Spirit-Imposed Aloneness

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been unable to cull lessons from my own life. In the past, a single day might lend me a hundred ideas to share, and a dozen little things that God taught me and I felt compelled to ask if he was sharing them with you too. But lately, maybe it’s pregnancy brain, I feel stuffed with cotton–writer’s block at its absolute worst–almost unidentifiable. Just plain, “I got nothing.”

But this morning I recognized myself in an anecdote Lysa TerKeurst shared on Focus on the Family.  She had been invited to share the crux of her new book, Uninvited. (Pun intended.) And I decided that if I saw myself in her story, I might find some deeper meaning, some richer lesson by writing about it and, hopefully, you might find yourself there too.

Lysa was attending a banquet for leaders. Dozens of tables were spread for numerous guests of high calling–to lead, teach and mentor others. She looked forward to hobnobbing with them, sharing stories, gleaning ideas and mingling with others of the same ilk. The facility had gone all out, there were name cards for every seat.

For a while, she milled about uncomfortably looking for her name. It had to be there! Finally, she found it on a table in the very back of the room but to her disappointment, she didn’t recognize a single other name at her table. No matter, she’d meet new people. But no one showed up. There she sat by herself at a lovely, decorated table set for 10, in a room full of influential people–alone.

Please finish reading this article at My Daily Armor …

 

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What I Thought God Wanted

A man stood before God listening intently; he wanted to catch every single word of instruction.

“Do you see that boulder there?” God asked. “The one on the very edge of the precipice. I created it and placed it exactly there with you in mind. This is your mission, your calling. I want you to push that boulder.”

“That’s all God?” The man glanced down at his puny physique and felt a flush of shame redden his cheeks. It doesn’t seem like a very important job, he thought. At the same time, doubt clashed with his indignation. What if I’m not strong enough to move that huge rock, he wondered.

“That is exactly what I made you to do,” God affirmed. “I will always be with you. Don’t worry, you can do all things through my strength.”

So the man set his shoulder against the stone. Day in and day out, night after long night, he pressed on. Over time, his shoulders broadened with sinewy muscle. His skin grew dark and tan at first, then weathered and ruddy. His shoulder bruised. Once or twice, he pulled back and looked at the massive rock. It hadn’t moved a millimeter.

The voice of doubt reached a fevered pitch in his mind: I’m failing. The one, seemingly insignificant thing God gave me to do and I can’t even manage that. And where is God? I thought He was going to help me—be my strength! Maybe I didn’t hear Him right. Maybe He’s not even pleased with all my work. I only wanted to be obedient. I’m sure someone else could do a better job.

Just then, he felt a presence behind him. His Lord stood there, quietly assessing the tired man and the stone. “I’m sorry, God,” the man whispered. “I couldn’t move it even one tiny bit.”

Jesus reached out a scarred hand and tipped the man’s face up to look Him in the eyes. “What are you talking about?” He asked gently. “I never asked you to move the stone. I only asked you to push it.”

My pastor told that story in a message about finishing well. He quoted Paul in 1 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

My hearted perked up with his words. I’ve felt like that! In particular, I have prayed and prayed and prayed for my husband to love the Lord with all his heart and to lead our family spiritually. (I’ve also employed some unsuccessful tactics like pleading and bribing.) Now, 15 years later, I’m tired, I feel like a failure and I want to quit.

As a Christian wife, I know that my most important assignment on earth is to help my husband become the man God created him to be. God brought us together; He created me to be my husband’s helpmate. Sometimes this appointment seems mundane and unimportant compared to world-wide evangelism and other lofty callings. Other times, it seems like much more than I can handle; it feels like I have sweated and struggled to no avail.

As I listened to the sermon, I felt Jesus’ presence. I turned my heart to listen.

“Daughter,” He said. “I never told you to change your husband. I assigned you to be his helpmate. You put a great burden on yourself when you expect a specific outcome or result. You are only to obey me—be his helpmate. I will be the one to move and change him in my time. But, do you see what good has come of your labor? You, yourself have grown strong. When you were tired and weary, you learned to rest in me. You’ve gained some calluses and bruises, but now you are wiser, too.”

