Budapest, Hungary — Churches Around the World

Today we are back in Budapest, visiting St. Stephen’s Basilica AND the Dohany Street Synagogue.

It’s not a typo, my recent Churches Around the World post in Vienna was also a St. Stephen’s! Here is a link for more info on St. Stephen’s Basilica.

I was very blessed to get a clear day and got excellent pictures (if I’ll toot my own horn) of the outside of St. Stephen’s. I thought it was very impressive, and loved the courtyard! So did little O.

budapest st stephen's basilica
There was a drone flying overhead that caught O’s attention
budapest st stephen's basilica
I loved the sculpture!

budapest st stephen's basilica

Budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica budapest st stephen's basilica

Also in Budapest, we visited the Dohany Street Synagogue. Although not a church, this is still a place of worship and I thought would fit well into this series. This is a stunning Gothic Synagogue — we were just able to fit a visit in before dinner. I definitely recommend a visit to this historical and gorgeous place! Here is more info for visiting Dohany Street.

 

Dohany street Synagogue Dohany street Synagogue Dohany street Synagogue

Dohany street Synagogue

 

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Christians and Exclusivity

exclusivity Christians

To preface: this post has more bite than usual because it’s a topic I’m very passionate about: exclusivity.

Today is a special edition of Devotional Diva! This hiatus isn’t turning out to be much of a hiatus, is it? And we normally don’t even have posts on Mondays! Well, I just had to get this up today because this topic has been burning in my heart – and also because it coincides nicely with the publishing of my guest post on a pretty sweet blog called The Laundry Moms.

 

 First of all, the post on TLM means a lot to me because it’s sort of a tribute to my mom. I’ve been working on it for weeks, and I wanted to make sure it came out around her birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!) It’s also a testament to the ways God works. My mom (guided by God I am sure) kept encouraging me to keep writing, and now here I am! That’s what the post is about. TLM contacted me back in June to do a guest post and I was really excited! I love getting my writing out there. It’s pretty cool to feel that I can make a difference with my writing – I mean, that’s really my whole goal.

I love how sharing can help so many people. I love that Devotional Diva’s mission is exactly that.

Devotional Diva is giving me the chance to share and help people, and not just on DD’s platform. I’m actually going to be sharing my testimony at a recovery center in Southern California in the coming weeks because of a connection I made through Devotional Diva. When I was invited to share my testimony for an online Christian summit, I thought it was a great opportunity to spread God’s glory even more! I got on the phone with the director to get more information about the summit. She said my powerful message would fit great with their mission. I figured it was a done deal. After explaining their “requirements,” she asked a couple casual questions about my blog stats and social media followers. That’s when she told me my numbers weren’t up to snuff, and she basically uninvited me. I shook it off, because it wasn’t any skin off my back. I’m going through Renee’s Faithbook of Jesus right now, and the night after that phone call, I was on Tuesday of week three. The message was about exclusivity:

“When Jesus rolled into town with his entourage, he wasn’t looking for some exclusive membership for the highest of society.”

Then it hit me. A Christian group excluded me from sharing God’s word and my testimony that they knew would inspire Christian women…because I didn’t have enough followers for their standards.

The director told me that if they didn’t have that requirement in some future event, then maybe I could participate. If the purpose of the summit was really to inspire Christian women, then you wouldn’t tell a person you invited to do it that they can’t because they don’t meet your social media standards.

Does the fact that I have less followers than some of the other speakers really make my testimony less powerful?

There is no exclusivity in being a Christian. Then why would we treat other Christians with exclusivity? I’ve seen this in so many other aspects of the Christian life — certain Bible studies or events only for the wives of pastors (as if our husband’s career has anything to do with our calling or ability to grow spiritually), the only opportunities for women in some churches being Sunday school teaching or childcare…there are so many exclusions. It’s so ridiculous to me! The things in life that bother me the most are injustice, judgment and things that are just illogical. Now I’m realizing that exclusion is really all of those things in a lot of cases. I’m going to spread God’s glory all over this earth no matter what. And I encourage you, no matter who you are, to do the same. You can check out more about becoming a guest poster on Devotional Diva on the Become a Diva page here. I’m so glad that The Laundry Moms included me. This way, my story can help more people!

Jesus includes everyone, and I think as Christians we should try to do the same. More inclusion, less exclusion.

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How I Became a Christian

This is the story of how I became a Christian.

But first, it’s important to look at my parents’ faith background.

My mom was raised Catholic and always had some issues with it. After she became an adult, she looked for another Christian church. She actually ran into a really weird, disillusioning church sect in the process. Nothing ever felt right, and she eventually stopped looking. But she was always a Christian.

My dad has really always been a man of God, too. He’s just never been that into actually going to church.

Since my mom didn’t like being raised in a faith she didn’t agree with, she and my father decided to not baptize me. They wanted me to be able to choose my faith when I was ready.

But the only preschools in our small Iowa city were at churches, so my parents decided to send me to a Lutheran preschool.

And I loved it.

I wanted to start going to Sunday school, too. So my parents obliged, and tried out the services themselves. It still didn’t feel like the right church for them, but they took me to Sunday school every Sunday for years. I also did vacation Bible school.

I really loved church, and I really loved Jesus!

When I was seven, my family moved to a new neighborhood. I already knew a girl, Lauren, in the neighborhood from school. She introduced me to her friend, Rachel, who lived a couple houses down.

Rachel’s family went to a small reformed church not too far away. One night, they invited us to their Wednesday night service. Lauren and I tagged along with Rachel’s family and we found out we really liked this new church!

