Comparison

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

This year I went to a Christian women’s conference, it was the first one that I had ever attended, and to say I was excited was an understatement. As I opened the flyer to read about the speakers, I did the unthinkable; I compared myself. It was unintentional at first, I was searching for any connection – something that would validate my past. Reading the snippets of their bios beside their head-shot, I stopped dead in my tracks. All I could focus on was their qualifications. The things that qualified them to be a speaker, to stand on the stage doing exactly what I want to do and what disqualified me. And, it is ironic because I am very aware that God does NOT work through “qualifications” and that the enemy was leading me to believe the lies that I was disqualified.

Each one of these women stood up on stage and shared stories of vulnerability, stories of fear and stories of how God had shaped or changed their lives. Truly beautiful and honest accounts of transformation in some form. The trials they had suffered were difficult, terrifying and significant. As I sat there listening to them 75% of me admired and respected them and the other 25% told myself “your dream is over, sister! You can never do this. You have too many.” Too many of this, too many of that – just too many!

They had been married for 10 to 25 years. All appeared to have a godly marriage, no mention of divorce or remarriage. There was not a testimony of addiction, sexual sin, anything that would carry a sin-shock once revealed. What would my bio read? Jessica Griffiths. Married & Divorced. Re-married & Re-divorced Again. Blended Family. Sex before marriage … oh ya, I can see the empty arena now. No thanks, I am good!

What impacted me the most though was watching one woman in particular ramping herself up to share her most shameful truth. It was crushing because of the heaviness of her shame, the things that made her feel unworthy or fearful were so minor in comparison to my own past. It showed me that we are so unforgiving of ourselves for the slightest infractions. And, that even someone with her qualifications, her education, status etc. was still fearful to some degree of judgment.

Sitting there impatiently waiting for her to work up the courage to share whatever carried such humiliation and embarrassment for her, I prayed. I prayed for her past to be even the slightest of something that mirrored my own. Is that awful? It sounds terrible to me to pray for something like that – but it was for a good reason, kind of. I wanted her to say something that would pull me into her heart, something that screamed – you’re one of us and welcome here. My need for it to be significant, something that would whisper “I’m just like you” was vital to feeling human, and still worthy of being a christian.

I prayed she would share something that proved that I was not disqualified. That I could share my story with other women, encourage and motivate them, become an author and not just be a flawed woman. But when she shared her truth and testimony, it was nothing like my past, and nothing I would have ever faulted her for nor condemned. In fact to me I would not have even categorized it as a sin. I honored her vulnerability, but dishonored Gods promise to myself. I ended up leaving the conference feeling disqualified. And, my heart broke.

For the next week I wrestled over my feelings. I wrestled with the idea of truly being disqualified. Would God call me to write and share my testimonies if I were truly disqualified? And as soon as I said that out loud, I realized I’m not sharing my testimony. I’m sharing how I survived, how I am saved by Gods grace and how he loves me. But I haven’t told you my actual mistakes. I’m safely tucked behind a computer, a quote or a blog post saying, “I’m a Christian”, “God is real” and that I know that I’m forgiven but I’m not sharing why or how I know this.

Here I am dreaming of the day I am able to speak life into women who are needing validation, desiring acceptance, and deserving of forgiveness – and I am already letting them down because my testimony is incomplete. And, God called me on that, right there in my car. He said, “Show them why and how YOU are NOT a disqualified Christian. Show them what disqualified you before the grace of God. Show them what qualifies YOU and THEM in my heart and that my mercy never fails.”

It was in that moment my heart softened, that overwhelming feeling of clarity and joy overflowed and replaced any ounce of doubt I had. It was in that moment the enemy was silenced and the series – The Disqualified Christian, was created.

There are times what God speaks to us it not meant for sharing, but there are also moments when it is meant for others to know. God is very active and alive within me and I would be disobedient if I did not share this with you today.

