Christian, Christian Blog, God, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Kingdom of God, Podcast

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Picture from Pexels

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 Next Right Thing: Episode 154 Remembering Who You Are.

Emily P. Freeman’s website

Follow Emily on Instagram

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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Intention, Jesus, Podcast, Word of the year

What are Your Intentions for 2021?

Picture by Anna Shvets

In January I posted on “How Can One Word Keep You Faithful?” In that post I mention each January I prayerfully consider a word for that year to focus on.  This year my word is love, to show more love toward others, and to listen more intentionally.  Recently I have noticed that I need to show myself a little more love. 

As women, and I know I am generalizing here, we lean toward caring for others before we take care of ourselves.  It may be the way God made us, to be nurturing, or it’s just your enneagram number (or not).  All of the twos out there know what I mean! 

So, why am I going back to a similar topic?  First; if you selected a word for the year are you still being intentional and moving forward focusing on that word in a way that God intends for you?  This podcast will talk about centering on intentions.  Second; I like this podcast, the repartee these two ladies have will make you laugh. You can tell they are good friends and enjoy teasing each other.

The podcast I am reviewing this week is from January 7th, 2021, and it is called “Mary and Martha: Energy and Intentions”, the hosts are Shakisha Morgan and Christina Jones.  They describe the podcast as: “A podcast by two black women who love God; relatable women,  who talk about relevant topics.” 

In the beginning of the podcast both Shakisha and Christina mention a Mary or Martha moment they experienced over the past week.  Before we get into the meat of the intention’s topic, I want to recognize what Christina mentioned as her Mary moment – the rioting at the Capitol.  These are her words, “For me it was like taking a peek at the Tulsa riot, and seeing the anger and visceral that the white people had in that riot and seeing it play out in 2021.  This is how our ancestors felt, when they watched their family and friends get lynched.  This is that same energy, from the 1800 or early 1900s.  That to me it was scary that it still exists in such a palpable way.  It was terrible, horrible, and disgusting, but to me it was seeing a peek at history.  My Mary moment is allowing myself to reflect on my ancestors and my grandmothers, and great grandmothers, and how they must have felt when things like this happened to them in a very hyper local way.” 

I wanted to make sure I didn’t just gloss over this statement.  It is important and I hear you.   Another intention of mine this year is to not only listen more to those around me but to those who are different than me in the community and to understand their point of view. 

Christina begins speaking about intentions: “One of the things I wanted to do in 2021 was not to set resolutions.  It doesn’t work for me.  What I am big on now is intention setting.  A resolution, to me is more of goal setting, more tangible small things, and many times I don’t meet those goals.  If we set an intention for the year, something we want to walk in for the year.  It is something I can go back to and check myself to see if I am meeting those intentions. How we can walk in the intention that Christ has set in our lives, how we can walk in the spirit, how we can make sure our actions and reactions match the same energy that God has.”

An example would be, “your intention can be you want to be more in the present in 2021.”  Here are some ways Christina and Shakisha state you can work on setting an intention: 

  1. Where in your life are you not showing up for yourself?  Do not condemn yourself but you need to make this assessment so you know where you can begin to show up.  Being honest with yourself in this way allows God to show you how He can show up.
  2. What makes you feel like yourself?  Think back to the last time you felt alive, at peace, rested, and safe.  What was happening at that time?  Was I spending more alone time or more time with God?  Be honest with yourself; it is key to this exercise. 
  3. What has God been revealing to you?  God speaks in a quiet still voice, sometimes from others, scripture, or through your quiet time. 

Christina sums it up like this;  “What will make you really settle into your Christian identity, what makes you effective for the Kingdom?” 

Shakisa’s final statement is profound;  “Understand how important intentions can be, no matter what is going on around us.  We are still called to be Christian; we are still called to be disciples; we are still called to be the best version of ourselves with Christ at the center of it no matter what is going on around us.” 

