Need Inspiration for 2014?

Man on RockI love New Year’s. I really do. I love looking out into a beautiful new start–12 fresh, untouched months. However … I almost never “blaze” into a New Year. For many years, I would always be sick the first week of January. I’m so happy I figured out eating sugar the whole month of December used to make me sick for most of January. I entered the New Year 2014 without a cold or holiday exhaustion. Great! Unfortunately, I’m having a little round of high blood pressure that is out of my control and hopefully, will be addressed and corrected this week. So, I don’t feel that good, but it’s not my fault. Progress! Ha, ha!

New Year, Not So Inspired

The New Year is a perfect time to enjoy that clean slate, to set new goals and to plan for re-set priorities. Resources for this abound. From the day after Christmas through the first week of January, Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of inspirational thoughts and challenges. (New Year, New You!) The only problem is if you don’t feel particularly inspired. (Or New.) Maybe you don’t feel so well, like me. Or maybe 2013 left you feeling a little beat up and worse for wear. Maybe you’re going through a trial where just putting one foot in front of the other is all you can do. How do you find inspiration when you’re in this kind of place?

New Life

There is an answer. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” If we will take a few moments and spend time in God’s Presence, we will find all the inspiration–and even joy!–that we need. He will make known to us the path we need to take, the path for our life, the path that will bring us life, the path of life. And He will still guide us, even if we are coming to Him after January 1st. God wants to meet with us, to lead us and guide us any time or day of the year.

In His Presence, we will remember that the Lord is with us and that He holds the future in His hands. He hasn’t left us and no matter  how we’re feeling, we can find peace and rest in Him. We can trust Him with all that is ahead of us. We can trust Him with all we want to do and be.

New Power & Strength

Maybe you’re feeling “on top of the world” and you do have your plans and goals all mapped out for the year and you’re ready to go. That’s a good thing! Remember, though, the power to accomplish all those things is also found in His Presence. That’s where our true renewal is found. The joy of the Lord is our strength!

I pray the Lord’s blessings on you in 2014. I pray for His comfort, His power, His strength, His encouragement and His inspiration in your life!

How are you feeling coming into 2014?

December: Good News Month!

photo_2Only Good News, Please

I think there should be a rule that you can only have good news during December and only good things can happen in December—in honor of Christmas, of course! But that is just not the way life works. Things that aren’t so good happen in December too. People get in car accidents, spouses fight, children rebel, and death steals loved ones.

For me, the doctors broke the good news rule by diagnosing me with another chronic disease: Crohn’s. Not really good news. Not life threatening and it’s something that can be managed—kind of. (Sound like it’s going to need prayer management most!) I’m just at the beginning of figuring this thing out (and I am grateful for really terrific doctors) but it certainly wasn’t the results I was hoping for … from all those icky, invasive tests in November. I thought inflammation was just an inconvenience, didn’t realize it could be so damaging. Who knew?!

Unchanging Truth

But the amazing truth is—any bad news we receive, doesn’t change the good news. Nothing can change the good news that Jesus came for us. And He came to make the bad news better. He came to make a way out of all the bad news that sin brought into the world. He suffered and died to bring us eternal life in heaven with Him. And even now, we have the incredible joy of knowing His Presence. The fact that He is with us, He loves us and He walks with us through all things makes this life not only bearable, but gives us Hope.

Healing, Trusting, Rejoicing

God could heal me in an instant. He’s done it before. (He completely healed me of motion sickness—which is the coolest thing ever! I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.) Or He could ask me to walk through this with Him, leaning on Him and obeying His leading. Either way, I trust Him and I give Him praise. “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases…” (Psalm 103:2, 3.)

And I rejoice in the good news of His birth! No matter what else happens, He came to save me. There’s nothing better than the One you love coming for you. Through the strangest path and the most unconventional means, that’s what Jesus did when He was born as a baby on earth one night in Bethlehem. Just like the angels said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy”! (Luke 2: 10)

What are the “not so good” things in your life right now that you can use as reminders of His unchanging good news?

Spiritual Weapons: Praise

Girl raising hands in praise

Revelation

I like to start my day by praying and putting on the armor of God and standing against the enemy. I think it’s very important and something all Christians should do. As I was diving in to do this one morning last week, I felt this rush in my spirit to give God praise first. To exalt Him, to give thanks and to proclaim His goodness and love. I realized right away, God was showing me and reminding me that praise is a powerful prayer weapon as well!

The enemy does not like to hear us giving praise to the Lord. I’m sure it grates on his nerves like nails on a chalkboard and none of his forces like to be around it either. So, let’s give God praise! Loudly!

