A month of gifts—and when my greatest obstacle is me

I know Christmas isn’t about things, but it’s also true that anyone who knows me knows that I love to give gifts. So that’s what I’m going to do this month… offer giveaways every week. Just because :-). This week we’ll kick things off with a guest post from my awesome friend Kristine Brown. At ...

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I know Christmas isn’t about things, but it’s also true that anyone who knows me knows that I love to give gifts. So that’s what I’m going to do this month… offer giveaways every week. Just because :-).

This week we’ll kick things off with a guest post from my awesome friend Kristine Brown. At the end, I’ll tell you how you can enter to have a chance to win a copy of her book.


When My Greatest Obstacle Is Me

I stood on the other side of the auditorium door, just steps away from the moment that stirred in my heart just weeks before. I had seen the flyer advertising open auditions, and I wanted to be in the school play more than anything.

There was just one small problem. This wasn’t a play. It was a musical, and I couldn’t sing. At least, that’s what someone told me once, and once was all it took for the words to stick.

I thought I’d moved beyond that self-defeating thought. For the past three weeks, I’d planned and practiced a ballad taught to me by a family friend. A ballad I would be expected to sing by myself in front of total strangers.

I committed to follow through, to open the door and step into whatever happened next. But now, so close to that moment, the doubt came flooding back like a raging storm set to destroy.

I’d like to say I marched with confidence onto the stage and sang my heart out, not worrying about the outcome, but that wouldn’t be true. After staring at the back of that door for a few minutes more, I turned around, walked straight to my car, and drove home. I’d let myself become my greatest obstacle.

“And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind.’ But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, ‘It is his angel!’ But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” Acts 12:13-16 ESV

Rhoda knew what it took to stop the ugly voice of doubt from invading her thoughts and causing her to lose confidence. Just a young girl, Rhoda served in the house of Mary. Many believers gathered there that night for a massive prayer meeting. Peter had been arrested by King Herod, and Christ’s faithful followers came together to pray for his safety.

When Rhoda heard Peter’s voice on the other side of the door, she knew it was him. They’d been praying for his release all night, and God answered their prayer! No one in the house believed her, but that didn’t keep her from opening the door.

“They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind.’ But she kept insisting that it was so…” Acts 12:15a

From the actions of this innocent servant girl, we can learn an important truth.

We stop words of doubt from invading our thoughts by insisting on God’s promises.

Inside each one of us, there’s an unsure teenage girl still waiting behind the auditorium door. Every day we face circumstances where words from the past creep in and try to build an obstacle inside our very hearts. It’s hard to stay positive when negative words plant seeds of doubt, causing us to lose faith in what we know to be true.

Rhoda’s story brings hope when we’re tempted to give in to self-defeat. So let’s join together today and insist on what God says to be true. We are worthy. We are loved. We believe.

And with the promises of God in our hearts and minds, we become our biggest ally instead of our greatest obstacle.

To enter a drawing to win a copy of this book, leave a comment below. Share with us one of God’s promises, a truth that you hold onto when times are rough. And then, if you would, pray for the person who commented before you. I’ll announce the winner next week.


Kristine Brown is a communicator at heart who teaches about God’s powerful, relatable Word. She is the author of Over It. Conquering Comparison to Live Out God’s Plan and founder of the non-profit organization, More Than Yourself, Inc. You’ll find Kristine’s weekly devotions and Bible study resources at kristinebrown.net. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

When our problems are too big for God

Praying for YOU is easy. 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. ...

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Praying for YOU is easy.

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.

It’s a form of self-flagellation at its worst. Beating myself up and living in the assurance that because of all of my failures, God, too, will fail. Or, at the very least, will fail to act.

It’s a cruel torture that leaves a mark as surely as a whip would do.

