A Creative Word

Practical, occasionally funny, faith-focused thoughts.

Author: jenna (page 1 of 2)

Cheesy Casseroles and Other Things to Love

I am not famous (or even moderately well known) for being a gifted chef. In fact, my daughter has told the tale of how I “burned water.” This is a gross exaggeration. I did not burn water. I simply forgot I had put some on to boil, and it all boiled away. This is very different from burning it. Really.

I didn't cook this.

I didn’t cook this.

But even though I don’t truly enjoy cooking, I am able to apply common sense when I cook.

For example, when I make a casserole, I know enough to put things in it that I like. I put in pasta, cheese, tomatoes, cheese, onions, cheese, olives, cheese… you get the picture.

I love all those things, so I add them generously. And, no surprise, the result is that I like the casserole.

Here’s the thing I think we can often forget: when God made the recipe of you, He put in things He likes: your sense of humor, your creativity, your talent with numbers, your personality, your love of quiet moments, the way you encourage others, your fascination with puzzles and your love of adventure.

He put things in you that He likes, and the result is, He likes you. Yes. That’s right. He likes you. You’ve been told that He loves you. Now I want you to hear that He likes you, too.

When He was designing you, before He ever began the actual “knitting you together in the womb” process, He selected traits He likes. And He put lots of them in you—just like I put lots of cheese in my casseroles. (Well, casserole– singular. I only make one.)

He put those things in you on purpose, because He likes them. They please Him. That’s right. Even though there may be people who think you should talk more (or less) or who think your sense of humor is strange and your love of plaid a little weird, your Heavenly Father smiles. He likes the things He put in you. And the same way I like my cheesy casserole, He likes you. Well, actually, He likes you a whole lot more than I like the casserole, but you get what I mean.

Here’s an important connection… if you’ve ever wondered if you matter, and whether you’ll make a difference in the world, the fact that He designed you on purpose, with things in you that He likes, means the answer is “Yes!” to mattering and making a difference.

You have a purpose, and that purpose will use the “ingredients” God put in you. Some days, your purpose is to bring delight to His heart. And some days, it’s to notice what no one else notices, and take action. Other days, it’s to use your sense of humor to point a friend in His direction.

One of the most exciting things you can do is to spend some time thinking about the ingredients—err, talents and gifts—your Heavenly Father gave you. Then listen, and watch. And when opportunities arise that match even just one of your gifts, step up.

Here’s the cool part: using your gifts and talents is one of the most joy-bringing, satisfying things you’ll ever do! And when you’re making a difference in His kingdom, it’s even more rewarding.

The inspiration for this was taken in part from Psalm 139:13-18. And by the way, when I talk about His Kingdom, I am not just talking about things you can do in your church!

Use the Manufacturer’s Warranty

Once, a close friend and I had a discussion on a subject very close to our hearts: how men we loved, and who loved us, had hurt us. We didn’t bash them, but we did recognize that they weren’t able to heal those hurts.

Not long after this discussion, the Holy Spirit showed me something I hope I never forget. It was a picture of a young boy, maybe three or four years old. He was holding a yellow toy truck.Boy with Truck

The truck was one of his favorite toys, and he loved it best of all. But he had broken it. The boy certainly didn’t mean to break it, and he wants to fix it.

But, as he turns it this way and that, looking it over and tinkering with it, he isn’t able to repair it. Now, you and I know that this young boy doesn’t have the capacity, the tools– or the knowledge of how to use the tools– to fix the truck.

And the hard fact of the matter is that all his love & efforts won’t repair the damage.

But of course, that isn’t obvious to the young boy. He thinks, “It’s MY truck. I broke it. I should be able to fix it!” But as he fumbles with it, he is only making the damage worse.

You and I can easily predict what will happen next. Soon, he will become frustrated with himself and the truck. Then, he will become angry with the situation, although he’ll most likely direct his anger at the truck. Finally, he’ll give up, cease trying to fix the truck and find something else to occupy his time.

