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Finding Your Center – Part II

Pittch confronting Jack Frost with his identity_reducedPitch: Don’t be afraid, Jack. I’m not going to hurt you.

Jack: Afraid? I’m not afraid of you.

Pitch: Maybe not. But you are afraid of something.

Jack: You think so, huh?

Pitch: I know so. It’s the one thing I always know. People’s greatest fears. Yours is that no one will ever believe in you. And worst of all, you’re afraid you’ll never know why. Why you, why were you chosen to be like this? Well, fear not, for the answer to that is right here. [Pitch shows Jack the container that houses Jack’s memories] Do you want them, Jack? Your memories? Everything you wanted to know in this little box. Why did you end up like this–unseen, unable to reach out to anyone? You want the answer so badly. You want to grab them and fly off with them. But you are afraid of what the Guardians will think. You’re afraid of disappointing them. Well, let me ease your mind about one thing–they’ll never accept you. Not really.

Jack: Stop it! Stop it!

Pitch: After all, you’re not one of them.

Jack: You don’t know what I am.

Pitch: Of course I do. You’re Jack Frost. You make a mess wherever you go.

(from Rise of the Guardians, Dreamworks, 2012)

 

The lie. It accuses and bears false witness, it murders, and is the catalyst that caused man’s fall in the beginning.

While working on my last blog, Finding Your Center – Part I, I mentioned how the LORD showed me the importance of our “center.” It is the “who” in who we are. It is what God sees in us that calls us forth. It’s the deep hidden part of our soul that the LORD meant when He said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Your center, or core, is like the nucleus of a cell—a place that houses the DNA which makes you who you are. Except this center is your spiritual DNA and is the one thing the enemy cannot take from you. Therefore, he lies–telling you you’re something you’re not. It’s the only weapon the he has in his arsenal that can destroy you.

When Jesus faced Satan in the desert, the first thing the enemy did was try to get Jesus to question His center, His identity. And he did this by lying.

And when [Jesus] had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”… Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down.” ~Matthew 4:2-3,5-6 NKJV (emphasis mine)

However, notice how Jesus responded. He didn’t argue with Satan about the identity issue because Christ knew His center. And He knew the lie. Instead, He used the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, the Truth. (Ephesians 6:17)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”…Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”…Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
~Matt 4:4, 7, 10-1 NKJV

The lie. So little yet so powerful. All Pitch Black had to do was plant one little seed of falsehood in Jack Frost’s mind to get Jack to question his center.  And that’s all he needs to do to us today.

Thanks be to God, who sent us the Truth in the form of His only son, Christ Jesus, so we could battle the enemy’s lies and be reunited to a place of grace! It is through God’s Truth—and God’s Truth alone—that we are reminded of the fact: there is no lie the enemy can throw at us which can take away our spiritual DNA!

LORD, thank you for my “center.” Thank you for you giving me a spiritual DNA—the true nucleus of who I am. Help me remember to not believe the enemy’s lies about my makeup. Remind me I’m to fight him with the sword of Your word and not give in to arguments and lies. For You, O LORD, are the only Way, Truth, and Life, and no one has the right to the blueprint of my soul except You. I lift this up to You in Jesus’ name. Amen.

___________________________

[1] ~ From NLM, .Cells and dNA. Web. 13 May 2013. <http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics?show=all>.

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The “Hallow” in Halloween

20141019_123545_2hal·low. ˈhalō/ verb: honor as holy

As a child, Halloween was a holiday I loved to celebrate. I got to carve pumpkins, hang fake spiders and cob webs from our front door, dress up, go trick or treating, and pig out on candy. But then, at the age of 25, I became and Christian and all that came to screeching halt. My past immersement in the occult as a teen/early young adult had soured me. You see, during that dark time I literally met demons, and discovered way too much about Satan and his power of darkness to want to reintroduce evil into my life. So I shut out all references of Halloween from my life.

As time went on I had children. Four, to be exact, and I wasn’t about to allow them any part of the darkness I had grown to fear, so I hid Halloween behind the cloak of fall festivals at church.  But that didn’t stop their questions. As my children grew, each eventually asked why they couldn’t celebrate Halloween in the traditional way. I told them it was a holiday that belonged to Satan with witches and pagans and sometimes sacrifices, on All Hallow’s Eve. It was also the only holiday that did not include Christ.