Whether it be our hopes and dreams for a certain type of marriage or something else, our lives and sanity depend on understanding specifically what God has called us to do. He has not called us to bring about an outcome, only to allow Him to use us in the process.

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 (emphasis added)

I Will Step Up, I Will Be Faithful–I Will Even Stay Home

HOME-E-O-STAY-SIS — We will not be using the typical spelling or implied definition of the word. (Just didn’t want you to think the editor had lost her marbles!)

My first royalty check on the second book, Beyond Belief: Jesus Saved You, Now What? was less that $15. When they tell you that being an author is not lucrative–take them seriously. Of course there are exceptions; I’m not one of them. And perhaps that’s in part, or mostly my own fault. Let me start back at the beginning.

When my second book came I out, I was tired of writing. I felt God leading me toward editing (which I love) and He opened wide several doors. I stepped through with enthusiasm and God has blessed my new endeavors. So I quietly allowed the door to close behind me, effectively closing the chapter on my books.

To be quite honest, I hate promoting my books. I think every author does really, but I simply decided not to do it. Other than requesting a few reviews and a handful of comments on Facebook, I left that job to my agent.

Suddenly, I was swamped with discontentment and insecurity. I lay in bed Monday night and felt a familiar wash of melancholy and panic: What am I doing with my life? What if I don’t receive any more clients for editing? What if my books really go nowhere? What was the point of writing? Maybe I shouldn’t even call myself a writer. I can’t even come up with blog posts anymore. Maybe I should go back to school. Maybe I should get an outside job. Maybe my life is just pathetic. What am I here for, Lord?

All I do is stay home and keep myself busy with what–work that maybe doesn’t even matter? Suddenly, my contentment at home, my home-eo-stay-sis was interrupted. 

Forlornly, I took my tears the the Father the next morning. Gently, as He always does, he layered answers from His word with sermons and affirmation from friends.

I listened to a sermon from Elevation Church the other day, a guest sermon by the author of Through The Eyes of a Lion. 

I won’t give it away, but his comments about focus, vision and sticking with it–doing the same things a new way–instead of “calling envy” and longing for a more important, significant calling, struck me. 

Then, God’s Word in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work … will complete it.” God doesn’t stop halfway. And Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“–Don’t give up! And then the clincher that tells me I am expected to be faithful too: “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Next, in Bible study this morning, a sweet friend confessed to feeling the same way recently. That night as she prayed with her husband, he voluntarily closed the prayer (which apparently, he rarely does.) His words: “Thank you for my wife, thank you that she is such a good friend.”

Her heart soared. No matter how low she felt in the eyes of the world, no matter how small her calling felt at home, her husband’s affirmation that she was his friend confirmed to her that she is smack in the center of her calling. And it encouraged my heart as well. That’s why I stay home–for the sake of my marriage, for the sake of my home, because this is the first and highest calling God has given me. Everything else that He’s blessed me to do falls neatly under that banner of wife, homemaker … friend.

Finally, God prodded my heart concerning faithfulness to the good work I began–faithfulness to work diligently to put the books He wrote through me into the hands of as many people as possible. A crazy idea occurred to me, and mustering my courage, I grabbed a copy of my book and marched into a local, Christian-owned coffee shop.

“Hi! I recently wrote a Bible study and I was wondering if you would permit me to place a few copies in your coffee shop for free. I’d like to put a business card in them in case readers would like to buy some. But would you permit me to simply offer a few free books to your customers?”

Their response was overwhelming. First of all, the only people working that shift were the owners (exactly who I needed to talk to). Then, not only did they agree to let me place some books in their store, but they offered to host a book signing. A women’s Bible study group meets there every Thursday night: “Would you want to have a book signing on a Thursday evening? You could start before they arrive and then you’d have an audience that is exactly suited to your book … ”

The rest of the conversation was equally uplifting. We briefly shared our stories, our desires to further God’s kingdom and our understanding of His call on our lives.

