LSOF: Where Grace Found Me

There has been lots of conversation lately about evangelicals leaving the church, and those who stay…but instead of talking about “ THOSE” who do have done this, I am going to share a little of my story and how I have come to the church I have now, and the walk of faith I have now…To the place Grace found me.

I’ve done a lot of leaving and a lot of staying too in the past churches I’ve been part of….

I was raised Catholic, and though I did appreciate some of the traditions such as the white dresses for communion and confirmation, and the stories I read that I found in the giftshop of “ Saint Joan…
it just wasn’t a place I called home. I never knew anyone who went there either, except before confirmation I had a few people from middle school there with me….but no relationship was truly ever made, and nothing kept me going…

When I was in high school, I really had no desire for church, and not much of a respect for God either, but I think that is normal as a teen. The thoughts I have were constant wonders of my adequacy to the rest of the kids around me…I was in Drama and writing deep, and sometimes dark poetry in English.
Church was furthest from my mind…but then I needed to find something for on the job training elective, and my mom found a church in the pennysaver needing an infant caregiver.
I was not thrilled at the opportunity, but I went for the interview, and I got the position.
Eventually, I became part of the church, because there was something MORE there and I wanted to figure out what that was…

Later in the years I was part of that church I did a lot of going and coming, and I was welcomed back each time, but one of the times I left…I almost did not come back.

I have always loved the Bible, and I wanted so much to have indepth study, not just small groups, I wanted to really get down to the nitty gritty of it, I wanted to learn Greek and Hebrew translation, I wanted to learn the history…..and because I had this craving…it got me into trouble, and I ended up in throws of false teaching. To make that long story short, I will simply say false teachers will manipulate you, will make you feel like you are 1.5 feet tall, will alienate you from everyone you love, will control your mindset and everything you believe…will make you feel like you are not worth being loved by God.
I ended up losing my job due to this religion but it moved me back to my old church…

I was comfortable after that, because of what I had gone through I just thought it would be best to just take in whatever I was being taught, and to just force myself to have relationship with people, and to put on the happy face…But that could only go on for so long. Without going through the story of all of it, I will just say there was a situation that happened that finally forced me to leave for good, and this was under advice of my pastors wife that had moved to another city.

I moved to a place closer to my job, I did the church hopping thing too, I wasn’t happy that I couldn’t go back to my old church, but knew it was not safe for me under the circumstances.
I tried three different churches, and the one I thought I would not have ever walked into again, became the church I go to now. I judged them the first time I walked in. There was a man on stage that spoke broken English and no one had bibles open…but I made the mistake of writing out a prayer request and my phone number on a visitor card…and I was called to meet the pastor and his wife…
My most memorable words from my pastor’s wife were, “ Honey, that was a visitor, believe me, you will not meet a man that knows the bible better than my husband does. I suggest you give it another try.”
And I did.

And I grew to have such a love for this church, and the people there. I got to be part of choir, and had responsibilities in the office, and worked with the youth…but it was about a year ago or so when I stepped away from all of it. Sometimes the only way you know God loves you is through His discipline, and in this time though I wanted to so much continue all I was doing at the church, I had to be obedient and know God needed me to just listen and submit to His authority.

A real church will support not what you want, but what God is speaking to your heart to do.

A real church will tell you that you need to stop and pray and seek God on your decision, A real church will notice that there is an issue that you need to be concerned with and go before the Lord about it,
A real church will not just help you to heal from the past, but to be restored.

I did have a few times where I wanted to “Go,” because I dropped everything that was keeping me there, if I wasn’t in choir, working with youth or working in office…why would I need to go?

But there is something more that happened in all of this, and that was I found my real reason for going to church in the first place. I found the reason I go is because I love Jesus, and I want to learn everything I can about the Word. I wanted to learn to the deep , that “ the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

And you know what happened when I took my focus for going to church for being more than the people I saw every Sunday, for being more than the songs we sang, for being more than the message given by pastor… I left behind me the past pain from the false teachers, I left all those times I felt that I didn’t, ” fit in,”, I left all those times where people told me, ” I wasn’t spiritual enough to do this or do that,” I left those thoughts of being rejected, and focused on God alone…and I started to have a deeper love for people then I ever have in my life. God’s discipline really does show us how much He loves us. He needs us to see that we are nothing without Him, not so it will discourage us, but so that it will encourage us.

