Me Too. Now what?

Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading the book Half The Sky as part of a journey I’m on to better educate myself on the global oppression of women.

Or maybe it’s because I have a natural inclination to fight for justice.

Or maybe it’s because I have to sign my name with thousands of other women and say, “Me Too.”

But I am fired up.

“Me too.” It’s not a badge of honor; it’s an admission that something is wrong. When I was a little girl another older, much larger child threatened to hurt me and my family if I didn’t touch him or let him touch me inappropriately during free play at school. He held me down and forced bits of his torn up shoes into my mouth. I was terrified, and didn’t tell a soul for years until my mom happened to come across my journal and read about the terrible event.

In high school it was “normal” for guys to comment about my body, both high school students or older men that would come into the cafe that I worked at.

In college I had a stalker who used threatening language to attempt to manipulate me and make me afraid of him.

In my early professional career, another employee–my boss— asked a married man to evaluate my body. Thank the Lord that man stood up for himself and for me and declared that moment to be highly inappropriate. My boss was later fired.

I now work in the ministry world. In Evangelical circles standing up for the defense of women and women’s rights can be a touchy subject. Most church leaders want to avoid being labeled as “man haters” or “leftist.” But regardless of political or theological lines, it is an irrefutable truth that women throughout the world are objectified, abused, and often oppressed. The church cannot be silent on this issue when one in five women sitting in sanctuary seats every weekend has, or will be, raped. 1 in 3 has experienced some level of sexual harassment, and 1 in 6 will be stalked.

The Church (meaning the collective group of people who profess Jesus as King) has a responsibility to stand up and speak out against violence and predatory behavior faced by women and girls around the world. I don’t want to pretend that I have the answers, but may I suggest a starting place? 

Listen. Thousands of women are telling us that they have been on the receiving end of some level of sexual harassment, assault, or otherwise predatory behavior. Thousands of women aren’t making this up. Please do not silence them. Please do not brush this issue off as women being “too sensitive.” Listen. Ask questions.

Men in particular, I realize that not all men act in these ways. I realize that many, dare I say most, of you value and protect women. As I think about the men in my life, most all of you speak value and worth into my life, and demonstrate tremendous protection and appreciation towards me and other women you know. But as this conversation grows louder and louder, can I encourage you to seek out ways to be more than “good guys?” Start by listening and striving to understand the systematic ways that your sisters have been mistreated, and ask God for the courage to stand against it alongside of them.

 

 

 

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On Prayer & Friendship

I’ve been thinking a lot about friendship lately. “Friend”  is a term we throw around loosely, like it’s a common reality. The more that I talk to people about friendship, the more I’m realizing what a gift genuine friendship is.

I want safe friends who I can say anything to, who know my baggage and help me unpack it, who correct my wrong thinking, and champion my best. I want those friends who love my children, and who frequent my table. I want vacation-together friends, laugh until it hurts, but safe-to-cry with when everything hits the fan friends.

And every once in a while I catch a glimpse that those types of friends do exist.

One of the most profound realizations about friendship I have ever had happened in a women’s restroom. I was working in an office, and it was a particularly challenging day. I had been sitting at my desk blinking back tears of frustration and sadness, feeling all kinds of big emotions, and I stepped away to the women’s room to pull myself together. A friend of mine who has an emotional radar as spot-on as a sniper walked in. Without asking me anything she let out a big sigh, and put her arms around me.

I had planned to keep my battle to myself, get my act together, and finish the work day, but she entered my war zone. She asked if she could pray with me, and I swear the ground shook beneath my feet with the power of the words she prayed over me. She declared war against the lies, against the darkness that was shadowing my heart and mind that day. I was emotionally exhausted, and she took up arms to fight for me.

It was a profound moment. A humbling one. And one full of tremendous power, love, and a fierce boldness that I do not take for granted.

When I saw the new Wonder Woman movie I remembered that moment with my friend.  No major spoilers, but there’s a battle scene during WWII where allied forces are exhausted, scared, and haven’t gained ground in months. Wonder Woman, seeing their exhaustion and need,  steps out of the trenches and starts marching across the field taking blow after blow from enemy fire so that they could gain some ground.

