All posts in the repentance category

The Door And The Barking Dog

Published September 3, 2013 by joypatton


I stood at the door once again. I could hear the dog on the other side barking, and he didn’t sound as evil as everyone was making him out to be. I could even hear an occasional whimper as he begged me to open the door. Maybe this time it would be different, I told myself. Maybe this time, the dog and I could find a way to live in peace together. I heard the voices of my friends begging me not to do it again, and I remembered the pain I brought on myself and those around me the last time. But I just had to know if this dog and I could be friends. Maybe this time it wouldn’t be so bad; maybe this time it would be different. Surely, it couldn’t be as bad as before. So my hand reached for the door knob, and I opened the door.

The innocent whimper turned into a ferocious growl, and I felt the pain shooting up through my leg once again. I looked down to see this bulldog holding my leg in his teeth, trying in vain to take me down. I beat him off and chased him back out the door. I turned my attention to my leg and tried to get the throbbing to stop. I looked up at the sky and said, “You were right. It was really stupid to open the door. I’m sorry.”

So before you get too worried about my leg and start to question my sanity, the above story is a picture I heard Dr. Neil T. Anderson present in a message at New Hope Community Church in Nashville, TN. He was talking about the difference between confession and repentance.

Confession is agreeing with God that what we did was wrong. It was wrong for me to open the door to the barking dog who represents that nagging sin, behavior or addiction that just won’t go away and I can’t seem to stop. Repentance is changing my behavior and not opening the door. He talked about setting boundaries and changing behavior patterns so that we stayed out of situations that were tempting.

As he spoke, I knew exactly what my barking dog was. Her name was “jealousy.” I had tried to stop being jealous of other people and wanting what they had. I had confessed to my friends and to my husband whenever I felt jealous. And the question I wrote in my notes was “How do I stop opening the door to Jealousy?”

Sometimes when your barking dog is an addiction, it seems easier to identify what makes you open the door. It’s going to a certain corner to find your drug or staying out of certain places to keep you from drinking. It’s putting a filter on the computer or deleting a phone number from your phone. I thought Jealousy was a different kind of dog, but I discovered she wasn’t so different after all.

As I started journaling about why I kept opening the door, I realized that the root was a lack of contentment. I realized that when I pictured standing at the door, I was in a closet, a tiny, stuffy, going-nowhere, full of nothing closet. And I wanted something more. I thought that “something more” was just beyond the door, so I reached for the door knob. Sure, I might have to put up with some barking and some dog bites, but it would be worth it to get to “something more.” And I kept opening the door and kept being jealous.

Then God showed me what was true. I wasn’t standing in a closet. I was standing in a big open space with no limits. I was standing in “something more” already, and the dog Jealousy was locked in a closet. All I had to do was turn around and see the family, the friends, the house, the ministry that God had already given to me on my side of the door. When I was so focused on chasing “something more,” I forgot about all that God had already given. All I had to do was turn around and repent.

And so I prayed a Princess prayer to ask God to help me be content on my side the door. To be grateful for what I already had. I needed to trust that he was big enough and strong enough to bring whatever I needed to my side of the door. He didn’t even have to go through the door; he could have it helicopter lifted in if he wanted to. He could make it magically appear, even if I never opened the door with the barking dog on the other side.

So what do you need to trust him for on your side of the door? Can he bring you the husband, the love, the attention you desire? Can he heal your pain so that you don’t have to hurt anymore? Can he bring you peace and hope outside of the other things you run to when you feel depressed? Can he provide for your financial needs even if you don’t reach for the credit cards? Will you trust him to bring it to your side of the door and stop reaching for something more?

I can’t say that I’m not jealous any more, but I can say that it has been a long time, which is about the best that any addict can hope for. When I confessed that I was focusing on the wrong things and began to turn around and focus on other things, that barking dog wasn’t as loud as she was before. I’ve learned that the root of all our reaching is a desire for something more, whether we are reaching for love in an illegitimate relationship or reaching for happiness at the bottom of a bottle. This desire can only be satisfied in a relationship with Jesus. And that’s not a band-aid or a nice Christian phrase. It’s the gut-wrenching, heart-pounding truth.


