Worst of Sinners

Growing up, the generations before me were still struggling with believing life was (almost) all about reputation. If you shared your life-lessons with anyone younger than you, your sin needed to smack of holiness because, well, you were a Christian, right? That was all fine and good when dealing with things like gluttony, pride and disrespect. Those were the “Christian” sins. You can still look holy while dealing with those. (No, Dear, you can’t…)

But dealing with sins on the ‘level’ of sexual sins, addictions, or manipulation? Yeah, no… We can’t Christianize those, so we didn’t talk about them. Or, if we did talk of any “serious” sins like those (they all separate us from God– they’re all serious), they were addressed using such broad terms, I left feeling very confused and like I couldn’t be a Christian and have questions about those things. But then I felt betrayed when I found out secondhand the Christian who shushed my questions was the very brother or sister in Christ who shared my silent frustrations.

One of my strongest fears as someone who journals her prayers is that someone will read my heart’s cries long before I’m ready to share them. However, on the flip-side, there’s also this innate desire to hand these heartfelt prayers to my future children as a way to remind them their mama never had it together perfectly either. Even with the fact that I have no idea when I’ll hand these journals off, I find myself wanting to manicure my prayers so I don’t have to revisit my struggles’ shame if my children read about my journey to become more like Christ.

Paul of Tarsus, one of the key writers of the New Testament, was self-proclaimed, “… The worst of sinners… (1 Timothy 1:15),” yet he had one of the strongest stances on redemption, justice, mercy and grace. He did not budge when it came to what was/is expected from a follower of Jesus Christ. Though he did everything within his will to lead by example, he did not hide his sordid past. If Paul didn’t, why do we?

I completely understand that there’s a time and a place for transparency. Though Paul was open about his past, we didn’t see him divulging everything he’d ever done every time he opened his mouth to speak about grace and redemption. But even still, when the opportunity presented itself to show people he struggled, he did it openly. That openness only comes with the understanding that it’s ultimately about eternal redemption, not temporary reputation.

I wonder how many times we as Christians miss out on showing people God really does accept everyone right where they’re at simply because we want to protect our reputations rather than herald God’s glory.

Written By the God Who Sees

Dear Little One, 

You’re seen. Behind the instantaneous smile, the immediate laughter and the flamboyant charm, I see you. I recognize your desire to hide, even when you stand in front of the mirror and challenge Me to prove your value. I hear the brokenness in the laughter, I feel the tears behind the smile. 

You don’t think you can tell Me you’re hurting because you’re so accustomed to playing a part in healing someone else. Stop. I’m not broken. I’m not in need of you. You need Me. Let yourself be broken and hurt in My presence. As your Creator, I can only heal what you show Me. Your cracked heart merely hurts My heart, it doesn’t overwhelm, anger, or turn Me away. But you do have to give it to Me. 

Please? 

I see you when no one does. I hear you cry when everyone else only hears you laugh. I feel your fear when everyone else only sees your confident leadership. You’re not confident, are you? You believe in My power for everyone but yourself, don’t you? 

Why? 

Do you understand that your purpose, value, and reason was found the moment you were conceived? Do you understand that when I breathed life into your lungs, I not only gave you purpose, I gave you My purpose, My joy, My love? Because of Me, your pain isn’t weakness, it’s strength. Because of Me, your identity isn’t found in your mistakes.

You are found in Me.

I haven’t call you to lead alone. I called you to be Mine. Hold on to the fact that you’re Mine. When you feel invisible, you’re Mine. When you feel alone, you’re still Mine; besides, you’ve never been alone a millisecond of your existence. 

You tell people you love the fact you’ve learned I am Elroi, the God Who Sees. But Child, why haven’t you let that Truth sink in when you’ve needed it most? 

I love you. I’m here. You are not invisible to Me. 

Your One and Only Elroi

End it More


It started yesterday. The #EndItMovement. Americans finally decided to admit that slavery still exists. Social media was inundated with red Xs as a way to be a voice to the voiceless. Christians finally decided to live out the mindset that sin festers in silence. 

I wept over each picture I saw. Tears of acknowledged bitterness now healed. Tears of fear now at peace. Tears which once went unnoticed now being seen by people who don’t even know who I am or why I cry. 

Acknowledging modern day slavery is near and dear to my heart for reasons not fully mine to tell. Regardless of that, I’m reminded of a truth which has haunted my friends for years and so, therefore, haunted me as well. 

You can free them, but it’s not enough to free their bodies. 

I have sat with people who were released from their captivity, but could not be convinced that restoration and redemption was theirs. I heard them explain the power of the gospel and then mutter the heartwrenching words, “…At least, it’s powerful for you.” 

