Taking the Week Off

I just got back from Ireland and have not had time this weekend to write ahead for the upcoming week, so I’m taking the week off from blogging. While this is completely off topic for this blog, I’ll share a couple of picture of me “kissing the Blarney Stone” at Blarney Castle in Cork County, Ireland. One of the legends surrounding the Blarney Stone is that is was Jacob’s pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. I have no idea if there’s any truth to the legend, but I couldn’t resist kissing it just in case.



Overcoming Self-Deception

true_storyContinued from here.

So, how can we know if we are being deceived if, by definition, someone who is being deceived in unaware of the fact? We must accept the reality that we are all vulnerable to being deceived and be willing to do what God says to do in any situation.

For example, does the pain of something done to you decades ago still plague you? If it does, then you have not forgiven the wrongdoer. Yes, what was done to you was unfair, but do you really want to move past the pain and heal? If you don’t, be honest with yourself and accept that you are CHOOSING to continue wallowing in pain that God is more than capable than healing. If you really do want to heal, then DO WHAT GOD TELLS YOU TO DO and forgive the wrongdoer.

Are you struggling with depression or anxiety? The Bible says to go to God with your concerns with thanksgiving. That means you don’t need to spend all of your time fixating on what’s wrong with your life. Instead, thank God for the many blessings He has already given you. If cannot think of any, start with your bathroom. Are you thankful for indoor plumbing? Hot showers? Indoor toilets? Are you thankful that you don’t have to slog through the rain and mud to walk to an outhouse at 3:00 a.m. to relieve yourself? Americans are addicted to comfort and have lost sight of how richly we are blessed compared to most of the world. I’m thankful that I don’t have to walk for hours to access water that I must carry back to my house. I’m thankful that I have the ability to walk.

Whatever is plaguing you, pray for God to give you wisdom and discernment about what He wants you doing to participate in your breakthrough. And search the Bible looking for passages that address your issue. Finally, pray for God to break you free from areas of deception. Be willing to make whatever changes He leads you to do, and you will experience the breakthrough that has been eluding you.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting before a fireplace and saying, “True Story.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Self-Deception Blocks Our Healing

Continued from here.

I have known many Christians (and I used to be one of them) who do not see themselves clearly and are thus unwilling to do what God tells them to do to achieve the breakthrough they have been praying for. As an example, I know many Christians who are unhappy in their marriages as I once was. I frequently share my testimony of how God healed my marriage – through taking the 40-day journey through Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick’s book, The Love Dare — and then I offer to buy the person a copy of the book. Only a handful take me up on the offer, and to-date, I am not aware of any of them actually completing the 40-day journey.

These people are hurting and asking others to pray for their marriage, and yet they are unwilling to invest 40 days “doing the Love Dare” to their spouses. Why? Because they are deceived, as I was, into believing that the spouse is the one who needs to change. Whenever I hear someone say this (whether directly or through their actions), I know that they are, in fact, contributing to the problem because unconditional love is not proud or self-seeking and keeps no records of wrongs. We want God to supernaturally change our spouses when God is waiting on us to be willing to humble ourselves enough to do the changing, through which God will heal our marriages.

This is only one example of many ways I see Christians deceiving themselves. One considers himself a humble man but continually talks about himself and his problems, keeping himself at the forefront of his mind. Another believes herself to be self-sacrificing for her family, who rarely sees their workaholic loved one because of her workaholism as she idolizes money. He believes needing a beer to unwind every single night is moderation rather than a stronghold while she labels her propensity to gossip as “asking for prayers.” In each of these situations, the Christian is oblivious to the truth that is so obvious to those around him or her.

The saddest part is that after months, years, or even decades of praying for healing that never comes, some Christians walk away from their faith, accusing God of being unfaithful. They never awaken to the reality that God was waiting all of this time for them to do things His way. Before we will be willing to change, we must first acknowledge that we do, in fact, need to change.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]

Self-Deception Makes Us Vulnerable

Continued from here.

On Priscilla Shirer’s web series, The Chat, I watched an interesting testimony, which you can watch here, of a couple who survived infidelity:

What struck me was that this happened to a strong Christian couple who deeply loved each other and God. When husband Bob Meisner saw some red flags and expressed his concerns to his wife, Audrey, she assured him (and truly believed her own words) that she would NEVER commit adultery. Audrey said wise words to the audience: When we believe that we would NEVER do something, we remove God from that area of our lives.

Because Audrey believed she was not vulnerable, she excluded God from this area of her life and did not realize how subtly she was being led astray. She did not become aware of the degree of self-deception until after she gave in to an emotional and physical affair that resulted in a pregnancy. Much heartache could have been avoided had she simply been honest with herself.

I make that observation not in judgment of her but in judgment of myself. How many times have I told myself that I would NEVER do X, Y, or Z, only to do that very thing? How many times have I lied to myself about my motives, becoming angry whenever someone who loves me offered constructive criticism — not to judge me but to save me?

I have come to the sobering realization that I am capable of doing just about ANYTHING sinful. Jesus said that we are guilty at the point in which we engage in a sin in our hearts, even before we act on those things. By being honest with myself and recognizing my propensity for evil, I invite God in to protect me. In other words, I submit that part of myself to God’s authority, recognizing that the only way for me not to fall is to lean on God and follow His ways, which protects me from falling.

