Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Peter, the "Rock" - by M

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope y'all had a blessed and wonderful Christmas surrounded by loving family and friends. What a gift!

You know you're a slacker blogger when you cannot remember the last time you posted OR the last thing you posted about. Yikes! For today, I'll share a small tidbit that I have been thinking about recently.

For a long time I've been interested in the story of Peter. I loved learning more about him and Paul on our trip to Rome this past summer, and I love reading about him over and over in the Gospels, too. I think that what I enjoy about Peter is just how relatable he is. Peter is just so normal and so human. While we all are created in the same image from which Jesus was begotten, it's easier to see ourselves in Peter than it is in Him. Why?

Because Peter's sin is on display for all to see throughout all four gospels. He is nothing short of a hot mess... Jesus famously refers to him as "you of little faith" (Matthew 14:31) after he flails about, terrified of drowning when Jesus asks him to come out to him, walking on the water. Later, Peter directly contradicts Jesus' prophecy that he will be killed by the chief priests, to which Jesus declares "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23) At another time during his ministry with Jesus, Peter is one of the few disciples found by Jesus to be arguing about who of them will be the greatest (Luke 9:46-50) and before that he's among the group that blindly asks Jesus how He will feed the four thousand... days after they witnessed Him miraculously feed the five thousand (Mark 8:4). On top of that, we see Peter angrily taking a sword against Jesus' captors upon His arrest (John 18:10) and, of course, his denial of Jesus three times before His crucifixion (John 18:15-27).

I love the story of Peter because I see myself in Peter. A quick glance through the Gospels reveals Peter's fear, his pride, his lack of faith, his anger, his self-reliance, and more. And yet, we see Jesus say of him, " are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it." (Matthew 16:18) And again (after the resurrection) Jesus "reinstates" Peter, naming him the keeper of all of God's "lambs" and "sheep," for which Christ is the Good Shepherd (John 21:15-18). Peter is truly the embodiment of God's grace and forgiveness of us... of how God often has much more faith in us than we do in Him.

I've historically been amazed that Jesus calls Peter His "rock" after He has witnessed so many of Peter's failings and sins. It's crazy that Jesus chooses this man to lead the charge after He is gone. It seems hard to believe, doesn't it?

Yet, I read something recently that has given me a new perspective on all this, and it's in the very beginning of the Gospel of John:

"Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter)." (John 1: 25-42).

You see, I had always been so amazed that Jesus declared Peter His "rock" after He had seen just how sinful Peter could be. Yet, by this account, Jesus actually speaks this over Peter beforehand. Jesus looked at him, and the first words He says in their very first meeting is "you will be called 'rock'" (which the footnotes verify is the translation of both Cephas - Aramaic and Peter - Greek). Amazing.

Even though we all know that God exists outside of linear time, that He is omniscient, and that our works have nothing to do with His salvation, it's still easy to fall prey to thinking about God in these terms. It's easy to think that Jesus met Peter, Jesus got to know Peter, Jesus was disappointed in Peter, Jesus was good and forgave him anyway, and Jesus decided that Peter would be the foundation of the church. It's easy to think that we relate to God in the same way. And yet, we see through this story of Peter that God doesn't operate that way. Jesus meets Peter and He already knows him. He already knows the ways in which Peter will fail Him and the ways in which Peter will glorify Him. And it's not about what Peter does or doesn't do... it's about what Jesus did, in naming him "rock," long before he would ever prove himself worthy or unworthy of bearing that name.

It's a great reminder for all of us that God knows us outside of what we do and don't do. Just like Peter, God meets us where we are and asks us to follow Him, and if we do, He has a name for us, too. It is "perfect." It is "forgiven." And it is ours outside of how worthy or unworthy we are of it. Praise the Lord!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Grace, by M

So, W has been totally dropping the ball lately on updating this blog... which is annoying to me because I'm the one busy and working every night on wedding stuff! Perhaps this public shaming will motivate her to get back with it.

Anyway, per my last post... I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. I think this is because relationships (and dare I say engagement and marriage in particular) have a unique way of showing you just how much you need it. One of me and my fiance's favorite pastors is Tommy Nelson from Denton Bible Church, who did an awesome marriage sermon series several years ago on Song of Solomon. (Seriously, go download it for free on iTunes... now!). Anyway, in one of the sermons, Tommy says that being sinful and being single is like one hand clapping... you have faults and issues but you just don't know it yet. Preparing for marriage and being married means that all of a sudden your sin has something to "clap against"... and it becomes suddenly much more obvious what all of your issues are. I'm beginning to think that this is true.

And I'm not talking about all these big, dramatic things... just small realizations of "man, I guess I really am selfish" or "maybe I do have a lot of pride" etc etc because all of these things start meeting resistance... they start getting in the way. This is part of the beauty and purpose marriage, so it's not necessarily bad, just the name of the game, I suppose. All of this to say... I'm learning a lot about grace these days.

Earlier this week I read a post from one of the blogs that I regularly follow... it has haunted me ever since. Here's what it said:

"William Kitchens was executed in 2000 for the rape and murder of Patricia Webb.
These were his final words:
I just don’t know how to tell y’all I am sorry for what I did. There is no way for expressing I am sorry. I just hope that in some kind of way that y’all can move on and find peace in your life.

The Lord has given me peace and that is all that I pray for is that y’all can find that peace. I just want you to know that I am sorry for what I done. I can’t change that, all I can do is say I am sorry, that’s nothing for what I have done. I can’t replace your loss. I am sorry. I just want you to know that I love all of y’all. It’s been a pleasure, y’all just keep on with life, it’s gonna be good. The Lord’s gonna be with us.

If it’s alright, I just want to say a prayer first. Father, God, I just thank you for the time that you have given me on this earth, for having mercy on somebody like me for all the despicable thing’s I’ve done in my life, Father, but you still with your love and your mercy reach down into my heart and changed it before it’s too late.

I ask that you bestow peace upon the family of Patricia Webb, that you let them know, Father, that you are in a place where they can obtain that peace, and you will help them move on in their life, Father. Help them, Father, to find it in their hearts, not for my sake , but for yours, and their sake to, Father, find it in their heart to forgive me for what I have done.

