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.
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.