Why You Do (And Don’t Do) What You Do (And Don’t Do)

New Years is coming, and that means resolutions. For our church, it means a 3 week fast in January which, for some of us, ends up extending beyond that. It is a time when we tell ourselves we are going to get life RIGHT this time.

As I look at the weight I’ve gained over the past year, I really have been asking myself what went wrong?  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I did what I WANTED to do, because that’s what we all do.  Therefore, I wanted to eat more than I wanted to keep off or lose weight.  The 64,000 question is “Why?”

I’ve been preparing for a month of sermons I’ll be doing regarding fasting.  I was asking God what He wanted me to share this year, and up popped an article in the corner of my eye that gave me the answer.  It discussed why we have trouble quitting bad habits.

It linked to article after article of related information in multiple disciplines. Some of what I read explained why Celebrate Recovery Step Studies, Life Patterns and Temperament Therapy each work to some degree.  But suddenly I saw the bigger picture – it’s not just one particular 5-Step fix, but a combination of things that allows us to break negative cycles.

These tactics encompass the physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual aspects of our lives.  I believe the reason we normally lose discipline is because we only use tools in a few of these areas instead of all of them, because we want a quicker, easier fix. However, our issues have become more complicated over the years, so there will not be any quick and easy fix.

So, over the next 5 weeks or so, I will be sharing the key elements required for change.  I will be working them right along side of you as I do some literal soul searching about what has and hasn’t “stuck” in my life, and how to change that.  I’ll give you a little bit to think about this week in preparation for starting next week.

Write down the times you have been successful at being disciplined and doing what you believed you wanted to do. 

What were you successful at accomplishing? 

How long were you successful at remaining disciplined? 

What actions replaced the disciplined actions? 

Why do you think you chose to stop and replace the disciplined actions?

I could write down a ton of answers.  For over 2 years, I was extremely disciplined in my eating and exercising – and then I wasn’t. I was very disciplined in my vegan eating and cooking for about a year – and then I wasn’t.  Then there are the many seasons of disciplined exercise, up to 5 hours a week – and then a drop to nothing (normally precipitated by a sickness).

I can talk about my spiritual disciplines, such as successfully spending time alone with God before I went to bed and having better sleep and peace.  How about getting up early to read the scriptures?  What about a dedicated prayer time and prayer list?  All things I have done faithfully – for a season.

Socially, I was determined to be more proactive in my friendships, reaching out more often to people – but I didn’t keep it up.  In other relationships, I wanted to get closer to people and work through my intimacy issues. When upset, I didn’t want to withdraw and isolate, which is my pattern, but wanted to develop healthier responses that could nurture my relationships.

Now, I don’t expect to get everything right all of the time. I have had some successes, like keeping my commitment to visit my parents twice a month, and until my recent sickness, to be constant to minister to those in my groups and sites.  However, I believe God is calling me (and you) to apply ourselves to obtaining the FULLNESS of His Spirit and His Wisdom. 

He wants to teach us more, to empower us more, so we can be more like Him in all areas of our lives. He wants to reveal to us more of who we are, so we can see ourselves as He sees us. He also wants us to be able to love God and love others the way Jesus loves the Father and others, and that, we must admit, will require a lot of change in our lives.

So start with the questions I posed above, if you are serious about change right now.  Walk with me as I learn more about myself and about my God, and by His Spirit be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I want to learn from you and your stories as much as you will learn from me, so please share your answers with me.  Today we embark on a new journey together – to be changed into His likeness.

My Life Has Always Sucked (and other generalizations that stop us from being healed)

Psalm 13

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

I wanted to share a live recording of a very short song I wrote and played in college. It is from Psalm 13. I find that putting psalms to music helps me memorize them.  I hope it helps you to encourage yourself in the Lord by memorizing His word and speaking or singing it to yourself.

Sometimes it just feels like you have felt bad FOREVER. Time stands still when you are hurting, physically or emotionally. We tend to no longer remember any days that were good, and we rewrite our personal history to be a simplistic, condensed version of the truth, such as “My life has always sucked.”

But that’s not true either, because you have had moments of joy throughout your life. You are just choosing right now not to remember them because those memories don’t support the picture you have painted of your life as always having been bad. When we are exhausted from the battle against sorrow and disappointment, we tend to over simplify and generalize, because we just don’t feel like we have it in us to relive and deal with the specifics.

