A Writer’s Prayer

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Lord, thank You for the gift of language. Thank You for written words that connect and reveal Your heart to ours. Thank you for the gift of creativity. The way Your Spirit moves through the realm of the unseen muse is a precious gift.

I lift up my words, my written thoughts, my stories on the altar to You, Lord. I do not idolize them, Father, or think they are without flaw, for like me they are messy and tainted by sin. Yet I offer all that I have and yield it to You. In my weakness, show Yourself strong. Where I fail to understand, teach me. When criticism shreds my heart, remind me my heart is to beat for You alone.

Take these feeble words and work Your perfect plan. Spin and weave them into a dance that reveals Your love to hurting souls. Remind me that I cannot continue to fist these words in my hands, even loosely, and still lay them on the altar. Help me surrender all control to You.

I kneel before You in awe of what You are going to do. You are the Author of Life, my Redeemer and King. I love you, Lord. Amen.

 

 

Lie #4: God is not really enough.

As part of our series “Liar”, a look at the enemy’s schemes and how to defeat them, we’ve come to a rather tricky little lie. Little #4: God is not really enough.

Why is this one so sneaky? I think it’s because many of us don’t realize we have fallen for it.

The truth is we say Jesus is all we need, we sing it in countless hymns and worship songs and print it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. But do we really mean it? jesus is all i need

I was recently singing Kari Jobe’s beautiful song “What Love Is This” in worship one Sunday morning at church when I came to the line, “You’re all I need”. I was struck by my own hypocrisy. I want to be the follower who truly finds complete and total satisfaction only in Christ, but if I’m honest, there are many days when I’m woefully short.

Usually I say He’s enough, but I also want my kids to behave. I say He’s enough but I also want a healthy bank account. I say He’s enough but I’d also love to have a publishing contract. Am I the only one? Somehow, I doubt it.

Too many of us have the Jesus-plus syndrome. Jesus plus a husband. Jesus plus children. Jesus plus good health. Jesus plus a break. Jesus plus a job that pays enough. I hate to break it to the lot of us but if we’re living our lives with the Jesus plus anything mentality, we have fallen for the lie that God isn’t enough.

Every time we give in to complaining, to wallowing in irritability or fussing about the things that “just aren’t going our way”, we’re telling a world of people around us that Jesus isn’t enough. It tells them that our happiness is dependent on things or circumstances.

Ever since the Fall in the garden of Eden, we have a hole inside. (Genesis 3) It’s a hole we try to fill with all kinds of things: food, shopping, friends, relationships, alcohol, approval, money, power, drugs, our job, sex, achievements or our family. I call these things hole fillers. Do we truly believe God is enough, or are we looking to things and people to fill the empty places of our hearts? hole in heart

It kind of reminds me of the Cherokee Legend of the Wolf.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity and truth. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” ~Galatians 5:17

We must recognize that the deepest longings of our hearts cannot be filled by any created person or thing. People and circumstances will not make you happy.

I tend to find myself rolling my eyes whenever I hear some young, starry-eyed teenager telling her friend, “I can’t wait to meet the man who will complete me.” Cue my snort of derision. I think all those Disney princess movies messed us up in this department. Sorry, ladies, but there is no human man that can fulfill the desires of your heart. No guy, no matter how awesome he is, is flawless. He will let you down. Marriage is not a cure for loneliness.

No man can complete you. Only Jesus can do that. God made us in such a way that we can never be truly satisfied with anyone or anything less than Him.

corrie ten boom hold lightlyOne of my personal heroes is Corrie Ten Boom and I yield to her words here. “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Wise words. Sooner or later, everything here on this earth will fail. It will die or dissolve. All that will remain is the spiritual. Jesus really is all you need.

As far as those old hymns and popular worship songs of the day go, I’ve tweaked a few of them. Now they say something along the lines of “Teach my heart You’re all I need…” A bit more honest. And after all, honesty is what we’re going for here, right?

 

Lie #3: “I’m Worthless” and Other Labels

worthless

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at our enemy and the lies he tells us. As a refresher, we’ve discussed Lie #1 “God’s Main Concern is my Happiness” and Lie #2 “If my life were different, I would be different”. This week’s lie seems to be an arrow flung with far too much frequency by the enemy and one believed by far too many of God’s children. Lie #3: “I’m worthless.”

