It’s not like you’ve imagined. Probably unlike anything you’ve been told, taught, or experienced. Being with Jesus isn’t a prescribed program or a series of have-to’s. It’s not a checklist of holy duties or a list of rules to follow. It’s not polishing yourself shiny or hoping you’ve been good enough.
It’s so easy that some find it hard.
Jesus extends his arms, pulls us in, and wraps us in HIS holiness, offering us forgiveness, rest, peace, joy, love—all the things we’ve been striving for but couldn’t manage on our own. His is a put-your-feet-up, cease-striving sort of love that beckons us to just BE. Be ourselves in his company. Be still. Be undone. Be made new. Continue reading “A Love Like No Other”
This year brought numerous new and exciting adventures for my family and me. In September, I released my first novel, One More Tomorrow, and shortly after my devotional, Soul Focus – Trials, launched. In the spring, my son and daughter-in-law announced that they are expecting their first baby which means my husband and I are about to become first-time grandparents! This past summer, my daughter moved out to pursue her acting career, and this fall, I have been busy with other firsts such as book signings, podcasts, radio interviews, and a TV segment on See Hear Love alongside Ann Voskamp. watch episode here
All these changes have brought unknowns and the opportunity to camp out in fear or choose faith. As 2020 dawns, I am determined to dwell in peace. Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I chose “Fearless” as my word of the year. To find out why you can read my blog entitled Fearless featured on See Hear Love. read Fearless blog
It is my hope that this year you too will find ways to intentionally live out of God’s peace as you ground yourself in his love, his word, and his presence. May we choose to hand over our fears to the one who offers to carry them for us, to make inroads of peace in our lives and the lives of all those with whom we connect.
Imagine what this year would it look like if our decisions were made by faith, imbedded with peace and hope instead of fear? If the words from our mouths were spoken void of fear? If our actions were not tainted by fear? I hazard we will live more fully in the abundant life God promised and generously shower the overflow on others.
May you traverse into 2020 fearlessly and be blessed with mountain-moving faith!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
If you are looking for a devotional to start out the New Year, consider Soul Focus – Trials, my 31-day devotional/journal. It offers nuggets of encouragement as you navigate through your unknowns and struggles. buy Soul Focus here
Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in your time. Maybe your past has moved in like an unwelcome guest. Perhaps there’s condemnation running through your thoughts—a steady stream of fault-finding reminders. Maybe you’re living under critical words spoken to you in your youth, and, whether they were true or not, you still drag the weight of them along on your journey. If you find yourself living on the outskirts of joy, or even faith, here’s some encouragement.
From the few memories of my early childhood in England, I recall we had a hedge framing our front garden. My father meticulously maintained that hedge with handheld trimmers. I recall him being rather dismayed about a hole in the hedge that neighbouring children used to climb through. As long as kids made a habit of playing in this leafless passage, the hole would be perpetually maintained.
What about our lives? Where is the hole in our hedge? An area where we’ve repeatedly let in such things as bitterness, fearfulness, or anger? Maybe that area is so frequented by unchecked thinking that a gaping hole has formed. Anything that becomes a habit treads a well-worn path. In the case of negative or destructive thought patterns, the habitual cycle can be detrimental to both ourselves and others.
Unlike my father’s hedge, we can choose that which we allow passage through the perimeters of our lives. We can cut off fruitless patterns of thinking and deny them entry into our thought life. However, with our jam-packed lives, we’re often distracted. We leave little space for reflective contemplation and instead snatch fleeting fast-food bites on the fly. The quality and quantity of the life-giving morsels we consume are often not enough to fully nourish or protect us.
If we fail to examine those thoughtless meanderings before we let them in, they lead to well-worn openings of fruitless behaviour and thought patterns. If we don’t set aside time to examine our thinking and replace toxic thoughts with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), we leave our lives wide open to hedge-holes.
Holes in hedges can develop anytime we let in bitterness and refuse to forgive. They take shape when we allow impatience and anger to proliferate. They evolve when we compare and grow dissatisfied opening the door to envy and jealousy. They become firmly formed when we repeatedly choose fear over faith. They grow distinctly larger when we settle into sin.
Ignoring hedge holes won’t make them disappear. Managing them takes a concerted effort and proper maintenance requires taking a firm grip on our thought life and conforming it to God’s. 2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to “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.” Make no mistake, we have a choice regarding our thought permeations.
We prevent holes by cutting off the flow of thoughts at the gate, discerning whether they deserve to pass through, and aligning our thinking to God’s. We combat hedge holes by setting aside time, disciplining ourselves to reflect and be renewed in God’s presence. When we spend time soaking in God’s word, he fills the holes, packing them with his peace. His Spirit quickens us and helps us to grow in discernment regarding that which we allow to enter through the perimeter of our lives. Soon, where once there were holes, we see new growth and lush foliage—composed of God’s love—encircling us.
