Simple Gifts in Jesus’ Hands

Here’s one of my recent posts, featured last spring on the True Woman blog–a ministry of Revive Our Hearts. 

“You give them something to eat,” Jesus said (Luke 9:13). But the disciples had nothing to give.

They were in a desolate place, away from civilization. Five thousand men (not counting women and children) had followed them out and congregated, while Jesus spent the day healing and teaching. Now, evening had come and the people were hungry.

Jesus singled out Philip and asked, “Where can we buy enough food for them?” The answer was obvious: They couldn’t. There were no stores in sight, and even if there were, it would take eight months’ wages just to buy this massive crowd a snack (John 6:5–7).

So why did Jesus ask? He already knew what He was planning to do (v. 6). Why press Philip to problem-solve?

Perhaps it was more of an invitation than request for help. And isn’t that always the case, when Jesus asks us to do something?

Offering My Lunch

In stark contrast, a little boy, undeterred by the impossibility of the situation, stepped forward with his five barley loaves and two fish, saying, “Jesus can have my lunch!” I can almost see the disciples rolling their eyes. Thanks, kid. Now scat.

But Jesus wasn’t rolling His eyes. I picture Him grinning. He took that little lunch and multiplied it enough to feed thousands of people.

I put myself in this story and wonder what my response would be if Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” I especially wonder how I would respond if I did have a lunch packed in my satchel. Would I have pulled it out, like the boy did, or come up with reasons not to? Reasons like:

  • “What if my fish are starting to spoil after being in the hot sun all day? I wouldn’t want to risk sharing food poisoning!”
  • “My barley loaves are a little overbaked. What if Jesus thinks I’m a bad cook?”
  • “There’s barely enough for me. Offering this as a meal solution for thousands seems preposterous.”

Sometimes Jesus asks us to do what can’t be done. He presses us to face overwhelming situations—like thousands of hungry people. Or thousands of orphaned children. Or thousands of teens addicted to pornography. Or thousands of abortion-seeking women.

Often I let my doubts, insecurities, and even logic get in the way of offering what I do have to Jesus. The need seems so great. And I have so little. I don’t have all the answers, and it seems preposterous to extend my simple gifts in the face of vast need.

But Jesus doesn’t ask me to give more than I have. When He exposes to me a need that is overwhelming, it’s often His invitation to participate in a miracle—one that He’s already planning to do. He invites me to place my small gifts of time and meager service in His hands and see what He will do.

A Hungry Child

Decades ago, I had a little girl named “Mindy” in my Sunday school class. She had dark hair and big blue eyes and always came to church dressed up in darling dresses from her grandma. Mindy was rather shy and didn’t talk much. But Mindy’s grandma (who brought her to church) had mentioned that things were rough at home for Mindy, so I tried to give her extra love and encouragement.

One day, I had the girls from my little class over to my house on a Saturday afternoon. We had treats and played games, and then I called the girls down to the basement for a story. As they sat in a circle, I shared again the story of Jesus. I invited my girls to put their faith and hope in Him, and Mindy responded. She wanted Jesus to forgive her of her sin and to be with her always.

I lost touch with Mindy until just a few years ago. That’s when she told me more about her home life as a child. Her mom’s boyfriend, who was an alcoholic, lived with them, and would sometimes come looking for Mindy and her sister in the night. They would hide in the closet, trying not to make any noise. Those were horrible years. They thought about running away, but couldn’t stand the thought of leaving their baby sister behind.

All of this had an effect on Mindy. As a teen, she turned from Jesus and looked to men to fill her emptiness. By the time Mindy contacted me, she already had three babies and had just gotten married. Her new husband wasn’t a Christian and her fourth baby (on the way) wasn’t his. He was furious and vowed he would never forgive her. She was on her own to have and raise this baby. It was a mess, and Mindy felt alone, afraid, and desperate.

Yet in her brokenness, Mindy had turned back to Jesus and she wanted me to know. She was surrendering her life to Him and turning to God with her emptiness. She was also begging Jesus to do the impossible—to change her husband’s heart.

Amazingly, He did! The night before Mindy’s baby was born, her husband gave his heart to Christ. He not only went with her for the delivery, he held Mindy’s little girl and fed her, and welcomed her as his own. Six months later, Mindy wrote to me, amazed at all God had done. She said, “We live for God now. My husband now leads our family. He is the man I dreamed about as a little girl.” One of her favorite verses is, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:26).

What a beautiful verse to remember as we face widespread need!

Multiplied Gifts

When the little boy gave Jesus his lunch, Luke 9:16 says, “Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd.” So Jesus tore the loaves and handed the pieces to His disciples, who then tore the loaves again. The bread just kept multiplying as it passed from hand to hand, and the people all got to experience the miracle together.

That’s how I feel about Mindy’s story. Twenty years ago, I gave Jesus a rather simple, ordinary gift. I tore off a piece of my Saturday and said, “Here, Jesus. I’d like to share this with some hungry kids.” I was just an ordinary woman offering up an ordinary Saturday, but God supernaturally multiplied my gift in Mindy’s life. Then God multiplied the gift again and did something supernatural in Mindy’s husband. We all got to experience the miracle together as truth and hope were passed from one person to another. And perhaps it will keep multiplying! That’s up to Jesus, not me.

