A Love Like No Other

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”

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.

Hole in the Hedge

ShearsFrom 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.

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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. 

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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.

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  1. Where do you notice hedge holes in your life?
  2. How can you adjust your thinking to align with Christ’s?
SoulFocus_Book_Trials_071619
Coming November 12th

 

 

Why Are We Still Starving Ourselves?

modeling picIn 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. 

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Penny Noble Model Management – the agency I modeled under for 8 years.

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. 

Sante mag cover

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)
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  1. In what ways are you starving yourself trying to fill the soul-hole that only Jesus can fill?
  2. You can gain the whole world and lose your soul, or you can find Jesus, save your soul, and gain eternity.

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?

 

 

 

 

This Is Not Heaven

61555202_676562199467770_2025329413687607296_nThis time of year is spectacular in Southern Ontario with its breathtaking array of flowering trees. There’s magnolias in all their splendor, the heavenly scent of lilacs, and cherry blossoms that take your breath away. The birds join in nature’s show adding songs that span daytime and reach into dusk.

Yet however fragrant the blooms, however sweet the birds’ chorus, all of this is just a mere scent of heaven. Anything of any beauty we experience here is only a small taste of things to come.

Amid these fleeting pockets of beauty and moments that take our breath away, we’re aware that the here and now is not heaven. Alongside the beauty, there’s heartache and hate, pain and poverty, tears and turmoil. There’s darkness that displaces light and depravity that dipells hope. Sometimes, despite the fragrance of heaven, the next breath is difficult and painful.

The world aches and our hearts throb, yet we try to replicate heaven on earth. We seek comfort, perfection, and beauty while desperately avoiding pain. We numb ourselves to distract the discomforting soul sores or the courage that it would take to face them. As a result we’re addicts clinging to cheap imitations of heaven while trying to break free of our various pacifiers. We reach for anything that will displace the pain for a while, silence the desperate cry of our hearts, or fill our empty places while running from the very thing that offers us the heaven we seek.

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No matter how beautiful the flowers, how idyllic a moment, how much a vacation feels like paradise, or a person like perfection, all pales in comparison to the real deal: knowing Jesus. It’s that friendship that fills the heart holes, heals the hurt, wipes away the wounding, and purchases the paradise you’re longing for. But to find it we need to release our misguided grip on the here and now, stop trying to fabricate heaven on earth, and reach for the promise—the person—of Jesus.

When we do, all that once seemed so important will lose its shine. All that we use to deal instead of heal will lose its lustre. This is how the apostle Paul put it: “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)

Strangely enough, heaven comes down—bursts right into the imperfection, heartache, futility, and falsehood, answering the groans of humanity with a healing love. A kind of love that makes room for the mess of this place, while cleaning up the garbage in our lives. In Jesus, we find the answer to our deepest needs, peace in the imperfection, deep joy despite circumstances, and the promise of a heavenly home.

What would it take for us to loosen our grip on the things of this world, to trade in the comforts we’ve tucked around our lives attempting to buffer the blows and ease the pain? In an act of faith we can reach for—or return to—Jesus and let him be the peacemaker and joy-giver of our lives.

This week’s song: “What a Beautiful Name”

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  1. What are you doing to numb the pain, fill the void, or find happiness? Is it working?
  2. If not, try Jesus. He’s been the answer to my deepest needs.