Tag Archives: self-esteem

Guest Post: The Spiritual Side of Writing Breaking Free, by Jennifer Slattery

The Spiritual Side of Writing Breaking Free

by Jennifer Slattery

I’m pretty sure every writer has that one story they long to see get published. Perhaps it’s the first one they wrote, or maybe one that touches on a deeply personal subject. Or maybe they sensed God’s hand so strongly as they wrote it, the story took on a deeply spiritual meaning.

Breaking Free was the first purely fiction adult story I wrote, it touched on encounters from my past, and it came about after a long spiritual standoff. I first felt the nudge to write around 2004 but all I did was dabble. As I had time. But then, around 2008, things changed as I sensed a definite call. God wanted me to sever my safety nets and lay it all—my time, dreams, ambitions—my whole self, on the altar.

This terrified me, because I’d been lingering on the outskirts of writing communities enough to know how incredibly hard it was to get published. Shouldn’t I pursue a more rational career? One with a guaranteed paycheck, retirement plan, and insurance benefits?

But honestly, that wasn’t what I feared most. What kept me dragging my feet was the possibility that I could spend decades, potentially the rest of my life, pounding away at my keyboard with nothing to show for it but a bunch of old documents.

You see, I measured my success based on my accomplishments rather than obedience. More than that, I measured my self-worth based on my accomplishments. Therefore, if I wasn’t successful, I wasn’t valuable.

God used Breaking Free to show me how faulty my thinking had become and to remind me of who I was in Him. I suppose this story represents my own freedom journey in a way. And yet, the journey isn’t over. Perhaps it never will be, because I find it’s all too easy to slip back into that “do-to-be” attitude, measuring my worth on temporary things when my real life is hidden with Christ in God. When that happens, God must once again pry my reaching-grasping fingers loose, centering me in His truth and grace, because that is when my creativity truly comes alive.

What about you? Have you ever sensed God calling you to do something you found irrational or irresponsible? What made that nudge so frightening? How did you respond? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Breaking Free, by Jennifer Slattery

Breaking Free:

Sometimes it takes losing everything to grab hold of what really matters.

Women’s ministry leader and Seattle housewife, Alice Goddard, and her successful graphic-designer husband appear to have it all together. Until their credit and debit cards are denied, launching Alice into an investigation that only leads to the discovery of secrets. Meanwhile, her husband is trapped in a downward spiral of lies, shame, and self-destruction. Can they break free from their deception and turn to the only One who can save them? And will it be in time to save their marriage?


Read a free, 33-page excerpt here: Free sample of Breaking Free

Buy it:

Connect with Jennifer

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction Jennifer Slatteryfor New Hope Publishers, Christian living articles for Crosswalk.com, and devotions for Internet Café Devotions, the group blog, Faith-filled Friends, and her personal blog. She also does content editing for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas’ Firefly imprint, and loves working with authors who are serious about pursuing their calling. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com and connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/JenSlatte.

Review: Tadeo Turtle, by Janis Cox

cover art for the book Tadeo TurtleTadeo Turtle, by Janis Cox (Word Alive Press, 2012)

Tadeo (TAD-ay-OH) Turtle loves who he is—until he starts comparing himself to others. Suddenly his beautiful shell feels like it’s holding him back. Without it, he’d be faster, leaner, more agile.

One night he dreams of life without his shell. Freedom! Or is it? When a hungry cat spies him, he’s not so sure he likes being unprotected.

Tadeo Turtle invites children to think about how they’re different from their friends, to recognize their friends’ positive attributes and to discover the value of their own individual skills and abilities.

In a society where so many people think poorly of themselves or of others, this little book is a good way to encourage respect for diversity. I appreciate the way it acknowledges God as the designer of our differences and thanks Him “for making me so wonderfully complex” (Psalm 139:13-14, NLT).

Children and adults alike will enjoy the whimsical watercolour illustrations as well as the story’s simple rhyme. The book includes a few easy craft activities, with more available online at Janis Cox’s Creative Saturdays page.

Author-illustrator Janis Cox is a former teacher who’s now concentrating on painting and writing.  For more about Tadeo Turtle, including a spot for children to share pictures of their turtle-related crafts, visit Tadeo’s page on the author’s website.  There’s also a Facebook page for Tadeo Turtle.  Best way to get to know the little guy? Read my Interview with Tadeo Turtle.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Where Do We Focus?

As an example of the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus told the story of a shepherd who left 99 sheep and went in search of the one that was missing. It’s not that the wayward sheep was more valuable than the rest, but the man was responsible for them all and didn’t want any to be lost. At that moment, the need of the one was more urgent than the need of the many.

The shepherd made the right choice, to focus on the one.

Sometimes we don’t choose as wisely.

There can be 99 good things in our lives, and one negative, and how often do we focus on the one?

The failure. The fear. The imperfection.

One thing takes on more importance than 99 others and tips us from gratitude to despair.

