Can an Old Dog Learn New Tricks?

My two little granddaughters were here for a visit recently, and I couldn’t help noticing how very different the two of them are. Three-year-old Ayla is not afraid to try new things. When no one was looking, she dashed up to the top of my library ladder like an experienced fireman. She should have been afraid! We have cathedral ceilings in our living room and the bookshelves and ladder go to the very top. The rungs are steep and slippery, and I confess that my knees shake a bit whenever I need to retrieve a book from the top shelf. Ayla just laughed and did a little dance at the tippy-top, then let go with one hand to wave to us.

Five-year-old Lyla, on the other hand, never even noticed the ladder when she was Ayla’s age, much less scaled it. She’s a quiet, thoughtful child who generally doesn’t like change or trying new things. She can be adventurous once she makes up her mind to be, but she always takes a moment to stop and consider before trying something for the first time. She asked for a turn on the ladder after seeing her sister scamper up it. And she was brave enough to climb all the way to the top. But she took her time, was careful with each step, and she hung on tightly. Then she was done, and didn’t ask to climb it again.

I don’t know about you, but because of all the changes that Covid brought last year, I often found myself challenged to try new ways of doing familiar things. I would have liked to be as brave as Ayla and leap whole-heartedly into every new challenge, yet I found, like Lyla, that I don’t really like change. I often needed to be pushed or dragged or encouraged by someone more adventurous than I am before embracing something new.

This past year, I had to learn new ways to launch a book without leaving home. I learned how to research the settings of my books without traveling to the locale in person. I missed driving down to the library and wandering through the non-fiction stacks, but a very patient research librarian taught me how to navigate the internet’s endless rabbit-trails. I learned how to Zoom—and for a technophobe like me, that was like scaling a very tall ladder. Likewise, with converting my office into a recording studio to do live and recorded presentations. I learned a lot of new things the hard way, such as remembering to turn off the telephone so it wouldn’t ring during the final five minutes of my recording and force me to start all over again. And I figured out how to adjust my writing schedule and condense my usual writing style to compose something brand new for me—a novella. And a Christmas one, at that!

The Apostle Paul once claimed, “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13), and maybe that should be my motto in changing times. There will be occasions when I must learn to be as daring as Ayla, knowing that God will be right beside me, steadying the ladder. There will be times when I should be as cautious as Lyla, taking time to wait and pray and consider His leading. Above all, I know I can always trust the Holy Spirit to guide me as I’m led into new places.

I have one final “new thing” to share, and that’s the cover of my next novel, “Long Way Home,” which launches in June 2022.

Lost!

The fall weather was beautiful last week and perfect for riding bikes. I took a break from writing one afternoon, and Ken and I rode off on one of our favorite trails. It winds through the woods north of town, away from people and traffic. Ten miles from home, we heard a woman screaming for help. An older couple running to her aid, flagged us down.

“Can you help?” they asked. “This mother has lost her little boy.”

We parked our bikes and hurried over to see what we could do. The young mother was distraught. Her son was only two. She had been doing laundry while he watched TV, and when she returned to the living room he was gone. She had left all but the screen door open on this beautiful day, and he must have wandered outside.

Ken and I and the two neighbors split up to search in all directions, calling his name. I headed behind the house and into the woods, searching through the underbrush and by every fallen tree. I prayed urgently for God’s mercy as I hurried along, asking Him to help us find this child and bring him home. Ten minutes later, with no luck, I circled back to check with the others. The little boy was still lost. His mother was now hysterical.

I understood her anguish too well. At some point in their childhoods, each of my three children had temporarily disappeared for varying lengths of time and in various places. One disappeared in a grocery store. One on the way home from school, a block away. One at the beach. They were all found, thankfully, but I will never forget the heart-stopping terror I felt. The world that swallows up your child seems so overwhelming and huge, your child, so very, very small.

Earlier that morning in my quiet time I had been praying for three family members who don’t know the Lord. I admit that my attitude toward them was not what it should be. They had hurt me badly, and I was trying to justify their behavior by thinking, “Well, what do you expect? They aren’t Christians.” But as my heart broke for that poor mother and her lost child, I caught a glimpse of God’s heart, and the grief He must feel when any of His children are lost—like my three family members. “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9).

I circled back through the woods, running faster and farther this time, calling the boy’s name. I could hear the others frantically calling, too. And I wondered, might God be asking my husband and me and anyone else who can, to search this tenaciously for His lost ones? Might He want us to set aside time from our own pleasures help seek and save more of His lost children?