Encourage us to know we don’t have to do this life on our own, and it is much safer if we give him the steering wheel.

I know I don’t have a ” Perfect,” church, none of us do,  but I do have a Perfect God, and because of that, I know my church and I will continue to fall for a deeper relationship with God, and will continue to share and reach out to others His love as well as we all know how…as well as we know His love.

He has this master plan behind the scenes at each moment, and He desires a relationship with us that goes further than any relationship we can have with people on this earth…He pursues us, He will pull us out of the pit, and He will heal us so deep that the wound becomes a beautiful memory of His goodness, instead of a past to look back on with shame.

“ My sins are gone, I’ve been set free, My God my Savior has ransomed me, and like a flood, His mercy reigns, amazing love, Amazing Grace.”

 

LSOF: Familiar and Unfamiliar Places

The familiar and unfamiliar paths…

I was at a conference a month ago. I was blessed to have had this particular speaker come to my area, and I was happy that my mother was able to attend with me. It was an overall good time, but the second day hit very hard to my soul.

The second day, I remember fumbling through a good few thousand people to get back to my seat.

I stopped and saw the speaker for a moment, because she had stopped in front of me to embrace a sweet old lady and the lady with her. After they walked away, and the speaker went back to their seat, I walked by and stopped, because I knew this person knew me and I believed the Lord had made the meeting in front of me happen. This person came over to me, and hugged me and then she looked into my eyes and said very directly, “ Make sure you get a Word today.” and walking away I felt I was in for it.

Interesting enough, while the message the speaker gave while it was amazing…the deepest message for me came during a praise and worship song, that had no lyrics to what was spoken to my heart.

“ The familiar places have been covered with grace, and I now lead you through the unfamiliar.”

I stood there, and just felt the tears pour down my cheeks, and my entire body was shivering…I knew where that Word came from…

I opened up to Isaiah 42:16…

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them..”

Up to that point, I had read that verse seeing “ unfamiliar” as a place of testing, and a place that was just unbearable, a place of torment…but God showed me something huge at that moment, and I walked out of the conference that day with a real Word.

The “familiar” places are those things that we can only see directly in front of us, that are close enough to our reach, what we are able to control or manipulate to go our way, and the expectations we have for ourselves and others based on what WE THINK.

The “ Unfamiliar” we see the bigger picture, they are places that would help us to see the realization of what Phil 1:6 is about, “ That HE will bring it all to completion, but we have to trust Him to know we are a work in progress, and that He won’t leave us in a stagnant place without making it really uncomfortable so we leave it. This is a place of learning to let go, because He pulls us away to what was “familiar,” and teaching us to trust Him even when we believe He has not kept His Word. We lose expectations for ourselves and others because we come to realize it is based on WHAT GOD THINKS, AND HIS PLAN.

I had learned somewhere recently about how Eagles teach their young to fly, and it was quite interesting, and not very different to how the Lord is with us.

The eagles start to make the nest an unbearable place to live, jagged edges of twigs instead of soft hay underneath the the little young bodies of the baby eagles. The eagle also when it feels it is time for the baby bird to fly will push its young out of the nest. The eagle will watch her young try to fly, and just before it hits the ground it will swoop down and rescue them. The same process happens until they learn to fly.

The familiar place provides comfort , and it provides a place of where we can hide from the things God calls us to do, and little by little God pulls it away, whether it be a relationship or something we love to do.

He makes it so we don’t want to stay in that place anymore.

I remember the movie, “ What Dreams May Come,” and how the wife was in hell, and her husband went to rescue her. Her vision around her was so distorted, she thought she had a beautiful home around her, and she thought even her garden looked nice and kept. She did not feel the hailing of the cold wind piercing through the darkness, or the falling rocks from the foundation slowly slipping away.

