Tag Archives: Sin

Lights.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

–Jesus said that in Luke 4:18-19. He really did. It shocked the crap out of all the haters. Which is awesome because who doesn’t love to shock a hater?

This morning I snarfed croissants and enjoyed stimulating conversation with a friend of mine. This chica is super thoughtful and edgy and honest; she really inspired me and my brain is still churning hours later. Seriously, you can probably smell the smoke.

So here it goes:

Church.

Church and Christianity.

Church vs. Christianity.

Christians in the Church.

True faith. True love. Honest motives. Unselfish behavior.

Family. Friends. Sacrifices. Giving. Prayer.

How does it all fit together? What does it look like to really be in love with the Lord? How much of what comes out of people’s mouths is true? Why are so many “Christians” such jerks about Jesus? What’s with those people who are really “shining”–and how the hell do they do that?

Years ago I wrote a post about why church in general is awesome and why I love and need the people in it. I will not back down on the points I made.

Here’s what I am to understand:

Church is a coming together of believers, so we can spur each other on, and keep each other accountable.

And also roll up fatties of fellowship and fun.

Church is supposed to be a powerhouse, a place where we come and gather strength and encouragement and inspiration, so that we can go back out into the world proclaim good news and junk.

In theory. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And hopefully, in general, that’s what the church does do.

But I know there’s a growing number of people who are not convinced–and not impressed. They look at us “Christians” and the only things they know about us as a group are 1. That we don’t cuss or drink as much, at least not in public, 2. That we quote the Bible when it suits our purposes, and 3. We think Obama is pretty much the antichrist.

(I do not think Obama is the antichrist.)

I’ve heard people say “I love God, I love Jesus; I just hate the church. The people there are hypocrites. Church is pointless. I can watch church on TV. I can worship God on my own.”

I get it. I’ve said that myself once upon a time. And I was asked, at that time, “If you love Christ, and Christ loves the church, then how can you hate the church?”

The church was not designed to be a bunch of meanies that stand around judging everybody. The church wasn’t meant to be a place where a bunch of self-righteous rich people come to feel good about themselves once a week. It wasn’t meant to be a place where teenagers go on Wednesday night to eat pizza, listen to a rock band, and then talk about Jesus for 2 minutes in between gossip sessions.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. But God’s love IS perfect.

The church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The church is meant to be good news to the poor.

We can’t do that if we’re focused solely on ourselves 95% of the time.

And I certainly need the accountability that being actively involved with a group of fellow believers brings. I need the encouragement. I need the wisdom and advice of those who are strong in the faith and more knowledgeable than me about the teachings of the Bible.

And the church needs me. It needs me to be part of “the team”. The “team” has goals: Love others. Bring the good news. Be lights in a dark place.

I can’t bring sight to the blind or freedom to the oppressed all by myself.

I can’t even make a dent.

It’s soooo not about not drinking or cussing or bible-thumping, or even Obama.

Guys–if you love Jesus, then the church is a team you want to be a part of. You gotta get in on this. It needs you and all your spunk and talents and hopes and dreams and even your heartaches and disappointments. If you think the team sucks, well by all means, please–come help make it better.

Humanity is one hot mess. We’re warm-blooded, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional drama-queens who strive painfully for perfection but time and time again we fail epically. But Jesus loves us, and He loves His church.

And sometimes we do get it right.

It’s about reaching out, and helping people. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Taking care of the orphan and the widow. Loving the unlovable.

Even more than all that, it’s about being human and banding together to help accomplish the task of spreading hope. And I can think of no greater hope than Jesus.

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picking stupid weeds

We got these awful stickers in the yard–the kind that are more painful than a thousand poisoned darts made out of jagged razor blades, if you get stuck by one. They’re the worst things in the entire world and there are approximately 3 million lining our back porch.

If you’re fancy, you can get a weed hacker and slice those puppies down. The only problem with that is, they’ll go all over the place and just spread the problem of the stickers.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ll try to tackle each and every sticker–pulling them up one, by one, by one, until after 4 hours of hunching over a tiny clump of weeds, you look up to see that you still have 17 more feet of sticker-pulling to go, and you cry out to the Lord because good gravy it will take a decade to pull them all. And even then, you won’t get the ones that are way down in there, deep.

