A few months after my son was born, I remember visiting my aunt and uncle. The conversation revolved around my younger cousin’s recent automobile accident. Thankfully she was not seriously injured. My aunt was upset at how the other person in the accident treated her daughter. Not with empathy or concern for her health but with anger and judgement.
The teaching moment for me as a new parent was – you will do anything to protect your child and stand up for them when they cannot. At the time I looked at this little boy in my arms and thought of all of the ways he could get into trouble, and believe me he has, but in that moment the belief that I could be strong and protect him was not giving me assurance that I could.
You see at the time I did not have a strong faith walk and was attempting to do all of this on my own. Of course, as a young mother I could not see how I would be able to be strong for my son but with God’s help I could.
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:25
That little boy recently turned 22 and he has had many bumps and bruises along the way. Thankfully by the time he turned ten I turned many of my concerns over to God and allowed him be my strength and not rely on my own will power to get through.
Praying that you can look to God for help, so you can lean on him when you need strength. For when you are weak, he is strong.
How long does it take to form a habit; good or bad? According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
Sixty-six days, that is a little more than two months. Not that long if you think about it. When I began praying every day, I started out with just five minutes a day. Now I pray 10 to 45 minutes a day, sometimes all at once, and other days spread throughout the day.
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
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Made for This” with host Jennie Allen. This episode is called Faith as a Habit with guest Jen Pollock Michel. Her new book “A Habit Called Faith” talks about our faith and how we actually practice it.
Jen Michel begins pointing out, “I think for a lot of people the whole idea that I’ve got to fake my way into faith or feel my way and that they feel totally untenable, like, I don’t even know how to do that. So, just to give somebody some practical advice to say okay, here are some things you can do.”
Jen explains how to keep up with a habit, “I think the struggle for me is to kind of constantly remind myself of what the purpose the habits are, you know that you can have spiritual habits you can have spiritual practices and discipline, they’re not the goal. They’re meant to bring you into friendship and communion with God and to be transformed into the image of Christ”
Jennie Allen interjects, “They’re waiting to feel something before they actually, you know, get into Word or, connect with God, they actually are waiting for some emotional draw, and you say don’t wait.”
Jen Michel explains, “I think that’s actually the real mystery of it is that you can practice something and it actually gives you the desire for the thing. You can think about exercise, like there was so long where I did not have an exercise routine because it’s just so hard, I don’t actually really want to. But then I kind of realized that maybe turning 40 like this probably I should do. And now that I have the habit of doing it, l actually feel the benefits of it, of doing it, then I don’t actually have all that resistance anymore.”
Jen Michel talks about conversations she has had around making scripture a habit. “When I talk to Christians who moan or lament that they’re not growing, and then you ask, are you coming back to habits for reading scripture? They’re like, oh yeah, I don’t really do that, and Jesus said it’s your food. I mean how would you expect to grow if you didn’t eat? If you didn’t eat three meals a day? I can’t eat once a week, or you know even twice a week. I couldn’t be happier than when I was 16 when I became a Christian, somebody said to me, you’ve got to make a Bible reading a daily habit, and they actually said do it for 10 minutes a day for six months.”
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked. But whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3
So where do you start? Jen gives this advice, “There are so many aids supports like we’ve never had more support than we have now to actually read the Bible. So, getting yourself a plan, getting yourself some help, to just help you feel like you know where to start. I mean, there are a gazillion out there, and maybe you guys can put some in the show notes. Jennie you’ve written some I’ve written for Bible projects, you know, there’s “She Reads Truth”, there is “You Version”
Sometimes it feels intimidating to talk about your faith; we do not feel qualified or well-read enough to speak about our relationship with Jesus. Really, all God wants from us to obey and trust him and be in the word, the rest will fall into place.
If you feel moved to speak about how God has changed your life for the better, then do it, do not resist this urge just because you lack a seminary degree. Your story may shift the way someone looks at God and want to start walking closer with him.
