Collaborative Review of “Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot” by Mo Isom

This is my first ever collaborative review which I am so excited to share.  Just as I began this read, a friend, mentor, minister, and coworker (?) shared she was reading as well.  We have recently begun meeting together for lunch which make up some of my favorite days.  So we met together to discuss this read and coauthored our review.

But let me start with my manners and first, introduce my friend Erin to you.

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Erin Moniz, M.Div. serves as the Assistant Chaplain and Director of Student Ministries at her alma mater, Berry College.  I first met Erin as a student and have since had the privilege of leading many ministry events and experiences alongside of her working in college ministry.  She has commiserated with and encouraged me in the Master’s of Divinity process while also serving as a safe place when those classes are not always the most welcoming for women.  I recently overheard a student in my kitchen describe Erin stating, “Ya know, she is the most badass minister I know.”  And I’m convinced nothing could describe her better.

Discussing Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot with Erin was a great dialogue as we approached this book both as women raised in the Church, working in ministry, yet one of us married and one of us single, both with different stories and experiences we brought to the literal table we were dining at.  Not to mention, I am an Enneagram 2 and Erin an Enneagram 8, so the balance was extremely beneficial and occasionally ironic.


What we loved about Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot was its honesty and candidness, specifically bringing into the light that Christian women struggle with pornography, masturbation, and sexual desires in general.  So many “struggles” of sexuality have been gendered as men’s issues in the Church, yet as Isom shares her story she openly reveals these are not only issues guys face and they are temptations girls are facing at extremely young ages.

Furthermore, Isom elaborates on the emphasis of abstinence and purity culture in the Church.  She shares from her own story that she crossed every line imaginable, yet sought to keep her “purity” in tact by only avoiding vaginal penetration.  While some may drop their jaw we just used such words on a blog, this is a common misconception that we have both heard from girls, describing their physical boundaries in dating relationships.  Isom highlights sexual purity is so much more and begins so much sooner, reaching to so many different areas of our lives.

We were thankful that Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations The Church Forgot acknowledged singleness, upholding its value as Scripture describes.  Yet, (Emily Katherine here-) Isom seems to explain singleness from the point of view of chosen singleness, never addressing those of us in a season of singleness that is not chosen or preferred.  She describes a season of singleness when she felt closer to the Lord than ever before and free of so many complications and complexities- yet this is more a chosen fast from dating and her only time of singleness according to her story.  (My single sisters, here’s your trigger warning.)

“We don’t need a partner to assign us value when we feel worthless.  We need a soul reawakened to its worth in our Father’s eyes.”

I, (Erin here-) valued Isom’s explanation that sex in marriage is not a magic thing that comes together just because you followed the rules of purity culture.  While Isom lacks a full emphasis on how a theology of intimacy creates the way for success in marriage, she at least dispels this HUGE myth we are still trying to sell people.

Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations The Church Forgot is a valuable read I have already recommended to mothers, small group leaders, and student ministry workers, specifically those who work with girls.  Yet, Erin and I ended our conversation by summarizing while we are so thankful for this book and the great conversations it has begun, this book is only an appetizer for what we were looking for.

Isom leads openly and honestly with her story throughout the text.  I (Emily Katherine) so valued her rawness and authenticity, yet this story driven nature sometimes led to theological points which drew me to check for her seminary education on the back of the book.  The story driven nature of Isom’s book to me (Erin) somewhat limited the issues that could be addressed by leaving out the narratives of victims of sexual abuse and narrowing the focus to one persons’ story, limiting the Church’s ability to respond with better conversations pertaining to sexuality.  The author takes so much personal responsibility for her struggle with sexual sin that she overlooks affects of her environment and family, perpetuating the Western narrative of private salvation overlooking the fullness of the message of the gospel which openly points to the effects of environment and generational sin, along with the Church’s role in sanctification.  Erin and I also discussed many students we counsel’s stories of sexuality include same sex attraction or wrestling with gender identity which were not even acknowledged as this book focuses on Isom’s story rather than issues of sexuality and Christianity as a whole.