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Having Christ at the center of our thoughts, in everything we do, will lead us to becoming more and more like Him.  It can and should be small steps.  I need to continue showing up for myself in relaxing ways and look for opportunities to study the word with other women.  What are your answers to the three questions Christina and Shakisa posed to us?  If you are willing to share, I would love to hear from you. 

A little Good Friday humor:

From Pinterist

Mary and Martha Podcast:  Energy and Intentions

Follow Christina and Shakisha on Instagram:  @shakishamorgan  @christinamichellejones

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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, God, Pathway, Podcast

What is Your Pathway to God?

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

In the morning I enjoy my quiet time with God.  I start out at breakfast reading my devotionals and then move into my prayer chair, which resides in the bedroom.  This is where I can look out onto our beautiful backyard, see the cardinals and blue birds sprint around, and the daffodils starting to emerge from the soil. During the summer months, when it becomes oppressively warm in North Carolina, I take our dog for a walk after breakfast, and I will pray during my walk.  Either way I am looking at nature and speaking to God.  It connects me to nature and all that God has made.  I present my requests to God, then listen for what He has for me that day. 

Everyone has their own pathway to God.  I was always aware each person had their own relationship with God and had a preference on how to worship Him.  Pathways are new to me.  God created us with different gifts and talents, why assume we all come to Him the same way?

The podcast I am reviewing today is new to me, it is called “Confessions of a Crappy Christian” by Blake.  She is interviewing Gary Thomas, a bestselling author and international speaker whose ministry brings people closer to Christ and closer to others.  They talk about his book “Sacred Pathways.” 

Blake starts out the podcast giving an overview of pathways.  “The different and unique ways we each experience God and how He created us individually to encounter Him in our own ways.  Stop trying to fit into a mold and our relationship with God will thrive and flourish.” 

Gary explains how he came up with the idea for this book.  He grew up learning how to have quiet time with God.  His teachers at church would say when you have quiet time you have to do it this specific way.  “I realized that a one size fits all spirituality does not work.  God did not make us as  cooker cutter Christians.  We relate to him in different ways.  I found out through scripture and the Christian classics how people related to God in many different ways.  Nine pathways or temperaments or devotional styles came out.  I set people free, you can be who God created you to be. Pathways are the windows of how you see God most clearly.”

Gary goes on to explain, “It’s about at different times in life, what is best for you, given who you are and your situation; how you can best connect with God.  I believe everything flows from being loved by God.  1 John 4:19:  We love because He first loved us.”

Gary shares with us a time when he was growing up in the Washington DC area.  He would go out to the battlefields in the Northern Virginia area and just walk in the woods for an hour or two.  It was one of the best ways he could connect to God.  He found that his pathway is a naturalist and this is how he best connects to God.   

“When I spend time with the Lord and am convicted by Him.  I am a much better husband, father, and driver. When I have that time with God, I am able to give more of myself to my family.”  Gary Thomas 

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.   Deuteronomy 4:29

The final question Blake asks Gary; “What is the next step, after you identify and understand how you connect with God differently with other people?” Gary responds,  “every chapter has some tests so you can figure out, and you can do it numerically, to say this is who I am, and hopefully you will come away with two or three strong ones.  The point is you can write your own spiritual prescription.  You can identify why you are so angry, anxious, needy, or what your spiritual aliment is and you can say I have really been cheating my time with God.  I am not receiving from God or hearing from Him.  This is where I can be filled up or this is where I can meet God.  At the end of each chapter, it has the temptations, if this is your pathway, be aware of this.  The last part is planting your garden and finding your path or Gethsemane.”

This last statement from Gary encapsulates the meaning of a pathway; “Imagine that your relationship with God is the most life giving, affirming, strength building, inspiring part of your day.  Then it completely takes it out of an obligation, to an invitation, and that is what I want the pathways to do.  To make people jazzed about the fact that I can meet with God today, I can’t wait.”    