Whenever I’m teaching at retreats about the enemy’s lies and I come to this one, I ask the ladies to raise their hands if they have believed lie #3 at some point in their lives. Without fail, every hand in the room has gone up. Why? count of monte cristo quote

After listening to story after story, one common denominator seems to resonate through most of these women’s issues…someone at some point gave them a label that stuck.

Names have power. Nicknames can be fun but when nicknames turn into labels, it can be a problem. Let me explain.

I recently conducted a Facebook and Twitter poll asking my friends what their nicknames were growing up. Some of my favorites were Snicklefritz, Squeaky, Casper, Noodle, Idgit, and Sassafras. Cute. Sweet. Then things took a twist.

Soon people started sharing their, uh, less flattering nicknames…monikers like Tubby, Fatso or Motor Mouth to name a few.

Names can turn into labels. Labels stick. Soon we begin to believe the lie that we are what the label advertises.

peachesTo put it another way, labels usually tell us what’s inside, right? If I walk into my pantry and grab a can that bears a label of plump, juicy peaches, I don’t expect to open the can and find black eyed peas inside. The label system works great for canned foods and organizing closets, but not for defining our own worth.

Some of us are slapped with a label just once, maybe twice by some cruel person and we believe the lie. We mistakenly believe we are what the label advertises.

“That boy said I’m ugly. So therefore I must be…

*unattractive to everyone.”

*I’ll always be unattractive.”

*I’m unattractive on the inside too.”

*No one will ever want me.”

On and on the lies go.

A dear friend of mine was told from the time she was young that she was unwanted and it wreaked havoc in her life. Why? Because she believed it. A lie is only detrimental if we believe it.

Maybe you have a label stuck to you that refuses to come off. Maybe it’s “Unwanted”. “Unlovable”. “Black Sheep”. “Depressed”. “Divorced”. “Loser”. “Mess up.” “Victim”. “Condemned.” “Never Good Enough”.

You are more than the label someone has given you.

value and worthThis lie of feeling worthless is based in rejection. Sometimes it may be more than words or feelings. You might have lived through the slicing pain of divorce. A nasty break-up. Perhaps you’ve been rejected by your family, mistreated by your coworkers, or fired from your job. For some, the most devastating blow of all is being forgotten by your children. For others, you might be dealing with the mess from your own consequences and poor decisions and you just need a little grace from people unwilling to give it.

Here’s the thing…your worth does not change based on someone’s ability to see it. 

Consider a priceless work of art. A Van Gogh painting. Pretend you are walking down the street and are stunned to see an original, authentic Van Gogh painting carelessly tossed into a dumpster. Why would anyone do such a thing? Clearly the owner had no idea of its worth. trash

Did the painting’s worth change based on its location or who owned it? No. Its value remained the same. This scenario only shows us the ignorance of the person who discarded it.

Don’t let someone who doesn’t understand your value define your worth.

As always, we need look no farther than Jesus. The Prince of Peace knows exactly what it’s like to be labeled worthless and rejected. 1 Peter 2:4 says this:

“Come to Him [the risen Lord] as to a living Stone which men rejected and threw away, but which is choice and precious in the sight of God.”

Did you catch that? Men rejected and threw away Jesus…the Creator, Redeemer, Savior, their Hope and King. There aren’t enough books in the world to contain all the words to describe the worth of Christ, yet men still rejected Him and threw Him away. It said nothing of His worth, only the inability of the people to understand that God Himself had come down to them. They didn’t understand the treasure they’d been given.

You are precious to God. He loved you so much He would have rather died than leave you in the dark. If you’re still battling lie #3 in your mind, you need look no further than the cross. jesus

Jesus didn’t die for junk. You are immeasurably priceless and loved by the God of the universe. When He gave up His life for you, He gave your life its worth.

Never let anyone tell you differently.

Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Welcome to the launch of a new blog series entitled “Liar”.

No, I’m not talking about what we regularly scream at our scales during weigh-ins. pug on scalesFor the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the enemy of our souls, Satan, and some of his most common lies.