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Erin and I were extremely thankful, Isom aims a few arrows toward purity culture and offers some great examples of how it is falling vastly short in the conversations the Church offers regarding sexuality, especially for girls.  Yet, as Sex, Jesus, and The Conversations the Church Forgot is driven by Isom’s narrative, it lacks in undoing some of the conversations the Church has had regarding sexuality, and providing recommendations of conversations the Church should be having.  Isom explains feeling isolated and alone, trying to fish for her Mom to see how many questions she had, offering a charge to the Church to step up, but between the pages I (Emily Katherine) found Isom less often explaining how the Church can better communicate about sexuality and rather continuing to describe through vivid details of her own story why sex outside of marriage is wrong and damaging.  And if I’m honest, that’s a conversation the Church has overdone.

We need a theology of intimacy.  A healthy and honest theology of gender, sexuality, identity, and a lack of fear of what is appropriate because individuals beginning at early, early ages are being told from every avenue what to believe about these things.  We have to stop separating boys and girls and using clichés, hoping their parents explain more.  Church, we cannot be silent in a sexually saturated culture.

Erin and I are thankful for Mo Isom’s courage to open up this issue and direct our attention to how the Church is or is not addressing sexuality and honored by her rawness in Sex, Jesus, and Conversations the Church Forgot.


FullSizeRenderThanks for stopping by!

My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Guest Blog: Five Steps to Plan Repeatable Events

This guest blog is written by a dear friend, coworker, and my supervisor, Preston Tippett.  Preston has worn many hats in the WinShape College Program including Event Planner, Small Group Leader, Event Specialist, and now serves as a Coordinator of Programming.

Everyone who works around us thoroughly enjoys laughing at our dynamic as Preston is definitely the “how” to my “wow”.  While I am most excited to meet new people and dream up new ideas, Preston keeps us grounded, on track, and productive.  Below he shares practical insights on planning repeatable events!


As a ministry leader of students, you know very well how often events take place.  All. The. Time.  As soon as one is finished, your focus and energy shift to what is next on the calendar.  Often, you are forced to think about and plan for multiple events simultaneously.

I’m here to give a few thoughts about how you can go about planning for events in a way that could alleviate your future to-do list.  Because let’s be honest, who wants to reinvent the wheel or duplicate work every time you gear up for an event?  Me neither!  Below are five essentials for creating repeatability in planning events.

  1. Have a trackable task management system, something that you can refresh and reuse each time.

    Ideally, this system should track how far out from the event (days, weeks, or months) you need to complete the task.  Once you input that information for each particular task, you won’t have to take the time to think about when you need to do that certain task, nor are you feeling overwhelmed in looking at every task that needs to get done for the event to happen.  Rather, the system is reminding you when you need to complete that task.  I recommend your system to have a filtering or ordering option, where you can select which parts you want to view based on how far out from the event that task is to be completed.

  2. Know your budget.

    We are called to be good stewards of what is entrusted to us.  Planning events usually comes with stewarding a good bit of money and using that money wisely.  It is important that you keep track of how much you are spending throughout the planning of your event.  The benefits to tracking your spending are twofold: you know on the latter end if you spent more or less than you were allotted, and you have a very accurate estimate of how much to allot for each line item the next time around.  I would recommend not just tracking the overall amount spent, but know how much you spent on each individual aspect of the event.  Break it down as specifically as you can.

  3. Take notes!

    Have you ever had a great idea and think, “There’s no way I’ll forget that, that’s too good of an idea,” only to later have no recollection of it?  One of the easiest ways to limit your ability to create repeatable events is to forget what you’ve done before.  This might sound slightly like the part above regarding task management, but the difference here is not just knowing the task that needs to be done, but knowing how to go about completing that task.  Let’s say, for example, that you used an outside vendor to provide supplies for your event and you would love to use them again.  You would want to take note of that company’s name, the specific vendor’s name and contact information, as well as any additional notes about the specifics of what you did.

    Bottom line: take note of how you completed tasks, and create a reminder in your task management system to review those at the start of your next event.

