Hope prevails—in March, and always

In a Bible study a few months ago, I learned about a concept from another study called Experiencing God. It goes something like this: It’s not up to us to try to think up new things to do for God. We should watch and see where God is already working—and then get on board. Pretty simple, ...

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In a Bible study a few months ago, I learned about a concept from another study called Experiencing God. It goes something like this: It’s not up to us to try to think up new things to do for God. We should watch and see where God is already working—and then get on board.

Pretty simple, right? And yet incredibly profound. It has changed everything for me in terms of how I promote myself.

I think of my writing as a ministry. And I love what I do. But sometimes it’s discouraging—the blog numbers don’t grow like I want them to, or someone I like unsubscribes. I promote myself because it’s what I’m “supposed” to do, because those things are what agents and publishers care about—but it always (always) feels awkward.

But over the last couple of months, as I’ve tried to put this concept into action, it has changed me. Instead of seeing other writers as competition, I’ve developed a greater sense of compassion. A deeper gratitude for the lives others are able to reach. An appreciation of what makes each of us unique.

Serving the kingdom of God isn’t about me. It’s about God doing what He will, and being granted the privilege of being some small part of the process.

This is all just some of the background thinking behind this month’s prayer prompt calendar. If you’re new here and don’t know, each month I create a calendar filled with random, kind of quirky prompts to help you start your prayers. There are so many times when I try to turn my mind towards God, only to be surprised by suddenly not being able to remember a single thing I wanted to pray about.

And then there are times when I’m facing something so big that I don’t even know where to start. Words fail me. It might be something in my life—anxiety over finances, health concerns for friends and family, issues in my relationships, discouragement or anger or frustration—or something as basic as hormones or a bad mood. Honestly, there are no limits to the obstacles that keep us from praying.

That’s why I’m so excited about this month’s prayer prompt calendar. When I started looking through the entries for the calendar contest, one of the criteria was looking to see where God already seemed to be working. There were other factors—how creative I could be with the theme, what graphics or style might support it, how easily I could adapt the concepts into short prayer prompts, and what my readers might find helpful. When Michelle Nietert, a licensed professional counselor, wrote this, it grabbed hold of my heart:

I’m a professional counselor and March is our busiest season especially for children and adolescents as well as their families. It begins the first month of the season of the highest suicide attempt rates in the country for adolescents. Also increased teen pregnancy and psych hospital admissions occur in the spring. I would love to see a calendar about praying through emotions and themes that combat these struggles. Prayer prompts for things like experiencing joy instead of depression, hope to combat discouragement, replacing fear with courage, confidence to combat doubt, energy to replace exhaustion, etc.

I didn’t realize that March was a busy season for these things. I live in Indiana, so by March we’re all feeling pretty desperate for sunshine. Lots of my friends and family suffer from seasonal affective disorder, and it’s typically a pretty blah time.

Last spring at a retreat, I met a woman named Michelle Bengtson. Her book was scheduled to come out a few months later. I was intrigued by the title—Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression. But I was also impressed at the relationships she had formed with people at the retreat (and at other conferences in the past). I started following her on social media, and I watched as her husband was re-diagnosed with cancer. And yet I was inspired, again and again, by the way she pointed everyone to God at every bend in the road. She lives a life exemplifying her message, and I wanted to be involved with that, even if it’s just peripherally.

When all these factors came together, I decided this idea was perfect for the month of March. So this calendar contains prayer prompts inspired by and suggested by both of these women, and from Hope Prevails.

Please visit both of their blogs and help promote this calendar. We all have people in our lives (if not ourselves) who are battling the issues represented here: depression, feeling alone, suffering from anxiety, fighting cancer, needing peace, struggling with addiction or pain, believing the lies of the enemy, stumbling under the weight of worry—and more. We can’t let these things keep us from understanding who God says we are. We belong to Him. He never leaves us, and He equips us for these fights. We cannot do it on our own, but that’s okay because God promises to go with us through it, and we already know that He is victorious in all things.

Please join with me this month (and beyond) in these prayers, and consider picking up a copy or two of this book. I am convinced that it will make a difference.