Father, I just ask that you be with my family and comfort them to move on Father. Father, we are all here today for the mistake that I have made and I thank you for your mercy for sending your Son into this life, that we might come to know you, Father. Father, I pray for these Wardens and the officers and the people that deal with all of this, Father, I ask that you touch their hearts, Father, and if there is any wrong to it, that you will forgive them, Father. Just let them know that you love them, Father, and that You are the way. I just thank you and in Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen. I love y’all, y’all take care. I am so sorry.
My prayer is that all of us will remember just how desperately in need of grace we are.  We need forgiveness as much as William Kitchens.  We need radical mercy." -
I just cannot get this story out of my head.  I think it's because I can't believe how much faith this guy had on his dying day (literally). I can't get over how confident he was that God had forgiven him, that God did love him regardless of his actions, and that he could find peace and comfort in God's grace. It is an incredible story of incredible faith! And, if I'm honest with myself, it's also a bit convicting. When I fail and when I fall, do I accept God's grace or do I wallow in guilt and shame? Do I proclaim the good news of forgiveness and mercy or do I spend my energy feeling bad and beating myself up?

I want to take a cue from this man... a murderer beloved and redeemed by an awesome God. Amazing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Being a Ragamuffin, by M

As I think back on my (few) years of adult life thus far, I'm able to recall a couple of seasons in which I was absolutely sure that God was trying to get my attention about something. Although I'm guessing that this actually happens far more than I realize... there have been a few instances in which I was tuned in enough (or perhaps God was sufficiently loud enough) to turn my attention definitively towards Him and what He wanted me to learn. In the last couple of weeks, it has become clear to me that I once again find myself in such a season. God seems to be coming at me from all sides and in all manner of ways with this one request... learn that you are a ragamuffin. Know that I love you anyway.

I think that probably sounds dramatic, but stay with me! It seems as though every book I read, every sermon I listen to, every song that plays through my Pandora is speaking to me on this theme. And what great timing too - as my ongoing adjustment to being the "new girl" in full-time ministry, wedding planning, wife-preparedness, etc leaves me often feeling that I am far from perfect and prone to come up short. As a recovering perfectionist, this sense of personal/professional "failure" is familiar territory; however, God is showing me that my response to it must be learned anew.

My small group has been reading Brennan Manning's best-selling The Ragamuffin Gospel for the past two months. I had been familiar with the book for several years but had never actually ventured to read it until just now. Having loved one of Manning's other classics Abba's Child, I felt confident that this book would probably rock my world and/or give me a good old punch to the gut. The truth is, I was right. Manning speaks about God's love and grace in a way that we just don't hear much now-a-days. He begs his readers to ponder the question, "do you truly believe the Gospel is good news?" 

Here's one story from the book that really spoke to me. Manning, a recovering alcoholic, relays an astounding demonstration of grace that he was witness to one evening:

"On a sweltering summer night in New Orleans, sixteen recovering drug addicts and alcoholics gather for their weekly AA meeting... They have been meeting on Tuesday nights for several years and they know each other well. Some talk to each other daily on the telephone, others socialize outside the meetings. The personal investment in one another's sobriety is sizable... That night, Jack was the appointed leader. 'The theme I would like to talk about tonight is gratitude' he began, 'but if anyone wants to talk about something else, let's hear it.' 

Immediately Phil's hand shot up.

'As you all know, last week I went up to Pennsylvania to visit family and missed the meeting. You know I have been sober for seven years. Last Monday I got drunk and stayed drunk for five days.'

The only sound in the room was the drip of Mr. Coffee in the corner.

'You all know the buzzword H.A.L.T in this program,' he continued. 'Don't let yourself get hungry, angry, lonely, or tired or you will be very vulnerable for the first drink. The last three got to me. I unplugged the jug and...' 

Phil's voice choked and he lowered his head. I glanced around the table - moist eyes, tears of compassion, soft sobbing the only sound in the room. 

'The same thing happened to me, Phil, but I stayed drunk for a year.'

'Thank God you're back.'

'Boy, that took a lot of guts.'

'Relapse spells relief, Phil,' said a substance abuse counselor. 'Let's get together tomorrow and figure out what you needed relief from and why.'

'I'm so proud of you.'

'Hell, I never made it even close to seven years.'

As the meeting ended, Phil stood up. He felt a hand on his shoulder, another on his face. Then kisses on his eyes, forehead, neck, and cheek. 'You old ragamuffin,' said Denise. 'Let's go. I'm treating you to a banana split at the Tastee Freeze." 

-Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel pages 66-68

As I read this story the first time around, I caught myself holding my breath as this man revealed his sin to his peers. I anticipated them to react in anger and betrayal... "how could you?" "How could you do this to us?" I expected Phil to likely be kicked out of the group and invited back only when he got his life a little more together. Instead, the reactions of his fellow members floored me. I couldn't believe how quickly they were to not only forgive Phil, not only to show him mercy, but to show him such beautiful grace and love. It makes me really question why the Church does not very often act similarly to the mistakes and sins of her members? 

On top of that, however, is the question of "do I really believe that that is how God reacts to me in my sin?" Manning argues (with hefty scriptural support throughout the book) that the tenderness and love exemplified by those recovering alcoholics is just a small slice of the grace, mercy, and love that God has for us. Do I really believe that? 

Most of the time, I feel like I don't. I know in my brain that God loves me and that I need his grace to be saved through my faith in His son Jesus. But do I live and breathe as though God desperately desires to lavish his love on me and be just like that dad that kisses his daughter's "boo-boos"? Especially those wounds, those mistakes, those sins, those let-downs, etc that I bring upon myself? I am learning that I will never be more or less in His eyes than that small child with the skinned knee who makes messes, who runs away, and who does all sorts of things because she just doesn't know better. And yet, He is not waiting for me to "grow up." He's not waiting for me to get it together, or reach perfection, or just cut it out. Instead, He says "Come here. Let me comfort you. I love you... it's okay."

...and even if that conversation happens 100 times a day, every day for my whole life, He just desires that I keep coming back. He is the Comforter, the Redeemer, the Forgiver, and more... That is good news! And now I am in the process of learning how to rest in it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

God's Best, by M

Happy November, everyone! Hard to believe, isn't it!?

This post will be another chapter in the chronicles of "things that are strange about being engaged." I'm just learning so much these days! The big thing recently is about comparison. I know I'm like the billionth blogger to talk about this... so, perhaps skip this one if you want or at least give me some grace for the topic. haha That would be great!