And because I realize my propensity to do evil and my complete reliance upon God to avoid that path, I become less likely to do it … not because I would NEVER do it but because I’m acutely aware that, without God, I likely WILL! I recognize that I am fully dependent upon God to walk in His ways and throw myself at His mercy, begging Him to show me the way out of temptation to do evil.

To be continued…


Why Do We Deceive Ourselves?

why_am_I_the_way_that_I_amContinued from here.

All of us are vulnerable to self-deception. We see other people’s actions and make judgments based upon them, but we hold ourselves to a different standard, basing our judgments on our motives, past hurts, etc. For example, I judge Joe Smith for speaking rudely to me, but I give myself a pass for doing the same thing to someone else because I’m recovering from the flu. After all, I’m in physical pain, so it’s understandable that I have less self-control today. And yet I don’t consider that perhaps Joe Smith was also in physical pain and needed grace extended toward his rudeness rather than verbal sparring.

It’s painful and embarrassing to own up to our shortcomings. We read about the fruit of the Spirit and want people to perceive us this way, but that’s not who we are. Let’s face it – nobody (other than Jesus) is naturally this way. We have to work at it, and it’s HARD. For example, I always cringe when I hear that someone is praying for patience because I did that myself … and spent the next several months doing a LOT of waiting! After all, how can someone possibly develop patience without having to wait? One needs the conditions for which patience is required in order to develop that fruit. So, a prayer for patience is really inviting God to allow you to wait — to suffer — until you develop patience in response.

A problem with self-deception is that we don’t know that we are being deceived. We actually think we are OK, but we’re not. Those closest to you are likely well-aware of the shortcomings that you lie to yourself about. Just as a tree is known by its fruit, your spiritual fruit (or lack thereof) communicates the truth of what is inside your heart to everyone around you. Instead of reacting in anger when your spouse, parent, or child makes an observation about your behavior, try considering whether he or she might be seeing something that you have been deceiving yourself about.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking at herself in a mirror and asking, “Why am I the way that I am?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Taking an Honest Assessment of Yourself

Tauren Wells has a song that I love called Known, which you can listen to here:

I heard an interview with Tauren Wells, who said that to be fully loved but not known is superficial, and to be fully known but not loved is terrifying. It’s the fullness of both aspects – God fully knowing us AND fully loving us – that makes an intimate relationship with Him fulfilling.

Sadly, many of us (and probably most of us) live in self-deception, fearing being fully known not only by God but even by ourselves. We lie to ourselves, telling ourselves that we have pure motives when we make choices for selfish reasons. And then we become easily offended when someone (even God!) shines light onto that dark part of ourselves that we don’t want to see. I did this for decades, which kept me in bondage. It was through seeing myself as I really was – a big, fat mess of contradictions and selfishness – that God’s grace was able to penetrate my rotting soul and plant His seeds of grace in that fertile soil.

We are never going to change what we don’t first recognize as not working. If we don’t own up to our real motives, we will continue on in self-deception, doing the same things over and over while expecting different results, which is madness. God’s ways work, so if your suffering has persisted for years (or for decades as mine did), it’s time to take a step back and look – really look – at what you are doing and who you are. While facing truth is hard, it’s the launching pad God uses to set us free.

I know many people who choose to continue to live in self-deception and conclude that God’s ways don’t work. I was once one of them. What got me from there to here was inviting God to hold up a mirror and show me my ugliness. While it’s painful to face hard truths about yourself, it’s an integral part of receiving God’s grace and breaking free from the bondage that enslaves you.

To be continued…


Ragamuffins Living with a Tilted Halo

tilted haloContinued from here.

As a ragamuffin, I love my tilted halo. It’s such as relief not having a constant headache from a halo that is too tight on my head. I’m never going to be able to live perfectly, and that’s OK. What God is looking for is imperfect progress, which I am making.

Christians who obsess over doing everything “right” are missing the point of grace. Our attempts to “be perfect” are nothing more than filthy rags, which I have heard actually refer to menstrual cloths in the original Hebrew. No matter how “good” I am, I’m never going to be “good enough.” Praise God that I don’t have to be! God loves me – and He loves you – exactly the way we are. He loves us in our imperfection, and that’s the way He calls us to love another.

I believe the reason that most people struggle to love those who are different from themselves is because they have not yet tasted the grace that God has given them. Yes, they know about the grace of God in their heads, and many can even recite Bible verses that reference God’s grace. But until you have tasted God’s grace for yourself, you will find yourself continually frustrated and God’s joy eluding you. Why? Because grace cannot be earned.

Someone who has never known grace is easy to spot. It’s that person who is never satisfied, no matter how hard someone else tries to please him or her. The music is not to his liking. She doesn’t care for the topic of the sermon. He constantly compares himself to others, judging other people for not doing something as well as he does. She feels the need to correct others and point out their faults. Praise God that He never treats us like this!

