the evolution of grace

I say evolution of grace as if grace changed, as if somehow since the time of Christ’s birth, the love of God embodied by Jesus mutated. Well it hasn’t, but my ideas about grace have.

I was raised to believe grace is something you receive that you did not earn, or deserve. I was also raised to believe that grace was the empowerment of Holy Spirit within you to overcome sin and live a holy life. While these things may be true in their own right, they do not fully reveal the entire beautiful picture of grace.

In my book Forgiving God, i talk about how my ideas of grace grew and expanded as my knowledge of God grew. The once limited grace to empower me to stop sinning, became the Man Jesus who came into my addiction and anxieties and sat down inside my prison of shame and held my hand until i was ready to move on.

Grace was no longer a way to escape hell, grace became a Man i fell in love with. Jesus demonstrated to me how His ways are better than the ways of the world. His wisdom far exceeds the knowledge i can gather, the experiences i have lived, and the empirical evidence i had mounted up in my mind. His love came like a warm bath, a cool breeze, and a welcome hug from a dear friend all at once.

Jesus, the Man of Grace, can be revealed to you too!

If you haven’t picked up a copy of my book i encourage you to! If you are financially unable to purchase a copy, please leave me comment, or send me an email. I would be happy to send you one free of charge!

Blessings, until next time. ❤

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#realJesus

Somewhere along the lines we got a very bad idea of what Jesus is like. We have stitched together imperfect ideas of what God is like by projecting our own experiences onto God. Perhaps a better title for this particular blog, or even chapter of my book may have been #realGod.

I think when we look at Jesus we see a man who is kind, patient, and forgiving. However, for millennia when we have looked at God, we have seen a monster that has needed appeased. Almost as if Jesus was a really great big brother that came to rescue us because daddy-God was furious. Of course, this makes perfect sense to those of us who ascribe to the Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Bible does not ever say that God needed Jesus to rescue us so He wouldn’t be mad at us. It does, however, say that God was IN CHRIST redeeming the world back to Himself. It also says that Jesus displays the fullness of God’s being as a human. Jesus death was not a payment for our wrong doing. His death, burial and resurrection were a demonstration of just how far God is willing to go to love us, and forgive us.

Paul declares that we are the ones that murdered God! It was God, in Christ, being murdered by US, forgiving us all the same.

It’s time we look at God, (and Jesus,) a little differently. In my book Forgiving God, i go into some great details that you don’t want to miss!

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repentance

Repentance isn’t saying you’re sorry.

Repentance isn’t feeling badly for what you’ve done.

Repentance doesn’t come from shame of doing wrong.

Repentance doesn’t come because someone tells you you’ve done something wrong.

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There! I’ve said it. I’ve spit it out and it cannot be taken back.

A lot of us have grown up in fundamental evangelical churches. We’ve been taught that repentance is necessary for us to enter the kingdom of heaven. Which i admit is true. However, i also have a huge issue with the way repentance is taught.

We are taught that when we admit we have sinned and ask for forgiveness we have done the act of repentance and we have secured our position in heaven. For some of us, the teaching was taken a bit further to include a turning away from the sins that we have committed and promising to not do them again.  While both of these things are actually very wise things to do in our lives they are neither one repentance. They are merely the fruits of repentance.

The true definition of repentance, as found in the Bible, is “to change your mind”. Jesus came saying “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. He did not mean say you’re sorry for all the bad things you’ve done. At that point, they had no need to make amends or change their ways. They had the process of offering sacrifices for sin. No, what Jesus meant was ‘change the way you think. My kingdom is here and now?”

He wanted them to rethink everything they thought they knew about God and about His kingdom. Jesus would later go on to shatter their expectations and rather than establish a physical kingdom with a physical throne, He would die the death of a criminal, and on the third day be resurrected, thus, establishing His dominion in both the physical and heavenly realm!

If you’ve read my book Forgiving God already, you already know what true repentance means and how to live a lifestyle that resembles a repentant heart. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet i encourage you to! I dive deep into the truth of repentance and why it is so vitally important to our Christian lives today in modern America.

Okay! God bless everyone! Until next time!

identity crisis

Welcome back! Today i am continuing my Forgiving God series. I want to tackle chapter 2 today entitled identity crisis. I think we all have had a point in our lives when we had to do some self-discovery. Most of us probably went through the process of learning who we are and what we like as teens. Some of us, however, did not. I found myself on the path towards self-actualization in my early thirties.

If you remember from my last blog, sometimes circumstances in life have a way of hindering growth or halting maturity. For me, the things that happened are not important to this particular blog, but they did leave me frozen in time. My emotional maturity stopped somewhere in my early teen years and trauma blocked me from self-discovery.

In the book, i discuss a lot of the side effects of lacking identity, and the painful consequences associated. I also talk about the things that i did as a result of not really knowing who i was. I grew up a little too fast, and never even matured. Somewhere along the line, i was given an identity and i believed that it was who i was. But God came in hoping to help me become everything i was meant to be before people told me who i should be.

You know, that was the kicker. The fact that God came along is the only reason that i can sit here today typing this blog and encouraging you because your true identity can only come from Him.

