Don’t Feed the Enemy

The enemy cannot hear your thoughts. He is not omnipresent, omnipotent, or omniscient. He is limited. He can read body language and hear your spoken words, but he cannot read your mind! He will take what he can see and hear and lay a trap for you. He will weave a web and plant a seed, then laugh as you tangle YOURSELF up in his web. He will let you do all of the work. You’ll fight until you are totally ensnared in that web! You will exhaust yourself until you have no fight left. His work is done and YOU actually supplied all of the power, and YOU gave him all of the credit! Stop feeding the enemy! Stop giving him information to use against you! Every time you repeat his lies, he hears you. He files that information away to use against you again. You just told him what buttons to push. STOP IT! Stand up straight. Adjust your crown. Pull your shoulders back. Eyes forward. You are the chosen child of the One True King! His beloved child. His beautiful and precious creation. What you say and believe about yourself is a reflection of how you feel about God because you were created in His image! Utter only truths. Speak only life. Find others who will remind you of the truth when you stumble. Do not give up. You. Are. Enough. #youareenough #stopfeedingtheenemy #inhisimagecreations

Originally written 2.26.2019.

Beauty from Ashes

How many times have you second guessed your decisions? How many times have you lived in the past and kept replaying your mistakes? How often have you contemplated giving up on your dreams because you felt like you were unworthy?

I am my own worst enemy. My worst critic. I will find every flaw in myself. Even when I do something well, I can imagine that it was disastrous. I will make something up if I have to. I am the queen of self sabotage.

The good news is that I don’t (usually) wallow in the mess these days. I realize what I’m doing and catch myself. In those times, I recall what God has said about me and I discard the rest. ‘Tis but a hiccup in my day.

When I wonder how and when I got this way, there isn’t a single event that provides an answer. I always had a perfection complex. I was always competitive. I always wanted to be the best. But I wasn’t. Instead of shaking it off and moving forward using the lessons I had learned, I beat myself up.

These days, I know who I am in Christ. I mean, I know, but I don’t always remember. At least, not right away because I still have the struggle. I just bounce back a lot faster.

I think of the person I used to be and I am astounded at how different I am now.

When I decided to follow Christ, I surrendered myself to Him. Sanctification began, even though I didn’t notice it at first. It was a series of small changes that made the transformation virtually undetectable to me. But others noticed it.

They noticed joy where there had been sadness. They noticed hope where there had been despair. They noticed peace where there had been chaos. They saw grace where there had been shame. They noticed Jesus.

Friends, if you are on the fence about following Jesus, I beg you to read the Bible, listen to online sermons, and reach out to others. You will find a peace beyond anything you could ever imagine because you will become friends with someone who loved you enough to die for you. You will learn about unconditional love and forgiveness.

God takes the ruins of our lives and restores them. He uses our brokenness to reach others to show them that they are not alone. He creates beauty from the ashes.

*******

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”
Ephesians 2:8 NIV

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:19 NIV

Voidville: MEHven on Earth

Complete exhaustion + endless lists of tasks + many missteps = mental shutdown.

Welcome to Voidville, my little slice of MEHven. You try to emote, but you just don’t have anything left.

Today started off pretty well. I lost 3 pounds. I got a great night of sleep. I drank lots of water. Ate well. Stayed within my guardrails. Then found out I actually gained weight this week.

And that, my friends, is where I lost my mind. Somewhere amidst the stress of life and career and healthier lifestyle, I ended up back in my own head. Apathy is an ugly thing.

To add to my stress, it’s my birthday week and I always struggle this time of year. My birthday was never a reason to celebrate as an adult, so I actually hate my birthday week. Some felt it was an inconvenience, so I learned to despise my birthday. That habit stuck.

So when everything is piling on during a minor-milestone birthday week, I think you get a pass on being petulant and whiney. And numb. So very numb.

I let myself get totally exhausted over the past couple of weeks and the joy (codeword for stress) of life has been overwhelming. Now I’m picking apart everything I have said and done over the past two weeks to critique my words and actions. Such a fun place to be tonight. *sarcasm*

Yet, in the midst of the turmoil on my drive home tonight, I turned on the radio and three of my favorite songs came on back to back. First, “Scars”, by I Am They:

Darkest water and deepest pain
I wouldn’t trade it for anything
‘Cause my brokenness brought me to You
And these wounds are a story You’ll use“.

Followed by “Who You Say I Am”, by Hillsong Worship:

Who am I that the highest King
Would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in
Oh His love for me
Oh His love for me“.

Finally, Lauren Daigle’s “You Say”:

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am, because I need to know“.

To say God was trying to get my attention would be a massive understatement. Where I had been shutdown, now I was revived. No longer numb. No longer stuck in MEHven.

