Freedom Friday: He’s Coming for a Pure Bride

On October 14th (yes, the day after the marathon), I spoke at a church north of Boston as part of their series on the book of Revelation (the text for the day was Revelation 2:18-29). It was a slightly different version of my testimony, focusing on the importance of purity and embracing weakness, and I thought I’d share it here.

I was born prematurely in May of 1975. I spent my early months, isolated in an incubator, as premature babies were not touched or held. Those first months seemed to set the tone for the rest of my life. I have distinct memories of songs and stories that scared me as a child. I’d zero in on themes of abandonment with great fear, sure that at any moment, I would be alone.

I began experimenting sexually with girls at a young age. As a high school freshman, I began a physical relationship with my female best friend. I looked up “homosexuality” in a health book. The book said that if you had attractions for someone of the same gender, then you were gay. I remember thinking, “There it is, in black and white. I am a homosexual.”

For the next decade, I had several long-term and short-term relationships with women. I was not happy. At age 22, I found myself at music school in Boston. It was there I started learning more about Jesus. Christians seemed to start coming out of nowhere to share about His love. They never took it upon themselves to say that I should not be a lesbian. Like everyone else, I was a sinner in need of Jesus in my life. My sexual behavior was only one of many indications of this need.

My life spiraled out of control in many areas, not only my sexual identity, as I also had an eating disorder and a struggle with self-injury. A friend gave me a CD by a passionate Christian artist. His voice sang of a friend who was always there, a friend who would give everything for him. That friend is Jesus. In the midst of that song, I cried out to God saying, “I want what he has!” God, in His great mercy, met me on that day in January of 1999.

I had one more lesbian relationship after Jesus became Lord of my life. I felt stuck. Was it really even possible to break free of the chains that still held my life in so many ways, and give myself fully to my relationship with Jesus Christ? I eventually said yes to God after my girlfriend broke up with me.

Some days were a moment-by-moment practice of surrender. I went to a Christian counselor who helped me transform my life and my thoughts. God made it clear that I was to share my story. His power, perfected in my weakness, is also perfected when I boast in those weaknesses. I eventually married. And yet, purity is still a daily embrace, a moment-by-moment decision.

That is not to say I still struggle with same-sex attraction at the level of intensity I did 12.5 years ago when I finally surrendered my sexuality to God. I don’t. But every day, I’m faced with the same choice as all of you, no matter what you struggle with. It’s a choice as to whether or not I will trust God in the face of uncertainty. And those times where I don’t choose to trust, I find myself longing to trust in other things, whether it be food or envy and greed.

The lyrics of a song have gripped my heart recently:
He’s coming for a pure bride.What are you doing when no one is watching? Children get your hearts right. God’s coming for a pure bride!

Just the magnitude of His holiness inspires me to choose Him, to make the right choice when no one’s watching, even if no one besides God would ever know. Today, I do not obey God out of a place of fear, or a worry that His feelings for me are somehow as fickle as mine often are. I obey God out of a deep, deep place of love, respect and complete abandon to the God who spared no expense to rescue me.

He’s coming for a pure bride.

Monday Morning Meditation: Safe with the Lord (Psalm 25 series)

Today, I’m beginning a series on Psalm 25.

This is a psalm of David. It’s interesting to note that this psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet (as seen in the footnote).

The psalm begins:

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.

As I read this passage for likely the 100th time, I stopped there, wondering, What does “soul” mean?

The Hebrew word Nephesh can mean “soul, self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion, that which breathes, the inner being of man, seat of the appetites, emotions and passions, activity of mind, activity of the will, activity of the character,” among other things.

The Hebrew word Batach, translated “trust,” can also mean “to be secure, to feel safe.”
It seems as if the psalmist is in essence crying out to God, Lord, I take to You my passions, the place where all my appetites sit, my life, my very breath – I carry it to You. These things are all safe with You. I am safe with You, Lord. All that I am and desire and hope for – I take to You and trust You with these things.
Stop for a minute. Pause and take a breath.
Do you believe your emotions are safe with the Lord?
Your deepest dreams, desires, and passions can rest in His hands?
Your thoughts, your appetites, your very breath can be lifted up to Him?
As you journey through this week, pause and remember these 1 1/2 verses. When challenges come, emotions that feel overwhelming, remember you can lift them to the Lord. They don’t scare Him. He can be trusted with them.

