SURPRISE!!!! Some of us like surprises & some of us, not so much. It’s also true that our response to surprises can depend on what the surprise is.
With Jesus’ birth, there were lots of associated surprises:
angels appearing to shepherds at night in the field,
Gabriel’s announcements to Zacharias & Mary about the upcoming supernatural births,
wisemen showing up to give kingly gifts to a seemingly common baby,
Joseph getting the surprise announcement that his fiancé was pregnant.
Let’s consider that surprises can be incredibly good, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, knowing that He loves us & is working in all things, even surprises, to work together for our Good, Romans 8:28-29.
A few years ago, there were some cute movies, Finding Nemo & Finding Dory. Each movie was about the long search to find a missing son & a beloved friend. When I think about finding Jesus, I’m encouraged that Jesus is accessible throughout every day! Check out this video:
Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear view mirror, Christmas is ready to take center stage. And with Christmas , come all the associated activities: decorating, parties, concerts, shopping, cookies, wrapping, etc. In the midst of the hub bub, let’s keep our hearts & focus attentive to Jesus. He’s a really quick video that could help you keep your focus on Jesus throughout this holiday season:
Tis The season for the flu vaccine – not like I’m on board for more needling. And this is because I stay super current with my vaccinations due to my international work with Saving Moses – yellow fever, typhus, hepatitis, malaria, etc.
Let’s think in terms, however, of truth being our vaccination against deception. It’s the truth on the inside that will protect us from the lies & distortion on the outside. This is true except for a giant intrusion: when we allow deception to creep in our thoughts, emotions & attention. And without following the Holy Spirit into truth, we will have the deadly affects of deception rampant in our lives. Let’s stay vaccinated with the Spirit of Truth, so we don’t fall victim to the enemy, who is the father of lies!
Planning isn’t one of my natural strengths, so the Holy Spirit has helped me grow in this area over the course of many years. I’ve come to appreciate that if I want to accomplish big dreams, then it’s important to develop some plans and structures for these dreams to become reality. So what happens when the plans don’t seem to work? Then what?
In the Gospel of Mark, I’ve been reading about how Jesus healed people, often not according to the human contrived plans, i.e, the Syrophoenician woman whom Jesus calls a dog, the 4 guys who break through a roof to get a paralytic in front of Jesus & the blind guy whom Jesus spits on for his healing. It seems to me that Jesus almost never follows our human plans, so it begs the question: why plan?
When you have plans to seem to go awry, maybe these ideas could be helpful:
plans help us think in constructive steps to achieve goals & dreams. No planning = no progress
planning with prayer is a massively helpful combination
consider Proverbs 16:9, “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
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I have a pretty consistent morning routine that generally helps to frame each day with sturdy Bible applications & a prayerful mindset, usually. But this morning didn’t pan out that way. I didn’t get to have my normal quiet prayer & Bible time before my family stirs. So I ran out the door to start my day, not having the rich fellowship with God that often sustains me throughout the day. I don’t like it when that happens & I’m grateful that this is a rare occurrence.
And here’s the really magnificent thing today: I’m sensing the Holy Spirit very clearly throughout this day, despite not having my morning tuning & calibrating fellowship. Of course my absence of quiet & solitary fellowship with the Holy Spirit this morning won’t become a daily habit. Nevertheless, sensing the rich presence of the Holy Spirit throughout this day encourages me that the Holy Spirit enjoys my company & interaction, not withholding that intimacy when I fall short on my end.
Be very certain in your heart that you’re deeply valued, highly treasured & greatly celebrated by the Holy Spirit!
My husband & I were talking this morning about some of the clutter in our house. I’m nowhere close to being a perfectionist since my childhood had the steady tension between my dad with his clutter & the purges my mom would occasionally conduct. So I grew up in a spectrum between clutter & tidy.
Now as an adult, for me the problem with clutter is that it seems to have a creeping nature & before I realize it, there are piles & stacks of clutter that can be easily overlooked.
Sometimes sin is like clutter. It can creep & sneak along the edges of our thoughts & desires leaving little splotches & specks, easy to overlook. But if we allow these specks & splotches of sin to accumulate, then soon our souls become cluttered with sin & we lose of focus on Jesus.
Let’s endeavor to regularly allow the Holy Spirit to work holiness into our souls so that the clutter of sin doesn’t contaminate our affections or attention 🙂
Hebrews 12:1b, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
To a degree, these are all true. But the ultimate fulfillment to going father, being smarter (more wise), visibility & feel good about ourselves isn’t sustained in conventional nor fleshly thinking.
Jesus tells us that the way to being fulfilled is through being committed to kingdom opposites:
The last will be first;
the way ahead is through humility & service;
exercise & discipline are corollaries to soul health;
seeking God’s kingdom first sets everything in proper alignment to live a of fulfillment & reward!
I’m easily distracted & that can be very challenging. There are always external distractions like the phone alerts, watching people get upset about small stuff, podcasts for listening, multiple books I want to absorb, tasks undone, etc. Then there’s also the internal distractions – feelings that can be challenging, creative ideas that could be fun, stress from impending deadlines, etc.
Thankfully, I met a new friend this morning on my way to catch a plane. She was studying Philippians 4:7-8, which talks about keeping our thoughts focused on constructive & beneficial stuff. For me, this means that I stay intentional about not getting distracted. It also means that I keep my thoughts grounded in the Bible so I don’t mindlessly roam away from God. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit gives us sniper focus so that we live a life that hits the mark & overflows with divine purpose.
There’s a common saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side.” And in our moments of honesty, we can often recognize the error of this thinking. This mindset happens when we look at another person & wish we had their life.
