Monday, February 12, 2018

Sex Appeal

9:36 AM 0

Today, I told my daughter that she needed “Sex Appeal,” and you should have seen the
look she gave me.  I suppose this was not your typical mother and daughter chat, but
then again, most of the conversations that take place in our home are not typical. Just
ask anyone who graces our doors on a regular basis.  We have one rule at our house:
you must at least pretend to love coffee and conversations because those are two of
our favorite things.

Something tells me that you are still wondering why I would say to my daughter that she
needed “Sex Appeal,” and I totally get it.  More than likely, you have been misinformed,
much like myself for the majority of my life, as to what “Sex Appeal” is exactly and
where it comes from.  We are given false information repeatedly.  It is shoved down our
throats in such an overt fashion that it is no wonder why you seem confused by my
statement.

When I say, "Sex Appeal," you hear (or read, instead) something different than what I
intend - most definitely.

"Sex Appeal,"; you have been told, is the way you carry yourself.  A little tighter, a little
shorter, a little less material, they say.  It is that "insta" pic crafted just so, to create
that subtle, yet seductive, look.  "More of this and less of that"; and before you know it,
we forget why we do the things we do or why we dress the way we dress or why we
seek after the things we seek, because we have placed our lives on auto-pilot in the
hands of our culture, and our culture has lied to us.

I am not preaching to you, but I am unveiling a truth that Satan does not want you or me
to see.  A truth that he has been attempting to hide from men and women for decades.
A truth that he has distorted and rearranged to fit his agenda in hopes to keep you,
your husband, or the man you will marry someday living in extreme confusion – living to
appeal to an obsession that, in the end, isn’t very sexy at all.

You find yourself confused because the very thing you find yourself desiring, that thing
that the culture tells you that you need to be or need to have is the very thing that is
leaving you feeling the emptiest.

GIRLS: "THE SEXIER YOU ARE, THE MORE DESIRED YOU WILL BE, AND THE
MORE YOU ARE DESIRED, THE HIGHER YOUR SELF-WORTH"

BOYS: "THE MORE SEX YOU CONSUME, THE MORE WOMEN YOU CONQUER
(virtually or actually), AND THE LESS YOU COMMIT YOURSELVES TO THE
BETTER."

Thus, we have generation after generation of boys and girls roaming the halls of our
schools, walking the aisles of our churches, and filling the seats in our universities who
are more confused than ever.  This confusion does not end with our students; no, it
bleeds into the hearts of men and woman of all ages and stages of life.

We are confused because we have allowed the culture to redefine one of God’s
greatest gifts to humanity.  We have reduced something that was meant to bring about
oneness to an image or a picture viewed on a screen or sent through a phone. We are
calling that connection?  My friends the only connection that is taking place within that
interaction is called wifi.  These interactions are merely self-centered and require no
personal interaction.  They are cheap imposters and are robbing us of our ability to see
and experience true intimacy.

Girls are sending nude pictures of themselves because, somewhere along the line, they
have forgotten how truly valuable they are, or perhaps they have never been told.  Boys
are requesting these pics and sending their own because they cannot begin to fathom
what a relationship might look like or feel like that was built on pure intimacy, so they
settle. They settle for a temporary pleasure over and over which, over time, loses its
appeal and will leave behind an empty void that becomes a black hole reaching for
anything and everything that might bring about contentment.  If we're honest, we are
sexually dissatisfied.

As Nancy Pearcey wrote in her book, Love Thy Body,
"students feel intense pressure not to admit their dissatisfaction with the hook up scene.
 If you admit that you want more than sex, [students said], you will be labeled needy,
clingy, and dependent.  A student named Amanda said, ‘It's a contest to see who cares
less...But if you say any of this out loud, it's like you're weak, you're not independent,
you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.’"(119).

