I’m Writing a Book!

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“You should write a book,” people said again and again. And each time, my answer was the same:

“Thanks, but I don’t think so.”

I’m not the type of person who writes books. I’m someone who sits at a piano all day to teach and perform, or someone who gets up in front of a crowd to preach. I love journaling and blogging, but write a book? Nope. Not me.

But something changed the moment the strip on the pregnancy test did not turn blue and I had to face the realization that I would never hold a child in my arms that I once carried in my belly. In that moment, the optimism people knew me for disappeared and I became broken and empty. I woke up every morning in tears, struggling to find a reason to get out of bed. My world became dark and I was desperate for even a sliver of light.

I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read my Bible. Even though my husband—who is on staff at a church—never pressured me to go to church, I felt obligated to go. And it was a struggle; there were Sundays when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. And on the days when I found the strength to drag myself to church, I couldn’t sing along to the worship songs; I just sat in my pew and wept.

I couldn’t feel God, I could no longer see His hand in my life, and His overwhelming silence made me feel rejected and unwanted. But just because I couldn’t feel God didn’t mean He wasn’t there. And what I couldn’t see during this season—but I see clearly now—is that while I did a terrible job of clinging to God, God did a wonderful job at clinging to me.

Little by little, I felt God’s comfort, slivers of light quietly invading my darkness. And one day, when my broken faith was barely a small shard of what it once was, it was enough to give me the emotional strength to open my Bible and wrestle with my Creator. God answered my disappointment with comfort, hope, and purpose. In a previous post, I wrote about this moment and shared, “God drowned my wilderness and flooded me with His comfort.” What I didn’t write in that post is what He whispered after He comforted me:

“Write a book.”

I had just experienced the miracle of God’s comfort after battling months of heartache and depression and heard His beautiful voice after He stayed silent for so long, and I was overwhelmed enough. Now he was telling me to write a book? Surely He hadn’t! Surely I heard wrong! Surely I was just getting overexcited! So I walked away from that moment basking in God’s presence and comfort and I ignored the whole silliness about writing a book.

And then Sunday came. During worship, a sweet friend come to me and said she wanted to pray for me. As she started praying, she began to prophesy over me. Now, let me explain that I’m Pentecostal, but I’ve had enough people speak ridiculous “words from the Lord” over me when I was growing up to make me super cautious and wary. But this young woman didn’t shout, “Thus says the Lord…” She began to tell me the words I had cried out to God days before—words she could not have known unless she was hearing from God. She even articulated prayers I thought in my heart but never uttered with my lips. And then she said, “There is a purpose for all your suffering. God has already begun to show you. You’ve seen the light of some of it, but there’s so much more than what you can see now.” She said it again and again: “There is purpose for your suffering.”

And as she spoke, I heard God whisper a single word into my soul: “Write.”

That word didn’t sound silly anymore; it sounded beautiful. It began sounding less like something I had to do because God said so and more like an amazing, Kingdom dream that I get to do because God birthed it in my heart. Birthed. What a funny word! Something was growing inside of me. Not the baby I expected, but something just as amazing.

And as I came to grips with this beautiful dream, I became overwhelmed with its impossibility. If I did this, it would be a gargantuan leap of faith, and I was scared. I don’t know much about getting a book published, but I know enough to know that I don’t have the right connections and I’m a nobody to the publishing world. And when I would remind God of this important information, He would remind me who He is: the Creator of the world, the One who spoke life into being, the One who works miracles. I just needed to keep my eyes on Him and walk in faith.

And in time, I began to see the steps before me. No leaps, just steps. And I took them one at a time. I journaled, then started blogging again, then started reading books about writing books. Each step has led to another. And as I take each one, this dream is looking less scary and God is looking larger.

There was one morning when I came to a point where I couldn’t see any more steps in front of me. I was drowning in the bigness of this dream and exclaimed, “God, I don’t know what I’m doing! I need a writing coach!” Later that morning, I was scrolling through social media and one of my favorite authors had a bunch of videos on Instagram Stories about how she was going to open her schedule to do some coaching calls. Talk about God’s timing! He totally delivered! Oh, and that coaching call ended up being one of the most encouraging and life-giving experiences of my life. It transformed my “I can’t do this,” into, “This is going to happen! God is really going to make this happen!”

