No Longer a “Missing Person”

By JMathis

I have a client who is a very successful architectural engineer. When she was just a baby, she and her twin sister were brutally raped by their father, to the point where their reproductive systems were savagely torn and mutilated beyond recognition.

True story.

Satan tried to steal parts of her body, hoping to gain access to the rest of her—her mind, her spirit. He had hoped that by breaking her body, he would eradicate all hopes that she would ever have of bearing children. With that, he would then have the opportunity to destroy her well-being and crush her spirit.

God had other plans for her missing parts.

God lovingly scooped her up, nurtured her and placed her into His cocoon, where she stayed until her healing was complete. He kept her within His embrace until her missing parts were restored.

Today, she has a loving husband who adores her beyond comprehension, two beautiful, adopted children who are bright, precocious and passionate about the Lord, along with a profitable business where she is highly respected by her clients and peers.

God has plans for your missing parts, too.

Just because you have missing parts, does not mean that you should place your identity as one among the “missing”:

I was molested.

I am an alcoholic.

I am anorexic.

I am infertile.

I am fat.

I am unemployed.

I am a failure.  

Isn’t it time to move out of the land of the “missing” and find your identity in the life-sustaining promises of Jesus? How long are you willing to be a missing person?

Revelation 21:5. “…Behold, I make all things new…”

2 Corinthians 5: 17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

If you have read these scriptures, or if you have ever heard the song Amazing Grace, you know that you have been found, my friend, and made new.

You’re not missing parts; you’re not a missing person.

Christ died so that you would be found.

You have been found.

So, rejoice.

You are missing no more.

“…He hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” Luke 4:18

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Worshipping at the Altar of Television

By JMathis

femmefuelThe television. Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer. This is what I know about television.

Yet, I ingest this poison nightly.

I have all these dreams that I want to fulfill in my life—dreams which require much prayer, thought, planning, diligence and hard work. Yet, after a long day of work and going through the nightly motions of making dinner and putting my daughter to bed, I am too “exhausted” to even dream my dreams. Slowly, these dreams fade to black as the drone of the TV replaces them one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until they are no more and bear no more significance to my life.

How many times has this scene played out in your home?


More than you care to admit?

My husband and I are guilty-as-charged, as there are nights when we huddle in front of the television without saying a word to one another. So depleted and choked by the worries of the day, we forget to even speak to each other, as we give into the comforting glow of the television set—the television set that appears to give so much, and demand so little in return.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I worry that all this television watching will play out like scenes from one of my favorite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Without giving the premise of the movie away, the film takes us through the relationship of a couple—once vibrant in their love for each other, they soon become estranged as their differences become magnified in the boredom of their day-to-day relationship. Here are scene notes from what a typical day was like in their relationship:

Joel and Clementine sit and eat dinner in front of the TV.

It’s hard to make out what they’re watching. They sit on opposite ends of the couch. They look bored. The scene quickly degenerates. The room fades.

Joel looks over at the faded Clementine across the couch. She stares straight ahead at the TV.

Joel watches TV. Clementine walks by in her underwear, looks at the TV. She slips into a skirt.

The scene starts to fade. Clementine puts on her shoes and heads out the door.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Sometimes I find tremendous irony in watching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), where Oprah is telling me in earnest to be in hot pursuit of my dreams, while I just, well…sit there. And, then sit there some more. It is abundantly clear to everyone else but me, that I am in hot pursuit of absolutely nothing when I watch Oprah “challenging” and “prodding” me to “live my best life”.

Even though I might convince myself that her words are somehow inspiring and propelling me to live life to its fullest, why then can’t I get off of the couch? Who am I kidding? Is this a sign of a highly-successful person?

Since when is it acceptable to watch other people (like Oprah) live out their dreams on television, while you lean back and forget about your own hopes and plans for the future? The notion seems so ludicrous if you were explaining it to a young child, and yet we adults have no problem succumbing to it night after weary night.

Time-killer. Brain-killer. Relationship-killer. Dream-killer.

Now, I am not going to act like some rabid, self-righteous, hypocritical zealot claiming that television is evil. However, as I glaringly point the finger towards myself, I am going to challenge you today to examine your mind’s consumption of what is offered by the boob tube.

Apart from the spiritual and physical ramifications of wasting your life in front of the television, have you ever examined its role in how it interrupts your thoughts, your day-to-day to do list, your plans to start and grow a business or a ministry, or even your ability to relate to others—particularly your significant other?

Are the seconds, minutes, hours and weekends somehow dissipating as you find yourself worshipping at the altar of your television?

