The Prayer I Almost Regretted

It was at a point of brokenness, heartbreak, and frustration with myself and painful situations that I prayed the scariest prayer to ever leave my lips.

Lord, if he isn’t the man I will marry, then don’t bring him into my life.

Sounds harmless, right? Wrong. I wasn’t mindful that I serve a jealous God who loves me more than my mind can comprehend. I wasn’t thinking about God as my Father who would do absolutely anything to protect my heart from intruders and invaders. I believe He was eager to answer this prayer because in about two years not a single man has tried to win my heart.

1080946_24278190

Photo Credit: Glenda Ortero (glendali), royalty-free

I didn’t know that the answer to the prayer would mean:

– lonely weekends void of dates (Scandal re-runs and Words with Friends, anyone?)

– battling insecurities and self-doubting thoughts of inadequacy (Am I good enough?)

– nearly no male companionship (Hey, boys, remember me?)

– struggling with jealousy (I want to be happy for her, but when will I get my chance?)

I don’t think I realized what I was asking for when I made such a serious request. As time had gone by (and still no one on my doorstep with flowers), I had progressively retracted my trust in God and foolishly whined and complained to Him. How silly am I! Who would point their finger at God and complain about the very thing they prayed for?

How dare you answer my prayer, God? You knew I didn’t mean it.

The amazing faithfulness of God blows my mind because He answered a prayer that hurt my pride and heightened my weaknesses, but He’s doing it for my good. Had I not had these moments of solitude, I would never be in the place of learning and valuing dependence on Him. I am remembering and embracing the fact that I need to be single.  It’s in my total singleness that God is perfecting me, shaping me, refining me, and making me whole. Is it for a husband? No. It’s for Him! And if a lifelong partner happens for me in the future, then he will get the benefit of all God is working in me right this moment.

So, the bitterness, jealousy and insecurities are vanishing into thin air by the grace of God. My grievances have been turned into thanksgiving. I am thankful that God was eager to answer my heart’s prayer (this process is torture to my flesh, but my heart is ever grateful) because He knows what it cannot handle. I am thankful that even when my heart ached from loneliness, I was protected from heart aches from unhealthy relationships. I am thankful that when no one is calling my phone or asking me out, I have a God who longs to spend every waking moment with me. He is diligent and steadfast in His love. All the love I need to be whole flows from Him.

It was the scariest request I have ever prayed, but  now I am bursting with joy and hope. I am loved. I am never forgotten. I am protected. I am kept.  I have a God who goes to war for my heart with more strength and intentionality than a girl could hope for in ten thousand warriors. And He is holding my life and my future in His hands.

Leave a comment & join the discussion! What is the scariest thing you have asked God? Was the answer what you expected?

Songs in the Night

Have you ever been in the middle of something — perhaps talking to a group of friends, shopping in the mall, or even driving down the street — and someone extremely attractive stopped you in your tracks? Immediately whatever you were saying or doing before pales in significance, that is if you can remember what it was in the first place. Suddenly all that matters is this walking visage of radiance.

As I sit here haphazardly pecking away on my laptop, Lord, I Thirst for You begins to softly play… and before I know it I am mesmerized by God. I have long forgotten the thing that had been consuming my mind. The lyrics have now taken me prisoner and I am in a trance.

Lord, I thirst for You

It amazes me that we can live for weeks without food, but in most cases we could not survive longer than one week without water. A lack of food will not cripple us immediately, but without water we will deteriorate rapidly. Hunger can be ignored after the hunger pangs dissipate, but the fate of a man lacking hydration is usually sudden and devastating. Thirst insinuates a level of urgent desperation to be filled. This is the level of desperation with which we are to desire the Lord. Are you thirsty?

And I long to be in Your presence

I can recall moments of intimate worship that Jesus and I used to share when I was younger. I used to stay up late and sing to Him. I’m not a singer, but I was so in love that it didn’t matter to me. My voice may have been out of tune, but my spirit sang in perfect harmony with His. Somehow as the years have gone by, I became busy. Too busy to worship. Too sleepy to pray early. Too self-absorbed to spend time with Him. Too prideful to give Him all of me. Too preoccupied to miss His presence. Are you longing?