This is going to happen. I’m actually doing it. I’m writing a book!

Fifteen Years Later

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Taken in 2004 when we were still babies.

The day we got married fifteen years ago, we were babies. I was twenty-one; you were twenty-three. At the time, we thought we were so grown up, but now I see how naive we were. Our entire future lay before us: bright and overflowing with possibility. We were going to conquer the world! Not really, but it certainly felt like it.

We didn’t know that our first ministry position would be at a church plant that would fail before it fully launched, that in its final week you would become the lead pastor with the responsibility of shutting it down with dignity. You were amazing; I can’t remember if I ever told you. We didn’t know how bad the situation was until a veteran minister told us that what we went through was the worst he had ever seen. Surely not, we thought. But further corroboration came a decade later when we ran into several pastors who had seen what we went through and each told us the same thing: “We’re so happy you’re still following Jesus.”

When we were in the midst of that ministerial catastrophe, we felt like our lives were over. We had no idea our lives were just beginning.

We didn’t know that in less than a year, we would move to the Philippines and join the pastoral staff of the largest church in the country. (What a turnaround from what we had come from!) Our minds didn’t have the capacity to anticipate how much we would learn, how much we would heal, and how much we would fall in love with a people we never expected to fall in love with. When we eventually left the Philippines to follow the dream we had in our hearts since before we got married, we again felt like we could conquer the world.

We left the Philippines to move to Springfield, MO. Not really. We left the Philippines because we wanted to move to Japan to start a church, but we needed to prepare first. And God wanted us to prepare in Small City, USA. “Five years,” we said. “We’ll live in Springfield for five years and then we’ll move to Japan.” No we wouldn’t.

When we hit the two-and-a-half-year mark, we were halfway done with our gotta-do-before-we-go-to-Japan list. We were right on schedule. And then…

“Daniel, my hands hurt. Look, my fingers can barely move.” After getting a master’s degree in piano performance, we thought my hands were just tired. We had no idea our lives were about to get harder.

Months later you wouldn’t just be my husband; you would become my caretaker. Every morning, you would carry me out of bed and move my legs toward the bathroom because I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. You would lift my hands over my head to help my arms move as I would scream and cry in pain. It was torture, but it had to be done. It was the only way I would be able to shower on my own. When you weren’t at work, you were spending all your time taking care of me. I could see the exhaustion and worry on your face. Before we went to bed each night, I would cry because I knew the next day we would have to do it all again.

All of this was during your first semester of seminary. When I was in grad school, you supported me. “When you start working on your master’s,” I said, I’m going to support you.” I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep my end of the deal.

When I was diagnosed with lupus, people told me, “Your husband is amazing because he stayed.” This isn’t what you signed up for the day you married me. And yet you stayed.

“But what about Japan?” people asked us, as though God was completely shocked by my lupus diagnosis and had no idea it was coming when He placed the dream for Japan on our hearts. We didn’t know that the first time we would have a chance to minister in Japan, lupus would be the key. I would share my story of God’s goodness amidst suffering. It was Christmastime, so you would talk about Narnia, the darkness of winter, and the coming of spring. And God would do amazing things. We had no idea we would have to wait so long for this dream, but God has been good enough to let us have a little taste.

The excitement of that trip was soon overshadowed by more pain. “This is harder than the failed church plant,” I cried, “This is harder than lupus!” You nodded. You felt it, too. Finding out we couldn’t have children was devastating for both of us.

The day we got married, if I would have known the kind of suffering we would experience, I don’t know that I could have gone through it. I would have looked at all the hard stuff and walked away. But if I had, I wouldn’t have known the profound joy that has blossomed out of each painful experience.