When they were at their weakest she stepped in the gap and fought for them, taking hit after hit so they could regain their footing to fight back themselves.

That is what my dear friend did for me that day. She stepped into my battle and fought for me. Without knowing it, she completely changed the way I define friendship, and brought clarity to the type of friend I want to have, and the type of friend that I want to be.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested, he asked his disciples to pray. That used to seem like a docile request to me, but now I realize that he was asking his friends to step into the war zone with him in the most powerful way they could. Like those men, I often fall asleep on the job. I often neglect the weapon of prayer that I have to wield against the darkness. But time and time again I see that God has called us to arms. He has called us to fight with and for one another in powerful ways that shake the strongholds of Hell and break the chains that bind us.

So today, keep your eyes open. Be alert. And whether the people around you know you’re doing it or not, wage war on their behalf. If you’re the one in the battle, invite trusted people into your trenches and ask them to declare victory over you with the authority of Heaven through their prayers.

 

 

 

Ditch The Label

We’ve all had to rock those awesome white name tags at events. You walk in, and you’re given a white sticker and a Sharpie to write your name so that as you make your way through the crowd other people can identify you. Most of the time we write the name we go by: Haley, Adam, Kristyn, Troy…and if you’re like me, you forget to take it off, wash the laundry, and end up googling “laundry solutions for Dummies.”

But what would you write if you wrote who you really think you are? If you had to write the name that haunts you in the night, the name that is constantly whispered in the recesses of your mind? Maybe you’d write “Coward.” Or maybe “Lonely.” “Loud.” “Shy.”  “Control freak.” “Mental case.” “Depressed.” “Anxious.”

Mine?  “Unwanted.” Since I was a little girl I have believed that I am expendable. Leave-able. Disposable.

Good gracious, I am done with that heavy label. Jesus has ripped off the tag, and boldly declared over me, “That’s not your name.” The strong love and compassion of my Savior has given me the right name tag: “His.” I may spend the rest of my life picking off the sticky residue left on the shirt of my soul from wearing that vicious lie of a name for too long, but the label is destroyed.

So what is your false label? We all believe something about who we are. The great tragedy is that far too often who we believe we are is far from the truth.

Oh, friend. That label…that thing you’ve believed about yourself all this time, that thing that weighs you down and haunts you in the darkness of night…that’s not your name.

Your name is “Beloved.” Your name is “Cherished One.” Your name is “Redeemed.” “Whole.” “Lovely.” “Desired.”

Your name is “Royalty.”

So when shame and lies come to steal your dreams telling you that you can never escape,  run for the truth and declare, “That is not my name!” Run to Jesus, the only one with the authority to tell you who you really are.

Let’s ditch the tags, and let’s run free.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

Save Me

I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. In those early days I would take my Bible and my journal to coffee houses and press in, learning more about who this God is that I had fallen in love with; the God who was radically changing my life. Those first few years of following Jesus were like a greenhouse for me. I was changing and being transformed in big ways, and at light speed. For the first time in my life I was beginning to feel healthy and whole.

 

But at some point I started to feel numb. I started to get used to the Gospel. I started to subconsciously say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard all of this. I know all of this.” I fell into believing that I have a relationship with Jesus, and He saved me (past tense), but I don’t still need saving.

It’s a dangerous road to have found myself  believing that I had become too mature, too wise, too good to still need the Gospel.

I’m thankful that God loves me too much to leave me alone. Through some really difficult and painful circumstances I was reminded that it is only by His grace that I can even approach Him. It is His working in me that had changed me, His mercy that covers my sins.

I. Need. Saving. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. In this moment, and now this one…

I need saving when I lose my patience with my children and yell at them without restraint. I need saving when I say those ugly words to my husband just to hurt him. I need saving when I harbor unforgiveness and resentment towards a friend that has hurt me. I need saving when I get so angry at God and disbelieve that He is far more good than I could ever comprehend.

But the best news, and the power of God, is found in that through Jesus, I have the rescue that I need. Every season, every day, every moment.

