The people Christ came to were expecting a military leader to free them from bondage to Rome. Instead Christ came to free them, and us, from the bondage of sins and death. It was so much more than they were wanting and yet many did not recognize it for the incredible gift it was.
Jesus is our deliverer and rescuer. He saves us from ourselves! Our own shortcomings and weaknesses. Our own mistakes and humanness. .
He seeks out the lost,
brings back those who have been driven,
binds the broken,
strengthens the sick,
humbles the proud, feeds His flock and
gives them rest.
Where do you see these gifts in your own life?
I know that I’ve been less than consistent with this blog and I’m so sorry! I am hopeful that this year will bring consistency and balance to my life.
This last year and a half has been nothing less than a whirlwind!! Some of you may remember the beginning of my blog when I wrote about the decision to sell our house in Harrisville. It was not something I had been wanting to do, nor did I even want to consider it. After finally relenting to my husband’s requests to just go for a drive with him and look at some of the houses available in the next county over I consoled my daughter (and myself) that we were looking, nothing more. I had no intention to move. Not until the kids were both graduated from high school. But then…
I could not get one of the houses out of my head. I brushed it away numerous times like a pesky fly. Finally a little thought popped into my head… “Why don’t you pray about it?” At that point I began to sob, because I already knew what “pray about it” meant. It wasn’t in my plans, but it was in God’s. And so I knelt down and asked for confirmation. It came and we began the process. Within four months we had fixed up the house, listed it, sold it, packed, and moved out.
As I unpacked in the house we were renting my mind was spinning and I couldn’t help but wonder if we had done the right thing. How long were we going to be there? Where would we end up? Would it be a place I would love as much as I had loved Harrisville? As I struggled with these feelings I began to pray. And as I sought answers on my knees and in my scriptures, I was comforted with the very clear answer… Where you want to stay doesn’t even compare to where I want to take you.
Last year was a year of personal growth and learning. It was a year of moving forward in faith and trusting God’s hand to lead me. I took courses and attended meetings to help me better myself as a writer, speaker and businesswoman. I transitioned from being a mom of children to the beginning steps of being the mom of adults. I cheered my daughter on, with my heart breaking, as she moved out, knowing that the timing was right, but if it was up to my selfishness I would never let her go! I got to teach in my church and soaked up every second of the calling and opportunity. We scouted and researched, bought a lot and built a home. I learned much about my fears and anxieties. I learned to live outside my comfort zone as I pushed through those feelings and found so much magic on the other side of that circle.
Our home is beautiful! It is an open home where I can enjoy the company of my family as I cook and clean the kitchen. It is the perfect combination of all the colors I love most and every choice I made from floor, to light fixtures, to appliances, to my accent wall, and even the color of my front door make me feel joyful just to look at them. It is on a half acre of land overlooking the most beautiful wide open valley. I love to walk at night and feel the stillness and revel in the space between the sparkling stars above and the twinkling lights below. The people are warm and welcoming. And the thoughts and feelings reverberate through my whole body… Where I wanted to stay didn’t even compare to where He has taken me!
I am home.
10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of his might.
11Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
As I was reading these verses in Ephesians about the armor of God last night, they triggered a lot of thoughts for me. I love the imagery of the Armor of God. I designed the felt set above in 2013 after I was in charge of girls’ camp for the youth in our church. We decided to go with the theme Stand Wearing the Armor of God. It was such an incredible experience to study and prepare with the youth leaders who were helping me. Each part of this armor can do so much to protect us in our spiritual battles. And each piece must be intentionally added.
I want to share with you some of the analogies I have thought of as I have studied these verses. There may be other interpretations, this is just one what I have come up with.
Helmet of Salvation: God can help protect us from the enemy as we choose to particular about what information and images we choose to allow into our minds. When we watch, read and listen to only uplifting things, we are putting on the helmet of salvation.
The Breastplate of Righteousness: This piece of armor protects our hearts. As we follow God’s commandments and stay strong to the standards He has helped us create for ourselves, we have the ability to determine what we will allow to control our hearts. We can choose to steer clear of distractions and temptations that would destroy our peace and happiness, when we put on the breastplate of righteousness.
Shoes of the Gospel of Peace: We put on these shoes as we study about the life of Christ and truly learn about our Savior, who He is, what He stands for, and how deeply He loves us. As this knowledge becomes a part of us, we will have a desire to follow in His path. We will be able to make better choices for our lives that bring us peace and joy. And we will have a desire to share these truths with others.
The Belt of Truth: In this day and age where morality is questioned at every turn, it is even more important for us to make a stand with God on what is right and what is wrong. He has given us the sacred power of procreation, the power to create life and many people in the world do not value this as the gift that it is, they use and abuse it for their own pleasure with no thought of the consequences and hurt they are causing. As we girt our loins with the belt of truth we are showing that we truly value virtue and will protect it at all costs.
Shield of Faith: We take up this sword as we search, ponder, and study the word of God. The more immersed we become in the Gospel and the teachings of Christ the more faith we develop in the knowledge that God lives and that He loves us. We will understand better the sacrifice made by our Savior Jesus Christ, that He truly loves us and chose to die for us, that we might live again – both physically and spiritually. As we intentionally seek to grow in faith, we fill find special ways unique to us that will give more power to our shield at the times when we need it most.
