3 Traps of Performance-Living

performancePerformance-living is a mindset that says what you do determines your value.

It is a lie.

This lie tempts you to save yourself as you give in to its demands. Do you feel weary? Burdened? Exhausted? Then you may have a bad case of performance-living.

And it’s very demanding, a taskmaster, demanding that you get your own straw to make bricks and meet the quota (Exodus 5:6-9). Push, push, hurry, hurry — and look good as you try performance-living.

It has at least three traps.

1. Performance-living: Achieve!

Performance-living ties your achievement to your value as a person. The more you achieve, the greater your value. What about people who aren’t smart like Steve Jobs? Do they have less value because they aren’t “Person of the Year”? The psalmist says,

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18, NIV

2. Performance-living: Beautify!

It links your looks to your value. The lie is only the young and beautiful matter. Haven’t you used makeup to cover a blemish? Or perhaps Root Rescue to hide gray? Or gone on a diet or exercised to lose weight and tone up?

Believing beauty determines your worth is a treadmill of anxiety and it’s exhausting. The apostle Peter writes,

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4

Beauty is a gentle and quiet spirit. Not liposuction!

3. Performance-living: Be Perfect!

graceWant anxiety? Derive your value from perfection: well-behaved kids, a gorgeous home, a fulfilling career, and. . .lead a small group, keep a prayer journal faithfully, and read the Bible in a year, every year.

This is what God wants, right? Perfection? Doesn’t Jesus say, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? Here Jesus means growth into maturity of godliness. He doesn’t mean super-woman performance-living.

When you “succeed,” performance-living becomes pride.

When you “fail,” performance-living turns into anger, fear, and depression, resulting in all kinds of untoward behavior unbecoming of a Christian woman. Your thoughts morph into ugliness too.

Gospel-Centered Solution

Exchange performance-living for grace-living. Grace-living is believing and acting on the truth of the good news that God loves you and values you. Your value isn’t dependent on what you do. God determines your value, and aren’t you more precious to him than a sparrow?

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31

The gospel isn’t something you do. Grace is a gift of God. There is no score card. No boxes to check. No to-do lists.

Your value is anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours. Refreshing, isn’t it?

Sharing hope with your heart,

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7 Things God Wants You to Know!

God

God is perhaps the most misunderstood Person, even though the Bible the best-selling book of all time. 

“The very year that Harry Potter maxed out in sales, the Bible still outsold Harry Potter,” Pastor Jack Wellman says in a Patheos article. With the popularity of the Bible, you might figure that people would know the basics of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that Jesus loves you so much he made a way for you to know him and love him deeply.

Believing the good news changes your life. Do you struggle with crazy emotions or strained relationships? Do you doubt you’re enough?

A while back Monica sought me for help with depression and anxiety. As we chatted I discovered she had misunderstandings about God. A Christian for decades, she needed a refresher on gospel basics.

Monica felt hope as she began to remind herself of the gospel daily. She spoke truth to her heart and aligned her desires with God’s desires. A crucial piece was a Bible study on salvation, sanctification, and replacing life-sucking habits with God-honoring actions. Within two weeks, her depression began to lift. So did her anxiety and continual worry.  

The Lord changed her heart! He changed her life! 

Here’s a rundown of the seven gospel fundamentals.

One God

There is only one God (1 Timothy 2:5). He is a loving, perfectly good, perfectly holy, and perfectly righteous in all that he is and in all that he does. He always was and always will be. He is eternal — having no beginning or end.

God Creates

God created all things (Genesis 1) — all that is seen and unseen. However, he did not create anything that is contrary to his perfectly good, holy, and righteous nature. Therefore, he did not create sin.

Desires Fellowship

God wants all people to enjoy close fellowship with Him. Fellowship is a type of spiritual bond that Christians experience with each other and with God. However, when sin entered the world through the first humans, Adam and Eve, every person born after that was born with a sin nature. The sin nature opposes his ways and standards.

Separation from God

Your sin nature and the sinful acts that come from that nature makes you an enemy of God (before you trust Jesus as your Savior). You are unable to please him in any way through your own efforts. In this spiritual condition, your destiny is hell and eternal separation from him.

