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, Faith, Jesus, Love, New Year

New Year, New Outlook.

Picture by Oleg Zaicev

Happy 2021 friends! I know many of us, including myself, are happy to have 2020 behind us. Looking back on 2020 it was rough and if you lost a job, lost a loved one, or are just hurting I am so sorry. Let me know in the comments if I can be praying for you.

If you know me, I am a glass half full person and for the past nine months I kept looking to see the positive in the everyday. I walked, a lot, and on those walks I began to notice God’s creation so much more than I have in the past. The bright colors of the flowers and the deep greens of the grasses, the reds, burnt oranges, and bright yellows of the fall leaves. The beautiful song birds singing to their mates. I am not sure if it was a result of slowing down or if that is where my focus was this year.

I appreciated the extra time spent with my children and husband, especially since my son will be graduating from college this year and will likely move out of state. These times together, talking about our lives or playing a board game, are like gold pieces that I am collecting, holding onto to, and cherishing.

Moving into 2021 I am asking myself what needs to change? I am not one for New Year’s resolutions, over the past few years I have tried to focus more on where is God pointing me. What can I do to make a difference in my life and the people’s lives I touch? Beyond just my family and into my community. The word that keeps repeating in my heart is love. With the world being so divisive and visceral in 2020, love seems like the way toward healing, toward understanding, toward equality. Doing for others what you would want done for you. This can be difficult at times, to look past the beliefs or behaviors of those around you and just reach out. Lend a hand to those in need even if they voted for the other candidate or they don’t believe as you do, they are still God’s children and we are His hands and feet. Show God’s love and you will feel it reverberate back to you.

We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:19-20

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

The podcast I am reviewing this week is called “Everything Matters” hosted by Kate Bowler. Kate is a Duke Professor, a podcast host, and author of Everything Happens for a Reason, and Other Lie’s I’ve Loved. The guest for this episode is Bishop Michael Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, and is an author, The Power of Love and Love is the Way: Holding onto Hope in Troubled Times.

In this episode Kate and Bishop Curry talk about how community love impacts people’s lives in such profound ways. Kate poses the question to Bishop Curry, “Maybe you could, explain how and why we don’t get more of the kingdom of God here on Earth? I’ve been a little disappointed to realize that in life we only get a glimpse, unfortunately.” Bishop Curry responds, “One of the things that occurred to me in writing this book that I actually hadn’t thought about before. I realize that a period of childhood trauma with the sickness and death of your mother, that goes on for a long period time. Part of what helped us navigate that, and I wasn’t aware of it at the time, was that my sister, my father and I, we were enveloped or part of a community that really did become a community of love.”

When Bishop Curry’s mother had a massive cerebral hemorrhage and had to be in a hospital hundreds of miles from their home in Buffalo NY, his father was a preacher and he would leave from their home in Buffalo on Monday to be with his mother for a couple of days. “He would take us to the home of family friends who were church members Dr. and Mrs. Bullock. And we went to their house which wasn’t that far from our house, but that’s where we stayed for a couple of days.”

Bishop Curry added, “That’s what faith community is. That’s what human community is. That’s what that’s about. It’s not schmaltz. It’s necessary for human growth in life to thrive.” Kate affirmed, “It’s not extra. It’s the thing. But I’ve chosen independence and I just want to have the internet and all my time alone. It does really, kinda open you up to the possibility that maybe we are made for togetherness.”

Bishop Curry continues, “You know there’s a passage in the New Testament it’s in 1 John, that just says God is love. If that is true, and I believe it is, that means God is the source of all love. And that also means that since we have been created by God, we have been created by the hand of love. We’ve been made by the God who is love, for love, to love and to be loved. That is as much a part of us, that is the essential core of us. “

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

Bishop Curry remembers, “What I realized, it was easier when I was growing up. It was a different world. It was it was almost intrinsically communal.” Kate replies, “Yes. And now we have to go out of our way to find ways to move emotion into action, because it is, it is hard. I mean, especially right now with a pandemic. It exacerbates our loneliness, our hyper individualism, our sense that we were we should be self-made. Man, our culture is so unkind when we feel dependent. Just totally unkind.”

Kate wraps up the podcast stating, “Bishop Curry reminds us that the way of love is hard won, but it is the only way if we are to remake the world around us. So, even when it’s hard, even when it costs something. Let’s begin right now by blessing six people who we think may not deserve it. I know you already have names in your head. Yes, that person who posts ridiculous things on Facebook or that neighbor who never takes care of their lawn or that family member who has been really hard to forgive. Bless them, love them. Even today, if it’s just in your mind. And maybe somehow in these little practices of loving and receiving, we and the world along with us ,will be changed by ordinary and extraordinary love.”

I really cannot say it better than that. If we continue to show love toward those around us, bless them, go out of our way for them, it has to bring us together. It is what we were made to be, in a loving community with each other, even with all the messiness that each of us bring to the table. I pray this has helped you to want to sit still for a little while, reflect on 2020, and consider how you can show love to the people you touch in 2021.

Heartwarming article about how 10 men, that are attending a drug and alcohol treatment center, started looming. They’ve made about 200 toques (hats), which have ended up as gifts to loved ones and as donations to a women’s recovery house. They want other toques to go to the homeless and to babies in hospital once the pandemic is over. Read about it here.

Everything Matters podcast with Kate Bowler and Bishop Michael Curry

Bishop Curry’s book “Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubled Times”

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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, Christian Blog, Faith, Gratitude, Jesus, Podcast

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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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

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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Christian, Christian Blog, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

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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Mentoring

Picture by KeithJJ

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.

This is the lighthearted piece to the blog:

Proverbs 31 Ministries Podcast Episode #60 Why Mentoring Matters with Shelley Giglio.

Shelley Giglio Instagram @shelleygiglio

Christian, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Are You Really Listening?

Image from Pixabay- Andreas160578

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 Exhale and Breaking Up with Perfecta 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.

The lighthearted piece to my blog is: YouTube video, Christian Moms Be Like: John Crist

The Sisterhood Effect with Monica Harris: The Skill of Listening with Amy Carroll

Amy Carroll’s website

Amy Carroll’s podcast Grit n Grace.

Christian, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Will You Speak Up?

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.

“10 Things To Tell You” by Laura Tremaine “How White Women Can Stop Avoiding Hard Conversations”.

Jenna Arnold’s book “Raising Our Hands”

Follow Jenna on Instagram

Follow 10 Things to Tell You on Instagram

Follow The Godly Pod Review on Instagram

Christian, Faith, Jesus, Podcast

Tension, Rest, Disappointment, and Joy. Recap of IF:LEAD

IF:LEAD 2020 image

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:

IF:LEAD 2020 digital purchase

Jennie Allen’s “Made for This” Podcast: Practical Help for Life in a Pandemic.