. She speaks the truth without fear of judgment. She lives boldly, with her heart wide open. She exists in the glorious reality that she is safe and loved.

  • She is courageous
  • She is confident
  • She is authentic

Consider how little effort it takes to be guarded. To be defensive. To be closed. It’s our default mode.

Being vulnerable, however, takes true courage and strength. It requires unshakable faith in what God says about us and His ability to care for us.

Our culture tells us that being vulnerable is equivalent to being unsheltered against life’s pain. The spiritual reality is that being vulnerable allows us to connect intimately to people around us and love others the way God loves us.

  • He is our protector.
  • He is our Defender.
  • He tells us who we are.

And so we are free to live without walls.

Our culture has skewed our perception of what true Womanhood should look like. Next time you’re tempted to define a strong woman as someone who waltzes through life without being affected or hurt, remember this:

A woman’s greatest strength is her vulnerability…

Who Tells You Who You Are?


I spent most of my life looking for someone to tell me who I was.

While my parents told me that I was wanted and wonderful, deep inside I feared that I was not. I believed that I was not. Instead, I felt insignificant and repulsive.

Life supplied plenty of ammunition to support this false identity. Outside my own family, I regularly heard the message, “You are ugly. You are stupid. You don’t belong. You are not enough.”

Rather than believe the positive messages I received, I focused on these. They became my inner mantra. They built my walls. They imprisoned me.

The Enemy of my soul was setting me up. Those were his words to me, designed to blind me to my true identity and annihilate my God-given purpose. I wrapped myself in a cocoon of self-hatred and self-doubt. By believing the Enemy, I participated in my own destruction.



The truth finally broke through when my pain drove me to question everything I believed. I ‘d spent the first 35 years of my life trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be in order to avoid their rejection. Nice. Helpful. Supportive. In general…

The perfect wife. The perfect mother. The perfect Christian.

Yep, I was even trying to be what I thought God wanted me to be so that He wouldn’t reject me. Craziness. The truth is…I had no clue what God wanted from me. I thought He wanted what everyone else wanted: perfection. When I took the time to ask Him, his answer was shocking:

God wanted me to be Audrey. The real Audrey. Not the performer. Not the one striving to improve. Not the one pretending to have it all together. Just Audrey. The person He’d created me to be.

It took years for me to finally hear and accept the truth of who He made me to be. To allow Him to rebuild my identity. When I asked Him who I really was, here’s some of what I heard:

  • Seeker and Speaker of truth
  • Noble strength
  • Fearless
  • Tender-hearted, faithful child

Why do we give other people the power to tell us who we are?

Our true identity is known only by the One who formed us in the womb. Gold told the prophet Jeremiah, “Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5′Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…’

The same is true for us. God loved us before we had substance. He knew everything we were meant to be before we took our first breath. The enemy wants us to believe the skewed input we get from other flawed humans and tragic circumstances.

Who will you give the power to define you? 

The Most Powerful Word in the English Language

What’s the one word you couldn’t live without?

Love? Hope? Dinner time? (Wait, that’s two words.)

What about the word “NO“? I’m not being a Negative Nelly here. I really believe the use (or misuse) of this little word drastically effects our lives.

Three critical uses of the word NO:

  • saying NO to others
  • saying NO to ourselves
  • hearing and respecting someone else’s NO

Which of these things is the easiest for you? Which is the hardest?

If we have a hard time saying NO to others, we are tired and resentful people. We feel controlled by the needs and wants of everyone around us. Guilt is our fuel.

If we have a hard time saying NO to ourselves, we are slaves to our own desires. Our common sense is trumped by our impulses. We struggle to make others’ needs a priority. Pleasure is our fuel.

If we have a hard time accepting NO from others, our relationships are superficial. People avoid us. They feel run over by us. They say what we want to hear instead of what they really mean. Control is our fuel.

To be mature people, we must embrace and value NO in each of these capacities. Personally speaking, I can tell myself NO and hear NO quite easily, but I hate saying NO to others. I like the word YES. It makes me feel like a hero. It makes me well-liked. It makes me indispensable. Saying Yes is easy.

Saying no is a lot harder, but it’s critical to our mental and emotional health. If we say YES when we really want to say NO (or need to say NO), then we are being dishonest.We are denying reality. We are driving ourselves beyond our giving capacity. We are killing authenticity in our relationships.

