Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

5 Giants I Face Everyday

Almost everyone knows the story of David and Goliath.  It is the ultimate underdog story of a simple shepherd boy taking down a mighty warrior who left the entire army of Israel shaking in its boots.  David achieved victory through his confidence in a God bigger than himself.  We serve that very same God today and Goliath wasn’t the only giant to be faced.  We all face giants every single day.  The following are just a few of the giants that I wake up every morning and go to war against:

{1} The Giant of Inadequacy- “You’re not enough!”

This giant is probably the biggest one for me personally.  The giant of inadequacy is what drove me to my darkness where I went and hid away instead of facing it.  Daily, I hear voices that name me “not enough” as I live in a world driven by duty.  It is impossible to escape a system of doing in order to gain; that is how our world functions.  I find hope in that fact that I will always be good enough, strong enough, perfect enough, and holy enough for God.  There is nothing I could do that would make me not enough for Him.  That may be what this world calls me but that is not what I answer to.

{2} The Giant of Regret- “You should have done that differently!”

Ah, the giant of regret, I know him well.  This giant and I are still in a full on battle which makes him a little tougher to talk about.  I regret quite a few things in my life.  Friendships that I destroyed, hearts that I broke, and a person I let hurt me.  The latter I thought I finally had moved past until memories of broken trust stand up and shout “Hey! Look at me!”  This giant forces me to live in my past and drives me to focus on things that don’t matter anymore.  Peace and victory comes in know that I am loved, treasured, and safe in the arms of Christ.  I don’t live in my past anymore; that Jess is dead and a new one stands in her place.

{3} The Giant of Anger- “You better get them back for treating you like that!”

There was a time when I was explosively angry.  It was actually pretty scary now that I think back on it!  I was driven by a need to exact my own brand of justice onto those crossing me.  I would explode without warning or thought.  I could go from completely calm to punching things in a split second.  Add alcohol to that equation and it’s a wonder I didn’t end up in prison!  Now my inner Hulk is more contained and doesn’t rear his ugly head quite as often.  I still struggle with my want for justice in spite of my heart for grace.  I am thankful for people who love me and remind me that God loves the hurters as much as he does those they hurt.  Luckily, I have an army behind me fighting this giant with me.

{4} The Giant of Emptiness/Addiction- “You can’t cope with that!”

Not everyone struggles with this giant, but I spend every day fighting him.  I am 5 years into my sobriety journey and I still struggle daily with my addiction.  This giant never really fights alone; He usually teams up with another giant and just shoots arrows of emptiness at me from behind him.  He is actually, oddly enough, my easiest giant to defeat because as soon as he shows up it is a red flag to me that I need to go get filled up with all that God has to offer me.  God has a fullness that emptiness is just no match for.

{5} The Giant of Failure- “You are a screw up!”

I can say with confidence that everyone faces this giant on a daily basis!  He usually teams up with the giant of guilt.  Failure points out our faults and guilt screams that we need to pay for them.  We all fail (shocker) and we all feel like failures sometimes.  One thing that helps me face this giant is something my dad always says.
“Failure is a prelude to success.”
Failure is simply the opportunity to learn and improve.  When we have moral failures, it’s our opportunity to take in the forgiveness that is already there waiting on us and to never want to fail in that same way again.  The confidence found in grace will always conquer the giant of failure.

Those are the big boys that try to send me running.  To be honest, some days I am the Israelite army, too afraid to fight.  Most day though, I wake up ready, armed with my sling and stones, and running full speed towards a giant that I know is no match for my God.  

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

6 of My Favorite God Things

I wrote yesterday about how I’m not a fan of Christianity/religion.  Today I thought I’d write about why I love God.  I used to see God as this stern figure watching me closely so he could punish me when I screwed up.  I found him to be cold and hard with little interest in a relationship with a messy person like me.  The more I take in grace the more I discover a God who is passionately in love with who I am.  He rocks out with me to Journey, watches The Office with me, and inspires me to write crazy things on my blog.  I love the God I know now!  Here are just a few of my very favorite things about God:

 [1] He’s a show off.