I think it is safe to say that eventually if God did not come to deliver us, we would have a very similar view of the life around us. We would be caught up in all sorts of things. But He loves us enough to walk us out of it, and into something beautiful.

I wish I could say that the “unfamiliar” places are easier to walk in, but they really are not. But what they are is REAL…what they are is a place you know God set your feet, it is a place of repair of brokenness, and restoration. A deep healing from things we never even realized were part of us.

It’s a place of real separation from our old life, and thought patterns…to a life of fresh revelation and meaning, and purpose.

Our every sense even changes. We see through different eyes than before, and what we didn’t pay attention to before suddenly shines bright in our sight, we think differently or what is called “ Kingdom thought,” setting thoughts to things above and learning to cast out of thoughts what tries to hurt instead of help, we speak differently…The tongue is powerful, but in the “unfamiliar” there is forgiveness for those things spoken over us, and those we have spoken too…and even touch is different. I have found myself grabbing onto peoples arms when I speak to them instead of standing 3 ft away,….

It’s amazing how much can change when we live by faith and step out of what has been so comfortable.

There are days where its not always so easy to take a breath and move forward, but I’d rather have God in control of my life and my growth than ever letting myself or anyone else have that control.

So I look ahead where my footprints have not yet imprinted in the sand and trust that God will not let me fall through.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
    along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
    and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
    I will not forsake them.

(Isaiah 42:16)

LSOF: The Language of Love

We speak out on unfairness, We speak out on cruelty, We speak out on “freedom of speech” breached, We speak out on our beliefs, morals, values…We speak out against what we don’t agree with…

How often to do we speak of fairness, How often to we speak of kindess, How often do we remember that we are still standing on free soil, How often do we just share our beliefs, morals and values with respect to the stranger standing next to us…How often do we just let the silence speak louder than the noise around us?

We know what we should say, but how often do we? How often do we speak in the same language as the grace that redeemed us?

I know I’ve been guilty of this just as we all have.

My church statement this year is, “ Real love revolution,” — I think its time to look at what that means to my own heart, what it means to all of us.

Real love to me is about knowing where a person came from, but not seeing them like they still live there…

Real love to me is recognizing the heart of the person in front of you, and not their appearance…

Real love to me is having a conversation with someone who completely disagrees with everything you believe in, but still trying out a flavor of Starbucks they recommend, or a movie they told you they liked.

Speaking the language of love sometimes does not take as much as we claim it does….So what stops us?

I think what happens is that we get wrapped up in structuring our day from beginning to end that we forget there are other people. We forget everyone comes with a different culture and background.

When a widow only has two pennies, you can’t exactly expect her to have three…right?

I remember when I was in elementary school and I thought all families were Catholic, because I was never told otherwise.

Love is not blind, y’all…it goes beyond labels, it goes beyond new stories, it goes beyond song lyrics, television shows, and even what we think we know…Love is still love, even when we forget it exists .

You can’t force fairness, you can’t force kindness, You can’t force beliefs, morals or values to someone who doesn’t have the same, You can’t force someone to agree with you when you don’t agree with them…

And if we could do that…we would be communist socialists.

We forget that one day we might not be allowed to share religion at all, We forget that there are bigger evils that exist in the world then what we place value as important, we forget that this life we live now is a privilege given by God himself, and He can take it all away in an instant.

I think its time that we change the language of love we’ve known to be side by side by the One that created it in the first place.

Put the stone down, and write on it on how Jesus showed how much He loved you.

LSOF: What to keep and what to let go…that is the question

LSOF: What to keep, and what to let go…that is the question

I started this blog in 2006, and over the past 7 years I can only imagine what I have shared. I am sure there were times when I did encourage someone, but I am sure there were also times when I didn’t.

And really…that’s ok.

I have thought of just wiping the site clean of all my writing and start fresh, but then the thought occurred to me…

When you turn around and look where you have come from, you see footprints…each print with its own purpose for the step it took…each footprint can speak for itself…

And so then it led me back to the purpose of writing this blog…to share my little steps of faith.

