Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done

10:37 PM 0
Guest Blogger: Gordon Dasher

Gordon Dasher is married to Jan Robertson Dasher and is one of the ministers at WFR Church in West Monroe, LA.  He teaches at the church's second location, oversees the college ministry, and leads a house church.   He is also a writer (dearstruggler.wordpress.com ) who writes about his wifes journey with early onset Alzheimer's Disease.  His goal is to allow God to teach him how to be joyful in this relationship with Christ in the midst of this terrible disease and to encourage others to allow pain and suffering to lead them to find real purpose and meaning in the name of Jesus.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, Gordo?  

Would it be graduating from college? Nope, I majored in English, for crying out loud.  How about trying to earn a living for the fam? Wrong again.

No, without a doubt, the most difficult task I’ve ever undertaken was raising kids.  

In the beginning I thought it would be different. Before they were ever born, before they were ever conceived, I had this idyllic video that I replayed in my head - over and over again.  There I was with my kids - two boys and a girl - and we would be on the beach playing frisbee.  Or they would be burying me under the sand and building sand castles on my belly (in order to get a cheap jump on the elevation for the tower). Or maybe we would be in the woods hunting deer - or in the mountains hiking the Appalachian trail together.

And all the while, I would be imparting nuggets of wisdom, and they would be writing it all down in little leather bound notebooks that they would keep forever so that they could refer to them later on when they had questions about life.

Yes, I was going to be one awesome father.

Then the day of my first child’s birth came.  My heart was pounding inside my chest as Doctor Mobley chanted to Jan - “One, Two, Three - BREATHE!  NOW PUUUSSSHHH!”

Finally, out popped a wrinkled, wet, slimy, 5 lb. 10 oz. blob of beauty.  I was in love.

Dr. Mobley smiled, held out my new daughter before me, and asked me, “You wanna hold her?” 

“Oh, yes! Yes! Yes!”

The nurse gingerly retrieved her from the doctor’s arms, and placed her in mine. My heart beat a bongo rhythm in my chest.  Sweat ran in torrents down my neck and back. A thought blasted through my skull into my brain, What if I drop her? What if she shatters?  I was filled with wonder, awe, and fear simultaneously.  It was the most amazing experience of my life.

Until...and you’re not going to believe this...until she pooped on me.  That’s right.  Nine months of accumulating foul and disgusting waste in her intestinal track, and she released it all on me. Talk about a mood killer.

A lot has not gone according to my initial plan, but don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my three children for all the tea in Winn Dixie.  I not only love them, I adore them and all of the goodness they bring to my life...especially the grandkids.  All eight of them.

But raising kids?  It was no picnic.

For one thing, my video was a hoax.  I don’t know who sold me that thing, but I never got the feeling at any time that my kids were paying a single bit of attention to a single word I said...unless I said, “Who wants twenty dollars?” Sometimes, my relationship with them seemed to be antagonistic, at best.

But what about now?

Truthfully, Jan and I marvel at how they turned out.  They are all faithful to God in a very serious way.  Furthermore, they married the most amazing partners I could have ever imagined who walk with them as they pursue God.  And to top it off, they are incredibly purposeful about raising their own children to follow God and pursue him as Lord and Savior.

So I’m saying they’re perfect? Hardly! Sometimes I still shake my head at their stubborn natures.  Or the way my sons hold me down and grab my fat rolls.  I hate that.  But overall, I’m in love with them.  And I’m proud of how they turned out.

So how did we do it?  To be honest, I don’t know if I could give you a formula.  Maybe because there isn’t one.  We heard all of the trendy advice of 1976-1984.  Be consistent! Put them on schedules! Give them responsibility! Don’t ever criticize them!  Speak softly! Let them have some say in family decisions!

We violated every single bit of junk hippie advice we heard.  Not on purpose, mind you.  We were just too undisciplined to follow through with any of it.

In our house (and I’m not all that proud of this), there were outbursts of anger, temper tantrums (mostly me), financial issues (my fault) and arguments between Jan and me.  You name it, we did it. The only things we weren’t guilty of were drunkenness, cursing, and marital unfaithfulness...well, I might have cursed once.

No, our home was not idyllic. Sometimes it was a mess. 

So how did it happen that you raised such awesome kids?

To begin with, before they were conceived, we prayed for them.  We prayed for their hearts to be pure before God.  We prayed for them to marry Ben, Jil, and Jessica...maybe not by name, but by character.  Then when Jan was pregnant, I would place my hand on her belly and pray for them all over again.

“God, I’m a flawed and wicked man, but I plead with you to protect this child from Satan’s strongest attacks.  I pray for you to protect their hearts.  And strengthen Jan and me to raise them up to love you.”

That was the start of it.

Then we imparted the word of God to them.  At night when we put them to bed, Jan would sit in the closet with the light on and teach them the Bible.  Every night.  Without fail! Seriously! 

We talked about God as we rode down the road.  We talked about Jesus as we rode to school.  And we let them know that we were jacked up people - their mom and me.  We taught them that God is a reliable Father who never breaks a promise. And we never sugar coated anything.

And for certain, we disciplined them when they needed it. Oh yes, I probably could be arrested for it now.  That’s right, we loved our kids enough to spank them or put them in a month-long time-out.  Some of our friends, and most of the culture then, disagreed with us, but we were convinced that God’s word was right about this.  

And I hardly ever trusted them.  When I did, I usually got burned.  Kids aren’t truthful by nature. I’m so sorry if that offends you.  That part of their brain that controls impulse behavior isn’t even fully formed until they are well into their twenties.  You can’t trust people who don’t have all their brains, can you?  I’m not being judgmental - I’m just quoting hard scientific fact.

But mostly, we simply loved them.  We played with them.  We wrestled - boys against the girls. We played practical jokes on Mom. We did stuff together.  We went to the river and fished and hardly ever caught anything, but we were together.  

Mostly we just relied on the promise, “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when he is old, he won’t depart from it.” If not for that, I might have been the worst father ever.

It was hard work, and we made plenty of mistakes, but I don’t regret a single minute of it.  I just wish I’d had an instruction manual before I started.  

I think it’s pretty cool that God can guide completely imperfect parents who sometimes set bad examples, often make mistakes, and frequently respond to their kids in completely inappropriate ways and use them to raise God-seekers. That’s the only part of rearing children that we did on purpose - God led us to seek him (imperfectly) and to convince our children that the only purpose in life that lasts for an eternity is to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

I thank him for that. I truly do.
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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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