Facing the HungrySimple Gifts in Jesus’ Hands

Is Jesus pressing you—like He did with Philip—to consider the physical, emotional, or spiritual hunger in a person or group of people? Are you overwhelmed by the ravenous brokenness you see? Jesus doesn’t ask you to provide brilliant solutions or extraordinary gifts. He just wants you to come like a child. Offer what you have. Give Him the equivalent of a packed lunch, and watch to see what He will do.

Jesus can take your ordinary gifts and multiply them in the lives of hungry people. What will you put into the hands of your miracle-working Lord today?

Discussing “Control Girl” with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Hi friends! In case you missed it, I wanted to let you know about my 3-part interview on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. What an honor and privilege this was!!! I loved sharing the day with Nancy, meeting her husband Robert, and working with some of the behind-the-scenes experts who make Revive Our Hearts happen.

As I think you’ll see, Nancy is a fabulous host. She does such a great job of gently guiding the conversation and drawing out deeper truths.

I guess I was so enthralled with the experience, I never thought to even take a selfie in the recording studio with Nancy (bummer)! But I promise I was there! 🙂

I’d love for you to listen in on the broadcasts, and share them with your friends!

Here are the links in order:

Also, Revive Our Hearts was kind enough to produce several video vignettes of me sharing some of my favorite Control Girl stories. Again, feel free to share these on social media or with a friend. That’s what they’re there for!

Here’s are Links to all Seven:

Friends, it’s such a joy to share this message that God has given me. I love hearing about the number of shares or sales, but what really fires me up is hearing about individual women who are being changed by the power of God, as they engage truth.

Speaking of which, I’d love to hear from YOU! Has God used the Control Girl message in your life, or your group? How have you put the “Control Girl to Jesus Girl” message in practice? Feel free to comment on the blog, social media, or using the private comment box below. I’d love to hear your story. Thanks for letting me share mine!

Warmly,

The Father Who Eliminates Shame

Here’s one of my recent posts, featured last June on the “True Woman” blog–a ministry of Revive Our Hearts. 

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. I sent my college roommates to the dining hall without me because I wanted the dorm room to myself while I made a certain phone call. I dialed the number, heard the familiar voice. Then in a matter of moments, I severed a relationship that had been pulling me away from God for quite some time. I hung up the phone and had a good cry.

When God Seems Distant

It was obvious that God was working on my heart. I felt miserable about my sin, and I had a fresh desire to please Him. But God seemed so distant. I tried reading my Bible, but it said nothing to me. I tried praying, but my prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. So now I was trying this—the severing-a-relationship-thing. Though I knew it was the right choice, it didn’t change how alone and melancholy I felt. As I sat on my bed wondering what to do next, the phone rang. It was the campus pastor. He wondered if I could come down and receive a package being delivered to the back door of my dorm. Curious, I ran down to the lobby just in time to see a car pull up. A man got out and ran toward me in the rain. Squinting, I gasped and opened the door. “Daddy?” I exclaimed as he gathered me into a hug.

My parents lived in Michigan, which is twelve hours from Liberty University in Virginia. So my dad didn’t just “happen to be in the neighborhood.” He had dropped everything to fly down and see me. I think he sensed this was a pivotal time in my faith journey.

Exposed

A few weeks prior, when I was home on break, God had torn the lid off of some of my sin. I felt so exposed and ashamed. I had said to my mom, “Don’t tell Dad till after I’m back at school.” I didn’t want to think about him knowing. I wanted to pretend that he didn’t.

But my dad did know. And he flew all the way to Virginia to tell me that he still loved me.

“Mom bought you a new dress,” he said, handing me a package. “Go put it on, and I’ll take you out for a nice dinner.”

That night, after dinner, I sat in the car with my dad. He read some verses to me from Revelation 4 about the people from the church in Ephesus who had “lost their first love” for Jesus. Boy, did that describe me!

As a child I had been so passionate about Jesus—telling whomever would listen about sin and hell and how Jesus wanted to save us from it. As a middle schooler, I was involved in every single program our church had to offer. Yet somewhere along the line, I had drifted away. I had lost my first love for Jesus, just like the church described in Revelation 4.

My dad showed me the instructions given to the church of Ephesus: “Remember therefore, from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). He said that these instructions were for me, too. I needed to remember where I had fallen from. I needed to begin doing the things I did when I was first in love with Jesus. This was the way to repent! I shouldn’t wait for emotions or swelling love to guide my actions. The emotions would trail behind my behavior.

A Loving Father

That weekend was a turning point for me. I had taken a big step of obedience to God with that phone call, and then the phone rang again. God was responding with a message of love and acceptance, not shame and condemnation. His messenger was my dad, who represented Him so well!

I don’t know what your dad is like. I’ve lived long enough to realize how fortunate I am to have a dad like mine, but I know not every father is like him. Yet even if your dad was the type to neglect, abuse, or abandon, you have a Father who wants to make up for his lack.

God, the perfect Father, says:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jer. 31:3).

How has God faithfully shown His love? It started with a journey that cost Him far more than a weekend and airfare.

  • God loved you enough to send His Son as messenger from heaven to earth—not to condemn you for your sin, but to save you from it (John 3:16–17).
  • Jesus demonstrated God’s love in this way: while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Rom. 5:8).
  • Jesus bore your shame—despising it with every step toward the cross—all because He wanted to win for you a new dress to wear, a new, white, pure dress made of His own righteousness (Isa. 61:10).
  • And now, in response to His love, God invites you to behave like a bride, getting ready for her Bridegroom (Rev. 19:7).

