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

 

 

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.

Time Out

I was catching a friend up on how I’ve been spending my time recently since stepping out of full time ministry. Besides traveling the world, relaxing at exotic resorts and getting daily massages on the beach, I explained that I’ve been catching up on a whole lot of lost time with God right in the quiet of my own little Nashville home.

Although I spent the best hours of my days working in a phenomenal church for the last 16 months, my relationship with God actually felt like it was on life support. I knew He was asking me to take some time in this next season to really examine what happened to cause this, do a major heart check, and get back into spiritual working condition.

Have you ever gone through a season in life where you poured everything you had into something that just wasn’t turning out the way you though it would? I think it’s safe to say most of us have. In fact, you should read this book if you’re looking for clarity and guidance in this area, or know someone who is.

Whether it’s a job or a relationship or kids or a family issue, ever so slowly your own personal walk with God slips to 3rd or 4th place and your very identity becomes like a faded photo. One day you look in the mirror and can’t even recognize your own reflection or recall who you once were.

Regrettably, in the last year and a half, more often than I care to admit, I was like a hamster in a wheel running myself ragged and never getting anywhere. Through no one’s fault but my own I was in a position that was stifling my creativity and expecting things of me that I just wasn’t designed for. All along I allowed myself to be drawn into the thought that,

this isn’t brain surgery, just keep trying harder. You have to do this. You need to love this. You have to live up to everyone’s expectations and get this right.”

At the end of the day, whenever we try to be something we’re not, we just end up cheating ourselves and the world of something very special.

There will never be another you, so recover who you are and then be the best YOU you can be. I’ve learned it doesn’t do anyone any good to try and be the best someone else you can be.

I’m so thankful for amazing friends who surround me with love and support and who are there for me no matter what. There’s always a reason for the season’s we go through and I do not in any way consider a single moment of the last 16 months to be a waste. I learned more than I ever have about people, about God, about myself, and about love. I’m a better person having come through this experience.

I hope if you can relate to any of this, you will do two things:

  •  Remember that this too shall pass and give yourself forgiveness today. Forgiveness for whatever it is you’ve been holding onto, thinking you don’t deserve to be happy because you screwed things up so badly. You don’t need to make yourself suffer for something Jesus already died to free you from. If God doesn’t expect perfection of us, who are we to set a higher expectation of ourselves than God? Let it go and move forward into the abundant life He has for you.
  • Dream. Recover what it is about you that makes you unique. Take a personality test, do an exercise. Read a book. Allow yourself the time and the freedom to get back to who you are. You were born an original. Don’t die a copy. (I don’t know who made that up but it wasn’t me)

Spanx and Skin Cream

Today is my birthday. Some people, women especially, don’t like to share their age. I’m not sure why this is. 🙂 But I can take a couple guesses.
  1. Younger is better
  2. Younger is sexier
  3. Grass is greener on the younger side
  4. Opportunities are endless
  5. “Big breaks” are more likely
  6. You assume the clock is ticking but you’re too young to hear it or care
But the older we get the more we realize what truly matters. And what truly matters the older we get, has less to do with what we have and more to do with who we are.  And that scares us. So fear and doubt begin to creep in with each passing birthday throwing questions around like:
  • What have I really done with my life?
  • Who am I anyway?
  • Does what I do even matter?
  • Do I even matter to God?
  • Is God pleased with me?
  • Is there really a God, who loves me?

Now don’t get me wrong. I have my share of pity parties. The wrinkles! Under eye circles! Slowed metabolism! The struggle to hold onto muscle and not eat the same things! Not to mention the dent in my budget due to the need for spanx and skin creams, hair color and chiropractors, fancy juicers and organic produce, foot massages, back rubs, etc, etc.

 

BUT! There is hope! What I do embrace and love about the aging process is this:
  • The culmination of life experiences that bring wisdom and fruit
  • The mistakes I begin to forgive myself for
  • The grudges I release because I recognize their insignificance
  • The new lens I view others from that focuses more on what makes us the same than what makes us different
  • The lens that recognizes no one is perfect, we all have baggage, we all have scars and we all need healing
  • A greater capacity to love because of a greater understanding of Christ’s love for me.
Today I am 33 years old. I am thankful for every moment of peace and every moment of despair; every joy-filled laugh and every hopeless tear; every friend who has ever loved me and every friend who has ever hurt me; every relationship broken, every relationship restored; every difficult job, every stupid mistake; every child who has given me a glimpse into pure innocence; every high of accomplishment, every low of failure; every fear, every doubt; every flaw, every weakness; every strength, every blessing. Everything.
 
The God of the universe knows you and knew where you would be right in this very moment; even before the foundation of the earth was laid. He made you. He wired you; nothing you do or have done surprises Him or catches Him off guard. He is in awe of you, you are His priceless work of art. Every day is another opportunity to step inside His story for you and with you.

“And now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine according to His power at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20