God wants you to know that you are not disqualified, that he never compares you to anyone else because he created you to be set apart and unique on purpose. There is not a person, career, monetary amount, sin or any other factor that can disqualify you for his love and purpose. God is not in the business of crushing dreams or hearts, he is in the business of crushing us into position to bear the fruit he planned for the purpose of his glory. There is no glory in heartache, only in love and multiplication.

 Romans 12:6 (MSG)

“Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” 

There before the grace of God, go I.

There are days when I wake up and all I can muster are the words, “I’m thankful I woke up today”, or “I’m thankful that my being alive today means I must still have work to do for you God, that I must have purpose.” Even if I have no idea what it is. I trust he will clue me in when his timing is right, and most likely when my mind and heart are still.

“and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”  (1 Corinthians 15:8-10, NIV)

My grandfather used to say “there before the grace of God go I” during moments of tragedy, mourning or suffering. As a teenager and young adult, I would catch myself following the sentiment without realizing the weight behind the words I was reciting. There before the grace of God goes I, was how my grandfather spoke it, however the proper written statement is, ‘There but before the grace of God, go I – but still what does that mean, I asked myself one day.

Isn’t it ironic how we mimic what we hear growing up without analyzing the meaning behind it? I began to question the words, what they meant and what it was that I was repeating. Was my grandfather saying we were better than the homeless man sleeping in the bushes at the park, because we go to church? Was he saying that God loved us more than the people suffering in the car accident we just passed? Was he saying that if I don’t go to church and follow God that I too deserved to suffer? Until I read what Paul was saying in 1 Corinthians – the power, love and meaning was lost on me.

Paul felt as though he was undeserving and admitted that if it were not for the grace of God, he would still be the same Paul who persecuted Christians. It is a verse of humility and love. My thankfulness is rooted in the same manner as Paul. It was only for God’s grace and who he created me to be that I am the mother, wife and person I am today. He created me with intent, purpose, a heart that loves more than ever received and a mind that dreams of God making my impossible, possible.

God knew I would follow my heart instead of listening to him at first. He saw ahead to the moments I would fail, resist his help or the help of anyone else. He knew I would disappoint both he and myself when I would surely proclaim the lie that I only needed myself. He would be patient as I took the lead foolishly thinking that I was alone, and in charge. He continued to pour his love into me even in the moments that I denounced his purpose and plan for my life. He used these moments in his infinite wisdom, in his pursuits and how he would reveal when the timing was right, that he was whom my strength originated. His Grace is love, and there will not be a day that I am not thankful for that.

We are so naïve in what we so blindly refuse to acknowledge is him. Looking back now I see his hand helping me up to my feet, his arms lifting me up and out of whatever mess I created this time. His love for me when I couldn’t stomach my own reflection let alone the idea of loving myself, was abundant and refreshing. If it weren’t for these moments, I would not have three teenagers that have shown me a love that I never knew was possible and test the patience in me at the same time. If it weren’t for his grace, I would not have a husband who chooses me every day, despite my past and makes me feel the same safety I do in trusting Jesus.

My life afforded by his grace is not a based on whether I go to church, it is not saying that I am more deserving than anyone else or that I will escape my own tragedies or hardships. It is saying that I won’t be alone in them. I’m thankful to be aware of that. To humbly admit that I need his grace, that I want his grace and that my strength, love and faith are deeply rooted in him, is a gift in and of itself.

We all falter, we all have moments of pause and question – and we all at one time in our lives have felt undeserving of God’s love and grace. That is what creates the humility and compassion in our hearts for one another. Imagine all that God has witnessed, imagine all the people he consoles as they suffer, all the ones who at times question his abilities, his intentions and even if he is real. Imagine that for one minute and then picture him loving them anyhow. Is there anything more beautiful than that? I don’t believe there is.

Thankfulness is a choice just as is love. It is an action word; it requires movement, it requires flexibility and an intentional heart. It is easy to get stuck in the ruts of life and take things, people and even God for granted. There are days when I wake up and all I can muster are the words, “I’m thankful I woke up today”, or “I’m thankful that my being alive today means I must still have work to do for you God, that I must have purpose.” Even if I have no idea what it is. I trust he will clue me in when his timing is right, and most likely when my mind and heart are still.