My soul will wait on You

Waiting can be the most torturous task to ask of someone. Even the most patient person among us will admit that there is something in their life that is unbearable to wait for. Waiting to become a teenager, to go to high school, to get a driver’s license, to graduate college, to start that dream career, to fall in love, to get married, to have a baby, to get out of debt, to pay the house off, to become grandparents…. The waiting never ends. Waiting takes having faith in the unseen. Waiting takes having complete trust in God’s sovereignty. Waiting is not idle time; it is eager expectation for the things we’ve hoped for. My soul, like the Trinity, is comprised of three parts: my mind, my will, and my emotions. My mind (thoughts) must trust God. My will (desires) must trust God. My emotions (feelings) must trust God. Are you waiting?

Father, draw me nearer

My heart is turning violently in my chest. With all my heart, I want Him to close the gap between us. I cannot stand the distance any longer. Are you drawn to Him?

Draw me nearer to the beauty of Your holiness

I am thirsty.

I am longing.

I am waiting.

I am drawing near.

Here I am.

Where Passion & Purpose Collide

The great thing about life is that behind every disappointment, success, failure, and triumph is a beautiful story waiting to be told. Every narrative features a colorful cast of key players who help challenge, encourage, and sharpen the protagonist. The main characters in my life have been my family. I grew up in a Christian home with God-fearing parents who taught me about the Lord. Suddenly, I was enamored by this wonderful God.

When I was twelve, my father revealed to me that God spoke to him and said, “Jeida will write for Me.” Literature and writing were two of my favorite indulgences so I was elated to weave God into them. Poetry, novellas, and play scripts flowed effortlessly from my pen as I began to pour myself into my writing. Fictional characters came to life on the page. Never once had I considered that I had forgotten a major component of God’s promise over my life.

Jeida will write for Me

As the year progressed, my ardor for writing waned. I began to resent the gift He had given me. I lost sight of God rather than choosing to lose everything to find myself in Him. I was striving to perform instead of wholly surrendering myself. I attempted to give my gifts to God while withholding fragments of my heart. The word He’d given my father wasn’t so much about the activity of writing but my willingness to be for Him. He was calling me to be a worshiper in every aspect of who I am.

Some people worship through song. Some people worship through dance. I worship with words. When I write I imagine reverberating echoes of celestial symphonies wafting to His throne. God breathes every word, phrase, and syllable into me so that I may exhale it back to Him. I thought I was pursuing God but He was pursuing me. I thought I needed Him to make my story relevant, but it’s never been my story. He invites me to be a part of His story. Writing is my passion, but Jesus is my purpose.  All that I am and all that I produce will be for His glory, His name, and His renown.  From writing to giving to serving, I am constantly emptying myself at His feet and worshiping Him with my best.

As for my brief chapter in his grand story, I have no idea what is next for me. All I know is that my life has been stitched into His story, and by Him and through Him it is already complete.

What about you? What is your passion, and how do you use it to glorify God?

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

— Colossians 3:17, ESV

Take It Off

I have been waiting for this moment for countless days. Every other monotonous task and chore I’ve performed has been a sullen prelude to the time when I would sit down and give written form to my sundry pensées. I’ve been juggling my thoughts inside of my head like a standard circus act for some time now, and when I finally get into a comfortable rhythm, more thoughts are thrown into the mix, thwarting my concentration and focus. I’ve done an amiss job of keeping these spheres of thought going in a smooth rotation, and I can sense that I’m about to drop some of them this very instant.  

—————————————————————————-

Those who know me are familiar with my extreme ardor for literature. There are days when there’s nothing I’d rather do than cuddle under a blanket with some Starbucks and a lengthy novel. American literature is my favorite because our history is so rich and pregnant with endless narratives. Literature has the unique ability to bring form and life to the grandest of historical events and the most mundane moments. It holds the power to shake a nation with the horror of slavery like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano. It brings holy fear, conviction and revival like Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. It fuels hope and inspiration like the Ain’t I A Woman and I Have a Dream speeches. Literature takes snapshots of history and molds them into tangible works of art that we can learn from and carry with us forever. I was confronted and comforted by a parable written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Dark Romanticism era, The Minister’s Black Veil.