I know from talking with many of you, we are stuck in the same cycle of behavior. The same mistakes and failures, the same steps to repair the damage, a step forward into freedom and then, whoops! We fall into the same old mess again. Part of that, I’m afraid, is just being human. But part of this detrimental cycle could be that we aren’t getting at the root of some of our issues. Our behavior is a result of a belief about ourselves, each other, or God. What if the belief we are basing our decisions on isn’t the truth? What if we have fallen for a lie?

Satan is an expert at distorting God’s beautiful truth into a warped, twisted lie. He hisses his deception, mingling it with just enough truth to make us second guess ourselves, or worse yet, second guess God. A counterfeit is only good if it looks like the real thing and that’s what he does…he offers counterfeit solutions to God’s peace and love.

counterfeit

“He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)

The only way to uncover a lie is to measure the beliefs we have built our lives upon against the unchanging Truth…God’s Word.

So let’s look at, what I believe, is a common lie too many of us have fallen for, myself included.

Lie Number #1: God’s Main Concern is My Happiness

Our culture has inundated us with the lie that it’s all about us. From coffee shops to restaurants to television commercials, we are constantly told, “Buy this product. You deserve it.” “You get it your way here.” “All that matters is what you want.” me_universe_centerYou, you, you. Me, me, me. The focus has become what makes each of us happy. This twisted theology has even crept into our Christian culture and bled all over what we read, what we hear on the radio and what we hear renown speakers of the day preach.

I believe God is delighted when His children are joyful, BUT it’s not His primary concern.

That sounds harsh, but it’s true. Let me explain.

Pretend you live on a dead end road. There is very little traffic and it’s not uncommon for the children on that road to ride their bikes out in the middle of the street, since the only cars who usually traverse the area belong to the parents who live there or the mailman. It’s a pleasant spring day and your son is happily riding his tricycle on the road, pumping his chubby little legs and grinning, proudly showing off his skills.

Then you hear it. The sound of car coming, way too loud. Way too fast. You look up to see a giant truck screaming down the street. Does the driver even see your son?

You yell, “Son, get off the road! A truck is coming!”

He frowns, intent on his play. “No! Don’t want to.”

Why doesn’t your son want to leave? Because he’s happy. He’s playing, enjoying life. He doesn’t see, or understand, the imminent danger about to befall him. So you have a choice. Do you choose your son’s happiness or his safety? truck

We would, of course, all choose to drag him off the road, despite his protests, before the speeding truck could hurt him. Would he be happy about it? No. But his happiness would not be our priority at that moment. His safety would be.

God wants you to be safe. He has a plan and a purpose for your life. A plan that He prepared before you were even born. His ultimate concern is seeing His plan worked out for His glory.

Here are several reasons why “God’s concern is my happiness” is a lie.

1) Oftentimes what makes me happy is not ultimately good for me.

Happiness is good when it’s within the confines of God’s will, but here’s the problem: sometimes what makes me happy is far outside of His will.

It makes me happy to guzzle down an entire carton of chocolate peanut butter ice cream, but boy, it’s not good for me. It fills me with happiness to wear new outfits, even if that means I’ve over spent and made my credit card weep for mercy.

gluttony

I conducted a social media poll to ask my friends what things made them happy, even though it might not be good for them. Here were some of their responses:

“Watching television for hours.”

“Drinking alcohol.”

“Shopping.”

“Laying in a tanning bed.”

“Eating obscene amounts of chocolate.”

“Staying in bed all day.”

You get the idea. Without God-defined boundaries in our lives, happiness turns into excess, which turns into a out-of-control life.

2) Suffering, or the refining process, is vital for growth in the Christian life. It’s also uncomfortable and can be painful.

What happens to a pond where the water never moves? Yeah, it gets scummy. To grow into the image of Christ, we cannot stay in a perpetual fog of self-induced bliss, like a doped up bear at the zoo. I think you and I would both agree we are not yet molded perfectly into the image of Christ, which means we have some changing to do. Change, by definition, means something will have to become different. We cannot stay the same. We have to allow God to stretch us. Stretching is uncomfortable, even painful.

When in doubt, I continually return to this pivotal verse Jesus gave to those who wanted to follow Him:

 “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'” ~Luke 9:23  carry cross

Nothing about personal happiness in there. Quite the opposite, in fact. Don’t get me wrong. There is joy, tremendous joy in giving your life away and following Christ. And the happiness we’ll have beyond this life is incomparable to anything we have here. But what most of us consider happiness, the temporary pleasure of this life, cannot be grasped if we are taking up a cross. It’s hard to a carry a cross if you don’t like to be uncomfortable.

