Have you ever been at a point in your life where you realized that you needed to make some changes? Maybe you have some health issues you need to address. Maybe your finances are starting to get out of whack. Maybe there are some friendships you want to work on. Maybe you just need to take care of yourself a little better. There are many areas in our lives where we should get serious about making good and lasting changes. The benefits we can reap are tremendous, if we are willing to put in the work.
Eating nutritious food and starting an exercise program will give you better health. Creating a budget, spending your money wisely, and saving some cash each month will help give you peace of mind about your finances. Spending quality time with your friends and loved ones gives you much needed social and emotional support. Taking time out each week to do something that you enjoy allows you to rejuvenate and relax. By making these types of changes, you can make your life better and more enjoyable.
To make any real and lasting changes in our lives, we have got to be deliberate and sincere in wanting to make those changes. We can’t be wishy-washy. We can’t be double-minded or go back and forth. We have to REALLY want it and be intentional about making the changes we need. However, in order to make these changes, YOU have to be the one decide to do them. YOU are the one taking action here. Only you can make the decision to change your life for the better. No one else can do it for you. You are the responsible party and you are responsible to and for yourself.
As I have been growing in my relationship with God and wanting to make better, more responsible life choices, something has occurred to me. No matter what other areas of my life I need to work on, there is one specific area that I should be devoting most of my attention to: my relationship with God.
I truly believe that once we get serious about our relationship with Christ, He will give us the help, strength, guidance, and wisdom we need to make better life decisions in every other area of our lives. With His help, we can get serious about making significant changes elsewhere. God wants us to live lives of abundance and happiness. (See Psalm 37:3-4, Psalm 126:2, Luke 6:21, and John 10:10)
So, if you seriously want to get healthy and lose weight, get serious about God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 tells us, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
If you seriously want to get your finances in good order, get serious about God. Luke 14:28 tells us, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”
If you want to seriously nurture and grow your relationships, get serious about God. Ephesians 4:2-3 tells us, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
If you are serious about living a better, joy-filled life, get serious about God. Psalm 89:15-16 tells us, “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they celebrate your righteousness.”
So, are you serious about making changes for the better? I hope so! The first step is to get serious about God. I will leave you with one last bible verse. This one connects the dots to all the others I mention above. Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
I walked into work this morning and my co-worker asked me if I had heard about Anthony Bourdain. I had not. But, by now, thanks to the world we live in, where information is shared in a split second thanks to social media, I am sure we have all heard this sad news. Death by suicide. It comes in the same week that we lost Kate Spade. Also, death by suicide. My heart just aches for them, their families, friends, loved ones, and everyone who knew and loved them.
These two famous deaths this week have brought suicide to the forefront. #SuicidePrevention, #YouMatter, and #SuicideAwareness are all trending on social media right now. As they should be. I can only hope and pray that anyone who is in such a dark place will find the help and hope that they need. Actually, that is why I am writing this post.
I think back to other famous people we have lost to suicide. People I like and respected. (Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and Chris Cornell to name a few.) I think of friends who have lost family members to suicide. I also think of people that I know personally who have taken their own lives. (Or, I guess I should say people I have known.) I have seen how devastating their actions have been on the people they leave behind. Honestly, just thinking about all this right now is making me cry.
I understand how easy it can be to let things in your life get you down. It is easy to let things fester in your mind and only focus on the bad things. It can become a slippery slope. It can be easy to just sink further and further down into that nasty pit. And, as I have said before, in a post just a few weeks ago, that is exactly where the devil wants us.
But, I am here to tell you something: Do NOT Give up Hope. You ARE loved and Beloved by God. He created you for a purpose and He loves you like no one else ever can or ever will.
You may be thinking that only a miracle can help you, only a miracle can save you. Guess what? You have that miracle. It was given to you as a gift approximately 2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. Then, when He rose on the third day, He became our miracle, YOUR miracle. (And, I can’t help but think about that 80’s song from Mike & The Mechanics, “All I Need Is A Miracle” – the lyrics go, “All I need is a miracle, all I need is you.” Listening to this song I realize that all we need is God and He IS our miracle and He is ALL we need. My little Musical Hide and Seek with God game has come in handy yet again! lol)
If you are in that abhorrent pit of despair and you feel like you are all alone, please, please, please reach out to God and receive your miracle. He is waiting for you and He longs to give it to you. He has already paid the ultimate price for you. His deepest and greatest desire is to grab you by your hand and lift you up out of that horrendous pit.
Once He has you in His hands, and you put your faith and trust in Him, you can be assured that He will be with you forever. He will take loving care of you. He will be your shelter. He will be your light in the darkness. He will give you everything that you will ever need. You will become His child and He will be your father. Please, I am begging you, reach your hand out to Him. Let Him be your miracle.
I want to leave you with some Bible verses that illustrate the points I make above. Take some time to sit and read them and soak them in. These are words that were written specifically for you. For. You. Hide them in your heart. Take Jesus in your heart and hide Him there too. Then, allow Him to do His work. Pretty soon you will want to let Him shine brightly through you for all the world to see. He is pretty amazing like that!
Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 3:16-17 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 15:13-14 – Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Matthew 28:20 – Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Psalm 23:4 – Even thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Zephaniah 3:17 – The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by this love; he will exult you with loud singing.
Joshua 1:5 – No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Psalm 46:1 – God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Deuteronomy 33:27 – The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said, “Destroy!”
Isaiah 25:4 – For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall.
Deuteronomy 3:22 – Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.
Lamentations 3:25 – The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the ones who seek him.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 – Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
The Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was less than two weeks ago. And, in typical fashion, I am lagging behind on the current news of the world. I had lots of friends who were so excited about this wedding. And, to be completely honest, I just was not feeling it. Weddings and all things considered “girly” are not really my thing. (I am a tom-boy who prefers muscle cars to dolls. But, I digress…) Anyway, once the wedding was over and I started seeing my social media accounts blow up with pictures, links, and videos from the wedding service, to my own surprise, I turned into a total fan-girl.
From everything I saw online, the wedding was simply breath-taking. It took place at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Which, by-the-way, was established in the 14th century by King Edward III. (Wow!) Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Michael Curry, gave a powerful, uplifting, and moving sermon during the ceremony focused on the power of love. (This is a must watch!) And, while many people seemed to think that Meghan’s wedding dress was too plain, I thought it was so elegant and timeless. It was designed by English designer Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. (You can read all about the Royal Wedding on Vogue.)
With all the articles, posts, and fanfare going on, lately I have found myself daydreaming about what life would be like as a princess. (Or, as in Meghan Markle’s case, a Duchess. Her official title is Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex.) This is totally NOT something I would normally do. But, it is kind of fun to think about none-the-less. Of course, my favorite parts are thinking about how nice it would be to not have to cook or clean. (Okay, I don't actually cook, my hubby does. But, it would be nice to have someone else cook and give him a break!) Or, about how I could spend my time and money on the causes that I care about rather than having to work for a living. Both of those things would be fabulous! Of course, I have no idea what life as a royal would actually be like. However, I am almost positive that it is NOT all sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. (Contrary to popular belief.)
But, I did hit upon something in my daydreaming that I wanted to share with all of you. It is probably something that you already now, but I think it’s pretty cool. I AM a princess! Yes, that’s right. I am a princess. And, you, you reading this, you are a princess too. (Or, a prince.)
How? Because our father is the King. Psalm 47:7 tells us, “For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.” And, Revelation 19:16 says, “On his robe and on his thigh, he has this name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.” Finally, Galatians 3:26 tells us, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” Our Father is King of the universe! Through faith, those of us who believe in Him are His children. Therefore, we are princes and princesses!
And, the best part is that He is a loving, kind, just, and merciful King. He is full of grace. He doesn’t just do good—He IS good. Once Jesus returns, He will rule over His earthly kingdom. Revelation 17:14 tells us, “They will make war on the Lamb (Jesus), and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."
While being a daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords doesn't require me to wear a crown, it is honestly the highest honor I can think of. I am grateful, thankful, and blessed to be called a child a God. I am indeed a princess and child of the one, true King.
Over the last six or so years, I have been growing up spiritually. I like to think that each day I am growing closer and closer to God. While I consider my journey to be a slow and steady pace, I often wish I would grow, and go, faster. Then, I think of Joyce Meyer’s quote, “I’m not where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about how much I want my relationship with God to become second nature. If you look up “second nature” in the dictionary, it will tell you that it is a characteristic or habit in someone that appears to be instinctive because that person has behaved in a particular way so often.
I want to think of God first and foremost each and every day. I want to automatically go straight to God with all my thoughts, questions, feelings, and/or problems. I want to spend quality time each day with Him by reading my Bible and in prayer. I want to be able to know the right thing to do in every situation I find myself in. (And, say the right thing.) I want to know the Word of God inside and out. I want to go to scripture and find the help and comfort I need. I want to be able to point others to Christ. I want to fight the good fight and finish the race God has set before me. I want everything I say and do to reflect God.
And, I want to be able to do all of these things so well that I don’t even have to think about them, I just do them. Kind of like breathing. I want them to be second nature. I am not asking for much, am I? (Insert sarcasm here!)
As Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer and dancer, has astutely said, “Over time, as the daily routines become second nature, discipline morphs into habit.” In order to accomplish all the goals, I have listed above, I need to make it my daily routine to do all of these things.
While I have a very, very long way to go, just the fact that I want these things is an encouragement to me. It has taken me years to get to this place in my life. And, I am ok with that. I am just happy to be here! Plus, it is helpful to remind myself that everything happens in God’s timing, not mine.
I am exactly where I should be.
So many people in this world don’t feel any love in their lives. They grew up in homes that were broken in some form or another. Or, they grew up in the home of a grandparent or other relative, rather than with their birth parent or parents. Or, their parents didn’t know how to show their love or declare their love. Oftentimes, the parents were never shown love either. It seems to be this vicious cycle, passed on from one generation to the next.
