Peace Giver

I’ve kept journals on and off most of my adult life. For whatever reason, I haven’t journaled much at all in the last couple years. But I go through my old journals sometimes and today I found this one copied below. In it I’m recounting an experience I had with one resident in particular at an addiction facility in Nashville where I served as “spirituality teacher.”

In group today I was talking to the residents about peace. It wasn’t my plan, but it happened and I felt like I should stay with it. “The peace of God,” I explained, “surpasses understanding because it is not congruent with our circumstances. God’s peace can be experienced despite the turmoil or trials we may be experiencing in any given season of our life.”

After several minutes on my rabbit trail I asked for questions and feedback on what they were feeling. Two of the girls raised their hands and said they did not have peace; any peace. It was a foreign concept. One of the girls started to share. I’ve known her for a couple months now, and I know she’s endured much more than most, seeing her mom murdered, experiencing ritual abuse at the hands of a cult religion that actually claimed God was commanding the abuse, and much, much more. She wanted to be clear, that under no circumstances was she experiencing peace, nor had she ever. Not peace with her circumstances, not with her recovery, not with God, not in relationships, not with herself, nothing. My hand went to rest on her arm. This vulnerable honesty was not something that came natural to her and it was more than she’d said in group in weeks. Most addicts have to work very hard to open up and say what’s really going on inside. They’re used to masking their innermost feelings of pain and brokenness with drugs or alcohol. Her voice started to get very shaky, her face and neck blotchy, and the tears started falling as she struggled to get more words out. She told me that she didn’t know how to have peace with God when God was one of her triggers. She said she questions whether God could ever forgive her for praying while she was shooting up, for His help to find a vein. She said she used to pray for her mother to die, and then her mother was murdered. How could God forgive her for that? The tears fell. And fell. And so did my heart, breaking in a million pieces all over the floor.

That was the end of the entry. We became very close, that resident and I, and I was able to have a front row seat as God graciously and lovingly honored her desire to know the real Him, and experience His peace. Over a relatively short period of time I watched God flood her spirit with His, pouring out His Love and Light and Grace into her darkest places of pain.

I am still in awe as I recall the Sunday morning I had taken a group of residents to Cross Point church as was our usual practice. But that morning, after the message she leaned over and said, “I think I’m ready. Can we talk after the service?”

So I found an empty office and all the ladies, now friends and supporters of one another, joined together as she quietly vocalized that she wanted Jesus to take His place Savior in her life, and she wanted to know and experience God as the good, loving Father she had been learning about.

She asked me to pray, and I asked her how she felt about doing the praying, just expressing to God what she was feeling and desiring. Bravely she spoke out, eyes closed, talking to God through shaky tears, giving Him her heart, declaring Jesus to be her Savior, receiving Him as her closest friend and confidant, and choosing to follow Him with her life.

Praise God, faithful and loving, patient and kind. He knows what we need. He knows what our roadblocks are. He orchestrates moments of deliverance for every heart that aches for Love.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“For He will deliver the needy who cry out. The afflicted who have no one to help.” Psalm 72:12

 

 

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Three’s A Charm

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March 23rd, 2013. A very special day indeed.  A day I was going to send out thank you notes for because so many wonderful women and even a few husbands pitched in to make happen. But, alas, I am nowhere near as put together and on task as I dream to be in my head. And so, I will blog about it. This is an “I love you” and “I never could’ve done this without you” shout out to all the amazing givers in this community effort story. 🙂

Dinah, one of the women in active recovery at Mending Hearts who I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the last several months, asked me if I would help throw a baby shower for one of the ladies on campus. I thought it was an excellent idea. And then I realized that three of the ladies on campus were actually having babies right around the same time. A triple baby shower was an excellent idea too. But one I knew I would need a LOT of help with. So I intentionally bit off more than I could chew believing God would fill in the gaps through the generosity of others – and do so ecstatically.