God is SUCH a show off! So often I get worked up and worried about situations I have to face or struggles that I’m going through and all the time God’s right there taking care of things.  Not only does He help me get through the struggles; He lavishes me with unexpected blessings in the process.  I have, many times, said to Him, “Really, Dude?! Now you’re just showing off!” I love that about Him.  It keeps me on my toes and constantly surprises me.

[2] He’s a smartass.

Oh my gosh! Did she just call GOD a smartass?! Yep, I sure did! He is! Do you know what I hated more than anything growing up?  Reading, writing, and pretty much anything to do with English class.  I cannot spell to save my life, I read slower than a turtle stuck in molasses, and I would definitely use “u” instead of “you” every time if it were socially acceptable.  Guess what God called me to do?  Be a writer.  Guess what else I really suck at?  Getting along with women.  Guess what else God called me to do?  Be a leader for women.  Me and God have these arguments where He calls me to something and I’m just like, “Hey that’s a great idea and all buuuuuut I’m good with that never happening!”  He always ends up winning that argument as I finally give in and try to wade into the waters of what He’s called me to, realizing I’m actually not totally horrible at some of these things.  I’m glad God’s a smartass.  He pushes me to things I never even imagined I could be or achieve.

[3] He has a sense of humor.

Have you seen a platypus?  I mean, come on! God has the best sense of humor ever! I feel like when we get to heaven He’s definitely going to tell jokes and make silly faces with us!

[4] He speaks my language.

When some people pray they are serious and somber and start using all these words that no one really says in real life.  Some say God’s name about 50 times in their 2 minute long prayer and I’m like, “Ok, really? God knows His name you don’t need to keep reminding Him of it!”  I’m very simple and very real when it comes to talking to God.  I talk to him just like I would talk to my dad and He talks back to me the same way.  He knows how I relate and how to speak my language.  I’m really glad that I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not just so I can talk to God; I’ve never been too great at the whole pretending thing.

[5] He’s patiently persistent.

God is always persistent in pushing me to live out of who He knows I am.  He wants me to do great things and succeed in my passions.   He never ceases in pursuing me or in challenging me to take in more of what he has given me.  However, He is never impatient with me.  He doesn’t get frustrated with me when I don’t follow down the path He knows is best for me.  He doesn’t punish me or withhold his love from me when I screw up.  He isn’t nagging in how he relates to me.  He pursues me and he pushes me but he never stops speaking love and gentleness to my heart.

[6] He never changes.

Who God is, His essence will never change.  Many people have walked in and out of my life.  People I thought I knew turned out to be not at all who I thought they were.  My trust has been broken and heart has been let down.  It’s comforting to know that who God is now is who He will always be.  He’s not going to just change his mind one day about loving me or being excessive in his grace.  He always has been and always will be the greatest lover and pursuer of our hearts.  I am thankful for that.

There are many more things that I love about God but these are a few of my favorite things (insert reference to the Sound of Music here).  I used to believe that God was something totally different than He really is and I am grateful for every day that I find out something new about Him.  I’m glad to have discovered a God who is in tune with who I am and loves every bit of me.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

5 Reasons Why I'm Not a Christian

Congratulations to those of you who made it past the title at least long enough to read this first sentence!  Ok, so I love Jesus and I read my Bible (a whole lot more than I ever did when I was told to), and I do church related activities 4 days a week (sometimes 5), but I am not a Christian.  I gave up on the religion of Christianity a LOOOOOONG time ago when it became painfully obvious I never was going to fit within that system.  So, now I just go on crazy adventures with Jesus and love people I’m not “supposed to.”  I ditched Christianity to run away with Jesus and here’s why; my reasons why I’m not a Christian:

1~They are too picky.