If you’re trying to carry something that feels too heavy, please share it with a friend, professional counselor, or minister. You may also email me privately. I promise to lift you up in prayer and then delete your email, keeping your need confidential.

As always, I’ll share these prompts daily on Facebook and Twitter, so you can tag people as you pray for them or share the prompts with your friends. (Use the hashtag #MarchPrayers.)

You can also download the whole calendar for free if you subscribe to my newsletter (click here to download it or sign up). And don’t forget to visit Dr. Michelle Bengston‘s and Michelle Nietert, LPC’s websites; you can sign up for their newsletters to get the calendar, too.

Let me know how I can pray for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

If my people will pray…

It’s finally here—election day. It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer. If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a ...

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It’s finally here—election day.

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer.

If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a huge need. Where do we even begin? We step away from politics and parties and begin at the Rock. Our firm foundation. The unchanging, ever-stable Word of God.

Will you please join me in prayer for our country?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people…

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have to remember that we belong to God. We are His children. Let’s pray that our relationship with Him will define us and guide us, and that we will come together as one “people” in unity with the sole purpose of bringing glory to God.

who are called by my name…

Those who do not know God will form an opinion about Him based on our behavior and words. There’s a responsibility attached to this privilege we’ve been given, and we need to structure our behavior accordingly. Pray that we will faithfully represent God in all that we do.

 will humble themselves …

None of us likes to be wrong. It hurts our pride to admit we’re wrong. But the first step in a relationship with God is humility—recognition that we cannot do this without Him, nor do we have the abilities and the character that He does. In my faith walk, God has rarely let me be “right,” even when the facts seem to be on my side—because in my determination to be right, ugly characteristics like pride and judgment surface. Pray for our leaders—and for all of us, individually and collectively—to approach our positions with humility and an appropriate reverence for God.

and pray and seek my face …

How many of us log in to social media before we’ve thought to say good morning to God? How often do we complain to a friend and do everything we can think of to fix a problem before remembering to turn to God in prayer? Pray that God will help us earnestly seek Him in all that we do. Pray that God will renew our desire to serve Him and know Him and ignite that fire in others, too.

and turn from their wicked ways…

Many are distraught about the state of our country and world. About the political candidates’ behavior or character, the faith choices we have to make in order to vote, and the culture and permissiveness that have led us to this place. There’s plenty “out there” to critique—but true change starts from within. Let’s repent and then ask God to help us see clearly according to His values, His teachings, and His perspective. Let’s be open to letting Him change us as the first step towards a better country for our children and their children to live in.

then I will hear from heaven…

Many of us feel powerless to effect real or lasting change, but God does have the power to transform any situation in the blink of an eye. In spite of the fact that each of us is simply one among a multitude, and He is omnipotent and omnipresent, God listens when we reach out for Him. We have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus. Let’s give thanks for God for inviting us to come to Him and then praise Him for hearing and answering our prayers.

and I will forgive their sin …

No sin is too great to keep us from God. This is a promise He has made to us all. Because God is so holy, so perfect, beyond all of our imaginings, and we are not, we shouldn’t be able to stand in His presence. Our sin and His holiness are like water and oil, never mixing—but because of Jesus, now they do. Let’s go to God in prayer to ask for His forgiveness, individually and collectively.

and will heal their land.

This is the core of what many of us want, a nation without serious divides. A place that upholds the freedoms on which our country was founded, allowing us to serve God according to our individual beliefs. We long for a society that places value on integrity and hard work and high moral values, and yet still respects the differences that are a foundational part of who we are. Let’s pray that God will heal our country in powerful ways, restoring, reuniting, repairing, and renewing us. Fixing what is broken, and teaching us to work together to make something that is better than ever before.

When we come together in prayer, there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Pray with me to the One who hears from heaven.

Lord, You are mighty and magnificent, compassionate and generous. Just as Jesus granted forgiveness before he healed the sick, putting the soul before the body, we ask the same thing. Forgive us, God, and heal the soul of our nation. We come to you, earnestly and humbly, knowing we’re asking for a large thing, but fully aware that You are a big God. Nothing is too hard for You. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for the privilege of having access to the King of Kings. Help us bring glory to Your Name in all that we do. Inspire us to new levels of greatness. We know that none of this is possible without You, and we ask for your mercy and grace over this great nation. Amen.


productgraphic_nov2016calendarWill you join me the rest of this month in praying for healing for our country and turning our hearts towards gratitude for Thanksgiving? Download my free November prayer prompt calendar here by subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter. Even if you don’t, I hope we can come together to lift up our country as we navigate through these next days together.