Sword of the Spirit (the word of God): God speaks to us in many ways through songs, scriptures, and whispers to our hearts. Learning to hear and act upon this takes practice. As the only defensive piece of armor, it is especially important that we take up and use this sword. We become more adept at using it as we seek to understand how the Spirit speaks to us personally. As we practice by following promptings and inspirations as they come, we will get better and better and hearing and receiving from the Spirit.
The armor is not always convenient or comfortable, it is not meant to be… it is created for our protection. A soldier during the time of Paul would not have gone even one day leaving his armor behind, because he knew that one day without it could be his last. And anytime we choose to go about without putting it on, we are in danger of spiritual harm. I have learned in my own life how important it is to daily, intentionally put on each piece of this armor. And then… pray. This final and pivotal act is vital to our spiritual strength and protection. I love a line in a book by Francine Rivers… the elderly woman in the book is advising her husband to pray because “you can’t face the enemy in your spiritual underwear.” As much as getting dressed is a daily habit for us, so should be taking the time to arm ourselves with the protective gear the Lord has provided for us. Armor up!!
Soul Searching Question: What have you done to armor up today?
Song: Spiritual Warfare – The Battle Belongs to the Lord
11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Know God, Know Peace. No God, No Peace.
The verse from Psalms posted above teaches us that the same thing applies to joy as to peace. If we want to have a fulness of joy we can experience that as we spend time in the presence of God. The more we seek Him, the more we will know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will love Him and trust Him. The more we love Him and trust Him, the more we will have peace and joy in our lives. The more peace and joy we have, the more we will be able to share that peace and love with those around us. So, you can see why it is so important that we take the time to seek Him. How can you get to know someone you have not spent time with?
And just because we have found Him before does not mean that we are always as close to Him. Sometimes we find that distance has grown between us either because of a trial we are going through, because we are too busy, or even because life is going so well that we don’t feel a yearning to turn to Him.
I once heard a joke that I love to relate to this exact concept. There was an elderly couple riding in their truck one day when they came to a stoplight. They looked over and noticed a younger couple in the cab of the truck next to them. The couple was snuggled up on the seat looking very in love. The elderly woman looked at her husband and commented how sweet they looked and then asked, “Why don’t we ever do that anymore? Her husband looked at the couple and then back at his wife and said, “Well, I haven’t moved.” This is exactly the case with our relationship with God. If there is distance between us it is because we have moved, not because He has.
What would happen to us physically if we only ate a meal once a week? We would starve, of course. Our spirits have the same need for nourishment that our bodies do and going to church to be fed once a week is certainly not enough to keep us healthy, nurtured and growing. I am afraid many of us are actually spiritually starving to death.
What are some of the signs that we are spiritually starving?
*Weakness: When we become spiritually weak we start to lack self-control and commitment. We have an inability to separate needs from wants and to prioritize properly.
*Confusion: Over time our thinking becomes murky or distorted. We start to rationalize or justify the things that we are doing wrong, or time not being used wisely.
*Irritability: We begin to find ourselves being easily offended and more annoyed by the people around us, especially our family members.
*Immune Deficiency: We become less able to fight off temptations that lead to sin, sin being the disease. We are more tolerant of things that at one time we would have shunned and we are less resistant to things that we normally wouldn’t even give a second glance.
*Internal Shutdown: We find ourselves behaving out of character, saying things we wouldn’t normally say or responding in ways we normally wouldn’t respond. We find that we are lacking in compassion or patience with those we should be most loving and compassionate towards.
*Comatose: We have complete apathy. We have detached from anything spiritual and don’t feel drawn to do good or to connect with God.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, your spirit may be dying. It may be crying out for nourishment and connection. It may be time to assess your daily habits and commit to centering your day around seeking God.
God loves us so much, whether or not we are worthy of it. Because of His love for us He has a plan to make sure we always have a way back and a way to connect with Him. His trust is earned by our actions and there are blessings contingent on our level of obedience and commitment to Him, but His love is never earned. He has offered His Son as a sacrifice for us so that we can always repent when we have strayed and return to Him. And He has made Himself constantly accessible to us through prayer. Please use these gifts! Your spiritual health depends on it!
When we regularly seek God and connect with Him, He is there to help with every aspect of our lives. He can strengthen us, comfort us, direct us and inspire us. He can teach us and answer our questions and concerns. He can help us manage our stress and give us refuge in the eye of the storm. He can increase our clarity, energy, ability to both forgive and to let go of things. He can fill our cup and give us an added measure of peace, gratitude, love and joy. He can do all these things when we open up the conduit between ourselves and Him. He stands at the door and knocks, but we must open it and let Him in.
I’m not going to tell you that it is easy to connect with Him regularly. It is simple, but it is not easy. It requires sacrifice and commitment. We must be willing to sacrifice the time and some of the activities we are filling that time with. We must be willing to commit to scheduling that time and following through. We may need to set an alarm to remind us of the most important meeting of our day. But if we will do this, we will find that what we receive from our sacrifice is paid back in full and then some. Overall, our days will go smoother, our problems will be more manageable, our minds more clear, and our abilities magnified. It is not a cure-all, we will still have bad days, but it will be better.
