Tailor Made

I recently participated in a magnificent traditional Nigerian wedding. As we got ready together in a stunning location, overlooking the city, I was astonished by the jewels, arresting colors and beauty of each woman getting prepared. So many details about the preparation and ceremony were unfamiliar to me, but my dress was a perfect fit, because it was woven and altered to fit me just right.

Although I couldn’t dance like the others, understand the language at times, or pronounce items on the menu, I felt amazing throughout the day – because my attire was so remarkably comfortable and right for me. (If you’ve ever been in a wedding, and I’ve been in my fair share, you know the paramount blessing of having the right fit!)

In our lives, it is easy to take on responsibilities or make decisions that are not the right fit, even with the best intentions.

Joyce Meyer says that finding God’s will for your life is like finding the right fitting pair of shoes. This doesn’t mean that life will be easy, but it does mean that we can walk with his peace, His ease, and His comfort – even when the path is bumpy.

It takes intentionality to stop, reflect, and assess whether your choices, schedule, work and social circles are helping you to walk with well-fitted feet.

Author Craig Groeschel says, “Direction of action, not good intentions, determines your destination.” He tells readers to“play your story forward” by asking yourself, “Where is your story headed right now? What will happen if you continue tin this direction?” 

Sometimes, we need to make decisions that will initially take more energy, sacrifice, time, money, or resources in the short term to experience long-term benefits. Taking time to find the right fit is always worth it.

Here is what I know: If I had been wearing an uncomfortable dress at that Nigerian wedding, my memories of the day would have been tainted by discomfort. I would have been trying to act joyful while not fully feeling it. However, walking with the right fit allowed me to enjoy the day with freedom, curiosity and peace all through the adventure! This is a picture of life with Jesus, walking according to his guidance, pacing and plans. So zip up your attire, get your feet fitted, and explore with freedom the tailor made life He’s got for you.

Frame the Finish

Everyone tunes in for a great finish! People may miss the ups and downs of a story – but they do not forget the finish.

Recently, I stood backstage at a baptism service, moved by the life-changing stories of those about to be baptized. One man was mighty big, and had an intimidating accent – I felt small as I stood near him with a towel before he entered the tank. His conversion story was remarkable as he had spent his life looking for freedom and fulfillment and eventually finding it in a relationship with Jesus.

When he walked out of the tank, his tears mixed with the baptism water that streamed from head to toe. Gratitude and joy stained his face as he sobbed and I wanted God to frame that moment for him. The details of his past were fading now – and the freedom of this finish was all that mattered to him – and to be honest, it was all that mattered to me and to everyone listening to his story that night too.

When we tell our stories – it’s the finishes that count. It’s the finishes that we frame, and that others frame in their minds too. 

The twists and turns of our stories will fade – but the finishes will be framed. Whatever situations, relationships or aspects of your life appear to be broken – it is not the mistakes or regrets that will be remembered – it is the finishes. Like the man in the tank, I want to finish my stories well. I want the Gospel story to frame my finishes with freedom, gratitude and joy too. 

Have you ever experienced incredible heart-change, only to end up asking, Did I really change at all, or was that just a phase? Hear me: Growth is struggle, but it is real. Because the Gospel is real. Believe you have changed, and keep making choices that lead to finishes worth framing.

Pointed Purpose

Her obituary read: “Jordan Lee Zacharias July 21, 1994 December 3, 2011 Jordan Zacharias, age 17 years of Waldheim, SK went to be with her Heavenly Father on December 3, 2011.” When I heard the news, I remember thinking, God – this is so awful, how could you let this happen? How can anything good possibly come from situations like this? Caner. She was seventeen.

I had seen her in my small town church as a bubbly bouncing little girl before her family moved to another Saskatchewan town. I couldn’t believe she had died.

A short time ago I sat with two strong parents and the most beautiful young woman. They told of her brave journey with cancer. They had benefited from the Jordan Zacharias Memorial fund that began after Jordan’s death. As they told me about the Memorial Golf Classic that takes place every year to support families of children with life threatening illnesses, I remembered my question to God – How can anything good come from this?

To influence the world in God-designed ways, whether highlighted or not, is to give Him glory. Jordan’s life continues to give God glory. This is the pointed purpose of every life, and when we do this, we point the world to see the goodness of God.

So, what is God’s glory?

I will spend my entire life marveling at the question.

John Piper says, “The glory of God is the infinite beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections.” David K. Huttar writes, “We do not add to his glory; we merely recognize and acknowledge it.”

