Conntecting the Dots

Hearing God’s Voice — Pt. 3

Doesn’t it thrill you when someone whose friendship you enjoy invites you to spend time together?

psalm-27-8

Personally, I love it when my husband says, “Come, sit beside me for a bit, okay? Let’s talk.” I totally enjoy it when my kids ask to Facetime. Nothing beats being together with the special people in one’s life.

Every day I sense God asking me to sit with Him for a little while. Sometimes He speaks to me through a sermon or a song or someone else’s quotes, but the way He communicates with me early each morning is different. His voice comes as a craving in my soul, a yearning to connect with my Creator, the sense that I’ll be trying to function in a void unless I feed that desire with what it seeks.

My flawed humanity says I don’t have time. “Get real, Grace. Look at the length of your to-do list. You’d best get on with your day if you hope to tackle your tasks.”

But my heart says otherwise: “Time with Jesus matters more than anything. Keep first things first. Give Him priority and He’ll give you His perspective for anything that comes your way today.”

The psalmist penned it well when he wrote, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8 NLT).

God speaks to us by placing within our hearts a spiritual hunger only He can satisfy. Have you felt that craving? Have you sensed that yearning for soul satisfaction? That’s God speaking to you, my friend. How will you respond?

#bgbg2 #devotions #HearingGod

Hearing God’s Voice – Pt. 2

How can we discern God’s voice amidst so many others crying for our attention? Here’s a litmus test that never fails: God’s voice speaks truth and life. Makes sense, right? After all, Jesus Christ was God in flesh, and He declared Himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He will never speak words contrary to who He is.

Beautiful autumn maple leaves background

Here’s an example. I’ve met countless Christian women (of all ages) whose behavior tells me they lack a healthy understanding of their personal worth. Some are controllers—the fear of inadequacy prompts them to manipulate circumstances and other people.

Some are timid. Their fear of inadequacy and failure leaves them easily threatened by confident women and scared to make decisions.

Some are boisterous and loud, trying to mask insecurities with laughter and jokes. And some are painfully shy, scarcely making eye contact in conversation.

A heart-to-heart talk with each woman would reveal a common denominator: A voice in their head is telling them that they have nothing to offer. It’s whispering a lie—“You’re not good enough. Try harder.” It’s saying that they don’t matter, no one cares, and no one loves them.

Are these words true? Absolutely not. God’s Word reassures us that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). It says He delights in us (Zephaniah 3:17), and His presence in us gives reason to not be afraid (Joshua 1:9). When we compare the message they’re hearing with the Truth, we know the voice they hear doesn’t belong to God.

God speaks truth and life. When we hear inner whispers telling us anything otherwise, we need to put them through this filter: Is what I’m hearing true? Is what I’m hearing life-giving?

I’d like to hear from you. What do you think—was this helpful? Would you like me to write more about hearing the voice of God?

#bgbg2 #HearingGod #devotions

Hearing God’s Voice – Part 1

gods-voice

It feels good to be home again. We’re thankful for our safe trip from Kathmandu to Vancouver, and we’re glad that our suitcases arrived with us. Yeah! We don’t take luggage matters forgranted—the suitcase that went missing in July between Vancouver and Berlin still hasn’t been found.

After sleeping about 11 hours last night, I set about catching up on household chores. Pine needles and leaves covered our front deck, so I stepped outside to sweep. That’s when I heard it. At first, I wasn’t even sure what the sound was, so I stopped sweeping and listened more closely.

A nature chorus was coming from the wooded lot that’s our front yard. Birds whistled, chirped, and tweeted. Glorious!

Lest you think it odd that I didn’t immediately recognize the sound of songbirds, let me explain. I’ve just spent more than two weeks in one of the world’s poorest countries. In Kathmandu, I heard barking dogs, crowing roosters, blaring music, ringing bells, honking taxis, and roaring engines—often at the same time. I heard pigeons coo early each morning outside my window, but I seriously don’t recall hearing songbirds.

This morning’s experience gave me a bit of a reverse culture-shock jolt. It also made me think about how easily the din of daily demands drowns out God’s still, small voice.