Has God seen your sin? Yes, every bit of it. You might not want to think about that. You might want to pretend He doesn’t know. But the truth is that every hidden thing is laid open and exposed before your Father in heaven (Heb. 4:13).

So how is a good daughter to respond? Should she cower and hide and self-loathe? Never! Your Father invites you to conviction and sorrow over your sin, but not shame. Never shame. God is the one who has done everything to eliminate your shame! It’s His enemy who hurls condemnation (Rom. 8:1).

A Pursuing Father

God is the type of Father who never wants His daughter to doubt His love. He pursues you. He travels the distance between you. He assures you. He says that nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).

As you approach Father’s Day this year, why not spend some time with the Father who has loved you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3)? Repent of your sin, and draw near to Him. Remind yourself of the ways His pursuing love has shaped your story.

Does God seem distant to you? Do you feel ashamed over exposed sin? Are you pretending that God can’t see your sin? Your Father loves you with an everlasting, faithful love. What truth about your Father will you embrace today?

When Your Illusion of Safety Shatters

Here’s one of my recent posts, featured last month on the “True Woman” blog–a ministry of Revive Our hearts. 

I was driving home one night with my two littles strapped into their car seats behind me. It was dark and rainy. I saw the orange cones lining the busy street that bordered our neighborhood, but I paid them no notice since they had been there for weeks. What hadn’t been there—even earlier that day—was the six-foot construction pit. Which I drove into.

I screamed in terror as the car lurched forward and my headlights shone into the pit. Then, with adrenaline pumping, I scrambled to open my door and get my babies—feeling the van tilt as I did so. Not knowing how precarious the situation was, I unbuckled my loves with panicky, trembling fingers and snatched them out of the van to safety.

So there we were, on a busy road huddled beside our tilting van, which was now blocking oncoming traffic. I crouched protectively over baby Cole’s car seat and clutched two-year-old Lindsay’s waist. On one side was the ditch. On the other, traffic whizzed by making it impossible to cross—at least not in the dark with two babies.

Big Black Pits

Thankfully, the police soon arrived and ushered the kids and I into the back of the police cruiser to get us out of the rain. From there the police headlights shone like a spotlight on our van. The front tires hung disturbingly over the pit’s edge, making it look very much like the van could have been swallowed completely.

Lindsay, who was two, clutched the police car caging from her perch on the back seat and looked on with wide eyes. I tried to point out how the police and the tow truck were helping and how we were safe now, but she kept saying, “Mommy, yook! My car fall down!”

For Lindsay, this scene held a new terror that she had never considered. Before this, she hadn’t known there were big black pits in the world. And she certainly had not realized people could drive into them. We were completely safe, but my poor girl felt more unsafe than ever before.

The Illusion of Safety

In the weeks and months that followed, Lindsay continued to talk about what happened. “My car fall down!” she would say with urgency to strangers in the store or friends at church. It was as if she wanted to warn everyone that there was danger out there!

I repeatedly tried to assure Lindsay that we were safe now; there was nothing to worry about. But I couldn’t erase the scene of our van tilting forward into darkness and danger from her little mind. “My car fall down,” she kept whispering. The illusion of safety had been snatched from her, and I couldn’t give it back.

One day, my mom was holding Lindsay on her hip while we made plans to go somewhere. With her chubby hands, Lindsay turned Mom’s face toward her and leaned in so that their noses almost touched. With earnestness, she whispered loudly, “Mamaw, how ‘bout you drive, ‘cause Mommy go fast and my car fall down!”

What? I couldn’t believe it! Was my two-year-old questioning my driving skills?

Now, there was no denying that I had driven us into a terrifying situation. But it struck me funny that my two-year-old felt qualified to critique my driving! Had I not been driving her in complete safety since before she was born? And had I not spent the past two years caring for her, constantly considering her safety, health, and wellbeing? Yet now with all the two-year-old logic she could muster, she was doubting my trustworthiness—enough to solicit another driver!

Becoming a Skeptic

This is such a good picture of us, at times. God has cared for us meticulously from before birth (Ps. 139:13). While our mothers slept, God knit together the intricate patterns of our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and skin—so that we would enter the world with the capacity to receive and enjoy the sunshine, air, food, and warmth He provides. Before our minds were developed enough to understand, God was caring for us.

Yet in life there are moments when the illusion of safety is pulled back. Perhaps we experience something traumatic, see something that strikes fear, or experience the terrifying finality of death. In moments like these the world tilts off balance, and we wonder who—if anyone—is holding it all together.

With fresh doubt and fear, we turn our skepticism toward God. Where was He during that dark night of upheaval? What was He doing during the hour we cried out for rescue? Were His hands on the wheel when life took a nosedive into terror?

Perhaps we never gave much thought to God’s credibility before, but now we wonder! Can we know that He’s responsible, good, and strong? Can we count on Him to keep us safe?

Security Blanket

When we question God, a new temptation almost immediately follows. It’s the temptation to find a substitute. So we turn to people, houses, or careers—anything that makes us feel secure. Or we turn to bank accounts, medical care, or popularity to ward off threats. We’re like toddlers, clutching security blankets to feel safe.