Anyway, something about this whole season is making me extra sensitive to the temptation to compare. Perhaps it's because it seems like people are getting engaged every other day, perhaps it's because a solid handful of my coworkers are engaged or have gotten married just since I've been here, or perhaps it's just the nature of the beast. In any case, I feel like comparing is all I want to do these days. Is her dress prettier than mine? Is her color scheme going to be better than mine? Is her almost-husband helping her more or less than mine is? Seriously, it is a constant temptation to indulge these thoughts.

I wonder if part of this temptation is the fact that engagement makes life all-about-you for a period of time. When else in life do people act so happy for you, are they so eager to shower you with gifts, or so forthcoming with their affirmations of your beauty, your figure, your taste? It's kind of bizarre how much attention engagement brings you... from loving family members and friends to random women out and about. It feels good, to be honest, but it's also a dangerous thing, I think. And that's where the comparisons come in. If you are the center of the universe, suddenly other people being engaged and/or getting their own attention becomes very threatening. Their sparklier rings or prettier decorations or more helping fiances take attention away from you. And for some reason, getting attention breeds the desire for more attention, and this all becomes very bothersome.

On top of that is this weird realization that while, on the one hand, you're getting all of these things you've been dreaming about forever (the ring! the dress! the husband!) you're also saying adios to large portions of that very dream (goodbye beach wedding! goodbye ballgown! goodbye future husband that sings like Dave Barnes!). Does that make sense? As you settle into the reality of what your dream is actually turning out to be, there are many things that you realize it actually will never be. And there's the tempation again for more comparisons... but this time, it's with your fictional version of this story versus the reality of your story. The thing is... my reality is NOT bad. It is NOT AT ALL bad, but actually very, very, abundantly good. But it's also not always going to live up to the fairytale, nor will my circumstances always live up to or trump every single other almost-brides' that exists in the whole world. So I want to compare... and I want to be the "winner" of these comparisons. But playing that game never pays. I can't judge the value of my life and my circumstances solely on how they stack up to other people, real or fictional. It's just not healthy or productive.

So I've been trying to take a different approach when I feel the temptation to compare. Instead of indulging it and feeling better by rationalizing why or how someone's whatever-it-may-be is actually not better than mine, I'm trying to take a step back. I take a good look and I remind myself:

"M, this is exactly what God wanted for you." 

"God gave you this man."

"God gave you this body."

"God gave you this wedding."

"God gave you these talents."

And He saw fit to give me these things for a reason. So I can get stressed about how other brides seem so much more talented than I am at coordinating colors (for example haha), or I can find rest in the knowledge that God's plan for me just didn't include that gift. I can feel bad that parts of my wedding are not going to look like I've always envisioned, or I can take comfort in the fact that this is what God has for me. And while it may be different, or the world may say that some elements are not-as-good, it is God's best. All of these things are God's will for me and my life. Can't God's best be good enough for me?

That is what I'm working on.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trusting your Gut... or Not

Hi there! It's almost November. WHAT? How did this even happen? If you're like me, this fall has seriously flown by. I can't even tell you what I've been doing or how things are going because honestly, I can't keep track of what day it is. Time flies when you're having fun, I guess.

Anyway, I've been thinking a lot lately about how our culture views intuition. I would argue that we, as American's, are certainly a data-driven, results-based, logical set of people. We evaluate staff performance using numerical values for what tend to be vague ideas (such as "enthusiam"), we make pro- and con- lists to inform decisions, we bury our children in standardized tests and curriculum aligned to various 5-point scale standards, and we're trying desperately to keep up with China and India to produce more "knowledge workers" as the world becomes more focused on science, technology, engineering, and math careers. This is clearly not my area of strength.

And yet, we also display this underlying current of wanting to trust what we deeply feel to be true, even in the face of contradictory, logical information.

(This election just may be the perfect example of this phenomenon, but that is another post for another time!)

There is an entire market now for classes, books, and trainings that show people how to reconnect to their emotions, and perhaps more importantly, their intuition. We watch the "Long Island Medium," and read "Blink," and think that maybe there's something we're missing. Is it because we really care? Or because we don't want to be outpaced by others who might be using this "secret skill" of connecting with a 6th sense of some sort? I'm not sure, but I definitely think it's interesting.

Why? Because my intuition STINKS. I think my intuition is darn near broken.

Years of struggling with anxiety has thrown my system out of whack. That flight or fight mode that's supposed to alert you to danger? It goes off when I'm clearly perfectly safe. The surge of adrenaline that is supposed to help you lift cars off the ground when someone is trapped? It kicks in whenever it  pleases. And even worse, that reality-sensor that helps you distinguish between a pulled muscle and and an obviously about-to-burst appendix? Non-existent.

In my life, my gut always tells me it's the about-to-burst appendix, if not something worse.

So then what? What happens when "trust your gut" isn't an option because YOUR GUT TELLS YOU LIES?

You realize that what you're believing is not your gut, but fear, and that the lies you hear are not from you but from Satan...because he knows that the thorn in MY side is actually in my gut.

Sometimes I get jealous of people who seem to have an instinctive knowledge of what to do or what's going on. I get frustrated that I can't trust my own brain to tell me the truth. I get upset that I expend so much energy trying to figure out where the anxiety response is coming from, only to realize that, again, it's a false alarm stemming from no actual threat.

But then I think... this thorn in my gut makes me turn to others and turn to Him. If I know I can't trust my gut or my brain to give me the truth, I seek His Truth more fervently. If I can't convince myself that I'm not dying (...again), I connect with those around me for reassurance more frequently. If this fear response is helping me to "lean not on my own understanding," and "keep from thinking of myself too highly," and if it reminds me, constantly, of the call to die to myself so that I may live fully in Him... then it's okay. It's more than okay; it's the greatest gift I've ever received, short of the Lord himself through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

It's amazing to see how the Lord really can use all things for His good... even take an area of my weakness that Satan frequently makes a home in, and use it to steer me ever closer to Him and His truth.

It's heavy, right? Having to break out of this "rely on logic stance" AND this "rely on feelings" stance to gain the (much more important) "rely on God" stance.

But it's worth it, because THAT is where the Truth is. That is where we should be studying, and that is what is going to help us get ahead on the correct path.