How many times over the past year have your thoughts of someone who is different than you, i.e., voted differently, has a different religious affiliation, or is in another social economic status, brought negative considerations? Is there someone in your life who has hurt you and you can’t bring yourself to show them love? It begins with the feeling that you are right and they are wrong and you cannot offer grace that person. I have been there myself and it is not peaceful or reflecting Jesus to the world. Thank God for his grace.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is “For The Love with Jen Hatmaker: Leaning in to Love Others with Rozella Haydee White.” Rozella is a theologian, a spiritual life-coach and a leadership consultant who guides people to give and receive love that is life-giving and justice-seeking. Rozella and Jen walk through what it means to lean into the hard.
I appreciate how Rozella shares the why and how she sees the good in people. “So, here’s the reality I don’t believe in what people do. I don’t necessarily believe in the actions that we take because we’re broken, and catch us on any given day and we’ve seen it we’ve experienced it. It’s not so much about believing and actions that we take, but it’s believing in this beautiful dream or vision that the Creator bestowed us with that. So, I believe that if were created in the image of the Divine, and for me, I call that God, but if we believe that people are created in the image of God, then I don’t really have a choice but to believe in people, because I don’t believe that God creates anything, but that which is life giving that which is creative that which is good and holy.”
We know that God created us in his image and in his eyes we are good. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31
Many people use the word love as an adjective that can describe just about anything. We love our spouse and children but we also love pizza, a dry floral white wine, or the way an author composes words. Rozella explains how she defines love:
“So, for me when I talk about love I’m talking about that, which is creative, which is justice seeking and which is ultimately sustaining for our mind, heart, body and soul. So, I’m very clear about my definition right it’s not about a feeling, it’s not about kind of superficial romanticized notion that is without struggle. No, I’m saying, you know where love exists, and I again believe God is love, so where love exists God exists, there is creativity, there is justice and liberation and there is sustenance that provides for us all, and it flows with abundance, right now. That doesn’t mean that where love is hard times or struggle or suffering isn’t, it means that where love is those things do not win, those things do not have the final say. Where God is, suffering and strife and despair and depression, does not have the final say, God is present in the midst of all of that.”
When I think about God’s love, agape love, it is the pinnacle of what love should be. It is how God loves us as humans, unconditionally, with all of our current flaws and previous messes that we thought we cleaned up but here they are again. He forgives us and loves us each day of our lives.
The Encyclopedia Britannica describes agape loves as the fatherly love of God for humans, as well as the human reciprocal love for God. In Scripture, the transcendent agape love is the highest form of love.
Fritz Cherry describes it, “a person with agape love never says what’s in it for me or this person doesn’t deserve it. Agape love is not friend, sexual, or brotherly love, but it’s sacrificial love. It shows action.”
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. John 3:16
Sometimes it is so difficult to do that, especially when the person hurt us or does deleterious things. What actions can we take to come back to agape love when this happens? Rozella talks about how she approaches it.
“First is to recognize who they are. Second is to pray for them. Third is to recognize that love does not mean absence of consequence or that love does not mean absence of conflict. So, for me it then is to push back against things that this person might be doing, to push back against those things that don’t align with my definition of love. Where do I not see substance for not just me, but for all of us, and to actually take a stand against those things with this understanding of what it is. And then honestly to let go. I think one of the things that so many of us are they struggling with is letting go of that which we do not control.”
That is so good, we all struggle with those things we cannot control. Which of course is fear of the unknown. I continue to remind myself, if the circumstances cannot change turn it over to God. Sometimes that exchange happens multiple times in a day.
This podcast reminded me how important it is to see our neighbors, co-workers, parents of our children’s friends, as God’s children first and foremost. He created each one of us in his image for the glory of his Kingdom here on earth. Now do we always walk it out as Jesus would, well no, we are all sinners in desperate need of God’s grace! I find myself asking for God’s forgiveness more and more each day. The wonderful gift is he bestows it to me over and over again because I am his and he is mine and he knows me intricately. He knows my heart is to be more like him, to reflect Jesus to the world around me, everyday.
I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast, it is almost an hour long, and they go on to talk about how we are all in relationship to one another and how we can support each other in our differences. The links for the podcast and social connections are below.
Friends I pray this post has helped you in some way to see God’s image in those around you more. Please share in the comments how you are giving love to others, receiving love from those around you, or if you are struggling to love someone.
