Life, no doubt, lives like war. Daily, we wake, and don’t know what attack might come our way. We don’t know if we might get that phone call, if our small health issue may turn into a big problem or if we may hit a relational snag that leaves us knot-tied for weeks.
We wake up. Usually, we blindly head into it.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of days, I feel like I wake vulnerable, open for attack and easily knocked down. The battles move so fast, some days, it is hard to get ahead of them. It is hard be be one step faster or to create a battle plan, especially when you don’t know what is coming.
But, lately, I’ve been thinking much about moving from defensive faith to offensive faith. I think the stance makes all the difference.
A defensive faith stance is:
– Waking and going through the motions
– Reading God’s Word in the morning then going into the day
– Praying when troubles hit
– Asking people to help you when you are in a serious ditch
– Acknowledging God when something really great happens in your life
An offensive faith stance is:
– Waking and proclaiming God’s truths over your life (God is with me, for me, above me, before me…)
– Moving God’s word from your head to your heart by dwelling on it throughout the day
– Praying perpetually, in the car, in your house, in your free time.
– Having a team of people to support your faith walk. Knowing they will check in on you.
– Praising God as you see his glory through your day.
– Thanking God continually for all you have.
A Christian on offense moves into the battlefield not only able to withstand war, but ready to win. They see not only what is coming against them, but they are prepared with a tactical plan to love, when usually they’d be prone to fear. It changes their eyesight. Rather than being a pawn they are now a son or daughter of the King, one loved, provided for and helped along the way. They are an active force of good on the spiritual game board of good and evil. God knows they are ready, I believe. He sees their faith and willingness to prepare. He rewards them for seeking him diligently.
This person understands, it is not their own willpower that wins, it is not their mindset that overcomes, but it is the blood of Jesus that won for them. In humility, they stand under God so that he can move over their lives and into the lives of others.
This kind of person proclaims: Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle – my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me.” (Psalm 144:1)
Pop Quiz: What is a very small thing in size that has a gigantic impact regarding the direction of your life?
Clue: It moves, kind of flippantly, up and down.
Got it yet?
This should help: “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.” James 3:3-6
It can speak liberty or captivity that sinks a heart.
It can speak faith or fear that you’ll always live in the basement and never get anywhere in life.
It can tell you you’ll be stuck in that dead-end job with a boss you hate or
it can profess glory, glory, glory and holy, holy, holy!
It can rip a person apart and spit them out like day old coffee or
it can savor the goodness of others and remind them of it with an intentional word of kindness.
It can blabber about a person who never should have taken your parking space like that,
a family member who is so wrong, an insensitive and unthoughtful husband,
or it can cut through the tension and speak aloud every virtue of God.
It can send you into high places, with high people to confess high things of importance,
or it can keep stuck in the gutter, speaking a whole litany of unholy words that keep you unhappy.
It can halt its movement and literally change the density of another’s heart,
moving a person from defensive to receptive in an instant.
How do you use your tongue?
I can almost hear you all glaring back at me, saying, “Well, Kelly, how do you use your tongue?”
Not so well, friends. This lesson, and every lesson I write, really, is for me because, much more than dwelling on the immensity of God, I taste and swallow negativity. I constantly internally talk about the ways I’m failing to make good meals, spend enough time with the kids before bedtime and open up the door to my husband when he arrives home with a smile and thoughtful motives, like not bombarding him with the daily happenings at first sight of his brown hair. I, then, throw out words, like daggers, because I feel bad about myself.
It’s not easy.
The problem is, my tongue likes to go. My mouth wants to speak, incessantly. My complaints, grievances and objections are many. It is very hard to shut the trap when it wants to catch something wrong, and, golly day, and fix it with my words.
But, fault-pointing words usually fix nothing. And, all they end up trapping is me – in dejection, demotivation and frustration. Get me out of here – I’m stuck!!!