But therein lies the problem. Depression and anxiety cannot be healed without dealing with specific events in your pasts, not generalizations. When I ask women to drill down to the specifics of what has happened to them in the past, to tell me the last time they felt happy, the last good friend they had, or when their depression started, and they can’t tell me anything at all, I know they are blocking memories. They are blocking them because it is easier to live in depression and anxiety than to fight against it, and by simplifying and generalizing your past, there’s nothing to deal with. You can just “give up” and say there is nothing to be done about it.

But that is not the truth. The truth is that specific things happened in your life to set in motion your current paralysis of emotion. You must be willing to drill down into your past and dig those things up so they can be healed, not ignore them and pretend they didn’t happen. You have to REALLY WANT to be healed, and the dangerous thing about depression is that it sucks the life out of you so you don’t feel you have the energy to deal with anything. With anxiety, the problem is that you don’t want to deal with anything that will make you more anxious, so you avoid dealing with your past. So you avoid your past, and by so doing, entrench yourself in your present misery.

So what is the answer? You have to believe that you CAN be healed. You must have faith that God WANTS you to be healed and believe He has the power to heal you. Many of you have been determining God’s character according to what fallen human beings have done to you in your life and have come to the incorrect conclusion that He isn’t good and that He doesn’t care for you. BUT HE IS GOOD AND HE DOES CARE FOR YOU. He sent His son, Jesus, to die on a cross for you so you could be with Him forever. If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more does our Heavenly Father want to give good gifts to you?

I want to encourage you to attempt to believe in God’s goodness once again. I want you to trust in His unfailing love for you, and give Him the opportunity to heal what caused your pain and loneliness. You have your entire life ahead of you, and you actually CAN change what the rest of your life will look like IF you are willing to trust God and do the work of cleaning out the specific emotional debris that is clogging up your life. My prayer for you is that you will finally be able to say: I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been so good to me.

Slivers of Truth

Everyone has been in an argument where someone else said something not very nice about you. The knee-jerk reaction is always to bite back and point out what’s wrong with them, as if their negative qualities disqualify them from saying anything negative about you.  It results in hurt feelings, broken relationships, and deep wounds, especially if you are already truly afraid that there is something irreparably wrong with you, and they have just put your worst fears on display for everyone to see.

You see, if you have been taught by people’s actions or words that you are not enough just as you are, that you have to earn people’s love, acceptance and approval, then being “right” and being “all right” at all times will be the most important thing to you.  When someone dares to say that you are not “all right”, that something is amiss in you, it can be like a jagged sword jabbed into your soul.  But those words don’t have to saw you in two as they have in the past. Those words can, instead, bring you closer to Christ and being more like Him.

We do that in 2 ways:

1. We need to accept that we, like everyone else in the world, are flawed. We do not have it all together and never will on this side of heaven. We will never get it all right, say all the right words, or please every person.  We need to be changed if we are to become more like Jesus in this world.

2. We need to accept that, no matter what, God loves us and says we are completely loved, accepted and approved DESPITE any of our character defects.  He knows every single flaw in us due to our flesh, and He took those flaws into account when He created us and His plan for us. He is not disappointed or taken aback by our flaws. He knew about them before we were born, and still had us be born.

But change requires being told that you have done something wrong, have fallen short in some area.  It also requires that, more than anything, you want to please God more than you want to avoid hearing negative things about yourself.  In other words, it requires humility, admitting that we don’t see and accept everything about ourselves and that someone else may see something in us that we need to pay attention to.

The problem is often how people say what is wrong with us. Their words are callous and often said in anger. They may truly intend to hurt you at that moment out of retaliation if they feel hurt.

However, just because they did not say something nicely does not mean that there isn’t a sliver of truth that God wants you to pay attention to.  He can use even those callous words spoken in anger to get us to where He needs us to be.  The question for you is, will you be humble enough to listen to what they say and ask the Holy Spirit to show you what truth exists in their claims?

It takes bravery to attempt this. It takes a willingness to trust that admitting weakness and failure in areas of our lives doesn’t mean we are a reject. But the payoff is a release from fear of what others say, and becoming that much more like Christ.

I know of several recent situations where women were confronted with their flaws. These women I know were humble and willing to listen to what was said about them and apply it to their lives. I am so incredibly impressed with these women, because they love the Lord and their families more than they love their own pride and need to be “right”. These women look more like Christ today than they did yesterday. But what they don’t realize now is that, from hereon out, other people’s words will not be able to hurt them like they have in the past, because they are no longer afraid of hearing negative things about themselves.

