Engage Your Mind

One child, who will remain nameless, jerked the van’s sliding door in a moment of anger, wrenching door off the track. It hung limply, almost completely unhinged. We were already running late for a dental appointment, and this added a SLOW drive through town while my child clung to the sliding door nearly dragging on the pavement beside us.

Emotionally Overwhelmed

Do you connect the word “overwhelmed” to that kind of situation? Does the word have to be negative? If you’re a parent, think back to the first time you cradled your newborn. Did you cry? Did you laugh? Did you do both because your emotions were so overwhelmed?

I remember the first time I saw my daughter. Kevin and I anxiously waited. We were an ocean away from home, tucked into a room with ten crying Asian babies. Our gazes desperately moved from one tiny face to another until they locked onto the girl who reflected the image of the picture we had received two months prior. We could hardly stand it, waiting for permission to reach out and comfort our daughter.

Spiritually Overwhelmed

I know what it is like to be overwhelmed emotionally. I also know what it is to be overwhelmed spiritually. I know what it means to be moved to tears during worship. I know what it means to be overwhelmed with love for God and add my voice to the choir singing out praise.

I’ve sat under preaching that has touched me so deeply that I could feel the Spirit of God prompting my heart to repentance. I have trembled as a familiar text of Scripture comes alive with fresh meaning as the Lord opens my ears to his Word.

Mentally Overwhelmed?

When was the last time my mind was overwhelmed by God? Jesus said that we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and MIND (Matt 22:37).

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Let’s go back to that opening illustration of the van. At that moment, I wanted an emotional release. I wanted to yell, to vent, to express my frustrations. But do my feelings have to drive my actions?


God helped me recall something I often tell my children:

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The sin is not in the feelings of anger or frustration, but it is far easier to fall into sin in those moments of anger or frustration. The sin or victory is revealed in our response.


When my emotion tempts me toward sin, when my flesh wants to indulge in the temporary release of frustration, it is more important than ever that I engage my mind. Scripture tells me that I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), no longer a slave to the old ways (Gal 4:7). Scripture tells me that God hears me when I call out to Him (Ps 4:3). Scripture tells me that all things are possible with God (Matt 19:26).

Engage the Mind

God met me in that moment of frustration, and by engaging my mind and recalling the truth that sets me free, I did not sin in my anger. Being overwhelmed can be a good thing when I’m overwhelmed by God and by truth.

Be overwhelmed.

How to write an anniversary speech

My parents recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Not too many people hit that milestone anymore, and we wanted to acknowledge their perseverance and commitment to one another through the difficult and easy times of 50 years of marriage.

50 years

Together with my siblings, we hosted a party. My job was to welcome those in attendance and segue from the introduction to the vow renewal ceremony.

I struggled to come up with an appropriate way to kick-start the festivities. I wanted something personal that might strike a sentimental chord, perhaps cause those in attendance to smile or laugh, and yet still be meaningful to my parents.

I crafted this list of questions, then used my parents’ answers to write my welcome. Download your free copy the Anniversary printable

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I used their answers to write the tribute below. You can use it as a template to craft your own personal and heartfelt speech to honor your parents.

A long time ago Bev set sail across the ocean carrying a China doll and a panda bear. She left behind England, her round flower garden, and a bird aviary (this was before she was afraid of birds). She couldn’t even imagine what lay ahead.

About that same time, Dave was chasing freedom and catching grass stains in Highgate, Ontario. In the winter months, he scraped the ice from the inside of his bedroom window and then off the windshield of his rusty 1951 Ford pick-up truck.

The truck he loved drove him to the job he despised where Bev’s mother spotted him. Her mother said, “He seems like a decent guy.” Bev, now grown, agreed.

On their first date, Dave brought Bev to the movie theatre thankful that his job at Zellers had finally paid off. She was the one.

After months of laughing and kissing, learning to Polka and waltz, the lover of boiled eggs and soldiers (that’s toast cut into strips – not men) married the lover of ice cream and pie.

They established their home in a tiny upstairs apartment with only a bed and a $30 refrigerator that fell down the staircase. Bev cooked their dinner in an electric frying pan and heated a tin of vegetables over a candle. Life was good.

The babies soon came, bringing with them the years of Tupperware, paper bag lunches, bike rides, Star Trek reruns, big Sunday dinners, mashed potatoes, and words of wisdom:

“Your word is your bond,” Dad would say, along with, “Life isn’t fair.”

