Conntecting the Dots

Escaping the Trap of “Not Good Enough”

I’m an expert in the area of “not good enough.”

When I was a young mom with three kids under the age of four, I felt I needed to prove myself as capable. I nearly put myself in an early grave by trying to keep an immaculate house, cook and bake from scratch, entertain frequently, teach Sunday school, and play piano for the church choir and worship team. Then, as though earning an income could affirm my worth, I decided to sell Tupperware, become a licensed daycare provider, and teach piano lessons.

Decades later, I’m willing to admit that my struggle with “not good enough” still isn’t finished. It exhibits itself as the fear of inadequacy. Will a publisher think my new book is worth a contract? Will readers think it’s worth buying? Will my teaching sessions be well received at upcoming retreats and conferences?

Earlier this month I was asked to speak to a group of accomplished female authors and Bible teachers about what God has taught me in the past year. This topic of wrestling with “not good enough” was one of my main points.

I shared how, within that group of amazing women all involved in the Christian publishing industry, it’s easy for me to compare myself with them and think, “If only I could write like so-and-so, or if only I could teach like so-and so, or if only I had more Facebook likes or a bigger platform, then I’d be good enough.” Interestingly, when I asked if anyone else wrestles with the same thing, nearly everyone raised their hand.

God’s been teaching me that, as Christ followers, we can easily identify the source of our struggles with not being good enough. It’s certainly not Him! In fact, the opposite is true.

We never need strive to be good enough for God. Nothing we do or say earns us greater merit in His eyes. He loves us just as we are, warts and all. He invites relationship with Him not because of our performance but because of who He is.

“Because of your unfailing love, I can enter your house,” says Psalm 5:7. It doesn’t say, “Because I’m so accomplished at what I do, I can enter your house.” Neither does it say we can enjoy intimacy with God because we keep a super-clean house or because our kids are so well-behaved or because we’re actively involved in ministry of some sort. We’re accepted by God because of His unfailing love for us, not because of anything we do. Period.

I believe the Lord gave me the courage and opportunity to talk freely about my struggles with “not good enough” as a way to declare battle. I’m done with it and more than ready to embrace who I am in Christ. From now on, every time the thought of “not good enough” tries to sneak its way into my head, I will choose to refuse to let it linger. Instead, I will thank the Lord for His unfailing love for me and for the freedom I have as a result.

How about you? Are you stuck in the trap of “not good enough?” If so, what’s one action step you can take to overcome it?

#bgbg2 #DoneWithNotGoodEnough #ChristianDevotions

Prayer for America on Inauguration Day

“Heavenly Father, You are sovereign and mighty. You are wise and unchanging. Faithful You have been, and faithful You will remain despite the winds of change that have swept through America.

“Today a new leadership has been established in the United States. Your Word says that You ordain authorities and rulers, so we trust Your choice (Romans 13:1). We also trust Your ability to accomplish Your purposes through the men and women assuming their new roles.

“Guard their hearts and keep their motives pure. Grant them humility. Give them wisdom beyond human understanding. May they realize their limitations and look for Your guidance in every decision they make. Have mercy on them as they fulfill the work You’ve assigned them. Give them strength to do their job, refreshment when they’re weary, and protection from evil.

“Holy God, You have told us to pray for all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:2). So give us hearts to obey this command whether or not we agree with the decisions they make. Remind us of our responsibility to uphold them, and keep us from critical spirits.

“We’re grateful for America, but ultimately Yours, O God, is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Make Your name great in America. Exalt Yourself and teach us to walk in Your ways. We ask this for Your name’s sake. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #PrayForAmerica

Rubber Boots and Strongholds

I was about five years old when my family moved to a new house in a neighborhood under construction. Big trucks and heavy machinery roared up and down our street every day for months, churning the unpaved road into a mucky mess.

One day I donned my rubber boots and attempted to cross the street. It didn’t go well: the mud swallowed my feet. Try as I might, I could not break loose from its suction-cup hold. Thank goodness for the kind neighbor who heard my cries for help and rescued me.

As I prepared for a recent speaking engagement, I thought a lot about muck of another type—negative thinking and sinful behaviors. How easily we can become stuck in them, and they become strongholds. Unless we deal with them, they impact our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Inevitably they affect our relationships too.

What might be some examples?

