Christians and Exclusivity

exclusivity Christians

To preface: this post has more bite than usual because it’s a topic I’m very passionate about: exclusivity.

Today is a special edition of Devotional Diva! This hiatus isn’t turning out to be much of a hiatus, is it? And we normally don’t even have posts on Mondays! Well, I just had to get this up today because this topic has been burning in my heart – and also because it coincides nicely with the publishing of my guest post on a pretty sweet blog called The Laundry Moms.

 

 First of all, the post on TLM means a lot to me because it’s sort of a tribute to my mom. I’ve been working on it for weeks, and I wanted to make sure it came out around her birthday (Happy birthday, Mom!) It’s also a testament to the ways God works. My mom (guided by God I am sure) kept encouraging me to keep writing, and now here I am! That’s what the post is about. TLM contacted me back in June to do a guest post and I was really excited! I love getting my writing out there. It’s pretty cool to feel that I can make a difference with my writing – I mean, that’s really my whole goal.

I love how sharing can help so many people. I love that Devotional Diva’s mission is exactly that.

Devotional Diva is giving me the chance to share and help people, and not just on DD’s platform. I’m actually going to be sharing my testimony at a recovery center in Southern California in the coming weeks because of a connection I made through Devotional Diva. When I was invited to share my testimony for an online Christian summit, I thought it was a great opportunity to spread God’s glory even more! I got on the phone with the director to get more information about the summit. She said my powerful message would fit great with their mission. I figured it was a done deal. After explaining their “requirements,” she asked a couple casual questions about my blog stats and social media followers. That’s when she told me my numbers weren’t up to snuff, and she basically uninvited me. I shook it off, because it wasn’t any skin off my back. I’m going through Renee’s Faithbook of Jesus right now, and the night after that phone call, I was on Tuesday of week three. The message was about exclusivity:

“When Jesus rolled into town with his entourage, he wasn’t looking for some exclusive membership for the highest of society.”

Then it hit me. A Christian group excluded me from sharing God’s word and my testimony that they knew would inspire Christian women…because I didn’t have enough followers for their standards.

The director told me that if they didn’t have that requirement in some future event, then maybe I could participate. If the purpose of the summit was really to inspire Christian women, then you wouldn’t tell a person you invited to do it that they can’t because they don’t meet your social media standards.

Does the fact that I have less followers than some of the other speakers really make my testimony less powerful?

There is no exclusivity in being a Christian. Then why would we treat other Christians with exclusivity? I’ve seen this in so many other aspects of the Christian life — certain Bible studies or events only for the wives of pastors (as if our husband’s career has anything to do with our calling or ability to grow spiritually), the only opportunities for women in some churches being Sunday school teaching or childcare…there are so many exclusions. It’s so ridiculous to me! The things in life that bother me the most are injustice, judgment and things that are just illogical. Now I’m realizing that exclusion is really all of those things in a lot of cases. I’m going to spread God’s glory all over this earth no matter what. And I encourage you, no matter who you are, to do the same. You can check out more about becoming a guest poster on Devotional Diva on the Become a Diva page here. I’m so glad that The Laundry Moms included me. This way, my story can help more people!

Jesus includes everyone, and I think as Christians we should try to do the same. More inclusion, less exclusion.

→M

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The 3 People You Need to Meet

people you need to meet

[Maggie is on vacation so I thought I’d jump on and encourage you all with the three people you need to meet to achieve your dreams. My newest book, Dream Devotional, just released this month. Pick up a copy on Amazon for only $2.99!]

Dreaming together is important because we are designed, commanded, and encouraged into a loving relationship with God and each other.

I’ll never forget the day I was sitting at the front desk as the office receptionist when a woman walked in for an interview. She thought I was pregnant–say what??–and asked me when I was due.

I was completely shocked and mortified. She felt really bad too when she found out that I was in fact, not pregnant. My boss and I joked that she probably wouldn’t get the job because of her comments, but I’m so glad she did because it wasn’t until after she got the job that I found out she was a Christian and had heard a word from the Lord for me on why she thought I was preggers.

She told me, “God wants to birth a ministry through you — if you’ll let him, not to say that your future husband isn’t important.”

Ouch.

Anyone who knew me when I was single, knew how important my future husband was to me. I desperately wanted to be married, and for whatever reason God prolonged that dream until I was almost 30.

God knew the plans and purposes He created specifically for me. He knew if He brought my future husband into my life too soon — I wouldn’t have risked so many dreams with Him.

Friends, God created you for an individual and unique purpose as well. You have a divine destiny that only you can fulfill.