It may be an area of weakness where God would like to make us stronger: a temptation we need to resist, or a responsibility we haven’t been meeting very well. Something we need to acknowledge and then prayerfully cooperate with God as He continues shaping us into the reflection of His Son.

God brings it to our attention to help us. The enemy of our souls points, mocks, accuses and demeans. We know which voice is healthy, but too often we listen to (and agree with) the poison.

Or maybe the “one thing” is something we can’t control or change: our smile, our shape, the pitch of our voice. Something we think makes us less than we long to be.

The Bible says we’re God’s handiwork and that His “workmanship is marvellous.” Our enemy says we’re defective. And fear makes us believe the liar over the Lover.

You are not defective. You’re designed by the Creator of the universe, and He loves you. (Click to tweet this.)

In the good things and in the bad, we need to keep our focus on the God who rescues and restores. Let’s remember His power and His character, and trust His plans for our lives. Let’s learn to walk in His strength and to recognize and reject the lies of our enemy.

Cloudy thoughts block the Light

Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

Knowing Who We Are

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:2, NLT* (emphasis mine)

“When you know who you are in Christ, there is less room for the spirit of rejection to take root.”

I heard this recently, and it got me thinking. Some people are self-aware. They have a healthy view of who they are, and are secure in their own identities.

Others, myself included, are self-conscious. We have too sharp a view of our failings or weaknesses, and a clouded understanding of our good points.

Reject a self-aware person and they’ll know it’s really your problem. Reject a self-conscious person and they’ll take it personally. And agree with you.

Better than either of these is to be God-conscious. The Bible tells us who we are in God’s eyes: loved but condemned without Him, loved and accepted with Him. If God accepts us, knowing and redeeming the very worst of who we are, why is it often so hard to accept ourselves?

God says we are: loved, saved, accepted, adopted, delightful, clean, equipped. And more. Feel free to add to the list in the comments.

God who formed and redeemed us, when we feel or think or fear we are less than You say we are, help us take control of those thoughts. Help us reject them with the sword of the Spirit: Your Word. And help us raise the shield of faith by choosing to believe Your Word.

The David Crowder*Band‘s song, “Shadows,” reminds us to keep our confidence firmly in God.

*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.

Hurtful Names, Hope-filled Names

Sticks and stones can break our bones, but name-calling and negative labels hurt us too. Australian novelist Paula Vince has an excellent post about this: To get rid of the reproach of Egypt.

In crawling out from under hurtful labels, I want to step into my identity as one who is shepherded by the Lord Jesus Christ, secure in His love, provision and care.

I don’t need any label other than the new name He will give me at the end. Or so I thought.

“You are a worshipper.”

When I heard those words, they fit. Well, they described what I want to grow into.

People have called me plenty of good things since my schooldays, but those words never stuck.

Some of that was my insecurity, not being able to receive compliments. Some was self-knowledge. Like every other person on the planet, I know the darkness that lives in me with the light.

“You are kind.” No, but God is growing kindness in me.

“You are honest.” No, but God is growing honesty in me.

“You are a worshipper.”

Well, I’m not yet, not completely. Not like I want to be. But I can receive that as an affirmation, an encouragement and perhaps a signpost. God is growing worship in me.

How about you? The next time someone identifies good in you, instead of thinking how far short you fall from perfection in that area, can you recognize a spark of the good? Instead of denial and defeat, can you speak hope for what God is growing?

Cloudy thoughts block the Light

Photo credit: Janet Sketchley

[Linked to Wednesday’s Word. This first appeared as a guest post on Grace Fox’s blog, Daring. Deep. Devoted.]

Guest posting at Grace Fox’s blog

Thank you to Grace Fox of Daring. Deep. Devoted. for inviting me to guest post. Here’s a sample:

In crawling out from under hurtful labels, I wanted to step into my identity as one who is shepherded by the Lord Jesus Christ, secure in His love, provision and care. I figured that I didn’t need a label of any sort other than the new name He will give me at the end. And then I heard the words… [read the rest of “Hurtful Names, Hope-filled Names“]

Review: The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee

The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee (Thomas Nelson, 1998, 2003)

“Seeing your true worth through God’s eyes” – a subtitle like that shows why this book would benefit most Christians worldwide. And with over two million copies in print, the demand is clearly there.

The introduction explains, “This book focuses on how our thoughts affect our emotional, relational, and spiritual development.” (p. x) It’s aimed at everyday Christians who may know the truths of Scripture but not know how to “apply God’s solutions to your search for significance.” (p. 6)

Through practical biblical teaching and illustrated by case studies, author Robert S. McGee aims to teach readers that “Our true value is based not on our behaviour or the approval of others but on what God’s Word says is true of us.” (p. 19)

That’s easy to say, but hard to internalize at the deepest level. Robert McGee simplifies the issue to suggest our problems rise from believing this basic lie:

Self-Worth = Performance + Others’ Opinions

And don’t most of us believe it, at least in part?