Real War

In the Bible, in II Chron. 20, we see the people of Judah facing three (not one, but three!) armies who have come to war against them and to destroy them. But the Lord says to not be afraid because He will fight for them. He says the people only need to march down to where the armies have gathered against them because the Lord will handle this. So the King, “Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness– as they went out at the head of the army, saying,

“Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men…who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.” (II Chron. 20:21, 22)

Reality Check

Did you catch that? They put the worship team at the head of the army! The front lines of an actual battle is not where the singers usually find themselves. Professional soldiers usually handle those assignments. But “as they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes…”

The same is true today. We need to remember that we are also in a Real War. Just because we can’t see the enemy taking a stand against us doesn’t mean he’s not there. AND, as we begin to sing and praise, the Lord will move against the work of the enemy in our lives. And he will be defeated.

Are you facing many trials? Feel like you are hard pressed on every side? Start to give God praise. Proclaim His goodness. Out loud. Give Him thanks in prayer.

As we begin the season of giving thanks, let’s remember that as we exalt Him and give Him praise, we are also pushing back against the enemy and advancing the kingdom of God.

When the Pink Month Hits Home

Breast  Cancer RibbonOur Beki?

Our family is going through what so many thousands of families in America have experienced. My mom called me a couple months ago and said, “Beki just left my office.” I could tell my mom was upset. I could hear tears in her voice, but I couldn’t imagine why. “She’s been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

“What?!” I couldn’t catch my breath.    “Our Beki?” I couldn’t comprehend. I asked my mom to start at the beginning. It all started with a bug bite that left a lump. That lump was benign, but thanks to that bug, they found two other spots of breast cancer that couldn’t be felt. My brother’s wife, Beki, only 39, was diagnosed with Stage I invasive breast cancer. Then, they found another spot of cancer in the other breast. Beki had a bilateral mastectomy the end of September and thanks to a little tiny spot found in a lymph node, she was “upgraded” to Stage II and is now getting ready for 12-weeks of chemotherapy. It has been God’s grace at every step that this cancer has been found and treated. (You can read about her faith-filled journey at her blog.

Family, Friends…

I have a friend who walked through a similar journey three years ago and while I had complete peace for my friend then and I have peace for Beki now, it is still an emotional journey. Besides the obvious, “I want to be sure all my girlfriends have their mammograms done right now!” there is some fear to deal with as well. It hits home how widespread this disease is and that it steals friends and loved ones. I don’t want to lose anyone! According to the American Cancer Society web site, there are 2.8 million breast cancer survivors (including those still in treatment.) There will be about 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer, about 64,640 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer and about 39,620 women will die from breast cancer in 2013.

Breast cancer, like so many things in life, is something we can’t control. It’s a trial that seemingly pops up out of nowhere. And suddenly, it’s a fight for life. And it’s a life that will never be the same.

Faith, Comfort…

But – our God IS the same. He is not surprised. He is our comfort and our strength to walk through any trial. If we let Him work in us through it, we will even grow in our faith and in our trust in Him. “Why do these things happen at all?” people ask. Entire books have been written to answer that question, but a couple things we know: We live in a fallen, imperfect world where there is disease, hardship and death. But in this fallen place, there is God’s redemption and His love. We know from Romans 8:28 that He works all things together for our good. And Joshua 1:9 tells us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

God is with us. He is for us. His love for us will carry us through anything! We are strong and courageous and we fight. And we rely on the Lord every moment, knowing it is His power, giving us strength. Praise be to God. We trust in Him.

 

What trials are you facing right now?

Rhythms of Life

Four SeasonsWhile at Family Camp this summer, I was talking with a friend about my youngest son’s soon departure to college, and he asked an insightful question, “So how will this change the rhythm of your life?”

Rhythms of Change

I laughed. I told him, the rhythm of my life has been up for constant change for the last year and a half, ever since my husband started working in North Dakota. And now, with a truly empty nest, it would change yet again.

For the first time in my life, I will live alone for two weeks at a time while my husband is away at work—and then for five glorious days, he is home, and then he goes back. The good thing is, I had plenty of time to get used to the idea. I had plenty of time to pray about it and to receive God’s peace about this new season, even to get a glimpse of God’s vision for this season.

And now, as I am living my first two weeks “by myself,” I find that I don’t feel alone at all. Some of that is because I get to talk to my husband every day (a blessing many oil field wives do no have!) and because I have lots of family and friends. But mostly, it’s because I’m not alone. The Lord is with me.

Rhythms of Rain

Many others are experiencing new rhythms of life right now as well. For some, it’s back to the routine of the school year. For some, it’s getting used to having a child in college or having that empty nest. Others have been hit by sudden trials or distress and they are experiencing new rhythms of necessity, dictated by a doctor’s diagnosis or a spouse’s decision.