So consider this. The next time someone says something negative about you, think about receiving it as a message from God about an area that you need to work on.  Ignore the way the message is delivered; just ask the Holy Spirit to show you what, if any, slivers of truth are lying within that message.

You can then avoid arguments about it by honestly saying to that person, “You know, you may be right about that. I’m going to pray about it. Thank you for pointing that out.”  What more is there for them to say if you are willing to agree that you may be wrong and have something in your life to work on?

You are loved and accepted completely and totally by the One who knows you best and loves you most.  That means that being told by others may hurt, but it doesn’t disqualify us from being loved.  Allow God to use everything that happens to you to make you more like Him, including unkind words, and every day you will be able to know you pleased God with your humility and submission to Him.  You will make your Daddy so very proud.

 

 

There’s Just Something Wrong With You

“There’s just something wrong with you!”  Nothing like hearing that from a parent to completely undermine your self-confidence and kill any hope of you thinking anyone will ever love you.  In counseling sessions and recovery meetings over the years, I have heard endless tales of parents who told their children, either by actions or words, that they were of no consequence. They weren’t worth their time, their energy, their money, their love.

Of course, as children, we don’t know that we are dealing with broken adults in these cases. We don’t know that we can’t trust what they say, that they are most likely just passing on the brokenness they inherited from their parents. We just take what they say and how they act as the gospel truth, and get our value from whether or not they acted like they valued us.

But that devaluation we receive, whether from parents or school mates or the media, sticks with us. It coats us, inside and out. It is like the slime that has covered my swim spa – clear and hard to see, but sticking to every surface, and activated whenever something touches it.

Shame doesn’t come from what you do. Shame comes from what other say and infer about who and how you are.  It may have started with something that you did wrong, but the point of the conversation moved from what you did to who you are.  This is especially true if what you did negatively affected them in any way – it is a way to strike back at whoever hurt them. For many, including myself, it can be a knee jerk reaction to fear or pain.

Then we take the shame we receive from those around us and apply it to God.  “If the people closest to me see that there is something irreparably wrong with me, then just imagine what God must think and feel about me.  Yeah, He might have started out with a perfect design, but I must have done something really horrible to royally muck it up.”

But that is simply a clever lie of the enemy.   God knew all the days of your life before you lived one. He made you fully aware of your strengths and weaknesses if your needs weren’t met. He knew the choices you would make, and how you would end up today.  But here’s the clincher – HE STILL MADE YOU.  Knowing all of that, He still wanted you just as you are, even today.

God knows you better than anyone, and He says you are perfect to Him.  The question is whether or not you will accept His opinion of you over other people’s opinions.  The only way to be free of shame is to accept and live according to another non-shaming opinion of who you are.   The good news is that God’s good opinion of you has been made very clear.  The bad news is that you will have to discard as a lie all of the other opinions you have based your life upon.  Easier said than done.

So whose report are you going to believe?  Your broken parents?  The stupid children who made fun of you and bullied you?  The greedy corporations that profit from making you feel “less than” everyone else?  Or the God of the Universe who made you and knows you intimately, and STILL says you are His beautiful daughter whom He loves?

If you are having trouble making that choice because of past ways people have treated you, then I invite you to make an appointment with me to heal those painful memories and free you up to create a completely new identity based on who God says you are.   You don’t have to live according to the lies of the enemy, the ignorance of other broken people, or even the incorrect assumptions you have made about yourself.  You can be free of your shame, starting today.

 

 

What I Learned This Week: Yes, Life Is Always Going To Have Struggles

I have been dealing with health insurance problems.  Doctor says they’ve submitted a claim, insurance says they haven’t.  Hospital says insurance has denied their claim, insurance says they haven’t.  I can’t control anyone, no one will put anything in writing.  One day the insurance company swears I don’t have mammogram coverage, then a month later they say they do.  Have you ever wanted to reach through the phone and strangle someone??? (I know, that’s not very Christian, but it’s FLESHY Christian!)

I was getting incredibly stressed out.  I didn’t even want to go to Celebrate Recovery last night – I just wanted to go to bed.  I’ve been obedient to get up at 5:45 every morning to exercise and have devotion, and not only do I not see any outward difference, the only things apparently tightening up are my ham strings! (Ouch!)