How often has He whispered loving words or words of direction but I’ve missed them because my ears weren’t attuned to Him? How often has He spoken but I’ve not recognized His voice because my mind was too distracted by other things vying for my attention?

John 10:27 says, “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” When we’re walking in right relationship with the Lord, we will hear Him when He speaks to us. We’ll discern His voice from all the others competing for our attention. But we need to be alert to His presence, and we need to have hearts ready to respond.

Were songbirds even present in Kathmandu? Or where they there but drowned out by the din of other sounds? I don’t really know the answer, but I do know that I hadn’t heard a nature chorus like this for a long time.

In contrast, one thing I know for sure—God is always present. And He’s always speaking to His children. May we never fall into a place where we don’t hear Him or where we say that we haven’t heard His voice for a long time.

Join me on Friday when I write more about hearing God’s voice. What does it sound like? How can we be sure it’s Him?

#bgbg2 #devotions #HearingGod’sVoice

Choosing to Not Think About Negative Things

Oh, how easy it is to focus on negative stuff: We regurgitate conversations that irked us. We worry about the “what-ifs.” We get stuck in “if-only.” We anticipate the worst outcome rather than expect the best. And then we wonder why we lack joy and peace.

Earlier today a friend and I walked a back street in Kathmandu. The road itself left much to be desired. We dodged rocks and potholes and mud puddles. When we reached the end of the road, we stumbled upon a pile of red bricks topped by a rusty something-or-other. Several stray dogs napped nearby.

rocky-road

The scene resembled countless others in this city but with one exception. Behind the corrugated fence sat a tiered flowerbed—a touch of beauty amidst the mess. My friend and I, deep in conversation and focused on not twisting our ankles on the rocky roadway, nearly missed it.

tiered-flower-bed

I couldn’t help but wonder how often I miss beauty because I’m focused on the negative. Rather than expecting God to answer my prayers in His best way and time, I worry about all the things that might hinder Him from working as I wish He would. Rather than asking God to bless those with whom I might not see eye-to-eye, I waste energy second-guessing what they meant when they said such-and-such. And rather than praise God in my heart as I go throughout my day, I tend to mentally rehash matters hurtful or disappointing.

Can you relate, or am I the only one who struggles in this way?

Today’s street scene was like a gentle reminder from the Lord: “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). The writer of this verse continued, “Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you” (v. 9).

“Thank You, Lord. Lesson received. And in the process of being applied—again.”

I choose to not focus on the negative. Rather, I choose to focus on the good and the lovely and the beautiful. I want to live a life that brings a smile to my Father’s face.

Will you join me in my resolve?

#bgbg2 #PositiveThoughts #devotions

Things to Remember When We’re Tempted to Complain

So I spent last week teaching at a conference attended by the most loving, passionate people I’ve ever met. Some of these folks traveled four days by bus—one way—to learn and to enjoy fellowship with others of like mind.

I’ve traveled by bus here too. Believe me—it’s not a pleasure ride. Let me explain:

  • The buses here always journey with a mechanic on board. What does that say about the frequency of mechanical failures?
  • Landslides occur during the monsoon. If the bus is unable to rumble across the mud, it must sit and wait until the road is cleared. What does that say about the unpredictability of your arrival time?
  • The roads are narrow, steep, and windy. Brakes fail. Accidents occur. Let’s just say that I learned how to pray when taking my first bus ride here many years ago.
  • The road conditions mean it takes forever to get anywhere. Two years ago we traveled outside the Kathmandu Valley. One stretch took eight hours to cover 120 kilometres. We were traveling in a private jeep which meant we made better time than if we’d been on a public bus. Back home, we’d cover the same distance in about 1¼ hours.
  • Public buses have neither bathrooms nor air conditioning.
  • If you’ve ever experienced motion sickness and had no access to Gravol, you’ll empathize with villagers who aren’t accustomed to riding in vehicles. They don’t own cars, so they walk everywhere. So, when the need arises to take public transport, their stomachs often can’t tolerate the motion. Those lucky enough to sit by a window simply lean out and heave.
Traffic jam entering Kathmandu Valley

Traffic jam entering Kathmandu Valley

twisty-road3

Nepal’s steep and winding roads

Why do I tell you this? Because the folks who traveled from far flung villages never uttered a word of complaint. They arrived wearing smiles, and those smiles grew day after day. The meeting room fairly exploded with honest-to-goodness laughter and joy during the worship times.