In the months that followed the failed church plant, we found another church in Washington, D.C. where we were surrounded by people who spoke life into our hearts. In that church, God taught us to stand up again. Whenever we go back to visit D.C., I love that we always make a stop at that church’s coffeehouse as a kind of pilgrimage. How fitting that it’s called Ebenezers: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” And as you sip your coffee and I sip my iced chai, we remember that we’re standing on holy ground, a place where God met us. And when we look back on our lives and remember all we’ve been through, we’re filled with fresh excitement for our future. God brought us this far; He’s not about to stop helping us now!

I’ve heard people say that you don’t really know what love is until you have children. But when you carried me—literally—each morning as we thought I might be dying, you showed me what love is. You showed me a capacity for love beyond what I could imagine. And as we have walked through the deep waters of chronic illness together, you have been my advocate and my champion. When I began to walk on my own again, you cheered for me and made me feel like I had conquered the world. I can’t articulate well the gratitude I feel knowing that I have such an amazing person to celebrate every victory with.

And as we walked through the wilderness of infertility, you refused to let me stop dreaming. I love what we’re doing with our lives now. We’re doing things we probably wouldn’t be able to do well if we had children. We wanted so much to be able to leave behind a legacy. We thought we needed children to do that; God showed us we don’t.

And the cherry on top: you’ve shown me how fun it can be when it’s just the two of us. Five Bookstore Friday dates, late night Waffle House runs, and spontaneous “Ooooh, what’s that? Let’s check it out!” adventures.

When we were young, we wanted so much for God to show us His plan for our lives. We know better now. We don’t really want to see all the stuff that God sees because it would terrify us. We would run the other direction and miss all the good stuff He has for us.

I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. I just want to keep living this adventure with you.

Speak Life

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“So when are you gonna start having kids?”

“Um…I want kids, but, um…I can’t.”

I could see the wheels in their heads spinning wildly as they hurried to conjure something to say. I wished they focused more on being present and speaking life rather than just trying to make conversation. At least they were being nice, right? Or maybe they missed an opportunity to speak the words I needed to hear in that moment.

When I was diagnosed with lupus six years ago, I was inundated with people who had a lot of advice for me—both medical advice from people who had no medical degrees but vast knowledge obtained from Google, and spiritual advice from people who could quote passages of scripture but didn’t take enough time to get to know me and where I was with my faith. Early on a friend gave me some good advice that saved me a lot of frustration: “People will say things to you that are insensitive or even hurtful, but they mean well and don’t know any better. So when that happens, it’s an opportunity for you to show grace.” I don’t have the energy to dwell on the hurtful things people say, and I’ve found that when I show grace to others, I’m also saving myself from bitterness and frustration that can drain me of my limited strength.

Unfortunately, this story repeats itself many times over for those who suffer in any form. People want to help, but all too often say the wrong things. They’re trying to be nice, but they’re still missing the mark. And when I say, “people,” I mean me, too. I’m guilty of saying “nice” things that miss the mark.

When we were kids we were taught, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is great advice to teach children to not be mean.

But is that all? As followers of Jesus, when we speak, is the most important thing for us to avoid being mean or is there something more? Are we missing out on opportunities to be salt and light by being satisfied with our “nice” conversations?

When I think of the words of Jesus (and even Peter and Paul), “nice” doesn’t come to mind. Kind, powerful, honest, but not “nice.” If you removed from the Bible all the words of Jesus that didn’t follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” maxim, I don’t think you’d have very much left.

So let’s change the motto: “If you don’t have anything life-giving to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Speak life. That’s what made Jesus’ words—even the ones that stung—so good. He wasn’t careless with His words. He never spoke just to fill the silence or just to get something off His chest. When He spoke, He spoke life.

I want to be the kind of person who speaks life.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.(Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”(Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

 
Our words should
  • build up
  • be good, helpful, and beneficial
  • encourage
  • be appropriate for the occasion and meet people where they’re at in that moment and season of their lives (which means you’ll need to listen carefully first)
  • give grace

Don’t just be nice. Don’t just say what you feel. Don’t just give advice. Speak life.

Speak life to the mom and her children who have had a rough day.

