The Surprising Gift of Saying Yes

20170614_fritz_sayingyes_1024Brenda and I met in the lounge of a transitional home for women where she and thirty other women were working to rebuild their shattered lives. Amongst mismatched sofas and coffee tables that had seen better days, I helped this sixty-two-year-old woman prepare for her GED exam.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I volunteered to tutor Brenda. Would we hit it off? Become friends? Or would the relationship remain that of tutor and student?

Truth be told, Brenda and I had very little in common. She is African-American. I am the palest of white you can imagine. She was raised in the South. I grew up in the tundra-country of Wisconsin. Brenda had many years of hard living on the streets. I live in relative comfort.

But none of that mattered when we got together. Read on at (in)courage.

10 Reminders of God’s Relentless Love For You

there is no God like you who relentlessly (1)


Part of my husband’s job as a pastor is to visit people who can no longer leave their homes or retirement facilities to attend church. He meets many amazing people of the “greatest generation.”

One couple he met was especially memorable. Their love for each other was always evident, but the husband struggled to say the words. He said, “I told her when we got married that I loved her. I’ll tell her if that ever changes.”

Oh, but we need to hear the words! Hopefully, you’ve heard those three small words, “I love you” many times from your parents, friends, spouse, and children.

But sometimes we as humans fail to express our love. Especially to those who need it most.

Thankfully, God never fails to tell us of His love. His love is unceasing. And His Word is always available as a continual source of I-love-yous.

So if you are needing a reminder that Someone cares for you or would like a few sweet love letters, I’ve compiled some of my favorite Scripture passages that speak of God’s constant love for you:

There is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who … relentlessly loves (1 Kings 8:23 MSG)

For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
    I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. (Jeremiah 31:3 NIV)

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (John 15:9)

Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life. (Isaiah 43:4)

God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 36:5)

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him. (Psalm 103:11)

There is no God like you in the skies above or on the earth below who ... relentlessly loves (1 Kings 8:23 MSG) Click To Tweet

Although the humans in our lives may neglect to tell us of their love for us, we can always hear God’s words of love in His Word.

Next step: Write out the verses that are most meaningful to you. Post them in places you will see them often: your bathroom mirror, your computer, your refrigerator. Remind yourself of God’s relentless love for you!

10 Reminders of God's Relentless for You

4 Ways to Have a More Productive (and Meaningful!) 2017

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017

At the end of each year, I often make New Year’s resolutions.  As I put up a new calendar on my fridge I make lists of goals and plans. (I love lists!)

But most of the time what happens is that I make a beautiful plan for the new year–and then promptly forget about it.

So this year I am trying something different. To help me actually accomplish my goals (and have a meaningful life–not just a productive one) I’m making these 4 things my 2017 priorities.

A Daily Routine

I learned about daily routines from Crystal Paine. A routine is simply a set of things that you do in the same order every day. Choosing to do what is important or useful and then developing the habit of doing those things every day helps me actually do what I intend. I already had a morning routine that consisted of exercise, breakfast, getting dressed, and a quiet time with God. But Crystal suggests also using afternoon and evening routines.  So now I have developed a routine for the end of my workday. When I am ready to quit for the day, I:

  • save the day’s work
  • do a final check of email
  • check my calendar for upcoming commitments
  • neaten my desk
  • shut down my computer
  • say a prayer of thanks for work accomplished

My evening routine is:

  • clean kitchen counters after dinner
  • have time for reading
  • lay out clothes for next day
  • practice examen before I go to sleep

These simple routines help me end my day peacefully and start the day with a clean slate.

Weekly Review Time

The idea of a weekly review came from leadership expert Michael Hyatt. A weekly review is a specific time slot in your schedule set aside for evaluating the past week and setting up the next. During this time you will review:

  • your goals
  • the calendar for the next week
  • your to-do lists (What did you accomplish? What do you plan to do next week?)

I love the concept of a weekly review. For two years I have tried (unsuccessfully) to incorporate them into my schedule. But this year I am making this a priority because I think it will help me stay focused on my goals. It will help me concentrate on what is important and not just what is urgent.

Monthly Personal Retreat

The daily routines and weekly reviews help me be productive and goal-oriented. But checking things off on a to-do list doesn’t guarantee a meaningful life. Planning and goal-setting don’t get me anywhere but lost and frustrated if I’m not following God’s plan for my life.

