Brick #3: That Time That God Took me to the Dark Ugly Corners of my Heart (AKA- How I Spent Last Week)

I sat down last week to finish writing brick #3, but kept getting a nagging feeling in my heart like God wanted to show me something different than what I was writing. As the week progressed my heart began to grow restless…really restless. What was it that God was trying to reveal to me? A question came to my mind that wouldn’t leave: why are we women, who are generally social people, sabotaging our relationships with each other? Why do we sabotage even the potential for a friendship with another woman? And, why does it feel like it’s so much worse inside the church?

It wasn’t until I sat down to read the book “The Good and Beautiful God” by James Bryan Smith that I started to get it. The writer was talking about God as our Father, and referencing the Lord’s Prayer. The words at the start of the prayer “Our Father” were when God got real with me. When we pray “our Father”, we mean “our”, as in us. As in my Father and yours. He’s not just my Father, he’s yours too. That makes us sisters. Sisters fight.

Growing up with a younger brother I know all about sibling rivalry. And what was it all about? Winning the spot of the “favourite kid” with our parents. We threw each other under the bus all the time! It was to make the other one look bad, and ourself look good. From that it grew into competition anywhere we could find it.

I quickly flipped to Genesis 4 to see the story of Cain and Abel, the first of many places in the bible where we see sibling rivalry. Notice it’s only four whole chapters in before we  see this?

2…Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favour. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

(vs 2-8 NIV)

What struck me was that they were not fighting for their earthly father’s approval, but for God’s! Cain thinks he’s doing right by bringing God a gift, then Abel brings the best of his best to God (typical sibling always trying to one up the other, hey?!), and God takes Abel’s not Cain’s gift. God is clear of what he wants Cain to do to (bring him the best of the best of his field), but Cain’s pride is hurt. He is jealous of the approval Abel gains from God.

So what am I getting at and why do I share this? 

God showed me an ugly corner of my heart this week. He showed me the “Cain corner” of my heart. It keeps me from building meaningful relationships with women. If I say I don’t get along with anyone and I haven’t been able to connect, it may very well be one hundred percent on me. No one has tripped me walking down the aisle to my seat. No one has spit in my face, or called me names, or given me any reason to think they don’t like me, or that I shouldn’t like them. But it doesn’t matter, I’ve already decided we aren’t going to be friends. And what’s worse, is that I feel this way far more inside the church than out. I believe it’s because inside the church body, the perceived coveted “prize” is much greater than outside that body. It’s the attention and approval of the King of Kings we seek.

It’s about to get real ugly here for a minute though while I air out my dirty laundry, so stay with me…

When I look at women I assume one of two things:

  1. She isn’t the type of person God would approve of, and thus it makes me better and I feel I have somehow “won” God’s approval. Maybe it’s the way she dresses, the way she parents, her job, her understanding of the bible. Whatever it is I’ve somehow declared her “not good enough” for my Father.
  2. She is absolutely the type of woman God wants every woman to be, and I am not living up to that standard, thus I am jealous of the favour she has “won”.

Either way you look at it, it doesn’t end well, and neither of those thoughts make for long lasting friendships. I’ve sabotaged a potential friendship over my own prideful misconceptions. It can even happen in our already existing friendships. Suddenly my friend gets what I perceive to be a “promotion” (maybe she took on a new roll in a church, or is going on a mission trip I wanted to be on, or gets poured out a blessing), and either consciously or subconsciously I feel she did something right to get noticed by our Father. I don’t want to cheer her on, I want to be pouty that our Father chose her over me, and I suddenly feel spiteful with my sister.

It’s pretty icky, hey?! It’s downright juvenile on my part. I realized this after I saw it spelled out. There’s really no one to blame but myself for any weak relationships that I have or haven’t formed. The odd time someone gives a reason for hurt to have transpired, but if I really think about it with honesty that’s not the norm, that’s the exception.

I sat with this for awhile, feeling disgusted about what I had deep inside. The idea that I have a dark “Cain corner” in my heart didn’t sit well. I repented. I asked God to give me eyes to see people as he sees them, and joy for friends who were doing his Kingdom work. I prayed that I would see us as family. Mostly, I asked him to help me kill my pride. 