Friend, He doesn’t care about our mistakes or failures or shortcomings. He cares about us. He wants us to run to Him and allow Him to tell us who we are. He doesn’t want us to find our identity in the human world. He tells us we are His. He loves us. Comforts us. Goes before us. Fights our battles.

Why, then, should I allow a bad day to dictate who I am or my level of success? How would a scale somehow correlate to my worth as a person? Why would a comment taken totally out of context indicate that I am unworthy?

Whatever you are facing, God has it under control. He is your strength and salvation. He is your shield. He is the author of truth and love. Look to Him. Do not allow the world to give you an identity or to proclaim your worth. Do not allow the world to overwhelm you to the point of shutdown or paralysis. The Kingdom needs you.

The enemy pushes these buttons to try to gain ground, but – spoiler alert – he loses the war.

My sweet friend, we have a Savior who willingly went to the cross for us. He died knowing everything about us and He still thought we were worth the sacrifice. When we remember these facts, it is impossible to remain in Voidville. He revives our spirits and stirs us to more than MEHven. He invigorates us and encourages us to lean into Him.

******

“The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.”
Deuteronomy 1:30‭-‬31 NLT

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

More or Less

More. This world is all about more. More money. More things. More friends. More outfits. More. MORE. MORE!

We keep buying and seeking and striving, but it’s never enough. We deserve it because <insert reason here>. We justify the search for more by saying we are lonely, or misunderstood, or kept down. We work hard and the world owes us.

Yet we are never fulfilled.

Previous generations were content with less. They focused on family and friends, had down time, and maintained at least some semblance of balance. We may call them “old-fashioned” or “dated”, but they had clearer priorities than we have today.

They appeared to have had less (fewer). Fewer distractions. Fewer demands. Less striving. Less money. Fewer friends. But, ironically, they really had more. They had more time. More clarity. More peace.

We claim to have so little time to connect with others, recharge, take care of ourselves, or read the Bible, yet so much is at our fingertips.

Your phone is a direct connection to community, but we get sucked into social media and forget that we can actually speak to those we love. We can read a book through an app. We can book a massage. We can read His Word and participate in a Bible study. All through a device that fits into our hand and is infinitely more powerful than early computers.

We crave instant gratification. We need everything right now. We compare our realities to what others post on social media. We fill our days with mind numbing tasks on devices and forego human connection.

When we focus on the next best thing, we are trying to fill a void that cannot be filled with anything other than Christ. We were wired to need God, but He is often our last resort. We pray when we are sad and “forget to pray” when we are happy. We would rather just “do it ourselves”.

My dear friends, contrary to popular belief, we can disconnect and survive without those little Apple and Android (or Windows or Google) devices. Insert irony here: when we disconnect from our devices, we connect on a deeper level to God and our loved ones.

Unplug. Settle in. Perform self care (or even self preservation). Be present. Live in the moment. Reconnect with the people around you. Read. The. Word. (I’m speaking to myself here, too, y’all!)

*************

““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord . “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8‭-‬9 NIV

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
John 15:4‭-‬7 NIV

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
James 4:4‭, ‬7‭-‬8 NIV

Spring Cleanin’ Time

Spring is just around the corner! At least that is what they keep saying in between winter storms. Lying rodents. But I digress….

With spring comes spring cleaning. We move appliances and furniture to clean everything to welcome spring. We wash baseboards and clean out closets. We scrub walls and organize cabinets. We deep clean with intention! Starting the spring cleaning process motivates us to do more.

So a deep house cleaning is great, but how often do we do a deep cleaning on our minds? Do we throw out the clutter we harbor in our minds, or do we just sweep around all of that garbage? Do we turn our thoughts over and examine them, one by one, pruning as we go? Like a semi-helpful game: “Productive. Productive not. Productive. Productive not.” Or do we just shove those toxic thoughts deep into a closet and quickly shut the door?

Anyone realizing they don’t deep clean their thinker often enough? *Raises hand slowly.* Same. You’re not alone. Every time I think I have successfully purged all toxic thoughts, I realize there is another layer of crap. Not the same crap. Different crap. Deeper crap.

When we start dealing with the surface issues, we start to feel better and we move forward. For a while, anyway. Until different issues begin to work their way forward. Next, please!

As we work through each layer, we have an important choice: we can view refining the many layers of ourselves as a chore, or we can count each layer as a blessing.

When we see growth as a chore, we often become angry, hopeless, exhausted, frustrated, or some combination of all of these emotions. We become focused on fixing ourselves. By ourselves. Alone. All on us. That’s an exhausting position to hold. No wonder we give up!