You could try to ignore them; but you’ll have to wear shoes, all the time, in your own backyard. And you’ll have to jump over the weed patches and you’ll probably still get stuck. And so will your kids. And that makes them cry. And your dogs will try to eat them and they’ll sit there and drool and schlomp and schlack their tongues on the roof of their mouths because they’ve got stickers in their gums. And then the stickers spread and get thicker and thicker, and become highly visable, until there’s just no avoiding them at all ever.

Or: you can take those patches of stickers and face them, head on. You can cut them down and dig them up–all the way up–leaving nothing but dirt where all those green weeds once stood. And it will be bare and ugly for a while, but you’ve cleared them completely and you can start fresh and maybe even plant some flowers or some nice soft grass.

And even though it took a long time and even though it was hard work, you can finally enjoy your backyard again, to the fullest. And life is better with a sticker-less backyard.

Obviously, stickers are sin. Sin sucks and hurts. You can try to cover it up, but eventually it wears on you and everyone else around you. And it sucks the joy out of everything. And you can’t just trim them here and there, and you can’t pick out tiny little ones all on your own. Deal with the sin, because you’re better off in the long run. Even if it’s gotten seemingly out of control. Even if it’s more than what you think you can handle. God helps us with these things if we go to Him. He might recommend a painful course of action. And you’ll get pricked and poked and it take more time than you originally expected, and you might cry in the process. Grab hold of the sin and yank that mess out by the roots. He will see you through it.

Incidentally, we do have a crud ton of stickers in our backyard that hurt like the mother freaking dickens.


Time-outing myself.

My name is Toni and here’s what I like: new tubes of paint, blank canvasses, coffee, air condition, giggling kids, New Mexico, northwest Florida beaches, House Hunters International, zombie movies, coffee, talking to my mom on the phone, hiking in the woods, doodling on my hand with a permanent marker, gabbing with my friends over a pot of coffee, fresh blackberries, and coffee.

Here’s what I don’t like: …

…um…

Oh! Sweeping up dog hair 15 times a day, a six-month long softball season, and not being able to drink coffee.

And here’s what I believe in right down to the core of my very soul: Jesus.

What does that involve? Responsibility. Accountability. Love. And almost every other good thing you can think of.

And sometimes–sometimes–it involves sticking to truths that not everyone in this day and age agrees with. Sometimes it means that, no matter how lovingly I state a belief, people will be angry with me.

It means knowing that God made me and everyone else in the world. It means knowing that God rejoices over us with shouts of joy and singing. He delights in us. He loves each one of us. And it pains Him when we turn away.

Loving Jesus means knowing that life is so much bigger than me. God is so much stronger than all my problems. And heaven is so much better than anything I can imagine.

But just for kicks and grins, let’s imagine that heaven is New Mexico on the beach while drinking coffee with my mom at an air-conditioned painting party for my friends to the background noise of giggling kids. Plus I get to have all my babies with me. I’m so totally glad we’re not made for this world.


Fun with Salvation.

Day…11?…without Cheyenne. She’s not at a sleepover. She’s not at a band function and I’m not going to pick her up in a couple hours. She’s actually gone. And I miss her. I miss having my buddy. I miss our jokes. Not everyone gets my jokes–especially not Caleb or the under-9 crowd that lives in my house. Things are weird around here. July 27th is an unfathomably long way off.

On a happy note, Mia got saved. My Catholic peeps might boo-hiss at that word, but all it means is that what Jesus did for us finally sunk in; she’s at an age where it’s all starting to make sense, and for the first time, it hit her right smack in the guts. She wants to give her heart to God. I have no doubt that He speaks to people of all ages, and it’s a wonderful thing being able to slow down long enough to listen–and grasp what’s being heard–at 8 years old.

(*Please know that in the following paragraphs, I am mainly addressing the concept of salvation alone–I know there’s a difference between becoming  a Christian and being a Christian, but I feel the need to write mostly about this particular part for right now.*)

When I was 14 I met some friends that asked me if I was saved. I had no freaking clue what “saved” meant, so they explained:

Them: “Do you believe that everyone is a sinner including you?”

Me: “Uh, yeah.”

Them: “Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God and that He died for your sins?”

Me: “Duh.”

Them: “Will you pray a prayer with me right now and ask Jesus to come into your heart and change your life (right before we go smoke pot behind the gym)?”

Me: “I find that highly unneccessary. I’ve only been praying to Jesus and thanking him for all kinds of crap, for 14 years–that’s like, my whole life.”