Christians say really confusing things like, “We can judge people, we just can’t condemn them” or “Well, God says we have to love them but that doesn’t mean we have to like them.” I’ve even heard some say, “God forgives us but if we are living in sin we will have to answer to him for that one day!”  Christians like to pick and choose which sins are really not that big of a deal and which sins are worth kicking someone out of the church for.  It’s interesting that if one were to read in Romans it states “whatever is not from faith is sin.”  So anything we do out of fear, obligation, guilt, or worry is sin.  One could even say, those who live their lives steeped in fear and obligation are, in fact, living in sin.  That levels the playing field a little bit.  Picking and choosing is exactly what the Pharisees did, and we all know how big a fan Jesus was of them. 
*Romans 14:23

2~They are more concerned with winning arguments than winning people.

CONFESSION:  I have been so guilty of this.  It’s easy to get caught up in an argument and forget about the actual people involved in it.  Christians are the worst at this.  They become so focused on proving people wrong that they lose their hearts.  Even the most rational, logically thinking person, cannot be won over by an argument alone, no matter how persuasive or even right you may be.  If people don’t think you care about them, why would they even want to listen to you?  We should be more concerned with helping heal the broken rather than pointing out their brokenness. 

3~They eat their own.

We’ve all seen it; how quickly Christians turn on one another at the revelation of another’s imperfection.  The moment one of them falls the others gather around to feed of the remains spreading gossip, anger, and judgment around for everyone to share.  They judge those with the slightly more obvious sin as not quite Christian enough and push them to achieve more in order to gain their (and God’s) approval.  I’m just not going to play that game anymore. This reason alone is enough for me to say goodbye to the religion of Christianity.

4~They use big words.

Ok, so maybe this is just a personal issue but really, do we have to use all those huge words in church? Justification, sanctification, predestination, transfiguration; these are just a few of the words Christians throw around.  It makes it hard for those outside the church to understand what they are saying much less be interested in it.  It makes the church harder to relate to and gives off an air of “we are better than you.”  I’m a fan of the simplicity of stories and analogies.  The message of grace is a simple one, why should we complicate it with big words?

5~I’m a radical.

When it comes down to it I am just too radical to be confined by Christianity.  I believe God operates in extremes.  He lavishes his love and gives in abundance; there is no halfway when it comes to God.  I believe in extreme grace not grace mixed with “truth” (that’s just more picking so that they can say law without actually saying it).  For me, grace is truth.  I believe in a radical honesty that keeps me from being anything but real with people and transparent about my failures.  I refuse to live a life driven by fear and consumed with unrest.  I will ALWAYS err on the side of grace and forgiveness and to some that makes me a heretic.  That’s ok.  Just remember, they crucified Jesus for blasphemy. 

I decided a long time ago that I was done with the games of religion and the bonds of Christianity.  I just love Jesus and I am passionate about grace.  Those things make we want to love other people and they drive me in everything that I do.  I don’t need religion; just give me Jesus. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

5 Life Lessons I Didn't Learn in Church

There is a lot to be learned from the church.  Many lessons are taught to us by our interactions with each other inside of it.  However, there are equally as many really awful lessons I learned in church.  The encouraging part, especially for people like me, is that God is not limited by the walls of the church or the 24 hours that make up Sunday.  Here are just a few lessons I learned about life and God outside of the church:

(1) God will never stop pursing you.

This is probably the number one thing I learned about God outside of church.  Even in my darkest of times God was still there, fighting to win my heart.  In fact, it was at my dirtiest, most entrenched in sin, moments that I felt He pursued me the hardest.  I think we have this idea floating through our churches that the deeper you trip and fall into sin, the farther you get from God.  We create this picture of a god who stops at the edge of our sinfulness and says, “Woops, sorry buddy, I can’t be around sin; you’re on your own!”  How quickly we forget He died for us while we were still sinners.  If there is anything that I know for sure it is that God will never stop pursuing us, whether it be in the depths of sin or the in the heights of holiness.

(2) It’s OK to be broken, imperfect, and hurting.

