Not 1% Less

So I want to share with you a journey I have had in the lasts few years.  It began in a bad place.  It really didn’t have to be that bad but there was one move I made that I will not make again.

People make mistakes.  Maybe you never have.  Maybe you have never made the wrong decision or never said something hurtful to anyone or said anything negative behind someone’s back.  Maybe.

It all began when I made a series of mistakes.  I concluded something and it was the wrong conclusion, which led to the wrong behaviors.  I can’t change that and I’m okay with that now.  But that’s not my point in this article, what I did that I will never do again, is turn my back on myself.

I have become very familiar with these thoughts inside our heads that will replay mistakes, or wrong words, or wrong conclusions.  At first I believed them because I thought they were true.  For example, I was wrong, therefore I should like myself less.  This equation is not true in heaven.

I was wrong!  And it really affected people.  And I still have permission to love myself today!  I thought I was worth being thought less of.  In a way, I was punishing myself because I thought that’s what I deserved.  I questioned myself and doubted my partnership with God.  BUT did you know there are no mistakes in heaven?!?!

Did you know that maybe I was setup to experience this whole in my character so that God could build a new thing there??  Learning requires humility to not know something to begin with.  All of these things are okay and never have to involve the self-destruction of shame, guilt, condemnation, or exclusion.

Did you know God still loves you and values you?  He never thinks less of you based on this learning journey you are on??  Did you know he speaks of your value, your worth, and your ability to always brush yourself of and dive right back into life.  SO….

In conclusion, you may be having other thoughts.  Even small incremental thoughts that get you to like yourself just a little bit less, maybe even one percent.  I don’t believe these thoughts anymore.  None of them.  For any conversation, presentation, appearance or decision.  Not one percent less.  They are not from heaven, and God will rebuild in your life, wherever you tear yourself down.  I will not partner against his work any longer.

You and I walk with a breastplate of Christ’s righteousness on that doesn’t let any accusing arrows through.  Not one.  There is no hole in his righteousness, no gap, no interruption, or weakness.  His righteousness is a perfect FREE GIFT that I have experienced more now than ever before.  Do not make room for any thoughts about yourself that get you to like yourself even one percent less.  They are not from Him.


I have been thinking about writing this one for a week or so but haven’t been getting around to it.  It’s not a topic I feel qualified to write about but I want to share my journey in relation to the topic.


Judgement Day

At one time in my life when I was steeped very much within an extremely religious culture there were a lot of very good things and a lot of bad things that were unnecessary.  Judgement was one of these topics.  ‘God is your judge.’ ‘You will be judged.’ ‘He will judge the thoughts and intents of your heart well beyond your outward physical actions.’ ‘Your place in heaven for all eternity will be based off your ability to obey (successful religious performance, absence from things that appear ‘worldly’). ‘You (and most people) will experience the weeping and gnashing of your teeth because of all you have wasted in this life by not living 100% obeying holy spirit all the time.’ ‘If you relax, you are being lazy spiritually and will be pruned like a dead branch only good for burning.’ ‘Why aren’t you healing people miraculously.  Jesus died to give us that.  You should be. You’re not living up to your calling.  You will regret that in eternity. God would show how much your close to him by signs and wonders.  If you aren’t seeing that, you’re failing.’

I got a little off topic toward the end of this list, veering into believers of God walking in the ability to perform miracles but for me, it all stems back down to the point where you will stand face to face with God and what we believe this interaction and accountability will be like for our lives.  There was a point where I carried great fear of this pending day.  It was a real fear and it stifled joy.  There are some who believe this is wisdom and good for living.  That it is appropriate and should be taught.  For them, they believe that the cause for fear is real.

I still had images of passing through fire, where everything that isn’t eternal gets burned up, and there unfortunately, because I know me, very little, if anything, remains.  And of course, because I know me, I would get stuck on some distant dark shore of heaven only being able to see the light of Jesus on the horizon.  Finally taking the place I deserve, I made it in, but barely.  For eternity.