Young or old, please read to the end, and allow this truth to implant into your heart.
To me, one of the most beautiful scriptures in the Bible is found in Genesis 2:25:

"And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed"

What a beautiful depiction of what true “Sex Appeal” is, as it was created to be.
Genuine intimacy experienced between two people, completely vulnerable, completely
exposed, and yet, shame was nowhere to be found.  Can we even perceive what that
must have been like?

There is likely not one of us who can grasp what this must have felt like because we all
carry different degrees of shame in our lives.  Shame from past mistakes, shame from
current errors, and shame from the pain inflicted on us by others.  Shame is one of
Satan’s most powerful tools to keep you from believing that you could overcome the
depths of your depravity and experience true healing.  Shame is that thing that tells you
"you are worthless," "you are unlovable," and "you will always be."

But there is someone that tells us differently.  While you, within your own power, will
never be able to rid yourself of such poor self-worth, there is someone who is plenty
capable of handling our messes. He longs to rip the shame from our lives and give us
eternal hope.  The depth of this person’s love knows no bounds, and there are no
prerequisites for the hope he offers.  He will meet you right where you are, and he will
give you a new name.  Shame will no longer be the badge you wear on your sleeve
causing you to be callous, cynical, and unable to see the good in anyone, but instead,
Jesus will give you a contagious joy.

This joy and freedom will open the door for you to begin to experience true intimacy.
Intimacy in your relationships, friendships, and marriages.  An intimacy that refuses to
hide behind cheap imposters and pursues holiness, because we have tasted and have
seen that HE is good.  No longer do we read God’s word as a list of rules and
regulations meant to restrict our fun, but we know that, through the great wisdom of the
sovereign God, he is offering us the keys to an abundant life - the exact opposite from
the lies fed to us by our culture.

So, to my daughter and to every other daughter, I want to say, “You are beautiful,
created to have life abundant (John 10:10) in the very image of God (Gen 1:27) your
creator.  Carry yourself in such a way that is different from the world. Carry yourself with
such “sex appeal” as to attract someone who desires to become one with you, not only
physically, but emotionally and spiritually when the time comes. While you wait, guard
your heart, and do not fall victim to cheap imposters who set up themselves to be
appealing, only to leave you feeling worthless.  Anyone who would reduce you to a
mere picture shared across the web in the wee hours of the morning obviously
does not realize the treasure you are. Fall in love with your creator and He will teach
you everything that you need to know about true intimacy.”

To my sons and to every other son, I want to say, “Grow to become the man who God
created and destined you to be.  Do not be conformed to this world, because the world
will eat you up and spit you out, all the while making promises that will never come to
fruition.  Instead, choose the path less traveled.  The path which will likely get you made
fun of, the path which will potentially cost you friends and social acceptance, but also
the one which will provide you with exceedingly more than the faux pleasures you are
giving up.  This path will train you to become a real man, the kind of man they write
books about, the kind of man who is able to see and experience a much deeper form of
beauty, love, and acceptance because you have chosen to sit at the feet of your
creator.”

Finally, I want to address a specific person, a person who may be reading this and is
filled with sorrow because you believe yourself to be too far gone.  You may be thinking
you are too riddled with shame, too broken, and beyond repair.  The shame is so heavy
that the very thought of ever being able to live outside of it seems impossible to you,
and for this reason, you are afraid even to allow yourself to believe there is another
way.

Give yourself permission to see yourself as you are.  Give yourself permission to see
and recognize your sin, not your sin as compared to someone else’s sin, but yours,
plain and simple, as it is.  Humanity will often go to great lengths to not have to see their
brokenness.  Notice I said "humanity" which would include us all.  Many times, to avoid
seeing the sin in our own lives, we will focus on the sins of others, we will compare our
sins to someone much worse than we believe ourselves to be, or we will invent
narratives and assign sin to people that they never committed, all because we want to
feel better about our own moral failures.  Thus, we sin to keep from seeing our sin.  This
not only hurts others along the way but the most significant tragedy is the bondage in
which we enslave ourselves all because we are afraid to look at our own reflection.

