Conntecting the Dots

Who or What is Your Stronghold?

What’s a stronghold? Simply put, it’s anything that has a strong hold on us. It’s usually rooted in faulty thinking patterns and lies we believe.

Fear is a stronghold with which many people struggle, myself included. When my kids were preschoolers, an unknown intruder broke into our home and stole my jewelry and camera. The thief was never caught. For a couple of years afterwards, I feared staying home alone with my children when Gene traveled for work.

Faulty thinking convinced me that the thief would strike again in Gene’s absence, and he’d probably do so at night. I’d be easy prey, and I’d never be able to save my children. Fear’s strong hold on me made sleep impossible. I even kept the bedroom light on so I could see the intruder’s face and later identify him in a police line-up.

Another stronghold with which many people struggle is food. Been there, done that. My issue began when I was about six years old. A local restaurant went out of business and sold its stock, so my dad brought home cartons of chocolate bars and individual-sized bags of chips. He stored them in the dark closet under the stairwell.

I craved those snacks, but I figured Mom would say no if I asked her permission to eat them. So, I’d sneak into that closet and help myself. Decades later I identified a pattern that I’d carried with me in our empty-nesting years—eating in secret. I’d gorge on chips or chocolate alone in my office or before bedtime whenever Gene was away even though I knew this was unhealthy for me.

Other strongholds can include pornography, jealousy, greed, laziness, gossip, gluttony, perfectionism, and depression. The list goes on. They slap cuffs on us and steal the freedom for which God created us.

Strongholds are rooted in faulty thinking and lies; God’s truth tears them down. I experienced this in both of the personal examples I gave. In the first example, I stopped focusing on the what-ifs of a thief returning to my house and started meditating on God’s promise to protect me. Courage replaced fear. One night when Gene was away, I turned off the bedroom light and slept soundly. That stronghold has never returned.

In the latter situation, I stopped focusing on my appetite for comfort food and started thanking the Holy Spirit for giving me the ability to say no to temptation. On a couple of occasions when I felt weak, I applied Scripture that said to flee temptation. I either left the house to take a walk or threw the junk food in the garbage.

Romans 12:2 says, “…Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” Changing the way we think means identifying the lies and replacing them with the Truth. But knowing it isn’t enough; we must apply it too. As our thoughts align with God’s, our behavior changes as well. Strongholds come down brick by brick, and transformation takes place.

Psalm 18:2 encourages me in this topic of strongholds. It says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold.”

The strong hold of sin loses its grip when God is our stronghold. May He be your stronghold today.

#Psalms #PersonalTransformation #Devotions

What Hotel Staff Taught Me About Holy Living

We spent four days in Dhaka, Bangladesh recently. Security concerns for us, as foreigners, made it impossible to leave the hotel other than for our express reason for being there—to meet our daughter and son-in-law’s sponsored World Vision child—so we hunkered down within the facility’s four walls.

The hotel staff treated us like royalty. Desk attendants asked, “Do you have everything you need?” whenever we walked through the foyer. Several waiters hovered nearby and watched with eagle eyes to ensure our needs were met at mealtimes. One afternoon, we sat on the deck of the outdoor pool (which was surrounded by high walls) to play a card game. Mosquitoes began to buzz and bite as afternoon rolled into early evening. Within minutes, a hotel employee appeared carrying an insect repellant coil. He lit it and set it nearby so we could play our game in peace. When time for our departure came, the marketing director said goodbye and handed me her business card. “Please come again, and don’t hesitate to call if I can help you in any way in the future,” she said.

The hotel staff were committed to our safety and comfort. Their concern for our well-being showed, and their efforts achieved the desired result. They’ll have our business should we ever travel to Dhaka again.

The weekly online Bible study of which I’m a part recently memorized 2 Peter 1:3—“As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!”

Do you see where I’m going with this? Just as, in the physical realm, the hotel staff supplied us with everything needed for safety and comfort, so the Holy Spirit works in the spiritual realm to give Christ followers everything needed for godly living.

