Do you ever hear it? That voice inside your head–yeah, the one that whispers things like, “There’s no way I could do that,” and “How can I compare with [insert any name here],” or–the worst–“I’m worthless.”

Are you listening? That whisper tries to make you believe the worst about yourself.

Apparently that whisper is heard by others, too. And not about you.

British singer, Adele, who dominated the Grammys earlier this month with an astounding six wins, spoke candidly with reporter Anderson Cooper about her stage fright. Surprise. Even someone whose last album has sold 18 million copies so far. Someone who was recognized as one of the best in the music industry believes she will disappoint her audience. She admits to pre-show panic attacks and nausea, even to the point of throwing up on occasion.

Still, she keeps doing what she does, in the way she chooses to do it. No revealing clothes, no gimmicks, no trying to look or sound like someone else. Writing songs that reflect who she is, and what she has experienced. Her hit song, “Someone Like You,” was written the day after a bitter breakup with her boyfriend. Not with an eye on a Grammy, but written for herself and from her heart–broken at the time. People really relate to that song. But in the interview, she expressed disbelief that people are making such a fuss over her. She said, “Who, little old me? I’m nobody.”

Adele doesn’t quit even though that whisper tells her she might fail. And she just won six Grammys.

Don’t listen to the whispers. Instead, tune in to God’s voice. Listen carefully. He has big plans for you (Jer. 29:11), but he will help you get there (Phil. 4:13). He calms you when you’re worried or scared (Phil. 4:7). Despite our flaws, he wants to be your friend (Gal. 4:7; Gal. 5:1, 1 Thes. 1:4). In fact, he loves you so much he gave up his life for you (John 3:16).

Despite the whispers, Adele achieved her dream of being a successful singer. Don’t let the whispers keep you from your dream. God’s voice sings a much sweeter song.

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Book review: “The Jesus You Can’t Ignore,” by John MacArthur

This book helped me identify the line drawn between the loving God and the disciplinarian. Some people focus too narrowly on the God of love and tolerate just about any behavior under the sun under the true (but misguided) premise that we should be less aggressive, less preachy, and more tolerant. Others focus on the God who harshly calls out people whose behavior is less-than-godly. MacArthur deftly takes us through Scripture to understand the not-so-meek and mild Jesus who candidly declared truth without apology. We learn when it’s wrong to be “nice,”and when we should fight the good and right fight.

MacArthur also makes it clear that not every conversation is an occasion for open combat. He gives us many Bible verses to help us back up our own boldness as we step out and “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 1:3).

Five stars. For sure.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Taming the monster in your head

the monster in your head at www.gapingvoid.comDear friend,

You have just experienced the “dark” side of me. I tend to disappear, for months or even years at a time. I beat myself into a major guilt frenzy because I think I have let you down. Sometimes it’s because I stood you up at the coffee shop . Or I ignored your email asking me for a favor. Maybe I feel like a failure with my family or at work. Whatever the reason—real or imagined—there’s a monster in my head saying I’m not good enough.

So I just disappear into a black hole, which makes me feel even more guilt, which makes me dig an even deeper hole, which makes me … well, you get the vicious cycle picture.

At times I have allowed this monster to get the best of me, and I never re-establish contact with friends because of my guilt about letting myself and everyone else down. The dead remains of warm friendships litter the countryside, and I hope a dozen or more people have long since quit wondering what they did to deserve my never, ever returning their phone calls:

Where have you been?
Are you okay?
I’m worried about you.
Did I do something to make you mad?

With each email or phone message, it becomes harder to explain my silence, and now I feel it is impossible to climb out of that deep, dark hole. It’s too hard to say, “It’s me. I’m sorry I haven’t called.” I tell myself that you wouldn’t understand, and refuse to believe that good friends would welcome me back into the friendship.

Do you feel like you have let Jesus down? Can’t seem to get control over some behavior? We all do. Arrogance, anger, abortion; drugs, deceit, doubt; gossip, greed, and gluttony—we’re all guilty of something (Romans 3:23).

If you feel like you’re not worthy of God’s friendship and love, Jesus wants to banish that monster in your head. He is waiting for you (Matt. 11:28-30). He wants to be your friend (John 15:15). Peter, one of his closest friends, let him down. Yet, Jesus forgave Peter and gave him a second chance. Jesus loves us and welcomes us back, just as we are (Luke 7:37-47).

Jesus is your best friend. He cares about you, regardless of what you have done in your life. He loves you more than you can ever imagine (John 15:13, John 3:16).

Today is the day I’m crawling out of that hole. I’m making that attempt to say I’m sorry I let you down. I’m shining the light on my dark side and banishing the “Disappearing into the Darkness” monster.

