Conntecting the Dots

Go Away, Liar

“You’ll never get it right!”

“There’s no way God can possibly forgive you again.

“You want to do what? You can’t do that. You’re neither smart enough nor skilled enough.“

Oh, how Satan enjoys hurling statements like these at us. He crafts his words to condemn us, and sadly, he often accomplishes his mission. When we lend him our ear, we fall into shame and self-blame. We fixate on our failures. We berate ourselves, doubt our worth, and question our purpose.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, speaks words of life and truth over us. Granted, He may need to correct or convict us at times, but His manner is never mean or insulting. With gentleness He teaches and affirms us. He sounds more like this…

“You may have not succeeded today, but tomorrow brings another opportunity to try again.”

“I love you, My child. I will forgive the moment you confess.”

“You bring Me great delight. You matter a great deal to Me.”

Romans 8:1 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Everything Satan whispers or shouts is a lie because he’s a liar by nature. We needn’t give him one ounce of attention. Rather, let’s fill our minds with the truth and, in doing so, deflect his deadly lies meant to wound us.

The next time Satan tries to hurl condemnation your way, remind him that there is no condemnation for those who know Jesus as Savior. Recall the truth, and tell him to get lost. He has no right invading your space, robbing your peace, or stealing your joy.

What words does Satan use to try to condemn you?

#NoCondemnation  #freedom

The Key to Lasting Change

John Ortberg writes, “The way you think creates your attitudes; the way you think shapes your emotions; the way you think governs your behavior; the way you think deeply influences your immune system and vulnerability to illness. Everything about you flows out of the way you think.”

This quote has become a personal favorite. It constantly reminds me that our thoughts matter. They ultimately shape who we become and determine our destiny so we’d better make sure they’re aligned with Truth. Doing so is the key to lasting change.

I learned this lesson the hard way.

Today marks the sixth anniversary of the beginning of my wellness journey. I’ll never forget the searing pain when my left Achilles tendon ruptured moments after I stepped out of my car to attend a meeting. Kaboom! My husband rushed me to the ER where I waited for nearly five hours, trying to hold my foot in one position while holding back my tears.

The pain was intense. It nearly equaled the pain of admitting it was self-inflicted. For several years prior, I’d made excuses for why I couldn’t exercise. The biggest was, “I’m writing. I’m on a creative roll. I’ll finish this article and exercise later.”

Lack of movement and stretching stiffened my muscles and tendons and contributed to weight gain. I excused my sedentary lifestyle with, “Exercise hurts too much.” Gluttony and snacking on chips and chocolate (in secret, nonetheless) added to my problems.

A week after the Achilles injury, my opposite knee developed issues of its own. That led to physiotherapy twice a week (big owie), surgery, and loss of mobility. Three months passed before I was able to walk again, and then shingles struck. I was a physical wreck, to put it lightly.

I am beyond grateful to First Place for Health for helping me identify wrong thinking and turn me around. Now I acknowledge gluttony as sin, and I readily admit my need for God’s help to guard me from it.

I also acknowledge my need for accountability. I can’t possibly travel this lifelong wellness journey on my own. I need others to help me, to encourage me, and to pick me up when I fall.

I recognize my body as God’s temple. He’s entrusted me with its stewardship. No one else can care for it—that’s my job. Do I want to provide Him with a dwelling fit for a King, or offer Him a rundown shack?

The change in thinking has changed my life for good. My weight has dropped. My blood pressure and heart rate are excellent, and I feel better than I’ve felt in twenty years. It’s also impacted me in other areas of my life—mental, emotional, and spiritual.

So today is a celebration of sorts for me. I now hold in my hand the newly released Bible study Forever Changed. Based on Romans 12:2, it identifies areas in which we often fall prey to faulty thinking and then explores the corresponding truth of God’s Word. Changing my thoughts has changed my life, and I pray that countless others will find the same outcome in every part of who they are.

Watch the webinar “Forever Changed” here.

Order your copy of Forever Changed.