Wisdom. Check.

Courage to face the unknown? Check.

Peace to replace worry? Check.

Forgiveness when we blow it? Check.

A sound mind rather than confusion and chaos? Check.

Written instructions for godly living? Check.

The power to say no to temptation? Check.

Discipline when our behavior needs to change? Check.

Freedom from shame? Check.

The ability to love and forgive those who hurt us? Check.

The Holy Spirit knows exactly what we need to live holy, fruitful lives. And from the abundance of His limitless resources, He sees to it that our needs are met. If we feel as though we’re lacking something, we need only to ask and then be open to receive.

What else would you add to the list of resources God has given us to ensure a holy and effective Christian life?

#bgbg2 #ChristianLiving  #Devotions

3 Encouragements for Those who Feel Like a Little Bird With a Broken Wing

I spent the weekend in Alberta speaking at a retreat for the Parkland Zone Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. They’d chosen “SOAR!”— one of my favorite packages—as their theme. “SOAR!” is based on Isaiah 40:27-31.

“O Israel, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never heard of understood? Don’t you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (NLT)

Sometimes we soar like a mighty eagle. On other occasions, when we’re frightened, when we’ve been hurt, or when worry weighs us down, we resemble a little bird with a broken wing. We can barely limp along the ground let alone take off and rise to catch the wind beneath our wings.

Here are three encouragements this passage offers when we feel like the little bird.

  • God sees us and hears our cries for help.

Hagar could certainly relate to the little bird analogy. She’d run away from Abram’s household to escape Sarai’s abuse. Now she sat by a stream along the road, exhausted in every way. That’s when the angel of the Lord showed up, gave her direction, and reassured her with a promise. That must have been someencounter. It gave Hagar the courage to return to Abram’s household and stay there for more than 15 years.

Did you know that Hagar is the only woman in the Bible who gave God a name based on her experience with Him? She referred to Him as, “the God who sees.” Life-giving hope infused her when she began living from the truth that God was watching out for her. (Genesis 16)

If you feel like the little bird today, know that God sees you. You are not alone. Invite Him to meet you at your deepest point of need and to reveal Himself to you in this place.

  • God offers strength to the weak.

His strength is limitless, and He offers to share from His supply. I visualize His outstretched hands, and I imagine Him saying, “You need strength for today? Here it is. Take it. It’s yours.”

Problem is, sometimes we don’t want to acknowledge weakness because we think doing so makes us appear inadequate. We choose to remain grounded for the sake of saving face. Go figure.

Pride weighs us down and keeps us from soaring. The moment we confess it and exchange it for humility—acknowledging our need for God’s strength—everything changes.

Have you accepted God’s offer to live from His infinite supply of strength? Or are you insisting on using your own even though it’s not enough to help you rise above your circumstances?

  • God gives new strength to those who wait on Him.

The word “wait” carries the connotation of being entwined with God. It’s the picture of intimacy with Him.

When we make our relationship with God a priority, He promises to give us new strength. We might face a new challenge, but rest assured we’ll never have to muster whatever tidbits of strength remain from the previous one. The fresh supply is filled to the brim. It’s enough.

God created us to soar. We do so when we live from His perfect and limitless strength rather than our own. In whose strength are you doing life, my friend?

#bgbg2 #EagleStrength #ChristianDevotions

He’s Everywhere!

Hey, friends! I just learned that my pocket-sized devotional “Morning Moments with God” costs only $4.82 (hard cover) on Amazon right now! Get your copy before the sale ends.

Here’s a sample of the contents.

Lord, thank You for Your never-ending presence.

Last weekend I traveled to Manitoba. This weekend I’m in Edmonton, Alberta. Thankfully my cell phone enables me to communicate with my loved ones almost everywhere I go. This proved handy on the way home from a family vacation.