With still no luck, I returned to the other searchers a second time. We needed to call the police. The elderly neighbor suggested that the mother search inside the house one last time before we called. And that’s where she found her son, fast asleep, nestled out of sight beneath a pile of clean sheets.

She came outside weeping and thanking us. I held her in my arms and felt her entire body trembling as she squeezed me tightly, clinging to me. The prodigal’s father had surely held his lost son just as tightly. As I quietly thanked God, I thought of how the angels in heaven rejoiced when one lost soul is found.

We said good bye to the others, all of us wrung out and relieved, thankful that the search had ended well. Ken and I got back on our bikes and continued on our way. And I prayed again with a new sense of urgency for my family members.

A Visit to the Past

Ken and I love to ride our bikes to the library in town whenever I need more research material, and then eat lunch at a fun restaurant. It’s about a 14-mile round-trip. There’s a sizable Hispanic population in town, so today we decided to try a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican store/taqueria that features authentic, homemade food. As soon as I stepped inside the little bodega, I was transported into the past. Early in our marriage, Ken and I spent two years in Bogota, Colombia while Ken performed with the National Symphony, a world-class orchestra. Meanwhile, I taught fourth grade in a Colombian school. I taught all of the subjects in English but my students and their families spoke Spanish, which made parent-teacher conferences very challenging.

So, when I walked into the little store and was suddenly immersed in a flow of voices chattering in Spanish, I was taken back to our adventures in Bogota. I remembered how Ken and I would traipse through little stores like this one, searching in vain for American products. Our Spanish slowly improved as we learned to decipher labels, but remind me to tell you the story, someday, of Ken’s disastrous attempt to buy cat food for our American cats. (It ends happily but a Colombian cat nearly lost one of it’s nine lives.)

The bodega’s meat counter reminded me of that incident, and also of the butcher shop down the street from our apartment, which I passed every day on my way to school. The Colombian butcher shop hung their raw meat from hooks in the front window, without refrigeration. I got really good at holding my breath for the full length of the block as I hurried to work. (We did not buy our meat there!)

This fresh produce section reminded me of the open-air market where we would shop for fruit and vegetables. Colombia has varieties of fruit that we’d never seen back home, like lulo and guanabana. Ken loved haggling over prices and trying to get a bargain. I just wanted to know “how much.” Ken said I was being gouged, but when I did the math, he was haggling over mere pennies. This little bodega even had an aisle of pottery like we used to buy in Bogota but the items all had price tags. Ken was disappointed that he couldn’t haggle.

Colombian food isn’t at all like the Mexican food the bodega served, which is good because we like Mexican cuisine much better. Here’s our lunch…and it was delicious!

We ate it as a picnic in a nearby park, something we never did in Bogota because it rained all the time. In fact, it rained every day for the two years we lived there. I always carried an umbrella. The city sits at an altitude of 8,660 feet, but if we took a bus down the mountain, we could enjoy sunny, tropical weather at a lush resort and breathe much thicker air. Of course, it required nerves of steel (or a blindfold) for the trip down the narrow, winding mountain road with no guardrails and sheer drop-offs, on a dilapidated former school bus—but that’s a story for another blog.

As we pedaled our way home from town again, I couldn’t help thinking about how our past experiences shape us and transform us into the people we are today. My time in Colombia drew me closer to God in many ways and became part of the foundation for my writing career. And it occurred to me that the things we’re experiencing right now—today—are shaping us into the people we’ll be in the future. We learned to adjust to a lot of changes when we moved to South America, and now we’ve all faced too many unwelcome changes these past two years. How we react to them will shape the people we become in the future.

In these challenging times, I don’t want to be taken captive by the constant arguing, fear-mongering, and divisiveness I see all around me. I want my faith to grow stronger and to flow out with joy everywhere I go. Right now, our journey may seem as harrowing as that bus trip down the Andes Mountains, but we’re God’s beloved children, and our future is safe in His hands.

The Next Book

I’m in between novels at the moment, and searching for inspiration. After writing 29 books, I sometimes feel like I’ve used every storyline, every setting, and every plot device there is. I’m certainly not ready to retire, but what do I write about next?

As I faced the blank computer screen, casting about for ideas—life happened. My life.