Amazing Love

However, God loves you beyond comprehension. He had a wonderful plan since eternity past to save people from their sins and bring us back to him in a holy, close relationship. He sent his perfectly good, holy, and righteous Son, Jesus Christ, into the world in order to die for the sins of the world. All people who put their trust in Jesus Christ and what he accomplished by his death and resurrection have all their sins forgiven and receive eternal life.

Christ’s Righteousness 

When you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, at that moment you receive the righteousness of Christ, you become a child of God (John 1:12), you become a co-heir with Christ, and you are indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Holy Spirit Indwells Every Believer 

Because you are sealed by the Holy Spirit, he now lives permanently inside you (Gal. 2:20). This means you can never lose your salvation. You are eternally secure in Christ. The Holy Spirit will also comfort, guide, and teach you as he leads you and works in you to become more and more like Christ.

Sharing hope with your heart,

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Body Language Talks Loudly!

body languageBody language and tone of voice — Isn’t is hard to believe that these are far more important in communicating your feelings and attitudes than your words?

Clear communication matters in every relationship you have. The clearer your communication, the stronger your marriage and your friendships, even your interaction with a Starbucks barista. There are three main parts to any message: your body language (especially facial expression), your tone of voice, and your words.

God values loving and truthful communication. Did you know all talk is really heart talk?

“Christ recognized that all talk is heart talk. . . .our words affirm our inner condition,” says Joe Stowell in The Weight of Your Words.

Everything you say — your words, body language, and tone of voice — reveals the desires and motivations of your heart. Your heart is the immaterial part of your being; it is your “control center.” Your beliefs, values, desires, and motivations reside in your heart and are exposed though your words as well as your actions, emotions, and thoughts.

CRAZY FACT: Your words are the least important part of your message! Only 7 percent of your message is verbal. Facial expressions are the most important (55 percent), followed by tone of voice (38 percent). These percentages are based on well-known research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus, UCLA.

In this article, you’ll get two important insights

  1. Why body language is super important.
  2. How to give a clear message.

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Why Body Language Is Super Important

Body language is visual. It is the most important part of interpersonal communication. A person’s eyes are especially important. Read more about the eyes. Some examples of body language:

  • Crossed arms
  • Raised eyebrows
  • Shoulder shrug
  • Pursed lips
  • Smirk
  • Pointing finger
  • Staring
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Rapid blinking
  • Shifting from foot to foot
  • Drumming fingers
  • Covering mouth with hand
  • Smiling

The examples are nearly endless. What would you add to the list?

Two pictures:

A while back I talked with a teenage girl who didn’t want to talk to me. I asked a few easy questions about school and after-school activities, and she answered politely. Her tone of voice was generally friendly, as were her words. How how could I could I tell she wanted to be anyplace but my office? She looked to the side and she looked down, but never made eye contact. I asked her straight-out: Did your parents make you come? “Yes,” she blurted, her eyes on me, finally.

Another time I met with a twenty-something woman who had a story to share. She stammered. She looked down. She twisted a tissue in her hands. Before she said a word, I knew her story was difficult and painful.

One reason I prefer to meet with counselees in person or by Skype is to see their nonverbal communication. Some biblical counselors call it “halo data” — vital information you see and even hear, such as a sigh or a clearing of the throat. It gives important information so that — in Christ’s strength — I can counsel well.

If I didn’t see my counselee’s body language, I’d have an incomplete message.

How to Give a Clear Message

Have you played the game “Match the Pair”? Cards are placed faced down, and you turn over two at a time. When you get a matching pair, you get a point. You use visual cues alone to try to win the most pairs.

In regular communication, body language and tone of voice matter greatly, as you know. To give — and receive — a clear message, you need to match up all three parts of communication: body language, tone of voice, and words.

Mary Kassian says in Conversation Peace,  “All three parts of the message must align and be consistent to the for the message to be believed.” For example, if you use friendly words, but your brow is furrowed and your voice sounds snarky, then your message will be disregarded. Your communication confuses more than it helps.

To give a clear message, be sure to match up the three parts of a message.

Think of a recent time you experienced a communication mishap. Did your tone of voice match your words? How about your facial expressions and body language? Did they line up with your verbals?

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With your mouth, you can tell the truth or lie, encourage or complain, boast or speak humbly. What you say reveals what’s going on inside the deep part of you.