Driving in three vehicles meant the possibility of being separated, so we made plans to meet in a specific city for dinner should that happen. Our son arrived first so he chose a restaurant and phoned us with directions. We, in turn, called our daughter.

My 80-year-old mom observed the goings-on from the backseat and laughed. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “I’m amazed at how these new-fangled phones keep everyone in touch so easily.”

I agreed. Nearly everywhere I go, whether in North America or overseas, my family and I can stay connected. Fantastic!

Know what’s far more fantastic than that? Wherever believers go on earth, we’re connected to God. “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast,” says Psalm 139:7-10.

Let’s let this knowledge encourage us today. Because He lives in us, we have constant access to His presence and power. Even when we’re beyond cell coverage. Amazing!

Take Action:

This very moment, thank God for His never-ending presence in your life.

Adapted from “Morning Moments With God: Devotions for the Busy Woman

(c) Grace Fox

Harvest House Publishers 2014

The Power of I AM

My good friend Twila Belk has written a devotional titled The Power to Be. The copy she mailed arrived hours before we left for Nepal last month, so I didn’t have a chance to open it until this week. Perfect timing, it was.

I mentioned in Monday’s blog that finding my new normal is an adventure. My life is so, so different than what I’d imagined at this stage. On Wednesday, for instance, I hoisted my new laundry bag onto my back like a giant backpack and carried it a block to the marina laundromat. I loaded two washers, paid with a nifty credit-card-like gizmo, and then walked along the river as the machines did their 30-minute job.

An hour later, after the dryer had completed its cycle, I took my plastic laundry basket from the boat to the facility. I folded our clothes and towels, loaded them into the basket, and walked the block back to my boat. This block, by the way, takes me through the commercial parking lot beside our marina. I passed weed-whacking landscapers, dog-walking seniors, athletic-looking cyclists, and two Canadian geese enroute.

I needed to wash our sheets, but I skipped that task because I knew I wouldn’t have time to remake the bed. Have you ever tried making a bed while kneeling on it? Try it sometime, pretending there’s no access on the sides or at the head and foot. My bed’s a V-berth, and the mattress fits snugly between wood paneled walls on every side.

Yes, life looks different now, and it takes a bit of getting used to. Making those adjustments coupled with the craziness of the past four months of purging, moving, writing a Bible study and then going overseas for four weeks has left my mind in a flutter. It’s not a bad thing that’s causing insurmountable stress or sleep loss or anything like that. I’m just feeling a tad distracted these days.

Enter Twila’s devotional. I think she wrote it especially for me.

So far, every day’s meditation has been my favorite. The latest quoted Exodus 3:14-15: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM who I AM. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.’”

Twila’s reflection on this verse spoke deeply to me. She wrote, “I may not retain everything I learned in elementary school, but I do remember that “I AM” is present tense. And knowing that God’s name is present tense gives me a sense of peace. When he says I AM, he means that’s who he is right now. Today. Time makes no difference in who he was, is, or will be.”

As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel room in Saskatchewan. In a half hour, my hubby and I will hit the road in a rental car, headed for a little rural church in Manitoba. We’ll speak four times this weekend on marriage and family-related topics. We’ve taught together in times past, but never for a full weekend on these topics. I enjoy speaking and teaching; Gene—not so much. He’s an administrator, servant kind-of-guy. This weekend will stretch both of us. More change. More growth. Why not? I think we’re on a roll in that department!

As I look back over the past few weeks, I’m grateful to have experienced the great I AM. As I look forward to these weekend, I know I’ll experience Him again. Here are a few thoughts I’ll leave with you today in that regard. Take them and apply them to your situation.

I AM faithful to help you successfully navigate change.

I AM the source of courage and strength you need to face new challenges.

I AM the source of wisdom you need for the problems you face.

I AM the One who supplies perfectly for every need.

I AM pure joy.

I AM peace.

I AM.

Can I hear an amen?