Now, it’s obvious to you and me that all the young boy has to do is take the truck to his Father and ask Him for help. His Father knows just what to do to fix the truck. And after He lovingly repairs the truck, it will be BETTER than new!

The same is true with us. Although our husbands, our parents, our friends, our children—even our pastors and church families– may “break” us, they can’t fix us. They really can’t. No matter how much they want to.

They simply are not equipped to repair us. But— and like the Sir Mix-a-Lot song, it’s a big but– we have a 100%  guaranteed warranty from our Manufacturer! Our Father is willing to repair all parts of us, and when He restores us, we are actually better than before.

I’m not exaggerating.

Take a look in Deuteronomy—whenever something was damaged, or stolen or ruined, God’s restoration resulted in an increase! You can trust that when you become broken, you can allow God to heal you, and you WILL be better than before!

This is exciting news. But it also dispels something some of us having been subconsciously believing. Sometimes we are waiting for the person who hurt us to apologize, to say they didn’t mean what they said or did, or at the very least that they didn’t intend to hurt us. Sometimes, there are very specific things we want them to say do to “repair” the damage they did to us.

And not only are we (based on sheer odds alone) not likely to get those actions/words or even similar ones, EVEN IF WE DID, those words (or actions) would NOT heal our hurts. These would not REPAIR the damage done to us.

However, just like the broken truck, our Heavenly Father DOES know exactly what will heal us! He does have the capacity and capability to repair, renew and restore us.

Yes, of everything. Broken hearts from broken families, aching wounds from crimes committed against us, even the horrific pain of lives ended too early.

How do we receive that? Spend time alone with Him—pour your heart out to Him. (Psalm 62:8) You can trust Him! Rest quietly with Him. Listen to Him. Do what His Word and His voice direct you to do.

Then as you live your life, understand that while you won’t be protected from all hurts, you can trust that God will never let anything happen to you that He can’t repair, renew and restore. Never.

So, LOVE EXTRAVAGANTLY! Go ahead and put your heart into relationships—if (ok, when) they hurt you, God will be able to heal you.

Finally, here’s a wise idea: Keep in close contact with friends who—like you– are living their whole lives in the direction of God, and wisely, reserve the sharing of your most intimate thoughts, desires and emotions—your soul– with these people. While it’s great to enjoy time with other friends, and appreciate how wonderful they are, you’ll find that you’ll naturally discuss and focus on what those you are closest to focus on.

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I’d love to come speak to your group or church. You can check out my ‘casts here, and my speaking topics here.

Peace When You’re in Pieces

Almost every day I run into someone who is in the middle of a problem: her child is using drugs, or her mother is facing health challenges; perhaps her husband has filed for divorce, or maybe she is out of work and behind on the bills.

Whatever the situation, it’s big, it’s bad and she is almost overwhelmed, even though she keeps telling herself that it will all be ok. After all, she’s a Christian, and these things will work out for the best, right?

I get it. Believe me, I get it. And while it is absolutely true that God will use everything for His daughters’ good, there are some very real things you can do to make things better and less painful. Which means, unfortunately, that there are some very real things you can do that will make your situation worse and more painful.

(Screeeeeeeech!)

Did you hear that? It was the sound of some very nervous Christians slamming on the brakes. Look, I know actually acknowledging that a well-intentioned Christian can do things to make a bad situation worse is not a popular thing to say. Especially OUT LOUD. It’s too “negative.” But there, I said it, and I believe if you’ll think about it, you’ll agree.

You and I have both seen Believers face seemingly insurmountable situations and thrive, growing in their faith and having an extraordinary amount of peace throughout incredibly tough situations. By peace I don’t mean that they aren’t sad or grieving or having a difficult time; I mean that they have a “wholeness” even while they are in the middle of their grief. And most likely we’ve said. “Girl! You’re totally rocking it! You’re amazing! Your faith inspires me!” (And in response, she probably gives God all the credit.)