So I asked God the same question you always ask.  “God, why does it always have to be this hard?”  And God responded with “What made you think that at some point on this earth, you could hit cruise control and you wouldn’t have any more struggles?”  It just smacked me in the face.  My unrealistic expectations almost soured me on God and life.  Luckily, my very realistic God brought me back in line through the Holy Spirit’s voice.

You know, we can ruin our own lives with bad attitudes that are based on wholly unrealistic expectations.  Do you know that if you have a roof over your head, and food to eat, you are among the elite in the world?  Over 795 million people in the world go without enough food to eat, and we complain because we are having trouble getting our health company to connect with our medical providers, making calls on our cell phones on our breaks on our jobs, going home in our vehicles to a safe place, and complaining about the food we are or are not eating. Perspective is everything.

As long as we are in a fleshly body, our body will want whatever it wants, whenever it wants it.  That will never change. We will have cravings and be easily manipulated by our senses.

As long as we are in this sinful and fallen world, we will have to deal with broken and selfish people (and they will have to deal with broken and selfish “us”).  They will make decisions that will adversely affect us, and we will continually have to trust God that He will still re-arrange everything so that His purpose and plan for us is not affected.

If we continually expect life to get EASIER, we will consistently be frustrated and dissatisfied with life.  But God never promised it would be easy – only that it would be worth it.  When the Hebrews left Egypt, they had to spend 40 years in the desert to turn slaves into soldiers, because they were going to have to fight for their Promised Land.  It was hard, and many complained and died in the wilderness from their lack of trust in God.

You would have thought that, once they got to the land of milk and honey, all would be swell.  But no, they had to fight to KEEP the Promised Land as well.  We have to fight to keep our faith, just as the Apostle Paul did.

2 Timothy 4:7 – I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

So when things are hard, just remember, God has promised to take everything that happens to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose and work it for their good.  But the good He promises is not that everything will work out in this life.  It is that He will use everything to conform us to be that much more like Jesus.   

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

The Serenity Prayer says something that always puts things in perspective to me.  It ends with:

That I may be REASONABLY happy in THIS life, and SUPREMELY happy with Him in the NEXT.

We can only expect reasonable happiness in this life; asking for supreme happiness is asking for too much on earth.  But we can look forward to it in the next life, and dream about it while we are here, and experience glimpses of it when we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  I must remember to put on my armor and be a good soldier for Him, and look forward to my soon coming rest.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Prayer or Praise, Hard or Easy

I learned some great tools from some ladies in my groups this week, and I want to share them with you.

One woman shared how she handles all the situations in her life. They fall into 2 categories:

  1. Is this a prayer?
  2. Is this a praise?

Whatever is happening, she asks her self “Is this a problem?   Then this is a matter for prayer.”  Then she prays about it.  If the situation isn’t a problem, then it can be qualified as a praise, so she praises God for it.  In any case, she remains in constant communication with God no matter what happens in her life.  It reminds me of Phil 4:4-7.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Notice that if you will rejoice about your praises and pray about anything that brings anxiety, the result will be the peace of God. But what about when you are having trouble finding something to praise Him about or give thanksgiving for?  Verses 8 and 9 answer that question.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

You have to make a concerted effort to look for what is positive, which can be a real struggle if you have depression.  Of course, you can always praise God for who He is, because He never changes, regardless of the situation.  But sometimes you have to search for good things in your life, because the enemy will gladly cloud your thinking with everything you don’t have and tell you that you never will have them, so just give up.  He talks like Job’s wife by saying just curse God and die already.

That’s why making a gratitude list when you are depressed may be the one thing that keeps you going. So make the effort to look for the good, even the tiniest good, and thank Him for it.   God says it will bring you peace, but how?

Because seeing what is good builds your faith that God is good, and it helps you return to God in trust. Peace is a fruit of the spirit, and it cannot be obtained apart from the Holy Spirit of God within you.  But when you think on His goodness and draw near to Him, He draws near to you.  When you make your home in Him, He makes His home in you.

If you want the fruit of peace, you need to do everything in your power to stay close to Him.  Thinking about any and all of His blessings is how you keep clinging to Him.  Throughout your day, make everything either a prayer or a praise and start living more in the peace of God.

Lastly, another woman shared how she used to tell her children that

  1. if something is hard, it means that they are learning something. 
  2. If it is easy, they already know it.

How profound! If you are going through something hard right now, then it’s because God is trying to teach you something you don’t already know. Take the opportunity to learn the lesson and make the most of your situation. God will not waste a hurt, nor any situation – He will use it for your good by making you more like Christ through it. Rom 8:28-29 says:

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Utilize these two tools to help you keep your faith and stay in communication with God, no matter what happens.

