Modest Is REALLY Hottest In Hell (Christians & Bikinis)

 

modest is hottest

Modest is Hottest; it’s also true in hell.

What will you be wearing on the day of judgment? Scantily-clad or not, we could be in for a surprise. The Bible tells us that on the last day there will be many seemingly good people, who in all likelihood dressed quite modestly, to whom Jesus will say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

These individuals will be DEVESTATED because they thought they were GOOD. After all, they were covered in good deeds.

They were covered in humble dress: one-piece bathing suits, tankinis, and shorts to their knees,

They were fully-clothed in church attendance, giving to the poor, and a near flawless morality.

Wearing a one-piece or not, these individuals may soon find themselves swimming in the wrath of God for all of eternity.

How shockingly scary. This verse ought to shake our souls out of slumber and compel us to cry out for those trusting in their own goodness for salvation.  We must examine our own fragile estate and make sure we are resting on the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and not our own triumphs.

To the religious crowd who was trusting in their own morality for salvation, Jesus said, “For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)

Looks can be deceiving. We can look wholesome and clean on the outside, and yet our hearts can be a million miles from God.

Heaven is not a place for good girls – prudes properly celebrating each other’s goodness for all of eternity.  On the contrary, heaven is a place for those who have realized they are completely jacked up and in desperate need of being saved from their own goodness. Jesus looked through the swimsuit we were wearing and saw deep into a soul that was plagued with sin. He didn’t come for the healthy and the modest, He came for the sick and vile.

Christianity is not about wearing a bikini or one-piece.   Our hope is only found in wearing the righteousness of Christ – a garment none of us deserve or have merited.

If you have not read part one of The Swimsuit Edition: God Loves The Hoochie Mama, click here to jump in the conversation.

Let’s continue to walk through the process of deciding what to wear this summer.

 

Does it cause another to stumble?

More specifically, does wearing a Bikini cause others to stumble.  Yes, of course it does. Victoria’s Secret created an empire off of lust. Frankly, it’s difficult to see how some bathing suits are that much different from panties and  push-up bras. One might say, “It’s okay because we are at a beach.” But does lust go on a vacation at the beach? Umm . . . no. I would argue lust is very much hot and heavy on the shorelines and at the local pools. Lust has no regard for context or culture. Men and women are sinful at beaches, pools, kitchens, shopping centers, America, Spain, France (in nudist colonies), strip clubs, and church pews.

What causes us to lust? Is it leggings, cleavage, short skirts, bathing suits, smoldering Latin accents, handle bar mustaches or chiseled abs?

handlebar-moustache

Sin causes us to lust. We are all sinners who lust, and we are all in need of Jesus.

We would find a way to lust even if everyone was covered in burlap from head to toe. All of a sudden necks and earlobes would be the new sexy.

As Christian women, sometimes we simply say, “It’s my body. I can do what I want.” But again, it’s actually not our body; it’s His body.   Our bodies were purchased with a price – the price of the Son of God (1 Cor. 6:20).

Other times we’ll say, “Well, men are going to lust no matter what I wear, so why does it matter? It’s not my problem, it’s their problem.” Well, maybe that’s true, but does that mean it would be wise to dangle a crack-pipe in front of a drug addict, and just tell them to “man up” and gain some self-control? Of course not. Sometimes we make decisions not based upon what we have the freedom to do, but based upon what is in the best and most loving interest of those around us. Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as our self. If what we are wearing will in a unique and obvious kind of way likely cause our neighbor to stumble into sin, are we loving them (as Jesus commanded)?

Side note:  I am  convinced that many times women are choosing what outfit to wear in order to impress other women.    We are just as bad as men when it comes to checking each other out…I’ve seen it and I am sure you have too…A woman walks into a room and she is devoured from head to toe by other women!  We can cause one another to struggle with lust(non-sexually) by stirring up insecurities of the soul.  I wonder how many eating disorders, depression, anxiety, anger, and fear are birthed from seeing other women half dressed.

 

Can we help one another lust less?

What it really comes down to is that when we become Christians, it is no longer about our body, it becomes about being a part of HIS body – the church.

It is no longer about good tan lines and getting attention. Our lives becomes one in which we die to ourselves, considering others in the body of Christ. We exists for one another.