Would you like to start saying what you mean and improve your relationships with others and with God? Contact me to set up a time for a free 15-minute phone consult. May you continue to experience God’s smile on you.

Sharing hope with your heart,

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Top 3 Reasons for Anger!

anger

Anger: Some women bottle it up; others let it blow. The important question: What’s the best way to handle anger?

You’ve experienced anger, haven’t you? We all have. The reasons for anger outnumber summer dandelions. Like a dandelion, it has a root. Just as weeding can rid dandelions from your yard, you can learn the best way to let go of your anger.

In this article, you’ll get these two practical helps to grow hope in your soul:

  1. Identify 3 main reasons for anger.
  2. Discover the how to zap anger at its root.

The last thing you want is a place for the devil. The word devil come from the Greek diabolos, which means “one who makes malicious false statements; a false accuser; a slanderer.” It is the a title for Satan.

His main goal is to deceive people, including Christians. He wants to convince you to reject the truth and believe lies.

‘In your anger do not sin.’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:26-27, NIV)

3 Main Reasons for Anger

Hurt: Tami’s husband is MIA — “in the worst way,” she says. “He’s here but not here. I’m so hurt I could scream.” After dinner, he disappears into his man cave, where he reclines in a La-Z-Boy and flips cable channels. He has next-to-know conversation with Tami or their two young school-aged children during the evening. She cleans up after dinner, helps with homework, and gets them ready for bed — and seethes.

A normal response to a hurt is anger. When hurt, do you stuff your anger? Do you yell or slam doors?

Lack of control. When your life gets squirmy, you may feel out of control and angry.

“What are you? Stupid?” Suzanne yelled into her cell. Her teenage son had forgotten to pick up his little brothers from soccer practice. A single mom, she depends on her eldest for help. Her mocking putdown reveals her feelings of lack of control. She didn’t get what she wanted so she got angry.

Can you think something you got that you didn’t want? Perhaps a parking ticket? A poor performance review? A snub from a friend? What was your emotion?

Godly indignation. Sometimes — but not often, if we’re honest — you and I feel anger when we hate what God hates. God hates hypocrisy. He hates evil. God hates the trafficking of children. God experiences anger yet never sins. His anger is holy.

Here’s a scene in the Bible where Jesus displays anger:

Jesus goes into the synagogue on a Sabbath where there were Pharisees and a man with a withered hand and “looked around at them [the Pharisees] in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (Mark 5:6).

What’s something you hate that God hates? Does it make you angry? This is godly indignation.

How to Kill Anger

Hold on to your godly indignation and let it propel you to good — this is holy anger. My husband and I hate the suffering of families in poverty. Our anger has led us to support a child through World Vision and to organize a food drive to stock a local food pantry. But. . .

Uproot ungodly anger. It ends up hurting you and the people around you. It also grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30).

Unresolved anger can become bitterness that poisons your relationships and you. The sure “cure” for anger is forgiveness. Let’s look at forgiveness from two angles.

When you’ve been wronged, you can become angry and sin. Or you can choose forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t easy. It costs you. It cost God (Colossians 3:13). When you forgive someone, you no longer hold the person’s sin against them. Forgiving doesn’t excuse their behavior or pretends the wrong never happened. However, you choose to let it go.

Your also deal with your hurt in a godly manner. It is wise for Tami and Suzanne to seek God’s perspective and determine to obey the Word in spite of how they feel. Both women need to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) to their family members.

Tami could let her husband know how his disappearing act hurts her and the family. She can be confident that God will work in her husband’s heart, convicting him of his need to ask forgiveness (2 Timothy 3:16). Suzanne could lovingly remind her son that she counts on him to help out and if he’s unable to follow through on his commitment than he needs to let her know so she can make alternate arrangements.

In addition, Tami needs to ask her husband’s forgiveness. She has anger toward her husband that she need to confess. Suzanne needs to ask her son’s forgiveness too. Angry words cut like a knife.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

3 Parts of a Message

Did you know that the words you say are just one part of your communication? Your body language and your tone of voice make up a far larger part of your message than your words. Would you believe that they account for more than 90 percent of your message?

This is an essential you need to know — that I need to remember too — in all of our relationships. My next post focuses on the three parts of the messages to give — and how to say what you really mean.

