Our Identity in Christ – A Loved Bible Project

Today starts a very special time for The Loved Bible Project. Many of you have heard me talk about the Loved Bible Project. I may be just a little obsessed with the idea of paper crafting in a Bible. Founder, Anne Marie, explains it better here: http://lovedbible.wix.com/thelovedbibleproject#!about/jadgi . During the month of July, Anne Marie has created a study to identify who we are in Christ. Each day has a verse that can be studied, copied, and in whatever way you want – put into a loved Bible. All the details you need can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/TheLovedBibleProject/posts/1773827392853254

Go there now – seriously – this is such a powerful way to study your Bible and then share with others.

I have one other request – let’s share the journey. Go to the Facebook page – and like it. Then, each day, post a picture of your study, your work in your Bible, or whatever you have done in response to the verse on The Loved Bible Facebook page – where there will be an album. Use the hashtag #TheLovedBibleProject. Then post your picture on Instagram and Twitter. Let’s spread the love of Christ and the knowledge of who we are in Him with the world!

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Love One Another

     50 people died today. That’s the beginning, middle, and end of that statement. Not 50 tall people, 50 skinny people, 50 fat people, 50 tall people, 50 short people, 50 gay people, 50 straight people, 50 ugly people, 50 gorgeous people. Just – 50 people. 

     And that is not okay. My heart breaks for those people who lost their lives. It breaks for those who love them and have to mourn their loss. It breaks for those who tried to save them and could not. It breaks for the city that is forever changed. 

     My heart breaks because 50 people died. And that never needs to have a qualifier.

     I could search a dictionary and a thesaurus. I could read powerful speeches. I could gather together all the words ever used and they wouldn’t be enough. This is no longer political. No longer about religion, or race, or persuasion. No longer just sad. 

     No longer something we can look at, pray for, and feel relieved that it isn’t our community. This is an epidemic. It’s not a debate about gun control – though I get that it seems that way. 

    This is a culture of fear, anger, and mental illness. People are scared, and hurting, and sick. I don’t know all the answers. What I want is for every single person to try to walk this journey better. Walk it with people. Love people more. Know people more. Recognize that treating mental illness may be the key to solving so much of this tragedy. 

    What I, and everyone of us can do, is to try and love like Jesus. Seek out those who are lonely and hurting and meet their need. Talk to them and then listen. Bring dinner. Fight for them when they are drowning. Care enough to put other’s needs before our own. 

   

We can use some common sense when it comes to how we vote, what we fight for, and how we go about fighting that fight. We are in trouble folks. But fear and anger, while the most legitimate responses to the tragedy in Orlando, are not what is going to change our culture. Hating other people because they disagree with you on gun control, gay rights, or Target bathrooms, isn’t going to help either. 

     There are so many changes we need to make. I don’t know them all. 

     We are seeing the results of our division, our anger, our refusal to sit at the table and have a rational conversation. What I do know that it means I have to do more to treat the people I come into contact with the way Jesus would. That instead of just praying for Orlando, I have to make some changes in how I think, act, and speak. 

     Jesus, be near. Near to these families and comfort them. Near to this world and give us wisdom and strength and desire to treat each other like You would treat us. In Your name I pray.

The Beauty Underneath

It is currently raining, pouring down vast amounts. As I passed my kitchen window, I was struck anew at the beauty of the trees that stand just outside our house. The greens were so much deeper and brighter. Each tree had been washed clean of all the dirt and grime that accumulates between a good rain. Even what very little grass we have is prettier after the deluge.

It struck me as I was thinking of the beauty of the trees, that just this week I had asked God to wash my heart. Not just to free me from the stain of sin, but to get rid of the muck that builds up as we tread through this life. Anger, bitterness, confusion, fear, all of those emotions that I like to stack up in my heart and let fester, I wanted them gone. God can automatically free us from our baggage, but He rarely chooses to so in my experience. Instead, He asks us to get down deep in the ugly and scrape it out.  Sometimes, though, we just need to turn on a high powered hose and knock it out with force. We can do this by flooding our hearts and souls with truth, and grace, and mercy, and beauty. By forcing ourselves to focus on the good things, the things that bring us hope and joy, we are power washing our minds and our hearts. And we are refreshed and renewed by beauty underneath our mess.2016-05-14 15.30.43