Do not give Satan that power over you today.  Allow yourself to feel the weight of your
own sin.  It will be okay. The pressure may likely crush you for a moment, it may render
you broken in pieces on the floor, but you will not stay there.  
You will not stay there because God restores.  Since the fall of man, He has been in the
business of restoration.  He restores families.  He restores marriages.  He restores
addictions.  He restores sexual brokenness.  He restores wounds from abuse.  He
restores bitterness.  He restores unbelief.  He can even restore your self-worth and
cynical heart.

Wont you allow Him to begin this beautiful restoration today?
♥ Jill

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Thy-Body-Answering-Questions/dp/0801075726

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Monday, February 5, 2018

Blinded

11:16 AM 0
GUEST BLOGGER HANNAH MARTIN

Hey y'all! My name is Hannah and I am from Houston, Texas. I am a recent college graduate and I'm currently just trying my best to pursue God in this new chapter of life, but thankfully I'm not the one holding the pen. I have the Author above all authors writing my story and I wouldn't want it any other way!

If I told you to ask others who knew me anywhere from old school friends, teachers, family, or even coworkers to describe me in 3 words, I can guarantee without a doubt at least one of those words would be quiet. 

I remember my aunt always telling the story of when I was first born. She was there at the hospital standing behind a glass window looking in when the nurse gave me a shot in the foot, and right when they pricked my foot with that needle I screamed for about 2 seconds then just stopped as if it didn’t even phase me. She says from then on she knew I would have a calm, quiet laid back personality. And she was right. 

Growing up I was always shy and quiet and I guess I never really thought about how quiet I was until I got into middle school or high school. It wasn’t until I kept getting the famous question that everyone seemed to ask “Hannah, why are you so quiet?” Boy. Let me tell you if I had a nickel for every time I got asked that question I would be one rich college kid right now. In response I never knew what to say. I kind of just shrugged my shoulders and said I don’t know with a little laugh as if the question didn’t bother me. 

To be honest it never did until it got to the point where I felt as if that question never went away. Sometimes it even seemed as if they felt sorry for me when they asked. Like man it must suck to be that quiet. In all honesty what they didn’t realize is that I really didn’t mind be quiet. I liked sitting back and listening to others. I guess the silence is something that never bothered me. In fact, there are many times even now that I catch myself driving for 30-40 min before realizing that the radio isn’t even on and I’ve just been thinking the whole time. 

Unfortunately, it got to the point where I got the question so much that it became my biggest insecurity. Seems silly I know, but It’s kind of like if you’re someone with naturally really curly hair. Now picture others constantly coming up to you telling you or asking why your hair is so curly. I mean you didn’t know why other than that’s just the way it is and the way it’s always been. Wouldn’t you soon then think, geeze maybe there is something wrong with it if everyone keeps pointing it out. 

That’s exactly how I felt. Maybe being quiet isn’t a good thing. Maybe I’d be better off and people would like me better if was loud and more “out there”. 

Now that right there is the devils handy work. That’s how he had a hold on me for all these years. He makes you think that just because of what others say or think is how you should think or feel about yourself. Now that’s not to say that that was everyone’s intention when asking that question but that’s the way it ended up making me feel. Never would I have thought that this simple question would form such an insecurity. 

I started to believe the devils lies. That I was too quiet. That I wasn’t good enough. To be liked I needed to be louder. That I would never really be able do things for God’s kingdom like share Jesus with others because I was too quiet. How can you share Jesus when you don’t really like talking all that much? I let these lies steal any confidence I had. And honestly it’s not that I didn’t like to talk, but at that point I was so insecure that I was worried about anything that came out of my mouth. So many times I saw people in school or at church that were so comfortable with getting in front of a group and speaking and I wished so bad I had the confidence like they did. I thought to myself there must be some way I can break out of my shell and become louder. 

So many times when I had an opportunity to be a newbie, whether it was going to a new school, new church, or moving to a new town I told myself that I was going change and become a more outspoken person. Just like a new year’s resolution most people try to exercise more, eat healthier, or watch less TV. For me I wanted to try to be more “out there”. New year, new me right? Haha wrong! After many attempts in trying to change I kept failing at it. 