Our brothers and sisters have told us that dressing immodestly causes them to lust, and when our family is hurting (or struggling), we should be hurting. To love a brother in Christ isn’t to tell him just to get a grip on his lust. To love a brother in Christ is to sacrificially and selflessly go out of our ways to guard and protect him the sin that so easily besets him. They struggle enough as it is; let’s not do anything to complicate the matter. Are guys going to struggle with lust regardless? Yes, probably. Yet God forbid that we be the reason for them to fall into sin.  Jesus said in such a case, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

The bikini was named after an atomic bomb. I wonder if it sets off an explosion of lust in the souls of others.

I often hear women say, “Well my husband is ok with what I am wearing.”

Husband, I am sure you love seeing your wife naked (you should and I hope you do often) but encourage her to save that sexiness for your eyes only. Don’t allow other men to take visuals of your wife into the bedroom with them at night to play in the rolodex of their minds.

To be honest, my passion for helping our brothers has grown tremendously since having sons. OH. MY.

I did not have any brothers growing up so I was in shocked to discover how entirely different boys are from girls. Fixated on anatomy…just saying.

I want my boys to be great lovers one day when they are married. I want them to be naked and unashamed with their wives. I want my kids to have fantastic sex lives.  This comes through understanding who God has created them to be and the boundaries that He lovingly sets up for his children.

Yes, I want their eyes on Christ, but this is so hard because there are so many shiny things everywhere begging for their attention.

One of those things is beautiful women. High schoolers running in bra-tops, virtually every commercial they see on television, and even their sister’s Barbie dolls . . . they are all asking my boys to glance their way and stay awhile. So we tell them to “bounce” their heads when they see something inappropriate, but sometimes you can just about get whiplash trying to avoid sin.

I want to fight for their eyes, but I realize that the battle is not for the eyes; it is for the heart.

Women are to be treasured, respected, honored, and valued. Yet the media tells them women are for sex and merely objects to be used.

Women also can make this exact same statement with their clothing.

What should our take away be?

This posts asks the question, “What should Christian women be wearing at the beach this summer?”

modest is hottest 6

Freedom

“It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

“But He rescued us to be free, so why are you trying to put the heavy yoke of a modest swimsuit on me?”

(I have a friend who compared a one piece bathing suit to a cocoon, in which a beautiful butterfly was trapped inside of.)

Do we say, “Let freedom ring, lets put on a string?”

We are free from the slavery of sin, not free to do whatever we want. We are free to love God and to love others. We are free to be loved by God.

A woman who is covered by love is going to look different from the world.

Following Christ changes our talk, dress, eating . . . it changes everything!!!!

Sometimes loving looks more like dying. Before Christ we were white-knuckling our life – afraid to let go. Christ took our lives, and now it is not our own.

Christ set the example for love when He laid down His life for us. We are free to lay down our life for others. We are free to be servants laying down our lives for others and for the glory of God. We are free to be extend peace to parched eyes, but how can we show the peace of Christ when we are waging war on the eyes of others and fighting for their attention, groveling for their applause?

Finally, we are free to take it all off!

Let’s take it all off this summer! Take off all of our pride. Take off all of our selfishness. Less is more. Let’s clothe ourselves in humility, love, and respect. Let’s be a people that bear each others burdens, instead of baring it all.

Let’ bare our souls before the eyes of God, instead of our bodies for the praise of men and women.

We don’t dress modestly because we are ashamed of the bodies God has given us. We cover because of love.

How can we make this summer a selfless summer? Just remember you are choosing more than a swimsuit this summer.

There is no doubt this post will offend people that why it has taken me so long to write about this topic. My hope is that this will start a conversation that will challenge our thinking, making us hunger to love Christ and others more.

Christian, we should not be rolling our eyes at cleavage hanging out and huffing and puffing over short skirts. We should run to these women and welcome them into our homes because they are no different from us – just different struggles.

Let us clothe ourselves in humility summer.

Stop Hatin’

Remember this ancient saying…… “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Love covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8).

 

 

 

When I Don’t Desire Sex

Sex is an incredible gift from God to enjoy in the context of marriage. But what am I supposed to do when I don’t desire sex?

tired-mom1
(post inspired by the marriage “Sextacular” retreat with wwww.pleasantvalley.cc/)

Jamus and Annie sitting in a tree K. I. S. S. I. N. G.
Jamus, (my husband) and I started dating in college and I thought about him all the time. There was texting, phone calls where we would talk for hours, and just making up random excuses to be near one another. One night I called him because it was “unsafe” to run by myself and I needed an escort. Let’s just say I didn’t have to twist his arm.