  4. Evaluate and refine.

    This step is crucial if you want to create repeatable events and maximize your efforts.  If you don’t evaluate what you are doing, how would you ever know if you are creating the best version of what you are doing?  Don’t just do it the same exact way year after year.  You could be left with designing your programming around a theme to a TV show series that none of your students have context to because it’s that outdated (yes, my team has made that mistake).  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t strive to replicate what you do year after year, but rather to do so with discretion.  Essentially, you should schedule time after each event to sit down with your team and evaluate what you believe went well and what needs to be improved.  I have a practice of creating a new note in my phone during events where I can quickly jot down anything that comes to mind in the realm of tweaking, improving, or removing.  This helps me when I come to the team’s evaluation meeting, as I can pull up that note and see the list of items I think should be reconsidered to make better.

    The second step to evaluating is refining.  The reason for evaluating is to know the areas that need refining.  Use the energy and momentum from your evaluation meeting to put the refining into action.

  5. Celebrate!

    This isn’t necessarily a tip for planning for repeatability, but it is an important step that, surprisingly, can easily be overlooked.  After you’ve accomplished your event and evaluated its success, it can feel natural to simply move on to the next event that needs attention.  However, I would highly encourage you to schedule time for you and your team to celebrate the completion of your event.  Set aside a specific time in your calendar for your team to enjoy a meal together or create a shared experience.  Be sure to clarify the connection between the accomplishment and the celebration.  Celebrating with your team is a great way to create a natural close to the event you have just planned and executed.

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What a College Student Needs from the Church

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share a guest blogger with you, but I am overjoyed for that guest blogger to be Miss Erin Jagus!  I had the privilege of getting to know Erin last year as she is a Berry College student and have loved learning more about her heart to love the people around her fiercely.  Erin shared her experiences on what she’s learned college students need from a church congregation.

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I have had the wonderful blessing of being a part of a revival that is taking place at Berry College this year. With the scholarship that I have, I live on Berry’s campus year-round (yes even summer and most of winter break) and work. This past summer, a student started to lead a worship night in our dorm’s common space. It was simply a night to come and worship each week. A friend of mine, and a LifeCast (read more about LifeCast here) short term intern last year, was on campus during the training week before LifeCast. On that Thursday, he came to the worship night and the Lord gave him a beautiful vision—to keep this going even when the school year starts. When school started, my friend asked me to speak. We were expecting maybe 20 people to show up, but the Lord had other plans. Fifty-nine people packed into a common space on campus that first week. Since then, we have continued meeting under the name “Common Worship” in different spaces across campus each week and the Lord has been moving in mighty ways. Now, I get to do more behind-the-scenes work along with seven others who have a heart of leadership and a passion for seeing our community grow closer to the Lord.

Part of being behind-the-scenes means that I get to sit in on a lot of meetings. A lot of the meetings thus far in the semester have been discussing whether Common Worship needs to become a Student Organization. When we are asked this, we always are told to be thinking of how to answer the questions “What need are you meeting on campus?” and “How is what you’re doing any different from what other religious groups are doing?”

This is a slightly weird thing to think about, because in simple explanation, it might sound similar to any other religious group meeting. We gather, pray, sing, someone speaks, we sing, pray, and then we disperse. Why is what Common Worship is doing different? What need is Common Worship meeting? To be honest, I don’t have a clear answer. Common Worship is completely student-lead and most of us are under the age of 20. In talking to the leadership team and those that come every week, here were some of the common themes:

 

  1. Prayer: Priscilla Shirer would tell you that prayer is part of the armor of God in Ephesians 6 (see verse 18), and I would wholeheartedly agree with her. Instead of having prayer be the last thought, God is teaching us to make it one of our first responses to any situation. In preparation for our weekly event, the leadership team spends a great deal of time on our faces—both as a group corporately thanking Him and asking the Lord to have His way in us, then individually asking the Lord to guide us and make us bold. One of the sweetest parts of my week is after Common Worship is over. After hanging out and packing up, we go to next week’s location and just pray over the space, the speaker who will share, and the community that will come. We know that our gathering only happens once a week, but we believe that the Lord is working in the hearts of His people always.