Them: “Then have you followed the Lord in Believer’s baptism?”

Me: “WTF does that even mean? I’ve been baptized–twice. I know you think I’m a clueless Catholic, but I think I got this, thankyouverymuch.”

It almost seemed to me that everyone who claimed to be Christians were some of the meanest, snidest, greediest, sinningest people I’d ever met.

inigo montoya inigomontoya

We’re sinners and Jesus died for us because God loves us. Isn’t that what we’re all taught in church before we’re old enough to walk? Wasn’t that the general message of any church? I knew the facts; I read them in the bible, I heard them in Sunday school, and I could tell strangers if they asked me. I had it all down pat on an intellectual level. I’d get sentimental about Jesus on the occasional Sunday during mass, and once for several months after a church retreat to Assissi, Italy, where I became fascinated with the life and times of St. Francis.

I thought about the concept of salvation more and more as the years went on. I tried to listen harder during mass to see if I was missing anything. I participated in the Sacrament of Confirmation–which is basically the Catholic Church equivalent of saying “Alright you’ve been learning this stuff for years–are you in or out?” Of course I was in. I didn’t want to be out. My parents would kill me.

I continued to pray. I had conversations with all kinds of people. It seemed like my head just stayed filled with thoughts of Jesus and sin and forgiveness and love.

And then one night, it all went from my head to my heart. I was overcome with guilt and sorrow over my sins. And I wanted more than anything to truly belong to the kingdom of God, and to make Jesus the single more important thing in my life–or as Mia puts it, “the boss of my life”.

If you’re interested in the cut-and-dry Protestant version of salvation according to the Holy Bible, here it is:

  1. Every human is a sinner. Romans 3:23 says “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.”
  2. God’s penalty for sin is death. Romans 6:23: “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  3. In His great love, God has made provision for the salvation of sinners. Romans 5:8: “But Christ died for us while we were still sinners, and by this God showed how much he loves us.”
  4. Each person must put his trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-13 says “If you openly say, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from death, you will be saved. Yes, we believe in Jesus deep in our hearts, and so we are made right with God. And we openly say that we believe in him, and so we are saved. Yes, the Scriptures say, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be disappointed.” It says this because there is no difference between those who are Jews and those who are not. The same Lord is the Lord of all people. And he richly blesses everyone who looks to him for help. Yes, “everyone who trusts in the Lord will be saved.”

It’s more complicated than that, but it isn’t. We’re all guilty. We all sin. No one is exempt from this. Our sin demands payment–we deserve death. I got stuck on this the most: “Eternity in hell? Surely I’m not that bad, am I?” Truth is that yes I am. There’s good in everyone, yes. But there’s also bad: we are greedy, quick-tempered, spiteful, judgemental. The list goes on. I fight these things on a daily basis and I always will because I’m human and I’m just not holy by nature.

That badness in our hearts separates us from God. But God, being our loving creator and father, gives us an undeserved gift: He sent His perfect son Jesus, who never sinned, to pay for our sins–He lay down his life willingly–to die in our place on the cross. We cannot earn this gift and we can never repay it. No catch–this salvation is free stuff.

And here’s the actual dirt: There’s nothing textbook about salvation.

“Getting saved” is not so much an ultimate moment in time that caps off a several-year period of learning. “Getting saved” is hopefully not the greatest spiritual experience you will ever have. “Getting saved” is only the beginning of a looonnnng, and probably bumpy, journey–with God as your guide.

Being “saved” is personal. Being “saved” doesn’t make you better than everybody. It doesn’t make you perfect and it doesn’t automatically make you even “good”. But following Jesus Christ, and knowing that your soul belongs to God forever, should fill you with a peace and a love that just cannot be known outside of Him.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t stop at salvation. We can begin to develop a deep relationship with God which involves so much more than reading a couple key verses out of Romans. This relationship is knowledge. It’s a feeling. It’s action. It’s unconditional love. It’s time spent. It’s physical and mental energy. It’s our purpose and our focus.

We live in human bodies that get tired and cranky and hungry and scared; we live on earth, a place that is often times hard and mean and unfair. The road is rough. There’s so much work to do and we can’t just sit at home and fluff our pillows and send our kids to college so that they, too, can afford to sit at home and fluff their pillows.

