Tag Archives: choices

It’s Okay to Say No (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

It’s Okay to Say No

by Steph Beth Nickel

“It’s vital that people have access to this information. What would you think of using my research and writing a book? No need to put my name on it.”

Sounds like a writer’s dream, doesn’t it?

The material is sound. It could help a lot of people. Theoretically, I could carve out time in my schedule.

Still, I knew the right thing to do was to turn down the offer.

As writers, we don’t have to take on every opportunity that comes our way.

Granted, we don’t always have the freedom to say no, but when that is a viable option, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons.

Here are nine questions to ask yourself when considering an opportunity that comes your way. (As a Christian, I believe it’s important to do so prayerfully, asking God for wisdom and direction.)

  1. Does the prospect of taking on this project excite me?
  2. Do I have the skills necessary to complete this project—or am I able to acquire them in a reasonable amount of time?
  3. How long will it take to complete this project? (It’s always important to give yourself more time than you think you need. The more involved the project, the more margin you’ll want to factor in.)
  4. Will I have to set aside other projects in order to take this on?
  5. Will I have to sacrifice volunteer commitments and time with family and friends?
  6. Will I need the support of others? Is so, would it be reasonable to ask it of them?
  7. Is it reasonable to think that I will have the physical, mental, and emotional energy it will take to push through until this project is complete?
  8. Will the return on investment (ROI) be worth it? (ROI doesn’t always refer to financial gain. For example, the sense of satisfaction that comes from completing a project you’re passionate about can make it worth the time and effort.)
  9. If after asking myself this series of questions, I’m still undecided, who can I discuss this with who knows me and my situation well enough to give me wise counsel?

When faced with a decision, I like to remember Lysa TerKeurst’s book The Best Yes. The title pretty much says it all.

To sum up how to best make a decision, we can ask ourselves a single question: Is this the best yes for me at this time?

And remember…

It really is okay to say no.

Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is a freelance editor and writer and an author. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at stephbethnickelediting@gmail.com.

You’re invited to visit her website: http://stephbethnickeleditor.com/.

You can join her Editing Tips Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/418423519384351.

I Can Does Not Mean I Should

I Can Does Not Mean I Should

by Steph Beth Nickel

Oo, shiny!

That’s how I often feel when I hear of a new opportunity. You too?

I have what I refer to as the Butterfly Syndrome. I love to flit from one thing to the next to the next and then back to the first thing. While I don’t think it will ever be my approach, I do admire people who are able to stick with a single task until it is completed before moving on to the next. There are definite advantages to this approach.

But since I have several interests (and am easily distracted), potential opportunities come at me from all sides. I am learning s-l-o-w-l-y that I can’t pursue them all—as much as I’d like to.

Add to my natural tendencies the fact that I’m a Christian and don’t want to miss an opportunity God brings my way and I’m off and running … figuratively speaking. I’m not like my amazing friend Janet, who participates in 5K events and our mutual friend Kimberley, who participates in Mudmoiselle. (Kudos, my friends! I am truly impressed.)

But even as Christians, we don’t have to say yes to every opportunity, every request. (For more on this, I highly recommend Lysa TerKuerst’s book The Best Yes. She guides readers through the whys and wherefores of identifying when they should say no so they’ll be ready to give their best yes.)


Now, I believe there should be a progression in every Christian’s life. Many of us, when presented with a new opportunity, think—or even say, “Oh, I could never do that.” (At least this is the case if we’re not busy flitting about, trying our hand at everything that comes along.)


As we mature, we come to the realization that just maybe we could do whatever it is. I’ve found myself thinking, “I could do that? Cool!” Often this has nothing to do with self-confidence or arrogance. Hopefully, there comes a time when we realize God has equipped us to do things we never imagined possible. This is an exhilarating mindset. And it’s very in-keeping with my “oo, shiny” attitude. If you’re wondering, it feels a little like an ongoing caffeine/sugar high.

can-t can should


Not that long ago, the Lord brought me to a new realization. It may seem self-evident. And I wouldn’t blame you if you said, “Well, d’uh!” although I know you’re much too polite to do so. The final step in this three-step progression is this: when someone asks us to do something or we become aware of an interesting opportunity, we should … wait for it … we should ask, “Lord, is this something You want me to do? And if so, what should I set aside in order to do it to the best of my ability?”

I’m still learning Step 3. But it really is even more exciting than the second step. After all, knowing God will give me wisdom and direction and will guide me step-by-step … now that blows my mind.

Will I always flit from one thing to the next? Most likely. But with God’s help, I will try to stay in the same corner of the garden—at least for a little while. Care to join me? [Scroll down to join the conversation.]

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Too High a Price

God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world.
1 Corinthians 7:23, NLT*

How is it possible to forget the Cross… and the full cost of Jesus’ sacrifice?

Yet over time as believers, we get caught up in life and responsibilities, and it’s not foremost in our minds.

If God had simply found us at the side of the road while He was out for a stroll, just handed us spare change for a coffee or enough cash for bus fare home, it wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t reach our potential.

Instead, His investment was huge. He came looking for us, in the person of His Son. He gave up His life to pay our ransom and to erase our sins.