So, I say... trust your gut? No, trust your God. You'll get a better answer that way.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Helping, by M

Ever since I first started my new job nearly two months ago, I've been meaning to post my thoughts about the transition and what I'm enjoying and learning in my new position. Well, even though it has taken me about 6 weeks longer than I anticipated... the day has finally come! It's funny because I'm sure my thoughts are much different now than they were 6 weeks ago, but this will have to suffice.

As many of you probably know, I recently left my previous job at a nationwide non-profit to work in full-time ministry for my church. This was a very welcome change for me and, honestly, somewhat of a dream come true. Although my various life plans throughout the years never included ministry, I did fall in love with my church almost immediately upon arriving in Atlanta, and getting paid to facilitate the very environments that made me come to love it is truly the biggest gift. I absolutely believe in what this church is doing for the Gospel of Christ and count it a true privilege to serve the Kingdom in this way.

My job description has three parts to it: department administration, program management, and "director's assistant." Now, I have a lot of experience in the program management piece and my personality leans heavily toward adminstration, so those sounded just great to me. Being someone's assistant? Now that was another story. I had mixed emotions about it... At first I had visions of Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada... alternately, I imagined myself having to babysit a full-grown adult. At times I felt kind of intrigued by this new opportunity and at other times I felt my pride getting in the way of my excitement. After all, didn't I graduate summa cum laude from college? Don't I have two degrees? Did I really work so hard my whole life just to be someone's assistant?

Turns out, the assistant piece of my job is actually the one that I have been enjoying the most (surprise!?). It's so weird to me that this is the case. Part of that is definitely because my boss is young, cool, flexible, and generally awesome, which helps. haha But there is more to it than that... early on, I found myself questioning "why am I actually enjoying this so much?" "what about this speaks to my heart in such a way?" at first I thought it was because it utilizes many of my natural gifts (which is true): organization, administration, responsibility, follow-through, etc. But there was still something even bigger than that. One day, probably when I should have been sleeping, I was pondering this and it just came to me...

I am really enjoying being the "helper."

Now, for those of you who know your scripture, you may immediately connect the dots back to when God created Eve in the Garden... that's where my brain went. I'm sure y'all have heard the story about how God created the world, and He created Adam and everything was good... except, that it was "not good" for Adam to be alone. So God declares "I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18) and that is when (and why) He creates Eve.

To be honest, I was never really down with the idea of being a "helper." It just sounded too... lesser than for my tastes. Yet, many Bible scholars have pointed out that "helper" in the original language is the same word that God often refers to himself by. For example Psalm 54:4 or Hebrews 13:6. I have read before that the word "helper" here includes this idea of rescuer. God has "helped" us acheive salvation; He has rescued us from the consequences of our sin. Likewise, Eve helps... women help... sometimes we women rescue men from themselves. Does that sound about right, lady friends?! haha

Anyway, what I'm finding in my role as a "professional helper" is that my job is very important. Every day my boss thinks I'm a hero because I'm able to accomplish things that he is simply not naturally wired to do well. And every day I am serving my boss and serving my team in a way that is consistent with the way I was designed by my creator. And it just feels... like the way things should be. It has been a really good fit for me.

I definitely have more that I can say about the job, and I probably will in time. However, that's my tidbit for the night. Off to get a good sleep before another day of work tomorrow!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Allowing Myself Time to Recalibrate

It's W. In case there was any doubt, M and I definitely are twins cause we always want to post on the same days. And when I see that she's already posted, I typically decide to save my thoughts for later... and then I never end up posting them and she gets mad at me. So, please make sure you read her post below this as well!

It's hard to believe that T and I have been here in Nashville for nearly 3 months already. That's a quarter of a year! The time has FLOWN by. We've had more visitors than the past 2 years combined, we bought a second car, are adjusting to having only one TV, finally got internet and cable at the same time after 7 weeks of waiting, and are settling into a new church and a new Community Group within that church.

And I find myself crying a fair amount. Maybe it's because I'm still adjusting to life without mood-stabilizing medication (that conversation begins a few posts back, if you're interested), but I also think that I underestimated how much work it was going to take to rearrange our lives to a "new normal," even in this city that we love so much.

In my mind, Nashville was the promised land. It was the light at the end of the tunnel for two long, sometimes dark, and often lonely years. It seemed out of grasp for a long, long time and then suddenly it wasn't. And suddenly we're here. And suddenly I'm realizing that while the grass is certainly greener here in many, many ways... in some ways it's not.

You mean I can't ACTUALLY have it all? Dang.

I've always had a really hard time with transitions. It seems to take me a lot longer to recalibrate than most other people. I have long used a particular example to illustrate my trouble with change-- it's like I'm stepping off of a moving carousel onto a treadmill at full speed. It takes me a pretty long while to regain my balance, figure out which way is up, find a steady pace, and become comfortable again.  I'm still in this recalibration phase here. And sometimes, it makes me cry.

I'm learning that just because people you care about live close to you in proximity, it doesn't mean you have a community... unless you actually SEE them. And for me, seeing anyone with regularity has been difficult.

I'm learning that having T home at a reasonable hour, while AWESOME, also means I need to find my "me" time elsewhere in my day.

I'm learning that I need the Lord in the midst of my circumstances, even when everything is "right" on paper...especially when things aren't "right" in my heart.

And finally, I'm learning that there is no place (not here nor there nor anywhere) that, in and of itself, will give me a full heart.

Filling a heart takes a lot of work, time, and energy. It takes people who are actively committed to investing in you and your life. It takes boundaries and knowing when and how to say "No" to the demands of your job. It takes purposeful and intentional outreach. And it takes God, and specifically, it takes making time to speak with God and making time in your life for God to work.

For some reason (although I really should know better by now), I was expecting that this transition would be seamless. And in many ways, it has. Amidst all of these complaints that I've just laid out (ha!), things are really good here. And in navigating the places that haven't been, I'm growing as a person, as a wife, and as a Child of God. But I'm still ready to be settled, you know?

So, more prayers please. And to be really vulnerable... if you live here, please hang out with me!! Y'all have gone on to add a ton more friends to your circles these past 2 years and we haven't. We need you cause you're still the only people we know here. Please come alongside of us as we get settled here.

That's it for now. Dinner time, and hopefully T will be home soon. Love you guys!

Thoughts on this Season, by M

I have a lot of thoughts and ideas floating through my brain right now, and unfortunately, very little time to record them here. I'm hoping that after we get a few more "big wedding decisions" made in the next few weeks, my brain will regain some space and my calendar will, too. haha Here's hoping!