I am convinced that I need extended quiet time to connect with God to hear His voice and seek His will for my life. So I try to take one day (or one morning) out of each month for a personal spiritual retreat. But again, I have not been consistent in this practice. So I am determined to make 2017 the year I make time to get away each month to read my Bible, journal my concerns and questions, and wait for God’s answers. You can read more about a personal retreat here. You can also get my Soul Spa Kit with 59 ideas for a personal retreat by entering your name and email address in the upper right-hand corner of this blog.

Live Like I’m Loved

My type-A personality loves goals and plans. but lately, God has been teaching me that these can get in the way of my relationship with Him. I tend to base my self-worth in my accomplishments. When I check off everything on my to-do list, I feel good about myself. When I don’t, I feel like a failure.

But God is teaching me that my self-worth is not based in how many goals I can accomplish. My value comes from being a daughter of the Most High King. I’m finding that a meaningful life does not come from to-do lists, daily routines, weekly reviews, and monthly retreats–but from abiding in Christ’s love.

Jesus said,

As the Father loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9

Living in Jesus’ love is the best way to have a productive and meaningful 2017.

Next step: Start by posting John 15:9 somewhere you will see it every day to remind yourself to live loved. Then consider if a daily routine, weekly review, or monthly retreat might be useful for you.

4 Ways to Have a More Productive2017 2




Maundy Thursday: The Dark Before the Dawn


Easter is almost here.

But before we get to the joyful celebration of Resurrection Sunday, we need to go through the darkness of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible tells us what Jesus talked about to His disciples on the night before He went to the cross. John’s Gospel uses five of its twenty-one chapters to give us a seat at the table with the other disciples. We see Jesus washing His follower’s feet, sharing a meal with them, giving them last minute instructions, and praying for them.

John tells us that Jesus “showed them the full extent of His love” when He washed their feet (John 13:1). He lets us know that Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). We see Jesus’ heart for all of His disciples when He lifts His eyes to heaven and prays for us even as He is preparing for the most difficult mission of His life.

Jesus told the disciples:

I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.  A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 13:20-22).

The world looked incredibly dark to the disciples on Good Friday. Their beloved Friend had died. They didn’t understand.

But the time of rejoicing was coming.

Much of life is like that too. We have grief, sorrow, sadness. Problems multiply. We experience pain, anguish. We don’t understand what is happening.

But Jesus promises us that a better time is coming. In the end we will see Him and rejoice. And even now in the dark time we can feel “the full extent of His love” (John 13:21). We can experience His peace. We can look forward to joy.

So hang on:

“Your grief will turn to joy.”

Next Step: Thank God for “the full extent of His love” that He demonstrated on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday

Freedom From The Tyranny Of People-Pleasing


The Fourth of July is upon us–a day of celebration in our country. A time to celebrate the freedom we enjoy in America. A time to be thankful for the fact that we still have the freedom to worship God.

With all the emphasis on freedom during the days ahead, it made me realize that even though God has given me freedom, I don’t always live as if I am free. I get tangled up in the chains of ambition and people-pleasing. Although I am free in Christ, I sometimes willingly step into shackles that prevent from living in that freedom.

It seems like this is nothing new. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. (Galatians 5:1)

The Galatians had experienced the freedom of salvation in Christ–the joyous freedom that comes when we realize that there is nothing we can do to earn salvation. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more. Christ has already done everything necessary.

But they had been convinced by other people that they needed to follow some of the old laws, such as circumcision. They were willingly stepping into the shackles of trying to please other people by doing things God had told them they didn’t need to do.

And when I read this passage again, I realized that, in a way, I had done the same thing. Lofty ambitions, avid goals, and the desire to do what the “experts” tell me I need to do, have chained me to an unrealistic work pattern. I have probably been trying to do more than God has asked me to do–more than I was meant to do.

Sisters in Christ, I hope that you have not been shackled to people pleasing and working beyond what Christ has asked of you. But if you have, here a few steps you can take to break free of the chains.

  1. Write down everything that you do during a normal week and everything you feel you “should” be doing. Include everything from cooking meals and laundry to driving kids to school and organizing play dates.
  2. Take your long list into God’s presence and mentally lay it at His feet. Pray over each item. Ask yourself questions like: Is this activity necessary? Is there a simpler way to do this chore? Why am I choosing this activity–is it because God asked me to do it or I am doing this simply to impress the neighbors or please other people?
  3. Eliminate the activities that God asks you to purge from your calendar. Find simpler, less stressful ways to accomplish some of your chores. Do what God is calling you to do–but not more.