And He did!!! (Though I can’t promise there weren’t momentary panic attacks along the way wondering if anything would come together like I saw it in my head)

My goal for the day was to provide for the mommies-to-be everything they would need to breathe easy when they had their little ones and create an atmosphere of love and light hearted fun for all the women who attended. Due to the people I will mention below, that goal was met and far exceeded. When I tell you the women were SET, I mean, I have never seen so many baby items in one place ever. It made me wish I had a baby of my own to spoil! You name it, they got it. Whenever I made a need known, people came through to meet that need. And the room and the decorations and the food, cake, every little detail was just perfect.

So THANK YOU with all my heart:

Jamie and Lance Lockhart                    Miranda Telford

Regina Hernandez                                   Lydia Dragan

Jennifer Pettus                                          Jackie Brewster

Ryan Bult                                                    Jackie and John DiPillo

Billie Colton                                               Joanna and George Logothetis

Angelia Van Vranken                             Anna Lopez

Dena Williams                                          Brandy Little

Brittany Barbera                                       Whitney Frawley

Forest Hills Baptist Church                  West End Community Church

Cross Point Church                                 Renee at Mending Hearts

Thank you so much on behalf of all the ladies at Mending Hearts, especially the mommies, who have all had healthy babies now. 🙂 Your generosity warms my heart and makes me smile. Whenever we sacrifice for the good of others, we can be sure it is actually the life of Christ alive and living through us. That’s just cool. 🙂

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. ~Philippians 2:13

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Attitude Adjustment

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think, or say, or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home.

The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it. And so it is, that we are in charge of our attitudes.”

As I was unpacking boxes last night from my recent move, I found this quote stuffed in a box with some papers from school. I think the older we get the easier it is to develop a crappy attitude and the harder it is to recognize the need for an adjustment.. but I’ve noticed the need in me recently so I’m glad this resurfaced at the perfect time.

You don’t have to be having the best day of your life, but you better believe if you start vocalizing it and whining about it, it ain’t gonna be gettin any better.

On the other hand, if you start acting the way you want to feel, you can definitely expect your attitude to become one of power, joy, peace and all kinds of other good stuff, regardless of the circumstances of your day.

Today, I’m choosing an attitude of gratefulness. I don’t deserve the goodness and grace God lavishes on me daily, but dangit if I’m gonna let the devil convince me I ought to be pissy about things I think I “need” and don’t have. I am typically a happy, cheerful person, but it’s amazing how an attitude of ungratefulness can make me lose sight of all the blessings in my life.

Lord, thank you for my new, beautiful home…(that is gated, so accidentally leaving my keys in the door at night isn’t AS dangerous as it was in the last place… nonetheless, help me not be so absent minded).. Thank you for the amazing miracle that my friend Billie is off life support after 16 days and beating all odds at recovery. Wow. You are amazing. Thank you for the gift of prayer.

Thank you for friends, thank you for family…what beauty and richness they add to my life. Thank you for life experience that brings wisdom even if it hurts at the time. Thank you for the opportunity to go back to school and the friends and mentors I now have after graduation. (thanks for that miracle too) 🙂

Thank you for the many individuals, families, and children you’ve trusted me to develop relationships with, encourage, influence, or just be a safe place and a smile for over the years. Thank you for the next season of  life I’m not even aware of yet. Thank you for creating me just the way you have. I love me because you love me. I surrender my desires and embrace your good and perfect will. In Jesus name, amen.

Ahhh…feels good 😉

Start your own list?

Alone, Unworthy, Useless

I am a mess. I’m up I’m down, I’m laughing, I’m sobbing.

Oh this roller coaster of emotions…I am so tired.

I am useless. I am invisible.

I am unworthy of the blessings in my life. I can’t even be consistently grateful for all I do have without wishing for what I don’t.

Everyone else is accomplishing great things, what am I doing?

Will I ever just be okay? The kind of okay other people seem to be?

Will I ever thrive in this world instead of merely survive?