This post was written for Internet Café Devotions.

Why you need to go buy a newspaper right now. (And not for the kind of reason you’re expecting.)

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I ...

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[I am not debating any issues or discussing either candidate or their followers, so please don’t be afraid to read on.]

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I suggested.

The basic idea is this: Take a newspaper and a marker. Go through the paper and write your prayers on top of the news stories as you pray.

That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right?

But let me tell you: It was powerful. Not because of me—at all—but because God is in it whenever we genuinely seek Him.

If you’re anything like me, you are troubled by this election. And for me, it’s not just the election or the candidates or the issues. My turmoil is all tied up in my beliefs about what Christianity is or should be and how we, as Christians, are called to represent God. It’s concern about how we’re acting, how people outside the church have come to view Christians, whether we’re living what we believe, etc. It’s complicated and discouraging. I can get so worked up so easily. These are big, big picture thoughts with long-ranging implications. Sometimes it feels like it’s all just too much.

But this exercise put things back into perspective.

Especially because I happened to write the words in red marker (just as the words of Jesus are often printed in red). My prayers are not the powerful part of this. It’s the image, the physical and tangible representation, of God’s ways and God’s power and God’s promises having the final word.

It’s about stepping back and realizing that God is bigger than these issues.

It’s about praying with an open heart, one turned towards God, that helps me see something less personally and more from God’s perspective.

It’s about taking our prayers away from the “I wants” and turning them into “thy will be done.”

It’s about remembering that, whatever happens, God is in control. He has overcome the world already. He is victorious. Nothing is too large that He cannot stop it. Nothing is too complicated that He cannot fix it. Nothing we or anyone could do will ever thwart the good and perfect will of God.

Honestly, I can’t begin to see what good could possibly come from so many of these situations. But what I do know is that no one on earth is perfect. Our leaders can fail. Our fellow Christians can fall. Our faith may waver from time to time.

But God remains on the throne. He is always God, and always good.

So let me encourage you, before this election (or anytime after), get a newspaper, even if you have to go to the store just to buy one. You can do this mentally with online or TV news, but I don’t think anything can replace the act of writing over the news. It gives us a way to feel as though we’ve regained a little bit of control. It lets us see that, no matter how important these events are, God is greater.

And right now, I think all of us could stand a little bit of peace in our souls.


Here is the actual excerpt from the book.

How to Pray When the World Overwhelms You

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

Call me an ostrich, if you will, because I spend more time with my head buried in the sand than above it. When I read or watch the news, my soul withers. My heart hurts, and sorrow overwhelms me. Not all news is bad, of course, but that seems to be what is always emphasized. I need to remember—and maybe you do too—that although we will face all kinds of horrific things, devastation does not get the final word. God does. He triumphs in the end, and we have to hold on to that truth, whatever horrors or evils we witness.

DIRECTIONS: Pick up a newspaper and a magic marker. As you skim the stories, let yourself feel anger or grief, sadness or righteous indignation. But don’t let yourself get bogged down by despair, because God is bigger than every single one of these stories. Take your marker and pen your prayer right over the stories. Heal her. Bring hope. Shine Your light. Help me not to despair. Reveal Yourself. Restore. Renew. Fix it, Lord. Show mercy. Bring justice. Redeem lost time. Thank You.

(Taken from Week 7 Day 3 of Designed to Pray)

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Dreading the change of seasons?

To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)… I know the song better than the Scripture, but the fact remains, time keeps on moving on. The pages on the calendar keep changing, rapidly becoming out of date. Summer is drawing to a close—this crazy, hectic summer—and most people’s schedules are starting ...