Experience the freedom of doing what God has asked you to do. Live free.

Next Step: Follow the three steps above to break free of the chains of people pleasing. Write Galatians 5:1 on a sticky note and display it where you will see it often.

When You Need God’s Embrace


A little girl, not even two, was sitting with her mother in church. It was a new church for them, they had only attended there a couple of times.

The little girl sat patiently through the hymns. She quietly listened to the Bible readings.

But when the congregation stood for the reading of the Gospel and the mother lifted in her arms while they listened, the girl suddenly spotted the carving of Jesus at the front of the church. The resurrected Christ was on the cross holding out His arms to all in blessing.

The little girl couldn’t be quiet any longer. “Hug!” she shouted. “Jesus–hug!”

That little girl was my daughter Anna. And this story happened when we first moved to Illinois.

We all love to tell cute stories about our kids and grandkids, but I think this one has a lesson for us.

Just like that carving of Jesus at the front of our church, Jesus is always holding out His arms to us, ready to embrace us.

He wants to hold us close when we’re afraid to take a scary step of faith. He wants to embrace us when we’re wounded by hurtful words. He wants to enfold us in His arms when circumstances have crumbled our hope.

Psalm 73:3

Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.

psalm 73-3

Next Step: Today, take time to simply sit in God’s presence. Picture Him holding your hand. Imagine His caring arms holding you.

What It Means To Be Chosen

Eph 1-4

When I was in grade school, I hated gym class. Dreaded it, in fact.

While most of the kids probably longed to get out of their seats and play a game in the gym, I would have much rather stayed behind in the classroom. Or somehow become invisible.

Because I was never chosen.

Every phy ed class began with lining up against the pea-soup green walls of the gym. Every class meant two appointed team captains would choose teammates. And every class meant a knot in my stomach because I knew I would happen.

Lori would be chosen. Mark would be picked. Kathy’s name would be called.

Finally there would be two of us left at the wall. One of the team captains would hesitate and then say something like, “I guess we’ll take Roxanne.” Roxanne would go over to that side and it was understood I would go to the other. My name didn’t even have to be called.

I was never chosen.

Maybe you can relate to my story. We all want to be picked for the team, asked to the prom, invited to the party.

We want to be chosen.

That’s why I love this verse in Ephesians:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

Ephesians 1:4

Imagine. Even before God poured out the oceans, lit up the stars, or formed the mountains, He saw you. He chose you. He picked you out of the line at the wall.

Let that soak in for a minute. I don’t know about you, but the fact that I am chosen brings a deep joy to my heart.

To be picked means I am desired. To be desired means I am valued. To be valued means I am not left at the wall feeling worthless.

Next Step: If you believe in Christ’s work on the cross, you are chosen. Thank God for picking you out of the crowd and sending the Holy Spirit to put faith in your heart. Thank Him that He sees you as valuable and precious.

If you are not yet a believer, know that Jesus is calling you to be on His team. Accept His invitation to life with Him forever.


Learning to Delight in the Gift




delight in the gift
A while back I met a friend for lunch that I hadn’t seen in months. She met me with a hug and a beautiful bunch of pale pink tulips.

My first thought was: They are so lovely!

My second thought was: I didn’t get her anything!

Somehow how I couldn’t fully delight in the gift because now I felt the balance of friendship was upset.

As I contemplated this I realized that my delight in God’s gift of grace is also somewhat diminished by the fact that I didn’t give Him something of value in return. I feel I have to do something for God 

In one way this is perfectly sane because it is a good thing to want to give back to God.

But in another way this is ridiculous because what could I give God that could equal the incomparable gift of His Son?

The real problem lies in the fact that sometimes my doing gets in the way of enjoying God. The nagging feeling that I should be busy in His service sometimes prevents me from simply delighting in Him.

Psalm 37:4 says:

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

When we learn to delight in the Lord, He becomes the desire of our hearts. We rest, contented with who He is and what He has given. The pressure to do is diminished. The weight of the my inadequacy is lifted.

Just for today, let’s put aside our doing and simply sit at Jesus’ feet enjoying His presence, reveling in His grace, marveling in His love.

Delight in the gift.

Next Step: Take five minutes today to sit quietly with God. Delight in His love, care, and protection. Thank Him for His many gifts to you.
revel in His grace

Base Your Identity On This


I stared at my first college report card. Most of the grades were As and Bs. Not bad.

But there was one grade that stuck out. Aural Music Theory: C. Not good.