This story is centered around a young, gentle, and well-liked minister named Mr. Hooper in 18th century New England. One day Hooper ambles into his church donning a black, crepe veil over his face which obstructs everything save his chin and mouth. His parishioners are incredibly frightened down to their core at the spectacle. They tremble as he makes his way from the back of the church, down the aisle, and takes his place behind the pulpit to deliver his sermon. Hours, days, weeks, months go by and the black veil remains intact. No mortal eyes have connected with Hooper’s for longer than anyone can remember. Finally, his wife (the only one who isn’t afraid of him) begs for Hooper to remove his veil for her even if but for a moment. He refuses and she abandons him; she cannot bear to be married to a man who she can look at but cannot see, who she can know but never understand.

As I became engrossed with this story, I, too, was desperately curious about the purpose of Hooper’s veil. Never once was it removed, even when the children who once admired him ran from him in sheer horror. Surprisingly more people are saved than ever before because they liken their sinful state with the man behind the black veil. Still, most are ghastly afraid.

At the end of the narrative, Hooper is on his deathbed when he’s asked to remove his veil once and for all as he tiptoes into death. His response caused my heart to race.

“Why do you tremble at me alone?” cried he, turning his veiled face round the circle of pale spectators. “Tremble also at each other! Have men avoided me, and women shown no pity, and children screamed and fled, only for my black veil? What, but the mystery which it obscurely typifies, has made this piece of crape so awful? When the friend shows his inmost heart to his friend; the lover to his best beloved; when man does not vainly shrink from the eye of his Creator, loathsomely treasuring up the secret of his sin; then deem me a monster, for the symbol beneath which I have lived, and die! I look around me, and, lo! on every visage a Black Veil!”

Hooper’s observation knocked me in my chest with blunt force. As my teacher’s edition curriculum so perfectly notes, this story’s theme is about the unwillingness and inability to reveal our true nature. Hooper compares three relationships: friend to friend, lover to lover, and man to God. Revealing our true selves requires vulnerability and trust. The point of the matter is that most of us walk around with our own black veils intact. Basically Hooper is saying that people shouldn’t shudder when they see his veil because we are hidden behind our own veils–our unwillingness and inability to be vulnerable.

The last couple of weeks have been unusually difficult. My faith, prayers, joy, peace, and zeal for God were low while my insecurities, weaknesses, struggles, and fears were heightened beyond my own control. At least I didn’t think I had any control over them anymore. I found myself going through the “Christian girl” motions: hosting Bible studies, serving at church, attending prayer meetings, interceding for others. The truth is my heart wasn’t in any of those things, but I didn’t want to admit it to anyone else or to myself. As much as I wanted to share the tempest in my heart with my small group, my closest friends, and my parents, I just couldn’t bear to remove my veil. I didn’t want to hear the typical, “Just pray about it,” “God loves you,” “There’s grace for you,” answers. I know all of those things, but there is something else that needed to be challenged and shaken in my prideful, double-minded heart. I needed to do more than talk to God about how I felt. Prayer is what you make it. It is possible to pray and remain the same because it’s not our prayers that impressive God; it is our faith that pleases Him most. The veil in the Holy of Holies was torn so I could freely enter because Jesus came to earth, bled and died, and resurrected, yet I have carried my own veil of unwillingness to expose my greatest fears, weaknesses and sins to Him. This black veil began to turn my heart to ice and it was becoming easier to tolerate distance from the One who first loved me.

Thankfully, I had a friend who, like Hooper’s wife, demanded the black veil be torn away. My refusal wasn’t indignant, but flippantly disguised with the familiar phrase we all use when we don’t want to be bothered or pitied: “I’m okay, really.” I expected him to be like the others–tell me he would pray and then move on about his day. That’s what Hooper’s wife did to him. When he refused to remove the veil, her frustration at his declension drove her to abandon him. My friend didn’t leave me to rot like Hooper’s wife. No, he was persistent even when I tried to assure him I didn’t need anyone touching my veil. “I refuse to leave you alone,” he said. “I don’t want to push you to tell me, but I will push with you to overcome. You [are] priority tonight.”

Whoa.

He didn’t know it then but he used a God-given key to unlock a well of hope in me. It wasn’t so much what he said with his mouth, but the overwhelming sense of love and protection that reverberated from his action. He cared…and I was reminded of Jesus who never leaves me even when I wander away from Him.