Everything I learned about being a good conman, I learned in church.  That’s harsh, but true.  My past experience in church was one of people filed into pews every Sunday, dressed in their best, plastering on a smile, and pretending everything was perfect in their lives. Discussion between one another was filled with surface struggles and safe confessions.  You know what I mean, the “work has just really been tiring this week” or “I have to confess I only spent 30 minutes on my quiet time instead of an hour today.”  What then for the people like me?  Can we say “I really doubt that God even exists” or “Life really sucks and I really just feel like getting drunk this weekend” after that?  No.  We have to put on our matching plastic face and pretend it’s all ok.  I learned quickly that pretending things are ok doesn’t actually make them ok.  We have to be able to be real with one another.  Come on, honestly, we all know no one is perfect, so can’t we just stop pretending to be?  There is strength in honesty among believers; there is power there that Satan fears.

(3) It’s important to deal with conflict.

I don’t want to brag but… I am the queen on dealing with conflict!   If we have a problem, I will let you know!  In church we tend to sweep things under the rug a lot in the name of forgiveness.  Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is great… if you actually forgive the person.  If instead you don’t face the conflict, but then hold onto said conflict until it breeds anger and resentment toward that person that’s not really forgiveness.  I learned how to face conflict while I was going through therapy.  It was there I adopted the belief in a radical honesty that caused me to face conflict head on.  It’s amazing how silly some of our conflicts will reveal themselves to be when you face them right away.

(4) When bad things happen to you that doesn’t mean you deserve them.

BREAKING NEWS:  Bad things happen to good people.  One of my best friends, greatest mentors, and the strongest woman of faith I have ever known died very suddenly at a young age. She didn’t deserve it; it wasn’t fair.  That didn’t happen to her because God was angry with her; it happened because we live in a broken world filled with sickness and death.  I think we want an explanation for when bad things happen so we just blame it on God, “Oh God let that happen because I didn’t go to church this week.”  We live in a broken world filled with anger, hurt, brokenness, bad decisions, and failure.  Shit happens.

(5) Nothing in this world will truly satisfy you.

I learned this lesson simply by trying everything I could think of to be satisfied.  I found myself sorely disappointed and just as empty as when I started.  This world’s pleasures are fleeting.  They will only fill you until the next time you are hungry.  The more you try to fill yourself with these temporary fixes the more aware you become that really they just push against the walls of the hole making it bigger and bigger until the emptiness is too much to even try to satisfy anymore.  Want to know some really awesome news? When it comes to being right with God, being loved, feeling accepted, and needing embracing God has given to us in fullness.  No matter how wide your hole of emptiness is He will fill it and make it overflow!  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

These are all lessons I learned through my experience and my failures.  Learning these lessons is what brought me to God and, in turn, what led me to the truth of grace.  Look for the lessons of life that weave their way through your day to day and don’t limit God’s power to the pews.

*Matthew 5:6

Thursday, August 22, 2013

4 Underdog Church Words

Yesterday’s blog was about phrases we use in the church that are over used and undervalued.  Today I want to check out some Christiany words that we use in church all the time but don’t really understand the depth of them, they are like the underdogs of Christianity.  There are plenty of words I can go into that church people use but don’t really understand like “sanctification, justification, and fellowship,” but instead I chose some very simple ones that we just tend to overlook.  Here are a few of my favorite underdog church words that have a lot more power than we give them credit for:

(1) Worship

Most of the time when we hear the word “worship” we think of it at the music we sing before the pastor gets up to preach.  We see it as that mini concert that relieves us from having to listen to a two hour long sermon.  Worship is so much deeper than that.  It’s more than just the songs we sing on Sunday morning.  It is our giving of praise to God.  It looks different for different people.  

Two very good friends of mine sit and draw (very well I might add) what they are feeling or even thinking about God.  Others just sit in silence and take God in.  I am intensely moved by music, so for me, worship usually has something to do with very loud, very real music.  It doesn’t just happen in church or at youth group either.  Sometimes it’s in the car on the way to work, other times it may be during a hot shower after a long day.  God is not limited by our church walls, why should we be?