Many months ago, I found a lump in my breast. Instead of a regular mammogram, they scheduled me for a high-res, diagnostic ultrasound. I had to wait longer to get in. And I knew, I just knew, that the best thing I could hope for would be an assurance that “it’s probably nothing, but we need to do a biopsy.” I figured I’d have to schedule a procedure or two. And wait. And wait a little more.

Instead of leaning on God, I snapped at my husband. Criticized everything in sight. And tried and tried to pray, but all I could manage was, “Dear Lord,” before I’d stop.

Stumped. Afraid. Before I’d dwell on the fact that Mom died of cancer. That my dad had cancer. That my sister’s best friend died from breast cancer. That one in eight women will get it. And that there’s no reason in the world why that should not be me.

As I sat in that waiting room, with the little pink shirt-gown on, while my technician prepared the machine, I couldn’t focus.

I finally cried.
And I was so afraid.
Too afraid to really pray.

So I tried to block out all of my thoughts with a simple melody. The melody to Hallelujah (You Never Let Go), sung by Jeremy Camp came into my mind, and I thought-sang-prayed, You are with me, Hallelujah. You are with me, Hallelujah…

And I let those words push away my fears.
I let them drown out the what-ifs and oh-nos.

It’s so easy to forget God is with us. That He. Is. Right. There. With. Us.

No matter what we feel. No matter where we go. So I just kept repeating that chorus. Until I believed it.

Felt it. Rested in it.

After the ultrasound, the radiologist assured me that there is nothing there. It’s normal fibrous breast tissue. No cyst, no tumor. Nothing. I’m fine. I could have sighed with relief and moved on, like we often do, forgetting about it now that I’m past the scary part.

But the situation got me thinking.

I believe with all my heart in the power of prayer (so much so that I wrote a book about it). And if I still have my moments of doubt, if I still think that maybe God will come through for everyone else but not listen to me, then many of you probably feel that way, too.

What if, just for today, we let ourselves pray as though God is everything we want Him to be?

Everything that we think He is or should be?

What if we prayed full of belief?

What if we stopped torturing ourselves for our failings?

What if God shows up?

What if this is the moment when everything will change?

What if I can summon as much faith for myself as I can summon for you?

What miracles do you suppose we’d see?

Let’s find out.


Originally published at kellybalarie.com.

A glimpse into my convoluted thinking

A while back, as part of a blogger review network, I received a movie to review. My family sat down and watched it. And then I wasn’t sure what to do about it. See, it wasn’t bad. As far as Christian movies go, it was actually pretty good. But it stirred up all kinds of ...

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GRAPHIC Christian to mean lesser

A while back, as part of a blogger review network, I received a movie to review. My family sat down and watched it. And then I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

See, it wasn’t bad. As far as Christian movies go, it was actually pretty good.

But it stirred up all kinds of feelings inside of me.

As an author with a book releasing soon, I certainly didn’t want to say anything about it if I couldn’t say something good. But at the same time, I want you to trust me, to believe what I say. To know that I don’t gloss over the things that are less than perfect, that I will say what I feel needs to be said.

And I didn’t love it. So I was conflicted.

But last night, as I thought more about it, I realized why. And I knew that it was OK, that I could tell you about it. I realized we didn’t need to talk about the movie by name in order to have a good discussion.

Here are the things that bothered me. While the acting wasn’t too bad for a Christian film, I hate that we have to give special dispensation for something calling itself Christian. Why can’t it be just as good and just as strong as something that isn’t? And if it’s not as good, why not? Why do we watch it anyway? The same questions apply to books, to music.

I don’t want Christian to mean lesser. And yet in our society, it usually does.

The movie ended with a happy ending. I have friends who love that, who long for the resolution in which every loose end is wrapped up in a big, perfect bow and they live happily ever after. And in Christian movies and books, that often happens. Because of God. Because saying a magical prayer washes away all your worries and suddenly life is good.

And really? Admit it. We all know that’s not true.

We want it to be true. We long for life to be carefree. Along the way, I’ve experienced for myself the truth that life with God—even when facing frightening, tragic or otherwise unsavory situations—is better than going through those things without Him.