  1. Turn your anxious situations out of your control into opportunities for accessing God’s power to change the situation through prayer.  Then leave it in His capable hands.
  2. Give God all the praise for every good thing you can find at all other times.
  3. And if you are going through something hard, ask Him what lesson He wants you to learn and find the good in that as well.  Watch as He transforms you more into the image of Christ through it.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

What I Learned This Week: Is It Worth It To You To Push Past Your Fears?

That’s what I had to ask myself.  I am extremely comfortable doing what I already know how to do.  It is doing what I’ve never done before that can shatters my nerves.

There is nothing like starting a new business to bring out the loose ends of all of your insecurities.  Mine have started looking like a 1970’s shag rug. I had a yellow and orange one I took from my parents’ house to college with me, so I know of what I speak!

The fear of failure always looms over those of us who have been judged by our performance, and especially for those from whom much has been expected.  If you have good natural skills and talents, you can fake it for a while, and probably even succeed.  However, internally, you are a mess, waiting for the next mistake to crop up and blow all of your hard work out of the water, exposing you for the incompetent fraud you are secretly afraid you may be.

Then there is the fear of failure because we have never succeeded to our own standards.  We expect things to come together quickly, be an overnight success, have everything go our way because we worked hard.  However, that’s not how the world works. Just because we work hard for something we really want doesn’t mean it will happen.  Even if I wanted to be President of the United States, that doesn’t mean it would happen.

For Christians, being successful at the wrong thing at the wrong time and place is still wrong.  The question is “Are we where God said we should be, doing what He said we should do?”  If we are pushing for success in an area that God did not lead us, then we have to ask who we are doing it for.  Most likely, we are doing it for the wrong reasons, such as trying to prove our value to ourselves and others.

On the flip side, even if we are apparently unsuccessful doing the right thing at the right time and place, we are still pleasing to God.  Why?  Because obedience is better than sacrifice. He doesn’t want our offerings that we gathered or created in our own strength and wisdom.  He only wants us to be willing to surrender wholly to His Kingdom plan, even when we don’t know what it is, where it will take us, or what the outcome will be.

And you can be sure that being obedient to His Kingdom plan will make you uber uncomfortable.  He will not keep you in the same place forever. He will push you into areas where you will need to reach out to Him for wisdom, courage, strength and direction.

A healthy Christian is constantly being pushed out of the nest they have built for themselves along their journey with God.  He is using those challenges and struggles to chisel off those things that are unlike Christ and which get between unconditional love for and surrender to Him.  If you haven’t done something new or uncomfortable, you need to be worried.  You can’t grow by staying in the same place doing the same things.

I hate the thought that I may be acting pushy.  So telling people about what I offer, even if I know it is the answer to their problem, and I have made it affordable enough for anyone to access (you can’t get better than free), is extremely hard.  My insecurities say to me, “No one is going to want to work with you.  You are going to look like a fool – a pushy fool.”

So I spit in fear’s face and said, “I’m going to do it anyway!”  I created a video that was completely me, held my breath, and posted it on my Facebook pages.  And guess what?  I didn’t die.  I realized that was a limitation I was placing on myself, and I could remove that limitation if I wanted to do so.  So I did.  And I had several women show interest in working with me.

The bottom line was that I finally determined that everything I had to gain from facing my fears was worth the leap into the unknown.  So I want you to ask yourself what you are missing by giving in to your fears?  Write or draw it out.  Make it real to yourself. Make yourself salivate over having it.  Make yourself miserable about not having it – so miserable that you will finally push past your fears and go for it.

If God is calling you somewhere to do something and you obey, He will consider you a success no matter what the apparent outcome is.  Being in the center of God’s will is the most important thing in your life.  It is where you will always find the peace in the middle of the storm, and supernatural power that will flow through you to accomplish whatever He asks of you.  What is He asking of you?  Push through your fears and DO IT!

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

What I Learned This Week: Comparisonitis (Comparing Yourself To Others)

I didn’t realize how bad I had this affliction, this addiction, called Comparisonitis.  I am continually comparing myself, sometimes subconsciously, and sometimes very consciously, with other people around me.  One minute I think I’m fine, I like myself, I’m good enough – and then BAM, I see someone else and feel inferior!

