Last month my friend turned thirty, and a small group of us got together to celebrate her life and friendship. After a lovely dinner in an idyllic outdoor garden, we drove to the local civic theatre to watch the play LesMiserables.
Even though I’m familiar with the story, it wasn’t until I watched the play that I realized Eponine and I have something big in common.
Chapter six (“The Relationship in My Head”) is where I admit to the imaginary relationship I had for years with Caleb. Oh, for the longest time I didn’t realize it was in my head. But like Eponine, there came a moment of truth when I saw that my relationship with Caleb had never been anything more than a fantasy.
See what I mean as you read these excerpts from Eponine’s song. I’ve italicized the lines that especially point to her “imaginary relationship.”
On My Own
. . . now the night is near Now I can make believe he’s here
Sometimes I walk alone at night
When everybody else is sleeping I think of him and then I’m happy
With the company I’m keeping
The city goes to bed
And I can live inside my head
On my own Pretending he’s beside me
All alone I walk with him till morning
Without him I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me . . .
And all I see is him and me forever and forever
And I know it’s only in my mind
That I’m talking to myself and not to him
And although I know that he is blind
Still I say, there’s a way for us
. . . every day I’m learning
All my life
I’ve only been pretending . . .
How about you? Can you relate? Are you counting on a relationship that’s only in your head? Here’s a short true/false quiz from my book to help you find out:
The “Is It in Your Head?” Quiz
I talk about my crush more than I talk to him. (true/false)
He’s never actually told me he likes me, but I have good reason to believe he does. (true/false)
I constantly “collect evidence” to convince myself he likes me—smiles, laughter, words, and looks. (true/false)
If you answered true to some or all of these questions, you’re in danger of counting on a relationship that’s only in your head.
To read all about my relationship with Caleb—and also discover what a girl’s to do when she realizes (like Eponine and me) that a relationship is only in her head—order a copy of my book here.
Every August our staff gets together for one week (“Seek Week”) to refocus on Jesus before we launch into a new year of ministry. With just three weeks ’til my book releases, this Seek Week found me cranking out “book” work (book marketing, book website, book interviews, book, book, book) . . . and cold-hearted. I was working for Jesus, but I sure wasn’t enjoying Him.
When Pastor Walter Price told us he’d be preaching on Judas Iscariot, my ears perked up. I’d never heard a sermon preached about the disciple who betrayed Jesus. (Have you?)
Walter didn’t disappoint. And boy, did he sober me up when he said,
Judas knew the blessings of proximity to the things of God, he did a lot of great things for God, but he didn’t know God.
I’ve never thought about all the great things Judas got to do. Here’s just a peek from Matthew 10:
He [Jesus] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (v. 1).
Just to be sure we don’t miss it, Matthew lists all twelve names of the men Jesus sent out, ending with
. . . and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him (v. 4).
Judas was there! Check out the mind-blowing miracles Judas performed:
These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them . . . “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (vv. 5, 8).
Not only did Judas do miracles, he saw miracles right and left. In Mark 6:43, Judas ate ’til he was stuffed—and then he brought home a whole basket of bread and fish—after Jesus fed 5,000 people with a skimpy five loaves and two fish.
And yet . . . Jesus hadn’t captured Judas’ heart; money had. Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver—enough silver, at least, to buy a field (Matt. 27:3–10).
Judas’ story puts skin to Matthew 7:21–23, the most sobering words of Jesus in the Bible—at least in my opinion:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
So I need to ask, are you busy doing things for Jesus without really loving Him? Are you telling others about Jesus but not truly delighting in His beauty?
If so, let me help you out by giving you a glimpse of Jesus’ beauty. Just before His death, Jesus tells the same twelve men that one of them is going to betray Him. He then leans over to Judas and says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” The passage continues,
“Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him” (John 13:27-28).
Did you catch that? None of the other eleven disciples suspected Judas. Jesus had never treated Judas any differently than the rest of His disciples. All along Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart, how Judas would betray Him, but Jesus loved Judas all the same. I don’t know about you, but I find that just beautiful.