3 Promises for When We Need Answers

Several questions sit at the forefront of my mind during this first week of 2019. The one weighing on me most is this, “How should I best develop my teaching materials for my trip to the Middle East in March?” I have to prepare ten sessions to help train young adults for career missions, and I need the materials to be biblically sound, culturally relevant, and interactive.

To say I feel a bit inadequate is an understatement. And so, I confess my fear to the Lord and cry, “Help! Show me what to do, please!” He answers with promises like these…

  • “The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)
  • “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
  • “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you.” (James 1:5)

Every time the inner angst rears its head, I recall these promises and hold them tight. My heart responds with a sigh of relief, and I feel able to move forward again.

Did you begin 2019 with a question in your mind too? Maybe yours sounds something like…

  • How do I mend this broken relationship?
  • Should I look for a different job?
  • Should we sell our house and move to a different neighborhood?
  • Is it time to downsize?
  • Is this the right time to start our family?
  • Should I continue in this relationship, or should I break it off?
  • How can I build relationships with my neighbors?
  • How can I rebuild my life after my recent loss?

No doubt this list could be endless. Whatever questions we ask, we can rest assured that God hasn’t left us to answer them on our own. He’s promised to guide, advise, and lead us. All we need to do is ask Him, and He will answer. He will.

#bgbg2 #GodGuides  #InnerPeace

Worship with a Kiss

I know, I know…Christmas proper has come and gone. Still, it’s nice to linger a little longer. Why rush the season away, right?

I recently read the lyrics from a carol titled, “In the Bleak Midwinter” by Christina Rossetti.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there,

Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,

Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.

Imagine a young mom cradling her newborn and kissing him tenderly on his cheek, on his forehead, and on the tip of his teeny nose. But this is no ordinary baby. Neither are these run-of-the-mill mommy kisses. They’re sweet, private expressions of gratitude to almighty God incarnate, the infant she’d wrapped in swaddling clothes and nursed to sleep.

Mary worshiped Jesus for leaving heaven’s glory to dwell among mankind. She worshiped Him as the promised Messiah. She worshiped Him for coming to bring hope to hurting men and women. She did it without fanfare or before a public eye. She did it quietly, perhaps alone, and with a simple but meaningful act of affection.

But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,     

Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss.

We, too, can worship the Beloved with a kiss, figuratively speaking. In those quiet, private moments when no one’s watching, we can whisper words of praise and adoration to the One whose faithfulness is new every morning. We can breathe words of prayer to thank Him for keeping His promises. We can lavish our love on Him by expressing gratitude for all He’s done and will do in us and through us as He reveals more of Himself to us.

What does worshiping Jesus with a kiss mean to you?

#WorshipWithAKiss

Do you remember Susan Boyle, the woman who wowed everyone with her singing voice on “Britain’s Got Talent” in 2009? Here she is, singing “In the Bleak Midwinter.

Recommended Christmas Movies

Hi everyone. This isn’t my usual devotional blog, but I thought you might enjoy hearing Pure Flix’s thoughts on recommended Christmas movies.

Pure Flix is currently offering an email promotion that allows participants to receive a month’s subscribership as well as exclusive access to Christmas movies. Check it out!

 

5 Must-See Movies to Spark the Christmas Spirit

 

With the weather growing colder and Christmas getting closer, there’s no better way to get into the spirit of the season than with a holiday movie night! With so many family-friendly Christmas movies to choose from, your month will surely be filled with Christmas cheer. Here are five recommendations:

Wish for Christmas

As the town’s winter dance quickly approaches, a young woman learns that she must miss it to attend a Christmas Eve service with her family. Out of spite and desperation to attend the dance of the season, she wishes faith didn’t serve such an important role in her family’s life. This movie reminds viewers of the importance of faith, its ability to unite families, and to be careful what we wish for.

Christmas Manger

Even during hardships, God has blessings up His sleeve. In the wake of his beloved wife’s death, a man grapples with loss and faith. As his hope and trust in God grows thin, his estranged children come back into his life and provide it with new meaning.

Christmas Dress

A father and son weather a brutal blizzard in order to bring Christmas to a family in need. This story of courage and love reminds viewers that God’s greatest blessings often occur through the people with whom we cross paths.

