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The Myth of My Strength

The Myth of My Strength

Do you think of yourself as a strong or a weak woman?

Personally, I’ve counted myself a strong one.

I was the girl who ran around flexing her biceps, challenging boys to arm-wrestling matches, and re-arranging my heavy bedroom furniture all by myself.

I was the young woman who had a scheduled activity on her calendar every night of the week. I was the woman who wrote a book on the side while continuing to work full-time. I was the woman who always, always pushed through.

But then last month I had an Isaiah 40:30 fall,

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.”

My doctor said I was strong to have made it as long as I did.

I wasn’t so sure.

God, do You think of me as weak or strong? And how should I think of myself?

Taking Cues from a “Strong” Man and a “Weak” Man

I went to God’s Word for answers, starting with the strongest man I could think of: Samson. You know the beast—tearing a roaring lion to pieces with his bare hands, striking down 1,000 enemies with a donkey’s jawbone, pushing down a house killing 3,000 party-goers.

Here’s the surprising pattern I found. Just before Samson displays great strength, this is what happens just before:

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:6).

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 14:19).

“The Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him” (Judg. 15:14).

It was always God’s strength Samson displayed; never his own. God is the strong One. Even Samson was weak apart from God.

Then I re-read the familiar story of David and Goliath. Anyone observing the battle scene that day would’ve put their money on the intimidating war champion Goliath, not the young, inexperienced David. Goliath had complete confidence in his strength; David had complete confidence in his living God. And at the end of the short fight, David was the unlikely victor.

I Am Weak, but He Is Strong

Funny how many times I’ve gotten it mixed up. I’ve considered myself strong and believed God to be weak. Nothing could be further from the truth:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable” (Isa. 40:28, emphasis added).

God’s strength will never, ever give out.

Me on the other hand, I’m weak. My strength is finite.

What freedom that realization brings.

Strength comes when we first own up to our own weakness. (That’s ’cause we don’t rely on God when we consider ourselves strong.) But in our weakness, as we depend on our strong God, His strength flows through to us. Catch Paul’s personal testimony of this:

“We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8–10).

And then there’s my favorite passage from this past month,

“He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint” (Isa. 40:29–31).

How is this strength-for-weakness exchange possible?

Strong Made Weak; Weak Made Strong

It’s all because the Strong One was made weak so we, the weak, could be made strong.

Check out this baffling verse:

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25, emphasis added).

The weakness of God? But God isn’t weak!

Study the context, and you’ll see this verse refers to the cross. The world judges Jesus weak and pathetic, hanging there exposed and bleeding. “Weakness,” they spit.

But to us who are being saved, we gaze at the cross and celebrate. “Strength!” we shout.

God refuses to save Himself so He might save us. The Strong One is made weak so we, the weak, can be made strong.

What weakness can you boast about today? How might God want to showcase His strength through your particular weakness?

Don’t get it mixed up like I did.

I am weak, but He is strong.

The Myth of My Strength” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith

 

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith

 

Hey, girls, I’ve missed you! Now you’ll know why I disappeared for a month—and why I’m so glad to be back with you.

This series on spiritual armor just got real personal.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been writing about how to fight our spiritual enemies or if it’s because I’ve been asking God to root out every bit of pride in me, but either way-this past month I felt shot at from every side.

A big part of the "attack" had to do with my health, including a visit to the emergency room, a terrible full-body rash (I’d share a picture, but then you’d never visit this blog again!), and terrifying insomnia (how is my body supposed to heal if I can’t sleep, I anxiously wondered as I tossed and turned night after night).

Satan really will use whatever circumstances he can to discourage and defeat us—even our health. A man named Job knows that even better than I do. It all started when Satan asked God for permission to attack Job’s health, swearing that Job would curse God if his health was compromised. But instead Job worshiped God.

In physical misery but tangible faith Job said, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him" (Job 13:15). And for the record, God didn’t kill Job; just the opposite! Read the end of Job’s story here.

There were times this past month I felt like Job and wondered if I would survive.

So rather than writing a theoretical post about the different pieces of the armor of God, I’m going to focus on one piece I used a lot this past month—the shield of faith. Turns out the armor of God isn’t just an interesting concept to toss around on the blog; it’s intensely personal and necessary for normal, everyday life. Ephesians 6:16 urges us:

In all circumstances take up the shield of FAITH, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one (emphasis added).

Taking up the shield of faith is just a fancy, colorful way to say trust God.

For me it started with a choice to thank God for the hives, the trip to the emergency room, and the itchiness, even when I didn’t like or understand it. Lifting the shield of faith meant thanking Him—and believing—that this was His best for me. This was how I would learn to trust Him more, to depend on Him more, to experience His peace.