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GRAPHIC there is a time

To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)… I know the song better than the Scripture, but the fact remains, time keeps on moving on. The pages on the calendar keep changing, rapidly becoming out of date. Summer is drawing to a close—this crazy, hectic summer—and most people’s schedules are starting to ramp up for fall. I know it’s still July, but my son returns to school on August 12, so that’s not very far away.

In Ecclesiastes 3, it says:

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Some of our seasons are literal—the leaves changing color or the temperatures rising or the snow falling. But some are more abstract, even as they affect us more profoundly. I’m in a season of creating. At the same time, this is a season of changes for me—releasing and learning to promote my book, doing some speaking, and now cutting back on work, focusing on writing the next one, moving my two daughters to new colleges next month, and having my son enter high school.

Whatever kind of season you’re in, no matter how hard it might be, don’t despair. There’s a time for everything. And the fact that each of these is a season should bring hope—there will be an end to it. I realize that, if you’re facing something like a child leaving home, or a parent dying, you’re dreading the change of seasons. But I find it comforting to know that time keeps on passing, and relationships and trials and challenges and emotions ebb and flow. If I’m down, there will be an up. I just have to hold on and wait for it to come.

What season are you in? How do you feel about it? Is it a comfort to know things will continue to change, or does that freak you out?


Speaking of time, the August prayer prompt calendar is now available—always free to blog subscribers. You can go here to download or click on the Products page of my website to see all of them. Here’s the low-res preview to tempt you:

Aug 2015 prayer prompts

 

 

What’s better than a bed full of teddy bears? (guest post by Becky Kopitzke)

Becky Kopitzke is one of those people who makes you smile. You can’t help but like her—her vivacious, generous spirit draws you in from the moment you meet her. Through our shared agent, we connected via email one day and then I discovered she lived near the town in Wisconsin where Anna went to college (seven ...

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Becky-Kopitzke-headshot-1-2014Becky Kopitzke is one of those people who makes you smile. You can’t help but like her—her vivacious, generous spirit draws you in from the moment you meet her. Through our shared agent, we connected via email one day and then I discovered she lived near the town in Wisconsin where Anna went to college (seven hours from home). She reached out to Anna, inviting her to church and out to tea, and Anna loved her right away. When we went to move Anna home from college, I got to meet Becky in person. I only had an hour, but could have stayed and talked for days. Today, I’ve asked her to guest post on my blog. Enjoy!


She sleeps with them every night. Soft Kitty, Rainbow Bear, Brownie the Horse and Wrinkles the Dog. Stuffed animals—dozens of them—piled high on the covers and around her pillow and tucked under her loving arms. My daughter so craves the company of her plush friends, she barely leaves enough room for herself in that narrow bed.

Comfort. Warmth. Security. Softness. They’re basic human needs, really, and so freely expressed in childhood. We swaddle our babes from infancy and hug away their fears. We send them to school in undershirts and snow pants and extra gloves. Drink this warm milk. Take this hot bath. Mother loves you. I will keep you snug.

Doesn’t everybody yearn for protection?

I still do. Sometimes, like my daughter, I seek it in small places. In the favorite sweater I wrap around my shoulders on a biting winter day. A fleece blanket draped heavy over sweatpants while I clutch a book in one hand and a steaming mug in the other.

Safety is that spot on my husband’s chest, where I rest my weary head and whisper hopes for tomorrow.

Where do you seek it?

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection” (Psalm 91:1–4, NLT).

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine God as my protector. I can’t wrap my arms around him or hear his voice chatting at the dinner table. Of course he is always with me, yes, I believe that in my head—yet my heart just doesn’t picture him sitting on a bean bag chair in the living room.

Then I considered Psalm 91 and it dawned on me—maybe God isn’t in the room.

God is the room.

He is the overarching shadow that covers all my space and days and worries. No mound of teddy bears, no stack of blankets, not even my husband’s strongest embrace could ever top that.

Do you see? Deep down, our basic need for comfort is a mere reflection of our greater need for a Savior. God created us to crave security because, in the end, he’s the only place we can find it.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NLT).

Last night, I tucked my daughter into bed and turned off the lamp. She burrowed beneath her cluster of fuzzy pals and giggled. “Nigh-night, Mommy!”

“Good night, precious. Mom loves you.”