Speak life to the couple who is facing infertility.

Speak life to the woman who is struggling with chronic illness.

Speak life to the man who exhausted from working hard to provide for his family.

Speak life to the high school kid who’s struggling to get your fast-food order right.

Speak life to the one who feels like their life is falling apart and they just can’t get it together.

Speak life to the public official who has to make the decision several times a day between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right.

Speak life to the college student who is carrying heavy loads, learning to be an adult, and is reminded of the uncertainty of their future every time someone says, “So what are you doing when you graduate?”

Even speak life to the pastor who carries the burdens of the people he (or she) leads while spending unseen hours writing sermons and handling administrative duties that keep the church functioning week to week.

Speak life.

Looking at Tough Issues as Citizens of the Kingdom of God

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I have a confession to make: I went to Bible college, I have a master’s degree, my husband’s in seminary and I read the books assigned for his classes…and I don’t have all the answers.

And you know what? There are topics in which the more I research and the deeper I dig into what the Bible says, the more questions I have and the more nebulous my stance becomes. Does this mean my theology is shaky? Absolutely not!

In the Christian faith, there are non-negotiables:

  • There is only One God.
  • Jesus is fully God and fully man.
  • It is only through Jesus and because of His death and resurrection we can be saved.

There are more non-negotiables, but I think you get the idea. If you call yourself a Christian—regardless of your particular flavor of Christianity—these are not gray issues. There are things all Christians can all agree on. And when it comes to non-negotiables, I’m confident that I’m prepared to give an answer for the the hope that I have (1 Peter 3:15).

But there are other topics that are a bit more, um, controversial. I’m not taking a relativistic stance and saying there’s no right and wrong, but some things aren’t as simple as we’d like them to be. I won’t name any of them here because my goal at this moment isn’t to debate any issues; it’s to challenge how we deal with them. We need to rethink how we wrestle with tough issues in our minds and hearts before we ever discuss them in conversation, and especially before we type our thoughts on social media.

Many people base their opinions on the ideologies of political parties, denominational affiliations, or any other sort of shared-commonality group. I’m not trying to disparage any of these, but it’s so easy to turn our brains on auto-pilot and start believing things just because someone in our circle said that’s how we should believe. This is intellectual laziness. We need to diligently test and evaluate everything we hear (1 These 5:21).

Some people’s opinions are based on problems they have with the vocal portion of the people who sit on the other side of the issue. It’s important to remember that the most vocal do not represent everyone. Tough issues represent a wide spectrum of beliefs and opinions. In fact, I’ve often found individuals “on the other side” that I agree with more than with those on “my side of the table.”

I wish we could get rid of “sides” all together and begin looking at issues as real people with faces and hearts. Until you take the time to get to know a person, you don’t know the things they’ve experienced that have shaped how they believe. I’m not saying that if you get to know their story you’ll change what you believe, but maybe the nuances of your stance will change. And oftentimes it’s those nuances that make the difference from us being perceived as “angry Christians” to becoming the salt and light of the world. But more on that later. I’m getting ahead of myself.

There are also those who have a stance on an issue but later change it because “It’s the 21st century,” or, “It’s [insert whatever year it is].” These are not good enough reasons to alter our theology or doctrines; we shouldn’t change what we believe just to keep up with the culture. At the same time, current events have a way of bringing to light misinterpretations and misapplications of scripture. And when these issues come to light, it’s an opportunity for the Church to stop fighting to defend “the way it’s always been,” and start humbly seeking “the way it was meant to be.”This is what living as citizens of the Kingdom of God looks like.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

(Romans 12:2a, NLT)

So how do we allow God to transform our minds and start looking at tough issues as citizens of the Kingdom of God?

keeping a high view of Scripture +  listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Keeping A High View of Scripture

Now, I’m going to say something that might sting a bit, but hear me out. Some people say they have a high view of Scripture, but when you listen closely to the words they say, it sounds more like they have a high view of their interpretation and opinions of what scripture says. This isn’t the same as a high view of scripture.