  • Heaven forbid we fall short of excellence in all we do and say because that would most certainly disappoint everyone around us and make us look like failures. Or so we think. We also expect the same from others lest their imperfections somehow reflect poorly on us, and so we become critical or judgmental of their efforts. Nothing they do is good enough.
  • Many of our negative behaviors are rooted in fear—the fear of rejection, of failure, and of inadequacy, for starters. It turns us into control freaks, or makes us possessive over the people in our lives and the things we own. We might miss wonderful new opportunities, or we may get involved in an unhealthy relationship—all because of fear.
  • “I’m not good enough.” I’d be a very wealthy woman if I had a dime for every woman who struggles with this stronghold. It often begins when we’re children, through both spoken and unspoken messages from adults in our lives. Perhaps we’ve been compared to an older sibling who’s smarter or better behaved, been overlooked by parents because they were work-absorbed or wrestling with their own issues, or been the child of an absentee parent. Our wrong thinking tells us that if we were “good enough,” our parents (or other significant adults) would have been pleased with us and wanted to be with us and protect us. But that didn’t happen, therefore we must be flawed and unlovable.

The enemy of our souls wants us to be anything but free and joy-filled, so he plants these lies in our minds. Often we don’t even recognize their presence until we hit a crisis.

Thank goodness God rushes to our rescue when we call to Him for help! When we’re honest with Him and with trusted godly friends about our situation, He sets to work, freeing us from these strongholds.

Psalm 40:1-2 says, “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.”

God redeems and transforms us. And that transformation speaks volumes and brings hope to those who know us. “Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:3).

What other strongholds would you add to those I’ve listed?

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #BreakingSpiritualStrongholds

What Do You Expect?

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This morning at the gym I overhead two young women talking. One of them complained of a sore shoulder. She said she’d gone to a massage therapist for treatment but it hadn’t helped. “Oh well,” she said with a shrug. “I didn’t really expect the massage to do anything anyway.”

Sometimes it seems we approach prayer with the same attitude.

Perhaps we’re not convinced that our needs warrant God’s attention when He has global-sized issues on His mind.

Maybe we’re unsure about the effectiveness of our prayers. Have we used the right wording? Have we prayed with sufficient passion?

Perhaps we’ve prayed over the same concern for a long time and have given up hope of ever seeing change.

I’ll confess—I’ve experienced these thoughts. But then I read David’s words in Psalm 5:3, and I realize that my thinking needs a tweak: “Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my request to you and wait expectantly.” What do I learn from David’s example?

  • He expected God to listen to his voice. Why? Because they had an intimate relationship. He knew God as a good friend, and he expected Him to communicate with him. As believers, do we expect God to communicate with us? I truly hope so.
  • He expected God to respond. That said, God’s response might not look like what David anticipated. But maybe David expected that too. As believers, do we expect God to respond?

The past 15 months have grown my prayer life, and I’m learning to approach it with an attitude of expectancy. I expect God to listen based on truths such as Jeremiah 29:11— “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

I also expect God to respond. True, His answer might not be what I wish, but then I’ll expect it to be the best answer possible because He is too wise and too loving to make a mistake.

Do you have a favorite Bible verse that gives you the confidence to believe God will listen and respond to you?

#bgbg2 #GodListens #ChristianDevotions

Two Batches of Buns and the Holy Spirit

This week I thought I’d bake rolls as a homespun gift for my sister. I followed the recipe exactly, or so I thought. Imagine my dismay when the buns refused to rise. I baked them anyway, secretly hoping something magic might happen in the oven, but alas, my hopes were dashed. They turned out like rocks. And so I tried again.

Water, sugar, salt, flour, powdered milk….and YEAST! This time I made doubly sure to remember the rising agent. The result? The buns were nicely browned and the perfect consistency. Their aroma wafted through the house, making it feel warm and welcoming on that frigid winter day.

It's easy to see which one has yeast power!

It’s easy to see which one has yeast power!

Seeing the two batches of buns side by side made me think of the Christian life. As believers, we might read our Bible, attend church, tithe, and even teach Sunday school or Bible studies. That’s all okay and good, but sometimes we do these activities in our own strength and smarts, apart from the Holy Spirit’s power. We work hard but see few results, and we grow weary and perhaps resentful.

Now imagine what happens when we invite God’s Spirit to fill and control us and everything we do! His presence and power change everything. He infuses us with His vision, breathes energy into us as we pursue His kingdom, and brings eternal results for our efforts. I’m not saying everything becomes easy-peasy; I am saying they become supernaturally empowered. The Spirit works in and through us in ways that leave us in awe.