Girls, my prayer for you—and me—is that we would never be too busy working “for” Jesus that we miss “drinking from the river of His delights” (Ps. 36:8).
After I wrote Confessions, I began to date an incredibly godly man . . . and then I broke up with him about a month ago. Since then, I’ve experienced a whole lot of shame and guilt for not being more “spiritual,” for not having been satisfied with a godly man. What more could a girl ask for?
The messages I’ve picked up from the Christian world have taunted me. Find a godly man and marry him is the message I’ve heard loud and clear. He won’t be perfect; you’re not perfect; just get married. I’ve nodded my head and begged God to help me value the things He values.
But at the end of the day there was no peace, no joy in moving forward—only heaviness and tears. And so I said goodbye, and then the shame came.
Last week I realized why, at least in part. I’ve grown up knowing that Jeremiah 17:9 is true:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
If I can’t trust my heart, if I can’t know my heart, how can I make good decisions?
Funny, for a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
It happened at the end of my week-long shopping marathon. My assignment that week was to find and purchase two killer outfits for a photo shoot for my upcoming book website.
Most women would kill to shop for an entire week, but I’d just about rather sign up for a week of boot camp. I only had ’til Friday, so every night that week found me searching the stores and racks.
Monday night was a smashing success only because of the help of a “shopper-iffic” friend.
Tuesday night I set out on my own and returned home with . . . one lone brown belt.
Wednesday my photographer instructed me to look for a third outfit. Bummer. But thanks to a cute boutique on the corner, I found an adorable maxi dress with a necklace heavy enough to require a chiropractor.
Thursday, the final night before the photo shoot, found me in town once again, frantically looking for a little sweater to wear over my maxi dress.
With ten minutes to spare before the mall locked its doors, I spotted it: a short, white, jean jacket. Never mind that it was $118 . . . the photo shoot was the next day, and it was perfect! Besides, I reasoned, I could keep the tags on it, wear it for a few minutes, and then return it.
Just to be sure, I checked very carefully with the clerk to be certain of the return policy. Once I was confident that I would be able to return it, I bought the jacket and dropped into my car with a sigh of relief. I had done it! I had found three outfits with not a day to spare.
But then the Holy Spirit chimed in. I hadn’t expected that, and I was not pleased. I mean, I was fine with wearing the jacket for a couple minutes and then returning it. Everyone does things like that. Besides, when would I find another jacket? The shoot was the next day. It wasn’t like I was hurting anyone or anything.
But the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let up.
For a long time I’d prayed, “Teach me to fear You,” but I certainly never expected God to answer my prayer this way.
And then it hit me. This was a gift. It was the fear of the Lord I’d been asking for! At this moment, I was fully aware of His eyes on me. This decision just didn’t fit with the righteousness I’d been clothed with in Christ.
It sure didn’t feel like a gift in the moment, though. I tossed and turned on my bed, counting the cost of a fifth shopping trip. I’d have to miss work and make up my hours on the weekend. I’d have to go out into the humidity before the photo shoot, and my curls would be in danger of falling before I even arrived for pictures. I’d have to go in search of yet another jacket . . . and what if I didn’t find one?
Besides, wasn’t it enough that Jesus had died for my sins? Couldn’t He cover this little sin, too? Wouldn’t He forgive me?
But then, what would that do to our relationship? How long would I keep away from Him out of shame for intentionally ignoring His Spirit?
And did I really want my sin captured on film so I could be reminded of it every time I clicked on my website?
I knew what I had to do. Yes, Lord, I sighed, and fell asleep shortly after.
The next day I drove the familiar route to the mall. When the sales clerk asked what was wrong with the jacket, I confessed, “It’s not what’s wrong with the jacket . . . it’s what’s wrong with me.” Once the jacket was returned, I went in search of another one . . . and found it a few minutes later for $35! It was a bit too big, but it would do. With that, I was off to my shoot.