When we show God that we want to connect with Him, He will even help us come up with solutions and find pockets of time to do so. No matter how busy we are, there are always pockets! You can get up a little earlier and meet with Him in the calm before the storm. You can spend time with Him as you drive in your car or as you wait in a line. You can listen to His word or music as you do your chores. You can create a schedule in your home with a required quiet time. When my kids were little we called this half hour window in our day “rest and reading.” They were required to be in their room resting (often they fell asleep) or reading. But it was my “me” time and it was desperately needed. You can also include your family in your connecting time if that works for you. You can even find a reprieve in the bathroom or shower. I am pretty sure this is considered praying in our closets! 🙂
What are some things you do to feel connected? The more we connect, the more we are aware of what things we are doing that make that connection feel the strongest. I will share some of my favorites to start you thinking, but keep in mind that we are all different and what works best for you may be something completely different.
*Read His Word: Immersing myself in the word of God is one of the best ways I have found to listen to and connect with Him. I treasure my scriptures as love letters from God. I have found so many answers to my questions, comfort for my concerns, verses that lift me up and give me strength, direction for my life, and validation that I am His beloved daughter within those pages. Not only have I found verses tailored just for me, but I have found that when I open my scriptures I am also opening a conduit to heaven. It is a direct link to God and that action of opening them tells Him that I am receptive. Sometimes the answers I seek come from the pages and sometimes by other mean during the day or the week (music, an uplifting sermon, or in conversation with a friend). I fully believe that they come because I have invited them through my act of opening the door of my heart through the scriptures. And I recognize those answers because I am intentionally listening.
*Prayer: What a gift we have been given with this tool. There are no stipulations imposed with it. We don’t have a slot of time each day God is willing to listen to us. We don’t have to abide by a certain dress code. We are never put on hold or ignored until we are behaving better. We don’t have to be in a certain place or certain position. We don’t even have to be worthy, and let’s be honest, we rarely are. But every time we pray with sincerity, He is there and He is listening. I love to connect with God through prayer!
*Music: Over the last 5 years this has become one of my favorite tools to connect with God. I love listening to Christian music and recognizing that the message of the song is meant especially for me. I love how close to the Lord it makes me feel and how very loved. I love sharing these songs with others and how it can effect them in the very same way. This music is such a personal gift.
*Listen to His Word: I love listening to talks, speeches and sermons I can find on YouTube that help me feel uplifted and inspired. So often as I listen to these talks I am touched by exactly the way God wants me to apply the message in my life. Or sometimes I am inspired by ideas that have almost nothing to do with the message, but are nevertheless a prompting meant especially for me.
*Sacred Spaces: I have certain places where I can feel the Spirit more powerfully than others. These places can be a church or other religious buildings, they can be in nature, one of mine is even a chair. I have spent hundreds of hours studying God’s word and communing with Him in my recliner. That has become a sacred space for me.
*Questions: If I want to feel God’s Spirit more profoundly I go to Him with questions. I love how tethered to Him I feel when I receive an answer to one of my questions and know it is given specifically to me from Him.
*Witnessing: I revel in the opportunity to share my love for and witness of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf. I feel the bond between God and me particularly strong when I get to do this. Not only am I giving the Spirit an opportunity to witness truth to the soul I am talking to, but it witnesses the truth of my words to me as well. That feeling is so amazing! Pure joy!
*Journaling: Writing is another way I am able to process my feelings about and experiences with God. A prayer journal is one way to organize our thoughts and focus our desires. Another journal that changed my life is my revelation journal. In 2015 I had a strong desire to better understand how God talked to me. I wanted to know how often He talked to me and if I was missing any of those communications. My discovery was profound! As I went through my day and jotted down notes in my phone when I felt promptings, inspirations, or guidance. I made an effort to create a space and time of silence in each day, to turn all the background noise off and listen. Then at night I would sit down and move those notes into my journal. I would pray and ask if there was more information to go with any of the things I had felt. I could not believe how specific the messages were. I could not believe how often God was trying to communicate with me. I had been missing so much because I was filling my life with noise and because I had not taken the time to learn how to listen. The more time we spend practicing a skill the better we get at it. It is no different for learning to hear/feel the whisperings of the still small voice.
*Worry: Now that might sound a little bit weird. But I have spent a lot of time over the last 5 years trying to be consciously aware of my worrying. When I notice that I am worrying over something I cannot control I use it as an alarm and I intentionally turn that worry into a prayer and choose to let it go. I may do that a hundred times a day when a problem is particularly heavy, but the process does help me feel an almost tangible connection between me and my God.