Only God could have suggested that idea to me and then prepared the way for my request to be received and blessed.

Oh! and one more thing. Out of the blue a wonderful Christian radio host asked me to do an interview with her this Saturday on Beyond Belief! (Details to come!)

So, I will step up. I will be faithful. I will be content in my home, diligent in and proud of my calling.

Seasons: Why You Might Be Overcommitted, Stressed Out and Irritable

There’s Beauty in Every Season

Somewhere, some-when, in the last several months, I’ve lost my “edge”. Suddenly, the blank page intimidates me again. I have nothing to say. Nothing seems original or worthy of the time and effort to put fingers on keys, nor does anything seem worthy of being read–it’s all been said before, right?

In fact, when I look back at the thousands of posts I’ve written–I’ve probably said it all before.

God’s Word is emphatically clear when it tells us that our tongues can get carried away. They can set an entire forest on fire! So, at what point does a writer say, “Enough?”

I’m wondering if that’s where God has me … I know many authors and writers take full lifetimes to express all God has laid on their hearts. But, I’ve turned a corner in my own vocation, finding greater joy and ease in reading others’ work than crafting my own. So that’s where I’ve been–reading, refining and relishing the work of other writers who call on the One True God. What a joy it is!

We’ve talked about seasons here before. I truly believe one of the hardest things in life is letting go of a lovely season. Think of autumn, always seemingly the shortest season of all. A few crisp days and then suddenly, they bleed into frigid temps and good reasons to stay cozy indoors. Or, summer clings to its very limits, refusing to release those long, hot days to the reprieve of fall.

In life, think of the things God’s given you to do that you absolutely loved! You found your niche–others could tell, too. For a time, you were successful, happy, predictable, comfortable and then … something interrupted your flow. Suddenly, you found yourself starting over, asking God, “What do you want me to do?” At the very least, you found yourself doing something you never expected.

I think that’s why I love the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon says over and over, “There is a season for … “. The interesting thing about seasons though, is one can’t begin until the other ends.

Maybe that’s how we find ourselves overcommitted, stressed out and irritable–we’ve launched into a new season with out telling the last one “goodbye”. 

What season do you find yourself in? Is one fading and another dawning? Are you afraid to say goodbye?

Even as He quiets my mind, heart and fingers, God still speaks. So, for the next season, I hope to share the little things He’s teaching me–the daily wonders, the calls to thankfulness, the stern rebukes, the steadfast love. These posts may be shorter, concise or questioning and even less than profound. But I hope you’ll enjoy this next season with me. After all, there’s beauty in every season.

Who Is Your Calling?

Last week, I told you to Abandon Your Calling. We often think of calling as a set of skills or a defined direction our life is supposed to take. Ironic though that in pursuit of the “calling” we often forget to listen to the One who is calling…

James is the just the guy to pick an argument. He’s the New Testament author who seems to take issue with our free grace. He’s the one that seems to poke the smoldering flames of lingering guilt over failures, expectations and performance.

From the very first chapter of the book by his name, he tells us that without works, faith is dead. So we better get busy proving our faith. Right? But, the second half of James chapter one has always stumped me. What does any of this have to do with a guy looking in the mirror?

Check out verses 23-25:

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”

I took a few minutes to look up the words in the original Greek. Let me share my personal paraphrase:

For is anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, is like a man who is attentive to his course of life and knows his circumstances and understands his inward thoughts and feelings. Then, he follows after his “calling” oblivious to the quality or purpose of his life.

Let’s give James a break, not worry for a minute that he’s calling us back to works, and find out what is this course of life, this calling, that we are in danger of discarding to oblivion.

Isaiah 43:7 says, “‘Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them.’”

We were created for God’s glory. We are in danger of living oblivious to this, the ultimate course of our lives.

Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”

We are in danger of living oblivious to the calling of His glory and goodness.

Bear with me.