It’s important to acknowledge when seasons change. It’s important to note that everything is changing and that some things will never be the same. And that’s ok. New seasons mean new growth. Life is a continuous process of moving from one season to another. We need to keep moving forward.

Rhythms of Grace

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” and then verse 11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” We need to make note when new rhythms come to our life. We need to make adjustments that will allow us to appreciate the beauty of this season.

No matter what kind of a season we are moving into, we can know that God is always with us and that His grace is available to us for this very season. For, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength,” (Phil. 4:13.)  He knows right where we are, whether we are in a time of plenty or want, a time of sunshine or storm. And we can trust Him because He loves us ~ and because He does all things well.

“Lord, help us to keep in step with the new rhythms You bring into our lives. Help us to hear Your music through the noise of life. Even if we are learning new steps to a new song, help us take Your hand and by faith, dance with You.”

 

What new rhythms is this Fall bringing to your life?

When God Gives a Push!

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Running Ahead…

Some people get in trouble because they run ahead of God. An idea comes and they’re off! Sometimes there is prayer and preparation missing from the project, which will always become an issue at some point. But these inspired quick reactors don’t worry about such things. They are getting started right now!

Lagging Behind…

This is not me. I tend to hesitate. (I could benefit from being more like the quick starters.) I want to wait and see, assess and test, see how it feels. Which is why sometimes when a change needs to be made in my life, the Lord has to slip it in quick. If I think about it too much, I’ll wait.

The Lord really does prepare me, though. I’d been thinking all last fall that we were going to need to move sometime in the next year. With my husband working out of town so much and our youngest son graduating high school this year and probably going away to college … who would mow the grass? Or rake the leaves? Or shovel the snow? Snow happens … well, all the time here. Mostly in the winter (ha, ha!) but you never know. So I was thinking we should move to someplace with less maintenance and someplace smaller too…

Should We Move?

Someplace like one of the awesome condos across town! After some research, I really liked this idea. The condos were beautiful and we could rent a two-bedroom, two-bath for the same price we were already paying. I had a friend living in the complex and in January she showed me her lovely home. I looked at the floor plans online and some had an office too! There was one in particular I liked. I thought an end unit would be nice, not so claustrophobic. But I was told no one moves in the winter.

I called the property management places anyway. The first one said they had no openings, as expected. On the next phone call, a nice lady said they had a unit opening up the next week! It was the floor plan I liked and it was an end unit. The showing was the day after Scott got home. So we set up an appointment to see it.

Now?!

When we came to look at it–the end unit with the exact floor plan I wanted–suddenly I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know about the stairs. There were a lot of stairs. I thought we should wait. I didn’t know. But the leasing agent said the couple that saw it before us was really interested and she had two more showings booked. I quickly realized I couldn’t waffle. We had to go forward! Scott liked it. So, we said we could get our application in right away. And we did. An hour later. And we moved. Four days later!

We packed in 24 hours. Moved the big stuff the day before Scott went back to work. Then Kellyn and I moved for another week. You can’t really pack everything in 24 hours. And when you downsize suddenly … well, we still can’t park in the garage!

God’s Grace

But the house is absolutely beautiful with views of Big Mountain out my kitchen window (one morning in Feb. pictured above) and my office window. The stairs are a perfectly good daily workout … in addition to the workout room at the clubhouse and all the other amenities there. No yard work.

It really is perfect, more perfect than I could have imagined. And left to my own devices, I may have missed it, but God set up the circumstances so I had to decide right then. I had to go forward right then. I think that’s called—opening a door and giving a push! I’m so grateful He did. God is so good. He knows what each of us needs. When we ask Him to order our steps, He will. He’ll help us make the right decisions. If we need His Hand to come in front of us and slow us down a little, He will. Or if we need a little push, He’ll do that too.

He’s that good.

What about you? Does God usually have to slow you down or speed you up?

Christmas Notes: Take Care of Your Spirit

photoThis is it! The last weekend before Christmas. The final push! The countdown to Christmas Eve. Is all your wrapping done?

Three Days till Christmas … !

All my shopping is done, even for stockings, but I still have a lot of wrapping to do. Today. After I play for a children’s Christmas program practice and prep worship team music for tomorrow morning. Sunday will be full and fun with church, an open house and a birthday party. I’m sure everyone has a busy weekend of Christmas plans and activities.

So now is the time to remind ourselves, as we have said in previous posts, we are body, soul and spirit. Because above all else, after all the preparations, it’s time to remember why we are doing all this and the One whose birthday we are celebrating.