Where do you notice hedge holes in your life?
How can you adjust your thinking to align with Christ’s?
This weekend, my husband and I attended the 30th-anniversary celebration for China Partner, an organization that trains and equips pastors in China. Erik, the president, has carried on this ministry from his father, Werner, who was born in China and whose parents were missionaries in a place called Jiangxi province before China closed its doors to missionaries.
Erik’s grandfather’s journal records that he led ten people to the Lord during the twenty-five years they ministered in China. This weekend we heard from Chinese pastors from Jiangxi that in the same place today there are 530 000 followers of Christ.
Ten people may not seem notable to our western way of thinking, their ministry may even have appeared a failure. But not in God’s economy. God will leave the ninety-nine to look for the one. That is how precious each of us is to him.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.” (Matthew 18:12-13)
Erik’s grandparents left Germany—left the ninety-nine—to go to China. The ten cherished souls who found Jesus in Jiangxi were forever changed, and so were their families. You see, in God’s economy, it doesn’t matter if the returns seem small, or if the work takes years and years. God sees the whole timeline, and eternity too—the forever place he made possible for us through Jesus’ death on the cross.
This is the Good News Erik’s grandparents went to China to share. It’s the same Good News their son carried back to China years later, the same gospel that Erik continues to minister in China and that these Chinese pastors also teach to this day.
Can’t you see it? The impact of one faithful couple—their hopes and dreams coming to fruition long after they entered eternity?
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
There will be times when it appears that the work of our hands is fruitless. In our present circumstances, position, or place we find ourselves, it may not appear that we are making a difference at all and that our efforts are wasted. But you can be sure that anything done in God’s name and strength will bear fruit. Whether we see it or not, we can trust God for the outcome.
“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated.” (Isaiah 54:4)
Like Erik’s grandparents, you may never see the fullness of your labor. You may never know the outcome of your faithfulness this side of heaven, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t bear an impact. How amazed do you think Erik’s grandparents would be to hear about the 530 000 souls who know Jesus today in the province they ministered in 94 years prior? So it is with us. Make no mistake, your life’s choices, work, and faithfulness matter and multiply far beyond what you can see.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:11)
The next time you are tempted to give up on something or someone—or even give up on yourself—remember that this is never God’s posture toward us. He never turns his back on people. He never gives up. He never lets us go. His love offer is always available. The invitation to come to Jesus is for everyone and is only a prayer away.
You may feel weary in your work or relationships right now. You may feel like giving up. If you are discouraged, remember this truth: you are precious to God. Everyone and everything matters to Him. He sees it all—the past, present, and future all at once—and is in control. He made a way for you through His Son. Entrust your life and your troubles to Jesus and let Him be Lord of your life.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
In what area(s) do you feel discouraged?
Hand it over to God trusting him for both strength and the outcome.
In the mid-’80s, when I was fifteen years old, I decided I wanted to become a model. A Toronto agent agreed to represent me but explained that I needed to lose weight. I had been a cross-country runner for five years and never in my life had I given a second thought to the scale. This particular year, I had discontinued running and had stopped growing. I was 5’7” tall and weighed 127 pounds. Now, for the first time in my life, someone was telling me I needed to consider what I ate.
I hadn’t a clue how to diet so I went to my family doctor for advice. He gave me a pamphlet that explained how to count calories, and so I began to figure out how to limit my food intake. Each Friday, I had to call into the agency to let them know how much weight I had lost. They wanted me to lose a pound per week. It was no small thing to change my eating habits since spending time with friends usually included things like ice-cream, candy, chips, pop, and McDonald’s visits.
After managing to drop fifteen pounds, I was booked for a fashion show at Harbourfront in Toronto. I had been hard at work figuring out how much food I could eat and still lose weight. My agent had come to watch and afterward commended me on how well I had done in the show but told me I still needed to lose more weight. So I ate even less and landed at 108 pounds. For me, that meant virtually starving myself.
I’m not sure how, but my sixteen-year-old brain realized that this wasn’t going to work. That not only did I dislike such a restrictive eating behavior, but that this lifestyle wasn’t realistic for me. I met with my agent and told her that I didn’t want to diet anymore or be a part of her agency. She told me that was a shame, but that if I could ever keep the weight off she’d be happy to have me back. After months of sometimes eating as little as 200-400 calories per day, it took nearly two years for my metabolism to return to normal. I’m thankful I chose to put a stop to the strict dieting before developing anorexia.