That’s much too high a price to squander.

But if we’re not vigilant about our choices and attitudes, our focus can slip. We can find our lives diluted – even dominated – by things that don’t have eternal value. Sometimes that’s from buying into society’s mindset, but sometimes it’s from listening to our own selfish natures.

God may have given us many blessings to enjoy, and if so, let’s enjoy them. But let’s be careful to keep Him first in our hearts and to put His priorities above our own.

God our Rescuer and Redeemer, You know how often we need to be rescued again. Forgive our blindness, selfishness and inattention. Draw us closer to You, and teach us to delight in Your presence. Change and grow us, so we’ll forget our wandering ways and thrive in Your kingdom.

I didn’t realise how many artists had recorded “Lead Me to the Cross.” Here it is from the Newsboys:

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Choosing to Love

You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.
1 Peter 1:22, NLT*

Sincere love. Deep, whole-hearted love. This isn’t surface-friendly love. Nor it is always warm and fuzzy.

This is love as a choice. An act of the will, a decision of the mind. If the heart is slow to catch up, it can’t be allowed to affect the acting out of the love.

Let’s be honest. The whole reason onlookers were surprised to see how the early church loved one another is that we’re not a lovable bunch. We’re real people, like everyone else, with hurts, hang-ups, and habits.

Our love for the God who loves us – that’s the glue that binds us together. He loves us, and He says to love one another, so we do it for Him.

An important way to start is by asking God what He sees when He looks at each one. Not what dirt does He still see to clean up, but what potential? What did He design this person to become? What gifts has He given that He’d like to see developed and used? And, I suppose, what hurt does He see that He’d like to use you or me to help heal? What need, to help meet?

Then we need to pray for one another. Individually, by name, for God’s best in the person’s life. Sincere prayer grows love.

We’ll likely also need to pray for ourselves. “Lord, change me” is a prayer God loves to answer. After all, we can’t change others. As we let Him change us, though, that may inspire change around us.

Lord, change me… and thank You for Your patience and mercy in the changing. Grow Your church and help us to love one another as You love us, for the glory of Your Name. May others see enough of You in us to draw them to know You.

If you’re having trouble loving some of the people in your church, here’s the song that’s now my prayer: Matt Maher‘s “Instrument.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Christian Living in 2015

Can our daily choices actually be spiritual warfare? Read The Battle of 2015 at Other Food: daily devos.

Our choices include what (and if) we believe. I love the opening 2015 post at Beech Croft Tales: Rock Solid.

For more on the challenge to live with the mindset of Christ, read “God’s Word for 2015” at Practical Faith.

And for encouragement that yes, we can make changes in our lives, read Ann Voskamp’s Google+ post.

Janice Dick is starting a new blog series on some of Brother Lawrence’s insights. The first post is Satisfied by God, and I’m looking forward to what she’ll share. Brother Lawrence was a monk in the 1600s, and his words on practicing the presence of God are simple but profound.

As always, you can find spiritual encouragement weekly at Hearing the Heartbeat.

"Nothing binds me to my Lord like a strong belief in His changeless love." ~Charles Spurgeon

Living Free or Tyrannized

Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
1 Peter 4:1-2, MSG*

These are good verses to take into the new year, and to memorize for perspective.

Whether we’re suffering or simply living amid the day-to-day opportunities for self-indulgence, may we be alert to notice the choices. And may we choose growth.

“That old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way” – Peter says it plainly, and it’s deeply ingrained in each of us. Especially in a North American culture that assumes it’s our right to have what we want.

Free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want” – and the better we know God, the more sure we can be that what He wants is better and more healthy than what we want, as well as it being for our ultimate good.

Perhaps the key is in the first part of this passage: learning to think like Jesus. Renewing our minds, as Paul says in Romans 12. And diligently cooperating in the “weaning” from self-focus.

The Christian life is a process. We’re not just saved and instantly complete. We need to mature. The New Testament letters emphasize growth and our responsibility to grow.

Peter gives an example later in his letters: in 2 Peter 1:5-9 he challenges believers to build their faith daily. I’ve heard it explained as “God saved us, He is saving us, and He will save us.” There’s a lot of work to do, and we have to do our part in it. God won’t force us to change.

Holy and gracious God, thank You for rescuing us from the penalty of sin and for rescuing us from ourselves. We could never earn Your grace, and You give it freely. Help us to be diligent in working with you to break the sinful habits that linger in our lives, so we can grow in spiritual maturity and in intimacy with You.

This week’s song by the Newsboys asks what if we decided to live like “My Friend Jesus.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Review: Destination Unknown, by Amy Clipston

Destination Unknown, by Amy Clipston (Zondervan, 2014) Destination Unknown, by Amy Clipston

You’d think Whitney Richards has the perfect life. In her high school senior year, she’s captain of the cheerleading squad, getting straight A’s and on track for a prestigious college. Until a D on her recent calculus test prompts her mother to insist on a tutor. Could it get more humiliating for a girl who’s a tutor herself?