Philippians 4:8 tells us to, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” When all around you swirls grief, anxiety, and fear, thinking about pure and lovely anything is almost impossible. Watching the rain today, with it’s strength just pushing the dirt off, helped me see that we can’t always accomplish this task on our own. Those branches couldn’t scrape the dirt off by themselves, it took a mighty force to remove the ugly and get to the beauty. We have such a force, He is the Holy Spirit, and He will wash us clean if we let Him. He will flood our minds with the things of God and we will be able to see the pure and lovely and admirable in us and around us.2016-05-14 15.33.23

In order for this to happen, we have to ask Him to do so, and then allow Him to do His work. I am good at seeing the positive that is happening around me. However, I am also good at holding on to the negative around me. Too often, that negative stuff becomes my focus. When I let the Holy Spirit push those negative things away, I need to not pick them back up again. I need to let them go and focus my eyes, ears, and heart on the truths that fill me with joy and hope. I need to focus on the good happening around me. And when I do, there is beauty revealed underneath all the dirt.

 

Journey to Heal: A Book Review

The title alone grabbed my attention: Journey to Heal: Seven Essential Steps for Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse. It was a journey I knew I needed to walk at least one more time. While much healing has occurred over the years, healing from such traumatic events is like peeling back layers. Each time a new layer is revealed, it is necessary to continue to heal all the broken places. I knew there were still more broken places.

So I asked to be on the launch team. All the time wondering if the book would be a repeat of all the things I already knew. I wondered if it was possible to approach such a topic with honesty but also grace, with authenticity but also wholeness. From the first page, I was moved. Crystal does not write from a victim’s stance – but from her seat as a victor. She is real, and honest, and spot on. She talks of actual healing that is available when we seek it and seek God. She says words that have formed in my head but never gotten to my heart. She empowers, she gives courage, and she gives hope.

Written as a book, and a workbook, Crystal provides steps and questions that guide the reader into healing. She shares enough of her story that survivors know they are understood. One of my favorite quotes comes from an introduction of sorts, “My story doesn’t end in abuse and brokenness, and neither does yours.” Her questions allowed me to work through the thoughts and emotions I was going through in a positive way. This book made healing all the layers possible. It gave me concrete ways to work through all the feels. Every person I have spoken to, who has read this book, had a similar experience. This book just speaks to the hearts and souls of those who have been abused.

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I have recommended a lot of books over the past year. I am not only recommending this book, I am begging anyone who has been sexually abused, loves someone who has been abused, or works with people who have been abused, to have your own copy of this book. It is crucial, it is is vital, to healing and to understanding.

Journey to Heal can be purchased at:

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Journey-Heal-Essential-Survivors-Childhood/dp/0825444012/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1459052277&sr=8-1&keywords=journey+to+heal+book

CBDhttp://www.christianbook.com/journey-essential-recovery-survivors-childhood-sexual/crystal-sutherland/9780825444012/pd/5444012?event=ESRCG

Barnes & Noblehttp://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/journey-to-heal-crystal-sutherland/1122844895?ean=9780825444012#productInfoTabs

Find more information about Crystal at is www.crystalsutherland.org

Find more information about the book at  www.journeytohealbook.com

Finally, there will be a Bible Study, led by Crystal, starting on June 1st. I am so very excited about this opportunity!

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But, have you seen my excuses?

I apparently, no I definitely, have a problem with authority. It isn’t a conscious decision most of the time; I just think I know what is right.  Most of the time, I acquiesce and do what I am told. Sometimes, though, I fight it, hard. After several weeks of frustration and confusion, I came to the realization that I was having trouble accepting God’s ideas over my own. I have been trying to negotiate with God about what obedience looks like. I didn’t realize that I had put so much time and effort into talking God out of His plan. It has wreaked havoc in so many different areas of my life. Thinking it through, I realize that my conversations with God often go a lot like this:

God: “I have called you – follow me.”

Me: “Absolutely – with my heart and soul – as soon as I ……”

God: “I meant follow me now.”

Me: “Right, okay, sure, but did You know that…..”

God: “I know all things. Trust me. Trust my plan.”

Me: “Of course, could you just show me how Your plan works? Could you give me a sneak peek into how this all comes together?”

God: “Trust me.”

Me: “But, but, but…..”

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God: “I’m waiting. Let me know when you are ready.”

Me: “Good deal. I’ll just spend some time trying to do it in my own strength and then I’ll come back weeping and beg You to fix it.”

God: “I know. And I’ll be here.”

Me – months later – “I tried and failed, and tried and failed, and tried and failed. So I’m here asking for forgiveness, for strength, for encouragement, for a reminder of what You said the first time. Through my tears I’m begging You to be You so that I can rest in You.”