So many Bible characters lived not knowing their stories would resound through the generations and become change agents in people, families and societies across the globe. Their stories are full of screw-ups, emotions, challenges, simple laughter, sorrows and celebrations – just like ours. But together – they are the fabric of the greatest story of all – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

“[Jesus} is the radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” – Hebrews 1:3

God’s glory lives in us and is told through His Gospel story. His Gospel awakens love for people and motivates us to bring positive change to our world … God’s goodness is made known in surprising and remarkable ways … and His glory shines light even in the darkest places. This is the pointed purpose of every life, thank you Jordan for continuing to point the way.

Habit Change or Heart Change

If I want people to remember something, I make it into a story.

Deep transformational learning takes place through story because it evokes personal identification with the topic at hand. (I have even been known to turn Pythagoras’ theorem into a tantalizing tale).

I want people to remember that life is always better with Jesus and I’m thankful for the fabulous story already authored by God… No need to make anything up.

We all want our lives to be better. But there is a key difference between behavior modification and spiritual transformation.

Personal development strategies and wholeness endeavors such as meditating, maintaining a great diet, gratitude, generosity, mindfulness and self-compassion are all popular topics right now – These are excellent endeavors! But they are empty without Jesus.

Personal development without the author of grace is nothing but striving and will disappoint in the end.

I recently gathered around a table to delve into a rich piece of grace through a Voskamp study, 1000 Gifts. We all want to taste real peace that comes through grace.

One woman began sharing about personal development and the peace that comes by practicing healthy habits, living organized, determining priorities and living authentically and courageously! She is a talented and lively life coach!

We began to discuss how these things are good – but if not coupled with the Gospel – they are empty and regimented. The scandalous grace story is the game changer. It cracks hearts open and morphs desires, motivations, and brings the experience of fullness and love that comes directly from Love Himself. This is lasting peace that doesn’t depend on the maintenance of behavior change or scheduled habits (Although the experience of God’s Love births discipline so we can develop healthy habits!)

When we live a grace rich life, we can enjoy the journey of personal growth knowing full well that the destination of wholeness has already been reached By Christ’s nail-torn hands.

It Is Finished, He whispers with absolute certainty.

When I understand this,

I learn for the sake of learning.

I play for the sake of playing.

I work for the sake of serving the One I love.

This true grace story has captivated the world for centuries, continues to ravish the globe and break unbelievable barriers. It’s power spreads from one human heart cracked open  to receive and spread the Christ story.

This is the Gospel life and once it is found it cannot be stolen. I cannot smear or smudge the perfect way that God chose to save me. Neither can you.

It is finished.

Out of this story flows every personal development and healthy living plan you will ever find. God desires wholeness for all, and has given instructions telling how to develop a well-ordered life and experience wholeness – but we must not dissociate the plans and strategies from the Great plan-maker and strategy builder.

Keeping glued to His Grace Story is what keeps and preserves a soul-life. From this vital connection, all else flows.

Motives

Why do we do what we do?

A personality test won’t answer this question. Our motives are deep and lead us to God. The most important question you can answer is this: Are you motivated by the love of God?

When I was twelve, my mama gave me a recording midi – a device for recording music. Unfortunately, I didn’t work to understand the little beauty, and it sat on my shelf for years! What a waste.

Had I worked to understand the gadgets, gizmos and tricks of the small powerful device, I would have made the most of it – but I chose to maintain my current knowledge instead.

Each one of our lives is like the little midi. We need to understand what drives us, and what motivates us to live a full life at our jobs, schools, and in our families and communities. What is the force behind the decisions we make and the actions we take?

A personality test or gifting assessment won’t reveal motives, and won’t necessarily point to freedom in God.

Understanding our motives leads us to Jesus, and is paramount if we want to be the best versions of ourselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically, as Jesus intends.

Mirror Mirror YXE exists to inspire and equip people to live motivated by this life-transforming truth: You Are Loved. You are loved from the cross to the grave and back! If this mad love is your motivation, you will have identity, belonging and impact – and this will lead to the good life God intends in every area of your life.

Everyone searches for Identity, Belonging and impact.

Identity Whatever you do to find identity…. Do you do it ….

Because you are trying to be someone or appear a certain way? Or because you know who you are and what your mission is. You know you are loved.

Belonging Whatever you do to feel belonging… Do you do it….

Because you are trying to find acceptance from the people around you or because you know you belong in the heart of God. You know you are loved.

Impact Whatever you do to have impact/purpose…. Do you do it….