I wanted to know more though…does the God I love play favourites? Will he choose the “best” to be his servants? Do I have a reason for this jealousy that I’ve somehow missed? The story of Martha and Mary- Jesus sides with Mary; Jacob and Esau- God blesses Jacob, on and on it goes looking like God picks one over the other. But God makes it perfectly clear:

For God does not show favouritism. Romans 2:11 (NIV)

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism. Acts 10:34 (NIV)


In other words, I can’t get so uptight that someone will get more God than me, or that the work he needs done here will be used up on everyone else BUT me. There’s plenty of God to go around, and there’s plenty he can use us for, even if it’s not what our sister is doing.

Our Father, is not our earthly father. His lap is bigger and we can all fit on it. He can see us all at once, and won’t raise a hand in our faces to say “wait a minute, your sister was already talking”. He doesn’t show up to your sister’s dance recital, and have to miss your soccer game so to speak. He can be everywhere all.the.time. He is also not a parent like we are parents. He doesn’t have a favourite kid based on who was on their best behaviour that day, or kept him up all night with endless requests (anyone else want to admit that they do this with their kids?). He doesn’t find one of us cuter than the other, or smarter than the other, or more talented. He doesn’t have the flaws we have as parents, and he doesn’t have the limitations we see in our own parents. God does not show favouritism.

God does want humble hearts, and he has a place for all of us in his Kingdom work. No need to clamour your way to the top. In fact, lower yourself and he will use you.

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.. 1 Peter 5:6 (ESV)

So there you have it. The deep, down, dark uglies residing in the shadows of my heart. I am a work in progress! I am grateful God has shown me this and is refining me so that I can acknowledge it and change the behaviour. I tell you all in this, risking that you may think of me as a horrible person for thinking such thoughts, in hopes that my honesty will cause you to be honest with yourself. Maybe not publicly, maybe with a friend, maybe just you and God will discover this together in your heart. But, if this is you too, if you also have Cain-like envy towards your sisters (and brothers) I encourage you to humble yourself, and repent. This may just knock a giant hole in our guarded walls that we’ve been working through together. God has brought this to my attention not because he hates me, but because he wants me to be better. Not better than you, better for him.

I finish this with an apology. To those whom I have judged when it wasn’t my place. To those whom I intentionally didn’t cheer on out of envy. To those I smiled at and seemed polite too, but was ever so jealous of their relationship with our Father. I am sorry.



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Brick #2- Draw Near to the Father

There are no words, no phrases, no long and beautiful paragraphs that I can create that would help you grow in your faith other than to say this: if we want to grow with each other, if want to have love overflowing and be satisfied to our deepest soul, we need a relationship first and foremost with our Heavenly Father. It’s just that simple. In fact, it sounds so simple it is easy to overlook it, but something changes so profoundly at our core as we draw closer to God.

2 Peter 1:3 puts it into perfect understanding:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

2 Peter 1:3

Imagine a bucket and a water hose. You are a bucket, God is the hose, without continually being under his running tap of fresh water, your bucket will not stay full. You give away some love to your kids, some to your husband, a little extra here and there and suddenly you’re empty. We need God’s spring of life in our buckets. To deny that would run us empty and we’d be left with nothing but an empty container. The opposite is also true. If we remain in God’s continual flow of love, our buckets become so full that we spill all over the place.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have been surrounded by a few wonderful godly women. They are full of life giving encouragement, grace, wisdom, and love. They are the type of women who you want to be with all the time because their very presence is attractive. I desire to be near to them, to sit with them, and learn from them. I can only assume that that’s because the character of God radiates from their every pore. I want to be like them one day. I want to have the self control they have. I want to drip with God’s presence. I long to be so connected to my Father that I am transformed and become an example of his character to those around me. I want my life to point to him.

As I’ve watched these mentors in my life I know one thing for certain about them, these women, more than anything else, desire to be deep in their bibles listening to their Shepherd’s voice. They are humble sheep who need nothing else. I hope, for your sake, that you have met someone like that. If not, I pray God would bring a wise mentor into your life.