So we both brought our moms to check it out, and the moms began to love the church too.

My mom started helping to teach Sunday school – even before she officially joined the church.

Since Lauren and her mom were never baptized, either, we were glad to have the opportunity at this new church.

During an early 8 AM service in 2002, Lauren, her mom, me and my little brother, Mickey, were baptized. It was so cool because people we didn’t even know went to the church were at that service that day. My beloved Librarian from school was there, along with my 1st grade teacher. It was so special that they were witness to our baptism.

My parents officially joined the church around that same time, and my mom became deeply involved with many other church functions. When she joined, she reaffirmed her faith.

She finally felt at home!

And I don’t think her faith has ever been stronger.

It was always my desire and my choice to follow Christ. I always felt called, and I think that’s pretty cool. And since I’m the editor of Devotional Diva now, I think it’s so awesome that I can help spread God’s glory.

I love the fact that I chose to be baptized myself and that I remember it. It was such an amazing experience.

My family (and Lauren and Rachel’s families) still attend that special church. We’re so blessed to have a church that really feels like home!  But now, I’m doing my own thing. My husband and I haven’t found a church like that in California yet, but that’s okay.

How I became a Christian may not be very typical, but I really appreciate that I was always able to follow what I have always known to be right.

→M

photo credit: -mrsraggle- via photopin cc

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Shame, Our Souls, and the Gospel

shame

[Guest Post by Kimberly Davidson Campbell – I have never met a woman who had it all together on the inside. Maybe you do a good job or holding everything together on the outside, but there’s always traces of shame that tries to steal our joy. I appreciate Kim’s words of encouragement today. Like fresh water in a desert oasis of my heart. Receive them today with love!]

As I sit in the passenger seat of my husband’s now trip-cluttered (otherwise immaculate) Camry, I am intrigued and overwhelmed by all the areas of shame that plague me. 

These areas of shame don’t just plague me — but in some way — they plague most of the women we know.

According to author and blogger Shauna Niequist in Bread & Wine, most women are battling shame in two areas: how their bodies look and how their homes look. I would like to add one as well: how their children look (or act).

Here are some of those examples in my own life:

+ I’m ashamed that my husband is unable to give me a piggy-back ride or carry me over the threshold.  This isn’t because he isn’t strong.  He is.  I love his arms and how strong they are. It is because I weigh almost 40 lbs more than him.

+ I am ashamed because of my flabby body.  It is now covered with stretchmarks from two kids and losing large amounts of weight several times. I wouldn’t trade my boys for anything – but I don’t like stretchmarks.

+ I am ashamed because my closet is a mess and my husband’s is all in order and tidy.

+ I am ashamed because I struggle to keep our home as clean as the mister would like it.  So I come unglued when he suggests that he could help do some of the dishes or vacuum. Shame affects pride.

+ In high school, I was ashamed as a part of the cheerleading squad and traveling singing group because the order size for my uniform or dress was always bigger than everyone else’s.

–        I struggle when I am in public with my toddler and he is pitching a temper tantrum because he doesn’t want to do something.  My parenting skills are not what they should be if he is misbehaving.

+ I (wrongfully) pride myself in that my boys have never had to have their nursery number put up on the screen during church for me to come and get them. I would die in horror if that ever happened.

You may or may not be able to resonate with any of these examples, but I’m sure you have examples of your own.

Maybe it’s why you can’t look at pictures taken long ago. Or why you keep private stashes of House Beautiful or Shape for midnight reading. Maybe your shame in your body comes from a tattoo from another time in your life you would gladly remove if you could. Or maybe it’s the scars from an abortion or eating disorder.

Shame is not only an indicator of the outward home or clothing size or perfect children. Shame reaches our souls and steals our joy!

Shame also reveals many other truths about our hearts:

  1. It reveals pride. I’ve mentioned this before, but pride is so ugly in a believer’s heart. Everything we have ever received is from God and is not of our own doing. So, when we strive to keep appearances up for the sake of making ourselves look better – it is not a helpful tool in sharing the truth of God’s Word.  (Ephesians 2.8-10; Isaiah 2.17)
  2. Comparison is a nasty habit. Whenever we compare our lives with those of others it reveals an ungrateful heart to the Lord. It is wrecking friendships as well. Oh, be grateful in your heart for all that God has done for you and in you! He works all things together for our good and His glory! (Romans 8.18-39; Colossians 3.15-17)
  3. Both of these areas of our hearts reveal a lack of love for others. One of the two commandments we are given in the Word is love your neighbor as yourself. Friendships are one of most important things in my life.  I love the sweet friends that God has blessed me with over the years and in every place I’ve lived. But, when I let sin hinder those relationships, it brings bitterness that takes forgiveness to overcome – by the truth of the Gospel.  (1 Corinthians 13)

The Gospel – the life and work of Jesus Christ – as it does for every area of our lives, has a direct impact on our life and soul of shame.

  1. Jesus doesn’t love you because you are skinny or wear a certain size. I remember Anne Hathaway’s character in The Devil Wears Prada boasting in the fact that she was now in a size 4. But, her life wasn’t any happier than it was when she was slightly bigger. Jesus work in our lives often to heal us from an addiction to the scale or the tag on the skirt.
  2. The gospel isn’t yours only if you have a farmhouse table in your dining room or your baseboards never have a speck of dust on them. The gospel is ours not because of anything we have done – but because Jesus has done everything.
  3. Christ is ours no matter how our children behave – or misbehave! Claim that truth!
  4. Christ frees us! Romans 8.1 is a verse that every believer needs to claim for their lives as a mantra. We are free. There is no condemnation!