Truth told, Whitney doesn’t want to go to her mother’s exclusive alma mater after high school. All her life she’s complied with her parents’ directions, with her friends’ expectations. Who is she, really?

Her calculus tutor, Taylor, is good looking. And he likes the same books she does. He’s also from the poor side of town, and she’s surprised at how her friends treat him. How could she not have noticed how shallow and cliquish they are?

Whitney’s always been a nice girl, but she’s been insulated by her family’s wealth. Meeting Taylor and his sister challenges her to discover who she really is—and who she wants to be. Along the way she discovers that objective, true-to-herself choices are more than just choosing against her mother’s wishes.

Destination Unknown is an engaging story, and I liked Whitney and Taylor. The dialogue is natural, but many of Whitney’s internal observations would have benefited from another round of editing to convert the “telling” into “showing”. Examples: “His lips formed a thin line illustrating his discontentment.” (p. 31) and “I narrowed my eyes as animosity rushed through me.” (p. 159)

I also felt things wrapped up a little too tidily at the end. Still, it’s a good read and it could prompt teen readers to think about others’ feelings and about choices.

Amy Clipston is the bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery series for adults, as well as the YA novels Roadside Assistance and Reckless Heart. Destination Unknown is a sequel to Roadside Assistance but can be read independently.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Wisdom: More than Choices

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.
James 3:17, NLT*

When we ask God for wisdom, it’s usually because we need to know what to do or what decision to make. Think of the stories and jokes about the guy who climbs the mountain to ask the wise man a question. It’s always about knowledge and choices.

Today’s verse, and I think the whole of James’ letter, says wisdom is about living wisely.

Living wisely as James defines it will result in wise choices because the wise Christian is living in obedience to the Master’s ways. This wisdom is the opposite of self-focused ambition and selfishness. It’s loyalty to God, following His path.

It’s bringing the human spirit in line under the Holy Spirit, submitting our wills to His and following Him instead of pushing ahead.

I think if we can live like this, we’ll find ourselves making the wise decisions we wanted in the first place, because we’ll be in tune with God.

God who is fully wise, Shepherd who is fully good, lead us in Your ways and train us in Your precepts. In You we find our wisdom, our health and our strength. We’re no good on our own. Help us stay in Your presence, where we can thrive.

Think about Matt Redman‘s song, “We Could Change the World.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Wisdom is a Choice

And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’
Job 28:28, NLT*

The Book of Proverbs spends a lot of time looking at the thoughts, actions, and ultimate ends of the wise and the foolish, the godly and the wicked.

Wise and foolish, here, aren’t about intelligence. They’re not natural temperaments or personality attributes. They’re choices and learned behaviour.

They begin with our choice to seek or to ignore God.

Growing in relationship with God, learning to trust, obey and love Him—and developing a healthy respect and reverence for the one who adopts us as His own but who is the all-powerful God and Judge of all creation—is the way to wisdom.

The Book of James promises, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” (James 1:5, NLT*)

Wisdom isn’t always about specific guidance about the best thing to do or say in a given situation, although God can give us that. I like how Carolyn Watts puts it: “God promises to give us His wisdom, but the wisdom that He gives is sometimes more about learning to trust Him with the questions than about receiving specific answers.” [Rational Worship, p. 16]

Foolishness and wickedness are choices, and we don’t seem to need much help to excel at them. I’m so glad that wisdom and godliness are valid choices too, and that God offers all the help we’ll need to grow in them.

God who formed the universe, You are wiser than we’ll ever be. Thank You for inviting us into relationship with You. Thank You for the promise of wisdom if we’ll give our hearts to You and follow Your ways.

Since wisdom is a daily choice, our song is Brian Doerksen‘s “Today“. 

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Moment of Choice

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.
Romans 8:12, NLT*

The 1996 version of the NLT puts it even plainer:

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

Paul is writing about how those who belong to Jesus are to “no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” (Romans 8:4b, NLT*) He says we’re free from our old ways. Now we have to choose: will we stick with those destructive patterns, or will we obey the Holy Spirit?

As well as the “big ticket” sins, there are a lot of little things our sinful nature urges us to do: things we either don’t notice as sin or that we think are just part of who we are. Things like grumbling or self-pity.

Even things that aren’t really sin but aren’t good for us. Like that second—or third—chocolate chip cookie when we’re trying to lose weight. Or “just one more chapter” when it’s past bedtime.

you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do.

We’re told there’s a moment of choice between stimulus and response, but I often respond before I can think. Since finding this verse, I’ve sometimes felt a pause, as if I’ve been pulled aside, and sensed a friendly and confident whisper: “You know, you have no obligation whatsoever to do that.”

Usually I agree. (Sometimes I say “No, but I want to.” Still working on that!)

God of grace and mercy, who ransomed us from sin and makes a way for us to be clean and holy in Your presence, open our eyes to the temptations to be less than You’ve designed us to be. Remind us that because of Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection we have no obligation whatsoever to do what our sinful natures urge us to do. Give us willing hearts, and help us to choose those things that please You. Thank You for setting us free.

It all comes down to “who’s ruling—God or self?” Here’s Brenton Brown singing “Lord, Reign in Me.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.