A person with a high view of scripture is someone who never stops studying, digging deep, and doing the work of theology.

What’s the point of regularly reading scripture if we don’t allow it to transform our lives? This transformation is for our words, actions, thoughts, and even our opinions. Because we’re fallible humans, we must ask ourselves, Do I have a higher view of scripture or of my opinions about scripture? This is an internal battle we must fight again and again, and as we do, we must realize that we can’t do it alone.

Listening to the Voice of the Holy Spirit

Humans get things wrong. We need the Helper, the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us wisdom as we wade through difficult issues.

Before moving on, let me be clear: God does not change and His voice will not contradict scripture. He can, however, contradict our interpretation of scripture, and this is where we need to have an open mind and heart.

I’ve learned some things over the years:

  • The Holy Spirit can speak to me.
  • Just because the Holy Spirit speaks to me doesn’t mean He tells me everything. It’s okay for me to not have all the answers. He’s God and I’m not.
  • The Holy Spirit can speak to someone else.
  • When the Holy Spirit speaks to someone else, He doesn’t have to tell me what He tells them. Again, He’s God and I’m not.

Keeping a high view of scripture and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit are things we must do. But here’s the thing: tough issues matter only because the people they represent matter. And people are complicated and messy. So if we stop at what we think and believe, then we’re not taking it far enough.

What do people need?

“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

(Matthew 7:16-20, NIV)

“…for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

(Matthew 12:33b, NIV)

The thing that marks us as Jesus followers—the salt and light kind and not the “angry Christian” kind that makes people want to run in the opposite direction—is the fruit we produce. I’m not just talking about results; I’m also talking about the fruit of the Spirit flourishing in our emotions, words, and actions.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

(Galatians 5:22-23)

If we want to change the world, then we need to be less concerned with having all the right answers and more concerned with bearing good fruit in our lives. Don’t forsake study and the work of theology, but do it in order to continuously produce good fruit. Good fruit is what builds the Kingdom of God.

When people are processing and trying to figure out where they stand on tough issues, let’s show them grace (Jude 22). God is patient with us; let’s be patient with them. And instead of tearing them down, let’s come alongside them as they find their way.

And when we disagree, let’s not fight the wrong fight. There’s evil in the world—very real evil—and we should fight it. But we must remember that we’re not fighting against flesh and blood. Our fight is not against people; it is for people—people made in the image of God, people Jesus loves so much He died on a cross for them, people God compels us to love.

Fighting evil and loving people is complicated. How do we do both in the face of injustice? I don’t have all the answers. But I’m becoming increasingly aware that the world needs good fruit more than it needs my right answers.

One last thing: There’s a big difference between discussing a tough issue in theoretical terms and looking into the eyes of a person sitting in your living room as they tell you their story, experiences, and struggles. We must wrestle with tough issues, not for the fun of debate, but because at the heart of them are real people whose lives hang in the balance.

Redeeming Our Full Schedules with Sabbath

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I wear a lot of hats. Not literal hats; metaphorical hats. I’m a wife, friend, professor, pianist, mentor, writer, volunteer at my church, and occasional speaker. And then there are my hobby hats: reader, hand letterer, Target deal finder…I think you get the idea. I love to do things, and when I’m not doing things, I’m doing other things.

How do I get it all done? My favorite two words are “productivity” and “efficiency.” I don’t procrastinate or dawdle. I manage my time and focus. I carry around books and things to work on in my purse. I stay busy.

Busyness is like a security blanket for me.

But a life of busyness isn’t sustainable. Without rest, busyness ceases to be productive. The quality of our work diminishes, our efficiency wanes, our relationships suffer, and our souls begin to feel empty. I don’t want busyness; I want abundant life.

We are to be productive with our lives, but we aren’t made for constant work and no rest.

“We can squander today by feeding two different sins: laziness or busyness. Both the lazy person and the compulsively busy person subtly reject the God-ordained boundary of time…Busyness believes that the time God has given is not adequate. We must redeem the present by leaving time to observe the practice of stillness and precept of Sabbath, taking on the trusting posture of one who sits at the feet of her Lord.”