This past month our family suffered a huge loss when my husband’s sister, Marion, passed away after a short illness. She lived nearby, so we were able to say our goodbyes and tell her how much we loved her, but it didn’t make it any easier. Ken is the youngest of six children and Marion was his last remaining sibling. She was also one of the most positive, joy-filled, loving people I have ever met, in spite of the fact that she didn’t have an easy life. Everyone who knew her loved her and wanted to be around her. I will miss her stories, her laughter, her beautiful perspective on life. We know she received a joyful welcome in heaven, yet we can’t help feeling sorrow and grief at her loss.

But even as we grieve, we also have a reason to rejoice. A few days from now, we will celebrate our oldest son’s marriage to a beautiful woman who already has become a daughter to us. She brings a young son into our family, a sweet, new grandson who we also love as our own. We feel God’s face shining down on all of us.

Three years ago, our son suffered through the most difficult, painful season of his life. Ken and I felt helpless as we watched him suffer. All we could do was stand alongside him and pray for him—to a Heavenly Father who also knows human suffering and a parent’s grief. My neighbor, who is also my prayer partner, prayed for him on her morning walks as she passed by our house. One morning she texted me a verse that God had given her for our son:

“But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in its wings.”

I looked up the context and read the second half of the verse: “And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall” (Malachi 4:2).

It seemed impossible, unbelievable, at the time. But as it turned out, our son’s night of darkness drew him closer to God, giving him a deeper relationship than ever before in his life. Now, as I see him with his new bride-to-be and young son, I see the fulfillment of that verse.

This—all of this—is what I need to write about next. Life! Life with its joys and sorrows, grief and laughter. Life with friends and family members who share all of it with us. Life with our good and loving God who never leaves us or forsakes us. I need to write authentic stories of people just like me, showing the hard parts of life in a fallen world, never pretending that pain doesn’t exist. But also showing the joy that a life lived with God can bring. Yes, life is hard . . . but God is good. And He loves us more than we can ever imagine. I still don’t have a plot or a setting for my next book, but no matter what I decide on, I want my story to burst at the seams with hope. Hope in the joy of heaven, which Marion is now experiencing. Hope in a Savior who can turn our tears into laughter and make us leap like a newborn calf with life and joy.

Up In A Tree

I’m nearing the end of the novel I’m currently writing, and as I keep telling my husband, “I have to bring this story in for a landing.” My main characters have found themselves facing more and more problems and dilemmas over the past twenty-some chapters and it’s time to resolve them in a (hopefully) satisfying way. I’ve heard writers explain the plotting process as forcing your main character up a tree, then throwing rocks at her. Well, it’s time for me to fetch a ladder and help my characters down.

The novel’s climax is what readers have been staying up all night and turning pages in order to reach, so it needs to be stellar. I want my readers to sigh and maybe wipe a tear and feel as though all those hours spent reading have been worth it. Author Anne Lamotte says the climax is “that major event…that brings all the tunes you have been playing so far into one major chord.” For me, tying up all of those loose ends into a gratifying finish is the most intense and stressful part of writing a novel.

Once my characters are on solid ground again, they’ll have a chance to pause and reflect on the lessons they’ve learned during the trials and hardships they’ve endured. What have they discovered about themselves or about their faith? How have they been changed? This reflection process, called the dénouement, is a very important part of a satisfying ending, especially if the main character needed to change in order to become the person God created her to be. Yes, I have a big job to do in these final pages.

As I reach the conclusion of my novel, I’m also aware that we’ve reached the conclusion of a tumultuous year. 2020 has made many of us feel as though we’ve been driven up a very tall tree and had an avalanche of rocks thrown at us. Hopefully the climax is coming soon in 2021, and the rescue ladder is on its way. Maybe we can finally find our way down from our precarious position and recover from our wounds. But let’s not forget the final part of every great story—the time for reflection. Because if we don’t, everything we’ve endured this past year will have been a waste.

In a year as difficult as this past one, we may not want to remember everything we’ve been through, especially the losses. Yet I think it’s important to ask what lessons we’ve learned through it all? What have we discovered about ourselves? Is our faith any different? Has it grown? How has this year changed us? What new perspectives have we gained after being up in the tree for so long? I can already name a few things that I’ll never take for granted again, like a warm hug. An unmasked smile. And gathering together freely with my family and friends.

So, how about you? How are you different after spending this long, difficult year up in a tree?  

Merry (Quarantined) Christmas!