This last week has been an incredible journey for me! I have been amazed and humbled as I have seen how much God is threaded through the different methods of finding joy that we have talked about. When we want to be more joyful and we choose to look to Him for help, He is there. When we choose to let go of things we cannot control and we give them to Him, He happily accepts those burdens. When we want to find a deeper purpose to our lives and we ask for His help in doing so, He loves to partner with us. When we set goals and create priorities in our lives and one of those priorities is time with Him, He rejoices. When we choose to slow down and be more intentional in our day, He enlarges our capabilities to all that is required by us for good. When we serve others and have a desire to be a window to God in their lives, He is the love that we share. And God desires nothing more than to be a part of our lives, to be in the details. The first step for us to receive a fulness of joy is for us to seek Him and spend time in His presence.
Song: The More I Seek You by Kari Jobe
Face to face with the author:
13 Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.
14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.
“Only a life lived in the service of others is worth living.” Albert Einstein
I love the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. I love that though He was our Lord and Savior He did not see himself above this menial task as He did it with love. Knowing the culture and background helps me appreciate this story even more. The streets of Jerusalem were not paved as ours are. They were dirt and animals traveled on them as much as the people. I am sure that the streets were covered in dung and the shoes of the time were sandals. So one of the jobs given to the servant of the house was to remove the shoes and wash the feet of visitors as they came in. He was washing off the dirt and the manure picked up as the visitor had traveled the streets. So Jesus was not watching sweaty feet that had come out of socks, he was literally washing off the dirt, grime and crap from the world His disciples lived in. It is no wonder humble Peter did not want His master to do this! But Christ taught two important lessons this day. He taught the disciples, and us, that no one is too good to serve, that if He was willing to humble Himself to care for them, then they ought to do the same thing for those in their sphere of influence. Equally as important, He taught us through Peter that another important part following Him is accepting service. None of us is beyond needing to be served.
What is service? It is a the way we can show people that they matter. Service is love in action. It is the way we show our love for others as well as our love and gratitude to God. It is the pure love of Christ or charity. It is the way we become a window to God’s love.
“Through the lens of pure love, we see immortal beings of infinite potential and worth and beloved sons and daughters of Almighty God. Once we see through that lens, we cannot discount, disregard or discriminate against anyone.” Dieter Uchtdorf
What is the benefit of doing service? It widens our lens, gives us a broader perspective and expands our vision. It help us appreciate the blessings we have and tends to shrink our problems because they are no longer our focus. It helps us get outside or ourselves, transforming us into a more giving less selfish person. It helps us feel connected with the world around us and with the people we serve. It gives our lives a deeper purpose and more meaning. Service helps us discover and develop our spiritual gifts. It is a great way to feel God’s presence and love in our lives both for those we serve and for ourselves. It decreases stress and anxiety related health problems. Service releases a hormone called oxytocin which helps us feel relaxed an happy. Through all these benefits, it is easy to see how service increases the level of joy in our lives.
What are some ways you can serve? There are many different opportunities to serve. You can help organize or carry out an event. You can visit someone who is lonely. You can drive someone to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment when they cannot do this for themselves. You can help with yardwork or clean someone’s house. You can watch someone’s kids while they do something they need to do or to give them a much needed break. You can donate food or clothes, or you can pay it forward.
Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” For a long time I felt very guilty like I was not contributing much because I was not serving in big ways. Then one day as I was reading in the Gospels I noticed the way Jesus served. He did not organize big helpful events or volunteer at community functions, He simply went about His day noticing needs one by one and meeting them. Suddenly I realized I was doing a lot of service for my family, friends, and others in my sphere of influence and I realized that I could do even better with this awareness. I simply needed to slow down a little and recognize opportunities placed before me during my day. I could serve like Jesus, one person at a time, one need at a time. I realized that taking the time to listen to a child or a friend who needed a shoulder to cry on was a way of service. I realized sharing my witness of Christ and hope through His teachings was another way to serve. I realized that taking the time to get to know someone so that they could be open about their needs was a way to serve. Even writing a note or a text to let someone know they are of value and appreciated is a way to serve. Service is all about recognizing needs and meeting them. For my mind and heart, this is a much more doable way to serve and I no longer feel guilty. I feel blessed as I notice ways that people in my life can be lifted and I have the opportunity to help. I love much and do what I can do.
Accepting help is a much harder form of service for many of us. When we accept help we are serving the person serving us because we are allowing them to fulfill a commandment from God. We are being vulnerable enough to tell them that we are all in this together. I love this quote from Spencer Kimball, “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that He meets our needs.” How often do we tie God’s hands because we are too proud or embarrassed to ask for help or even to allow it. We all are lacking. We all fall short! God sees all our vulnerabilities and our weaknesses and He wants to send us help, He wants to lift our burdens, but we must allow it to happen. We must show our trust in Him by allowing others to lift the burdens in our lives.
Soul Searching Question: How will you either serve or accept service today?
Set the World on Fire by Britt Nicole
Face to face with the Author:
19 wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
“Sometimes we feel that the busier we are, the more important we are—as though our busyness defines our worth. We can spend a lifetime whirling about at a feverish pace, checking off list after list of things that in the end really don’t matter.