The next time you find it hard to believe that you are more than your house, your outward appearance, or any other area you find yourself ashamed of – rest in the doneness of the Gospel of Jesus! And boast in that!

kimberlycampbellKimberly Davidson Campbell is a wife, mother, freelance writer and photographer who resides in the Atlanta area with her family. She graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity in Education. Her passions include life-on-life discipleship, speaking, teaching, writing, cooking, being healthy, and photography – and mostly spending time with her husband and two very active sons! She blogs regularly at http://kd316.com.

[photo credit: Jims_photos via photopin cc]

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Navigating Female Leadership

female leadership

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – When I heard her share about women in leadership in person, I was blown away. I asked — no begged — Elise to share with all of you. It is tough to be a woman in leadership. I hope her story and three points encourage you to keep going. Pull up a chair. You are desperately needed!]

I have led teams internationally and state side, within small and large organizations, and in the safety of both the classroom and the jungle of life.

As a female, this meant saying “yes” to a narrow road, a road that traditional cultures attempt to restrict and boys clubs hang an invisible “no girls allowed” sign. In my years as both a theorist in the classroom and practitioner in the world, I have come to believe a simple truth about effective leadership.

Ultimately leadership is about influence and the unique influence of a woman must be experienced.

Women who have traveled this road know the challenges that lie ahead for those just beginning. There are times you will want to make a u-turn and question if the struggle is worth it. When these challenges came for me, there was not a woman ahead of me who could model or mentor me into effective female leadership. I felt like I was on a tightrope with no safety net and unable to see the platform symbolizing success within sight.

The women I did experience were either doormats or breaking down doors, neither of which fit who I wanted to be.

I saw women underutilizing their strengths or forcing them on others, both scenarios resulting in a loss of respect and opportunities. Movies, like Charlie’s Angels attempted to equalize women with men by showing that women could kick butt just like a man. The message appears to be equalizing, But there is a more subtle and disempowering message as well: that the innate strengths that females possess aren’t also valuable for “kicking butt.”

Strengths like collaboration (research supports the effectiveness of this leadership style), wisdom (the Bible personifies wisdom as a “she,”…just sayin!), and an ability to soften the rough edges of a cut throat world (see the story of how Abigail’s intelligence and diplomacy saved several men’s lives-I Samuel 25).

With an absence of mentors, what’s a girl to do if her strengths and call draw her towards platforms of influence?

Having led both men and women, there are some taxes I have paid through experience that I would like to pay for you. I have also asked those I have had the privilege of leading for their insights. There are men who want to pull out your chair, at the leadership table. You are desperately needed.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do now to keep moving down the path.

1. Identify your God given gifts and believe they are there for a specific purpose. In the early days of my career, I did not have the knowledge of my strengths and had little experience to draw from. It has been said that your purpose is where your talents and burdens collide. I began to recognize my gifts in communication and a burden for developing leaders. Despite getting glimpses of my purpose, the opportunities extended to me at that time were scarce. I had to hold tight, believing that if God gave me these specific passions and strengths, He would not let them go to waste.

2. Prepare so when opportunity knocks, you can walk through the door. Develop your strengths and create value for others. Get your education. Seek out different experiences. Read everything you can get your hands on. Ask for feedback. Volunteer. Keep a learning journal. One of my most memorable opportunities came unexpectedly my boss resigned and I led for a three year interim.  I had completed my Masters in Leadership just one month prior. Preparation met opportunity. When given the opportunity, succeed early and often. When a leader is a good, gender fades into the background.

3. You were created female on purpose. Gifted people are leaving their positions every day because of poor leadership. Those possessing the competencies associated with Emotional Intelligence (such as building bonds, teamwork, collaboration, and interpersonal effectiveness) are what separate exceptional leaders. Many females tend to have some natural aptitudes towards these competencies, so there is no reason to think you have to forego female characteristics to be a successful leader. In fact, the research supports these competencies are largely lacking in leaders.

In Genesis 5:2  we are reminded that God created them male and female.

He was intentional in creating two genders with their own strengths. There is a place and purpose for both at the leadership table. And ladies, be mindful of being so caught up in your own story that you don’t notice another’s unfolding before you. Pull up a chair — a future female leader will thank you for it.

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[photo credit: 1yen via photopin cc]

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When Church Hurts

when church hurts

[Guest Post by Lori Tisdale – We know each other through mutual friends nearby, and she asked me to share my story on her blog — I had to host her here! If any of you have stepped foot in the church, you’ll understand what it means to be hurt. But. It’s what we do with our hurt that matters. Please welcome Lori!]

I was the first born of a new pastor and his young bride. 

For the most part, I was a very well-behaved preacher’s kid — the teacher’s pet, a devout Missionnette (the church’s version of a Girl Scout). I led the on-campus High School Bible Study, taught years of Sunday School, went on missions trips, etc.

I vividly remember God’s call on my life, at a summer kid’s camp – I was 12 years old. He very clearly told me that He wanted me to use my hands to reach others for Christ. I was not your typical preacher’s kid — you know the kind, they are usually rebellious.

But I was not.
Until I was hurt. 

Nearly 25 years into my Dad’s ministry career, he was targeted by certain individuals in our church who felt they were hearing God’s voice and direction more clearly on certain issues. And for years they argued with my Dad, their pastor, about how he handled these issues. Until they eventually disagreed enough that they threatened my Dad to step down, or else.

These individuals were more than just people in our church. They were people we had vacationed with, shared holidays with, and had grown up with.

