Monday Morning Meditation: True Humility

The church we attend has a lot of prayer meetings. At one such meeting, a man named Bernard shared that it was his 29th birthday in the Lord. He shared his story with the group, and one of the pastors asked him to share in church.

Bernard had been a heroin and cocaine addict since he was 14. After almost 20 years of addiction, he walked into a Teen Challenge center in Brooklyn and gave Jesus the opportunity to change his life.

29 years later, he has not touched drugs at all.

Bernard is a powerful speaker! His story itself is thoroughly compelling, and he is quite funny. God has truly transformed him into a man of God.

So what does this trophy of God’s grace do to serve the God who saved him?

He cleans the church.

That’s right. On Saturday mornings, every week, you will find him and his wife on their hands and knees, scrubbing the altar of the sanctuary with huge smiles on their faces.

I know this not because Bernard advertises this fact. I know because I see them. I see them when I come in to the church during the day for meetings or worship practice. I see their hard work and their positive attitudes. I know they have been through their share of great challenges, but you would never know it by the joy in their eyes.


As he shared his life with us that day, I thought, This is true humility. Someone with a testimony like Bernard’s could be doing a lot of things. True humility is serving wherever God has called you to serve, even if that means cleaning the church.

On this Monday morning, I pray that your ears and eyes would be open to what He is doing around you and that you would have the humility to serve Him, no matter where He calls you.

If you would like to hear more about Teen Challenge’s program, here is their site.

Freedom Friday: Exercise Your “No” Muscle

Have you ever done a plank?

They’re a type of abdominal exercise. And they are hard.


Prior to having Maggie, I planked regularly. At first, I held it for 10 seconds and had to stop. But I kept trying. I got to 20. And 30. And so on as my abdominal muscles strengthened.

For many years, I answered “yes” to temptation. I didn’t even know it was temptation, and I didn’t know I could say no. I thought my feelings dictated my life, and my desires dictated my actions. And every time I gave in, my “yes” muscle became stronger and stronger.

When I became a Christian, I was surprised how much power my “yes” muscle still had. My eating disorder was still ever-present. I even had another lesbian relationship, despite knowing it was wrong. I thought I was a new creation? I’d cry out to God, wondering what was wrong with me that I couldn’t figure out how to say no and walk away.

How did I move from that place to where I am today?

As I recently chatted with other believers, I realized something.

I learned to exercise my “no” muscle.

Prior to following Jesus, I exercised my “yes” muscle quite a bit when temptation came my way. “Yes! I will starve myself.” “Yes, I’ll have sex with you.” “Yes! I’ll drink too much.” “Yes, I’ll self injure.”

It took me a while to realize that the Holy Spirit wanted to empower me to develop my “no” muscle.

At first, it’s very difficult to exercise your “no” muscle when you’ve been so used to your “yes” muscle being your default. It will feel unfamiliar, even uncomfortable. But as you say “no” more and more, it will become easier, until it becomes almost your default.

I have exercised my “no” muscle in the area of sexual sin so much that now I can fairly easily exercise my “no” muscle when it comes to pornography, fantasy, or acting out sexually.

My book Learning to Walk in Freedom talks extensively about how I also needed to learn to exercise my “no” muscle in the area of my thoughts and struggles with hopelessness and despair.

I still working on using my “no” muscle in the area of food. I read Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional for folks like me called Made to Crave. This quote today really caught my attention:

It is good for God’s people to be put in a place of longing so they feel a slight desperation. Only then can we be empty enough and open enough to discover the holiness we were made for. When we are stuffed full of other things and never allow ourselves to be in a place of longing, we don’t recognize the deeper spiritual battle going on.

Satan wants to keep us distracted by chasing one temporary filling after another. God wants us to step back and let the emptying process have its way until we start desiring a holier life. The gap between our frail discipline and God’s available strength is bridged with nothing but a simply choice on our part to pursue this holiness.

A simple choice to exercise my “no” muscle on a regular basis.

In what areas do you struggle to exercise your “no” muscle? Confess this struggle James 5:16 style to a Christian friend and ask that person to pray for you. Then ask God, through His Holy Spirit, to empower you to choose better next time.

Romans 6:6 (NLT) says “We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.”

Exercise your “no” muscle. Watch it get stronger and strong as God empowers you to walk out the freedom He died to give.

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #16: “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” by Laura Hillenbrand

I finished my 16th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken is the true story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who later enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces and served as a bombardier. In 1943, he and his crews’ plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean, killing eight of the eleven men aboard. One of the crash survivors died after over a month at sea, but Louis and his friend Phil survived for 47 days, only to then be taken as prisoners of war in Japan.

I read this 400-page book in just over 2 days. It certainly helps that I’m on maternity leave 🙂 But the story is so compelling that it was difficult to put down. It is also excruciatingly painful to read. The abuse that Zamperini endured in the various POW camps was astounding. Story after story of injustice and suffering as Hillenbrand, the author, recounts Zamperini’s two long years in captivity. Even after the war ended and he was freed, he endured nightmares and fears that drove him to use alcohol to cope.