Today I encourage you to take deep breath and think of one thing or person you are thankful for. Something or someone who gives you the feeling of relief or that pleases you. Whether it be a simple as a baby sleeping through the night, enough money in your account to keep the power on, a spouse who decided to unload the dishwasher or a puppy who didn’t chew another hole in your brand new couch. Or something as significant as a lost son or daughter coming home, the blessing of a positive test result or clear scan saying that cancer is gone. Whatever it may be, whatever you can muster up in the pits of despair – speak it, feel it and choose to be actively thankful for it and know you are never alone or undeserving.

Empty me of me, and fill me with you; I got baptized.

As we were turning into the church this morning I prayed aloud in the car, “Dear God please let this be a good service” because sometimes the message just doesn’t hit us the way it’s intended, you know? I needed a good message today, because I crave the holy spirit and thrive on the word hitting me in just a way that invigorates and encourages my soul to keep fighting.

God knew what I needed, as he always does.

Today is the last Sunday of my thirties. It’s the end of a decade which I began lost, angry and hurting. In the midst of heartbreak & failures, when everything was falling apart, and everyone was walking away – I was still so richly blessed. I know that was God. This decade is also when I found myself, forgave those who hurt me, became a better person, a better mother, the wife I always wanted to be and re-dedicated my life to Jesus.

In January, God spoke to me very clearly and the holy spirit filled me with a desire for God that I can’t fully explain. At first, I thought I was losing my mind and I was in a state of immense joy and excitement. I actually contemplated that maybe I was Bi-Polar, coming from such lows at times to this new high, felt unreal! That’s how intense this was. During my morning commute to work shortly after – it hit me that what I was feeling was salvation. As I sat in my car with tears streaming, asking forgiveness for every sin I could remember one by one, he reminded me that was unnecessary. I was forgiven as a whole. In that moment I felt an actual physical and emotional shift and a release that changed my life.

When we walked into church today, the baptismal tub was by the stage. As we found our seats, I told Gracie, “if they are doing baptisms today, I’m doing it.” I’ve been wanting to be baptized for months now and signed up once only to back out. Baptism is a public declaration of a very private relationship, and the thought of standing in front of strangers felt uncomfortable and honestly I felt unworthy of their time and attention.

Today was different. Today, I knew what God was doing, I knew this was the “service and message” I needed to experience in order to thrive in this new life with God as the head of my table. Being baptized was about Jesus and I, not anyone else, although I understood that it was an open request for those who witnessed to hold me accountable in my future as a christ follower. I was choosing to dedicate myself to him and I finally wanted everyone in the room to know I was proud and confident in my decision and acceptance of his love and forgiveness.

Thanks to my cousin, BJ, Kayla and our Pastor, I got baptized today without notice, without any planning or even a change of clothes. It was perfect. A little cold, but still perfect. I can’t imagine a better way to welcome 40 and the beginning of a new decade than to be emptied of the dead weight of the old me, and filled with the holy spirit, a new heart, a new name and cleansed soul.

Abortion

When you listen to someone detesting anything, very firmly and feeling that their convictions are backed by the bible, and God – it is frightening to say you’ve sinned in the same way. As I heard the way he spoke and thought of this woman, the very thought to say – I’m just like her, made me nervous, but I knew it was necessary for me to be obedient to my promise to God, to be a vessel and share his grace and forgiveness in my life.

A couple weeks ago I received a message on Instagram from a follower. This person had suffered quite a loss and began to share it with me. I’ve never met this person and I think sometimes it is easier that way, to share something so personal with a stranger you’ll never see face to face.