And we’ve also seen Believers face situations that sent them into tailspins that shook their faith—they ended up leaning away from God and isolating themselves from other Believers. Their lives spiral down and down– sometimes for years. And often we react toward them with grief, or even frustration and anger. (Sorry. The “screeeeech” earlier should have clued you in that I pretty much try to tell it like it is, rather than make everything look pretty… I tried pretty-fying everything, and it didn’t work out too well in my life.)

Unfortunately, that downward spiral I mentioned isn’t an exaggeration. I know because I’ve watched it happen—but more importantly, I know from scripture that it’s true. (Remember how David tried to “fix” his downward spiral into adultery?)

When you’re in those kinds of situations, you need HELP. That is, you need Hope, Encouragement, Love and Peace.

Peace… have you been longing for peace? It’s more than just “calmness.”

Jesus said, “My peace I give to you—not the kind of peace the world gives, but the kind only I can give.” The Hebrew word for “peace” is “shalom.” Shalom actually means “nothing missing, nothing broken, whole, complete.”

Now, THAT will bring you calmness!

And there’s good news! There are several other things that can bring you Hope, Encouragement, Love and help you hold on to the Peace He gives you. Over the next six weeks I’ll be sharing some actions that will give you HELP.

In the meantime, think about that definition of Shalom-style peace. And go spend 10 minutes, just you and Him—get some of that Peace you’re longing for!

“I will fight your battles, and you will hold onto your peace…” Exodus 14:14

I’d love to speak to your women’s group! Click here for more information.

>Celebrity Gossip… Or Something More

>Between the internet, the grocery store check-out lane and celebrity gossip on television, it’s possible to know how many children a celebrity has, what she eats to maintain her figure, whom she’s in a relationship with, whom she likes to hang out with and even where she shops.

In fact, it’s easy to know so much about her life that if I bumped into her on the street I might ask about how her toddler is getting over wanting to sleep in her bed. An expert at understanding her appeal, she would probably laugh and answer.

But the fact is, while I may know all about her, I don’t know her.

To truly know her, I would have to spend time listening to her; finding out where her heart is on the issues of life. I would have to have discussions where she could more specifically share her innermost thoughts with me.

There was a time when I approached my relationship with God by seeking to know all about Him more than knowing Him. I was willing to know His Word (an essential for knowing Him) and I was willing to obey some of the nudges from the Holy Spirit (the ones I was comfortable with) but taking time to sit down and pour my heart out, then listen for that still small voice?

Ummmm… no. First of all, I didn’t have time. I had two children, a writing career, my husband’s ministry to run and a women’s Bible Study to study for and promote. Second of all, why should I? I was clearly operating in my gifts—people gave me great feedback on what I was teaching and speaking. AND, I wasn’t jumping through what I had identified as the worst legalistic hoops. So, obviously, I was in a close relationship with Him.

So I continued on. Teaching women God’s Word. Having fun. Getting very excited when I learned something else about Him and His Word.

That is, until my life turned upside down.

All of a sudden, the only way I could breathe was to be in His presence every few hours. No longer was He someone I mostly knew about, but He was my most intimate friend; my source of strength and song. In the midst of destruction, I could turn my face to Him and have joy. Joy that seemed to grow larger and larger within me—“fullness” of joy.

Today, I can honestly say that while I regret some of my choices that helped put me on that path to devastation, I don’t regret the devastation; because it led me to His embrace. When the scripture uses the word “know” it refers to intimate knowledge. Knowing Him intimately is an incredible source of joy to me—my greatest satisfaction.

My prayer for you, dear one, is that you will choose every day to go beyond knowing about Him to knowing Him—so that your joy will be full!

>Self Image and Princess Perspective

>Did you just roll your eyes? Listen, “Princess Perspective” has nothing to do with girly-ness. But I know from personal experience that we can sometimes have really skewed self images. So I titled this “Princess Perspective” to remind you of who you really are.