But you, my sister, can have this kind of life too. This life full of love so full you can’t help but to spill it all over everyone around you. And perhaps, this life so abundantly is exactly what we need to dissemble a few more bricks in our guarded walls.

As we grow in our understanding of who God is, we also grow in our understanding of who we are too. We gain courage, boldness, wisdom deeper than the world has to offer. We become lights to others around us as he uses us to point to him.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7 NIV)

See? It all works together. As we grow with God he grows in us goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection to others, and love for others.

There’s something different about the love that grows from God’s seeds too. It’s full of grace! When the world offers us love, it’s superficial and unstable. It can change with the time and season, but God’s love is timeless and doesn’t change. As it fills our buckets and spills onto others, they see this love full of grace and mercy, and it begins to melt away their walls as well in a way that only God can do. It will also give us eyes to see others as God created them. Our hearts will soften to others and a spark of compassion will grow as we see those around us as the sons and daughters of a King.

I know you know this. I’m sure it still feels like bland oatmeal when you were hoping for a spicy omelette this morning. But, it’s one of those areas in our lives that I know we always we need more of. how many times have we said, “I really need to read my bible more”. Or, “I should pray and gives thanks more often but…”. We have good intentions in our hearts, but it takes the act of following through to grow closer to God. He says:

Ask and it will be given to you;

seek and you will find;

knock and the door with be opened to you.” Matt 7:7

Come near to God, and he will come near to you you…” James 4:8

All those verses begin with us making the first move. I know so often I think about God, or think about being better, or resolve to change, but then don’t. It isn’t until I actually make the effort to draw close to him that I notice my patience grow, or that I have more genuine love in my heart.

So, I offer you this. Pick a time of day that’s quiet. Turn off your tv, your phone, your computer, and whatever other distraction you have. Open your bible, and read with an expectant heart that He is working in you.  Keep at it, even if it feels boring, or doesn’t make sense right away. Don’t give up! Grab a friend, spouse, your kid, your dog whatever it takes and stay with it. Slowly, you will begin to notice change in your life. Slowly God will begin to transform you from the core most core of who you are.

I have created a printable bible study guide for you to use while you read through your bible. (click here to download it) It has space for what you read, learned, and your prayers for the day. Feel free to print it and write right on it, or begin a journal and use the study guide as a guideline. It’s there to help you get started and excited to come sit at the feet of your Father.

Don’t know where to start? Try picking a book and read it start to finish. You know from last post that Ruth is my favourite, try that one if you want a short read. Or, if you really want to know what Jesus was all about, check out the gospels (that’s the first four books of the new testament). Whatever you choose, stick with it. And keep track of your prayers and things God reveals to you. It will be fun a few months, or a year from now to see what he has taught you and what prayers have been answered.

Feel free to comment with a favourite verse or two . Tell us how God has used it to transform your thoughts and actions, and teach you something new. Or share with us a prayer God answered; or a piece of encouragement for those attempting to draw nearer to God.



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Brick #1: The Heart of Naomi

In my last post I addressed the fact that so many of us are being hurt by each other. I mentioned that there are many people who are sitting on the edge of abandoning the church they’ve been trying so desperately to fit into. their hope is about to be extinguished. If you’re one of those people read on my sisters. If you’re not one of those people, then especially read on to see how we can join together to take just of those bricks in our guarded brick wall we keep around us. Brick by brick remember? We’ll get there.

I have been reading through the book of Ruth. Actually, it’s one of my most favourite books, and I like to read through it often. I love the relationships we see in that part of the bible. In particular, I love Naomi. I love her heart.

Of all the lines in the book of Ruth, there is one verse that stands out to me, and it’s spoken by my girl Naomi. Let me give you the backstory in case you’re not familiar with this book. Naomi’s husband decides they need to pack up their two sons and move cities during a time of famine in their homeland. They set up camp in Moab (a city full of pagan beliefs and practices). While there Naomi’s husband dies. But, all is not lost for Naomi as her two sons marry local Moabite women. Things look good again, but then, ten years later, both her sons die. It’s tragic! Now Naomi is a widow with two other widows and no one to care for them. She decides to head back to her homeland with a heavy heart. At the crossroads, with her daughter-in-laws in tote, she tries to tell them to go back home to remarry and thus they will be taken care of once more. One goes back, but not Ruth. She pleads with Naomi to stay. Naomi responds with this:

“See,’ Naomi said to her, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.” (Ruth 1:15 NLT)

Wait. What? Go back to her gods? I get that her heart was heavy and she was upset, I would be too, but it strikes me that she was telling Ruth to go back to a place where her eternity was at stake. She couldn’t have been so heartbroken that she was overlooking the salvation of a young woman! As I mulled it over, I realized Naomi had a “right here, right now” mentality.  She also had Ruth’s best interests in mind. Naomi understand there wasn’t much left for an old widow, and wanted more for Ruth. She was less concerned about her eternity, and more concerned about how Ruth would have food and shelter right now.

I think about how we talk to each other in and out of the church. Sometimes it almost feels as if we are so concerned with each others eternity that we have forgotten what we need right now. Where we end up eternally is important, it’s where we will spend eternity!! That’s a really REALLY long time to be somewhere! But, it’s really hard to get excited for something that seems so far away when we have heart needs that aren’t being met right now.

I think of how it must be for a person just walking into church. They have come because they are looking for more, they are looking for a glimmer of hope in their lives. Perhaps there’s something going on in their life that’s too big to handle, so they come looking for help, and answers, and someone who will listen. Instead, they get bombarded with what almost seems like sales pitches on why they need Jesus. Yes, I’m going there. Something about how we talk to non-believers just doesn’t sit right to me, especially after reading this example from Ruth. People walk through the front doors, and we start telling them how to say “the sinners prayer” before they even understand the nature of the God who they will spend forever with. We tell them how to be saved, and we plead with them to change the outcome of their eternity without ever tending to their right now needs. That very need that brought them to the doorsteps.

But Naomi, oh how I love her! She didn’t look at Ruth and tell her about her need for God. She didn’t whip out a bible tract with funky looking drawings and FAQs on faith. And yet…AND YET…look at Ruth’s response in verse 16:

But Ruth replied, ”Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. I will go whoever you go, I will live wherever you live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”

Because Naomi was taking care of a right now need, Ruth’s heart was softened and she drew closer Naomi, accepting all things about this wise women’s life including her faith. The rest of the book is littered with people taking care of their right now needs and keeping each others best interests at heart. Ruth, Naomi, Boaz all of them take care of exactly the need that needs to be met in the moment, and they do it was such love! Their lives become beautiful reflections of the kind of love God wants to pour out on us.

Think about your own heart right now…

What do you need in this moment? What are you searching for every Sunday when you show up? What do you wish you could just boldly ask for, but are too shy to ask?

Seriously, take a minute and think about it.

We all have something. We all have needs that need to be met. A need that if met, would take us one layer deeper in our understanding of God’s love. Sometimes we need an encouraging word, sometimes we need someone to listen. Sometimes we just need someone to look at us, know our name, and acknowledge that we exist. And from time to time, we need extraordinary measures of help. When our right now need isn’t met we head for the door disheartened. We came for hope, and it fell short, and thus the search continues in hopes of finding someone or something to satisfy our need. Ultimately leaves a bad taste in our mouths about who God really is. It makes it hard to linger in a place where his own ambassadors (you and I) show no reflection of what he stands for.

Now think about each other. Do you have each others best interests in mind? Think about that one person you really don’t want to bump into, or can’t seem to find anything in common with. Do you have her best interests in mind? Can you meet a right now need in her life? It really doesn’t take much, most of us just desire to be included, and to know that someone wants to know how our week went. And, if you are able help with someone’s extraordinary need, then do so. Quietly, privately, without boasting, lend a helping hand.

So, can we stop pushing eternity for a minute? Can we look at each other and not judge whether that person is “good enough” for heaven. Can we please just have the best interests of each other in mind? What do I have to offer you right now? How can I not just tell you about Jesus, but be an example of his love in a real way to you that you need? Brick by brick we can warm the hearts of those around us. Brick by brick we can slowly begin to trust that those around us really do have our best interests are heart.

I challenge you this week to take the time to hear someone’s heart. Stop talking, stop selling, stop judging and listen. Then respond in a way THEY need it. Show that you’ve noticed them in a right now kind of way, and trust that God will be glorified through your actions.