Yet our two-year-old reasoning cannot hold up. For when we buckle ourselves in with new safety restraints or new promise for security, have we ultimately locked onto control? After we exhaust ourselves, trying to pad our lives with every thinkable layer of protection, have we truly safeguarded ourselves or the people we love from heartache?

Who’s in Control?

Often I have underdeveloped thinking on this matter of control. When fear floods my heart, I immediately convince myself that it’s all up to me. With panicky, trembling fingers, I try to snatch my loved ones away from pits. I map out plans to keep everyone from driving over cliffs. But depending on myself is just as foolish as depending on a house or money or person to keep me safe.

So God uses big, black pits to press me to recognize that I am not in control and my security blankets can’t shield me from danger.

God isn’t being harsh or cruel. He wants me to see that this burden of keeping everyone safe and avoiding all disaster is not something He placed on my shoulders. He didn’t ask me to take control. What God wants for me, and what He invites me to, is trust.

Trusting God

God doesn’t expect me to convince myself that the world is safe or that everything will turn out just as I’d hoped. But He does want me to trust that He is powerful and strong, even when He doesn’t prevent disaster. And He wants me to trust that He is good, even if I see nothing good in the pit. He wants me to trust that He is in control, even when the world seems randomly terrifying.

Just like I wanted my little girl to relax and trust me as her mom, God wants me to trust Him as my God. Settled peace comes from knowing that God holds every contingency of life’s roadmap in His hands. Security comes not from knowing what’s around the next bend, but knowing that God is there. Hope comes not from my own strength or wisdom, but from resting in His.

Friend, our world is full of pits. The whole earth is caving in under the pressure of sin’s curse, and none of us will escape its effects. So we have a choice. Will we apply two-year-old logic and become skeptical of the One who has been trustworthy and true? Will we call “substitute drivers” to give us an illusion of safety? Or will we trust God, who truly is in control and who is working all things—even the pits in life—together for our good?

How have you responded when your illusion of safety has been snatched away? If you’ve become skeptical of God or turned to “security blankets” instead of Him, talk honestly to Him about it. What does He want you to trust Him with? Read Psalm 30 aloud as a prayer to God.

Should You Join Women’s Bible Study?

Here’s my latest post, featured this week on the “True Woman” blog–a ministry of Revive Our Hearts. 

If it’s not in your church’s foyer yet, it will probably show up soon: the sign-up table for women’s Bible study. Will you glance over at it, wondering if you should sign up? Will you linger at the table, checking out the plan, wondering if this is what God wants for your year?

Perhaps you’re caring for a young family, with a to-do list that only gets longer if little hands try to help. Maybe you’re reluctant to fill the boxes on your calendar with extras, wanting to protect the fleeting years with little ones at home. Or perhaps it’s now your aging parents who need your attention, and you worry about balancing your schedule.

Or maybe it’s not your calendar that’s the obstacle; it’s your fear of being open and vulnerable. As your kids have grown, so have the personal and relationship challenges you face—and you have big kids now. It’s hard to be honest about the fear, devastation, and sorrow you face on a daily basis.

Or perhaps this is the first year you’ve even considered Bible study. Maybe it wasn’t an option or you couldn’t commit. You feel nervous and uncomfortable about joining—worried you’ll say the wrong thing or not know as much as the others. You wonder if you missed your chance years ago.

Weighing the Options

Whatever your life stage or situation, considering women’s Bible study is always an exercise in weighing your priorities. Even when you long for spiritual growth, sometimes you wonder if participating in women’s Bible study at church is the best way to cultivate that growth. You wonder if it might be better to just study the Bible at home. In your jammies. Maybe you could join an online study group or something.

As you weigh your options, I’d like to offer three things to consider, along with some personal experiences:

1. The days are long, but the years are short.

Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” There’s something about looking forward to the end and then thinking backward that helps keep things in perspective. What kind of wife, mom, sister, worker, or friend do I want to be at the end of this year? How about the end of this decade? What will help me get there?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been involved in some sort of women’s Bible study group. I’ve helped with leadership in various ways: leading worship, leading a small group, and large group teaching. If I were to compile all of the hours I have devoted to connecting with other women around God’s Word, it would be an enormous chunk of my life.

It definitely crowded out other activities. For example, I never signed my preschoolers up for sports or music programs. Instead, they enjoyed the childcare program at Bible study. And I was never part of a “girls’ night out” group or a bunco club.

Some might criticize the way I arranged our calendar—prioritizing my own growth over activities for my kids and opting out of community-building opportunities. But all of us have to choose what we’ll add to the weekly rhythm of life. I chose Bible study. And if all of those hours spent studying God’s Word with other women were retracted from my life, I believe I would be a completely different person. And I also believe that the change in my life as a result of participating in various studies had a direct impact on my family.

So as you and I look at the coming year, let’s think about who we want to become. Let’s consider whether joining a women’s Bible study can help us get there.

2. Wisdom is formed in groups.

Proverbs 13:20 says, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” The people you “walk with” on a regular basis change you. They shape your perspective on life. Your Bible is filled with wisdom, but God designed for that wisdom to be three-dimensional, displayed in the lives of others. Now, I can’t promise you that everyone in your Bible study group will be wise, but if you’re looking for wise women, a Bible study is a great place to start.