Our paths are all unique, and we can’t compare ourselves to others–but what we can compare ourselves to is the person God wants us to be, and God? Is unconcerned with wealth and success and wordly wisdom. Christians are called not only to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength; we are called to be lights in this dark, broken world–to be the hands and feet of Jesus, who was loving, and compassionate, and giving, and merciful; who came to serve and not to be served.

My hope for my children, and my friends, and my whole family, (and for anyone reading this!) is for each person to come to know and love Jesus; to reconcile themselves with God and to make Him the center of their lives; and to reach their full potential as one of His children. Mia’s simple prayer last night was one of the sweetest things I’ll ever hear. That prayer was the start of something crazy awesome and I just know she will do amazing things for God.


Well played, Victor Hugo. Well played.

I’ve been watching the hell out of Les Miserables since I red-boxed it the other night. And–ok, fine. Here it is–even thought the Bible spells out the same concepts just as good, I can’t get enough of this story.

I’m being sappy. Whatever. I can’t help it.

I’m particularly stuck on the bad guy Javert. Bless his heart, he’s not even that bad. He just believes with all his might that rules are rules are rules, and if you break them, you get punished. End of conversation.

javert cat

(Can we stop and talk about how hilarious this cat is for a second?)

Javert’s line of thinking is not totally flawed: “Honest work. Just reward. That’s the way to please the Lord.” Sounds reasonable to me! Javert goes on to say that he was born in a prison and raised in the gutter–so if he, of all people, can make good choices, anyone can. And should.

I have a tendency to agree in, oh, EVERY way: “You messed up. This is what happens. Good luck getting anybody to love you or trust you again.” I look down on people who have wronged me, or on people who have just done wrong. Save your breath. Save your tears.

Except what about mercy and second chances? Does justice really mean following the law to perfection, and condemning those who mess up even once? What about helping people who are trapped and suffering? What about people who can’t even comprehend God’s unconditional love because they’ve never experienced it in the smallest sense here on earth?

Save your breath. Save your tears. I am stuck on this. What if Jesus had said these words to us? I’m sick over how judgmental I can be, out loud or in my own head. How can I be so hypocritical? I have been pardoned so many times for so many terrible things. How can I look at anyone and think that I’m better than they are? That certain people are just not as worthy as I am of love and forgiveness?

Oh surely I’m not that bad–I believe in God! I treat people who I love with respect and loyalty, and I value my friendships! I know the ten commandments, and I follow them!

Matthew 5:47 says “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

God means “Great! You believe in me, you half-ass my laws, and you’re nice to the people who are nice to you. Exactly how is that different from just about everyone on the planet?”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40: “…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

He follows up in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Jean Valjean seemed to have it all nailed down. Love God? Check. Help poor people? Check. Take care of orphan? Check.

fantine

In Javert’s eyes, Jean Valjean was a criminal on the run. He was breaking the law! But held up to the words of the Bible, Valjean knew more about justice and pleasing the Lord than Javert ever would.

“…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Shocker: the world–with all its customs and lifestyles, governments and laws–is not always right.

And here’s the thing of it: nothing–nothing–is stopping us from doing the things that God commands of us. Love the Lord my God? I ought to be straight scrambling to feed the hungry and help the needy. Love my neighbor as myself? The parable of the Good Samaritan tells me I should be showing ridiculous compassion to my worst enemy.

What do these commands mean to us individually? Should I, as a naive mother of 3, prance downtown in the night and hand out buckets of money to homeless people laying in the street? Or can I take a different approach to helping the poor? Should I adopt a child, or can I make a difference in the lives of many children by wholeheartedly giving my time and talents? Should I keep my blog topics light and humorous, or should I write about the things that are important to God?

Do I hoard His gifts, or do I turn around and share them with whoever I lay eyes on?

Can I have this kind of courage? Can I prove that I understand justice? Can I show God how thankful I am for His mercy? Can I demonstrate His love to others who are traditionally unloved by society?

Can I do this? Can I pour myself out for God again and again and again, even when I am tired? Even when I have nothing left to give? Even if it will cost me my reputation, or my money, or my freedom, or my life?

I’m scared of knowing the right I should do, but not doing it. I don’t want to cheer for Valjean, but act like Javert.

I think it’s time to take this movie back.


Have You Asked Jesus To Wreck Your Life?