As we spent more and more time together, I became increasingly infatuated with this Aston Kutcher look-alike with a country accent that loved Jesus with all of his heart. We got engaged after a few months of dating and were married within 3 ½ months. A significant part of the reason for this rabbit-like pace towards marriage was due to the fact that we wanted to “know” each other better (as the Bible puts it.) While dating, we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other! We were like magnets drawn together by a force stronger than ourselves. I remember one night we hung out in the Big Lots parking lot because that was one of the few places we thought it would be hard to fall into sin. As we approached the big day, I envisioned that every sexual encounter would resemble scenes from the Notebook, and I couldn’t wait to get the party started.

First, comes love, then comes marriage.

Married in the smothering month of July, we had a sizzling honeymoon (aside from the big fight we had on the 2nd night in the produce aisle of the Winn-Dixie) but then the weeks turned into months. Then the veil was lifted, and we quickly realized that had not necessarily married “Mr. or Mrs. Right,” but that we had married another sinner. We came to see that we had married REAL sinners who were selfish, hateful, rude, arrogant, annoying, stubborn, and jealous. Sinners who throw high-heels shoes at their husband’s foreheads. Sinners who slam their wife’s just-delivered, favorite pizza on the floor and say, “Eat that!!” Sinners who fought in such a way that the poor neighbors on the other side of those thin little walls at the seminary married housing must have thought, “My goodness, I feel sorry for whoever goes to their church!”

In spite of all of the drama, we were still having sex. Yet by this time, it was less of a strong, passionate pull, and more of a duty or obligation. My thoughts were, “I know, I should have sex with my husband. I know he has a ‘need’ and I would not be a good Christian wife if I withheld . . . after all, 1 Corinthians 7:5 commands me ‘Don’t deprive’ him . . . ”

However, I found it very hard to give myself physically to someone who would not give himself to me emotionally. He found it hard to open up to someone emotionally who did not respect him. It’s not that we weren’t thinking about one another, trust me, we thought about each other a TON – just not in the positive since of the word.

Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.

While we could barely keep our hands off one another in dating, it was a struggle to get us to put our hands on one another when married. There was one baby, two babies, and then three babies later. My pre-baby abs were gone, and my sex drive wasn’t far behind. I was up to my knees in diapers, spit-up, toys, laundry, cooking, cleaning, and not to mention it was as though my hormones had been sipping on a can of CRAZY! Breaking up big brother and little sister fights, disciplining, trying to teach them the ABCs . . . I was thinking about our children all day. How am I going to potty train? What I am going to cook that is remotely healthy? How can I teach them the Gospel? Or, let’s simply things: how can I just keep everyone ALIVE?

Sex was the last thing on my mind – besides the fact that I felt condemned that it wasn’t happening nearly enough. When your life is moving so quickly, you tend to only think of what is directly in front of you. And for me, it was my children. It was easy to keep our hands off one other, because our hands were so busy with other things. Many nights we hit the bed too dead-tired to even think about sex, much less have it. Sure, there were other nights when we would come together simply because it had been too long – these nights I never regret.

But I’ve learned something over the past 8 ½ years of marriage; it’s not just our husbands that need sex, girls, WE need sex! God gave us this gift to bond us together not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually. God tells us, “The two shall become one flesh . . .” – “one,” in the fullest and purest sense of the word. Studies have shown that human orgasm affects the same parts of the brain as heroine and cocaine. Because oxytocin and vasopressin are released slowly during sexual activity, these chemicals so heighten pleasure for a man that it essentially binds him to whatever caused it. Some call this the “biochemical love potion,” and God wired us this way to glue a husband and wife together forever. Thus, through the continual sexual act, a couple literally becomes “addicted” to one another. Consequently, sex is one of God’s most profound and effective ways of ensuring that a husband and wife remain together until death does them part.

So then, how can we awaken sexual desire in the midst of the mess and exhaustion of life? I’m thoroughly convinced that God wants us to have a desire for sex – a sexual desire for our husbands – a frequent “coming together” driven by desire, not merely duty.

How can we increase our desire?

If we would think about our husbands throughout the day, our desire for sex may be awakened.