Back in January, a local bookstore in my town hosted a launch party for the release of my new book. I was secretly worried that no one would come, and I’d need to apologize to the bookstore. To my great delight, the room was filled! As I introduced my various friends to each other that night, I noticed myself saying something repeatedly. “This is Michelle. We first met in Bible study.” Or “This is Kim. She’s part of my summer Bible study group.”

Many of these women who were supporting and cheering me on had been doing so since before my book had a title. In fact, the wisdom and truth I got to share in the book was partly shaped by the stories, conversations, and insights offered to me by these friends. They were there, celebrating what God had done, because they are part of my life.

Who will show up at your next celebration? Who is part of your life? Do you have wise friends who look to God’s Word for help, guidance, and hope? If not, Bible study is a great way to cultivate friendships like these.

3. The Church isn’t meant to be virtual.

I know, I know. The Church isn’t a building. And now, with the new multi-site churches forming, even the local church often isn’t contained in one building. In addition, we can often “connect online” with our church service or various Bible study groups. Video no longer feels “virtual” to us. It feels like we’re in the room.

But are we? I have a friend who says he would far prefer to travel and present to clients in the same room. He relies so heavily on body language and the relational aspects of communication to assess how clients are receiving the message and how he can better serve them.

If this is true in business, perhaps we should prioritize screen-less relationship building in the church. I’m not saying online Bible studies are bad or wrong. They are meeting a great need for many! But for those of us who can physically meet together, I think we should do so.

Hebrews 10:24–25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

It’s not that we can’t encourage and stir up one another for love and good works from behind a screen. Hopefully, that’s what I’m doing right now! It’s just harder to connect personally. For instance, after you read this post, you might forget my name, where I’m from, and what I look like—which won’t offend me. But if that happened the day after we had coffee together, I would struggle to not take it personally.

Signing up for a Bible study is the equivalent of having coffee rather than reading a blog post. It’s more personal and a bigger commitment. It will cost you more time and relational energy.

But success in the Christian life is achieved as a group, not just as individuals. On my own, I quickly become discouraged, deceived, and distracted. But when my group gathers to refresh each other’s faith, remind ourselves of truth, and pray together over struggles, it’s like a weekly reorientation. I walk out thinking, Oh, yeah! This is why God gave me life! And this is how I’m supposed to live it.

Obviously, you and the Lord need to sort out your calendar. But if the Lord makes a way for you to tether yourselves to other women who want to follow Jesus and link arms with women who help you keep your eyes on Christ, I can’t think of a more worthy commitment.

From our Revive Our Hearts team: In case you haven’t heard . . . Revive Our Hearts and Moody Publishers are offering a special Livestream event on just this topic—living out the gospel together! You could gather your Bible study group and make a weekend of it! To learn more about Revive ’17 LIVE or register your group, head to Revive17.com/livestream.

Sacred Mundane: God’s way of Transforming You

Kari Patterson and I are both first time authors, published by Kregel. Since she lives in Oregon, we haven’t officially met, but we’ve become fast friends. I highly recommend Kari’s new book, Sacred Mundane. See details below on how to win a FREE copy!  

You know the Bible story of Naaman, right? Naaman was a commander of the Syrian army. He had favor with his king and success in battle because God had given him victory. However, Naaman had a problem.

He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. – I Kings 5:1 (emphasis mine)

In her brand new book, Sacred MundaneKari Patterson writes,

“We all have a but, and it’s a problem. (If you read that out loud it sounds terrible. I’m sorry; there was no other way.) Because you are created in the image of God, knit perfectly and wonderfully in your mother’s womb and cherished by him, you have value and worth and honor. You are dazzling and delightful. You are dearly loved. You have gifts, talents, and innumerable things going for you. You have strengths and skills, power and potential.

“But – there’s something in the way. Something that limits our freedom, confuses our purpose, steals our joy. No matter what great things we have going for us this thing constantly lurks on the fringe of our attention, subtly inhibiting, hindering, holding us back. For Naaman it was leprosy; for some it’s crippling fear; for some it’s anger or unforgiveness; for some it’s a desperate need for approval; for some it’s an issue or habit that’s hung around so long it has become an accepted part of life. Hangups have a way of hijacking our identity.

“Now, Naaman couldn’t have carried on as a commander with this issue out in the open; he had to hide it as long as he possibly could. We do the same. We wear long sleeves, so to speak. We know how to compensate for that weakness we’ve had with us for such a long time. We can still cope and manage life pretty well. Perhaps “it’s no big deal,” so we just shrug our shoulders and pretend it doesn’t bother us. That much. But deep down we know that there is something not quite right, something that subtly robs our peace and joy, something that clings to us and keeps us bound. Something we just can’t kick.

“And like leprosy, it spreads. Left alone, our hidden heartsickness always spreads. We think we’re find (we look fine!), sailing along in our long sleeves, but then that one thing – that person, that comment, that one hormonal moment – yanks off our protective layer, and we realize the problem is still there. It had been there all along, underneath. We resolve to deal with it. How? Add a turtleneck. Maybe some gloves. Don’t get close to any situation where baring our skin or our souls is required. We become careful, cautious, learning to control our environment so our lack is less apparent.

