Prayer for Today

Today has been declared a National Day of Prayer in the USA. Prayer is powerful. Imagine a whole country—a whole world—collectively praying. I have witnessed the power of prayer in my own life and in the lives of others. Though I’m Canadian, I join our neighbors in the US and share my offering below. Won’t you join me in praying in the midst of this health crisis?

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Lord our God,

We come into your presence with thankful hearts for your tender mercies and lavish kindness. We are grateful for your unfailing care and love. We are thankful that you never leave us or forsake us, and will never do so, especially in our time of great need. 

Despite the chaos we see and hear and experience in the natural world, we also understand and are reminded that you are still in control and haven’t left us or forsaken us. 

We confess our fear and worry and release it to you. In its place, we take your peace and find our comfort and rest in you. Please fill our troubled hearts and minds with your presence. 

We are grateful that you are our provider and have given us all we need. We confess that we have so often taken your provision for granted, behaving self-sufficiently as though we are the ones in control. Please forgive us and have mercy on us. Teach us greater trust in you. Continue reading “Prayer for Today”

Fearless in 2020

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

On set at See Hear Love

 

Ann Voskamp and I share a hug on set at See Hear Love.

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My husband and I at the book launch of my novel One More Tomorrow.

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)

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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

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Now available ISBN: 978-1-4866-1539-1 8-1 Description: If you’ve picked up Soul Focus, you may be facing significant trials of your own or are well-acquainted with the heartache they bring. It is my prayer that within these pages you’ll find comfort and hope as you face your hardship or tackle the mourning process that comes after. I began writing devotionals after being healed of nearly two years of intense physical pain. Soul Focus is the fruit of that pain. Through various trials, God proved himself faithful, and I discovered that joy and peace can be found during the darkest nights of the soul. Soul Focus offers daily, life-giving encouragement to help remind you that you’re not alone. Journaling pages are included throughout to record personal inspirations and reflections on the path to healing and hope.

5 Ways to Reject Rejection

shutterstock_1173699898When we are rejected our immediate reaction is often to reject back.

We feel rejected so we reject.

Rejection is insidious. It cuts deep. It attaches itself to bitterness to gain strength. It can become a relentless cycle: rejection, bitterness, rejection. It makes us miserable and eventually affects our other relationships.

Hurting people hurt people and rejected people reject.

Let me explain how this can play out. I get rejected. Once rejected, I feel hurt. Once hurt, I want to hurt back. I grow bitter in my hurt, angry at having been rejected. The next time I see that person, I ignore them (aka. reject them). If I marinate in bitterness I end up rejecting others. By pushing them away I am further rejected.

In rejection, we become like frightened porcupines with extended quills. With our prickly exterior, you’d never know that all we really want is to be loved and accepted.

If we don’t break the cycle, we become habitual rejecters. Because we live in a state of rejection, our default is to reject others. Perhaps the worst part about this condition of the heart is that we send out a rejection vibe. It’s written all over us. We live on the outskirts of life, playing it safe. Anticipating rejection, we end up living bitter, cross, critical lives, keeping others at arm’s length. It’s ugly stuff. It’s lonely as heck. And it’s bondage.

It might surprise you that rejection also has to do with fear and control.

A source of rejection is the fear of what people think. I am much more prone to rejection when I’m caught up in how others perceive me or am trying to fit in. If I’m trying to control others’ perceptions of me, fearfully worrying whether or not they’ll like me, afraid of being rejected, I won’t engage fully and care for the needs of others. I’ll hold back and won’t be present engaging as my best self. I’ll control my behaviour and surroundings by disengaging. Assuming this posture, I’m more likely to be rejected.

What I should be thinking is, Who am I to think others should bow down to me? Why should I worry about impressing them anyway? What I should be doing is engaging fully, loving unconditionally, and caring deeply.

The truth is we will be rejected. In fact, life is full of rejection. We may not be able to control when or how often, but we can acquire skills to manage when it occurs. 

