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.
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.
Have you ever moved? If so, you know that it can be both exciting (hopefully) and/or stressful and tiring. If you have lived in any one place for any reasonable amount of time, once you start packing to move, you quickly realize that you have a lot more stuff than you thought. It is amazing to me how much stuff we can acquire over the years, or even in just a few short months.
About four years ago, Paul and I decided we wanted to downsize. The home that we lived in was much too big for just the two of us. We purchased a smaller home, which we liked, but that meant we had to get rid of a lot of things. But, that is what downsizing is all about, right? It was a good move. We had a ton of things that we didn’t use or need anymore. Most of it was donated to various charities and what couldn’t be used again or salvaged was trashed. It felt so freeing to get rid of so much stuff. It made me realize that less is more. Especially when it comes to physical objects. If you don’t use it regularly or just dearly love it, why keep it?
Well, after these last four years, Paul and I have realized we would like to downsize again. The older I get, the more I love the idea of having less “stuff” and less house to clean. I mean, why have three toilets to clean, when you only need and use two? Even if you don’t use all three toilets, you still have to clean them. (Ladies, I know you know what I am talking about!) Less is more. Having less stuff and less house to clean, gives you less to do, less to keep up with, and less to worry about. This, in turn, gives you more time and energy to focus on other things, and simply more freedom. Who doesn’t want that?
So, we are planning to move to a smaller home in about a year. And, we are both so looking forward to it. (Plus, this will give us plenty of time to go through everything we own and get rid of anything we no longer use. I am actually looking forward to cleaning up and cleaning out!)
(As an aside--have you ever heard of Marie Kondo? She wrote an international bestseller called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In it, Marie talks about how our belongings can be seen as beings that help us live a good, comfortable life. And just like people, things don’t like to be neglected and forgotten about. If they don’t serve you, they would be much happier to serve someone else. This approach may seem silly, but I think it makes a lot of sense. Clutter creates stress and distraction. And, don’t we all have enough of that in our lives anyway without adding more?)
Now, back to task. As I grow in my spiritual life with the Lord, I have realized that having less clutter allows me to focus more of my attention on God. And, when I say clutter, I mean both the physical things that take up space in our daily lives and the mental junk that we tend to obsess over. And, oddly enough, I have found that as I get rid of more of the physical objects, the more my mental outlook clears up as well. It is kind of funny how that works!
When we have less to worry about, less “junk” on our minds, it allows us to put our attention and focus on what is really important in this life: God, ourselves, our family, our friends, and our relationships.
I don’t know about you, but I am in love with the idea of having less to keep up with, less to clean and look after, and less to worry about. What about you? Maybe you can join me in my year-long of cleaning up and cleaning out. I think that by doing this, we can all clear out the clutter of our lives and put more of our focus on God. Which is where it should be!
Have you ever come across someone who was really accomplished and wished you could be like that person? I do this a lot! I find myself especially envious of people who have been given an artistic talent of some sort. (You know, people who can draw, paint, sing, dance, write, play an instrument, act—that sort of thing.) I can draw and paint a little, but I am not especially good at either. (And, I cannot sing, dance, act, or play an instrument-- much to my dismay.) And, while I realize that these things can be learned, I also feel like it takes something special inside to really be good at them.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a gentleman named Edward who has a gift of another sort that I would love to have. I had lunch with Edward, another new acquaintance, and a friend. And, within just a few minutes, I could tell that Edward looks at people through the eyes of Jesus. He led with prayer before we ate lunch and shared some Bible verses with us as we ate. At one point, he pulled out a pocket version of the New Testament, handed it over to me and asked me to read Acts 26:18. I did. It says, “to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Edward said that that verse summed up the work of God for him. And, then he told me to mark that page and keep the book. And, I did. It was a touching gift.
Edward’s love for the Lord and people was so powerful that I got teary-eyed. My friend Jenni just smiled and said something along the lines of, “This is just Edward, this is just who he is.” I then looked at Edward and said, “You see others the way Jesus sees them. I want to be like that.” And, I meant it. I want to be like that.
As you read the New Testament of the Bible and learn about Jesus and who He is, you realize that He is the most loving and kind person there is. He has this special gift of seeing past our sins and ugliness. When He looks at us He sees our beauty, our potential. Jesus actually sees us. He. Sees. Us. And, I so desperately want to see people the same way, with those same eyes. With love and kindness. I want to see the true person and their heart---not just the outside cover.
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, think this is probably one of the most worthy goals I, or anyone, can achieve in this life. And, I believe that it is a goal that you or I can strive for and one day, reach. Will it be easy? No. Will it happen quickly? I doubt it. Even if we do achieve it at some point, will it be something that we can sustain for the rest of our lives? Who knows? We may finally get it one day, but the next day, it will slip our minds. I mean, we are only human, after all.
So, where do we start? How do we reach this worthy goal? I think the best first step we can take is to pray and ask God to open our eyes so that we can truly see. We can pray that He gives us His eyes. We can pray and ask God for His help in this endeavor.