 I doubt I will ever experience love like I see it in my mind and desire it in my heart.

I am completely alone in these struggles. I can’t tell anyone the secrets I cover up with my smile. Forgiveness and grace is for other people. I would be cast out and run down if people only knew.

In this day and age where we sum up how fantastic we are in 140 characters or less, where we often blog about our light bulb moments, revelations, and breakthroughs, I thought I would take a minute to give voice to the other side of these revelations.

If we’re honest, if I’m honest, sometimes my real status updates would look much less like breakthroughs and much more like breakdowns. Like my thoughts above. Yes those are my thoughts. Thoughts I battled against just yesterday. And a week before that.

It’s so easy to buy into the lie that everyone else is doing better than we are and making these great strides in life that we are not. Social media has made this comparison game ridiculously easy to play, and it’s just as deadly as ever.

The truth is, while every single one of us experiences seasons of hard lessons, immense loneliness, regret, streams of tears, shattered dreams and painful consequences of sin that we would rather not put on display, one of the most powerful ways we can grow in community and unite in love is in sharing and confessing these pains and struggles.

We are each moving toward healing and forgiveness at a different pace. And the awesome beauty in that is that we are all able to be the encourager as well as the encouraged.

I have to remind myself regularly that it’s not realistic to believe I can live on cloud nine every day. And it’s not realistic or healthy to think that anybody else is.

Being content in all things has nothing to do with circumstances or the appearances of others’.  It has everything to do with what I’m basing my validation on and who I’m looking to for approval.

Today, if you’re battling feelings of inadequacy, or fears of not being enough in a world where doing always appears more plausible than being, I would just like to encourage you and tell you,

You are not alone.

AND… you are probably doing better than you think.

If you’re having a tough time praying, or finding your faith, even if it’s barely a whisper, whisper this:

“Jesus. Save me. I trust you. And Devil, in the name of Jesus, get behind me!”

Then hold on, if only by a thread, to the promise that God is with you. No matter how dark, He is there. It might not be the best thing for you that he remove you from your current circumstance or state of mind. His ways are not our ways. But He is loving you, comforting you, and asking that you trust Him.

I’ll trust Him with you today. Turn the world off. Appearances are fleeting. Don’t live by your emotions. They are fleeting too. He is the only one whose love remains the same. Yesterday, today, forever.

Pete Wilson’s Empty Promises

First, he was just my pastor. Someone I admired from a distance and couldn’t wait to hear speak on Sunday mornings. His messages enriched my life and made me a better person; a better Christian. He has this way with an audience. An ability to connect and relate to people in a way that lets you know you can trust him. While he challenges listeners to step up their walk, he also reminds them that God is crazy in love with them even though we’ll never get it right all of the time.

I have now had the privilege and pleasure of working side by side with pastor, author and speaker Pete Wilson, and I’m so grateful to be able to call him friend.

When I accepted the offer to be Pete’s assistant at Cross Point Church in 2010 I admit I was a bit nervous. I tried to prepare myself for who might really be “behind the curtain.”

“Maybe he has a real bad temper,” I thought. “Maybe he’s super demanding. Maybe he’s arrogant or egotistical. Maybe he’s a horrible dad who never spends time with his kids.” “That’s okay,” I told myself. “Nobody’s perfect Evie, just don’t get your hopes up. He’s still doing a lot of good, and after all, he’s only a man.” 🙂

Boy was I in for a surprise. Not only did I discover he was the same guy I saw and heard on Sunday’s, but he completely shattered the images and stereotypes I had been living with of “men,” “leaders,” “bosses,” “authority figures,” and “fathers” in general.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he placed little ole me in a position where I could see first hand this kind of honesty, integrity, character, authenticity, compassion and heart in a guy. It gave me a fresh supply of hope I was in desperate need of. This may sound a little dramatic, but let’s be honest. We’re not exactly in abundant supply of men with these character traits. To be fair, it was actually Pete and every other male staff member at Cross Point. Just months before taking the position I remember thinking, “God, seriously where are the good guys!? I need to believe that there are honest, God-loving, God-fearing, Christ centered men around here and I am just not seeing it!” God said, “Let me introduce you to Pete and the dudes at Cross Point.”

