The Lies That Bind

It used to be the Ladies Home Journal – today it’s Facebook.  You know … those stories that start simply enough, “My headache turned out to be a brain tumor.”  OR, “Young woman discovers constant hip pain is bone cancer.”

I used to read these stories and have major anxiety attacks. I’d start to think, “Oh my gosh, I have all those symptoms!  Am I one headache away from a brain tumor? Is that liver spot melanoma? Is my stomach gas really colon cancer? Or … Insert disease of your choice here based on whatever current ache or pain you may currently be experiencing!

I’ve had to stop reading these Facebook news stories altogether. No good can come of them.  I refuse to give the enemy any type of foothold when it comes to my mind and thought processes. If I allow myself to read the story of a woman who had her leg amputated as the result of an ingrown toenail, I’m liable to start panicking over every little hangnail.

The devil would like nothing more than for us to be in a constant state of panic or worry. He is a master manipulator who does his best work when we are fearful. With just a few simple suggestions he can easily convince us that we have a disease-ridden body, or any number of things as equally terrifying. If we don’t renew our minds on a daily basis we can easily be conformed to the thinking of this world (Romans 12:2).  We can quickly fall into fear regarding our health, our marriages, our children, the future, financial ruin or any manner of life-changing disasters.  We all have to remember -- there is a battle raging for control of our minds!

In addition to the daily renewal of our minds, we must put on the full armor of God DAILY as outlined in Ephesians 6:10-20.  We must not lean on our own understanding but trust in the Lord ALWAYS as stated in Proverbs 3:5-6.  For optimal protection against our minds, rather than taking in negative thoughts, we’d do well to ingest massive daily doses of Scripture. And seriously … let’s steer clear of those Facebook disaster news stories!

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5 :8 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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In Spite Of

In spite of my attitude – God sits with me.

In spite of my choices – God loves me.

In spite of my impatience – God takes His time with me.

In spite of my sadness – God holds me.

In spite of my upside-down dreams – God guides me.

In spite of my past – God loves me unconditionally.

In spite of what someone said to me today – God remains the same.

In spite of how I forget to pray – God doesn’t walk away.

In spite of what I look like – God loves what He created.

In spite of me doing what I want – God walks in front of me.

In spite of my language – God knows how I’m feeling.

In spite of questions – God gives answers in His time.

In spite of my giving up – God never does.

“None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”   Romans 8:37-39 The Message

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.  O Lord of hosts, blessed in the man who trusts in You!”   Psalm 84:11-12 NKJV

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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I’m A Winner!

 

I found myself thinking it way too often: "I just can't win."

We all know the feeling. You get a flat tire on the day of your interview, you donate an item to charity then need it for a dinner party the next week, you send the email to the wrong recipient, you forget your boss's wife's name...(I could go on).

Or the more vague ones like expectations we can't seem to live up to and people we simply can't please. It's easy to feel like a loser if we choose to focus on what's not working perfectly in our lives.

I use to tell myself the "I just can't win" story until "winning" started to trend. As in, "I found a dollar in my car's ash tray! Coffee for me today! #winning"

Or "I added corn to the taco soup and all the kids actually ate it! #momwin"

I started taking note of how often I won.

Catching all the lights and arriving at karate a little early.

The cashier offering me a coupon code.

A new recipe turning out well.

Choosing the perfect gift (on sale!).

Pulling off a last-minute project.

The bank withdrawal being delayed so my account wasn't overdrawn.

It turns out, I win A LOT.

"Thank God!" I thought. "We can celebrate winning now!"

I'm pretty sure #winning was born from our collective desire to focus on the positive instead of all the ways things go wrong or we screw up.

The truth is, as children of God, we are winners.

Of course life happens and things go awry.

But God is working everything together for good and to accomplish His purposes. Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

God is for us and desires to give us what we need. Romans 8:31-32 "God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

We are more than conquerors. Romans 8: 36 "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." 

And when we focus on the good in our lives, we realizing we are winners. That's definitely worth celebrating!

Tabitha Dumas
Author

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But People

 

You’ve likely met them – or perhaps you’ve been one of them. I’m talking about the BUT people. They sound a little something like this:

“I know I shouldn’t tell you this, but …”

“I know I shouldn’t eat this, but …”

“I know I shouldn’t drink this, but

“I know I shouldn’t buy this, but

“I know I shouldn’t wear this, but

“I know I shouldn’t be jealous, but …” 

When it comes to us BUT people, the question begs to be asked … IF we KNOW we shouldn’t be doing something … WHY do we do those things?

The apostle Paul knew a little something about being a BUT person, as outlined in Romans 7:14-15: “The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin.  I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Emphasis mine.)

Clearly the problem with most of us BUT people is, we are human! We tend to live according to our flesh; always wanting to do what feels good right now, rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us to do what will mold us into people who will be more Christ-like.