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Prov. 18:21
By looking deep into this verse, it appears, just as much as my words can get me stuck in a rut – or kill me, they can also lift me out of ruts, and feed me. I like that. I like the idea my words can literally provide me sustenance, food and energy. I like that by changing the course of my words, I can change the course of my life. I can move into into go-mode, into vision and into purpose that surpasses my own thoughts, limitations and plans.
5 Ways to Use Your Tongue to Change the Course of Your Life (for the better):
Constantly speak what is excellent, true, pure, good, right, honorable, admirable, praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). If it doesn’t fall in one of those categories, carry it on over to the trash can and dispose of it. It should be taken to the dump instead of coming out of your mouth like a stinky mess bound to hurt you and leave you overwhelmingly frustrated that your life doesn’t look better.
Let Praise Be Your Chatter. If you lift God up with your tongue, you’ll lift your mind up too. It is natural. You can’t be acknowledging the magnificence and the righteousness of God and still be stuck in a hole. He grabs you and pulls you up to heavenly perspectives when you do some fine-tuning.
Say thanks. Thank you that you have great plans for me, God. Thank you, husband, you are so thoughtful. Thank you, children, you are listening so well. Thank you, self, you are giving your whole heart to speaking carefully and intentionally. Thank you, world, I have such a great opportunity not to react, but to reach out to you and share Jesus
Speak humility. Best said, this means letting the voice of Jesus go before you. It means letting his heart be your words. It means letting his holy verses take flight so they come shooting out of your mouth before your own perceptions or intentions rule you (I know, not easy!). But, it is possible. We have the mind of Christ, which means, it should change us to speak with the mouth of Christ.
Don’t use it: don’t open your mouth, don’t utter a word, don’t speak a sigh, don’t offer a grunt, don’t release a criticism, don’t give flight to judgement. There are times, when the best speech you can give is silence. The best course of treatment you can give is dead air. Why? Because it is often in the lack of words, that God pours out the abundance of grace that changes a person’s heart from contemptuous to contrite.
This very small part has the ability to lead people to Christ, to change demeanors, to open eyes, to counsel the needy through disasters, to promote love, to inflict compassion and to listen. It’s amazing.
Let’s choose to use it as it was intended to be: a weapon of goodness that cuts through people’s hearts using the sword of the spirit, God’s Word. This is effective speech:
Parlaying his majesty into the day that lays ahead of you.
Speaking his glory into the places where you feel hurt.
Highlighting truth in the midst of emotions that are as wild as a bucking bronco.
Correcting another (or yourself) with the tone of compassion, grace and mercy.
Singing wonder about all that He has created.
Recounting the many times – God’s shown up in your life and how he remains consistent. Reflecting on the limitless nature of His power and being okay with it sitting on you.
Declaring his faithfulness, returning to this truth once again.
Demonstrating his humility, speaking less and listening more.
Let it out. Be not ashamed. Be not restrained. Be forthcoming. Be powerful. Change your life and change theirs.
Sin. It’s a tricky thin, isn’t it? Those of us in Christ don’t want to participate in it, but somehow we easily fall prey to it. We all know there is no hierarchy when it comes to sin. Lust is just as wrong as adultery. Anger is just as wrong as murder. It all quenches the Holy Spirit and it all breaks the Father’s heart.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15
Recently, I had 3 consecutive weekends of attending 3 ridiculously dynamic women’s conferences. I was literally on the highest of highs. It was amazing! I am very much still processing all that God spoke to me and all that He did during those 3 weeks. He marked me beyond words.
After all of that spiritual activity, the enemy hit me hard. I don’t normally attribute much to him, but this was nothing but him. He was waging war for my soul in the worst way. He attacked my mind with no holds barred.
I don’t tend to deal with outward sins as much as I do with inward ones. You know the ones I’m talking about…envy, comparison, anger, bitterness, apathy, etc… The list really could go on and on. If you’re anything like me, those inward sins can bring more shame and guilt than the outward ones. It’s quite easy to hide these sins from the world. Honestly, the shame and guilt came very close to knocking me out for the count. I felt as though I was spiraling out of control. The past few weeks of battle came out of nowhere. I had been beautifully walking out my calling. God had been opening many doors of connection and I had experienced some of the sweetest times of prayer and worship.