Miracle of miracles (and much thanks to Kenra Volume Spray), I am here to report that my curls withstood the humidity, I sported three new adorable outfits, and most of all, I smiled without a twinge of guilt, fully aware of the Lord’s kindness to me.
How about you? What have you been asking the Lord to teach you? Are you willing to let Him teach you through a life situation that costs you something?
In this intriguing video, Jessica Rey explains the history of swimsuits and then explores what kind of power bikinis give girls. (Is this the kind of power you really want?)
Jessica Rey shares how she asked herself the question we all ask at one time or another, Does modesty mean I have to be frumpy and dumpy? (No!)
Hear how Jessica took matters into her own hands and designed her own swimsuit with Audrey Hepburn as her inspiration.
I love what Jessica says in this video, “Modesty isn’t about hiding ourselves; it’s about revealing our dignity.” The dignity we have as image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:27).
Who says it has to be itsy-bitsy? Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:8–10,
I desire then that . . . women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.
So how about it? How will you showcase your beauty this summer?
Good morning, girls! Today I’m excited to share a fantastic post with you by Carolyn McCulley. I couldn’t help but think about you as I read it. It’s chuck full of important tips you should know before you land your first big job. Honestly, I’ve been working for eight years now, and I needed several of these reminders! I’ve included the first of Carolyn’s four points here. You can catch the rest of her article over on TrueWoman.com (our blog for women who are a little older than you). By the way, we’d love to have you join our community over there as well. You’re a woman, after all, and the women there would totally benefit from interacting with you!
When I was hired for my first job, my father took me aside to give me an important insight. “Carolyn, you are motivated by gold stars, high grades, and lots of regular feedback,” he said. “But you won’t get that at work. Don’t expect praise for merely doing what you were hired to do. If you keep getting paid, you will know you are doing a good job.”
I’ve thought of his advice nearly every time I’ve received a paycheck. Over the years, I’ve learned other valuable on-the-job lessons, lessons that were amplified once I became a believing Christian. So for those who are beginning their careers, here are four key principles for on-the-job success:
1. Pay your dues. In any job, it’s important to understand you have been hired to fill a position on a team with one critical mission: to make and sustain the organization’s profitability. You have a role to play in this mission, but it’s not the starring role. In fact, you have to prove yourself to the rest of the team that you are worthy of that role. It’s called paying your dues. To that end, you need to know that no one really cares about how fulfilled you are—or are not—in this role. It’s not about you, but about the organization.
I lead a small documentary film company, but it’s not unusual that I receive unsolicited résumés. Most come with sincere letters explaining how much the applicant likes film, how the applicant grew up watching film, and how the applicant loves to travel and how filmmaking can provide that opportunity.
Honestly, I dismiss those letters right away. Don’t tell me how a job at my company can fulfill all your dreams. Tell me why I need you for my company’s critical mission. Then I will know you understand the big picture and that you might make a significant contribution.
Your goal with any new job is to figure out how to add value. Know exactly how your position contributes to the company’s bottom line. Be prepared. If you don’t know, ask informed questions, but only after you have done some research. Never ask busy people questions that you have not researched. I repeat, don’t make other people do your homework. Those of us who were already working when the digital age arrived marvel at the wealth of information available through “the interwebs.” Fire up your keyboard and do your homework so that you can come up with the one really insightful question that proves your worth simply because you figured out what was valuable to ask.
One more vitally important tip: Respond. As in, respond to your emails. Respond to your phone calls. Respond to your invitations. Never think it’s a good idea to ignore your boss, your clients, or your colleagues. Or anyone who is trying to throw a party, plan a wedding, or invite you to dinner, for that matter. It doesn’t matter if you “don’t do email” or you “don’t like talking on the phone.” Get a response back in a timely manner because it honors others’ work and time. These few practices will show that you understand the process of paying your dues and will help you move up in an organization.