 

  1. Community: A huge part of the college experience is finding where you belong. A huge part of the human experience is wanting to feel known. Our hearts were made for connection; our souls were made for community. One of my personal passions is a community that is intentional. Not just a community that knows names and faces, but a community that knows each other’s joys and sorrows. A community that does not just come together once a week, but a community that does life together. College students love coffee, love food, and love conversation. Conversation leads to connection and connection leads to community. I think intentional communities give us a small taste of heaven on earth.

 

  1. Authenticity: Everyone wants to know that they are not alone in what they are going through, genuinely and really. No one wants a performer, someone who will put on their “Christian mask” for a night and play a role. Be willing to stop pretending like everything is alright. Be honest. Be open. Be genuine. Be real. We learn from each other’s stories. I love how the Lord teaches through trials and pain but does not leave them to be painful. He uses them for His glory in His timing. What I love about an authentic environment is that it spreads—from one heart to another to a community to the world. I think authenticity is the place where shackles of religion break off and lead to a real relationship with the Father.

 

There are people who regularly attend Common Worship each week who do not regularly attend a church in Rome. To be completely honest with you, I am still on a journey to find a church to attend and serve.

But the church is not just a building to attend each Sunday and Wednesday. We are the Church. You are the church. I am the church.

As believers, we are image bearers. A synonym for bearer is “bringer”. We bring the image of God, the kingdom of heaven, to the Earth through the power of Christ at work within us.

I cannot express to you enough just how in awe I am of what God is doing here. He is reviving this campus, realigning our heartbeats to His. He is preparing the hearts of this campus for greater things. Getting to serve at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Getting to worship with fellow college students at Common Worship makes me feel alive—body, mind, and soul. Our generation is yearning to know the Lord. Our generation is asking the Lord to lead us from dead religion to dynamic relationship.

Guest blog: Groundhog Day

This is my first time sharing a guest post from someone I’ve only met virtually.  My family has graciously received story after story from friends around us of their shared experience losing a parent and the grief that follows.  My brother, Michael shared with our family when Troy’s mom’s cancer continued to spread.  We prayed for her knowing the pain of losing a parent.  Troy’s mom soon lost her battle to cancer on this side of Heaven.  Michael shared when he and Troy met, they both hugged with no words, but eyes full of tears.

We would have never anticipated the stories we would hear and share this year with new friends and old.  May we slow down our own plans and priorities and attune ourselves to receive and share in life’s joys and sufferings with those who God brings in our path.  Thanks for sharing, Troy.


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(taken October 23rd 1988, on my way to boot camp)

The world somehow feels different now. Every day I wake up, there is an unexplainable emptiness –an emptiness of having lost one of the greatest gifts of life -a parent’s unconditional love.

The emptiness feels like a small child who ventures out from safety, then they return to home base for a safe reunion.  For me, home base was my parents.  As we get older, we venture further from that base.  One day, we leave for good to start college or in my case, to join the Navy.  However far away we go, that familiar comfort of home base will always be there when we return.  Even in my midlife, I have a loving family of my own away from “home”, yet I know there is a home base beyond the four walls I now call home.

I knew home and its dependability, but the security of having a home base died for me on Feb 15th at 11:05pm when my mom took her last breath.

The gravity of such a loss threw me into stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in that order – or so I think.  8 months.  8 months since her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. I guess the grief really began then, June 28th, 2016.

I thought at the time, of writing this piece, I was reaching acceptance.  I am only just now accepting the diagnosis. This could not possibly happen to my mother and definitely not the end result.  It still seems so unimaginable.

The very week of Christmas we learned that chemotherapy was having no affect on the tumor.  In fact, the tumor had grown and spread to other organs.  The doctor recommended that my mom surround herself with loved ones and enjoy each day until the end.  She still seemed so full of life.  It just couldn’t be real.

Each week she became weaker and weaker.  Each passing minute, a hopeless step closer to the inevitable.

In the last 3 weeks of her life, I woke up everyday to confront and face the reality again and again. It felt like the movie Groundhog Day.  Each day, I began the process of grief again.  Every morning, it felt new and still so unbelievable again.  By the end of the day, there was peace.  And then just like clock work, I would wake up and feel the same sadness I had the morning before.

On the day she died, I have never felt more relieved.  Then, the relief was replaced with gravity.  Gravity of my “home base” being lost forever.  Again.  Every morning new and empty.  Of course, my geographical “home” will always be in the same place, but my safety of my mother’s unconditional love will be missed forever.