The first time I traveled to Israel and visited Bethlehem, I expected to feel a sense of the beauty and simplicity of the much-loved Christmas story: a crude stable, the holy family, shepherds, wise men, and the Son of God in the manger.  I was sadly disappointed. The traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is inside the Church of the Nativity—a truly ancient church built in 565 AD.  It has survived enemy invasions, the Crusaders, restorations, renovations, a fire and an earthquake, but it looks like . . . well, a church.  A beautifully decorated and ornamented church, with all the sacred clutter that has accumulated over the centuries, but it bore no resemblance to my image of what Jesus’ birthplace was like.

But wait—the real site was down a set of stairs and inside a natural cave that has been venerated as the place of His birth since 160 AD. But even this simple cave was so gilded and bedecked with artwork and tapestries and lamps and incense burners that I still couldn’t get a sense of what it might have looked like on that first holy night. In the center of the floor was a silver-encrusted star with a hole in the middle. By putting my hand inside, I could touch the place where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago.  I tried it, but I left Bethlehem feeling empty, unable to make the sacred connection I had so longed for.

And isn’t that how so many of our Christmases in the past ended up feeling? In spite of all the tinsel and glitter and sparkle, all the money we spent and the stress we endured as we tried to create the perfect Hallmark Christmas, we were often left with the same let-down feeling I had inside that church in Bethlehem. We’ve lost the simple beauty of the story, that precious connection with Jesus that is the true miracle of Bethlehem. 

But this year—surprise! Many of the Christmas traditions we have come to love—like family gatherings and parties and Christmas concerts and church programs—have been stripped away, leaving the holiday a mere shadow of itself. Christmas is starting to resemble the classic Dr. Seuss book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” as Covid-19 slithered into our homes and communities and stole so many of the festivities we’ve long enjoyed.

But do you remember how the Dr. Seuss story ended? After the Grinch had taken everything away, Christmas morning still dawned. The startled Grinch could hear people singing and celebrating and rejoicing. We can do the same. The cookies and lights and parties aren’t what Christmas is about. Jesus is. His birth in Bethlehem is still worth celebrating, whether we’re alone, far from our families, or in a packed church sanctuary singing Handel’s “Halleluiah Chorus.”

Maybe this will be the year that we’ll recapture the simplicity of Christ’s incarnation. Maybe the clutter and glitz that have draped themselves over our past celebrations are like the religious trappings that have collected inside the Church of the Nativity over the centuries. Whether we gather with our loved ones in person or around our computer screens, we can still feel the holy wonder of Christmas—Emmanuel, God with us! I pray that your celebrations, no matter how small, will be filled with joy this Christmas season.

Remember the Wonders

As another week of quarantine begins, I’ve noticed a new worry taking root in my heart. Finances. With the stock market on a roller-coaster ride, I’m growing concerned about what my husband and I will live on in the future if our retirement fund vanishes. Our senior friends and family members face the same worry. Many of my friends make their living through conferences and retreats and concerts—all of which have been cancelled, leaving them without an income. My son and many others have been laid off from work without pay.

But I think I’ve discovered an antidote to my financial fears, and for the many other fears that have arisen during these strange times: Remembering.

I remember a time, years ago, when our finances were extremely tight after my husband went into full-time ministry. I was trying to outfit our three children for school one fall and the list of school supplies ate up a huge chunk of our budget, leaving little room for clothes. The kids would need warm boots for the Canadian winters, which meant we could afford only one pair of shoes apiece—and they would have to be gym shoes. Our son Ben, then six years old, spotted a pair of shiny, black dress shoes like his dad wore to church, and he begged me to buy them instead of the gym shoes. He wanted to dress up for church, too. I had to say no.

“Then I’ll pray and ask God for them,” he replied.

Uh oh. His simple faith astounded me. And worried me. How could I support and encourage his fledgling prayer life yet still teach him that prayer isn’t a magic wand you can wave to get whatever you want? I had no idea. But meanwhile, I started scrambling for a way to “play God” and buy those shoes for him. Maybe I could find some extra cash somewhere or ask Grandma for a loan. Because truthfully, I didn’t quite believe that God would answer Ben’s prayer.

The very next day—while I was still scheming—my neighbor came over with a bag of clothes that her son Martin had outgrown. He was a year older than Ben, and I was grateful for the hand-me-downs. “Now, I don’t know if you’ll want these or not,” she said. “Martin was in a wedding last year and he only wore them once.” She pulled a pair of shiny, black dress shoes from the bag.