(Jen Wilkin, None Like Him)

Keeping the Sabbath is number four in the Ten Commandments.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

(Exodus 20:8-11)

But even before the Law, Sabbath was built into creation.

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.”

(Genesis 2:2-3)

Jesus modeled rest—He even slept on a boat in the middle of a storm!—and taught His disciples the importance of rest.

“The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.”

We need Sabbath to be a regular part of the rhythm of our lives just as music needs rests in order to have breath and movement.

When we don’t observe Sabbath rest,

  • we decrease our productivity and efficiency by wearing down our bodies and minds,
  • we neglect our emotional health,
  • we cease to produce good fruit,
  • and we miss opportunities to experience the presence of a God who loves to show off, to hear His voice, and to enjoy His creation and beauty.

Now, there’s something a bit sticky I want to address:

Jesus got into trouble with the religious leaders of His day for healing people on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:9-14, John 5). Most of the times when I’ve heard these passages preached, the message is that we shouldn’t use the Law as an excuse to not help people. I totally agree with this. At the same time, if the speaker isn’t careful, they can give the impression that the principle of Sabbath rest is outdated and unimportant. No wonder so many pastors and church volunteers easily get burned out!

So let me talk directly about Jesus healing on that Sabbath. I believe one reason Jesus healed on the Sabbath is simply because that’s what God does: God heals on the Sabbath. He heals our weary bodies, stills our unsettled minds, and soothes our raw emotions.

In another passage where Jesus came into conflict with the religious leaders because of the Sabbath, he said, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NLT)

The heart of the Sabbath is not a law to bind us. The Sabbath is a precious gift from the God who loves us and cares about the big and small details of our lives.

If you’re feeling drained, maybe the solution isn’t to quit. Maybe you need to rest and make Sabbath part of the rhythm of your life.

Embracing What God Says About Us

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Last Friday, I performed a concert at a women’s event and spoke about the lies we believe about ourselves and that if we want to flourish in our lives, then we must drown out the lies with truth by embracing what God says about usOne of the pieces I performed was Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C minor, WoO 80. Beethoven thought so little of it that he didn’t allow it to be published with an opus number. As I played this piece, projected on the screen behind me were the lies that we believe about ourselves and the truths of what God says about us:

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When Beethoven overheard someone playing this piece, he said,

“Such nonsense by me?”

Truth

The 32 Variations in C Minor quickly became popular. It is a masterpiece that is still performed over 200 years later.

Lie

My worth is dependent on how I compare to other people.

My worth is dependent on my performance.

I’m worthless. The world would be better off if I didn’t exist.

I’m not enough.

Truth

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Eph. 2:10 NLT)

Lie

I’m ugly.

I’m too fat. / I’m too skinny. / I’m not the right size.

Truth

I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

(Psalm 139:14 NIV)

Lie

I am defined by my accomplishments.

Truth

I am defined by what Jesus has accomplished.

Lie

I am defined by my past.

Truth

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV)

Lie

I’ve messed up too badly. My sin is too big.

Truth

No one is un-redeemable. No sin is too big for the grace of God.

“This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:21-22 NLT)

Lie

I’m too young. / I’m too old.

Truth

Miriam (Moses’ sister), David, and Mary were not too young to be used by God for great things.

Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth, and Anna the prophetess were not too old to leave their mark on history.

Lie

Because I’m a woman, I’m less than a man.

I’m overbearing. My emotions are too much.

I’m bossy./I’m not assertive enough. My personality isn’t right.

Truth

I am created in the image of God.

So God created mankind in his own image,

in the image of God he created them;

male and female he created them.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

(Genesis 1:27, 31 NIV)

“The Creator of the universe didn’t just love and speak us into being. He also called us good–the same word He called the massive, majestic oceans and the sun that lights our solar system and keeps us all sustained. (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Lie

I’m not lovable. I don’t deserve God’s love.

Truth

I am loved.