If Jesus says we can expect persecution (and He does), then I sure want to know how to prepare for it. So with the help of Thomas Watson’s book The Beatitudes, I came up with the following eight ways to prepare for persecution:
1. Get to know Jesus better. In the words of Watson, “A man can never die for him he does not know.” Are you satisfied with what you know of Christ, or do you long for an even closer friendship with Him?
3. Read the stories of those who have been persecuted for Jesus. Sure, some of the details may make you squeamish, but these stories will infuse you with courage and give you examples to imitate. My recent favorite is Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. There are so many more, like the story of Perpetua, a courageous woman who died in AD 203.
4. Don’t be so quick to always defend yourself; trust God to be your Defender. This is tough. We’re proud, and proud people tend to think they’re above suffering. Are you willing to let go of your high opinion of yourself and trust God with your reputation?
5. Replace fear of man with a healthy fear of God. Jesus puts it like this in Matthew 10:28, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul [men]. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell [God].”
6. Treasure truth. In a world filled with lies and confusion, wholeheartedly seek after truth and lovingly share it with others. Don’t be easily swayed by people’s words and arguments. Examine everything you hear against the truth of God’s Word to test whether or not it’s true (Acts 17:11).
7. Pursue righteousness. Jesus says “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (Matt. 5:10, emphasis added). Run from evil. Repent of your sin. Keep a clear conscience before God. Pursue Him.
8. Look for ways to deny yourself rather than always pampering yourself. I used to know a guy who regularly slept on the floor rather than in a bed. I’m not recommending that, but if you always choose the very best for yourself, you’ll have a hard time when you experience real suffering. Besides, Jesus told His followers in Matthew 16:24–25, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
“Before a man can die for Christ he must be dead to the world,” Thomas Watson said. The apostle Paul lived that way. In Galatians 6:14 he said, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
How do you plan on preparing for the very real possibility of persecution? Tell me about it.
Earlier this month a high school valedictorian ripped up his approved speech and then proceeded to recite the Lord’s Prayer in spite of the school district’s ban on prayer. The response was . . . overwhelming. You can watch it here:
Whether you think Roy Costner IV’s actions were right or wrong, you’ve gotta admit it was gutsy. He didn’t know if people would cheer or physically remove him from the stage or worse.
Which brings us to Jesus’ final—and possibly most mind-blowing—beatitude yet:
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:10–12).
Let’s break this beatitude down . . .
What It Means to Be Persecuted
"Blessed are those who are persecuted."
To be persecuted means to be pursued, but not the kind of pursuit you want from that cute guy in geometry class. This kind of pursuit is a relentless pestering, abusing, attacking. There seem to be two kinds: verbal persecution and physical persecution (Heb. 11:36).
Right—and Wrong—Reasons for Persecution
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake."
Sorry, but you won’t be blessed if you’re being persecuted for "talking smack" or acting foolishly. In Dorothy Patterson’s words, "To offend the world, you do not have to be unwise in your choices or obnoxious in living your Christian faith. Just to be like Christ will bring persecution."
Why We Can Actually Look Forward to Persecution
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. . . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven."
No one I know wants to be mocked or hated or tortured or killed. But Jesus—who was mocked and hated and tortured and killed so you and I might be saved from God’s wrath against our sin—promises us incredible rewardto come when we suffer for Him. Not here and now, but for forever. And He would know, because He led the way:
"For the joy that was set before him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2, emphasis added).
The crowds won’t always respond like they did this month to Roy Costner IV’s graduation speech. In fact, Jesus tells us to expect just the opposite. Philippians 1:29 tells us salvation and suffering go together—they’re a package deal:
"It has been granted [gifted] to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake."
So let’s get ready to suffer together for Him. Stay tuned to the blog as we talk more about persecution. And let us know . . . is all this persecution talk new to you? Have you ever been persecuted for righteousness’ sake—verbally or physically?