This person is a cancer survivor, a great photographer and from what I could tell a follower of God. As he was sharing his life, he mentioned a mortal sin that he could never forgive of someone from his past. The words mortal sin, hit me like a train. As I continued reading his message I knew without having to ask, which sin he meant, but I still asked, “what sin is it that you consider a mortal sin?” and he responded with, “Abortion.” That was what I thought he would say and I found it quite intriguing what God was doing. God knew that if I ever wanted to be a speaker that helps women overcome their past and invite him into their life – I’d have to tell my story time and time again, until it became easier.

This persons message was lengthy and filled with frustration and pain. He was quite frank in his personal feelings on abortion and God’s disgust with it. He went on to detail how it affected him with the loss of two children he didn’t know even existed. She had two abortions years prior without his knowledge. I could not imagine that type of loss and betrayal he must have felt. It was important for me to honor his loss, his feelings and the way he was deceived. It would have been easy for me to have just let him share, prayed for him and moved on with my day. It would have been easy to hide behind my Instagram, my beautiful quotes and inspirational messages and remain a glow in my highlight reel social media life. However, I knew God wanted more of me in this moment. When I asked God if he was leading me to be a listener, or both a listener and to share my story he responded very clearly, “Yes” to both.

When you listen to someone detesting something or someone, very firmly and feeling that their convictions are backed by the bible, and God – it is frightening to say you’ve sinned in the same way. As I heard the way he spoke and thought of this woman who hurt him greatly, the very thought to say – I’m just like her, made me nervous. Though I knew it was necessary for me to be obedient to my promise to God, to be a vessel and share his grace and forgiveness in my life.

When I responded it was first and foremost necessary for me to honor his loss, his feelings and his position even. I wanted him to know that for all he had gone through – I could see where those feelings came from and that his feelings were valid. Then it was important for me to share with him a little of my story and how I came to start this part of my life. He needed to know that the person he has been following, the person who he thanks daily for inspiration and sharing God’s word – had also had an abortion.

It was important for a few reasons. First, I needed to own my truth and be fully transparent. My testimony is my why, it is where God uses me and where his praise resides. Second, it felt important to inform him that this woman surely has suffered in a way he may not have noticed and it is doubtful she is carefree and without judgment today. That the experience of an abortion is life altering and traumatic and most women suffer in silence. I don’t care who says having an abortion did not affect them, it does. The third reason was because I wanted him to know that God forgave me and that I know if you repent and trust in God all your sins are wiped clean.

In my case I was only a child, unmarried and my boyfriend was aware and made the choice as well. There was a disconnect between my heart and mind, between what I knew to be Gods word and what I chose. Though I must admit I lacked the emotional ability to understand the destructive choice I was making, the life I was taking or the affect it would have on me for many years to come. Regardless, I was still equal to this woman he detested. We were the same, and I told him my truth. As I sat there waiting to see if he would respond harshly with judgment or at all – my heart was at peace knowing I did the right thing by telling him.

It is unnerving to share something that carries the heaviness of guilt and humiliation. The thought of giving someone else the power to judge me or disqualify me was uncomfortable. However, the healing, grace and mercy over-flooded my soul when God led me to share my redemption story. It didn’t matter if he responded or condemned me because I knew my worth didn’t lay in mans opinion of what my past held. God’s truth for me was; I’m forgiven.

When his response came through it said this, “You might be the most complete human being I’ve ever encountered. I applaud you for being penitent to God and I applaud you for the courage it took to share this. I have your back and so does God because you first went to him. You don’t hide from your past or pontificate where you are currently. You counsel and testify all the while being funny, kind and unique.” I sat there for a moment and re-read his words and while I responded with graciousness I also informed him that I was not complete yet but God was still working on me.

It is easier to judge than it is to forgive and cutting off people because of past choices does the exact opposite of what God demonstrates to us daily. For me, it was abortion. For you it could have been addiction, pornography, criminality or numerous other sins. We know that God detests seven things:
haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. – Proverbs 6:16-19

Did you know though that these along with many other sins are all equal in Gods eyes? A sin is a sin, is a sin. Jesus’ blood was shed for forgiveness of ALL sins, not just the easy ones, or the minor ones or for the people he favors most. ALL who repent and follow him will be forgiven for ALL of our sins. ALL.

