Isn’t it a great feeling when things are going well, the plans you made are unfolding just as you laid them out, no glitches, no one asking you to do something when you are walking out the door, everything is blissful and on time.
What about when things are not going the way you planned? You are in the middle of the storm; the waves are crashing around you. Your mother is in the hospital and you are not sure she is going to make it, your child is sick again and not sure what is causing it, you lost your job and not sure when you will be able to secure a new one and will it pay the bills?
Believe it or not we were made to go through the middle. Most times I want to skip the middle and get to the end where we are all happy and things are going smoothly but that is not how life plays out. God made us for hard things, even if it is not where we want to be.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. Habakkuk 3:19
Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain. Isaiah 4:5-6
He never promised us that we would live free from trials but he does promise to be with us through them. So, walk through the storm with your head held high, looking up, and he will direct you out of the storm. He will walk with you on that narrow path, to the mountaintop where you are at peace in your soul. Thank God even while walking through the middle, no matter where we are he is there too, and that is enough.
Today’s podcast I am reviewing is “The Next Right Thing, by Emily P. Freeman: Episode 154 Remembering Who You Are.” I realize I mention this every time I review her podcast but I adore listening to her. Her voice is smooth and light, it reminds me of listening to a grandmother read her grandchild a book or one of the meditation apps you can listen to relax your thoughts after a hectic day.
The motivation to review this podcast was more selfish than magnanimous. It is a topic I must review from time to time as I tend to be hard on my endeavors and question if I am doing what God is asking me at this time?
Emily begins the podcast stating “Today I want to talk about Jesus. I can’t talk about the importance of remembering who you are without talking about who I am. And to talk about who I am, I have to talk about Jesus.”
“I was taught as early as I can remember that the gospel is the plan of salvation. Jesus wants to live inside my heart. It is not that this narrative is wrong but it is incomplete. The gospel is not a step-by-step process on how people can get saved. It is an announcement that the kingdom of God is real and Jesus is the King of that Kingdom.”
“What does that have to do with remembering who I am? If the gospel is just a formula, then who I am is simply a formula keeper, a rule follower and a box checker. But if the gospel is an announcement that the Kingdom of God is here now and not only here but within me then that changes everything. I am not a formula keeper, I am a imager bearer. Shaping our identity in Christ and determining how we live in his Kingdom. The stories that we believe about God, ourselves, and the world will always determine how we live.”
Such truth in those words. How many times have you listened to a fire and brimstone sermon and thought that doesn’t sound like a loving God to me? Perhaps your view of the Kingdom of God within you shifts and instead of being a loving presents in you it becomes a harsh hard sentiment.
AW Tozer says that “what we believe about God is the most important thing about us.” Emily states “If that is true then a true view of God will form our lives in Him and a false view of God will deform us away from Him. Knowing who I am in light of who God is, might be the most important work I do. As a parent, a friend a wife a writer a teacher a leader this is easy to say difficult to practice.”
“The most profound gift I can give to the people I serve is to honestly, humbly, and regularly practice exposing the false stories I carry and replacing them with the narrative of the God Jesus knows. Scriptures says if we see Jesus then we have seen the Father. If we want to know what God is like then look to Jesus. The power by which we can know the Father and the Son is through the Holy Spirit living within us. That is our triune God, three in one self, always exalting the other members.”
“We have a good and beautiful God who is filled with love for us. Discipleship is more than a quiet time, and the gospel is more than conversion. It is available life in the Kingdom of God and this is the narrative of how we should then live; as people in the Kingdom of God. What does that mean in our daily lives, for our relationships, our morning routines, and that annoying person at work?”
“I want to continue to learn the delicate art of walking with Jesus into the lives of other people. To gently untangle false narratives of God and to affirm true identity in Christ. This is where true discipleship begins and continues. Now that King Jesus has come and his Kingdom is here, we have a new choice, a new hope, a power alive within us. We have been empowered to make God known to the world. Does this make a difference in how you live? In Christ you are fully accepted and a completely loved image bearer and co-creator with him, working toward the renewal of all things.”
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. Romans 8:29-30
I love how she focuses on the Kingdom of God within us and how our narrative of God shapes how we perceive God in our lives and literally in us. “What we believe about God is the most important thing about us.” A.W. Tozer. If we believe God loves us and know he is for us and never against us, then we can show that love to others. Without it we cannot emulate love to others and fulfill Christ’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39
Emily was very passionate about this topic, not that she isn’t on other topics, you could sense it was meaningful to her in the highs and lows of her voice. I recommend listing to the entire podcast.
What are those false narratives about God that you are carrying around? Do you believe you will be punished if you don’t pray every morning or every day for that matter? Does God look like a warden to you waiting for you to do something wrong? What is the shape of the Kingdom of God in you? If you feel moved, share your experience with us in the comments section.
I pray you have a wonderful week and keep pushing against those false narratives while sharing the love of Christ in you to those in your daily circle.
Inspiring article on how one woman in Ohio is helping underprivileged in her community with locally grown produce. Hometown Hero.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is a fairly new one, it launched in January 2021. Courtney is the host and the name of the podcast is “Imperfectly Pollyanna: Episode #6 – Where is God When We Pray.” Courtney refers to herself as a Pollyanna; a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything
Courtney speaks to you like your next door neighbor but gets right to the point. In this episode she provides a few examples of when she has witnessed God show up in her life and how prayers do not always get answered the way we think they will.
“This past week, the world lost an amazing man. His name was Carman (Carmelo Domenic Licciardello). After a weird year of 2020, imagine the surprise of our tiny church when we were asked to host this legend! We questioned our ability to make it happen, even had questions on it being wise during the current events. Yet, there we were”.
“Carmen’s booking agent reached out to my mother and stated Carmen was touring and wanted to minister in churches throughout the country. He asked if our church would be open to host him. My mom was very polite in her southern charm and said while it was an honor to be asked but we are a very small church and did not have the capabilities to do something to that level. She let him know that she was sure that there were other larger churches in the area that would love to host them. He said he spoke to Carmen and he wanted to come to our church no matter the size. It ended up we said yes.”
“Fast forward to January, Carmen had a routine operation, and then complications began happening. People were praying for him and then he suddenly died the day before he was supposed to go home. I hurt for his crew and the small churches, I hurt for the people who were inviting their loved ones to upcoming shows in hopes to bringing them closer to the Lord. I am glad that the Lord saw our family and church worthy to host him. I am glad for the friendships we made that we wouldn’t have otherwise had. I am glad for the friends we had not seen in years. We were able to sponsor two children from Child Fund. Carmen supported and promoted Child Fund; he didn’t charge for you attend the show. He offered an opportunity to love the children, to be part of something bigger than you.”
Courtney goes on to explain when she was a teenager, she loved the gospel singer named Michael English. He made some mistakes; one was so significant that he left the gospel singing world for several years. At the time Courtney was struggling with her own faith. “I was mourning the loss of my best friend and worrying over another friend who was running from God. I prayed, for Michael English and my friend, I prayed, I prayed, and prayed some more. I felt like my prayers just were not heard. After all, if they were heard, surely God would have answered them. Surely God cared enough about me and Ben to change hearts, right?”
This is how she saw God move in this situation. “I prayed that God would bring Michael back or my friend back. I had an answer to a long-time prayer that happened at the National Quartet Convention. It wasn’t the place or time I thought it would be, and at the time I was doubting my prayers were even being heard, much less answered. I was wrong. Michael English was at the National Quartet Convention and he came up on stage and shared his story of redemption. God knew what each person needed that day, even 17-year-old me. He had always been listening, he just had a better plan, he had the perfect plan. I am sure glad God sees the big picture, he knows what we need, when we need it, and how we need it.”
I liked this podcast, it is authentic and Courtney shows us how even when we do not feel qualified, empowered, or perfect for the job, God knows we are. All we have to do is turn it over to Him in prayer and then go on with our lives, to the next thing He is prompting us to do.
It is important to note that prayer doesn’t have to be an hour a day commitment. You can spend five or ten minutes in the morning or at night; better yet send up a word or two throughout the day. God wants that intimate relationship with all of His children and it is formed through prayer.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“God’s command to ‘pray without ceasing’ is founded on the necessity we have of his grace to preserve the life of God in the soul, which can no more subsist one moment without it, than the body can without air.” – John Wesley– Co-Founder of the Methodist Church
If you are wondering does hear our prayers – yes, He does. The ones that get answered are the ones that are part of His plan, His will. Which is beyond anything we can imagine.
The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29
Below are links to the podcast and I am also including a link to a prayer guide that I have found helpful. It is by Kelly R. Baker and there are many good resources within this one document.
Friends, I am thankful for your support. Please leave me a comment if there is anything I can be praying for you about.
We have permission to grieve, the past year, for all of the things we lost. Time with family and friends, warm hugs and the sparkle in a friend’s eye when she sees you for the first time in almost a year. Laughing over a meal, feeling that joy and connection that you can only obtain when in the presence of someone you truly love.
We have permission to grieve the loss of a relationship, which could not traverse the chasm of political and social disparity. The time spent in deep conversation about hopes and dreams for the future, for the love of our Savior and spreading love and the message on our hearts.
We have permission to grieve and stand in solidarity with our African American and Asian American friends who have had a lifetime of violence and deleterious exploits this year. We can weep with them, listen to their grief, and put an arm around them in love.
God gave us emotions as a beautiful gift, to experience joys and love but with that comes sadness and sorrow. We have permission to feel and hold both at the same time.
Jesus wept for his friends Lazarus and his sister Mary. You have permission by our creator to feel those feelings of grief and cry, knowing He is there with you weeping, and He gives us hope that there will be joy again soon.
When Jesus saw her weeping, …he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” Jesus wept. John 11:33-35
Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
“We talk about the fires or hard things we walk through, the ashes we have to sift through, and then the beauty that we find in unexpected ways from the stories that God has written for our lives” ~Heather Lobe Johnson
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Take These Ashes: Finding True Hope in Our Suffering, with host Heather Lobe Johnson and guest Kristin Vanderlip.” Kristin is a writer and author of “Life Worth Living, A Daily Growth Journal.” Helping woman to develop a steadfast faith and love of the Lord.
Kristin begins by sharing her story. As I started to get into my relationship with God, which began as a Catholic, I became more of a rule follower. I knew Jesus came to offer you this abundant life, He is going to save you from sin and bring you peace, abundance, and prosperity. All of those things worked well for me until they didn’t. Until I got a real dose of suffering. Years later I realized that part of my suffering was tied to my expectations that God was going to protect me from suffering.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
“On December 1st our daughter was born. She had quite a few medical issues. The statistical evidence that was thrown at me in light of my faith was hard for me to believe, in light of God who can do the impossible, was very hard for me spiritually. She did pass away at a month old. We had no support system; we were in Alabama for only 6 months. The unexpected loss of a child, loss of my career, loss of community, more loss than I could ever imagine. As if that was not enough, a couple of weeks later my Dad passed away from cancer at age 60. I felt like God where are you, how could you allow this to happen, where is the abundant life, where is the protection?”
“In the midst of my grief, I kept turning to God because I felt His presents, His undeniable peace, when it didn’t make sense.”
Part of my healing was I had to stop resisting suffering, I had to reframe it in a way as it is not punishment, it doesn’t mean you are not loved or cared for by God. To see suffering as an invitation and move forward in life and anticipating more troubles are going to come and they are going to hurt and they are going to be unexpected but I will know without a doubt that God’s spirit will help me persevere. That has been the most transformative.”
Heather interjects, “On a practical level are there other things that have been a comfort to you or other places that you have seen God in the hardships you have walked through?”
Kristin explains, “Every day I started off with a prayer ‘God save me from this, God stop the pain.’ I wanted a miraculous healing for my broken heart, I didn’t want to feel the pain anymore. When I realized this is going to be a process, it didn’t mean I stopped praying, my prayers shifted, to be more aware of your spirit and of your goodness.”
“In the loneliness I turned to writing, I was journaling and writing. The gift of loneliness was growing in intimacy with God.”
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
Kristin created a beautiful journal, which helped her during her time of suffering. She describes it here:
“Journaling can be such a transformative practice. If you are a writer or not, you should give it a try. Most of my journaling is pouring my heart out onto the pages.”
“I ended up using the tools from therapy and understanding scripture more. I made this journal for myself and it has 3 basic parts.”
Pour out your struggles in a safe space to share your heart.
Then you pause to think more action oriented, to think about the growth or overcoming that you are seeing in your life. Not to just get to the end but in a way that gives you hope to see this transformation. Pay attention to what the Lord is changing in you.
It ends with thinking about what is good, it can be a promise of God that you are focusing on or the cup of coffee you made for yourself that morning, or the text message from a friend that stands out.