Their actions rocked our world.

I had been extremely hurt by quite a few people in our church family. 

I started to question the purpose of church altogether. Church didn’t feel like family anymore. And I certainly didn’t want to go to church, mostly for fear of being hurt again. Plus, finding a new church after you’ve listened to your Dad’s preaching all your life is rather difficult.

I used the excuse that church wasn’t a requirement to being a Christian, so long as I still had a relationship with God.   But in that decision I was turning away from God’s call to ministry.

Along came some new friends who were much less judgmental. After all, when you’re partying and drinking with them at the bar they don’t want to be judged either.

As a result of hurt and resentment and pain,  I completely stepped out of God’s will for my life. I was running from it, kicking and screaming. For a long time, I kicked and screamed.

It was ugly. 

Until I got it. I finally learned to accept God’s love for what it was, all I would ever need! My worth wasn’t found in the circumstances of my life, how bad my church hurt my family or me. My worth was found in His undying love, His mercy and grace, His forgiveness.

I finally learned how to forgive those who hurt me, who hurt my family. 

It took longer than I like to admit.
But I finally learned that painful lesson.

My journey kind of reminds me of Jonah’s:  God told Jonah His will for Jonah’s life, and due to a number of circumstances Jonah said “Nope! Not gonna do it!” and he ran from God’s will for his life.

But God said, “Oh yes, you are!”

With God’s help (and a lot of grace), Jonah faced his fears, and fell back in line with God’s will for his life. What’s even more amazing is the thought that even with all of Jonah’s running, God still wanted to use Jonah for His glory!

That’s amazing to me! 

So here I was, finally returning to church, returning to God’s call on my life, but so very fearful of being hurt again. 

And yet God reminded me of the plan He had for me. To use my life to bring Him glory. I can’t say I wasn’t hurt again.  But my perspective had changed. Despite my fears, I could rely on God to go before me, to protect me and be with me.

“There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away” (1 John 4:18).

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

Lori TisdaleRaised in church, as a “preacher’s kid”, Lori has a unique perspective of church, leadership and faith.  Lori loves sharing her personal faith journey and what it took to bring her back into a deep relationship with her Heavenly Father.  Having a passion for authentic living and connecting, Lori views her life as an open book and loves sharing that with others.  Lori’s faith and lifestyle blog explores various DIY/craft projects, kitchen successes (and failures), and God’s life-giving message as it pertains to His calling on our lives (and the life lived in between all of the rest).  Lori and her husband Lee and their dog Callie reside in San Diego County. Connect with Lori on her blog: http://mylifeaslori.wordpress.com.

[Photo credit: Johndel via CreationSwap]

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I lost more than a marriage

tin can phone

[Guest Post by Kathy Moore – I have been walking alongside my friend through her separation, and then divorce. It has been especially hard to watch as the gossip train has started, and doesn’t seem to stop. If you are a “Christian” who knows others who have been destroyed by gossip, please forward this to them. If you are one of them — be encouraged by my friend Kathy’s story today.]

I am divorced.  

Out of obedience to the Lord, I have been silent to share my story — until now. Due to continuing gossip, I have felt the Lord’s prompting to speak truth.

Matthew 5:13-14 reminds me as a Jesus follower I am to be salt and light to the world.  Salt, as we all know, flavors, and light reveals. In addition to being a flavoring, salt is a healing agent, though at first it stings like no one’s business.

And light? While we are thankful for all the wonderful gifts it brings into our lives. Sometimes, when we look straight into it — we are blinded. I realize that there is a cost in being salt and light.

I have had my own healing happen through the stinging, cleansing agents of salt. I have looked into the light and been found wanting.  

I have yielded to both the stinging and the blinding, and I have come out stronger for it. I have come out a stronger follower of Jesus, a more compassionate friend, an empathetic leader, and a mom who is able to instill healthy boundaries into her children.

It was not without pain, tears or anger at God. 
God has brought me full circle. 

He took an anger so deep that it turned logic into chaos. He lovingly comforted me as I came to the cross, a 41 year old broken, humbled, beaten woman full of repentance and asking for forgiveness. He has restored my heart, even in my deep brokenness.

It is time to speak up and confront the abuse — spiritual and otherwise — that continues in my life and the lives of my children.

January 2011, my life unraveled. 

I had known for many years that things were not right. I worked and worked to make things right. But. Nothing stuck. Healing did not occur. My husband and I had separated 3 times in 15 years together.

The final time, I sought assistance from church leaders. I realize now they were not equipped for such a large task. I knew that my church did not support divorce, and I didn’t want one — but I knew I could not keep living in a terrible situation.

I was angry.
I was hurting.
I was out of options. 

The problems had started years and years before. I never really had the guts to bring the situation into the light. My husband and I did not fight well. As a matter of fact, the fights often turned abusive. Chocking, hitting, name calling, and being thrown down occurred more than once.

I admit, sometimes I fought back. The last time we fought, my diamond left a cut above his eye. But years of verbal, physical and emotional abuse left their mark on me. All I wanted was out. And so I began swallowing over-the-counter migraine medicine. That one act created a firestorm that led to my eventual divorce. Unfortunately, the firestorm really didn’t hit the true cause of my misery — abuse. It only added to the abuse by adding a layer of spiritual abuse.

When I filed for legal separation, I lost more than a marriage, I lost a church family and the support of those I had counted on.  

I was left a shadow of what I had once been.