But we’re afraid to admit to someone who doesn’t believe that life won’t suddenly be perfect if they take that leap into faith. We live in a Photoshopped world, a place in which appearances matter. So when we tell our non-believing friends about God, we leave out the parts when God gets angry and smites people. We ignore the behaviors of God that we can’t defend or explain. We skim over the hard parts, the places where Jesus says that, although many called on His name, He did not know them. We neglect that whole love-thy-neighbor-as-thyself and the part about selling all our possessions to give to the poor. We don’t try to convert people by reading them the part about how we have to give up everything to follow Him.

Because we don’t know what to do with that. We think it’s our responsibility as Christians to sugar-coat God. To put a colorful, unblemished mask on Him so that people will like Him.

And in a way, it is our responsibility to market Him. To exhibit Him and all that He believes to the world. To live according to His commands. To love extravagantly, to give joyfully, to stop judging. We’re called to let people see Who He is. We have a responsibility to draw close to God, to reach for Him in prayer, to study His Word and His life so that we know Him. So that we can show Him truthfully and accurately.

But it is not our responsibility—or our right—to try to change Him.

It is not our place to pick and choose the “good” parts.

In my spiritual life, I’ve struggled with certain things, some of them pretty foundational to Christianity. For example, I’ve actually spent time questioning why I should have to accept the sacrifice Jesus made. I didn’t ask for it. And I don’t understand why it had to happen. After all, if God is God then shouldn’t He be able to say He’ll take us anyway? Can’t He abolish the need for a sacrifice? Why did something so bloody, so unsavory, so troubling, have to take place? Why didn’t He stop it? Why didn’t He change the rules?

Finally, I came to peace with the idea that there are certain things I will never understand. I don’t know why it had to happen. But if God is the God I believe Him to be, then there must be a reason. If He is holy, maybe it’s like the opposing ends of a magnet, pushing us in our unholy states away from Him. Making it impossible for us to come to Him. Maybe that’s simply the way it has to be. And maybe I’m too full of myself when I begin to think that I need to understand God, or to think that I’m capable of grasping something that is obviously ginormous and critical to my whole belief system.

Because if my God is big enough to take care of my life for all of eternity, then He’s surely big enough to be in control of the facts. To make the right choices. To not be petty. To not require useless sacrifices. I have to be willing to yield—control, yes, but also the chance to be “right”.

I’m willing to share my doubts with believers, and I believe passionately that doubt and faith can exist side by side. But I don’t want to be the reason a non-believer turns away from God. I don’t want my lack of answers to get in the way.

But maybe it’s time we all started talking about it. Because to any outsider looking in, it’s clear that we, as Christians, don’t have it all together. It’s obvious that there are things we don’t know. That we live imperfectly, that our understanding, at times, is flawed. When we pretend otherwise, they can see right through us. And then not only do we look like we don’t know what we’re doing, we also look like hypocrites. Pretenders.

None of this would make anyone want to join this exclusive little club we’re in. To tell the truth, I’m not always convinced I want to be here, either. Not that I doubt God. I always believe in Him. But sometimes I cringe at the impression left by those who profess to follow Him but act nothing like Him.

So how about it? Want to start having some of the hard discussions? Want to develop relationships with people that are strengthened by the shared journeys towards answers we can live with? Want to muddle through this together?

If so, talk to me. About anything. I don’t have words to express how much I love to have these kinds of discussions. So, what’s on your mind?

Those fiery darts (guest post by Debbie Wilson)

At some point soon, when things are official, I’ll be telling you about some exciting news regarding what I’m working on right now. But for now, suffice it to say that A) it is exciting news! and B) I am going to be extraordinarily busy the next couple of months. I’ll still post once or ...