Heather wraps up the podcast by thanking Kristin for sharing and stating, “It helps you to see that there is something I control or a promise I can hold onto to.”
This podcast had such rich godly guidance and real-life struggles that I chose to give you the highlights of it and no additional commentary. This was only a third of the actual podcast, Heather speaks more about her story and they both talk about how scripture has promoted healing in both of their lives and how it displayed God’s hand at work in their suffering.
Links to the podcast, Kristin’s journal, and how to connect with Heather and Kristen are all below. I pray this episode along with part one, with Jodi Rosser and Dorina Gilmore, will aid you in discovering God walking along side you everyday.
An amazing story, I was blown away, click below to read it:
When my son was first born, I remember being afraid of hurting him. He was so little, helpless, and needy. My movements with him were very gentle and slow, laying him down to sleep, or walking from one room to the next, cradling his head so not to strain his neck, and watching every step I took so not to trip and jostle him. As a parent the desire to protect your child never ceases.
On this Good Friday the scripture that stood out to me was John 19:25-27
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman,[b] here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
Not only did Mary have to witness her son being beaten with a flail, dragging his own cross up to Golgotha, and then hung on it to die. How heavy was her heart, how many times did she think take me instead of him? Jesus felt her heartbreak and sorrow. In the midst of His greatest weakness and pain, He gently said to her, John is now your son and will love and care for you as I would.
I pray you can reflect during this Holy weekend, not only the great sacrifice Jesus gave for our salvation and redemption, but the sacrifice His mother made by being obedient to God’s call. To carry, love, raise, and send out into the world a son that she would ultimately give up for the rest of us to live.
What is suffering? Merriam-Webster.com (30 March 2021) defines it: the state or experience of one that suffers: to endure death, pain, or distress; to sustain a loss or damage; to be subject to a disability or a handicap. Hope: is to cherish a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true; to trust. As Christians we find our hope in God.
It was June 2010 and my children were wrapping up their school years. My son finishing up his elementary career, going from the small Catholic school he attended since 2nd grade, into the public middle school. My daughter finishing up second grade at that same school she attended since kindergarten. The news that their father suddenly passed away hit hard, it was like a sucker punch to the gut and took the wind right out of me. Even though our relationship was not tangible, it was still difficult to fathom, and my children still needed their Dad.
During the hardest storm I have ever been through I thought, how am I going to get through this? I was grateful that my faith was strong and I prayed a lot but during that time I needed people more than I ever did. At the time I didn’t realize how much my soul needed friends and family, I didn’t know what I needed, but God did. He answered the prayers I did not know to pray.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
The people God sent into my life were such gifts and blessings. When I was at my lowest someone would call or text me and it would bolster my outlook for the day. They brought so many meals, took my children so I could have time to myself and the kids could have a distraction from the sorrow. They helped me pack up the only home my children knew to move to the next town over. It was such a gift and it gave me hope that things would get better. God showed me there is hope in the people who answer His call to care for those who are suffering.
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:6
Leading into Easter I thought it would be appropriate to write on suffering. This will be a two-part blog series on that topic. The podcast I am reviewing this week has a very similar story line to mine. The name of the podcast is “Depth with Jodi Rosser: Walk, Run, Soar.” She is interviewing one of my favorite authors, Dorina Gilmore-Young, author, speaker, Bible teacher, and spoken word artist.
Jodi asks Dorina, I know you shared that running was part of your healing in your grief. I’d love for you to share more about that. Dorina’s reply, I will provide some context of my life, I moved to central California after college, I was a journalist. I started attending a church and met my husband Ericlee. He had a connection to Haiti; his grandparents were pioneer missionaries there. He decided to put on a mission trip to Haiti which I also attended. When we came home, we started to date, were engaged the following summer in Haiti, and then married in 2003. We had 3 daughters and started a non-profit in Haiti. Then in 2014 my husband received a diagnosis of stage 4 melanoma cancer. We had this momentum serving the Lord, he was very healthy, a runner and a triathlete. His body deteriorated very quickly; in three short months Ericlee went to heaven. I found myself a widow at age 37 with three daughters, ages 2, 5, and 8. Everything in my world fell apart. It has been 6 years and God has done so much in my life to redeem me from that situation. Running has been part of that therapy, just going and moving through grief. I found that physical movement helped me to move through the emotional grief and even spiritual questions I had. When I ran, I would ask those questions of God and He could handle them. You never get over the grief but the running helped me to move forward.
Jodi goes on to speak about another chapter from Dorina’s book “Walk, Run, Soar, called Traversing Life’s Trails”. “You talk about how running a trail race is different than running a regular race. When you are on the trails you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know what is ahead. This seems so much like 2020, the uncertainty of what is coming. Can you tell us what you learned from this trail run?”
Dorina states, I started trail running with a group of friends after my husband’s death. Trail racing is different than a road race. Even if you know the trail in different seasons it will be different, the ground may be more wet or the grasses are higher or rocks in different places. I was running and reflecting on what God was teaching me on my grief journey. As I was running, I couldn’t find the pace. I am going uphill and thinking about how life sometimes is uphill and hard, feel that strain on your muscles as you are climbing. Toward the end of the race this woman in back of me says you are running a great race, thanks for pacing me. I turn around and quickly introduced myself. Then I realized she was trained by my husband and it was so neat how God had us meet on this trail. She was encouraged by me pacing her and I was encouraged to meet her, someone who had a connection to my husband. In life sometimes the thing that keeps us going is knowing someone is coming up behind us, kids, friends, and people we are mentoring just by our example. That is what God reminded me on that day.
I love how Dorina points out that our faith and how we live it out is a way of mentoring to those around us. Reflecting our faith, shining the light of Jesus in our family and community. When we are there for another person who is hurting, showing love to those who we don’t think deserve it, or just saying thank you for your hard work to the grocery store clerk. This is being the hands and feet of Jesus.
I want to thank all of my friends who were there for me during my most difficult time, walking out your calling from God. Krista, Ellen, Marie, Karen, Jonna, Eileen, and my best friend who continues to be there for me today – Joan. I cannot forget to mention my Mom Corinne; couldn’t have done it without you. All of you are so dear to my heart and I will forever be grateful for the love and kindness you showed to me and my family! I pray that you will continue to see the hope in walking out God’s calling, continue to listen to him speak and nudge you along the way.
With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 2 Thessalonians 1:11
There was so much more to this podcast that I could not include here. I highly recommend you listen to it. Also, Dorina has her own podcast called “Walk, Run, Soar”, it is the intersection of faith and running. I will link to that and her book below.
Praying for a reflective Good Friday and a joyful Easter morning for you and all of your families! God bless.
In the middle of creating my next blog post my daughter announces, “Mom, you won’t believe how much money I saved on this skateboard using a promo code!” My next question was, when did you decide to get a skateboard and are you also purchasing a helmet, wrist, and knee pads too? Of course, she did but as a Mom it is my duty to ask.
Promotional codes have taken the place of physical coupons on line. I remember when you could only redeem a coupon by brining it into the store and presenting to the cashier at the time of purchase. There were times when I could not redeem the coupon since it required me to buy two of the same items.
When I hear the word redeem it takes my mind to whom has redeemed me. The questions swirl around in my head am I worthy of being redeemed? We have been saved by grace through faith, which is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8. That gift is not one I would ever want to return. It is one that I am thankful I can redeem for the rest of my earthly life. For when I fail all I need to do is go to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and it is granted.
The things of this world will come and go but our eternal salvation has been bought and paid for by Jesus. During this Lenten season let us not forget the sacrifice Jesus gave which grants us full redemption and eternal salvation.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
In January I posted on “How Can One Word Keep You Faithful?” In that post I mention each January I prayerfully consider a word for that year to focus on. This year my word is love, to show more love toward others, and to listen more intentionally. Recently I have noticed that I need to show myself a little more love.
As women, and I know I am generalizing here, we lean toward caring for others before we take care of ourselves. It may be the way God made us, to be nurturing, or it’s just your enneagram number (or not). All of the twos out there know what I mean!
So, why am I going back to a similar topic? First; if you selected a word for the year are you still being intentional and moving forward focusing on that word in a way that God intends for you? This podcast will talk about centering on intentions. Second; I like this podcast, the repartee these two ladies have will make you laugh. You can tell they are good friends and enjoy teasing each other.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is from January 7th, 2021, and it is called “Mary and Martha: Energy and Intentions”, the hosts are Shakisha Morgan and Christina Jones. They describe the podcast as: “A podcast by two black women who love God; relatable women, who talk about relevant topics.”
In the beginning of the podcast both Shakisha and Christina mention a Mary or Martha moment they experienced over the past week. Before we get into the meat of the intention’s topic, I want to recognize what Christina mentioned as her Mary moment – the rioting at the Capitol. These are her words, “For me it was like taking a peek at the Tulsa riot, and seeing the anger and visceral that the white people had in that riot and seeing it play out in 2021. This is how our ancestors felt, when they watched their family and friends get lynched. This is that same energy, from the 1800 or early 1900s. That to me it was scary that it still exists in such a palpable way. It was terrible, horrible, and disgusting, but to me it was seeing a peek at history. My Mary moment is allowing myself to reflect on my ancestors and my grandmothers, and great grandmothers, and how they must have felt when things like this happened to them in a very hyper local way.”
I wanted to make sure I didn’t just gloss over this statement. It is important and I hear you. Another intention of mine this year is to not only listen more to those around me but to those who are different than me in the community and to understand their point of view.
Christina begins speaking about intentions: “One of the things I wanted to do in 2021 was not to set resolutions. It doesn’t work for me. What I am big on now is intention setting. A resolution, to me is more of goal setting, more tangible small things, and many times I don’t meet those goals. If we set an intention for the year, something we want to walk in for the year. It is something I can go back to and check myself to see if I am meeting those intentions. How we can walk in the intention that Christ has set in our lives, how we can walk in the spirit, how we can make sure our actions and reactions match the same energy that God has.”
An example would be, “your intention can be you want to be more in the present in 2021.” Here are some ways Christina and Shakisha state you can work on setting an intention:
Where in your life are you not showing up for yourself? Do not condemn yourself but you need to make this assessment so you know where you can begin to show up. Being honest with yourself in this way allows God to show you how He can show up.
What makes you feel like yourself? Think back to the last time you felt alive, at peace, rested, and safe. What was happening at that time? Was I spending more alone time or more time with God? Be honest with yourself; it is key to this exercise.
What has God been revealing to you? God speaks in a quiet still voice, sometimes from others, scripture, or through your quiet time.
Christina sums it up like this; “What will make you really settle into your Christian identity, what makes you effective for the Kingdom?”
Shakisa’s final statement is profound; “Understand how important intentions can be, no matter what is going on around us. We are still called to be Christian; we are still called to be disciples; we are still called to be the best version of ourselves with Christ at the center of it no matter what is going on around us.”
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Having Christ at the center of our thoughts, in everything we do, will lead us to becoming more and more like Him. It can and should be small steps. I need to continue showing up for myself in relaxing ways and look for opportunities to study the word with other women. What are your answers to the three questions Christina and Shakisa posed to us? If you are willing to share, I would love to hear from you.
Last year, along with most of the world, I started a raised bed garden. This was new to me; I never planted a garden. Our raised garden bed is located in the back of our property, on the flat part of the hill, and honestly, I didn’t realize it was there until we were in the house for about six months.
Since we have bunnies and chipmunks, that live in our yard, I decided not to go with green leaf lettuce and reduce the temptation. The planting consisted of just peppers, green jalapeno, green sweet, and banana peppers.
It amazes me how a seed germinates, puts down roots and sprouts. With some water, sunshine, and a little time it starts to sprout little green stalks. It makes me think of the relationship we have with God, with time, energy, and being in the word, our relationship flourishes. Like the little green plant that burgeons from the fertile soil.
This reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32
The best part of growing my garden, beyond the obvious fruits of my labor, was the time I got to spend with my 21-year-old son. Since we did not have a hose that could reach out to the garden bed, every other day, like clockwork, my son and I would haul huge buckets of water, up to the garden to water it. The conversations we had about his day and what was going on in the garden grew our relationship. What a special unexpected gift that I received as part of my new garden. I will miss those chats this year as he is graduating college in May and will be moving out of state. I pray that you can grow your garden in addition to your relationships and you too can enjoy the fruits of your labor.
In the morning I enjoy my quiet time with God. I start out at breakfast reading my devotionals and then move into my prayer chair, which resides in the bedroom. This is where I can look out onto our beautiful backyard, see the cardinals and blue birds sprint around, and the daffodils starting to emerge from the soil. During the summer months, when it becomes oppressively warm in North Carolina, I take our dog for a walk after breakfast, and I will pray during my walk. Either way I am looking at nature and speaking to God. It connects me to nature and all that God has made. I present my requests to God, then listen for what He has for me that day.
