There probably won't be much more alliteration. Unless it's unintentional. It just made for a quirky title.
Hi friends. Happy 2017. Hope the first 11 days have been awesome. (All those sentences started with "H"...totally unintentional.)
Raise your hand if you are:
Practicing a healthier lifestyle?
Spending less money?
If you raised your hand or just nodded at your phone screen (please don't raise your hand in public...that could be weird...or do... that could be funny)...ANYWAY, if you're doing these things... gosh darn it... good for you!
All of those things are awesome and so smart!
I REALLY didn't want to but I'll admit it--I made one New Year's Resolution. I wanted to be more organized. ...LOL and thaaaat resulted in me just using a BAJILLION sticky notes as tiny little yellow task reminders. I write a task that I have to get done at work on a sticky note and when I finish it, I throw it away. Sometimes I rip it up and THEN I throw it away. One might argue that it's not helping in the ways of organization--but man does it feel good to throw those away! At the end of the day I get to look at that recycle bin and feel really stinking accomplished. (It's actually getting out of hand and I'm starting to look like a crazy person. Heck, there's probably a sticky note that says "Make sticky note to remember to make sticky note. ...I digress.)
It's really cool that every year on January 1st--we get to this opportunity to start fresh. It's like there is something in the air that just excites our little souls and this little inner voice whispers to us... now is the time. Start over. Make changes. And everyone is in it together, too. We all are so excited to live life in a better way! All because of the calendar year starting over again. And man, WE GO BIG.
All or nothing.
And therein lies the problem.
Now humble yourselves for a minute....
Raise your hand (dare ya) if you've fallen off from a New Year's Resolution. You're trying to go to the gym every day... but life happens and you can't go for a few days or a month even... so you throw in the towel. Maybe next year. And you go about the life you were living before. Maybe even eating more frozen pizza because heck, you're really gonna go hard in 2018.
I used to compete in NPC bikini competitions (yeah yeah) and during your preparation for the competition your life is all about discipline and restriction. I would restrict myself so heavily that when I would jump off my diet... I would REALLY jump off my diet... I'm talkin... eat a whole cake and then eat the platter that the cake was on just because... whatever... I've ruined my body anyway... might as well eat cardboard and see what happens. And then I'd go days where I just stopped working out and stopped eating on my plan... because I just gave up. I was past the point of no return, in my mind.
New Year's resolutions are cool.
This blog is not about how I think resolutions are crap and everyone is stupid and should save themselves from the disappointment they will inevitably experience when they face a hiccup when trying to accomplish their goal..
Nope. This blog ain't about that life.
THIS blog is about Jesus. And if you're not down with that, you can go ahead and click back and calmly return to the usual facebook entertainment of videos of cats and cute pictures of your friend's kids and memes with kermit the frog talking to himself and people fighting about politics. That stuff is pretty fun, I wouldn't blame you.
If you're still here, let's get it.
Guys. I really fell off this year. In a big way. It wasn't until very recently (when I wrote my blog about my year in review) that I realized how far from Jesus I was. And not just in this last year, I realized how little I knew about relationship with Jesus--my entire life I never fully understood grace and redemption.
My life has been a series of resets. A series of ALL and then...nothin.
Man oh man, I was about to go into testimony mode and be all "I grew up going to church my whole life but...."
Don't worry. I'm not gonna go there.
But seriously, I did grow up in church. hehe. And man... the church provides the opportunity to make a New Years Resolution of sorts all the dang time! Um.. hello! You wanna get things right with Jesus? Churches got it goin' on. Alter calls? Walk your cryin' butt to the front. Prayer after service? They waitin'. Retreats? We goin'. If you want Jesus,.. if you want to live in freedom...there's opportunity for a "I want more Jesus now" resolution all OVER the place. Go church!
Remember that Staples commercial with the big red round button that said "easy" on it. (Bear with me here--this will come full circle.) And you just pushed that baby and it said "that was easy" and something else happened.. I can't really remember what happened. I'm imagining maybe somebody just standing there and then they just magically had a box of pencils and a ream of paper in their hands. Something like that.
So, first of all--there ain't no button.