It meant thinking about His names as I lay in bed and asking Him to be that to me:

  • My Wonderful Counselor when I didn’t know which doctors to believe and which medical advice to take. 
  • My Mighty God who is able to heal me.
  • My Everlasting Father who delights in me and protects me. 
  • My Prince of Peace who can give peace even in the most frightening situations.

As I’d take medication or eat, I’d remind God that He’s my Healer (Ex. 15:26). I’d acknowledge that my trust was not ultimately in this medicine or food; I needed Him to heal me.

Five weeks later, I’m happy to report that my rash has now almost completely disappeared, and I’m sleeping some every night. And while Satan wanted to take me out through this difficult ordeal, God has used it to rescue me in ways I never dreamed possible. I could fill pages with how He has used it for good (well, I already have in my journal!), and I may share some of that with you in the future.

For now, though, I want to encourage you in your own difficult circumstances to lift up the shield of faith. Lean into God; rest your full weight on Him. This will protect you from the temptation to doubt His goodness, listen to Satan’s lies, and walk away from the One who has your back, who has your very best in mind.

God is for you. He is with you in the darkest, blackest night. Lift up your shield of faith, and lean into Him with a heart full of trust. He will not fail you. I promise. (Well actually, He promises.)

Hives, the ER, and the Shield of Faith” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Worse Than a Shark Bite

 

Worse Than a Shark Bite

 

This is no Lake Michigan! I breathed as I pulled up to my timeshare on the Atlantic Ocean at midnight this past week. I’d grown used to the calmness of the lake, but this was alive—wild and churning.

That first night was eerie—thirty-five plus miles per hour winds howled under my door as if someone wanted in. Morning wasn’t any different. As soon as I opened my eyes, I threw open the sliding glass door to study the ocean, desperately wanting to go in.

But I wasn’t stupid. Red flags flew, indicating the ocean was not safe. No lifeguards manned their posts; no humans dotted the ocean. The beach seemed a ghost town, with meringue-like tufts of ocean foam blowing about like tumbleweed. Signs posted along the beach warned of rip currents, and while there was no mention of it, I knew sharks hunted those waters.

Other than one evening when I spotted a couple swimmers and quickly pulled on my suit and joined them in a wonderful salty thrashing, I safely enjoyed the ocean from its edge. I wonder-walked along it each day, biked through its surf, and slept with the sliding glass door open so I could fall asleep to its steady pounding.

Then at SeaWorld that Saturday, I learned something surprising. Only five humans die worldwide each year from sharks. Why was I so cautious then? And . . . do I take my everyday enemies as seriously as I took the potential danger of riptides and sharks?

Over the next few weeks here on the blog, I’d like to study our enemies together. More than that, I’d like to talk with you about how we can not only avoid them but overcome them.

Let’s start with this. As a follower of Jesus, do you know who your enemies are? Do you have a healthy fear of them as I had of the ocean? Beyond that, do you know what your "life jacket," "rescue boat," and "lifeguard" are? Do you know how to stand strong against your enemies? I’d love to hear from you.

Worse Than A Shark Bite” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

Called for Help Lately?

How often do I actually call on God for help? I wondered after listening to Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ opening message at Revive ’13.

I’m realizing . . . not nearly often enough! Why? I think it’s because:

1. I think I can handle it on my own, thank you very much. (So much for “Apart from me you can do nothing“!)

2. In the areas where I do realize I need help, I think God will get fed up with me calling out for help again . . . and again . . . and again . . . and again . . .

But I heard Nancy say it. “Jehovah Ezer never gets tired of us calling out for help.”

What holds you back from asking for Jehovah Ezer’s help more often?

Did you know Jehovah Ezer is one of God’s names?! Jehovah Ezer, The Lord My Help. The One who helps me, supports me, comes to my aid, rescues me in my time of need. The One who comes running when I cry for help:

“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty” (Deut. 33:26).

But I have to make the call first. Nancy likened it to needing an ambulance. Just thinking about an ambulance doesn’t do anything—you have to dial 9–1–1 before one will come racing to your help.

So it is with our God who needs no one and nothing and yet delights in riding to our help. “Lord, I need You!” are some of the sweetest words to God’s ears, Nancy said.

So I’m curious. Am I the only one? If not, what holds you back from asking for Jehovah Ezer’s help more often?

Called for Help Lately?” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.

Pre-Ordering Can Be Sticky Business…

Back in April, my sweet friend Pat pre-ordered Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom just as soon as I let her know she could do so. Being the thrifty woman she is, she also purchased 12 pounds of rice to take advantage of the “Free Super Saver Shipping” on orders over $25.

Experience assured Pat that Amazon’s superior customer service antennae would realize my book wouldn’t be out for several months and would send Pat her rice within the week.

But a month later, the rice still hadn’t arrived.