“I wish I was smart like they are”
“I wish I had their coordination or athleticism”
“They have their life totally scooped – I wish I could be like them”
“I wish I could be that kind of a leadyer, wife / husband, parent, worshipper, etc”
Here’s the truth: we are each uniquely designed with the suitable talents, gifts, opportunities, etc for the divine plan for which God made us. The grass for our path is appropriately green, distributed & manicured for the journey that God has designed for us. So my take-away point is this: keep you eyes on God & decide to trust God more than what you see, experience or feel
This morning I read about Noah leaving he ark after the flood & it struck me today that Noah didn’t leave the ark until God told him to. This was interesting to me because there were lots of indicators that it was safe to leave the ark. It had been stationary for quite awhile, a dove brought back an olive branch & when Noah released a dove after the olive branch, the dove didn’t return. Noah went into the ark with God’s direction & he didn’t leave the ark until God gave some clear direction.
Let’s be mindful that we don’t allow external circumstances to be the final deciding factor with our decisions.
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This weekend, I learned about some swimming races near my house at the local reservoir. I learned about these “Aquaman” races from a nice lady after I attempted to do an open water swim at a pond near the mountains here in Denver. My swimming was very disappointing to me & when I got out of the pond, I didn’t feel friendly whatsoever. Nevertheless, I started chatting with the lady nearby & she was very kind & informative. We had a lovely conversation & she helped me know of some open water swimming options that sound really fun!
I say this to encourage you about those moments when you’re struggling or discouraged. Remember that God can encourage & strengthen you in a variety of ways that are often unexpected. Be careful if you’re discouraged not to turn inward so much that you don’t allow God to help or strengthen you with creative ideas & unexpected encouragement!
Ever ridden in a crowded car, train or plane & felt squashed? I’ve had plenty of experiences where there’s been virtually no personal space & that can be very unnerving. For two weeks, my family & I are driving to the West Coast & back home to Denver. Consequently, breathing room can be a challenge – think three teenagers in a mini-van with two parents, luggage, cooler for food & no wifi 🙂
This morning, I got up early to have some quiet & solitude, personal time with God. Consequently, I feel more human & less prickly, which is good for everyone. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, regularly spending personal time with God is good for the spirit, emotions, thought life, relationships & mindset. Time with God breathes life into our existence!
I’m not alone with feeling that I’m not enough. You & I both have our weak spots for feeling or thinking that we’re inadequate, be that smart enough, cool enough, pretty enough, social enough, rich enough, humble enough, strong enough, etc.
It’s very liberating to embrace the truth that we are NEVER enough, by ourselves. I’ve been in innumerable situations where it was more than obvious that I wasn’t adequate, not enough & in way over my head. In these occasions, it always helps me to remember that I have continuous access to more than abundant & adequate supply – the Holy Spirit, my Heavenly Help!
If you haven’t read my book, Heavenly Help, grab a copy so you can see how the Holy Spirit is more than enough in you for any situation you face!
While we often think of ADD being diagnosed in childhood or related to schoolwork, I’d suggest that all of us wrestle to varying degrees with keeping our attention & focus. We even have fidget toys to help our mind stay focused! Do you ever struggle with being able to focus? It seems like there are always interruptions, distractions & time stealers, to say nothing of the mental & emotional tendencies that can be challenging.
I’ve been really meditating and on the whole attention & distraction conundrum for a few weeks now. While it’s essential that we pay attention to what’s happening around us, our work, school, to-do lists, etc. I think we also have to consider what we think about & what our emotions focus on – internal focus & not just the outside.
If Elijah had been only focused on the external, he would have missed the still small voice. When Peter became scared (emotions), from looking at the wind, he began to sink in the water that he had just been walking on.
Be careful with your attention because it’s an essential ingredient for your destination!
What areas in your life are needy? It seems that often the quick answer is “money.” But if we pause for a second, our answer might be more along the line of more time, wisdom, discipline, strength, better relationships, genuine love, courage, patience, etc.
This morning I read how Jesus multiplied the fish & bread to meet the hunger needs of thousands of people. His disciples came to Him with the need – too many people & a paltry amount of provision. To this problem, Jesus asked them what they had. After identifying what was there, Jesus blessed the provision rather than cursed the need or lack.
Let’s be sure that we’re grateful for what we have, even if it seems like it’s not enough. Then let’s utilize what we have with thanksgiving & our eyes on Jesus to keep providing & multiplying!
Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.
I watched this short video when I got home from Bangladesh this week, took a walk & had a really deep & profound experience with God.
I know it can be very strange to watch one’s self, but the Holy Spirit really spoke to me through this short video. Take a few minutes this Memorial Weekend to watch it & feel free to pass it along to your friends!
In Bangledesh today, I met a group of floating sexworkers, in contrast to the brothel sexworkers I visited yesterday. Sometimes I think it’s human nature to quantify or qualify bad, worse & worst. So we think that one kind or quantity of suffering is worse than another. I’m not sure that I think this entirely accurate. Suffering hurts, full stop.
Can we find it in our hearts to express compassion regardless of who is suffering or how much is being suffered?
I hugged each woman that I met this afternoon deeply & wholly, feeling that I wanted more love to pour through me for them. None of these experiences are easy to process but the worst thing for me that could happen would be to ignore my feelings & disregard the eyes with whom I met with deep affection & connection.
Do you ever struggle to focus? I definitely struggle with my focus & I’m learning that it’s easier for me to focus on some things more than others. For example, I’m not very good at listening to stuff, but I’m better at reading. Some people like video content & find it easier to pay attention. So here’s some good news for the video peeps! I started my own YouTube channel & I’m uploading a series once a week. The series I’m working on is about prayer & it’s really excellent!! For the prayer series, each episode is short & very relevant!
Feel free to subscribe & pass on the link to your friends who are interested in prayer!