Don’t believe me? Just read the Scriptures full of men and women of faith who entrusted their lives to God in the most courageous circumstances. Sometimes, we don’t see until afterwards why God gives us the dreams and visions He does because He doesn’t want to scare us or hinder us from fulfilling our mission.

for such a time as thisIt wasn’t until afterwards that Joseph realized why he so arrogantly shared his dreams to all 12 of his brothers…after he was thrown in prison (not once but twice)…and after he was summoned into the courts of Pharaoh — did he see why God placed him in his prison cell for such a time as this.

Friends, you may be the catalyst for someone else’s dreams. If it wasn’t for the many brave women in my life — I wouldn’t be where I am today!

If you are currently experiencing the death of a vision or a dream — I encourage you to partner up with people who believe in you. Seek out trusted partners and ministry relationships to foster the dreams God has placed on your heart because they are strong enough to save not only your souls, but the lives of many others (James 1:21).

If you are wondering what kind of relationships I am talking about, I want to encourage you to connect with three different kinds of relationships to accomplish your BIG dreams:

1. A Mentor in the business — someone who has been there, done that, and can help guide you through the obstacles to become a expert person of business and integrity.

2. A Life or Dream Coach — someone who believes in you even if others including your family does not believe in you. Someone who will stand by you and lift your arms up like Moses when the battle becomes too weary.

3. Prayer partners — someone who can pray for you when you can’t pray for yourself. I never endeavor to write any books or speak at any function without asking for prayer covering. Prayer is the most powerful form we have against spiritual attack, so use it (James 5:16!

I feel like I am at a point in my life right now where I can look back and see God’s hand and His many answered prayers.

Question: Who cheerleads your dreams? Who’s dreams are you currently cheerleading?

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Looking Back on My Physical Assault at Work

assault and courage

I believe my physical assault at work led to my downward spiral into depression and anxiety. But it also taught me about my own courage.

 

I was already depressed. I had already suffered trauma. I was still physically sick. But I was trudging on. I tried to keep up with my job at Chuck E. Cheese.

Chuck E. Cheese has a system in place that aims to ensure children’s safety called “Kid Check.” Families that enter together (adults included) all get a stamp with a number on their hand. That number is checked upon exit to make sure that kids leave with the right adults. Babies get a sticker with the number on it that can be placed on their carrier.

When I was training, it was one of the first things I learned. The video stressed that all kids must have their number match an adult they are leaving with, and if there is any sort of problem, to get a manager.

One low-key night, it was my turn at Kid Check. A very large man approached the exit with a tiny baby in a stroller. I got out my little black light flashlight to check their numbers.

I saw the sticker and number on the baby’s carrier and then I asked to see the man’s hand. He didn’t have a number.

I explained to the man how the Kid Check system worked, and I told him I could get my manager and straighten it out. But he got really agitated.

And then everything seemed to happen really fast.

He pushed the stroller through the ropes that guarded the exit and it rolled five feet and hit the door.

He’s trying to steal this baby, I thought.

That is the very thing Kid Check is designed to prevent – especially for young babies who can’t speak up.

And I could NOT let that happen.

Instinctively, I blocked his way through the exit.

This man was probably about six feet tall and 300 pounds. At that time, I was about 5’2” and 130 pounds.

He hit me in the face and tried to push me down as I remained steadfast in my effort to keep him from leaving with the baby. I screamed for the cash register clerk to get a manager.

After what felt like ages, he turned and headed back into the restaurant, leaving the baby at the door.

My manager, an even smaller woman than I, came to the front and I tried to explain what had just happened. The man quickly reappeared and began yelling at us.

My manager couldn’t reason with him either, but she sent me to the back.

Tears flowing down my face, I headed to the kitchen. I remember how my drink nearly spilled because my hands were shaking so much.

My friend and coworker saw this, having no knowledge of the commotion. She grabbed the drink from my hands and guided me toward the back door to get some air.

Through my hyperventilation and gagging outside of the kitchen, I tried to tell her what had happened. She was shocked; although we were trained to protect kids against abduction, nothing like that had ever happened at our store.

I remember ending up in the break room. My manager came back and told me that the mother of the baby had come forward and the baby was okay. Apparently, the man was related to the baby somehow but didn’t enter at the same time. Whatever the case, the family left. She asked me if he had hurt me and if I wanted to call the police.

He had hurt me – a small bruise was beginning to form on my cheek. But I just wanted to go home.

No police report was ever filed, but Chuck E Cheese gave me worker’s comp to get help with the extreme anxiety I developed after that night.

I was getting along fine, and then that happened. It was like everything going on in my life culminated the night of my physical assault at work and I became a complete wreck. What happened that night is still hard to talk about, and I’m anxious as I write this.