My husband wasn’t a Christian at the time so I was pushing back against what he wanted to do as well. He thought my reasoning silly and superstitious and a bit on the extreme religious side. But I held firm from 1981 when my first was born until 2011 when my youngest turned 18. Not saying my adult children viewed Halloween the same as I. They didn’t—mainly because they had grown up in a Christian home, protected as much as possible from the darkness I had allowed to envelop me as an older teen and young adult.

Then, a few years ago at a family Christmas celebration, with my adult children and their children sitting around a beautifully set Christmas dinner table overflowing with yummy food, my son, out of the blue, started talking about how I ruined Halloween for them. I was shocked! Not only was I shocked that he felt that way, but hurt that he didn’t understand why I felt Halloween was off limits—especially after explaining it to him so well. The evening turned into a disaster as, one by one, by other children joined ranks with their brother and before I knew it, accusations of my over-zealous religious believes in regard to Halloween and Christmas (namely, Santa), were thrown back in my face. Before long I couldn’t take it anymore and I lost it. I stood up, slammed my chair against the wall, screamed at my kids, then ran upstairs in tears. I flung myself on my bed and started asking God if I had made a mistake, then quickly decided it wasn’t me who was wrong, it was the kids.

After a short amount of time my children came up to my bedroom and apologized. Apparently much of what my son said had been bottled up inside them for quite some time. My son and his one sister said that the anger only mounted after they had kids of their own and realized what they missed out on. I tried to explain they still got to dress up and get candy, just not in a traditional Halloween manner; but that’s not how they remember it. Their memory is that of being left out of the fun.

Still standing by my decision to keep Halloween out of my family, I accepted their apology; however, still wouldn’t budge on how I felt about the holiday so we’d just have to agree to disagree on this. They nodded, we hugged, and all was well.

Sort of.

After that night the Holy Spirit started nudging me in regard to Halloween. At first I was resistant. I didn’t want to hear anything about being “in the world but not of it.” I had spent my whole Christian life being “in, but not of.” Then the LORD challenged me with something interesting. He asked who made the day and night. I replied He did. He asked what days the world and enemy had tried to rob from him. I answered all of them. Even Christmas and Easter? He asked. Yes, I said, even those two. Then, He continued, why single out Halloween? Why give the enemy his due desire to rule a day? Why not learn how to celebrate the hallowed day (and night) that the LORD had made, which Satan tried to take from Him?

Honestly, I was stumped. I had never thought of it that way before—mainly because I was so wrapped up in my own past pain, hurt, and fears that I couldn’t break free long enough to see beyond the fact that, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24 TLB)

Jesus said, “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” (John 10:10 AMP) Running from Halloween just because the enemy “decided” to claim it for himself does not lend to an abundant, enjoyable, overflowing life. It lends to fear, and fear is NOT a product of God: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV).

Accepting Christ makes you a new creation; you are no longer of this world, but you are sent into it. “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4 ESV) Running from those things that threaten or frighten us only gives the enemy more power. We’re not the ones who are supposed to flee, he is. (“Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7b ESV) Instead, we are to put on the armor of God and stand (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).

Is giving in to Halloween the same as giving in to temptation? Not if you declare that day to belong to the LORD. For when you do you are able to experience the complete freedom Jesus planned for you to experience, even if you dress up in costume and go trick or treating with your grandchildren.

* * * * * * *

Dear LORD, I declare every day to be holy—an honor, homage, to You and Your great glory. Help me to never run from my fears again. Teach me how to face them, knowing you have my front and my back at all times, and that You prevail over all things. Teach me how (in the words of Captain James T. Kirk) to “…to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before,” even when those strange, new places cause me discomfort. Help me run the race in the complete freedom you desire for me. In Jesus’ holy name I pray. Amen.

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Finding Your Center – Part I

What_is_your_center

 

“Who are you, Jack Frost? What is your center?” -North (from Rise of the Guardians, ©Dreamworks 2012

 

A few weeks ago my dear friend, Kathy Kovach, discussed the movie, Rise of the Guardians, on her Craft Cinema blog. As I read the blog (which is excellent, by the way) I started wondering about this center thing. So I bought the movie and watched it. By the time I was done, the word “center” had taken on a whole new meaning.