Dear Jesus,
I’m sorry.
Will you forgive me?

Yes, he does.
(1 John 1:9)

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Book review: The Butterfly Effect

This small little book packs power. Using connectedness as proof, in “The Butterfly Effect” author Andy Andrews contends that life’s, indeed the world’s, events happen as a result of a series of connected events. The people in that chain aren’t aware of the impact their actions will have days, years, decades or centuries later. Andrews says that every conversation, every encounter we have, will affect the choices and success of others we may or may never meet.

At first the concept seemed far-fetched, but by the end of the book I felt encouraged, empowered and important. My life has purpose. I may never see it, but it really matters.

The book is small and appropriate for gift-giving. Give it to someone who needs encouragement. Give it to a graduating senior. And each time you give it as a gift, be sure to re-read it first to reinforce your sense of purpose.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Book review: ‘Cast of Characters’

We tend to skim over familiar Bible stories, or see the characters as two-dimensional because the Bible lacks details like we find in novels. We know what they did, but the depth of the anguish that was behind their action or decision is not obvious. We don’t spend the mental effort exploring what these characters might have been thinking.

Max Lucado does that in “Cast of Characters.” He does an exceptional job taking you into the minds of these characters, where you feel their depth of emotion, the anguish, the joy, and the pain. The Biblical principle is the main point of each chapter. In some cases, resetting the story is a tool Lucado uses to make it easier to see and apply the principles to our own lives.

Lucado’s writing style tends to be more reflective and inspirational than the practical “how to” books to which I’m drawn. If you don’t like his writing style or want a historically-accurate perspective on these characters, read something else. But I found three or four chapters that really resonated with my own life, and now I have a model to bring other Biblical characters to life.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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Book Review: ‘After The Hangover’ by R. Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.’s latest book, “After the Hangover,” is an insightful perspective from a key “player” on the historical and current state of the conservative political movement. Filled with personal anecdotes from the author’s decades in the movement, Tyrrell confronts the discouragement felt by many conservatives today with an optimistic look at the conservative agenda and its resurgence in popularity.

Tyrrell’s status in the movement for many decades is both a blessing and a curse. For those people who just recently jumped into the conservative fight, the significant chunk of space he spends providing a history of the movement is helpful. However, he tosses names around like old friends, but often assumes the reader has some prior knowledge of who those people are.

I found the writing style a bit over the top. Why use a simple, understandable word when one requiring the use of a dictionary will do? He also spends an unnecessarily large amount of space on an extended tribute to one of the conservative movement’s great leaders, William F. Buckley, Jr.  I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion of the conservative agenda for recovery, which included specific plans for financial and health care reforms, key domestic policies such as education, immigration and energy and national defense. Despite the book’s minor shortcomings, I would heartily recommend it for its informative, witty and insightful message that’s full of hope for the future.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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One By One, It Will Get Done

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. ” Prov. 6:6

Tessa has always been organizationally challenged. That’s a tactful way to say that her room is in a constant state of chaos. (Do I dare say she gets it from her mom?)

Periodically I send her to her room and yell, “Don’t come out until it’s clean!” Two hours later she’s out, but what does she have to show for all that time? Nothing. Still a disaster.

Tessa has been busy all that time, but she keeps getting distracted. She unearths and works on a craft project, writes a few paragraphs when she runs into her journal, dresses her American Girl doll with the outfit she finds under her bed. But her room is still not clean.

I doubt the momma ant has any problem with a kid’s messy room. Have you ever watched ants? It took just a few bites to the backs of my legs to look closely before I sit on the ground when gardening. Ant hills are remarkable. Those tiny little creatures are able to create huge colonies. And they do it by moving one grain of sand at a time.

The “ant” method worked to help Tessa clean her room. When I help her focus on one thing at a time, miraculously she is able to get the room clean. It goes like this: “Pick up all your dirty clothes. Now pick up all the books. Done? Now put all the American Girl stuff into its storage container. Done? Now put all hair bands in the drawer.” And so on. What was once an overwhelming, unachievable task is conquered by focusing on and finishing one thing at a time.

I have several projects in the works, including a book, several articles, this blog, and a “conversation starter” game/activity. Each project has value. At the heart of each one is relief for parents who feel unequipped to initiate spiritual leadership in their homes. Each gives moms the tools and confidence to saturate their children in the truth of the Bible.

Like Tessa, I’m struggling with getting any of it done. I get distracted. I flit from project to project. Do a little on this project, then a little on that project. And none of the projects are getting done.

One thing at a time. One project at a time. Like the ant, one grain of sand, then another. A page here, a sentence there. Before I know it, I’ll be done. Just like the ant.

What are you working on? Do you have a bunch of unfinished projects in the works?

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