But everything happens for a reason.

It’s taken years of healing to deal with everything, but I’m really okay now. And when I feel small and weak, I remember that night. I remember how strong I became to protect that baby. Even if it that man had permission to take the child, he sure didn’t act like it.

The therapist I saw after the event told me I should have just let him go and not put myself in harm’s way. Maybe that’s true, but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself.

I know I did what was right. And I know what courage lives inside of me.

→M

photo credit: tvol via photopin cc

 

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A Different Kind of Stress

different kind of stress

[Guest Post by Bonnie Gray – I was surprised to find the answers I was looking for in her new book Finding Spiritual Whitespace. I think all of us at some point in our life think we just have to try or pray harder. Do more. I love, love, love her story. If you’re stressed out today, I know you’ll be encouraged by Bonnie’s fresh word!]

Can we ever be free from stress? Stress seems to be so embedded in our modern lives, we’ve come to breathe it like oxygen.

Emails, Twitter, doctor appointments, and a to-do list filled with growing unchecked boxes are all part of my reality.

Is it realistic to expect a stress-free life?

I’ve lived a lot of my life hiding from my heart, reducing everything to a minimum. I did do less. But paring down to the bare essentials made me lose a sense of wonder.

Introverts or extroverts, we were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, renewed by a sense of adventure, engaged with community, and soul-fed.

Without these elements of creativity, adventure, community, and soul care, we experience a different kind of stress.

Soul stress.

I don’t want to make a reentry into striving a stream of new endeavors either, like stepping into the California rivers for whitewater rafting. Everything looks calm on the outside, but the underlying currents threaten to pull me under.

Are we left to choose only between inactivity or overactivity? As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress.

We pursue the opposite.
We pursue rest.

After PTSD entered my life, I couldn’t socialize with people like I used to or do life like I once did. I could hardly keep track of my car keys.

I look out from my post-PTSD life and all I see is desert. I see nothing.

What do I do with my life? What do I do with these empty spaces? You’d think the concept of whitespace came through some inspiring moment walking through a field of wildflowers. But “feeding my soul” sounded too right-brain. Too touchy-feely. So God prompted my first steps through what was initially most accessible:

my left brain.

God knew this about my personality: my desire to pursue. So he put me on the journey to rest by pointing me to a new ambition. It’s ironic. The idea of spiritual whitespace came to me while reading a blog on business strategies and innovation.

I was reading an article written by Matthew May called “Break Through by Taking Breaks.” It offered scientific evidence that down time is required for creativity and new thinking. Archimedes discovered volume displacement while taking a bath. Einstein’s theory of special relativity came while he was daydreaming, and author J. K. Rowling sat traveling on a train when the Harry Potter character “flashed in her mind.”1

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these brilliant flashes of insight you can see they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away played a part.2

It was fascinating to learn that “putting pressure on ourselves to try and work harder, more intensely, or more quickly may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights.”3

If this is true in the worlds of art and science, what would be the implications for our relationships with God—in spirituality and faith? The biggest lightbulb moment struck me. I had been desperately trying to connect with God by doing the same things. I thought I needed to try harder.

What’s wrong with me?

Nothing. I needed something different.

I typed in rest into my computer to do a word search in the Bible. What I found stunned me to the core.

Rest. It sounds inactive, doesn’t it?

I was surprised to find that rest is one of only three ambitions that God explicitly calls out in the Bible. The other two are preaching the gospel and pleasing God.4

We urge you, brethren,  to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet [restful] life. (1 Thess. 4:10–11)

Turns out hesuchazo—the Greek word used for quiet and rest— is as important as preaching the gospel and pleasing God. The more I’m able to enjoy rest, the more others will see God’s life in me. When my soul is at rest, I am free to please God right where I am.

I was intrigued. I had always centered my thinking on pleasing God and preaching the gospel through what I did. But now, suddenly God put a big spotlight on hesuchazo. God was asking me to excel—“still more”—by making it my ambition to lead a quiet and restful life.

My heart skipped a beat. This is what has been missing. Rest.

Hesuchazo became the match that ignited the fire of the Holy Spirit in spiritual whitespace.

We were never made to only do life as maintenance. God designed us to be fully alive: creative, engaged with community, and renewed by a sense of adventure.

As people of faith, our focus goes beyond avoiding stress. We pursue the opposite. We pursue rest.

Our ambition is spiritual rest.