Because here’s the deal: No matter what has been done to you or by you, you are who you are NOT because of you, but because of your Father.

Let me explain… a King is a King, until and unless someone can dethrone and replace Him. Therefore, His daughter is a princess because she is the child of the King; and no matter what happens, she remains a princess until someone can dethrone and replace her Father.

So the question is, who or what can dethrone and replace your Father in Heaven? Is anything powerful enough? If your answer is No (ding ding ding!!!!) then you remain a princess, no matter what is done to you or by you. The end. (I soooo love happy endings! And this, dear friend, is the happiest!)

One of my favorite ways to get a Princess Perspective is to “personalize” scriptures. You know how God says He is no “respector of persons,” (Acts 10:34) what He’ll do for one He’ll do for another? Well, when I started “personalizing” scriptures, my perspective on who I am as His daughter totally changed!

I actually go so far as to write these personalized scriptures on note cards or sticky notes, and say them outloud to myself everyday. Sounds goofy, but what have I got to lose?

Here’s an example of one:

I will trust my Father God at all times.

It’s safe for me to pour out my heart to Him,

because He protects me!

This Princess Perspective actually comes from Ps 62:8, which says: Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. KJV

Try it, the next time you need a reality check—that is, the next time you need a Princess Perspective!

For more on self image, click here.

>Do You Need Strength?

>Definitely, one way to get it is to be in His Presence. Because “in His presence is fullness of Joy” (Ps 16:11) and “the Joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Neh 8:10b)

But there’s also another way to get strength, to become strong.

They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength… (Isa 40:31)

Now, waiting isn’t something I “love” to do.

But looking back over the past 6 months, while WAITING has been one of the key themes, I can tell you some things that happened during the wait… some things that changed about me. Now, more than ever before:

  1. I know God, His Love, His Faithfulness, His Attentiveness, His Goodness and His thoughts toward me THE WAY I NEVER HAVE BEFORE. Sure, I believed He was good and faithful and loving… but I didn’t know the EXTENT to which He is all those things. And I have been astonished!!
  2. I know that in His strength, I can be forgiving in a way that I never knew possible.
  3. I recognize that, in years gone by, I dismissed things the Lord was saying to me, because I didn’t SEE that I needed to know them.
  4. I know that “head knowledge” of scripture, and even believing it, understanding it and applying it to life IS NOT THE SAME EXPERIENCE AS LIVING ITS TRUTHS DAY BY DAY when it seems impossible to do so.
  5. I know that I was truly one of the most self-centered people I know. But I also know that He has forgiven me. And I know that He is giving me grace to now live being others-centered, and that He is teaching me how to do it.
  6. I know that there’s more to giving love and forgiveness out than simply doing it because we’ve matured and now we’re loving and forgiving. Truly, we have to go regularly to Him, and get those things to give out to others.
  7. I know that He loves me beyond reason.
  8. I know that He answers me generously and takes time to heal me and minister to me.
  9. I know He will speak to me as often as I ask Him to. Umm, He may not say exactly what I WANT Him to, but He WILL speak to me!
  10. I know that He doesn’t dole out His presence like a miser– but that He rejoices to spend time with me!!!!

There’s probably more. But I can clearly see that this wait SO FAR has already taught me AMAZING things– most importantly, it has strengthened me… Just like He said it would.

Oh.

11. I know that He keeps His promises.

>I was oh, so wrong!

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Here’s what is crazy: I sincerely thought God was my source– for strength, for guidance, for wisdom.

And don’t get me wrong: I would hear from Him, and even operated in the spiritual gifts He gave me.

But after all these years, I’ve discovered (much to my shock and dismay) that I was letting a human guide me– I pursued God (and sometimes obeyed Him) according to how this human behaved and set the example.

But here’s what is worse… I actually expected that human to get everything right– comments, situational analysis, instruction, behavior: everything. And who can live up to that kind of pressure?

Because– you know me!– if I think something, I generally share it. So, if I look to *you* to explain something to someone, and you don’t do it “right,” then I’ll give you… uh… “feedback” on that lack.