God: “Rest in me. You are loved. Find the truths I have given you in my word. Then, follow me.” (in other words – (in sarcastic font) – get up off your rear end and do what I told you to do and I will do what I said I would do.)

Sound familiar to anyone? I know what God wants me to do, but it doesn’t quite fit into my plans so I try to convince Him He’s wrong. Or, I know what He wants, but I don’t understand how to make it happen, so I ask question after question and present all of the why nots. I know He can be trusted. I know His plans are better. I know His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Even knowing these things, I have a hard time surrendering to His authority.

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Over and over and over again, He has shown me that His ways are better. One of the biggest examples is leading us to Ruidoso. I fought for going to Santa Fe instead of Ruidoso. Rich believed that God had called us to Ruidoso. I thought they were both crazy. There isn’t a day that goes by now that I am not grateful we ended up in Ruidoso. I could write a book filled with examples of how His ideas are better than mine. What matters more though, is how I react this time. This post, this new website, all of it is a part of what God is calling me to do. He is asking me to put myself out there and be honest with my struggles and open about the things many keep hidden. I am taking the next steps in fulfilling my dream of being an author and a speaker – in addition to my comfortable role as teacher. If you would like to be a part of this whole deal – click the follow button or the sign up for e-mail button on the side of the blog (from a computer) or scroll all the way down on your phone. Thank you for being a part of my dream.

Internet Friends

     Every day of the year is now celebrating something. Some hold way more meaning to me than others. At this time last year, Internet Friend’s Day had no meaning for me. I am grateful for being able to sustain real life friendships with people who I am unable to see often. But actual friends that I have not met, just communicated with on the Internet? Ha! Who does that?
Now, it is a completely different story. One almost impossible to explain. One that still sounds a little – or a lot – crazy when you hear it.
The summary is this: last March I joined a Facebook group for those people who didn’t get picked for a launch team. That group has developed, and grown, and become a place where actual friendships have become real. These women, with whom I have connected, have become my heart friends, my soul’s sisters, my tribe. The only way that sentence isn’t completely nuts is to acknowledge that God brought us together “for such a time as this.”
I have had the privilege of meeting some of my new friends. Others, I hope to meet soon. Regardless of whether we have met or not, we have a bond that I truly can’t explain.
In fact, I have joined one of these women, Tracy, in launching a ministry – and I have yet to meet her. But I know her heart. I know her Spirit – because we share that love for Jesus. We share a vision that is remarkably the same.
When I actually wrote out these words, there is a sense that we, as a group, were so desperate for friendship that we were willing to do anything to find it. And perhaps, we were. But we have, we have found friendships that enrich and bless us. We have found support and understanding. We have found friends who are like us and friends who are drastically different from us. We have found value in supporting, encouraging, challenging, and pushing each other. We have found laughter and shared tears. It makes no sense. I know that. Which is why my friend Emily, whom I have yet to meet, has the only explanation, “But, God.” Only God could have put this together, and only God could have made it work.
So now, I have much to celebrate on this Internet Friend’s day. And that truth fills my heart with joy.

Moore Musings/Kelli L. Moore's photo.
'All Your Heart Ministries'

Be Kind, Really

So many things compete against kindness. The desire for power. The desire to be right. The need to feel important. Lack of thinking our words and actions through and considering how they will make others feel. Almost everything we say or do has an impact on someone else. We should do our best to be cognizant of that fact and act accordingly.
In 2015, I learned a lot about not letting other people’s actions and words determine my worth, my mood, or my value. I am much better at letting things go that aren’t worthy of holding onto. I also learned that telling people the truth about their actions is deeply valuable when done in the correct manner. I have no desire to be placated or pitied. And I don’t want that for others. I’m just saying, sometimes we say and do things that have zero eternal value for us and cause others pain. Let’s just not do those things. And when we unknowingly do them, let’s apologize sincerely and work at making sure we do better the next time.
This living thing is hard. We either get to help people along their journey’s or be the stumbling block. I think we would do well to fall on the helping side.
There are so many things to argue about, disagree with, and defend passionately. These things are important. They are not more important than other people. Like, ever. Okay, if you are hanging around with someone who is harming you or themselves, you get to defend yourself and attempt to show them the light. Today, two students argued violently about what which number the table at which one was sitting is called. It changed nothing, the number of the table changes nothing for them – they were just determined to be right. Seems to me that we do a lot of knock down, drag out fighting, and name calling, and just plain meanness over things that matter less than we think they do. We gossip, we get revenge, we rub people’s faces in things that would break our hearts if it was us. Let’s try just not. Not doing the things that are going to make someone else feel unloved, unimportant, unnecessary. Not do the things that place a burden too big to carry on another person’s shoulders. Not lash out and hurt back.
Instead let’s be kind. Radically, out of the ordinary, over the top kind. Even to people who don’t deserve it. Cause really, we don’t deserve it either – but we sure do want people to be kind to us.
And don’t go thinking it will be easy. That we can just up and be nice and thoughtful just by waking up. It’s a job, really. It requires thought, and effort, and determination. Sometimes, it even turns bad on us. Sometimes people use our kindness against us and feels like crap. Still though, still, kindness wins. Promise.