Everyone has their own pathway to God. I was always aware each person had their own relationship with God and had a preference on how to worship Him. Pathways are new to me. God created us with different gifts and talents, why assume we all come to Him the same way?
The podcast I am reviewing today is new to me, it is called “Confessions of a Crappy Christian” by Blake. She is interviewing Gary Thomas, a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others. They talk about his book “Sacred Pathways.”
Blake starts out the podcast giving an overview of pathways. “The different and unique ways we each experience God and how He created us individually to encounter Him in our own ways. Stop trying to fit into a mold and our relationship with God will thrive and flourish.”
Gary explains how he came up with the idea for this book. He grew up learning how to have quiet time with God. His teachers at church would say when you have quiet time you have to do it this specific way. “I realized that a one size fits all spirituality does not work. God did not make us as cooker cutter Christians. We relate to him in different ways. I found out through scripture and the Christian classics how people related to God in many different ways. Nine pathways or temperaments or devotional styles came out. I set people free, you can be who God created you to be. Pathways are the windows of how you see God most clearly.”
Gary goes on to explain, “It’s about at different times in life, what is best for you, given who you are and your situation; how you can best connect with God. I believe everything flows from being loved by God. 1 John 4:19: We love because He first loved us.”
Gary shares with us a time when he was growing up in the Washington DC area. He would go out to the battlefields in the Northern Virginia area and just walk in the woods for an hour or two. It was one of the best ways he could connect to God. He found that his pathway is a naturalist and this is how he best connects to God.
“When I spend time with the Lord and am convicted by Him. I am a much better husband, father, and driver.When I have that time with God, I am able to give more of myself to my family.” Gary Thomas
But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29
The final question Blake asks Gary; “What is the next step, after you identify and understand how you connect with God differently with other people?” Gary responds, “every chapter has some tests so you can figure out, and you can do it numerically, to say this is who I am, and hopefully you will come away with two or three strong ones. The point is you can write your own spiritual prescription. You can identify why you are so angry, anxious, needy, or what your spiritual aliment is and you can say I have really been cheating my time with God. I am not receiving from God or hearing from Him. This is where I can be filled up or this is where I can meet God. At the end of each chapter, it has the temptations, if this is your pathway, be aware of this. The last part is planting your garden and finding your path or Gethsemane.”
This last statement from Gary encapsulates the meaning of a pathway; “Imagine that your relationship with God is the most life giving, affirming, strength building, inspiring part of your day. Then it completely takes it out of an obligation, to an invitation, and that is what I want the pathways to do. To make people jazzed about the fact that I can meet with God today, I can’t wait.”
When you find your pathway to God, it will bring you into closer relationship with Him. Then He will take you by the hand and lead you on the narrow path, which leads to life in abundance.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
If you listen to the entire podcast, they go into more detail about the nine pathways. It was enlightening and I would recommend it. The “Sacred Pathways” book is on my ever growing ‘to read’ book list.
Let me know about your pathway to God; I am interested to hear how you naturally connect with Him.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms for Life” with hosts Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. It was recorded pre-COVID and they talk about spiritual community, which I know many of us are missing now a days. I miss that fellowship time before and after church, to see what has gone on in the lives of the people I am supposed to be doing life with. I long for hugs from people I care about and going out in the community and actually handing out sandwiches to the homeless or enjoying a meal with our faith community. This brought about a realization, that God put us here to be in community together, we are communal creatures, and that is the reason we crave it. This is how we build each other up to become stronger Christians, serving each other, and serving the Kingdom.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Acts 2:46-57
The guest for this podcast is Pastor Francis Chan, American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher. He is the former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA, which he founded in 1994. He also founded Eternity Bible College in 2004.
Rebekah questioned Francis “How has these last few years; rhythms for you, your intimacy with God, shifted in knowing His people more intimately?” Francis said “When I am with people who have a deep personal relationship with God and you gather for prayer together, you can sense God in the room. I do not like prayer meetings, I use to rather be alone with God than be in a prayer gathering. Now I actually prefer being with these people who have been on that mountaintop, that pursue God and now we are going after Him together.”
Rebekah recalls when her and Gabe moved to New York City and she states, “My prayer life grew when I was around people who were as desperate as I was. Who had a close relationship with God.” Francis responded “You are on a mission together.”
Rebekah asked Francis, “What would you say to someone who says this is prompting a yearning or wants to be known?” Francis states “There were things I knew God was asking me to do and I knew I had to take that next step. A big part of it is the mission, many people are just trying to get by. The mission is the biproduct and there is no way I am going to pull this off by myself. We need to be the light in the dark places and make disciples. You need to have a deep sense of the mission”
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
Rebekah posed this question to Francis “What does fruit look like in my relationships and community and serving?” Francis replied “I have to be alone in the presents of God. It is imperative, I fight for it! Otherwise, I am worthless to everyone. I must be connected to the vine, or I will shrivel up and die. To keep that relationship active and be in love with Him!”
Those last two sentences sum it up for me. If I do not have alone time with God, I feel like I am lost, I am hungry and thirsty and need to be fed. Falling in love with God brings us into a closer relationship with Him. We pine for that time with Him, to read the word and hear Him speak to us.
My hope for you is that you take away something that will allow you to spend more time with God. Remember it doesn’t have to be an hour a day, you can spend 5 minutes in the word and reflect on it for a few minutes. Pray in the car while you are dropping the kids off at school. There is time, you just need to find it, take hold of it, and God will take hold of you!
Many people are geared for the morning, they jump out of bed, stretch or exercise right away, ready for whatever may come their way. I on the other hand am not a morning person. If I had my druthers, I would go to bed at 11:30 and get up at 8 a.m.
When I was working a full-time job and had to be at work at 7:30 a.m. I would get up at 5:30 a.m. to arrive on time. Many mornings I would drive to work in the dark but occasionally I would drive in the summer and the sun would be coming up. Although living in upstate New York it was difficult to actually see the sunrise.
When we moved to Charleston, SC, nine years ago, that is when I could really drink in the sunrise. Mostly when I was dropping my daughter off to school. How spectacular the yellow and orange skies were. Being so close to the ocean you can watch the sun coming up over the water. Such wonderful artistry!
God’s creation is so beautiful and it is a shame when we do not appreciate it. When it becomes common place then what? Every day will be the same.
God speaks to us about waking in the morning in Isaiah 50:4. The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. If we are not grateful for what He is putting before us, are we listening to what He says? Are we being obedient?
Since I am more of a night owl than a morning person, I witnessed many more sunsets than sunrises. They were just as beautiful if not more so. It would seem like the colors were richer and more vibrant in the sunsets. I have included a couple of sunsets from our backyard in Charleston.
Hope that you can watch a sunrise or sunset and give thanks to God for all that He has created, that we get to be part of, on our journey through this life.
Have you ever watched a person do their thing, that they do exquisitely well, and say I wish I could do that? For example, watching Ina Garten make her delicious Lemon Parmesan Chicken with Arugula Salad Topping, or Joanna Gaines decorate a room with shiplap, rustic shelves, and décor that takes your breath away. Now go one step further and actually try to do it yourself and then totally fail? I have been there, trying to sew like my grandmother did on her machine making beautiful quilts. But alas, I inevitably get the thread from the needle caught around the bobbin and it is a mess! This week’s podcast guest can help you see another way around that “thing” you are attempting to do but were unsuccessful.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Jesus Over Everything”, or JOE for short, hosted by Lisa Whittle, author, speaker, podcaster. She is interviewing Kendra Adachi, author of “The Lazy Genius Way”.
Lisa begins the interview stating, “You are here to help us embrace what matters and ditch what does not, get stuff done.” Kendra enjoys making new systems for systems that do not work for you. She doesn’t necessarily hack the system but she will make a new system so it works for you. Kendra remarks, “Make a path for something to work, when something that could work for you as it runs, as it is created to be, is already there.”
There are processes that I can look back on and say yeah, I did not continue down that path because the way it was presented did not work for me. But is there another way, another path we can take that will make it work? This is Kendra’s gift.
Lisa brings up a good point, when we try to get tasks done that are not working, sometimes we either try harder or just give up.
Kendra’s reply to that was, yes, totally, we do try harder or give up. An example could be cooking homemade food. A woman who has a family and feels like she has to cook a homecooked meal every night. We think that to make it count we have to do it every night and by Thursday you resent it. Then you try all of these recipes and cookbooks and you say well I am obviously terrible at this so we are going to eat hot dogs, cereal and frozen pizza from now on. The next time you want to grill some chicken up you say no I cannot do that I am terrible at cooking. If we do that in every area of our lives, working out, cleaning, your job, parenting, whatever it maybe, becoming anti recall of these things, go big or go home, try harder or give up. That is why I wrote my book; it is not all or nothing. We need to create our own system that matters for us not something that works for the person who created the system!
Lisa reaffirms; this is great, there is a third option, and maybe you didn’t consider it. It is not all or nothing. Some people feel like they cannot hold two truths at the same time.
Lisa consistently ends all of her podcasts asking her guests the same question. I believe this part of the podcast is the milk and honey, or coffee and cookies, if that is your preference. “What is the last thing you would say about Jesus if could only say one more thing?”
Kendra’s reply: “That He loves me and how crazy is that? When I think about the title of your show and that concept of Jesus Over Everything, the over is the emphasized word for me. When I think about Jesus’ love for me, He is literally over everything. He is both, that there is a gift to my own life when I basically put that in the number one spot, because He is over everything. I can let the other stuff go. The pivot point, the fulcrum, of my embracing what matters and ditching what doesn’t, it is based on the fact that Jesus is over all of it. Because He loves me. Is to really experience and believe the beloved-ness of me to Jesus. That I have to do so much to get Him to love me, to get Him to like me, to be glad that I am around. Knowing Jesus loves me, if I were to never do another thing again. Knowing that He cares about everything that is in my life, not because I am poor and weak in spirit but He also created me to be strong and wise and all these other things that He is living out of in me in the world. It is the beautiful companionship. The mystery of Christ in me, that is the hope and glory. It begins and ends with love for me. If I forget that Jesus loves me, then it is all about me again, and then I swinging from trying harder and giving up. I keep trying harder and giving up and this middle is because of His unconditional love for me.It takes the pressure off of the all the doing and listing, optimizing my life, or the being this person that other people think I should be. Jesus loves me and it changes everything.”
That, my friends, is what we need to focus on, that Jesus’ love for us changes everything. Without Him we cannot do anything of real purpose. If we put the focus on us then we lose the connection that we have to the Father and we begin to make our work an idol. When we are weak,He is strong. Jesus is our other way when we are looking at ourselves and thinking how can I do this? His way is the only way that leads us down the right path.
For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” John 14:6-7
I would recommend you listen to the podcast; Kendra gives a few examples of how to implement her method in your life. Plus, the small talk at the beginning of the episode gives you a glimpse into the beginning of their friendship.
I pray this has helped you in a small way. Let me know in the comments section what is the last thing you would say about Jesus if could only say one more thing?
When you wake up what do you fix your eyes on? What do you see? Do you see the sunlight coming in through the blinds on the window or is it pitch dark? What do you hear? An alarm clock ringing or a dog or child crying for your help and attention? Where does your mind go first thing in the morning? Do you think of all of the tasks that you need to get done at home and at work? How does that make you feel, anxious or excited? For me if I start with my to do list I will easily slip into the nervous/anxious perspective and begin my day not wanting it to start at all.
When we fix our eyes on Jesus first thing in the morning, thanking Him for the day. Saying out loud, thank you Lord for this day, let me rejoice and be glad it came. It puts our minds in a place that is holy, that is grateful, to the one who is for us and never against us.
Let us start our day fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Remember to come back to Him when you are making that turkey and cheese sandwich for lunch or cleaning the pile of dirty dishes. Continue fixing your eyes on our savior, Jesus, and He will continue to mold and fix you to resemble Him.
You may be asking why do I need a word for the year? How will this help me in my everyday life and in my walk with God?
The podcast I am reviewing this week is all about that word of the year and how it can help you feel better and see where God is directing your focus. The name of the podcast is “More Than Small Talk” with Holley Gerth, Suzanne Eller, and Jennifer Watson. They are all authors and real-life friends who talk about conversational topics and faith.
“Many people are looking for direction from the Lord and having a word gives you that guidance”, Suzanne Eller.
Start by spending some time in prayer and asking the Lord if He has a word for you to concentrate on this year. Listen to what rises up in your heart. This will take time and you may have to come back to it more than once.
Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible, says “Faithful is long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful, is Holley’s word for the year. She states, “I am going to show up in my relationships and in faith. Continue to be faithful and not measure everything.”