I am not here to be a teacher, author, speaker…if you learn something, cool…if you don’t, cool…my purpose is to just write…to just share…and walk alongside those who share my journey.

So here’s just you and me, we all have stories…and we don’t always have to let go of things we love…we let go of what parts cannot exist in the present…and we leave them behind us.

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

(Isaiah 42:16)

LSOF: The Reflection of Freedom

LSOF:  The Reflection of Freedom

 

We all have struggles in our walk of faith, we all have hurts, hang-ups, and things that have tormented us at some point in our lives.  We have all been called nasty names, been told that something we do wasn’t good enough to standard, we have been picked on, we have been criticized, we have been humiliated in front of a crowd, we have been called out, we have been chastised, we have been put in “time-out” a one time or two, we have caused pain to others, we have had a want for revenge, we have been so angry that we cried ourselves to sleep, we have been lied to, we have been cheated on, we have had something stolen, we have rebelled, we have indulged in things not healthy for us, we have cut our skin, we have taken pills or had drugs to feel better, we have thrown something through windows, written letters to make us feel better and hurt the others….

Much has been done to us, and much has been done by us….All sin is counted the same.

For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with [a]some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. (2 cor 10:12)

I believe this verse is meant to not compare ourselves to anyone, but the context seems to mean more of “position” or “gifting”- However, I believe it is okay to use it here too, because plainly, we can’t compare our sin to another’s sin…we can’t say, “ That person did much worse than I did,”….I think its pretty clear that Jesus told the people who could cast the first stone….He without sin.

God wants us to deal with the stuff that has been done to us, and the stuff that we have done…and the true measure of grace states that if we choose not to forgive those who have hurt us, then our sins will not be forgiven until we do.

But everything has its process, and everything has its step.

For about 6 months, God kept showing me the words, “ Face to Face,” and I wasn’t sure why, but it was in everything….

What I didn’t know was the I was about to walk through the hugest journey of my entire life, and I realized that while some stones may have been thrown my way over the years, that I surely threw plenty myself….and now I was going to deal with both sides.

It took a lot of praying, and dealing with it, worship, and being in God’s word…and one night I saw the verse I was supposed to see.

Abram and Sarai in the beginning, went about the whole having a son thing in the wrong way. They thought they would, “ Help God,” and use Hagar to sleep with Abram so she would produce a son for them.  Well, Sarai became jealous, and despised Hagar, and told her husband that she thought Hagar resented her.  He told her to do whatever she wanted to with Hagar, because he didn’t want anymore on his hands.

Hagar runs to the desert and God finds her there, He speaks tenderly to her, and tells her that her son will prosper too, and then tells her to go back to submit to Sarai.

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[a] the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13)

When I saw this verse, “ I have now seen the one that sees me.” it about did me in…and I whispered aloud, “ face to face.”

I pictured how when you are in a pit the only direction you have to look to is up…and I think this is exactly what this all meant. At least for my own life application.

I think its alright to suggest maybe that when you see God face to face…your own face changes.

My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.

(Job 42:5)

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. (Exodus 34:29)

I think its also maybe safe to say that a peace comes from seeing God face to face, because we realize He is still God, and we do not have to take it on alone. He sets us free from our sin, and we need to walk it out daily in remembrance….we need to remember that He has changed our names….Jacob had to be told twice his name was, “ Isreal,” and sometimes we need that reminder too.

 
So now, let’s tackle the title of this post…what does it mean to have a reflection of freedom in our lives…We have to forgive, and we have to pray for those that hurt us with blessing, and we have to ask for forgiveness from God, and then be confident that we have been forgiven.
 
If our hearts are at peace, so will our face be.  People will actually see a difference on our face. And when we let go of unforgiveness, its actually possible to feel the face untighten…
 
A reflection of freedom is living a life that shows the world we are free, because bondage says we are slave to it, but because of Grace we don’t have to stay there.  We have to live everyday knowing that the same resurrection power that rose Jesus from the grave is the same power that breaks the chains in our lives today.

Even the ones we caused.