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Book Review – The Sound of Gravel

Listen, I’m going to be honest, this book review comes with a story that is going to sound just plain crazy. In many ways, it kinda is crazy. I’ve tried to write the review for this blog post without the story, and I just can’t. Too much of the review needs this background. So, this will be long, but hang in there with me, it is a beautiful, powerful, fascinating story.

It starts in March when I applied to be a part of Jen Hatmaker’s book launch team. When author’s publish a book, they need for the book to get a lot of coverage, especially in social media. So they put together teams of people to read parts of the book – sometimes even the entire book – and then promote it. Jen Hatmaker is brilliant and hilarious, so I knew I wanted to be on her team. Sadly, 5,000 other people had the same thought and the publisher told her she could only have 500. What no one could have predicted is that those of us who got “rejected” are a group of rather determined (stubborn) force to be reckoned with. Within hours of getting the rejection letter, we begin tweeting to each other and Jen responded. Before 24 hours were over, we had formed a group based off of Anna Lebaron’s genius hashtag, #the4500. So much has come out of that group that I could not even begin to cover in this post. One thing that we discovered was that even as the “B” team we were really good at launching a book.

Jen’s book launched officially, but our group has formed such a bond that we continue to support, pray for, and care about each other. We have created several different groups that started with members of the original #the4500, health groups, writing groups, and an entire group dedicated to launching books, #the4500launches. As we were organizing our group, our leader, Anna, again reached out on Twitter. This time to a first time author named Ruth Wariner. Here is where the story really gets crazy. Anna’s father was one of two leaders of a violent, polygamist,cult. Violent as in, robbing, beating, and killing people. Anna is in the process of writing her own book about her escape from her father. The first person that Anna’s father had killed was his own brother, the other leader, and Ruth’s father. Naturally, there was a huge disconnect between the two families after the murder of one brother. Anna and Ruth had never met, nor spoken, before this Twitter contact.

Anna reached out to Ruth because Ruth’s book is a memoir as well, of her childhood after losing her father. Incredibly, Ruth responded. Anna offered #the4500launches as a way to promote Ruth’s book, The Sound of Gravel. Ruth accepted and two cousins, torn apart by horrible, tragic violence came together and presented us with this book. Only God could possibly have made that happen. Only God.

This book, The Sound of Gravel, is unlike any other book I have ever read. And I read a lot of books. From the first sentence, to the last sentence I was completely captivated. Somehow it was simultaneously heartbreaking and inspirational. With grace and beauty, Ruth recounts a childhood that most of us can’t even begin to imagine. There were times while I was reading that I had to stop, so difficult were the circumstances she presents. Yet, I could not leave the book unread for long because those stories were equally as compelling and powerful. Though these stories are sometimes horrific, Ruth tells them with grace, and mercy, and love. Incredibly, I never felt pity for her, instead there was just courage and acceptance and genuine joy laced throughout the book. Ruth is a masterful story teller, and her style connects the reader to each member of her family. I marvel at her indomitable spirit, her incredible ability to speak from a place of love, forgiveness and hope, and her astonishing bravery. This book speaks to the spirit of those who refuse to give in or give up. It speaks to fighting for those you love. It speaks to finding strength and using that strength to not just survive, but flourish.

The Sound of Gravel can be ordered at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book sellers. Go to www.RuthWariner.com. for details on ordering this book.

*I was given an advanced reader copy to read for an honest review of this book.

Faith Like Job – Guest Blogger

When I learned that there was a day to celebrate the lives of infants and babies who were lost to their parents, I was deeply touched. While I have never experienced this heartbreak personally, I know many who have. People whom I love, people whom I admire, people who matter. My first thought was of my precious friend, Alyssa Crouch who had only shared her loss about a year ago. I asked her if she would write out her experience for my readers. I know that you will love her, her testimony, and her story as much as I do.


Job, God reminded me of Job’s story when it seemed that everything was crashing down. The summer of 2013 was brutal. I was doing interviews for a teaching position, my husband and I were in the midst of purchasing a house because, in part, we were pregnant.