After all, your new job will not fall into your lap while you lie on the couch.

Your soulmate will not find you while you lie on the couch.

You will not get your body back while you lie on the couch.

Your marital problems will not magically disappear while you lie on the couch.

More importantly, you will not find out God’s purpose for your life while you lie on the couch…and watch TV.

Did God put you on this earth simply just to lie in front of a TV all night? Isn’t there more to our lives than watching Rachel Berry fulfill her dreams of Broadway on Glee? Than seeing which housewife mauled another housewife on The Real Housewives of God-Knows-What-City?

Rather than feel guilty, let’s chip away at this altar one-by-one and piece-by-piece, until it is no more and bears no more significance to our lives.

In this 31 Day Mind-Body-Spirit Challenge, will you fast with me some parts of our daily television viewing?

Maybe we can take time to call a friend instead?

Read the book or the magazine that has been collecting dust on the shelf?

Do simple stretching exercises?

Spend time in the Word?

Surround ourselves in the stillness of God’s presence?

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3: 17.

Take time today to really free yourself from this Time-killer. This Brain-killer. This Relationship-killer. This Dream-killer.

I’ll do it with you.

Let’s turn Oprah off and go live our best lives yet.

Bringing Sexy Back: The Mind-Body-Spirit Connection

By JMathis

I must admit. Post-kids, sex is so confusing and frustrating.

I never thought it was possible, but that day has finally arrived, ladies and gentlemen.

After my daughter was born, our biggest problem was frequency. We just never seemed to find time for it especially since our bed is like a cable network that only displays one show on a back-to-back loop: Three’s Company.

Stanley Roper: Not in my building!

Jack Tripper: I swear, it will be completely platonic.

Stanley Roper: What’s that mean?

Helen Roper: Like you and me, Stanley.

Then, some time ago, we got scared straight after reading a scholarly article *ahem* from Cosmo that said we were veering steadily on the path towards a (cue menacing music: Dum Dum Duuuuum!!!)…Sexless Marriage.

Out of fear that Cosmo readers would come chasing us down with pitchforks, we fervently started scheduling “play dates”. On an actual calendar. No, seriously. If it wasn’t marked on the calendar, it just wasn’t going to happen.

Ahh, crisis averted.

So, we got smug for a little while. Sexless Marriage is now a Sexfull Marriage. Mission Accomplished!

But, then, once again, it got complicated. Like AbbyA, “I carry all of my emotions to the bedroom.  If I am beat up in my marriage relationship, I have no passion for sex.”

My husband and I may have increased the frequency of sex, but the mind-body-spirit connection was just not there anymore.

Take last month, for example. For our date night, (Phase 1) we went to this trendy eatery tucked away in the Design District, followed by (Phase 2) a really thought-provoking indie film at this funky art house theatre. In the last 45 minutes of the movie where the anticipation is steadily building to the grande finale, we get TWO phone calls from the babysitter (aka mother-in-law). My husband runs out of the movie in terror thinking the worst—abduction, bathtub drowning, choking on a chicken bone.

No, none of that.

Apparently, our daughter was “inconsolable” because she missed her stuffed animals back at home.

Umm, yeah, so? Does this warrant a phone call in the middle of date night? Right when the movie is reaching its cinematic climax?

As if this weren’t enough to destroy date night, we then get a SECOND phone call 30 minutes later. My husband runs out again to take the call. I end up watching the last few minutes…ALONE.

Just calling to let you know that she’s sleeping like a baby. Just wanted to give you an update in case you two were worried!”

For the record, we were not worried. Truth be told, we could care less.

[Insert feelings of extreme annoyance on my part.]

Umm, really? Really, really? Can this “sense of relief” not wait until the end of date night? Or, at the very least, until the end of the movie?

Needless to say, I am seething on the car ride home. Date night is officially a bust for me because I simply can’t get over the fact that we were interrupted TWICE over something so seemingly nonsensical and trivial. To add insult to injury, years of deep-seated mother-in-law issues suddenly start bubbling to the surface.

When we get home, my husband is nonplussed about all of this and is ready for Phase 3 of date night—all guns blazing—as if nothing ever happened. I shoot him a look of a million daggers, but guiltily realize that we must move forward with Phase 3, lest we get universally tsked tsked by Cosmo readers everywhere—after all, it’s on the calendar. Gotta stick to the calendar at all costs! All hail the calendar!

And, what am I thinking about the whole time during Phase 3? About how hot and sexy things are under the sheets?