For the first time in a long time I was vulnerable with my friend and expressed to him what had been eating me alive. He comforted me and I realized, “This feels good! It’s nice to come from behind this veil.” So, day-by-day, I am removing these layers (because it doesn’t come off in one big swoop) of protection and choosing to show myself–the whole me, the broken me, the ugly pieces of me–to a God who loved me before I ever made a single mistake.

BlackVeil-16pflll

It is so freeing to be vulnerable with someone–whether family member, friend, lover, or God–and feel wholly loved, accepted, and cherished despite the myriad of weaknesses that mar my life. This week I am challenging myself to take off my black veil for Jesus and allow Him to touch my brokenness. He’s a Healer. There’s nothing He cannot solve within my desert soul. If you are struggling with vulnerability, I exhort you to be free! It’s never easy to be open and naked and exposed to the opinions of man or the holiness of God, but amazing transformation is available when you decide to take it off.


What about you? If the black veil represents an unwillingness to be vulnerable, what are the things that keep your veil intact?

On This Day

My last post was a letter to impurity that I was challenged to pen as a tangible way of putting my “old self” to death. As aforementioned, my small group is studying the book of Romans, and as a result, we’ve chosen to expose our sinful nature and allow ourselves to be washed in the grace and mercy of God. Today I want to share another “farewell” letter written by one of my beloved sisters from my group. Miss Stephanie Deltor is the author of the That Old Fashioned Type of Gal blog and a young lady I’m proud to know. Enjoy!

On This Day 

envy

Dear Envy,

Something needs to be said and something needs to be done about you and the way you make me feel. I need to be honest, sometimes you can be found in the inner parts of my heart. It is hard to be truly happy for someone when you wish the same upon yourself. The clothes, relationships, accolades, and accomplishments always seem to look better on her over me. When I see something that I want, I don’t remember the things that I have. When I see something that I desire, I forget about the growing I’ve done. It’s not wrong to desire something better, it’s wrong to desire it from someone else who has it.  That want turns into a need and the need into you.

Continue Reading

Rest in Pieces

Dear Impurity,

I have been waiting for this day for a long time. I have to admit I didn’t know how I would react to see you lying there so still, so cold, so lifeless. I want to feel as though I can finally breathe and see how well I will live my life without you attached to my identity. Most people would suspect that I would feel at ease, at peace, free at last. They would be horrified to know that I don’t really know how to live life without you. You’ve been grafted into my thinking, my behavior, and my identity for so long. How do I begin to walk away from you forever?
You’re so good at the games you play. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were playing possum right now. Yes. At any moment I half expect you to sit up in that coffin and choke the life out of me for even considering rejoicing over your departure.
But you are dead.
Good.
I can’t be harassed by something that’s dead. I can’t be defined by something’s that dead. I can’t be tempted and controlled by something that’s dead.
You lied to me.
You made me think I couldn’t live without you. I’ll admit I didn’t know how at first. You attached yourself to me when I was a child. You disguised yourself as Curiosity. You knew better than to divulge your real identity; had I have known your real name I would have never let you near me. You stole so many years, so much innocence away from me. You showed me all the things my naive heart wanted to know, plus some things my mind couldn’t even conceive. You made me grow up before I needed to. We had even gotten so close that we started to look identical. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw your face. I couldn’t even tell the difference. You told me you would never let me go and no one else would have any parts of me because you had me–all of me–first.
Then I met the Man who tried to convince me you were my enemy…that we weren’t the same. I kept reassuring Him that the face of Impurity in my reflection was my identity. It was all I ever was and all I was ever meant to be.
I will never forget the piercing look of ferocious love in His eyes. He explained to me that He could remove you from my life forever. I laughed in His face. If only that could be true. But that gentle look in His eyes and the soothing tone of His voice compelled me to believe Him. He took my hand and suddenly his love-filled eyes burned with rage. But He was no longer looking at me, but almost through me. Now that I’m standing here today at your funeral I realize that He was looking at you. May His righteous wrath destroy you forever.
You’re not a part of me. You have no power over me. Jesus told me who I am and, Impurity, it’s not you.
I have more to say, but I shan’t waste another moment speaking your name. I don’t regret losing you–I only regret that I didn’t put the bullet in you sooner.
pam-grier-2

————————————————-

You have just read a eulogy letter that I penned on March 27, 2013, to one of my carnal struggles. This was given as an assignment in my Christian community of ladies who are ready to put the devil in his place. Special thanks to my small group Bible study which led us to accept the challenge to put our old selves to death, just as Jesus has given us the power to do. Impurity, may you rest in pieces.