So, really, I'm just writing this time to give you all a little glimpse into my brain these last couple of weeks. I can't say that I've gotten anything all figured out, or that this is meant to be conclusive or profound in any way. Just the humble reflections of a simple girl who is dearly loved by God. Maybe it'll be interesting to you...?

This season of life has been a little strange for me. Not strange in a bad way, but strange in an "I can't believe this is really happening" kind of way. You see, like probably every other girl in the universe, I've been waiting for this season for a long time and I've watched many other people experience it through the years, thinking to myself "when will it be my turn?" And I'm not necessarily talking about just the engagement ring or just the wedding planning... but moreso this feeling of like "finally... things are right." I've been around long enough to know that these seasons are few and far between when it seems as though everything has fallen into place! And, honestly, it feels strange to be the one living it instead of being the one watching and (honestly) envying from the sidelines.

So I've been thinking and processing a lot about it. How can I enjoy this time, praise God for it, be a good steward of these blessings, and yet not forget where I've been, or what battles others may be facing at this time that I rejoice? I don't want to be so wrapped up in my own joy that I forget these things, you know? The best that I've come up with so far is this...

1) I can praise God shamelessly for doing "immeasurably more than all [I] asked for or imagined." (Ephesians 3:20). Seriously. My life these days is unbelievably good beyond all my imaginings or the things I thought to ask for. God has truly searched my heart, taken account of my needs, and graciously given me so much more than I have ever dreamed of. And I say this not from an arrogant heart but from a humble heart that is IN AWE of how great God is. A friend recently quoted some wise theologian and said, "we say 'God is good,' but the reality is 'goodness is God.'" Amen!

2) I can remember how far He has brought me. The Bible makes much of the discipline of remembering. How many times did prophets in the Old Testament proclaim to the people of Israel that they were meant to remember God's works on their behalf and then repent of their sin? Over and over and over, they were reminded... "hey, remember that time God fed you in the desert?" "Remember that time he led you safely out of Egypt?" "Remember that time that God spared your first-borns?" Etc, etc. etc. We are meant to remember as an act of worship. It helps put us in proper context with God. "I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago." (Psalm 77:11). In my life, in this season, remembering helps me to praise God for how much He has done for me; yet,  it also helps me to keep in mind that seasons of joy come and seasons of pain come, and neither last forever. I can have confidence that just as the Lord walked with me and delivered me from seasons of pain in the past, He will be faithful to do the same for such seasons in the future. And they will come, but I need not fear it.

3) Finally, I can trust in the fact I am blessed and dearly loved outside of my circumstances. I'll be honest, it feels great to be in a stage where things are happy, easy, and comfortable(!). I waited a long time for this stage! However, I don't want to preach the prosperity gospel, or send a message to anyone that this season for me means that I'm somehow "more blessed" than I was in the past, or "more blessed" than anyone else in this life. I want to praise and worship the Giver and not the gifts. I want to praise God for who He is, outside of what He does. So, I'm blessed now that I'm getting married in less than 6 months, and was blessed 2.5 years ago when I remember vividly being a sobbing heap on my closet floor (yes, that happened). Our prize is not jobs or husbands or income or anything, but God himself and the "glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18)

So, those are my thoughts. This turned out much longer and deeper than I anticipated. Hope y'all enjoyed it... or at least kept reading until the end!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Perspective, by M

I am so thankful for this very moment - to sit on the couch during a lazy Saturday, spend time with the best twin sister a girl could ask for, do some preliminary bridesmaid dress shopping (or, rather, looking), and have a few minutes to update this blog.

I have to say, this whole engagement "season" (as they say) has thrown me for a BIG loop. Or maybe it was the move I made a month ago? Or maybe it was starting that new job? Or maybe it's that my whole life was turned upside-down in the best of all possible ways in the course of 20 days!? haha In any case, I have a lot going on right now and, honestly, it has been thrilling, but also extremely overwhelming. I am SO HAPPY to just sit here, return emails, do my laundry, and pay my bills. Seriously. Who ever thought that that'd be my idea of a great Saturday afternoon!? haha

Before I got engaged, I always wanted to punch girls in the face who acted like being engaged and planning a wedding was anything less than a wonderful, blissful experience. I wanted to be like, "seriously? It's so hard being in love and picking out flowers...? Tough life." Now I know better. It's like, you and your future spouse both have 100% full lives before the engagement - full-time jobs, families, friends, each other, hobbies, service activities, sleep, etc. And you struggle daily to find the balance (as we all do). Then, one particular day you get engaged and it's like SURPRISE! Here's another 20+ hours of work to do each and every week leading up to your wedding. It really becomes a question of "where the heck am I going to find this time?" I still don't know the answer to that.

So, I've been far more stressed in the last two weeks than I really care to admit. It's like, I don't want to be that girl (you know, the one that I always used to want to punch in the face). I don't want to operate my life for the next 6ish months like my wedding is the be-all, end-all of life or that planning the wedding is the highest of all my priorities. And honestly, maybe the stress isn't coming from that place at all, or maybe it is? Either way, I know that I want to enjoy this season and enjoy the process of wedding planning with my family and my fiance. How do we accomplish that?

A few days ago, during a nearly-to-tears moment shared over some of the best tacos in Atlanta, I grabbed a napkin and asked V if we could brainstorm some goals for our engagement and wedding planning. Specifically, I wanted to empower him to rein me in and focus me on some "big goals" in case I ever get bogged down in decision-making or become bride-zilla from all of the attention (doubtful, I hope!). Likewise, I wanted both of us to have a shared vision for what our wedding will be and accomplish, outside of just celebrating ourselves, you know? So we jotted down a few things and finished up our tacos feeling much, much better.

V offered to type it all up to help us keep these ideas front-of-mind (he's so helpful and so great!) and he sent me the finished product two nights ago. It's so beautiful! What an added bonus to marry someone who is skilled at graphic design and photoshop! haha Anyway, I thought I'd share it with you because it's really important to me that we keep a proper perspective on things. I don't want to be that girl and I think that means having to be proactive about it. So, here are our "perspective-keeping" questions and our big goals... Please hold me accountable to this, okay?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The "Working: Serving" Trap

Before I really get into this post, please take a minute to scroll down and view M's last post. Why?