Mom would tell us, “Everyone must choose for themselves if they will serve Jesus.”

They built a home and a life together. They welcomed grandbabies and great grandbabies and made family memories fishing, baking, and being together.

We celebrate their 50 years of marriage this summer with joy, so thankful that mom got on that boat all those years ago and that Dad went to the job he despised – otherwise none of us would be here now.

 

Resting in a sleep-deprived​ World

Our world idolizes working faster, longer, and harder, lifting up frenzied lifestyles like a golden calf to be worshiped. How early we rise, how late we stay up, how many hours we log-in defines us. We own our success letting it lift high our esteem; we own our failure letting it label us as lacking. An unhealthy obsession to prove we can manage drives us to volunteer to fill every need. It enslaves us to hosting Pinterest worthy parties, designing home decor, and creating hand-made treasures. It demands time, attention to detail, and energy that requires an I.V. line of pure caffeine to support.

We wonder why we are tired.

For nights, we labor in vain, tossing and turning, unable to close our eyes lest our fears are recognized while we slumber. We work hours before the sun rises and hours long after the sun sets unwilling to honestly depend on the Lord. We forgo the Sabbath, rejecting God’s design for real rest. It doesn’t make sense to our flesh: How do we work one less day and still accomplish our tasks? How do we tithe one-seventh of our time and energy when we need every last bit to simply maintain the status quo? Rejecting the impossible math, our tired head hits the pillow, but our eyes fail to close. Our minds still spin, plan, design, budget, and justify.


Oh, Lord, forgive my foolish heart. Anxiety proves that I still do not fully trust You as my provider. Disobeying the Sabbath is an outward symbol of self-reliance. An inability to peacefully rest illustrates a fretful heart fighting you for control. I will only lay down and sleep when I believe with all my heart that You hold it all. You are building the house. You are watching the city. When I embrace that truth, I will sleep and enjoy the rest of your beloved (Psalm 127:1-2).


Be still

A Nigerian Curse

Today, I have the privilege of welcoming a fellow writer,  Harriet Michael, to Glorious Surrender. Her parents were medical missionaries in Nigeria, West Africa, and one day someone placed a curse on their home.

“Little children, you are from God…He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 (NAS)


One evening, as my parents walked home from work, my father spied something on our front steps. He stopped in his tracks and told my mother to stop as well. On the top step lay juju—the Nigerian form of a curse.

BY the power of Christ's spirit, We are more than conquerorsThe juju consisted of some African beads along with the bones of a small animal mixed in a clod of dirt with blood, feathers, and feces. Someone had placed a curse on our home! My father stood still, pondering the situation, but my mother walked right up to the juju and kicked it off of our steps. It broke into pieces as it hit the ground below.

 

My mother looked directly into my father’s eyes and said, “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world! Because of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross for me, I can kick juju right off of my doorstep!”


 

Our God is an awesome God! He has overcome the enemy, defeating him at the cross. We can kick juju off of our doorsteps—or whatever other challenges we may have because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

Father, we confess that Jesus is the Christ. We thank you for overcoming the world through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Make us cognizant of the truth that your Spirit in us is greater than the enemy who is in the world.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Learn more about Harriet and her books by checking out her social media pages.

Where do we find Mercy, Grace, and Help?

Some days are hard. Some days I can’t help but wonder if God even sees my despair. In my head, I know He does, but in the difficult moment, in the darkened folds of my heart where my flesh battles the Spirit, I dare to ask: Do you see me, God? Do you care?

We are at Muskoka Bible Campgrounds this week enjoying a family holiday and biblical teaching. Pastor Rick Baker brought a strong Word yesterday that spoke directly to my questions. The remainder of this post is the response the Lord stirred in my heart to his message.

HOLD FAST TO OUR CONFESSION

In dark moments I must remember the decision I made to trust Jesus and hold fast to that decision. Jesus knew sorrow, yet He remained without sin, making it possible for me to approach the throne of God with confidence.

DRAW NEAR TO THE THRONE OF GOD

When God seems quiet, when I am tempted to doubt His presence, I must draw near to Him. He is the one I have staked my life upon. He is the One who forgives me, and He promises me that when I draw near to his throne, I will receive mercy and find grace in my time of need.

MERCY. GRACE. HELP.

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Mercy. Christ shows me mercy by forgiving me every time I sin. I must show mercy to the one sinning against me. Mercy is undeserved, that is what makes it mercy. It is kindness toward the offender – of whom I am the worst.