#bgbg2 #IAM  #PeaceinChange

When Comfortable Routines Fall Apart

When Comfortable Routine Falls Apart

“I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying for he speaks peace to his faithful people.”

-Psalm 85:8 NLT

I value routine. Our recent move has shown me how much I rely on it—and how much I miss it when it’s gone.

For instance, for the past two years I’ve done my gym workout from 5:30-6:30 AM several mornings each week. Moving meant canceling my gym membership on February 27th. Buying a membership at a new gym close to our marina hasn’t happened yet thanks to our travel schedule. As a result, I haven’t had a decent workout for six weeks. It’ll be another month before my travel schedule slows down. I’ll be able to re-establish an exercise routine then, but heaven help me in the meantime.

A little voice in my head says, “You’re losing ground in your wellness journey. You’ll never be able to get back on track.” 

Prior to our move, my office was in our home. Now it’s an hour’s drive from where we live. I’ve made this trip six times in the past week. I envision writing for hours every day from the boat when life settles down, but for now I need to pack and ship books to upcoming speaking events as well as use my many file-cabinet-resources to prepare for them—and all those things are in my office.

A little voice in my head says, “Hoping to write for hours undisturbed on the boat is a pipe dream. Now you’re going to spend your life driving the #1 Highway.”

Before we moved to the boat, Gene and I enjoyed an eating routine that worked well for us. I cooked the bigger meal of the day at noon, and he’d run up the stairs from his office to join me for lunch. Now, because we drive an hour to work, we pack our lunches. We haven’t done this for decades! On the days I travel to the office, I need to plan ahead for supper—either put something in a crockpot or plan something easy to fix when we get home. What will happen to our routine of eating the bigger meal midday as opposed to the end of the day? And how will this affect our weight goals? Honestly, I haven’t had time to figure this out yet. I feel like my eating disciplines have fallen off the rails especially in light of having experienced wonky mealtimes overseas for the past month.

That little voice in my head says, “You’re know this wellness journey you’ve enjoyed? Well, it’s not going to be so easy anymore.”

Even my quiet time with the Lord has been impacted. Before the move, I enjoyed my sacred space—on my leather loveseat in our family room—every morning after my gym workout and before I began work. To say I haven’t figured out how to re-establish my spiritual routine is an understatement. It took a hit while we traveled and I feel like it’s still floundering.

That voice whispers, “You’ve become a spiritual delinquent.”

That voice could lead me down the path of discouragement if I listen too long. In the midst of my upheaval, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit who speaks with a kinder, gentler, more encouraging voice. He says, “Don’t worry. A routine is nice and it’s comfortable, but it’s not the end-all. I am Your rock. I am Your stability. Keep Your focus on Me, and I’ll lead you through each day one step at a time.”

In the midst of change and loss of my precious routine, I choose to trust my Lord. He’s the One who led me to this change and He’ll lead me through it. He speaks peace, and as I listen to His voice rather than the negative one, I will experience His wonderful gift of peace.

Question: Are you a lover of routine as I am? How do you feel when life shakes up your routine? What helps you cope?

#bgbg2 #WhenRoutinesChange

Highlights From My Round-the-World Trip

I’ve traveled more miles than I can count in the past four weeks. My journey took me to Hong Kong, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkey, Poland, Belgium, and Iceland. Granted, four of those stops were airport layovers, but hey, my feet touched the soil. That’s gotta count for something.

I wish y’all could have traveled with me. I shared a few photos on FB, but it’s impossible to share sounds—voices speaking foreign languages, horns honking, bus motors revving, birds singing, monkeys screeching, music blaring, Islamic calls to prayer. It’s also impossible to share smells—diesel fumes, mildew, curry, cardamom and cinnamon, and unmentionables.

Many of you have said that you looked forward to hearing about the trip, so here’s a brief summary of highlights:

Making the pilgrimage with my daughter and her husband to the hospital where she was born has enriched my life. Because she left Nepal when she was three days old, she said she felt like a piece of her life’s puzzle was always missing. This trip filled in the gap for her. Also, meeting their World Vision child and hearing about the difference sponsorship has made brought huge smiles.