Goals are great and they are what motivate us to get things done but if we put too much pressure on ourselves and don’t meet our own expectations, then we end up going down into this pit of self-criticism. God has a different plan for our lives, he sees us as fearfully and wonderfully made.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. Psalm 139:13
Forward, is Jennifer’s word. “Those small steps forward, toward progress, how powerful just moving forward can be. We don’t give ourselves credit, we are too hard on ourselves.”
I am extremely task oriented, give me a to do list and a few hours, I am happy. You should see what I can do with a pad of paper and a pencil. Turn that around, if I get nothing done because I had to help my daughter most of the day or I wasn’t feeling good, boy can I beat myself up, and end up in that pit! God does not want us to beat up on ourselves, He loves us and wants us to enjoy life to the fullest!
Here is a pivotal point that Holley makes, “Consistency is the secret sauce. Showing up and doing the small things over and over again adds up to a lot over time. Remember God is always faithful. This helps on the days when I feel overwhelmed or it is hard. I remember God is faithful.”
When you focus the word, that God leads you to, daily, and celebrate the small wins each day your mood will be buoyant. For example, my word this year is love. To show love and to realize God’s love in my life every day. The day I spend driving my daughter from one activity to another I am showing her love by being there for her, showing her support. It is important for me to come back to that word daily and see how it is fitting into my life. I can easily get frustrated at driving her around instead of perceiving it as an act of love.
I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:5-6
“Ask the Lord how can I partner with you today? What does it look like? It can be small. There is value in listening to the Lord and putting that in front of you. Be open to where He wants to take me next,” Suzanne Eller. For those who don’t have a word for the year, Suzanne is right there with you. Suzanne reminds us “That God knows the plans He has for us and He knows what tomorrow holds. Just being open and saying Lord whatever direction you want to take me next, whatever miracle you are trying to do inside of me, I am open.”
ForI know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
Jennifer asks, “What will help you move forward and tune into the Lord this year? Maybe it is taking care of yourself more. Take a nap in the afternoon or rescheduling your plans. Whatever will help you move forward and stay faithful and tune into the Lord this year.”
Once you have a word what is the best way to remember it daily? Placing it somewhere you would see it assists, a post it note on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, or on top your devotional that you open every morning. Some people get fancy and have a sign made with the word. Whatever works for you. I have incorporated mine in scripture that is part of my email signature.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
These three ladies complement each other and their banter will put a smile on your face. I enjoyed their stories and how they apply their word of the year to their lives. This past year has been difficult, let’s give ourselves grace as we move into a new year, seeking to find God’s will in our everyday lives.
The link to this episode is below and the following podcast Holley hosted as a follow up called “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose.” I recommend listening to both episodes, Holley’s commentary is insightful and compliments this podcast nicely.
What comes to mind first is a fresh start, a fresh day, a fresh year. At the end of 2020 I thought this is going to be great a fresh year with new beginnings. Can we start over again?
Fresh smelling flowers on my walk, in my backyard, and in the park. All of God’s wonders to fill the senses. To see the beauty, to feel the sun, to hear the birds, and smell the colorful beautiful roses, the lilies, and the lilac. It gives me peace to be able to use all of my sense in a fresh way.
Fresh smelling laundry when it comes out of the dryer. All clean and ready to be worn again to start a fresh new day.
I wake up to a fresh day and thank God that it is here. That we can partake in the beauty and the bounty of what He provides. Grateful for the newness, the freshness of it all!
Hello friends, I want to make you aware of a new endeavor that I am starting this week and will post on the off weeks of my blog. It is called Five Minute Friday writing prompt and it is hosted by Kate Motaung. The purpose of this is to encourage and assist other Christian writers on their journey to excel in their composing.
Kate provides a word and as a writer you are to write for five minutes on that one word with whatever comes to mind. You are not supposed to edit it but since I am an Enneagram 1, I will probably at least do some correction of my grammar.
I truly enjoy writing and want to improve on how I present the information to my readers, i.e., you guys. This process, along with taking some on line classes, will hopefully get me there.
Can I ask a favor of you too? If you have time to read these Five Minute prompts can you please provide me with some feedback on the writing? Just leave a note in the comments section of the blog or email me your thoughts at: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you don’t have time you will not hurt my feelings by passing it by.
Thanks again for supporting me on this journey and pray it will be beneficial to you too. Have a blessed weekend!
Happy 2021 friends! I know many of us, including myself, are happy to have 2020 behind us. Looking back on 2020 it was rough and if you lost a job, lost a loved one, or are just hurting I am so sorry. Let me know in the comments if I can be praying for you.
If you know me, I am a glass half full person and for the past nine months I kept looking to see the positive in the everyday. I walked, a lot, and on those walks I began to notice God’s creation so much more than I have in the past. The bright colors of the flowers and the deep greens of the grasses, the reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows of the fall leaves. The beautiful song birds singing to their mates. I am not sure if it was a result of slowing down or if that is where my focus was this year.
I appreciated the extra time spent with my children and husband, especially since my son will be graduating from college this year and will likely move out of state. These times together, talking about our lives or playing a board game, are like gold pieces that I am collecting, holding onto to, and cherishing.
Moving into 2021 I am asking myself what needs to change? I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, over the past few years I have tried to focus more on where is God pointing me. What can I do to make a difference in my life and the people’s lives I touch? Beyond just my family and into my community. The word that keeps repeating in my heart is love. With the world being so divisive and visceral in 2020, love seems like the way toward healing, toward understanding, toward equality. Doing for others what you would want done for you. This can be difficult at times, to look past the beliefs or behaviors of those around you and just reach out. Lend a hand to those in need even if they voted for the other candidate or they don’t believe as you do, they are still God’s children and we are His hands and feet. Show God’s love and you will feel it reverberate back to you.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:19-20
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Everything Matters” hosted by Kate Bowler. Kate is a Duke Professor, a podcast host, and author of Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lie’s I’ve Loved.The guest for this episode is Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and is an author, The Power of Love and Love is the Way: Holding onto Hope in Troubled Times.
In this episode Kate and Bishop Curry talk about how community love impacts people’s lives in such profound ways. Kate poses the question to Bishop Curry, “Maybe you could, explain how and why we don’t get more of the kingdom of God here on Earth? I’ve been a little disappointed to realize that in life we only get a glimpse, unfortunately.” Bishop Curry responds, “One of the things that occurred to me in writing this book that I actually hadn’t thought about before. I realize that a period of childhood trauma with the sickness and death of your mother, that goes on for a long period time. Part of what helped us navigate that, and I wasn’t aware of it at the time, was that my sister, my father and I, we were enveloped or part of a community that really did become a community of love.”
When Bishop Curry’s mother had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and had to be in a hospital hundreds of miles from their home in Buffalo NY, his father was a preacher and he would leave from their home in Buffalo on Monday to be with his mother for a couple of days. “He would take us to the home of family friends who were church members Dr. and Mrs. Bullock. And we went to their house which wasn’t that far from our house, but that’s where we stayed for a couple of days.”
Bishop Curry added, “That’s what faith community is. That’s what human community is. That’s what that’s about. It’s not schmaltz. It’s necessary for human growth in life to thrive.” Kate affirmed, “It’s not extra. It’s the thing. But I’ve chosen independence and I just want to have the internet and all my time alone. It does really, kinda open you up to the possibility that maybe we are made for togetherness.”
Bishop Curry continues, “You know there’s a passage in the New Testament it’s in 1 John, that just says God is love. If that is true, and I believe it is, that means God is the source of all love. And that also means that since we have been created by God, we have been created by the hand of love. We’ve been made by the God who is love, for love, to love and to be loved. That is as much a part of us, that is the essential core of us. “
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
Bishop Curry remembers, “What I realized, it was easier when I was growing up. It was a different world. It was it was almost intrinsically communal.” Kate replies, “Yes. And now we have to go out of our way to find ways to move emotion into action, because it is, it is hard. I mean, especially right now with a pandemic. It exacerbates our loneliness, our hyper individualism, our sense that we were we should be self-made. Man, our culture is so unkind when we feel dependent. Just totally unkind.”
Kate wraps up the podcast stating, “Bishop Curry reminds us that the way of love is hard won, but it is the only way if we are to remake the world around us. So, even when it’s hard, even when it costs something. Let’s begin right now by blessing six people who we think may not deserve it. I know you already have names in your head. Yes, that person who posts ridiculous things on Facebook or that neighbor who never takes care of their lawn or that family member who has been really hard to forgive. Bless them, love them. Even today, if it’s just in your mind. And maybe somehow in these little practices of loving and receiving, we and the world along with us ,will be changed by ordinary and extraordinary love.”
I really cannot say it better than that. If we continue to show love toward those around us, bless them, go out of our way for them, it has to bring us together. It is what we were made to be, in a loving community with each other, even with all the messiness that each of us bring to the table. I pray this has helped you to want to sit still for a little while, reflect on 2020, and consider how you can show love to the people you touch in 2021.
Heartwarming article about how 10 men, that are attending a drug and alcohol treatment center, started looming. They’ve made about 200 toques (hats), which have ended up as gifts to loved ones and as donations to a women’s recovery house. They want other toques to go to the homeless and to babies in hospital once the pandemic is over. Read about it here.
This time of year, is a catalyst of so many good memories and feelings. It is probably why I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. If you know me, I have a hard and fast rule no Christmas decorating, music, or shows until Santa arrives after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. But this year is very different, not being able to visit with friends and family, no dinners out, and mostly staying at home, has put me in a melancholy mood.
What are those memories that bring such joy and elation? I remember from my childhood listening to Nat King Cole’s Christmas album with my mom and eating her delicious red and green Christmas shaped butter cookies warm out of the oven. I now make my version with my children. I have new traditions with my family of going to see the Christmas lights in the park or now that we moved to Charlotte we drive to “Christmas Town USA, in McAdenville, NC”.
All of these are wonderful traditions, our brains automatically click on the serotonin, and allow all those good feelings to flow. Really though what is Christmastime suppose to be about? Merriam-Webster defines it as: the time of year when people get ready for and celebrate Christmas : Christmas day and the days and weeks before it. So, it is preparing for Christmas, which as a Methodist we celebrate Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. We are looking forward to the coming of Christ, of his birth into our world, to be our Savior.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:4-12
When I think of this miracle it brings warmth and gladness into my heart. How much does God love us to send His only son as a gift for us, to redeem and give us eternal life.
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9
I guess that is why the nativity scene means so much to me. It is a treasured part of my Christmas decorating.
Thinking back to when I was a teenager and my family went to church, at Easter and Christmas, I had that same feeling in my heart of warmth and gladness and at times tears would come to my eyes. I never shared this with anyone, probably as I didn’t understand it until recently. The tears in my eyes were an expression of the overflowing joy in my heart for my Savior, for what He did for me and for all of us who believe. What a gift! That is our one true gift of Christmas, that Jesus came as a child in the manger, our light in the darkness, to guide us toward love and forgiveness.
Even if there is nothing under that Christmas tree, we already received the ultimate gift from God in Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us.
The podcast I am reviewing today is another episode of “The Next Right Thing” with Emily P. Freeman. It is an older episode from December of 2018 called “Acknowledge Your Soul”.
Emily begins the podcast talking about how hectic the holiday season can be. “One thing that can get lost during the bustle of the season is our very own soul who we are at the core, what we most deeply care about and long for. We don’t want to wait until the other side of Christmas to finally pause and say, “Oh, hello soul. I’ve missed you this month”. No, instead, we work to create that space now, in the midst of the planning, the gathering, the list-making and pie baking, the gift wrapping and Advent waiting. For a few minutes today, we’ll make room, we’ll take a moment to acknowledge our soul and remember the miracle of God With Us.”
She wraps up the podcast with a brilliant message, “We show up even when we don’t know what’s going on and we make room for Jesus, even when things don’t make full sense. And if we’ll let him, if we’re paying attention, when he appears, a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices and our soul will feel its worth.” Are we not all feeling a little weary this year and need to sense the worth and love of Jesus?
I pray that during this Christmastime, as we wait in joyful hope to celebrate the birth of our Savior, that you will pause and remember all of those memories that remind you of Christmas, that bring your focus back to such joyful times with family and friends. In that time of reflection remember that Jesus came into the world to be with us. To be our comforter, our healer, our provider, and our salvation. As we enter into Christmas may your hearts rejoice for a baby that came down from heaven for all of us to be saved.
From my family to yours I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Happiness as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is a state of well-being and contentment, joy, or a pleasurable or satisfying experience. To be holy is defined as exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.
Growing up in the Catholic church I understood being holy as the individuals who lead us in church, the priests and deacons, and of course Jesus. I never thought of myself as ever being holy since my actions were not even close to emulating that. Through many bible studies and wonderful Christian friends, I have learned that Jesus died to allow us to become righteous and holy in God’s eyes. Through repentance, shifting my focus outward, spending more time in prayer, and walking in His way, the happier I am. This is not to say that I get it right all the time, absolutely not, I am still a work in progress.