I learned from these small encounters that sex slavery especially, no matter your gender, rips your identity to shreds. I’ve cried over humans who are released –“free”– and yet they long for captivity again. Not because they loved it… their nightmarish screams spoke against that belief… but because it was familiar. 

It’s a beautiful thing to stand up for people caught in slavery. Keep it up. Speak up. Scream, for heaven’s sake! But please, I beg of you, if you must speak up, put actions to your words. 

Don’t be shocked when you discover, as I did, that slavery looks normal when you pass it in the grocery store, parking lot or even church. When you see it, do what it takes to stand by these men, women, and children until they’re free physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

They need you to do more than write an ‘X’ on your wrist. They need you to believe in the all-encompassing power of the Gospel for them when they can’t. That takes action. That takes mercy.

The #EndItMovement takes time.

Blind to Brutality

Four little boys screeched, “Help us! They’re using batons and won’t stop! Lady, please help us! They’re beating us up! They might kill us. They’ll take me to jail! I didn’t do nothin'”  I quietly observed the boys’ laughter-filled playtime, slowly becoming more and more appalled at what they considered play.

Police brutality. They think it’s funny. The boys couldn’t have been more than seven. They already think brutality is funny. 

By the age of 12, I was a hopeless tomboy. I enjoyed horsing around with the guys much more than painting my nails or trying on my sister’s prom dress. I know what it’s like to have a childhood of accidentally going “too far” with wrestling and playing cops and robbers. It’s all in good fun. Welcome to a healthy childhood. 

But adding police brutality? Imagining the role of a “bad cop” misusing his authority? No, that wasn’t my childhood.

I know I’m not a parent. I realize it’s quite possible I’ll come back to to this post and disagree with my younger self after having actual parental experience. But at this point, all I have is frustration over the fact that our culture’s children have very little understanding of the sacredness of life. Many of them have even less respect for authority. 

I had a childhood packed to the hilt of learning respect and the difference between right and wrong. The current generation of children are learning their version of those things by watching media. They are also watching us — their parents and role models. 

Are we modeling wholesome characteristics which are worth them mirroring? Or, are we reacting in anger, sarcasm and cynicism and simply shrugging our shoulders and telling ourselves they’ll understand better when they grow up? 

A seven-year-old knew that a baton can kill. We need to stop shrugging our shoulders.

Beautiful Fear, Bearable Pain

I was 16 the last time I witnessed to a nurse in the operation room.

It was 4:30 in the morning and right before he put me to sleep for my third and final brain surgery, he asked me if I was scared. Apparently, when I answered that I “couldn’t be,” that was enough to delay the surgery for a few minutes while I explained the power of Jesus. I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he responded to the Gospel truth.

I just remember realizing my pain was a beautiful gateway to Hope. I had to come to grips with the fact that the sleepless nights, tears and unknowns were being woven together not so I could benefit, but so that I could be available for someone who I’d never see again. 

Three days ago, I went in for what was basically a low-end emergency surgery. The implanted technology that manages my epilepsy treatment was as dead as a doornail. The medical team could either replace it now, or I would go without treatment for up to three months due to scheduling complications.

I’m not usually a skittish person when it comes to surgeries. I’m skittish about other things like love, careers and the idea of motherhood, but emergency surgery? Meh. It happens all the time. I’ll be fine. Only this time, my fiancé and I had 12 hours to process the news of the surgery, let everyone know, fill out the paperwork and get to the hospital on time. We didn’t have time to breathe, think, or process.

This was also the first time I was leaning on my abundently-capable future husband for something completely out of my control. I trust him, but can I have a girly honest moment here? No one wants to have a memory of looking at their fiancé and saying, “You’re my primary emergency contact. No big deal. Nothing’s going to happen, it’s just paperwork… but, um, since you’re basically my spouse, you, um… I love you?” (It’s especially awkward when you’re making these statements at 5:30 in the morning.)

Three days ago, fear was incredibly present. 

When the lead technician came to investigate my implant, she acknowledged my tattoos, trying to get me to relax. Somehow, we went from talking about ink to talking about how she wants a tattoo that will remind her not to waste her life. “I’m just sick of wasting everything, ya know?” 

She was a genius medical technician, and she felt as if her life was worthless. Immediately, my fear left me as I reached for my fiancé’s hand. My life wasn’t wasted. My life wasn’t pointless. I was facing unknowns, but my pain had led both he and I into that room that very early morning for a reason.

We were given a very real moment to silently pray for a woman who felt invisible. That gave me hope. My pain has never been more beautiful.  