Here are 5 thoughts on how to reject rejection:

  1. I can change my response. Instead of taking offense and assuming mistreatment, I can make room for the idea that the person may have not meant to hurt me or even realized they have.
  2. I can realize that I am accountable for how I react to rejection. I’m not responsible for another’s behaviour, only my own. There’s no way to control the way I am treated or whether or not others enjoy my company. I’m only responsible for my response.
  3. I can keep myself free from bitterness by forgiving. Doing so also reduces the temptation to further reject. When I keep a tight rein on my thought life and refuse to let it percolate in bitter thinking, there is a greater chance my relationships will be fruitful.
  4. I can move from bitter to blessing and come in the opposite spirit. Instead of putting up walls, or rejecting back, I can show grace and love, engaging as my true self and blessing others with kindness independent of how I am treated. (Luke 6:26-27).
  5. I can remind myself that Jesus was ruthlessly rejected and yet he loved fully, engaged completely, and gave entirely. He gives me the wisdom and strength to do the same. I can remind myself that I don’t need to take my cues from others, but from God.

These are tough. They don’t come naturally. We won’t be good at them. They take determination, regular practice, and Christ’s healing and help. But with regular use, we come closer to the heart and mind of Christ and step further into freedom.

I love these verses from 1 Peter 2:23-25 from the Message translation:

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” 

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  1. Who can you forgive and move from bitterness to blessing this week?

Shielding Ourselves From Hurt

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The bad news is that we’re not going to be able to protect ourselves from getting hurt in this life (but you already know that). But boy, do we try! 

We dislike pain and avoid it at all costs. We don’t care to repeat it—ever. Though we may not articulate it, in order to protect ourselves from getting hurt again, we often manufacture a protective piece of armor. We use these shields in an attempt to keep others out, or at least keep them from getting too close.

Our shields take different forms. We might assume an arms-length shield where we keep people at a safe distance. There’s the tough-guy shield nothing can penetrate, or its close model, the overconfident shield that exudes control. Some hide behind a porcupine shield, ready to expel missives at the slightest hint of hurt. While others hide inside a box shield becoming disengaged, closed-off forms of a former self. Others assume the surface shield emitting an everything’s-perfect false facade.

Each shield is a fearful and futile attempt to protect ourselves from facing the uncertainty and vulnerability needed for authentic relationships. No matter which model of shield we assume, it blocks us from the exact thing we most need. Love and intimacy. 

The hurts we experience rip us wide open. Like a sucker punch in the gut, they rock us to our core and bring us to our knees. We think we won’t manage the next breath, let alone the next step. But our shields don’t help us. They hinder and hurt us even more. Not only do they steal from the fulness of relationships they also keep us from finding healing.

A shield is a lie that prevents us from the freedom to be found on the other side of our pain.

When we are torn open, light can pour in. And though perhaps not the reason you ended up on your knees, it is a pretty decent posture for prayer. The tears washing over your cheeks could be the start of a soul-cleansing you would have never thought possible.

But not if you refuse comfort. Not if you shield yourself from love.

Because no matter what has happened. No matter how horribly you’ve been hurt. Despite how used or abused or rejected you’ve been, or how much you’ve inflicted harm on others as a result of your own hurt, there’s a place for all of that pain.

It’s found at the foot of the cross.

It’s found at the feet of the one who loved you so entirely that he died for you. The one who loves you more than anyone ever could. Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

All the pain you’ve ever experienced as a result of the thoughtless or intentional actions of others can be brought to Jesus. He won’t undermine the pain or treat it carelessly. He understands it intimately because he died for all of it—all the sins of humankind—past, present, and future. 

In dying for this sin, he defeated it and offers each of us freedom from not only the harmful sins of others but from our own sin. God’s love is pure and trustworthy. When you give him your heart he will not damage it, he will renew it. He is both able and faithful to heal the broken bits of our lives. His miraculous love soaks into the deepest places and reaches our deepest needs. Nothing to compare to the limitless love of Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 also tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them.” It seems we have a part to play. And so we take courage. We set down our shields. We turn our backs on our fearful hiding.

Ironically, the lowering of our shields ushers in the kind of love we desperately long for—complete, unconditional, unearned love—the kind of love only God provides. When we drop our protective measures, admit defeat and our desperate need for this soul-saving love, God meets us in our pain, he joins us in our wrecked and ruined circumstances. We no longer have to suffer or survive alone.

Since God has promised to go with us and never leave us, we can take his outstretched hand and move forward into the hope, healing, and wholeness Jesus died for. We only look back to see how far we’ve come. Instead of our fearful shields, we’re engulfed and secured in God’s healing love and protective peace.