(2) Disciple

“After we get saved, we become disciples of Christ.”  I’ve heard different forms of that phrase many times in my short Christian life.  What does that even mean?  Does that mean we all turn into fishermen and follow Jesus around completely confused by His teaching?  I mean, that’s what the original disciples did!  

Disciples in Jesus’s day were actually called “talmidim” and every rabbi had talmidim.  If you wanted to be a talmid you approached the rabbi and asked, “May I follow you?”  Basically saying, “Hey do I have what it takes to be just like you?”  Jesus, not surprisingly, was no better at following the rules than I am and he broke that pattern, going out and calling his talmidim to follow him.  

Talmidim didn’t just follow their rabbi, they dedicate their lives to him.  They ate with him, slept with him, spent their lives learning from him, and even gave up even their families so that they could spend every moment of their lives alongside him.  They shared their best and worst moments with each other.  

The ultimate goal of the rabbi was for people to know him by knowing his talmidim.  When we take in Christ’s sacrifice we become his talmidim.  This means more than just following along behind him trying to copy his every move; it is a passionate, intimate relationship with him that causes people to know our rabbi by knowing us.

(3) Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit gets thrown around a lot in church, “being moved by the Holy Spirit, receiving the Spirit, living in the Spirit, led by the Spirit” I know there is probably about 50 more that you can think of!  Do we really even know what the Holy Spirit is?  I always pictured it as the little vapor part of God that comes and rents the room with Jesus in my heart and that is responsible for making me feel guilty when I screw up.  

In the culture of those to whom this was written, your spirit was the essence of who you were.  It was everything that made up you.  This is not necessarily what you look like but rather who you are.  For instance, if you look at me you will see a spikey hair, tattoos, gauged ears, dark eyes, and most of the time a smile (or at least a smirk).  

Suppose someone were to build and exact replica of me, you could tell no difference by looking at it that we were different.  The only difference was this Bizarro Jess, was very quiet, very serious, lacked passion, and had no really strong beliefs about anything.  None of my friends would believe that Jess was me!  See because our spirits, attributes, personalities didn’t match up.  

The Holy Spirit is the essence of God.  It was makes up who He is.  His loves, hates, desires, passions, and feelings.  So, when the Bible says that God unites His spirit with ours, that means the very essence of who He is becomes our essence too!  That’s much more exciting than the puff of air I always imagined it to be!

(4) Grace

Grace, my favorite subject! (I’m sure that comes as a huge surprise to everyone!) Church people use that word for everything, I mean really! “It’s by God’s grace that I woke up this morning.”  “God’s grace let me walk away from that car accident.”  Phrases like those make God out to be this harsh figure lording over us, letting us scrape by if we’re lucky.  To me those phrases translate to “Whew, I really glad God didn’t strike me down today!” 

Grace is a word of extreme depth.  I could probably write an encyclopedia series just on the wonder of what it really is.  Grace is more than just God’s allowing you to survive; grace is God lavishing his favor, love, holiness, and joy onto you, bringing you life.  Grace is God’s unrelenting love for us even in our failures.  Grace is God seeing us as clean even when we feel dirty.  Grace is God’s awakening of life in us in the midst of the death that life tries to tie us down to.  Grace is not just an escape; Grace is a new name, a new creation, a better existence.  

Grace is something to party about! Grace is the ultimate underdog word, for all the underdogs who were never expected to be anything great.  It levels the playing field and makes heroes out of the forgotten.

There you have it! My four picks of the top underdog words in Christianity!  I hope they mean something different to you now and that they ignite a smile when you hear them again.  Fight for the underdogs, my friends, God has a habit of making something wonderful out of them.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

4 Overused Phrases We Hear in Church

Along with millions of other human beings on this planet, I grew up in church.  There were certain phrases I heard quite often that, after a while, became meaningless, some even became annoying.  After my hiatus from church/religion, some of the more archaic phrases of Christianity just left a bad taste in my mouth as I determined never to let them cross my lips.  There are others that I have grown to love as I dove into the deep end of their meanings.  The following are a few phrases that most of us have heard in church and that, I think, could use a makeover:

1- “I’ll pray for you.”

