Category Archives: Spirituality

Fresh Start

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Photo Credit: David Ammerman

It’s the songs of birds in the large tree outside that stir me awake in this early hour and beckon me out of bed. The sun just beginning its ascent brings promise of a fresh start; a chance to begin again. It will later direct our paths as it gives light to the darkness and will thaw the thin layer of frost blanketing the earth.

As the coffee begins to brew, I peer through the kitchen widow. The greenhouse sparkles with a million crystals of ice shimmering in the slowly rising sun. Tucked inside all my delicate plants are happy and content; saved from the damaging frost by the shelter literally built by love.

It is the beginning of a new day.

Seize the opportunity to drink in all that is wonderful and good, and against all that may stand in your way, make this an incredible week.

H


Save The Storks

Several months ago my husband and I were introduced to this amazing organization while at church on a beautiful Sunday morning: Save the Storks.

The more I learn about this organization, the more I continue to be awe-struck by the incredible work they are doing across the nation and I couldn’t resist sharing with you this morning.

Rooted in Christian principles, which are Pro-Life, their goal isn’t to force religion and shame women who find themselves in such a desperate situation that they are considering abortion. Rather, the mission is to bring resources and awareness of options (and for those who get twisted up in semantics: choice).

Save the Storks funds mobile units for pregnancy centers which are equip with pregnancy testing, and ultrasound capabilities as well as teams trained to meet women where they are (which is typically on their way into the clinic to terminate a pregnancy) providing them information and counseling on options. All free to women who dare to open their minds to alternatives and gather information so they are better able to make an informed decision.

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Photo Credit: Save the Storks

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Photo Credit: Save the Storks

Four of Five women who step foot on one of these mobile units will ultimately choose life for their baby. Whether that means they will raise the child themselves and call upon available resources in their community to support them along the way or consider adoption; placing their bundle of joy into the arms of another couple – possibly a couple that has been unable to have children of their own but desperate feel a calling to parenthood – these babies get the opportunity at life.

And, Save the Storks outreaches in other ways including Assure Me machines in public restrooms which include a pregnancy test at a  reduced rate than sold in stores as well as information on resources, StorkWorks Consulting which provides resources and support for pregnancy centers that have a mobile unit in operation, and Stork Coffee.

In this life, we are all called to give back to good and charitable causes:
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3:27

As you consider where your next charitable contribution may be going, take a look at Save the Storks (click for link to webpage).  If their mission isn’t draw enough, all donations are tax deductible!

-H


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 11

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Knowing through experience is far different than having knowledge of an experience.

You must experience God for yourself – this is not something you can pick up vicariously through others.

Part of differentiating the voice of God from anything <anyone> else is understanding that the message from Him will glorify and highlight His character. Anything to the contrary isn’t a message from Him.

This isn’t to say that the message is always leading us down the easiest path. In many instances, it’s quite the opposite. He will lead us into places where we are able to experience and grow with Him in powerful ways. This often means a challenge…a challenge that he will most assuredly  enter in to with you and see you through.

Dare to take the challenge – lean into him through the storm – and see the ways in which He will be glorified in and through you.

H


Discerning the Voice of God: Chapter 10

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Significance changes.

This is something I’ve come to know well in my time spent with the Lord, in study of the Scripture. I’ll come across a line or two previously underlined or noted and wonder why that was so significant to me at one time. It isn’t holding the same powerful punch in this moment – but at one time, it must have spoken loudly to my heart.

And, this phenomenon is how I’ve come to really understand that the Bible is LIVING.

I set a goal to finish reading the entire bible in 2016 – a goal I’ve set out with many times previously, even in my youth, but never quite accomplished. This time, though, I mustered up lots of determination and got crackin’ on the task at hand…only to realize I was sorta missing the point.

Okay, not sorta. REALLY!

So intent on moving forward with the reading, I wasn’t allowing time for the Scripture to penetrate my soul. To stop and examine why a particular verse stood out. For God to speak to me.

The Bible is the primary means through which God will communicate with us so if we don’t take the time to pause we may go speeding right past something really important. A personal message meant just for us.