What I have failed to mention is all the gossip that has occurred since my separation, and then divorce. Though I filed for separation, I was not the one to check the divorce box. I never wanted divorce. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was happening inside the four walls was not healthy for me or my kids and it wasn’t getting any better.

I have been called a run-away wife. 
I have been told that he found better women. 
I have been told I am a terrible mother.
It has been said that I’ve slept around.

And who said all these things? Christians. The very ones who turned their backs and didn’t wait around for the real story.

I am tired. 
I am righteously angry. 
And now, my children have gotten caught in the insipid chatter.

Ladies and gentleman, abuse is never ok. Abuse is a symptom of a much deeper issue. 

I tried everything imaginable to stop the abuse. I stayed for 15 years. I loved my husband. I wanted a better future.  I drove those who really loved and cared about me nuts, because I could not leave my marriage. And yet, the marriage and abuse were killing me, slowly.

It is a rare day when I don’t pray for my children’s father.
It is a rare day that goes by when I don’t grieve over my broken marriage.
It is a rare day that goes by when I am not confronted with the damage of divorce. 

On the other hand, rarely am I not thankful for who I have become. I wish I had had this strength when I was married, I believe maybe there could have been a different ending.

I like who I am.
I like who God created me to be.
I like the woman who relies fully on Jesus — for everything. 

God has shown up and continues to show up — financially, emotionally, and with gifts I couldn’t have asked for.

And yet, the gossip continues. People. I am divorced. I left an ugly situation hoping and praying for a different outcome, which still hasn’t come. However, God has come into my life and scooped out the anger and given me a heart of forgiveness towards my children’s dad; a forgiveness I’ve extended verbally to him.

Before the Lord, I am clean.

I have kept silent about the true nature of my marriage, because I wanted to protect not only my kids, but their dad as well.

I prayed that understanding would come. I have begged and pleaded with the Lord for someone to stand up for me — and yet here I am, with full peace knowing I must stand up now and speak truth.

Truth shines light on wrongdoings. 
Truth exposes sin. 
Truth is love. 

Love isn’t just sappy and happy. Sometimes love hurts. But, what is the outcome? Peace. True, God-given peace. I have walked a very lonely road. Often times the road has left me in the dark, by myself for long periods of time.

I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful that I know Jesus intimately.
I’m thankful that it’s purely Jesus, me and my kids going down this road.

I continue to pray for the kid’s dad. I pray true, salt and light repentance occurs.   continue to speak truth into my kid’s lives. I continue to love them and have fun with them and all the while encourage a deeper relationship with Jesus. For those that think they are helping by speaking “truth” into my kid’s lives about me or my church or my life — stop it. If you really want to help, confront the sin that is standing right in front of you masquerading as “right” living.

For the rest of you who have so faithfully stood by my side through tears and really, really tough junk. Thank you. I pray one day I can do the same for you.

Kathy MooreI am Kathy Moore, a daughter of Jesus and mom to three. Writing is my passion and encouraging others towards a deeper, more authentic relationship with Jesus is my goal. I’m funny, serious, a bit weird at times, but overall a fun person to hang out with. I’ve been through a lot–just like the rest of humanity and try to use my “a lot” to help others. Connect with me at delivered2thrive.com.

[photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc]

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Mental Health and the Church {With Video Links}

mental health and the church 9

Recently, I attended the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church (#Hope4MH). 

The good news is that they just posted ALL the videos from the plenary and breakout sessions. You can watch them on YouTube here. If you struggle with mental health or know someone who does, please watch and share!

It was hosted by the Rick and Kay Warren of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, Bishop Kevin Vann of Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, and Steve Pitman of NAMI-OC. You can download the conference workbook for free here.

According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year — that’s one in four adults and one in ten children. People of every race, age, religion or economic status are affected.

One in four adults.
I know because I am one of them. 

From the age of 10, I experienced signs of anxiety. In my 20s, I was officially diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Now in my early 30’s, I am on medication (Lexapro) to help control my anxiety and panic attacks. It wasn’t until July of last year that I felt comfortable enough to blog about my mental illness, anxiety diagnosis, and which medication I’m taking. I wrote about it here and here.

Maybe it’s because I felt the freedom to share or maybe it’s because I felt that no one else was sharing about mental illness that I finally spoke out.

When I heard about the Mental Health and the Church Conference at Saddleback Church I knew I had to go! I knew, however, that this conference did not come without a cost. My sympathies go out to Rick and Kay Warren in the loss of their son — and I don’t want people to miss this. Through their pain they are helping others navigate their pain.

I.
Am.
Truly.
Grateful.

If you struggle or suffer from mental illness or know and love someone who does, this conference is revolutionary and I hope you will feel the freedom to get the help you need!

The Conference Main Sessions included below WITH video links:

+ The Role of the Church in Mental Health with Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D. and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ Integrating Physical, Spiritual, and Mental Health with Aaron Kheriary, M.D., Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil., and Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Helping the Helpers: Crisis Management for Church Staff with Tom Okamoto, M.D., Louise Dunn, D.Min., Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D., and Teresa “Tita” Smith, MSW, LCSW. – WATCH HERE
+ Resourcing the Church with Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D., Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div., Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div., Steve Pitman, and Tom Lambert. – WATCH HERE
+ Standing Together in Suffering with Kay Warren, Amy Simpson, MBA, Most Reverend Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D., and Pastor Rick Warren, D.Min. – WATCH HERE

The Workshops included:

+ The Lay-Person’s Faith-Based Response to People in Crisis by Louise Dunn, D.Min. – WATCH HERE
+ How to Launch a Support Group and Counseling Ministry in Your Church by Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis by Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div. – WATCH HERE
+ Stigma or Stigmata: Helping the Church Rethink Mental Illness by Eric L. Johnson, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Christianity and Depression by Aaron Kheriaty, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding Women’s Mental Health: Is There Really a Difference? by Shari Muis, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Living With Bipolar Illness by Tom Okamoto, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ El Papel De La Iglesia Sobre La Salud by Hermina Shea-Martinez, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ The Spiritual and Emotional Roots and Treatment of Addiction by John Townsend, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Saving Lives One Community at a Time by Jessica Van Der Stad – WATCH HERE
+ The Most Important Lesson Learned from 87,000 Brain Scans by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Celebrate Recovery and Dual Diagnosis by Pastor John Baker – WATCH HERE
+ Helping Helpers Manage Crisis in the Church: Building a Bridge With Professionals by Chuck Hannaford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Understanding and Helping Loved Ones With Borderline Personality Disorder by Robin L. Kissell, M.D. – WATCH HERE
+ Welcomed and Valued: Building Faith Communities of Hope and Support by Tom Lambert – WATCH HERE
+ Abogando Por Personas Que Tienen un Diagnostico De Salud Mental Y Equipando La Iglesia, Las Families, La Comunidad Y A Los Profesionales Que Trabajan Con Ellos by Cecilia Mercado – WATCH HERE
+ Therapeutic Partnerships For Recovery by Steve Pitman – WATCH HERE
+ Food and the Body: 3 Steps to Healing Eating Disorders Through Community by Constance Rhodes – WATCH HERE
+ Troubled Families: Support for Loved Ones Affected by Mental Illness by Amy Simpson, MBA – WATCH HERE
+ Re-Think Mental Illness: The Role of the Church in Recovery by Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D. – WATCH HERE

I took a lot of notes during the sessions and attended two of the breakout sessions listed (we were only allowed two). Here are some of the most impacting bits I wanted to pass along:

mental health and the church 13“The Church is supposed to be a place of hope. I’m not okay, you’re not okay, but God’s okay so we’re okay.” – Rick Warren

“Your chemistry is not your character. Your illness is not your identity.” – Rick Warren

“Our faith does not promise life without suffering, but it does offer hope. Science alone can’t provide us with all the answers.” – Aaron Kheriaty, M.D.

“We need to make a mess. Roll up our sleeves in the lives of others. The shepherds need to smell like the sheep.” – Father Luke Dysinger, M.D., D.Phil

mental health and the church 14“Hope brings healing to my brokenness. If you’re struggling I urge you to reach out. Revealing you’re feeling is the beginning of healing.” – Rick Warren

“Do your own recovery.” – Tom Okamoto, M.D.

“Compassion plus resiliency = model of active listening.” – Louise Dunn, D.Min

“Don’t say, ‘you just need to pray more to get over your mental illness’ to someone because it is hurtful.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

“Create a culture of openness in your church. Give testimonies every week as part of your sermon.” – Rick Warren

” The issue is never the issue. Start with the easiest change first. It gives you hope for the next win.” – Rick Warren

“26% over 18 year olds will have a diagnosable illness this year.” – Matthew S. Stanford, Ph.D.

mental health and the church 3

“I have bipolar disorder. I am not biopolar. There is a big difference.” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“The most courageous thing I’ve done in my life was continue to live when I wanted to die.” Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You can borrow hope. The more hope you have, you can give away. If you’re in hell right now, don’t stop — you’re in hell. Keep going!” – Pastor Brad Hoefs, M.Div.

“You need a safety net of ‘CARE.’ C stands for Community (Galatians 6:2). A stands for Assistance (James 2:15, 16). R stands for recovery. E stands for Education.” – Pastor Tommy Hilliker, M.Div.

mental health and the church 1“Turn your anger into advocacy.” Tom Lambert

“Women are twice as likely to attempt suicide more than men, but men complete suicide more than women.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“Weight gain (besides pregnancy) is the second most likely reason women stop taking psychiatric meds against their doctors advice.” – Shari Muir, M.D.

“The person with a mental illness is not the only one who needs help or needs to change.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

“40% of homeless people have mental illness and 20% of homeless people have a serious mental illness.” – Amy Simpson, MBA

So what’s your story? There are pastors, authors, speakers, professors, and volunteers who were willing to come forward to admit things they’ve never said before. I appreciate their honesty and willingness to do so. Because of their bravery — I will continue to be brave and share my story.

mental health and the church 11“My brain doesn’t always work right but God always works right.” – David Mandani

Resources to Get Help:

+ Get Help Now! – Call 2-1-1 to find a Mental Health Practitioner
+ Saddleback Church Support Groups –  (949) 609-8392 or saddleback.com/care/supportgroups
+ Celebrate Recoverywww.celebraterecovery.com
+ New Hope Crisis Counseling – (714) NEW-HOPE or www.newhopenow.org
+ NAMI National – (800) 950-6264 or www.nami.org
+ County Behavioral Health Information and Referral – (855) 625-4657
+ 24-Hour Crisis Prevention Hotline – (877) 727-4747
+ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – (800) SUICIDE
+ Veterans’ Crisis Line – (800) 273-8255

“The art of medicine [has been granted us] as a pattern for the healing of the soul, to guide us in the removal of excess and in the augmentation of what is deficient: it has been granted us by the God who directs our whole life.” – Basil of Caesarea (ca 330-379)

Prayer in Times of Despair (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things 

Wherever you are on the journey to mental health, I pray that God be with you.

mental health and the church renee fisher.jpgIf there’s anything more I can do to help serve you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me or book me to speak at your next event.