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At some point soon, when things are official, I’ll be telling you about some exciting news regarding what I’m working on right now. But for now, suffice it to say that A) it is exciting news! and B) I am going to be extraordinarily busy the next couple of months. I’ll still post once or twice a week throughout the summer, but I’m going to supplement that by introducing some of my writer friends. Every Tuesday I’ll be sharing posts from someone new. I hope you enjoy and I hope these posts resonate with you. Check out their blogs if you feel so inclined… these kinds of guest posts have helped me find some of my favorite writers, so hope they do the same for you :-). Enjoy!


Today I’m honored to share with you a post from my friend Debbie Wilson. If you enjoy it, check out her Bible study mentioned in the bio… someone you know got to design the book cover!

In my book, at the end of chapter 7, I mention the fiery darts that we are inundated with:

My friend Suzanne often talks about the fiery darts that Satan shoots at us. We can’t stop the darts (of accusation, shame, temptation) from coming our way. But we do have a choice—to grab hold of these condemning thoughts and gnaw on them awhile, or to move aside and let them sail on past. Unpleasant memories will jump out at us from time to time. Temptation will come our way. We don’t have to feel guilt when the thoughts flash past—but it’s up to us not to catch them and carry them with us. We can certainly use the darts to our advantage, though, because knowing where we have been, where we are now, what we’ve carried, how far we’ve traveled, and what we’ve learned gives us the ability to pray with fervor and insight for another person.

There’s more, but you’d have to read the whole chapter to make sense of it ;-). And now, here’s what she has to say about it…

GRAPHIC Jesus infuses us w courage

5 Tips for Dealing with Doubt

Time was ticking and I had to give my decision. I knew what I wanted. But every time I thought about saying, “no,” doubt assailed me. You’re wimping out. If you had faith you’d say yes.

I thought my doubt was a nebulous feeling that sprang from uncertainty. But, I’ve learned some doubts have a diabolical side.

What feels like paralyzing indecision may be a taunt from the enemy. Just like the devil gave King David the idea to take a census of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1-3) and Ananias and Sapphira the idea to lie about a gift they gave to the church (Acts 5:3-5), he plants thoughts in our minds too.

Jesus called the devil a liar (John 8:44) and the thief that comes only to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). The Bible also says he’s a slanderer and accuser (Revelation 12:10). The better we know Jesus, the better we’re able to identify Satan’s influence.

Have you received emails from friends asking you to send cash to help them because they lost their passports? I have. Even though the emails came from my friends’ accounts, the messages didn’t sound like them. I spotted the hoax because I knew my friends. The better we know someone the less likely we are to be hoodwinked by an impersonation.

Jesus said His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Below is an acronym to help you distinguish between the devil’s darts and your Shepherd’s leading. Protect yourself by learning to recognize the message or intent hidden in your doubts.

DARTS are:

  1. Destructive: sent to rob and destroy. Their purpose is to draw us away from God’s good and satisfying will. They push us toward something we feel uneasy about by causing us to doubt the validity of our reservations. Or they pull us away from something good. You’ll offend your neighbor if you invite her to Bible study.
  • Jesus’ words bring life and peace.
  1. Accusing: condemning, criticizing, and blaming. They tell us how selfish and rebellious we are to want something or how cowardly we are not to do something. The devil misused Scripture when he tempted Jesus. If a verse oppresses you, the enemy is twisting it against you. If you weren’t so—selfish, cowardly, or unforgiving—you’d…
  • Jesus never uses guilt, shame, or bullying to motivate us.
  1. Rule-oriented: relying on standards for righteousness instead of Jesus’ imputed righteousness. These thoughts tell us if we don’t obey their bullying command then we aren’t being loving or good Christians. For example: Good Christians must always… If you don’t help him how will he ever come to know Christ?
  • Jesus reminds us that our righteousness is found in Christ, not in our performance.
  1. Tempting: offering ways to meet your needs apart from God. People will respect you if…or Hurry, you’ll miss out.”
  • Jesus infuses us with courage to stand alone, to wait, to be still and know.
  1. Slanderous: maligning the character of God, other people, or yourself. God doesn’t care about you. Or, Your spouse is so stubborn.
  • Jesus reminds us that He is with us, for us, interceding, and guiding. His Spirit bears witness with ours that we belong to Him and empowers us with love and patience.