“I love you, too!”

In my heart, another voice whispered to us both.

Father loves you. I will keep you snug.

As my daughter outgrows her affection for Soft Kitty and Rainbow Bear, I pray she’ll seek lasting security in her true Protector, the One who covers her with his feathers and shelters her with his wings.

What a comforting thought, yes? I’m taking it to my pillow tonight. I hope you will, too.


Bio: Becky Kopitzke is a writer, speaker, singer, dreamer, lunch packer, snowman builder and recovering perfectionist. She lives with her handsome husband and their two young daughters in northeast Wisconsin, where a pink indoor trampoline fills half the once formal living room.

Becky believes parenting is one of God’s greatest tools for building our faith, character, and strength—and it’s not always pretty. On her blog, Time Out with Becky Kopitzke, she offers weekly encouragement for fellow imperfect moms, pointing our weaknesses, blessings, and victories to God. Becky’s first book, The SuperMom Myth: Conquering the Dirty Villains of Motherhood, is currently underway with Barbour Publishing, slated to release in December 2015.

Connect with Becky on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram!

Do it scared (guest post by Laurie Coombs)

Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what ...

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header_1Laurie Coombs is another one of those lovely souls that I’ve had the honor of “meeting” through shared connections in this business. I am so excited about this book. I think God is in it, through it, around it, behind it, before it—just all over it. His forgiveness is amazing, but sometimes we forget just what a divine gift it is. This story reminds us how profound and magnificent God’s forgiveness can be.

Let me set the stage a little with some info from her bio: In 2010, Laurie Coombs was called to love and forgive the man who murdered her father, which led to an exchange of letters between she and Anthony, her father’s murderer. During their correspondence, Laurie was healed from her past wounds, was given grace to forgive Anthony, and witnessed a powerful transformation in Anthony as Jesus brought him to repentance. And now, here’s an excerpt from her new book, Letters from My Father’s Murdered: A Journey of Forgiveness, published by Kregel Publications.

GRAPHIC Christian life passivity

One of my favorite phrases in the Bible is “but God.” I have it posted beside my bed, and every so often my girls ask me why I have those two little words there. I tell them, “All through the Bible bad things happen—people sin or something goes wrong—but over and over two words make it all okay: ‘but God.’”

You see, no matter what happens in life, no matter how bad things seem to be, God is still the constant. He is still working all things for good. The psalmist wrote, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26, emphasis mine). Joseph echoed this sentiment when he said, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20, emphasis mine). Yet in my mind, the ultimate “but God” statement in the Bible is, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, emphasis mine).

Jesus truly is our Redeemer. Seeing Him as such allows us the freedom to trust and surrender ourselves to Him. We need to know our God. We need to know who He is and what He has done. It is only then that we are able to understand that He is for us, not against us, which frees us to obey, knowing He will work all things for our good and His glory.

Coming to understand God’s heart toward me—that He loves me, that He is for me, and that He is my comforter and my guide— suddenly empowered me to live life differently. Sure, I was a newbie at this whole Christian thing, but I knew I served a faithful, loving God.

81u-FkusLHLI knew I could trust Jesus, for He had proven Himself trustworthy. That didn’t mean God’s call to love and forgive Anthony was easy to embrace. I was scared. I didn’t know where this was going. And I certainly didn’t know how it would end. But I also knew I had allowed fear to motivate me far too long.

Fear is a God-given emotion. Its purpose is to protect us from harm. This kind of fear is good. But so much of the fear we experience is irrational fear—fear that holds us back from living the full life Jesus died for us to have, fear that holds us hostage, never allowing us to see true growth of character. This kind of fear never brings good. And if we choose to live in irrational fear, we will never see the promises of God fulfilled to the extent they’re given. We will never follow Christ into our hard places and come out greater on the other side.