Last weekend I heard one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard about shame. You NEED to watch this message. At one point Brad Tate says that as Christians we often say, “God takes our sins away,” and that while that is true, it’s deeper than that; God covers our sins through the blood of Jesus. Whether we are close to God and need 2% grace, or whether we are far from God and need 98%, the blood of Jesus fills the gap and makes us righteous.

I ended up drawing this rough sketch in my journal:FullSizeRender.jpg

The idea here was that God’s holiness is like the horizon line when you are looking at the ocean. What you see from the shoreline looks like a straight, level line. Underneath the water, however, are mountains, valleys, and rough terrain with varied gaps between the peaks and the surface of the water. The water fills in the gaps to the surface, making it level.

Jesus’ blood fills in the deepest gaps of our souls to be made right with God. Jesus has made us perfect and we can live in awe and wonder of the Gospel TODAY because we are made right with God apart from anything we could ever do ourselves.

Oh, God, forgive me for neglecting the power of the Gospel in my day-to-day life. Would you help me to live in humble, awed gratitude? I need saving…today and everyday. Thank you for covering my shame. Thank you for making me new. 

Run Hard. Love Strong.
Haley

Get low. Get free.

The beginning of 2017 started with me praying a simple prayer, “God, teach me how to love. How to really love.”

Learning to love means learning to get low. Choosing to serve. Choosing anonymity. Choosing to stop evaluating the value of work based on applause or approval. Choosing to do small things with great love for the people around me.

All my life I have felt a tremendous amount of pressure to excel. I have spent my days striving to be acceptable and pleasing.

That life is exhausting, and has left my soul tired. In my search for the approval and adoration of others, I have been chasing after a mirage in a desert, never arriving, all the while getting thirstier and thirstier.

Chasing satisfaction in the praise of people will always leave us thirsty; we are wasting our energy chasing after something that isn’t even real! We buy into the lie that apart from the praise and adoration of people we are invaluable, unloveable, and invisible.

I place my identify far too often in what I do instead of whose I am. But I am learning that there is tremendous freedom when I let go of the need to earn my place.

The reality is that I am not enough. I will never be enough. But Jesus is enough for me. His enoughness is all I need, and in Him is the freedom to stop striving.

When we stop long enough to look to Jesus and ask Him to satisfy us with His enoughness, we can stop chasing desert mirages and experience rich satisfaction and healthy souls. It is in this place that we experience the freedom to embrace who we are simply because He calls us His.

Out of our satisfaction we begin to learn what real love and service are.

We can rest when we stop trying to earn our place. We can experience the fullness of peace God promises when we accept that He really does mean it when He says that we don’t have to earn His favor or love. We can start to enjoy our work when we don’t tie our worth to it.

Living low allows us to find tremendous fulfillment and joy in both the mundane and the extraordinary. Whether scrubbing dishes, changing diapers, working in a cubicle, or  speaking in front of thousands, we can fully embrace our moments with gratitude and a heart full of love because our activity does not define our value or worth.

We can be free to serve without recognition, and we can accept recognition with humility.

I’m learning that living low is the only real way to be satisfied. On my own I will never be enough, but Jesus is enough for me. He is enough for you. He is enough for us.

Get low. Live low. Stay low. That is where rich life, and soul satisfaction are found.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

Open Letter To The Fatherless

I have had 5 step-dads in my life.

Five.

Only 1 of them has stuck around, and that’s a weird, undefined relationship.

I didn’t know my biological father until I was 29 years old (that’s a miraculous story that I will share a different day).

Father’s Day used to be such a painful holiday for me; a reminder to me that I was fatherless. I recall skipping church at least once in my adult life on Father’s Day just to avoid it altogether. And the Father-Daughter dance at my friends’ weddings…forget it. I cried every time, and usually not tears of joy.

I never was “daddy’s girl,” and there was always a painful whisper in my heart telling me that I never would be. I wasn’t worth sticking around for; I was abandoned…over, and over again.

My heart was broken.

When I chose to follow Jesus, I started studying the Bible to find answers to this question: who is this God? I have spent 13 years chasing after answers, and somewhere along the way  the truth has healed my heart.

