We all have our own well we visit in the heat of the day.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Shame is liar whose only intent is to divert us from or diminish entirely any chance for success. Shame can take a single mistake and make it our identity. In fact the very armor we were meant to wear for power in standing against the devils schemes becomes a buckling weight disguised as weakness and shame.

It is no secret that I love the stories of the women of the bible; Rahab the harlot, the Adulteress, Mary Magdalene and of course the Samaritan woman at the well. Each of these women felt shame, hid from others and ultimately experienced mercy and grace in their darkest moments of carrying guilt. Sure their shame came from what appears to be easily avoidable choices to us, but do we really know their stories? Do we know the backstory or simply what we choose to see selfishly and are we really all that different or innocent? Jesus saw the before and the after and chose love anyhow. Just like he did with Judas, he knew what he would do, and still fed him at his table. Do you ever wonder what it is he knew that made him choose them and love them any way? Or, us? Think of all your shortcomings and the fact that he still sees you blameless and worthy. Shame finds us guilty and Jesus sets us free.

We have a choice to use our eyes as they were intended; to look beyond situations and choices instead of a judgmental stare down. We also have a choice and the ability to see there is always more to what we see or hear as a “story” and have empathy and compassion remembering that behind that “story” is an actual human being living that reality. That behind the rumor, the imperfections, the mugshot, the divorce, the depression and the abuse there is still someone richly deserving of love, mercy and grace. If this is you, you need to know this truth. When I say you are not disqualified, I mean that. We can not fail when God is our qualifier. And, when we least expect it he levels the playing field whether we are prepared for it or not.

This pandemic has opened my eyes to the things we have been doing wrong and the first is forgetting to love others as ourselves – which means we NEED to love ourselves. We can’t love ourselves when our arms are full from carrying the weight of every mistake we have made. It is not intended for us to do so. Even more so, the weight you’re carrying may come from things you don’t even realize you’re hiding behind. Things such as using humor to hide behind depression. Or, facades to hide behind financial struggles, abuse or possibly low self-esteem. Addictions manifest themselves in so many ways besides drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships etc., what about our work? Or, a project? Our phones? Activities, hobbies and sports? A busy schedule to appear important when instead it is just temporarily numbing the pain that silence brings, becoming no different than drugs and alcohol. We hide and find guilt in more ways then we care to admit, and the truth is we all have our own well that we visit in the heat of the day. We just change up the route, however just like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman, he will go out of his way, taking the longer route to meet you right where you are and remind you of his need to use your story, to have you speak life with it and that he loves you.

Sometimes we need to be stripped of all the things that do not hold true value and are no longer serving or benefiting us. If you ask me, God has done exactly that for us right here in this moment. He has leveled the playing field by redirecting our hearts and setting our eyes on him. When we are focusing on God, we don’t see others failures or our own because we are soaked in his word full of hope, promise and love. When we have nothing distracting us our focus is on the people and things we regularly take for granted and we no longer feel the need to hide away in shame or escape the guilt we can’t seem to shake. We realize that our trip to the well at the heat of the day is no longer healthy, it is a hindrance meant to distract us from our calling and purpose. We all have regrets, pain and have at one time or another struggled with the weight of guilt and shame, we are only made different by being obedient to the one who calls us to love one another and ourselves. Shame is not a description of who you are, and guilt is not something that requires being filled at a well that will never quench your thirst the way forgiveness for yourself and others will.

I want to be like the Samaritan woman. I want to drop my water buckets, run into town and tell the world about the man who went out of his way, in the heat of the day, meeting me at my lowest and chose me intentionally. A man who knew my whole story, and chose to cover me in compassion and grace. We deserve to be alive in and known for our transformation instead of our sin, for what we did AFTER, and who we BECAME. You deserve that too. So, go ahead and drop your buckets, cancel the well visits, find some shade and a few good people who love you first for all you are and all you are not. Allow God to use your story, to use your heart and shed a light to others around you that shame doesn’t live here anymore.

Intro: TDC

In a world heavy -laden with competition, one-uppers and an insatiable desire to discredit or disqualify anyone that is disliked, misunderstood or written off by unpopular opinion – now more than ever you need to know the truth. God doesn’t disqualify sinners, people with a past or imperfect Christians. He actually seeks them, dines with them and loves them.

In a world heavy -laden with competition, one-uppers and an insatiable desire to discredit or disqualify anyone that is disliked, misunderstood or written off by unpopular opinion – now more than ever you need to know the truth. God doesn’t disqualify sinners, people with a past or imperfect Christians. He actually seeks them, dines with them and loves them.

Every person has a past and as I’ve matured I realized that no one is perfect, that no one has it easy and that just because their life path looks different, more affluent, privileged etc. it does not make them more favorable in the eyes of God. He loves us all just as we are.

My heart has always been with the lost, the ones with difficult backstories and the ones who suffer in silent pain or shame. Those are my people. Having a past made it easy to believe the lies from the enemy, other people who didn’t wish me well and even myself that I was disqualified. This set in motion a life lost in proving myself to others, seeking approval and gaining my worth through the wrong people.