For me, seeing these two batches of buns side by side and realizing the parallel between them and the Christian life has spurred me on to desire the Spirit’s presence and power in everything I do throughout the new year (and beyond). That means relying on His power to…

  • finish writing my new book and Bible study.
  • lead my weekly virtual First Place 4 Health group with excellence.
  • pass my coaching certification test and then coach clients with excellence so they can “move from where they are to where they want to be.”
  • continue being faithful in exercise and eating habits.
  • support my husband in his leadership role with International Messengers Canada.

Those are just a few things that come to mind. I could do them all in my own strength or in the power of the Holy Spirit. I choose the latter, for that’s the only way they’ll achieve the lasting results God desires.

How about you? For what would you like the Holy Spirit’s empowerment this year?

#DoLifeInTheSpirit

My One Word for 2017

Several years ago I began the tradition of choosing one special word at the start of a new year. Actually, it’s not so much about me choosing the word—it’s the word I believe God gives me.

One year the word was “joy.” Oh my—I learned a lot about counting difficult experiences as opportunities for joy (James 1:2-4) and about finding my joy in the Lord rather than in circumstances. It gave me a crystal clear focus for my personal and spiritual growth.

My 2016 word was “great.” God did indeed do some great things. Here are two examples:

  • He enabled me to continue losing weight (57 pounds now), keep it off, and develop a new mindset about food, exercise, and caring for my body as His temple. To me, the transformation is nothing short of a great thing.
  • He allowed me the privilege of training rural church leaders and pastors in Nepal. And He quickened my ears and tongue so I could recall enough Nepalese language to have basic conversations with those who couldn’t speak English. I lived there from 1982-85 but never became fluent. To recall enough language to speak with these people now was, to me, “great.”

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For 2017, my one word is “see.” Here are a few thoughts that it brings to mind.

  • Stay alert. See where God’s working and get involved with Him there.
  • See people through His eyes rather than through my skewed perception.
  • See difficult circumstances as He does—as opportunities to discover Him more intimately.
  • See past my own needs to become more aware of others’ needs.
  • See failure as the back door to success.
  • See the completion of my new book and Bible study.
  • See God provide volunteers and funding for our ministry.
  • See answers to prayer on behalf of various family members.

These are just my thoughts, and I’ll be watching to “see” how they align with God’s intention for giving me this word. I believe it will be helpful to make a list of Bible verses that encourage us to “see,” “watch” or “look.” It could be a fascinating study.

How about you? Do you have a special word for the new year? If so, what is it?

#OneWord #NewYearWord

Exchanging the Old for the New

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The word “new” has appeared on my radar several times in the past week:

  • “I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:3-5)
  • “For I am about to do a brand-new thing. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness for my people to come home. I will create rivers for them in the desert!” (Isaiah 43:19)
  • “…Those who become Christians become new They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun. All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

As 2017 peeks around the corner, the repetition of the word “new” creates in me a sense of anticipation. It fills me with hope in knowing that the old, regrettable parts of 2016—bad habits, hurt feelings, disappointments, failures—can neither rule nor ruin my future. They’re done. Gone. The old is past.

God’s all about exchanging the old for the new, giving second chances, and restoring what was lost or broken. He wants to fill us with hope and to show us that He’s able to do more in and through us than we could ever dream (Ephesians 3:20). The enemy, on the other hand, wants to keep us stuck in ruts of unforgiveness, self-pity, anger, fear, and destructive behaviors. Who will we believe and allow access to our minds and hearts—the enemy of our souls, or the One who came to bring us life?

Tomorrow night we’ll bid 2016 goodbye. Worldwide, it’s been a very difficult year—one that’s going down in history. On an individual basis, it’s been a tough year for many as well. If that’s your situation, then please join me in thanking God for His promises to make everything new and in trusting Him to fulfill those promises.

“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

(Lamentations 3:22,23)

Experience Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love Every Day of the Year

Gene and I celebrated Christmas early with our kids and grandchildren, but we’d still planned to drive five hours on Saturday to spend the weekend with our eldest daughter and her husband in Washington state. Plans changed when a tummy bug knocked me flat on Friday (hence, no blog that day).

Thankfully I’d recovered enough by Sunday morning so that we could attend church. What a lovely service it was! The theme focused on four key words: hope, peace, joy, and love. Between carols, one senior woman and three families shared testimonies to illustrate how these words had become reality to them.

hope-love-joy-peace

The elderly woman spoke of how she came to faith in Jesus as a young girl, and how she experienced His presence throughout her life. Now she has lung cancer and doctors have given her less than six months to live. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but Christ gives her hope.