Grace. Christ shows me grace. I am a sinner, born into sin and guilty of breaking God’s law. Grace came in the form of Jesus Christ providing victory over my sin. It is undeserved, a free gift to the recipient but paid for in full by Jesus Christ. In light of this, how can I do anything but extend grace and love to my offender?

Help. Where does my help come from? Psalm 121 tells us our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. This passage tells me 6 times the Lord will keep me and 9 times it refers to the Lord. This God, who made the heaven and earth, who spoke it all into existence, can keep me. My eternity is safe. Earth will hold many troubles, but God has secured my eternal joy in Him.

WHERE DOES YOUR HELP COME FROM?

Where does your help come from? Lift your eyes up. Mercy, Grace, and help come from the Lord.

Summer Newsletter

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It has come to my attention that those following this blog via their own WordPress account are NOT automatically subscribed to the newsletter like email followers. Therefore, if you want to take advantage of ALL the perks found in my quarterly newsletters, follow this link:

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After you confirm your email, I will resend the newsletter that contains the password that unlocks the EXTRAS page.

 

Why I Write Christian Romance

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Christian Romance books do not involve sexual love. The romance is based on an emotional connection between the characters and growing respect. The story is told as an allegory of God’s love for His children.

In my novels, the plot moves the story forward—not shocking or steamy scenes. I take Ephesians 5:4 seriously, “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

God has placed each of us in the middle of a love story.

You are, right now, in a love story.

Some love stories are dramas. They’re full of heart-wrenching moments and climatic events. Some love stories are like a feel-good-girls-night-out, everything falls into place at the right moment and clicks. Some love stories are suspenseful; they have us biting our nails and wondering if good will ever prevail. And some of you are thinking – love story? – yeah right!

I don’t know your circumstances or life, but what I hope all my readers understand is that there is Someone who does. He is greater than any fictional prince, and He left his kingdom to pursue your heart. Not only is He pursuing you, but He is writing your story as a part of His story. He has promised that the stories of all His children end in victory for His glory.

Broken Love Stories

Our culture often depicts love in steamy images, as if love is solely based on sexual feelings. Our culture manipulates hearts and stirs up inappropriate passions. I believe this world needs clean, wholesome, and God-honouring stories. It needs authors bold enough to call cheap, broken, and worldly lust what it is—sin. It needs stories of purity, characters that honour God first, and illustrations of how true satisfaction comes from a right relationship with God not from a human relationship.

Ephesians 4:29 refers to speech, but it applies to authors as well, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Christian romance stories thrive within the boundaries God has created for love, and that gives hope to those who have only known broken love. Not hope in the right man, but hope in the Lord.

Happily Ever After

In this genre, you can count on your happy ending—and I like that. But more importantly than finding her one-true-love is my heroine’s growth in her walk with the Lord. More important than saving the day, winning the girl, and defeating the villain is my hero’s surrender to God.

So yes, I write romance. But the real story is exposing the lie my characters believe about themselves, the world, or God and proving that lie to be untrue. The real story is that God is the Hero, the pursuer of our hearts, and the lover of our souls.

Outdoor Fireplace: From Blah to Wow!

I usually have a bold vision for our reno projects. In our marriage, it’s me shouting, “Stop the car!” so we can pick up curbside treasures. But even I have to admit that this project scared me a bit.

When a friend offered me this outdoor fireplace, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Was it even salvageable?

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I snapped a picture and sent it to Kevin almost certain he would want me to pass. Surprise surprise, this time HE had the vision.

It sat on our patio for a year before we tackled it. Some parental advice gave us the boot in the pants we needed to get started. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

After I scrubbed it down with soap and water, I taped off the sections I wanted to paint bronze.

So far, so good. I was feeling pretty encouraged. I brushed on the black sections after the bronze dried. Both paints are BBQ paint, so I am hopeful they will hold up.

As you can see, the inside of the firebox was badly damaged. I don’t have a picture of the damaged topper. All the steel mesh preventing embers from flying out the chimney was destroyed. We popped off the topper, measured the inside box, and headed to a local sheet metal business, and they created a new insert and re-meshed the topper. (Is re-meshed a word??)

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The project came in at $70. Not a bad price for such a beautiful outdoor fireplace. We can’t wait to use it.