Two years later, and twelve pounds heavier, I decided to give modeling another try. I met with two agents who both extended invitations to join their agencies. Neither one mentioned my weight. I continued to model for several years after that in Toronto, Montreal, and on contract overseas. I realized that the problem with the first agent was that she was trying to make me something I wasn’t. She wanted me to be a thin, high-fashion model when I had a more girl-next-door commercial look.
Don’t misunderstand me, I endorse exercise, healthy eating, and self-care, but just like my initial modeling experience, when we attempt to become something we aren’t—when we go to extreme lengths to be accepted but deny our true selves—we run into trouble. We become trapped on a treadmill of never-enough’s, people-pleasing while attempting to fill a soul-hole that can never be satisfied with the things of this world.
Because here’s the thing, there will never be enough weight to lose, enough money to gain, enough compliments to receive to make us feel full. We’re starving and seeking to fill the emptiness with junk food. The lack of nutrients leaves us feeling even more depleted, but thankfully there is a remedy.
The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) When we seek God, we are satisfied. When we desire God, the other fixes fade in importance. Our taste buds change, and we see the former things for the empty calories they were. No longer trying to be something we were never made to be, our identity grows secure in Christ and his love, and we partake of his rich blessings.
The apostle Paul put it this way, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)
We find that all we ever needed and wanted—all that satisfies—is found at the feet of Christ. There we discover security, acceptance, healing, love, forgiveness, hope, peace, and joy—all the things we searched for but couldn’t find. In Christ, our true identity surfaces and an internal work of growth and transformation begins that no amount of earthly accoutrements could foster. From here on in, we are fueled by faith and nourished by the word of God secure in his promises.
I’ll leave you with this verse to ponder:
“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26) ______________________________________________
In what ways are you starving yourself trying to fill the soul-hole that only Jesus can fill?
You can gain the whole world and lose your soul, or you can find Jesus, save your soul, and gain eternity.
Now available ISBN: 978-1-4866-1537-7 Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.
I’ll be honest, a cocktail of emotions are brewing at the moment. A hearty mixture of excitement, nervousness, and outright fear of failure. It feels rather like I’m about to fling my heart out into the world hopeful it won’t get flattened. It’s always that way when trying something new, don’t you think? Maybe even more so with creative pursuits because a part of you is sewn right in with it.
Yet, where would we be without the kind of courage creating requires? Without those brave first strokes of ink or paint, our bookshelves would be barren and our walls unadorned of colourful masterpieces. There would be no music to make us merry. No architecture to take our breath away. No sculpture to stop us in our tracks. No gardens to still our souls. No chocolate—I go too far! Our beings would be bereft of nourishment without people answering the creative call.
I admire the courage of creators, those who bring life to their ideas despite the naysayers and critics. I applaud those who keep creating, keep trying, and keep overcoming obstacles to do both what they love and what gives them life. I’m inspired by the ones who continue to show up and don’t give up even when their inner critic won’t shut up. I’m grateful to those who pursue their gift as a gift to others.
But it’s not easy.
As a recovering control freak, unknowns make me uneasy. The blank page—that sacred inhalation of breath before beginning—is crowded with both possibility and nightmarish uncertainty. And right now, I’m on a new precipice of uncertainty and in desperate need of exhaling.
But there’s hope. I’m considering reframing my concept of unknowns. Instead of attaching fear to them, I’m thinking of renaming these unknowns “new firsts” and viewing them as dynamic opportunities to explore something new.
So let’s say it together: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.
Feel better? I do… for now. Ask me tomorrow when I’m standing at the book launch trying to wax eloquent about my book! I’m slowly easing into my “new first” by only inviting family and friends to the launch. I’m going to take that nervousness I feel toward introducing my book to the world, and all that goes with it, and view it as a dynamic opportunity to explore something new.
I wonder, do extroverts require this much reflective self-talk? And at what age did I begin to be unsure of creative pursuits? But that’s another blog.
What it always comes down to is a conscious effort to hand over control. It’s not a one time fix. It’s a trust thing, and for me, there’s only one who can be entrusted with it—God. The unknowns, ahem, I mean the dynamic opportunities to explore something new are also an exciting chance to grow closer in my trust journey with my Creator.
So let me expand my definition: An unknown is a dynamic opportunity to explore something new and trust God more fully.
Boom. There it is!
I hope you’ll join me on this trust journey. Let’s do this!
Do you have a fear of the unknown?
What creative pursuit have you been putting off for fear of failure?
Breath in, breath out, and begin that sacred journey trusting God every step.
Available September 17th, 2019
Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold.
eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.