God loves me so much that He died for me.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 NIV)

Lie

“But I’ll only be loved if I add value/have something to offer.”

Truth

Love is not about merit; love is about grace.

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” (1 John 4:10, 18-19 NLT)

Lie

God has overlooked me. I’ve been set aside.

Truth

I am handpicked by God. I am chosen. I am set apart for a purpose.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5 NLT)

Lie

I am insignificant and have nothing of value.

Truth

I am an heiress. (Titus 3:7; 1 Peter 3:7)

God is for me. (Romans 8:31)

I am part of a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Lie

I’m not important.

Truth

I’m God’s ambassador.

So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT)

“We have been given great authority through Christ! We’re called to action! And that passage says it’s as if God is making His appeal through us! Ladies, you are not called to sit on your hands in silence. You are called by our great God to run wild into our culture, calling out an incredible message of life: ‘God loves you! World! God loves you and made a way for you! Come with me! You don’t have to live lost and alone! My Dad has a place for you! He sees you as His ultimate treasure!” (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Lie

God doesn’t hear me when I pray.

Truth

“I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.” (Psalm 77:1 ESV)

“Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.” (Daniel 10:12 NLT)

Lie

“Am I doing a good enough job at everything I’m doing? It needs to be perfect or else it is not effective. I’m not good enough.” -college student

“I struggled for a long time believing that I was unintelligent. It doesn’t seem to matter how well I did in school, I always felt like I was just getting lucky, or had to work too hard to “get it”, or that I was just a fake.  -a high school teacher who has a PhD

I’m not creative / inspiring / smart / strong enough.

Truth

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT)

Lie

I just can’t do what God is calling me to do.

Truth

“My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2 NIV)

Lie

I can’t take the next step until I have everything figured out and can see the entire path ahead of me.

Truth

God lights our path one step at a time. He reveals His way as we step out in faith. If you want to see what’s farther ahead, you have to take the next step.

Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters— a pathway no one knew was there!” (Psalms 77:19 NLT)

Lie

“God doesn’t see me.”

Truth

I’m God’s treasure, the apple of His eye.

“Our standing has never wavered with our Father. Though the world has twisted what it means to be a daughter, His stance and His position toward us has absolutely stayed resolute.” (Jess Connolly, Wild and Free, p 33)

“I will be a Father to you,

and you will be my sons and daughters,

says the Lord Almighty.”

(2 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)

I am a daughter of God.

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Resources to Help You Preach Truth to Yourself

This devotional:

Always Enough, Never Too Much: 100 Devotions to Quit Comparing, Stop Hiding, and Start Living Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

This book that inspired the above devotional:

Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough, by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan

This little book you can carry in your purse:

Garden of Truth, by Ruth Chou Simons

 

 

A Theology of Taking a Nap

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Between the end of semester craziness that comes with being a professor and prepping for a big event where I’m performing a concert and speaking, the past month has been non-stop. And then there are the dishes and laundry I can’t keep up with, the pile of books to read for research for my first book, and the pieces I’m learning for upcoming recitals. My life is a bit scattered in different directions and I love it.

But my body and mind have their limits. I’ve been waking up exhausted every morning. My mind has slowed down from all the reading, creating, and memorizing. And as exciting as a lot of the things I’m doing are, I find myself feeling more discouraged than exhilarated.

So on Saturday, I decided to do something I’ve been needing to do for a long time:

I took a nap.

“It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Psalm 127:2

But how on earth could I possibly take a nap when I have so many things to do? I believe in hard work; the Bible has a lot of harsh things to say about laziness. But this doesn’t give me permission to abuse the body God has entrusted me to steward. I only have one, after all.

But there’s another reason I can rest during seasons of high stress:

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.”
“Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.”
I can rest because it’s not all up to me.
We weren’t made to work non-stop. If God has called you to do something for His Kingdom, then it’s too great for you to accomplish on your own. You need divine help from the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, who has the power to carry our burdens, and can do infinitely more than we can possible imagine.

So if you’re in the midst of a season of weariness, it’s possible that most holy thing you can do is take a nap.