Bonnie GrayBonnie Gray is the founder of Faith Barista, a contributor to Crosswalk.com, and a featured writer for DaySpring’s popular (in)courage blog. Her writing is nationally syndicated and has been spotlighted in Christianity Today and McClatchy-Tribune News Services. She has served as a missionary, a ministry entrepreneur, and worked in high tech as an engineering and marketing program manager. A passionate speaker who inspires audiences to find God in everyday life, Bonnie lives in Silicon Valley with her husband, Eric, and their two sons. Learn more at www.faithbarista.com.

[Excerpt taken from Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray, published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, 2012. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.]

[photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc]

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Navigating Female Leadership

female leadership

[Guest Post by Elise Boggs – When I heard her share about women in leadership in person, I was blown away. I asked — no begged — Elise to share with all of you. It is tough to be a woman in leadership. I hope her story and three points encourage you to keep going. Pull up a chair. You are desperately needed!]

I have led teams internationally and state side, within small and large organizations, and in the safety of both the classroom and the jungle of life.

As a female, this meant saying “yes” to a narrow road, a road that traditional cultures attempt to restrict and boys clubs hang an invisible “no girls allowed” sign. In my years as both a theorist in the classroom and practitioner in the world, I have come to believe a simple truth about effective leadership.

Ultimately leadership is about influence and the unique influence of a woman must be experienced.

Women who have traveled this road know the challenges that lie ahead for those just beginning. There are times you will want to make a u-turn and question if the struggle is worth it. When these challenges came for me, there was not a woman ahead of me who could model or mentor me into effective female leadership. I felt like I was on a tightrope with no safety net and unable to see the platform symbolizing success within sight.

The women I did experience were either doormats or breaking down doors, neither of which fit who I wanted to be.

I saw women underutilizing their strengths or forcing them on others, both scenarios resulting in a loss of respect and opportunities. Movies, like Charlie’s Angels attempted to equalize women with men by showing that women could kick butt just like a man. The message appears to be equalizing, But there is a more subtle and disempowering message as well: that the innate strengths that females possess aren’t also valuable for “kicking butt.”

Strengths like collaboration (research supports the effectiveness of this leadership style), wisdom (the Bible personifies wisdom as a “she,”…just sayin!), and an ability to soften the rough edges of a cut throat world (see the story of how Abigail’s intelligence and diplomacy saved several men’s lives-I Samuel 25).

With an absence of mentors, what’s a girl to do if her strengths and call draw her towards platforms of influence?

Having led both men and women, there are some taxes I have paid through experience that I would like to pay for you. I have also asked those I have had the privilege of leading for their insights. There are men who want to pull out your chair, at the leadership table. You are desperately needed.

In the meantime, here are three things you can do now to keep moving down the path.

1. Identify your God given gifts and believe they are there for a specific purpose. In the early days of my career, I did not have the knowledge of my strengths and had little experience to draw from. It has been said that your purpose is where your talents and burdens collide. I began to recognize my gifts in communication and a burden for developing leaders. Despite getting glimpses of my purpose, the opportunities extended to me at that time were scarce. I had to hold tight, believing that if God gave me these specific passions and strengths, He would not let them go to waste.

2. Prepare so when opportunity knocks, you can walk through the door. Develop your strengths and create value for others. Get your education. Seek out different experiences. Read everything you can get your hands on. Ask for feedback. Volunteer. Keep a learning journal. One of my most memorable opportunities came unexpectedly my boss resigned and I led for a three year interim.  I had completed my Masters in Leadership just one month prior. Preparation met opportunity. When given the opportunity, succeed early and often. When a leader is a good, gender fades into the background.

3. You were created female on purpose. Gifted people are leaving their positions every day because of poor leadership. Those possessing the competencies associated with Emotional Intelligence (such as building bonds, teamwork, collaboration, and interpersonal effectiveness) are what separate exceptional leaders. Many females tend to have some natural aptitudes towards these competencies, so there is no reason to think you have to forego female characteristics to be a successful leader. In fact, the research supports these competencies are largely lacking in leaders.

In Genesis 5:2  we are reminded that God created them male and female.

He was intentional in creating two genders with their own strengths. There is a place and purpose for both at the leadership table. And ladies, be mindful of being so caught up in your own story that you don’t notice another’s unfolding before you. Pull up a chair — a future female leader will thank you for it.

Elise BoggsElise currently teaches at Chapman (Brandman) University in the MBA and Organizational Leadership programs. She also directs her own consulting practice specializing in leadership training, team and organizational development, and career and life coaching. Connect with Elise at {eliseboggsconsulting} at {gmail} dot {com}.