One of the events I attended was Beth Moore’s conference called LIT. It was geared to women in their 20s and 30s. Christy Nockels led Heaven touching worship. And Beth, along with Jennie Allen, Priscilla Shirer, Christine Caine and Melissa Moore all shared about this call to communicate. Everyone spoke to the fact that it is a weighty call and there is a cost to it. In order to fulfill this call, we need to first be filled. This filling ONLY comes from time spent in the secret place of God and us. This time with God is not reserved for those who may minister from a public platform. It is for EVERY believer because we all minister and share Christ in some way. We all have a measure of influence.
I’ve been contemplating how such a door was opened in my life for the enemy to slip in could have occurred. I know I’m a flawed human, but I never want that to be an excuse for me to be comfortable living in sin.
Realize the enemy will attack who God has created you to be.
A week ago, I heard a sermon about how the enemy will specifically come for us in direct opposition to who we are. I hadn’t ever thought of that before. If we are a person of faith, He will bring doubt. If we are pure in heart, he will bring corrupt thoughts. If we have the gift of healing, he will bring illness. He sees our potential. He wants to destroy that potential by whatever means necessary. He wants to destroy the impact that God wants to accomplish through us.
The key to fighting this is to pray against him breaking any strongholds he is using to keep us bound. And then, we replace those thoughts with Scriptures that call out our identity and God’s desire for us.
Don’t let the enemy bring dissension.
I am all about community, but over the past few months, the enemy has been working overtime to create division among several friends and me. He has authored confusion and offense and all manner of hurt feelings. In those times, we are to pursue unity despite our emotions. Our emotions say isolate. The enemy wants us to isolate. But the Lord’s heart is for us to be in fellowship.
We must have brave, hard communication. We speak truth in love and always share our hearts in grace.
Camp out in the secret place.
Everything flows out of the secret place. Everything we do. Everything we say. All that we are flows from this place. Anything done in our own strength will falter and fail. The Holy Spirit must be our strength. He is the only source of power in our lives. Much of that power is harnessed when we allow Him to renew our minds in His promises. This power can only be accessed when we have spent time alone with Him in prayer, worship and studying His Word.
This time is non-negotiable. If we forgo it, we forgo everything. We forfeit the word He wants to speak to our hearts. We forfeit all of the good works He prepared for us. We forfeit the ministry that would touch the lives of others so that they may come to know Him. This time in the secret place is how we overcome and walk in victory.
I want to live in such a way where I am aware of the enemy’s schemes and where He doesn’t have such easy access to me. I don’t ever want him to think he can easily deter me from my calling and purpose.
Let us live in the overflow of the secret place…
Overwhelmed by His presence Over our heads in His Word Overcome by His wonder
Karina is a devoted follower of Jesus from New Orleans, Louisiana, but has made her home in Baton Rouge for the past 15 years. She spends much of her time leading worship at church, writing, reading, dancing and mentoring the next generation. She has a huge heart for serving and missions. She is an advocate for the local church especially the one that she attends, Healing Place Church. She also enjoys working out, traveling, photography and going to concerts/conferences.
Karina believes that every woman has a God-sized dream on the inside of them and it is up to an encouraging community to help nurture that dream. Her goal in writing is to see women get a revelation of God’s Word and discover how to apply it to their lives in order to walk in freedom and live the life that God intended. But the most important thing to her is to live out the call of Isaiah 26:8…For His Name and His Renown are the desire of our souls! You can connect with her at “For His Name and His Renown.”
I scrolled through old photos on my phone and took notice of my face: When I turned my head to the left, I didn’t look so bad. But, from the right, I looked horrible. In every single picture, when my face was straight towards the camera, my big nose tilted, crooked.