Friends, correct me if I’m wrong: when Jesus has really, truly come into your life, is it not like someone is stabbing you repeatedly in the heart? Like there’s a giant sharp knife caught right in your chest? And you can’t pull it out, and occasionally the knife twists deeper–sometimes a little, sometimes a lot?

Some things just aren’t funny anymore. Some people just aren’t as cool as you once thought they were. Some foods don’t taste quite as good. Some songs don’t speak to you like they used to.

Sad things are sadder and you’re a lot more sensitive than you used to be.

Taking it further, you don’t have to have that expensive pair of shoes. You don’t need to see that movie on opening night. You don’t care what kind of car you drive, so long as it gets you from place to place in a reasonably reliable way.

It doesn’t matter to you when your highlights are more than 3 months old. Wal-Mart make-up is a-okay. You clean up for church but you still feel slightly grubby (in your last-season-everythings) compared to everyone else, and it doesn’t bother you as much as it once did. You’re just glad to be forgiven and free, and you love being with your new family in Christ.

But it gets worse.

Your eyes start opening up. For me, it was like God was having to pry them open a little at a time, because I was so afraid of what I might see. And then when your eyes do open up, you throw your hands over them because you are scared to death of change–or worse, a call to action.

For a while, you pretend that just about everything Jesus says in the Bible only applies to other people–nuns or missionaries or college students with dreadlocks. That your calling is to live a Godly life (see also: less cussing) right inside your cozy bubble with a select group of friends and family members.

You read the Bible and almost nothing in your world sits right anymore. Not the amount of money you spend on food, clothing, and entertainment. Not the amount of time you spend at the ballpark, or jacking around on websites like Pinterest and Polyvore. So-called “normal, everyday stuff” (see also: typical day-to-day life in the U.S.A.) seems like a waste of time.

A giant, soul-sucking, waste of time.

And then someone tells you that those new shoes? Worth more than a year’s worth of schooling for a half-dozen girls in Uganda. The impact an education would have on the lives of these sweet children who God loves? Would last a helluva lot longer than the crappy new shoes.

And you will never buy shoes again.

Well, not any pair that costs more than $10.

(I will not even discuss the guilt-fest that my long-time dream of granite counter-tops has induced.)

You read the Bible and you get a cold feeling in your guts because “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” according to Mark 10:25, and? Newsflash: we are so rich, it’s ridiculous.

The world will tell you to chill out. The world will tell you that you’re more than good enough already, and that you’re taking this faith thing too far, and that you’ve been riding the Jesus train a little too long. The world might even get pissed when you don’t agree–and this world includes Christians and non-Christians alike.

You read the Bible and everything convicts you. Occasional emotional outbursts and temper-tantrums, overly self-indulgent shopping trips, big fat meals every night, little white lies everyday–all things that your mom or your best friends would excuse, all the things that society encourages–become to you what they really are in God’s eyes: sin. Sin, sin, sin.

Then God tells you to deal with this sin. He tells you to own up to it, ask forgiveness, and repent of it–which means you have to stop it, which means you have to stop other things that lead to it. Some of it is easy. And some of it is really difficult and you are forced to stop being proud and self-reliant. And you beg tearfully for God’s help.

Some days your heart is absolutely soaring on a Jesus high. And on those same days, you will have an anxiety attack from hell and you’ll want a drink so bad, and you can remember the smell, and the taste, and the feel of beer in your mouth. You will long for the buzz and the numbness it brings. You’ll cry because you know it is no good for you or for the people around you; and you’ll actually be so bold as to be mad at God for showing you the light.

Sometimes you will consumed with a sense of urgency, all kinds of on fire to tell your old friends or family about Jesus and how He works in your life these days. And when you do actually have time to talk with them, you chicken out and say a cussword or two just so they won’t think you’re one of those Crazy Christians.

Sometimes you will be overwhelmed with the desire to help the poor. And later on that afternoon, you will physically recoil at the sight of a homeless man on the street. You’ll purposefully retreat to your area of serenity, be it your room, or your house, neighborhood, or in my case–your entire town. But you’ll know it’s wrong, and that there’s still work to be done and there’s still people left to love.

And you will once again ask God for forgiveness, and direction, and courage.

And He actually gives it to you.

Along with patience. And hope. And joy. And love. More than you could dream of containing all at once in your own little human body.

And people who used to make you angry? They don’t make you so angry anymore.

And people who you used to avoid? You seek them out–and you find them.