I walk into a room and immediately ask myself, “Am I bigger than her?  Smaller than her?”  I hear women in other ministries or businesses talk and I wonder “Will I ever be as successful as they are?”  I see other women and how popular and loved they are and think, “I’ll never be like that – it comes so naturally to them.  Compared to them, people obviously don’t like me.”

These thoughts in my head are endless, excruciatingly painful, and utterly useless!  God whispers to me, “But I didn’t make you to be like your sister.  I made you specifically for my own pleasure and my own purpose.  She can’t be and do what I created you to be and do, and vice versa.   I love you both equally just as you are.”

And yet, that makes absolutely NO difference to me.  I’m just being honest.  Yeah, so what if God loves me just as much as that gorgeous, thin blond with the perfect face and has a successful business or ministry?  That just doesn’t make me FEEL any better at all.  Why???

Because of my dependence on the approval of other PEOPLE, not on God.  I was taught that my appearance must be acceptable to other PEOPLE, and that other PEOPLE must deem me a social and financial success in order to be valuable.  If a HUMAN MALE doesn’t want me, isn’t attracted to me, I am worthless. (I know I’m not the only one who has these thoughts.)  I am still an addict, in my core, to social opinion about me because I never knew there was another measuring stick to be used.

When I was in elementary school, they were threatening to change over to the metric system.  All of us who were used to inches and feet were going to have to endure trying to figure out metres and litres.  We were going to have to learn an entirely DIFFERENT way of measuring everything, and we were (and to this day, still are) completely resistant to that.  We are used to measuring everything the way we always have, and God help anyone who tries to change that.

It is the same way with how we measure ourselves.  We have only known comparison to other people, pleasing other people for approval, trying to be good enough to earn love and acceptance.  It’s like we were kidnapped as a child and lived in a Cult called “Society” and were brainwashed to believe you had to earn your worth. Then God rescued us by paying a great ransom for us and said, ‘No, no – you’ve got this all wrong.  That is NOT how you get your value, nor who you get it from. I am your Parent, and I love and accept you just as you are.’  It just FEELS all wrong, and not real at all.

In the Kingdom of God, our worth comes from our Father‘s valuation of us.  And He values us for this reason only – He created us for Himself and He loves the creation He made.   Whether we ever DO anything or not for Him is completely irrelevant.

Scripture says that God has compassion on us, and that word actually means the feelings a mother has for her unborn child.  A child in the womb cannot do anything to earn love, not actions or appearance – it is loved simply because it belongs to and is a part of the mother.

We belong to and are a part of our Father in Heaven.  We are His adored daughters, so we are Princesses.  And if that wasn’t enough reason to feel valued, we are actually engaged to the man of our dreams – Jesus – who has loved us enough to give up His life for us.  We are flawless in His eyes.  THIS is the true and accurate picture of who we are.

For us to ever feel “good enough”, worthwhile, valued and lovable, we will have to make a concerted effort to CHANGE OUR MEASURING STICK.  You say, “But what people think about me is important.”   From a societal standpoint, yes, but God’s valuation of you must always supersede any and everyone else’s valuation.  You may not realize it yet, but you CAN and MUST CHOOSE whose valuation you will allow to determine your worth.

This will not be a one time decision, just as trusting Him for provision is not a one time thing.  It is a Kingdom Principle that we have to learn, and in order for it to burn new pathways in our brains, we will have to ACT on it repeatedly.  Notice, I said repeatedly, not perfectly, because we will never get this 100% right.  But we have to make the effort to remind ourselves every day about the source of our value until any other valuation of us feels wrong.

I challenge you to write out a note to yourself and post it on your bathroom mirror, on your car’s dashboard, on your computer monitor – anywhere that you will see it.  It should say something like this:

I choose to believe God’s valuation of me over society’s.  I am an adored, lovable, valuable and irreplaceable royal princess who is loved by the Prince of the Kingdom. NOTHING I DO (or not do) can ever change that.

You are not alone – we can walk together on this journey of discovering and believing our value.  We don’t have to be threatened by the existence of other Princesses, because our Father has more than enough love to go around for all of His unique little girls.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

 

What I Learned This Week: Finding Contentment Where I Am

I have been struggling with resentment and jealousy because other people have what I want.  There.  I said it.  I wish I could say it feels good to get it off my chest, but it doesn’t.  However, I’m hoping it will help some of you who are feeling it, too.