Our pregnancy came as a slight surprise because we weren’t trying for a child, but there was no means of prevention. We were both excited and scared out of our minds because we had recently graduated college, were both working at a sandwich shop, and lived in a small rented trailer. We had hope, however, because of our faith in God and great support from close family and friends. As the summer wore on though, it began to weaken.

I heard back from my first interview that they had hired someone else. Shortly after, the house we were trying to buy did not pass the septic inspection, meaning we would have to pay an additional $10,000 to fix it because the sellers couldn’t. We lost the contract on that house because we couldn’t pay and the mortgage came back unapproved. We were ready to look at other houses, still holding on to the image of cuddling our new baby in a new house, but then the unthinkable happened.

It was a Friday. I was at work and noticed that I had started cramping and bleeding. My mom had a friend that was a nurse, who told me that I needed to rest that weekend and go to the doctor on Monday. I stayed in bed that weekend praying for my child. Since I was only about 5-6 weeks along, at the time, the only people we had shared our wonderful news with was immediate family. Laying in bed, I was grateful this was the case. On Monday, my husband and I went to the OB where she told me that she wasn’t sure why I was bleeding, that I was too early to really see much and called it a threatened pregnancy.

In the two weeks that followed, I never felt more like a stuck pig. Every two days or so, I was sent for bloodwork. I remember holding and looking at my belly, begging my child to stay with me. I went on to another teaching interview, still in pain. Another doctor visit came when I was about 7 weeks along. The doctor looked over my hormone levels and performed an ultrasound. This was the first time my husband and I had seen our baby, or rather, where he should have been. (I’ve always thought our child was a boy.) After printing a picture (which got jammed) the OB confirmed it was a blighted ovum and explained that my body had aborted the pregnancy (although we are not sure why) and an empty sac was still present.

We were in shock. How? Why? These were the questions constantly on my mind. For the next month, I was in pain with my body letting everything go. I was confused, thinking that “nothing was there anyway, why did I love it?” Already in so much emotional pain as well, a few days after the appointment, I got a call telling me that I was not selected for my second interview either. I was infuriated, depressed, and beaten down. I cried and cried for days until there was nothing left. That’s when I got really mad at God.

I remember laying on my bed, feeble tears making their way down my cheeks, dead to my own mind for lack of comprehension, and I audibly asked, “Why?” I can’t explain how, but three letters seemed to glow on the ceiling above me. J-O-B. I said, “really God!? Why are you testing me?” I closed my eyes and felt courage enough to pick up my Bible. Flipping through the book of Job, I realized that I could have it a lot worse. Not meaning that my concerns didn’t matter, but I needed to have faith like Job. When my husband got home, I told him what I had discovered and I was able to let my emotions go. He held me and we cried together. This was the first step in my healing.

Hope twinkled again when I again went for an interview, in which I got hired for the position. It wasn’t until the spring of 2014 though, that better understanding took place. My best friend, and sister by love, presented me with a stuffed animal and a message that God instructed. “Even though you don’t have an earthly body to hold, you are a mother. Someday God will give you children in your arms.” This was the breakthrough. It still wasn’t easy to think through, and still isn’t, but gradually I began to remember my son with love.

God helped me replace the feelings of hurt, sadness, and confusion, with love, faith, and determination to go on. He has started a fire in me to help others work through their pain of saying goodbye before ever getting to say hello.

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Five Minute Friday – Doubt

    Doubt gets a bad rap. It is thought of as the opposite of belief, and belief is shining example of all that we are supposed to do and be as Christians. Rather than opposite, in my life, doubt has been the beginning of true belief. Doubt acknowledges that there are questions that cannot be answered easily. Doubt is an honest struggle with what we believe to be true and what reality looks like all around us. Doubt is saying to God, “I don’t get it. How does this (whatever this is) line up with what I have learned about Your character? Help me make sense out of this.”
     My belief is that God can handle doubt. He is a big God. He is well aware that there will be questions, and concerns, and doubts. He is ready, willing, and able to answer them all. When we come to Him and admit our doubt, He is able to prove Himself to us. When we hide our confusion and our questions, we are basically saying that we don’t believe He is capable of an answer. The Bible tells us that those who seek will find. That gives me permission to seek. It gives me permission to ask the hard questions and believe that He will answer them.

          Doubt is not the opposite of belief. Doubt is the catalyst for making a belief solid. Wrestle with God. Take your doubt to Him and let Him work in and through it. Then your belief will be stronger and more powerful because it will be real.