Examining my goal through this lens made clear for me that I was missing the whole point and also the reason that I’ve probably struggled in the past with achieving the goal of “entire Bible = read”. The Bible doesn’t read like a usual fiction or non-fiction story book. It requires thought and openness to hearing what’s being communicated – and because the significance can change depending the time and situation – it really requires the intentional pause to listen and process.

For this reason, I have accepted that 2016 may not be the year I cross “read entire Bible” off my bucket list. I want my time with the Lord, spent in the Word, to be more significant than simply words on a page. I’m taking the time for the intentional pause; noting verses in my Bible, meditating on them and then pouring my thoughts into my journal. I love to go back and be reminded of God’s promise to bear the burden for communicating to me.

Lots of people have different methods for working through that intentional pause. I’d love to hear about the method for your madness as it relates to your quiet time with the Lord. Comments welcome below!

Love,
H


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 9

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Are you still struggling to hear from God? You’re hearing something but not sure if it’s God, Satan, your own flesh? Any chance you are focused on the wrong thing?

I am a details person. Being detail oriented is a strong element of my personality, so it’s no wonder that the things I’m often wanting to know most from God are…you guessed it…the details.

What is His Will for me? Am I on the right path? Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

So many requests – except for the one that matters most: making that relationship with Him stronger.

Not just knowing OF Him but really knowing Him…His Word, and what He’s all about. Not just knowing the stories of the bible but allowing that Truth to penetrate into the deepest reaches of your soul. To speak in a way that is rich, and peaceful and full of meaning.

I crave hearing from God. I pray often for my eyes, ears, heart and mind to be open to receiving whatever message He has for me. And just when I began to struggle to decipher his voice, there was the answer….focus on your RELATIONSHIP with Him, rather than expending so much energy straining to HEAR Him.

KNOWING Him is how HEARING Him happens!

Focus on the wrong thing creates a distraction from hearing him, as do spiritual strongholds. Also known as spiritual warfare – the handiwork of Satan. The insecurities and negativity that are so profound, they drown out the sound of anything else…unless we tear them down.

Chapter 9 references Ephesians 6: 10-20 for the fight against spiritual warfare and I wanted to share with you some sermon notes I took quite some time ago on this very thing…because being armed with God is the only way for this battle to be won – He will fight the battle, in fact, He is the ONLY one that can!

Do yourself a favor and pull out your bible – refresh your memory of dressing for success with the Lord (Ephesians 6: 10-20) and while doing so, note the following:
v. 14 “the belt of truth buckled around your waist” : have TRUTH at the core of your life
v. 14 “the breastplate of righteousness” : Live with integrity and you will never have to defend yourself. The righteousness of Christ will answer for you.
v. 15 “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel” : wherever you go, take the word of the gospel. You don’t have to know everything about the Word, but share your story. God will use it for glory
v. 16 “shield of faith” : apart from faith, all the information in the Bible is nullified. It does no good to know it and not live it – don’t be a ‘culture Christian’ (i.e. scripted prayer, going through simple motions and ‘checking the boxes’ until you no longer really care). READ the word, be in CONVERSATION with Him. Counter what the enemy says with what God says.
v. 17 “helmet of salvation” : the devil will attack an unprotected mind. He can distort thinking about everything. Put on the helmet which is the covenant of salvation, protecting us spiritually.
v. 17 “sword of the spirit” : The word of God. Get up close and personal and engage in the world with confidence in His word. You don’t have to convince anyone, just drop the word and let it work!
v. 18 “pray” : this is a vital part of armor as it impacts the attitude. Prayer is an act of worship – getting our hearts and minds right.

When you are facing overwhelming odds, check your stance. Don’t rest in your feelings. Put on the WHOLE armor of God!

Attributes of standing on God can be found in 2 Chronicles:
20:14-15: Promises (the battle is the Lord’s)
20:17a: Power (rely upon His power)
20:17b-18: Presence (He is with us, do not fear)
20:21-22: Praise (worship Him)

Faith means always moving forward. There is no pleasure in falling back – and while falling is inevitable –  if you fall, fall forward.