That we do a lot may not be so important. That we focus the energy of our minds, our hearts, and our souls on those things of eternal significance—that is essential.” – Joseph Wirthlin
This quote is exactly the reason we need to stop being so busy, slow down and be intentional about the way we spend our time and energy. We live in a fast paced, instant gratification, constantly connected society. This leads to distraction, competition, comparison, stress, and burnout. These things can be a danger to us in all areas of our lives, mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical.
How do you know if you are running too fast and burning yourself out? Here are some questions to ask yourself… Are you constantly late? Are you always losing things? Are you forgetting appointments? Are you unable to remember how you got from point A to point B? Are you repeatedly getting sick? Do you have no time to eat? Are you not getting enough sleep? Are you always multi-tasking? If one or more of these apply to you, you may want to consider slowing down.
Slowing down will not be easy and it will take intentional thought and planning. Here are a few suggestions I found for slowing down…
*Disconnect: A huge part of our problem comes from being constantly connected to technology. We don’t give ourselves time to ponder, process, or just to relax. We even use technology to replace the human need for face to face connection with others. Physically our bodies need rest. Mentally our brains need time to decompress. Emotionally we need face to face connection with other people. Spiritually we need a space of silence to reconnect with ourselves and with our God.
* Simplify: Decluttering our lives does wonders for our emotional and mental state. Get rid of a few things that you don’t need and spend some time organizing your space. This will allow you to slow down and think more clearly. We also need to simplify our task lists. We need to DO LESS! If we take some time to sort through the things we have on our to do lists and sift out the unnecessary busy work we assign ourselves, we will feel more peace and joy. We really need to determine what things are necessary and what things we feel obligated to do. There is a difference.
*Be Present: This is another area where we really need to put our phones away and connect with ourselves, life, and others. We need to be present in body. We can even find joy in the tasks that we normally resent if we can be present when we do them, appreciate the fact that our bodies work so well, appreciate that the reason we have to clean is because we have been so blessed with food to eat and clothes to wear and a roof over our heads. We can appreciate the sensation of warm water when we do dishes, or the sound of dirt being sucked up into the vacuum cleaner. We can appreciate the shine of a clean window or mirror and the scent of clean clothes. Are we really appreciating our miraculous bodies or the gift of our senses that God gave us? Sometimes when I am with another person I notice that my body is there but not my mind. Why do I allow this stupid little rectangle I carry around to distract me from fully enjoying the company of another human being. There are so many lonely people in the world. I am starting to notice that sometimes because of my distraction, I am the cause of my own loneliness.
*Appreciate Nature: God has given us the most beautiful planet. He could have sent us to a perfectly smooth glass ball to live our lives and be tested in this sphere. But He didn’t. He gave us mountains, trees, sunsets, butterflies, flowers, birds, oceans, rivers and so many different animals to admire and appreciate. How often do we take the time to appreciate what He has given us, to put down the phone, turn the TV off and really use our senses to connect with the beauty around us?
*Breathe: I did not realize how pivotal this action, perhaps most taken for granted, is to our health. Well, obviously I know we need to breathe to live. But I didn’t understand what things we allow to get in the way of breathing properly. Our brain needs 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and gets it from 20 percent of the blood that flows through us. So when we are stressed, or have over eaten, or aren’t getting enough exercise or sleep and we are not breathing deeply enough, our brains are not getting the oxygen they need to do their best work. Is it any wonder that I feel like I’m not thinking clearly or functioning well?
*Eat Slower: This is another thing that came as a surprise for me. We eat a lot of garbage and we eat it fast. Did you know it takes your brain 20 minutes to register that you are full? So when we are shoveling our food in as quick as we can we tend to overeat because our brain can’t compute fast enough to tell us we have overdone it. Maybe try putting your fork down between bites. Enjoy what’s in your mouth, the flavor, the texture, the seasoning. Then after you have swallowed pick up your fork to add another bite. If we eat slower we will even breathe better!
*Drive Slower: We are all in a hurry and because of this our roadways are one of the biggest dangers in our daily lives. Slow down! When you are not in a hurry you are more aware of what is happening around you. You are less annoyed when you aren’t in a rush to get somewhere. A drive can actually be an enjoyable time, disconnected. It can be a time to connect with good music, visit with other human beings in your car, or a time of pondering and prayer. I love to turn my radio off when I drive and talk to my God. I have had some of the best prayers, most profound answers, and amazing ideas come to me while I drive without any background noise.
*Stop Multi-tasking: We think that we are getting many things done faster, but really we are just not doing any of them well. If we choose to focus on one thing at a time and give it our best effort I think we will find that we actually work more quickly with better results. Try it.
*Intentional Social Media: I am not at all implying that we should never be connected. There are some amazing tools on that same little rectangle that can be a distraction! When used with purpose it is a very good servant. But when we are careless it tends to be a heavy task master. I suggest planning out your social media time. What are you getting on to do? How long do you plan to spend? If you do searches rather than just scrolling you will probably feel energized when you get off rather than like you are coming out of the Narnia wardrobe. Join groups and follow pages that make you feel uplifted and inspired. Use the tools to select which friends you want to see first. Then Facebook will be a light to your day rather than a drain on it. Share positive thoughts yourself so that you are adding to the positivity that can be found there.