[photo credit: 1yen via photopin cc]

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Is ultra connectedness…bad?

ultra connectedness

[Guest Post by Ashley Beaudin – I always appreciate meeting new people, especially ones that care about the whole person including the heart. Check out her new eBook 33 Questions to Ask YOUR Heart below.]

There is a fire singing in your bones. Let’s find it.

We live in a culture where we are connected all the time; we are hyper-connected. You can feel like you’re connected with someone without ever having a face-to-face conversation. And when you’re bored or tired or unhappy with your life, hey you can just scroll through someone else’s and get your mind off of yours.

Right?
Am I right?
Come on, let’s be honest. 

And at the same time, this ultra connectedness offers us such treasure in the exchange of information and ideas and being able to have meaningful and life impacting conversation with anyone anywhere. I know that some of the conversations that have moved me to my core have been through that connectedness.

But for me, I started to get to this point, where I realized that in all this connectedness to everyone and everything else, I was struggling to know how to connect with my own heart, with real people in real life and with God.

And see, I believe there is such a radical importance in knowing how to connect with our own hearts and in knowing how to work through what is going on inside. It can be so easy to just not and to not ask questions, not to process. But listen up, when we don’t, when we just let stuff build up on the inside, it becomes crazy easy to get overwhelmed and afraid. It is like this:

Imagine your heart like a container. And every day you face stuff (good and messy) and it settles in your heart. When you don’t process that stuff, it keeps building up. The heart keeps getting full and more full. And so when something comes along that is hard or just big, we go into a, “Woah! Can’t handle this!”

But someone who is healthy has freed up their heart to receive and work through everything as it comes. And that is a beautiful and freeing thing.

And listen up, there is a fire in you, that is so uniquely yours placed there by God Himself. That’s your fire to walk in with passion. Know how to ask your heart the questions to draw that out, to explore it, to truly just begin owning it.

So I wrote this ebook called 33 Questions to Ask YOUR Heart. It is a digital booklet filled with thirty-three power packed questions to empower you to have honest and soul stirring conversation with your own heart.

In our hyper connected culture, there is insane value in learning how to connect with the one person we’re with all the time, ourselves.

+ Free up your heart from feeling overwhelmed by owning up to what is going on inside.
+ Discover the passion and fire that is shouting from your belly.
+ Get to know the difference between escaping and living with intention.

I am so excited for you to read this book! I honestly believe it is a game changer because this is a practice that has honestly changed my life. You can purchase it here.

Ashley BeaudinHi, my name is Ashley and I am a fiery and calling-out-the-gold-in-you life coach for women who want more out of this life and who believe in their core that their life is shamelessly valuable (more than they’ve been told).  I am currently coaching women one on one and recently released a digital ebook containing the questions you’ve got to be asking your heart. So, I am curious, what would it look like if you gave yourself permission to show up and be who you really are? Connect with Ashley on her Blog or Twitter.

[photo credit: Mark Nye, ClubofHumanBeings.com via photopin cc]

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Walking the Plank

walking the plank

Transition throws me for a loop every time – silly, of course.

We all know that the only constant in life is change. But somehow my longing for comfort and control gets me to settle into a place with a deep, satisfying sigh. Close my eyes. Take a break from watchfulness. Then everything tips and I find myself rolling sideways, stumbling down a new ramp of transition. Looking for a new normal.

Some transitions are instantaneous.

In 2003 my husband collapsed on his favorite street in San Diego, Shelter Island Drive, just outside the bank. From that moment on, he never drove his truck, never wrote a check, dialed a phone, made love, or flipped a pancake. Everything changed and I spent eight years catching up.

Other transitions are expected.

The kids grow up and launch their own lives, families, children, careers. They are navigating their own transitions without me. The family home is sold. I live alone.

What I didn’t expect was the final step in another, slow, insidious change that I’m just now having to acknowledge. Over the course of Mike’s long illness, I had to let go of my online bookstore, localauthors.com, which had kept me in the loop of writing and writers.

I published my ninth book in 2002, Conscience of the Community, the memoir of the Rev. George Walker Smith. I’ve written a couple since then, but that was the last one published.  It may always be the last one published. There might never be a tenth, and my writing career may be over.

I was making a comfortable salary in communications and as a political advisor, then $10,000 less after a layoff. Then another layoff three weeks after my husband died. Then $30,000 less at a temp job. Then unemployment; then the end of unemployment.

In three years, it appears my working career has also slipped away.  Along with it has been a precise and surgical removal of my self-reliance, replaced by utter dependency on God’s grace.

It’s scary to be lonely and disregarded by others when status and recognition have been a part of my identity as a writer, a worker, a woman.