I confess I have not thought about Jamus like I should. Yet the Bible teaches us that where our treasure is, our hearts will follow. One of our greatest treasures are the countless thoughts that we have every day, and so wherever our thoughts are, there our hearts (and BODIES) will follow.
Once we “make it to the bedroom” for that moment of intimacy, it’s great. But getting there can be a challenge. There are nights when we might say, “Do you want to?” . . . as we try to read the other persons non-verbals. This kind of half-hearted (secretly hoping they’re too tired) approach almost always leads to frustration, disappointment, and possibly even bitterness. Rejection from your helpmate never feels good.

In other cases, maybe he gives you that look across the room and you know what he is thinking, “It’s business time!” and you roll your eyes like “Are you kidding me?”

“Okay, fine, let’s get this thing over with,” or, “Alright, we can do it, but let’s make it quick.”

And then maybe you don’t say anything at all, and you are just watching the ceiling thinking about the long list of things that you have to do tomorrow.

But ladies, believe it or not, your husband does not simply want you physically; he wants you emotionally. He wants you to be excited about sex! He wants to know that you’re enjoying it.

After all, how would you feel if you were the one approaching him and he was like, “Alright, fine . . . I know I should, so let’s get er done.”

We can also reject our husband just by the way that we look (or don’t look). Things like not showering for three days (not that I know about this). Wearing that stained t-shirt you have had since college (hypothetically speaking), wearing those pants or shorts he hates (which pair??) Ladies, remember that our men are primarily driven and aroused by what they SEE; they are visually-stimulated. Let’s give them something to look at!

From our head to the bed.

When Jamus and I were dating, I thought about all of his amazing qualities. Then we got married, and I started to focus on all of his flaws. This mind-set is like taking a wrecking ball to our sex drive. We need to practice giving thanks to God for our husbands. What we think in our head affects what happens in bed.

Listen to the woman in Song of Solomon think on her man:

Song Of Solomon 2:3 says, “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men.”

NOT. . . “Looks like my beloved didn’t take out the trash again!” or “Of course my beloved is going to be late from work – again!”

Song of Solomon 2:8, “The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping over the mountain bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or young stag.”

This woman is thinking about her husband so much that it literally makes her want to seize him; what man wouldn’t desire this?

Song of Solomon 3:2, “I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves.” The assumption is that the man should always be the initiator, and certainly as women, we have an innate desire and need to be pursued. But this ole gal in Song of Solomon understands that at the same time, there’s nothing wrong with the woman going after her man.

Ultimately, it is the Gospel that changes the way we approach our husband. The world says “scratch my back, and I will scratch yours.” The Gospel says, “You cannot do anything for me, and yet I will do everything for you.” We are not worthy of anything that the Lord gives to us. I often want Jamus to perform well (be worthy) before I show him love; this is anti-Gospel. The Gospel says even if you don’t take out the trash and you have been rude today, I will still pour out my love for you – even as Christ poured out His love for me on the cross when I was at my worst.

In conclusion, here is the 30-day “Head to Bed” Challenge:

1.) Pick an activity you do everyday: laundry, dishes, cooking, driving.

Most days I try to cook a meal for my family, ehhh “most” ☺

2.) Dedicate this time to thank the Lord for your husband. Think on his gifts, qualities you admire, and then pray for his weaknesses. You can go totally Ann Voscamp and write it down in a journal if you so desire.

3.) Pray for the Lord to increase your sexual desire for your husband, and ask Him to give you creative ways you can bless your man.

4.) Share this post with your friends and encourage them to jump in bed or wherever they prefer!!!

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Love is Slow

They say, “Love is slow.”

Really? Slow?! How does “slow” operate in the fast-paced world we live in? Let’s be real – there are things that need to get done (now, not later).

Jesus came to show us how to love. He was able to love slow even while He was in the middle of rescuing the entire world: healing the lepers, giving sight to the blind, casting demons out of two scantily dressed men in the cemetery, etc. Consider the leper. I can’t picture Jesus saying to the leper, “Sorry bro, I just don’t have time; I’ve got another meeting that starts in fifteen minutes” (as He’s checking his text messages).

Jesus never seemed to be in a rush. After a full day of taking care of business (and yes, he would have been physically and emotionally exhausted) Jesus sits down and takes the time to hang out with a bunch of little kids. You think your 5 year old asks a lot of questions? “Why this; why that?” Imagine being the Man that has just walked on water and raised a dead man back to life; you think the kids had a long-list of questions for Jesus? You think he had to say a lot of extra prayers for all of their little individual “boo boos?” Of course, and yet He takes time for them.