The Princess and the Dress

Published April 25, 2013 by joypatton


My friend called me with an urgent prayer request. “I have to go shopping with my daughter for a prom dress, and I just might kill her in the process.” It was that time of year and her oldest daughter’s first prom. Everyone knows the most important part of the evening is the dress. Her daughter had gone into Ice Queen mode, doing all the necessary research to find the perfect dress. Her friends said “The White Room” was the only place to go, and so mother and daughter headed to the store. “Maybe you should come as a buffer,” my friend said to me. Because I love to shop with other people’s money, I was very disappointed I couldn’t go. The trip was successful though without me. They found the perfect dress, one that her daughter LOVED. My friend worried that the dress might not be a good fit for her daughter’s body. But it was so beautiful and her heart was set on this dress. In Ice Queen shopping mode, no daughter listens to what her mother has to say anyway. Because the Orphan side of my friend wanted to please her daughter, she pushed aside her concerns and said yes. Even though the shop didn’t have her size in stock, they signed on the dotted line and ordered the dress. The seamstress assured them that with a few simple alterations, the dress would be perfect. The shop even noted which dress she bought so that they wouldn’t sell the same dress to anyone else at her school.

The week of the prom, I received another urgent call from my friend. She needed me to take her youngest daughter to rehearsal so that she could go pick up the dress from The White Room. The problem was that the seamstress was sick and none of the alterations had been made to the dress three days before prom. But my friend was sure that her mother, an experienced seamstress who had arrived in town the night before, could make the necessary alterations and everything would be fine once they had the dress.

Later that night I received an urgent text from my friend’s precious daughter. “Got the dress back from the alterations lady today, and it does not fit to the point that it is unwearable. Will you pray that I would trust Jesus in this? I’m so sad and feeling a lot of shame.” She was trying so hard to be a Princess about it all and trust Jesus. She also courageously acknowledged her feelings. But while the rest of her family attended her sister’s play, she stayed at home wrestling with the Orphan side of her. “You shouldn’t have been such an Ice Queen at the store. What an awful, ungrateful daughter you are! You should have listened to your mom and not your friends. What a fool! Now they have to buy another dress in less than 48 hours. That’s impossible! You should just stay home. You don’t really deserve to go anyway. You will never find a dress to fit your gross body.” And yet the Princess side of her battled back and she prayed and cried out to Jesus. He began to speak His truth to her. “I’m not surprised by this turn of events. You are beautiful just the way I made you. I have a husband for you some day that will love your body exactly the way it is. I love you, and I have made a provision for you. You can trust me.”

The next morning I called my friend. “What do you mean it’s unwearable? What’s the plan?” She told me that when Meme, her mom, looked at the alterations the seamstress was going to do, there was no way it was going to work with that dress. It had no back and simply wouldn’t look right. My friend asked if I could go shopping with her and her mom while her daughter was in school. This time I got to go because my morning was free. We agreed to meet at the mall and “pre-shop” for her daughter. Then she would get her from school and show her the things we picked out. So the Princess trusted that her grandmother, her mom and her mom’s friend would find the perfect dress for her. Three old ladies shopping for prom dresses made quite the team. We each brought something unique to the table. Meme knew what could realistically be altered. Her mom knew what styles and colors had already been rejected, no strapless, no white. I was the fashionista. The store clerks looked at us funny as we tried on dresses. But we were pleasantly surprised at the options we found and were sure that one would work for the Princess, who received many text message pictures from us.

She went to get her daughter, and I went to pick up my preschool daughter. We met back at the mall, and she tried on all our finds. Three generations of women united in a singular mission. I smiled at my daughter Faith and said that some day we would be shopping for her prom dress. I don’t think it meant as much to her as it did to me. Mission accomplished: we found a dress that she truly loved and looked beautiful in. A dress that fit her body perfectly.