Any favorite versus you’ve committed to memory that you might suggest we all memorize, sharpening the “sword of the spirit”? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below!

With Love…
H

 


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 8

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Hey there – it’s been a bit since I’ve been on the blog. You know how it goes when life sweeps your feet out from under you…anyway…I’m hoping to get back on a more regular track here very soon. In the meantime, thoughts on Chapter 8:

God’s communication with us is personalized, repetitive, peaceful and….challenging?? Ugh!!!

That’s right folks, just as the journey isn’t always easy, so too is His communication for us challenging.

Don’t confuse peace for comfort – or following God’s will with agreeing with it – or assume the peaceful way is the easy way. How many times have you felt God leading you down a path you’d much rather avoid? You looked left to stormy weather ahead, and right to the sun shining brightly and balked at God’s idea that you should head for the thunderstorm..and then you turned, disregarding his direction, and set off for sunshine and blue skies…all because it would be easier?

Yea, me too.

Many times in life God means to lead us down the bumpy road. Without that journey, we will never reach our full potential (reference the story of the butterfly in Chapter 8 – also found on another devotional I read regularly). Almost ALL of us NEED that journey. Sometimes we face the journey via decisions we must make (left into storms, right into sunshine) and other times there is no decision involved and we must embrace the cards we were dealt.

Challenge is part of the plan, and I love, LOVE the following taken directly from chapter 8: “God will place extraordinary tasks on the plates of ordinary people so ordinary people can see what an extraordinary God can do through them”.

Not just tasks, situations.

I remember facing several different, though similar, situations in my recent past — all of the “embrace the cards you were dealt” variety. Each time confessing out loud, “I can’t do this” or “I can’t go through that ever again, I’ll never make it”, and “He must have me confused with someone else, there is absolutely no way I can endure, again”.

And you know what? Not only DID I get through each rocky circumstance, I came out the other side stronger. AND, while definitely not my first choice, I’m now positive that if faced with another similar trial, I could do it again…and again…and again. Because I have Jesus!
Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go

And how about times when we are faced with a choice to make – left storms, right sunshine?

Adding a spirituality component to my blog is one such example. The idea flashed through my mind, totally out of left field, and I wrote it off because it didn’t immediately add up in my brain. I have a LONG ways to go in growing spiritually and I am in NO WAY qualified to take on something like this, right? Does this topic even fit with the flavor of my blog? Would my readers embrace this turn of events? Would some of my followers fall out? (thanks, Satan, by the way).
But, He was persistent and before I knew it I was getting lost in blogging about this incredible book – regardless of whether or not I am qualified, what people might think and if some of followers dropped off. And, I am NOT qualified…but HE IS…and “God will provide where He guides”.

This chapter ends with a profound statement, “It is better for you to choose the challenging road – if God is in it – than to select the route that is easier and more convenient but lacks the presence of power of God”.

Facing a difficult circumstance – decisions or cards dealt? Look to Him, follow His direction and you will never go wrong. He will ensure shelter through those storms and they never last forever.

 


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 7

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I remember when I began this book, and the excitement I felt as I finished Chapter 2 (and then another chapter down the road; which one specifically, I can’t recall). While it’s true that every chapter has brought excitement; I’m talking about EXCITEMENT!!

It was all because of the peace I felt within. The comfort in knowing that what I was hearing was, in fact, His voice/guidance/direction. The relief in having it re-confirmed that He has it all under control, and is even letting me in on some of the details. That ‘ah-ha!’ moment when what I think I know is confirmed.

PEACE.

Not only a characteristic of our Savior, but an indication that he has spoken.

For the longest while I’ve struggled to let go of my burden – or I would set it down for just a short while, only to run quickly back over and pick it back up. How much of my hyper-organized, need to be in control, urge to analyze every detail has done nothing but get in His way? I suspect all of it…

And then something amazing happened! I reached a point where I <finally> acknowledged I am just too drained…physically, mentally and emotionally…to continue running interference. To continue getting in His way. And because I have <finally> been <metaphorically> beaten into submission, I’m just not anymore. Not that I no longer care about things – because I surly do – but I find I’m better able to take only the steps He directs me to take and leave all the rest to him. He is the one in control, after-all.