How I want to cling to them and scrape up some remnant of the career I’ve had, to stave off fear. Because the biggest challenge of aging and poverty is fearing that no one cares. It’s the core fear of each of us, really, at any age and in any transition. Some days I feel like I am walking the plank.

Alongside the highway of transition are neon signs, flashing with audacity at my fear. God Loves You! God Cares for You! God is Strong When You are Weak!

These words have illuminated my road for most of my life. But walking down this slow path that winds to the bottom of my ramp of loss, I see a new sign, handwritten on a simple plank.

You are mine.

It makes me smile. I am seeing the Lord provide for my daily bread. He is sustaining my health. He has given me time to ponder and read and know him. This transition may be the best yet.

Francine PhillipsFrancine Phillips is an author, journalist and poet from La Mesa, California. She has an M.A. in marriage and family counseling from Denver Theological Seminary and teaches Bible study groups. Francine has raised seven children in a blended family and is now a widow.

[Photo: Simon Blackley via photopin cc]

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3 Reasons to Share Your Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently I shared my story about why my dream died. 

I already wrote that I can’t sugar coat things anymore. And now? The gloves are off.

“What kind of God would stand back and watch a dream–a good dream, for ministry and impact–fall apart?”

That’s what I just read in Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Vischer (the creator of VeggieTales®).

I devoured his 80,000 word memoir in less than half a day. Seriously couldn’t have come at a better time. (Thanks Brett Burner for the recommendation).

Phil continues.

“Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin. The more I thought about my intense drive to build Big Idea and change the world, the more I realized I had let my ‘good work’ became an idol that defined me. Rather than finding my identity in my relationship with God, I was finding it in my drive to do ‘good work.'”

Writing had become my idol.

My identity.

It’s humbling when God continues working on you in a certain area that you thought you already learned. Am I right? 

“It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening. Eventually it struck me that I no longer felt the need to write anything. I didn’t need to have any impact at all. Whatever needs I had were being met by the Scripture I was reading and by the life of prayer I was developing. My passion was shifting from impact to God. It took several months, but what I was starting to feel I can only describe as a sense of ‘giving up’–of ‘dying.’ It actually frightened me at first, because I wasn’t sure exactly WHAT was dying in me. And then one day it was clear. It was my ambition. It was my will. It was my hopes, my dreams. My life.”

It’s as if Phil started speaking directly to me. How did he know I was taking a writing break? How did he know that I felt a part of me was dying inside. My will. My hopes. My dreams. My life.

Phil continues.

“God loves you. Not because of what you can do, or even because of what you can become if you work really, really hard. He loves you because he made you. He loves you just the way you are. He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all. We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in him alone.”

Worth.

In God.

Alone.

Not in the fact that my efforts to write, publish, and market a book have failed. I can only be obedient to publish what He tells me and leave the rest (sales) up to Him. My worth is found in my identity in Christ, not in the fact that churches acknowledge this and invite me to speak.

In fact, no church has asked me to speak on my recent book Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. The book I spent pouring out my heart and soul. The book that was contracted by another publisher and then canceled. I thought this time would be different. That there would be some spiritual significance to the fact that I literally wrestled over this book for years, and it was finally here.

Then nothing.

Crickets.

Phil continues.

“The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God. In 2003, my dream died. And I discovered, once all the noise had faded away, what I had been missing all along.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul plants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

Let it go. Give it up. Let it die. Let Christ shred your dragon skin and lead you into a whole new life. Trust me. It’s worth it.”

Thanks Phil. I’m trying.

My heart is broken. 

Will I ever write again? Should I write to fill words on a page? Should I give up completely and get a day job?

I don’t want to care anymore. I just want to be obedient. I know. Not a flashy word. Not comfortable.

Maybe, like Phil, I’ll have another ‘big idea.’ Maybe not. For now I choose to serve with integrity, not pretending to be somebody I’m not.

I’m a great writer, but I’m not as good at marketing as I thought. In fact, I’m terrible. 

I’m learning, like Phil, that it’s none of my business to plan the next 5 or 10 years of my life. Maybe one of the reasons why I can’t-for-the-life-of-me plot out my next life map is because I’m not supposed to. It feels amazing to accomplish all my dreams I set out to accomplish 7 years ago, and even more gut wrenching to see them all crumble at my feet.

I just want to be used by God.

I just want to be obedient (there’s that word again)–no matter if my dreams are resurrected or not. No matter if I write another book or not.

Question: Have you ever experienced the death of a dream? How did it make you feel, and what encouraged you through? 

Starting in January, I am looking for women to share their story. I hope my story encourages you to hang in there–even if you have no idea how God is writing the beginning, middle, or ending.

