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Every so often, my 17-year-old daughter gives me a wake up call. She’ll say something like, “Mom, you need to stop…” and it can be anything from stressing, to some sort of negative thinking. We need people in our lives to keep us in check. I tend toward the melancholy and appreciate my extroverted, optimistic daughter who dreams big and pulls others along for the ride. In celebration of those who set us straight, I’ve put together a list of 12 things we can do right now to improve our outlook and our lives.

  1. Stop stressing. It’s easy to get caught up in fret, worrying about things that should take a back seat in your life. Instead, put them in their place, last in priority, and let the things that really matter be at the forefront. Don’t waste today worrying about things that may happen, but instead celebrate the gifts in front of you right now.
  2. Stop trying to please everyone. Being a people pleaser can make you lose yourself and your truth. You cannot please everyone. You will get misunderstood. Some may dislike you, some may get angry at you. You will be too much for some and not enough for others. Trying to meet another’s expectations is like running on an endless treadmill. Know who you are, whose you are, and rest in that.
  3. Stop trying to do it all. Being busy all the time will leave you physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt. Don’t accept the lie that says you can’t slow down. Create some space in your life. Fight for it if you must. Make time to reflect, to breathe, to be. Take time to fully appreciate the moment you are in and that you are alive. Set aside time to be fully present for your loved ones.
  4. Stop trying to be perfect. Perfect is an illusion. Strive for excellence, improvement, to keep growing, to move forward – anything but perfection. You will occasionally mess up. Forgive yourself and keep going.
  5. Stop thinking that tomorrow, the next day, or the distant future will be better than now. Don’t wish away today, with its beauty and heartaches. While it’s great to be optimistic, let’s not throw away our moments. Many moments strung together make up a life. Live this moment to the fullest – aware of your future destination – without wasting what’s in front of you.
  6. Stop focusing on the negative. The good, the bad, and the ugly has shaped you this far – for better or for worse. Recognize the worse, don’t make it a curse. There will always be mountains to climb, but the view up there is fantastic! Beauty and blessings are all around you. Take note of the beauty and count your blessings.
  7. Stop berating yourself. What is your internal voice telling you? If you have a lovely British mum like mine, you know it’s impolite to brag. But a little internal gloating is acceptable. Celebrate the things you are good at, how far you’ve come, and that you’re not the same as you were last week or last year. Forgive yourself for your failings. Make a list of three things you like most about yourself. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, I love you.
  8. Stop thinking you can’t be replaced (hear me out on this one). Thinking that if you left a position there would be no one to fill your shoes can lead you to stay in a place longer that you should, stall you from moving forward in your purpose or calling, and prevent others from the blessing of filling that role. Your position is not your identity. It’s a way you get to help and serve for a time. Be wise to see when that season is over.
  9. Stop comparing yourself or your journey to others. It’s easy to compare your life to another’s when you’re in a tough place. You get to see the polished parts of another’s life. Remember, all that glitters isn’t gold. Everyone has struggles. Your trials are making you a stronger, more 3-dimensional person who can fully relate to others in their struggles. Despite how the rough patches make you feel, if you let them, they will make you more beautiful. You are unique, one-of-a-kind. Your gifts fit your purposes and the time you’ve been given on this earth. Passionately use your gifts and your life, without wishing for someone else’s, and you’ll find yourself so in love with what you’re doing that you wouldn’t trade it for another’s.
  10. Stop believing lies. The cants and the nevers should be out-of-the-question. The Accuser offers a steady diet of whispered lies to wear and tear you down. God’s corrective encouragement offers forgiveness, direction, and hope.
  11. Stop holding on to hurts. Release them and the people who inflicted them. Mercy and forgiveness is your path to freedom.
  12. Stop being afraid to love. Love lavishly, like you’ve never been hurt. Love fully without conditions or expectations. Love for the sheer sake of it. Tell your loved ones how much you love them.

What would you add to this list? I’d love to hear any of your ideas!

Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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  1. Which of the above do you most struggle to stop? Look for ways this week to face this area head on. Ask God for help to overcome it.
  2. Write down three things you like about yourself. Thank God for how He made you, and look for ways He can use those in your life and for His purposes.
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Diamond heart

I’m just going to put it out there. You are valuable.

I don’t care how long it took you to finish your homework, that you failed grade ten math – twice, that you don’t have over 500 Instagram followers, a diploma or letters after your name, a lucrative job, or feel successful. None of that takes away from the fact that you are valuable.

It’s no accident that you find yourself on the earth at this particular period of history, or that you are alive at all for that matter. Despite what you may have been told or believed, you aren’t an accident. You were made to not only be alive at this point in time, but to also to be a difference maker.

You should also know that your worth isn’t composed of the things you have accomplished, or failed to accomplish. You are loved with a ‘just because’ kind of love that says I created you in my image and died to save you for eternity. Do you feel a little more valuable now?

Think about this: the Creator of the universe fashioned you in His likeness and wanted you to be with Him when your earthly days come to an end, so He made a way through His Son Jesus – because you matter that much to Him. That makes you valuable and LOVED.

Going back to the fact that you are living on the earth right now, as I mentioned, that’s not an accident. There are things here for you to do, that only you can do, in the way only you can do them. It doesn’t matter if you think those things aren’t all that spectacular. They matter both here and in eternity.

I imagine collective breaths held in heaven, soundless in anticipation of witnessing the working out of things only you can do, and then massive celebrations when you do them – from the seemingly insignificant to the prize-winning. The smallest brush stroke, to the celebrated masterpiece. The bridge-building handshake, to the freeing act of forgiveness. The belly laughter of a child, to the comedian’s crafted humour. The band-aid applied to a skinned knee, to the surgeon’s careful stitches. Reminding an Alzheimer’s sufferer of their name, to declaring the name of Jesus. All displays of wonder to be celebrated from here to heaven.

So don’t be afraid to do that thing you do. From barefoot dancing to belly dancing and beyond, do it in the way that only you can. And don’t wait to hear the human hand-clapping – the applause from heaven will be much sweeter. Just use your unique gifts while you still have breath, because it not only makes your Father in heaven smile, it might even make someone’s day.

You are valuable. You matter. You are uniquely gifted. You are loved. Out of the 7.6 billion people on earth, there is no another person out there who can do the things you do in precisely the way you do them. So get to it!

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  ~ Matthew 10:29-31

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  1. Are you believing the lie that says you are worthless? Ask God to show you how He sees you, and let Him free you to be all He created you to be. Psalm 139 is a great reminder of how you are loved.
  2. What is something you have to offer this world. What gift or talent can you use to make a difference?
  3.  Champion others by encouraging the gifts and talents you see in them.

Body-Awareness

How much of your life are you willing to give away?

That’s a big question, but we do it daily – unthinkingly. Henry Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” We exchange our thoughts, our energy, and our finances for various activities, stuff, or other people – often with little thought. Only those with limited time know how limited time is. We’re given only one life and twenty-four hours each day. The question is, how much of it are you willing to give away, and for what purpose or person?

Thought Exchange

How is your thought life? We have the choice to use our thinking on anxious, negative, self-depreciating thoughts, or peaceful, life-giving, mind-renewing thoughts. We have the choice to be jealous, envious, and wish our life were different, or be content, thankful, and celebrate with others in their success. We can tear others down, or build them up. We can be fearful and angry, or choose peace and trust. The trouble is, we’re prone to let our mind wander and go its own way instead of paying attention to our thoughts. The Bible suggests this exchange:

…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 

Taking thoughts captive demonstrates that our thinking can be controlled. In captivity, we examine those thoughts and sort out if they are lies or truth. We throw out the lies and grapple with the truth. We can intentionally exchange fearful thoughts for faith-filled ones, destructive thoughts for edifying ones, and can choose peace and joy in any circumstance. Like clean eating, our thought life grows healthier by what we ingest, and this clean thinking has a positive effect on every area of our lives.