What if we are not made for specific careers, individual ministries or one unique calling? What if we are wasting our time praying, “Oh God, what do you want me to do with my life?”

The work we are called to is obedience to God’s commands. Jesus couldn’t have made these commands more clear in John 13:34, “A new command I give you, love one another as I have loved you,”.

Obedience is not performance. If we look hard into the Word of God and truly know who we are and what we are to do—to love others as Christ loved us—but turn around and merely perform, our grace is worthless, our knowledge vain.

In Matthew 7, Jesus said that the man who hears and does not do the Word of God is like one who built his house on sand. Though he might work hard and build the finest house, worthy of admiration, when the storms of life come all of his work will collapse—useless.

Our work is the obedience of love. This comes out of our very nature which matures in Christ when we look intently into His word. This word informs not performance but our personhood, not good work but the obedience of love. It doesn’t inform our own special calling, but informs the world of the God who saves us.

 

Abandon Your Calling

the-cavern-1382369-mWorry is that bastard emotion–the one that sneaks up on you when you imagine you’re in control and mocks all that you’ve tamed and called your life.

You know it comes partly from within you. You can feel it well up inside, birthed from a dark place that you’d rather forget or not acknowledge–a memory, a bad experience.

On the other hand, you can’t identify where worry comes from. Sometimes, it rises from places you’ve never seen before, circumstances you’ve never endured–a fear, imagination or predilection. The terrible thing is, no matter worry’s origin, it finds its counterpart in you. It thrives on your waking hours, stalks your dreams and plays with your mind. It feels like pesky flies circling your good intentions, your attempts to concentrate, pray or ignore it. 

I found a page in my journal recently where I had cried out to God, “I want you to be my one pure and holy passion! One singular longing not simply above all the others but replacing all the others. I want my thoughts so fixed on you, my eyes so mesmerized by you that for once, this pesky worry–no matter where it comes from–is rendered mute and inconsequential!”

The best part? He answered me:

Beloved. And hear me say that again, Beloved. You are deeply loved and cherished, no amount of wrangling in your mind can undo that. But you are far too obsessed with figuring out and mapping the flow of your life. You thrive on routines, demand a well-defined calling, seek a respectable agenda or vision. But these longings keep you from being relaxed and organically guided by my Spirit. And it is organic, because I am your Creator, your breath, your pulse. Every cell and the tenor of your future are mine.

And that measure of safety and stability you long for? That too is found in me. You know my character, it is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). How can your road be treacherous when you have a well-traveled, attentive Shepherd?

Have your thoughts ever buzzed with high-pitched fervor through your brain? Whether it be simply anticipating guests or bigger like distress in a relationship, the state of your faith, illness, fear or anger–all of these can manifest as worry, which simply means “distress, unease”.

Take it from a well, worn warrior. Stop looking for the straight and narrow. Stop searching for the plotted path, the intended direction. Stop seeking your calling or “what you’re supposed to do”. Abandon perfect. Abandon the map.

Were you ever told the Bible is your roadmap to heaven? It’s not, so it’s safe to abandon the map! The Bibleshepherd-2-853654-m is a spotlight on Jesus. It points you to the Shepherd.

Start looking at the Shepherd. Follow the well-traveled Guide. It will be a wild ride and you will rarely, if ever, know what’s coming next. But you will always, always be going the right way.

Took the Words Out of My Mouth, and Old Lessons Re-Learned

There’s something affirming about someone taking the words right out of your mouth, especially when that someone is really Someone!

In July, I wrote a post called, “Love Isn’t What You Thought It Was”.

(To be honest, God has been dredging up a lot of old lessons for the past few weeks: Walking, Loving, Good Works, Calling and Purpose to name a few.)

A few days ago, I received my daily subscription from Desiring God. The sermonette was written by John Bloom, the president of Desiring God.

His title caught my eye: Love is Not a Verb. 

Funny, I think I wrote something like that…

So, I went back through the archives of Predatory Lies and discovered that indeed, God had spoken that same truth to my own heart: “Love Isn’t What You Thought It Was“.