“But this isn’t life. This isn’t freedom. And we know it. Somewhere deep down, we know: this isn’t the me I was created to be. This isn’t the life I was meant to live.” (Sacred Mundane, p. 12-13)

Can you relate to what Kari writes, here? She uses the story of Naaman as a powerful example of what God wants to do for all of us to make us clean and whole. Are you ready? Here it is: Like Naaman, God invites us to dip down into the muddy waters of daily life that are right before us.

Muddy Waters

Wait, what? That’s not what we wanted to hear, right!? We wanted some dramatic healing. Some man of God to put his hands on our shoulders and pray over this insecurity or fear or anger or bitterness or addiction so that – whoosh – it’s gone! We’re transformed!

That’s what Naaman wanted, too. He wanted Elijah to come and wave his hand over him to cure the leprosy (I Kings 5:11). But instead Elijah sent word that he was to dip into the muddy, smelly, daily waters of the Jordan.

Kari writes,

“How often we balk at God’s bidding when he tells us to simply go and dip down deep into what is right in front of us, the waters we most despise, because that is where true healing is found. How we wish for a prophet to wave his hands over us and miractulously make us mature, make us well, make us new. How we wish we could just walk through the doors of church and have the “godly dust” sprinkle on us and make us whole. Can’t we just get a spiritual spray-tan?

“Truth: you are made new by dipping into the dirty, dusty dailiness of life. By letting your days transform your life. It is the mundane, overlooked, ordinary stuff lof life that changes us from the inside out. That heals us. That transforms us.” (Sacred Mundane, p. 15)

The Next Five Minutes

In my new book, Control GirlI wrote about how the “small arrow” moments of the day transform us. It’s not just the big, life-changing moments of surrender, spaced out by decades which turn us from Control Girls into Jesus Girls; it’s our choice to surrender something to God in the next five minutes. And then it’s repeating that choice to surrender the same thing to God, 57 more times in the same evening. That’s what changes us. Kari expands this idea into a whole book!

Becoming Clean

Think of it. God wants to change us! To heal us! But like Naaman, we foolishly object to the way God wants to make us clean. This husband? These kids? This noisy, messy, sticky life? Really? This is what God plans to use to change me? Like Naaman, we’re ready to storm off.

But Kari Patterson taps us on the shoulder with Sacred Mundane, just like Naaman’s servant. She asks us to take another look at those muddy waters of daily life, and then causes them to actually seem inviting. She shows us that as we dip ourselves repeatedly into the things we wish we could change or escape or skip, these sacred, mundane things are the waters that God uses to make us clean and whole.

Kari Patterson is a great writer with a passionate message. I highly recommend this book, either for yourself or your small group (men and women). Also, don’t miss the nine week Bible study, included in the back. 

For a chance to win a FREE copy of Sacred Mundane, leave a comment either on the blog or social media. Winner announced August 21. (UPDATE: I’m extending just a bit… Winner announced Wed., Aug. 23). 


Kari Patterson reaches thousands of women worldwide through speaking events and her popular blog, Sacred Mundane. She’s a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, Bible teacher, mentor, and passionate seeker of truth. 

Sacred Mundane was released in July, 2017 by Kregel Publications (my publisher!). All royalties from the sale of this book will benefit World Vision’s work with women and children in need.

And the Winner Is….

Congratulations to…

Shirley Strait!!!

Shirley, my publicist from Litfuse Publicity Group will be in touch via email with details on how to claim your prize. You can also email your mailing address to info@litfuse.com.

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the giveaway. It was fun. A special thanks to everyone who participated in the blog tour! I so appreciate the time and energy you put into your careful reviews!!! (Read reviews here, or on Amazon here.)

If you didn’t win, and would like to get the book, here are some options for you:

  • Amazon:
  • CBD.com: Currently in stock for $10.99.
  • Barnes & Noble: Currently in stock for $14.99
  • Kregel: My publisher will cover your shipping cost if you use code (CG17) when you call customer service at 800-733-2607.
  • Here. Order from me here. Today only, get $5 off the Combo Pack (which includes our coloring book and a sampler pack of meditation cards), using code: (jesusgirl5).

Control Girl Quiz

Have you taken the Control Girl Quiz yet? Have you invited your friends to take the quiz?

Over 12 weeks, I’ll be unpacking the quiz, question by question. This past Monday was the first post, titled, “Control Girl Quiz: Do you struggle with anger?

Also over the next 12 weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of your stories in a series titled “Control Girl to Jesus Girl”. You can listen to Elizabeth’s story here (most of the stories will be written, but we videoed Elizabeth at our Baker Book House release party.) If you’re interested in sharing your story with me of how the Control Girl message is changing you, I’d love to hear from you! Use the contact form below.

Other Resources

Have you checked out the other resources?

Thanks again for all of your enthusiasm and support on this project. I am so excited about what God has already and will continue to do through this book! Please feel free to contact me using the form below. I’d love to hear from you!

The most important thing, though, isn’t winning prizes or selling books. The most important thing is transformation. We don’t want to be Control Girls forever. Let’s head in a new direction, shall we? Let’s be Jesus Girls!!

Love,

 

A “Birth Announcement” for my Book!

It’s here! It got to hold my book in my hands for the first time this week!

It feels like an eternity ago, when I first announced my book’s “due date” to you, as I compared writing a book to having a baby. And now, as I held my brand new book, I felt a bit like a new mom, counting all of the fingers and toes! I checked the back cover… I looked at the spine… I took a ridiculous number of pictures and shared them on Instagram…. I held my book lovingly and felt its weight in my hands…

What a labor of love this book has been, and I can’t wait to share it with you!