Leaving you with the awe inspiring view of God’s creation which I encountered last week at the top of Pisgah Mountain, NC. I learned that the Mount Pisgah gained it’s current name from the early European settlers. The name comes from the mountain Moses ascended in the Bible.
There were several occasions in my life when I walked through difficult times and yearned to draw close to God. Losing a marriage, the passing of my husband, diagnosis of cancer and numerous surgeries, thankfully these did not all occur concurrently. Each time I turned to God in prayer and mediated on his word but what Sheri Rose Shepherd brings to the table is the practical application of God’s word during hardships.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is another favorite of mine called “Grit ‘n’ Grace, Episode #218”, with hosts Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll. Their guest is Sheri Rose Shepherd, author of “Beyond the White Picket Fence: What to Do When Your Life is Dismantled.” For the past 30 years, Sheri Rose Shepherd has been in full time ministry as a best-selling author, speaker and the founder of His Princess Ministries.
Amy poses the question, “Your new book “Beyond the White Picket Fence” shows readers how to heal in a time of crisis. So, what led you to write such a book?” Sheri Rose replies, “Well, when I was going through the last five years of losing my family, losing my health, I was in my own personal shutdown, if you will lock down for four solid years from illness alone, and heartache. And I was trying to find some answers of like, God, where are you in this? How do I get through this, and I parked pretty much in the book of Job, because I felt like I’d walked through everything he walked through all at once. I felt like there wasn’t enough practical information, how to walk through something. In the book I take you through everything, the chapter names: betrayal, diagnosis of a disease, the death of a loved one. One thing that I learned or didn’t learn was how to cry. So, I would use the word almost like a band aid to not have to feel pain, to not have to see the wound if you would. And what I realized is the simplicity and the gift of tears. Like when people say, how do you get up, and I said, I learned to ask the Lord what to do.”
Sheri Rose continues to explain, “The things that God helped me with is one, learning to process my pain, not by band aids, scriptural band aids, but by actually living the scriptures. What does God say to do when you’re grieving? What does God say to do when you’ve been betrayed? Like, how do I personally, processes and then the thing that God showed me is only surround yourself during dark seasons with people that can lift you up. Because that isn’t the time to deal with toxic people. That isn’t the time to deal with dysfunctional people. When a lifeguard is drowning, he can’t save anybody.”
Cheri asks the question, “I noticed you brought up the word “band aid” a couple of times. So, I’m wondering if you could share with our friends who are listening, how could they tell the difference in their own lives between true healing and what you refer to there as just kind of putting a band aid on? How can we tell?”
Sheri Rose states, “So I’m hurting, I’m hurting, I’m hurting. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, you know, I’m going to be healed. He says that he’s close to the brokenhearted. That’s a band aid, as opposed to how do I get close to God when I’m brokenhearted? And how do I get healed when I’m brokenhearted? Where’s the practical application in the Word of God that gets me where I need to go. And if you can’t get to that place, or you can’t find that place in the word, then you got to get to someone like this book, where you can look up betrayal. And you can also use this book more like a manual for a friend that’s going through something too. If you end up keeping that band aid on and you don’t change the band aid and you don’t put disinfected in it and you just keep the band aid on for four years, you’re going to have a horrific infection.”
Sheri Rose’s last thoughts on the podcast, “I think that sometimes we make faith harder than it needs to be. So, here’s what I really want to leave you with. If his burden is light and his yoke is easy, and something you do is making you feel heavy, His grace is not with you for it- do something else. Or it’s just not the season for you to be doing it. Say God what is in this that is a heartache? Is it me operating out of a calling that’s not mine? So really know that God loves you too. And he wants to take care of you, to not just you take care of everybody else. Once I gave that up and trusted God, every single thing came to the light. And every person made things right with me and totally cried their eyes out. All I could say is God used it to free me from needing anyone but him. And for that it was worth it all.”
This podcast was loaded with information and I highly recommend you listen to the full 27 minutes. Sheri speaks about how to kindly tell someone you do not want to talk about what you are going through, her divorce, and how not being bitter helps your outlook and joy in life. Great lessons and another book added to my ‘to read’ list. I pray this podcast will help you to draw closer to God everyday!