Because you need to do something important to feel important or because you know you are valuable and created by God to live for His chosen purpose for you? You know you are loved.

Do you know you are loved?

Is Father God’s love what motivates and moves you?

On November 9th, 16th and 23rd, Mirror Mirror YXE presents workshops by Greg and Chantal Denie called Motives at Elim Church for youth and young adults. These sessions will lead people to understand their personality and gifts – and most importantly – motivations. As we learn to understand our motives, we are free to change them and root them in the truth: You Are Loved. This heart-shifting change changes lives– that is what the Gospel is all about.

Too often I hear that I am loved. I believe it intellectually. But it is not always what drives me. 

I want to live driven by undeserved love.

I want to be free from pleasing others, striving to measure up, feeling offended, comparing my life to others, feeling hard done by when in fact, I am rich.

There is no greater wealth than the love of the Father.

The best news of all, no one can take this from me –and if you choose to receive it, no one can take it from you either.

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38

If you, or anyone you know could benefit from this workshop, there is still room for people to join! Check it out under “Events” at mirrormirroryxe.com!

The Long Haul

 

In the water I was reminded – The cross is the epicenter of heavenly hope and the doorway to daily freedom.

When I jumped in the water, I had a deep sense I should hop out and let my comrades brave the lake without me – but I was rather determined to swim across once I had committed to the challenge, and I let my stubborn spirit and my flailing arms carry me on. We were all supposed to take the challenge together after all – and let’s just say I don’t back out of a challenge easily. I was in it for the long haul.

It didn’t take long and my muscles weren’t propelling as quickly or swiftly as I’d like – I was legging behind and feeling mighty weak. By the time I realized I needed to turn back – I was halfway across the lake. My hands were white, and I couldn’t feel my arms or my legs. My teeth were chattering and anxiety coursed through my body. I knew I was in trouble.

My friends were yelling and signaling for someone to come help us. They helped me onto a raft – but I wasn’t warming up, my thoughts were jumbled and my blood deprived brain moved slow. I remember praying for a motorboat and thinking this could be the end.

None of us know when the end is coming. Life is unpredictable. One thing we all have in common: We will all get there … one day. Thankfully, that day in the lake, the motorboat did come and I spent the next hour in a hot tub with blue lips. However, we aren’t guaranteed a motorboat and peace with God is worth pondering.

I believe the most important question you will ever consider is this: When you meet God, will you be confident that you have peace with him? If so, why?

In the water I was reminded – The cross is the epicenter of heavenly hope and the doorway to daily freedom. The Cross, when fully trusted, is confidence in life and in death.

This confidence helps us to live our best lives – with Jesus at the center. This fall, people are back-to-school-shopping, meal planning, setting personal goals, budget planning and routine building. As you decide what your fall routine is composed of – be confident that God’s desire is for your flourishing – physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s not the big things that lead to joy – it’s often the small building blocks of routine – so make the mundane count.

As Christians, we have the same power that tore Jesus from grave clothes alive inside of us – the power of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. We have the choice whether to practice these things. We can list the things that will lead to God’s best – and stick to the list. Staying with a plan or accomplishing a goal is not for those with exceptional amounts of inspiration or motivation. It is for those who recognize life is short – so they make plans for health, wholeness, love and laughter  … and when the euphoric sentiments cease, they stay committed for the long haul.

Feel Alive

This week, floods of love tears flowed at different moments as my sister brought the sweetest life into many lives. That little girl is so loved. For all of us who love her fiercely – we are most alive when we love – we were all made to do it. For her, she is developing in dynamic ways as her brain senses showers of care, fond words and gentle kisses. People don’t outgrow the need to feel loved – although some of us would like to. We would like to do it on our own, to need no one – strong and independent … but we cannot thrive in a life like this. We weren’t made for it.

During this weeks hospital fiasco, one busy nurse stepped out of her way several times to extend care, conversation and love to my sweet sister. There was something exquisite about her ability to extend such remarkable compassion and sweet sensitivity in the midst of a stressful shift on the ward. Yes, she knew the love of an unfailing Father – she knew it personally and intimately. The kind that meets a person in the morning and infuses energy, and gratitude. The kind that heals and holds and does not disappoint. That love is available to all – but only some recognize, believe and receive it.

Some days, you wake up in the morning with energy, zest, gratitude and enthusiasm. On other days, mornings are slow, heavy and hard. You can’t buy soul-vitality. It’s so costly that it can’t be sold, and so valuable that nothing compares.