I had no way of knowing who i was supposed to be before people came and told me who to be. By that, i do not mean what my talents are or what i’m good at. I mean the reason i was made, and exist. I had no way of knowing because i could not go back in time before television and movies told me i was supposed to be thin, with a nice complexion and curves. I didn’t remember who i was before social media told me that in order to snag a husband out of the sea of eligible bachelors i had to be sexy, and put out. I couldn’t know who i was supposed to be but God did. And He told me.

The real reason for any identity crisis is because we try to draw identity from comparison to worldly standards instead of taking our measure of worth and value from the Word of God. If we want to know exactly who we are, why we were created, and what we are supposed to be doing then we need to ask the one who created us. Only a builder can tell you why He built something. Only the inventor of an item can dictate the intended purpose and use for his invention.

If you’re in the process of self-discovery, wondering who you are and what you’re made for, i encourage you to ask God. Secondly, you should pick up a copy of my book because finding out who you are is only possible when you ask the one who made you, but you have to know the right Jesus in order to get the right identity.

As always if you are struggling financially and cannot afford to purchase a copy of the book, just drop me a line. I would be happy to send you a copy free of charge.

Okay. Love you guys! Until next week! ~MR

my story

I get a little personal in my book. I am usually a very private person so it was quite difficult to do so. I didn’t even put the really deep stuff into it but let me tell you what is there is literally my heart on my sleeve.

My journey has been a bumpy one. Probably not as much as some other people have faced, but challenging to me just the same. I open up and share my story in my book Forgiving God, because i believe that when we get real with each other and share ourselves openly, then we will begin to see each other as humans. Often times we objectify people over the internet because we see them from a distance. It is easy to give opinionated and even hate-laced comments or responses because we know so little about them, their history or character.

I believe that if we take the time to get to know those people, hear their story, and connect with them on a human level, we wouldn’t be so quick to judge and criticize.

I also shared some pretty intense details of my life because it needed to be shared in order for you, my reader, understand just how loving God is in our weakness, and pain. When we are in a sea of chaos and hurt we often feel like God is far away, detached from our life. Sometimes it feels as if He doesn’t care or that He can’t see our affliction. When we are in the moment of trauma or trial, the darkness seems bigger and closer than God. When we look back over our lives, to share our story with others, we can see that God was there the whole time.

That is exactly what sharing my story has done for me. It has given a new perspective completely.  Not that i don’t still go through things, we all do. But now when the darkness looms in on the horizon i have a history of walking through storms with Jesus, and this gives me hope that this too shall pass.

My story may not be easy for some people to read. If you’ve experienced abuse or sexual assault you might want to have your coping skills primed and ready. I don’t go into detail but i know from past experience the simplest of things can trigger PTSD and panic attacks. Once, i was ridiculed by a woman on facebook for mentioning (i thought in a safe environment) that women openly breastfeeding, uncovered, in public triggered me (or any nudity of any kind anywhere). She actually mocked me. It isn’t up to anyone but you to decide whether something is safe or not.

You may be able to read through the first chapter and feel nothing at all. That’s fine too. My past is a way to get to know me a little better and learn the things that have shaped and molded me into who i am today. You get insight into why i am the way that i am, and also why i believe what i believe.

Some of you may finish the book and think …man she was really broken and now she only sees broken things….this girl has a lot to learn still.  That’s okay because that is actually exactly where i am at. Do i believe what i’ve written in the book is the truth? Emphatically, YES!  Do i believe that i have a lot to learn and that someday i may learn new things that may change my perspective? Again, emphatically YES YES YES!!

I know that sounds crazy. That i would put myself out there as an authority on anything and say that i actually may change my mind someday seems absurd. But is anyone perfect now? Can anyone say with 100% certainty that everything they believe is absolute truth? (HINT: no they can’t.) I find it safer to say i stand firm in my current belief, but i reach towards deeper fuller knowledge of God.

I love learning new things. I do not feel ashamed when i am proven wrong because it means i am about to learn something new!! And i love truth… it sets you free.

Okay, so if you haven’t gotten a copy of my book yet you can go get one! I pray that it will encourage you and build you up. Be sure to leave a review!

 

Love you guys! ~MR

take a load off

If you’re like me you’ve had times in life where you felt like you were barely treading water. Maybe you’re living in one of those times now. Maybe the effects of such a circumstance still linger on months or even years after the event passed. For me it has been decades….more than 2 actually.

PTSD, GAD, panic, and hypervigilance follow me around like the rain cloud hovering over Eeyore. It is nearly impossible on my own to break out of the cycle of discouragement, self-shaming and worry. Again, if you’re like me you already know this.