I hated it. I wanted to erase, blur or cover my ugliness.
What do you hate about yourself?
Your hips? Your weight gain? Your crooked smile? Your type B personality? Your love handles? Your tendency to be too curious? Your hair?
I do, in fact, also hate my hair. Frankly, when it’s not flat ironed it looks like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket. Bzzt… clown hair (Note: not cute).
Add this to my complexion of rosacea that runs right across my nose and – yes – on those days when foundation doesn’t do the trick – I wear a clown-looking nose too!!!
How do you contend with yourself when you’d rather be someone else?
This is the question I’ve been considering: Because sometimes I am afraid of who I am and what I look like.
I am afraid others will think I am weird. I am afraid I will look dumb. I am afraid I will be left out. I am afraid these weird features will be compounded by a fresh wrinkle. I am afraid you will stand and look at me just a few moments too long to sum up what is so wrong with my face – or my outfit.
I am afraid I’ll know what you are up to and I’ll have to deal with a whole mountain of inner awkwardness. I can’t climb well.
What about you makes you take cover? Feel ashamed? Embarrassed?
Did you know? God loves that part of you. He delights in it. He made you that way.
What would it look like if you accepted it, the way he accepts you? What would it look like to use that very thing – for his glory? For his advantage?
Scared to talk in public? Do a Facetime video.
Feel your heart beat out loud when you are around a circle of women? Approach one of the with a word of encouragement.
Hide your face under sunglasses and a hat? Go sans make-up and wear a smile that shines God’s goodness.
Feel too intellectual or too intense? Let it loose. Let it fly. Be you.
There is something liberating about approaching the world– just as you are, just as God made you. There is something freeing about not worrying about your worst. There is something redemptive about relying on the fact – God loves you.
You find yourself.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Ps. 139:14
There was nothing different about the day, in comparison to any other day, but what hovered over me was a generalized feeling of – “Blah!”
I prayed. Blah!
I sought God. Blah!
I worshipped. Still…blah!
No breakthrough. Nothing. Just annoyance that my spirit still felt as stuck as ever.
What is wrong with me? My heart can’t seem to embrace truth, peace, hope – God.
It’s in a moment like this, we go down one of three paths. We:
Get frustrated and angry at ourselves, declaring we are faulted and worthless. We heap guilt upon ourselves.
Decide God has left us and turn away from Him, because, we figure, he turned away from us.
Keep on seeking. Keep on praying. Keep on proclaiming truth. And, persevere.
I’ve traveled all three. Just this week, I’ve spent a lot of time on paths 1 & 2. Here, all I could see were overwhelming signs I was not doing things right for God. My heart is falling off a ravine, my feelings are stuck in thorn bushes, God’s plans for me are somewhere ahead in that vast fog.
Here’s where I end up: I need to work harder, pray better, try more and be a better person to recieve God’s love. I carry the baggage of discouragement and doubt. I sit annoyed and flustered by life.
Have you landed here too? Are you struggling to believe God? To hold close his promises because you can’t seem to get close enough to God?
I want to tell you something that will reassure you: This is likely a spiritual attack.
If you are getting after God, with your whole heart, but distraction, lies or discouragement won’t shake off you, you are likely being hit by the enemy. If you are pursuing clarity, but all you find is confusion, you are likely being hit by the enemy. If you are giving God your whole heart, but still feeling tired, worn and weary, you are likely being hit by the enemy.
The good thing about this is: Victory is as won – as you are you. The one against us, cannot effectively come against the cross. Jesus is, forever and always, high and lifted. There is no undoing his reign. His opportunities, insights and wisdom is already ours.
With this, the enemy’s only strategy is to make us believe he can undo what Jesus did. His only opportunity is a fake. He diverts us left and if we move with him, and take our eyes off truth, we lose God. But, if we stand firm and don’t give in to his fake, we stand firm. We move towards the goal of Christ Jesus.