Here’s the truth. Sometimes, we simply need to do it scared. Over and over at this time, well-meaning Christians told me to “follow peace.” I wasn’t to move forward if I didn’t feel peace about taking a step. But the whole “follow peace” thing can be a ploy—shrouded in holy words—used by Satan to bind us and keep us from following God. Jesus calls us out of our comfort zones into places of discomfort. And in these areas, we’re not going to feel peaceful all the time. Yes, there is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding and is available to believers at all times, but often our propensity to rely on ourselves and do things our own way hinders us from experiencing that peace, which means sometimes following Jesus feels a bit crazy. A bit unsettling. Oftentimes we will feel scared to do that which God calls us to do. But make no mistake—fear does not negate the call. Fear is simply a by-product of our desire to control. When following Jesus into our unknown, scary places, God doesn’t usually clue us in on the big plan. And this can feel anything but peaceful at times. But still, we must move.

Following-Jesus-Can-Feel-CrazyIn my prayer journal at the time, I wrote, “I am seeing more and more that the Christian life is not a life of passivity, but a life of choices empowered by the Holy Spirit. I pray, Lord God, for You to help me to walk in Your Spirit.”

I heard it once said we can choose to live each day motivated by fear or by faith. It’s a choice we must all make. Christian reformer Martin Luther wrote in the preface to his translation of the epistle to the Romans, “Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God’s grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it.”* I needed this kind of faith. I needed great faith to move beyond my fear and follow Jesus where He was leading. I needed the kind of faith that allows us to step out of the boat and walk on water toward Jesus when He beckons, knowing that we can do all things through Him. The kind of faith that confidently says to Jesus, “Only say a word, and I shall be healed,” knowing full well that all things are possible with God. The kind of faith to follow Jesus into the unknown—into my scary places— regardless of the cost, knowing He will work all things for good.

 

 

What a tangled mess

Carey Scott is a lovely, vivacious woman who responded graciously when I posted a cry for help in my agent’s Facebook group. I don’t know her well, but I was grateful for all of the encouragement and ideas she’d offered regarding marketing and growing my blog, so I jumped at the chance to get an ...

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GRAPHIC God's voice louder

Carey Scott is a lovely, vivacious woman who responded graciously when I posted a cry for help in my agent’s Facebook group. I don’t know her well, but I was grateful for all of the encouragement and ideas she’d offered regarding marketing and growing my blog, so I jumped at the chance to get an early copy of her new book. Untangled is about “letting God loosen the knots of insecurity in your life.”

And, really, is there any one of us who isn’t insecure?

OK, I’ll confess. When I struggle, it’s more often with pride than with insecurity. And deep down, I didn’t think this book would really apply to me, but I was happy to read it anyway.

One of the great things about God is that He doesn’t shout to the corners of the earth “You are WRONG!” every time that we are wrong. Thank goodness. Because, like usual, well, I was wrong. And like usual, God gave me the opportunity to see what I needed to understand about myself—and the grace to face it.

In the intro, she says this: “But in my midthirties God’s voice became louder than my brokenness.” And I thought, wow, what a perfect way to say what I’ve learned to be true. Then she shares with complete openness the most vulnerable parts of her story and her inner self, and she walks through the different “I’m not good enough” messages that I think we’ve all experienced—even though our circumstances and situations may be very different, at their core, our doubts and fears are very similar.

As I mentioned, I don’t feel like I struggle much with insecurity. Somehow I’ve always believed the fact that in spite of all of my failings and inadequacies, God wants me. Yes, I’m overweight; no, I don’t care enough to say no to that donut or get up early to go work out. Yes, I know I’ve messed up plenty. But I don’t have the emotional energy to beat myself up for it, so I usually let it go. In many ways, I’ve grasped the message Carey offers to all of us: that the only way to see ourselves is with the generosity and grace that God gives us.

But along the way, I have certainly had my moments. She writes,

“[these lies about not measuring up] become bricks in the wall we build around our hearts to keep people from seeing the real us—the us we’re certain isn’t good enough… If you’re breathing air today, you have walls. We all do. We’re all guilty of partitioning off our hearts so we don’t get hurt anymore. Walls shouldn’t be confused with boundaries, because establishing healthy limits with toxic people and beliefs is smart. Boundaries are proactive, but walls are protective. Boundaries help us live within community, but walls keep us from it. Boundaries are put in place for healing, while walls are built to hide our hurting. Walls are boundaries gone bad, and their bricks are made from feelings of rejection and inadequacy. But that’s not how God wants us to live.”

In Praying Upside Down, I wrote about the walls I built to protect myself when Mom died. I still find myself building walls to keep from risking being hurt. I struggle with jealousy and comparison, particularly since entering the publishing world—how many people read my post? Clicked Like? Retweeted? Why does she have so many more subscribers than I do? How can I get a post to go viral like that one of hers? Why is she so popular? It’s not fair…

The voiceover track in my mind sounds like that of a whiny teenager.

And I thought I wasn’t insecure.

Recently, I’ve been going back and forth between reading Untangled and part of a Bible study called Seamless by Angie Smith, and I’ve been thinking a lot about shame. About the Garden of Eden, and the way that Satan planted doubt in Eve’s mind. I’ve always hated that story—it doesn’t seem fair to me that there should be eternal consequences for mankind forevermore, banished from Eden and a close walk with God, simply because one couple messed up. It doesn’t seem right that women should always suffer with pain and childbirth because of their actions. Before long, I started wandering down a thorny theological path—if God is perfect, why did He make an imperfect creation? Why does He require a method for mankind to be reconciled to Him? If He’s God, why can’t He change the rules?

As I read and studied, I was troubled by the power these thoughts had, by the tumultuous feeling of these questions battering my faith. And then I understood. When the serpent planted that doubt eons ago, he was introducing shame. Eve felt shame because she didn’t know something she thought she should. Because she’d obeyed when maybe she didn’t have to. I think she felt stupid. Ignorant. Weak. She bought into his lies that maybe she wasn’t enough—that maybe she could be more, more even than God Himself. And so she grabbed an apple. The big revelation for me was this: Those words of shame that Satan hissed that day in the garden have never stopped rippling across the ages, inhabiting generation after generation. How do I know? My own thoughts were proof that I bought into the same lies that Eve did. Just like Eve, I started questioning God—who He was, and whether He had the right to be God and make the rules.

Deep down I know the answers; of course I do. God is God. We can’t be reconciled to Him without a sacrifice because it’s like we’re opposing ends of a magnet. He is holy and perfect, and we are not, and without a supernatural intervention, we cannot come together. Holiness repels imperfection.

And yet. Yet He wants us. Yet He loves us. Yet He welcomes us in, allows us to nestle safely under His wing, warmed by His love, transformed by His power. As Carey wrote:

Even when you mess up, he sees who you are instead of what you’ve done. Those seasons where you made bad choice after bad choice mixed with bad choice (yeah, that one) didn’t scare him off. His perfect love for you never wavered. And even better, there is nothing you can do, more or less, to alter that truth in any way.

She’s right. Absolutely right. And I bet that you have struggled with some of the same feelings of self-worth described in her book. You don’t feel like you measure up against that supermom. In your marriage. In your career. In your friendships. In your gifts and in how they’re received. You wonder if you’ve done enough for your kids and how they will measure up against others. If your husband truly still finds you attractive. If you’d be prettier, or more desirable, or more successful if you could just lose that weight. If you will make enough money for the things you want. If someone else could do it—whatever it is—better.

You wonder if you’re enough.

The short answer: yes, you are. For the slightly longer answer, pick up a copy of Untangled. And while you’re at it, grab one for every other woman in your life, too.

I realize this review is all over the place, rambling right along with my thoughts, tumbling around as God unknots the insecurities that tangle me up. Right now, things may be a convoluted mess. But there is One who can sort out the string. Release the hold of the knots. Straighten out the fabric of which I am made. I’m trusting Him to do His thing with me. Again and again, always. And I know He will do the same for you. I think God has great plans for this book—because He has great plans for you. And reading this book will set you well along the way to discovering all that you are. Not who you will someday be, but who you already are: An amazing, unique woman, already adored, and infinitely lovable.

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For more quotes, a free download of the first chapter, and many other goodies, visit the Untangled Women website.

When prayer gets hard

Today, I’m at Kelly Balarie’s blog, talking about how easy it is to pray. For you. Not always so easy to pray for ourselves. If you come to me and ask for prayer, these are the words I will have for you: All things are possible. God is a healer. Hold tight to your faith. ...