I think this is one that we as Christian’s say when really we don’t know what to say.  A friend of ours is going through something difficult and we respond with, “I’ll pray for you,” For some it offers comfort, for others, like me, it just annoys and frustrates us.  I often times thought sarcastically to myself, “Yeah… thanks for that.”  It has become a phrase that is overused and under-appreciated as we use it in an attempt to comfort someone without actually having to give anything of ourselves.  What if instead of saying “I’ll pray for you” we said “I love you.”  What if we said, “I don’t know what to say, but please tell me how I can help you.” That might just mean something. 

2- “Accept Jesus into your heart.”

This is one of those phrases that is so overused most of us instantly stop listening as soon as it escapes from another’s mouth.  It waters down what’s actually going on when you take in the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice. It paints a picture in our minds of a little action figure sized Jesus taking up a little room inside us while not really changing much about us.  The greatness of taking in Jesus is so much more than that!  In fact, when you read in 1 Corinthians, you will find that we actually become one with Him in spirit! He bonds us together as one, never to be separate again.  He doesn’t just come rent a room in our hearts, He becomes ONE with us!

3- “We are adopted into God’s family.”

This one you hear quite a bit when the discussion of who we are to God comes up.  It’s a statement that loses some of its “umph” in our culture.  Back in the good old days when it was written adoption meant something very different than it does to us today.  In that culture you could disown or disinherit one of your biological children but you couldn’t do that to one of your adopted children.  Children of adoption were forever sealed as one of the family.  Adoption came with security, love, and eternal acceptance.  Knowing this makes verses like the one in Romans 8 so much more impacting.  “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery leading again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”

4- “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”

I have heard the mantra too many times to count.  Many times it’s used to explain how Christian’s should deal with sin.  Why is that sin is the awkward subject that we don’t really know how to deal with in church but know without a doubt that evil and ugly?  My personal thoughts on this phrase is that it has become something we say and not really something we do.  We find ourselves getting so caught up in hating the sin that it breeds anger, resentment, and ultimately hatred towards the sinner.  What if instead we do what Jesus did and instead of worrying about which one it’s ok to hate, we just shower people with love and point them towards freedom?  We should worry less about being “of the world” and join Jesus in partying with the sinners.

*1 Corinthians 1:17
*Romans 8:15 (NET)

Monday, August 19, 2013

You're Full of It!

“You’re not good enough.  You’re not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, funny enough, religious enough, mature enough, rich enough, or devoted enough.”

Those statements ring with familiarity was we hear the world say over and over again, “You’re not ___________ enough.”

When we hear that what do we do?  If something is not enough that must mean it’s empty, missing something, or incomplete, right?

Some of us hear that we are not enough and we give up trying to be.  We run down dark roads trying desperately to fill our “not enough” with something else.  We are aware of the big gaping hole inside of us so we start throwing things into it to try and fill it up, drugs, alcohol, sex, false freedom, destructive relationships, anything to make us feel a moment of wholeness.

There are others who walk a different path, trying to be enough.  They become obsessed with keeping the rules, staying within the lines, exceeding expectations, and making sure everyone else does too. They try to fill their “not enough” with things like busyness, projects, dedication to service, and constant devotion to climbing the ladder of success.  They live for the next, “Great Job!” or “Atta Boy!”  to fill them with a moment of being enough… until their next failure.

We both try to fill our emptiness with more emptiness.

Separate roads leading to the same destination of exhaustion, unfulfillment, lack of peace, fear, and still being just not enough.

There is a song by Shane Bernard in which he sings the lyric “Your fullness is mine.”  Fullness.  God’s fullness. 

What is God full of?

So often we think of God as loving people, creating beauty, giving forgiveness, doing good things, speaking truth, showing favor, and even doing perfect things.  We see those as things he does.