Wow. I had no idea– that was idolatry. (As well as incredibly unfair of me.)

If anyone had asked me if I practiced Idoloatry, I’d DEFINITELY have said NO! (I even objected to the contest name “American Idol!!” 😉 But it looks like I was full-out practicing idolatry–expecting a human to be my source and to get everything right.

Of course, if you’d asked me whether I truly expected someone to be right all the time, I’d have said no– and had all the examples of when this person got it wrong to prove it!

Now, I’ve helped to create a mess. (Terrific quote I heard today: God will use your “mess” to deliver the “message” and will use your “test” to create a “testimony.”)

But my God– the real one, Jesus/YahWeh/Holy Spirit/Jehovah Nissi– has come on the scene.

He has said He will clean this mess up. He will right the wrongs. He will DEFEND & SAVE.

In the meantime, He is walking me through this. And helping me re-focus on Who my Source is.

And I gotta tell you, I have never EVER seen such minute attention and concern from ANYONE as I have from my loving, heavenly Father. It has been astonishing– even though I’ve seen miracles, deliverances and experienced powerful moves of God in the past, I have NEVER seen such minute concern and ministry as I have these last 6 weeks or so.

Now– I gotta go. He’s working on changing me!

OH!!! I must must must recommend the book, Two Fleas & No Dog by Craig Hill. It’s in paperback or on audio CD. Get it asap!!! Really!!!!

>What’s Shaping Your Identity?

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Today, I read this on a blog:
“Some of you see this pain as a friend – it gets you the attention you need from others, and the thought of losing that attention can be frightening. To you, losing the attention of others means being alone and that seems unbearable. Still this is another lesson you must learn – to the degree you feel alone is the degree you depend on others for your satisfaction, value, and self worth.”

I know that we sometimes hold on to pain– or anger, or hurt– and I guess I never really thought about why, but now it seems clear.

It’s an Identity issue. (Hey– we’ve just been talking about those!!!)

Pain, Anger… these things help establish to us or to others WHO we are. “I am the one who was wounded– wrongly.” “I am the one who was done wrong.” “I am the innocent– and righteous– victim.” “I am the one whose gift is never recognized because of un-spiritual people are in charge at work or at my congregation.” “I am the one allowed to be suspicious, bitter, angry, selfish… because someone hurt me.” “I am a Christian, but I’m the body part that doesn’t have to be present when the body gets together– because the other body parts hurt me!”

How can you know when you’re holding on to pain or anger and letting it become– or at least shape– your identity?

I know that when I hold on to anger or hurt, it comes up frequently in my conversations… if you’re not as verbal as I am, then maybe you’re experiencing it as the conversations or situations you rehearse mentally, over and over again. Is that happening in your life right now? Has it happened in the past?

Letting go of those hurts and that anger allows us to begin to really believe what GOD says about us, rather than what we or others say about us.

And believing what God says about us opens doors to joy, as we begin to experience Life as He intended us to!

Not to ignore what has happened to us… we must gain the tools that help us to cope and determine to forgive (sometimes daily) so that God’s healing can come to us.

Even after we decide to forgive, the enemy often reminds us of the offense… and if we begin mentally rehearsing it, we’re right back where we started! So… remind yourself (and the enemy) outloud that you’ve decided to forgive, and cast down that vain imagination.

This is one of the toughest disciplines there is. In fact, fasting food seems easy compared to disciplining our thoughts! (Another truth from the previously mentioned blog!)

But the rewards are amazing!

Imagine truly believing that you are an HEIR– inheriting what Jesus does!!!
Imagine truly believing that you are EXPERTLY CRAFTED, of many things that PLEASE GOD!!
Imagine truly believing that you absolutely have every ounce of love He has to give– that no matter how much good you do, no matter how badly you fail or fall, He won’t love you any more than He does right now, and He won’t love you any less!!!!