Energy Exchange

We can spend a lot of time doing things we aren’t necessarily meant to be doing, things we might not be naturally gifted at, things that distract and detract from our passion and purpose, things that take time away from our loved ones, and leave us feeling exhausted and empty.

We might be wearing ourselves out being a people-pleaser, running from this activity to the next hoping to hear human hand-clapping while missing the still, small voice of God. His wisdom guides us to use our hours wisely, giving purpose, direction, and enough strength for each day. He says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. ~ Matt 11:28

Our greatest joy is found where our passion and God’s purpose collide.

Financial Exchange

Like our other resources, we can use our finances purposely and intentionally, or squander it unwisely. The way we expend our finances clearly displays our heart. The Bible says that,

…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ~ 1 Timothy 6:10

Note that it doesn’t say money itself is evil, but instead the love of money. We can exhaust much time attempting to gain more money. That money can be used to build a great many things and buy a great deal of stuff, but with thoughtful intention it can be used to invest in eternity.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. ~ Matt 6:19-21 

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. ~ Proverbs 4:23

Every day, we are offered an opportunity to spend some of our thoughts, energy, or finances to help and comfort others. If we’re too busy, too self-absorbed, too tired, or too greedy, we might overlook the needs around us, and even fail to prioritize our own needs. Taking time to care for others, especially those whom God has entrusted to us, speaks to the posture of our heart. Since God is love, and the source of our ability to love, He should be the person we spend a significant portion of time with. When we do, it becomes easier to discern the appropriate amount of life to exchange for everything else. With Him we can live on purpose with purpose.

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  1. What things in your life are worth expending your thoughts, energy, and finances on? Make a list of what you most value. Does your list and how you are using your life line up?
  2. Take a look around you? What do you see? What does it say about your heart?
  3. Do you think you need to make some changes? If so, make a plan and start taking some small steps.

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After home schooling my four children – the collective sum of eighteen years – my youngest recently decided she would like to go to school. We looked into schools in our area and chose one that seemed the best fit. The school required she take a placement test. If you’re a home school mom, you don’t need me to tell you how that feels.

While I waited for the day to arrive, waited as she wrote the test, and waited for the results of the test, all manner of fearful thoughts played in my mind. What if I hadn’t done enough? What if there were gaps in her learning? What if she writes the test and they tell me she can’t go into her grade? What if…

My husband and friends encouraged me. She’s fine, they said. You’ve done a great job. I tried to remind myself that there was much treasure in all that we had done, so much precious time together as a family and with grandparents, and opportunities for them to dig deep into their natural bent – so much that could never be measured in a test. But still it was there, that nagging voice whispering, You didn’t do enough.

I shouldn’t be surprised. That’s the world’s daily mail, isn’t it? You’re not good enough. Do more, be more, have more…more, more, more. And the frenzy is real. And it was real inside my head too. If my daughter failed the test, I would have failed. Would that mean all those years were wasted?

Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Such true words. True of our home school journey, and true of our lives too. If you are looking at where you’re at right now and wishing it were different, or thought you would be further along in your goals and dreams, or could have done better at this or that, know that there is much to be said for the things that may never be seen, praised, applauded, or awarded.

Because all those times you got up, showed up, and did your best when it was hard to do anything at all, mattered. The times you smiled when inside you were breaking. The times you chose to laugh when you wanted to cry. When you kept silent instead of using harsh words. When you retaliated with kindness. When you held it together even though you felt you were falling apart. All of those, though they may never be counted, COUNTED.

Because how on earth can you measure compassion, kindness, humility, sacrifice, grace, gentleness, tenacity, faith, hope, love, and all the brilliant, imperfect, fiercely beautiful moments in-between that fill our lives? You can’t, but that doesn’t mean they don’t count or that they remain fully unseen.

I think of Jesus’s life. For three years he ministered to crowds and individuals. He healed and told God’s message of love and salvation. Then he was brutally killed on a Roman cross. At that point it appeared as though his 33 years on earth were wasted and counted for nothing. But though his life’s work seemed a failure, that wasn’t the end. Three days later, he rose again, conquering death and making a way for us.