They were Ben’s size.

“Yes,” I murmured, barely able to breathe.

“Well, good. Then here’s another pair Ben can grow into.” She lifted a second pair from the bag. “Martin was in another wedding recently and I know he’ll never wear these again, either.”

I’m quite sure I heard God laughing.

Ben treasured both pairs of those shoes, and I know that his faith grew from the experience—as did mine. I had known in theory that God feeds the sparrows and clothes the lilies, but I learned that He also hears a six-year-old boy’s very specific prayers and is well able to answer them. To abundantly answer them! And now, remembering this lesson, I know that I can trust God with my prayers for the future.

Jesus said “So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them.” In fact, He even knows your shoe size.

In these trying times, let’s all “Remember the wonders He has done…” (Psalm 105:5) and trust Him to hear our prayers.

Many Plans

This past week, my publishing company invited me to attend the Public Library Association conference in Nashville. Librarians are among my very favorite people because they share my passion for books and reading. And the librarians I met were a warm, dedicated bunch who knew their patrons and were focused on finding the very best resources for them. I had a wonderful time. I also made a fabulous new friend, Robin W. Pearson, who was signing copies of her debut novel “A Long Time Comin’” right beside me as I signed Advance Reader Copies of my newest novel, “If I Were You.” (Releasing June 2.)

But in the days leading up to the conference, the weather reports predicted a snowstorm that threatened to derail my plans. Would the roads to the airport be clear? Would the planes be able to take off? Would the storm cause a cascade of delays and cancellations that would strand me in Chicago and make me miss the conference? I anxiously checked the weather reports several times a day before realizing that my endless worrying accomplished nothing—except to unsettle me. I vaguely recalled a scripture verse about making plans, and finally decided to look it up. It’s Proverbs 19:21:

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

Why is that such a difficult concept for me to grasp? As much as I hate having my plans scrapped, why can’t I remember that the delays and interruptions that change my plans might be exactly what God purposed all along? If I’m stuck in an airport waiting lounge, maybe there’s a lesson He is trying to teach me, or another weary traveler He wants me to reach out to. If I’ve given my life to Him, I shouldn’t be surprised when He calls me away from my plans on a mission that He has chosen.

Paul and Silas’s preaching tour of Philippi was going great until they were arrested, beaten, and thrown into jail. Late that night, God added in an earthquake for good measure. Talk about a change of plans! But these “disruptions” were all under God’s sovereign control and ultimately led to the conversion of the jailer and his entire family. The Lord’s purpose prevailed.

In the end, the snowstorm I had dreaded bypassed our area. I didn’t encounter any delays or flight cancellations. I had spent three days worrying for nothing. It reminded me of one of my characters in my novel “If I Were You.” She takes matters into her own hands after her life veers off in a direction she didn’t plan, instead of trusting God. Her schemes and lies cause a chain of consequences that make matters even worse for her. As I was writing her story I had to sigh and shake my head and say, “If only she had put her trust in God.”

Yes, Lynn, if only you would remember to trust God’s plans.

Keep Hammering

I have the best job there is. I can live in an imaginary world all day, making up stories and creating new characters. I’m my own boss. I can set my own schedule and even work in my pajamas if I want to. But as great as this may sound, I don’t live a glamorous life with TV appearances and book signings and huge royalty checks. It takes me a year to complete a book, and for most of that time my life is very routine—some would say boring.

On a typical day, I’m mostly alone with no one to talk to except imaginary people. And even though I’m my own boss, I find that I’m much more productive if I stick to a schedule (and change out of my pajamas.) I get up early, eat breakfast, and then have my “quiet time,” praying and reading my Bible. This daily time alone with God helps me remember Who I’m really working for and why.

After my quiet time, I go into my office, sit down at the computer, and write. (Of course, I also check my e-mail and Facebook and try not to get too distracted . . .) There are days when my writing goes so well that I lose all track of time. On other days, I have to discipline myself to write whether I feel like it or not. As my manuscript deadline draws near, I set daily writing goals—usually about five pages a day. I work this way for 5 days a week and sometimes on Saturday but I always take Sunday off—a Sabbath rest that refreshes me for work on Monday.