Shh…Silent Night

This weekend, hopefully you’ll plan to take in a Christmas worship service or maybe you’re going to church on Christmas Eve, or both, like me. When we are in that service, we must be fully engaged in the moment. Don’t think about anything left to do or relatives arriving or all the cooking yet to be done on Christmas Day. Sit. Be still. Silent night, holy night.

After all the anticipation of Christmas, which is really the anticipation of the coming of the Christ child, we must not “miss” His arrival by not fully taking it in. We have to quiet ourselves and connect with the One who came to save us.

A Gift for Jesus

In addition to really enjoying church and thinking about the wonder of Christmas ~ that God Himself came as a baby named Jesus to be with us and to save us! ~ we need to ask ourselves a question. One last Christmas gift question: what does Jesus want for His birthday? What Christmas gift are we giving Him?

Jesus wants the same thing we want in our closest relationships. Time together. Some time alone with Jesus is the gift He wants most from us. It’s not that He doesn’t appreciate the things we do this month to celebrate and to make the holidays special for other people, but we must not do all those things and then forget about Him.

The Present of Being Present

The best present we can give Jesus is to be present with Him. Fully present. Looking into His face and thanking Him for coming and enjoying the amazing love He has for us and to say we love Him too. He came so we could have a relationship with Him. So let’s be sure to take some time during these busy days of final preparations to participate in that relationship. Even a few minutes, to quiet down on the inside, to pray and thank Him and love Him, will be the best gift of all.

When can you plan to spend some time with Jesus in the next few days?

Greatest Gifts: Grace

photo

Christmas Shopping!

Sometimes I feel like the worst “one for you, one for me” Christmas shopper ever! I get home and there are a number of small items for me mixed in with my gifts for other people. Nothing big and nothing on my Christmas list, of course. But if it’s something I need and it’s on sale, Merry Christmas to me!

Another “Greatest Gift”

There is a gift that is perfect for the “one for you, one for me” shopper. Just like the gift of forgiveness that we talked about previously, it is the gift of Grace. Grace for you, grace for me.

The dictionary gives one of the definitions of grace as “free and unmerited favor.” I also think of it as giving someone space. Space to make a mistake, space to fail, space to be human. Which means, grace is definitely something we need to give ourselves as well as others.

One for You…

This is a great season to extend grace. There’s plenty of opportunities: grace to “that … person” in the parking lot who doesn’t know how to drive, grace to the one who is taking forever at the checkout ahead of you in line, grace to the mother with the screaming toddler when you’re making your last run to the grocery store. We need to give lots of grace to anyone working retail during this busy season. They just want to get home to their families too. Instead of looking irritated in these situations, a smile and “Merry Christmas” can go a long way.

The holidays often mean time with extended family. This is a great time to give more grace. So maybe the relatives have the same political argument every year. Grace to be who they are. Maybe there’s someone who always finds a way to undermine your parenting or insults your cooking. More grace.

One for Me…

But then, do we extend any grace to ourselves? This strikes at the heart of the perfectionist, let me tell you. Grace to not be perfect. Grace to admit we made a mistake (because we are not perfect) and to not keep going over and over it in our head, but to let it go. Grace to not get everything done we have dreamed of doing this Christmas. Grace to let go of past regrets.

Giving ourselves some grace will bring us another gift: peace. When we can let go of some things and give some grace, some space, we will feel relief.

Grace Brings Peace

When we give grace to other people and stop expecting them to act differently than they do, we will have less frustration and anger inside. We will find peace in that moment when we decide to give them grace. Maybe we should try giving them our favor instead of our disapproval. In our hearts and minds, let’s give them grace. Grace for you. Grace for me.

Let’s keep giving the greatest gifts this Christmas season.

 

To whom can you extend the gift of grace to this Christmas? In what way do you need to give grace to yourself?

Christmas Notes: Take Care of Your Soul

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Christmas lights, Christmas music, the smells of pine trees outside and cookies baking inside. The beauty of Christmas decorations and presents under the tree – we take a deep breath and sigh, “Ah, Christmas!” Red and green everywhere, bell ringers at the mall, holiday parties – so many things evoke feelings we associate with Christmas. And those feelings come from a part of us called our soul.

We talked in a previous post about taking care of our body this holiday season, but we are beings of body, soul and spirit, and the soul is the seat of our mind, will and emotions.

How is Your Soul?

My organized, list-making manager mind completely takes over in December. So much to do! So many deadlines. It’s a season to be thankful for the higher reasoning powers we have, as we take multi-tasking to a whole new level! But we must not let the mind take over so much that our emotions are ignored.

