When I first heard that Jackie Hill Perry was coming out with a book, I was so excited. I had already been exposed to her testimony when I first read the book Messy Grace and researched some of the resources that went with it. I already knew that her story demonstrated the power of God’s redeeming grace and wanted to know more. When I finally got around to reading it, I could not put it down. I finished it in a single day. Even if you don’t struggle with same sex attraction, most of us can find ways to relate her story to our own. This is a book I highly recommend to practically anyone ~ Bethel
In her first book, Gay Girl, Good God, Jackie Hill Perry shares her incredible testimony of God’s redeeming grace as he helped her overcome her struggles with same sex attraction. A childhood including an inactive father and abuse at the hands of someone she trusted, brokenness was a theme of the early part of her life. This eventually result in her pursuing same sex relationships, embracing masculinity instead of womanhood, and drug abuse. But one night, while she was home alone watching TV, God got a hold of her heart. Without a church or a preacher, God revealed to her that her sin would be her death and that she needed to repent and change her ways. And that’s exactly what she did. She broke up with her girlfriend, slowly started to change her clothes, and started going to church. She eventually met and married Preston Perry, a man who also had brokenness in his past. They are now the parents of two little girls. Although Jackie knows that struggles with temptation will be an ongoing battle, she also knows that power of God’s grace in her life, if we choose to pursue. She also addresses working through same sex attraction from a biblical perspective. Jackie’s testimony is powerful and moving and her insights into living in victory over sin is something that everyone can relate to. Aside from its biblically grounded perspective on same sex attraction, the story of the redemption in Jackie’s life makes this a book that I would recommend to practically anyone. Get your copy today!
To read more about the subject of a Christian's response to same sex attraction, check out my review of the book Messy Grace by clicking here
I was excited to hear that Levi was coming out with another book. I loved his first two books and was looking forward to reading another book by him, even though I didn’t really know much of what it was about. I pre-ordered it, but it took me a while to get around to reading it. When I finally got around to reading it, I was not disappointed. Levi’s ability to explain concepts is so easy to relate to, regardless of your season of life. I read it at a time that I really needed its message and I will always be grateful for it. Although I believe Through the Eyes of a Lion will always be my favorite book from Levi, this one is not too far behind. Like his first book, I think I will continue to refer back to this one for years to come. If you haven’t checked it out, you should ~ Bethel
So many of us today are at war with ourselves, even if we don’t realize it. We often get so stuck in our own minds and our habits, we have a hard time getting past ourselves so that we can live the lives that God intends for us to live. So many of us throw in the towel before we even acknowledge that there is a war to be fought in our hearts and minds. Some of us think that we don’t have the strength to make it through everything that we are facing. Others know that have the strength somewhere inside of them, but they are unsure of how to tap into that strength or how to direct it to win their personal battles. It makes us ask the question: how do I win the battle within myself?
In his book, I Declare War, author Levi Lusko uses the model of the card game War to share four keys to winning the battle within yourselves and encouraging you to allow the wolf to rise up inside of you. The first card, declaring war on what you think, helps us takes our thoughts captive so we can become a better versions of ourselves. The second card, declaring war on what you say, encourages us to talk in the victory we should be striving for. The third card, declaring war on what you do, reminds us that we need to acting in the belief that we can shape the direction of our lives by acting on what we know we should do. But the fourth card, just like in the game of War, is the most important card of all, and that is the power of the gospel at work within us. The first three card are only effective if the fourth card is in place. And once it is, you can finally unleash the wolf, the strength and courage you never knew you had, inside of you. All of this is explained with stories and insights from the author’s own life. Both practical and relevant, this book is written in an easy-to-understand tone that the audience can easily identify with, even teenagers. There is also study guide and a study DVD available for those that want to do use this book as a Bible study. This book is a great resource that I would recommend to practically anyone. Get your copy today!
Ever since I met Bob Goff and read his first book, I could wait for another book by him. I was all the more excited when I was able to get onto the launch team for this book. Unfortunately, circumstances in my life prevented me from reading and reviewing the book until now. But in the end, I was glad that I waited. So many of the themes of this book came just at the time I needed to hear it. The recent circumstances in my life have made certain people more difficult to love than others. But Bob’s storytelling has an incredible ability to help you see past yourself in order to help you live your live the way that Jesus would. It was exactly the challenge I needed at the time I needed it. Bob’s first book is in many ways about loving God, which is the summary of the greatest commandment. This second book is about loving people, which is the second greatest commandment. Both books can stand alone, but they are all the more powerful together. I cannot recommend this book or Love Does enough ~ Bethel
There are many people we encounter in our lives that are not easy to love. The reasons for our struggles with loving them is just a numerous. But at the end of the day, our greatest struggle is loving difficult people is learning to see past ourselves. The things that we need to do in order to show them love require us to step out of our comfort zone and take action. That is usually easier said than done. And unfortunately, most people don’t. We tend to push away those that need love most. This is the pattern set by the people around. It makes us ask the question: is there a way to love difficult people in our world today?