Cause she's engaged!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woooo! My excitement level is so high about this, and our family just loves her new fiance and we couldn't be happier for them as they plan their life together. Plus, she also posted some great pictures. So if you didn't see the post before this one, now's your chance to skip on down to the bottom of this post and view it for yourself.

Alright, back to the topic at hand.

I've been feeling really convicted lately about how self-righteous I can get about working in a service profession. In fact, my last several jobs have all been in service professions-- teaching, teaching, more teaching and now I'm at a non-profit. And not just any non-profit, but one that directly serves a population that Jesus showed extreme care for and attention to: people with disabilities.

I LOVE my job. I probably love my job more than anyone else loves their jobs. I truly believe that I was made for this work and that the Lord has blessed me abundantly by allowing me to do it. This job truly represents the intersection of my gifts and passions with a huge need in our schools and communities. I love it more than I ever thought I could possibly love a job.

And yet, it's way too easy for me to jump on the "holier than thou" train because of it. Because clearly, I am "the hands and feet" out there in the field while y'all sit in your offices drinking your iced coffees and making two or three times more money than I do. Oh yeah, and being praised by society for climbing the economic ladder and adding value.

My office doesn't even have a color printer and consistently smells like the bathroom it sits next to. Woe is me.

Sometimes it feels like the trade-off for the lack of prestige or money that comes from working in a service profession is this idea (that we secretly internalize) that hey, at least we're better people. We come to believe that the Lord probably loves us more, or regards us more highly, or excuses us from our other obligations as Christians because we believe, in our own minds and hearts, that we sacrifice so much more than others in order to do His work.

Anyone else? Or just me?

What the Lord has been showing me recently is the danger of comparison. What the Lord requires of me is LOVE, all day and every day, regardless of what I've already done or what I view other people have not.

He's also showing me that being faithful isn't a matter of filling a daily quota.

It's become to easy for me to shrug off a whisper from the Lord with the excuse of, "Haven't I already given enough? I spend all day serving the "least of these!" And the answer is always no.

Regardless of the hours we work or don't work, the money we make or don't make, the people we touch or don't touch, the Lord's answer is always "do more." And he promises that he will give us the resources to do so.

So, that's what I'm working on this week-- I hope this will challenge some of you who also work in service professions to analyze your own hearts.

Serve on, fellow servers.... no matter where the Lord has planted you professionally.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Proverbs 18:22

Hey everyone!

Those that know me (or those that are at least my friends on facebook) are probably VERY familiar by now with the big news... BF and I got engaged last weekend!!! wooooooo hooooooooo!!!

I've resisted posting about it on here, halfway because I've been swamped with the beginnings of wedding planning and keeping up with all of the calls/texts/emails that have been coming my way, but halfway because I'm just not sure quite what to say. As I've come to find, being engaged brings with it a flood of emotions about a variety of different things... and it's hard (at this moment at least) to synthesize it. Suffice it to say that there will likely be many engagement/wedding/marriage-themed posts in the coming months.

(I also haven't even posted at all about my new job... which is awesome, by the way!) 

So, I guess BF needs a new name on here, and this is getting complicated because his name would be W, except that's already taken. Instead, let's go with V... which kind of suggests that his name is Vladimir or something, but whatever. Anyway, V did a PHENOMENAL job with the proposal and anyone who is my friend on facebook (or, even a "friend of a friend") should stop what you are doing and login to see the whole story in pictures. I think it's more fun to learn the story that way, and it also makes things easier for me. Win-win! Also, W will probably be helping me make a wedding website soon, so perhaps stay tuned for that if you want to know more. 

Before I forget... did y'all like the title? Proverbs 18:22 - "He who finds a wife finds what is good..." Yippee!

For those of you who can't access the photo album on facebook, I thought I'd lift the veil (haha wedding pun!) on this mysterious fiance of mine... so, here he is! I know I've posted about him from time to time on here (although, not much, in an effort to respect his privacy) but I don't think I've given him full, public credit for how wonderful he is. Truly, he is the kind of man that many single gals (myself included, before I met him!) doubt exists - he is sweet, smart, godly, creative, funny, romantic, a great communicator, and so much more. He treats me like a princess and makes me feel so secure and so safe. No games and no drama is our motto! haha We both knew from very early on that we thought it was the right thing, and I am so thrilled to know that we were right! We love how God has written our stories to prepare us for each other and we look forward to the chapters that are to come. 

Thank you to so many of you who have encouraged us along the way, and to all those who have already shared in this special time with us. We feel so loved and so blessed! 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Journey with Christianity and Mental Illness

So remember how I (W) gave y'all that list of all the profound topics that I was going to write about now that I've settled in to my new house/job/state and have internet?

Yeah...those are going to have to wait.

My posts on this blog are typically very carefully crafted. I think about my main points, revise for clarity, and otherwise try to make myself look like a well-read, put-together, good Christian. And that's because I like to think of myself as one. But at the same time, those posts are probably not doing any favors for those of you who, like myself, STRUGGLE sometimes. So allow me to bring the nitty-gritty truth to the blog tonight:

I have been on an anti-depressant for the last 4.5 years.

Well, I was. Until 4 days ago. But let's start at the beginning, because I think it's important that someone in the Christian community finally stands up to try to end the stigma of mental illness/mental health issues in the church.

I started having anxiety issues my freshman year of college. It was probably due to several factors, not the least of which included splitting up from M for the first time ever. I developed a severe phobia of cancer, and for about a year and a half was I whole-hardheartedly convinced that I not only had cancer, but was actively dying from it. It got to the point where I started believing each night that I might not wake up the next morning. Did I have any real evidence of this? No. Did I see a doctor about this? To convince me that I did not have cancer and was not dying? No. Did I tell my parents? No. I lived with chronic fear and anxiety for months until a pulled muscle in my chest (furniture moving gone wrong) prompted a chest X-ray which revealed, much to my surprise-- NOTHING.

I started to see a therapist after that. I've seen 5 therapists intermittently during the last 7 years.

Looking back, I was suffering from a classic phobic disorder. Through talk therapy, I slowly got over it and moved on with my life. I treated that whole thing as sort of a weird, isolated episode of who-knows-what. Because obviously well-read, put-together, good Christians don't struggle with stuff like this, so it must have been some kind of fluke.