I can’t help but think we’ll be surprised at the end of our lives too. We don’t have to be the best, or perfect, or fully together for our lives to count. And here’s another truth, no matter how hard you try, you’ll never feel good enough or be good enough anyway. That’s meant to be reassuring! Here’s why: it’s not up to us! Jesus makes you good enough. His blood shed for you on the cross covers all your sin. Believing by faith this love offer makes you good enough. In fact, it makes you spotless in God’s eyes. He’s the one for whom all your unseen effort matters. He’s the purpose for your purposes. And one day, when you and I arrive in glory,  it will all make sense. We’ll see that even the smallest act wasn’t wasted.

I hope the voice we hear louder than the others is God’s who tells us: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9) That sounds vastly different from our daily dose of be better, be perfect, and you’re not enough, doesn’t it? Through Christ, we’re not only enough, we have all we need to fully live the life we’ve been gifted with.

It all turned out well. My daughter tested at grade level. But even if she hadn’t, I know she understands many beautiful things that test couldn’t possibly measure, things unseen that count all the same…maybe even more! The same is true in your life!

May you understand your true identity as a whole, fully loved child of God, and live out your purpose in the midst of His spacious love.

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  1. In what areas do you not feel good enough?
  2. How do you think God feels about those things and about you?
  3. Align your thinking to God’s in this area, and continue on in His strength and peace!
  4. Trust in Jesus and place your life, your purpose, your plans, in God’s care.

I don’t know what goals you made for the coming year, but whatever the pursuits, I hope we guard ourselves from what we’re conditioned is success. I hope we go against the flow and discover that true greatness isn’t found in the amount of material things we own. It’s found in both small and great, brave and beautiful, selfless and everyday acts of love. It’s there in the breaths in between the many activities that compete for our attention and masquerade as all-important.

At the end of your life, what you’ll most remember won’t be the countless hours of overtime you worked, how much money you saved, or how successful everyone said you were. What will matter most is that you loved.

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This year, let’s not wait until tomorrow to say “I love you” or “I’m sorry”, to play on the floor with your toddler or go out for lunch with your teen, to visit a friend or to use the good dishes you’ve been saving for a special occasion (every moment you’re alive is a special occasion), because in the end, the things that matter most, aren’t things at all.

How you loved will matter, and all the other “important things” will fade in significance. It will matter if you cherished your loved ones, spent time with the people who mean most to you, and made sure they knew (both in word and deed) that they were dearly loved. It will matter that you made a dent of difference in this weary world to some or several weary souls.

I hope this year we remember that all the money in the world can’t buy us time. I’m not saying money is bad, but how we use it – like time – will matter. Chasing hard after money or stuff may squander never-to-be-regained time that we could have used to fill a need or create precious memories that far outlast stuff.

A successful life may not appear as we’ve been told, and may not even be glimpsed upon by another human. Success doesn’t require a medal, a degree, or a certain position. It doesn’t mean perfection.

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is in the doing, not the getting – in the trying, not the triumph.”  ~Wynn Davis

No matter what point it’s at, a life lived with intention, purpose, commitment, contentment, compassion, and most of all love – is a successful one. This kind of quiet success is hidden amid the beautifully ordinary ways we give of ourselves to another and live life with arms wide open.

You’ll see a successful life tucked amid the mother’s nighttime vigil beside her sick child, the husband’s whispered prayer for his ailing wife, the tears shed alongside a friend, the meals served to one without a home, the band-aid applied to a child’s skinned knee, funds given to a stranger in need, or the dignity of care and repeated visits to an aging mother in a nursing home who has long forgotten who you are. It’s in all the many ways we show up and give our all without giving up. Success of this nature is a by-product of living life loving.

You’ll find the real deal hiding amid the everyday resilience and tenacity of the human spirit anytime we: rise above a fall, continue onward after a mistake, forgive, refuse to listen to the naysayers, muster courage to try hard things, decline herd mentality, live selflessly, or hang on to a dream. It’s in the stubborn refusal to release our hold on hope when others have long since let go, or staying the course when others are long gone. Surprisingly enough, you may even notice success in the giving up of a crowded life to make room for a more spacious one.