It’s so sad.  I think many religious people carry thoughts like this around in the back of their heads but wouldn’t necessarily articulate them or even recognize them as they pass through their mind.  I think this one sole issue of our imagination of God’s judgement of us sometimes is the single motivator towards religious works.  Fear keeps the hamster wheel spinning.

What Can Save Us from God?

Wheeeww.  It’s getting pretty heavy in here, even as I write this!  I really do believe the news of heaven is good news, not bad news that should be good news if we get this life right.  I really do think that the things that make our heart leap and dance and get excited are whispers of the heaven that is home inside us.  God really is nicer than the nicest person you’ve ever met, and kinder than the kindest.  He is gentler than the gentlest, and more understanding than the person that’s understood you most.  Humans across the board only stand on one ground, the ground of forgiveness, there are no religious superstars that skipped that step on the way to their ‘best-buds’ seat in heaven.  God sees us all as his children.  He dreamed of each one of us.  He created us.  He knew us before we were even born.  Maybe we knew each other then too, 😉


Fortunately God intervened and delivered me from lies about himself that I had interpreted from either scriptures or teachers, whether the intent to cause this reaction within me was there or not.

The Truth

God brought me back to relationship.  I had a relationship with him at the time.  I interacted with him in my heart and he with me as I lived my life.  He brought up the scenario in my head.  “Am I kind to you today and you think that one day many days from now, after you pass from this world, my character is going to change in my relationship to you and I’m going to point out all your flaws, weakness, mistakes, and failures.  And not only that, but you imagine that on that future day I will finally release this anger I have been holding towards you, because I finally am completely honest with you?  What kind of friendship is that?  Don’t the humans around you love you better than that?  Do they love you better than I do?  Then I will?

Now I believe God is so good I can’t wrap my brain around it.  Do you understand that goodness is most displayed in God’s seat of judgement?!?  When God is justified in punishment–there’s the word–punishment.  God The Punisher, the devil’s favorite lie.  Yes, God the father in heaven is waiting to… punish you?  Was Jesus waiting on the cross just hoping for the day he could punish the very people who were unjustly murdering him in torment?  What was his judgement of them?  Forgiveness.  Where can we escape God’s presence?  Not even in the depths of hades.  Love will be there.  In God’s role as judge he cannot turn off being the essence of love.  And I don’t mean a perverted form of love where he delights in seeing someone being tortured.  Even on earth no one would say that type of person is full of anything but the devil.

In some ways I see Jesus bearing ALL our sin, receiving ALL our punishment, taking ALL of the curse upon himself, undoing ALL that Adam did in the garden, as God’s introduction handshake with humanity.  Hello, this is who I am, this is what I possess within me to redeem your choices, this is how I feel about you, this is my character, this is my nature.  Hello, it’s okay, I made you and I’m here.  I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere.  Nothing separates us, you don’t have to hide here.  I love you.


God Saved Us From Everything But His Judgement

Some people get really touching when you threaten their beliefs about judgement.  As if in the absence of the threat of future suffering, our new hearts and minds in Christ will grow depraved and corrupt.  This is not true my friends.  Welcome to the taste of true freedom outside fences of fear that have kept some from feeling the full effects of salvation.  Fear is sad when you see people hold onto it, as if it originated within love.

I could go on and on I feel but I will start to close here because who reads blogs that are even this long anyway??  I will leave you with this.  Love expressed itself in forgiveness.  Forgiveness really means forgiveness!  In true forgiveness, your old stuff isn’t brought up anymore.  ever.  It’s not held against you.  You don’t have a tallying punch card.  It’s not shoved in your face.  It’s not used as a tool for power or shaming you.  It’s forgotten.  Like it never happened.  Like you can really let it go.  Like you can learn from your experiences without holding on to ANY of the negative effects of sin on your relationship with God or your relationship with yourself.  Have faith in your forgiven-ness.  Experience the miracle of no longer punishing yourself or fearing future punishment from God.  God’s goodness is not bound by time or space, or the confines of your poor choices.  Your troubles are not to hard for him to love you through.  Poor choices ARE NOT FUN TO LIVE THROUGH.

