FOLLOW YOUR HEART

Are you aware of that still, small voice deep inside of you that helps direct your path?  Do you try to listen to it and follow where it leads? The Holy Spirit is within us helping us to follow God’s leading.

I think it is important to follow your heart, that still, small voice, not necessarily what society thinks is right or correct. We might have to endure hardship because of our choices but that is better than going against where God is leading.

There was one major time in my life when after much prayer, and weighing pros & cons, I ended up following my heart rather than do what was expected. It was a difficult thing to do as I am not one to go against what is expected, but I had to follow my heart and trust God that it was the “right” decision for my life.

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Photo credit by pocketful of perspective under Creative Commons License (by-nc-nd/2.0)

Recently a conversation with a friend made me think about how I followed my heart in another life choice I made. The friend believes there was a choice in my past that was not the “correct” one.  The choice was a difficult one but one that I still stand by. In my heart, I feel it was the “right” decision for my life. Yes, it still had some repercussions but it was more important to follow God’s leading.

Can you think of some incidents in your life where you followed the Holy Spirit’s prompting? Try to be more aware of that small, still voice in your life and follow it. It is so worth the hardships you may endure for going against the norm.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness.”  –Hebrews 3:7-8

GOD’S BLESSINGS IN THE ORDINARY

Isn’t it amazing to experience God’s blessings in the ordinary tasks of this life?  For me, seeing Him work daily makes my heart smile and makes His presence more real.

Recently there were two days, three separate encounters, where God truly blessed me while simply running to the store.

The first was on my usual grocery shopping day. Now, I have to admit that I have been spoiled lately as my oldest son has been accompanying me to the store. I realize what a little thing that is, but I am also discovering what a huge blessing it is at the same time. It makes life much easier to have him there to help unload the cart, even pack the groceries, and then load and unload the car once home.

Anyway, this day I was feeling a little lonely and down as I was going shopping solo.  I was kind of procrastinating and when I got to the store, I stalled a few more moments checking out social media. When I was finally ready to embrace my shopping trip alone, I got out of the car. Much to my amazement, right at that exact moment, I ran into a friend of mine who was just leaving the store.

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What are the chances that would happen? I decided to put my loneliness feelings aside and be open to my friend and take a few moments to converse. I felt terrible as I mentioned to this friend that I was feeling down and lonely. This friend lost her husband unexpectedly, at a young age, a year earlier, so I definitely felt like I put my foot in my mouth. As soon as I got in the store I texted her to apologize. I felt I needed to do that.

I believe that running into that friend was a “God-incident.” It cheered me up seeing God orchestrate our encounter. I am also hoping running into me was a blessing to my friend as well.

The other incident happened after I took my teenage son to check out a summer volunteer opportunity for him and me. We decided to go out to lunch for something different. We drove around a few times in a parking lot trying to find a parking spot to no avail.

What are the chances, that day, on my 27th wedding anniversary, that walking through the parking lot would be the music minister who played the guitar and sang at our wedding? (If I have seen her three times in the past 27 years, I would be surprised.)  I was so hoping for the opportunity to talk with her, but that did not happen as I had to go elsewhere to find a parking spot.

After our lunch I had one more errand… And, as only God could plan it, I ran into another friend who actually gifted us the musician for our wedding and was also involved in our wedding. I had the joy of sharing that story with her.

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Romans 8:28 by Sapphire Dream Photography under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I am always pleasantly surprised to see God working in my life and showing His presence through such simple, ordinary ways.

What are some ways you have seen God working in your life?  Our God is an awesome God!

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”  –Romans 8:28

ACCOUNTABILITY

In this world of ours, I think an important thing to remember is that our life is accountable to God and God alone.  The people that we become and the things we do should be based on our relationship with God.  We are only responsible for our own actions, and we need to make sure our heart is right.

I think it is a good thing to keep in mind daily that what others may think about a decision or choice we make does not matter. Other’s opinion of us should not influence our choice.  What God thinks is what should determine the direction we take.