The next day the vigorous beauty regimen for the prom kept my friend and her daughter occupied.  And yet even adorned in her new dress, the Princess doubted her worth.  She was ashamed that her foolishness had caused such turmoil.  Even a full-length ball gown and perfectly curled hair could not give her a Princess heart.  Her Princess heart came from repentance, from taking her feelings to Jesus, from receiving his lavish gifts.  The Orphan heart cannot accept these gifts, and the Ice Queen heart demands them in her pride. The Princess knows she is not worthy of such arraignments, yet she receives the love of the Father.   The Father sent all of us a beautiful gift by sending three other Princesses to shop for a dress.  All we do is accept the gifts He lavishes and live like His Princesses.

Comfort in Not Enough

Published April 15, 2013 by joypatton

I have many times experienced the feeling of not being good enough.  I hate it.  It’s what drives me to be perfect, to work harder, go faster, be more so that I will be enough.  Most days I don’t feel like I’m enough for all my kids.  On a recent field trip, I was listening to some moms talk about their kids and their homework.  I quickly realized I have no idea what my kids are doing in school. I have no idea what day my fourth grader has his spelling tests.  I usually don’t even help him study or remind him.  Obviously I’m not doing enough in this area.

Last week my husband almost ran out of clean clothes.  I’m not doing enough laundry during the week, so I spent the whole weekend plowing through mountains of clothes so he could have enough for his trip this morning.  I hate feeling like I’m not keeping up my end of the bargain.

This morning I was reading John 14:8 and realized that Jesus himself was “not enough” for the disciples.  At the Last Supper, Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.”  Basically Philip was saying that all the miracles he had seen Jesus do and all the words Jesus had said were not enough for him to believe.  One of the Twelve disciples whom Jesus had loved and cared for and taught gets to the end of the journey and tells him it wasn’t enough.  What??

The comfort for me is that Jesus knew what it felt like to be “not enough.”  He knew what it felt like to be rejected and misunderstood, even by his closest friends.  So the days when I feel like a failure, when I feel rejected and misunderstood, He knows that feeling too.  It reminds me of Hebrews 3:15.  “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

It’s all nice and righteous of me to identify with Jesus in this situation.  But the truth is that when I look into my heart, I see that I too have been like Philip.  I have told Jesus that he’s not enough for me.  In spite of all his works in my life, his great provision, his Word, I have told him it’s not good enough.  That if he really loved me he would make things easier or better or just peaceful.  I have dared him to perform miracles so that I would believe him again.

And yet I find comfort here too.  Jesus did not reject Philip and cast him out of his presence.  He goes back and re-teaches the disciples all the things he has already taught and said.  O the patience of our loving Lord!  O that I would have the same patience with others who tell me I’m not enough!  O that I would be patient with myself and give myself the grace he gives to me in my failures!

Lord, forgive me for saying that You are not enough for me.  May I have eyes to see your hand and ears to hear your voice so that I might remember that You are enough for me.  May my moments of not being enough drive me to confession and not to perfection.  May I lavish others with the grace you have lavished on me.  

Free Advice Friday: I need more patience.

Published March 22, 2013 by joypatton

I’ve heard a lot of people say this.  I recently even heard Jeff Probst admit that he wasn’t a very patient person on his show.  (This, by the way, is what I love about the show.)  Inevitably when someone realizes they lack patience, they next phrase is “I need to be more patient.”

However I would argue that this isn’t really what you need.  More patience isn’t something you can order off the cosmic menu and have show up at your door.  Neither is being more gentle or being more joyful.  I’ve found from personal experience you can’t will yourself out of  depression, nor can you will yourself to be more patient.

One thing that is helpful is getting to the root of the issue.  I bet that if you dig deep enough you will find that the behavior you are trying to prevent begins with not acknowledging your heart.  Your impatience with your husband comes out because you lack compassion for whatever he is dealing with.  Your impatience with coworkers who have bad ideas comes from the pride in your heart that your ideas are the best or your unwillingness to be honest with them about how you feel about their ideas.  My impatience with my kids comes because I think that guarding my reputation and being on time is more important than their hearts.  Often I find an idol or an even uglier sin that needs to be confessed and brought into light.  And when you do, confess it.  It’s just that simple.  Confess it to God and then if needed, confess to the people affected by your actions.  Yes, true repentance is painful, but it’s that pain that ultimately helps change my behavior.