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13 ESV)

You Can’t Serve God

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

–Joshua 24:14, ESV

FLESHVSSPIRIT

Have you ever struggled with faithfully serving God? We have all had those moments in our walk when one day we are worshiping on the mountaintop and the next day we are wallowing in the valley. We attempt to do what we think will atone our bad behavior. We give our time, service, gifts, and even our money to God, yet sometimes it’s almost impossible to keep our attention fixed on Him. There are days when we could spend hours praying and reading the Bible, and there are days when we hit the snooze button rather than spending time in simple devotion. Before we know it, days have gone by since the last time we paused to spend time with God. We become discouraged because we’re still struggling with sins we hoped we would have been delivered from by now. We are angry at our own inconsistency, yet we feel helpless against the capricious whims of the flesh.

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.--Paul via Romans 7:15, ESV

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
–Paul via Romans 7:15, ESV

Paul eloquently forms into words the constant struggle within the Christian’s soul. The ferocious battle between the spirit and flesh frustrates the believer and refuses to be ignored. Every moment and every decision requires us to choose between our carnal nature and the spirit of God who lives in us. When I am offended, do I allow my bruised ego to fuel retaliation or do I humble myself and forgive? When I am in rush hour traffic, am I a courteous driver or is my road rage unbearable? When things don’t go my way, do I complain or am I thankful? When someone shares sensitive information with me, do I tell my friends what I heard or do I petition for that person in prayer? When I am hurt or rejected, do I vent on social media sites or do I seek God’s healing?

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.--Paul via Galatians 5:17

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
–Paul via Galatians 5:17

Should this constant battle cause us to surrender to the flesh and forget about our pursuit of holiness? Not a chance.

It’s not enough to want to be good for God. Apart from Christ, there is no good in us. In the Bible, Joshua charges the children of Israel to serve God faithfully and in sincerity. Israel’s response is resounding.

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. There we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”

–God’s children via Joshua 24:16-18

Joshua says something uncanny: “You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God.” Is Joshua telling us to throw in the towel? No. He is sharing a secret that is much more profound. It is impossible to serve God faithfully within our own strength. How, then, are we expected to be victorious in this Christian walk if we cannot trust ourselves to remain faithful to God? We must rely on Christ. God is the One who breathed life into our dead souls. If we needed God to bring us to Life, how much more do we need Him to lead us step-by-step and day-by-day? Without Him, we would still be dead. God did not bring us to life and expect us to rise from the grave and walk this journey without Him. He longs to be our sole source of Life Support. We err when we attempt to do anything for Him without Him. When we admit that we are frail within our humanity, and begin to utterly depend on God to show us His ways, then He will rush in like a flood and become the answer to our deepest quandaries.

The children of Israel tried to convince Joshua that they would not forsake God, but Joshua knew that they could not make such a pledge without God’s help to keep it. We are ill-equipped to be like Him without seeking His help. It is possible for your chains to fall off of you. It is possible for addictions you’ve struggled with for years to melt away. It is possible for you to experience healing and deliverance in your emotions, your mind, your body, and your heart. God rescued you from death to life so that He could walk with you for the rest of your days and forevermore.

Just as we needed God to get to God…

…We need God to obey God.

…We need God to serve God.

…We need God to trust God.


We need God.

 

♫ Lord, I need You | O, I need You | Every hour I need You… ♫

Why I Love Passion City Church

If you follow me on Twitter or have befriended me on Facebook, then you’ve heard me say this often: I love my church! I am a proud Doorholder at Passion City Church right near the heart of the city of Atlanta. Yesterday was a special day for me and my family. A year ago we stepped into the oval at Passion City for the very first time—God went before us and He met us there. A few weeks ago my pastor, Louie Giglio, told the congregation that he fully intended to give a message entitled “Why I Love Passion City Church,” but later felt compelled to give a message called “Why I Love Jesus.” (The talk was absolutely phenomenal. It will make your heart swell for the Son of God!) In lieu of Louie’s message, I decided to compile my own list of reasons why I love my church.