 

Heaven Bound

The “perfect” couple find themselves in a financial predicament just in time for the holidays. In desperation, they devise a plan to rob a wealthy man whose riches come from more than what he owns—his faith. When he catches them in the act, he offers them a choice: find God or face the consequences of their greed.

Silver Bells

A successful, uptight sportscaster who lives life in overdrive allows his anger to get the best of him at his son’s basketball game. He’s sentenced to community service at the local Salvation Army where he’s faced with an important lesson in giving. Sometimes the true meaning of the season sneaks up on us in unexpected ways!

Carve out some time in your hectic schedule to relax. Cuddle up with your loved ones and a few warm blankets. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and a bowl of popcorn as you indulge in these exclusive holiday flicks.

Exhale Stress, Inhale Peace

I haven’t written a blog for a couple of weeks, and for good reason: My daughter-in-law delivered a wee baby boy on December 6th—a month early. Baby’s lungs were underdeveloped, and as a result, he was immediately placed in the NICU. Our son phoned us with the news early that morning and said, “We have no idea how long we’ll be here. Can you please come to stay with the kids while we’re away?”

“Of course,” Gene and I said. We threw a few clothes into a gym bag and rushed to catch the next ferry to Vancouver Island.

Babysitting the kids—seven of them—brought sheer delight. And exhaustion. I cooked for a small army, wiped little bottoms, changed diapers, settled minor squabbles, played board games, washed and folded clothes, cooked for a small army (did I already say that?), got kids dressed for their Sunday school Christmas pageant, and even took a hike through the forest with my two oldest grandsons.

Lots and lots of mac and cheese!

I chose to be present in the moment and basically checked out of social media. Besides, by day’s end I was too tired to do anything but crash on the couch for a few minutes before falling into bed.

“Jesus—strength,” became my prayer. He answered by giving me a good night’s sleep and the energy to keep doing what needed to be done.

One morning, Gene came to me and whispered, “Would you please pray for me? I have a toothache. It really hurts.”

“Jesus—healing,” I prayed. I wish I could say Gene’s tooth instantly felt better. It didn’t. But he did manage to see a dentist and get a prescription for antibiotics. This week, on Tuesday, he’ll have a root canal. “Jesus—healing,” I’m praying again.

I’ve committed four days this week to helping our youngest daughter and her husband pack their household as they prepare to move north. David is in medical school and has been assigned to the University of British Columbia’s Prince George campus for his studies. Kim is expecting their first child in May.

I’ll be honest—I’m not excited about packing them up and sending them so far away. My heart feels heavy, but my hands are open. I bless them for following God’s path even though it means we won’t see them as often as in the past five years.

“Jesus—peace,” will be my prayer as I wrap dishes and pack books and belongings. This one’s a big ask, but I’m trusting Him to answer.

As Christmas approaches, we celebrate Jesus as the Savior who came as a helpless baby. But let’s also celebrate Him as the One who gives us rest when we’re tired and carries our burdens when we’re overwhelmed.

Three times last week, the Lord brought Matthew 11:28-30 across my path: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.”

Almighty God, the Great Physician, the Prince of Peace has come.

Exhale stress. Inhale His soothing presence.

Rest.

#bgbg2 #ReleaseStress  #InnerPeace

What Difference Does “Immanuel—God is With Us” Make?

Can you believe we’re already in December? It feels like this year’s raced past at breakneck speed. Christmas is only a blink away!

Our family keeps Christmas pretty simple, and I’m grateful. Doing so gives me the mental space to focus on Jesus as the real reason for celebrating this season. One of my favorite things to do is to meditate on His names. Take “Immanuel” for instance.

“The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him ‘Immanuel’—‘God is with us,’” says Isaiah 7:14.

“God is with us.” What an amazing declaration! These four words have the power to change everything for us when we live from their truth.

His presence brings comfort when we face the empty chair at the table this season.

His presence brings companionship when we feel lonely at night.

His presence brings strength when we feel exhausted.