The second thing is to realize that you can’t be more patient.  Do you know where patience comes from?  In Galatians 5:22, patience is listed as a fruit of the Spirit.  Fruits grow because they are attached to a tree that gives them what they need to grow.  God grants sun and rain to grow the fruit.  The fruit doesn’t decide in which season it will grow or how big it will get or how sweet it will be.  The best thing the fruit can do to promote its growth is to remain attached to the tree.

How do you stay attached to the tree that produces the fruits of the Spirit?  By believing that Jesus died on the cross to cover all your sin, including my impatience and whatever ugly thing is driving it.  Paul also encourages us to “keep in step” with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).  To me this also sounds a lot like the “abiding” Jesus encourages us to do in John 15.  It sounds a lot like how a fruit grows in a tree.

So instead of needing more patience, we really need more Jesus.  He is the source of all of those things.  Truthfully I have no ability to be more patient on my own apart from him.  If you see me being patience with my kids, giving my husband grace or being joyful on a bad day, it’s because of the Spirit at work in my life.  And on the days my abiding is less than stellar, you know what I need to do more?  Confess it.  And it all leads to more humility, more grace,, more patience because I realized that Jesus was humiliated on my behalf and has given infinite grace and patience to me on my worst days.  How could I withhold that from anyone else?

What would it look like to “abide more” today?

Where I want to Live

Published February 12, 2013 by joypatton

This last weekend I was in Los Angeles to attend our first Grammy Awards. It was my first time in L.A. and my first time to the Grammy’s. I realized just how white and how small my little corner of the world is. That’s what I love about traveling, seeing new places and meeting new people.

On the flight out, we met a young woman who used to live in L.A. We talked about the differences between L.A. and Nashville. She confirmed what I suspected about life in L.A. That religious life didn’t intersect with real life. That there was pressure to always look like you had it together, to keep working harder and more to reach the bigger, better life.

I felt this pressure even before we left. The last few weeks, I found a BCBG dress and Chinese Laundry shoes. I had my highlights done and got a spray tan to hide my winter white. I ran out of time and money or I would have gotten a mani/pedi and had my teeth whitened. I had carefully planned outfits that only including skinny jeans. It was lot of work. My sister saw a picture and told me I looked good. Of course, I did. If I could keep up that kind of beauty and shopping regimen and my real life, I would definitely look better.

But life isn’t about just looking the part. That’s the lie we have believed. That if everything looks good on the outside, then it must be good. It’s a lie that runs rampant in the church as well. We want to put a pretty bow on every story and let everyone think that we are strong, in the Lord of course. But when we are just looking the part, we often neglect our hearts. They become another part of us to manage and control and make pretty.

My friend said that in LA going to church was just another thing you did to make yourself look good. If you had time, you went on Sunday. But if you could find something else to do, you did. It’s not something you want to do or look forward to or even miss. I have fallen into that trap before too. My faith became just another accessory to my image, another part to play, something else to put on.

When this was all that my faith was to me, it was no wonder that I still felt empty inside. I couldn’t experience all that the gospel had to offer because I was busy using it to make myself look better. It was just another accessory in my closet to make me look cool. I could leave it at home or check it at the door if I wanted to.

But I dare you to truly believe the gospel. Don’t just use it to make yourself look good or sound cool. Let it into every part of your life. Let it affect every thought and everything you do and say. The great thing about Jesus is that he loves broken people, not just the ones who look like they have it all together. When I let him see the broken places, I invite him in to work. He brings compassion and grace and mercy to all the ugliest parts of me. Instead of hiding and covering them up, I can be true.