The leader of the group is a paraplegic. After I taught a session about unleashing the power of praise, he told me to read Psalm 103:1 because it’s special to him. It says, “Praise the LORD, I tell myself; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name” (NLT).

This verse has been meaningful to me in the past, but it’s assumed new and more powerful meaning thanks to the opportunity to fellowship with these precious men and women. My life is infinitely more easy than theirs and yet how quickly I complain about trivial things—a lukewarm shower, my car doesn’t have AC, autumn leaves are now littering my driveway and I’ll have to spend time sweeping or blowing them away when I return home, blah, blah, blah.

Perhaps teaching at this conference wasn’t for the registrants’ benefit. Perhaps it was for mine. God’s given me another opportunity to make truth practical. From now on, whenever my inner negative voices tell me I have a right to complain, I will say no. I will choose instead to praise God with my whole heart. I will focus my eyes not on my circumstances but on His strength and beauty and wisdom and kindness, and I will walk out the Truth.

Oh, how I wish I could transport each of you here to experience what I’ve seen and heard and felt. I wish I could share photos and video with you, but protecting these folks makes that impossible. Today marks the beginning of another conference—same teaching material to three times as many registrants as last week’s conference. Maybe God knows I still have more to learn.

Know you are loved.

#bgbg2 #UnleashPraise

Reflections From Nepal

I’m sitting in a friend’s living room—in Kathmandu, Nepal—as I write this. On the wall opposite the couch is a quilted wall hanging made by her mother. It features four Scripture verses, the first being “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

2 Cor. 5-7

This verse is a great summary statement of the Christian faith, for all who profess to follow Christ are called to do exactly that—walk by faith, trusting in a God they cannot see with their eyes.

We cannot see God, yet we trust His promises for the strength to endure and overcome when we experience suffering. We trust His faithfulness to lead us to a hopeful outcome even when we can barely see the path that lies before us. We trust His sovereignty to work out every detail of our lives (especially the negative) for our good and for His glory.

Years ago a family member told me that Christianity was for wimps, for those who need a crutch. I disagreed then, and I still disagree. Faith, for me, takes a whole lot of courage. Here’s why: Exercising faith in a God we cannot see means we admit we’re not perfect and that we can’t do life well on our own. It takes courage to admit we’re a mess without Him.

Walking by faith means we relinquish control and give God permission to do what He wants with our lives. For some, that means experiencing physical or emotional suffering. For others, it means being responsible for wealth and success. For some, it means being faithful day after day in difficult circumstances. And for others, it means going to the far corners of the earth—like Kathmandu, Nepal.

Walking by faith means trusting God’s goodness and sovereignty in the face of human suffering. On the streets of Kathmandu—a city that survived two massive earthquakes in 2015—I see the blind, the beggars, the crippled, and the desperately poor. I ponder the material blessings with which I grew up in Canada, and I must admit that I question the fairness of it all. Why should my life be so very different than a Nepalese woman’s life simply because I was born in Alberta? I don’t understand. And yet I must trust that God is in control.

By faith I trust that God will someday show Himself just on behalf of those who cannot speak up for themselves and cannot change their circumstances. By faith I trust that He’ll use my measly efforts to advance His purposes here even though I feel woefully inadequate. I walk by faith, not by sight.

I don’t have the answers, but God does.

#bgbg2 #devotions #Nepal

Where Do You Get The Strength To Do What You Do?

Psalm 18-32

As you read this, I’ll be landing in Kathmandu. It will have been a long trip—fourteen hours from Vancouver to Hong Kong, an eleven hour layover, and then four hours to Nepal. You can bet that, as you ramp up your day, I’ll be falling into bed eager for deep sleep.