When you find your pathway to God, it will bring you into closer relationship with Him.  Then He will take you by the hand and lead you on the narrow path, which leads to life in abundance. 

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  Matthew 7:13-14

If you listen to the entire podcast, they go into more detail about the nine pathways.  It was enlightening and I would recommend it.  The “Sacred Pathways” book is on my ever growing ‘to read’ book list. 

Let me know about your pathway to God; I am interested to hear how you naturally connect with Him.

Some good news from the Goodnewsletter:  A Texas furniture store owner stepped up to help his community after fridged temps and power outages.

Confessions of a Crappy Christian podcast with Gary Thomas

Gary Thomas’ book “Sacred Pathways”

Follow me on Instagram @thegodlypodreview

Follow me on Twitter @thgodlypodrev1

Christian, Christian Blog, Community, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Made to be in Community

Photo by Dani Hart 

The podcast I am reviewing this week is “Rhythms for Life” with hosts Rebekah and Gabe Lyons. It was recorded pre-COVID and they talk about spiritual community, which I know many of us are missing now a days. I miss that fellowship time before and after church, to see what has gone on in the lives of the people I am supposed to be doing life with. I long for hugs from people I care about and going out in the community and actually handing out sandwiches to the homeless or enjoying a meal with our faith community. This brought about a realization, that God put us here to be in community together, we are communal creatures, and that is the reason we crave it. This is how we build each other up to become stronger Christians, serving each other, and serving the Kingdom.

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.  Acts 2:46-57

The guest for this podcast is Pastor Francis Chan,  American Protestant author, teacher, and preacher. He is the former teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA, which he founded in 1994. He also founded Eternity Bible College in 2004.

Rebekah questioned Francis “How has these last few years; rhythms for you, your intimacy with God, shifted in knowing His people more intimately?” Francis said “When I am with people who have a deep personal relationship with God and you gather for prayer together, you can sense God in the room. I do not like prayer meetings, I use to rather be alone with God than be in a prayer gathering. Now I actually prefer being with these people who have been on that mountaintop, that pursue God and now we are going after Him together.”

Rebekah recalls when her and Gabe moved to New York City and she states, “My prayer life grew when I was around people who were as desperate as I was. Who had a close relationship with God.” Francis responded “You are on a mission together.”

Rebekah asked Francis, “What would you say to someone who says this is prompting a yearning or wants to be known?” Francis states “There were things I knew God was asking me to do and I knew I had to take that next step. A big part of it is the mission, many people are just trying to get by. The mission is the biproduct and there is no way I am going to pull this off by myself. We need to be the light in the dark places and make disciples. You need to have a deep sense of the mission”

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19

Rebekah posed this question to Francis “What does fruit look like in my relationships and community and serving?” Francis replied “I have to be alone in the presents of God. It is imperative, I fight for it! Otherwise, I am worthless to everyone. I must be connected to the vine, or I will shrivel up and die. To keep that relationship active and be in love with Him!”

Those last two sentences sum it up for me. If I do not have alone time with God, I feel like I am lost, I am hungry and thirsty and need to be fed. Falling in love with God brings us into a closer relationship with Him. We pine for that time with Him, to read the word and hear Him speak to us.

My hope for you is that you take away something that will allow you to spend more time with God. Remember it doesn’t have to be an hour a day, you can spend 5 minutes in the word and reflect on it for a few minutes. Pray in the car while you are dropping the kids off at school. There is time, you just need to find it, take hold of it, and God will take hold of you!

In honor of Black History Month from the creators of the Good Newsletter: Shopping at Black-owned businesses is a way to make our world more equitable. By shopping from these businesses, we have the chance to redistribute wealth and move it into the hands of people who historically haven’t had equal access. (Plus, all of these products are great! The Buy From a Black Woman DirectoryThe Black-Owned MarketBlack-owned Etsy shopsBlack-owned subscription boxes, and Bon Appetit’s list of Black-owned restaurants.