Today is March 3, 2017 – a whole 2 weeks and 1.5 days since my mother passed away and every morning it is new.  New and empty, the pain repeating itself and then the peace, followed by another painful morning.

I miss you, Mommy.

-Troy Willis

Guest blog: Summer to Winter

My guest blogger today is my very own big brother.

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Michael is 6 years older than me and over 6 feet tall.  He has always been the big and strong brother, but in the past year has been brave in whole new ways.  I remember the very first night we were in the hospital together.  Michael and I got locked out getting something from the car and had to take a long way around to get back to the small room our family would be sleeping in that night.  Michael told me he was feeling the pressure to be the strong one, to be less emotional and more fearless, despite the fact that he was just as scared as the rest of us.  I was so proud of his openness and have only been overwhelmingly proud since of the courage he has taken to be angry, hurt, broken, and lost, because that’s the road grief walks you down.  Michael got all of the creative genes in our family as you’ll see in his writing style.

Thankful for you.


“Learning to weep, learning to vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

This summer – I was reeling from the loss of my father, but found myself having to still do my job. I had flown to California for our largest annual event and had been assigned to filming and conducting some really personal interviews.

In this process, and between interviews, I overheard a conversation begin with a gentleman I did not know, about how his mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. So early in the process that they had no action plan yet, no treatment arranged. Just the sudden weight of it.

By the time we actually introduced ourselves to each other, it was a hug and not a handshake. And we were both in tears.

He and I have kept in touch, often, since that day in the summer. Me to check on his mom and his family, and he to check on mine.

Thursday night, I found out his mom passed away.

I wept for a woman I had never met.

I wept for my friend and his family.

I walked to dinner with my head swirling, unable to be a part of the conversations around me.

And when I made it back to my bed I turned out the lights and typed this note on my phone.

How do you offer “hope” when you can be so certain it cannot yet be felt?

Perhaps “hope” in these moments, is that you don’t hurt alone.

And that maybe, hurting is such a deep part of being human.

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Weep. Mourn. Wail.
Freely. Openly.
Let no man question you for this.
Let no man doubt your marrow.
There is so much strength – in coming undone.
I was told grief is love’s receipt.
And I let it wash over me. Still do.
Wave after wave.
Left rooms to weep in solitude.
Restaurants. Bathrooms. Hallways. Pulled over and bottomed out. Head on my steering wheel. 
Stood sobbing in the shower. 
Still do.
The friends that know that broken, will stand tall when you cannot. 
Texts. Calls. Dinner. Silent moments sitting. Pain filling their eyes. 
An overflow of their own.
These moments are pure. 
Be carried and baptized in their wholeness.
And throw your rocks at the moon. 
Every question and hurt and pain and doubt and fear hurled into the night sky. 
Full force. 
Core to extremity. 
Unleash. 
Til you collapse exhausted on a tear dotted pillow.
And wake up only to find the first fleeting moments of the day, where you actually have to remind yourself how much you have lost. 
And how much you hurt. 
And you sink back into your mattress…
To weep. Mourn. Wail. Freely. Openly.

-Michael James Dalton

Guest blog: My battle with my body

What a true honor it is to introduce you to Mrs. Jillian Lybrand Dean, who I affectionately know as JillyBear.  Jillian came on staff in the student ministry in my church when I was in 9th grade and we have been inseparable ever since.  Whatever our souls are made of, they’re the same and it is such a sweet gift I cannot truly put words to.  Jillian and her husband James Dean live in the great state of Oklahoma where they do ministry and are raising Miss Eliza Kate who we affectionately call EKD 2.0.

As many of you know, my dad died recently of a heart attack.  While we so clearly see this was the Lord’s timing and plan, my family has talked about making many changes in our lifestyles to focusing on physical health, what I truly consider to be an act of worship.  I pray you hear Jillian’s heart of encouragement in how to truly care for our bodies and what it teaches us about caring for our spirits as well.

May you be half as transformed and inspired by Jillian as I am on a daily basis.