When your life is perfect, you don’t really need Jesus. When you can get everything you need on your own, you don’t need a Provider. When you can be good enough at keeping the rules, you don’t need a Savior. But when you can’t keep up your L.A. look and your life falls apart, Jesus will be there. The gospel is for people who aren’t perfect. When you come to the end of your resources, Jesus has exactly what you need. When you realized you have broken more rules than you could ever keep, you know you need his precious blood to cover it all.

I’m so glad I get to go home. I have a place where people love me even when I’m not perfect. I have kids who think I’m the best even when I’m the worst. I have a husband who loves me all dolled up or just plain old me. I have a God who is more concerned about my heart than about my look. He is there waiting for me to turn to him on the good days and on the bad days.

To get to him, I don’t have to own the right clothes, say the right things or keep all the rules. To get to him, I just have to be true. I have to honestly admit how desperately I need him and then accept his provision. The gospel becomes part of my every day life, not just my Sunday life. That is where I want to live, in the center of his grace.

Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

Published September 21, 2012 by joypatton

It’s the first ever Free Advice Friday on my blog!  Every Friday I’m turning this blog into an advice column.  Ask me anything from dating (didn’t date much, but have lots of interesting opinions), marriage (been married 15 years), parenting (have 4 kids), friendships (have had some good and some bad) or spiritual life (I have one).  I’m not sure that I will have great answers, but I know Someone who does.  My hope is that together we can carry our burdens into His presence and lay them at his feet.

Last week a friend texted me this question and I thought it was a good start for Free Advice Friday: What are some good worship songs when you’ve messed up big time?

My favorite worship album right now is Jason Gray’s “A Way to See in the Dark.”  I bought it because I heard the first song “Remind Me Who I Am” on KLove Radio in Nashville.  “In the lonely places when I can’t remember what grace is, remind me who I am to you.”  This is my new theme song.  When I get stuck in my Ice Queen and Orphan thinking, I need him to remind me that I am His Princess, his beloved.  “I’m the one You love.”

Another one of my favorites is “I Will Find a Way.”  In the beginning it talks about a woman is who so broken and afraid that she has shut the door of her heart.  “How should I come to the one that I love?  I will find a way.”  He loved her so much that he found a way to reach her and come into her heart.  I’m reminded how much the Father has loved us to send His only Son.  My other favorites on the album are “No Thief Like Fear,” “Nothing is Wasted,” and “Fear is Easy, Love is Hard.”  You can see why this is a great album for all my Orphan girls out there.

Another song that must be on this list is “One Thing” by Kristian Stanfill. “Your Love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.”  When we sing it in church, it sounds almost like a chant.  When I’ve messed up, I need to believe that his love is there, no matter what.

The problem is that when I mess up, it’s really hard to believe that God still loves me.  This exposes the lie that I believe that God loves me because of what I do.  Because I obey him or because I serve him or because I read my Bible and go to church.  None of those are the reasons that he loves me.  He loved me before I knew how to do any of those things.  He loved me while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).  So now that I’m “righteous,” has his love grown or changed?  By no means!  God’s love has no levels, no more and no less.  It has always been and will always be 100% plus infinity.

If Satan can get me to believe that God doesn’t love me, he can keep me from the cross, the ultimate sign of love.  When I doubt God’s unconditional love for me, then I am slow to repent because I don’t believe he even wants me back.  Eventually I stop repenting all together.  I stop going back to ask forgiveness again.  I stop bringing the things I did in the dark into the light.  And then I’m right where the enemy wants me, isolated, alone, in despair because I have no remedy for my sin.  This is the place where he is able to steal, kill and destroy this little lamb of God (John 10:10).

But when I am reminded of his great love, that his love for me remains, then I am free to run back to the cross and repent.  When I confess and agree with God that I messed it up again, he is faithful to forgive (I John 1:9).  I can agree with Satan that I am all those horrible things he has called me, “weak, pathetic, unworthy of love and disgusting.”  BUT GOD loves me!  I don’t know why, and I know I don’t deserve it.  This is the great mystery. But I do know that he loves me.  Because I know his love, I can trust that my sin is forgiven.