Everyone wants to feel alive. More than new things, money, fame, marriage, positions, or power – what we all really want is to wake up in the morning and feel alive. This is the life God intends for His people.

Social scientists and psychologists are pumping out life formulas for people to experience meaning and connection left right and center because so many societal and personal problems are attached to the desperate cry all people walk around with … Author Erwin Raphael McManus says that all people are walking around desperate to be loved.

Brain scientists from a Health and Lifestyle Report say that a thriving brain needs love as much as it needs nutrition.

Anne Voscamp writes, “Live everyday like you are terminal because you are. Live every day like your soul is eternal. Because it is.”

The truth is – if we don’t feel loved – it’s mighty hard to feel alive. When a person feels loved – brain lights switch on and revitalizing chemicals go coursing where they need to awaken some sweet soul satisfaction. When a person feels rejected, alone, isolated, unwanted – their ability to love is halted.

Simon Senik teaches that organizations and movements throughout history thrive when people invest their heart power and believe in a vision … when they know why they are doing what they do. When this happens, people come alive and life changes – for individuals and societies.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

I will not forget the love of that nurse – she who has learned where to find what everyone wants. To feel alive. To know love. To make Him known.

 

Blast from the Past

Family reunions. High school reunions. Weddings and anniversaries. Ah, and of course – we all love that delightful sighting of a summer fling from years ago. Many of us have experienced these blasts from the past – and they tend to cause us to examine ourselves asking, “I wonder if he thought I looked older”, or “I don’t think she recognized me in this outfit…” These encounters spark the question, how have I changed?

Yesterday I sat across from a lively university friend I hadn’t connected with for a few years. She has changed in amazing ways! Her eyes danced with vibrancy as she told me about her business and passion to help people live their best lives. She still has challenges, but she talked about them with new strength and resiliency – with a deep down certainty that things would be ok. Since university, Marie has started her own venture to help others reach their fitness and wellness goals. As she told me about her own journey, she said her new joy is not so much about body transformation as it is about character growth and a mindset switch. Science shows there is a deep down fulfillment that can’t be compared with when we foster healthy thinking.

Marie told me excitedly about a study that shows the way you choose to think about food actually affects how effectively your body processes that food. This makes sense because anxiety and fear have countless negative effects on your overall physical health including: aches, pains, weakness, digestive problems, and a weakened immune system.

Marie consistently chooses to replace anxious thoughts with a healthy mindset. She is enjoying happier days as a result! Fear and anxiety take up a lot of brain space in North America and studies show that 95% of the things people worry about never actually happen.

We can’t thrive with fear and anxiety building nests in our minds. God didn’t make us for worry – Jesus inspired his friend John to write, “Perfect love drives out fear.” This happens in a person’s heart and brain – and it changes people for the better! In your brain – the acceptance of God’s love, which is never based on your performance but on His grace established on the cross, kicks fear out! Receiving this mindset changes and liberates people to live their best lives! Sometimes we don’t want to make changes because we are afraid to fail. The truth is if we take risks – we will fail. The good news is God’s love is unchanging and always dependable. The grace extended through Jesus’ death and resurrected life is always certain – you can set your life on it and count on it lasting!

When your mind is set on the perfect love of God, you are strengthened to perceive life’s circumstances with faith that God is in control and He is on your side. With these thoughts percolating, worry seeps out of the brain and your body functions more effectively – you change for the better and your life is enhanced!

So don’t dread your next blast from the past, wondering whether that person will think you have changed in positive or negative ways. Instead, live with the confidence that as you set your mind on perfect love – you will be changing for the best!

Getting Ready

There were tears and gaping smiles as the bride took strides down an isle decorated just for her. The ceremonial room held sparkles, rings, a husband and family and friends – just for her. Even the music was selected and sung with lyrics and tones that she chose with care and thought. Her dress was striking and spotless as she walked lightly on the pathway marked, just for her.

As long as I’ve known Kendall, she has been on a fierce and committed journey to become all she was created to be. Kendall has had the courage to recognize things in her life holding her back and worked diligently to change those things. She was humble enough to let other people keep her accountable when change felt impossible. Prayer has transformed painful periods in her life into shimmering treasure that she now shares liberally – to help others navigate pain in healthy ways.

Kendall’s commitment to a healthy life in soul, mind, body and spirit is authentic – she has allowed God’s power to flow through her, and has chosen healthy thinking and exercised the willpower God offers each of us to make consistent healthy choices. The girl loves her Joyce Meyers and looks for God’s truth to stand on in all situations. Behind her striking face is a passion to see people freed on the inside from inner hurt, unhealthy thought patters and addictions. She knows the way to freedom, she knows the Greatest Grace displayed by Roman nails pounded through God-flesh. She knows how to lead others there, too – forgiveness and freedom.