Center. It’s the “who” in who you are. It’s what God sees in you that caused Him to call you forth. It’s the deep, hidden part of your soul that, I believe, is what the LORD meant when He said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Our center is very important because it’s the core of who we are. Thus, it’s usually the place the enemy attacks first. For instance, if your center is “hope,” despair might be the attack. If your center is “grace,” revenge might be the attack. If your center is “love,” a fear of being disliked might be the attack.

Over the next few weeks I challenge you to ask the LORD these questions:

  • What is my center?
  • Who is it that You say I am?
  • What is it that You knew about me that set me apart?

If you don’t get an answer right away, don’t panic. It can take an entire life journey for the fullness of your center to be revealed. In the meantime, when the enemy comes at you with his lies (and he will), stand strong in the LORD and in the power of His might and tell him this:

Before I was formed in the womb God knew ME,
before I was born He set ME apart!

For that, my friend, is the strength of your center and something the enemy can never erase.

LORD, finding our “center” can be so difficult–especially if we try to find it on our own. You’re the only one who truly knows the core of our being, for You are the only one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. You know our heart. You know our strength. You know our weakness. Show us, O LORD, what our center is. Not what we think it is, but what You say it is. In Jesus precious name we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

 

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April’s Fool

The fool says in his heart,
‘There is no God.’
~Psalm 14:1 NIV

When the Lord placed Psalm 14:1 on my heart, my first reaction was why? I’m not a fool. Then the Lord asked me to look close at the definition of fool. Very close.

Fool in Hebrew is‎ nabal, which means “stupid; wicked; especially impious.” Have I ever been these things? Have I sinned against God by digging my heals in and doing things my way? Have there been times when, like Peter, I have doubted the very existence of the One I said I would follow to the ends of the earth? Have I said “yes, Lord,” then turned around and done the opposite, like Jonah? Have I questioned God’s motives like Job? Have I said “Not me, Lord!” like Moses?

According to Merriam-Webster, fool also means “a person lacking in judgment or prudence.” Has my judgment ever waned? Have I acted without discipline? Thrown caution to the wind? Have I ever been a fool?

Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.”

As we usher in April 1st, and people around the world celebrate foolishness, let us remember what being a “fool” really means. And although there will be times when we will, no doubt, sink back into foolish behavior, let us also remember we serve a God who gives our feet sound footing, who replaces foolishness with wisdom, and who offers grace, mercy and new beginnings to all who call upon His name.

Lord, I do not want to be a fool. Yet despite all that, I know at times I am. Paul said it so well in Romans 7:21-25: “It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been doneby Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.”

So thank you, Lord, for freeing me from sin and foolishness. For standing by me, even at my lowest point. For paying a debt I cannot pay. And for taking on the burden of death so that I can live with You forever. You are truly worthy to be praised! 

Transition


As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 
~Joshua 1:5 NIV

There’s nothing more transitional than the month of March: cold, wet, blustery lion of a beginning evolving to gentle, warmer, stillness of a lamb. A 31-day jump from winter to spring.

Some people enjoy change. They like the thrill and exhilaration of its newness, of the hunt. They stand in transition’s way, puffing out their chest and bellowing, “Bring it on!” But others hide from change, taking shelter during the storm and choosing to stay there, fearful of what will come next. And although neither approach is healthy, both are fueled by pride—pride in that we decide we know what’s best, that we need to be in control one way or the other.

Do you look in the face of transition with a daring gaze, even when the LORD is telling you to take shelter? Or do you cower in fear, unsure that the God you serve is one who has your best interest in mind? Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 tells us there is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven. That it is the LORDwho makes everything beautiful in its time. Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs us to trust in the LORD with all our heart and not to lean on our own understanding, and Luke 12:18-31 shares with us the contrast of a desire to be in control vs. fear that comes from worrying. Yet all three deal with transition in their own way.

So next time you’re faced with a seemingly impossible transition, instead of heading it off at the pass with attitude or burying it in the ground to hide from it, remember God has promised to never leave you nor forsake you and to complete the good work He began in you, regardless of how difficult the transition may be.