If you’re a BUT person – why not try asking for God’s help before doing something you know you shouldn’t? Too many “I know I shouldn’t, BUT …” circumstances will eventually land us in the wrong BUT zone. The one that that sounds like this:

“Well … I guess there’s nothing else to do BUT pray!”

Stop living according to your flesh and practice surrendering your BUTs!

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”  Galatians 5:16 (NLT)

Kathy Kurlin
Author

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Parchment Paper

 

It took a lot of years before I discovered the ease of baking with parchment paper.  Why didn’t I know about it sooner?  Like, at the beginning of my marriage?  I would have saved a lot of time not cleaning up baking sheets each time!  Maybe it was because parchment paper was a luxury my grandma and mom didn’t use so I wasn’t aware it even existed.

But, now I do know.

And I use parchment paper all the time.

There is no mess.  I just wad it up and throw it away.  Sometimes it gets brown around the edges and it makes a lot of noise as it goes into the trashcan.  Gone.  Just like that.  With no residue to scrape off the cooking sheets.

Which brings me to my point. 

Why do we hang on to memories when we ask God for forgiveness?  Why do we make a lot of noise and think we are stuck in the way things were?  Didn’t God say He will forgive us and wants us to not look back but look forward and keep moving toward being a better person? 

Yes, we can learn from our sticky mistakes.  But, when we ask Him to wipe it clean (and we really mean it) He does just that.  Gone.  Those sins are washed away and it is time for us to start shiny and new. 

Don’t be brown around the edges.  Ask God to take that sin and forgive you.  He will wad it up and throw it away.  I like to think that as He is doing that, God is smiling as He listens to the sin crack under His control.  Just like I smile when the baking is done and I can throw away the parchment paper to find a clean cooking sheet underneath (while I take a bite out of a freshly baked goodie).

But if we own up to our sins, God shows that He is faithful and just by forgiving us of our sins and purifying us from the pollution of all the bad things we have done.  (1 John 1:9 The Voice)

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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No Strings Attached

When I was a junior in college, I invited a friend over to my place for dinner, wine, and conversation. We had just met that semester in our women’s choir, and we had pretty similar taste in music, so we decided to set out and find what else we might have in common. 

We stayed up until three in the morning sitting on the couch, disagreeing on nearly everything. 

We didn’t argue. We didn’t even debate. We just watched the snow fall quietly outside the window and gradually got to know each other better. She was a militant atheist, one of the presidents of the local humanist club, and would argue with every street preacher that stopped by the campus.

I, on the other hand, grew up in one of the most conservative churches in town, and was starting to toy with the idea of handing gospel tracts out to random strangers. Despite this, she quickly became one of the best friends I had ever had. One might say our friendship was based on similar personality types, or temperaments of the heart, but I called it iron sharpening iron. As we grew in our friendship, I slowly shed my sense of “responsibility” for her salvation. She understood what the gospel was – intellectually, at least. I knew that nothing was going to convince her but airtight logic or supernatural love, neither of which I was truly capable of providing. But we trusted each other with our deepest fears and failures, and I knew that would speak the gospel in a truer way than arguing ever would.

You can spend hours debating someone about theology and religion from every angle. You can understand every strand of every argument, every tenant and doctrine, and still not really know the person you’re talking to. Until you spend time with that person as a friend--just hanging out and opening up, no strings attached--you won’t really know what they believe, and you won’t really know them.

And until we truly know them, how can we show them the love of God?

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." I John 3:18

Mary O'Bannon
Contributing Author

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Better Weight Than Never

To find out where it all started you have to go way back to the Garden of Eden. From the moment Eve took a bite of that forbidden fruit and suddenly realized she was naked, Satan threw down the gauntlet; the battle lines clearly drawn.  From that moment on women have been fighting self-esteem issues and struggling with their bodies, unable to make peace with their size or the number on the scale – all because Eve had to have that apple.

Because of Eve’s reckless decision, we stand in front of dressing room mirrors and curse our weight, despise our thighs and malign our muffin tops. We call ourselves fat and other despicable names and cover ourselves in layers of fabric because we don’t measure up to those Kardashian women, nor any other women who seems to have “the perfect body.” 

Satan has been oppressing women for centuries regarding weight issues. Based on most of the women I know, I’d say so far he’s a smashing success. Eating disorders and food addictions are at an all-time high and very few of us can say with confidence that we love the skin we are in.

God did not create us to obsess over our weight. God did not die on the cross so we could stand in front of a mirror and hate our reflections. Every time we call ourselves fat or despise the body that we are in, it grieves our Lord.  God wants us to love who we are because, He has made us wonderfully complex and His workmanship is marvelous!  (Psalm 139:14)

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)

If we are so distracted by what we look like and what we weigh, it is difficult for us to do the “good things He has planned for us,” and Satan continues to win this battle.

It’s time to stop the comparisons and love who we are at whatever weight or size we are and believe that we are a beautiful masterpiece fashioned from the Master’s hands.