I have laid my burden at His feet, just as he instructs us all to do.
Matthew 11: 28-30 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

It doesn’t feel “amazing” to come to this point via the road I chose to take, but it is quite incredible how it’s worked for good. I am finally feeling an inner sense of PEACE like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Yes. Me.

The hyper-organized, need to be in control, urge to analyze everything….Me.

 


Discerning the Voice of God: Chapter 5

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Chapter 5 offered so many thought provoking take-away points:

  1. When God has a message for us, He is persistent.
  2. Circumstances in life have everything to do with God’s Will – nothing happens by chance.
  3. Sometimes crises present the best moments to bring us closer to Him.
  4. The importance of connecting with a church family cannot be overly emphasized.

God’s persistence in getting our attention isn’t always sunshine and gentle breezes – He will do whatever is needed to get our attention. While we would like to think that His work is done only through the most incredible, comforting, and happy miracles; it’s important to understand that isn’t always the case. Sometimes His persistence comes about in ways that we don’t prefer. Events that are uncomfortable, and in some cases, are downright miserable.

It’s human nature to want to avoid anything uncomfortable. The more crises we can avoid, the better, right? But just as muscle must be broken down in order to grow stronger, so too must our spirits. To think you can obtain as much growth through all the best seasons of life, as opposed to the worst, is ignorant. Building muscle while sitting on the couch drinking Dr Pepper and eating Doritos?  Yes, please! Not so much the case though…bummer!

I try to think about how my life would be currently, if I could rewind and have a do-over with all the struggle sprinkled throughout the past 2 years. If I could erase all the struggle, and insert all the details of how I wanted things to go, what I wanted to have happen, how I thought things ought to have worked out. Truth is, I can’t really even imagine what that might look like…a life filled with surface level pseudo-perfection, maybe?. Would I even be happy or would I always be longing for more? Would I feel a true sense of security, or bubbling just beneath the surface would I constantly be ill at ease? If I trace back some of the best things in my life, the road to obtaining those things was quite rocky. And, in some instances, if it weren’t for travel down those rocky roads, some of what I cherish so much now wouldn’t even be part of my life story.

I can acknowledge, accept, and even be totally okay with my trials because it took every bit of that – even complete loss of my footing – to bring me to my knees; for Him to get my attention and for me to get out of His way so that He could do a good work in me. Doesn’t mean I liked the struggle at the time(s), heck, I’ve gone down fighting on more than one occasion. But He’s patient and persistent and is using all that yuck for good, and will continue to do so, because that’s what He promises. And he is not a God that he should lie (Numbers 23:19).

If the weather in your life is cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms, remember that He is persistent, nothing happens by chance & crises present some of the best opportunities for growth. Tuck in close to Him – quietly and patiently wait for him to speak. Immerse yourself in the Scripture and connect with your church family for guidance and support. Eventually all the signals – stirrings within, Scripture and outward signs – will point in the same direction and THAT will be your answer!

New to reading this blog series on Discerning The Voice of God? Catch up here:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4


Discerning The Voice of God: Chapter 4

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The way in which God speaks to us has evolved over time. During the Old Testament times, God was heard through prophecies and outward, visible signs. During the New Testament, His communication came through Jesus and miracles. Today, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and Scripture.

In my ignorance, I expected the way in which God would speak to me as similar to Old Testament times – some sort of prophecy or outward sign. A flashing neon sign, perhaps, with an arrow directing the way. A vivid dream that would provide all the detailed information I’d ever need, making everything crystal clear.

On more than one occasion, I’ve complained that it would be so much easier if He would at least give me a snippet of what His plans are for me. Promising that if he did, I would get fully on board and REALLY get to work on that plan – BUT – I needed specifics first.