Here’s a facebook video of me, sharing a little about the book:

 

I’d love for you to consider Control Girl, either for yourself or your group. We have lots of free resources, including a FREE Discussion Guide, for you at ControlGirl.com. (Use the dropdown box under “Control Girl”.)

If you’d like to help me spread the word about the book, here are some things you could do:

  • Share the video or this link with a friend!
  • Share this post, or a link to the book on social media or via email! You could say, “I’m interested in this book and thought you might be, too.”
  • Pass information about the book to your women’s ministry director. Please let her know I’d be happy to answer questions, or help in any way I can!
  • Invite me to speak at your church or your group. I’d love to share the message of Control Girl with your group!
  • Pray! God is ultimately in control of how far and wide this book goes, and He loves it when we pray for Him to move!

My ultimate hope, as I write and speak on the topic of control, is for women to be taken with Jesus. I long for us to be enticed with the sweetness of surrender (rather than bound by the futility and frustration of trying to control everything)! My passion is for us to go from Control Girls to Jesus Girls.

God is in control! That means we don’t have to be. Isn’t that good news???

Control Girl

Control Girl is available wherever books are sold, including:

Information & Resources

How the Book is Arranged
Free Discussion Guide
Companion Coloring Book
Schedule a Video Chat with Shannon
Invite Shannon to Speak
Control Girl Meditations
Printable Control Girl Labels
Contact Shannon

How the Book is Arranged

This book is designed the book to work well, both for the individual, and for groups. (See a note to leaders.) Control Girl divides each chapter into “lessons”, which allow the reader on a time budget to engage a complete train of thought as she reads the chapters part-by-part. Each lesson begins with a correlating Bible passage, and ends with several application questions, and a meditation. (Download FREE meditation cards here.)

There are nine chapters in the book:

  • 1 Path of a Control Girl
  • 2 Eve: It Looked Good to Me
  • 3 Sarah: It’s Up to Me
  • 4 Hagar: Out from Under Her Control
  • 5 Rebekah: Standing in for God
  • 6 Leah: Invisible and Unloved
  • 7 Rachel: When She Has More
  • 8 Miriam: Taking the Lead
  • 9 Control Girl to Jesus Girl

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Free Discussion Guide for Leaders

Leaders, thanks so much for considering this book for your group’s study! Please consider downloading the FREE Discussion Guide  which will help draw your women into meaningful discussion centered on God’s Word, as you work through the book together.

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Companion Coloring Book

Reflections on Surrender is an adult coloring book, filled with truth about control, ourselves, and God–messages that closely correlate with Control Girl.

While you don’t have to work through the Bible study to enjoy the coloring book, the two do complement each other nicely.

The original artwork in Reflections on Surrender was done by  Janyre Tromp (who, by the way, was also the editor for Control Girl). We hope that as you add color and design to the artwork, you’ll also soak your heart in the truth on each page.

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Schedule a Video Chat with Shannon

Shannon loves to connect with long distance groups using her materials, using video conferencing. If you’d like to invite Shannon to connect with your group, please use the contact form below. If you are part of a West Michigan group (within 15-20 minutes of Grandville, MI), Shannon would love to stop in and meet your group! Please use the contact form below, to check on her availability.

Also, Shannon would love to add your group’s picture to her prayer list! You can email it to her at shannon@shannonpopkin.com.

 

 

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Invite Shannon to Speak

Shannon loves to serve churches and groups in any way needed. She offers herself as a speaker for events or weekend retreats. Shannon’s Control Girl Retreat is a great way to kick off the book study for your group. Please connect with her if you’re interested in any of these options using the comment form below.

Please visit Shannon’s speaker page for more detailed information on her speaking ministry.

 

 

 

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Control Girl Meditations

At the end of each lesson in the book is a “for meditation” section. Our hope is to help women build a bridge between what they say is true (God is in control) and how they actually live (as though they have to control everything).

But we want to make it easier yet! By using either the “Control Girl” tab at the top of this page, or clicking here, please find a set of  FREE downloadable meditation cards, arranged by lesson (plus, there’s a sampler pack). You can print these as 4×6 cards or photos, or you can share and save them digitally–all for free!

Also on this page, find some guidance and ideas for how to use the cards.

Chapter Meditation Printables

Here’s another resource for either individuals or group leaders. For each chapter, we’ve created a printable page with that week’s meditations. You can use these for your own personal meditation and review, or to help with group discussion.  We hope that these will be a useful resource and a blessing to you!

 

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Printable Control Girl Labels

In the introduction for the book, Shannon suggests keeping a journal of your personal responses to the application questions at the end of each lesson.

Just for fun, here are some labels that you can print off for the cover of your group’s journals (or feel free to use them however you like!). 

Here’s a pdf that will work for Avery (or off brand) 2 x 4 inch labels, 10 per page:

2 x 4 Inch Labels Control Girl to Jesus Girl 2

(Or save the jpg above to print a single label).

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Control Girl Playlist

Contact Shannon

Dear Friend,

Thanks for considering Control Girlalong with our various other companion resources. My hope and desire is that each of us might leave behind the weak-hearted, selfish ways of the Control Girl, and little-by-little, become Jesus Girls instead. Are you in?!