This book certainly put my problems in perspective, and challenged me as I considered all that one man can endure and still come through, forgiving.

The story does have a happy ending 🙂 But you will have to read it to find out! I got this book through Paperback Swap (of course!), but I’m sure it’s available at the library.

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #8: “The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson

I finished my 8th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson

This book was a little different because I actually listened to the audio version. As I mentioned before, has a free monthly download. All you have to do is sign up for their email newsletter, and they will let you know what the free download of the month is. You go to the site, enter your email, and it downloads. You can’t beat free!

I’ve also shared that I don’t think absorb as much from audio books as I do from actual hold-in-your-hands books. But since I’ve read this book at least 5 times already (though probably not in about 5 years), I was very excited to listen to it.

The audio version did not disappoint.

If you’re not familiar with David Wilkerson, he traveled to New York City in the late 1950’s to minister to teens in gangs and with heroin addiction. He eventually began a ministry that is known as Teen Challenge today. This book is the story of that ministry’s beginnings. Teen Challenge is now one of the most successful drug rehabilitation programs worldwide.

The story is so compelling (even the 6th time around) that I limited myself to only listening to it while exercising. I found myself cheering, pumping my fists, crying and praying, even though I would be running or on the elliptical. I won’t give away the whole book, but I will share one story.

David Wilkerson comes from several generations of preachers. His grandfather was a preacher, and so was his father. One day, his grandfather said to David, “The day you learn to be publically specific in your prayer, that is the day you will discover power.” He learned the power of this truth one day when he was about 12.

He came home from school to find several cars and an ambulance at his house. He knew it was his father. His father had duodenal ulcers, and for more than ten years he was not free of pain. David’s mother warned him on this day that his father would likely die. Just then, his father cried out in pain. As his mother ran into the room, David saw that the floor and bedclothes were covered in blood.

I’ll let the book pick up there:

Ignoring my grandfather’s words, I ran just as far away from everyone as I could. I ran down the basement stairs, shut myself up in the coal bin, and there I prayed, trying to substitute volume of voice for the belief that I lacked.

What I didn’t realize was that I was praying into a kind of loud-speaker system.

Our house was heated by hot air, and the great trumpetlike pipes branched out from the furnace, beside the coal bin, into every room of the house. My voice was carried up those pipes so that the men from the church, sitting in the living room, suddenly heard a fervent voice pouring out of the walls. The doctor upstairs heard it. My father, lying on his deathbed heard it.

“Bring David here,” he whispered.

So I was brought upstairs past the staring eyes of the elders and into my father’s room. Dad asked Dr. Brown to wait in the hall for a moment, then he told Mother to read aloud the 22nd verse of the 21st chapter of Matthew…

“And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer,” she read, “believing, ye shall receive.”

I felt a tremendous excitement. “Mother, can’t we take that for Dad now?”

So while my father lay limp on his bed, Mother began to read the same passage over and over again… And while she was reading I got up from my chair and walked over to Dad’s bed and laid my hands on his forehead.

“Jesus,” I prayed, “Jesus, I believe what You said. Make Daddy well!”

There was one more step. I walked to the door and opened and said, loud and clear: “Please come, Dr. Brown. I have…” (it was hard) “I have prayed believing that Daddy will get better.”

Dr. Brown looked down at my twelve-year old earnestness and smiled a warm and compassionate and totally unbelieving smile. But that smile turned first to puzzlement and then to astonishment as he bent to examine my father.

“Something has happened,” he said. His voice was so low I could hardly hear. Dr. Brown picked up his instruments with fingers that trembled, and tested Dad’s blood pressure. “Kenneth,” he said, raising Dad’s eyelids and then feeling his abdomen and then reading his blood pressure again. “Kenneth, how do you feel?”

“Like strength is flowing into me.”

“Kenneth,” said the doctor, “I have just witnessed a miracle.”

David Wilkerson went from being a “country preacher” from the hills of Pennsylvania to ministering through the power of the Holy Spirit to teens in New York City with strongholds he’d never even heard of. He was able to do this because God enabled him to.

If that doesn’t get you excited about what God is capable of, then you might not be alive!

Grab a copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. Your local library might have it. And prepare to be changed!

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Empty Shelf Challenge Book #7: “The Predatory Lies of Anorexia” by Abby Kelly

I finished my 7th book for the #EmptyShelf challenge.

The Predatory Lies of Anorexia: A Survivor’s Story by Abby Kelly

I “met” Abby because she oversees the blog over at FINDINGbalance, where I have guest-posted. I’ve mentioned her before, and over the past few months, we’ve become fast friends.