When I walk outside the lines God has placed there is this nudge from the Holy Spirit. I feel Him tug at me saying things like, was that really a nice way to respond to your husband when he was just trying to help you? Were those words uplifting or encouraging for your daughter or did they just bring her down? These reminders keep me coming back to Jesus asking for forgiveness and it’s what brings me back to happiness and holiness.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
As we reposition our focus toward others and show them love by our actions, we are walking down the narrow path God has laid out for us. We are walking toward holiness.
God calls us to be His holy people. If you look in the New Testament when Paul addresses the crowds of people, he calls them God’s holy people.
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:2
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12
The podcast I am reviewing this week is one of my favorite authors and podcasters, Annie F. Downs, “That Sounds Fun”, Episode 244 with Dr. Derwin L. Gray. Derwin was a professional NFL player with the Indiana Colts and then for the Charlotte Panthers. He is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church (TC), a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, South Carolina.
This episode had so many great points, from how Derwin and his wife Vicki came to know Christ, to speaking to your friends about Christianity, prayer, and his new book called “The Good Life”. The notes I took were seven small notebook pages, wow, my hand ached after that. I will hit on a few of the topics but I highly recommend you listen to the entire episode.
Derwin explained his experience of friends sharing Christ with him and his wife. He said “When people shared Christ with us, they were not threating us like you are immoral, you are sinning. It was a presentation of here is what Christ has done, here is who He is and this is how He loves you, enter into this. It wasn’t a threat it was an invitation. Sin was acknowledged and repentance was needed. It was an invitation to grace.”
Annie asks Derwin “What would you go back and say to your nineteen-year old Derwin Gray?” Derwin responds “What I would have said to myself is you are going to accomplish everything you want and more and when you do you are going to find out that you are empty. There is someone with living water that wants to fill you with love and grace and mercy. I was too full of myself to receive Christ at nineteen.”
Derwin’s new book “The Good Life” is based off of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. It talks about happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted, happy are the merciful. Derwin asks “Can we please show each other some mercy? We are like living in a world of payaras and we are eating each other alive and Satan is loving it!”
Derwin points out “Jesus describes these seven characteristics that lead to happiness. A happy life which is a holy life. The life of happiness that leads to the holy life. The beatitudes turn us into the people we want to be friends with.” I absolutely love that!
They go on to talk about how to be a peacemaker and how we should mourn with those who mourn. Such good advice that will help heal our nation if we will heed it.
Friends, I pray this has helped you to seek more happiness through looking at God’s word and applying it to your life. I am grateful you took the time to read this and I am praying for you. Let me know if there is anything I can specifically be praying for you.
Gratitude, you hear a lot about this time of year, but how often do we contemplate it? Once a year, once a month, once a week, or daily? This year has been trying, long, and stressful, with COVID and a heated election, it is one many people have a difficult time finding the good in. Although it is there if you look for it.
When I reflect on the day it amazes me how many things, I could be thankful for but do not regularly say them out loud. How my husband will compliment how nice I look (in jeans and a tee shirt) or thank me for making lunch for him since he is working from home. He knows my love language is words of affirmation and he is showing his love. How grateful am I for this but do I tell him that? Sometimes but other times I don’t.
Or when my daughter’s room is picked up or she puts away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. To be grateful and express that gratitude with words is so important in our everyday lives. Even if the person’s love language is not words of affirmation, telling another person you appreciate what they have done for you is showing love! Isn’t that what we are called to do.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35
Another way to be grateful and incorporate it in your everyday life is to start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it could be a notebook, that you write in daily. Journal writing is not a rhythm I have successfully accomplished. In my thirties I use to journal at night before I went to bed but then found most evenings I was too tired to write in it. I started another journal this year and called it Gratitude and God winks. This one I do during the day at some point. When I do write in it, which to be honest is about once a week, I jot down what I am grateful for and anything that stood out to me where God was moving in my life.
Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
The podcast I am reviewing this week is a new one to me but it has an old release date, November 2018. When you hear them talking about travel, know this is pre-pre COVID. The name of the podcast is “Catholic Momcast” and the hosts are Danielle Bean and Lisa Hendey. The episode is called “Practicing Gratefulness”, they discuss ways to make gratitude a habit in your life and how to set a good example of gratefulness all year round.
From a high level what they talk about are these four concepts. 1. Say it; to others. 2. Write it down, a thank you note, email, or text. 3. Remind yourself, look for ways to add gratitude to your daily practices including prayer time and meals. 4. Look for the good, even in the tough situations.
Danielle states “Our words are powerful, both good and critical. We get in the bad habit of saying the negative. The more you practice saying the positive things the more real they become.”
Lisa goes on to mention that writing it down, in a journal or a written note, is a good practice. “It doesn’t have to monumental, being thankful for yummy vegetables or that it didn’t rain today. Also, a written thank you note holds a lot more meaning.”
Danielle explains that “Teaching yourself to pause, even during a hard or challenging situation, look at what you are grateful for, will bear beautiful spiritual fruit around me and the people around me.”
Reflecting back on this podcast I appreciated the four ways Danielle and Lisa gave us to incorporate gratefulness into our everyday lives. Simple easy actions we can implement that will pivot our attention to what is good in our lives, and let’s be honest many of us in the U.S. are privileged and have multiple elements of our lives to be grateful for. Even during these times of uncertainty and unrest we can look to the beauty in and around us and thank God for it.
I am grateful to breathe in the crisp fall air, to be able to walk and take in the beautiful blue sky, a child laughing in the yard, to love and to be loved, and to be known by a God who hears me, loves me, and walks with me in the good times and in the tumultuous ones too.
I pray this will help bring your focus more toward gratitude which in turn will produce more joy. Leave me a comment stating what you are grateful for today. Wishing you and your families a happy, joyful, loving, and peaceful Thanksgiving!
We can feel alone even when we are with other people. If you are a single parent working from home it can feel like you have no one to talk to. No one to chat with over coffee about how hard it was only getting four hours of sleep the night before or how the kids took all of their toys out and strewn them around the house for you to pick up later. That is after you make dinner, help with homework, cleanup the kitchen, put the laundry away, and answer a few emails. It can be very lonely but thankfully we have a God who is always with us. He will never leave us or forsake us.
Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. Psalm 73:23
And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:20
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
This season of COVID has made loneliness a more formidable mountain to climb. As much as I want to go out to eat with friends I am choosing to stay home and talk on the phone or over Zoom. As you know, it is not the same, Zoom is slightly better than the phone. At least you can see facial expressions and read some body language. It is still not the same as a handshake or a warm hug.
The podcast that I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms of Life” hosted by Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. They are interviewing the infamous Max Lucado; the episode is called “The Cure for Loneliness.” Max is a teaching Minister at Oak Hills Church, San Antonio, TX and is an author of many books, devotionals, and bible studies.
Gabe asks Max “Has COVID put a spotlight on loneliness? Has it made it more clear to people or has it helped people find those they love and start to rectify some of that?” Max’s reply, “What I have been surprised at the negative impact loneliness has on our physical bodies. Severe loneliness has the same impact as a pack of cigarettes a day. Depression is up.” Rebekah states, community support is not there anymore.
Gabe inquires “The gospel of John gets into this perspective. What is so unique about the gospel of John as you approach loneliness?” Max states “The unique feature of John’s gospel is he declares at the end of the gospel why he wrote it. He explains I collected these events so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that by believing you may have life in His name. Deep and abundant joy and life. What is it about this miracle that will help someone especially if they need life and feel lifeless?”
Rebekah points out that there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. “Solitude means you are still with the savior. Emmanuel, He is right there, sometimes that presents is more potent when you are quiet with Him. You can sense His nearness.”
Rebekah wraps up the podcast with asking Max for a parting thought. Max says he has a “hip pocket sermon” and it goes like this, “Let God love you, let God heal you, let God hold you, and let God have you. Be quiet before the Lord and let the Holy Spirit nourish your heart and soften it.”
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Ephesians 3:16-18
When you are feeling lonely try spending some quiet time with God. He will meet you there, He will listen, He will love you, and He will send people to love you and be with you. If you are feeling overly anxious or depressed please see a professional councilor. I see one when it is needed and it is nothing to be ashamed about.
I pray that this has been helpful to you if you are feeling lonely. Leave me a comment if there is any way I can be praying for you.
This song was playing this morning and thought it was uplifting and appropriate for looking to God during the tough times. Lauren Daigle’s “Rescue”
This is an appropriate topic for this time of year. We can see fall coming with the changing colors of the leaves and the fall flowers, we can feel it in the cooler temperatures and the drier air. I personally enjoy this time of year, walking in our neighborhood, noticing the different hues on the trees, how the neighbors have decorated their homes for fall. The smell of a pumpkin and spice candle burning, and of course a hot pumpkin spice latte always reminds me of fall. What is your favorite part of this season?
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Wild at Heart, Interpreting New Seasons” with John Eldridge and Craig McConnell. Not every new challenge, change, and opportunity is equal. John and Craig share how to discern between good and bad frontiers or seasons. John Eldredge is an American author, counselor, and lecturer on Christianity. One of the previous blogs from April 20th, 2020 called “Time to Pause” with Annie F. Downs’ and her podcast “That Sounds Fun”, she interviewed John Eldridge. I will link to that below.
How do we know if a new opportunity, a move, a job change, a recent relationship, a unique small group or church, is where God is calling us to be? Do you worry a lot and then just make the best decision based on pros on cons? To be honest I have done that and not in the distant past either. What seems to work best for me is to spend some quiet time with God and just talk to him about it. Now you are probably not going to get a three-page dissertation from Him on what to do but if you listen you may hear a few words that will send you in the right direction. Not literally hearing the words, although I know some people who have, I mean thoughts that come to mind that you may not have come to on your own. That is a nudge from God in the right direction.
The podcast begins with Craig asking the question “How do you discern between good and bad new frontiers; how do you know which one to step into?” Craig gives an example of him not being his authentic self but trying to be balanced in his actions and words. When he spoke to God about it the response he received was “I am not asking you to be wacky I am asking you to follow me. Am I going to follow him? Yes, I am going to follow but I’m scared to death at the process.”
John then talks about external and internal frontiers. Discerning between good and bad frontiers. “There are bad frontiers due to bad decisions that we have made. Not every new frontier is from God. Let’s not fortress ourselves from all new frontiers. Life is full of change; God is in it but not every frontier is good.”
John goes on to talk about disruptive change and how we face that. Do we face it with fear or with a sense of loss? “The simplest question that I ask God is ‘are you in this?’ This is one means of discerning when a new opportunity opens up if it is good.”
Craig points out another category that is an extension of what John is talking about, “The community of people around you, who are engaged with your story. Their feedback, their input, validation, or caution, or editing is huge in a new frontier. I can see things in other peoples lives more easily than I can in my own life.”
Great point that Craig made is “Our God wants to speak to the challenges we have. The thought that God would be silent would be a concern to me. He wants to speak and validate. He wants us to know and have a confidence that He is in it. “
John states “You can get comfy in your theology and your way of doing things. It’s almost like saying if you have been at the same church or in the same small group for 20 years you probably ought to change that. Be open to God opening you and growing you in these areas.”
Craig responded to John’s statement by saying “Don’t be surprised if God is calling and affirming through others that you have a new frontier. Need to take risks and don’t be shy to the new frontier that God is calling you to.”
John’s retort was “Jesus’ question that is framing this series is ‘Will you come with me?’ Into situations that may seem counter intuitive. When God is getting ready to do this, He may sour your current thing. That is hard because your current thing maybe lovely. It makes it easier for you to go.” Another point he made is “If you feel stuck it maybe because you said no to the last invitation He extended to you. Ask Jesus where are you leading me?”
I enjoyed this podcast and could relate to many points John and Craig brought up. The take away for me was during these new seasons, when the opportunity arises, am I asking God, are you in this and where are you leading me? Then just listen and watch to see where He is leading you.
I hope this has helped you in some way to make the transition into a new season smoother. Leave me a comment and let me know what is your favorite season of the year or if you have had any ‘new seasons’ pop up in your life recently that God helped you navigate through.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide, a tutor or a coach. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I came to understand the importance of having mentors in your life. I didn’t officially ask any of these women to be my mentors but they all were in one way or another.
Being part of a multigenerational church allowed me to befriend women who were older and younger than myself. I really cherished the relationships that I had and still have with many of the women from Hibben UMC.
When I was on staff, I met with several ladies who helped lead various small groups at the church. I recall one time after a Women’s Ministry gathering, that had a few ‘bumps’ in the road, one of the leaders called me aside and said, I find it helpful after an event to write down lessons learned and then reflect on those before the next meeting. She was so kind and gentle with her guidance that it didn’t feel like she was correcting me. I knew I should have been doing this but was not implementing it, this was a huge help and growth for me at that time.