Only eighteen days have passed since our return from a month’s ministry in Eastern Europe. When we get home from Nepal, I’ll have only five sleeps in my own bed before heading off to Calgary where I’ll speak four times at a weekend women’s retreat.

I can’t count the number of times people have asked me, “Where do you get the strength to do what you do?” Without a doubt, I know it comes from the Lord. He’s the One who enables me to sleep in numerous different beds, homes, and hotel rooms. He’s the One who enables my digestive system to handle different foods than those to which I’m accustomed. He’s the One who energizes me to do ministry on jetlag. There is no other explanation.

God is the source of my strength. He made that very clear three years ago when I lost my mobility for several months. That’s when He directed me to Psalm 18:32-35. Now, as then, I find the entire chapter hugely encouraging, but verses 32-35 especially so:

“God arms me with strength; he has made my way safe. He makes me as surefooted as a deer, leading me safely along the mountain heights. He prepares me for battle; he strengthens me to draw a bow of bronze. You have given me the shield of your salvation. Your right hand supports me; your gentleness has made me great.”

Once again I’ll be doing ministry on jetlag. And once again I’ll experience God’s supernatural provision of strength to do what He’s called me to do.

May I encourage you today? These verses weren’t meant just for me. They’re meant for you too. You might be a parent, a caregiver, a senior, or a ministry leader. You might work in a hospital, a school, or a shopping mall. You might travel as I do, or you might be housebound due to health issues. Regardless of your circumstances, know that God promises to strengthen you to do whatever your duties demand.

Take a moment right now to thank Him for these promises to you. And praise Him for being Your strength. Then go out and face your day with courage and confidence knowing His right hand supports you.

Meanwhile, I’m going to catch a few zzzzzzs. Good night, my friend. Know you are loved.

#bgbg2 #devotions #GodIsMyStrength

It’s Time to Sing a New Song

One morning in July 2015, I sat on my deck with Bible in hand and prayed, “God, I’m sick of struggling with wrong attitudes. I’m tired of wrestling with pride and regret and shame and blame. I’m over any felt need to toot my own horn or seek a pat on the back. I’m so done with me. So, Father, please strip me of all things that grieve Your heart. Change me. You must increase and I must decrease.”

I’d reached the place of total surrender, and I seriously didn’t care how God would answer my prayer. Anything He did was going to be okay because I trusted His heart of love for me.

Psalm 40-3

Thirteen months later, I can honestly say the past year has been the most difficult of my life thus far. I’ve wrestled with rejections from publishers and wondered whether it’s worth my time and energy to continue writing. I’ve watched several friends and family members experience extraordinary physical suffering, some succumbing to death. I’ve experienced our most serious financial challenges in more than two decades of career ministry. And I’ve grieved deeply because a transition in our family has meant the death of a dream. All the while, God has peeled me like a human onion, revealing layer after layer of unresolved fear, unforgiveness, selfishness, insecurity, and more.

Digging into God’s Word daily has been vital to helping me weather the storm. I’ve met weekly with a group of godly women online to study the Word and pray. Knowing that my physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional well-being are closely linked, I’ve risen at 5 AM and worked out at the gym for an hour several days each week. I’ve taken frequent short walks during my work hours, talking with Jesus as with my best friend. And my husband and I have fasted and prayed every Tuesday since last October.

I’ve battled and fought and cried.

I’ve listened and watched and waited.

And something in me has changed. Even in the past week things have shifted in my head and in my heart.Psalm 40:1-4 has come to life:

“I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD.”

For the past thirteen months God has listened to my cries and complaints. He has cradled and comforted and corrected me. He has carried me and encouraged me. And now I sense He’s bringing me into a new season. He’s giving me a new song to sing.

Rather than crying for help and wisdom and peace and patience, I feel compelled to praise Him for who He is—my faithful, loving, wise, attentive Father. He is lifting me from the muck and the mire of discouragement and despair and is setting my feet on solid ground. He is planting hope in me. He’s reminding me that, despite my not understanding certain circumstances in my life, I’m not responsible for them. He is. And He is God. He sees all. He knows all. And He’s in control. Whew—what a weight off my back!