Just a constant, angry loop of: “Two phone calls? Two phone calls?? Really??? REALLY??? TWO PHONE CALLS????”

Yes, I am that petty, and so much more.

Forgive me, Lord.

What’s the point of all of this calendared sex if there is no mind-body-spirit connection?

Sex is an act that is blessed by the Spirit of God, confirmed in the mind, and re-affirmed by the body.

When one of these elements is out of whack, the whole act loses its luster.

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

If you are languishing in some area of your sex-life, pray for a renewal of your mind-body-spirit connection. Turn off the worries and annoyances of the day, flood your heart with God’s love towards your spouse, and give into some good old-fashioned rollicking fun.

Pray for your physical relationship to experience a spiritual and emotional renaissance. Pray to God to bring the sexy back.

I know I will.

After all, from what I hear, it’s supposedly the best sex a girl can ever get.

Chasing Cars

By JMathis

“Never chase love, affection or attention. If it isn’t given freely by another person, it isn’t worth having.” –Unknown

I have a friend on Facebook who is a serial quoter. Every day she puts up a new quote that usually has zero significance or interest to me. I love her dearly, but sometimes all of this quoting just drives me bonkos. I mean, if I wanted to join the “quote of the day” club, I would have done so, right? (She will kill me when she reads this, by the way. Gulp.)

Yet, the other day, she posted the quote from above, which really caused me to stop and reflect about the entirety of my life (thank you, FB friend). I sat down and thought about all of this “chasing” that we do as women.

Chasing after men, chasing after kids, chasing for acceptance, chasing to please. It’s all so meaningless sometimes, as King Solomon would say, and yet a good chunk of my day is spent in the chase.

Like AbbyA, sadly, most of my pre-marriage days were spent in the chase of affection from men. I could write a telenovela screenplay about those days, but I’ll refrain (for the moment). Now, as much as I try to squash the impulse, most of my days are spent in the chase of pleasing ‘man’–not ‘man’, as in the male species, but ‘man’ in the generic sense–chasing the vanities and worries of humankind. Chasing the American dream, chasing the Parent of the Year award, chasing cars.

When Gary Lightbody, the frontman of Snow Patrol, was asked about the meaning of their song, “Chasing Cars”, he said that it was the “most pure and open love song [he’s] ever written.” The title, “Chasing Cars”, is actually a reference from Lightbody’s dad, who mentioned it to his son when Lightbody was obsessed with the affections of a certain girl: “You’re like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it and you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did.”

Ouch. Is that what we’re all doing everyday? Chasing metaphorical cars?

The heartbreaking thing is that we chase everything but the One Person who gives us love, attention and affection freely–the One Person who is actually worth the reward of a chase. We’re in the chase for everything, but yet at the end of the day, we’re in the chase for absolutely nothing of true meaning and eternal significance.

Meanwhile, our Heavenly Father waits. Waits patiently for us to embrace Him and all that He has to make us whole and complete.

He waits for us to stop running, to stop panicking, to stop vain pursuits, to stop worrying, to stop the cycle of hurt in our lives.

He sits there just waiting.

Waiting for us to stop…chasing cars.

Hearing God’s Voice in the Rain

By JMathis

The whole world feels differently when it rains outside. We hurriedly rush indoors to stay dry and warm, and we often bemoan the fact that it’s so dark and dreary outside.

At the same time, when it rains outside, it’s the only time that I allow myself to really.slow.down on the inside: the inside of my house, the inside of my mind. When it thunders and roars outside, I cancel plans with friends and opt instead for prolonged cuddle sessions with my family, catch up on Academy Award nominated films from six years ago, or make indulgent comfort food from a cookbook that has been collecting dust on my shelf for years.

These storms are the only times in my life that I give myself permission to Eat. Pray. Love. No regrets, no worries, no stress and no counting calories. I fling the front door of my house wide open, stand in the overhang of my porch where I am safe and dry, and just watch in surrender as the rain pours down onto my driveway.

It is in these times that I hear the Lord.

AbbyA hears Him in her car, but I hear Him when it rains.

I hear words of safety, peace, healing, forgiveness and love.

How is it that I hardly ever hear Him at any other time? I don’t hear Him in my commute, I don’t hear Him when the phones are ringing off the hook in my office, and I don’t hear Him at the end of the day, as I attempt to clean up a house that manages to destroy itself daily with toys, laundry, and sticky, gooey fingerprints that pervade every nook and cranny of my domestic existence.

Yet I hear Him when it rains.

Perhaps that is the only time I actually create a space for Him where He can be heard.