Our Sunday School group, which consists of a two generations of wise folks, teach me new things every week, we still attend on the class on Zoom. For example, how to ask questions to dig deeper into a topic or read another version of the bible to get another perspective or just how they live their lives and reflect Jesus into the community.
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Psalm 119:33
The podcast I am checking out this week is from “Proverbs 31 Ministries” and it is Episode 60 -“Why Mentoring Matters”. The President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, Lysa TerKeurst and Shelley Giglio are guests on the pod. Mrs. Shelley Giglio is the chief strategist and director of label operations and artist management for Sixstepsrecords, and leads The Grove, a monthly gathering for the women of Atlanta.
Lysa begins the conversation asking Shelley “you have an amazing new project called Flourish and it’s a mentoring program, and I want you to tell us a little bit more about this awesome project.” Shelley states “God gave me a vision that the women who would participate in something like that corporately would also have an opportunity to grow spiritually underneath, so that we wouldn’t just come into corporate settings, have great nights of worship, have teaching and feel good, but that we would have daily growth in our lives, and that that would come from the Word of God, because we all know that apart from the Word, there’s not a lot of growth happening in our lives. I wanted to create a way for us to dig in, in a very intentional, yearlong relationship with the Word of God, with the person of Jesus, yes, but with also somebody who’s just slightly ahead of us who can help teach us what it looks like to dig back into the Word for the answers that we need for our lives.”
Lysa recalls “I know when I was in my 20s and even 30s, I longed for a mentor, but it was kind of a complicated scenario because if you didn’t naturally meet someone, then it always felt awkward to sign up for such an intimate relationship. Tell me a little bit about how you run your program, and how this would work?” Shelley explains “I think there’s a couple of things about that. First of all, just as far as the why of mentoring, I feel like this is really a God idea. Nothing that we do that helps us grow spiritually works super well if God didn’t come up with a concept to start with. In the Bible, it talks very specifically, particularly in Titus 2″
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Titus 2:3-5
Shelley goes on to state, “I had to determine or discern: What am I supposed to be doing? It all was just coming at me full force. I think when you have someone that’s just slightly ahead of you, they have the opportunity and the experience to say to you, “Hey, let me help you by telling you the things that you really need to be focused on.”
It is difficult to ask someone to mentor you. Shelly explains, “when you talk about asking a mentor, ‘Hey, can you tell me everything you know?’ People are intimidated. I have people ask me a lot, ‘Will you mentor me?’ I’m like, what do I plausibly know? I’m still figuring everything out but the truth is that I’m ahead of you in so many ways. I’ve experienced so many things already. I could help you, not by telling you my opinion or what I think about something, but by simply directing you back to the Word of God so that you can ask Him what He thinks about the scenario or the experience that you’re currently in or what you should do to live a more flourishing life.”
“That’s why I think mentoring is important. It’s not the be all end all. It’s not going to solve all your problems. It’s not counseling. Lysa agreed saying, “I love that you brought up the distinction that this isn’t counseling. Help define mentoring for us.”
Shelley, “It’s an actual woman ahead of you calling you up to a higher standard of living. It is someone saying to you, the potential in your life is overwhelming and your opportunity to release and be a part of that potential is incredible. But without intentionality, without a good plan, without somebody who can help you, you probably won’t reach that potential.” Lysa’s reply, “I like that you stated the goal here is personal growth.”
Lysa then asks, “Let’s peek inside of the Flourish curriculum, if you will, and give us a little bit of the inside scoop of what if I ordered this material, what am I going to find inside?” Shelley, “It’s very easily spelled out. It’s put in sections that are really easy to follow, and it’s basically broken down into week curriculums. So, you’re not just on your own, trying to figure out what to do next. It’s actually guiding you in the process.”
Lysa, “I think part of what I hear you saying is that if we help women, especially women in a generation behind us, or just a season behind us in life, if we help them know God more personally and intimately, know the ways of Jesus and know the Word through the Bible, then it will give us markers on our journey. It may not give us specific answers, but it’ll give us these beautiful markers on a journey where we won’t see feel so lost and confused when we hit the place that we don’t know what to do.”
Shelley brings up a great bit of wisdom, “Never in my life have I just set out to be, I want to be a really great person. I’m not going to actually spend any energy, time, or thought on that; I’m just going to hope that someday I become that. I’m like, well, generally speaking, that doesn’t happen. You become what you intend. Hey, when you are my age, 55, who do you want to be, and what steps did you take today to become that?” If you don’t take hold of whatever that means to you and the amount of time, energy, effort, you have to spend on that, then it’s doubtful when you’re 55 that you’ll be the person that you hope.”
To wrap up Shelley states, “That’s the way we’re able to create this trail, this heritage of women who are unbroken, who are standing arm in arm, older, all the way to younger, one solid line. I think it’s the best way that it can grow us into the people God wants us to be.”
I really enjoyed this podcast and you can listen to it at the link below. There is much more conversation around generational spiritual growth and how the older generation can come along side them and guide them with God’s word.
A discipleship mentor is something I have been praying for and I am hopeful that she will come along soon. I too must keep myself open to discipling women younger than me. There is a bit of vulnerability with that and it is important to share your spiritual journey. So much is learned by our experiences.
I believe we can glorify God and help others come into a closer relationship with Him when we are vulnerable and share where we have been and how that has brought us to where we are now. I pray this helps you to step out and start looking for that mentor or to become a mentor on your sojourn through this life.
I can tell, most of the time, if someone is really listening to me or just waiting to respond to what I am saying. When a person is truly listening to what I am conveying I feel valued, I feel acknowledged, and I feel a connection. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not the best listener, I am still a work in progress. There are times I am queuing up my response to a conversation with a friend before they are even done talking.
Just a week ago we had a couple of long-time dear friends over for a socially distanced outside brunch. I love these people and have not seen them in person in approximately two years but here I am trying to sound intelligent, getting my response ready before they were even done with their story. That was not caring for them and certainly not really listening.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “The Sisterhood Effect” with Monica Harris and the episode is called “The Skill of Listening” and her guest is Amy Carroll. Amy is the author of Exhaleand Breaking Up with Perfect, a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker and writer teams, and co-host of the Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast.
Monica begins the podcast asking Amy, how can we listen from a biblical perspective and how can we develop that skill? Amy’s states it is a very important conversation right now. There is never such a divided time. People are not listening.
Amy goes on to state that she has had to learn these lessons along the way. When she started working with racial reconciliation groups, it was imperative that she become a better listener. “I learned to play the game, arraign my face so it seemed like I was listening but what I was doing was thinking about the next thing I was going to say to you. I realized then I was a poor listener. I had a misconception that I operated under. That if I was listening to you without responding it meant I agreed with you. ” She went on to say that is not the case “As Jesus followers we want to encourage others and there are times when we need to speak into people’s circumstances or the problem they are sharing. So, I am not advocating never speaking. The misconception I had made me a bad listener.”
Amy began to see God working in her life. “The big change came when God started showing me that listening isn’t agreeing with someone, listening showing love. Becoming a good listener suspends judgement for a little while was showing love to other people.” Amy’s insight to listening around racial reconciliation is powerful. “I needed to listen to their stories without my filter to understand their stories. It is a gift to really listen!”
How does this apply biblically? Amy states “I started with listening to God. I know my quiet time is not always quiet. We have a responsibility to filter things through a biblical filter. We must be in His word to know the filter. We need to be in relationship with God.”
Monica told Amy that “I am grateful that God makes us uniquely different so we can serve in those good works/roles well.” Amy’s answer was “we are all needed in the Kingdom, each of our voices are needed. We are able to reach different people in the Kingdom.”
Amy has a heart to help women use their voices in Godly ways. She has four things that help lead you there: (1) Listen (2) Feel-connect (3) Do- something (4) Speak. She expands more on this topic in her blog called “How to Be a Godly Woman Who Speaks in Godly Ways.”
They concluded the podcast by talking about responsibility verses obedience. Amy states “Obedience is different than responsibility. Obedience is in response to God; an overdeveloped sense of responsibility is a response to self. Which normally does not lead to anything good.” I know at times that line can seem very thin. Are we doing something because we know it is God’s will or are we doing it because we determined it is our responsibility to do it, when really it is not? This is when the four points above come into play.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9
My take away is I will be slowing down my speaking to listen more which will show God’s love to those around me. This is something I have to be intentional about to make sure I am obedient and using my voice in a Godly way. I hope you found this helpful and will be able to glean something helpful in your walk to become a better listener.
We are called to speak up for those who cannot but many times we do not. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31:8-9
I know I have mentioned this in a previous post but for those who have not read it, there have been two times in my life when I knew I should have spoken up and did not. Why is that? I know for myself I am a people pleaser and am working on shifting that to a reformed people pleaser. For we are not called to please man but to please God.
So, I lean toward people pleasing and not rocking the boat but at times that will traverse into not standing up for someone of another race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, etc. This is ascribing to the racist narratives that have plagued our country for centuries. When I think about this, I know I have to do better than my ancestors and that will require me to break outside of my comfort zone and not be a people pleaser but a God pleaser.
As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “10 Things To Tell You” by Laura Tremaine and her guest is Jenna Arnold. The name of this recording is “How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations”. Jenna Arnold is an educator, entrepreneur, activist and mother who lives in New York City, currently the Chief Impact Officer for an impact investing platform, Rethink, funding companies working to solve some of the world’s most complex problems: equitable education, food distribution, climate sustainability, community growth and empowering women and minority populations. Plus, she has a new book out called “Raising Our Hands”. Wow, that is a lot!
They start out the conversation with Jenna stating how other people describe her as a disrupter and she thinks that has a negative connotation to it. She likes to think of herself as a pot stirrer. “I’m most enthusiastic about posing challenging questions to myself and other people and practices and sometimes those answers can be disruptive. I’m ok with getting to an answer we are not proud of and that being the fuel to propel us.”
“I hope we serve as a conduit, not an educator, but a conduit, to those who can speak greater truth to the questions we are trying to ask.” Jenna Arnold
The hypothesis of the book, in her words, is “If I can help white women ask harder questions of themselves it will get them closer to clarity. A decade ago, I didn’t think I saw color and it was because of a close friend of mine who said ‘you don’t see what you don’t see and that is problematic.'” Which lead Jenna to say, “there is an opportunity for certain folks to get in a different place in line as it applies to the solutions and sometimes it helps to have someone else who has had that lived experience to say hey here it is over here.”
Laura points out that Jenna is still learning but perhaps a few steps ahead of many of us who are just starting out on the racial, social economic, religious healing journey. “White women don’t know what to ask or where to start and you give them the basics, the 101 course, about race, inequity, and the white washing of history.”
Jenna points out that “I found it hard when I entered into this work to jump into the AP class on this subject without going back to my ancestors and asking why didn’t they do anything?” She then performed a listening class of different circles of white women. Asking questions like “What are you willing to fight for other than your children? What is your biggest regret?” She asked these questions of women with similar life experiences as her to figure out what was getting in the way of them caring about these issues.
Laura brings up the fact that Jenna in her book references “The privileged side of silence. I see this in my feeds, in general people are trying to keep harmony in their families and extended families and in their community. There are lots of reasons that we stay silent, mostly because it’s easier. I don’t want to deal with the backlash of this, I don’t want to have a hard conversation with a family member.”
How do we start those conversations then? Jenna states not to try and throw around facts, they can be stubborn and used in various ways. “Start with your feelings not facts. You can say I am really really scared about what is happening in our country and I don’t know if I can articulate it properly. I don’t know who to believe and I am not sure if our systems are accommodating people the way they should. I am scared, how are you feeling?” This makes a lot of sense by relating to a situation with how you feel makes it more personal and human. Facts seems cold and controversial.
Toward the end of the interview Jenna made an enlightening statement, “We can’t try to figure out how to exactly and perfectly move in every moment. Us as people are trying to figure out if we have the capacity and the will to wrangle our ego’s enough to make sure our species survives. You are going to mess up and when that happens the job isn’t to say I’m not qualified I’m out. It is to say I’m sorry, what else. These are words people should constantly be saying. Get out of your own way and join this front line. We don’t have the luxury of time anymore.”
There really isn’t much else I can add to this podcast, other than I challenge you to speak up the next time you hear an injustice. It is as much a challenge to you as it is for me.
Praying you have a wonderful start to fall. The uplifting piece of the blog is from the Good Newsletter:
An Iowa restaurant owner, Willie Fairley of Willie Ray’s Q Shack, is giving out 400 free BBQ meals every day to storm victims. He is firing up his grill to supply hundreds of free meals for his community after thousands fell victim to a line of devastating storms. A powerful derecho tore through the Midwest, damaging homes and leaving millions without power throughout Iowa and Illinois. Full article here. Kudos to Willie for being the hands and feet of God.