In his book, Everybody Always, Bob Goff uses his popular storytelling style to share personal stories that can help us learn to love those that seem impossible to love. Bob shares stories of many people in his life that taught him and challenged him, most of whom were difficult to love. Either by personality or by the circumstances, Bob found ways to show love to everyone. From a neighbor dying of cancer, to his limo driver, to a witch doctor, the variety of people Bob encounters is both entertaining and inspiring. He never really preaches, but shares truth from God’s Word as it is portrayed in the stories from his life. This in turn challenges and inspires us to not be hindered by the patterns of love based on restrictions or contracts. This gives hope for us to show love to everybody always. This book is great read that will inspire and challenge anyone that is willing to take its message to heart. If you liked Love Does, you definitely want to check out Everybody Always. Get your copy today!
Note: A huge thank you to my launch team friend Bailey for paying for my copy of this book. She offered to help me get the book when I was unable to afford it at the time it came out. This act of kindness was very much a demonstration of the message this book is about. Thank you for loving a person you’ve never met Bailey. I will always be grateful for you when I think about this book.
I was standing alone in the youth room of my church. Or at least it was my church. That room was where I had taught many lessons and played many games with the church’s junior and senior high students for over a year. That room had been one of my favorite places. But now, it was a reminder of what I was about to face. In only about 15 minutes, I was going into a meeting with the church’s elders. Under other circumstances, this would not have been a big deal. I had known most of those men for several years and considered them to be friends of my family. But now it was different, because four days earlier, these men dismissed my dad as senior minister of the church after 17 ½ years.* The reason for the meeting was to see if I would be allowed to finish the school year with the youth group that my ministry partner and I had dedicated over a year of volunteer time to build up. I had so many emotions running through my heart and my mind, I didn’t know what to make of it.
This scene happened only a few months ago. I do believe that it has become one of the defining moments of my life. I believe I will still think that 20 or 30 years from now. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, because the pain of the loss and separation were so fresh. But by God’s grace I walked into that meeting and was granted my request. The only stipulation they gave is that they wanted to make sure I would get plugged into another church, since they figured it would be too difficult to attend with them on Sunday mornings. When I told them I had a plan to look at churches in the area, they all stated how much they appreciated my willingness to come to the meeting and finish the work I had started, despite the difficulties of my circumstances.
Some of my friends or members of that congregation have questioned why I chose to stay a little longer or how I could bring myself to even go to that meeting. Some of you who are reading this post may be wondering the same thing. But as I have looked back on the last few months, I have come to realize that I began to find healing faster because I chose to face a painful situation head on instead of hiding from it. It’s something that author Levi Lusko coined as “running toward the roar” in his book Through the Eyes of a Lion [click link to read my review]. Facing that meeting changed everything for me, and I want to share about three things that have happened in my life because God gave me the power to “run toward the roar.”
I Learned How to Forgive Despite My Feelings
The night after my dad told me he had been let go, I couldn’t fall asleep. So I turned on a movie that addresses the issues of loss and forgiveness. Amish Grace is a film based on the true story about the Amish school shooting of 2006, in which a local milk truck driver in Pennsylvania entered a one-room school house with an arsenal of guns. He let all the boys and the teacher go, but took ten girls hostage. He eventually shot all ten girls before taking his own life. In the end, 5 of the 10 girls died within 24 hrs of the shooting, and the others survived with serious injuries. Obviously, it was a devastation to the Amish community, but they responded in ways that the world did not expect. In the film (which was slightly fictionalized), you see some Amish elders, including Gideon, a father who had lost his daughter, go the wife of the shooter to consul her and tell her that they had chosen to forgive Charlie, later that same day. The rest of the Amish community seems to support this decision to forgive, except for Gideon’s wife. Ida cannot let go of her anger, believing that choosing to forgive was betraying her daughter. She takes out her anger on the shooter’s wife when she runs into her. Ida is so bitter, she even makes plans to leave her Amish community and taking her surviving daughter away from her husband.