But I thought there was. Every SINGLE time I had this radical opportunity to be prayed over and come closer to the Lord I thought that all my problems would disappear and rejecting sin would be freaking EASY and I would just be perfect and ride around on a unicorn carefree.... and I bet I would shave my legs every day, too.
So for a few days, I would ride my unicorn. And then eventually I would fall off the unicorn. Why the cuss am I talking about unicorns....
OK. Without the metaphors:
I would have a really great and awesome experience with God but then life would hit me. I would be tempted to sin. And I would do it. I would SIN. BLECH. I would. Yeah. Me. I did it. I sinned. I know, it's unbelievable. I sinned. (That's really what I would think--)
And just like that, I would turn my back on Jesus again. Because, if I wasn't gonna do it right--I didn't want to do it at all. I didn't want to face my God and I didn't want to face my CHURCH and be vulnerable and say--I'm messing up. I'm messing up over and over and EVERY DAY. I keep doing it wrong.
Alter calls and prayer after church and retreats are great. But I was using them as opportunities to get the high of coming back to Jesus again. And not realizing that Jesus isn't just at the alter in your church building. Or in your cabin at your church retreat.
Do you guys know that experiencing God and coming back to his heart is not just meant to be found in Sunday morning worship or conferences or rallies or alter calls (although, all are good things...)...that sounds like a stupid question....but I realized that's what I perceived. I wasn't looking for God anywhere else. Even though He's everywhere and He's omniscient.
My REVELATION recently was that I need to come back to Jesus every day. Oh my word, I can just feel all the grown up Christians rolling their eyes at that statement...like WELL DUH SHELBY WE'VE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR YEARS.
I need to be vulnerable with him regularly and say I messed up and the big thing here is that we need to be accepting this major SCANDAL that is grace. All of us. You think you're going to enter into Heaven with all the people you went to church with? Guess what guys? There are going to be ex-cons, prostitutes, addicts, carnies, corporate executives, janitors, couch potatoes, glue eaters...because you know what we all have in common? Sin. Know what else? God's love and his grace.
The world weighs sin and says God loves a person more if they don't do this sin and less if they do this sin. But GRACE says, I don't give a flying flute what you did (He does actually care..but), I love you ALL the same (even the glue eaters),
ALL of us. He loves us all the same because He created us all and put us in an imperfect and sinful world knowing full well we do not have the capability to be perfect or better than the person next to us. And His grace extends over all of our sins as long as we know that we gotta keep working at it. And continue to humble ourselves.
This is a serious revelation for me, guys. Recently, the more I practiced "relationship" with Christ, the easier it was for me to continue to stay rooted in His will for my life. Oh oops. That came across as it's so easy to avoid sin now. It ain't.
But it is easy to stay connected to God's overall purpose if I keep my focus on Him--even when I make an absolute fool of myself. (Everyday.)
And once I understood that I just have to keep coming back to Jesus, I understood the word redemption.
For some reason "redeemed" and "redemption" are scary words to me. Like... oh goodness, that sounds like I'm gonna have to do some crazy stuff and then I'm gonna have to know some other big words and probably be able to talk in front of groups of people with a Bible in each hand.
I remind myself of the real definition regularly. I have to realize that although life has battered me and taken me down some very dark roads that Jesus waited for me to choose him so I could feel a whole lot better. He waited for me to realize that redemption is not just ONE radical experience. Redemption isn't even an experience at all. Being redeemed means that every day we can still feel comfortable being a Christian even though sin will always exist in our lives. We don't have to be scared to come back to Jesus. We don't have to be afraid to admit our shortcomings to God. Heck, he already knows anyway. We just have to go back knowing that God exists so that we can be free of the weight and shame of sin--REDEMPTION.
Every day, every minute, every hour, every second is an opportunity for resolution. You messed up one second ago--take this next second to make things right with God and in your heart.
You messed up ten years ago? There's no waiting room for Jesus. Right now.
You messed up last week? You messed up today? You want to start over? Start over. Keep starting over. Keep pushing forward with God.
Guys, I really have to start over with Jesus every day. Gosh sometimes a lot more than that. Because sin doesn't magically go away. I so wish it would. I so wish that sin would just go away and I had an easy button. But then I would be dead and in Heaven--which would be cool--but yeah.. I don't know where to go with that one.