In this day and age, “slow” does not get any pats on the back. The culture is exclaiming, “Do more. Do more! Not only is the cultural pace utterly furious, but our own insecurities drive us to compare ourselves to other moms and wives who seem to be accomplishing so much more. It’s our own productivity-driven version of keeping up with the Jones’.

Let’s be honest; nobody remembers the slowest runner in the race. Who finished last in the 800-meter dash in the winter Olympics? I have no idea; and neither do you.

No one browses through Target in search of the slowest hair dryer. The car dealers are not selling the 25 year old the slowest car of the year. The guy at the Apple Store certainly isn’t trying to see you the slowest computer. Your husband and children will rarely say to you, “Just slow down and take your time on getting dinner on the table.”

We have a need for speed. High-speed internet (remember the “dial-up” days?). My husband is on his way to Cedar Point, the largest amusement park in the world. He keeps telling me about this ride that goes 124 miles per hour! If that’s not enough, he and his friends bought a “Super Fast Pass” on top of that that lets them pass everybody else and go to the front of the line every single time!

Fast-drying nail polish, fastest route to a destination on the GPS. Our local crafts store (Hobby Lobby) had Christmas decorations out in July! You can purchase 4th of July and Christmas decorations all at the same time. We rush through seasons and can’t even enjoy them.

When it comes to the kiddos, it’s not much better. I find myself rushing my children through stages of their lives. I couldn’t wait until my babies started sleeping through the night. I rushed them out of diapers. When school was in session, I could not wait for summer. When it was summer, I could not wait for school to start.

Recently, I have been convicted over how quickly I try to put the kids to bed. I have perfected the art of skipping entire pages in books without anyone noticing (don’t act like you haven’t done it). Nobody ends up enjoying the process; it’s stinking pandemonium.

“I just do not feel like I am enjoying the kids!” I tell my husband. The truth is I am not enjoying them because I am rushing. I am viewing them as interruptions in my life. However, by God’s grace, I want to change! I want to slow down and enjoy what God has given me. After all, we only get our little ones for a few short years, and then we look up and they’re gone. The old saying is so true; the days are long, but the years are short.

It always happens; it’s 4:30pm and I am in the process of preparing a somewhat healthy meal for our family (yes, we are old people that eat and go to sleep 2-3 hours before everybody else; don’t hate). In the middle of cutting onion, I hear a scream. Now this isn’t just any scream, this is scream on steroids and sounds of utter chaos – possible toys and/or body parts flying. Now I have the choice: do I intervene, or do I let the three siblings have a “Hunger Games” type of showdown? Is this an interruption? Sadly, most of the time I view such instances as just that – annoying interruptions to my time-sensitive progress. My production is going to be slowed down, the onions will not cut themselves. If my production is slowed down, I have nothing to show for my work. If I have nothing to show for my work, I am a failure.

At the end of the day, God is sovereign and I thoroughly believe that He works all things together for my good. Why do I not believe that all of these distractions and interruptions are for my good? God has allowed this particular “inconvenience” in my life for a reason. He is interrupting me from my “productivity,” because sometimes He is more concerned with producing something in our hearts than He is seeing us produce something in the kitchen.

Have we ever thought about it this way? What if God is the one intentionally forcing us to slow down?

I know we’re after productivity (which seems like such a noble aspiration), but what if genuine and long-lasting productivity was not measured by a to-do list or a spreadsheet? What if the kind of productivity that God values the most means being present(really present) with those around us; slowing down; making eye contact. What if productivity is laughing with our children, picking flowers, reading a good book (not page skipping), another game of hide and seek, or just cuddling? All throughout the New Testament, Jesus models for us this kind of slow love. He valued the person over the project. He valued the soul over the spreadsheet, and the leper over the “list” that was 3 pages long.

Way too much of our life is merely a checklist. When we get it done, we’ve been successful. Six loads of laundry done. Check. Dinner cooked. Check. Discipled young woman. Check. Bible study. Check. Sex. Check.

Ladies, we are probably not going to get any pats on the back for building a stellar Lego castle, but the Lord sees it, and someday our kids will remember it (and be thankful).