May this year be one filled with hope, joy, true success, time well spent, and most importantly – filled with love. And by all means, use the good dishes (and if not, give them away)!

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13

 

 

 

 

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We use the “L” word a lot. We say we love our new shoes, love our friend’s dress, or loved the Christmas party. The passionate love we most often see depicted in movies is in the infatuation stage. But love is so much more than feeling partial to a new pair of shoes, a pretty dress, a celebration with friends, or the intense feelings at the beginning of a relationship.

Here are some examples of love I’ve noticed. I’m sure you could add a few of your own.

Love looks like the man who moves into a retirement home prematurely because his wife in the adjoining room had a stroke when they were still in the throes of living out their dreams together.

Love looks like the woman who stands firm and cares for her husband in the midst of his battle with Parkinson’s disease that arrived with aggression when many more adventures still awaited them.

Love looks like the man who daily goes to the long-term care facility and sits beside his unconscious wife who hasn’t woken up in two years. Despite what the doctor and his family says, he holds her motionless hand, praying and hoping for the miraculous.

Love looks like the man who brought his wife coffee in bed, but learned that’s not her preference. Instead, he quietly sneaks out each morning without waking her to prepare the coffee for when she gets up so they can sit on the couch and enjoy it together.

Love looks like the exhausted, nursing mother who rises numerous times a night for months to nourish and comfort her colicky baby.

Love looks like the newlywed who – though formerly a wallflower – takes dancing lessons with his wife because he knows she longs to dance with him.

Love looks like the son who – despite having better things to do – proof reads his mother’s blogs so she doesn’t make a fool of herself.

Love looks like the Man who hung on a tree for mankind though He himself had done nothing wrong. His was a love so great it was willing to come, to stay with us for a time, and teach us first-hand how to love. He healed the sick and loved the broken and unlovable. He offered hope and showed us how to enter into the kingdom of heaven. He shouldered the sin of the world and poured out love until death. Even in His last breath He loved by forgiving those who were crucifying Him. This Lover is Jesus.

Here is what the Bible tells us love looks like:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:4-8)

Love often looks more like the mundane than the movies. It’s loving the lined face long after physical beauty has faded. It’s serving the other in sickness – and in health. It’s staying when things are tough or the situation looks hopeless. Love cheers the other on. It respects and celebrates differences. Love forgives. And for all these and many more, that makes love – though mundane in its everydayness – miraculous. In its fullness, love is the fearless laying down of our lives for another. This may look as simple as giving up our preferences and our comfort, or as difficult as overlooking an offense.

This Christmas, may you see the love of Jesus anew, feel it in your heart, and receive it fully. May you look for ways to selflessly love those in your midst, laying down your life for them. May you speak your love in words and show it by your actions. May you even give undeserved love to an offender and offer forgiveness and blessing – just as Jesus did for us.

Bless you this Christmas Season! Be filled to overflowing with God’s miraculous love! If you’re up to sharing, I’d “love” to hear some of your love stories too!

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  1. Think of some ways you can be intentional about loving those closest to you. Write them down and act on them each day leading up to Christmas.
  2. Is there a person you need to forgive? Extend love and release your offender(s).

 

 

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With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s frightfully easy to become engulfed in the Christmas frenzy. Busy and frazzled, we rush around to find the perfect presents for our loved ones, host the perfect party, amid perfect decorations, while presenting a table full of perfect food.  In all the bustle, we risk the season of love, joy, and peace passing us by along with all that really matters, like spending time with those we love.

All too soon, the season comes to a close. Once the decorations are stuffed away, our home looks as barren as our hearts feel. What went wrong? we wonder.