*Create a Daily Space of Silence: One of the best ways to slow down is to disconnect to the world and connect to your Divine source of power. Take some time to decompress as you read the word of God, listen to some uplifting Christian music, and talk to the One who knows every detail of your life and wants to help you, but will never impose. Then give Him a little silence to give you some feedback. It is amazing to me how much He wants to help with every aspect of our lives if we will just give Him a little space to do that. But we really do need to turn a few things down and a few things off so that we can tune in to hear that still small voice.
If we want to add more joy to our lives, slowing down is a very good place to start. When we slow down we are rewarded with clarity of vision and renewal of focus. We allow our brains to rest and recharge which in turn allows us to be more creative and better tuned into recognize new ideas and inspiration. Slowing down allows us to disconnect from the world and our busyness and reconnect with the things and people that matter most. It allows us to be better able to organize our time and sift out the things that really aren’t necessary. When we slow down we will be more intentional in our actions and choose things that fill us with increased gratitude and joy.
Song: Slow Down by Danny Gokey
Face to face with the author:
28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
9 A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
Are you living a life of intention or just going through the motions. Those who live with the most joy are those who take accountability for their lives by making a plan, charting a course and setting goals. If you don’t have a plan for where you are going you are much more likely to end up in places you don’t really want to be.
I am a list maker and that has been one consistency in my life… my notebooks with the lists of what I want to get done each day. I love the satisfaction of crossing off the things I have accomplished. I also ponder at the beginning of the year on what one word I would like to focus on to improve my life for that year. For my business I am constantly setting and working on goals to offer new stories and downloads to help families teach their children the scriptures. As a writer and speaker I create goals and challenges that help me reach out to the world in my attempt to help individuals find ways to better anchor in Christ and His teachings. Goals are a very important part of my life.
I know personally how important it is to have a plan and to be setting goals. There was one point in my life where I found myself in a very miserable place. I had made some really poor choices that almost devastated my family and caused myself a huge setback in life. It took a lot of time, introspection and work to get back to a place where I was truly happy again. Part of my introspection revealed to me that it was the first time in my life I had not been using my lists or setting and assessing goals for myself. Goal setting became a big part of my return to happiness. I will never again have a time in my life where I am not charting a course and setting goals for myself.
Why is it important to set goals? I completely agree with Mark Twain when he said, “Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing, and that is not why we are here.” We were sent to this earth for a purpose. We are supposed to be working on becoming our very best self, striving to achieve the potential God sees inside of us. We cannot possibly reach this potential if we are not living with intention, if we are just going through the motions. Goals give us direction and clarity for what is most important in life. They help us determine where we want to end up and what we must do to get there. They help focus our efforts and give us motivation to move towards self improvement. They help us acquire knowledge and develop new skills and talents. Goals help us manage our time and use it most effectively. They help us live with real intent and achieve a higher quality of life. When we have defined our own personal purpose, goals have an even more powerful affect on our lives and on the lives of those around us.
What does an effective goal look like? There are four different categories of my life that I like to focus my goals in. I feel like most goals that help us reach our full potential can be sorted into these four categories… Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual. I am inserting a chart you can save to your computer and print if it will help for you to see your goals more visually.
For a goal to be its most effective it needs to be a S.M.A.R.T. goal.
Specific: If a goal is vague it is not motivating, achievable or measurable. You must be very specific about the goal you want to set. If for instance, I wanted to learn how to play the piano rather than just say, “I want to be more musical.” I would say instead, “I am going to learn to play the piano.” That is more specific and more attainable.
Measurable: A goal needs to have the ability to be measured so I know if I am making progress. I could even make this goal more measurable by picking a specific song I am going to work on. I should be able to tell week by week through my practice efforts if I am getting closer to achieving my goal.
Achievable: It is very important that we set goals that are difficult enough to challenge us so that there is actual improvement but not so difficult that it is impossible. A goal that is impossible only causes us frustration and disappointment. It would be smarter in our scenario to pick a song like the birthday song rather than Fur Elise to start with. We can always increase the difficulty of our goals as we increase our abilities.
Relevant: A goal needs to be relevant to the direction we want to be headed in. If we want to be more musical than a goal to learn the piano, especially a particular song is a good way to move in that direction, it is relevant to the overall direction we want to be headed in.
Time Based: We must set a deadline for our goal for it to be effective. There is a law referred to as Parkinson’s Law that states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for it’s completion.” It is for exactly this reason that almost every one of us when we were in high school stayed up until midnight to finish a report that was due the next day. But we did get it done! And if it had been due the week before, we would have gotten done then too. So setting a goal with a deadline is much more likely to be achieved then one that has no finish date.
Now that we know what a good goal looks like, how does one set a goal?
*Visualize the change you want to see. What is the end result you are looking for?
*Decide how you will word your goal.
*Write it down. You are much more likely to follow through with a goal that you have taken the time to write down. (And at my age, more likely to actually remember it. Ha!) Then post your goal somewhere you will see it each day. Then read it out loud each day. This will help you stay focused on it.
*Tell someone about your goal. Or tell 3 someones. The more you talk about your goal the more likely you are to stay on track with it. It helps tremendously to have accountability to someone else who will be checking on your progress.