I was THRILLED when she offered to let me read a preview copy of her book about her recovery from anorexia. I read this book almost straight through one Sunday and then had to slow myself down so I could actually write a review. That’s how captivating Abby’s story of battling the grip of anorexia is.

Since I also have overcome an eating disorder, I recognized much of myself in this story: the denial, the self-protection, the battling with family and other loved ones. But having read so many books on eating disorders, this one is distinct in two amazing ways.

The first thing that sticks out is how very well-written this book is. As someone who became a Christian as I emerged from the eating disorder’s hold, I have read many book on eating disorders by Christian authors. “Predatory Lies” is one of the best. Abby is a writer and a talented one at that. Though I was granted a preview copy, I could not think like a reviewer upon first read: I just had to read to finish. It’s not just that her story is compelling; the words she uses to capture her experiences and emotions grab your heart. I found myself needing to read the book again in order to be able to actually write the review! The parallels Abby draws between real-life situations and her recovery draw the reader in, so that even if anorexia is not your struggle, you relate. I love her honesty and willingness to not mince words. Here is one such quote: “anorexia robbed me of all ability to create and live within meaningful relationships. An eating disorder builds a shell around its victim, fending off anyone whose love might threaten it.”

The second thing that struck me is the hope. Abby clearly lives out the truth of Psalm 25:5: her hope is in the Lord all day long. And it’s not some vague “wishing on a star and pray everything comes out okay” hope. Her trust is in a living Savior who longs to help her (and you!) overcome life’s challenges. And she makes it clear in her captivating way that this hope is available to all who struggle with the lies an eating disorder speaks.

Abby has a clarity that is refreshing and necessary. The book has been released and is now available on Amazon. Read this book and sign up for her blog updates while you’re at it. You will not regret it!

You will be hearing more from Abby here at Living Unveiled in the coming weeks. She posted an interview of me in her blog, and I will be doing the same 🙂

My books so far on the #EmptyShelf challenge:

Freedom Friday: Selling My Birthright

Driving to church on Sunday, I heard part of this sermon (Aug. 5th, 2012) based on these verses from Genesis 25:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright. ”

“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

So Esau despised his birthright.

red lentils

This dramatic and fairly well-known story describes the dynamics between twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It was a volitile situation even from the womb, the Bible describing how the babies “jostled each other” within Rebekah. Esau was born first, but, not to be outdone, Jacob came out grasping Esau’s heel.

Yet Esau was still the first born.

We don’t have that many parallels today in Western culture as it pertains to birthrights. In Jewish culture, the firstborn child was given certain rights, privileges and inheritance simply based on the fact that he was born first. It is in Genesis and the story of Jacob & Esau where the rights of the firstborn are first talked about.

As believers, we have all been adopted into God’s family, and we are all His favorites. As His children, there are certains rights and privileges that God has given to us, promises He says will be fulfilled if we follow and trust in Him, surrendering our entire lives over to His lordship.

As I listened to the sermon, I couldn’t help but think of my struggle with overeating.

Am I selling my birthright for a plate of food? I wrote a poem that was posted 2 days ago if you missed it.

Alicia Britt Chole dissects the temptation of Jesus in her book, anonymous. You can read a Biblical account here.

Jesus has been fasting for 40 days and was genuinely hungry. Satan tells Him to turn stones into bread.

What would be wrong with that? Eating is not a sin, after all. What would be the harm in having a bite of bread?

From anonymous, pg. 65:

I find it noteworthy that Satan did not suggest that Jesus run into town and steal some food – that would have been a blatant violation of God’s commendments. But eating? Food in itself is not sinful. And here is where Satan’s lures can be deceptive. This layer was not about what Jesus would eat as much as it was about when Jesus would eat. Would he obey Father God even when obedience meant delayed satisfaction of legitimate needs?

In the layer of appetite, we witness Satan’s skillful use of a most effective lure: immediate gratification.

Imagine where we’d all be if Jesus sold His birthright for a plate of food.

Your issue may not be with food. It may be with gossip, crass talk, pornography, stealing, or subtle lying. Those could all be considered “false foods.”

What are you selling your birthright for a plate of? What false food do you run to in order to try and satisfy legitimate needs in illegitimate ways?

It is not likely that Esau was literally going to die of hunger, as he dramatically stated. Yet he was genuinely hungry.

Often when I run to the cabinets, I too am genuinely hungry.

But my hunger is not for food.

I desire comfort, escape. I am tired, lonely, bored, in pain, and am looking for a way to forget, to flee those feelings.

My need is legitimate, but it cannot be meet with food. My need is for God, spiritual strength, companionship, laughter, joy, peace and rest.

Think for a minute.

Are we despising our birthright, as Esau did, because we choose to run to false food instead of Him?

Are we missing out on the fulfillment of God’s promises – His presence, His provision, our inheritance as His child – in favor of more immediate gratification?

Is the pay-off, the “reward” really worth it?