And, if we take it one day at a time and remind ourselves to look at others with the eyes of Jesus, our focus can start to shift. Our vision can change. And, that in turn, can change lives. Both ours and others. Meeting Edward the other day, well, he is my proof of this.
We have a huge flower bed on the side of our yard. (We live on a corner lot and this flower bed runs alongside one of the streets we sit on.) My hubby and I planted lots of nice flowers and plants so that we, and our neighbors, can enjoy them. The problem with having a flower bed as big as ours, is that it requires a lot of upkeep. We created it initially thinking that it would be less grass for us to cut, and thus less work. Boy, were we wrong! We should have just put sod there. Oh well, live and learn.
This flower bed is so big that we must have a truckload of mulch brought in to cover it all. (Otherwise, it would take us 50 trips to Home Depot and back to get enough bags to fill it in.) And, buying mulch by the truckload is not cheap. And, next we spend most of the day spreading said mulch.
Then, there is the chore of keeping out the grass and weeds. We have Bermuda grass, which I really like because it is nice and soft and green most of the year. But, man, does it spread! If you don’t stay on top of it, it can quickly take over and get into places where you do not want it.
Well, I have been remiss in keeping out that Bermuda grass this year. I have been watching it spread through our flower bed for a while now. I kept telling myself that I would get up early, when it was nice and cool out, and then I would pull up the grass and weeds. But, weekend after weekend passed and I didn’t do it.
Finally, this past weekend, I decided to get out there and do some work before I really regretted it. So, I got up and got out there while it was still cool and I got to work. I worked for a good while. I got a lot done and felt good about what I did, but I still have a good bit left to do. (Le sigh…)
So, while I was in my flower bed cleaning out the encroaching grass, I got some quality time in with the Lord as well. The Holy Spirit shared some good insight with me.
As I was pulling up that grass, I couldn’t help but think about how our lives are a lot like gardens. Having a fruitful garden and a fruitful life is a lot of hard work. Pulling up grass and weeds can be tough. If we want to have a garden full of beautiful flowers and plants, we must be diligent about keeping the grass and weeds at bay. Likewise, to have a happy and healthy life, we must keep all the bad thoughts and negativity at bay. It is something that I often find myself struggling with, as I am sure you do too at times.
With each clump of Bermuda I plucked from our flower bed, I kept thinking about how I also needed to be plucking out every negative thought as soon as it popped into my head. Wouldn’t it be so much better for us to rid ourselves of anything ugly immediately, rather than letting it linger and take root in our hearts and minds? Wouldn’t it be so much easier to do this as they pop up, rather than just waiting and trying to get rid of a ton of them later? I think so! Because, just like that Bermuda grass, negative thoughts spread quickly and before you know it, they have taken over.
Cleaning out of the bad and negative thoughts in our minds will allow us to focus on the good and positive thoughts. And, those will grow and thrive. This will bring us peace and contentment. Keeping the unwanted grass and weeds from our flower beds allows the flowers and plants to grow and thrive. This will bring about the beautiful flowers and good fruit that we seek.
A topic has been popping up in various places in my life the last few months and it is one that I have been contemplating writing about for a while now. And, I am feeling a strong pull to make it this week’s blog post. So, today I want to talk about, and explore, being a part of “God’s Family.”
Once we accept God into our hearts, truly believing in Him, trusting in Him, and repenting of our sins, we become saved--we become a Child of God. God is often referred to in the Bible as Father. Ephesians 3:14-15 states, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Through the creation of this world, God, who is our creator, is also our Father. God is responsible for everything that exists. It just makes sense that we would refer to Him as our Father. After all, He is the one who gave us life.
As I have been growing spiritually, I have noticed that many believers refer to each other as brother and sister. At first I was a little taken-aback by this. But, now, seeing as God is our Father, I understand this reference a lot better. If God is our Father, and all of us are His children, then it is an obvious leap that we would call each other brothers and sisters in Christ. And, the more I think about it, the more I really like that thought. This means that we have all kinds of brothers and sisters all over the world! Our brothers and sisters in Christ are of all different backgrounds, races, and nationalities. Wow, even think of this—they are from different time periods as well! While we will never to get meet to most of our brothers and sisters in person, one day we will get to meet them all in heaven. I think that is pretty cool!
All of us who love God are a part of one big, giant family. We have a common Father who binds us together as family. We are God’s family. We have a loving Father who walks with us, talks to us, guides us, and corrects us when we need it. He wants us to seek Him and have a good relationship with Him. Once we do these things, i.e. seek Him and enter a real relationship with Him, our world will start to change for the better. That is what a good Father does, He changes you and your life for the better. And, if you will let Him be a part of your everyday life, you will see what a truly good Father He is!
If you are not yet a part of our family--God’s family--I would love for you to join us. This is your open invitation. Come on in. There is plenty of room at our dining table. Pull up a chair, we have a seat saved especially for you. If you don’t yet understand how to became a child of God, please allow me to help you. Click this link to go to Joyce Meyer Ministries. There you will find a guide that is simple and easy to follow that teaches you “How to Know Jesus.” I pray that I can soon add you to the list of my brothers and sisters. Allow me to be the first to say, “Welcome to the family!”
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.