Freedom Friday: Fourteen Years

It’s January 4th.

I saw the date several times today. I even wrote it on something and thought, That sounds important. 

I then took my littlest out with me to run errands. I just put a couple of CD’s in my car 2 days ago, the only 2 I could find (still nowhere near unpacked): Keith Green and Sara Groves.

Soon it came on:

There is nothing new
I could give to You
Just a life that’s torn
Waiting to be born

I Can’t Believe It.* The song I was listening to that week of January 4th 14 years ago when Jesus invaded my life.

Rivers overflow

Friends may come and go
But You’ve been by my side
With every tear I’ve cried
I don’t actually know the day Jesus grabbed ahold of my heart. It happened several times during the week of January 4th as I wrestled with the truth of who God says He is.
Oh, I can’t believe that You’d give everything for me
I can’t believe it, no, I can’t believe it, no, no
I know You never lied, and so it’s just my foolish pride

That I just won’t receive it,
It’s so hard to receive it in my heart 

And make the start with you

I just could not believe that someone would die for me. Who would do that? It doesn’t even make sense! But I desperately needed a fresh start. I was failing miserably at life, at relationships, at – well, most everything. I longed to believe that Jesus is who He says He is.

Help me, help me now
I just don’t know how
You know, I’ve been so alone
Please melt this heart of stone

There was no longer any question on that day in January of 1999 that I desperately needed Jesus.

I have a serious gap in pictures during that time, but here’s a gem from about 6 months later:

I still do need Him. There is nothing magical that happens at the moment of salvation (if you have a “moment,” yet it’s often a process) that makes us less reliant on God. If anything, I believe we become even more keenly aware, through the power of the Holy Spirit and our spiritual eyes being opened, that apart from Him, we really can do nothing.

Especially recently, I’m intimately and painfully aware of my weaknesses and failures and continual dependence on Him. I know the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:10, that when I am weak, I am strong in Him, but I don’t know if the power of that truth has been fully recognized in my soul, or embraced in my heart.

Yet when I shared with my dear husband why January 4th is significant, I got choked up. I know that I know that I know that Jesus has deeply transformed my heart and my life.  He continues to change me and set me free, one breath at a time.

And I continue to choose to trust Him. Trust that He is good, that He is my only hope. That He cares about me so deeply and passionately that His perfect will was for His only begotten Son to suffer, be crushed, punished, condemned, and to die so that I would not be punished or condemned, but may have peace and life till it overflows.

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLT)

Thank You, Jesus, for life. For breath. For a fresh start. For joy in my sadness, light in my darkness, truth in my confusion, peace in my anguish, sight in my blindness, hope in my desperation. For when I am weak, Your grace becomes sufficient, and then, I am strong.
Jesus, let’s go for at least 14 more!
*I much prefer this acoustic version of the song to the one that is typically played. It’s raw, it’s pure, it’s just Keith Green and his piano – how I like him best.

A Psalm for the New Year

Happy New Year, my faithful readers!

2012 was a very hard year – for reasons I’ve shared here plus many, many others. You all have been so patient with me.

Watching 2012 end left me thankful and sighing big sighs.

It ended well. I had the privilege of leading the music at our new church home here in Virginia on the last Sunday of the year. I ended the difficult year, praising God for His goodness.

Then on December 31st, I joined a friend as she ran her first 10K.

Through the last months of the year, Psalm 25 sustained me.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

It’s a psalm I know well, due to it being the focus of one of my favorite worship songs.

As hope looked to dwindle, as our condo didn’t sell, as my father fell more ill, as life thinned out in painful ways, Psalm 25 sang to my soul like water in a dry and weary land.

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.

I decided to make this my psalm to ring in the new year.

Have you ever selected a psalm to focus on? Psalm 34 was another that I have focused on in previous years. I simply read it often, often aloud, pausing frequently to reflect.

Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior,

and my hope is in you all day long.

Consider selecting a psalm to begin the year with. I will be writing on this psalm in the coming months.