As long as I'm living on this earth, I'm a sinner. But that doesn't make me dirty or unworthy of receiving love (and it doesn't mean I have to keep making the same mistakes). It means that if I stay focused on the constant renewal of my faith and seeking Jesus... I'll find a balance. There will be no more highs of alter calls and lows of feeling dirty and unworthy.
Man, I sunk so low this year. I rejected my faith and Jesus. The darkness that entered my life was severe. Holy Spirit was still somewhere within me. I know this because the little bit of light left in me knew that God probably wanted me to stop allowing sin and shame to take root in my life, but the darkness in me did not want to care. The light in me knew I wasn't ever really satisfied despite my failed attempts at earthly happiness. And although my facade was strength, in reality, I was spiritually crippled. I had allowed so much darkness into my life. And growing up I probably would have thought it best to come back to God with a conference or a Sunday worship. But I didn't want to do it this time. Because this time, I knew it wouldn't be that easy or simple. I thought I could never be perfect, so why even put myself in a position to be disappointed again with how far I had fallen? Heartbreaking. I know I actually uttered the words "I'm going to hell"...out loud. As a joke. WHAT.
I thought that if I went back to church that I would be rejected because my life was tainted with a divorce...at such a young age. And I also knew that church (but really Jesus) requires vulnerability which would mean that I would have to open up some major wounds that had not yet healed because I was too busy putting band-aids on something that needed some real time and love to heal. Good Lord, Thank you Jesus for breaking me down. My heart has never felt lighter and smile never more genuine.
And then I would think about potentially getting married again. Oh, here we go. (I'll admit... this is still a fear for me...I'm human...remember?) And the tiny flicker in my heart knew I would never want to marry someone who didn't love Jesus. I didn't want to go back to Jesus because what kind of Christian man would want me, anyway? I actually received a message from a person I had probably spoken to a few times--he reprimanded me for allowing divorce. How dare I claim to be a Christian and boast of Christ in my life when I clearly didn't read the Bible. How I was was unacceptable. Even though he knew nothing of my situation. He knew nothing of my heart and more importantly he knew nothing of how deeply his words would affect me. I've been through hell and I allowed it to send me into this confused spiral of numbness and into deep dark waters. Is God going to equip me with the strength to tell someone about the heartache I have endured one day? Is God capable of equipping a man to love me despite how much I've been hurt? Am I going to be too much? I thought.... I'm not worthy of a man who knows Jesus. A man who's heart is pure. That man would want someone with less history, less baggage. So why the hell should I even try to let God back into my life when I don't know if God could even provide such a love?
PUMP THE BRAKES (Revelation)
If we know Jesus, we better know about redemption. You are SAVED from your sins. They hold NO weight. If any man or woman claims to be in relationship with Jesus, they should know what he's capable of. He's capable of healing and restoration--all it takes is us coming to Him. This isn't just one prayer once in your life. And this doesn't mean that you only get one shot when they call people to the altar. This won't happen once a year on New Year's Day. This is relationship. This is constant communication in order to fully understand God's grace and God's heart for you. This takes commitment. But not in that you gotta read 10 sentences in your Bible every day and pray before bed. I mean commitment to knowing you're going to fall short but you have to keep coming back. It is a commitment to knowing when you fall off or you take the easy way...no matter HOW far it is you fall, no matter the shame you feel...He's there and He's capable of loving you all the same. No amount of sin can pull us too far from Jesus. There is nothing on this earth that has the power to make you so dirty or so wounded that God doesn't have the power to clean and heal and restore and make pure. So take that, hypothetical future perfect Christian husband. What you see is what you get, man. And God says I'm pretty dang great (and you are too, I'm sure).
Anyway, I've ranted enough. If you're making a New Year's Resolution to do more or less of something and you fall off for a few days or even a few months. Just go back to it, dude. If you need me to come over to your house with a sparkly dress on, some streamers, and a 2017 party hat, and then count backwards from 10...just to get you in the mood, I freaking will.
I've said it before but I really can't write conclusions, guys.
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.