  1. Jesus is Our Cornerstone

From the moment you walk into the doors until the time you exit the building, you are guaranteed to get nothing but Jesus. Believe it or not, it has become normal for many churches in America to hold services in Jesus’ name where Jesus is not welcome. In many ways the Church has been seduced and distracted from the glorious and liberating truth of the gospel, and has embraced her own self-serving, man-made doctrine. We have taken the opinions and convictions of man and elevated them above the Supremacy of God.

“Follow God over loyalty. If you don’t, it may have you in a place where God is not.” — Canton Jones

Jesus is lifted high at Passion City Church. Among a congregation filled with several well-known people, no one steals the spotlight or glory from the One who deserves it all. We exist for the glory and fame of Jesus Christ. We make it our first priority to pay homage to Him by offering our lives in extravagant worship. I’ll never forget the day someone commented that we are always talking about Jesus at Passion City. At first it sounded absurd that anyone would find that to be a problem, but then I could barely contain my excitement. What an awe-inspiring reputation for my church to have: that all we talk about, sing about, shout about, dance for, serve, and worship is none other than Jesus Christ! I am privileged to be in a house where Jesus is central, exalted, celebrated, and adored.

Who can make the blind to see? | Who holds the keys that set us free? | He paid it all to bring us peace | Jesus, only Jesus | Holy, King Almighty Lord | Saints and angels all adore | I join with them and bow before | Jesus, only Jesus — Matt Redman, “Jesus, Only Jesus” from the forthcoming Passion 2013 album: Let the Future Begin

2. It is a Healthy Church

It is no longer good enough for me to merely be a part of a church community out of obligation or because it caters to my preferential style; I need to be in a place where it is safe to freely worship God, and beneficial to my spiritual, emotional, and mental wellness. Some people may be unfamiliar with this term, so I have taken the liberty of highlighting just a few qualities of a healthy church from a great article I found.

  • [Passion City Church] is a place of blessing and freedom. It is a place people want to go.
  • [Passion City Church] is built on loving God, loving people, and reaching out to the community around and ultimately the world.
Passion City's "Motto"

Passion City’s “Motto”

 

  • The Bible is taught in context.
  • Your personal boundaries are important and respected. You are allowed to make your own decisions and you are not looked down on or judged.
  • Love and grace are subjects often taught. You leave the services feeling with a sense of freedom and affirmation.
  • God leads people there.

These are just a few indicators that showcase the health and wellness that emanates from my church. There is such an overwhelming banner of love and freedom that covers our house. Discovering Passion City was like discovering a brook in the middle of a desert. When we need to be refreshed and refilled with strength and hope, Passion City Church is a house where we are confident that the water of the Word is flowing like rushing water.

3. The Leadership

I don’t think words could accurately describe how much I love and respect Louie Giglio. He is a superb example of what I believe a true pastor should look like. He is secure and confident in his role as the leader of our house; therefore he realizes he has been appointed by God for the purpose of guiding His people closer to His bosom. He and God share the same heartbeat for people and the world. Although he is well-known worldwide, he does not seek any glory for himself. He projects every bit of fame to the majesty of Christ every moment he gets.

louie

Louie is humble and genuine. Shortly after we began attending PCC, Louie taught a series called “Believe” in which he was vulnerable enough to share his battles with depression and anxiety. Out of his stories of weakness, so many people were encouraged and hopeful that Jesus is our only source of strength. Most leaders might stay away from exposing personal struggles, but Louie is confident in a Healer who brought him out of a dark place and is capable of bringing more people out. I was in awe of his openness, and many people were set free because Louie was willing to boast on Christ’s healing reputation than care about marring his own.

Louie never belittles or tears down any person in the church or his leadership team. He supports other ministries and their missions to make Christ famous. He isn’t concerned with membership at PCC. Louie once said that it doesn’t matter if people worship at our church as long as they find someplace where Jesus is lifted high above other names. What a pastor! He is the number one cheerleader for every doorholder in our house. In fact, Louie calls himself a doorholder. Being a pastor with influence all over the world isn’t what drives Louie; he is most satisfied with using his life to bring glory to God by being His servant.