So, with this, let us stand firm in truth. Let us allow it to sink into our mind, then into our heart and then down to our feet, so that we walk out with such assurance, nothing – no way, no how – can shake us.
Here is our arsenal, our power and our stand – these verses:
Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Ps. 28:7)
Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us. For I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies, and have put to shame those who hated us. In God we boast all day long, and praise Your name forever. (Psalm 44:5)
“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)
… but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32)
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit … (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (1 Corinthians 4:20)
But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you … (1 John 2:27)
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from me,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 54:17)
Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle – my lovingkindness and my fortress, my high tower and my deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues my people under me. (Psalm 144:1)
“For You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord shall enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop; by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (2 Samuel 22:29)
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Tim. 6:12)
It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. Ps. 18:32
For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. Ps. 18:39
As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And You set me in Your presence forever. (Ps. 41:12)
The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. (Ha. 3:19)
Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul. Ps. 54:4
My husband and I decided, after I returned to the car from grabbing coffee inside a busy supermarket, the answer to this question is the difference between peace and panic.
We pondered this thought because he’d literally just placed himself in a position of worry. You see, while I was inside procuring two grande Americano’s, he could have chosen to wait in a peaceful low-stress parking spot, however he didn’t. Instead, he drove his car right up to the front lane and waited right where all the traffic was. Sure, he pulled to the side and put on his hazard lights, but, by doing this, he put centered himself in a lane of stress, worry and anxiety.
The whole time he fretted: I don’t want to be in anyone’s way. I don’t want to cause any issues. I don’t want to annoy people.
In his haste to be efficient, he had wasted precious moments of peace. How often do we do the same thing? How often do we place ourself – front and center – right into a position of worry?
Recently, I’ve been waking up, putting the final touches on my blog post and sending it out. Usually, no more than 1 minute after I press send on the blog post – a kid wakes up. Then, I stress.
Because of my distraction, I missed connection with God. I was rushed. I’m angry at myself.
Day-in and day-out, though, I do the same thing.
Why am I putting myself in a position of worry?
Why am I repeatedly subjecting myself to the same outcome?
I can make a change. I can decide to take 10 extra minutes at night to do what the morning is stealing away from God. I can choose to place myself, not in the center of worry, but in a place of peace. You can too.
Creating a place of peace is:
Considering what to reschedule to make more time for your kids.
Relaxing your mind in prayer instead of regurgitating your ongoing mistakes.
Choosing to speak less rather than speaking in a way that hurts a loved one.
Deciding to stop ruminating on the past, so you can remain present in the moment.
Eating breakfast in the morning, so you don’t turn into a ball of anxiety by 11:30.
Letting people handle own their problems, rather than feeling you have to fix them all.
Asking God to handle what you can’t.
Halting your place of worry, by taking pro-active steps to figure out a new path to peace.
What might need changing so you can park your mind in a place of peace?
Today, I am welcoming Michele Cushatt. Michele is she knows what it’s like to lose her footing, and to wonder if she’d ever again be able to stand. But she also knows what it’s like to cry out to God for grace and discover the miracle of His Presence and His Purpose right here, right now. You will love her words….
Comment for the chance to win Michelle’s book and her I AM scripture cards:
The storm hit hard and fast and without warning.
Several hours before, we’d loaded kids and adults into our family boat for a day of skiing and tubing on Las Vegas’ Lake Mead. The day started in perfection. Blue sky dotted with cotton clouds. Bright sun reflecting on glasslike waters.
It was the first time we’d taken my niece out on the boat. Only three years old, she took it all in with giggles and wide-eyed wonder.
But the laughter died the moment the storm struck. Cotton clouds turned ominous. Glasslike waters turned foamy and whitecapped. With a glance at the shore, I knew it would take more than a few minutes to get to safety. But with each second, the swells grew, threatening to overcome our tiny boat.