Lord, transition is so hard. And trusting You can even be harder. Please teach me how to wait on You, to allow life’s transitions to progress in Your time, not mine, and to become moldable as You shape me into the person You want me to be. I praise You for what You have done, what You are doing, and what You’re about to do. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Of Groundhogs and Valentines


Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head, 
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, 
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, 
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. 
~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message)


Q. What do groundhogs and Valentines have in common?
A. Not much. . .

At least on the surface. But if you take a closer look you’ll see both are laden with heavy expectation.

Punxsutawney Phil carries the weight of winter on his shoulders simply by whether or not he sees his shadow. Quite a bit of responsibility for a rodent. Yet don’t we sometimes put a similar expectation on the one we love at Valentine’s Day? Cards, flowers, candy, expensive dinners, etc. All are well and good on their own. But when they become our litmus of how much the person we care for cares for us, problems arise.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Valentine’s Day. And I’m always up for a nice gift from hubby or dinner out. But regardless of what gift I’m given or where we go, things of this world should never carry the weight of love in my relationship.

Hebrews 13:5 literally tells us, Be without covetousness [greedy] behavior, be content with the things present, for He has said, ‘No, I will not leave, no, nor forsake you…’ YLB

So before you put too much burden on any one person to come through for you on that “special day,” make sure you’re first content and secure in the LORD. Then, and only then, will you finally be able to lay aside man’s great expectation of groundhogs and Valentines.

LORD, help me find contentment in You, and keep me from placing undue expectation on the one I love. This is a hard time of year, especially for those who are alone or who have broken relationships. Be their all-in-all, Father, and mend that which has been broken. Make them whole again as you are making me whole. Thank You for hearing this prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

Resolution, a Ten…no, make that Four-Letter Word


And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people go up with flutes to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel. -Isaiah 30:29 NIV

I don’t know how you feel about resolutions, but I hate them. Not at first, of course. But generally speaking, by the end of February I cringe at the thought of all the promises I’ve either already failed at keeping or realize there’s no way I’ll be able to keep. The ones I’ve made to myself are one thing. The ones I’ve made to the LORD are another.

How can I be sure His grace and mercy will cover even the boldest promises broken, made in arrogance (or foolishness) at the beginning of the year? By remembering what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9: But [Jesus] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Broken promises = weakness. Yet our amazing LORD delights in being able to lift up that which is broken and weak in our life and turn it into something beautiful and powerful so that He may be glorified!

Do you have broken promises you need to deal with? Maybe someone has broken their promise to you or your family. Then give it over to the LORD. Once you do, stand back and watch as His grace and mercy turns something once shattered into something whole and beautiful!

Thank you, LORD, for being our Resolution. Not just at the beginning of the year, but each and every day. Help me to learn to let go and give you what is broken and weak so You can turn it into something made perfect by Your power. I praise You for caring about all the shattered areas of my life. In Jesus’s Name. Amen.

Below the Foam


As I sit here trying to figure out what to write, I think of the times I had no problem sitting down and writing on paper what was in my heart. When I was a young girl, the opening lines began with something like “Once upon a time…” As I jumped into my teen years, it switched to “He broke my heart…” Still, each story/poem always spilled from a place deep inside me like an overturned bottle of ink.

Whether it be story, poem, article, or blog, writing deep usually means dredging up emotions I’m not quite sure I’m ready to handle. So I swim on the surface.

Don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there are a lot of nice things to see when you’re swimming on the surface: the sky, the horizon, tropical islands—stuff like that. But when you dive deep, you experience beauty and wonder that is foreign to surface swimmers. There are colors and textures that God has hidden below the foam, held in check by the buoyancy that only diving deep can reveal.

When we allow the Holy Spirit to become the deep current—the spiritual thread—in our writing, we find ourselves face-to-face with wonders we never imagined. Sure, sometimes we might encounter a sea monster or two, but when that happens we can find peace in knowing He is right beside us, willing to be our champion. And it is there, within the profound aquamarine tranquility of His presence, that our true writing journey begins.

Below the Foam
You wove through me a thread of gold
That touched my very soul
It bore the mark of majesty
And ancient days of old.
From hand to pen and back again
The depth Your heart did share
Dove deep into the waters
Revealing treasurers rare.
Awake my soul! so I may write
The words He has for me
This golden thread His Spirit weaves
Beneath the foam of sea.