I am not looking for you to tie a big red bow around it. I just want you to share your story. 

Before I share the requirements, I feel it is important to prayerfully consider why Jesus wants us to share. Here are 3 reasons why I feel it is necessary share your story publicly:

1. Tell the Whole Truth. ~ Mark 5:33 says, “Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.” This woman had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had suffered much at the hands of doctors–even became worse including spending all her money in the process. It’s important to be honest with what happened even if that means sharing about those who hurt you.

2. Healing Happens. ~ Mark 5:34 says, “He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’” When we tell the whole truth in front of many witnesses including Jesus is where we find healing. Are you struggling to share your story because you need closure, healing, or hope? Consider sharing your story publicly.

3. Don’t go Unnoticed. ~ Luke 18:47 says, “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.” Healing wasn’t enough for Jesus. He wanted to know who touched Him. He wants to notice each and every one of us personally. It’s not enough to come to Jesus and receive His touch.

When you and I share the whole truth–we find healing while encouraging those around us! Daughter, is this what you are longing for? What are you waiting for?

Share your story today, and be set free!

If you are interested in sharing your story, please read below. I prefer queries on one of the six categories:

+ Relationships
+ Devotionals
+ Health & Body
+ On Writing
+ Forgiveness
+ The Church

But if you are the kind of person who likes to write it out first–here are the requirements: I am looking for a post between 500-700 words in length, including a 3-4 sentence bio and a current picture. Feel free to contact me to share your story.

[Photo: >>haley, Creative Commons]

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Why Sexual Harassment at Work is Wrong

sexual harassment at work

Two things happened today that have caused me to write this blog immediately.

The first is that Mayor Filner of San Diego is resigning as of 5 PM on August 30th. The second is that I ate at the restaurant Karl Strauss for the first time since I was sexually harassed in their parking lot many years ago by a former coworker.

I am infuriated that men like Mayor Bob Filner think it’s okay and appropriate behavior to sexually harass women in the work place.

As a woman who has been sexually harassed in the work place twice, I am not only offended–I am downright angry.

Some of you may have read my story about the day that I said no and my coworker didn’t stop. It upsets me that I was the one who got in trouble, and not him, when I asked for help the next day at work.

But most of you don’t know the other story.

A story that I lived in fear to tell publicly for so long.

It makes me angry that victims are treated as the perpetrator and not the other way around. I know what it feels like to think and even believe the work place rewards men and their inappropriate behavior instead of the victim.

When I reached out after the first incident, I was told I would get in trouble for speaking up again, and that is why it took me SO long to speak up the second time.

Each time I felt helpless.

Scared.

Instead of going into further details–I want to focus on this one thing: God used both of these terrifying seasons in my life to spur me forward into writing. It’s always been about writing and sharing my story. And because I listened–I am now the author of 4 books.

Don’t.

Miss.

This.

My.

Friends.

I truly believe, if you are feeling like a victim of sexual harassment that God might have bigger plans.

Satan might feel threatened that God is on the cusp of something GREATER in your life–and that is why you’re in the middle of a situation that actually has NOTHING to do with you!

Maybe you’re afraid.

Maybe like me–you suffer with anxiety or depression, which made each situation MUCH worse.

I want to let you know that it’s okay to feel scared.

The first time, I ended up having the courage to drag my 80 pound keyboard to the second floor, and play and sing worship songs at my “non” Christian job. Songs like “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands.” In the middle of that song the power went out and all I could think about was that God’s presence was in that room. There was no denying it.

(It wasn’t until years later that I reconnected with a former coworker who thanked me for playing that day. Who never forgot my faith. Faith? Me? I thought I was the one drowning. The one not following God close enough–otherwise, why would HE LET THESE THINGS HAPPEN TO ME?).

The second time, I ended up in the Emergency Room and was put on disability for anxiety because I honestly couldn’t deal with it anymore, and didn’t know who to trust or who to talk to. I honestly thought my life, career, and writing ministry were o-v-e-r.

BUT.

BUT.

It was never about sexual harassment. That was all just a giant DISTRACTION. That is also why I don’t hold anything against anyone.

We’re all human.

We sin.

We hurt each other.

I say that now after years of anxiety medication, therapy, and lots of prayer. AND why I have faith that God can get you out of sexual harassment–or worse.

I want you to know that sexual harassment is a BIG deal whether you’re a Christian or not.

It’s just not okay.

Even after writing a book on FORGIVENESS, this is a topic that I still struggle with because both of these men never apologized.

They never got caught.

They never said they were sorry–even when I apologized (hoping they’d apologize).