Why? Why was it so hard for me to change? 

Looking back, I know God was trying to tell me that I wasn’t supposed to change. He created me exactly how he wanted me and he wouldn’t have done it if it was a bad thing. But of course I ignored that because I was more worried about what others thought of me or how they saw me than what really mattered; how God sees me. I was so consumed with how I thought I should be that I tried so hard to be like others around me instead of striving to be like Jesus. 

About a year and a half ago one night at house church it finally hit me. All of us college kids and our mentors sitting in the living room going around saying something encouraging to each person and saying what we loved about each other. Sounds kind of cheesy but those were the best nights. When it became my turn for everyone to say something encouraging to me, a sweet friend told me something that I never really thought about. I remember her saying these exact words

 “Hannah, you have something so quiet and sweet about you that I think is such a gift”… 

Ok hold on, how can that possibly be a gift? That was so hard for me to comprehend. At that point I didn’t even think I had a gift and I didn’t even know the purpose God created me for. I was still trying to figure it out. I couldn’t sing or dance. I wasn’t good at anything artsy and I certainly wasn’t good at speaking in front of big groups. I thought the only real gifts were the physical gifts that people see others use to glorify God. I never really thought about the spiritual gifts that God gives us. 
I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that shared Jesus with others, but I didn’t even know how since I didn’t have any of these typical gifts that so many people had. 

I was so small minded that I thought if I couldn’t sing in a church choir or lead a group bible study then how am I going tell others about God? The more I learned about God and his word and surrounded myself with loving church family and community, I began to realize that not everyone is going to have the same gifts. In fact, we’re not meant to. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work”. 

Once I started to gain a bit more confidence I forced myself into leading a small group bible study one night. This particular bible study was on gifts and unity and diversity in the body. Ha go figure! The one thing I struggled with most! As much as I tried to change myself to be like others and do what I thought I had to do to share Jesus, I was doing it all wrong. Again in 1 Corinthian 12 it talks about the body of Christ and how we each play a part, a different part. Versus 18-20 says it perfectly. “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”. 

We all have a part in this crazy life and were not all supposed to be the same. Maybe your meant to be on stage preaching a sermon. Maybe your meant to lead worship. Maybe your meant to care for others in a hospital. Or maybe your just simply meant to serve others around you by volunteer work. 

I’ve learned that showing God’s love and telling his good deeds doesn’t have to be something big or extravagant. All he asks is to take what you are given and use it for His glory. 1 Timothy 4:14 “Do not neglect your gift, which was given to you through prophecy”. All along I was trying to push away what God had given me. It was right there in front of me all this time and I didn’t even see it. 

Looking back all those years I let Satan’s lies chain me up from using what gifts the Lord has given me. I can see all the opportunities that I missed out on because I was so blinded and focused on how the world told me I should be, instead of how God was telling me to be. 

Yes, I am still quiet and probably always will be, but I have found my voice and confidence in God. I encourage anyone who reads this to not ignore the gift God has given you. That’s exactly what Satan wants. He wants to strip you from the things that he knows can defeat him. So take off your blinders. Break those chains that are holding you back. 

If you find yourself asking what your gift is or what your purpose is in life, ask God to reveal them to you. He wants you to use what he has blessed you with, but He also desires to hear from you and He wants to use you. 

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Slingshot

9:59 AM 0

April Estes was raised in middle Tennessee and is wife to one (Jay), Mom to four (16, 14, 10 & 7). Her life mantras are currently "Embrace the Crazy" and "Good enough is good enough."  She is the author of two books (Seeing the Father Through a Dad and The Pearl of Great Price, 2017) and enjoys writing country songs and christian articles while waiting in carpool.