*Thanks to Saddleback Church for allowing me to be a blogger for this event. I am in their debt!

*To see what others are saying about #Hope4MH go here.

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Playing The Jesus Card

the-Jesus-card

[Guest Post by Jenifer Jernigan – Like all authors meet, we met through social media. I love her vulnerability, her voice, and the desperation behind her story. I am honored for Jenifer to share her story, and if you, like her, have felt like taking your life–you are not alone! I know her story is long but please read the whole thing. You will be blessed!]

The summer months found me serving as a youth intern in a local church, teaching, ministering, and loving on kids who became an important part of my life.

The fall semester ushered in months of studying through the Psalms in my Old Testament class and Paul’s Prison Epistles in New Testament class.

I was happy.
My heart was full.
I was in a good place.

But the heat of the summer months melted away to nothing, and the coolness of the crisp fall air blew through so very quickly. And there I was, in the dead of winter, broken, yet again, into a million pieces, heart cold and calloused, experiencing a death all its own.

We sat there, my friend and I, on the sidewalk outside the cof­fee shop, he numb from the icy-cold air, me numb from my shat­tered world. Coffee-shop music played in the background. Bells jingled each time the heavy glass door opened. People hurried in from the cold to warm their bodies with yummy deliciousness. They laughed and shrilled with glee. Some shared secrets and made grand plans. Others came to enjoy time alone away from the busyness of their lives.

It was almost like an out-of-body experience, if such a thing exists. I saw them all, the many who walked past. And I heard the music, the bell jingles, the laughter, and even the ahhs as the warmth of the patrons’ treats made its way into their bellies. Yet, at the exact same time, I saw absolutely nothing and heard not a whisper. I was lost in an ocean of broken dreams; a sea of emptiness enveloped me. And years of innocence lost, wrongs done, and wounds inflicted welled up inside me.

The minutes passed by and turned into hours, how many exactly, I have no idea. My friend was the first one to speak.

“Ya know,” he said, “God has a plan and reason for everything.”

Immediately I felt a fire burn deep within. Slowly I turned my head, looked straight into his eyes, and loudly whispered my rage. “Do not play the Jesus card with me! Do you understand me? Do not tell me everything has a purpose and a plan. Are you f#*&^*$ kidding me?”

I stood to my feet, pacing back and forth, heart beating hard and loud, like a thousand bass drums. “Don’t say that to me!” I screamed. “Don’t!”

People stopped dead in their tracks to gawk at my public display of brokenness and pain.

“I can’t do this!” I went on. “Do you know how bad this hurts? I can’t breathe. I can’t think. I can’t feel. Except . . . I feel everything. And my mind races. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It wasn’t sup­posed to end like this. It wasn’t supposed to end at all!”

A madwoman walking is what I was. I mumbled. I screamed obscenities. I cried; no, I wailed in pain. I lashed out at my friend in unimaginable ways. He sat there, silent.

As I paced with fists clenched, the tears poured from my eyes. The pain, the ache, the emptiness inevitably forced me to my knees. My friend came to my side, trying to ease the burden, to lighten the load of pain that weighed me down because years of hurts and heartaches and things that should never happen to anyone had just broken me.

“Don’t touch me!” I shouted. “Don’t touch me! Please don’t touch me!” I cried uncontrollably, hugging my waist, my head lying against the gravel parking lot.

But my friend didn’t listen. He lifted me up from my puddle of pain so I could see into his eyes.

“I will play the Jesus card,” he said, “because it’s the winning card. And the pain you feel right now will one day subside. And you’ll be able to stand, victorious over this emptiness you feel.”

That was 1998. The pain I felt that cold winter night, the ache that left my heart empty, didn’t vanish in a few short days; it took years. Years of God working and me surrendering. Years of God healing and me accepting His healing and realizing there was pur­pose for my pain.

But I need you to know something; those years found me bro­ken many more times by the weight of pains.

They also found me searching to be accepted. Searching to be loved. Searching to be heard. Searching for the real me. And my search led me from one unhealthy relationship to the next, from one bottle of alcohol to another, and from one shopping spree to the next door-buster sale. During those years I married and had my first child, but I still searched for more. My searching and pain dead-ended in a court­room, with me uttering a word I never thought I’d utter: “Guilty.”

I then found myself in an extremely dark place for two years.

On a daily basis I contemplated taking my life; I’d attempted it years before, but this time I knew I wouldn’t fail. I emotionally dis­connected from my daughter and husband; I felt nothing for them. I was out all hours of the night, driving dark roads, sitting in empty parking lots, hiding from the world because I was so very ashamed of what I’d become.

Driven face to the ground once again, like Paul, I had my own Damascus road experience. And once again my heart screamed out as tears poured from my eyes, God, I’m a mess. I’m a complete and utter failure. I’m stupid. I’m used up. I’m alone. I hate myself. And believe me when I tell You, You want nothing to do with me! I’m sure there are others far less complicated than me. Others who are better suited and much more deserving than me to be Your child.

My insides were jacked up. I’d been deeply wounded by others and myself. And my wounds were bleeding and festering and stunk to high heaven. I had absolutely nothing to offer God. There were no credentials to my name. No great accolades or endorsements to cause heads to turn my way. I was just a confused, shame-filled, broken-down girl.

But God had purpose for my pain.