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My battle against my body began when I was about 15. It may have begun sooner, but that’s when the recognition of weight, body types, and my poor understanding of nutrition began. I was running cross country, I could literally eat anything I wanted (and did) and somehow in the middle of my hungry hungry hippo days, I was a  size 0… If you want to stop reading right now, I would understand, but I would love to encourage you to stick it out. You can’t be the winning hippo and continue to see your feet. You see, my understanding of food was more of fairy tale than a reality. I just thought if I worked hard enough it should melt off, having no understanding of thyroids, metabolisms, digestion system, and most cruel of all… age!

Fast forward to college: My senior year, I worked out regularly, ate pretty well, or so I thought, but my health was the worst it had ever been, and I was in my early 20’s. I won’t go into all the details, but my weight would fluctuate non-stop creating more issues both physiologically and emotionally than ever before. My hair even began falling out. I wanted to sleep all day, had more stomach issues than I would care to remember (or say in mixed company), and my skin was showing signs of my poor health. Definitely not what I went to college for!

I knew I needed help. A family friend recommended a nutritionist and I eagerly went to see him, ready to dive in and see what was going on. He needed a hair sample, I felt like he plucked my last remaining hair, but I was desperate. The results came back and the lists of things and products I should avoid reminded me of something a politician would read during a filibuster. I was overwhelmed, alone, and fearful.

He explained a few things to me about my body: my adrenal gland was shot (I had never heard of said adrenal gland), and I should basically avoid everything that I love: breads, sugars, caffeine. You name it. I probably wasn’t supposed to eat it. So then I asked the question, well what can I eat? I know this sounds dramatic, but I will never forget the blue sticky note he wrote on. It was my food list. Really?!? A Post-It note. Didn’t he know I’m Southern and that sweet tea runs through my veins? He didn’t seem very sympathetic.

He said, “Jillian, I know this seems overwhelming, but right now this is equivalent to a flat tire, and if you don’t fix this now, in a few years you will be having far more issues.” I wish I could tell you I listened to everything and my life was changed… I wish I could, but I didn’t. At that point in my life, I was working extreme hours and truly tried my best, but saw no results. Eventually, I just gave up. Truly deflated.


God placed several people in my life who saw my struggle that encouraged me to revisit what I learned. So I did. I followed the blue sticky note for 30 days. It was just 30 days, right? I actually went 40 and decided that this was probably in my head and I would be fine…I grabbed a sub sandwich and boy did it taste good topped off with a Coke. Within minutes, I felt like I had the flu, my stomach felt like I had eaten a rock, and my muscles were actually aching. I was in bed for two days. I wish I was exaggerating.

Slowly but surely, I started a path to health by cutting gluten out of my diet completely (as well as making sure they weren’t in other products I used daily), sacrificing my still quite large intake of caffeine, and I started to do yoga for healing.

The road to health is a long journey. Each person’s is different and unique. For the longest time, my body wasn’t able to receive the proper nutrients because it was bogged down by allergens my body was trying to fight. Our Spiritual wellness is no different. We have to cleanse ourself of all the “junk” we’ve put in ourselves that was never originally designed to be a part of us… You know what I mean? That bad body image, fears of failure, or even our own thoughts and beliefs confusing us. We choose to ingest that. We choose to swallow it and allow it to become a part of our design. We allow it to fester and the infection bores so deep it is almost impossible to see life through a different lens.

It’s so easy to just throw on some Netflix when I’m folding laundry or doing something else around the house. I find favorite shows and get sucked into the season long wormhole, only to be bated into watching the first episode of the next season because the finale was on such a cliffhanger that I couldn’t go another day without knowing how it all turned out.. Unless it’s New Girl… and then you know Zoey will get through whatever problem with her charming smile and carefree attitude! I love her, judge sparingly please! But then as I’m brushing my teeth I think about how much time I spent following a fictional city girl, and how much time I missed getting to know the creator of the universe. I give Jesus my best Zoey smile and promise to do better, but it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen when I don’t carve out time specifically for getting to know my Savior. That’s the challenge I give to you, and one that I have placed upon myself. If we want to clean up the foggy lens we have been looking through, we have to listen to someone who knows what a clear lens is. That’s the important thing about drawing from the Word of God, when I’m doing it, it’s the first voice I hear, and it drowns out my New Girl world.