Remember moms, our kids are watching us. By watching us, they’re learning something true, or not true, about Jesus. We are just like messy little children. We have nothing to offer Him but our messes and dirty hands, and yet He says, “Come to me.” We are not interrupting Him. He desires to cover us with His love. No, we have not loved those around us perfectly today, but we have a Savior who has loved perfectly. Jesus, please help me to slow down and to rest in the work you accomplished on a bloody tree 2,000 years ago. Jesus, even as you said, “It is finished,” and sat down at the right hand of God the Father, teach me to learn to say, “It is finished” at the end of the day, and to sit down and enjoy your unending love for me, regardless of how much I did or did not “produce” today.

The Ring of Fire: Why Satan wants to give you a Crown without a Cross

The Ring of Fire: Why Satan wants to give you a Crown without a Cross.

He did not come as expected. He did not descend to the earth as the “Rock Star” king with an entourage singing His praises.  Jesus came in such a way that the world did not recognize Him. The world was looking for a mighty and powerful King and He came as a humble servant. God became man.  What a great truth to wrap our minds around!  Jesus Christ left the glories of heaven to be born in a barn, where his doctors and nurses were camels and donkeys.   He left a perfect place to come to an sin-filled place.  He left the beautiful worship of angels 24/7 to the sounds of cattle mooing and pigs snorting. Jesus laid down His heavenly crown for another crown – a crown made of thorns. Jesus was born to die. To contemplate Jesus’ humility is an incredible thought.  He was an embryo. He grew inside the belly of a woman (women were not respected in this era). He was pushed out of a womb into a world that would not recognize His Greatness. What is “great” about a baby? A baby that would live in a poor community, raised by a woman with a “reputation” and a father that was an “everyday Joe.” Jesus had dirty diapers. He cried. He was 100% human. As a teenager, he likely had acne and endured puberty like every other kid his age. Yet unlike every other kid, Jesus would love his siblings perfectly, even when they sinned against him. Jesus was an avid learner, and enjoyed submitting himself to authority. He would attend a small synagague in his community and almost certainly did not have the chance to listen to the most articulate Rabbis of His day. He would work as a carpenter, hands calloused from hard work, tired from the trials of daily life. As Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us, Jesus is able to relate to human beings in every single area of our life. After all, Jesus was (and is) a human being – a human being that sympathize with us on our very worst days.
Near the age of 30, Jesus was led by the God’s Spirit in the desert to be tempted by Satan for 40 days and nights. He humbled himself to being tempted! He was hungry. He was tired. I mean this was the desert! Satan tempted Jesus, asking him to prove His diety by turning the rocks into stone (something He could have done in an instant, yet He quoted God’s Word and resisted the temptation). Then Satan brought Jesus up to a mountain top and showed him “all the kingdoms of the world” (ironically, the very kingdoms that Jesus Himself created)), and Satan said to Jesus, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whome I will. If you, then , will worhsip me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7). Satan wanted to give Jesus a crown, but he wanted to give Jesus a crown without the cross. He was willing to have Jesus rule and reign – but without the suffering. Why? Because God’s plan required Jesus’ humiliation before His exaltation. God’s plan for Jesus was glory, but that glory only came through a bloody cross – a bloody cross that would set the captives free. As Jesus died, He would crush the head of the serpent and disarm the powers and authorities of darkness (Gen. 3:15, Colossians 2), and Satan knew it. Satan knew he wasn’t dealing with an ordinary man; he was dealing with the Head Crusher. However, if Jesus took the crown instead of submitting himself to the cross, we would not be free. Satan would have won.

I am so thankful for the Cross. I am so thankful that Jesus obeyed God perfectly. I am so thankful that even though “Jesus was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant….and being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6). Jesus knew that this life wasn’t the end. “Therefore God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knew should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord….” (Phil 2:9). Jesus endured the horrors and shame of the cross for the joy and glory that was set before Him.

Why we have to take up our cross daily

Normally, family car rides growing up were filled with laughter and sounds of loud singing; however, this ride was mostly silent.   My father and I were riding home from the Miss Kentucky pageant, you know, the one I lost.   I am sure my father, being the great dad that he is gave me great wisdom and encouragment, I just don’t remember what it was.   All I remember is listening – listening for God.  I wanted to have a “Moses moment” where He would just call out to me from a burning bush, but that did not happen.   Instead, He chose to speak to me through a verse that I had memorized four years earlier. I praise Him for giving us His word and that He is always speaking through it.  I had memorized Jer 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek e and find me, when you seek me with all your heart”;  He gave me the faith to believe that He was good and that all things (including another “first runner-up”) were working together “for my good.”  I was excited to see what my senior year at Murray State had instore for me.