Rhythms of Life Podcast with Francis Chan.

Francis Chan’s book “Letters to the Church”

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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Faithful, Jesus, Podcast, Word of the year

How Can One Word Keep You Faithful?

Photo by Skitterphoto

You may be asking why do I need a word for the year? How will this help me in my everyday life and in my walk with God?

The podcast I am reviewing this week is all about that word of the year and how it can help you feel better and see where God is directing your focus. The name of the podcast is “More Than Small Talk” with Holley Gerth, Suzanne Eller, and Jennifer Watson. They are all authors and real-life friends who talk about conversational topics and faith.

“Many people are looking for direction from the Lord and having a word gives you that guidance”, Suzanne Eller.

Start by spending some time in prayer and asking the Lord if He has a word for you to concentrate on this year. Listen to what rises up in your heart. This will take time and you may have to come back to it more than once.

Eugene Peterson, author of the Message Bible, says “Faithful is long obedience in the same direction.” Faithful, is Holley’s word for the year. She states, “I am going to show up in my relationships and in faith. Continue to be faithful and not measure everything.”

Goals are great and they are what motivate us to get things done but if we put too much pressure on ourselves and don’t meet our own expectations, then we end up going down into this pit of self-criticism. God has a different plan for our lives, he sees us as fearfully and wonderfully made.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful. Psalm 139:13

Forward, is Jennifer’s word. “Those small steps forward, toward progress, how powerful just moving forward can be. We don’t give ourselves credit, we are too hard on ourselves.”

I am extremely task oriented, give me a to do list and a few hours, I am happy. You should see what I can do with a pad of paper and a pencil. Turn that around, if I get nothing done because I had to help my daughter most of the day or I wasn’t feeling good, boy can I beat myself up, and end up in that pit! God does not want us to beat up on ourselves, He loves us and wants us to enjoy life to the fullest!

Here is a pivotal point that Holley makes, “Consistency is the secret sauce. Showing up and doing the small things over and over again adds up to a lot over time. Remember God is always faithful. This helps on the days when I feel overwhelmed or it is hard. I remember God is faithful.”

When you focus the word, that God leads you to, daily, and celebrate the small wins each day your mood will be buoyant. For example, my word this year is love. To show love and to realize God’s love in my life every day. The day I spend driving my daughter from one activity to another I am showing her love by being there for her, showing her support. It is important for me to come back to that word daily and see how it is fitting into my life. I can easily get frustrated at driving her around instead of perceiving it as an act of love.

I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 1:5-6

“Ask the Lord how can I partner with you today? What does it look like? It can be small. There is value in listening to the Lord and putting that in front of you. Be open to where He wants to take me next,” Suzanne Eller. For those who don’t have a word for the year, Suzanne is right there with you. Suzanne reminds us “That God knows the plans He has for us and He knows what tomorrow holds. Just being open and saying Lord whatever direction you want to take me next, whatever miracle you are trying to do inside of me, I am open.”

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

Jennifer asks, “What will help you move forward and tune into the Lord this year? Maybe it is taking care of yourself more. Take a nap in the afternoon or rescheduling your plans. Whatever will help you move forward and stay faithful and tune into the Lord this year.”

Once you have a word what is the best way to remember it daily? Placing it somewhere you would see it assists, a post it note on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, or on top your devotional that you open every morning. Some people get fancy and have a sign made with the word. Whatever works for you. I have incorporated mine in scripture that is part of my email signature.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:16-17

These three ladies complement each other and their banter will put a smile on your face. I enjoyed their stories and how they apply their word of the year to their lives. This past year has been difficult, let’s give ourselves grace as we move into a new year, seeking to find God’s will in our everyday lives.

The link to this episode is below and the following podcast Holley hosted as a follow up called “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose.” I recommend listening to both episodes, Holley’s commentary is insightful and compliments this podcast nicely.