Sometimes emotions simmer under that surface of activity all December. The funny thing about emotions is they will rise up and grab our attention when we least expect it. If tears come to your eyes during those touching family holiday commercials (and that’s not normal for you,) it’s time to check in with your heart.

Sad? Weary?

For many people, there is sadness with the holidays because of the loss of a loved one, either through death or estrangement. It seems that everything has a deeper impact at this time of year.  Perhaps you need to set aside some time to grieve (it’s ok to feel that sadness) and to give it the Lord again. Release all concerns, hurts or sadness to Him in prayer.

Or perhaps your soul is weary. We can wear ourselves down on the inside through too much stress and activity, either from this month alone or from a longer season of difficulty. As you come to the end of the year and look back, do you feel happy and pleased or disappointed and dissatisfied? Even if we are in a season of joy right now, we must take care to not completely deplete our emotional tanks this month.

Hope! Enjoy!

It’s easy to rush through the holiday season and we are halfway through the month already (and 10 days from Christmas!) But take the time to care for your soul. What do you need right now? What would fill your emotional tank? What would you enjoy?

Perhaps an hour on the couch in front of the tree listening (really listening) to favorite Christmas music might do the trick. Or maybe lunch with a friend would be just the thing. Think about what would be enjoyable and refreshing.

Including Jesus in all our plans and activities will add joy right away. Keep in touch with Him throughout the day. We don’t even have to text Him. He is as close as our thoughts and He hears every prayer.

Let’s plan some time to recharge our batteries so we aren’t empty on Dec. 31st.

 

Are you “missing” this holiday season? What can you do to enjoy the moment?

Greatest Gifts: Forgiveness

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One of the greatest gifts we can give this Christmas is the beautifully wrapped gift of forgiveness. If we’re willing to do the work of giving this gift, both the giver and receiver can be set free.

In this post, I’m not talking primarily about forgiving people for offenses that come up in our everyday relationships: unkind comments or misunderstandings. It’s important to forgive those things, of course, and it’s very important to restore any broken relationships. Maybe this is the season when you can extend forgiveness to someone and mend a friendship. That would be a wonderful gift for both of you.

The Unforgivable

But I’m talking about the deep hurts some of us have stored in a box in our heart’s attic, sealed up and marked, “Unforgivable.”

There are things that happen to us that can be considered “unforgivable.” Verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, all fall into this category. Words from important people in our lives that have warped our view of ourselves. Anything that has hurt so deep, we can’t seem to find the strength to forgive because they were just “so wrong.” And you’re right. They were wrong. And sinful. Perhaps even evil.

The Freedom

But we are still called to forgive. Forgiveness is the only way to freedom. If we don’t forgive, we will harbor a hardness of heart. Bitterness will grow up and choke us with its poison. Even if you agree with this concept, I know what you’re thinking … “But how?”

The Steps

There are 4 ‘A’s that can help us.

1. Acknowledge Forgiveness is a Continual Process. Some people have done so much damage that you have to forgive them over and over. Every time the hurt or offense comes to mind and it still stings, we have to forgive again. And we are in good company. The disciples asked Jesus how many times they should forgive someone and suggested a generous seven times. Jesus said, no, seventy-seven times. In other words, over and over.  (Matt. 18:21,22.)

2. Agree to Participate in the Forgiveness Process. The Bible tells us many times we need to forgive and show mercy. Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,” (Matthew 6:14.) Notice He didn’t say “if” they sin against you, He said “when” they sin against you. We need to agree that God’s ways are best and yes, we will set our hearts to forgive.

3. Ask God for Grace. He will give us grace. God always wants to give us grace. When we are taking a step of obedience, He is right there to hold our hand and give us the power to do it. “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you,” (Isaiah 41:13.)

4. Articulate Forgiveness. We will make progress faster along the path of forgiveness if we will speak our forgiveness out loud. Even if it’s a whisper, when that person and that heartbreak pops up to haunt you again, say, “I choose to forgive today. I forgive you because Jesus forgave me. I forgive by the power of the blood of Jesus.”

Trust me. These steps will help. Forgiveness will help heal your heart and it will help set you free. Forgiveness is the one of the greatest Christmas gifts you can give to another and to yourself.

Have a lighter heart this Christmas. Forgive.

Is there someone you need to forgive?

For a song to encourage you in this process, check out Matthew West’s “Forgiveness” on iTunes.


  • Hi, I'm Erica ~ a wife, a mom, a Christian speaker, singer, author, and worship leader. I love coffee & chocolate, reading & writing, music & more music, Facebook & Twitter, time with family & friends! Thanks for dropping by ~ I hope you are encouraged here.

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