His presence brings victory when we face temptation.

His presence brings calm when circumstances seem out-of-control.

His presence brings hope when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

His presence brings stability when we undergo change.

Living from the truth of these words means also believing them on behalf of those we love. I’m constantly having to put this into practice.

Last week I helped my 86-year-old mom in Alberta purge her belongings. Now I’m back home, and nearly a thousand miles separate us. I worry less about her when I remember that God is with her and will care for her needs.

While I was in Alberta, I received news that my daughter-in-law spent a day in hospital in early labor. I wished I could have been present to babysit the grands, but that was impossible. I found peace in knowing God was with her and their family.

Also while I was in Alberta, my eldest daughter in Washington tripped while running. She required several stitches to close a gash on her face, and she injured her wrist. Again, I wished I could have been present to lend a hand in practical ways, but that wasn’t meant to be. I found peace in knowing God was with her and her hubby as they worked through this challenge.

“God is with us.” I can’t imagine four other words that bring hope such as these do.

How does “Immanuel—God is with us” change the way you view a current situation?

#bgbg2 #Immanuel  #GodIsWithUs  #Hope

Purging, Purchasing, and Perspective

I spent last week at my mom’s home. She’s 86 now and still living independently, but she’s beginning to think about her options for the future. No matter what she decides, she feels compelled to purge earthly belongings.

Together we sorted old dishes, linens, hand crocheted doilies, lamps, you-name-it. We boxed and bagged some things to be given to family members, and we made three trips to facilities that accept donations.

We worked until we were too tired to cook (yup, we ate frozen pizza twice), and we’re still not finished. Funny thing, no one who walks into her home can tell that we’ve done anything because we focused only on the contents of cupboards, closets, and drawers. Relatively speaking, she had a lot less stuff than most people, but Round 2 is yet to come.

Helping Mom brought back memories of purging my own home last winter in preparation to move aboard the sailboat. I either dumped, donated, sold, or gave away nearly every earthly belonging. I disposed of some stuff easily. Who really needs four loaf pans, anyway? Or clothes that don’t fit? Other belongings, not so much. Emotional attachment is sometimes difficult to release.

Nonetheless, nine months later I can honestly say I haven’t yearned for any of the material possessions to which I bid goodbye. I enjoy the freedom that comes from not having to maintain things. And less housework is always good, yes? Another perk—should I suddenly die, my kids will have no horror stories to tell their friends about having to purge our home.

Consumers spent more than $16 billion dollars shopping online last weekend. I can’t even wrap my head around that sum. How many items purchased were truly necessary? I wonder how many were whims or wants. How many items bought will disappear into a cupboard or basement only to be used a couple of times before being recycled in a garage sale? Could some of that money have been better spent—on investing in what lasts for eternity, for instance?

Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store up your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21 NLT).

For many, Christmas shopping is far from over. As we consider our shopping lists and the great sales that come after Christmas, let’s ask God to help us keep His perspective. Let’s practice self-discipline in buying material things and remember to also invest in what matters most—people’s souls. We can easily do so through donating to non-profits such as The Salvation Army, a local crisis pregnancy center, Angel Tree, and media-based ministries such as Focus on the Family or Insight for Living. Mission organizations will also welcome donations so they can continue to spread the Gospel far and wide.

Where our treasure is, there will our hearts and thoughts also be. Let’s treasure those things that matter most.

#bgbg2 #ChristmasGenerosity #WhatMattersMost

Holidays and Hurtful Family Relationships

American Thanksgiving weekend has arrived, and Christmas is on the way. Holidays draw families together—at least in the physical sense. But sometimes they become an emotional testing ground.

This is nothing new. Recall Hannah’s situation. She shared her husband with a second wife, Peninnah. As though that wasn’t enough to create family tension, her husband played favorites. He clearly loved Hannah more, and that made Peninnah jealous.

Every year the family traveled to Shiloh to worship at the Tabernacle, and every year the same emotions flared. Peninnah mocked Hannah’s inability to conceive, and Hannah was reduced to tears. She was so distressed that she couldn’t even eat (1 Samuel 1:3-7).