“More Than Small Talk” with Suzanne Eller, Holley Gerth, and Jennifer Watson. “What is Your Word of the Year” (Episode 108).

“More Than Small Talk” Commentary by Holley Gerth. “A Little More: Our Plans, God’s Purpose”

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Christian, Christian Blog, Christmas, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Christmastime

Picture by Gerhard G.

This time of year, is a catalyst of so many good memories and feelings. It is probably why I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. If you know me, I have a hard and fast rule no Christmas decorating, music, or shows until Santa arrives after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. But this year is very different, not being able to visit with friends and family, no dinners out, and mostly staying at home, has put me in a melancholy mood.

What are those memories that bring such joy and elation? I remember from my childhood listening to Nat King Cole’s Christmas album with my mom and eating her delicious red and green Christmas shaped butter cookies warm out of the oven. I now make my version with my children. I have new traditions with my family of going to see the Christmas lights in the park or now that we moved to Charlotte we drive to “Christmas Town USA, in McAdenville, NC”.

All of these are wonderful traditions, our brains automatically click on the serotonin, and allow all those good feelings to flow. Really though what is Christmastime suppose to be about? Merriam-Webster defines it as: the time of year when people get ready for and celebrate Christmas Christmas day and the days and weeks before it. So, it is preparing for Christmas, which as a Methodist we celebrate Advent, the four weeks before Christmas. We are looking forward to the coming of Christ, of his birth into our world, to be our Savior.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:4-12

When I think of this miracle it brings warmth and gladness into my heart. How much does God love us to send His only son as a gift for us, to redeem and give us eternal life.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9

I guess that is why the nativity scene means so much to me. It is a treasured part of my Christmas decorating.

Thinking back to when I was a teenager and my family went to church, at Easter and Christmas, I had that same feeling in my heart of warmth and gladness and at times tears would come to my eyes. I never shared this with anyone, probably as I didn’t understand it until recently. The tears in my eyes were an expression of the overflowing joy in my heart for my Savior, for what He did for me and for all of us who believe. What a gift! That is our one true gift of Christmas, that Jesus came as a child in the manger, our light in the darkness, to guide us toward love and forgiveness.

Even if there is nothing under that Christmas tree, we already received the ultimate gift from God in Jesus. Emmanuel, God with us.

The podcast I am reviewing today is another episode of “The Next Right Thing” with Emily P. Freeman. It is an older episode from December of 2018 called “Acknowledge Your Soul”.

Emily begins the podcast talking about how hectic the holiday season can be. “One thing that can get lost during the bustle of the season is our very own soul who we are at the core,
what we most deeply care about and long for. We don’t want to wait until the other side of Christmas to finally pause and say, “Oh, hello soul. I’ve missed you this month”. No, instead, we work to create that space now, in the midst of the planning, the gathering, the list-making and pie baking, the gift wrapping and Advent waiting. For a few minutes today, we’ll make room, we’ll take a moment to acknowledge our soul and remember the miracle of God With Us.”

She wraps up the podcast with a brilliant message, “We show up even when we don’t know what’s going on and we make room for Jesus, even when things don’t make full sense. And if we’ll let him, if we’re paying attention, when he appears, a thrill of hope,
the weary world rejoices and our soul will feel its worth.” Are we not all feeling a little weary this year and need to sense the worth and love of Jesus?

I pray that during this Christmastime, as we wait in joyful hope to celebrate the birth of our Savior, that you will pause and remember all of those memories that remind you of Christmas, that bring your focus back to such joyful times with family and friends. In that time of reflection remember that Jesus came into the world to be with us. To be our comforter, our healer, our provider, and our salvation. As we enter into Christmas may your hearts rejoice for a baby that came down from heaven for all of us to be saved.

From my family to yours I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thank you, Donna Johnson, for sharing this!