3) True blessings like the ones Jesus spoke of had nothing to do with possessions, material wealth, career success or the like.

From His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said the blessed were those who mourned, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted. Nothing about personal happiness or financial success in there. You won’t find any verses about God’s will for his children to climb the ladder of accomplishments or to be comfortable.

God is not nearly so concerned with our happiness, or even getting us out of our current circumstances, as He is in transforming us into the image of His Son through our circumstances. His goal is His glory for His great Name.

My friends, we’ve been lied to. It’s time to trade the pursuit for temporary happiness and instead pursue the eternal joy that is found when we choose to give our lives away and fall at the feet of Jesus.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?” ~Micah 6:8

God loves you. He loves you so much He died for you, and He loves you too much to let you dabble with things that will destroy you, or let you be less than the glorious plan He intended for you. Don’t listen to the lie. Choose life.

Why I Gave Up Talking Politics on Social Media

I will no longer talk politics on social media.

There. I said it.

You may be thinking, “So what? This chick probably isn’t very politically minded anyways.”

Wrong.

I’m a musician, and to be honest, I rarely know the top hits of the day because my radio is always tuned into news talk stations. I’m extremely well-informed. My kids are almost as well informed as I am. I keep my thumb on the political pulse of our world every day. No, that’s not why I’m giving up talking politics on social media.

“But, Tara,” my friends say, “the stakes have never been higher. The United States is at a tipping point.” I get it. I really do. And trust me, I’m on my knees daily, praying that the apocalypse that we are about to descend into will somehow be reversed by God’s mercy. I can tell from the looks on their faces they think I’m just discouraged about the upcoming elections, weary of all the talk, the mud-slinging, the scandals. I am, but not in the way they think.

trump vs clinton

I’m giving up talking politics on social media because of Christians like myself.

These past several weeks have been eye-opening. Accusations and name calling. Assumptions and judgmental barbs flung like daggers. Temper tantrums and junior high style snarky posts about people without technically calling the person by name. Passive aggressive behavior. “I can’t believe a Christian would support this candidate.” “I can’t believe any Christian wouldn’t support this candidate.”Blah, blah, blah. Snark, snark, snark. Sin, sin, sin.

And all the while, unbelievers watch, watch, watch.

The number of people who can state their opinion in a calm way without stirring up a hornet’s nest of vitriol are shockingly few. Fewer still are those who can scroll through Facebook without be constantly offended by someone or something.

All of it breaks my heart.

facebook fight

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no holier-than-thou. I’ve done it too. That’s the problem. One crazy item in the news and my emotions fire up. Then my fingers start typing and before I know it, I’m in an argument with some dude I barely knew in high school over a political issue that neither of us are experts about.

A niggling unease has been building in my spirit for the past several weeks and I’ve had troubling identifying just why it was there. Every time I opened Facebook and saw yet another heated interchange between fellow Christians, it only grew worse. (This is aside from my normal aversion to confrontation.) Suddenly one day it hit me: we talk about what we’re passion about. And all I’m seeing plastered across social media is politics.

That’s well and good if you don’t know Jesus, but as a believer, we are called to something, no, to Someone much higher.

I have friends in my social media accounts from various walks of life. Some are conservatives and some are liberals. Some are straight and some are gay. Some have been in church all their lives and some have never even stepped foot inside a church building. If I’m not careful, I can forget that my life (including social media) is no longer my own. It’s God’s. I’ve been bought with a price. I have a tremendous opportunity to each the farthest corners of the globe with His message of hope. But what do I do? I get on Facebook and squabble about the election.

No more.

If my opinion becomes a stumbling block to someone receiving Christ,

If venting my opinion spirals into an angry exchange or even a perceived angry exchange,

If those who read my words can no longer see Christ in me,

then it’s not worth it.

When this life is over and I stand before God, this election won’t matter. It will be over and done. The outcome will have long been decided. But what will matter is how I treated people in my circle of influence. Every person I meet is either moving closer or farther away from God. Am I encouraging them or discouraging? Am I a voice of love or a voice of rage?