Have you ever sat by and watched someone else succeed? Clapping while someone else lived your dream? My senior quote in our yearbook was by Will Rogers and read “We can’t all be heroes, because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by” and when you hear the saying speak your life into existence, that is exactly what I did. I started off disqualifying myself from the beginning.

And, I want to save you the heartache by telling you that you are not disqualified either.

-Beautiful Smile to hide the Pain

I saw a saying the other day that read “PSA: Please don’t tell people how to heal from something you’ve never been through” and that was so good. And, exactly why I started writing. I wanted to make people see that with me you are not alone. That in so many scenarios, I have been there and I do get it. That you are not unworthy, and that God still chooses you.

Over the next week, I am going to cover topics, hot button topics that not only make us uncomfortable to talk about but also uncomfortable to admit. The very things that often make us as human beings, new believers and even seasoned Christians question our purpose, our worth and even if we’re disqualified. I hope you’ll join me and share with others that may feel lost, confused and possibly unloved to read along as well.

Until Tomorrow – Jess

It is okay to love God.

WE ARE ASLEEP people. We are not even showing up to the battle because we are sleeping right through it. We will complain about a waitress who didn’t serve well, an employee who doesn’t show up or doesn’t work hard, yet we aren’t serving, we aren’t showing up or working hard either! We break down the people who are busy building a better life, a better world, better children, better environment – because we’re not up to par. We need to up our game. It is okay to LOVE GOD.

okay that may be taking it to far – but it got your attention didn’t it. I wish I could apologize to every person I thought was annoying, trying to save me. Because, I get it now.

Do you remember the first time you fell in love? Everything felt new, exciting and as if you had this renewed sense of purpose. Any topic could be related to this new love in some way or another. You would think about this person non-stop all day long, and you would find creative ways to say their name just because you loved the way it sounded.

You were kinder, gentler, slow to anger because you were truly happy from the inside out and as cliché as it sounded, you felt complete. This is how I feel about God right now, but instead of sharing with the whole world excitedly, I was quiet at first, and walking on egg shells even.

When I first started talking about God, I caught myself whispering. I prepared myself for people to think that I had either lost my mind, or was about to. I’ve become overly conscious of offending someone, and preparing for the death of dearly loved friendships. Why do you ask? Because God is controversial, because sin is universal, and nothing divides people more than church and state.

The offenses run rampant and the offended are looking for someone to blame for their transgressions, anger, heartbreak and their loss. And, God is usually the one taking the fall. In our society today one breath out of context can be held against you, and the world wants inclusion while excluding one thing, God.

No one is unfamiliar with the amount of (removal) of God in our society today. Teachers teach evolution and can’t speak on religion or beliefs. Court rooms don’t all use the bible anymore. Classrooms rarely say the national anthem before the day starts, praying in public is more offensive than breastfeeding used to be. And, breastfeeding is beautiful!

We condemn, we separate and the world acts on how they “feel” and assume that is enough. Someone saying “Have a blessed day, God Bless you, or Merry Christmas” at work or in public, is risking their livelihood, but to the brave ones, they know their livelihood is in Jesus’ hands.

Who is the one person who has never let you down, never left your side, never not loved or accepted you? For me that only qualifies as one person. God. He is always where I left him, when I walked away. He is always forgiving and loving, and while his lessons may be hard, and his timeline askew from mine, everything in my life has connected as it should.

WE ARE ASLEEP people. We are not even showing up to the battle because we are sleeping right through it. We will complain about a waitress who didn’t serve well, an employee who doesn’t show up or doesn’t work hard, yet we aren’t serving, we aren’t showing up or working hard either! We break down the people who are busy building a better life, a better world, better children, better environment – because we’re not up to par. We need to up our game. It is okay to LOVE GOD.

I allowed Satan to make me think my sins, failures and brokenness prevented me from being whole again. And, let me tell you, the second God forgave all my sins, and I accepted that forgiveness, I became whole again. God uses broken people, because they are loud, unafraid warriors who are used to going against the crowd, used to walking alone and making their own path and there is nothing stronger than a broken person being made whole again, by God. A unafraid, exuberant baby Christian.

I’ve been cracked wide open to show that inside the center of every living being is raw and unedited goodness. All those days I spent in shame over what I had done in my past, but had already asked God for forgiveness years ago, was because I allowed the negativity and judgment of people to take over. When I realized God already knew, god had already forgiven me, it clicked that what you think of me, doesn’t matter.

It has no effect on my walk with Jesus, or the validity in the goodness of my heart. Your need to condemn me, that is something you must address personally. There is a reason you feel the need to point out the failures and judge others, and it is not because you are a Christian and God tells you to, because we know that is false. True and good Christians do not get even and they do not keep score. They simply love.

When you honor God during times of trouble, you shame satan back to hell. That’s what we need to do every day. Did the Tenboom Family stop hiding Jews in their watch repair shop from the Nazi’s, to keep themselves safe? No. Did Jesus drop the cross, run and hide away so that people would stop being offended by his message? Nope. Did Martin Luther King Jr turn off his microphone during his speech, so he wasn’t too loud for the people in the back? Not one bit.

So why in God’s name would I? It’s time to up my game.

The kind of Christian I want to be.