Those are not things He does; those are things that He IS.

God is love.  He is beauty.  He is forgiveness, good, truth, favor, and perfection.  Those are what he is FULL of.  Then, He sent his Son, who He “was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in,” to die in our place so that we could become one with him.

So that we could be enough.

See, because now, we are full.  In a world where all other paths lead to emptiness He offered us fullness.  HIS fullness.  He didn’t just give us the ability to do good things; He made us, me and you, BE love, forgiveness, beauty, truth, favor, and perfection. 

Sometimes we will hear the world shout at us that we are still not enough and we forget how full we are.  Then we reach out to fill our perceived emptiness with more emptiness and we wonder why God took away our fullness… but he never did.  We will always be full, we will always be enough, even when we forget how full we are. 

You know what’s really awesome about being full?  All those things that we thought He did but really are just who He is; all those things, aren’t what we do either, they are who we ARE.  We don’t have to worry about doing anymore, we just have to BE.  Live in fullness, my friends, and just be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hello, My Name Is...

I’ve taken a small hiatus from the writing scene lately.  At times I feel overwhelmed by how many things need to be written about and I retreat to the pages of my own personal journal as I get all of my thoughts together.  A concept has become a reoccurring theme in my recent musings, the idea of a name.

What is the power of a name?  Why does it matter what we’re named, what people call us, or what we allow our title to be?  What does naming something do?

It’s strange how much power a name has.  For instance the difference between your husband/boyfriend calling you “Babe” or calling you “Baby.”  This one might just be me personally, but “Babe” sounds more like a name of possession, “You’re my girl!” and “Baby” has the feeling of sweetness, intimacy, and care.  “You’re my love.”  One letter difference, a name change, and completely different feelings emerge. 

When you’ve been hurt by someone the sound of their name lights a fire of anger, resentment, and hurt deep within you, as you quickly try to change the subject.

The names you were called by teasing classmates in the dark corners of the gym locker room haunt you into adulthood.

Why does a name mean so much?

When I was younger my family called me sweet names like Possum, due to the fact that I always faked like I was asleep when dad came to wake me up in the morning, and Jessie Poo (obviously that one came from mom).  In college, my close friends called me Peanut after a high energy ventriloquist puppet from a popular comedy routine.  I loved those names, they were sweet, and they incited a smile every time I heard them. 

I’ve been called many other things in my life too; addict, broken, messy, rebel, trouble, problem child, hard, tough, misunderstood, stubborn, too honest, evil, heathen, a false prophet (that was a new one), and even a bitch a few times.  It’s interesting how quickly those names jump back into my mind, much more so than the former sweet names. 

The power of a name isn’t in the word itself; it’s not the letters in a row or even the definition of the word itself that makes it mean so much.  The power in the name is how it defines you. 

That’s why God puts verses in the Bible like the one in Isaiah that says, “You will be called by a new name that the Lord himself will give you. You will be a majestic crown in the hand of the Lord.”

There are many pictures of people being given new names after life changing encounters with God.  Abram and Sari became Abraham and Sarah, Saul the destroyer became Paul the humble, and Simon became Peter, the rock of Christ’s church. 

God hasn’t changed.  We are given a new name for every awful one we have ever been called after our radical encounter with Christ.  Where we were once called “Broken” he names us “Whole.”  Where we hear “Ugly” he shouts “Beautiful.”  When we are a mess he calls us perfect.  We have BEEN renamed. 

It’s not just in the process of happening as we work a little harder to be a better person.  Our name has already BEEN, past tense, changed.  It is done, written on the heart of Christ, tattooed on our spirits for the rest of eternity!

So, you might ask, “What does that mean for me?”  It means you are no longer defined by your past.  It means you no longer have to answer to that voice inside your head that calls you no enough.  It means you can live in freedom knowing that you are named by the one who sees you as perfect.  In the words of Madea, “It’s not what you’re called; it’s what you answer to.” 

What will you answer to?

*Revelation 2:17

*Isaiah 62:2-3