Fast forward 2 years. I transferred schools, found an awesome friend group, and started dating a much sought-after guy. And then the anxiety came back, and this time it wasn't the crippling fear of a phobia, but the antsy, heart-pounding panic that something is about to go terribly wrong at any moment. I fought it for a while-- praying, talking to M, seeing another therapist, reading self-help books-- and then I started losing the fight. I felt nauseous all the time and I lost a bunch of weight. I had so much anxiety that I would immediately start dry-heaving first thing upon waking in the morning.

I went to a psychiatrist. He diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and put me on Zoloft.

I ditched my summer plans for a trip to Argentina, broke up with the boyfriend, and started seeing ANOTHER counselor. And slowly but surely, I started to get better. I gained some weight back, I started to sleep better, and I decided that instead of being another fluke ( there such a thing?), this episode indicated that my brain was broken.

Fast forward another two years. I graduated college, moved to a giant new city, and started the worst job ever (for me at least.Teach for America. There, I said it). This time is wasn't the fear or the panic moving in-- it was the dread. It was like carrying a 40 pound weight with me wherever I went. I started to count as a victory any day that I didn't cry at school, because counting those when I didn't cry at all was simply too small a number.

I saw ANOTHER therapist.

I quit my job, moved out of my ant-infested apartment, got married to the best man there is (oh, hey T!) and eventually found my dream job. A year later, I have my dream man and my dream job in my dream house in my dream city. And you know what that means?

I decided it was time to wean off of the anti-depressants.

It's been 4 days since I finished my last bit of the weaning. To tell you the truth? I feel like CRAP. I'm only now realizing how much of a legitimate drug I was taking because I'm truly in the withdrawal stage-- headache, dizziness, occasional heart palpitations, and brain fog. The last four days have been rough. And I'm hopeful that a few days/weeks/months down the line, I'll feel awesome and proud of myself and all that jazz. But today, I feel sick and tired (literally) and also sick and tired of feeling like I can't even tell anyone that I'm feeling so poorly because I don't want anyone to know that I have struggled with anxiety or medication for it.

And I'm telling you this because seriously, no one in my Christian community has EVER told me their story of being put on or deciding to get off of anti-depressants unless I bring it up first. And then they let out a sigh of relief that someone else will offer support and not judgement.

This is my testimony. That I am a Christian, and that in certain periods of my life, prayer and community groups and self-help books were not enough to keep me in a healthy, productive state of mind. That I believe treating mental illness with medication is no less holy than treating diabetes with insulin or a broken leg with a cast if all other options have been pursued and come up short. That God STILL made me perfectly even though I have this thorn in my side, and that this thorn keeps me closer to Him than anything else in my life.

I'll keep you updated about the process of becoming medication-free. In the meantime, you're prayers are welcome, and your understanding (about my struggles, and about the reality of the issue of mental illness within the church) is encouraged.

And that is the nitty-gritty truth.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I'm Baaaaack!

Whew, that was quite a ride. Both the 6 weeks of constant traveling after I, W, left my job in Chicago in June, and the 6 weeks here in Nashville for which I haven't had internet. You read that right! 6 weeks with NO internet. As of today, Comcast finally came through! As a result, we no longer have cable. You win some, you lose some I guess.

I'm sorry for the crazy delay. I have a TON of thoughts about change, starting our 2nd year of marriage, God's faithfulness during the last two years, why it's important to have community, my thoughts about feeling the Lord's presence in Rome...but for now, there's more waiting. Gotta go get dinner with my husband (who is not at work on the weekends!) and my brother-in-law (who we've been reunited with in the same town!).

Thanks for your patience!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dressing for Church, by M

A friend asked me recently whether I would date someone who didn’t go to my church. I responded with the following “I’m not limiting myself to just the people who attend my church; if I meet someone at the gas station that qualifies (see post on the dating covenant lol) I’d go for it. That said, the chances of finding said man are exponentially higher at church than they are anywhere else.” Which brings me to the topic of today’s post… dressing for church.

It’s come to my attention recently that dressing for church is a big deal. Like an “I might meet my future hubby today” big deal. What one does or doesn’t wear to church is of utmost importance… it can determine the entire trajectory of your future for better or worse! One must take careful consideration when picking the outfit and accessories, because one wrong move can send the wrong signal to someone who just might be the right person. What to do?!

In my casual observation, I’ve noticed a few different breeds of (presumably single) women that I would like to reference for this point:

1) Ms. Conservative Denomination: There are actually a whole load of subtypes within this type, ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other according to their former orthodoxy. On one end? The skirt-to-the-ankles wearer, who might even don a hat in accordance with I Corinthians 11:5 – “And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head…” On the other end? Slacks and skirts, but never jeans, God forbid. This woman is winning hearts the right way with her “beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” and her fierce dedication to Christian traditionalism. Besides, doesn’t everyone know that denim is the enemy of God?

2) Ms. Modesty: often a close relative of the former type, this one prides herself on out-modestying every other woman in the building. She will not incite lust in any passerby, courtesy of her turtleneck, cardigan, knee-high socks, and/or scarf. Just in case, she avoids lace, prints, cutouts of any kind, and anything else that may be considered an “eye trap” of seduction. She’s not giving herself to any man other than her husband, especially because Jesus said that looking lustfully at a woman is the same as being an adulterer. This one is no home wrecker!

3) Ms. America: this woman is likely new to church and the church scene. She may not be spouting versus from 2 Timothy from memory, but she does know a thing or two about hooking a man. She often forgoes short skirts (great to dance in but difficult when sitting in a pew) but flashes some cleavage just to keep everyone on their toes. She knows she looks better than the stuffy covered-up Betty’s, and banks on the fact all these men experiencing abstinence-induced deprivation will surely notice. If they’re waiting until marriage, they might at least make it worth their while and find a wife with a smoking hot bod, right?