She said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes.  I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person.

Today in church toward the end of the service, the pastor asked for the people who needed a miracle, and who wanted to let Jesus know they were ready to fully accept him, to raise their hands. Raising my hand in church is difficult. During worship when all the arms are raised, mine can be found folded cross-body or in my jacket pockets. Today though, I let go, and raised my hand. And, then the pastor invited everyone who had raised their hands to come forward, to join the others who had raised their hands and we could all pray together for them. “Nope, no way, not a chance,” were the words I spoke to my husband as I put my hands right back in my pockets.

Did part of me want to go up there, you bet! Does part of me want to raise both hands high and sing in my awful deaf tone voice that I love Jesus and I know I am forgiven, yes, more than you can imagine. But, I don’t. Because my sins are many and there are moments that even in church, I am reminded that my sins are bad. And, that even if God has forgiven me, which I know he has for the most part (there are two sins I’m still confused on), the others in this room may not treat me as forgiven. They may see me as my sins, and not just as a flawed human being with a story like everyone else.

Let’s be honest, there are always those Christians, who do not live the way God would want. They go to church, they can quote a scripture, they give to the poor, feed the hungry yet still judge and condemn. And, that is why I would go to church intermittently throughout the years because if I stayed, I would connect, and if I connected, I would talk. And, if I talked, I would be judged. If you know me at all, you know two things: 1. I cannot lie to you if we are face to face. and, 2. I am an open book, and once I start sharing, I physically cannot stop, and within an hour you will know not only my life story, but every deep and dark secret. And… that is when that look comes across their face, of an uncomfortable smile, and an awkward exit with a loud and clear message of you are not worthy.

When I am strong, I am very confident in my worthiness, and it was God who told me just months ago, that I was worthy. But, in moments of weakness, when the devil returns to destroy what is being rebuilt with Jesus, my worthiness decreases. My inability to raise my arms stems from that unworthiness, and where there is unworthiness, there is relapse of sins. Tomorrow is unknown, and although I know he has greater plans for me than I have for myself, I knew that for the past 23 sinful years. I knew his plans for me were greater when my suicide attempt was not successful. When I woke up from my attempt angry at God for not wanting me, for not accepting me, and making me stay in the hell that my life was at that time; I knew there was more. Yet, I still faltered, I still sinned, and I managed to get my life together, only to have it fall apart time and time again. So, tell me how I can raise my hands today exalting that I am forgiven, that I am saved, when my track record shows evidence of a potential relapse in sins.

God has been a constant from a young age in my life. Even when I was not actively following him as a teenager and adult, he was still my constant. Were there times that I was misled to thinking God hated me? Definitely. Were there times that I sat up at night going over what God and I would talk about when it came time to review my life? Yes, more nights than you can imagine. But then again, because I knew God, and had faith in him, I knew he knew my heart. I believed he knew that I was not that person from my past and that he still loved me. That he knew I was trying.

Fear is never something I’ve had for God, because to me he was the only one who has never let me down. He is who I look up to and respect, and do not want to let down, but not who, I fear. So, maybe I am doing things wrong. But you at least can understand why I always come back, and always find my way to his message in church. As, we sat there today, praying for the group of people who were stronger than I was, and had walked up front, I stayed planted where I was, with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. My heart was happy for those in front of me, and I was content in praying for them because my heart wanted their hearts to be at peace.

It was then that I felt a light touch on my back, and I thought it was my husband who when he notices I am crying, he will console me. But I realized quickly it was not my husband, it was a woman behind us. I turned to her thinking I had dropped something, or she needed something, and she said “Will you go up there with me?” and I of course said yes.  I said yes, because well I am in church, and what kind of a Christian would I be, if I said no?! I wanted to do what God would do, and because she needed my help. She asked me my name, and I told her, and she smiled as if she already knew and was confirming that she had the right person. She then said, “I don’t know why, but I’m being called to do this, either for you and your family, or for me and mine” and all I could get out were the words “oh, okay” as we walked up to the front arm in arm.

Once in front with the others who were just like us, we listened and pray, and I sobbed deeply and quietly. The pastor prayed for all the things, I needed, he prayed for a miracle, he prayed over finances and then he prayed for the devil to let go of our children, and I sobbed even more. Because this past Friday our daughter was in a situation that was scary, and a dear friend of mine said “Hear me out, the devil comes to attack when your family is close to god, and when he can’t break you, he will try and grab a hold of your children” and it made sense because this situation our daughter was in, was evil and hate filled. We needed the devil to flee.

As the sermon ended, and everyone walked away, I hugged her thanking her, an asked her name, it was Corinne. I hadn’t noticed her there before and she said she usually stays in the back and has a hard time coming forward so maybe that is why God led her to me. But I think God led her to me, because I needed her, because he knew I needed to be up front with the others, and I would go if it was to help someone else. Corinne didn’t ask what my sins were, she didn’t look at me with shame, or inequality, she simply put her arm around me, and walked beside me in front of all the others needing what we all need, God’s grace, love and acceptance.

I pray that I will get to see this woman again, and that each of you get to see the grace of god as I did today because it is the way Christians should be, and how I want to be.