But the most powerful part of the film for me is at the end. Right before she plans to leave, Gideon asks Ida to go to a group meeting with a grief counselor, which would include other Amish parents that had lost children and the wife of the shooter, Amy. The audience learns that Amy is in the same place as Ida, not knowing how to forgive her husband for what he did to the Amish girls, and what he did to her and their children. At this point, an Amish mother who had lost two daughters shared a thought that I don’t know if I will ever forget. It was exactly what I needed to hear after everything that happened:
Every morning when I wake, I expect to hear Anna and Lydia singing together as they do their chores. But the silence reminds me that they’re gone, and I become so full of anger, I can barely breathe. But then I offer that anger up to God and I forgive. Sometimes, I have to do it again in an hour, and again an hour after that. But if I didn’t do that, I don’t know how I would ever breathe again.
As I was lying in my bed at 5 am still unable to sleep, I knew that kind of forgiveness, the kind that would compel most of that Amish community to attend the shooter’s funeral, or the kind that compelled Ida’s daughter to tell the man about to shoot her that she would pray for him, was the kind I had to challenge myself to have, no matter how painful it would be. So when I finally sat down with the elders, this is what I told them:
Just like they say love is not a feeling but a decision, I believe that forgiveness is a decision we sometimes have to make despite our feelings. I have been very hurt by what has happened and I am still healing, but I want you all to know that I have made the decision to forgive you.
It was difficult to say, but I said it, even with tears in my eyes. I said it because I was compelled to demonstrate the same grace that I would hope someone would show me, the same grace that we all want but never deserve on our own merit. The same grace we can only receive as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. We all need grace, but we struggle to give grace. We get so caught up in the guilty party’s offense that we cannot see past ourselves. But the sacrifice of Jesus was an offer of grace for every person who accepts it and then shapes their life in response to it. We don’t get to pick and choose who receives God’s grace, and neither should we. Part of dying to ourselves, as we are called to do by Christ, is choosing to give grace to anyone in our lives that is difficult to love or forgive. I hope that sharing this story will help you learn to do the same thing.
I Found a New Calling In the Midst of My Healing
Most of my friends know that since I started high school, I’ve wanted to become a music minister or worship director. In fact, I could have told you my plan the day I started high school. From then until I graduated from college in 2014, I never deviated from that plan. But when I was completing my music ministry internship the spring before I graduated, it became apparent that some gaps in my proficiency and personal training would prevent for pursuing music ministry after I graduated. I was so confused. I had pursued God’s calling as faithfully I knew how and I was still unable to devote my career to ministry. As a result, I really struggled with what I should do with my future when I moved back home. Although I was involved in music ministry, I wasn’t getting paid, and went back and forth from being in leadership to just being a participant. I struggled to find a job. Any job. It was a very difficult and uncertain time.
But I didn’t realize what God was doing behind the scenes to prepare me for something greater. Just as circumstances required me to take a step back from leading in music ministry again, an opportunity opened up for myself and a deacon to take over leadership of the youth ministry. In some ways, it surprised me. Although I had been a youth sponsor in college, I hadn’t really been involved in organizing a youth group. But I believed it was a need we could fulfill. We did what we could to teach but also have fun with our teens. It wasn’t easy, but after about a year, we really began to see great things happened in our group. We began to see growth in our numbers and in their understanding of their faith. We were both excited about what God had in store for our group in 2018.
But at the end of January, everything changed overnight. When my dad was let go, I was immediately afraid of what would become of the youth group if I would not allowed to return in light of what had already been planned for the spring. Only a few days later, I was given permission to finish out the school year. But the few days in between when I didn’t know were some of most emotionally trying days I’ve ever faced. After that was said and done, I came to realize how much I cared about our students and how much I had been devoted to the ministry. It made me think that maybe I could find a future in doing this kind of work as a job. Only about 3 weeks later, we took our Jr. High students to a youth conference in Cincinnati. Over that weekend, I had some honest conversations with people I trusted about the direction I was going with my life in regards to ministry. By the end of that weekend, I came to a major decision:
I want to become a youth minister
Some of you that have known me for a while might be shocked to hear me say this. Honestly, I’m still kind of shocked to be saying it. But as I look back over all of my ministry experiences, I now recognize that God was preparing my heart to work with students when I wasn’t looking. I attended a Jr. high conference at as sponsor my senior year of high school. I helped with a large Jr. high girls lock-in with a local Christian venue my freshman year of college. I spent about a year and half in college (minus the summers) working with my brother-in-law’s youth group, including teaching Jr. high Sunday school. When I was on my internship, I taught in a high school small group since my cousin was the youth minister. Before I officially became a youth leader, I had already lead two girls Bible studies and had attended a few youth conferences as a sponsor. It ends up adding up to a total of about 4 years I have spent volunteering in youth ministry. It all happened when I wasn’t looking, because God was subtly guiding me to a different future than I saw for myself. It’s something I would have never considered a year ago, or even 6 months ago. But God used my ability to trust Him during a painful trial of my life to help me find my new calling. I believe He can for you too.