 

Before we get too far in, here is a practical list of 8 ways to savour the season:

  1. Be grateful. There are always things to be thankful for. Look around and you’ll find it won’t take long to see how blessed your are.
  2. Be intentional with your time. To stave off exhaustion, instead of accepting every invite, consider limiting parties and activities. By intentionally protecting your time, you’ll be less likely to reach the end of the season, or Christmas Day, completely depleted and will have more energy for those closest to you.
  3. Slow down. instead of rushing from one Christmas activity to the next, set aside enough time to fully engage in each moment.
  4. Create memorable Christmas traditions with your loved ones and take time for old traditions.
  5. Buy less stuff.  So often the plethora of things we were told we needed: the newest gadget, the latest and greatest piece of technology, the you name it toy-of-the-year doesn’t fill the space we were promised it would. Consider a memory-making trip or other activities that will outlast the many items you might have purchased.
  6. Donate time or money to a cause. Christmas is a great time to look beyond ourselves and help others. Helping those in need naturally raises our internal gratitude meter.
  7. Celebrate advent. Many Christians spend time leading up to Christmas in spiritual preparation for celebrating when Christ was born.
  8. Focus on Jesus. Let His presence – not presents – be at the centre of your celebration. With your heart and spirit full of His love, you’ll enjoy all the festivities that much more.

May you be blessed this Christmas with the fullness of God’s love.

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  1. In what ways could you be more intentional about celebrating Christ this Christmas?
  2. What new traditions could you include to help make Christ more central to your celebrations? What might you need to take away?

 

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I’ve been working on decluttering. It started when I decided to tidy up my diet. It spilled over into activities and over-involvement, then finally my home. No matter how much attention I place in these areas, there is consistent work to ensure it’s maintained. We all know how easy it is to slowly add junk food back into our diets, to say yes one too many times, or let a small pile build up on the counter.

Our thought life is no different. Like the mess in our homes, it needs to be cleaned up by regular attention and care. It’s easy to get busy and not set aside the time needed to declutter. A little bit of junk food here, a bit of compromise there, a small pile of unattended ideas left to mount, and suddenly, things get messy.

Cleaning up sounds so simple, but it takes diligent work. It requires we stop other pursuits long enough to examine ourselves, to listen, and pray in order to regularly deal with the clutter of thoughts, false motives, and sin that builds up on a daily basis. Adding to the challenge, the clean-up effort can easily be compromised by the enemy’s efforts to distract, deceive, distort, and detract from our identity and purpose in an attempt to destroy us.

Distraction

The enemy of our soul wants to keep you preoccupied to ensure you don’t see your faults. He knows that once you recognise your failings, you have the opportunity to change. With that, comes healing and power and he wants none of that for you. He works diligently by enticing you to fill up on junk food so you fail to ingest the riches of the kingdom. If you don’t indulge in his offerings, he will go to great lengths to further distract you with busy work to try to ensure an unexamined life.

Deception

This is the attempt to ensure we overlook the mess or fail to see sin for what it is. If distraction failed, Satan tries to deceive us into thinking we’re perfectly fine. In this proud state, we disregard our own faults because we’re too busy finger-pointing with one hand and patting ourselves on the back with the other. Even if healing is offered, Satan tries to prevent it by veiling us from our faults and keeping us preoccupied with our good works.

Detraction

This is the attempt to beat us down, make us forget who we are and how much we are worth. This compromised state often comes amid Distraction, as the result of too much junk food and not enough time with the One who aides the clean-up effort. Self-esteem wanes as pieces of our identity are chipped off and added to the mounting mess.

Distortion

Satan bombards the believer with lies, truth-twisting, and accusations in an attempt to utterly destroy them and their faith. He wants us to believe we are beyond help, the mess too chaotic and ugly to be cleaned up.

Destruction

Satan will stop at nothing to ensure our ruin. We are warned to, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). Destruction may come in the form of lost hope, crippling fear, disabling illness, shattered faith, poor choices, or relational breakdown to name a few. Though there may not appear a solution to the mess, there is still a way out.

Deliverer

God delivers us out of disastrous messes, even if we made them and even if we failed to do our part in the clean up. He responds to willing hearts turned to Him, and in His extraordinary mercy, sometimes He performs clean-ups even before the mess-maker fully notices Him.