Today i want to encourage you (and myself) in a few things:

  1. Remember when you look at someone else who seems to have their life together that nobody goes through the exact same circumstances as you. Even if they did, everyone handles problems and struggles differently. This isn’t because some people are stronger than others. It is because we are all different. We were raised with different beliefs, traditions, cultures, and environmental determinisms that molded and shaped our worldview. Thus, some were better equipped to handle conflicts and trauma.
  2. No one, no matter the situation, should be looked down upon for the way they respond to negative or traumatic experiences. Ultimately, we are all in this together. Tearing one another (or even yourself) down, or devaluing other people (or yourself) with the assumption that they are weak, or lesser than another is shameful! Stop it! Everyone has a great value, and every life matters.
  3. Don’t feel like you have to “put on your big girl panties” or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. It’s okay to just sit down and have a moment. My encouragement though? Don’t stay down too long. Not only will you begin to feel so heavy you don’t ever want to get up, but you will miss out on an amazing life just waiting to be lived. And whats more, the world will miss out on all the amazing things you have to offer them! We need you!
  4. Find a friend, or co-worker, a therapist, or doctor that you can trust and talk to. Anxiety, PTSD, and the like, all have chemical causes in your body. Whether it means talking it out, or finding if a medication is right for you, do it! You matter, your peace matters, your life matters. You have a tribe of fellow sufferers cheering you on, believing you are one of us, and that you will not let the evil of this world win.

Sometimes i feel like i am standing in the deep end of the pool with my nose and mouth barely above water just holding on for one more day hoping something changes. When i find myself in this place, i remind myself of these things. It’s easy to come unglued when your feet are tired of tiptoeing in the waves. Remembering that you are not alone, that you’re important, that there is hope, and that you matter will help get you back on solid ground where you can just sit and rest for a bit. Never give up, just rest until you’re strong enough to move on again.

 

Blessings.

it’s okay to just be real

I had a long chat with a dear friend of my the other day. We talked about the complexities of life and the wrestling of the soul in the dark night of faith. We talked about religion and the things we detest about it. We discussed parenting and motherhood. We often do this. It is refreshing to have someone to be completely real with and know that after you have said and done all that you have to say and do, that person will still be there by your side. That is what friends do for each other.

My friend is beta-reading my soon to be released book, Forgiving God: When God Says He’s Sorry. She has had many helpful comments about the book. The most encouraging ones come in the form of her own triumphs due to the encouragement my book has brought her. She says it’s like being able to sit and have those real-life chats with me whenever she wants, even when i’m not there. That warms my heart. That is after all part of the reason i wrote the book.

I wanted people to know that being real and living a transparent life in this world does not make you weak. It makes you honest. We all put our best foot forward on social media, even in social circles. We like others to think we are smart, strong, successful, and even at times prosperous. No one wants to come across as unintelligent, weak, broke, or down on our luck. We want people to see us in our strengths and celebrate our accomplishments. Unfortunately, all this does is create a false identity which we must always strive to keep up with until one day, exhausted, we collapse under the weight of a fake world we never actually lived in.

No, being real doesn’t mean people will look at you and scoff. Certainly, there will be scoffers. And in reality, there are people who have their lives together, who do not struggle with anything and they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and go on with life even when things are tough. Good for them. But i am not talking about them. I am talking about the rest of us who are normal and don’t always have it all together.  Those ones, they will not scoff. In fact, to those ones – the normal ones- you will be an encouragement.

My friend shared on facebook a few weeks ago her wrestling match in the valley of doubt. How she wasn’t sure about all things “God”. There were some, i’m sure, who did not approve of her open display of anger, and frustration with religion. There were some, however, that were very encouraged to know that they are not alone as they too wrestle with the same exact things. Everyone has a dark night of faith at some point in their life. We each have to decide for ourselves what we believe and what will determine the course of our future.

I talk about this in my book Forgiving God. It is about my dark night of faith. It is about a constant wrestle that wore me down and caused me to rethink religion, faith, and all things spiritual. I am nervous about releasing the book to the general public as i worry about the people who are wearing their “big girl panties” and pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. What will they say? Am i really as weak as they will determine i am because i couldn’t wear “big girl panties”? Am i really so broken because i didn’t pull myself up by my bootstraps? I press on anyway.

If my sweet, patient, strong, and apparently, exceptionally brave friend can share her struggle on facebook then perhaps i can open the pages of my heart and my history and share with you what i wrestled with, and what i discovered in the wrestling. My book will be released soon and when it hits the bookshelves of stores and gets listed on electronic shops i’m sure my pulse will quicken. Excitement about a dream being fulfilled will muddle up with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. But it must happen.

The book must go to print. The book release and signing parties must commence. The story must go out. Why? Because the world needs to know that not all strong, patient, brave people were always that way. The world needs to know that even in the wrestling of a dark night of faith, that gets ugly and even violent, you’re still beautiful. You are still worth something. You are simply the lily frozen beneath the earth awaiting the end of winters cold grip so you can emerge and become the beautiful flower you were meant to be.

I hope you read my book, of course. I hope that you get lost in the pages and emerge like a newly formed butterfly from its cocoon, ready to soar. I believe even the bootstrap puller uppers could find something of worth in my transparency if they look hard enough. Most of all. I hope that you can find the courage to be real. You don’t have to write a book or make a long facebook post. You don’t even have to talk to anyone or make some sort of weird announcement. You just have to live life. Don’t be afraid of being wrong. I like to tell my kids don’t be upset when you’re wrong, it just means you’re getting ready to learn something new. Who doesn’t love learning new things?

 

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