Lisa Bevere told a story about how she wanted a particular vehicle and asked God for it.  God didn’t give it to her.  However, her neighbor got one instead.  She was not a happy camper, to say the least.  Looking at that vehicle in their driveway made her resentful and jealous.  She was serving the Lord, working hard for the Kingdom.  Why had the neighbor gotten what she wanted?

Then the Lord told her that she had an inaccurate picture of how He worked and all that He had to offer.  He showed her that she had a picture of a heavenly warehouse with a set amount of items in it, and if someone else got an item she wanted, that meant there was one less for her to get.  But that is not how His gifts work.

Our Father has an unlimited number of gifts in his storehouse.  He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  Just because someone else gets something you want doesn’t mean that you are in danger of not getting yours.  He has more than enough of everything for all of us, so we have no need to be afraid of others being blessed.

This goes for activities, ministries, relationships, gifts and callings as well as stuff. You want to teach that Sunday School class, but someone else gets to do it.  You want to lead that choir, but someone else gets that position.  You want a relationship, but another woman gets into one instead. You want to be in full time ministry, but someone else you know gets to do it while you work full time supporting them.  The last one has been a real struggle for me, unfortunately.

Of course, I would love to be in full time ministry, especially counseling women and families.  Instead, I work 42 hours a week or so supporting my household and doing ministry on the side.  My husband, on the other hand, is running our Men’s Recovery House and our church full time – without pay because we don’t want to take any monies until the ministries are self-supporting.  He is doing what I want to do, and I’m not getting to do it.  Honestly, it eats at me at times.

I feel so incredibly petty and ungrateful.  I am so thankful for the ministries which He has entrusted to us, the people to whom we get to minister, for the opportunities to walk in our callings.  So why do I experience discontent, and sometimes, outright jealousy and resentment?

Because I am in a flesh-suit that acts like a toddler when it doesn’t get what it wants.   Despite my spirit’s desire to please God, my lifelong bent toward selfishness in my soul causes me to get upset when I can’t have what I want.   How quickly and easily I turn from remembering all that I have to focusing on the few things I do not have!

But this has been the enemy’s tactic since the beginning of man’s existence.  “Did God really say you can’t eat of this tree?  Surely you won’t die…”  Adam and Eve could have stayed in the garden in unbroken fellowship enjoying eternal provision forever.  It wasn’t until Satan got their eyes off of all they had and focused it onto the one thing they couldn’t have that they became dissatisfied with what God had given them.

God’s instructions to us when we can’t have what we want are pretty clear and specific:

Phil 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

  1. First, we are to rejoice, thankful for being in relationship with the God of the universe and for being the recipients of His continual care and provision.
  2. We are to ask for whatever we want, but it must always be tempered with the remembrance of all He has already provided and an attitude of gratitude for it.
  3. We are to remember that He is a good God, even if we don’t get what we want when and how we want it. We need to trust His knowledge and His timing of what is best for us AND for others in His Kingdom.
  4. Most importantly, we LEARN to remain content by God’s grace – His supernatural empowerment in our lives to obey Him.   If we will remain in Him, He will remain in us, and we will have His peace and His contentment.  Notice that when Paul says God gives Him the necessary strength, it is specifically strength to be content in every situation.

Like a car whose wheels need alignment, our steering wheel repeatedly starts pulling to the right or left, away from dead center.   We continually pursue things that we think will bring us joy and contentment OTHER than simply resting in God’s goodness and provision.  Whether it is money, or stuff, or activities, or relationships, we can fall into depression or anxiety because of our focus on it.   It causes us to wander away from our trust in God and pierce ourselves with grief.

1 Timothy 6: But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

God never ever intended for us to find our enjoyment and happiness in other people or things or activities.  He wants us to find our contentment only in Him, and if we do that, nothing in this world can ever take that contentment away.   If our goal is to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness and trust God to provide whatever we need in His timing and His fashion, we won’t yearn for things we can’t have and make ourselves miserable.

I challenge you, along with myself, to make a gratitude list today of the things you already have, and to speak aloud how thankful you are for them.   I challenge you to consciously change your goals from pursuing other things and people to pursuing God and contentment in Him alone.   When you find yourself focusing on what you don’t have, purposefully take those thoughts captive and rejoice for what God has done, is now doing, and will do for you in His timing and wisdom.  Make that commitment to be grateful and trusting today.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny

 

What I Learned This Week: The Only Solution To Anxiety

I heard the loud thud of a body hitting the floor.  I had handled his two trips to the ER like a trooper. I even packed food and drink for the second time.  I did flip out a little when I found out he had fallen over face first into the dirt one day outside, but I figured he’d be ok.