This post is unlike previous weeks, I am not reflecting on a podcast but am reviewing/recapturing parts of the IF:LEAD virtual conference I attended on August 15th. IF:Gathering was started by Jennie Allen and its mission is IF:Gathering exists to equip women with gospel-centered resources, events, and community so that they may learn about who God is and disciple other women right where they are.
During the IF:LEAD conference there were many well-known, knowledgeable, Christian leaders who spoke and I will not be able to include every speaker here but I will spotlight 4 that I thought were very relevant and educational. The theme for the conference was how are you disciplining yourself in these times of tension and disappointment. Are you leaning into what comforts you, like watching Netflix, sleeping in late, snacking all the time, or are you ministering to your spirit, spending time with God, going for a walk or exercising, and reading? We are called to bear good fruit but it is difficult to do that when we are continually giving into our fleshly desires. (Jennie Allen) I know I have done it myself, and have to recalibrate, get back on track, to focus on the one who holds us in His right hand and says follow me. So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16.
Dr. Anita Phillips spoke and she began by stating this is a season of trauma and we are responding to it physically. We have to listen to our bodies, our nervous systems are activated and it causes fatigue, racing heart, and anxiety. Leaders feel like they cannot feel this way but it is ok to acknowledge these feelings. It doesn’t mean Jesus is not with us. We have to show ourselves some humility. Be willing to be in the presents of pain. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Hebrews 4:15 Some advice Dr. Phillips gave to alleviate the symptoms are: slow down, meditate on the word, take a walk, wrap yourself in a cozy blanket and read, pray, and sleep well. Good advice that I am taking and putting into practice!
Beth Moore’s speech was on how to embrace tension with grace and obedience. She began by referencing the story of Jacob and his brother Esau in Genesis 32. Jacob had to wrestle with God and had his hip put out of its socket. While he was wrestling with God all night Jacob was close to God. Beth emphasizes to stay close to God and love on purpose. Obedience comes from love and from a pure heart. Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 She ended her talk with we all have to wrestle with God at some point in our lives. Jacob limped from his wrestling. During these times of tension make sure you are leaning on God!
Angie Smith’s talk was on being joyful. She began by stating we are commanded to be joyful and the way we define joy is many times incorrect. These were her three points: (1) Find joy: Joy was given to you by the Holy Spirit and we never lose it. It is not our job to find it. We do need to recognize and acknowledge it. (2) Joy is not synonymous with feelings. It can make us feel happy but it doesn’t have to be. It is a settled peace from God. (3) It is not something we need to fake. We do not need to show it all the time. You can experience it and acknowledge it during the hard times. Many times, we feel like we are owed joy. God does not want our joy to end with each experience we have. Our lives are a gift we praise, we thank, and return it back to Him. The greatest gift of joy is returning it back to Him! It is more important to spend time being thankful for our lives instead of looking inward at ourselves.
Ann Voskamp’s conversation was reminding us that you are NOT alone. You cannot lead without God. When Ann feels anxious, she pictures herself as a helpless lamb in the arms of Jesus. As the disciple John stated: You are the disciple whom Jesus loves! Choose to be wooed by God and you do this with daily gratitude’s, write them down. Grow in the hard times by abiding in God. The difference between being a Jesus follower and a Jesus abider is as a follower you are still relying on your own strength and doing it your own way. Abiding in Jesus is knowing He is our only strength. By following you can go wayward, abiding is obeying and going with God. Abiding gives the grace to obey. Let us do everything in His ways and His will. Be wooed by God and know you are cherished and chosen by Him.
This conference was rich with information, many other leaders spoke and gave great inspiration on how to lead during these trying times. The other speakers were Jennie Allen, Chrystal Evan Hurst, Kirk and Tammy Franklin, Katherine Wolf, Shelly Giglio, Cheryl Luke, Jada Edwards, Christine Caine, John Mark Comer, Eugene Cho, and many others that did their own breakout sessions.
You can still purchase a digital copy of IF:LEAD 2020 for $30. I will include the link below. I will also link to one of Jennie’s podcast below that has a few snippets from the conference.
Personally, I took a lot away from this conference and I am looking forward to watching all of the breakout sessions. In the spring they will do another IF conference called IF:Gathering. It is intended for you to gather with your friends and watch and discuss each session together, to disciple each other. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
We are all leaders, if you are a CEO or assistant, if you are a teacher or day care provider, a stay at home Mom or Dad, we are ALL leaders. As leaders we must continually look to our great leader, provider, sustainer, comforter, healer-Jesus, for support, guidance, love and grace. These IF conferences help lift our eyes back up to Him and give us the means to assist others to do the same. I hope you will find this helpful in leading during these uncertain and stressful days.
The lighthearted piece to the blog is this comic from Facebook:
For many years I found hope in myself and I know that sounds arrogant and self-centered coming from a Christian but let me explain where I was and where I am now. I grew up Roman Catholic, going to church a few times a year. I attended catechism classes in Junior and Senior high school and understood who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was and I believed that Jesus was my savior I would go to heaven.
What I didn’t know, or maybe it is better said, what I wasn’t taught, is that the most important part of learning to be a Christian is establishing a relationship with God. Without that relationship I never felt compelled to obey God or listen to what He was saying to me. How can you have hope in something you have never experienced, something you haven’t spent time on, someone you have never spoken or listened to. You cannot, just as in any relationship in life you must spend time getting to know the person, the only way you get to know someone intimately is by talking to them and listening. The same can be said for our relationship with God. God has made it easier for us to get to know Him, he gave us His word in scripture.
I was in my late 30s when I started to realize there was a hole in my soul, something was missing, everything looked good on the outside but inside I was unsettled and had no purpose. I didn’t know why I felt that way until I started to read Joyce Meyer devotionals and books*. They guided me toward spending time with God, listening, falling in love with Him, and then watching what He was doing in my life. Which then lead to resting all of my hope in the God who is able to do abundantly more than I can ever ask or imagine. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:20-21
This week the podcast that I am reviewing is from Jennie Allen’s “Made for This” podcast called “How to Hope for What You Can’t See” and her guest is Matt Chandler. Matt is the lead pastor at the Village Church, in Flower Mound, Texas, and the President of the Acts 29 Network.
Jennie begins by asking Matt how he came to his faith in Jesus and in his words “I came to it late in life, well later than many Christians, at the age of 18. A friend invited me to church and youth group. The nearness and friendship of Jesus I had then has not changed. Jesus took all of the desires I had and shifted them from where they were and pointed them with laser like focus on Him.”
Jennie goes on to ask Matt how do you see heaven? Matt responds by saying “The Bible describes it as a place of ever-increasing joy. What your heart longs for will be satisfied there. Many of us cannot understand this, God is an inexhaustible well of joy and grace.” I liked this quote “We are caught on this treadmill of hope deferred here. In heaven hope is fulfilled and we are not looking forward. Everything we hoped for is fulfilled and is ever increasing.” Jennie states “It is important to understand this, deferred hope that it is coming changes how you live life now.”
Matt points out that he went through a time of unbelief but he kept praying, “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” Jennie states “It is ok to wrestle with your faith, doubt is ok, but don’t allow it to take over, it steals, kills, and destroys. Matt’s response was “Be rooted in a community and the word of God. Being honest when you doubt. There are no secrets from God and when you say it out loud it takes away its strength.”
They talk about how to speak to kids about heaven and how to hope in God. Matt wrapped it up by saying many people think they have a picture-perfect life but it’s not working. The reason for that is you have been created for a relationship with Jesus. Those gifts and abilities were given to you by God for God. Life lived outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ is always going to be less satisfying than it was meant to be. Continuing to cultivate the relationship/friendship with Jesus is the most important priority in your life.”
I agree with Matt that life lived outside of a relationship with Jesus is less fulfilling. I have tried it and my life is so much richer with Him. I see everything God has made with in full color with a thankful heart, and I have hope for good days ahead, even during COVID. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 I pray that if you haven’t already you will put your hope in Jesus and start spending some time chatting with Him. He is longing for it and so are you.
*I mention here that I read Joyce Meyer devotionals and books but there are many excellent Christian writers that you can read to learn more about building your relationship with Jesus. Feel free to message me if you are looking for resources, I have read many.
The topic for this week is the enneagram. Simply stated it is a personality test and it has been around for hundreds of years. It has been used in Christian circles since the 1970’s. I became aware of the enneagram through listening to podcasts and reading the book The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile. It has helped me to understand why I react to things in a certain way and it has allowed me to be humbler in my reactions to situations I have no control over. It also allows me to be more empathetic with others. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:1, 3, 10
Technically you are not supposed to impose an enneagram number on anyone but yourself; once you learn about each number it is difficult not to type cast others. I tend to keep that knowledge to myself. If you are wondering I am an enneagram 1, the perfectionist who has a constant critical voice in my head. Always wanting to do the right thing, to be good, to calm that inner critic.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “For The Love” by Jen Hatmaker and the name of the episode is “What is the Enneagram with Suzanne Stabile.” Jen is an author and podcaster, her latest book is Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. Suzanne Stabile is a highly sought-after speaker and teacher, known for her engaging laugh, personal vulnerability and creative approach to Enneagram instruction. After 25 years of studying the enneagram, learning from people’s stories, cultivating relationships, and learning under Father Richard Rohr, she used her work and extensive knowledge of the enneagram to co-author The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self Discovery with Ian Morgan Cron. She followed that with, The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships.
What I like about this specific podcast is you do not need to have any knowledge about the enneagram to understand it. It is extremely high level, but Suzanne is such a good teacher that I even learned a few new things. Suzanne states the Enneagram will “Name for you what is your weakest point and potentially teaches you how to overcome that weakness. It takes a negative approach at who you are. We don’t know ourselves based on what we get right, we know ourselves on what we get wrong.” Jen asked Suzanne to identify the differences between the enneagram and let’s say the Myers Briggs personality tests? Suzanne responded “The Enneagram is determined by motivation and behavior. I am not a fan of online tests. There is a depth to the enneagram that a test cannot represent. It is best to learn from other’s stories and this is how I teach it.” Suzanne then goes through the nine numbers and how they each see themselves and what motivates them. The good and the bad attributes of each. If you are interested in looking inward, I highly recommend listening to this podcast and the 9 others Jen did with other self-identified enneagram guests. She goes through all 9 numbers and talks to her guests about their motivations and weaknesses. I will link to her podcast below. I will also link to Suzanne Stabile’s podcast called “The Enneagram Journey”. I believe if we are bold enough to identify our weaknesses and act on them we can show love to others and make our small piece of the world a better place.
The uplifting piece to the blog this week is a funny parody about the quarantine. Enjoy!
How often do we actually reflect on life? We do it unconsciously ever day when we say we like a song or a TV show, but what about reflecting on your life and what has occured let’s say over the past 30 days? Lately I have been looking at what has changed over the past 4-5 months, what we haven’t been able to do but also what the pandemic has made possible. For example, it has allowed me to reconnect with my friends from Charleston via Zoom and I am eternally grateful for that. On the other hand, since we are new to Charlotte I cannot go out and make new friends. It has allowed me to have the time to start this blog which I truly enjoy. How often do we reflect on our lives to see what was good and what was not? For me it’s probably once a year in January, unless I get a tug from God to look at something specific. Jesus reflected with God many times in the bible, he went to the Mount of Olives to pray, to make sure he was doing God’s will. (Luke 22:39-46) Being in relationship with a loving God allows us to reflect with him and receive loving correction when needed.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “The Next Right Thing” by Emily P. Freeman, it is episode #133 and it is called “Learn the Art of Asking Questions.” Emily is a bestselling author, podcast host, and a curious listener. Her podcast is about making decisions, but also, it’s about making a life. She does not interview guests but poses thought provoking questions and the podcasts are short and sweet about 10-15 minutes long. Emily has a very soothing voice that I enjoy listening to. This session on Learn the Art of Asking Questions made me look and reflect on the past 30 days in a different way. She presents five questions you can ask yourself to reflect on the previous month. One was “In the past 30 days what was your most life giving yes?” and another was “Name something you are reconsidering from the last 30 days. As a result of the last 30 days, maybe you’ve reconsidered a long-held belief, a biased worldview, an unhealthy relationship, or the way you’ve allowed grief, anger, or fear to build up in your body. You may not have answers or resolutions, but reconsideration done in the presence of God is an important part of our becoming.” I answered all five questions but the last one was one that I actually had to dig deep on. I noticed much more anxiety in my day to day life lately, so my answer to that question was to realize when I am becoming anxious and use reasoning to figure out why I am so anxious. If I need to take action then take action, if not release it to God. Adam Hamilton in his book Unafraid says you can use the word FEAR as an acronym, Face your fears with faith, Examine your assumption with facts, Attack your anxieties with action, Release your cares to God. I have been attempting to do that.