For quite a while, through His Word, God had been preparing my heart to lay down my crown.   During the preliminary night of Miss Kentucky, I remember going into one of the bathroom stalls with my formal gown and just crying out to the Lord (silently – didn’t want to freak all my pagenat girls out).  Tears ran down my face as a feeling of uncertainty came over me. I was  unsure of whether I really wanted what I thought I wanted.  Did I really want to be Miss Kentucky?

God always gives us the grace we need to get through our darkest hours.

There would be several dark days and then, there was light. I finally stopped binge eating mint chocolate chip ice cream, took a shower and put on something other than sweat pants.  I also stopped replaying the pageant in my head…”If I would have just said this,” “If I would have just looked more excited,” “if I would have just not been so conservative…” (I mean seriously, how am I gonna win Miss Kentucky with the platform of sexual abstinence?)  However, the Lord gave me His word and gave me the faith to believe it.

My senior year was a year of going deep with the Lord and because of that I was filled with great joy. I had a hunger and zeal for Him.  I spent hours in His word.  I remember walking to class reading Scripture memory cards filled with truth, I just couldnt get enough! I often think about those days, treasuring those intimate  moments with the Lord.  (I also have a tendency to look back and think what the heck is wrong with me now- I don’t ever spend enough time with the Lord… why can’t I just be like I was in college? That needs to be a blog in itself).  Long story short, I began to feel Him calling me into ministry, but I was unsure of what that would look like. Maybe I was going to be the next Joyce Meyer! (my husband inserted this sentence).

I had many people involved in the pageant world encouraging me to give it one more shot, “This is your year!” “You deserve this!”   The Lord gave me the strength to say no, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I would have regrets.   Instead of competing for a pageant I decided I would use my singing for God’s glory in the contemporary Christian realm.  My mother had some connections with a record label president and I was introduced to a well-known vocal coach in Nashville.  I began to take lessons in Nashville, hoping this would lead to some kind of ministry opportunity in the field of music.

Then It happened.  After weeks of not being able to sleep, I woke up in the middle of the night and cried out, “I surrender. I will be a pastor’s wife!”  I could not believe the words that came off of my tongue – a pastors wife!  That is the last thing in the world I wanted to do; I would rather go to another country and sleep with crazy, huge bugs.  However, I knew I had to surrender if I ever wanted to sleep again.  I called my mom on my way to class and told her the horrifying news, hoping she would cry with me.  Instead my mother tells me she is not shocked at all and that she had been praying for this very thing (go figure).  Praying for me to be a pastors wife?!?  What kind of mother does this to her daughter, I thought (now I know it’s a mother that loves the Lord; I have a great mom).  My grandmother chuckled at the thought of me being a pastors wife – oh the irony, she must have been thinking.

Well, now how do I become a pastors wife? Is there a sign up sheet? Do I go to http://www.Christiansinglepastorwifewannabe.com? Is there an interview involved? Do I go to seminary? Do I throw away all of my shorts and swimsuits? Do I need to go to cooking school to learn how to make fried chicken for the dreadful potlucks we’ll have every week? Instead of all of this, I just went to my classes (which I often time skipped).   I had three classes that year with a very handsome country boy who went by the name of Jamus (Don’t let the accent fool you, he is a smart guy;)  I knew Jamus, we actually had dated for a week the previous year (I told him “God is calling me to be single,” but then the next week I was dating a “band boy.” Jamus is still recovering.)  Anyways, even while Jamus was still kinda mad at me, we eventually spent a few nights running together (I needed a running partner, afterall it was dangerous in Murray, Kentucky at night). We began to have some very transparent (sometimes awkward conversations), and long story short, we decided to date.  Five months later he proposed (on top of the Sears Tower in Chicago – by the way, well done.)  I said “yes” and we got married three months later…wow…that is quick! (no, we did not get married because I was pregnant).