One couple with two young sons told about their health challenges during 2016. A couple of months after the wife was diagnosed with MS, doctors diagnosed the husband with rectal cancer. He’s now cancer-free following treatment, but they’re still dealing with her MS. They don’t know what the future holds, but Christ gives them peace.

A family with four teenagers told about a challenge they faced for about 14 months. They sold their house in early 2015, but the real estate market went crazy at the same time and prices skyrocketed before they could find a different place to live. The parents and two youngest kids ended up living in a basement suite, and the two older boys lived next door with another family. They told how difficulty taught them that joy isn’t dependent on circumstances but on trust that Christ is sovereign and faithful.

Then the last family took its place on the stage. The husband told about coming to faith in Christ and the role his wife played in his conversion (they weren’t married at the time). Ten years and a brief failed marriage later, the Lord brought them together as husband and wife and blessed them with their children—two biological kids and an adopted daughter from Vietnam. Their story portrayed a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive love.

Hope. Peace. Joy. Love.

These four words aptly describe what Christmas is meant to celebrate, and all because God—in His desire for relationship with us—chose to become man and dwell among us. Because of what He’s done, these four words can become reality for us—not just during this celebration season but every day of the year.

How have they become reality for you in 2016?

#ChristianDevotions #HopePeaceJoyLove

My Christmas Gift to Jesus

The Christmas gifts are wrapped and ready. Some are in boxes, others tucked in bags. One’s in a giant bag that stands more than three feet high. Each one is an item that reflects my love for the recipient and that he/she will find meaningful.

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I think about the three wise men and their gifts for Jesus. No doubt they carefully chose items fit for a king. Imagine them arriving at His home and presenting Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh—presents that were meaningful and reflected their love for the Messiah.

This Christmas I’ve thought about what gift I can give to Jesus. What might He find meaningful? And what can I give Him that reflects my love for Him? The answer, I believe, is a joyfully obedient heart. “If you love me, obey my commandments,” He said (John 14:15). That’s what I intend to do.

Here are a few examples of situations in which I can practice joyful obedience as a gift to my Lord:

  • extending forgiveness when someone hurts me
  • offering financial and material generosity to those in need
  • giving thanks even when I don’t feel like it
  • caring for my body as God’s temple
  • making time spent with Him my top priority

Gene and I will spend several hours traveling on Christmas Eve. Before we leave, I’ll rise early to spend unrushed time with Jesus. I’ll offer Him the gift of a joyfully obedient heart—not just for Christmas but for 365 days each year.

How about you? What present will you give Jesus this Christmas?

#bgbg2 #JesusDeservesOurBest #ChristianDevotions

Why We Can Celebrate Christmas Year-Round

Evidences of Christmas surround us, but in two weeks they’ll disappear for another ten or eleven months. The message of Christmas, however, stays with us year-round. It’s meant to impact our lives every day, not just on December 24th and 25th and for a limited time before and after.

emmanuel

The message of Christmas is “Emmanuel—God with us.” It celebrates God becoming man and moving into our neighborhood. He became like us in every way, excluding the sinful part, because He values us and yearns for relationship with us. His life, death, and resurrection cut the chains of sin and its destructive influence in the lives of those who place their faith in Him for salvation.

Imagine a love so compelling that it motivated God to give up heaven’s glory, clothe Himself in humanity, and take up residence on earth.

His incarnation is what we celebrate this season, but let’s remember the difference it makes today. And tomorrow. And the next time we feel lonely or betrayed, frustrated or scared. Let’s live as though Christmas is more than a manger in Bethlehem and the shepherds and the wise men. Let’s live as though His birth really did bring good news of great joy for all people.

What’s that great news? Shame and guilt no longer hold us captive because Jesus washes us as white as snow and gives us a new beginning. Addictions no longer rule over us because He gives us the strength to say no. Fear no longer paralyzes us because His presence brings courage. Discouragement and sorrow cannot overwhelm us because He is our peace. And our wisdom. And source of joy. He’s our protector, provider, wisdom, and strength. Everything we need to live godly lives is ours because God became flesh and dwelt among us.

Celebrate Christ’s birth this season, and let the Christmas message impact your life every day from now on. Somewhere in the midst of your busyness, make a moment to think about the words found in Zephaniah 3:17: “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Ponder what God’s presence means to you this season and beyond, my friend. And celebrate with joy!

#bgbg2 #ChristianDevotions #GodBecameMan