Please subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss it! When you subscribe you also will get my complimentary e-Book “3 Steps to Putting the Past in the Past. . .and Keeping It There.”



Sharing hope with your heart,

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Think About Your Thoughts

think about your thoughtsDo you ever think about your thoughts? Your thoughts are powerful. You can change them from life-sapping thoughts to life-giving truth.

Jennifer asked me how to change her thoughts. She had spiraled deep into discouragement and wanted to feel like her old self: upbeat, positive, happy. “This isn’t me,” she shared. “I keep thinking negatively about everything over and over and over. I don’t know how to stop.”

In this article, you learn three new ways to think about your thoughts and learn how to stop life-sapping thinking:

  1. Ask yourself if your thoughts glorify God.
  2. Change the thoughts he wants you to change
  3. Take every thought captive.

1. Ask Yourself an Important Question

What you say to yourself matters. What you think becomes who you are. You want to think well, don’t you? Then you need to ask if your thoughts glorify God.

Words kill, words give life;

they’re either poison or fruit–

you choose. Prov. 18:21

A helpful place to begin is writing down your thoughts in a small, spiral notebook that’s easy to carry with you. When a negative thought pops up, write it down and note what was happening around the time of the thought. Do this for about three days. Don’t concern yourself with changing your thoughts at first. The point is to become aware of them.

You may become aware of thoughts you didn’t even know you were thinking!

Very often women silently tell themselves things like:

  • I’m such an idiot.
  • No one likes me.
  • I’m ugly.
  • I can’t do anything right.

Did you have any of these thoughts?

Practical help: Review your list of thoughts. Which are the most common ones? When did you tend to have them? Are they glorifying to God? Jennifer had most of her automatic, negative thoughts in the morning before she got out of bed and asked God to show them to her. She wrote out Psalm 139:1-2:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my thoughts.

Point out anything in me that offends you,

and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23-24 

Like Jennifer, you can ask yourself whether your thoughts are glorifying to God.

2. Change Your Thoughts

Which thoughts is God nudging you to change? Not sure? You could measure your thoughts by the instruction of Philippians 4:8.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Jennifer noted that one of her recurring thoughts was, “I’m never going to get better.” This thought is in opposition to “whatever is true.” As a Christian, Jennifer is promised by God to become more and more like Jesus Christ, who says “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b). This process is called “progressive sanctification.”

When she told herself this life-killing lie, her discouragement worsened. Has this happened to you too? Sadly, negative thinking begets negative emotions. Conversely, says Brian S. Borgman in Feelings and Faith, “Right thinking about God produces and cultivates godly emotions such as peace, joy confidence, and hope.”

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

Practical step: Measure your thoughts against Phil. 4:8 and ask God which one you need to change.

3. Take Every Thought Captive

God wants you to walk in the truth. You Enemy has a game plan to get you to believe lies — lies about yourself, about your circumstances, and about the Gospel.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

To take every thought captive to obey Christ, you need to replace the lies with the truth. Go through the list of thoughts you wrote down. For each one that is not true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or commendable, find a Bible verse that replaces the lie with the truth. Jot down the Bible verses you’ve found on index cards or sticky notes.

Yes, it is work to find life-giving Bible verses and write them on card or notes but well worth it. Do you think that looking up verses isn’t worth the effort? Do you have other obstacles? What are they? Why not discuss them with a trusted Christian friend?

To get you started, here are two examples:

Life-sapping thought: God doesn’t love me. He doesn’t care.

Life-giving truth:For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8

Life-sapping thought: Life must go well for me. If it doesn’t, this proves I’m a worthless loser.

Life-giving truth:Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13.

Practical help: Each time your have a negative, life-sapping thought, read the index card or sticky note you made with the life-giving truth. As you repeat this process of taking every thought captive to obey Christ, you will discover that the negative thoughts diminish in frequency and power.

This was Jennifer’s discovery. As she read John 10:10 each time she thought “I’m never going to get better,” she noticed that she thought it less often and she experienced hope and joy. She’s applying the same process to other life-sapping thoughts she has. Her discouragement if lifting. She’s beginning to feel like her old self.

And it all began with thinking about her thoughts. Do you want to replace your negative thoughts too? May I invite you to contact me? We can set up a time to talk on the phone for a free 15-minute consult.