If you have never tasted the sweetness of God’s grace, I encourage you to loosen and tilt your halo. God loves you as you are, not as you ought to be. Why? Because He chooses to.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a tilted halo over her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Ragamuffins are Rigorously Honest with Themselves, Others, and God

truthContinued from here.

I’m continuing a discussion of the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out:

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.

Being honest with oneself about oneself is one of the most difficult, and yet one of the most freeing, things you can ever do. Manning points out that people who are rigorously honest with themselves, others, and God are nearly impossible to offend because they are already acutely aware of their shortcomings.

For example, if you point out that I am not hospitable or thoughtful, I won’t be offended – I’ll actually agree with you! While I have grown much in both areas, they remain shortcomings of mine, which I don’t deny. I know in the marrow of my bones that God deeply loves me exactly as I am. He is well aware of my tendency toward selfishness and isn’t surprised or offended when I am thoughtless or inhospitable. He gently nudges me toward being more considerate while loving me even when I am not.

Our natural tendency is self-deception, making us easily offended when someone speaks truth to us. I lived this to the extreme. For example, I knew I was overweight because of my binge eating disorder, and I was deeply offended if anyone mentioned it. My being overweight was simply a fact, but I reacted as if someone had intentionally plunged a knife into me if they said anything that I could possibly twist into meaning, “You are fat.” My poor husband was sometimes the recipient of my wrath for simply inviting me to go on a walk around the neighborhood with him. I would hear, “You are fat,” when what he was really saying was, “I love you and would like to spend some time with you.”

I used to believe I had to be “perfect” to be loved. I now know that I am perfectly loved in my imperfection. That’s the heart of the ragamuffin’s authenticity.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace like the “X Files,” saying, “The truth is out there.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Ragamuffins have an Inner Poverty of Spirit

thank_you1Continued from here.

This week, I’m discussing the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s excellent book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out:

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

Jesus said that the “poor in spirit” are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them (Matt. 5:3). What does it mean to be poor in spirit? It means that we know we are mere beggars in the throne room of grace. We aren’t invited into the Kingdom because we earned it – our invitations are sealed with Christ’s blood and extended solely through grace.

Manning points out (and I have observed this dynamic myself) that the richer someone is, the more susceptible he becomes to ingratitude whereas the poor often express overwhelming gratitude even toward the smallest of gifts. For example, a rich person may pitch a fit at a five-star restaurant when the food is not exactly as he wants it while a poor person may gush with gratitude over receiving one simple meal. The difference is a matter of expectations: the rich believe they deserve to have their expectations met while the poor have no expectations of grace. Thus, the poor in spirit are the ones who most appreciate even the smallest of gifts.

I used to have a haughty spirit. I believed that “my way” was the only way, and anyone who was different from me was inferior. I had a judgmental spirit and often spoke harshly against others – typically behind their backs. Today, I have much more compassion toward those who are not like me. I don’t have to relate to someone’s specific form of brokenness to understand the pain of brokenness … and let’s face it – we are ALL broken.

Gratitude was the vehicle God used to transform me from behaving like a spoiled child in my plenty to experiencing gratitude even when there’s little to be grateful for, such as when my son spent five nights in the hospital after major back surgery. I don’t have to be comfortable to feel grateful. The poor in spirit are grateful and compassionate because they know they are richly blessed in ways they don’t deserve.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace lying at someone’s feet and saying, “Thank you!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]


Ragamuffins Trust God

trust_meContinued from here.

This week, I’m discussing the concept of the sinner with the tilted halo from Brennan Manning’s excellent book, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out.

The saved sinner with the tilted halo has been converted from mistrust to trust, has arrived at an inner poverty of spirit, and lives as best he or she can in rigorous honesty with self, others, and God.”

I used to be a distrusting person. As an abused child, I learned early that the world is not a safe place and that people are not trustworthy. I told my therapist that I was incapable of trusting anyone, but he said this was not true. I trusted the waitress to bring me what I ordered and that the food would be safe to eat. I trusted the bridge I drove over would hold. He pointed out different aspects in my relationships with different people that I did, in fact, trust, such as for my husband to provide financially. It was a slow process for me to recognize that I did, in fact, have the ability to trust, and I grew to realize that the issue was not what other people did. Instead, my issue was a lack of trust in myself to be OK if someone else broke my trust.

Today, I trust God with my whole heart and soul, which means I don’t need to trust anyone else. Once I understood at a heart level that God’s got my back, I let go of the need to control what anyone else did that affected me. If someone breaks my heart, God will heal it. If he harms me, God will vindicate me. If she breaks my trust, God will remain faithful. God is all I need. Anything else good that I receive from someone else is gravy. God is the main course.

But what about not trusting God? That’s where I was for decades. I was a people-pleaser and twisted myself into a pretzel trying to be what others wanted me to be, but they were implacable. Because of their own self-interest, I would inevitable displease them. I saw God as the same way – as this being who had a list of rules I could not possibly follow and who I could never fully please, no matter how hard I tried.

Today, I fully trust in God’s love. I know that He loves me no matter what I do and no matter how badly I mess up. He loves me for who I am, not for what I do. In fact, whenever I ask Him why He loves me, His consistent response is, “Because I choose to.”

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing over the words, “Trust me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]