As love peoplebelievers, what instructions did Jesus give us until He returns? Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19,20)

Jesus didn’t say, “Go therefore and make Republicans of all nations…” or “Go therefore and sell the people on a government funded Democrat run program…”. Not at all. Politics have nothing to do with our job. We are supposed to be passionate about telling a dying world about Him.

And lest we forget…governments rise and fall at the hand of God alone.

When Jesus was spilling out His life on the cross, He was not dying for a nation. He was dying for the entire human race. Am I more interested in how a person fills out their ballot, or where they will spend eternity?

This is not a plea for Christians to stop posting political news or opinions on their social media accounts. Please don’t misunderstand. Each person’s account is their individual voice of freedom. What this is a cry for is a plea for wisdom. If we as Christians cannot engage in political discourse without our emotions running rampant, we should yield to the Holy Spirit and exercise self-control. People are watching. Unbelievers are watching and they are trying to figure out what they think of God based on how His kids behave.

This is why I’ve said goodbye to talking politics on social media. The price is high. Souls are at stake. And when souls are at stake, my Facebook and Twitter feed should be flooded with light, all signs pointing them to a loving Savior…not an election or my personal opinions of temporary problems.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

They won’t know us by whether we vote Republican or Democrat, whether we support the hot-button issues of the day or how well we can argue our position.

They will know us by our love.

Battered Bluebirds: How to Handle Lying Emotions

The poor bluebird above our basketball goal. He’s just so…dumb. Every morning I walk outside to see my husband’s driver’s side rear view mirror battered and smeared, evidence of another early morning fight.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. bluebird car mirror

Every morning, the male bluebird perches in front of my husband’s rear view mirror and sees him. That vile, evil threat. Another male bluebird just like him. A threat to his woman. To his babies. So he does what must be done. He pecks the foul fowl until his head is nearly smashed flat and his beak resembles the blunt end of a hammer. Poor dumb, bluebird. He doesn’t realize he’s actually fighting himself.

He’s his own worst enemy.

I shouldn’t be quick to judge. I’m my own worst enemy too.

Do you know where the enemy lies to most of us? About our emotions. He tells us that because we FEEL a certain way, it must be so. We feel God doesn’t love us due to circumstances being out of our control, so therefore, God must not love us. We feel neglected by our husbands, so therefore, we are neglected. We feel hopeless in our circumstances, so therefore there must not be hope.

emotions

We see something that looks real, so therefore it must be real. (Ahem, cue Mr. Bluebird.)

Emotions are not good or bad. They just ARE. They are God-given ways of experiencing life in a profound way. The problem is, our emotions were damaged in the Fall.

The blunt truth here is this: our emotions usually have very little to do with reality. They swing and dive with alarming speed. Truth doesn’t.

When you’re threatening to drown in those suffocating, overwhelming crush of emotions, stop and breathe. Analyze the emotion. Name it. Then confront how you’re feeling with the Truth of God’s Word.

“Lord, everything about this day is falling apart. I don’t feel like You see me. I don’t feel like You care. But Your Word says You see me. You set me aside for a purpose before I was ever born. I will cling to You and Your truth.”

Take a step back. Just because it looks and feels real, doesn’t mean it is. Just ask my friend Mr. Bluebird.

god's truth

Whatever the emotion, bring it into the light of God’s truth. Cling to what you know and not how you feel. It will make all the difference, not just in how you manage your day, but how you live your life.

How do you usually deal with your emotions? Are you dictated by them or have you found ways to control them? What lie does the enemy frequently try to tell you? I would love to hear!

The Redemption of Kip

“Runt.”

“He’ll never live.”

“He’s so scrawny.”

I don’t know what I did wrong. I was born, I guess. While all my brothers and sisters were cute, wriggly little pups, I was the outcast. Never expected to do much. To be much.

At the pet store, the chubby, groping fingers of girls and boys would rove over all of our heads, scratching our ears, picking us up and snuggling their cheeks next to ours. Such happy feelings filled me, I couldn’t help but lick their giggling faces with big swipes of my tongue. But eventually those happy feelings died as I was set back down in my kennel. And one by one, my siblings were slowly sold and taken away.

kip

All except me.