When I mess up and repent, I invite God in to be the solution.  I can ask him to show me the patterns that keep putting me in tempting situations.  I can ask him to show me the root beliefs that drive my sinful behaviors.  I can invite him in and ask him to heal those wounded places that I keep trying to heal myself.  I can live in the light and be in relationship with others because I know that I am deeply loved.  There is power in repentance because I admit that I am powerless over my own sin, that I cannot save myself, that I need Someone bigger than myself outside of myself to rescue me.

So my beloved, dear Princess, beautiful child of God…know that you are deeply loved today.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” (John 3:16)

What songs have helped you when you have messed up?

If you have a question for Free Advice Friday, email me at  If I answer your question in my blog next week, I will send you a copy of my book The Myth of Enuff.

Right lyrics, wrong song

Published April 30, 2012 by joypatton

This has been a tough week for me.  One where I have felt the gentle invitation of my loving Father to look at an area of sin in my life.  I know it’s him because just a few weeks ago I was in a ball of shame over what kind of shaving cream I use.  Trust me, it was ridiculous.  That was not the voice of the good Shepherd in my life.  It was the voice of the Enemy trying to get me to compare myself to someone else.  Chances are you’ve had those days too, and that’s why knowing His Voice is so important.

This week God has placed loving friends in my life who are willing to speak honestly with me about some character flaws.  At first, the flesh was on fire, and I was looking for every way I could find to justify myself and be right.  Oh, the drama, the tears and the wailing and moaning.  I was in pain.  But as the fire cooled with coals still burning on the ground, I began to hear the Spirit’s small voice amid the ashes.  I began to see that the Father was inviting me to die to myself once again, and a song started running through my head.

If I die young, bury me in satin.  Lay me down on a bed of roses. (The Band Perry – “If I Die Young”)  It seemed that this song kept following me all week, and I couldn’t understand why.  But when I went to church on Sunday, I realized I had the right lyrics, but the wrong song.

Jason Ingram sang a song he wrote with Chris Tomlin called Lay Me Down.”  I remember when Jason first introduced this song to Fellowship Bible Church, he said it was a joyful song with an upbeat tempo that we should sing with lots of energy.  I was ready to get my praise rock on.  But as we sang the song, I was struck by the irony of a joyful song all about dying to yourself.  I lay me down.  I’m not my own.  I belong to you alone.  In my experience dying to self is not joyful.  It’s painful and generally sucks.

I want dying to self to be romantic like it is The Band Perry song.  I want it to be comfortable and beautiful like satin and roses.  I want it to be sad and tragic, but hauntingly beautiful and right.  But that’s not what dying to self is.  Dying to self is letting go of my pride and giving up all my rights.  It’s not pretty like a bed of roses; it’s ugly like an old rugged cross.  It’s not a peaceful surrender; it’s a struggle to stay on the altar.

However as His Princess, it’s not about what I want; it’s about what God wants.  It will be my joy to say Your will, Your way.  This is what Jesus wrestled with in the garden of Gethsemane.  He prayed, “Let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will , but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)  He was filled with sorrow and grief as he saw the death God was calling him into.  He was so distraught that he literally sweat drops of blood.  The emotion was intense.  Yet he chose to do the will of the Father and walked through the most painful death imaginable.  Even though he knew the joy that was coming, it never took away the pain or made the cross “easier.”  Instead he placed himself in the hands of his loving Father, knowing the end made the pain worth it.

When I want to know what it means to be crucified with Christ and to die to myself, I must look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2)  He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)  And so, as His Princess and beloved Daughter, I must choose to do the same, and trust that in the end, there will be joy.  Yes, it is painful, but it won’t always hurt.  Yes, it is broken, but He is making all things new.

And so I conclude this joyful blog about dying to self.  Hand on my heart; This much is true; There’s no life apart from you. (“Lay Me Down” – Chris Tomlin)

Where is the loving Father inviting you to die to yourself?

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