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crossroads by Lori Greig under Creative Commons License
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Reading the Bible, studying teachings, and praying are different ways to know what God wants from us. Sometimes seeking Godly counsel is the path we need to follow to help us along the way.

For those of us with children, it is easy for us to slip into thinking that if our children’s decisions or choices are not the ones that we would make, that it is a reflection of us.   We need to realize our children become responsible for themselves as they mature.  We try our best to lay the best foundation we can, and then it is up to them how they ultimately live their life. Not having that control is hard for many of us. I need to continually remind myself that I tried my best and that the rest is up to the Lord. As a friend once told me, the Lord deals with each of us in our own way in His own time.

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Holy Bible by maf04   under Creative Commons License (CC BY-SA/2.0)

So, remember to base your decisions and live your life by being accountable to God and God alone. And, you are only ultimately responsible for yourself.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  –1 Samuel 16:7

EYES ON THE GOAL

“Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.”

This is a very meaningful quote, that a friend of mine shared with me a few years ago.  Michael Jordan, one of my friend’s heroes, has been quoted as saying it.

I now have that verse taped up in my office at work to help remind me of the powerful message during the difficult, stressful times at work.

To me, the verse encourages us to keep our eyes on the goal at hand, so we can overcome any obstacles that  might arise or that we may be facing.

I think we can apply that verse to any aspect in our life.

…If you are a student going to school, you need to keep your eyes on graduation.

…If you are a musician, you need to keep your eyes fixed on that album you are in the process of making.

…If you are a writer, you might need to keep your eyes on the book you are writing.

…If you are a chef who wants to start their own restaurant, keep your eyes on that goal.

…If you work, there might be a major deadline to meet so you keep your eyes on getting that big contact awarded.

…If you are a cancer patient going through treatments, you  want to focus on that last treatment.

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Photo by Celestine Chua under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0)

No matter what stage in your life that you find yourself, I think there is some goal that you can keep your eyes fixed on. Even though there will be tough times and possibly many obstacles that arise, if you keep your eyes on the goal you will succeed. Keep being persistent and fighting through whatever adversity comes your way.

So, what is the latest goal in your life?  Try to keep your eyes on the goal so you can overcome the obstacles you may endure.

“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  –Philippians 3:13-14

FORGIVENESS

Recently it really hit me that it is a wonderful thing to ask for forgiveness right away. If you do something that you need to be forgiven for, don’t delay.  Do your part to apologize and rectify the situation as soon as you can.  That way, you will not have that bad feeling hanging over your head.

I will admit I have been stressed about work lately because we are short one worker, meaning there is extra work to do, and I have vacation time to take.  But, somehow I have to get all the work done with working less hours than I had been. There are also several items with certain deadlines to meet.

So, I was at work bright and early on a Monday morning when I got a phone call asking if I was going to take care of some paperwork.  It was a day where my tasks were to be all doing one task, namely payroll.  Anyway, I felt my blood pressure rising as I was talking with this lady.  I could not stop the bad tone or the words that I regretted as soon as I said them.

As soon as I got off the phone, I sent the lady an email apologizing for my bad attitude and basically asking for forgiveness.  It just felt like the right thing to do. Much to my surprise, she responded by saying, “No worries.”  Her responding that way brought me relief.  I did not want  to strain our relationship and have to wonder if she was mad at me whenever we interacted.

origin_10691106926Photo courtesy of Kerolic under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA/2.0)

Two days later, bright and early the phone rings again, and it is the same lady. So, I think right away, okay, have a good attitude. But, much to my surprise, when I answered, she jokingly says, “Is this grumpy?” It made us both laugh and start the day off right. To this day, it makes me smile when I think about it or when I talk with this lady.

And, it is a great reminder to make something “right” as soon as you can.  It is a great relief to release it and be free once again.

“Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  –Matthew 6:11-12

PRAYING FOR OTHERS

Recently I have taken seriously the gift of praying for other people.  There are so many people who need prayer, and it is an honor to be able to join in and pray for those who need it.  Prayer is neat because you can really do it anytime and anywhere…whether you are driving somewhere , taking a quick break from work , or when you are rocking a baby to sleep.