If you have questions or comments for me, I’d love to connect with you. Just use the form below.

Warmly,

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For release information about the book and occasional updates from Shannon–along with subscriber-only freebies and giveaways, sign up here:


 Email Address


The Clean Sweep of Gospel Confession

I’m thankful for the chance to be one of the bloggers at TrueWoman.com, which is where this post first appeared

161129-clean-sweep

There’s a story from my college days that I’ve been notorious for. It goes like this: One day at the mall, I noticed a guy walking beside me, wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. Since I’m from Michigan and went to school in Virginia, I always enjoyed meeting people from my home state. So I said, “Are you from Michigan?”

He said, “Uh . . . yup.”

“Really? Me, too!” I said with enough enthusiasm to make up for his lack. “Which part of Michigan?”

He said, “Uh . . . Grand Rapids.”

And I said, “Really? Me, too!

Suddenly it dawned on me that I was not in Virginia, connecting with a fellow Michigander. It was Christmas break, and I was home. I was in Grand Rapids.

Quickly, I turned on my heel and walked the other direction, leaving Mr. Michigan sweatshirt, no doubt, muttering, “The things a girl will do to strike up a conversation.”

It was a great story. Everyone loved it. Wherever I went, people would say, “Have you guys ever heard Shannon’s Michigan sweatshirt story? You’ve got to hear it.” And I would tell it again. There was just one problem: The story wasn’t true. It never happened.

It almost happened. I really was in the mall, walking next to a guy wearing a Michigan sweatshirt. And I did momentarily forget that I was in Michigan. And I did almost ask, “Are you from Michigan?” But I caught myself, then chuckled over how funny it would have been if I had actually asked that.

That night, when I was with a group of friends, I told the story as if it had happened. It was funnier that way. And so the lie began.

I don’t recall when I started regretting the story, but I do remember cringing when someone told it at our wedding. And I remember feeling sick when my new husband and I promised to never keep anything from each other. There were a number of occasions when I laid awake, feeling so guilty after having told the story to yet another group of friends. I even tried to convince myself that it was true. It could have been true. It felt true! But of course, it wasn’t.

It certainly wasn’t the only lie I’ve ever told or the only story I’ve embellished (especially as a child!). But because I had lied so publicly and so repeatedly, I felt a deep sense of shame. It was my secret, and I hated it.

Coming Clean

Last summer, on our way to church, my husband and I were talking to our kids about integrity. Someone had stretched the truth, and there were consequences. Trying to stress the gravity, I said, “Kids, lying is a difficult habit to break. If you tell a lie, the best thing to do is confess it right away, and be free of it.” As I said this, God brought the familiar pang of conviction over my sweatshirt story. But this time, I decided to do what I was urging my children to and come clean.

There in our van, I confessed my secret. My kids had grown up hearing the story, but I now revealed the truth. I spoke the confession that had been corked up in my heart for so long and then let the tears spill.

Afterward, my husband reached over to squeeze my hand. There was compassion in his voice when he said, “It’s okay, honey. You didn’t have to worry about telling me. I forgive you.” Then he led our kids in prayer, thanking God for my confession, and asking Him to help us all to tell the truth—especially after we’ve first told a lie.

Three Lessons on Sin

In retrospect, I notice three lessons about sin, tucked into my experience with the sweatshirt story.

1. Sin entraps.

I never intended for the story to go as far and wide as it did. I thought I would share some humor with a few friends, then move on with no consequence. But that little story grew into something ugly that followed me for twenty-five years. It was a sin I didn’t want to continue participating in, yet I felt trapped. And what was holding me hostage? Shame.

2. Shame magnifies.

After confessing my sin of lying, I realized how silly it was that I never did so before. I had been so ashamed of what people would think or say if I told the truth. Yes, lying—like all sin—is serious and wrong. And yes, embellishing can quickly turn into counterfeiting, fraud, or perjury, so it’s best to take our sin very seriously. But shame doesn’t help us rid ourselves of sin. Instead, shame inflates sin—making it bigger and bigger in our minds. The only thing that can puncture our shame and set us free is the needle of confession.

3. Confession frees.

I was surprised by how freeing it was to confess my sin to my family that day in the car. Why had I held on to my façade for so long? It makes no sense, really. By claiming to be a Christian, I’ve already exposed myself. I’ve let the world know that my heart was so wicked, it took the slaughter of Jesus to clear my guilt. In his book Tempted and Tried, Russell Moore puts it this way: “I am crucified with Christ. My corpse is hanging in the sun, publicly marking me as a sinner, worthy of death. Why then, would I try to cover the fact that I’m a sinner?” (p. 174).

Shame bullies me into hiding my sin, but Jesus invites me to swing wide the door of confession and let the light of the gospel in to sweep my heart clean of sin. When I confess my sin, I simply restate what I’ve already said is true: I am a sinner, saved by grace.

Friend, don’t be entrapped by some longstanding habit or past sin. Don’t let shame hold you hostage. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Won’t you let the light of the gospel sweep your heart clean today?

What sin have you kept covered? How can you puncture your shame by confessing your sin? To prepare your heart for confession, draw a picture of the cross, with your hidden sins written in big letters on it. Remind yourself that Jesus has already cleared you of guilt.