*Make a plan. Break your goal down into small measurable sections. What will you do to work on it this week? What will you do each day to move toward the weekly accomplishment? I love this saying, “Little by little, a little bit makes a lot!”
*Set a deadline. Once you have decided when you want to have your goal accomplished, write it in the same place your goal is.
*Pick a reward for your goal. Our brains are very trainable. When they associate a reward with the accomplishment of a goal they become much more helpful in our achieving it.
*Act on your goal. Be diligent. Read and research where you need to for optimum success. The more you learn about what you are doing the more successful you will be. Be disciplined in pursuing your goal. Remember that motivation comes and goes but discipline is what keeps us moving forward.
*Take a break. Don’t burn yourself out. Work on your goal for 6 days and then take a day off. Let you brain breathe. Do something relaxing and invigorating. This allows us to come back to the goal with fresh eyes and an ability to see where we need to make adjustments.
*Partner with God: This is perhaps the most important step. I believe in a God who loves me passionately and wants to see me have success in my life, not just in my spiritual pursuits but in every good and worthy cause. Not only does He want to see me succeed but He wants to help me. If I have a goal in mind and I make Him my partner He can give me strength beyond my own endurance, inspiration when I draw a blank, and ideas when I need adjustments. If I can’t come up with a goal, I am well aware of how much He absolutely loves the humble question, “Where do you think I need improvement in my life?” My best and most successful goals have started with this question.
Soul Searching Question: What goal will you set today?
The Motions by Matthew West
Face to face with the author:
4 Now there are diversities of gifts but the same Spirit.
5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;
10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are each given special gifts and talents from a loving Father in Heaven to enable us to bless the lives of His other children, those in our sphere of influence. All gifts are important in His kingdom. All help Him fulfill His purposes through us. Our gifts, talents, abilities and unique experiences enable us to serve Him well. When we are able to identify the special needs we are able to meet through these things we have been given, that is called our purpose. Each of us has one. Each of us is accountable for what we do with it. And so… we need to discover and pursue it.
Besides understanding that God has a purpose in mind for us and that we are accountable to Him for, why else is it important for us to discover our purpose? Having a purpose allows us to fully discover joy. The better we live that purpose the more joyful our lives will be. Living our purpose is our unique way to connect with and give back to the world around us. It has been proven that those who find a sense of meaning in life are more productive and less likely to be depressed.
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
So, how do we figure out what our purpose is? Finding your purpose is a journey. You will not be able to sit down in a day and iron it all out. But there are some exercises you can do to start seeking it out.
The very first thing I would do is go to the Lord and tell Him you earnestly want to know what your purpose is. That you want to know in what way He wants you to make a difference in the lives of His other children.
The next thing I would suggest is some introspection. Start asking yourself questions. I would encourage you to actually write the questions down and give them some thoughtful consideration and then start writing out your answers. You will most likely find that as you write, more thoughts will come to you. Here are a few questions to get you started.
What comes naturally to me?
What am I doing when I feel the greatest joy in my life?
What do others tell me I do well?
What am I often asked to help with?
What makes me feel fulfilled, excited, and inspired?
What makes me feel alive?
What am I passionate about?
What difference do I want to make in the world or the community around me?
Another exercise you can do was developed by Chris and Janet Attwood. It is called a Passion test. Write down this statement and then feel in the blank with a verb. When my life is ideal, I am _________. Do this 15 times. Then look for similarities in the actions you are doing when you feel joy. Then compare the statements against each other and come up with your top 5 list.
After you have some ideas and maybe a list of things you feel would qualify as your purpose, take those things to the Lord. He will be able to help you sort through them and give you more thoughts and feelings to fine tune your journey. This may be quick or it may take a long time. He may need some more time to prepare you for what He has in store for you. I have found that most of the time my answers from the Spirit come one little piece at a time. But I can tell whether or not I am on track by the amount of joy I am feeling.
Another thing to remember is that there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. I know that my purpose 10 years ago when I was in the thick of raising my children is a little different than what I feel compelled to do now. Yet, when I look back over that time I can see how I was being prepared for the broader purpose that I feel now.
In the spring of 2017 I was listening to a religious talk by one of my favorite speakers. The topic was becoming who you are born to be. I listened to it 3 times because I my thoughts kept running away from me as I listened. Every time I listened new information came to my mind and heart. I felt inspired with ideas of needing to pursue different goals than I had been working on. I started feeling called to something bigger and more far reaching than I had currently been involved in. At that point I started a journey of finding my purpose and understanding what God wanted me to do. The more I pondered and prayed about it the more ideas would come to me. Then I received some very concrete answers… and they terrified me! How was it possible to do all that was being asked of me? I remember one morning feeling completely overwhelmed and crying as I prayed asking how God could expect me to do all this when I didn’t even know where to start. I received the sweetest comfort and a very clear answer that I didn’t need to know how. He was preparing me and He would show me the path one step at a time and that He would also show me the when. I am here to tell you that my journey is not over, but I have been shown very clearly each step along the way. The more emphasis I put on my “why” the more doors He has opened to the “how”.