All semester long I had struggled with this class. The professor asked us to do a whole list of seemingly impossible tasks: “Listen as I play this chord on the piano and identify its quality. Write down this rhythm as I tap it out. Listen to this melody and write it out note by note.” I knew I wasn’t getting an A in that class.

But a C. For someone who had always prided herself on good report cards, a C was depressing.

I was never good at athletics. In grade school, I was always the last kid picked for teams. I knew I would never win a beauty pageant. My sister got all the natural good looks in the family. So I based all my self-esteem in the fact that I was pretty good at memorizing facts and understanding algebra and taking tests.

What did it mean if I wasn’t good at school anymore?

Most of us tend to base our identity in our looks, our skills, or our intellect. Maybe you’ve always been the cute girl. Or perhaps you could run fast from the time you were in first grade. Or like me, you were always the one who could ace a test.

We take pride in who we are.

Now, it isn’t necessarily wrong to find satisfaction in the gifts God has given us. The problem comes when we base our identity in those gifts. We run the risk of losing the ability to like ourselves when all of our self-esteem is wrapped up in being able to please certain people or perform certain tasks. Because what happens if we can’t do them anymore?

God wants you to see that you are not just Beauty Queen, Athlete, or Comedian. You are His child and He loves you not because you are pretty or smart. He loves you because He loves you.

Romans 5:8 says:
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It doesn’t say: God shows His love for you while you were beautiful. It doesn’t say: God shows His love for you while you were winning races.

It does say: God shows His love for us while we were still messed up. It does say: Christ died for us when we didn’t look like much.

God loves us. Period.

And that is where your identity and pride should be based. Your self-esteem won’t be rocked as long as you keep in mind this one timeless truth: God loves you as you are.

Remember, you are not only Gifted Athlete, Amazing Brainiac, or even Ordinary Girl. You are a Child of the King.

Question: Where do you tend to base your identity?

Divine Makeover001

This post is adapted from my book for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful.

Are you looking for a meaningful Christian gift for a young lady? Consider Divine Makeover, a book that encourages young women to find their beauty and identity in Christ. It has a lot of fun along the way with clothing analogies and fashion tips. Find it here and here.

Five Ways God’s Love Changes You Part 2


5 more ways God's love seeps into our hearts and transforms us.


I struggle with many things:

caring too much about what people think of me

second-guessing my decisions

accepting God’s plan for my life

focusing too much on material things of life

spending way too much time at my computer

Maybe you can relate.

This world is full of conflicts between pleasing God and pleasing others. Our life is characterized by clashes between our spiritual side and the part that simply must type the memo, get dinner on the table, and generally survive in the world.

I have found one simple act that helps me win the battle:

Basking in God’s love.

As I said in a previous post, basking in God’s love during a particularly stressful season kept my heart at peace. Simply stopping for a few minutes to contemplate my Father’s unfailing love for me helped me win the battle against doubt and anxiety.

A look in God’s Word confirms: God’s love transforms me.

Here are 5 more ways God’s love changes you and me:

God’s love enables us to stay on His path. “For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness” (Psalm 26:3). When I am mindful of God’s never-ending love for me, I am much more confident that God’s path is the best one. I don’t walk in my qualifications or in my competence. I walk in His faithfulness.

God’s love gives us the confidence to pray. Psalm 69:13 says: “But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.” Because we know God as a caring Father, we can come to Him as His much-loved children. His unfailing love gives us the courage to come with our debilitating failures, our overwhelming dilemmas, and even our pesky problems.

God’s love motivates us to obey. Psalm 106:7 tells us the reason for the Israelites’ rebellion: “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.” After all God had done for them, how could they forget His love? Yet I often do the same. But when I do bask in the abundance of God’s love, my rebellious spirit is tamed. I’m drawn to follow Love.

God’s love in our hearts enables us to please God. “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love” (Psalm 147:11). Just like any loving dad, what pleases our Abba Father most is for His children to curl up in His caring arms–to put their hope not in their own cleverness or ambition, but in His love for them.

God’s love helps us to love others. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). We are to love others as Christ loved us. That little word as can have a couple of different meanings. It can mean, “Just like I have loved you, I want you to love other people” or “Since I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Loving others in the same way Jesus loved us is a difficult task. It’s made a little easier because God has filled our hearts with His love.

So take a minute right now and bask in God’s love. Meditate on Christ’s sacrifice. Repeat the words of God’s affection from Scripture.

Allow His words of love to seep into your heart and change you.

(Find the first 5 ways God love changes us here)