When God showed me the nature of my doubts, I was able to say “no,” with confidence. The next time you’re faced with confusion, ask yourself, “Is this legitimate doubt or a diabolical dart?” Then follow your Shepherd with confidence.


Debbie Wilson bookBio: Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets to God’s Rest. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and four decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help believers discover relevant faith. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries of Raleigh, NC in 1991. Visit her blog at www.debbiewwilson.com.

 

 

To the blogger who feels as if no one is listening

I know you write from a pure heart. I know that when you put words on paper, you dig down deep. You turn your soul inside out to try to express the depths of all that you feel, of all that you see. You hold nothing back. And yet the blog numbers don’t follow. You ...

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I know you write from a pure heart. I know that when you put words on paper, you dig down deep. You turn your soul inside out to try to express the depths of all that you feel, of all that you see. You hold nothing back.

And yet the blog numbers don’t follow.

You have a precious relationship with your God. You’ve learned that He really is all that He claims to be. That if you listen, you will hear Him. If you watch, you will see Him. And when you write, your greatest goal is to faithfully reproduce the way you experienced Him, the way He revealed Himself. And you now understand the meaning of grace, because you don’t deserve such a beautiful thing. Because you didn’t earn it. Because you don’t know how you lucked into finding something so completely above and beyond anything you ever imagined it could be.

And yet the blog numbers don’t follow.

People respond to your posts. You get emails requesting prayer, and you lift the requests up to God, marveling at the compassion and kindness of a God who hears their needs. Who placed these people into your life. The One who forged instantaneous, deep, lasting relationships with people you never would have had reason to meet otherwise.

And yet. The blog numbers don’t follow.

So you start to wonder. Why are you writing? Are you still writing from a purity of heart? From a singular desire to encourage other people to look for Him? To reach for Him? To tell people that it’s OK to have questions, to show them that even if their experience looks different than yours, it’s no less real? No less fulfilling?

Because the blog numbers just aren’t there. And after months of trying to hold up your end of the bargain, of working to promote yourself and build your platform and do all the things publishers ask, you’re discouraged. So you start asking a new question.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if the blog numbers don’t follow?

Do numbers change the reasons why you began writing? Do they negate the insights you’ve found as you struggled through doubts and loss and longing? Do they invalidate the fact that it is through writing, through words, that your perception of the Almighty has grown, expanded, rooted itself deeply, built your faith, strengthened your heart, and enlightened your world?

And you know. You know you wouldn’t change a thing. You know that you would still write, even if no one else ever listens. You know that you write for the sheer love of writing. You write because God gave you this sweet gift of expression and He gave you something to say. You say it for Him. Because He is there, listening. And you know that He sees what is done in secret. He knows your heart.

And so you ask God for help. You ask Him to change your heart, to keep you on the right track. To purify your motivations. To help you stop watching numbers and instead watch Him.

Because in God’s economy, our numbers mean nothing. Only one matters, the highest of all possible measures—the number One. The One who inspires it all.

And you know it’s too late to stop now. So you close your eyes. Direct your thoughts towards God. Still your heart, slow your breathing. Wipe your eyes.

And you write. You write and you write and you write. And you know that you’re not alone. That you’ve never been alone. You know you’re doing exactly what He made you to do.

And as you write, your heart soars, reaching toward the heavens. Toward the God that brought you here. Toward the God that lets you do this.

And you find that it’s enough.

It’s so much more than enough.

Because the numbers are nothing. But the God you’re writing for? He’s everything.

Never doubt…

  Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light. ~Victor Raymond Edman...

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Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light. ~Victor Raymond Edman

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