I reached for my niece, pulled her onto my lap, and held her close while my husband kept his hands white-knuckled on the wheel. To drive directly to shore, we had to steer straight into the gale-force wind. But to drive into the wind meant a risk of capsizing. We needed to get off the water. But how?
I closed my eyes and prayed. As my three-year-old niece gripped my arms, my heart reached for the God I knew could deliver us.
Save us, God!
I hoped for a Jesus-sized miracle, like the day He spoke to a Sea of Galilee storm, and wind and waves came to a dead stop (Mark 4:39).
But our storm continued. In spite of my faith-filled prayers, Jesus didn’t deliver. If anything, the wind grew in intensity. I tried to stay calm for the kids, but my heart pounded with fear. I grew up on boats, knew a storm or two. But nothing like this one. Not even close.
While my brother navigated from the bow in an effort to keep the boat balanced, my husband started cutting z formations in the water. Turning left, then right kept him from driving straight into the wind. As a result, we inched closer to the shore.
Our nightmare lasted about an hour, a lifetime to a family who thought they might drown. Soaked and cold, weak from fear, we pulled ourselves and our boat out of the water and made for the safety of home. There I could finally contemplate my nagging questions:
Why didn’t God deliver us?
Why didn’t He calm the storm? I knew He was more than able; I believed it to my core. Thus the reason I prayed, because I knew my God could deliver.
And still the storm raged, oblivious to my request. Even so. We made it home. It took years for the lesson to have its full impact on my heart. For a long time I wondered why some storm-prayers are answered with calm and others are not. But now I see that day on Lake Mead a bit differently: Sometimes God delivers us from a storm. But other times He delivers us in it.
That day on the lake, God gave my husband the wisdom to z his way back to shore. God kept the boat balanced in waves far bigger than it could handle. And He kept all our children and family members wrapped up in life vests and out of the water. He didn’t still the storm. But He calmed my kids and gave us a great story to tell our friends.
To those praying for a Deliverer, John 10:10 records Jesus making a powerful proclamation: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
I always loved that verse, probably because it sounded like the promise of a happy life. Naively, I believed Jesus’ words included protection from all harm. Like a divine umbrella, God would spread the expanse of His arms over me and my loved ones and keep us from all rain.
It didn’t take long to end up soaking wet.
But that’s when I remembered more of Jesus’ words, only six chapters later in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.”
Not “might have trouble.” Not “could have trouble.” “In this world you will have trouble.” It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. The same Jesus who promised deliverance also promised trouble. At first glance, Jesus’ words sound contradictory. And yet His life proves otherwise. It was His death that made possible our lives. Hardship to realize hope. Trouble today for the promise of a party tomorrow.
Can I trust Jesus to deliver me through one to arrive at the other?
The unexpected is unavoidable. My dream of a trouble-free life was more than a little far-fetched. It doesn’t matter whether you live in an affluent suburb of upper-class America or in an overcrowded slum of poverty-stricken India. The rain falls on each of us in good measure.
The question, then, is this: do you trust the Deliverer?
He’s the hiding place, the shelter in the rain. Yes, there are moments when God delivers you and me from our troubles. Children overcome obstacles, illnesses are healed, marriages are revived.
But more often than not, He doesn’t deliver us from harm; He delivers us in it.
The first is merely protection. The second is presence. The first causes us to cringe, as we wait for the next calamity to fall. The second provides a harbor of rest, regardless of the weather.
Life is more than calm and predictable circumstances. Life—full life—is weathering the unexpected storms and the impossible waves knowing the Deliverer is present with you in them.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. —John 16:33
These words pulled from the pages of Michele’s most recent book—I Am: A 60-day Journey to Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is—were penned during her long and grueling recovery from a third diagnosis of tongue cancer, during which she was permanently altered physically, emotionally and spiritually. In it, she speaks with raw honesty and hard-earned insight about our current identity epidemic and the reason why our best self-help and self-esteem tools aren’t enough to heal our deepest wounds.