The Next Right Thing, Acknowledging Your Soul” with Emily P. Freeman

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Christian, Faith, Happiness, Jesus, Podcast

Can Happiness bring us to Holiness?

Photo from Pixabay

Happiness as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is a state of well-being and contentment, joy, or a pleasurable or satisfying experience. To be holy is defined as exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness.

Growing up in the Catholic church I understood being holy as the individuals who lead us in church, the priests and deacons, and of course Jesus. I never thought of myself as ever being holy since my actions were not even close to emulating that. Through many bible studies and wonderful Christian friends, I have learned that Jesus died to allow us to become righteous and holy in God’s eyes. Through repentance, shifting my focus outward, spending more time in prayer, and walking in His way, the happier I am. This is not to say that I get it right all the time, absolutely not, I am still a work in progress.

When I walk outside the lines God has placed there is this nudge from the Holy Spirit. I feel Him tug at me saying things like, was that really a nice way to respond to your husband when he was just trying to help you? Were those words uplifting or encouraging for your daughter or did they just bring her down? These reminders keep me coming back to Jesus asking for forgiveness and it’s what brings me back to happiness and holiness.

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.  May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

As we reposition our focus toward others and show them love by our actions, we are walking down the narrow path God has laid out for us. We are walking toward holiness.

God calls us to be His holy people. If you look in the New Testament when Paul addresses the crowds of people, he calls them God’s holy people.

To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours. 1 Corinthians 1:2

To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people. Ephesians 1:18

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians 3:12

The podcast I am reviewing this week is one of my favorite authors and podcasters, Annie F. Downs, “That Sounds Fun”, Episode 244 with Dr. Derwin L. Gray. Derwin was a professional NFL player with the Indiana Colts and then for the Charlotte Panthers. He is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church (TC), a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, South Carolina.

This episode had so many great points, from how Derwin and his wife Vicki came to know Christ, to speaking to your friends about Christianity, prayer, and his new book called “The Good Life”. The notes I took were seven small notebook pages, wow, my hand ached after that. I will hit on a few of the topics but I highly recommend you listen to the entire episode.

Derwin explained his experience of friends sharing Christ with him and his wife. He said “When people shared Christ with us, they were not threating us like you are immoral, you are sinning. It was a presentation of here is what Christ has done, here is who He is and this is how He loves you, enter into this. It wasn’t a threat it was an invitation. Sin was acknowledged and repentance was needed. It was an invitation to grace.”

Annie asks Derwin “What would you go back and say to your nineteen-year old Derwin Gray?” Derwin responds “What I would have said to myself is you are going to accomplish everything you want and more and when you do you are going to find out that you are empty. There is someone with living water that wants to fill you with love and grace and mercy. I was too full of myself to receive Christ at nineteen.”

Derwin’s new book “The Good Life” is based off of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. It talks about happy are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven, happy are those who mourn for they will be comforted, happy are the merciful. Derwin asks “Can we please show each other some mercy? We are like living in a world of payaras and we are eating each other alive and Satan is loving it!”

Derwin points out “Jesus describes these seven characteristics that lead to happiness. A happy life which is a holy life. The life of happiness that leads to the holy life. The beatitudes turn us into the people we want to be friends with.” I absolutely love that!

They go on to talk about how to be a peacemaker and how we should mourn with those who mourn. Such good advice that will help heal our nation if we will heed it.

Friends, I pray this has helped you to seek more happiness through looking at God’s word and applying it to your life. I am grateful you took the time to read this and I am praying for you. Let me know if there is anything I can specifically be praying for you.

“That Sounds Fun Podcast”, Episode 244, Dr. Derwin Gray

“The Good Life” book by Derwin Gray

Transformation Church, Pastor Derwin Gray

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What Are You Grateful For?

Gratitude, you hear a lot about this time of year, but how often do we contemplate it? Once a year, once a month, once a week, or daily? This year has been trying, long, and stressful, with COVID and a heated election, it is one many people have a difficult time finding the good in. Although it is there if you look for it.