I recently completed another novel, and after time off for a much-needed vacation, I will soon begin the process all over again—researching then writing and rewriting another novel, finishing it one year from now. I’m sometimes asked why I do it. Why do I sit at my desk day after day, year after year, with no guarantee that my book will ever sell a single copy or will impact a single life? The short answer is, because I’m convinced that it’s what God has asked me to do. Mind you, it took a few years for me to come to the conclusion that God had called me to be a writer. And it took eleven years from the time I first sat down to write until my first book was published. Believe me, there were many rejections and tears and much second-guessing during those eleven years. But I kept writing, with no guarantee that I would ever be published, no proof that I wasn’t wasting my time.

I often thought of Noah. Many years passed from the time when he first heard God asking him to build an ark, until the first raindrops fell. He had no money-back guarantees while he hammered away. If it turned out that God hadn’t spoken to him, then he would have wasted his life. But he took a chance that God was calling him, that the rain would come, and he obeyed. And Noah saved himself and his family.

I believe that God calls every one of us to serve Him—in a variety of ways, big and small, as many and varied as there are snowflakes. We can choose to actively listen for His call or not. Then we can choose to obey or not. Most of the time, we won’t have any guarantee that our obedience will have an effect. Will we keep hammering? Keep writing? Keep praying for that person God put on our heart? Keep doing the daily task of showing up, doing our best, believing that we’re acting in obedience with no proof, without a single raindrop falling?

If you’re losing heart, wondering if your calling is real or if your work is in vain, consider Noah. Or Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Hebrews 11:8). And because he obeyed, Abraham became the ancestor of Jesus Christ.  Please don’t give up. Please keep hammering and obeying. I’m very glad that I did.

God’s Posture Toward Us

Today I welcome my friend Christine Bierma from Atrustworthysaying.com as my guest blogger. She has graciously allowed me some time away to rest, relax and recharge. She has been writing a series called “Postures” that considers the many postures that we can take as we approach God and the postures He takes toward us as we approach him. This is the second post in this series. To read more, please visit her blog at atrustworthysaying.com.

What do you think God’s posture toward you is? I’m not looking for the Sunday school answer but what you truly believe. When God thinks of you, are his arms open, closed, crossed, indifferent?

Does he have his finger lifted to you in accusation? Is he shushing you? Are his hands raised in a “whatever” pose? Has he completely turned his back?

Or, is he waiting with his arms wide open? Is he turning his ear toward you so he can be sure to give you all of his attention? Is he busy or is he waiting for you?

I believe many of us, if we are honest with ourselves believe that God the Father, is standing in judgement of us. Ready to heap shame and “shoulds” all over our head until we crumble from the weight of it all. Isn’t that what we’ve been taught? We sing Jesus Loves Me This I Know but just as soon as the song is finished we are given a list of our failures and shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of failures and shortcomings but that is the entire reason Jesus came to earth. He came to give us the assurance of forgiveness and to welcome us into his kingdom. He did not visit this planet to shame us or to shake an accusing finger in our faces until we relented.

You can study all of the gospels for your entire life and you will never find Jesus using shame as a weapon or a tool to bring us closer to him or to control us. You can search the Old Testament and the New Testament and not once come up with an example where God used shame to control his people. He just isn’t into the control game.

What you will find is a God who is grieved that his precious people have turned their backs on him. You will find a father that is hurting because of the poor choices his children have made and you will see him weep for the hurt and pain they bring upon themselves. You will find a loving God who is willing to move heaven and earth to allow us to come back to him.

Do you know who is in the shame and control game? Satan.

The prince of darkness wants to control us and lead us away from the Father. Shame is the perfect tool, especially for Christians. When he whispers shame into our ears he makes it sound spiritual, it feels like it is coming straight from God himself. Doesn’t it?

The scriptures tell us that “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 8:39

When shame, fear, condemnation and rejection start to swirl around you and weigh you down, bring this verse to mind and let it’s truth cover and protect you from the attack. God is not condemnation and fear. No matter what someone in your past has told you, no matter what you own inner voice screams at you, no matter what religious institution has smashed this lie into your heart, it is not true.

What is true is God is love.

Jesus himself said the greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

Look at what that verse doesn’t say. Fill in the blank all the things your own condemnation believes are more important than the command to simply love God. Each of us will have a different list but it is a list of lies. That list simply does not exist in the scriptures.

God waits for each of us with open arms.

He will never force us to come into his presence or to serve him, he always gives us the choice. He isn’t waiting to condemn or shame us, but rather he is waiting to love us like we’ve never known.

He is waiting with his arms open wide!