“You can’t raise any two kids the same,” I’ve always heard, and I had always attributed it to the fact that each child is different, and the same tactics will not necessarily be successful due to the personality differences of the children. But now, in my forties versus my twenties, I mother my last two children a lot differently than I did my first two – not just due to how they are different from their siblings, but how I am different.

With our first child, I had a VISION of what I wanted my little girl to become. I planned long and hard to figure out how I could maneuver the universe to help me mold my little girl into the young lady I wanted. I’m happy to report she turned out wonderfully, despite my well-meaning but very skewed “mission.” Four kids and twenty years later, I am happy to report they (and old age) have broken me of that habit. I no longer try to “sculpt” a child, but instead try to evaluate & ask, “What is (this) child’s strengths? How is (this) child inclined? And what sports/careers/etc suit that?”

I would like to say child rearing has gone a lot smoother since that transition. Largely, it has, but then came our ADD, learning “dis” ability kid. The kind of kid you have to tell 5 times to put his shoes on, who still puts his shorts on backward, and has to struggle so much to write a sentence it is literally painful (to do and watch). But he’s also the kid who cries at the heart-wrenching part of the movie, breaks into an English accent at random, and can tell you anything you ever want to know about any animal. Like, seriously.

However, in a few weak moments, I worried about my child. In a world where college is “King,” I wondered what would become of my boy? “Would he ever be able to hold down a job if he can’t hear half the time? Would he ever find a woman who could put up with his kawinkidinks?” I wondered. I’d prayed for God to show me any strengths he might have that we could harness and divert into greatness. Due to physical limitations, football was out, and even though he had the aim of Alvin C. York, his attention span wouldn’t allow him to do baseball just yet. I wondered these things again as at the doctor’s office as I watched him make face after face after face in the mirror. I thought, “He has to have rehearsed that surprised face at least twelve times…”

And that’s when it hit me: “making faces (acting) just might be his slingshot.” I had just read the story (AGAIN) of David and Goliath the night before to my littles, and laughed when I imagined how it might have been to raise young David. He was the runt, and not even considered “important enough” to be called among the seven sons when the prophet Samuel went to his father Jessie’s house to anoint the next King. He was tending sheep, which was considered one of the lowliest of jobs. I pictured his father standing at the door one day, watching his son from afar, and shaking his head and wondering what would ever become of his scrawny youngest – too lean and small to ever even think of becoming a strong farmer, much less a mighty warrior. I can picture him saying to his wife, “Just look at him, honey, all little and unskilled! And all he ever does is play with that blasted slingshot!”

Slingshot.

The very thing that his father found little use for – maybe even annoyed him – was the very thing through which God would bring victory to his people.

As parents, we dream of what our kids can be. We plan. We scheme. We try to get them in the “right” college. And high school. And preschool, even. But we forget: God also has plans for them. Prov. 16:9 says, “A man heart plans his ways[for his life], but the Lord directs his steps.” Prov. 19:21 says, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purposes will prevail.”

It is so easy to get caught up in the “visions” we have for our children, and could have a tendency to get upset when our vision doesn’t look like it is going to come to fruition. But the good news is God is also a good Father. He has a future filled with peace and hope planned for each and every one of us (Jeremiah 29:11)

There is a wonderful quote I have above the kitchen sink that I copied from a waiting room magazine (so I don’t know the author): “One of our jobs as mamas is to sweep the world’s [and our] expectations out of our homes and lock the door behind them. Inside our homes, our children should be able to grow up into who God made them to be, not something the world has said they should become.”
Amen, Amen, Amen.

Interestingly, one of our son’s worst traits (no fear of saying anything to anybody) became his best trait when directed a different way: performing. He now acts in plays and does Magic shows. He would have made a terrible pitcher or quarterback, but he is an amazing magician! He has already brought more joy to children than I can count. I can’t wait to see what God does with his “slingshot.”

Keep your eyes open for your child’s “slingshot”. It may just be his salvation.




April Estes lives in Knoxville and discovered her son’s 
slingshot was performing: magic, acting, singing…despite the dyslexia
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