On the other hand, when we view growth as a blessing, we can become energized, relieved, excited, happy, and so on. Probably still a combination of emotions, but what a better set of feels, right? The kicker here is that seeing blessings shifts our perspectives to God. We aren’t on this journey alone. He is right there with us, helping us move furniture, tackle cobwebs, and scrub the walls of our minds. He shows us where deep cleaning is needed and helps us with the heavy lifting. Sure, He may point out when we miss a spot, but it’s done from a place of love and grace.

******

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NIV

“He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:2 NIV

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
James 1:2‭, ‬5 NIV

But, God…

Some days, the conversations in my mind should be on an episode of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”. Other days, those convos could be from Maury or Jerry Springer. LOTS o’ bleeps happening up there, y’all.

The past few weeks have been a challenge. Especially today. And yesterday. Well, and the day before…. You get the idea.

When you are fighting battles that aren’t yours to fight, the enemy can get you all spun up in health issues, anxiety, depression, arguing, and anger. None of these are God’s plan. But, God….

After some rough days, I reached out to a dear friend. She reminded me that these battles are not ours to fight. These battles are being waged above us and on all sides, even when we are unaware. But, God….

Someone attacks our integrity. Someone else insults us on a personal level. Yet another person screams at us for something beyond our control. But, God….

Some people refuse to end their attacks for reasons that I cannot pretend to understand. Others persist rumors and ill repute because they find it entertaining. Then there are those who just get overwhelmed and have a bad day. But, God….

Those first two categories are from the enemy. They come to “kill and destroy”. The people in these two categories are not just an overwhelmed, emotional mess. No Hot Mess Express here. Just malice. Harm is on the agenda. But, God…..

When we encounter these people doing the work of darkness, we have to remember to pray. To take up the full armor of God. To use the words (truths) God gave us to counteract lies. When Jesus fasted in the wilderness, He was tempted. Did Jesus respond with Mr. Rogers’ words? With Maury-esque insults? Nope. With truth. The Word of God. He wasted no time with idle words. He quoted scripture back to the enemy. And then? The enemy fled.

Rather than hurling insults and inflammatory remarks, Jesus chose to state truth. No bleeps here, folks. He knew God’s Word was more powerful than anything the enemy could ever bring against Him.

So why do we forget? Why do we forget our God is huge and capable? Omnipotent and all-powerful? Loving and kind? Full of grace and mercy?

But, God…. God has given us everything we need to fight our battles through the Holy Spirit. Through His Word. Through prayer. Through surrender and taking up His armor. He gave the armor to us that we may be protected. Unwounded. So that we could walk in His righteousness and walk in His path. So that we can display His glory. In every place. In all situations. In every moment. Not through censored bleeps in our mind. Through abundance and love. Through faith and forgiveness. Through grace and mercy. All through Him.

**********

“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
John 10:10 NLT

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
Ephesians 6:11‭-‬13 NIV

The Real Deal

Authenticity is rare these days. Merriam-Webster defines authentic as: “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character” or “not false or imitation”. Being true to ourselves is difficult and leaves us vulnerable.

Everyone is expected to don a persona of impossible perfection and try to fit into a prescribed mold. If we don’t fit, we hear that we are too noisy, too quiet, too fat, too thin, too serious, too obnoxious…. The list is never ending. We are just always “too” something.

The flip side of the “too” is the “not enough”. Someone who is too quiet isn’t assertive enough. A person who laughs too much is not serious enough. It’s always something, isn’t it?

But who does God call us – His intricate creations – to be? He calls us to be ourselves. Our true selves washed in His grace. Our true selves chasing Him. Our true selves with His wisdom. His plan is to use each of us to reach others to grow His Kingdom. We cannot reach others if we are too busy pretending to be someone else.

I used to think God could never use me because I was so incredibly broken. I’m an abuse survivor. I’m a single mom. I’m overweight. I fear rejection. I’m driven. I’m a recovering (some days, anyway) control freak.

I tried so hard my whole life to fit into places I did not belong. I pretended to be someone I wasn’t. I acted like I had it all together and kept my struggles inside. The irony? Acting like I was in control sent me spiraling out of control. The anxiety of waiting for someone to find out I was a fraud was overwhelming

It was not until I started realizing that He created me with my sense of humor and ability to relate to people that I started connecting with other people on a deeper level. He created me and my unique perspectives to reach others. He has turned so many bad things into good things. He has turned my life around. He has pulled me from the brink. He has blessed me beyond measure.

When we wear a mask, sooner or later that mask falls off. When we walk in who we were created to be, we impact others. They realize they are not alone and allow themselves to connect. When we share our sinful past and demonstrate how much He has changed us through grace, the Kingdom wins.

Embrace your authentic self. Speak truth. Let the lost find you by the beacon of your testimony.

*********

“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 NLT

“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”
1 Corinthians 15:9‭-‬10 ESV

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
James 5:16 ESV