The preaching of threats and fear may have intended to produce sinless living, in attempt to help out God in the advancement of his kingdom, but one thing it never produced was a greater love for his character, his person, his nature.  Is obedience based on threats true relationship?  He is altogether trustworthy with all of you.  All of your emotions, your thoughts, your relationships, in all of your past, all of your present, and especially–ALL of your future, including any day called “judgement day”.  I don’t think God was joking when he said ‘nothing can separate you from My love’–as if the only exception here is his own judgement of you?!

Experiencing Our Choices

Leaving you with my concluding topic, one thing I do expect to experience in heaven is the full comprehension of how my life affected those around me.  This includes my lack of care and consideration for others.  I don’t carry this as a weight or fear but just as a reality I will understand in the future.  I will understand how my judgment of others felt, how my negative words affected them, how my choice of myself over them felt, etc.  You get the idea.

previewThis reality is judgement enough.  Other people’s experiences are real and are valuable.  I will understand how my life affected the people I love around me and even the people I love less for some reason.  This truth motivates me to live with an awareness to let God live through me; he cares, he gives, he understands, he is patient.  It reminds me what’s important about being alive.  My choices matter.  Sometimes if there is something being said about someone else in a negative way, I can feel that person’s presence when they will hear what’s been said about them in future.  Like everything we say about others will one day be heard by them.

I can trust that even this future process of understanding and knowing more, is for my good!  I actually think living in community where communication is regular and intentional helps us grow in a similar way here on earth because we are forced to confront and experience the consequences of our own words and actions on a daily basis which naturally fosters the growth of our ability to love others and ourselves when done in an open, honest, and safe environment.

I esteem the life of God in others and to the best of my ability at the time, seek to enjoy their company and share in our freedom together.  When freedom is celebrated, it displays the love that lives inside of us.  When lies of our own false judgements of others takes root within us, love remains unexpressed, hidden in darkness.  Getting to love others is a delight and an opportunity, and is neither a burden nor a scorecard.  God is not burdened by his relationship with you.  There is Grace like an unending ocean in this classroom of life as we learn to grow in love.  (Which is not growing in my ability to hold grudges and punishing people for not obeying me and tormenting them.  Which is what we imagine God does in his relationship with them or us–one day.)

We will get to see God apart from the lies about him we hold in our hearts, and we will get to see one another apart from the lies we believe about each other.  AWESOME!

One more thought.  Some people think that the God I’m painting with words here is weak. What about the God of Anger, Wrath, Power, and Full Control?  A man who talks with his child instead of just using his fists is stronger.  A man who doesn’t lose his temper with his wife is stronger.  A man who forgives over holding grudges is stronger.  The greatest strength is displayed in Mercy.

An ancient golden crown found in Afghanistan

A God that teaches us to love our enemies, really love them, is not pushing us to do something beyond his own capacity to love as he sits there and judges and wants to punish his enemies.  It’s not just a ministry strategy.  It really is what he’s like.  Those who do the same are like his family because he really does love his enemies!  He loves them.

Now I really am stopping there!  I haven’t solicited invitations for comments before but am tempted to do so now.  Share with me what your thoughts are below!

Character     Covenant     Creativity

Family     Freedom    Gift Giver

Joy    Judgement    Kindness    Trust

Love     Praise      Prayer     Self-love






Above all and before all I must expound on this thing you can’t see but everyone believes in: love.  We know it and talk about it, whether we have it or lack it or desire it, or reject it; love.  Everyone thinks they know what love is but few remember ever being taught by someone in a conversation or a class what it is.  Lust masquerades as it and vanity pretends to earn our worthiness of it, but oh love.

Relationships of marriage or dating sometimes exist without it.  All of us at one point were prompted by our hearts to attempt it or hope for it with someone.  My speculation is that love is like a galaxy.  There are certain exchanges or experiences that emulate love and we think we’ve obtained it.  We experience it to some degree in this relationship or that and we settle inside even though we are left thirsty for something more.  But there is this epicenter of love himself that quenches every longing.

No matter how wonderful your relationship has progressed with God or another human being, my speculation is that love is even better than our brains and emotions on this side can fathom.  How many times has a quote or person done something of love and it pulls your mind and heart from somewhere else it drifted to back into that living reality that you are loved.  I love love.  I love its smell, the indestructibleness of it, the softness of its care, the maturity of its nature.