Working with “Peter, Peter,” as I like to call him, I got to see him in action in quite an array of situations and circumstances. Regardless of the pressures, disappointments, successes, opportunities, demands and expectations of the many roles he plays on a daily basis, I can honestly say this:

Pete is a force to be reckoned with, a leader of leaders, an insane lover of people especially the underdog and the overlooked, and a man of grace, humility and giftedness. And he doesn’t take a single bit of it for granted.

Today is the release of Pete’s highly anticipated second book, Empty Promises: The Truth About You, Your Desires, and the Lies You’re Believing. 

I was lucky enough to read this book chapter by chapter as it was being written, supposedly checking for grammatical errors and such. I had a rough time though because it was nearly impossible not to get caught up in the convicting content and eye-opening truths contained in its pages.

Every single one of us has these innate desires to be of significant value in this world; to count for something great; to prove to ourselves and others that we are worthy of the time and space we take up. Pete discusses the truth about these desires as he unpacks the enticing but empty promises of achievement, approval, wealth, power, religion, beauty, and dream chasing, as well as why we’re so easily convinced that just a little more of what we know doesn’t work, might just work. Pete also offers practical solutions for not only eradicating these idols in our lives, but replacing them with healthy practices and the only Promise that truly delivers.

Check out the book’s trailer below, and order the book HERE.

Proud of you Peter, Peter. 🙂

Empty Promises Trailer- Full from Pete Wilson on Vimeo.

I Can’t Make You Love Me

Growing up the 2nd oldest of five kids, I mostly remember lots of noise. Screaming, yelling, laughing, fighting, crying; Noise. Loud noise.

But car rides were different. In the car somehow, some way, we finally shut up. I guess it was like the DVD affect. When we piled into that old station wagon, the radio would go on and we go silent.

Well once in a while it was a cassette tape from the library. Carly Simon, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Raitt.

In fact I’ll never forget the first time I heard I Can’t Make You Love Me. I must’ve been in 6th or 7th grade. I was staring out the car window listening to the lyrics thinking,

Oh my gosh. This is so horribly sad why won’t he just love her? And why does my mom keep rewinding such a sad song?

Just kidding I don’t remember if she kept rewinding it. But I sure do remember that song well. I should ask her. I digress.

Nine times out of ten she turned on the radio. WMBI, 90.1, Moody Radio in Chicago. I heard a lot of preachers preach and a lot of teachers teach. This went on for years. I think a lot of what my mom was too exhausted to teach us herself, she trusted we’d learn in the car from that radio station.

I loved hearing Dr. James Dobson talk. I loved the sound of his voice. I always believed what he said. One unforgettable phrase he had on parenting always stuck with me: “Relationship before rules.”

In the Old Testament, not to over generalize, but an overarching theme with God is obedience; reverent obedience, diligent obedience, careful obedience. Obey, obey, obey. Be careful to obey. 

One of the things that used to trip me up in talking to people about God’s love was when they would start going off on God’s rules.

Most people like to believe they’re in control of their own life. That they set the parameters and make the rules. That they have the power to make things happen, and they’ll find the resources or solutions to fix things when they fall apart.

‘I don’t want anyone telling me what to do Evie. Especially not God.’

‘I’m a grown up Evie. I can take care of myself.’

Um, so how’s that been workin out for you if you don’t mind my asking?

I won’t lie, rules overwhelm me, they always have. I get easily burdened by my inability to follow all the rules all the time. Sometimes so much so that I just go in the exact opposite direction. But that’s another story. Probably just the human race story.

This morning in our alone time, God brought that Dr. Dobson phrase back to mind just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by my shortcomings and overcome by my inadequacies.