The bed immediately to the right was where I spent the night with Stephanie after her birth.

Visiting our Nepalese villagers, being welcomed into their humble homes, and becoming friends with some of their grown children exceeded my hopes. Learning that they can hear the Gospel being broadcast on their radios left me in awe. When we lived there in the 80s, Nepal was the world’s only official Hindu country and proselytization was banned.

Grateful for time spent with former neighbours.

Traveling by jeep on narrow, rugged roads hugging steep cliffs helped me develop a deeper prayer life. (Hearing the news of an Indian school bus careening over a cliff and killing more than two dozen children earlier this week left me grieved but all-the-more grateful for our safety).

Guardrails–sometimes, sometimes not.

Seeing the poorest-of-the-poor Christian brothers and sisters dance to worship music during a church service moved me to joy. Their actions led me to question whether I understand freedom in Christ to the same degree.

Staying hunkered in a Bangladesh hotel under armed guard brought a bit of apprehension and a stark reminder that foreigners make good targets in many lands.

Discovering that a Canadian office made a mistake in issuing our transit visa needed to travel through India—a mistake that meant spending an extra night in Dhaka and purchasing new airline tickets at great expense—caused me to shake my head in disbelief while choosing to trust that the unexpected is never a surprise to God.

Seeing heavily armed military personnel patrolling in two airports where terrorists have killed innocent travelers brought a sense of vulnerability.

Presenting the Gospel to 85 men and women—many of whom were unbelievers—at a meeting in Poland brought excitement in knowing God used that event to plant and water spiritual seeds.

Engaging in numerous one-on-one conversations and prayer with our ministry staff on the field and at our annual conference reminded me how God trusts ordinary people with extraordinary Kingdom-building work.

And finally, having to edit and rewrite parts of my new Bible study while traveling left me completely thrust on God for help and strength. He pulled me through.

To those of you who prayed for our health and safety—thank you. Traveling in places like we’ve been means encountering water and food laden with bacteria that can cause all kinds of problems for our North American gut. I’m grateful to say we had no issues. We did, however, shoot up a lot of arrow prayers: “God, protect our tummies as we accept the food served by our gracious hosts.”

To those of you who prayed for jetlag to be a non-issue—thank you. Typically, jetlag takes one day to recover for every hour of time difference. Nepal is nearly 13 hours ahead of us, but we overcame jetlag in about three days. Now we’re doing it in reverse, and I’m hoping for it to be as easy.

I’ll spend the next four weekends—beginning tomorrow—travelling for speaking engagements all the while trying to learn my new normal living on a sailboat. I’ll start devotional blogging again next week. I’d really appreciate knowing those prayers are still coming as I shift my focus back to ministry on North American turf.

Have a great weekend, and know you are loved.

Splashes of Beauty Amidst Chaos

My last visit to Nepal was in 2016. One afternoon I walked down a back street gutted with potholes. My path resembled an obstacle course marked with sleeping dogs, a stray cow or two, and random piles of rocks and red bricks. But as I approached a T-intersection, I saw potted flowers teeming with yellow blossoms. Beauty amidst chaos.

Life’s like that sometimes.

Relationships break. Health fails. Financial concerns strike. The only certainty is uncertainty.

Our mindset tends to focus on the muddle: Potholes. Random obstructions. Dirt. Fixating on these things habitually is like extending an open-ended invitation to fear, discouragement, and stress.

May I make a suggestion?

When you feel surrounded by chaos and uncertainty, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see splashes of beauty in their midst. I guarantee you—they’re there. They might show up in a physical way, like the yellow blossoms I saw on the back street. They may come in someone’s encouraging words. They might be one of God’s promises to give you peace and power when you need it most.