Michele and her husband, Troy, live in the mountains of Colorado with their six children, ages 9 to 24. She enjoys a good novel, a long walk, and a kitchen table filled with people. Learn more about Michele @ michelecushatt.com.
From the moment a woman wakes until she falls, exhausted, on her pillow, one question plagues her at every turn:
Am I enough?
The pressure to do more, be more has never been more intense. Online marketing. Self-help books. Movies, magazines and gym memberships. Even church attendance and social media streams have become a means of comparing ourselves to impossible standards. Am I pretty enough? Hip enough? Spiritual enough?
We fear the answer is “No.”
When a brutal bout with cancer changed how she looked, talked, and lived, Michele Cushatt embarked on a soul-deep journey to rediscover herself. The typical self-esteem strategies and positivity plans weren’t enough. Instead, she needed a new foundation, one that wouldn’t prove flimsy when faced with the onslaught of day-to-day life.
I Am reminds us that our value isn’t found in our talents, achievements, relationships, or appearance. It is instead found in a God who chose us, sent us, and promised to be with us—forever.
The lady was confident. That was my first issue with her.
If she was just beautiful and – not confident, she might not have bothered me. But, she was SO sure of herself. She knew she was made of. No one in the world could tell her otherwise! No one could stop her! She brought her brilliance with her wherever she went!
She sat like the statue of liberty. I was a small seagull whose job was to soak in her glory.
It didn’t help she had a great job and wouldn’t shut up about it. That really irked me, because at this time, I had a horrible job and I loved to whine about it. I have too much work! I can’t do it! I need a new job!
This lady spoke to my husband differently: My job is a dream! My boss is inspirational. My life is fantastic!
Puh-lease….someone pass me the salt shaker – so I can pour it on her head.
I could almost see it, me – the small one, salt-shaker in hand – wrecking her moment. Her, the large-and-in-charge one melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.
But, she is not wicked. I am. Ever asked yourself…Why am I thinking this way?
I sat back in my chair, tuned out her conversation and considered – why am I thinking so – meanly?
Her strength is depleting mine.
Her success is ruining my moment.
Her great attitude defines me as less than.
Her belief in herself is stealing my joy.
Why does one woman have such a great impact – on me? Can 1 lady take away all of God’s promises with 1 sparkly super-white smile?
Is this what God intended? For me to hate girls who are happy, successful and beautiful?
Somehow, in this moment, I know my heart has followed a rabbit trail – straight away from God’s glory. I’ve gone got myself stuck in a pit now.
Have you found yourself in a pit lately? Perhaps someone shines better than you? Always has a perfect answer? Has the job of all jobs? Is PTA mom extraordinaire? Is driving your dream car? Has perfect kids? Constantly shows off Facebook vacations?
God says, our pits are escapable, with his help. “He lifted me out of the slimy pit…he set my feet on a rock & gave me a firm place to stand.”
God has the strength to lift me up from the yuck I put myself in.
When I set my eyes on God, not her, he, like a medivac, pulls me to safety. Choose to stand upon the solid rock – the ground that is not sinking. , that is not wavering and that will not quake under the pressure of earthly measures.
Here, I see: I am not less than, I am just right in God’s eyes.
I am not struggling, but victorious, because I am chosen as daughter.
I am not without a plan, because God has created good works for me in advance. I am not alone, for God sees the desires of my heart.
I am not dependent on others, but fully dependent on God – and who he says I am.
I pull out of my thoughts and find myself at that restaurant table. Her voice emerges, except it no longer sounds like nails on a chalkboard, but another girl, who’s excited to be who she is created to be. I mention how blessed she is to have a good job. She smiles. We talk – and have fun.
“So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Rev. 3:16
This. This verse right here. It gives me the chills. It’s one of those things that makes you sit up straight. It reminds me of coasting on a bike. The thing about coasting is – you can’t coast up to God, you’re always coasting somewhat downwards and away from him.