Oh, friend. Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you don’t know your father, or maybe you’ve lost your father, or maybe you’ve had an abusive father. I don’t know your story, but you do. I want to tell you that God calls you “daughter.” He calls you His.

I know that can feel so unbelievable. The cynical side of your broken heart might be saying, “Yeah, whatever.” But beautiful one, you are treasured beyond compare…if only you knew.

Over and over again God has revealed Himself to us as “Father to the Fatherless, defender of the weak.” God cares about the role of dads, and He weeps with us when that relationship is broken.

One of the most healing verses of scripture that God has spoken over my heart is Psalm 68:6

God makes a home for the lonely. 

Nothing can replace the role of a father in a daughter’s life. But for those of us whose dads are absent for whatever reason, God loves us and makes homes for us.

There are men worth admiring. There are men worth learning from, and allowing them in enough to show you the type of love that God has for you as a daughter.

We have to receive that. We have to be willing to let that kind of love in, and to look for the hidden treasure found in men that might not be our real dads, but who are worthy of paternal affection.

We must learn to recognize what a godly older man is, and celebrate that. No, they aren’t our real dads, but God shows us His love—what it looks likethrough the lives of such men.

We should celebrate men who are dads by choice. And we should embrace that some of them want to love us as daughters. It is good to allow Godly men to love us like fathers—to offer wisdom, insight, and speak truth, value, and dignity to our hearts. It is good for us to admire, respect, trust, and love godly men like these.

There are these types of men in my own life; godly older men that have forever changed my life, and have been a part of God healing my fatherless heart. Men that didn’t have to be paternal figures, but chose to be anyway. Today, I want to celebrate them:

  • My grandfather. My hero. He is the only man who has remained constant in his role in my life from the day I was born. He walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, and I love him as though he were really my dad.
  • My uncle who adopted me when I was 10 years old. His own children were already grown, and yet he said “yes” to being a dad again.
  • My father-in-laws (Adam’s dad and step dad) have taken me in as their own daughter, have prayed with me, cried with me, counseled me, and so much more.
  • So many other men who love Jesus, and out of that love people. Men like my high school band director, former bosses, pastors, and others who have shown me through their lives what it means to love younger women as daughters, to protect them, give them dignity, give them value.

Sweet sister, God calls you His daughter.

I want to see your happily ever after; that you know in your heart that you matter; that you are royalty. 

You. Are. A. Daughter. Of. A. King.

And one day the tears will be wiped away, and your heart will embrace fully the truth of that statement. Until then, let’s celebrate those men who show us the love of the God who made us—the God who says we belong. The God who calls us to life, to freedom, and to stand with heads held high.

May that God–my God, and yours–sing this song over your heart today:

 

 

Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.
    Since he’s your Lord, adore him.

-Psalm 45:10-

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Is Not In The GOP

I feel the tension. Debates, cuthroat politics, polarizing facebook conversations based on which candidate should be the next POTUS. I stay on top of current events, and I follow candidates to know who is running, and what they actually stand for (not just what they say they stand for).

Elections are tense. Scary even. Who will our next leader be? There’s so much weight in the decision. I catch myself thinking things like, “If it’s so-and-so, God help us all. We’re doomed.” Or on the flip-side, “I hope so-and-so wins because then we all live happily every after.”

We as Christians can get really caught up in politics. We can get flat-out ugly to anyone who doesn’t agree with us. Sadly, modern American Christianity has often elevated politics above the Gospel instead of filtering politics through it. We have made “liberals” the enemy, rather than holding fast to Ephesians 6 which says that the real battle isn’t against people at all.

I’m going to just come right out and say it: Jesus is not in the GOP (collective gasp). Jesus is also not a Democrat. He Himself is King, and His Kingdom is built for all of us that would surrender to His authority, regardless of our political affiliation.

Early disciples believed Jesus was planning to rule with an iron fist and overthrow the Roman occupation. They wanted him to come into the world and show Rome who was boss. They were chomping at the bit for redemption, for freedom, for renewal. They were patriots eager to see their beloved nation restored to its glory.