When Pat realized she wouldn’t be receiving her rice until September 1, she went ahead and ordered another 25 pounds. She had just started to put a dent in the rice when she opened her door one hot July day to 12 pounds of rice. Tucked in the box was the following note,

“We thought you’d like to know that we shipped this portion of your order separately to give you quicker service.”

Thirty-seven pounds of rice rich, Pat messaged me,

“I will begin to research luscious rice recipes for your book launch party in September.”

And here it is—September 1—book launch day! I don’t know if the book launch party will materialize, but here’s what I do know. You can now order Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom without any fear of a sticky pre-ordering rice run-in!

ChristianBook.com is now shipping Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl for $7.99.

Amazon is now shipping Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl for $8.24.

BarnesandNoble.com is now shipping Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl for $8.24.

BooksAMillion.com is now shipping Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl for $8.24.

And should you happen to order a little too much rice along with your book (Pat), I have a few ideas for ya:

  1. Save it for that distant day your daughter gets married so you can lovingly pelt her and her groom with rice.
  2. Sew a rice bag to keep you warm this long Michigan winter.
  3. Wrap some sushi and deliver it to our post-pregnant friend who wanted nothing more the last nine months than sushi for breakfast, sushi for lunch, sushi for snack, sushi for supper.
  4. Relieve some stress with a rice face scrub.
  5. Make a rice rain stick and celebrate this day with a little living room swaying.

Any other rice ideas?

Bosses Don’t Give Gold Stars–And Other Career Advice

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!

congratulationsWhen 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.

Catch the rest of Carolyn’s post over on TrueWoman.com. 

Bosses Don’t Give Gold Stars–And Other Career Advice” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

How Close Do You Want To Get . . . Really?

pressing closeYou should’ve seen it. This Sunday, the church gymnasium was transformed into the bustling city of Jerusalem around A.D. 30. After I’d joined the tribe of Ephraim and received a bag of denarii (Roman money), I sat down cross-legged in the temple, right in front of the veil leading to the Holy of Holies (where I never would have been allowed in real life!).

That’s when little Sarah came over and squeezed herself onto my lap. Then, when the shofar blew signaling it was time to move on to the next station, Sarah slipped her little hand into mine as we walked a few steps to the synagogue. She sat in my lap again as we learned to sing the Shema in Hebrew and stayed close all morning as we went from booth to booth.

And then, while we were at the potter’s shop, I heard a shout, "It’s Jesus!" If I hadn’t already been told that the Sunday school teacher Chris was playing the part, I wouldn’t have recognized him with that wig of long, curly, dark hair. He slowly wove his way through the crowd of 400 people, hugging the children as he went.

Sarah pulled me forward, not content to watch from behind a wall of people. I let her pull me so far, and then I slowed, not wanting the adults to wonder why I was crowding Jesus and not letting others have their turn. But Sarah wouldn’t let up. I stopped, she strained. She pulled, I resisted. Finally, she dropped my hand and went around the mountain in the middle of the room so she could get to Jesus.

Sarah wasn’t the only child who did this. Instinctively, without any scripting, all the children wanted to get as close as they could to Jesus. Maybe that’s why Jesus told His perturbed disciples so many years ago,

"Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (Luke 18:16–17). 

As I saw the difference between me and Sarah, I couldn’t help but wonder how close I would’ve tried to get to Jesus if I’d been alive when He walked this earth. Would I have been willing and desperate enough to cry out loudly with Bartimaeus, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me"—even when everyone around me was telling me to just be quiet? Or would I have been more like Nicodemus who came to Jesus under the cover of night so no one would see?

More importantly, how desperate am I today to get as close as possible to Jesus? Am I content to hang back and observe Him along with the grown-ups, or am I pressing forward with the children to stare up in wonder at Him?

I’m afraid I know the answer, and oh, how I long for that to change.

So thank you, Sarah. You have no idea what you taught me this week. I want to be like you when I grow up.

PS: I’m curious. What do you think it actually looks like to want to get close to Jesus today? 

How Close Do You Want To Get . . . Really?” was originally posted on LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com.

The Deeper Healing

When my co-workers returned from the National Religious Broadcaster’s Convention this month, they raved about Joni Eareckson Tada’s message, saying it was the best they’d ever heard her.

After watching her message for myself, I couldn’t agree more. Joni relives her life story as if it’s happening in the moment—with tears, singing, and heartfelt emotion. I thought I knew all about Joni’s story, but most of what she shares in this video was new to me.

Journey with Joni through . . .

  • her disappointing pursuit of physical healing
  • the “tired middle years” of her marriage
  • her husband’s “I feel trapped” admissions
  • and more.

Through it all, trace the deeper healing that Joni has received. The deeper healing that can be yours, too.

Be blessed, friend.

Oh, and if you want more after watching this video, catch “Suffering Is Not for Nothing” by Elisabeth Elliot on Revive Our Hearts today.

The Deeper Healing” was originally posted on TrueWoman.com.