In the beginning of her podcast Emily quotes John Dewey, “we do not learn from an experience, we learn from reflecting on an experience.” The best way to support a friend or family member who is going through a difficult time sometimes is to just listen. As Emily states “To have people in our lives who will not try to come up with answers to our many problems or worse, try to roll them in sugar or solve them by sundown. Instead, we long for people who will sit beside us in a silence, who will carry our complex questions, and maybe when the time is right, ask us some more. Not for the sake of telling us something they think we ought to know is guised with a question mark and not in a nosy or even a purely curious way. But to genuinely ask a question for the sake of love.” So, go ahead ask yourself a few questions and reflect on the answers with love, knowing that God will be with you and love you no matter what the answers are.
The positive ending to the blog is this story that I initially heard about from The Good Newsletter. It is about a man who went into a burning home and helped save a woman in a wheelchair and her grandson. Her wheels were stuck and she could not get out of the home. It is always heartwarming to see acts of love in the community. Thank God for people like this. Praying you have a great week and will take time to stop and ask some curious questions along the way.
When I think of a harsh word or a gentle answer, I think of Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Anger is defined as a strong feeling of displeasure or belligerence aroused by a wrong. If I look at my own reactions to situations sometimes, I allow my emotions get the best of me and the harsh word will come out before the gentle answer. Thankfully over the years and with much personal growth this occurs less frequently.
Why isn’t the gentle answer our default? Could it be partly the way the world expects us to always win, to get to the top of our field, to be better than everyone else, but if we only focus on that, do we ignore empathy and compassion? Another reason could be you have been taken advantage of in the past and in order to get your voice heard you feel like you need to be louder and speak with force. Either way it is not the way Jesus would want us to respond. Jesus would ask us to respond with love and kindness. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 Although we all struggle to achieve this; it is something to pray about and work toward.
This week’s podcast I am reviewing is called Rhythms for Life with Gabe and Rebekah Lyons. They are husband and wife who live in Tennessee. Rebekah Lyons is a national speaker and bestselling author of Rhythms of Renewal book. An old soul with a contemporary, honest voice, Rebekah reveals her own battles to overcome anxiety and depression—and invites others to discover and boldly pursue their God-given purpose from a place of freedom. In this podcast they interview Scott Sauls, he is the senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, co-founder of the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work, and an author. He previously served at New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church as a lead and preaching pastor alongside Dr. Timothy Keller. His new book “A Gentle Answer” is based off of Proverbs 15:1 and is a great resource for anyone seeking to engage Christianity in a divided culture. In the podcast they talk about his new book and about how Scott overcame anxiety and depression. Scott says “If you are going through a panic attacks or anxiety there are strategies and resources, people and communities that can come along side you to help you. The cure rate is very high if you are resourced well. Depression is harder to come out of. You can do it with medication or without but always with counseling! Don’t take enough medication to take all the pain away, just take enough so you can think clearly. You will need friends who have walked through it that you can talk to and trust.” Gabe asked Scott to describe to people that Pastors don’t have it all together and don’t have it all figured out. They are just like everyone else. Scott talks about two Pastors who committed suicide when he was in seminary. One of them wrote a note stating “I have been wrestling with depression for a while. I am trying to get help but I know I am going down. When a minister discloses to the people that he serves that he is struggling with depression he will lose his ministry.” Scott makes a very strong point saying “We all have some form of brokenness or form of I am not complete. Jesus needs to make this new for us. Pastors feel like they cannot talk about it.” His point about having friends who are walking close to God to lean on and talk to is so important. Gabe states “The world pits us against each other. You are the voice telling us this is not the way it has to be.” Scott responds saying his book brings gentlness into a hostile environment. “It seems some people have an impulse to judge and punish. This increases anxiety for those who want peace.” Gabe points out “anxiety, stress, and overachieving can be fueled by a culture that says we have to win but Scott’s message is you need to love not win! You don’t lose points from God because you are gentle and kind to people who you think are wrong on certain issues that are important to you. You actually win because you demonstrating His love for them.” This is a good message and I hope you will listen to the full podcast and find areas in your life where you could use a gentle word instead of a harsh answer.
My uplifting piece to the blog is an Instagram video by Carlos Whittaker, it is him talking to his white neighbor about why he painted his white bunny statue black. The video is called “Now For the Hard Part of Ending Racism.” It made me cry in a good way.
This post is a little different than the rest. I wrestled with the decision to use this topic or not and what I realized is this topic is too important not to talk about. Racial reconciliation, you have heard a lot about it over the last few weeks. As a white Christian woman, it saddens me that this is where we are as a country in 2020. We still have not moved passed the hatred and dehumanization of African American/People of Color. God made us ALL in His image and made us diverse for a reason. He loves us all and calls us to love everyone. Just as the Jews and Gentiles were at odds about who was righteous in Jesus day, it seems today the battle is about the color of our skin.
What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. Romans 3:9; 19-20
But are we aware of our sin or do we just not talk about it and when someone speaks disparagingly about people of color, do we ignore it? I have to admit I have been in this situation twice in the last five years and I did not speak up. When I think back on it and my lack of action it makes me sick to my stomach. I said nothing, which means I did nothing, which means I attributed to the racial hatred. I have since repented and asked God for forgiveness but it still weighs heavy on my heart. I am learning to be a better advocate for my friends of color.
The Podcast I am reviewing today is from Annie and Eddie Keep Talking. They interview LaTasha Morrison, founder of Be the Bridge. Latasha is a speaker, author, reconciler, bridge-builder and leader, committed to educate people on cultural intelligence and racial literacy. She founded Be the Bridge in 2016 to encourage racial reconciliation among all ethnicities, to promote racial unity in America, and to equip others to do the same.
Eddie begins with the question “What can I contribute to the conversation?” LaTasha replied, “You can help elevate my voice. By posting on social media or whatever platform you have has shown solidarity. It is saying I am with you and this is my action to show that. It may not be your story but we are connected so it is my story. It means so much when people speak out for us.” Eddie asks, “This is not a new thing, why has this blown up now?” LaTasha says “It is a perfect storm; you have everyone who has camera with them all the times and social media platforms to post it on. In the last four years the remarks have gone from covert to overt expressions. Plus, the pandemic, people working from home, school is out and more people are paying attention.” This statement from LaTasha was an enlightening to me, “We attach humanity to the behavior of a person. During slavery, for people to consciously deal with it you had to de-humanize people of color. We were considered three fifths of a person and counted as chattel. That narrative was being spoken, and because you were seen as beastly you had to be controlled.” Annie asks “What is helpful for your white friends to do, the next right steps that will feel supportive?” LaTasha said “Educate your white friends. It helps our kids as they are learning and growing. The narrative becomes less scary. Who are you listening to? Make sure you are learning and listening to people of color. Learn the issues and unlearn bad behavior. It is ok if you mess up, just don’t get offended. Own your mistakes and don’t let your pride creep in.” Toward the end of the podcast they talk about how to speak to kids about racial inequality and much more. It is definitely worth a listen. Also, LaTasha has a new podcast called Be the Bridge, I will link to that below too. I know I have more to learn and the next book on my reading list is Be the Bridge.
Here is where I usually put an uplifting story but today I am going to link to an article from the Good Newsletter. It lists out many resources to become more educated about racial inequality and racial reconcilation, articles, books and podcasts, you can find that here.
I’m sorry for the heaviness of this post but it is something that has to be addressed and we as white Americans should not be ashamed to say we have been doing it wrong, repent, and learn the loving way we can help support our friends of color. Praying you have a great week and keep listening and learning.
Welcome to the new website! As you can tell it has a slightly different look to it and the URL has changed to thegodlypodreview.com. In the weeks to come you will see a few more changes. Now back to the blog ….
Do you ever stop to ask God what should your next move be? I don’t mean physically moving your home, although for me and my family last year that was the case. I’m referring to what does He want you to do to serve more in your community, reaching out to someone to begin a friendship, a possible job change, or how to reach your kids more? Most of the time I have to intentionally look to God for answers and to be honest a good portion of my life, probably 38 years of it, I thought I knew what was best for me. Come to find out that was not the case, in the end God’s way has always yielded a better return than mine. In their heart’s humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9 Are you allowing God to establish your steps or do you prefer to take the lead and run ahead of what He has planned for you? I find when I do that, I end up taking 20 steps backwards and then stop and say oh yeah by the way God what should I be doing in this situation? Then I begin to take rights steps forward in God’s perfect will.
The Podcast I am reviewing this week is from Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you are not aware Lysa TerKeurst is the president of Proverbs 31 Ministries and a New York Times best-selling author. She has authored many Christian centered books, devotionals, and Bible studies. I completed one of her Bible studies called Unglued and found it very helpful. Two people that work for Proverbs 31 Ministries host the Podcast, Meredith Brock and Kaley Olson. The name of this Podcast is “What Does God Want Me to do Next” and they are interviewing a young woman who also works for Proverbs 31, Shae Tate. This topic is very relevent to many people and as Shae says “It translates into different seasons of our lives. We reaffirm our calling over and over in our lives. We ask what am I suppose to do and where am I suppose to go?” I like how she points out that “we all need direction and sometimes are afraid of doing the wrong thing but it is best for us to seek God’s call on our lives no matter what season we are in.” Another important argument she made, “God is reconciling us to Him, He is calling us to Himself, so we can help others be reconciled to God. We all have this calling and it comes out differently for each of us through our individual gifts.” Meredith states “God is saying come and be intimate with me and from that deep relationship we will gain wisdom.” This scripture seemed to sum it up:
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.1 Peter 4:8-11
Proverbs 31 Ministries links to a 6-week devotional that ties into this topic called “Thy Will be Done”, you can find it here. Links to the Proverbs 31 website and this Podcast can be found below.
The uplifting end to the blog is this newsletter I started to receive recently. It is called The Good Newsletter and you can sign up for it here. All of the articles are positive but the one I really enjoyed was about a church in Berlin Germany. They invited the nearby Mosque worshipers to worship at their church on Fridays during Ramadan since they ran out of room due to social distancing requirements. How loving and hospitable are the leaders of the Martha Lutheran Church? They are living out 1 Peter 4:8-10. I am praying you have a great week and spend a little time asking God where to next.
I like to think of myself as a faithful woman of God. Which leads to the question what does it mean to be faithful? Merriam-Webster defines it as: steadfast affection or allegiance; firm in adherence or a promise; true to the facts; and/or full of faith. I can relate to a steadfast affection for God and being full of faith in God. But why are we faithful? I am faithful because God is faithful and loving to me. I have seen it over and over in my life where God has stepped in and guided me in the right direction or put the right person in my life to lift me up when I was down. His faithfulness will be your shield and a wall. You will not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by day. Psalm 91:4-5 His love for us goes deep and with Easter just last month it is so apparent what He did for all of us at the cross was the greatest act of love. So, for me it is His faithfulness and love that keeps me faithful to Him.
Today I am reviewing another Annie F. Downs “That Sounds Fun” podcast and her guest is Reverend Eugene Cho. Eugene is the President-Elect of Bread for the World, a prominent non-partisan Christian advocacy organization urging both national and global decision makers to help end hunger and he is the founder and former Senior Pastor of Quest Church in Seattle, Washington. Eugene is also the founder and visionary of One Day’s Wages (ODW) – a grassroots movement of people, stories, and actions to alleviate extreme global poverty. This guy is amazing, what he has done to help end hunger and give those who don’t have a voice a say in the political arena, lifts my heart and ask myself why am I not doing more.
In the podcast Eugene talks about what Evangelism looks like today and how we as Christians should be advocates for those who cannot advocate for themselves. As Eugene says “There are many faithful followers of Christ who are good at compassion work, serving and raising money but when it comes to actually advocating, marching on streets, writing letters and calling politicians, there is a large segment that does not know that advocacy really matters.” Another point he makes is to “Be faithful in the tension of life. We normally don’t gravitate toward it. As we are faithful what does it mean to model that, showing grace, mercy, and love.” His Book “Thou Shall Not be a Jerk” talks about how our allegiance should not be to a political party. Our allegiance is only in God. He states, “It is important to be involved with politics but do not make it the end all. Everyone has a voice but not everyone is heard.” Make sure we are involved but also make sure we are listening to the people on the other side of the political party. Let’s work toward a common good in a righteous way.
In addition to Annie’s #thatsoundsfun podcast link I am including a link to a new podcast she is part of called “Annie and Eddie Keep Talking”. It is very light hearted and talks about Annie and Eddie Kaufholz’s day to day life, which in itself is very funny. Hope you take a listen and enjoy.
My uplifting end to the blog is this comic from Facebook. Thanks to Donna Johnson for reposting it! Until next time stay safe and keep the faith.