Day after lonely day passed inside the pet store. The rubber toys and squeaky play things lost their luster as I sat and looked out the window, waiting for…somebody. I didn’t even know who. But surely somebody out there wanted me. Surely someone would love me, if they could just meet me. I was getting bigger. Growing stronger, wasn’t I?

The bell overhead jangled and my ears perked up. The noisy parrot in the corner squawked as an old man entered. His pale blue eyes roved over the animals, his blue-veined, knobby hands grasping a cane as he shuffled from cage to cage. His gaze latched on to mine and I sat upright, wagging my tail and trying all the tricks that had worked so well for my brothers and sisters. Wag the tail, blink big, cock my head sideways. But the old man frowned as he turned to the pet shop owner.

“This pup here. What breed is he?”

The big man shrugged. “I don’t know. Mutt, best I can figure. Sold off his siblings already. Can’t seem to get rid of him though.”

The old man narrowed his eyes. “What’s his name?”

“Runt.”

Muttering under his breath, the old man turned and walked away.

Something cold and hard sank in my middle.

Days turned blurry and dull, until one afternoon my dreamless sleep was interrupted by rough hands shaking me, pulling me. I didn’t understand what was happening, what strange cruelty was being inflicted. The big man growled and pawed at me. His thick fingers hurt as I wriggled and thrashed. He cursed and clamped his hands around my legs.

“You little mongrel! I’m just trying to move you to a different crate!”

Something sharp knifed up my back and I did the only thing I knew to do. I clamped my teeth into his hand. He bellowed. The floor rushed up to meet me. Pain exploded through my body. Heart thumping, I eyed the front door, could smell the fresh air as the door swung wide to admit a family of shoppers.

Runt.

He’s so scrawny.

Can’t seem to get rid of him…

open door

With the sound of rushing water in my ears, I scrambled to run, my paws clicking against the linoleum as I sprinted through the door and into the crowded city street. Away from cages and cranky men. Away from mean words.

Freedom. Maybe my somebody would find me now.

I ran and ran. Maybe for days. Nights were the worst. So cold and dark. Hunger cramped my middle. I wandered in between buildings, nosing through trash for scraps of anything I could eat, stepping between waste and sleeping humans. I shivered, curling up in patches of light from back doorsteps, hoping the meager warmth would somehow seep deep inside my body.

alley

I grew bigger, no longer a runt, but still, no one wanted me. One day I found a group of children playing outside a park. I walked slowly towards them, my tail wagging. Was my somebody with them?

But when they turned and saw me, they chased me, throwing rocks and calling me names. Kicking and hitting.

I never approached a human again.

One cold afternoon, a man in a uniform sneaked up behind me and somehow managed to get me into a big moving box that carried me to a building. It was like the pet store but different. The crates were smaller and there were no windows. I could hear other animals barking and meowing. The man who’d caught me patted me on the head as he eased me into the crate.

“Poor fellow. We’ll find you a home. Somebody will want to adopt you.”

I put my head on my paws. He was wrong. I don’t have a somebody. No one has ever wanted me.

Each day passed, people came and went. Eyes peered in to see me but I barely noticed. I gave up the tricks to catch their attention. They didn’t work. Never had.

One day, the Nice Man who always stopped to pat my head strapped a red tag to my crate, his eyes sad. I knew what that meant. I had seen it happen enough. Red tags were attached to a crate. The next day the animal inside was taken away. They didn’t come back.

Bowing his head, the Nice Man murmured some soft words and scratched my ears with a sigh. Then he left.

I guess I fell asleep, for the sound of a slamming door jarred me awake. I didn’t sit up. In truth, I barely cracked open my eyes. What was the point? I would be taken away soon, never to come back.

Footsteps approached. The Nice Man was speaking softly, his voice echoing off the loud walls.

“This fellow is scheduled to be put down tomorrow. Shame too. He’s seems awfully sweet. Sad.”

Another man stooped down to peer inside. I sighed and looked away, not interested to be poked, prodded or ridiculed by another cruel human.

“Mm. What’s his name?”

“His tag was hard to read when he came in, all scratched and busted up. Looked like he’d been out on the streets for a while. We think it said Runt.”

The stranger with the deep voice stepped closer and squatted, resting his arms on his knees and watched me. This one wasn’t going away. With another sigh, I kept my head on my paws and turned to give him a disinterested stare. He met my look with a smile.