The day God chose me and turned my insides upside down and right side out, the day He turned my unlikeliness into something extraordinary in His book, I was a hot mess. But today I stand changed from the inside out only because the Word of God has rocked me to the core, healing the wounds that left me empty and lonely. I stand brave, not fearful. I stand whole, not broken. For those of you who are hurting today, weighed down by an oversized load of pain, heartache, hurt, and complete emptiness, may I lay the Jesus card on the table and say to you, “God has a plan and reason for all your pain”?

It’s okay if you can’t see His plan and purpose right now through your pain; and it’s okay if you scream obscenities at me.

And while the perception may be that you’re “the perfect Jesus girl,” the reality may be that you’re standing in a very different, very wounded place this very moment. People may not see that, but Jesus does. It’s okay. You don’t have to be who others think you should be. It’s okay for you to feel your pain. But what’s not okay is for you to stay buried by it, broken down in a puddle of hurt and heartache.

The time will come, and for each of us it’s different, when you’ll have to look your friend Jesus in the face, choose to allow Him to lift you above the pain, and embrace the healing He offers. The day will come when you’ll have to lay it all at His feet and allow Him to carry the load of your heartache. Until that day comes, even if you’re only able to know this in your head, know that God is actively working, there is purpose for your pain, and one day, you’ll stand on the other side of it, sharing your grace story for His honor and glory.

Jenifer JerniganJenifer is a Bible teacher whose passion is to equip women to d.i.v.e. deeper into God’s Word, teaching them to study Scriptures for themselves. Her book, Dive Deeper, is a part of Thomas Nelson’s new InScribed Studies Collection. Visit with Jenifer at jeniferjernigan.com.

*Excerpt taken from Jenifer Jernigan’s new book, Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion. (Thomas Nelson, March 2014. Used with permission.)

dive deeperLeave a comment below to win a copy of Dive Deeper! Winner will be chosen at random on March 22.

[Photo: ashley rose, via photopin cc]

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When Your World Comes Crashing Down

when-your-world-comes-crashing-down

[Guest Post by Rochelle Frazier – I met her through the Top 10 Blogs for Christian Women post I compiled. She was nominated for the list, and when I looked at her blog–I knew I had to have her share! For anyone who has seen their picture perfect like come crashing down, this is for you today. Be encouraged! You are not alone.]

Is it possible to arrive at the place where you stop asking, “Is there more? Should I be more?”

Is it possible that your restless heart could actually find rest right where you are?

Satisfied?
I dare to say “Yes!”

I don’t have the story of overcoming an addiction or a broken, battered, and abused childhood. I not only grew up in church, but you could find me there whenever the doors were open. My story was more on the line of the over-achieving, people-pleasing perfectionist. Everything in order and perfectly decorated, even my children.

From the outside, it appeared I had it all. And according to the “American Gospel,” I had every reason to believe that I did. You know the gospel that teaches us to be all that we can be, to own, possess, and claim what is ours, to climb a ladder that is placed on the wrong mountain and burst through the ceiling that has no eternal significance. And do it our way! This same spirit even carried into the way I served the church.

So when my perfectly orchestrated life left me empty searching for something more, I had no idea it was Him that I was missing.

I had it all together, right? Believing I was spiritually full, I offered my little teacup to the world asking… will you fill me?

But it didn’t come as I expected being a wife or a mother.
Nor through my perfectly decorated home waiting on Southern Living to arrive.
Nor from improving my figure or my social agenda.
Nor from becoming the top of my industry.

And then when my perfect little world came crashing down in 2006, broken and believing irredeemable, I turned to the very things I had avoided in my pursuit of perfection to see if they would fill me. But nothing satisfied the deep longing of my soul.

And then I finally came to the end of me, and because I needed God so desperately I would finally fill the calling of Jeremiah 29–not the one that I had worn on t-shirts and pasted on journals claiming that He has plans for me, but the rest of the verse that says,

“When you seek with your whole heart, I will be found. And bring you back from captivity.”

I was praying for captives. Quick to point out the captives. I had even prayed for God to open a door so that I might visit the captives in Africa. And then reality hit that I was a captive. My heart would become restless trying free other captives who, like me, bought into the wrong gospel.

So how did I come to this place?

There was a year that changed my life. Our community was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, a few months later I would be diagnosed with congestive heart failure delivering twins, and while seeking to beat all odds against me, I would become a single mom.  I was told I may never work again, and with my three precious angels and a healing heart, I offered up a prayer,

“Would you give me an idea that would change my life?”

And He did. I began writing what is now the children’s series, Sweeteas, and these precious little characters would absolutely change my life. However, what truly changed me was that He answered that prayer.

A collision with the fully present God who I had enthroned in eternity wrecked my life. I was never to be the same. He became a reality and my life had to adjust to the true Gospel. The Gospel that says,

“You will find your life when you lose it” (Matthew 10:39).

And I did!

Sweet friends, when your world comes crashing down your heart has tasted eternity (Ecc 3:11). It will be restless until you return to His love. But when you do, you will find that the longing of your weary soul is satisfied!

Rochelle FrazierRochelle is a storyteller by nature infused with undeniable markings of a true Southern girl: charming accent, gracious hospitality, and her passionate and infectious faith. She is the author of the children’s series Sweeteas and He Gave Me Pearls and journeys with women daily through her blog “Living with Divine Purpose.” Her story is one of inspiration birthed at a time of desperation, and gives hope to women that He still brings beauty from ashes. She is the mother to a beautifully blended family of seven including her husband Todd, and children Joy, Jadyn, Holland, Houston & Jackson. She is currently finishing her newest book, Something More: Daring to Live on Purpose. Connect with Rochelle at http://www.rochellefrazier.com.

[Photo: A National Acrobat via photopin cc]

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