If you TRULY believed– and behaved– as if all that God says about you is REAL IN YOUR LIFE, how would your life be different?

One thing is for sure: there’s more joy and more peace (wholeness– nothing missing and nothing broken) when I let go of hurt and anger, and make room for what is TRULY my identity.

And to experience it, we only have to trade in our pain and anger… that’s better than the $3k the govt is offering for trade in on cars older than 10 years!!!!!

>Which’s Easier? Living or Dying?

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Have you ever considered what you would do if faced with the choice to deny Jesus as Lord or die?

I think most Christians have, and that they reach the conclusion “yes,” they COULD die for Jesus. I think, if faced with the choice, “Acknowledge Him as Lord and die, but admit He is not Lord and you will live” then most Christians know they could chose Christ as Lord.

But upon further thought, I think the most important question is not whether I could die for Jesus, but whether I could give up my life for Him.

What I mean is, am I willing to give up what I want to do, and spend the time doing what He wants me to do?

Jesus said, He who would gain his life, must lose it! (Matt 10:39)

Let me frame it in a real life situation. Should I watch another rerun of That 70s Show, or should I turn the TV off and work on the Bible Study lesson I have? (2 Tim 2:15)

Should I luxuriate in bed Sunday morning, or obey His command to “forsake not the gathering together of Christians, as is the habit of some…”? (Heb 10:25)

Should I complain away about a brother or sister when they have hurt me, or should I clamp my mouth shut and take that concern to the Lord, them and my spiritual advisor if necessary? (Mt 11:25, Mt 18)

Giving up my life is NOT an easy decision. And it’s not a one-time decision. It’s a daily question. In my life, sometimes it’s a moment-by-moment question. Will I walk with Him, giving up my wants and obeying His direction? Or will I do what pleases my flesh?

Sometimes I sound like a whiny adolescent “It’s MY life!!! I should get to do what I want!”

And God lets me. Every day He lets me choose what I want most. Do I want MOST to please myself, or do I want MOST to please Him? Sometimes, I choose to do what my flesh wants; sometimes I choose to give up my life for Him. And that is when I gain everything, and truly lose nothing of value.

When I choose to do what HE wants me to, I usually end up with an almost immediate delight in the outcome! For example, when I go ahead and turn the TV of that rerun, and study to prepare the lesson, then I usually find out that something that study time revealed actually helped a friend! When I roll out of bed and attend worship services, I usually experience His presence during worship or hearing something that truly helps me in a struggle I have.

Give it some thought. After you’ve made the decision you could DIE for Him… consider whether you could give up your life for Him.

>The Root of the Problem pt 1 of 3

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One spring, my husband noticed a gorgeous, leafy vine growing near our front door. It would make a beautiful surrounding to our entryway, so he placed a few wires and nails to help the vine wrap around the column and up over the door. Once those nails and wires were in place, the vine flourished, and soon the entire area was covered in brilliant leaves. Wow– gorgeous landscaping with very little cost!!!

That same summer, my husband developed an odd rash near his eye. He treated it and treated it, but it never went away. Our son developed a rash, too, and couldn’t seem to rid himself of it despite several applications of very potent medication.

You guessed it—the vine was an unusual and attractive species of poison ivy! My son had apparently brought a little of it to the house on his clothes from a trip to the woods, and it dropped near our front door. Naturally, it took root and grew. Then my husband—noticing only the pleasing aspects of it– had shaped and nurtured it so it would flourish, unknowingly causing pain and discomfort.

And neither ever suspected that the painful symptoms were caused by something that seemed so attractive. After, my mother-in-law took a close look at the vine, and found reference to it in a book, she let them know the source of their continuing discomfort.

Thank goodness, because no matter what we used to treat their rashes, every time they walked through the door and brushed up against the vine, this re-exposure would cause the rash to reappear– although they had no clue WHY the painful rash was returning!

After discovering this vine he’d encouraged was the cause of his and our son’s rash, he toiled to remove every last trace of the vine and its root.

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