Louie & Shelley Giglio, courtesy of Shelley’s Instagram. Follow them: @louiegiglio @shelleygiglio

Courtesy of Shelley's Instagram

Courtesy of Shelley’s Instagram

Louie is crazy about his wife, Shelley. It’s obvious. If you follow either one of them on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll see expressions of their love for each other and their church. It’s so encouraging to know that my pastor loves his wife. He honors her often, and even smiles and blushes when he speaks about her during his talks. One Sunday I sat behind the Giglios during the gathering. During worship I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful my pastor and his wife looked together as they both worshiped Jesus unabashedly, arms completely outstretched. They had already heard these songs in the two gatherings before this one, but they both stood together as man and wife, father and mother of our house in total adoration of Jesus. I know they are in love with each other because they are both crazy about Jesus. Jesus oozes from their speech, He emanates from the music Shelley produces, He echoes from the talks Louie gives, He is glorified by the fruit of Passion Conferences and the 268 Generation, and He is exalted in their marriage and ministry. Both Louie and Shelley are amazing leaders, and the same excellence I see in them is also evident in the entire leadership team and their marriages.

The PCC leadership team praying on the Georgia Dome field in preparation for Passion 2013. Courtesy of Instagram.

The PCC leadership team praying on the Georgia Dome field in preparation for Passion 2013. Courtesy of Instagram.

4. The Community

Passion City is a pretty large church, but we would never call it that. Louie says we are a small tribe, a small part of what God is doing in His global Church. God has blessed us and is leading more and more people to our house. PCC has Community Groups throughout the city that meet regularly where people gather around the Word and pray and cultivate community. Those are a great way to connect with this family. However, I have been fortunate enough to meet some beautiful ladies who have become like sisters to me. It is extremely rare to find a group of ladies who love Jesus, love each other, and love the Word with as much intensity as these ladies I’ve found. I love the accountability and support we provide for one another. We aren’t afraid to confront one another’s insecurities or sins together so that all of us will be whole and victorious. Last week in our Bible study, one of the ladies admitted she didn’t prefer to pray aloud and would rather someone else do it. We all encouraged her and confronted that insecurity until she agreed to pray. When she prayed, we were all amazed at the words that came from her spirit. We know the enemy wants to keep us debilitated by our fears, insecurities, or sin, but I am blessed because I am surrounded by women who won’t let me stay the same—women I met at Passion City Church.

5. God is Here

God’s hand literally led my family to Passion City Church. That Wednesday before we came to PCC, God set us on our exodus journey. We had no idea what church we would attend, but we knew God was moving and we had to follow Him. We had heard about Passion City in passing, so we thought it would be a nice place to visit. That Friday night I went to PCC for their college gathering with my sister and ten other friends. I enjoyed it, but I was anxious to get there that Sunday. When we stepped foot inside of the church, I felt like I was home. I remember thinking, “God is here.” That’s all I needed to know. God was there. He led us away from one place, and He went before us and met us at 515 Garson Drive. I have been reintroduced to God at Passion City Church. Where my image of God had been skewed in the past, now I see His character with clarity. I know He is for me; He is crazy about me; He is jealous for me; and He wants to walk with me. I don’t have to perform to seek His approval. I can rest in His grace and trust that He that is within me is greater than the forces in the world. God is not interested in what I can do for Him as much as I should be enthralled by what He’s already done for me. At Passion City Church, I’ve seen people walk into church calloused and cold, and walk out with tears streaming down their faces. I’ve known people who despised organized church and worship, and are now actively serving on teams and cannot sing loud enough or jump high enough. I’ve seen a man who was once ridden to a wheelchair begin to walk again. None of this can be attributed to Passion City Church because this is only possible because God is good. He’s a wonder. He’s everything. He is God of Passion City Church.

Every Christian should be in a church where God is allowed to be God. I am thankful that I’ve found that place for me. I tell my dad often that the greatest decision he has ever made for our family was obeying God’s voice when He told us to prepare for our exodus. There is no perfect church anywhere because we are imperfect people. However, Passion City Church is where I needed to be in order to move forward into my destiny with God. I marvel at His wisdom. Before I was born He knew I would need these people, this word, this leadership, this family to prepare me for what He has for me. So, 515 was etched into the pages of my life’s story. I admit that I’m reading these pages slowly because I want to savor each moment. Between you and me, this story is getting good!

pcc

Writer’s Block

My pen and I have such an unbalanced relationship—dysfunctional in many ways.