Kathy Kurlin, Author of
Diet Nuggets and Wisdom Appetizers, 365 Days of Encouragement for Dieters

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Resting and Receiving

Some people use R&R to mean "rest and relaxation." That’s what people do on cruises or vacations and it typically involves spa robes or frosty beverages.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

While I could use a day at the spa, one of my top priorities is setting aside time for my version of R&R: "resting and receiving."

Do you have to work at resting?

I know for some people, they have to force themselves off the couch and make a monumental effort to chip away at their to-do list.  

But I know for many women, sitting down for a bit takes major effort, let alone taking an entire day to rest.

We have a hard time be-ing instead of do-ing.

I even made my word for the year "beloved" in 2014 to remind myself to slow down and "be loved."

What about receiving?

I bet you're a better giver than receiver. Those of us who love to serve and help often feel awkward accepting gifts, whether a trinket or a personal favor. Sometimes a simple blessing from God can even feel extravagant or misplaced! “Noooo!” we say. “Give that to someone else who needs it more!”

If you're like me, "rest and receiving" doesn't come naturally.

But God gives rest to the burdened and weary. Every good and perfect gift is from Him!

Matthew 11:28 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

James 1:17 "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change."

That's why I have to force myself to intentionally pursue R&R.

Sometimes I take a day of rest and ignore the laundry and dirty dishes to play with my kids or go on a hike. Other times I sit with a pen and my journal in breathless anticipation of what God wants to reveal to me. Every so often, a miracle happens and I can have some time to unplug, decompress and open myself up to God's gifts all in one sitting.

My goal is to keep practicing until R&R becomes my default mode! In the meantime, whether a weekend or fifteen minutes, R&R is important--and even more refreshing than a spa day.

Tabitha Dumas, Author
loveSTRONG ministries

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Baring It All

Over the past few years specifically, I have undergone somewhat of a Spiritual refinement. As with any new makeover, just as though one has stepped out of the salon and into the chair of the finest makeup artist this world has to offer; I found myself sitting under a completely new shade of light. I had no idea at the time, but this transformation would come equipped with a fresh pair of eyes. These new found eyes would ultimately prepare me for the journey that lay ahead.

I have the privilege to minister to adolescent girls who have escaped the life within the sex trade, and whom have experienced trauma that defies the darkest places of a human mind. When I gaze into the eyes of these young girls, I am actually peering into the depths of their souls and have visualized images words cannot begin to accurately depict. I feel what they feel, even if for such a short time, their pain, their loneliness, their loss, their despair….. it all becomes mine. Some night’s I have praised God for the revelations that have transpired from this. I have also found myself begging Him to take this curse away.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 6:2 “Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (NIV). The very body of Christ (the church) can only function properly when all of its members work in unity. This includes the task of sharing in each other’s pain. Friends, it is time that we STOP sympathizing and START suffering alongside His children. If you have become callus to this world, unable to no longer SEE His people’s needs, I encourage you to seek out a new pair of lenses. It is not enough to simply view heartache from behind the glass, we must step into the room and take a seat.

The homeless man on the corner, do you see him as an addict hoping to make a few bucks from the morning commuters, or do you SEE him as God’s chosen, desperately trying to fight a battle deep inside that you could not begin to understand? Or what about that co-worker who never has anything nice to say. Do you see him solely for the words he speaks, or do you SEE him for who he is? A grieving, lonely man wishing so bad he could hold his wife, just one more time. She wasn’t supposed to die this young, she just wasn’t.

Friends, this world is filled with people in need. People who need to SEE Him through YOU. Are you ready for a makeover, and a fresh pair of eyes? If so, no appointment necessary.

Walk-in’s welcome!

Stefani Calens, Author
loveSTRONG ministries

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Competition Rules

When did being busy become a competition?  Reading social media, I have noticed that once someone states how busy they are doing this or that, the competing remarks begin.  I have also heard (and been a part of) conversations when one person starts saying how busy they are then another immediately compares and says how busy she is too. 

It becomes a negative narrative of who is the busiest and why.

Why are we competing with each other?

In the devotional book Jesus Calling, I read:

“Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since I am the Author of your circumstances.” 

“To find joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries.”

“There is abundant Life in My Presence today.”  (April 11 entry)

Bragging about all we are doing is putting the spotlight on ourselves.  If we have covered our schedules with too many activities that make us unhappy, then it is time for an overhaul of priorities. Instead of complaining of how busy we are and comparing our tasks with another, we really need to take the time to ask God what the priorities are and be grateful for the opportunities we have been given.  Gratitude puts the spotlight on the One who guides us through our days.

Psalms 118:24 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Stop trying to make your activities a competition with others.

We can become better listeners if we stop competing.  When you are talking with someone who says they are so busy, don’t start talking about your schedule.  Instead, hear them out. You may hear something you can do for them – like pray for their situation or assist in some way. 

We would be a lot less busy and a lot more effective.

Sherree Fischer
loveSTRONG ministries

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