After all, He is always speaking. Unfortunately, the pulsating rave beats of my daily life drown out the tender whispers of His presence.

Find your safe, comforting, creative and forgiving space, ladies, wherever it may be: cars, thunderstorms or while getting a massage. Find a space where time is not of the essence, and where keeping up with the Joneses is not a priority.

Go to the quiet and hear the voice of the Lord, even when it is raining fear, pain and worry outside. Hear Him speak healing over your infertility, your impending bankruptcy, your depression, your unemployment, your failing grades, your inability to find your soulmate, your low self-esteem, and the unforgiveness sitting in the deep recesses of your heart—unforgiveness towards yourself, your family, or your cheating spouse.

He is always speaking. Just create a space for Him where He can be heard.

Psalms 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God…”

2 Corinthians 3:17: “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

The Pinwheel of God’s Creation

By JMathis

The beauty of a pinwheel swirling fervently in a summer wind is self-evident. The individual spokes of color spin together to create fury and majesty, in the backdrop of a young child’s squeals of delight.

Looking back, I wish I had reflected more on the holistic passion and energy of the pinwheel that constitutes the entirety of my life. Instead, my youth and naïveté have led me to dwell too long on any one given color that represents only a singular sliver and season of my days here on earth.

In high school, the green and gold of my high school colors made me feel secure in its familiarity, yet continually lost as I searched for my place in this world. Did I want to be popular? What about being an intellectual? How about a beatnik or a goth?

In college, the blue and orange of my large state school made me feel comforted by its hearty embrace, yet stifled by its uniformity. Is there anything else I have in common with these people other than a deep love for college football?

In law school, the maroon and gold of my small, Jesuit law school enabled me to nestle into the cocoon of an intellectually vibrant community, but with the paranoia that I was a big loser if I did not seek after the big bucks. Maybe the best way to advocate for the homeless is to make a lot of money, so that I can give them a hefty tax-deductible donation at the end of the year?

Now, it is the brown of the poop, the chocolate milk, the spilled coffee and the muddy sneakers that fill the expanse of my days—days simultaneously roiled in both laughter and motherly madness. How am I going to explain to the client that I spilled finger-paint all over his one and only set of original documents I took home to review?

 Life is moving far too quickly for any of us to grasp, ladies. You spend too long on any one spoke of color and you get stuck in a tunnel-vision of greys and blacks, failing to see the all-encompassing glory and magnificence of the spinning pinwheel which represents God’s overarching design and destiny for your life.

 Your life is a pinwheel of color and light, made to glorify your Creator. Spin it with all of your might (Luke 10:27), and step back to gaze at His strength and beauty which faithfully carries you from color to color, winter to spring, despair to delight, aimlessness to divine purpose.

2 Corinthians 3:18. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

My Family Tree

By JMathis

I always joke around that my family tree resembles that of the Kennedys (minus all of the wealth and extravagance). Like the Kennedys, we are fiercely devoted to social causes and passionate about serving in the public interest. Instead of using government as our platform to reach the masses, though, my family’s preferred vehicle of service comes in the form of ministry.

I have family members who are Christian educators, authors, activists, scholars, philanthropists, social workers, songwriters, musicians, missionaries, pastors, evangelists and seminary students. You can find us anywhere from the mission fields of third world countries, all the way to the staff of America’s largest megachurch—we are in every pocket of Christendom imaginable and we are relentless in our ambition to do God’s work.

Yet, despite all of this tireless fealty to things of a spiritual nature, we have another very pronounced commonality with the Kennedys—our family is continuously plagued by tragedy. While our tragedies don’t take the form of assassinations, allegations of rape and plane crashes which seem characteristic of the Kennedy clan, our tragedies instead revolve around one thing: mental illness.

Every branch of my majestic, stately family tree has been impacted by mental illness. We are cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, siblings, grandchildren, parents and even children of the mentally ill. We see it all around us and we say nothing. We pretend it doesn’t exist even though it is the imposingly large elephant in the room of every single family reunion and gathering.

When one of us falls too far into the deep end, instead of throwing that person a life preserver, we whisper in hushed tones to each other, swapping knowing looks that simultaneously say “another one bites the dust” and “glad it wasn’t me”. We then proceed to step over the lifeless body and march towards our next assignment from God.

Apart from the obvious hypocrisy that runs rampant in my “spiritually oriented” family, we are still a family that is deeply rooted in the love of the Lord and one another, as confusing as that may sound. Unfortunately, these same roots are invasively thick with shame and silence. My family reminds me of the ficus tree—graceful, elegant and capable of growing in poor growing conditions. Yet at the same time, so rapidly destructive that it can rip through beautiful gardens and seemingly solid foundations such as sidewalks, patios and driveways. My family tree is both glorious in its legacy, while often heartbreaking at its core. 