So if you are FREE…be sure to tell your face 🙂

 
 
 
 

 

LSOF: Have Faith….

Cinderella was my favorite story as a child.  The girl who worked hard to be obedient, and sacrificed her own happiness for years.  It took some mice and some birds and a sweet Fairy God-mother to help her realize that there was more that could be in store for her life if she just believed in it.  I know I didn’t write the story, but the part where she cries her eyes out and the Fairy God-mother enters the scene…we could all very much relate to that part the most.  Maybe it might seem like a silly analogy, but really, how many times have you been praying in tears for something, and then it came to pass?

Chances are if you haven’t, then you are much like me. Always praying, but never believing.

Did you know that just because you pray about something doesn’t mean it will happen? And I know there will be some people who have been Christians for years reading these words, and will want to write me saying, “ How dare you say that.” Well, let me show you what I’m trying to say.

22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly[f] I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-23)

I have always read this verse just visualizing Jesus saying it, but I did not see until recently, the application of it.

Let’s break it down together.

You speak grace to the mountain, Okay, we’ve learned this before, we know that God has power to bring down all the mountains in our lives…right?

But there is key part to this verse I had not seen before recently, “ And DOES NOT doubt in their heart, but BELIEVES that what they say will happen.”

Basically, you can go yell at that mountain all day long, but it won’t come down, unless you believe it will be taken down.

I don’t want to be like a kid in school that gets bullied and poked by a stick by the enemy, saying “ STOP IT,” and just feels powerless against his schemes.

I don’t want to be that girl who cries her eyes out asking God to take away my mom’s illness, and feel hopeless that she will never be healed.

He says it clearly what we need to do.

“ Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, BELIEVE that YOU have RECEIVED it, and it WILL BE yours.”

I think you might be wondering why I might have written this post, and I am going to share with you that I have been praying for a good friend of mine I’ve known for years.  She lost her home in the Oklahoma tornado, and in the middle of disaster, catastrophe and chaos….God kept blessing her.  And I cannot share the details here yet, but it all started with a prayer that I BELIEVED for her.  I believed WITHOUT a doubt that the Lord would use her story, and that something even more amazing would happen…that is in the very process of coming to pass.

She could have been down and out after this tornado. She could have been crying in bed for days so depressed, she could have just let the tornado take her hope for the future.  Instead, I have received phone call, after text, after email at everything she feels so encouraged and inspired to do.

And because I have watched all this happen before my eyes in her life, I KNOW without a doubt that when we BELIEVE that the Lord will do something amazing, and we don’t doubt, then He will come through for us!  This has made such an impact on my faith, and I somehow feel I have been given a deeper sight of faith through all this,  because when you know the Bible as well as I have for years, you get used to just reading what the verses say.  Sometimes I have read them and analyzed like poetry, Sometimes I have read them and spoke them word from word by memory, Sometimes I have gone back and looked at the dates I’ve read them and tried to remember what I was dealing with at that time, but every time….I have not applied them until the Lord smacked me upside the head.

Let’s choose to believe when we pray friends. Let’s choose to not just believe that God CAN but that He WILL.

With you on the same journey,

Angie

LSOF: The Dying of Self….” It’s Not ABOUT Me.”