When I reflect on the day it amazes me how many things, I could be thankful for but do not regularly say them out loud. How my husband will compliment how nice I look (in jeans and a tee shirt) or thank me for making lunch for him since he is working from home. He knows my love language is words of affirmation and he is showing his love. How grateful am I for this but do I tell him that? Sometimes but other times I don’t.

Or when my daughter’s room is picked up or she puts away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. To be grateful and express that gratitude with words is so important in our everyday lives. Even if the person’s love language is not words of affirmation, telling another person you appreciate what they have done for you is showing love! Isn’t that what we are called to do.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13: 34-35

Another way to be grateful and incorporate it in your everyday life is to start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it could be a notebook, that you write in daily. Journal writing is not a rhythm I have successfully accomplished. In my thirties I use to journal at night before I went to bed but then found most evenings I was too tired to write in it. I started another journal this year and called it Gratitude and God winks. This one I do during the day at some point. When I do write in it, which to be honest is about once a week, I jot down what I am grateful for and anything that stood out to me where God was moving in my life.

Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

The podcast I am reviewing this week is a new one to me but it has an old release date, November 2018. When you hear them talking about travel, know this is pre-pre COVID. The name of the podcast is “Catholic Momcast” and the hosts are Danielle Bean and Lisa Hendey. The episode is called “Practicing Gratefulness”, they discuss ways to make gratitude a habit in your life and how to set a good example of gratefulness all year round.

From a high level what they talk about are these four concepts. 1. Say it; to others. 2. Write it down, a thank you note, email, or text. 3. Remind yourself, look for ways to add gratitude to your daily practices including prayer time and meals. 4. Look for the good, even in the tough situations.

Danielle states “Our words are powerful, both good and critical. We get in the bad habit of saying the negative. The more you practice saying the positive things the more real they become.”

Lisa goes on to mention that writing it down, in a journal or a written note, is a good practice. “It doesn’t have to monumental, being thankful for yummy vegetables or that it didn’t rain today. Also, a written thank you note holds a lot more meaning.”

Danielle explains that “Teaching yourself to pause, even during a hard or challenging situation, look at what you are grateful for, will bear beautiful spiritual fruit around me and the people around me.”

Reflecting back on this podcast I appreciated the four ways Danielle and Lisa gave us to incorporate gratefulness into our everyday lives. Simple easy actions we can implement that will pivot our attention to what is good in our lives, and let’s be honest many of us in the U.S. are privileged and have multiple elements of our lives to be grateful for. Even during these times of uncertainty and unrest we can look to the beauty in and around us and thank God for it.

I am grateful to breathe in the crisp fall air, to be able to walk and take in the beautiful blue sky, a child laughing in the yard, to love and to be loved, and to be known by a God who hears me, loves me, and walks with me in the good times and in the tumultuous ones too.

I pray this will help bring your focus more toward gratitude which in turn will produce more joy. Leave me a comment stating what you are grateful for today. Wishing you and your families a happy, joyful, loving, and peaceful Thanksgiving!

Catholic Momcast episode on Practicing Gratefulness.

Another resource for gratitude is Grateful.org, which was created by Brother David Steindl-Rast. Their mission is to create “A peaceful, thriving, and sustainable world, held sacred by all.” There are several good blog posts here but the one that I would recommend is called Cultivating a Practice: Grateful Living as a Way of Life.

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Loneliness

Picture from Pixabay – YD Drasil

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”

Rhythms of Life podcast with Max Lucado, “The Cure for Loneliness”

Max’s new book “You Are Never Alone”

Max Lucado’s website

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New Seasons

Photo by Cafe Pampas

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.

The funny piece to the blog:

“Wild at Heart podcast- Interpreting New Seasons”

Wild at Heart Website with John Eldridge

Blog Post with Annie F. Downs and John Eldridge called “Time to Pause”

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