It’s time consuming reading God’s word. It’s time consuming to have a healthy prayer life. The results aren’t quick and a lot of times it feels like we are stuck on that dreaded machine.. The treadmill.  We can feel like we are on a spiritual treadmill, because we expect to humbly rival Mother Theresa after a week of bible study. Sorry, not happening. You have to sweat it out. Put down that chic Bible Study for a day or so and just dwell in His word. Nothing wrong with a bible study, but sometimes those are like turning the treadmill on and then sitting in your lawn chair in the garage drinking sweet tea. You spent time with the machine on but didn’t get any real work done. Don’t let someone else’s work allow you to sit in the lawn chair. Pick up your bible and start the ugly face, “I don’t know if I can make it,” scripture run. Read it, let it marinate in your soul, paraphrase it in your words, ask yourself what your life would look like if you applied it to your life. When you’ve done what you can, pick up a commentary on the passage you just read, now open the bible study… See how much deeper it is when you start the work on your own. FYI. I learn the most when I think I understand scripture and then find out I didn’t have it in the right context… I remember instruction and it pushes me deeper in Jesus.

Pause an episode of Netflix and spend it in prayer for all the people that surround you. Better yet, pray or listen to the Bible App while you exercise. I know it sounds crazy but you can’t absorb anything truly until you have the understanding of the nutrients at hand and that play a part. Ingesting something doesn’t constitute results.This is even more true for our spiritual lives. The height of what you put in is the height of your results.
Matthew 6:22:
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

Spiritual wellness comes from allowing Jesus to tune you into Himself. See Him! When you see Him for the magnificent savior He is, you will find the rest of your life shifting into alignment. Trials will come, dark days, unfortunately are always on the horizon. Tuning into Jesus gives us the strength to lean into and the perspective that sees eternity in the days ahead instead of our momentary messes.

What are those warning signs that seem to creep up Spiritually? For me, I become less empathetic to His people. I get frustrated easily, and everything can sound insurmountable at the drop of a hat. I second guess my purpose and giftings He has entrusted me with seem to disappear when I’m depending on His words through a second source or even through my own foggy lens. These are the allergens to my spiritual health. They prohibit me from growth and wellness. I need the voice of my Creator. In order to do that… I have to detox , and insert those nutrients of His word so the real absorption begins and my lens becomes more clear.  And it isn’t always pretty at first.

 

Over the last three years of my journey I can tell you this: I feel better physically and that directly impacts my purpose. My spiritual health is a direct measure of my personal health. These go hand in hand for me. I know that my journey is not over, just as my spiritual journey is not. The more growth I see and experience, the more refinement must occur which in return requires more sweat equity. Our Creator designed us to find peace and grace knowing that today is preparation for the days ahead. My desire is to be full of light, in this and through this, I pray my lens would become more clear. I pray that you would see Jesus for all that He is.

Women of Valor

This month’s guest blogger is Tonja Smith.  There are so many things I can say about Tonja and it is all too difficult to sum her up in just a few sentences.  Tonja is a mother of 4 and has her own medical transcription company.  She is an activist in her community and leads a group for single moms in my home church.  Furthermore, Tonja was my discipleship leader from when I was 12 years old until 18.  We met each Sunday night and she had to put up with all kinds of crazy from my group.  Tonja has definitely been a spiritual mama for me, she has prayed big and fierce prayers for me, and truly inspires me in her passion for studying Scripture.  I pray you enjoy the wisdom she shares in this post as it is just a glimpse of the wisdom she has shared with me over the past 10 years. tonja


 

God’s ways are higher than our ways, His plans are always the best plans to follow, and they are laid out for us in His Word. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness is described in 50 chapters and is a shadow of the Heavenly sanctuary, which is why Moses was given a specific pattern to follow. Hebrews 8:5 says, “They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” It’s a copy of the throne room of God, and the High Priest, Yeshua, is wearing the priestly garments.  In speaking of the Heavenly pattern, women have a specific role to play in building and serving in the Tabernacle.  The women, whose hearts were willing, gave materials used in the Tabernacle to make the coverings, tapestries, curtains, the bronze laver and the priestly garments.  Under the direction of Moses, and the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge given to Bezalel (in the shadow of God) and Oholiav (Father’s tent), everyone who the Lord gave ability to do the work of the Sanctuary worked together.

Exodus 35 gives this description in verses 25-26: “All the women who were skilled at spinning got to work and brought what they had spun, the blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and the fine linen. Likewise the women whose heart stirred them to use the skill, spun the goat’s hair.” The Tent of Meeting consisted of several layers of materials with the Tabernacle being the inner layer made of wood, silver, and gold, and the walls lined with the finely woven linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, with cherubim woven into them. The vail that covered the entrance was also of this same woven material with cherubim woven in. The next layer was a tent over the Tabernacle which is made of curtains of goat’s hair.

Exodus 38:8 says, “He made the basin of bronze with its base of bronze from the mirrors of the women serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.” This bronze basin, or laver, was used by the priests to wash their hands and feet before entering the tent of meeting. Exodus 39:1 says, “From the blue, purple and scarlet yarn they made the garments for officiating, for serving in the Holy Place and they made the holy garments for Aaron, as Adonai had ordered Moses.” Exodus 39:27-29 says, “They made the tunics of finely woven linen for Aaron and his sons, the turban of fine linen, the linen shorts, and the sash of finely woven linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, the work of a weaver in colors – as Adonai had ordered Moses.”

The Lord stirred hearts and gifted people to do all the work for the sanctuary, and women were very much a part of this.  You can see echoes of this in Proverbs 31, in the woman of noble character. “She procures a supply of wool and flax and works with willing hands.” (vs 13). “She puts her hands to the staff with the flax; her fingers hold the spinning rod.” (vs 19). “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings of tapestry for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple…She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.” (vs. 21-22, 24). This woman is described as an entrepreneur and caretaker of her family and those around her. Strength and honor are her clothing.

Ruth is also described as a “woman of noble character” by Boaz. This term in Hebrew is chayil, which means army, strength, valor, ability, wealth, and is most often translated as army. When Boaz covers her with His garment as her Kinsman-Redeemer, it is a marriage proposal and it is a picture of our Redeemer who covers us with his Robe of Righteousness as spoken of in Isaiah 61, His priestly garment that fills the entire Heavenly Temple as described in Isaiah 6.

1 Peter 2 says those who come to Yeshua the Messiah are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices. Women are part of this service, part of this Heavenly army. Women of valor working in the Kingdom of God as a warrior bride, weaving the threads of Spirit and Truth into her family and those around her. This is her garment of praise. 

Eve played a role in sin in the garden of Eden, leaving the cherubim guarding the way back in to the Tree of Life.  Women are given the task of contributing to weaving the tapestries on the walls of the Tabernacle, and the curtain of separation containing the cherubim. This is the curtain that was torn as the Messiah gave His life to save ours, granting a way back to God’s presence.  When He was crucified, His garments were divided between the soldiers, and “They also took the tunic, which was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.” They cast lots for this garment and did not tear it. (John 19, Ex 39:22-23?). This was a priestly garment. Perhaps it was Mary who wove this garment for Him. It was a woman who washed the feet of Yeshua with her hair before His sacrifice and entry into the Holy of Holies in Heaven. Women were the last ones at the cross and the first ones at the garden tomb to see the stone had been rolled away by the angel of the Lord.  They were the first witnesses to the resurrected Messiah.  “Adonai gives the command; the women with the good news are a mighty army!” (Psalm 68:11). Indeed this is what it looks like to minister at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and we are invited to come all the way in, beyond the curtain to dwell with the One who came to Tabernacle among us.

We are to have our garments ready, as spoken in Revelation 19:

“A voice went out from the throne, saying,

‘Praise our God, all you His servants,

You who fear Him, small and great!’

Then I heard what sounded like the roar of a huge crowd,

like the sound of rushing waters, like loud peals of thunder, saying,

Halleluyah!

Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, has begun to reign!

Let us rejoice and be glad!

Let us give Him the glory!

For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb,

And his Bride has prepared herself –

Fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear.”