What renewed and inspired my praying for others was when the road pastor for Third Day, Nigel James, put a tweet out about praying for the band as they were working on a new album. At that time I committed to it via a tweet. For me, I figured as I was driving to and from work three times a week listening to their music, I would pray for God to bless their new album and work on it. My prayers for them was not just limited to that time, but that was the minimum.

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From left to right: Mark Lee, Mac Powell, Nigel James, Tai
Anderson, David Carr, Scotty Wilbanks

I continued to do so while they were working on the album, and then I felt compelled to take each of the band members and pray for a whole week at a time for one specific member, their family, their music, etc.   I felt it was also a nice gesture to try to let them know via social media that I was praying specifically for them.   It made my day when one member replied that he appreciated it.  I know the Lord is blessing them through the prayers, and I feel good doing what I felt led to do whether they respond or not.

When learning of a few other musicians that have been working on special projects, I have since expanded to include them in my weekly prayers.

It is an honor to be able to pray for people which usually ends up being in their time of need.  I’m sure we all know of a friend who has lost a loved one, someone struggling with a chronic illness, the student needing prayer to help them survive their intense classes, the worker so overwhelmed with the stress of work, and the list goes on and on.  Praying for them can make a difference in their life, and you will feel blessed in praying for them.

So I encourage you to pray for those you know who need prayer. There are so many needs in the world today, and you can help make a difference by praying. Letting the person know you have been praying specifically for them should bless them too.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  –James 5:16

PRESS ON

As I was watching an episode of Master Chef this week, I felt bad for one of the contestants named Tyler, yet he provided two great life lessons that we can benefit from.

The home cooks were making a dessert which involved making a panna cotta.  The contestants each made a few of the panna cotta and then put them in a big refrigerator to cool.

When it was time to take their panna cotta’s out of the refrigerator, Tyler inadvertently took one wrong container of panna cotta from the refrigerator, which was not the one he put in there.  So, when Tyler presented his dish to the three judges, it technically was not his own dish.  This incident had never happened before on the show and the judges felt according to the shows rules, he should be sent home. The rules state that you can only submit your own creation and technically it wasn’t.

Though it was very difficult for Tyler, I was impressed that he remained respectful to the judges with their decision, and he publicly apologized to the person whose item he took. I thought the way he was respectful and also apologizing were great lessons for us to remember and put into practice.

Tyler said he would keep cooking and pursuing his dream.

The judges felt very bad that they had to send Tyler home, and they were very encouraging to have him press on in the cooking field.

I think the example Tyler set is a good life lesson for us all. If you make a mistake, set it right, pick yourself back up, and keep reaching for your dream.  Do not give up even if you have a set back or two.

“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14

DO NOT JUDGE

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were not so quick to judge one another, or even better yet, did NOT judge another?

We all have our own story, our own baggage, our own burdens.  All of these things contribute to the person we are today. And, no two of us have had the exact experiences.  These things may not be apparent to others and often times people may never know what we have been through.

Wouldn’t it be such a freeing thing that if you had an honest question about something, that you would be free to ask that to someone, and not have to worry if the person was going to think you were dumb or strange for asking your question?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we just accepted everyone as “normal” and a child of God, instead of making them feel so strange or different? Maybe they would never feel anxious or depressed ever again!

Or, if we wanted to try something out of the ordinary, that we could be free to do that without fear of repercussion?

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Photo courtesy of Celestine Chua under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA/2.0)

One day I had some honest questions about something, and I commented to the person that they were probably wondering if I was for real, meaning they were thinking, how could I not know the answers to the questions?

What a blessing and shock to me that the friend replied they did not judge me. That sure was an eye-opener to me! I am so thankful for that attitude that was shared with me. I never heard that response from anyone before. The friend referenced they felt that God did not want us to judge one another.

So, the next time you encounter someone who has a question that you think is something they should know,  try not to pass judgment on them, but help them feel better about themselves and respect them with an honest answer.  It may go a long way to improve their confidence.