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Today, I’m at Kelly Balarie’s blog, talking about how easy it is to pray. For you. Not always so easy to pray for ourselves.

GRAPHIC what if God is everything

If you come to me and ask for prayer, these are the words I will have for you:

All things are possible. God is a healer. Hold tight to your faith. Just believe.

I will carry your request to God, believing He can do anything. And that He will. Absolutely.

It’s easy enough to pray for my friends. I don’t even hesitate.

But for me? Sometimes the only words that will come are ugly, insidious whispers: You are not enough. You don’t deserve what you want. You haven’t been faithful enough. You haven’t trusted Him enough. He’s not going to come through for you, so don’t get your hopes up. << read more >>

Resurrection

  Lord, It’s nearly Easter, yet my soul has not been stilled in meditation. My heart is not fixed on the story or significance of the day. Instead, I’ve been in chaos. Wrestling through my own beliefs, clarifying thoughts, researching and asking and debating with others. It makes me sad when I realize this has ...

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Image courtesy of Progressive Church Media

 

Lord,

It’s nearly Easter, yet my soul has not been stilled in meditation. My heart is not fixed on the story or significance of the day. Instead, I’ve been in chaos. Wrestling through my own beliefs, clarifying thoughts, researching and asking and debating with others. It makes me sad when I realize this has not been a season of preparation.

“Or has it?” my soul asks.

This kind of inner turmoil always results in change. In growth. It’s always worthwhile. It always sharpens my beliefs and draws me closer to You.

But it’s hard.

And that’s OK, isn’t it? Because the gospel is hard. Your message isn’t always easy to swallow. The price wasn’t paid lightly. There has to be struggle and sacrifice before there is redemption. We must surrender to You in Your wisdom and might. We have to experience darkness before the dawn. Death before resurrection.

The crushing weight of the stone before it’s rolled away to reveal the glorious open door.

O, Lord, I bow under that weight and I long for resurrection. Raise me up. Turn me into something new.

In Your unparallelled name I pray,
Amen.

Sharing the miracle

When my friend Sherry was in the hospital, broken, nonresponsive, the doctor’s words didn’t contain much hope. She’d stopped breathing. There was certain to be brain damage. The list of concerns went on and on. We didn’t know whether to pray for healing—and the long road it might be, with the potential for more pain—or for ...

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When my friend Sherry was in the hospital, broken, nonresponsive, the doctor’s words didn’t contain much hope. She’d stopped breathing. There was certain to be brain damage. The list of concerns went on and on. We didn’t know whether to pray for healing—and the long road it might be, with the potential for more pain—or for release from it all, which brings a different kind of pain to the ones who are left here.

All we could do—literally all there was left to do—was pray.

And God gave us the miracle we asked for. Even if some of us didn’t fully believe He would. Even if some of us weren’t sure what to say. Even if we couldn’t fathom the how of it. Even though all of us might not have fully expected this answer.

I wonder, does God shake his head in exasperation or watch eagerly to see our expressions of surprise?

I don’t know. But I do know that Sherry is a miracle. Hours after we started praying, her body fought the ventilator, determined to breathe on her own. She woke up, talking, understanding, moving. A few days later, she’s back home. It’s not over. She still needs prayer. She still depends on God for complete healing. But God has already brought her past what seemed to be an impossible barrier. If you didn’t hear the details as they happened, it would be hard to believe it’s really as amazing as it sounds. But it really is.

People wonder why they should pray. Will it change the outcome? Will it mean anything? Will it simply set them up for disappointment?

We may all have different opinions. But this is what I know. It could have been just Sherry’s miracle. But because you paused to send up a prayer, you own this miracle, too. God answered both the quick-thought-tossed-towards-the-sky “please,” and the down-on-your-face-on-the-floor pleas.

This answer is one more sturdy block in the wall of faith we’re building. A stronghold. In one fell swoop, in an extended moment, a burst of healing, God restored something we thought might be permanently broken. And now, we all rise to our feet in celebration. We see a new facet of our God. We acknowledge His ability, His active hand.

And we realize that He really is listening. He is.

Thank you, friends, for your prayers.

And thank You, Sweet and Gracious and Loving God, for unexpected answers.

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