Be intentional and watch for those splashes of beauty. They don’t need to be big to be a blessing.

Tell me—what splashes of beauty have you already seen?

#BeautyInChaos

Our Pilgrimage to Nepal

Thirty-three years ago today, my life took a detour I’d never anticipated. Here’s the story. https://www.christianity.com/11622440/

Today, my husband and I are at the same hospital—with Stephanie and her husband Daniel. This was the fulfillment of a life’s dream for her. She said, “I’ve always felt as though a piece of my life’s puzzle was missing. Now it’s complete.”

We took a tour of the hospital and the area surrounding it. Steph saw the hospital room where she spent her first night and the house where she spent one night before the arduous jeep ride to Kathmandu. We delivered dozens of donated balloons and stuffed animals to the social services department for distribution among the children in the pediatric ward, and a couple dozen receiving blankets to the maternity ward.

We lived in the upstairs of this house for three months prior to Stephanie’s birth.

We also took a little walk in the Tansen bazaar. What fun to strike up conversations with people sitting in the sunshine. One lady invited us to her rooftop and served us chai. Another group of women enjoyed posing for a “photo op,” as they called it.

This is Gene’s and my fourth trip to Nepal in ten years. Each time we return I feel more at home. I love the people and am so blessed to call so many my friends.

This trip is especially meaningful because we share it with Stephanie and Daniel—thanks to their generosity. What a gift.

Happy birthday, Steph! Know you are loved,

Mom

Feeling Overwhelmed? Here’s A Word of Encouragement for You

Late last August, I signed a contract to write a new Bible study for First Place 4 Health. I had no way of knowing that I’d be purging my entire household and moving aboard a sailboat while in the throes of writing it a few months later.

Purging 36 years’ worth of accumulated belongings is a fulltime job. So is writing a Bible study. The March 1 deadline came and went, and I had to ask for an extension to complete it. My goal is to get ‘er done by Wednesday afternoon because I take off for Kathmandu on Thursday morning. Nothing like a little pressure to keep one focused, yes?

Besides the purging, packing, moving, and writing, I drove to Alberta to spend Christmas with family, spent a week in Texas at a First Place 4 Health wellness retreat, and hosted our International Messengers booth for three days at Missions Fest Vancouver in hopes of finding volunteers to help with our evangelistic summer camps.

The pressure’s been intense for weeks. At times I’ve wondered how in the world I could continue especially with producing the manuscript. On those days, God sent me a visual reminder to keep my focus on Him.

I lived in a city until 10 days ago. One afternoon I stepped outside the house, looked up, and saw a bald eagle soaring. Now I live in a marina directly across from a bird sanctuary. One morning last week a bald eagle sat on a transmission pole near our dock.

I spoke at a women’s retreat on Quadra Island over the weekend. Traveling there meant catching a BC ferry near Delta. On that drive last Wednesday, I saw at least 15 bald eagles perched in a tree beside the highway. Less than a mile down the road, I saw a farm yard with three or four eagles sitting in every tree.

Yesterday afternoon while driving home from the retreat, I saw three bald eagles soaring over the treetops near the highway.

This morning a good friend sent me a FB link containing several photos taken yesterday. Each photo contained one or more bald eagles.

Every time I’ve seen the eagles, this Scripture passage has come to mind:

“Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-30 NLT)

God’s got my attention, and He’s got my back too. I resist the temptation to fall into fear or discouragement. I choose to keep my eyes on Him and to trust Him to strengthen me to complete the work He’s called me to do during this crazy busy season.

No doubt some of you reading this are feeling pressure too. May I pray for you?

“Father God, You know our limitations, and You will never give us more than we can bear. Would You please infuse my weary friends today with supernatural strength? Give them the power they need to do what You’ve asked them to do. Grant them joy in the journey as they experience Your empowerment and promises in new ways. Thank You, thank You for Your kindness and understanding. Amen.”

#bgbg2  #NeedingStrengthForToday  #eagles