We need to be more gracious and open to the past of others, we should want to encourage their repentance and be open to loving them regardless of a past we may not have chosen or understand. My friends, it does not matter the choices you made long ago, yesterday or even today, if you let God in, trust in him and give him your life – he will give you a new name, a new heart and a clean slate. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 103:10-12 NIV

Gossip

We need to remember that church is a hospital, everyone there is needing healing in some manner or another. We all have wounds, scrapes and scars – those are reminders of our mistakes, our imperfections and what leads to humility and acceptance. They are pieces of our testimony which are meant to draw people in, to encourage them in having a closer relationship with God, and understanding his mercy and forgiveness.

What would you think if I told you that the majority of people who don’t go to church not only know but love God? Being unfamiliar with Jesus isn’t what is preventing a closer relationship with him; it’s us and our tongues. You’ve heard the saying ‘bite your tongue’ and I think we should be doing more of that.

The other day a feeling came over me that the reason most people don’t get connected with a church is that they fear judgment. The most obvious assumption would be God’s judgment, but it is not his judgment that is keeping people away, it is ours. For me, that was true for many years, especially living in a small town. The things I had worked on and began healing from, others were quick to rip the bandage off the wound – exposing my scrapes and scars to whoever would look.

We need to remember that church is a hospital, everyone there is needing healing in some manner or another. We all have wounds, scrapes and scars – those are reminders of our mistakes, our imperfections and what leads to humility and acceptance. They are pieces of our testimony which are meant to draw people in, to encourage them in having a closer relationship with God, and understanding his mercy and forgiveness.

This excerpt below explains gossip ingeniously and how detrimental it truly is:

“Who am I? I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing. I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cruel and malicious and gather strength with age. The more I am quoted, the more I am believed. I flourish at every level of society. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I’m nobody’s friend. Once I tarnish a reputation, it is never the same. I topple governments and ruin marriages. I destroy careers and cause heartache and sleepless nights. I wreck churches and separate Christians. I spawn suspicion and generate grief, make innocent people cry on their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am gossip.”

Charles Kimball

WOW! If that is not enough to make you take a step back and think for a minute, I don’t know what is. Take Kanye for example, the moment he shared he was saved, a moment that most people are overjoyed and even encouraged to share – was ruined by hypocrisy. Many people took to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and blogs even to say – it was a crock. He was being interviewed not for the incredible transformation, or the power in our Lord and Saviors blood but the validity of it. Now, I understand the importance of discernment and knowing when someone is a false teacher or not – but that was not the basis behind any reports, interviews, posts, etc., the basis was a disqualification. The last time I checked, we aren’t who disqualifies.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew to focus on our issues, pasts, shortcomings, faults, and sins. Once those are remedied only then should you help your brother. Help him, not condemn him, there is a big difference. It is a sleight of hand trick in a sense that deflects a flaw normally worse than the individuals flaw you’re so eager to reveal. Why do we do this?

Gossip is likened to a tasty morsel and without gods help in taming our tongues, it is near impossible to break the habit. Judgment goes hand in hand with this also because one feeds off of the other. So, how can we limit this nasty package duo? Here are five ways I think could help:

  1. Sometimes the gossip comes to you. When this happens you should be able to identify it rather quickly, change the subject or defend the person.
  2. If what you are whispering involves tragedy, a plot of evil, discouragement, disgrace or someone else’s secret – let it die and not leave your lips.
  3. Disengage. You can do this by identifying why you feel the need to share something negative. There is most likely something underlying within you that is feeding that unhealthy desire.
  4. Pretend that either the person you are speaking about or Jesus is standing beside you. If you can still share it, go right ahead.
  5. Last but not least, we were created in Gods image and with that comes his reputation. Each time we judge, criticize or condemn another person, we make our father look bad. We were taught love, mercy, and grace – that is what he uses with us, why would we treat others any differently?

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 NIV