Two more beatitudes to go, girls! Today’s beatitude is found in Matthew 5:9 where Jesus says:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
As I was praying about how to write this post, I stumbled on the story of Abram doing some serious peacemaking. You’ll find the account tucked in Genesis 13, but here’s the quick version:
Abram and his nephew, Lot, are filthy rich. They have tents, lots of silver and gold, livestock galore, and a bunch of herdsmen to take care of all their animals. In fact, they have so much stuff that verse six says the land couldn’t support both of them living together.
And here we find the perfect set-up for a great big conflict. Two rich men with too much stuff living too close together on too little land. Sure enough. Verse seven reports "there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock."
What does Abram do when he realizes this? He doesn’t ignore the problem, and he doesn’t give Lot the boot, even though he’s the older uncle. Nope, Abram acts like a true peacemaker. He goes directly to Lot and acknowledges the conflict:
"Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen" (v. 8).
In other words, "We’re family, Lot. Let’s not fight." But Abram doesn’t stop there; he offers a solution. An incredibly unselfish solution:
"Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left hand, then I will go to the right, or if you take the right hand, then I will go to the left" (v. 9).
What was Abram thinking?!
If I replay the tape of my life, I see how I’m always choosing the best for myself—claiming the soft bed over the hard floor; choosing the corner piece of cake with gobs and gobs of frosting; keeping the best hand-me-down clothes for myself and passing the "rejects" on to someone else.
But here . . . the stakes are much higher than a good night’s sleep, a sugar high, or stylish clothes. Abram is choosing where he and his descendants would live. That’s a major decision. How could he give Lot first dibs?
Scripture gives us a few clues:
Genesis 15:1 tells us God was Abram’s reward. God was his portion (Ps. 73:25–26). When that’s true, you don’t need other things.
Abram trusted God’s promises. God had told him his descendants would receive all this land, and Abram believed God even when he couldn’t see how God would do it (Gen. 12:7).
We’re told in Hebrews 11:10 that Abram was looking forward to his forever home instead of living for the "here and now."
That’s why Abram could make the tough choice to be a peacemaker instead of fighting with Lot. And the only thing that will keep us from fighting with others is if God is the One we desire more than anything or anyone else. After all, James 4:1–2 tells us our desires are what start all our arguments:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.
As you think back to what has riled you up recently, dig a little deeper. Is the ultimate issue that you want stuff or relationships or others’ good opinion of you more than you desire God? How can you become more of a peacemaker, more like your Father God who sent His Son to make peace with you (Rom. 5:1, Col. 1:19–20)?
My dream of being the next Oprah—a Jesus-following version, that is—just came true. Well, sorta. I admit it’s a bit of a stretch . . .
But tomorrow through next Friday on Revive Our Hearts, I interview Nancy on the occasion of her 50th spiritual birthday. That’s 50 years of knowing and walking with Jesus. (By the way, her spiritual birthday is this Tuesday, May 14—the same day she’ll be on the Revive Tour in Indianapolis. Join her there if you can!)
As you listen to or read “Fifty Years of Walking with God” on ReviveOurHearts.com, prepare to laugh with us at what Nancy’s elementary teachers wrote on her report cards, and then to tear up as Nancy recounts the faithfulness of the Lord in her life over the past fifty years.
When I began to prepare for this interview, Nancy made it clear that she wanted this interview to showcase God’s grace and staying power over the past fifty years. We’re definitely not celebrating Nancy; we’re celebrating God.
Catch a sneak peek of the interview with this clip of Nancy sharing about the “missionary letter” she wrote as a seven-year-old.
Who would have thought that a young girl with such a grand vision would be well on her way to realizing it? Today the Lord is using Nancy and Revive Our Hearts to share Christ with women in many, many countries of the world.
If you’d like to encourage Nancy on her 50th spiritual birthday, may I suggest two ideas?
Leave a birthday greeting below for Nancy. Words mean so much to her, and I’ll make sure she receives them.
Partner with Nancy and Revive Our Hearts this month as we’re asking the Lord to provide $350,000 through friends like you to end our fiscal year in a good position. We aim to use your gift well to continue reaching women around the world this year.
Thanks so much for your ongoing support of this ministry. We’re so grateful for you!