Now, when we’re mistreated and rush to raise our shields, the balm of his heavenly love soothes us and reminds us to be courageous and keep our guard down. We feel the hurt, but we also understand how it feels to be forgiven, and so we forgive others just as he forgave us. God’s remarkable love gives us the courage and strength to love others more fully and unconditionally, and to be loved more fully ourselves. 

Little by little, and sometimes all at once, our pain dissipates. And somehow, God miraculously takes all that was broken and makes beauty.

In the end, we don’t need the shield. We need the Saviour.

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  1. What sort of shield are you using to protect yourself from getting hurt? Is it working?

 

 

 

 

Fireworks, Fears, and Finding Freedom

photo-1521478413868-1bbd982fa4a5It’s the May long weekend in Canada, and for many that means frenzied gardening and fireworks. Last night, after a gruelling day of gardening—and a decently grueling 8 AM workout—once happily tucked into bed I could still hear fireworks firing at 11:30 PM. My dog, Angel, is frightened of fireworks, so when she heard the explosions she crawled and hid under the side table next to our bed.

When faced with something fearful, I’ve been known to behave like Angel. Instead of bravely facing it, I hide. Like the fireworks for my dog, often the thing I’m afraid of isn’t really that scary and won’t hurt me at all. It just sounds scary, or I build it up in my mind to be larger than it is, put roadblocks where none exist, and delay facing it altogether.

Facing fears is hard. They come in the form of a conversation you know you need to have but are putting off for fear it will cause conflict or remain unresolved. It may be that task at work you’ve been given but are avoiding because you don’t know where to start or exactly how to do it. It may be the goal you’ve been holding close to your heart but are afraid to start for fear you’ll fail. It may be that you’re afraid of what people think of you so you avoid social situations. Or it could be a life change that would benefit you, but you’re afraid of the unknowns. Fear often makes us hide from the very thing we need to face to move forward.

To counter this, we need to give our fears a good stare down. They’re what stand between our goals and dreams and even our freedom. Like anything, you can’t get good at something you don’t work at. Every fear we fight and conquer makes the next fearful challenge easier, and brings us closer to the person God made us to be and the things we’re called to be doing. Facing fears gives us confidence to move forward and reach further. Soon you’ll develop a kind of fear-confidence where you find you’re no longer hiding from your fears but boldly and regularly facing them.

Start small. Tackle one small fear at a time. If it doesn’t go well, instead of giving up, assess what went wrong and try again. As much as depends on you, don’t quit. Every failure is growth, and the more you grow the stronger you become. With enough practice, you’ll find the thing that was formerly fearful has become a lot easier and maybe even a strength.

Pick one thing you know you’ve been putting off or hiding from then write down one concrete thing you can try to tackle it. For instance, you’re terrified of public speaking but the job you really want involves speaking to audiences on occasion, so you muster courage and sign up for a public speaking course. Whatever it is, choose one thing and start. Then choose the next, and don’t give up. Facing fears is hard, but so worth it. You never know what you can do until you try. Write down your achievements. When you look back in just a few months you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come!

No matter what age, it’s never too late to learn and grow, and it’s never too late to face your fears. Freedom awaits!

“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” ~ Isaiah 41:13-14

 

 

 

Facing Worry

They say don’t worry about things you have no control over—whoever they are. Don’t worry. Don’t stress. It’s all good. But is it? I’m not convinced this brushing off business is the best approach. There must be a better way. Better than working hard not to worry. Better than pretending things are okay when they’re not. Better than trying not to feel when it actually hurts, or putting on a brave face when clearly, what you’re facing is tough.

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But we get good at it, this game face. This presenting to the world, posting polished pictures, and smiling while answering, “I’m good thanks” day after day. After all, no one wants to bring others down. And so, along with trying to dismiss the stresses and struggles, we drown them out. But worry has a way of bubbling to the surface.

God knows we struggle with worry. That’s why he tells us: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (see Matthew 6:25-34)

There are a plethora of things we could try not to worry about. But what if instead of burying our worries and fears, or icing over them, we face them? Acknowledge they actually exist? Look them in the eye and give them a name, instead of ignoring the ever-growing elephant in the room? What if instead of feeding ourselves platitudes to get through, we—in an act of fierce courage and self-care—stop and take an honest look at what’s troubling us and then do something about it?