In its base form between humans, I would say love is wishing well for somebody and participating to make that happen, to whatever degree.

Love for others, however, is never self-demeaning but is entirely selfless.  These two are different and I’m sure I will probably refer to this idea specifically another day in this writing collection.  Moving on.

Let me clarify one uncompromisable attribute of love.  Love is only ever unconditional.  This is best revealed when trust is broken, expectations are not met, and failure ensues, both with others, God, or yourself.  Often times it is hard to continue forward after one of the above events.  The thing I love about love is that it gets dirty.  Love has no regard for self-preservation.  It will hold onto nothing in order to preserve the one thing important—the connection.  This is love.

A mutual deal based on expectations is also not love.  You will do X, Y, and Z so I will be for you or give you X, Y, and Z.  This is all too common.  You will wash the dishes, stay thin, pay the mortgage, put out, if I keep looking the other way, take care of the kid, keep the cash flow going, stay normal, etc, etc, etc.  Let me explain something.  Love relationships—family and friends—make these kind of shared responsibility arrangements, but they are a byproduct of a love exchange, not the agreement upon which they hinge.  Those are two different things.

The unfortunate part about living our lives on this journey of knowing love more and more often involves us experiencing the broken trust, expectations not being met, and failure.  Unfortunately, we must experience these things in order to cross beyond the line of fear one naturally walks in when we are young in love.  You try not to go outside of others norms and you work hard to meet the expectations of the ones loving you.  It is hard to find out where love is not.  Sometimes when we don’t meet expectations or walk in failure, the other person is unable to show love towards us.  In all actuality, they really do probably love you but they themselves haven’t experienced love’s unconditional nature and therefore are unable to continue to show it.

Let me discuss a little bit more about our divine failure process.  This is the hard road that I would say most humans find themselves taking, it’s called Humility.  You see, when we still believe we earn love, we find ourselves justified in receiving it.  I made myself pretty enough, I practiced this set of religious rules faithfully enough, I clean enough, cook enough, bite my tongue enough.  This will never due.

The thing about God is that we are not God.  We are one in spirit with him, incarnate in Christ in the trinity even, but none of this was accomplished by our own working.  I never reconciled myself to Christ.  He reconciled himself to me.  I could go on and on about this but my point is that part of the human process of love is learning to receive it from God without condition, not only from him and sometimes others, but also from yourself.

After learning God liked me a lot, he invited me to like others with him, family, the poor, strangers, etc.  Then he invited me to like the people who broke my expectations that I didn’t know I still had.  He invited me to love rapists, hookers, pimps, crack dealers, mentally ill, pedophiles, and murderers.  Yes look them in the eye and love them knowing full well everything they did or are still doing and serve them, help them, praise them, and give to them.  This helped teach me about the unconditionality of God.  He even lovingly offended my righteous piousness in all my saintly service one day by saying, “I love them as much as I love you.”

Oh, I still have so gloriously much to learn about this awesome God who is himself this love with which I am in love.

Love Grows Beyond Failure

The next unconditionality lesson was much closer to home and so much harder to bear.  I had expectations in my relationship with God that I didn’t realize I had.  I knew he loved me.  And my attempting-to-be-obedient self was loving myself, but not quit so unconditionally.  I had never been as good at that one, often struggling with condemnation, self-hatred, shame, rejection, etc.  But if someone asked me if I loved myself I would have most assuredly said yes, and I really did (there’s that galaxy thing again, with areas of love floating around this epicenter of goodness)!

I failed at my own expectations in my relationship with God.  Both in obedience to Holy Spirit on a repeated basis to the point of ignoring him, and giving into temptation of the heart in a very real and destructive way, and again decidedly quitting to do the very thing he sent me to do somewhere.  If I were God I would have fired me already.  I spent plenty of time blaming God, others, myself and everyone else in a wonderful display of self-justification that only revealed how scared I truly was.  I must not be guilty because in my mind that meant I was no longer worthy of love.  From myself and from God.  I think I quit loving myself first after these things happened in an attempt to beat him to the punch because I thought that’s what I deserved, that’s what should happen to me from him.

