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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What's in a word?

This past Saturday I received my first real taste of what it means to be a writer. And it came in a most unexpected way. I'm a writer. Not a speaker. But God put two pretty amazing opportunities in my path that I couldn't find a way to veer around. So I walked straight ahead and right smack into them.

With much fear and trembling I might add.

I’ve never given a talk without a little inward war happening in my belly. Even when I teach Sunday school—which I do almost every week—I get nervous. Most times I can pray through it and settle down without another thought.

But going to speak when I’m up in front of a crowd as an “author” is another story. My knees literally start knocking and my voice gets quivery. And I vow I’ll never do it again.

This past Saturday was a whole different experience.

First off, until right at the starting time, it didn’t look like anyone would arrive. I’ve heard of fashionably late, but this was something else. By the time people arrived, I'd already decided to enjoy a nice brunch with the lady who invited me to speak and then head home. No knocking knees. No quivery voice.

Then when people did start to trickle in, I got involved in some conversation and forgot I was there to speak. We enjoyed a nice brunch and then when I was introduced, I just started talking. Shared a little about my family and jumped into the body of my talk.

About Heart Chocolate.

Between the subject matter and the smiling faces of some precious ladies, I felt at home. By the end of our time together, I felt refreshed and recharged. These ladies had given me a gift.

Through their nodding heads and bright smiles, along with a few “Amen’s” when I’d say something about enjoying chocolate, I received encouragement and learned a valuable lesson.

There’s power in our words.

It’s not like I didn’t realize that before. But this time the lesson was different. I was speaking as an author to people I had never met before. I went to encourage and to teach and came away the recipient and student.

These wonderful ladies listened to what I had to say and took the time afterwards to share with me what an encouragement I’d been to them. One precious lady even wrote to me later to say God had confirmed a direction for her through my talk.

Talk about the power of words.

As I pondered all that God was doing in my heart, I started to feel a familiar fear creep in. What if my stories and books don’t help, but hurt people? What if I handle a difficult situation in such a way that offends or worse, wounds? What if what I say doesn’t matter to anyone?

Worse yet, what if the same can be said of both my spoken and written words to those closest to me?

What if my fiction characters’ faults are thought to portray my family’s and people think poorly of those I love? What if my words don’t help, but instead wound my husband and children, my friends?

Scripture at times doesn’t comfort me in this fear. Verses about every word being brought into account terrify me at times. I know for a fact I’ve said and written things that I’m not proud of. Ashamed of actually.

Then I remember how John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And I realize that’s the greatest power of them all. The Word became flesh.

And He dwells with me.

He forgives me.

He gives me the power to seek forgiveness when I’ve hurt someone.

He even has in His plan the power to bring good out of each and every situation, out of each and every word. And He’s not finished with me yet.

So no matter what happens with my written and spoken words, I know Jesus is there. Guiding me. Disciplining me when I don’t listen. Cheering for me when I follow His footsteps. Picking me up when I fall.

Which makes me desire even more to consider the power of words…

The power to wound or to heal.

The power to shame or encourage.

The power of hate or of love.

The power to make a difference in another person’s life. To encourage change. To help people grow.

My deepest passion in life is to know God and show people, though healing hearts, how to glorify God by enjoying Him.

That happens through the power of words.

Prayers. Emails. Letters. Novels. Sunday school lessons. Speaking engagements. Hopefully even blogs.

And my daily prayer from Psalm 17:3 continues to be, “Lord, I have resolved that my mouth will not sin. The only way I can do that is through You working in me, guarding my mouth, guarding my heart. Help me speak Your words of life today. Help me write them too.”

I’d sure appreciate your prayers for me to do just that. I fail at this most if not every day. But each morning I’m learning to get up, confess my sins, and start the day fresh with His new mercies. To love a little more with my words. To listen a little more to His words. To rely a little more on Him to live through me.

After all, He’s the Word made flesh dwelling among us.

There’s nothing more powerful than that.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

U-Turns for Teens

I'm pleased to announce one of the two new and very awesome God Allows U-Turns books! These are wonderful books filled with stories that will meet you where you are and touch your heart.

I'm showing this cover because I'm a contributing author in God Allows U-Turns for Teens. My story "If Only I Were Beautiful" delves into God's redemptive use of my past to help teen girls learn the Source of real self-confidence. These books are available at CBD and the God Allows U-Turns awesome website.

Or you can stop by my Heart Chocolate website and sign up to win your choice~ one of three U-Turns books: God Allows U-Turns for Teens, God Allows U-Turns for Women, or my first one, God Answers Mom's Prayers. The drawing will be held on March 31st and announced in my discussion board. If you haven't joined the Heart Chocolate community~ what are you waiting for? ;-) We'd love to have you!

Here's a blurb for God Allows U-Turns for Teens...