We often have no control over the source of our worries, but we do have control over our attitude toward them. We can take responsibility for our thought patterns. Though we might not be able to fix the problem, we can fix our thinking. Instead of telling ourselves not to worry, we haul that pile of worry—in its various forms—to God. And in the handing over, the confessing it’s too heavy for us alone, we allow God to help us carry our burden. Then we train our brain to think differently.

cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7

We weren’t meant to excuse our cares and concerns, neither were we meant to drag them around. We can tell God about them, releasing them to him. As we offload them, we feel lighter. It doesn’t mean the problems disappear, it just means we have help and an adjusted perspective to work through them. In this way, we proactively face them, and like most things we pay attention to and give a concerted effort toward, they begin to positively shift.

We could spend a whole lifetime dreading events or outcomes that never occur, stressing over all the bits we can’t control. But these moment-by-moment choices in our thinking  end up comprising our lifetime. We have a choice regarding what we allow our minds to be preoccupied or consumed with, and we have help to master it. Why would we knowingly waste our life on worry?

With God’s help, we can live light, unhindered, free of the weight of worries, and make no allowance for frivolous, fearful thinking. Life-giving thoughts and actions begin to prevail and create spacious places for joy and love to pour into moments and into the lives of others. A life lived undistracted by worrisome thoughts and paralyzing fear. One of freedom and purpose. A life-changing life, lived leaning into God.

Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ~ Hebrews 12:1-3

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  1. What worries are you carrying with you today?
  2. Hand them over to God to help you and strengthen you.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Easier Than You Think

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This is my encouragement to you today:

Whatever you are facing, it’s easier than you think.

It’s our thinking that gets us into trouble. We build things up in our minds to be much larger than they are. With our vast imagination, we form small things into big. Tasks loom large—both the time we imagine they will take and the amount of energy we think they will consume. The sheer thought of some things can be immobilizing.

But the battle is won in our thought life.

My mum used to tell me, “Don’t make mountains out of mole hills.” Hearing this used to annoy me, but it was her way of admonishing me not to make a circumstance bigger than it actually was—a gentle reality check. We need this same check throughout our day. Borrowing trouble from tomorrow, inflating something out of proportion, or living in dread, is a sure way to stifle joy, hinder creativity, and heap refuse into your mind.

Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Matthew 6:34

We expend a lot of energy worrying about a plethora of outcomes that never come to fruition. How often have you dreaded a task, a confrontation, a meeting—delaying or avoiding it—only to later reflect that it wasn’t nearly as difficult or time-consuming as you had built it up to be? Once you jumped in, it flowed much smoother than you imagined, and you wonder why you expended all that energy stressing over it.

It’s human nature to avoid pain. We all prefer comfort, so if we view a task as hard or uncomfortable, we falter. If we look at a situation and deem it impossible, we give up before even starting. But what if we could rejig our mindset? What if instead of engaging in defeatist thoughts, procrastinating, or projecting difficulty, we purposed to shift our thinking? And what if we had help to do so?

We can start by acknowledging our cares and fears instead of ignoring them. Once we do that, we can:

cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. ~ 1 Peter 5:7

Once we recognize then unload our cares, celebrating that we don’t have to carry one ounce of the weight of them, we can shift our thinking to a place of thankfulness. We can be grateful that we have the opportunity to face fears, knowing that in doing so, the circumstance won’t remain the same, and neither will we. We can then ask for strength and courage to move forward, one small step at a time, to exact change or tackle a task.

Even a simple attitude adjustment can make a vast difference. As we begin to positively alter our perspective towards hard or uncomfortable things—and ask God for help to release fear—we can secure a mindset of faith, and our thoughts toward what lies ahead become lighter and more manageable. We no longer feel frozen but free.

God not only offers help in the form of carrying cares and helping us conquer our challenges and fears, he offers peace and protection.

 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Phil 4:6-7

God invites us to hand over our anxieties to him. We can ask for his help in any circumstance. In place of fear, he offers inexplicable peace that guards our hearts and minds against fearful meanderings.

The next time you are facing a mountain, do a double take. It just might be a molehill in disguise.

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  1. List three things that have been consuming your thought life.
  2. Bring each to God and release them, asking for help to face them.
  3. Move forward and prayerfully tackle them with God’s help.