I don’t want to coast. I certainly don’t want to be looking at the world and living my life, only to die and find out – I was never really that close to him to begin with.
Whoops! Big Whoops! Eternal Whoops!
You all know I just wrote the book, Fear Fighting. So, it’s not that I have to fear what I am doing wrong, it’s just that I have to fear God. Get my eyes on him. Seek him. Be with him. Pursue him.
Like dominoes, everything falls in line when we do this. We get near him and he gets in us. I like that.
With this in mind here are my 25 Ways Not To Be Lukewarm:
3. Practically search out ways to love others
4. Read scripture
5. Ask God for help.
6. Submit all your plans to God.
7. Enjoy creation with God.
8. Remember Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.
9. Forgive others.
10. Forgo anxiety and replace it with praise.
11. Encourage another person.
12. Hold fast to the belief that trials are training you into the image of Christ.
13. Grab on to faith, even when you feel like you are falling.
14. Thank God for everything.
15. Die to your selfish ways and live for Christ’s.
16. Renew your mind in truth, throughout the day, every day.
17. Worship through songs and Psalms.
18. Seek to understand others, verses judge them.
19. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide, then follow.
20. Seek holy in everything you do.
21. Put on the armor of God (Eph. 6)
22. Proclaim the gospel, no matter how scared you may feel.
23. Remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Speak it over your life.
24. Receive and extend grace. Repeat.
25. Uncover your heart and ready it for God’s transformation.
The good news is – even if we’ve lived lukewarm, we don’t have to fear our salvation. If we are saved, it is as done and done is done. We also don’t have to fear that we messed up, drifted away from God or turned our back for moment. Why? Because God’s love is greater than our deep worry we won’t be loved again. It extends beyond our feelings, thoughts and hurts. It reaches in – and once again – accepts us.
Meanie: Dropped the ball and never answered me when I emailed her. Selfish & silent: Promised me something and then didn’t follow through. High-priced: Charged me an arm and a leg, ran away and left me standing with a huge bill. Go-Getter: Hurt me. Liar: Rejected me with a bold-faced lie I can’t seem to get past. Forgetter: Didn’t invest in my heart; she dissed it. Abandoner: Walked away not following through on a promise. Hater: Ignored me and grabbed hands with the popular folk. Condemner: Tore my good intentions apart.
The story is titled: They’ll all reject you.
The cast is nefarious.
The plot goes like this: I’m a speck of dust. Everyone knows I am forgettable, invaluable and pretty much unseen within the grand story called their life, their plans and their needs. I’m disposable.
The enemies appear to be everyone. That’s a problem. That’s a big problem. I recognize it.
Because, in reality, the enemy isn’t these enemies, the enemy is the enemy. He’s thriving when he contriving. He’s jumping for joy, when he’s ruined ours. He’s grinding up love into tiny grounds that spread hate. The longer he let’s them brew the more bitter it tastes. When we drink, and we get poisoned, not with eyes to see God, but with eyes of anger and vile.
What has been brewing in your heart – is it peace and God’s presence or is a list of people who’ve hurt you?
My flesh wants to teach these people a lesson. My Spirit knows people are hurting, just like me. My Spirit knows, you can’t read the motives on one’s heart. My Spirit knows, people need love, not condemnation.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Gal. 5:22
If I am in the Spirit, I shine Spirit. But, how do I move back to peace-calming Spirit rather than anger-brewing flesh?
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
5 Ways to Be Led By the Holy Spirit, Not Your Flesh
Ask God to fill you with all joy and peace.
Ask God to help you trust him more.
Move into a place of continual worship, praise and thanksgiving.
Dwell only on what is good, true and excellent.
Be open to how God is teaching or leading you in a given moment.
As I practice my heart through the continual cycle of this list, I find my heart is no longer being wrung through the ringer. It softens. It sees others pain. It knows, God has a plan, even in my pain.
The Spirit confirms, I am His child and the love he surrounds me with, is more than enough to fill every hole of damage.