Or, if you catch yourself starting to judge someone because they might not think exactly like you, think about how God made them special and that we are all unique in our own way, rather than passing judgment on them.

Luke 6:36 says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.”

REACHING OUT

I am learning that we need to be more open to others, and not be so concerned with ourselves.  It is so important to be there for one another.  You can learn more about yourself and God in reaching out to others. It can help you gain confidence in yourself, and it is a great feeling knowing you are helping to build God’s kingdom on this earth.

Ultimately, people need to put the Lord first, then their families and then others. But, all our attention should not be fixed on one thing; there should be some balance.
 
We have the responsibility to love others and to be there for them. It might not even be someone that you  met in person, especially today with the different kinds of social media. It can be a great tool to touch another’s life.  Be aware of the people God puts in your path each day, whether in physical contact or through another avenue.
 
One example of the blessing of social media in my life was in following my favorite Christian band, Third Day, on social media.
 

Because of our mutual following of Third Day, I became “friends” with a lady & her husband who had been at a Friends & Family camp hosted by Third Day in Georgia. I saw the couple at the camp but did not really talk to them there. She reached out to me on social media after the event. Her husband had some medical issues so she would be asking for prayer sometimes, at which point I would pray for them and try to encourage them. One day, it was amazing as she happened to post something saying her husband collapsed and to pray. I thank God that I saw that post a few moments after she posted it, so I started praying. It was very sad to hear the next day that he ended up dying.  But, I thought how special it was that people were praying for them so soon in their time of need. To this day, the lady and I keep in contact, and I try to offer support to her when I can.

 
  
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From left to right: Members of Third Day: Mark Lee, Tai Anderson, David Carr, & Mac Powell, along with some special, long time fans.

Take a moment to see how you can be open to the needs of others, at least once a day….

 
  • Maybe it’s giving a smile to the mom you see who is trying to calm her screaming child.
  • Maybe it’s sending a card on the anniversary of someone who has lost someone special.
  • Maybe it is asking the store clerk how her day is going and taking time to listen to her.
  • Maybe it is giving up your seat on the bus to someone else.
  • Maybe it is helping an elderly person unload their shopping cart when you see it would make it easier.

We should take every opportunity to reach out and make a difference in someone’s life, before it is too late. You never know when it will be the last chance, or when someone needs it in their most desperate moment. You might end up with a new friendship or help someone bear a burden that was heavy on their heart.   Maybe a small sacrifice on your part will be just what someone else needed.  In reaching out to others, your life will be made more abundant and blessed from above.

 

“And the King will answer them, “Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” –Matthew 25:40

AN UNEXPECTED PHONE CALL

A simple, one minute phone call made my day.
 
At the soup kitchen that we help at, there is an older gentleman there who works on our weekend doing the drinks.  He has many health issues as well as emotional issues, and I will admit that at first, it made me feel uncomfortable working with him.
 
As the years have gone by (about 13 now),  I have gained an appreciation for this gentleman.  He has shown me he is thoughtful, a great person, and a good Christian example.  I believe his heart is in the right place; something that is so important.
 
This evening, he called to wish us a nice vacation, as he must have remembered that we would not be there on our usual week this month (which is actually the day we return.)  We only see him one Saturday a month, so I thought it was pretty incredible that he remembered during the month, thought about us, and then took the time to call us.
 
If one of our kids happen to not be there helping a particular week, he will take a minute to ask about them. He still struggles remembering their names, but that is just fine.
 
This gentleman will also call us with a simple “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Thanksgiving” wish.  What a great example of reaching out to brighten someone’s day.
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               Photo courtesy of senatormarkudall under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
 
His one minute phone call made me feel special.  It really doesn’t take much time to make a difference in someone’s life. The simple things in life can be such a blessing!
 
Are there ways you can make a difference for another?  Maybe a simple phone call to tell your hairdresser you liked how she blended your hair color, a short message to let someone know you are praying for them,  or stopping by to drop off some cookies for your mechanic?  Be creative and see what works for you!
 
“Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  Philippians 2:4