But Jesus flipped their expectations upside down. Jesus didn’t intend to stick it to Rome. He didn’t come to be the type of revolutionary that the Jews were hoping for. Instead He chose to bring His Kingdom through staking His claim on individual hearts. He didn’t raise the flag of His kindgom over Rome; He raised it over human souls. He raised dead people to life, literally and figuratively. He called ordinary people to change the world, not with swords and spears, but with truth, justice, and compassion.

His work and purposes have not changed, and we would be remiss to believe otherwise.

God doesn’t want to overthrow our current government so much as He wants to overthrow each of us from the authority-seat of our own lives.

Yes, God cares about our government.

Yes, He wants our nation to turn to Him.

Yes, He wants our nation to be ruled with truth and justice.

But our hope for this nation is not found in the POTUS; it is found when we the people choose to BE THE PEOPLE.

I have been asking myself why we have such a tendancy to place all of our hope in the position of one man or woman. Sometimes I think that we get up in arms about who goes into office because secretly we want them to take all of our God-given responsibility for social issues and delegate it to someone else. We want to put all of our hope for the future into one person’s hands. We want social justice issues to no longer be our responsibility. We would rather vote for change rather than be the change ourselves. We expect one person to do what we are unwilling or afraid to do ourselves.

I believe that if all of us who say that we love Jesus commit to loving our neighbors regardless of  race, religion, political affiliation, or otherwise, if we step outside of our comfort zones to executute compassion and justice in our everyday lives, if we speak up for the margianlized and oppressed, practice generosity, and allow the Kingdom of God to come through us then we can once again see a world flipped on its head. That is when we will experience a revolution.

Revolution will not come through the 2016 election. Revolution will come when we choose to be people equipped with love in our hearts for our fellow man, courage to step beyond ourselves to love and to serve, a willingness to allow God to radically transform us and redeem us from our prejudices, our hatred, and those things that divide us from one another.

This election is important. It is. I don’t deny that. We have an incredible privilege of being able to participate in selecting our leaders. The majority of people in the world cannot say they have such a freedom. And if we forfeit our freedom to choose, and if we opt out of voting, then we slowly tear apart and will eventually lose that freedom.

We must vote responsibly. We must educate ourselves on the issues, and cast our vote for men and women who have strong character, a proven track record, and a genuine concern for serving the people of this nation.

However, we must not place our ultimate hope in the position itself. We must instead step into our God-given authority to bring about world change by being people reflecting His character in our everyday lives. Only then will we see the change we are so hungry for. We cannot forgo our personal responsibility of being conduits of the Kingdom of God in hopes that one powerful leader will do it us.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

Give Yourself Grace

I am very impatient. I struggle with processes. I want things done yesterday. I have very little quotescover-JPG-64tolerance for waiting for something to be completed when it is in my power to complete it. When I have moved from one house to another, I stayed up late, got up early, and did not stop working until boxes were unpacked, broken down, and thrown away. I like things to be settled. I like things to be neat, tidy, and completed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

I’m being refined day by day, but patience in imperfection is a toilsome struggle for me.

You too?

Faith and deep growth don’t work that way. We are accepted by God and called His children apart from our own efforts, good works, and best intentions. But He loves us too much to leave us unchanged. He is the Master Gardner that prunes, cuts back dead and dying (and sometimes healthy) branches of our lives so that we can grow into healthy, complete Christ followers. That process takes our entire lives. I’m grateful that He never gives up on us. He promises to finish what He started. He’s in it for the long-game with us.

Becoming a parent has so greatly affected my perception of God and myself. Parenthood is an amazing earthly shadow of what God’s love for us really is like. It is beautiful to me that my son acts like a little boy, but it’s essential that over time he grows into a man. He’s still new to this life, and it is my job to teach and train him to be a mature, responsible adult.  This is a LONG process with a lot of repetition, a lot of discipline, and a lot of humor required. While he is not perfect, or grown up yet, he is 100% my son. He has access to me, my home, where I am. I provide for him. I love him unconditionally.

We are, in the same way, fully accepted into the Lord’s home as His children once we have authentically placed our faith in Christ. But as a perfect Father, He teaches us, He disciplines us when necessary, He loves us, and ultimately He changes us to be like Him. He reaches deep into the pit of our heart and starts to root out weeds that choke out His spirit from within us so that our work may be increasingly fruitful and abundant, and our hearts and lives more and more healed and set free.