Rather than focus on what’s made me tired and sad over the past thirteen months, I’m free to focus on the good things God’s doing in and around me—He’s strengthened my body and improved my overall health, He’s given me godly friends with whom I enjoy mutual support and encouragement, He’s provided financially through unexpected donations, He’s opening new doors of writing opportunities, and more. I even get to go to Nepal this week to encourage His disciples there.

I don’t know your circumstances, friend. But I know that, in the midst of what might seem like confusion and chaos, God loves you. You might be singing a lament now, but persevere. Hold on. Cling to the truth that God is our hope. He is peace personified. He is the giver of new songs.

What song are you singing today? Will you join me in singing praises to the Lord?

#bgbg2 #devotions #PraiseGodWithANewSong

Why Does Love Matter?

Have you ever met someone who, by society’s standards, seemed successful in every way? Attractive, talented, financially established. Livin’ the dream.

Everything looked impressive on the outside for awhile, but then the truth came out—his or her personal life was a shambles. So were relationships at work.

Although everything seemed stacked in this individual’s favor, something was obviously missing. And that something was critically important. That something was love.

1 Corinthians 13-1

“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” says 1 Corinthians 13:1. How true!

Imagine—I could write a New York Times bestseller but if I didn’t love others, I would be nothing more than a woman who pens meaningless jibberish.

You and I can be the world’s best advice givers, but without love we’re nothing.

You and I can own the most beautiful homes in town, but without love we’re nothing.

You and I can win an Olympic gold medal, but without love we’re nothing.

You and I can earn accolades for volunteerism, but without love we’re nothing.

Why is love so important? Because God is love. It’s His very nature. And those of us who say we’re His children are to display the same nature. That’s how all men will know that we’re His followers—if we have love one for another.

As I’ve pondered 1 Corinthians 13, I’ve decided to pray daily that God will make me a woman who loves because that means I’ll become more like Him. Would you like to join me?

Here’s my prayer: “Heavenly Father, I praise You for being the God who embodies and demonstrates love. Please teach me to love You more fully for who You are and all You’ve done for me. And then teach me to love others as You do—unconditionally, unreservedly, freely. Make me a woman whose sole motivation for all I do is love for You and for mankind. Amen.”

Can you imagine what the world would look like if every Christ follower prayed this prayer?

#bgbg2 #devotions #LoveChangesTheWorld

3 Things We Can Do To Respond to Challenges Appropriately

Do you have Bible heroes? I do. Queen Esther is one of mine.

Imagine this teenage girl who’d already experienced so much trauma being marked for death simply because she was Jewish. And now Esther faced her greatest challenge to date—approaching the king uninvited to plead for her nation’s life.

Esther knew she faced the possibility of the king’s rejection and ultimately death as a result, but she did not retreat in fear. Instead, she devised a plan and set it into action:

“Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die’” (Esther 4:15-16).

Esther didn’t crumple under the weight of impending doom. Instead, she turned to God and sought His wisdom and favor. She demonstrated her dependence on Him and invited His involvement in her life by fasting and praying for three days, and she incorporated others to do the same on her behalf. When the three days ended, she took action and God directed her every step of the way.

facing challenges with courage and wisdom

Esther’s life speaks volumes to me. Here are three things we can learn from her:

  • Don’t panic or respond impulsively when tough times strike. Rather, seek God. Ask for His wisdom. Plead for His perspective.
  • Ask others to support us by seeking God on our behalf. We don’t need to fight our battles alone.
  • Take action to deal with the challenge, trusting God to answer our prayers for His involvement in the situation.

But what about when challenges strike without giving us the luxury of time to fast and pray for courage and wisdom? That’s a very real possibility. And that possibility underlines the importance of seeking God daily, of making our relationship with Him a priority. When we’re walking in consistent fellowship with Him, then we’ll be better prepared to meet those challenges head-on with the grace and wisdom He promises to supply when we need them.

How does Esther’s example speak to you?

#bgbg2 #devotions #QueenEsther