The older I get and the more people I meet, the more I realize that we are all hurting from something. Therefore, it really is important to be kind to everyone. We need to look at each other through the eyes of Jesus. Jesus looked at everyone with love. We need to love and pray for each other, even those who we consider our enemies. (See Mark 12:31 and Matthew 5:44)
Our world is hurting and everyone in this world desperately needs to know about God and His love for us. I want each one of you out there to know that you are loved very much by God. As a matter of fact, you are His beloved.
If you look beloved up in the dictionary, you will see that as an adjective it means greatly loved or dear to the heart. As a noun, it is a person who is greatly loved. And, that my friends, is what you are to God.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1-2)
God’s love for us is unconditional. This means that we do NOT have to do or say or be anything in particular. We do NOT have to do or say anything special. We do NOT change who we are in any way, shape, or form. We do NOT have to do anything at all. We just need to accept His love. That’s all. Accept it. Beloved is a word that indicates an action on the part of the one doing the loving. And, the one doing the loving on us is God. So, allow yourself to be-loved by God. Be-loved.
As I so often do when I am typing up a blog post, a song comes into my mind. "Beloved" by Jordan Feliz is a great little song to get stuck in your head. It is the perfect way to be reminded that you are God's beloved. Take a listen to it.
You are beloved
I wanted you to know
You are beloved
Let it soak into your soul
Oh, forget the lies you heard
Rise above the hurt
And listen to these words
You are beloved
In keeping with last week’s blog post, I want to share a sweet story I heard yesterday. I listen to the Joy FM (93.3 in Atlanta) ninety-nine percent of the time when I am in my car. On Thursday afternoons Jayar or Benji, from The Jayar Show, interviews Joy FM artists. Yesterday Benji interviewed Tori Harper. She is an up-and-coming young artist who has a song called “Joy” that is being played on contemporary Christian radio stations. (It’s a great little song. There is something different about it. It is both uplifting and cheery, yet there is a calmness to it. Maybe it is Tori's voice or her cadence, I am not sure. But, I really like it. Check it out!)
Benji asked Tori the story behind the song. Tori, who is only 19, said that she, even as young as she is, has been through some darker times. At one point, not too long ago she went through a period where she had felt abandoned by her friends. She said that she felt like her friends had just left her out to dry. It was very upsetting to her.
She said she went home, to her room and laid on the floor and started crying. She said that she cried out to God and asked Him, “Do you see me, God?” She felt as if she were completely alone.
Tori then said she went to church. And, if I understood her correctly, she had decided that after that church service, she was going to take a break and not go back for a while. She was really down. But, then, a miraculous thing happened. Tori said that during the service, the lady sitting next to her reached over to her and told her something that forever changed her. That lady said, “God wants you to know that He sees you.”
Isn’t that amazing? That is how God works though! He not only let Tori know that He loves and cares about her, but He did so by using the exact words she used to question Him. I just thought that this was another great reminder that God most certainly loves and cares about us. You can listen to the entire interview on the Joy FM website.
I have had a lot of things on my heart lately that I have been praying about. I am sure you have to. Once you become a Christian, I think, or at least hope, that praying becomes an important part of your life. And, because I know that life is full of ups and downs, I also know that you probably have plenty of people or items on your prayer list. I know I certainly have a lot on mine!
I have often heard through my spiritual journey that God does things on His timetable, not ours. This means that just because you want something right now, doesn’t mean that God will give it to you right now. His timing is perfect and we have to trust Him to do the right thing at the right time in our lives.
But, as the old saying goes, that is easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I do not have any patience. I joke that I was absent on the day that God handed that out. So, as you already know if you follow this blog, I am a work in progress. And, patience is something that God is working on in me. I love that I can look to the Bible and find what I need in there. My favorite verses about patience are James 1:3-4 which say, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
There are a lot of different seasons that we go through in this life. Some seasons are shorter than others. But, if you are in a season of waiting on your prayer(s) to be answered, like me, I want to share something with you: God is listening! God hears your prayers. God knows your heart. Take a deep breath, be still and KNOW.
How do I know God is listening? Well, I know from personal experience. Within the last week alone, I received a sign from God that He is listening to my prayers. God has sent me information in the form of two different books that are giving me insight into something that I am dealing with. Honestly, the fact that both books are not only giving me something I need, but the fact that they back each other up, is blowing my mind right now. As I was reading the second book, I could just feel that God was whispering in my ear, “I hear your prayers, Erica. I hear you. I am working everything out. Don’t worry.” I keep coming back to Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
God is working everything out for me. For me!
And, He is doing the same thing for you! I know it may not seem like it. I know that it is very likely that you have been praying over something for years and you have seen no evidence that He hears you. I know that it is easy to start sinking and feel yourself slipping into despair. I know. I know.
Before I end, I would like to encourage you today. Take a few minutes and go outside. Look around. Do you see some grass or trees or flowers? How about a blue sky overhead? Maybe it’s cloudy or rainy. But, those clouds and rain give life. These are all gifts from our loving Father. Remember, Luke 12:6-7 tells us, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Dear friend, please take heart. God does hear you. He hears your cries and your prayers. You are important to Him. He has not forgotten about you.
I am a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light and any good thing that I come across.