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I Have A Secret

I have a secret. I used to be afraid of saying the wrong words in church. I would fumble over my lips as though just learning to speak. My tongue wouldn’t work properly, the word came out wrong, and nine times out of ten I’d feel like a babbling fool tripping over my words. Take me out of church (and away from church based events) and I could talk about anything. I’m generally a relaxed person and don’t typically have a hard time making conversation with people, but when it came to Sunday mornings, I was so uncomfortable. And, if I’m really being honest here, there are certain people who I had an even harder time talking to. I don’t know what it was, perhaps a job they do, the elegant hairstyle they adorn. Maybe it was way they can recite any bible verse while I fumble in my brain trying to remember where it was that I read a scripture that I know would work in the conversation (but only because I thought it would make me sound smart like I’ve got it together). And I fumbled. I looked at the clock wondering how much longer I had to endure smiling, how much longer would this sermon last, how much longer is this bible study, and all the while praying my stomach doesn’t make a weird noise and cause people to look my direction. I was uncomfortable in my “church clothes”, and wondered why I put that outfit on before we left. It seemed alright when I put it on, but as I wished to escape the setting I longed for my jeans with each passing minute. I’d check my breath, “I need a mint”, I’d think. I was a scripture fumbling, jeans longing, AND head to the ground so no one could smell my breath girl. Great. Just great. Fifteen minutes in to any situation and I as already crawling in my skin.

Why do I tell you this? I tell you this because over the last year woman after women has stood in front of me telling me her heart. She has one and three quarters of her feet out the door of her church and just one last toe in the front door. She has been hurt by other women, not necessarily because they said or did something awful, but because she showed up looking for companionship and received little more than a smile and handshake.

Let me tell you, dear sister, as you read this. I felt like you. I have wondered why, in a place that’s suppose to feel closer to God’s love, do I feel so lonely? Why, in a place where I can come freely to the cross do I not feel like I can freely be me? How am I suppose to be knit together with love with people who I barely know? Is this truly all there is?

You heart is heavy. I feel you. I can’t say I’m so much further ahead in they journey. But, I have begun to feel more confident being me when I’m in church.

Your last toe in the front door gives me hope. Your heart wants more. You are desperate for that joy that you’ve seen on the face of a few others, but haven’t found yourself. You want your heart to be heard. You have hurt that needs tending to, fears that need to be acknowledged, and a desperate need to feel like you belong. You seek fullness in your life, but have yet to experience it.

So, let me take you on a journey over the next month or so. Brick by brick let’s take down that well guarded wall we have around each of us. As we do so, let’s allow God’s love to  soak into our souls a quench a thirst that only he can satisfy.

Let me share with you what I’ve learned along the way in hopes that we may bond together the way God intended. Promise me you won’t take your toe out just yet. Promise me, that you’ll find a friend, a sister, a neighbour, someone who you trust to start this process with. And in return, let me give you this promise:

I promise

to be of one mind and join with you in God’s body,

full of sympathy toward each other,

loving one another

with tender hearts

and humble minds.

I won’t seek revenge if you’ve hurt me.

I’ll tell you privately if you’ve hurt me, in hopes of reconciliation,

then I’ll pray a blessing on you for being the kind of friend that I will love through accidental or intentional hurts.

I will not speak evil about you, or share your stories about you behind your back,

I will not make up lies about you,

and I will work hard to live in peace with you, even knowing we do things differently,

fully acknowledging that God has made you different for a purpose that may not always make sense to me.

I will celebrate our differences with you.

(summarization of 1 Peter 3:8-12)

And just in case you feel like sharing this promise with others, here’s a copy for you below.

Let me pray for you.

Father, thank you that even though it feels as though we are unnoticed be others that YOU have noticed us. Thank you for crafting us to be exactly who we are. I pray that you would soften the hearts of women. Allow us to see each other the way you see us. Knit us to together in love. Build a strong body here on earth that would be a reflection of your kingdom. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Enjoy your week. And may you walk in a little more confident Sunday morning, knowing that there’s more to this than Sunday morning clothing, and fake smiles.




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