A Lesson From An Atheist

Our differences are stark:
He’s a “man’s man who don’t need no woman.” I’m every type of tomboy imaginable but I still look for sentimentality in stupid places and love leaning on the man of my heart.

My friend is an atheist. I’m a Christian. 
He thinks I need more rights as a woman. I couldn’t disagree more.

He’s black. I’m so white I’m translucent.

He can’t stand “the system.” Though it rubs against my every day activities, I’ve learned to roll with the punches unless it’s biblically and morally uncalled for.

Our similarities crack me up:

We both love to argue.

We both like to argue.

In case you missed it, we both love to argue.

We both know how to source our facts.

We both hate politics, but our shared desire for justice makes most of our conversations about things we need to see change in this country.

There is nothing more comical than putting a determined atheist in a friendship with a stubborn follower of Jesus Christ. Many o’ times, one of us (usually me) calls a time out on our heated arguments about Jesus, religion, women’s rights, marriage, children and every other hot topic because our friendship matters more than our opinions. Too many times, I’ve wandered into the Throne Room screaming, “Why, Jesus?!” when the arguments can’t end on agreeable terms. I’ve been told a time or two this guy would love it if he could just program me to “get it.”

No matter how much our differences heat us up, though, we stop when our respect for each other is threatened. I have my boundaries, he has his. Crossing those boundaries is not allowed, especially if we feel like the other person’s value is undermined because of our disagreement. It’s acceptable to be passionate about something the other person is not. It’s also acceptable to shut up for a while. It’s even acceptable to decide talking till you agree isn’t worth sacrificing the friendship itself.

It is not acceptable, however, to devalue another person or attempt to strip them of their opinion because it makes you uncomfortable. 

Being acclaimed as right is nice, I’ll give you that. But sometimes, the people that are able to stand strongly by simply living out their views in how they treat others will leave the most impact.

Feet Showed Me Jesus

I’ve washed a lot of people’s feet. I don’t like feet. 

Usually, out of the two main “foot-washing passages” in the Bible, it’s easiest for me to grasp the Biblical account of Jesus washing John’s feet in John 13. It’s humbling, sure. The Creator and perfect Savior washed an imperfect man’s feet. That’s hard to swallow… But because we’re used to talking about the unimaginable grace of Jesus, it’s still understandable. 

But then, we get the story of Mary Magdalene washing Christ’s feet in Luke 7. Mary Magdalene the Prostitute. Mary Magdalene the sinner. Mary Magdalene the outcast… She washed Christ’s feet. 

She wasn’t a servant whose only job was to clean guests’ feet. She wasn’t even supposed to touch men for fear of contaminating them. But Jesus… Jesus let her wash his feet. Not only did he let her wash his feet… She used her hair. Who knows where that filthy wretch had been? 

Two accounts of service. I’d much rather put myself in the shoes of the humbled disciple than the humiliated, repentant whore. 

Usually, foot-washing is a sweet, simple reminder of Christ’s willingness to serve us. The Greater serves the lesser. He never turned down a chance to serve someone as a way to encourage unity. Usually, I wash a fellow congregant’s already-clean feet just as a symbol of that. It’s easy, it’s short and easily forgotten. I’ve been a part of a church that does feet-washing since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. 

In all honesty, though, I don’t remember any of those people I’ve “served.” 

I do, however, remember the time(s) God whispered to my heart at the stupidest of times, “Change of plans. Get on your knees. Take their shoes off and wash their feet. I asked you to serve them once and instead you served yourself. Show them what it means to serve when you let Me take over.”

It was in that moment I knew I had stopped praying for that particular person because my shame was larger than my desire to serve. Any time I started a prayer, it felt impossible to finish. Pray for him? I had hurt him! I can’t bless him by praying for him and act like my sin had never impacted him.

So, I got down on my knees and showed my own heart what it meant to serve as a gateway to reconciliation. It wasn’t humiliating, but it was indeed humbling. It wasn’t life-changing, but it was heart-changing. I have no idea if he understood why washing his feet was my only option… But I had to wash his feet. 

Often, we’re called to do crazy things in order to instigate reconciliation within the Body of Christ. I struggle to do many of those things (like washing an unsuspecting man’s feet!) if I can’t see the end result. If I can’t guarantee my act of service, humility, or courage will heal a wound, why put myself out there in the first place? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m made an even bigger fool? 

What if God got it wrong?

Or, is it possible that’s not the issue? Could it be an act of obedience to encourage reconciliation is counted as a success because of how it changes our hearts, not the person we’re serving?