To Filner, who said today in a press conference that he has never sexually harassed any woman–I’d like to say “join the club.” You and every other male who has denied–and will continue to deny claims of sexual harassment exist everywhere. I know because I’ve met a few of them. You may not get caught this side of heaven, but you will eventually–and that is what helps me sleep at night!

I will not apologize for feeling so strongly about believing why sexual harassment at work is wrong because it happened to me.

BUT.

It forever set the course of my life into new paths that have gotten me to where I am today!

I may have been naive back then, but I am certainly not naive anymore.

To the women who have not yet lost their innocence, may God continue to protect you and keep you safe! No one deserves to be sexually harassed whether at work, church, home, family, or elsewhere.

No one.

Ever.

This blog represents one of many reasons why I am looking forward to addressing the subject of mental health on the blog next month.

There is always hope.

Even when you don’t believe it–or see it. God is there, and in His arms are faith, hope, and love!

[Photo: errantfool, Flickr]

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How to Move On With Your Life

How to Move On With Your Life 2

One of the toughest questions to answer is how to move on with your life.

Why?

Because it’s both personal and painful. Unfortunately, it’s a question no one else can answer but you.

I’ll never forget a few years back when I sat in my church’s counseling office. I had booked an appointment last minute because my life at that time was in major crisis mode.

I never knew when I was going to have a panic attack or how long it would last.

But, I remember her vividly.

The lady whom I didn’t like or care for much. She was just someone who could see me at the last minute. Not to mention, I didn’t have to pay her an arm and a leg for counseling appointments. It was during our last visit that she told me,

“I think you should go back on your anxiety medication and stay on it for the rest of your life!”

Or maybe she said “for a long time.” I don’t really remember much after that. She scared the crap out of me. Her words hung over me like a death sentence.

***

Recently, I woke up. It was as if a light bulb suddenly went off inside my mind, and I yelled at the top of my lungs.

“I reject those words spoken over me by her.”

I said those words of freedom loudly and resolutely.

It was one of those rare moments of freedom I’ve experienced since that fateful day at the counselors office, and I didn’t want to let the moment go.

I want to be free of my anxiety.

I want to let go of my past.

I want to move on with my life.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been on anxiety medication before–a few times in fact.

It helped me when nothing else did.

What I appreciated about my nurse practitioner is that she took the time to listen to me. She didn’t just tell me there was nothing (or everything) wrong with me. When she diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a young 20-something–it felt nice to finally know what the heck was wrong with me!

But.

But anxiety medication was never prescribed as a forever pill.

It was meant for a temporary fix to help me through my moment of crisis (and I’ve had a lot).

***

I’m excited that I am ready to share my story!

Quote 12In my new book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me I share the good, the bad, and the ugly about forgiveness and how it took me a really long time to forgive myself.

I am no longer hiding.

I am a giant mosaic of brokenness, and I’m finally okay with it.

I know each piece, each layer has made me who I am: beautiful.

It reminds me of the story of Joseph. In Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, I share how God mightily turned around evil into good for Joseph and his entire family and extended families.

Friends, I believe you and I were intended for good.

Dr. Larry Osborne of North Coast Church asked a key question recently in a sermon on Joseph,

“Why do we have to get to the point of desperation before we let go?”

He also said that what we really think is self protection (or self-care) is really playing the perpetual victim. Joseph’s dad Jacob, couldn’t see that God was blessing him. All he could see was his grief and why he couldn’t let his family move on with their lives.

***

Going back to the story of her, and the reason why I was sitting in her office in the first place.

I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

I thought I could handle working full time along with a brand spanking new literary career and my first book contract. For once in my life I wasn’t struggling with how to pay the bills or take care of my health.

Instead of viewing a new writing ministry as an opportunity for God to bless me (and something I had prayed many, many years for), I played the perpetual victim.

I didn’t want to move back in with my parents.

I didn’t want to give up my amazing ministry job that paid the bills.

I didn’t want to be “housebound” once again.

But that wasn’t what God had planned for me. And that wasn’t all God had planned for Jacob.

Thank God Almighty that He uses boneheads like Jacob and like me. And thank God the story doesn’t stop there.

God’s the kind of God that will sit there and help you pack your bags while you sob your eyes out. I did it. I’m sure Jacob thought he was losing his other favorite son for good.

But.

But God brought Marc into my life. He gave me a new home and an office (my first office)! And He gave me more book contracts!

If only I could go back in time and give my former self a hug and tell her what she thought was the worst thing ever was really the beginning of many blessings to come.

Would you pray for me as I move on with my life and go off my anxiety medication? How can I be praying for you?

[Photo: Tanya Puntti, Creative Commons]

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