Our Father in Heaven loves us so much! He wants us to have joy in this life. The greatest joy comes from understanding what our purpose here is and working to fulfill that. He will help you get your why if you open the first door by asking Him to help you discover your purpose. Then He will open the path to your how one door at a time. Start by asking some questions. But begin by partnering with God.
Soul Searching Question: What is your purpose?
Song: Gracefully Broken by Matt Redman
Face to face with the author:
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
“Be careful” in this context means afflicted. We are being told that we should not waste our time and energy worrying about things we cannot control. We are to pray about our concerns and give them to God. When we do this we will have peace and He will keep our hearts and minds safe, through Christ!
I love the story in Mark 4 where Christ calms the storm. It has been one of my favorites since childhood! Jesus had spent the day in a boat with his disciples teaching the multitude who stood on the shore. He was constantly bombarded by people needing Him, wanting Him to heal them and teach them and just be around them. I can only imagine how exhausted He must have been. So after He was done teaching He asked the disciples to row Him out into the lake. He was sleeping in the boat when a sudden and mighty storm came. The wind was blowing ferociously! The waves were crashing. And the boat was rocking like crazy! His friends were terrified… and Jesus slept. I can picture them trying desperately to row back to shore and maybe some of them were using a pail to try to keep the water out of the boat. Finally, in a panic, they woke Jesus and asked Him how He could be sleeping. Didn’t He care that they were going to die? Jesus calmly rebuked the wind and the waves telling them to be still. Then He asked them a question that so often can be applied to my life, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it ye have no faith?” This was the man, the God, who had separated the water from the water, then the water from the land when the earth was created. The same One who had parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could walk through on dry land. Of course He could handle a few elements of water on a lake. And of course He can handle a few elements of turmoil in our lives! We must have faith and allow Him to do so. Like Themistocles once wisely declared without understanding the full truth of his words, “He who commands the sea has command of everything.” Our Lord truly is the commander of the sea!
So why is it so hard for us to have faith and trust Him with the circumstances of our lives? I so often find myself desperate for control. I want to stay in my little comfort zone and orchestrate everything perfectly. I want things to be smooth and I don’t want any storms! But what I sometimes forget is that maybe God sees I need a storm in my life, to strengthen me, to refine me. If it were up to me, there would be no storm, or at very most a light storm. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees what the storm is doing for me. And even though He can stop it, and sometimes does, He often allows it to rage and do all the cleansing and rearranging it is meant to do. I have learned over the years that when I trust Him enough to give Him control of my storms, if they are meant to rage for a while longer, He will at least allow me to move to the eye of the storm for comfort.
We want to control the things in our life so we hang onto them. But if we will trust Him enough to let them go, we will find that He is much more capable of handling the messes we are in, even if we have created them ourselves. I sometimes don’t let go of things because I can’t see how they will ever be fixed, to me it looks impossible. And so I tie God’s hands. I don’t give Him room to work because I can’t solve them, so how could He? But He is the God of miracles! And truly I have seen Him work miracles in my life time and time again, especially in the impossible, but only once I step back and let go.
When we let go of the things that are worrying us we are showing God that we trust Him. We are choosing faith over fear. When we have patience with His timing we are showing Him that we know He sees a bigger picture than we do. When we calm our mind we allow our spirit to remind us that we are not in control and that we really don’t want to be.
Here are a few things that have worked for me when I am ready to let go and let God.
*Journaling: It is so therapeutic to write out the things I am concerned about and why. When I do this it makes it easier for me to take them out of my heart and leave them on the paper, it reminds me of times past when God has sorted things out for me and it allows me to trust Him once again.
*Mindfulness: When things feel uncomfortable we tend to push them away from us rather than spending enough time with them to really diagnose whey they are a concern. When we take the time to think through a feeling to understand where it comes from and why, we can often understand the underlying issue and work through it, but we have to lean into the discomfort to start with. When we can get to the root of the problem it makes it easier to solve it, or let it go.
*Affirmations: Sometimes speaking things out loud is the only way for me to disrupt the turmoil within. We can speak positive things about ourselves or truth filled phrases. One of mine is “Faith not Fear.” It is a way I tell myself to turn off the fear and let God work.
*Letting Go Ceremony: This is something I have heard about from several different people. It can be visual. You imagine the problem and make it tiny and squash it. You picture it as an object and throw it into a fire. You put it in a helium balloon and watch it float away. Or it can be literal. Write it on a piece of paper and bury it or throw it off a cliff. One of my favorite suggestions is a prayer box. If you notice you are thinking a lot about a problem you cannot see a way to fix, you write it on a small piece of paper and put it in a box. It is a signal to you mind and you spirit that you are giving it to God to work on.
These are just a few methods of letting go. If we can do something verbal, visual, or tactile it often helps us to connect the letting go action to our minds.
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
He wants us to have joy. When we let go of the worry over things we can do nothing about it allows Him to take them. It allows us to return to joy.
Soul searching question: What is one worry you are holding onto that you can let go of today?
Song: I’m Gonna Let It Go by Jason Gray
Face to face with author: