So, I have a confession to make. I am a very judgmental person. I am not exactly sure how I got this way, but, well, here I am. They say that knowing is half the battle, right? Well, I certainly hope so. And, knowing it, plus admitting it, well, that should count as at least 55 percent of the battle, don’t you think? I certainly hope so, for my sake!
Now, I must tell you that I try my best to NOT be judgmental of others in terms of how they look. I very much believe in getting to know people before I judge them—you know, that whole, “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing. And, I think overall, I do a fair job in that department.
Where I have my trouble is after that; once I get to know people. That is where my “holier than thou” attitude creeps in. I especially have trouble with those around me who claim that they are Christians, yet act anything but. (Have you ever heard that saying, “perception is reality”? Well, I have always found that to be true in my life.) And, sadly, there are many times in my own life, where I know I don’t act very Christian-like either. This is when the word hypocrite blares through my mind. I know that there are many times where I am nothing, if not a hypocrite.
And, I do NOT want to be this way any longer.
The Bible is chock full of verses that tell us how we are supposed to be. Below is a small sampling:
I want to change. I do NOT want to be a hypocrite. The sad part is, I know better. But, I have to ask, why is changing our ways so hard?? I mean, it isn’t just me, is it? I feel like the proverbial leopard who can’t change her spots.
However, I have realized something that I must share with you. Change is possible. Actually, change is inevitable. But, how and when we change is up to us. As you grow spiritually in your relationship with Christ, your views change. Your perceptions change. Your thinking changes. Your inter-landscape changes. And, all of these things, and more change you as a person. But, you have want this change. And, you must work with the Holy Spirit to get to where you want to go. Also, it is important to note that all of this will take time. After all, patience is a virtue. (Just ask Job!)
As you grow in your Christianity, you come to understand that everyone on this earth is loved and treasured by God. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate price for not only my redemption, but yours as well. That is where our value comes from—not from our achievements or who *we* think we are.
If you are anything like me, this change can feel like it is taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R. But, if you just continue on your journey and put your trust and faith in God, you will get there.
Do you remember being a little kid, trying your best to carry something big or heavy? Did you have a lot of trouble with that thing? Did you struggle with it? Did you take a few steps and realize that, even though you wanted to carry it and thought you could carry it, that you could not carry it? Then, if you were blessed like me, you would call your mom or dad to help and they would just carry it for you.
Well, even as an adult I can still feel like that little kid from time to time. As an adult, I often find myself trying to carry things that are much too big for me carry. You do too sometimes, don’t you?
I know you do!
In my analogy above, the object you are carrying around as a kid is a physical object. But, as adults we carry around things that are much heavier and much more draining. You know what I am talking about, right? These are the things that can start eating away at you every day, like: stress, guilt, bitterness, disappointment, and the like. They are all burdens. (And, if you are similar me, you may even be carrying around other people’s stress, guilt, bitterness, and/or other burdens too.)
I think this is just something we tend to do as we get older. We start carrying around all this…well, crap (for lack of a better word.) And, honestly, we don’t need to be carrying any of it.
Well, there is something we all need to be reminded of—and that is that whatever it is that we are carrying around right now—we can just hand it over to God.
That stress you feel from trying to do EVERYTHING and do it right—hand it over to God.
That preconceived notion that to be happy you MUST find your calling work-wise, and all the weight that comes along with that—hand it over to God.
That resentment you feel from being passed over for that promotion—hand it over to God.
That guilt you feel because you can’t be at your child’s soccer game AND take your parent to the doctor at the same time—hand it over to God.
That bitterness you feel towards yourself for that mistake you made—hand it over to God.
That disappointment you feel when life simply doesn’t go according to plan—hand it over to God.
One of the greatest things about being a child of God, is that Christ our Father, will gladly carry any and all of our burdens for us. We can hand Him all our stress, animosity, guilt, shame, disappointments, and the like.
I think that as Christians we all know this. But, for whatever reason, we tend to forget it. Or, maybe we just don’t know how to hand these types of things over to God.
I have found that the best way to hand them over to God is to just talk to Him about them. Spend some good, quality time with Him and tell Him what is on your heart and mind. Express to Him how you are truly feeling, in whatever way you can. Maybe it is through words, singing, or tears. Next, ask Him to please carry these burdens for you. Then, and this is key, hand them over to Him and STOP worrying and ruminating on them.
I want to leave you with ten Bible verses that reinforce the fact God promises to carry our burdens for us. Commit them to memory and start taking advantage of them today!
This past Saturday, a very dear friend of my husband lost his battle with cancer. I had been praying over him for a while—praying for healing from this horrible disease and for comfort for both him and his family. When Paul told me of his passing on Sunday morning, I felt a sadness drape over me. And, I have been carrying this sadness with me each day since.
I asked Paul if there would be a service for his friend. He told me no. He said that his friend was not religious and had requested that there be no funeral or memorial service. I never knew this about him. It had never even occurred to me to ask if he was a Christian or not, or what his religious beliefs were. And, this is when his loss really fell heavy on my heart.
Here was this man--a husband, a father, a friend. A man who was dearly loved. A man who loved to word-work and would send us some of his beautiful creations every year for Christmas. A man who cared about others. A man who loved and was loved.
And, he was lost. And, I missed the opportunity to help him be found. I missed the opportunity to witness to him. I missed the opportunity to share with him about Jesus and His love for us. I missed the opportunity to pray for him to be saved. I was praying for him, but I missed out on praying the most important prayer for him I could pray.
And, while I mourn his death, I also very much mourn the fact that I missed all these opportunities to truly help him. To help him find Jesus and eternal life. To help him find true comfort and peace here on this earth. I missed all of that.
And, I never want to do that again with anyone else.
Because, I mean, isn’t that truly why we are here? As Christians, isn’t that our life calling and God’s will for us? YES, yes, it is.
God’s will for our life is to be in a relationship with Him. To do this we MUST spend time in His Word. (See Proverbs 3:5-6) Then, we are called to love others and show them how much God loves them. (See John 15:12) Then, they too can be in a relationship with Christ and become our brothers and sisters.
But, I am not going to lie, it is not always easy to share about God and His love for us. In our current world climate, the devil is using every trick he has to deter us and sidetrack us. The devil loves to turn us against each other and poison our minds. But, it doesn’t need to be this way!
I am naturally shy and introverted. I have a hard time verbally communicating with others. But, I do much better when I can write or type out my feelings. And, I need you to know that I care about you and your soul. This is one of the main reasons I write this blog. I just communicate better this way.
Maybe you are like me and have a hard time talking to others. I think it is important to remind you that we can all show the love of Jesus to others in our actions. Follow the example Jesus gave us, himself. (See my post Follow the Leader for more on this.) Then, when an occasion presents itself let the Holy Spirit guide you and if you feel His prodding, speak boldly.
The time is now to share with others the love of Jesus. The time is now to spread the good news. Let us do it proudly together in both our words and actions.
Piggy-backing off last week’s post, I am still thinking about the views we have come to accept in our everyday lives. Or, as I am now thinking of them, the lies we have heard for most of our lives. They are the lies movies and television tell us, the lies we tell each other, and the lies we tell ourselves.
So, I am sure you are asking, why have I started referring to them as lies? And, what are these actual lies that I am speaking of? Well, let me start with the lies themselves.
The lies that have been top of mind lately are these: To be truly happy in life you need to do “________.” (fill in the blank – get married, have a baby, have a career, etc.), To have a happy marriage I must find my soulmate—the one person in this world who was made just for me., To be happy in life, I must find a job I love, et cetera.
Basically, they all boil down to being happy and finding happiness. And, isn’t that what we are all searching for? Or, at least, what we think happiness is? Well the devil has gotten into our collective minds and convinced us that these lies and more, will make us happy. Well, I am here to tell you from my own experience, they won’t.
The truth is, no matter how much “stuff” we get, we will always want more.
The truth is, no matter how many items we cross off our “must do in life” list, once we do those things, we still feel left wanting.
The truth is, there is no such thing as a soulmate. If you truly love your spouse and marry them, you must put in the time and effort to cultivate a loving and lasting relationship. And, you must choose to wake up every day for the rest of your life and say “I do” to them all over again.
The truth is your job won’t always make you happy. Maybe it will make you happy sometimes. Maybe it won’t. Even if you are fortunate enough to love your job, there will still be things about it that you don’t really like. Plus, as you grow and change, what you love will grow and change too. Thus, affecting what you do. Or, your work environment will change. Basically, there are so many factors that come into play in our professional lives, that getting everything we truly want from our jobs is impossible. And, thinking that your job will always provide your happiness is short-sighted.
So, what are we to do about all these lies? We replace them with truth. We send the devil and his lies packing. We spend our time with God and fill our hearts and minds with Him, His love, and His truth.
Rather than saying, “To be truly happy in life, I need to _______.” say, “To be truly happy in life, I need to know God and have a true relationship with Him.”
Rather than saying, “To have a happy marriage, I must find my soulmate.” say, “To have a happy marriage, I must put God first.”
Rather than saying, “To be happy in life, I must find a job I love.” say, “To be happy in life, I must remember that no matter what job I have, I must do that job for the Lord, not for anyone else.” (See Colossians 3:23)
Ultimately, what we must remember, is that the only way to find true happiness is to find God. John 14:6 tells us, "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" God will fill our heart, mind, body, and soul—which will bring us the only true and lasting happiness there is I promise you, this is NOT a lie. This is the truth.
In the course of everyday life, it is so easy to succumb to the accepted views of our environment and traditional ways of thinking. And, by this, I mean thinking things like: I need to go to college, I need to get a degree, I need to find a good job, I need to get married, have kids, and balance all of that with a career. Then, I can be happy. Blah, blah, blah. For most of us, this is what we have been taught. Well, at least, it is what I grew up thinking.
And, maybe you are thinking, so what? What is wrong with any of that? Well, let me tell you; it teaches us to look inside to ourselves instead of looking up to God. And, while none of these thoughts are inherently bad or wrong, they teach us to be self-centered and to think that to find our true value and happiness we must manufacture it for ourselves, by ourselves. (Well, maybe with a little help along the way from other people around us.)
This, to me, is conventional wisdom. And, it is dead wrong.
As believers and followers of Christ, we need to reprogram our brains and start thinking differently. We need to shift our way of thinking. (And, to most people that we are surrounded by, this will be unconventional.) But, I believe if we change how we think, we can change our world.
We need to start thinking in terms of WHOSE we are, not who we are. We are children of God. We belong to Him. And, that makes all the difference in the world.
When we turn our gaze up and focus on God, rather than looking inward and down on ourselves, we start to realize that we can harness the power of our Almighty God. We can do whatever we set our minds to; not because of who we are, but because of God and who He is. Ephesians 3:20 tells us, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…”
Take some time and really chew on this verse, digest it and get out all the sweet goodness and truth it has. His power that is at work WITHIN us. We have the power of God WITHIN US! This is the same power that made blind people see and raised the dead. We, as God’s children, have access to that amazing power. It truly blows my mind.
When we start thinking in terms of, not what we can do, but what can God do through us, we open the door to unlimited possibilities. We are here as tools for God. We are His hands and feet, His vessels. He can and will use us for great and mighty things.
One of our most important jobs is to bring God glory. And, once we tap into God’s power, we can accomplish far more than we ever dreamed. Then, when people ask us how we did these incredible things, we can proudly tell them that it didn’t have anything to do with us, it was all God. That is how we give Him the honor and the glory.
So, I am going to keep my eyes lifted up towards God as much as possible. I truly want to change my perspective. Will you join me in shifting your way of thinking? I truly believe it will do us all a world of good. And, that is certainly something the world can use more of right now!
Trying to live a good Christian life is not always easy. As a matter of fact, the truth is, the devil does everything he can to make it hard for us and hard on us. That is why it is vital that we suit up in God’s armor each and every day. We need to pray, read our Bibles, and spend quality time with God each and every day—not just on Sundays. (For more on this read my post The Devil Inside.)
It is also super important that we seek and find joy every day as well. Once you start spending more and more time with God, the easier it becomes to find that joy. However, while there is beauty all around us, opening our eyes to it and finding the joy in life, well…that can be hard. We all get busy and just living life gets in the way. So, I wanted to share something with you today that I know will help you. Well, it least it has helped me, so I want to pass it along.
So, what is the little golden nugget of advice I have for you today, you ask? What is it that will help you find more joy in life? Listen to music. More specifically, listen to contemporary Christian music. (CCM for short.) And, while I am at it, might I suggest listening to The Joy FM?*
I started my spiritual journey in earnest about seven years ago. I have been taking baby steps every day since—little, tiny, baby steps. And, all those little baby steps have added up over the years! One of the most crucial things I have realized is that listening to good Christian music can make a world of difference.
I specifically remember, a few years ago, lying in bed and it dawning on me that I needed Jesus all the time. Not just on Sundays, not just when I was depressed, not just when I was sick or needy, and not just when it suited me. I needed Him all the time: every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
My next thought was, how on earth can I keep my focus on Him all the time? I actually started freaking out a little about it. I was already at a point in my journey where I was making sure to pray every morning before I got out of bed and every night before I went to sleep. I was spending time each day reading both my Bible and a devotional. Being married with a full-time job, doing contract work on the side, and living and dealing with what I refer to as a “mystery” illness that requires I get a lot more rest than normal women, what else could I feasibly do? Well, this is where the music comes in!
As some of you already know, I am a huge music fan. And, I listen to and love music of all different types. However, there is just something extra special about contemporary Christian music that fills me up, lifts my soul, and brings me joy. Instead of looking for joy with your eyes, listen to it with your ears and heart! It is amazing medicine for your soul.
I listen to music mainly in the car; flipping through radio stations, stopping any time I come across a song I like. During this specific time in my journey, I was already listening to CCM, just not all the time. But, once I started really listening to the lyrics of the songs, I basically started to transform my way of thinking. Songs were getting stuck in my head, that I would sing to myself all day. It really made a significant difference in how much I started thinking about Jesus each day. It really helped me focus on Him more and more. Now CCM is basically all I listen to. You really owe it to yourself to give it a try.
*Before I leave, I must share one more bit of advice with you. Listen to The Joy FM. They are a Christian radio station that has been serving the metro Atlanta area since 1981. They also have radio towers and can be heard in Florida and Alabama. And, thanks to the internet and an app, you can listen to them anywhere in the world. They are a nonprofit, listener supported station that is doing the imperative work of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. They promise to help you find joy, share joy, and be joy, and boy do they ever deliver! They are genuinely good people who truly care.
All of their DJ’s are great, but I especially love The Morning Cruise; Carmen Brown, Dave Cruse, and Bill Martin. Listening to them in the morning is like sitting down and hanging out with good friends. Come to think of it, they are more like family. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Spend a few days listening to them and I think you will agree. I encourage you to let The Joy FM and the contemporary Christian music they play fill up your heart, mind, and soul with God and joy. It is a very simple, but powerful way to help you keep your focus on God and bring you joy, each and every day.
There is beauty in the living and in figuring it all out.
There is beauty in the living and in finding the true meaning for yourself.
There is beauty in the living and in the day-to-day struggles.
There is beauty in the living and in the unexpected, sudden joys.
There is beauty in the living and in the occasional horrors, and deep ugly pits.
There is beauty in the living and in learning to recognize the unending graces and ceaseless blessings.
There is beauty in the living and in learning to find little nuggets of beauty in your life, by simply opening your eyes to them.
There is beauty in the living and in experiencing God’s true love for you.
There is beauty in the living and in the realization that God is always with you and for you.
There is beauty in the living and in the journey itself.
There is beauty in the living and in figuring it all out.
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.