Miles J. Stanford has a fantastic book about Spiritual growth called The Green Letters. In it, Stanford states that, “many [believers] feel they are not making progress unless they are swiftly and constantly forging ahead.” He goes on to quote A.H. Strong: “When God wants to make an oak, He takes an hundred years, but when He wants to make a squash, He takes six months.”  Growth and progress take time.

We are wonderful works in progress. What a liberating opportunity to be set free from our expectations of immediate perfection in ourselves and in others. God is working, shaping, deepening, strengthening, pruning, and creating healthy, fruitful followers. Give yourself the grace to be where you are, and allow the Lord to have His way with shaping you more and more over time.

 

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley

The Poison Of Comparison

Does anyone else struggle with comparing themselves to others? Goodness knows that I have fallen into that pit more than once! I have looked at some person that I admire (usually someone that I do not know well, if at all), and wonder why I can’t be like them. Why can’t I be that attractive? That smart? That inspiring? That loving? That successful? That strong? That “put together?”

I hope that you are encouraged; there is comfort in knowing that you are not alone. There is even more comfort in knowing that you don’t have to forfeit your deep-seated peace and happiness to the comparison game any longer.

It’s time to jump out of the comparison rat wheel.

Recently, I felt the gentle nudging of God reminding me to run my race. Run to win. Run hard. Running to win requires focus on the path in front of me. If I were running a road race, my focus could not be on any other person if I expected to run well. Horses running races have blinders put next to their eyes to block out distractions.

We need some blinders!

When we focus on what we think we lack in comparison to others, we lose all perspective of what we have. We become depressed, and obsessed with idolizing another person in our mind, rather than praising the perfect God that formed us uniquely (He calls us His masterpiece, by the way. We aren’t an etch-of-sketch drawing; we are wondrous marvels of creation!). When we idolize others, we place them on a pedestal, and an unrealistic one might I add.

When I compare myself to another person, ruthlessly judging myself against them, I am not loving them. I am unfairly expecting them to live up to my expectations of who I think they are. I do not allow that person to be real. They need grace too.

The people that I idolize and measure myself against are imperfect, sometimes selfish, not always dressed up, and yes, they too struggle in marriage and other relationships. They get stressed, they fall short. They very well may be looking to jump off of the comparison rat wheel too!

Comparing ourselves to others is emotional suicide. We forfeit the fight for true peace and Comparisonhappiness by throwing away our God-given value. The enemy of our souls rages against us and robs us of all joy by whispering that seductive lie: “If you were only like HER, you would be happy, content, joyful. If your husband/wife looked like THAT. If you had THAT talent. If you had THAT personality. If you had THIS many facebook friends. If you held THAT title, or made THAT much money then life would be good.”

Dear friend, hear me now: let’s put down the vile of poison. Let’s put up our spiritual blinders and run the race set before us, fixing our eyes upon Jesus—the author and finisher of our faith.

Peter compared himself to John. He saw the disciple that Jesus loved, and after all that Jesus had done to restore Peter personally, still asked Jesus, “Well, what about that guy? Why can’t I do what he is doing.” Jesus, direct as He is, cut to the chase. He looked at Peter and said, “Don’t worry about him. YOU follow me.”

That is our call. YOU (me) follow Him. Today. Now.

Scripture reminds us that we are equipped for everything that God has for us. We have been given everything for life and godliness. Seek the shelter of the Good Shepherd that fights off our enemy that steals, kills, and destroys life and joy. Claim what has been given to you in Christ, and know that you are uniquely and wonderfully made.

Let us pray for hearts that understand what Christ has accomplished for us. Let us look to Him and stand in awe at who HE is, rather than the life of another fallible person. Let us be amazed that He is intimately involved in our lives. He loves us! THAT is truly worthy of gratitude and self-acceptance. Let us pray for understanding of what this means so that we are no longer tempted to be ungrateful for the lives that we as individuals have been given, or to idolize the imperfect lives of others.

Be encouraged. Your life is precious and unique. Own that truth today.

Run Hard. Love Strong.

Haley