“No, Runt doesn’t suit this guy at all. He’s far too big. Aren’t you?”

His eyes looked into mine and something deep inside me flared to life. I lifted my head.

kip adult

The nice man motioned to the other crates. “If you’d rather see some of the pups…”

“No.” The stranger stopped him with a raised hand. “This fellow and I are talking.” He chuckled. “May I?” At the Nice Man’s nod, he unlatched the crate and reached in, rubbing his hands through my fur with a soft touch…caresses that both soothed and made me feel protected. Like how I used to feel nuzzled up next to Momma so long ago. Loved. I savored the sensation, needy for it as they talked.

“I’ve been away fighting.”

“Finally home?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve wanted a dog ever since I was a little boy.” He chuckled when I leaned into his hand. “This fellow and I, I think we belong together.”

This stranger wanted me? No, I must have heard wrong.

The Nice Man watched us. “Most folks come in here wanting a cute little puppy, some perfect looking puff of fur that will make their kids squeal.” He smiled. “Runt is older, bigger. He’s not cute and fluffy like the other breeds. You sure?”

The stranger cupped my face in his hands and leaned in so close, his eyes were almost touching mine. “Love doesn’t only rescue the pretty or the preferred. Love pursues the broken, the needy, the unwanted and the outcast.”

He leaned his head against mine and rubbed his hands through my fur. I shivered as my chest beat in loud thumps. This stranger was my Somebody. He wanted me.

My Somebody leaned back and smiled. “First things first. We must get rid of that name. You’re no Runt. Not in my eyes. Let me think.” His eyes lit up as he snapped his fingers. “How about Kip?”

I barked and leaped from my crate, wriggling and squirming around my Somebody with prancing steps. I have a new name! Kip!

My Somebody laughed. “Kip it is! And it means ‘one from the high hill’.” Leaning down he rubbed my head and winked. “Appropriate, since I live in a big house, high on a mountain.”

Lifting my front paws, I scooted and wiggled as long as I dared on my back legs, barking with happiness when my Somebody burst into laughter. The Nice Man watched us, his mouth open.

“Look at that. I’ve never seen Run—er, Kip so happy before.”

My Somebody scooped me up in his arms and I laid my head on his shoulder, my entire body quivering with joy. He placed his hand on my head, and for the first time I noticed the scars that marred his palms and wrists. somebody and kip

He turned to leave but stopped and smiled over his shoulder.

“Well, that’s the thing about love. Not only does it pursue the unwanted, love also transforms.”

A big thank you to Donnie Haynes for inspiring the story of Kip. A simple, yet profound thought in your sermon at Bogg Springs let my imagination take flight.

Writing and Living From Your Scars

by Tara Johnson

I was recently asked to give an aspiring writer my best piece of writing advice. I could have told her to study the craft, which is extremely important, or given her a list of blog and books to follow. Also important. Or I could have given her a checklist of a thousand other steps to pursue her dream, but after much thought, I gave her my best piece of advice: write from your scars.

Let me explain.

crying boyNot long ago, my two year old son fell outside on the driveway and scraped up his hand. At the sound of his wailing, his sisters and I ran to his side. When the girls tried to convince him to let them see, he covered the scrape with his chubby fingers and jerked away from them with a teary scowl. Why? Because he didn’t trust them with his boo-boo. He’d been victim of their teasing enough to wonder if they were trust worthy. Would they tease him? Laugh at him for being melodramatic? Unintentionally make the hurt worse by poking and probing? No, letting them see was too risky.

What do we do with a wound? Usually we try to hide it.

But when I walked up and knelt down in front of him with sympathy, he finally uncovered his injured hand to let me examine the damage. He trusted me not to hurt him anymore than he’d already been wounded.

wounds

And here’s the thing…there was no way for me to give him the help he needed until I could understand how severe his injury was. Once he was brave enough to lift his chubby fingers away from his wound, I could begin to treat it. Because he trusted me, I was able to wash it, clean it with hydrogen peroxide, bandage it and kiss it until his tears subsided and he was playing once more.