But this was different.  The thud and then the profound, horrible silence was too much for me.  I ran into the bathroom to find my husband on his back on the file floor.  He was alive, and despite me telling him not to move until I got help, he of course did exactly the opposite, claiming he wasn’t hurt.  Then he got up and revised his assessment of the situation. He hurt his hip.

I just clung to him and started crying.  Now, you probably don’t know that I rarely cry.  First, it was because I stuffed my feelings, or rationalized them away for so many years, there was no reason to cry.  Then, when I had received a large measure of healing, I had no need to cry.  But this was anxiety-release crying – it just spurted out, without any deep emotion.  I don’t know if it was relief that he was alive, or if it was a wake-up call that it could have been much worse.  Either way, I was scared, and that’s when the anxiety started creeping back in.

Anxiety is really unbelief in God’s ability and willingness to take care of us.  It starts out like a little pinhole that allows a trickle of nervousness and doubt to start flowing.  It’s so small, you don’t even realize it is there.  It increases so slowly that you don’t realize you could drown until it reaches panic inducing heights.  Only then do we wonder how we even got here and what to do.  What happened to my peace?

If you remember that PEACE is a FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, it becomes clearer.  Peace cannot be manufactured, nor can it be lost like a locket hanging around our neck. It must be borne. We BEAR fruit, we can’t create it. Peace blooms only as the Life flows through the Vine and we remain grafted into that vine.  Therefore, the question should not be “what happened to my peace?”  but more accurately, “when did I separate myself from the PRINCE OF PEACE and try to handle or figure out things on my own?”

I’m going to tell you exactly how real grafting works with grape vines.  Both the receiving and grafted vines must be cut, with the grafted piece tailored to fit into the receiving vine.  Both vines have arteries through which their life-giving sap flows. The most crucial issue is that the grafted bloom’s arteries must be perfectly lined up with and in permanent contact with the vine‘s arteries so there is a continual, uninterrupted flow of the sap from vine to graft.   Then they use a compound or tape to keep them bound and packed together so no infection can seep in through separation.

Jesus is the Vine, we are the branches, and I believe that the compound that keeps us bound together is faith in His Word.  Faith allows us to say that we KNOW who we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep everything we have ever committed to Him until we arrive in Heaven.  But faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.  The Holy Spirit can quicken and speak to our spirits what the Father wants us to know as we read those God-breathed scriptures. He can direct and guide us into all truth in the midst of any situation, reminding us of the faithfulness and power of our God.

So if we are anxious, it means that we have lost our tight connection with the Vine – the packing has come loose.  When there is a gap, infection can find a way in and make us sick.  Instead of nestling closer to the vine, we start falling away and living apart from the Vine, but apart from Him we can do nothing – nothing but be anxious.

Isaiah 30 says:

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

In repentance/returning and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

You see, our immediate knee-jerk response to danger and fear and anxiety is to flee to our own devices, to what we think will rescue us, NOT to God Himself.   But we must repent of trying to fix things our own way return to Him and quietly wait for Him, which means trusting and resting in Him.  The only true remedy for anxiety is resting in faith in Him, and that only happens when you bolster your faith through the Word of God.

I know that some of you struggle with reading the Word right now because your faith is not as strong as it once was, and the lethargy of your emotional issues has drained you of the energy to even try.  But you must remain in permanent contact with the Vine, and that means being bound to Him through His Word.  You can start small with just a few scriptures a day.  Sign up for a scripture a day service, or you can use my Jesus Text Me service/app.

Every counseling technique is only good if it leads you back to the Source of Peace.  If you are not securely bound to Him, no techniques or medications will cure you.  If you haven’t read my CRAZIFIED & OUT OF CONTROL ebook, or haven’t been using the ABC method, then I suggest you read and start practicing it.  It is what I used to stop the anxiety in its tracks, and what allowed me to return to my Daddy’s lap in quietness and trust.

Fortunately for all of us, Isaiah doesn’t stop there.

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

The Lord wants to be gracious and compassionate to you.  He wants to fill you with His supernatural  power and with His loving kindness. He doesn’t expect you to do anything to earn it either.  He just wants you to return to Him in trust and wait for Him to take care of all the situations that you can’t fix anyway.

Your sister in Christ,

Penny