Do you feel like you’re headed down a road that shouldn’t be traveled? You’re not alone. Sometimes it’s too easy to find the wrong path. Sometimes you just feel lost. But God is waiting to help you turn your life around; He wants to show you the way. This powerful collection of stories from real-life teens offers encouragement and support as you overcome poor relationships with your parents, physical or sexual abuse, drug addiction, or painful consequences. With God, all things are possible.

Are you ready for a U-turn?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

What's your worth?

The other day I had a rare car ride alone with my oldest daughter. She confided in me that she wished she had curly hair and went on to add that she liked the name “Marianne” because when she says that name she sees a young and free little girl with beautiful curly hair who wears cute clothes and not glasses which make her look too old.

Everything my daughter believes she is not.

My heart hurt for her. Hurt because as we talked I heard all the lies I’ve believed too. Hurt because my daughter is struggling with things that run so deep for every female I’ve ever known or read about.

I’d be beautiful if… (fill in the blank)

I’m not pretty, important, worth being noticed because… (fill in the blank)

We can all fill in those blanks, can’t we?

What hurt even more was that I realized anew how painful those lies are and how hard it is to see the truth. Even for adults. When we have TV and movies and books to tell us that we should be this tiny size or have that type of hair or wear this type of clothes, it’s hard to believe God made us correctly.

The whisper comes to us like it did to Eve…

“Did God really say?” In other words—maybe God made a mistake.

I’d like to do what Eve and Adam did and play the blame game. It’s the TV’s fault. It’s society’s fault. It’s those mean kids who teased my daughter about her glasses.

But the truth is we have the power to choose.

We believe the lie or the truth.

We accept the world’s view or we don’t.

We believe God made us beautiful in His sight, exactly how He intended us to be.

Or we don’t.

But so what if we don’t believe God made us right with our straight or curly hair, with our pear or apple shape, with our glasses or not…then what?

Then we slide down the slippery slope of unbelief that leads in the opposite direction of our Heavenly Daddy’s arms.

Whether we’re eight, like my daughter, or eighty~ if we hate, dislike, could stand to improve, or are just mildly dissatisfied with our bodies~ we’re in effect looking in the face of our Creator and saying, “You didn’t make me right. You made a mistake.”

And who wants to hang out with the person that’s to blame for all we don’t like about ourselves?

My eight-year-old daughter is already getting hammered by the lies of the enemy attacking her beauty and her concept of who she really is. Lies that if left unchecked by the truth would eventually lead her away from the Lord to any number of painful places.

To spending lots of money on “cute” clothes. (And having to replace said clothes every few weeks because the fashion world and people’s opinions are fickle.)

To a male’s attention.

To self-hatred and depression.

To diet after diet ‘til the mirror tells her she’s beautiful.

Which won’t happen.

Because the mirror only reports what’s written on your heart. What you believe.

So what do you believe about yourself? Do you believe you’re beautiful? A unique creation that the God of the universe delights in. A beloved child of your Heavenly Daddy who said in the Garden and still says every time He looks at you, “It is good.”

Or do you believe your hair, clothes, glasses, body shape, and name say differently?

Let me share with you what I shared with my little girl…

I told her that the enemy is trying hard to get her to base her worth on the outside stuff. The things we can’t change—without much pain and expense—like our body shape, eyesight, and hair type. Instead of what God says is most important.

Our heart.

Our heart, which—if we belong to Him—has already been redeemed and made new. A heart that, if we live out of the truth, can change the world and shine His glory. A heart that, if we believe the truth, rests in His presence and glorifies Him by enjoying Him forever.

But when we base our worth on the outside stuff, we depend on anyone and everyone else to tell us we’re okay. And that quickly leads to pain. Compromise. Dissatisfaction. Anger at ourselves and others for never seeming to make the cut of what’s enough. Or, if we make the cut sometimes, we end up on the treadmill of acceptance working hard to keep the positive opinions coming.

Never looking to God. Or if we look to Him not really believing what He says is true. But that doesn’t change what’s true.

God says we’re beloved children. (Isaiah 43:1)

Beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The apple of His eye. (Zechariah 2:8)

Worth counting every hair on our heads and capturing every tear in his bottle. (Matthew 10:30-31 and Psalm 56:8)

Worth singing over. (Zephaniah 3:17)

Worth dying for. (John 3:16)

Worth living with forever. (John 14:2-3)

Worth waiting for and wooing so that we’ll turn from the lies, from the fickle opinion of our mirror and other’s words, and come home. (Matthew 11:28 and John 6:29)

To an opinion of you that never changes. (Hebrews 13:8)

Is filled with love. (1 John 4:8-10)

And given with a smile and outstretched arms. (Luke 15:20)

Don’t believe that? That’s okay. It’s still true.

But God’s desire is that you believe the truth. In fact He said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:32)

Maybe it’s time to take another look at that mirror. Only this time, ask the Lord, “What do You see? What’s true about me?” Then listen closely.

The one who sees you first thing in the morning and even on bad hair days says you’re worth far more than rubies.

In fact, He is enthralled with your beauty. (Psalm 45:11)
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