Everything is a process in this life. Everything has its beginnings, and Everything has an end.
We learn something new everyday about the life around us, and about ourselves.
We are constantly thinking of how to improve something about our lives, or personally.
We struggle to try to either conform to what seems attractive, or stray from what just loses its luster.
We think the grass is always greener in the life of the person standing in front of us,
We want what we think we need, but most of the time our wants are far from what we actually need.
” The Lord is my Shepard, I shall not be in want.”
Simply put we could say this verse means, there isn’t reason to follow anything other than God.
It simply means that our wants and our needs are not found far from the Lord.
They are at His feet ready for Him to hand to us.
If it is HIS will.
I personally have been humbled by this recently.
I have thought for years that the Lord wanted me to be a communicator that would speak all over the world, like Beth Moore, or Anne Graham Lotz.
I have had people tell me I need to be prepared for when the Lord has me ready to speak.  So many were ” certain” this was my calling.
I AM a communicator in blogging, but I always thought I was meant to take it further.
But saying you want to become something and then becoming it…
They are two different things.
It isn’t about what we want.
Instead, the Lord showed me that I was not to teach, but that I would be that encouragement behind those teaching.
That I would help others connect, that I would help others really see their potential.
I am the person who can contact the “right” people, and I am that person that will link arms with others
and stay close to them and let them know I am there for whatever they need.
It was quite humbling to say the least, but at the same time, it took the focus off of MY wants, MY needs, MY Desires….
and instead what the Lord wanted for me.
Let all men know and perceive and recognize your unselfishness (your considerateness, your forbearing spirit). The Lord is near [He is coming soon].
( Philippians 4:5, Amplified)
I had a really good friend share this verse with me the other day, she has been with me as I’ve journeyed on this time of what is called
” Dying of Self”- and my friends, its been more that just the realization of my true calling that has humbled me.
I have been selfish in so many areas. But I won’t allow myself to feel shame…Grace remains.
I have thought in the back of my mind for years that because I had a mom that was sick that I would one day be entitled
to a better life. That the Lord would bless me because of what I’ve been through….
Well, I resented my mom as a child for having the illness, and I didn’t receive the better life until I allowed grace
to teach me I can’t measure how things will turn out by what I want,
I am not entitled to a better life because of what I’ve been through, I am privileged to live in a life where there
is possibility to receive blessings only because the Lord loves me. Only because I choose to give grace in the
same way it was freely given on the cross to me.
I have also recently thought about removing myself from Facebook and Twitter, because they are no longer
a place to connect with people…it used to be that way, but now it is just a place to ” instagram” the latest
food cravings, or items one bought at the store to show ” status”.
It has become a place that is full of ” LOOK AT ME.”
And I admit that I have shamefully been part of it.
I have been encouraged because a comment was liked on my Facebook status,
It has made me smile to see someone retweet what I said, or favorited it.
But really, Facebook LIKES and RETWEETS on Twitter don’t mean anything to God.
I am not glorifying Him by receiving a Facebook or Twitter notification.
It has been brought to my attention so much recently that we have allowed ourselves to become
” makeshift” Christians, we believe, we receive, and we teach by what sounds ” good” to others.
We have forgotten what it really means to please the Lord.
I have been reading some of Phillip Yancey’s book ” Prayer” and one part of it really struck me,
Because our selflishness has made us miss out on what God wants for us.
” Advances in science and technology no doubt contribute to our confusion about prayer. In former days,
farmers lifted their heads and appealed to brazen heavens for an end to drought. Now we study low-pressure
fronts, dig irrigation canals, and seed clouds with metallic particles. In former days when a child fell ill the parents
cried out to God; now they call for an ambulance or phone the doctor.”
What spoke to me reading this is we have learned to create our own miracles, we create and control our own outcome.
We don’t pay attention to the miracles God wants to do in our lives, we don’t because we dont’ want to WAIT
for Him to work.
It’s our selfishness of wanting everything NOW, because everything around us is happening NOW.
We want, what we want…and it we don’t think we will like it, we don’t pray about it anymore,
we just make decisions on impulse and eventually have the capacity to become complete
trainwrecks.
But we forget that what we DO does not determine what God DOES.
And we should be grateful He knows we are selfish, but that because we are His children
He still blesses us.
I have the most amazing church, and I have been given a mentor that could only be from the Lord Himself,
and it wouldn’t have happened if I would allowed myself to stand in the way of going back after
I judged my first visit…which I found a week later, was JUST a visitor speaking.
Regardless, I jumped from church to church on impulse, and had I not filled out the visitor card,
I would not have received the phone call to meet the Pastor and his wife.
I could go on and on about this, but I will just end in saying, we should be thankful for grace,
that it doesn’t leave us who we are, that the Lord wants more for us then we could ever
think up for ourselves.
But we need to die of ourselves, and live in Him daily.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
(Matthew 10:25)
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
(Matthew 16:24)