There are moments when we are united and I cannot get enough of the euphoria that surges through my veins. The electric shocks course down my spine as I hear the modest strokes of my pen effortlessly gliding across the crisp page. There are moments when a blank sheet of paper thrills me to my core. It is my naked canvas, eagerly waiting to be caressed and dressed with my words—words that paint effulgent, effervescent masterpieces. The vulnerability of the intimacy I share with my pen enthralls me to the deepest parts of my being; I will not release my firm grip from its sleek shape until I have completely been emptied of every iota of artistic expression. It is as if my pen has a gravitational pull on me, wringing word after word from the depths of my heart and leaking them onto the bare page.

Until… until…

I am left gasping… gasping for air.

I am reaching…

I am clinging for control—for my words have been given life of their own and are no longer dependent upon this lowly writer. They exist apart from me.

Then there are those more frequent moments—unbearable time hanging in empty space—when I cannot muster a single word or phrase. The fear of saying the wrong thing in the wrong tone causes a creative constipation. I gingerly doodle my name across the blank canvas, hoping to coax any inkling of inspiration from the confines of my blessed pen. I am bloated with soliloquies, thoughtful theses, and romantic sweet-nothings, yet the powers of my pen seem to have forsaken me. In these moments I realize that I am one with my words. My identity is wrapped in the beautifully magical combustion of twenty-six letters—the alphabet comprises both my simplicities and complexities. Words are both my secret weapon and my kryptonite—they empower me, notwithstanding their absence cripples me and my will to function.

Most days I am void of adequate words to illustrate my deepest secrets, thoughts, or feelings.

So, most days I resist my pen. One would never expect to hear me confess this…

I hate writing…

…but the words won’t let go of me.

woman-writing

Christ Died for Dead People

Our view of God is much, much too harsh and much, much too small. Some of us have grown up with the mentality that God is mean and waiting (dare I say hoping?) on our failure so that He can strike us down. May I encourage you? When God sent Jesus to die, we weren’t just a hopeless people; we were dead. Sin doesn’t make us bad; it makes us dead!

God’s view of a sinful humanity on the earth: dry bones.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

God looked down on earthly carcasses and His heart swelled with compassion and His love said, “Jesus, it’s time. Go bring them to life. Go make a way for My children to come to Me.” This means that God the Son died for already dead people. We were not just in bad shape. We were not just getting by. We were definitely far from living a whole life. We had no life. Can you imagine the conversation between the angels the day Jesus was crucified? I like to think they were gazing into each other’s eyes, hoping one of them had the answer for the madness happening on earth. “Maybe Michael has the answer! Find Gabriel! Gabriel will know. Why is Jesus, the Son of God who stood with His Father when the world was fashioned…hanging from a tree and becoming a curse for a bunch of dead people? What is God’s interest in these people?”

Oh, and does He ever have interest in us! This is the God we serve; a God who stretched out His hand toward a dead humanity and loved us fiercely! There’s nothing mean about this God.

But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

How astounding is it to read this scripture again with the fresh realization (or reminder) that our sin made us dead. We can never doubt God’s love for us ever again, no matter what we do, because He already sent Jesus to die for us in our state of death.

Flash forward to today. Jesus’ mission has been accomplished! Holy Spirit is here on earth, empowering Christians all over the world. Yet when we miss the mark, we allow a humanistic view of God tell us that there’s no way He will forgive us this time, or He doesn’t want to hear my prayer again, or because I sinned again now He definitely won’t bless me in the area of (fill-in-the-blank). God is not a mean God! Know that even when we fall short, He’s the parent who runs to His child’s side the moment we call on His help. What parent do you know would watch their child fall off of their bicycle and into the street, and wouldn’t immediately run to their rescue? How much MORE caring is the Lord God Almighty? When we fall — and we will all fall — God’s grace is sufficient! Even though there may be consequences to our sin, His love is outstanding and He is faithful to walk with us through the consequences.

I want two things to resonate with you today.

1. Christ died for dead people. Since this is true, you know that He loves you enough to see you through the difficult days and trying moments of life. Even when you make a mistake, God is eager to grant you grace and mercy. A God who died for dead people will surely rescue those He has brought to life.

2. God is not mean. I don’t care what anyone tells you about God; go study God’s character for yourself! God is compassionate and beautiful and just and bursting with glory, love, and splendor waiting to be explored. Surely He could never be a mean God.

If anyone told you otherwise, then someone lied to you.