Hearing Voices

There are seven diagnosed reasons why one hears voices:

1. Psychiatric disorders
2. Psychological disorders
3. Psychosis
4. Psychotic depression
5. Schizophrenia
6. Hallucinations
7. Falling asleep

Let me add one more:

8. Being a writer

Granted, writers are known for “hearing” those character voices that propel them into their story. But the voice I’m talking about right now is the one that says, “Delete! Delete!”

I’m an excellent inner editor. I have spell check, grammar check, and a bazillion books in my writing library that tell me everything I’ve done wrong with my work-in-progress from point of view errors to miswriting dialogue to not hooking the reader to totally massacring those critical first five pages. In fact, my inner editor is so good it’s a rare day I get past those first five pages.

So what should I do?

I have been offered a myriad of suggestions ranging from “turn *it* off” (*it* being my inner editor) to “buy an AlphaSmart” to “just get it down.” I’ve even read Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, cover-to-cover more times than I’m willing to admit. Unfortunately, if there’s a way to backspace, whether it be in my mind or on a keyboard, there’s a way for me to figure out how to “adjust” what I just wrote.

Praise God that I have a wonderful group of women that keep gently prodding me forward to write that…*shiver*…really bad draft. I’m not quite there yet, but I know with the Lord’s help, and theirs, I’ll get it down one day. In the meantime, every time I hear that inner editor shout “Delete! Delete!” I plan to remind myself that the only thing that needs deleting at this point in the game, is “Delete!” itself.

The Language of Love


L is for the way you look at me
O is for the only one I see
V is very, very extraordinary
E is even more than anyone that you adore

Love is all that I can give to you
Love is more than just a game for two
Two in love can make it
Take my heart and please don’t break it
Love was made for me and you

The above song, L-O-V-E, made popular by Nat King Cole, has been heard throughout the airwaves for over forty years. It whispers “you’re special and adored,” and air brushes pictures of hope, possibility, happiness, commitment, and promise.

Everyone wants to be loved, be it Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s The Christmas Carole, or the Grinch from Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Whether romance, suspense, thriller, action, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery, each story character, even the villain, has a special love language—something that makes them tick and feel valuable. Something that fills them up and brings warmth to their heart, even if for a brief moment.

In his book, The Five Love Languages, (Northfield Publishing) Gary Chapman addresses these love languages and breaks them down into five categories:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch

Just as the Myers-Briggs, Carl Jung, Lowery True Color, or Smalley/Grant Lion-Beaver-Otter-Golden Retriever personality identifiers can help a writer profile their characters, so can The Five Love Languages. Let’s use the Grinch, for example. Until Cindy Lou came along no one ever wanted to hang out with Mr. Grinch because he was so awful. He said mean things, did mean things, and pushed himself as far away from society as possible. So if I wanted to introduce a character who would create an opposite effect on him, I would take a hard look at the one thing the Grinch did the most that seemed opposite of his love language. Once I figured out that I would be able to understand his heart better.

Same with good ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens already knew what kind of man Scrooge was. All he had to do after that was create a character who was generous rather than stingy (notice the opposite). And because Scrooge’s love language was gifts, Bob Cratchit was able to emotionally give Scrooge the love language he needed.

But what about good guys? And romance? How can the five love languages help there? Take Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Why is it that they always seemed to be hit-and-miss? Could it be different love languages? Scarlett liked to be wooed and adored. She liked to hear how lovely she was. Unfortunately Rhett wasn’t the words of affirmation type, thus the two of them seemed to fall short of true love throughout the book. And the fact that their love language never met in the middle kept the romantic tension alive and the reader on the edge of their seat, wanting…hoping…that things would turn out okay in the end.

If you don’t have a copy of Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, I recommend you pick one up. It’s not only a good tool for your marriage, but also comes in handy when trying to figure out why your bad guy is bad, or why two good characters just can’t seem to make things work. And who knows? Maybe if the Grinch, Scrooge, Rhett and Scarlett had read the book, they would have discovered that their problems were nothing more than a misunderstood love language. 🙂

“L-O-V-E,” words and music by Bert Kaempfert and Milt Gabler © 1964


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