I now imagine God in Heaven, smile on his face, shaking his head and thinking “oh sweet child…”

As much as I have wished for blatant signs, and even felt somewhat resentful when they didn’t come and thought surly he wasn’t answering me because I couldn’t hear him (because I wouldn’t shut up long enough to listen – see Chapter 1), I realize that I’ve really got the best of all worlds. While not His primary method of communication, God still works miracles and provides us with outward signs. It’s secondary to being guided by the Holy Spirit and Scripture, further confirming what’s already been spoken to us. If we haven’t received the message via primary communication, secondary means are going to pass us by without notice. We won’t recognize the relevance. These miracles and signs will fade into the background noise of life.

I’m guessing that if they all had a choice, everyone from Biblical times would much prefer how good we have it now.

On page 71, Priscilla writes, “I do believe that the Spirit gives to some people, on certain occasions, the divine ability to receive insight into another person’s life”.

This statement struck me in a very powerful way, soothing a nagging ache in my soul. Here’s why: I believe I am well acquainted with such a person. She is a great friend of mine, near and dear to my soul in ways no one else is, a mentor on top of all that, and a lover of Jesus. Just recently, in a long message, she made a statement that has since been etched into my heart. “I’ve been praying for you often. I’m having very good feelings about you recently”.

If Priscilla is right, and I have no reason to think otherwise, and outward signs are often used by God to confirm the messages we’ve received through Scripture and the Spirit’s counsel, then my life is going to take on the most breathtaking changes. And while I don’t know the timing or specific details about how it will all come together, I am so overwhelmed (in the most comforting way) that I’m on the verge of tears every time this passes through my mind.

For the first time in two years, I feel like I’ve finally exhaled…


Discerning the Voice of God: Chapter 3

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How often, during times of struggle, do we pull in closer to the Lord seeking comfort, guidance, and answers only to allow him to slowly fade into the background of our lives when the crisis has been diverted? As much as I hate to admit, I am guilty of this, time and time again.

The trouble I find is that the crisis isn’t necessarily diverted, as much as it is minimized, at which time I think I’ve got it all under control and can take it from there. How ignorant of me! It’s no wonder that the same crisis flares up again, or that another comes in its place. It’s sort of like sticking your hand back in the fire after recovering from third degree burns! And how many times must be we burned before we stop punishing ourselves?!? We ALWAYS need Him!!

An essential element of discerning the voice of God is regular meditation on, and knowledge of, the Scriptures. Regular = Daily. This can become quite a trick when life demands so much us. There’s a lot to get done. We are tired and believe we won’t be able to focus. Things are going okay, so time in the Word isn’t essential today, right? Wrong!

Time spent in the Word is time spent with God. If we want to hear from Him, we must MAKE time for Him. These moments with him are more serious than we think – even when things are going “okay”.

And, here’s the other thing that’s paramount to our prayers being answered: our desires need to align with His Will for us. How many of you want to dig in with the thought of that? The idea that what you desire may not align with His plans for you, and aside from taking things into your own hands (free will) and forcing the issue (for which there are other consequences), those desires may not become your reality?

Yea, it’s a tough pill to swallow but allow me to offer a bit of hope: permitting the Holy Spirit to work in you, and doing your part in that process (see above), means a transformation will begin taking place within. If you really get on board with this, you will find things you once desired no longer tug quite as much at your heartstrings, and the gap between what you want and what He wants for you will grow more and more narrow. Suddenly, but not all at once, your desires and His Will align and things start happening in a magical way in your life. That is what is meant in Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”. God really does know what is best for us, even if it’s not what we want to hear or accept at the moment, and THOSE desires of our heart are what will be given.

The reason we eventually <really> become okay with our reality not matching our dreams is because we’ve really worked on building that intimate relationship with Him. He’s working from within to change our hearts (and thus, our dreams), and we can hear Him with more clarity…perhaps leading us down a path we never would have chosen for we never knew we’d love.

In those moments that you want to be okay with things not working out as you had hoped, but you just aren’t feeling it with every inch of your being, talk to Him about it, ask Him to help you… “Lord, every day I’m trying my best, but if in any moment I lose my hope, please remind me that Your plans are better than my dreams. Amen.”.

He understands that we live in the flesh and that the natural tendency of the flesh is to crave the standards of the world rather than those of God, but he also expects us to seek, and stick close to him.