Then He spoke this reminder to my spirit:

Focus on our relationship Evie. When our relationship is operating simply out of my careful pursuit of your heart, you won’t see any rules. All you will see is that I love you and I want the absolute best for you. 

When I focus on God’s continual initiation of heart to heart conversations with me, it’s impossible to be burdened by commands. Because all I sense is His love.

Just like good ole Bonnie couldn’t make dude love her, God can’t make you love him. Well he could if he wanted to but he never will. It’s not who he is. It’s not the way he designed the human race. He will never force himself on anyone.

What he does desire more than anything though is to have a personal relationship with you.

And what you experience once you step inside that relationship is actually real deal freedom.

The kind of freedom your current freedom is petrified you might find.

Don’t let a few rules scare you. Those disappear as soon as you let him wrap his arms around you.

And if you need a reminder down the road like I do, that’s what the Holy Spirit is for. To guide you back into relationship.

The relationship where love rules.

“I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.  Psalm 119:14-16

The Joys of Being Single and Having Sex

If we’re honest, we all crave a relationship that somehow seems to breathe life into our souls.

A relationship that makes our broken, beautiful.

A relationship that provides unconditional love that doesn’t turn conditional when we mess up. When our flaws are revealed. When our secrets are out.

A relationship that brings peace of mind.

Peace of mind that doesn’t waver in a world where all good things seem to have a beginning and an end.

The truth is, we were designed for this kind of relationship. This kind of intimacy.

Unfortunately, human love can’t produce it.

Only God offers this kind of love. As hard as we try,

We will always fall short of love that never fails.

I watched this movie recently.  

Basically the script appeared to be sensationalizing this single guy’s lifestyle of sex with multiple women and treating them like objects designed strictly for his pleasure. Anytime, anywhere, regardless of who got hurt; in his mind, he was living the “good life.” 

Consequences? What consequences?

Conscience? So overrated.

Now, I love being a single chick. Maybe too much really. I treasure being “free” and unattached. I like coming home to peace and quiet. I like making my own schedule and not being “tied down.” But I also think marriage and family is a beautiful thing. I look forward to being a wife and a mom if and when God orchestrates it. Until then, I’m perfectly content where He has me.

That said, dude was way out of line and his lifestyle was downright offensive.

I was desperate to see his character redeemed and some sort of light bulb moment occur so I forced myself to keep watching.

Finally, due to extenuating circumstances, he stops and takes an honest look at his life.

Any of us who have been on a downward spiral for some period of time know this moment is intense.

One of the reasons we stay in a dark and downward spiral is precisely because we’re so afraid of that moment of truth.

Of what it will reveal about who we’ve become.

Of realizing we may not be as “free” as we thought we were.

But this painful realization is the necessary first step to healing and transformation.

The monologue in the last scene was so well done. As much as I was tempted to despise this character, I just couldn’t.

At first I felt sorry for him. Now I related to him.

He reminded me that everybody needs healing.

That we are all doing the best we can with what we know.

That we all crave the kind of love and fulfillment this world simply cannot deliver the goods on.

“Despite my best efforts, I’m beginning to feel some cracks in my faux finish.

When I look back at my little life and all the women I’ve known,

I can’t help but think about all that they’ve done for me..

And all I haven’t done for them.

How they looked out for me and cared for me,

And I repaid them by never returning the favor.

I used to think I had the best end of the deal…

But what have I got… really?

Some money in my pocket?

Some nice threads?

Fancy car at my disposal?

And I’m single..

Yeah..

                                               Unattached

Free as a bird.

I don’t depend on nobody.

Nobody depends on me.

My life’s my own.

But…

I don’t have peace of mind….

And if you don’t have that,

You’ve got nothing.

So…

so what’s the answer?

That’s what I’m asking myself..

What’s it all about?

You know what I mean?”


Yes Alfie, I know exactly what you mean.