Tearing Down Idols

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“When you work on your book proposal, stop reading.”

These words of wisdom were spoken to me by an author I admire during a coaching call. A coaching call that I had prayed about as the scheduled date grew near. A coaching call that I was so excited for that I struggled to fall asleep the night before. A coaching call that melted away my fears about writing my first book and caused faith to well up inside of me. I felt like my life was changing in that hour and I was ready to take all her words and run with them. At least, I thought I was. But amidst all of the wonderful things I didn’t expect her to say, she said the thing I really didn’t expect her to say: “When you work on your book proposal, stop reading.”

I panicked. What?!? Stop reading? What am I going to do? How am I going to make it through a season of high pressure writing if I can’t find rest in my books? I don’t know if I can do it! I need my books!

And that’s when I realized that my books weren’t just objects I loved; they had become an idol.

Books are good. They allow me a chance to be taught by great minds. They give me an outlet to rest and use my imagination. They help me grow as a communicator, artist, and Christian. Books make me a better person.

But at times, I allow them to take too much of my time (and money). I’ve been guilty of turning to a book for help before bringing my problems to God. It’s so easy for me to find my rest in books in place of being still in the presence of the Refuge Himself. And for a brief moment during my coaching call, books were more important to me than being obedient to God’s call on my life.

In the Ten Commandments, it’s not an accident that the first command, “You shall have no other gods before me,” is immediately followed by the command forbidding idols. God is to be first and most in our lives, but we have a knack for turning literally anything into something that dethrones Him from first place.

Where I am living now (a small city in Midwest, USA), carved idols aren’t paraded on the streets like other places I’ve lived. Our idols are more subtle, subjective, personal. Idols can be anything.

“…we do not usually make little statuettes of gold and silver and then worship them. But idolatry knows no cultural or temporal barriers. We have four-wheeled idols whose worshipers spend all their effort and money polishing them and driving them faster and faster. We have three-bedroomed idols, whose devotees have to keep them spotlessly clean in case visitors should come. We have square idols with silver screens. Some of us have well-bound idols with pages and dust jackets.”

(N. T. Wright, Small Faith, Great God)

“We love so many things more than we love our holy and fearful God. We love sports, our stuff, our churches, and our rules. We love our friends, our kids, and our reputations. We love creativity, our homes, and our opinions more than we love God. Ladies, I’ll give it to you straight. Some days I feel like the candles in my house get more praise and devotion and thankfulness than my God gets.”

(Jess Connolly, Wild and Free)

Like my books, it’s so easy to justify our idols, to use their usefulness for good to conceal what we have allowed them to become. But when we peel away the mask, their ugliness comes to light and we see why God would be hard on His people when it comes to idolatry. There is so much God wants for us, but idols get in the way.

Idols are unable to redeem people and situations, to turn mourning into dancing, to make dry bones walk. They keep us from being able to fully experience the Giver of Life and from experiencing the abundant life He intended for us.

Idols cannot answer our prayers, cannot be with us everywhere we go the way God can. God hears and listens to us when we cry out to Him. Even when He is silent and works in ways that confound us, He is still with us, still listening.

The devotion we give to idols robs us of opportunities to hear the voice of God in our daily lives, reminders of how He loves us, divine whispers of ways we can show His love to others.

The things or people we turn into idols are too small to be worshipped. Only the One, Living God is worthy of worship because He created the universe and everything in it; He keeps the Earth, sun, moon, and stars in motion; and He is the One who holds all things together. He cares so much about us that He knows the number of hairs on our heads, keeps count of our tossings, and puts our tears in His bottle. And He loves us so much that even though He knew our hearts would be prone to wander far from Him, He shaped the narrative of the world so that at the perfect time and place in history, He could redeem us. And His history shaping work is nowhere near done. We still have yet to go further up and further in!

When we look at who God is and what He has done, it seems ludicrous to treat Him like He is anything less, to give Him any other place in our lives than first.

So how do we tear down our modern-day idols? By spending more and more time gazing upon the wonderfulness of God.