The Answer is Hidden in the Command

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. ~ 2 Chronicles 7:14

This landed heavily on my heart. I had been praying for quite some time for specific relief from God. I am called by His name. I was humble before Him and desperate for his favor. But day after day, and week after week, and month after month, and year after year the situation remained unchanged. I was left with one desperate prayer.

Fix this. Please.

Blind to my disobedience, I struggled to understand why God’s answer was slow to come. Why did it feel like He wasn’t answering at all?

Seeing myself in my child

My child ran to my side. “Mom, can I go outside?” He eagerly shifted his weight from foot to foot.

“Clean your room first.” I smiled to soften the gentle reminder that he had to complete his chores before he could reap the rewards of playing.

“Can I go outside?” he repeated a little louder.

“Clean your room,” I spoke in a firmer tone.

“MOM, I want to go outside!” He accentuated his frustration with flailing appendages.

“And I want you to clean your room.”

We cycled for quite some time. My frustration rose with each repeat. He wanted to know why I refused to answer him, and I wanted to know why he wasn’t listening to the answer I gave.

Bang. Just like that, I saw my sin.

I am just like my child

Clean the rooms in your

All those times I pleaded with the Lord for an answer, He WAS answering. It just wasn’t the answer I wanted.

Please, fix this.

Repent.

Please, God. I need you to fix this.

Turn from your wicked ways.

God, why aren’t you answering me?

Pray and seek my face.

Acknowledging my struggles and frustration while waiting for God’s perfect provision is not the same as repenting of my sin. It is not the same as being broken before the Lord and owning the nails I drove into His palms and owning my part in this present trial.

God does hear my prayers. He has told me what to do. Humble myself and pray. Seek His face. Turn from my wickedness. Then, He hears from heaven, forgives my sin and heals this land. He has told me to clean the rooms of my heart.

Lord, I have sinned greatly. You have called me to more than this. You have called me to be more than I am and promised it can be accompished by the power of your Spirit. I have, in many ways, hindered your work in my family by refusing to seek You in this hardship, by refusing to turn from my wickedness that contributes to this problem. Today that ends. Your loving kindness had led me to repentance.

The greatest obstacle to your working in my family is me. The greatest obstacle to your answering my prayers is my lack of obedience. I repent. By your power, I deliberately turn from this pattern of disobedience and choose to walk in a new direction toward new life in You. You are my God. I am your daughter.

 I understand you might not radically step in and change my circumstances. But as the pain in the moment comes, I will choose to believe that you are supernaturally working out your perfect plan for my family and me. I don’t know how it will come together, I don’t know when it will come together, but You are writing our story and You have already told me it ends in victory.

Put Your Hope in One Basket

We’ve all heard the popular saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” It is a caution against risking everything on one plan or one endeavor. It’s an encouragement to diversify and learn many skills. In many ways, this is good advice, but when it comes to eternity, our faith, and our hope for the future all those eggs belong in one basket: Jesus Christ.

Put All YourHope in One Basket

The church is in a crisis much like the church in Galatia when false teachers added back old rules and restrictions to salvation. They were trying the blend an old system of belief with the new system of belief. In Galatia, false teachers were telling the believers they needed Jesus PLUS circumcision.

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Salvation is not Jesus PLUS. Salvation is Jesus only.

Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no other, there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 4:21-24, “assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Jesus PLUS a checklist?

I spent some of my early ministry years trying to justify myself before God by following extra rules. They were weighty and exhausting and I was unable to keep them. I tried to do everything perfectly, trying to earn the favor of demanding people as if pleasing them was congruent to pleasing God. Here is a sample of the checklist I tried to follow to earn God’s favor:

  • Sing loud enough for people on the other side of the church to hear.
  • Teach in Sunday school
  • Play the piano
  • Lead women’s craft nights
  • Be a best friend to anyone who desired it
  • Become a counselor
  • Be a great problem solver

Believers in Jesus already have God’s favor

Your hope for the future is not connected to your ability to lead a craft night or deliver a meal. Just like the hope for the people in Galatia was not in circumcision. Your hope is in one thing: Jesus resurrected. When God looks at those who have trusted in Christ, he sees Christ, who is the perfect image-bearer of God.

When you believe in Christ, He covers your sin with his holiness, and God sees you as holy. For God’s chosen ones, those cleansed and made pure by the blood of Christ, our present identity in Christ is holy. Col 3:12, “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved…” 1 Pet 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…” We are holy, not because we have earned it or completed a checklist, we are holy because those adopted into the family of God are made holy by Christ.

Put your eggs in that basket.