We do well to be mindful of mounting messes, taking inventory on a daily basis and an active role in the areas God shows us require attention. But take heart, even if you have a mess on your hands, know that you have a Helper ready and willing to remove the clutter in order to free you from disarray and discouragement.

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  1. Set aside regular time for clutter control. You could pray this prayer: “Search me, God, and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)
  2. Are there things in your life creating unnecessary distraction from time with God? Is it possible they are filling a need that can only be filled by God?
  3. Bring any messes to God and watch how He makes beautiful spaces in your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our thought life is where the battle is won or lost. Not unlike food, each day, several times a day, we are offered a thought or idea we might be tempted to ingest. Some ideas are life-giving while others leave a bad taste in our mouth.

Here’s a little story. I’ll call it The Bitter Pill.

I’m having a conversation with a coworker and something she says hits me the wrong way. I could choose to ignore it, to not take it personally, and move on. I’ve done so in the past, but this time I’m caught off guard. She’s done this before, I think to myself, and no sooner have I thought it, I’ve ingested a chunk of bitterness.

Later that night, while I’m brushing my teeth, I feel something in my throat. I spit it up and realize it’s that piece of bitterness. It tastes worse now having been partially digested, and carrying the nasty residue of another bitter pill I’d swallowed a few days prior. I have an opportunity to spit it out, but I’ve taken offense, so I chew on it some more and swallow it all over again.

When I wake the next morning, I don’t feel so great. The bitterness has taken effect and now it’s in my bloodstream poisoning other areas. I take another dose by talking the situation over with a friend, thinking it will act as an antidote. It doesn’t. Instead, I feel worse. I read the side-effects on the back of the pill bottle. I don’t like what I see, but even so I commit to another dose, and another, and one more for good measure.

Eventually, my body can’t process the intake, and I get toxic. I stagger to the Doctor with my sickness. He asks me what I’ve been eating. A steady diet of bitter thoughts, I tell him. He suggests I need to detox my system. I assure Him I understand it would have been better if I hadn’t ingested the pills in the first place. He gently reminds me I have a choice, and offers me this prescription for next time:

“…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 

How? I ask. He says the next time I’m tempted to swallow a bitter pill, I instead toss it away. If I hold onto it, even for a short time, let alone swallow it, well, you know what happens. Instead of accepting the offered thought or idea, He tells me, I have the choice to reject it. Once I do, I’ll feel healthier and will even thrive. As an added bonus, He tells me this will help too:

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

It takes practice and discipline, he continues, it doesn’t happen all at once, but He assures me it’s a habit I can change with His help. I ask what happens if I mess up. He tells me, just say sorry and start over…as many times as needed.

I feel satisfied with that.

And maybe you do too, knowing that whether you’ve taken a bitter pill, an anger pill, a dishonest pill, a fear pill, a you-name-it pill, there is always the opportunity to not only say sorry and begin again, but lean on the Physician’s prescription for next time. His word, His strength, His love, and His forgiveness are readily available.

Know that you aren’t defeated. You CAN take every thought captive. You CAN forgive. You CAN overcome those habitual patterns of thinking or behaving! After all, we’ve been redeemed, given a Helper, and are dearly loved! It doesn’t get any better than that!

You’ve got this, because He’s got you!

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  1. Take a moment and make a list of habitual thoughts or actions that are harmful to yourself or others.
  2. Now ask God to help you focus on them one at a time until you begin to default into taking your thoughts captive. You might also find new life-giving habits to replace the old ones. My example was taking offense which lead to bitterness. Ideally, I choose to take my thoughts captive, and refuse to get angry or take offense. But if I fail to do that, I have a second opportunity to forgive quickly, pray for and bless the offender, and disallow any other bitter thoughts a parking place.

 

 

 

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People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.

That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.

Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.

Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.

What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.

Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.

Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)

Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.

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  1. Make a list of those who have wounded you.
  2. Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.

 

 

 

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