This is a beautiful parallel to what happens in our own lives. Because we live as messy people in a broken world, we all have wounds. Some are bigger than others. Some have cuts deeper than others. Some of us have lived with the crippling shame of sexual, verbal or physical abuse. Some of us have been told we’re unwanted or unloved. Some of us can’t seem to shake depression or are mourning the loss of a loved one. Some of us have a childhood that we barely survived or an adulthood that has left us disillusioned and depressed. Some of us are victims of our own horrible mistakes.

And just like Nate covering his scraped palm, or dealing with a throbbing finger that has faced the fury of a wayward hammer strike, we cover our hurt, wrapping our fingers around the searing pain, keeping it concealed, restrained and locked away from prying eyes. We don’t want anyone to see, anyone to know. The pain is too deep, the vulnerability too precarious.

But here’s the thing…God can’t heal what we are unwilling to expose to him.

When we are brave enough to come to Him with all of our shame and broken pieces, His light and love can start to heal those nasty wounds. He is our safe place. A Daddy who lovingly cleans the wound and kisses the sting away.

What happens with a deep wound when it finally heals? Yep. It leaves a scar.

scars

Scars tell a story. They are proof that you were wounded and survived. Writing from your scars, for that matter, living from your scars gives hope to others who are hurting, those who are still trying to hide their devastating wound from curious eyes.

Be brave. Be courageous. Write from your scars. Live from your scars. There is a world of hurting people needing to see that wounds can be healed by the Great Physician. god's light

The stories that change lives are the ones that make the reader uncomfortable. Sometimes, that includes the author.

A Father’s Love: Monster Chasers and Hallway Protectors

Our little family was recently reminiscing over funny memories from way back when. You know, when the girls were three and six, instead of the mature ten and thirteen year olds they are now. Especially in light of this coming Father’s Day weekend, my oldest daughter remembered something very sweet about her daddy. scared

“Dad, remember how I was never scared of monsters in my closet, but I was always terrified of monsters coming down the hall?”

He laughed. “I remember.”

She grinned. “But instead of getting mad at me for worrying about monsters coming through my bedroom door, you would grab a toy rifle and march up and down the hallway every night before I fell asleep. Remember that? And you would chant silly soldier rhymes like, ‘Hut, two, three, four, no monsters gettin’ past my girl’s front door!’

super dad

My heart melted hearing the treasured memory she had stored away. Why had that particular remnant from her childhood held fast when so many others had siphoned away? Because protection is powerful. It shows the measure of true love and the lengths it will go to save the one it loves.

Real men, real fathers protect. Whether the fear is real or imagined, good fathers fight away the dragons while their princesses clutch their battered teddy bears until those quivering shadows melt into sweet slumber. And even now as a thirteen year old, I frequently have to remind my daughter that Dad’s rules about modesty that seem so outdated to her, or the rules about technology that seem so rigid, are born from the same protective heart that marched up and down the hallway for hours chasing away the monsters…his goal is ever and always to protect her.

dad daughter

Maybe you’ve never known the love of a father like this, a man who would give his very life to save yours. Earthly fathers and husbands, even the good ones, will fail us but there is One who is desperately yearning to call you His daughter. He’s waiting with open arms. Best of all? He will never fail you. Ever. His specialty is unconditional love and it’s best seen in the way He protects His children.

“To You, O [God] my strength, I will sing praises; For God is my stronghold [my refuge, my protector, my high tower], the God who shows me [steadfast] loving kindness.” ~Psalm 59:17 AMP

“A father of the fatherless and a judge and protector of the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” ~Psalm 68:5

If you’ve spent your lifetime searching for the love of a man, whether that be a father, a husband or a boyfriend, and you’ve been hurt over and over again, broken and left more empty than before, run to the One who wants to be the Father you’ve dreamed of. He’ll be your comfort, Protector, Friend and Savior. He’ll be the Daddy willing to march up and down the hallway chasing away the monsters that leave you trembling in fear…whether they are real or not. What is important to you is important to Him. He sees you. He loves you. He’s waiting. daddy daughter

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From where shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber [briefly] nor sleep [soundly]
.

The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your life.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in [everything that you do]
From this time forth and forever.” ~Psalm 121

I would love to hear from you. Do you have fond memories of ways your father made you feel loved? In what ways has God been the Father you’ve always longed for? How often do you think of God as your Protector?