I’m happy to say that years later, he still loves me!  And I love myself again!  Whew, that was one rough and bumpy road that I could still shed tears about on command even today.  It’s not to say there wasn’t real loss that happened.  In relationships, opportunities, joy, peace, service, etc.  It’s not that everything patched itself up again, things got burned, but there are some things I’ve gained that survive fire.  Wisdom being one of them.  Self-acceptance being another.  Freedom from condemnation and self-examination.  Freedom to breathe in my relationship with God.  More of what his love is really like towards me.  An even greater appreciation and celebration that everyone in the church calls failures.  Like religious leader’s failures.  They’re for sure going to hell, right?  At least we can judge them, right?  Those hypocrites right?  Or does God still love them?  And is he filled with goodness towards them and hope for their life and celebration of all the times they have believed him and said yes to things he was inviting them into.

And it’s not that I’m justifying anyone’s sin because it makes me feel better about my own poor choices.  By no means.  It’s that God had to relentlessly pound on my door of failure that had shut him out because he wasn’t content being so distant on the other side of it anymore.  As a loving father he does not tolerate well the hell we place ourselves in.

I remember when he initiated the healing process for me.  It had been some time in hearing his voice inside me the way I once had.  He began with the words, “You are holy.”  You see, we get so wrapped up in this physical realm.  So blinded by it.  His kingdom is unseen and transcends all your human experience.  Love only ever originates from him.  And it is only ever free.  He will make sure we understand that.  Deep inside our hearts in the places it whispers and we barely hear it ourselves.

You Can’t Escape It

We are nothing less than the value he has given us.  We cannot undo this.  That is one freedom he did not grant his free children.  You do not possess within you the ability to undo God’s love for you.  If you allow yourself to believe it, he would love to show you himself that way.

Love is who God is.  It is who he is today and it is who he will be tomorrow.  He will never stop being love.  When judgment day comes do you think he will really take off his hat of love, set it down on the table next to him, and damn the world but a few who were scared enough not to break the rules?  Christ’s death bore the punishment for all your sins.  All of them, in all of punishment’s consuming entirety.  Do not expect to lose love.  Ever.  For God cannot cease to exist.  And you my friend have no ability to exist, in this realm, or the next apart from him.

Did you know that I love you?  Do you know that I care?
Did you know I love you?  Did you know that I’ll always be there?