How do holiday family dynamics work for you? Maybe you’re thinking, Great! We truly love each other and enjoy spending time together.But perhaps you’re thinking otherwise: Heaven help us all. Spending time together is ‘way too stressful.

If the latter describes you or someone you know, then here are three insights we can learn from Hannah’s situation.

  • Extend grace

Every year on that holiday, Peninnah watched her husband demonstrate that he loved Hannah more than he loved her. Imagine the rejection she felt. She reacted in an inappropriate manner, and her response hurt Hannah deeply.

Do you have a relative who says or does hurtful things when you’re together? Remember—hurting people hurt people. It’s probable that your family member has emotional pain that hasn’t been addressed. Ask God to show you the root cause for that behavior and to help you see that person through His eyes.

  • Pray

Hannah experienced such anguish that she couldn’t even eat. Finally, one year in deep distress, she poured out her heart to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:10-20). Doing so lifted her burden and changed her perspective. She returned a transformed woman knowing the Lord cared deeply for her needs.

To whom do you turn when you feel upset about a particular family member? Pour out your heart to the Lord. He knows every detail and understands the dynamics. Invite Him into your situation and expect Him to work. His answer might not look like what you think it should, but that’s okay—it’ll be better!

  • Worship

Hannah worshiped the Lord in her distress. Her burden lifted when her focus changed from her pain to His character.

Ruth Graham Bell once said that worry and worship cannot share the same space. Rather than worry about the next family holiday, begin now to worship God for His faithfulness, wisdom, and love. When the holiday begins and the same old stress raises its head, choose to worship God for His grace and forgiveness in your life and for the Holy Spirit given to you so that you might live victoriously.

#FamilyHolidays  #LovingOthers #bgbg2

Car Wrecks and Faith Stories

I get to spend the weekend with our son and his family. Every time we visit, our grandkids ask this question: “Grandma, would you please tell us a story from your life?” This time I’ll tell them about how God provided a different car following our accident on October 31st.

Our 14-year-old Toyota Matrix served us well for countless miles. Exactly how many miles is unknown because the odometer stopped about three years ago when it rolled over to 299,999 km, but we suspect they surpassed 400,000.

Several weeks ago the car started making bad sounds. On Canadian Thanksgiving weekend as we drove home from sightseeing with our kids, we wondered whether we’d be stranded beside the highway. We gave thanks for having towing insurance.

Then the clutch broke. And the oil needed changing. And the windshield wipers needed replacing. All of these came within a week of our car being totaled in a four-car pileup.

My husband and I have witnessed God do some pretty amazing things or us, His kids. Recalling His faithfulness gave us the courage to trust Him to provide a replacement vehicle. How He would do so with our limited budget was anyone’s guess. Here’s what He did.

Our daughter Stephanie decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign. Several donations brought in more than a thousand dollars. Our car insurance paid double what we expected. When we told the clerk about the new clutch, she added 80% of that repair’s cost. One of my readers  sent an e-transfer. And a local couple said, “God has impressed us to help you financially. This is good timing. When you find the car you want and know what’s left to be paid after you crunch the numbers, then let us know and we’ll make up the difference.”

God has once again blown us away with His provision. He’s given us a different car (a 2010 Toyota Matrix with only 104,000 km), and He spared us from having to make monthly payments. As missionaries living on faith support, that is a HUGE blessing.

I can hardly wait to share this story with the grandkids. Psalm 78:4 says, “We will not hide these truths from our children but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD. We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did.” Telling our faith stories to the younger generations is vital so that they might open their hearts to the Lord and learn to love, obey, and trust Him. As the psalmist writes: “So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering his glorious miracles and obeying his commands” (Psalm 78:7).

My eldest granddaughter has asked me to put my stories into a book. I’ve already included many in my devotions, but they’re scattered here and there. Maybe it’s time to collect them into one place as a legacy for my family and as a means of bringing glory to God.

If a little person asked you to tell a story from your life, how would you respond?

#LeaveALegacy  #GodStories #GodProvides  #bgbg2