A touching video of a mother gorilla at the Franklin Zoo in Boston and a mom with her 5- -week old son. Watch it here.
Have you ever been asked to do something and thought there is nothing in my background, my education, my life experiences that has prepared me to carry out this endeavor? I personally have experienced this when I was asked to step into ministry, writing this blog, and now my next project.
What makes it even more arduous is when that still small voice, that nudge from God is pushing you toward that job. In that case, when the Holy Spirit is saying go for it, the decision should be easy, right? It should be because it says in scripture:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
For I 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
Most of the time I still struggle with what I can do, instead of what God can do through me. God can use anyone for his purpose.
The podcast I am reviewing this week is a good one. It is another episode with Lisa Whittle on “Jesus Over Everything, with guest Toni Collier, Season 5 Episode 12.” Toni Collier is a communicator, host and consultant at North Point Ministries (founded by Andy Stanley), on-camera personality at The reThink Group, Fellowship of Christian Athletes public school speaker and co-founder of The Resource Group: A faith based consulting firm.
Toni begins by explaining her backstory. “About two years ago I hit a point where I was waking up with anxiety saying God don’t let me mess this up because for me and my background I came from a super broken family, blended family. My dad was married twice, my Mom was in an abusive marriage she got divorced and married my Dad and had me. My Mom was super sick, stroke, and I grew up taking care of everyone. Anxiety came, I started drinking, smoking, left my parents house at 16, and was just down on a downward spiral for sure. Ended up getting married in my teens, super abusive marriage, so many things and all while this journey of brokenness was going on in my life. You know, I really believe that I felt God saying, no, I still want to use you every step of the way, every mistake every little ratchet club moment. He whispered, I want to use you and I got saved at 21, which was less than a decade ago, and hopped in student ministry, and so many doors opened up.”
Lisa askes Toni this question: “You have a heart to serve. You love women and love ministry, your ministry, Broken Crayons Still Color. What is your mission at this time?” Toni’s response, “I one hundred percent know that I am here to tell people that their brokenness doesn’t discount them. I am one hundred percent tired of this Christian celebrity culture and we are pretending we are not broken and we are chasing after this perfect idea of our lives. I think it is diminishing the gospel. I think it is taking the power of Christ from the throne and replacing it with our perfect lives and perfect reals and perfect stuff. It is making people go into shame bubbles. I am about to scream from the rooftops that broken crayons still color and that God can still use us and that he is still working in us and in our lives.”
This question goes to the heart of racial reconciliation. Lisa says, “So, here’s my questions for you. What do you say about the idea there’s room for everyone at the table, and what is the word of encouragement for the women who don’t feel like they have a place, but they really want to serve God?” Toni’s response, “I would say first I get the opportunity to work with an international peacemaking organization called Preemptive Love. One of the things that I hyper focus on is the research around peacemaking. But one of the things that we started to coach people around is literally this phrase, oh there’s room at the table for everyone. And what we say to that is, it is not enough to invite people to your table, because it is yours. It’s your chairs, it’s your room, it’s your house is the way that you do things. Instead, what we should be practicing maybe is it we’re too afraid to go to someone else’s table that believes differently than us, identifies differently with us, lives and votes differently than us, then what we should be saying is something along the lines of, hey, I’ve got a table you can bring your own chair with your ideals with your ideas with whoever and all of who you are, but the step after that is, get up from your table, and go to someone else’s.”
This is my favorite question that Lisa askes of every guest at the end of her podcast and I believe this is my favorite response to it.
“What is the last thing you’d say about Jesus. If you could only say one more thing.” Toni says, “He has been on the sidelines of our lives. Yelling put me in. And we get to say yes. We get to tag him in. But he is on the sidelines, God is not forcing his way through, but just saying put me in I’ve got some power for your weakness.”
Powerful words! Jesus is always there for us; all we have to do is allow him in. When we are weak, he is strong.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Friends what are you struggling with you do not feel qualified for? Do you feel inapt to step into the next thing God is asking you to do? Let’s walk through these challenges together, leave a comment below.
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 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:
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.