—spontaneous song by Joel

Character     Covenant     Creativity

Family     Freedom    Gift Giver

Joy    Judgement    Kindness    Trust

Love     Praise      Prayer     Self-love


Remembering Our First Year

All God’s Done for Us in a Year



My first anniversary ever is coming up next week and I wanted to take the time to remember what God’s done for me in a year.  Our Anniversary is April 15th.  Just a little over one year ago I was living on the island of Malta and Joel was headed my direction after us not seeing each other for a month and half, after we had known each other for just one month prior to that.  I was getting married in a week from now.  Joel had brought wedding clothes and a ring and I had bought my dress online in one day for a hundred dollars, his ring that same day, and two $5 veils online from the U.S. depending on the color matching and length.  I think it was this week that I picked up a pair of shoes for my dress for nine Euros in the Tuesday market outside our front door.
On a moment’s notice, wonderful people on the island helped make Joel and I’s wedding a reality.  That day we went to high cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean in front of a chapel older than the U.S. and said our extemporaneous vows, shared communion, and were wed.   The wind can be harsh on the cliff and although it was prior to the ceremony, afterwards it was light and playful and a Tasmanian man I had asked to play a song he had written at our wedding, took our camera and also happened to be a wonderful photographer, capturing our once in a lifetime moments.
Within the first month of our marriage, I participated in an art gathering in Morocco and Joel participated in a ministry event in England.  After that first month, my mother and sister joined Joel and I on the island and met my husband for the first time in person, ever.  They stayed a month and got to behold the breathtaking beauty of Malta and the surrounding waters.  Soon after they left, a couple on the island gifted Joel and I their waterfront apartment while they were away traveling for our remaining forty days on the island before a visa ending initiated our departure.
During the time in that apartment was when a door opened to our next adventure: the Middle East.  Flying through Turkey we arrived in Amman, Jordan, which would be our home in a desert land for the next three months.  We were extended an invitation by a wonderful German young woman that had come to the Middle East from Mexico, where she had been serving a church the year prior.  We stayed in the guest home of a church and got introduced to the Arab world, sharing our living space with young adults, and refugees, ministers, and all sorts of local people.
After getting to share life and visiting refugee communities and other churches, we made our departure at the end of November through the neighboring country of Israel.  Staying in a hostel in the old city, I got to revisit some favorites in the area with Joel beholding the sites for the first time, which after living on an island with thousand year old fortresses and then living in the Arab world, no longer seemed that spectacular to him.  But what was spectacular was meeting a new friend, who had already encouraged us along our way in taking risks.
Thanksgiving morning, we connected with a man named Andrew White from England who has been working in the Middle East for close to twenty years.  He invited us to come join him as he was moving some of his base out of Iraq and into Jordan.  We said yes.  And then we were off to England and Wales again for the transition back into the western world.  Fortunately our first host was Egyptian, understanding some of the cultural dynamics we were coming out of.  Then off to Wales for wonderful times with friends and then back to South Carolina.
We were just in South Carolina for about a week, where we connected with family, and new and old friends, before heading to Florida for a few days to connect with more family and friends.  Puerto Rico was wonderful in beauty and weather and surroundings.  I walked down Joel’s memory lanes and connected with his friends that now have become mine.  I experienced the holidays on this beautiful island place that truly has its own culture and with the wonderful people there.
After three weeks into the New Year we came back to South Carolina where Joel and I would depart across country, from coast to coast in a vehicle gifted to us by Joel’s amazing parents.  We drove into the wintry tundra of Ohio and remained with friends there for a time before departing again across the southern half of the United States in a snowy weather pattern that did not lift until we arrived at the sunny coast of southern California.
After staying with friends, attending fun ministry gatherings, and traveling up the coast we arrived to our final destination for our first year: Redding, California, where I have since finished the first-draft of my rewrite of my novel.
In the midst of all of this movement were spontaneous paintings, costly lessons, character growth, seeing the miraculous, lots of affection, new horizons coming into view, new lifelong friends being made and old friends being appreciated.  I forgot who I was and then remembered again.  I’ve experienced and enjoyed the process of sharing my life with someone who made it all too easy to do.  I’ve had to tolerate being celebrated and affirmed every day by my husband (note the sarcasm), who is tangible ministry of the holy spirit to my heart and mind.
Joel and I’s first year spanned seven countries, staying in thirty different homes, multiple hotels, visiting something like twenty different churches and connecting with so many amazing people.  The most fun for me, in addition, to experiencing life with my husband Joel is being around those courageous people who are redefining reality and breaking down boxes they’ve found their identity too confining to remain in; whether it’s church structures, business ideas, educational positions, or just people remaining faithful to be their authentic selves despite demands the world sometimes tries to put on them that would damper their passion or creativity or dreams.
I’ve felt so privileged to watch people turn great corners in their lives that require faith and risk great failure; where if God doesn’t show up, this is not going to be good.  But I’ve found when, it’s him that has placed that desire in people’s hearts, he always shows up.  He’s waiting to reveal himself through the areas in people’s lives where they’ve risked trusting him.
Another thing I’ve loved is kitchen table church.  Some of our most profound and encouraging conversations that feel like they are altering reality just because you’re having them—whether it’s that person’s life or country or culture—have happened over meals shared at a dining table.  Whether in a restaurant, bar, pub, café, airport, kiddie table, or card table, you name it, I have felt the joy of life being exchanged there and have loved it.
God promised me years ago, that he would always take care of me and he always has, no matter where he’s invited me to go.  This is also a thank you.   Thank you to those wonderful people who shared their food, their homes, their guest beds or couches, but most of all shared their hearts with us.  You are celebrated in the completion of our first year too.