And people who you never thought would want to talk about God with you? They bring up the Bible on their own.

And a wiser, older man calls you one day out of the blue to tell you a story that brings tears to your eyes and renews your hope and purpose.

And you attend a conference or you hear a radio sermon that tells you you’re not alone in your thinking.

Happy things are happier. Forgiveness is greater and love is deeper. Little blessing are huge deals. Everything has meaning and everyone has purpose. Life isn’t as terrible as you thought it was, and dying isn’t a scary thought anymore. The shedding of this earthly body, with all its shortcomings and mistakes; the leaving behind of this world, with all its pain and drama and uncertainty; and the being united with our loving Father in Heaven–that is how you view death now, and that is why it is exciting.

But during our time here, however long or short it may be, we are called to love God’s people; and since He created you and me and all the bazillion members of Earth’s population and He knows each hair on each person’s little head, I can only assume we are not to hold back with anyone. We’re not necessarily meant to be well-liked and popular in this world. We might not be meant to be comfortable and safe here. We’re definitely not meant to stay here at all.

I am so, so, glad–that no matter what happens to me here–Jesus has overcome this world. In this place I will struggle and my heart will break, and I will get so many things wrong. Oh, but because of Easter…the cross, the resurrection…we will see Him again.

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33


My Apologies

People.

I am so sorry.

I’m sorry for coming off as judgmental. I’m sorry if I sound pushy or snide or arrogant or condescending.

I’m sorry if I ever seem to be trying to shove religion down throats. (It only makes people gag.)

And most of all, I’m sorry if the things I say and how I actually live don’t line up; I’m sorry if my faith has not manifest itself through my actions, because that gives off a most terrible impression of a God who I want to honor with my life to the best of my abilities.

And I’m so dreadfully sorry if that terrible impression has turned any of you off to God, the salvation He offers, and the peace He wants you to have.

I am sorry.

I am sorry if you are my friend or family member and I have not shared with you why I have the faith that I have. I’m sorry for my selfishness, my fear, and my apathy and complacency.

I’m sorry if you don’t know my God. I’m so, so sorry. Because you are really missing out.

And I can’t explain it to you, not really, and still come off as rational or sane. I can’t promise that by knowing God that you’ll stop drinking, or have an awesome marriage, or well-behaved kids. Life’s not guaranteed to be easy or understandable; you won’t have all the answers. No matter how much you pray. No matter how much you go to church. No matter how much you learn about God. No matter how many good things you do in the name of God–life here on Earth is freaking hard; there will always be confusion, frustration, and pain. You might go hungry. You might suffer. You might be killed.

I can only tell you what I know: God is love. He is forgiveness, grace, mercy. Peace, and hope.

I know that I am weak, weak, weak. I know that I don’t have in me to battle my own demons. I know that I rebel for no other reason than I don’t like being told what to do. I love to go against the grain just to be different (and difficult). I love to irritate the crap out of Caleb just to get a rise out of him. I love the taste of alcohol, and I crave it, and if left to my own devices I’d be drunk all day every day.

I know that I was struggling. I was actually drowning and I was in total denial. I was fighting and I didn’t even know why. I was making bad choice after bad choice, knowing that I’d pay for it later–and I didn’t care. I wandered. I hit rock bottom. I broke. And I almost took my whole family down with me.

I’ve never had all my shit together. I’ve never been strong enough or smart enough to do life on my own, at least not with any significant amount of happiness or success.

I’m weak.

And I’m grateful. Because that weakness? Has shown me my need. It points me to God. It reminds me of what I am without the hope that He provides. It gives powerful testimony to God’s healing power and love.

God is faithful. He forgives, and He lifts and He restores.

That is my humbling experience.

My friend.

My heart hurts for you. Everyone has a different journey. Maybe you’re on the right track. Maybe you’ve made all the right decisions and maybe you don’t need any help. Maybe God has let you down. Maybe His people have let you down. Maybe people claiming to be His have turned you off. Maybe you’ve found something different. Maybe you just can’t make sense out of it.

I’m not talking about mindlessly following a certain set of rules, carefully avoiding anything that would burst a carefully constructed Christian bubble. I’m not talking about being good just so you can go to Heaven. I’m also not talking about heading straight to your local Baptist church, walking down that green-carpeted center aisle, and reciting a generic prayer.

But I promise you, I promise you: a relationship with God is worth pursuing.

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