I won’t go so far as to say that great minds think alike, but I will revel in the truth that our God never changes. His truth is always the same, yesterday and forever.

What do you think Love is?

coming SOON, the paperback of The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story

Unidentified Calling

How many times have I told you God? I’m not cut out for  this! It almost feels like you’re that parent with pie-in-the-sky dreams for his kid, ambitions for Jonny to be a star baseball player when all Jonny wants to do is learn the guitar. 

I am a self-aware people pleaser. I’m not an entrepreneur or a risk taker in any capacity. I don’t like failure or rejection and I can’t handle large uninsured investments of my time, money or emotional energy. Yet, here I am, holding the second rejection of my manuscript in as many days. What makes you think I’m supposed to be a writer? 

If I didn’t know myself so well, I’d assume that I’m just fool hardy, a glutton for punishment, cocky and pretentious to think I have a story to tell and a ministry to fulfill through the written word. But I know I heard you. I know you put me up to this. 

Just the other day, I was thanking you for finally revealing “my calling”. But now, as I evaluate the outcome of my obedience, I think you’ve got me all wrong. It’s so hard, Lord! I really don’t want to sit in this uncomfortable space of waiting for and listening to you, of pressing on and stepping out in faith again and again. Can’t I just do something cut and dry, trudge along in a rut carved by some previous, daring saint? Is there just a “good Christian” to-do list I can follow?

I prayed this prayer under my breath, not too sure that I want God to hear me. I mean, I don’t want Him to give up on me, to relinquish His great plans for me, but I’m so tired of living in limbo. It feels like none of my projects find any closure. I’m still waiting for feedback from publishers, waiting for the answer to prayers about our family’s future, waiting for that phone call to be returned, waiting for the support group I lead to grow, waiting for the magazine editor’s response, waiting for some affirmation that my life is bearing any fruit for my Father, that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing something right!

God?

Except for this uncanny pressure, like His thumb between my shoulder blades gently propping me up and pressing me forward, I wonder if God really doesn’t hear my whispered prayer. He’s been mysteriously quiet today. But He didn’t chide me for my fears or mock my frustration. He only lay upon my heart one thing: “[Do not] get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time [you] will reap a harvest of blessing if [you] don’t give up.”*

I’m pressing on.

I am blessed to work with, write for and count as friends, dozens of other authors. So, I take great comfort in their humble stories of rejection letters and their gutsy determination to press on.

Here are a few links that have bolstered my spirit:

Chad Allen, by means of Mary Demuth and her humble honesty about failure even after you’ve “made it”. Here’s a priceless one, a cup of tea for the weary creative’s soul. I shared it once before and I’ve Pinned it so I can find it over and over, but just so you don’t miss it: In the Ditch.  And here’s board where I keep scraps of possibilities. Hopefully you’ll find brain stimulation there too. And one more, By Anne R. Allen, with enough wit to put some saucy back in your key strokes and determination to defy discouragement.

In the next several posts I’m going to be “going deeper”. That’s something the Holy Spirit  has been etching on my heart lately. I’m not completely sure what it means, but the more that I explore it, I’m finding it applies to nearly every aspect of my life.

I have a tendency to cast a wide net. I reach farther, do more and often give up quickly on the things that seem to have the least potential. Then it’s off to the next interest, praying this ambition is more promising (honestly, praying that maybe I found God’s sweet spot for me). Anxiety wells the longer it takes for an effort to blossom. Pure fear takes over when God seems to tie my hands behind my back. Wait He says, kneel here until your knees wear a deep indentation in the carpet.

What are the things that make you question whether you’ve heard God? What were you completely sure of yesterday, that you’re less than convinced of today? How do you know if you’re on the right track? What if you’re not?

*Galatians 6:9

Questioning a Prayer

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17

I was praying through this passage this morning and two related questions came to mind.

1. Does Christ’s authority (rule) bring peace in my heart?

2. Do I see peace as my calling?

Thoughts?