4) Ms. Secretly Seductive: okay, so she knows and mostly agrees with the whole purpose of God’s call to modesty, but she hates feeling like she’s potentially one step away from becoming a potato-sack wearing, soon-to-be cat lady. She does her best to not be overtly seductive, but she throws in a little something here and there just to… suggest… that maybe she’d look “darn” good were she not quite so modest. Favorites of this type include: stilettos, 2+ inches above-the-knee sundresses, colored bra straps, slightly undone hair, and strategically placed accessories. Men can feel comfortable bringing this type home to mom, while also showing her off to their non-Christian friends and getting mostly positive feedback from both. She’s pretty sure that this secretly seductive approach is how Ruth snagged Boaz… and she made it into the lineage of Jesus! Pretty sure that means God approves…

5) Ms. Song of Solomon: this girl knows that she is the bride of Christ and that He thinks there is no flaw in her. She puts almost no thought into what she wears to church, other than the occasional thought about what will look like she’s putting no thought into it. Her makeup is minimal, her hair usually up, and accessories? What accessories? Her heart is so close to God that a man needs to seek Him first in order to find her. Besides, she’s a great pick because she’ll look the same as a 45 year-old soccer mom as she does now… no surprises here!

Each of these types likely ropes in a different kind of God-fearing man. Which to choose?! Of course, we could all just not worry about it and trust God to bring us to the right man, even if we did happen to be wearing a sack cloth (and ashes?) when it happens, but where is the fun in that? What are we supposed to do in that case? Take all of the time we save by not shopping and not straightening our hair and , like, hang with orphans and sing hymns instead? …really?

Big News, by M

Are you all so tired of hearing from me? I realize today that W has not written in this blog in over TWO MONTHS. I think that means that her hiatus needs to be over... yesterday. Please feel free to put a little pressure on her if you know her in real life. =)

This one will be relatively quick. I just wanted to share with y'all that I have a very new and exciting update that I can't WAIT to tell the world about...

I got a new job!!!

Remember when I very melodramatically wrote this post only a few months ago? Well, God had something in store for me and like a true brat, I just couldn't trust him enough to wait in peace for it to be revealed. It very much reminds me of when I wrote this other post about how I sinfully believed that God didn't want to give me an awesome man and a beautiful love story, approximately 35 days before He actually... started to. Hmmmmmmmm I think I need a reality check. haha

But seriously, this job is a true God-send. It is absolutely a gift from a Father that loves each of us mightly and desires to bless us richly and use us to bless others. Let's hope I can remember that next time...

Starting two weeks from today, I will be joining the Singles Ministry team at my beloved church!!! FYI, "singles" can sometimes be a misnomer... as I've said here before, it's basically a ministry for anyone who is not currently married. So, the Singles ministry serves church attendees from 19 (or post-college) all the way up to seniors who may be unmarried due to death or divorce. There are engaged singles and single parents, too. So, it really is the biggest and farthest-reaching of all the ministries, even though it often seems like "singles" just means other people like me and my friends. It was a very serious vetting process - I went through 7 interviews, two personality profiles, and a 180-question psychological assesment. Let's just say that the whole process was very long and a huge test of my patience and faith. But, the wait is over and the verdict is in.... I am SO PUMPED!!!!

This job will be an answer to many of my prayers, and I can't wait to see the many ways that God will surprise me through it, too! All of you that know me know how much this church has meant to me and how much I believe in the good they are doing throughout my city and throughout the world... What an honor and privilege to join their ranks on staff.

Throughout the interview process, I made Psalm 16:2 my motto: "I said to the Lord, 'You are my Lord; apart from You I have no good thing.'" Amen. HE IS GOOD!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deceit, by M

I have a confession to make: ever since the news broke of the Colorado movie massacre last week, I have been totally hooked on reading the news articles about it. Like, I think I might need an intervention. I seem to have an unhealthy intrigue about the entire situation.

There is very much that can be said about the tragedy, and especially much that has to do with theology. I doubt I’m the only one who has been increasingly thinking and pondering questions of good and evil over the past few days. That said, I consider myself grossly under-qualified to tackle any of these questions, especially in a forum other than the one inside my own head. So, while my thoughts are swirling with "why?s," "how could he?s" and "what if?s"… I will keep those to myself.

Another question has been brought to light recently, however, and it is this… "Why am I drawn to learn so much about this?" Seriously. Why am I like a moth to this tragedy’s lamp? What does that say about me and my heart?

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that this is not an isolated circumstance, either. I realize that my middle school fascination with the Holocaust falls into the same camp, as does my college-age obsession with reading Caringbridge sites, as does my desire to click on any and all facebook pages that say "Praying for… so and so" or "RIP so and so." It’s like I just need more information. I need to know what exactly happened and, if I can figure it out, why.

Is this all making me sound like a creepy person? Probably. But I know that I’m not the only one who feels this way and reads these things.

So I’m talking to my BF last night, and as he starts to stage the aforementioned intervention, I find myself trying to explain or defend my attraction to this information. I admit that while exposing myself to such details of evil and brokenness surely amps up my daily level of fear… these articles also weirdly allay my fear in the moment. I realize that I gain a feeling of control over my life and my health when I read and process all the details of these tragedies, health crises, and disasters. Something tells me that knowing the details of whatever-it-may-be will somehow help me avoid or prevent it from happening in my own life.

Yet, that is a GIANT lie, isn’t it? More, it is a compilation of lies – that we can control our fate, that we can know when or how we die, that we can remotely attempt to change God’s path for us. This thinking suggests that God can’t be trusted to either protect us from harm or bring us into His glorious kingdom in His perfect timing. Everything about this way of thinking is contrary to what God tells us about ourselves and about Him.

In fact, this lie is the lie. Let’s go back to the Garden for a minute and revisit the story of Adam and Eve. When Eve is tempted by Satan, he tells her of eating the fruit: "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). In fact, that very fruit tree is now referred to as "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil." And we all know that Adam and Eve took the fruit and ate… causing the fall of man, banishing themselves from the Garden, and inviting evil and sin into the world as we know it.

It’s easy to think of Adam and Eve as being very dumb in that moment. Why forfeit their everlasting life, their eternal communion with God, their peace, joy, and comfort for the knowledge of evil? What a bad trade-off. Yet, that is exactly what I’m doing, isn’t it? With every article I read, I am taking the fruit and listening to the lie that says "learn more of this evil… this knowledge will keep you safe," "take and digest this knowledge, it is good… you need it to live," "use this knowledge to take control over your life and death" … in essence, stop trusting God and start trusting yourself – "be like God."

Yikes. Clearly the great deceiver is still at work. "When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." (John 8:44)

In light of this revelation, I have made a commitment to myself: I will not be captivated by evil. I will not indulge the temptation that increased knowledge of evil will somehow protect or save me. For I already have a Savior and He has already rescued me from death and the power of sin. "But they have conquered him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death" (Revelation 12:11).