Is your life inhibited by fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of punishment, or a need to blame others? Shame?

I didn’t realize how much these things affected me until I did the simple self-tests and began applying God’s truth instead of accepting the devil’s lies.

The Search for Significance explores the consequences of believing the false self-worth equation above, and most importantly it offers God’s perspective from His Word, which we can choose to believe instead. With practice, in time, we can replace the lies with truth.

This is one of the most liberating books I’ve read in a long time. My copy is filled with sticky notes highlighting key passages. I have the revised and expanded book and workbook in one volume, a 337-page trade paperback. The first half is the teaching, and the second has questions for reflection and/or discussion to complement each chapter.

Robert McGee has extensive background in counselling, and he’s quick to clarify that the book’s scope doesn’t include problems or disorders tied to physiological issues, which require extra help. Many of us, however, will benefit from a prayerful reading and even from taking this journey in company with a trusted friend.

You can watch a two-part video on relationships and our search for significance at the McGee family’s ministry site, Rapha Resources.

[Review copy from my personal library, and it’s a keeper.]

The Source of Our Worth

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

[Jesus] replied… “I have given you authority… However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Luke 10:17-20, NIV*

No wonder the disciples are pumped: their mission succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. That’s a good thing. And I don’t think Jesus is rebuking their excitement. I think He’s giving them perspective.

Oswald Chambers interprets Jesus’ words here as “Don’t rejoice in your successful service for Me, but rejoice because of your right relationship with Me.” (My Utmost for His Highest, August 30: “Usefulness or Relationship?)

I’ve been reading about the damage perfectionism does, how much harm comes from basing our worth on how well or poorly we perform, and what a widespread problem it is even among Christians. (The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee)

From that angle, I see this verse as an antidote I can use when I don’t meet my own (or others’) achievement standards.

Step one: seek God’s direction first, not my own or someone else’s arbitrary standard.

Step two: rely on God’s strength.

Step three: celebrate success, acknowledge and learn from failure. Ask God’s opinion.

Step four: know my value isn’t performance-based but redemption-based.

Mighty and righteous Creator God, all our righteousness is only filthy rags compared to Your perfection. We can’t earn Your love or approval. Thank You for Your grace that redeemed us and made us acceptable—adopted—valued. Help us truly believe this, at the deepest level. Help us find our worth in You.

This week’s song is “He Knows My Name,” from Geoff Moore’s Speak to Me album.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Made by God

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14, NIV*

Verses 13-16 are my theme verses for one of my sons. In that context I believe them wholeheartedly.

This morning, reading Psalm 139 for the second day in a row, I hear the writer’s loving trust, his amazed adoration of this God who is everywhere, who is too big to lose one insignificant human and who cares so much about him.

Reading with that feeling, I can finally apply this verse to myself. It feels like triumph in my spirit, like release from that nagging sense of not measuring up.

I’m seeing the emphasis in a new spot. It’s not about how well I am made. It’s about God who made me.

This makes the difference in being able to accept the verse deep in my spirit. I’m not making boasts about myself. (Canadian self-deprecation won’t allow that!) I’m expressing confidence in my Maker.

Beth Moore began to teach me this in So Long, Insecurity, but these things take a while to stick. I think I get it now.

Loving and meticulous Creator, forgive me for diminishing myself in my mind. People aren’t perfect, but it’s not about us. I confess that attitude as pride: I’ve been putting myself down because I wasn’t what I wanted to be. Help me see that it’s really about You. And I praise You for taking the same care in making me that You did in crafting the vastness of the universe and the hidden intricacies of life in the deepest sea trenches. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Here’s “He Knows My Name,” by Paul Baloche.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Conscious of God’s Care

Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favour, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.
Colossians 3:22, NIV*

Somehow this spoke to me about doing right for the right reason—pleasing God, instead of the wrong reason—appeasing people.

I’m not a little girl with authority figures looming in judgment. If someone does chastise, rightly or wrongly, that doesn’t need to crush me. Jesus is the Shepherd and Overseer of my soul and I don’t need to fear men or women.

The verse in Colossians led me to 1 Peter, where it expands on what to do if you’re suffering unjustly: Jesus “entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, NIV)  and “it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because He is conscious of God.” (1 Peter 2:19, NIV)

For me today, this addresses fear of harshness, which can crush me if I let it. Instead, I’m to be conscious of God, who’s with me and loves me, and I’m to entrust myself to His care.

My hope and confidence are in Jesus. He says I have value, and He loves me. He accepts me and is growing me into His image.

Father, when we’re alone I know You’re near, but the fear of others’ response can take my eyes off of You. Please forgive me, and teach me to walk in the truth of the healing Jesus gives. Help me stay conscious of You, trusting myself to Your care and protection no matter where You lead.

The soundtrack God has given me to keep my focus is “I Need No Other” from Todd Agnew’s new album, Need. It’s a new melody and arrangement of the hymn “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” (or “No Other Plea”).

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.