A year after giving birth to my lovely babykins, I found myself still in the clutches of postpartum depression. I thought the “baby blues” were only supposed to last a few weeks, maybe months, but mine trudged on with a happy face, seemingly without an expiration date. I masked it well, staying busy with work, community volunteering and church involvement. However, deep inside, I knew that my internal compass was completely out of sorts. Looking back, I can remember feeling that pregnancy had caused every neuron and fiber in my body to be thrown off whack—as if someone had tried to rewire my neural structure, but did so incorrectly, with my orderly inner alphabet of “ABC” suddenly turning into a chaotic “ACV”.

After one year of this uneasiness and inner turmoil, it then hit me like a freight train. How many of my female relatives had languished in untreated postpartum depression, eventually hitting the point of no return? How many of my male relatives experienced intractable breakdowns after coming face to face with repeated stressors that could have been removed? How much could some of this mental illness have been avoided? Why was there such shame in taking the proper medication for something like this, or for sharing this with family members?

While the Christian holy-roller side of me would love to tell you that I broke this generational curse through prayer and fasting, the truth is, I finally caved and got help by seeing my doctor. She put me on anti-depressants and overnight, my world got much clearer and brighter—my wiring finally started to fuse in the proper order. Even though I was praying and reading the Word throughout this dark period of my life, it was not until I went on “happy pills” that I could say there was a light streaming in over the horizon.       

From a Christian perspective, I have no idea what this means. I know that God could have healed me without the use of any medication, but for some reason, medication was the course of action I followed. I would like to believe that the Lord took down my pride and led me to that decision just in the nick of time—still early enough where I could continue to fulfill my purpose and destiny in Christ. I have to trust the Lord and not over-think it theologically. After all, how should I know if Christians are to avoid anti-depressants? Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn’t; it’s not for me to decide or debate.

At the same time, I know very few people who would sweat out cancer, like some faith-healers, by relying solely on the Word of God. Most of us would seek treatment like chemotherapy, in addition to strengthening ourselves through daily meditation of scripture, prayer and fasting. Furthermore, we would enlist the help of family and friends for care, comfort, support, and more importantly, to wage spiritual warfare against this disease. Why should mental illness be treated any differently? Why is it sacrilegious to suggest that medication might be beneficial to someone facing a bout of mental illness?  Why is it taboo to share with friends, family and church leadership that you’re depressed?

In terms of my own experiences with post-partum depression and in light of my family history, I have learned a few things that I feel blessed and compelled to share with you:

1)      If you see someone sinking, throw that person a life preserver. Put aside years of shame, anger, guilt and fear of awkwardness, and help that family member or friend get through this difficult season.

2)      Throw away your pride and see if medication might help. As my doctor said, physiologically, we are a large mass of chemicals. When your inner chemical makeup is off-kilter, correct the imbalance through diet and exercise, and if necessary, the proper medication. 

3)      Seemingly normal, well put-together people experience depression—even people who are involved in ministry. If someone had a baby, even as long as a year ago, reach out to her and probe; ask the right questions. If someone just lost a loved-one, really assess how she’s doing a year later and offer a shoulder to cry on with continued support.

Even King David went through several seasons of depression throughout his life. “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” Psalms 32:3-4.

However, David prayed for wisdom, repented and sought the face of the Lord during emotional famines like this:

Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” Psalms 51: 6-12

Have you prayed for wisdom for you and your family members in the area of mental illness? Have you repented of any unrighteousness in your life? Have you sought God’s face in how to deal with your depression?

I’m sick of the stigma that mental illness carries, and I will continue to engage in spiritual battle against the strongholds of shame and silence that repeatedly threaten to bring down my family’s long-lasting Christian heritage. I’m tired of the tragedy of mental illness that perpetuates itself in my blood line, and I take authority over it in the powerful name of Jesus. I’m also done with my pride that seeks to distance myself from getting the proper help and support that I need to move forward in the things of God.

I am ready to find my true legacy in Christ—not the one my family bestows upon me through genetics or in the way that my family members and I were raised.

I don’t want to be a Kennedy or even a descendent of Billy Graham. I just want to be a member of the family of God.

Furthermore, I may never fully understand why my incredible family tree produces both sweet and bitter fruit, but I do know one thing: I am of the lineage of Jesus Christ and I will do everything I need to do to help my family to continue serving our Father.