Burning Ring of Fire

My one claim to fame is that I married into the June Carter Cash family…cool right? Jamus’ father is first cousins with June Carter Cash. Jamus’ grandmother actually taught June how to play the guitar. Jamus’ parents have fond memories of holidays together spent with Momma Maybelle, Johnny Cash, June, and the Carter Clan.  Johnny’s famous song, “Ring of Fire”, has many diffent interpretations, but I understand it to mean that love, a “ring of fire,” BURNS – to use Christian language, it “sanctifies.” It hurts. It’s fire purges from you sin, pride, and selfishness.
When I said “yes” to marriage I was saying yes to the life of a pastor’s wife and to a life of NO fame and NO fortune. While my husband will be “up on the platform” in front of everybody, I’ll be the mom sitting on the back row trying to make my babies be quiet. The only glory I would get is, “oh, you’re the pastor’s wife.” As this new identity progressed, the fire was reavealing that my heart still longed for a crown, and that really, I still wanted my “best life now.”  I didn’t want to serve my husband (who was a youth pastor at the time); I wanted to back up my bags and leave (which I attempted several times). For me, love was a purifier. The fire burned.

As I’ve looked back through old journal entries, I asked to grow in many areas and apparently marriage was God’s way to answer this. I thought marriage was to make me happy and lovey dovey…hot sex every night… Jamus telling me how wonderful I am… gazing into my eyes and asking deep questions about my heart every night….he was going to be my new crown. This did not happen (Jamus forced me to insert that the 2nd thing on this list did happen – at least some). My husband found out really quick how big of a sinner I was and he was not impressed to say the least. This new discovery about one another led to many loud fights, doors slamming, high heeled shoes thrown at foreheads (from me, towards him) and double decker pizzas being slammed on the ground with Jamus looking at me and saying, “eat that.” Our poor neighbors in seminary; they must have thought the Jerry Springer show was being filmed next door (What is this guy studying in seminary? To be a pastor in the church of Satan?)

Then, Satan held another crown in front of my face. If I was willing to walk away from God’s plan, I believed it could have been mine. There was an audition for my favorite musical, “West Side Story”, and against my husband’s wishes (because it would have been a romantic role with another man; I just told Jamus that he was “insecure” – he didn’t appreciate that). Anyway, I went and got called back for the role of Maria (2 girls left). I thought that I had sacrificed everything to be married and I was not going to sacrifice anymore. All my fears of regret had been right. I regretted getting married; I regretted not doing what I wanted, and now God had given me a husband that wasn’t crazy about me.  I mean, “Doesn’t he know I could have had any guy!” (sounds like I needed a little fire” huh?)  Humble, I think not. I did not get the role of Maria, but God used it once again to bring a fire into my life that would reveal and destroy sin. I believe this fire was the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God (or, Jamus called the director of the show and threatened him if he offered me the position, jk).

Satan doesn’t want you to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus. He wants you to have your crowns now, your best life now. He wants you to have the promotion now,after all, you deserve it. He wants you to have the biggest and best of everthing – after all, it’s all about you!

If we stopped seeking our crowns here on earth, and trusted that the Lord has good in store for us, wouldn’t we love others better? I would be present when my babies are trying to talk to me instead of checking out emotionally. I wouldnt think, “I deserve MY time.”

In conclusion, be encouraged my friends – when you are changing diaper after diaper and your three year old still won’t poop in the potty, when you are cleaning up orange juice off the floors you just cleaned, and when you are playing Thomas the Train and princesses day after day. You are bringing Christ to your children. You are “counting others more significant than yourself.” You are being like Jesus. Be encouraged. Trust in the Lord when you are not getting that promotion that you have worked so hard for, and be at peace when your boss does not recognize your abilities. Don’t be discouraged if nobody notices your new haircut at church on Sunday. It’s okay if your clothes don’t fit you quite like they used to. It’s alright if your son isn’t the all-star athlete, or if your husband doesn’t bring home the biggest paycheck. Your identity is not primarily in who you are in this world’s eyes; your identity is primarily who you are in Christ. In His eyes; you are precious. You are chosen. You are beloved. You are the crown of His creation. And good crowns come to those who wait. Exaltation comes to those who are humiliated, first.

Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it preofit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-35)

What earthly crown are you desiring? Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us “consider it loss” and take up our cross daily. Our enemy does not want you to die to yourself because there is Joy and fullness in the empty. I’m praying you would see these crosses given by the Father’s loving hands, like a fire, to make your heart beat more like His.