Sharing hope with your heart,

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Do You Have a Dark Secret?

dark secret

If you have a dark secret, you probably are more like a turtle than a fancy show dog. Fancy show dogs lap up attention. Turtles hide. They are afraid. They like to blend in. Their hard shells protect them, or do they?

Through my childhood and into my 20s, I was all turtle. I tried to hide my dark secrets. The problem is, I acted out — quietly, for turtles are quiet — in ways that hinted at the pain I covered up, retracting my feet and head into my shell, my hiding place. Where is you favorite hiding place when you hurt? A book? TV? Wine? In the arms of a lover? Church?

In this blog post I’ll share:

  1. Some of my own dark secrets.
  2. How God healed my shame.
  3. Do this. Don’t do that.

My Shameful Secret 

When you meet a turtle, you can bet they’ve been hurt. . .by parents or kids at school or a tragedy of some sort. Show dogs often have hurts too. They hide in other ways. One way is pointing you to their accomplishments. Another way is making jokes. Are you more like a turtle or a show dog?

Here are several of my secrets that turtle-ized me.

  • Depression from childhood to my early 30s.
  • A child of divorce. . .three times. My parents divorced twice, once when I was age 8, they remarried a year later, and divorced again in my mid 20s. My dad remarried and divorced.
  • Sexual abuse survivor. I repressed the memories for nearly 20 years.
  • Drug abuse. I drove drunk. I drove high. This happened in high school. I’m not proud of it. I was stupid.
  • Self-harm. I went through a stage in high school where dug my fingernails into my wrists and drew blood.
  • Binge eating followed by starving in college, yelled at myself — “pig, pig” — and ate more then punished myself by eating nothing for one or two days.
  • Perfectionism. I thought I was lovable only when I did everything right. But I couldn’t, so I hated myself.

Yes, there’s more. I’ve learned to share only secrets where I now have healing and am open to talk about freely. What about you? Do you have secrets? Are you careful to share it with trustworthy people? Have you shared a secret with someone who betrayed your confidence? Didn’t their betrayal hurt worse than having a house drop on your head?

How God Healed My Shame

dark secretThe turning point for this turtle was God-ordained. I wouldn’t have chosen it. In his wisdom, God picked the time and day. He knew I’d find safety in him and my husband.

A Saturday morning in the summer, I woke up, bawling. My poor husband thought I was in physical pain. I wasn’t. Memories from my childhood and teen years flooded me unexpectedly and I cried a Mississippi River. I had pushed down some of these memories for decades. I knew they were true. I had chosen to pretend.

Three important decisions I made that day:

  • Share my deepest secret with a counselor.
  • Start journaling my thoughts and feelings.
  • Sing to Christian music every day.

Sharing my secret freed me from holding it in holding it in holding it in. To get it out, I first shared it in third person, but my counselor and I both knew I was talking about my secret–sexual molestation by a family member. After I shared with the counselor, I told my secret to my husband. He asked me why I had never told him. I said — and I meant it — that it had never crossed my mind. What a turtle I was!

Journaling provided a safe place to write where it hurt. Singing to solid Christian music filled with biblical truth helped renew my mind according to the Bible. I am thankful to God that he gave me the time to journal and sing, and people to confide in.

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame (Psalm 71:1, NIV).

Do This, Don’t Do That

Keeping a dark secret hurts you and others. Sharing them with a safe Christian friend or gospel-centered counselor heals. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for healing if you or a friend has a dark secret.

DO pray and ask God for healing.

DON’T pretend the dark secret is no biggie.

DO read the Psalms. David and other psalmists pour out their heart as they wrestle with hurts and hard emotions.

DON’T distract yourself day after day with food, TV, computer games, porn, or alcohol.

DO journal your thoughts and feelings.

DON’T “vomit” your secret on anyone and everyone or all over the Internet.

DO get the help God wants you to have.

Friend, God loves you just as you are. You don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s okay to be messy. We’re all sinners, right? And in Christ, you and I are saints! Hold dear to your identity in Christ.

In Christ, you are set free from condemnation and shame.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

In Christ, you are able to live victoriously.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57)

OFFER: I encourage you to sign up for a complimentary 15-minute consult to find out if biblical counseling is for you. To sign up, send me a contact message. We can pick a time that works for you. Thank you.

Sharing hope with your heart,

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