As our quirky wedding party crew got ready for the big day, I thought of all the ways Kendall was “ready” for this life change. Anyone can sign up for a hair do, a good old spray tan and book a much-needed pedicure. Outward beauty can happen quickly – inner beauty is often a slow grow that requires commitment and grit, and it is the inner beauty that her husband is going to treasure for a lifetime.

Yesterday, I talked with my students about making healthy habits for 2017. We joked that no one sets out with the following habit list “bite nails, waste money, check phone every ten minutes” – However, our brains are habit-making factories and whether you intend to or not, your brain is making habits in alignment with your behavior. As a class, we agreed to make thankfulness a habit by listing three things we are grateful for each morning. Eventually, our brains will make this a habit – and our capacity for joy will expand, just as research shows.

John C. Maxwell says, “You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine” – John C. Maxwell

Kendall was ready for her wedding day. Her make-up was flawless, the preparations were all in place, even her shoes shone like the sun … but more importantly, Kendall had spent years practicing healthy habits in many areas of her life – so that she could be the woman God created her to be. As the doors flung open and Kendall moved forward towards this new life, she truly was “wedding ready” inside and out.

Gaining Weight

In October 2013 Jared was in a car accident. In one instant,  his life would never be the same.

This week the world is opening an unknown package labeled 2017. The New Year is about to drop 31,536,000 New Seconds into your lap, and into Jared’s too. What are they for? What can we do with them? What should we?

Following the accident, Jared swam in months and moments of rehab, hospitals, questions and courage. I met him in Saskatoon City Hospital, and months later found myself plopped beside his motorized chair at a Church Service. Following the service, a group of us sat around talking about how we could see God’s goodness. One young man told the story of his own recent car accident. Without knowing Jared’s story, the young man looked around the circle and repeated several times, “I know God is good because I walked away without a scratch.”

Sometimes we see the ways God spares us from discomfort and difficulty – and we say this makes God good. After all, no one goes looking for adversity. It is good to be well. But what is wellness? What makes God good and what makes us well?

In that circle, I was far too afraid to ask Jared if He thought God was good and would not have blamed him for thinking otherwise. Jared glanced over at me as if he could read my mind and said, “I’ve been reading the book of Matthew. God has been so close to me, it’s amazing. He is good.” That’s all He said, that’s all he had to say. There was nothing glittery about his words or explanation. I remember wondering, How could Jared possibly say that God is good, even while facing such challenge?

In the Bible, goodness means glory and is called “fruit of the Spirit.” Goodness is a piece of God made available through blood shed on Skull Hill by God. Goodness is God’s presence. Goodness comes from within and makes glory without. The original Hebrew word for “Glory” means the “Weight of God” and it looks like moments saturated and soaked through with Him – sometimes muddled and untidy, always consistent and steadfast. Jared knew God was present with Him. Jared knew God’s goodness within.

Psalm 96:1-3 says, “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations.”

As time passes, the question becomes, How do you sing a new song of God’s goodness when you are living same-old, same-old days?

Yesterday, I sat beside my buddy with football sounds and Christmas sparkles in His living room celebrating the New Year. He is continuing rigorous therapy to build muscular strength. One faithfully lived day at a time, Jared builds muscle strength of his own and heart strength for all who meet him.

With 2017 balloons floating behind him, I asked him, “What are you hoping for in 2017?” He told me he hopes to drive his motorized chair with his hand. He paused, and then added plainly, “I don’t really have goals. Everyday I just show up and give it my all. That’s the goal.” As Jared works to make muscle, he gains weight for himself and glory weight for all. He knows God’s goodness within and shines glory without.

What if the secret for you to experience God’s goodness and to sing new songs in 2017 is to gain the weight of glory one day at a time? To experience God’s goodness through His presence, and to make glory in the world day after day … No shimmer needed. No glam necessary. What if the goal for 2017 is simply to show up and to do what’s necessary to gain the weight of glory in your own life?

Jared, you know the secrets of drawing dripping pales of God-fount strength and of singing new songs on same-old days. You, in your unadorned words and steadfast heart, have taught me much about God’s goodness and true glory.

Yes, it is good to be well. True wellness is having the ability to draw strength from God’s wells, and to daily gain the weight of glory.