Here are 3 reasons the word NO is so significant:

  1. The word NO is limiting.  Not in a hindering way, but in a protective way.  It keeps us from over-extending ourselves. We all have limits. Acknowledging them is critical to our functioning. We need to get real about what we can authentically and willingly give, and toss out our desire to please others at any cost.
  2. The word NO is defining. It tells people who we are not. What we don’t like. What we won’t do. That information is critical if we’re going to  bring the “real us” to the table in our relationships. Intimacy requires authenticity.
  3. The word NO is empowering. The compulsion to say YES makes us a slave to whims, either our own or someone else’s. The word NO carves out a space where we can be real. It gives us permission to disagree or refuse. It makes us more of who we are instead of less.

Saying NO isn’t a chance to flaunt our rights or snub authority. It’s not a tool we use to manipulate or get what we want. It is simply a chance to state our truth: quietly, firmly, and with conviction. It’s an opportunity to separate from the pack and put a voice to our convictions. It helps us to stand up to what is evil around us. It makes us a safe person whose words can be trusted. It teaches us humility and empathy as we learn to accept and respect other people’s needs and limitations.

Don’t underestimate the power of NO.


Improving Vs. Becoming

We sense it deep within our spirits. The urgency to do what we were born to do. The desire to step into  something bigger. The call to become

Sadly, we are experts at drowning it out.

We are busy trying to survive the monotony and demands of this life. We are bombarded with the message that we are not enough. Wanting “more” only seems to emphasize our inadequacy.

Maybe that’s because we see our successes or failures every day as a measure of our ability. Our worthiness. Our effort.

We are far more than we have become.  You bet. But what if that’s not because we’re weak or not trying hard enough? What if that’s because we’ve forgotten who we really are?

What if we’ve been trying to act like a decent person for so long that we’ve forgotten how to act like the real us? What if being “good” isn’t about discovering will-power but discovering our identity?

Here’s the real kicker: what if God isn’t interested in our self-righteous self-improvement? What if He just wants us to become the person He designed us to be?  The only thing we become, apart from His involvement, is tired. Our efforts to improve don’t address the underlying causes of our behavior. We require change from the inside out. That is the work of a Holy God.

Ironically, working harder to improve lessons our chances of ever truly becoming. Our energy either goes into fixing ourselves or allowing God to fix us. We are dedicating our lives either to striving or surrendering.

Improving is about  work ethic. Becoming is about willingness.

Improving is about appearances. Becoming is about authenticity.

Improving is a goal. Becoming is a journey.





243It isn’t until life’s devastating circumstances pass that we begin to see God’s redemptive plan in motion. During the crisis, we are often just trying to survive, and our ability to see what God is doing is temporarily blurred through the lens of our pain and fear.  Once life snaps back into focus, it’s critical to open our spiritual eyes and take in the beauty, meaning, and purpose God is weaving into our story. God’s restoration process isn’t just awe-inspiring, it’s humbling.  If we’re paying attention, we can’t help but notice how the healing He brings is amazingly specific and relevant because He walked beside us through every aching moment and is intimately familiar with what we need to experience wholeness again.  We realize that God wasn’t just present during our suffering, he was working through it…using it to make something incredible come to life inside of us and through us when it was over.  It is in that process that we come to know the true power of love and the extent to which God is capable of making beauty from our ashes. No damage is permanent.  No hurt is outside of His ability to heal. These realizations bring us to our knees before our Savior and make our hearts cry, “Father!!” with glorious gusto.

A couple of weeks ago, I got married.  I joined myself to a man who loves me deeply and is fiercely loyal and protective.  I have experienced, for the first time in my life, what it is to be adored by someone other than family members.  This man’s choice to love me despite tremendous challenges is radically changing the landscape of past pain inside of me.  It is erasing years of feeling rejected and invisible.  It is God’s redemptive plan unfolding.

Today, my kids and I are traveling to Hawaii on my daughter’s Make-A-Wish trip.  She is slowly recovering from years of chemo…from ongoing devastation, fear, and horror.  God is bringing her back to life.  He is showing her what love and protection look like, and how beautiful she is.  We are going to experience joy, laughter, adventure, and hope.  Not just on this trip, but in the ups and downs of every day life as we keep our eyes on what God is doing and where He is taking us.

We are trading fear and doubt for Restoration.

We are opening our hearts to receive all God has for us.  We choose to trust the heart of the One whose strength held us up when we would have otherwise fallen.

He is the master artist.  We are his canvas.