As I grow spiritually, and just as a female in general, I am realizing the value of self-care. Life can often be full and time-consuming and tiring. Sometimes it can even be crazy and daunting. But, as I age, looking out for number one--that would be me, is becoming more and more evident.
I have mentioned my “mystery” illness before. It is something I have been contending with for more than eight years now. I get tired and worn down easily from anything physical and/or stressful. And, while I don’t like it, I have learned to adjust my life accordingly. I sleep longer each night than I used to. I eat a lot more fruits and vegetables—more natural foods and a lot less processed foods. And, while adjusting my life has been tough, I have learned two very important lessons from it.
This week, I thought I would share both with you.
First, while it may be frowned upon by some, there is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first. As a matter of fact, I would argue that taking care of yourself first takes priority over everything and everyone else in your life. I know you have heard this before, but I love it and I am going to share it with you again, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
If this makes others mad, so what? If this is upsetting to others, who cares? Trust me, they will get over it. God wants us to take care of ourselves. He wants us to be happy and healthy. Happy. And. Healthy.
By-the-way, being healthy includes your physical health, mental health, emotional health, and spiritual health.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Paul 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.”
Make sure your cup is full—put yourself first. Take care of yourself. Then, you can do all the other things in life that you feel are required of you.
Second, when I am weak, God is strong. When I am struggling, God pulls me up. When I am bone-tired, God refreshes me. When I can’t do anything, but cry from anger or frustration, God whispers in my ear that it’s ok.
This “mystery” illness, has brought me closer to God. This “mystery” illness has allowed me to rely on God more and more. And, He has never failed me. Not once! Over the course of the past eight years, I have seen first-hand just how much God loves me and looks after me. I have witnessed God do some pretty spectacular things. Day after day, He is there.
After all this time, my perspective of my “mystery” illness has changed. While I used to despise it, I am now grateful for it. Without it, I would not have the relationship with God that I have. And, there is nothing in this world that I would trade for that. Nothing. (Not even my old body.) God certainly works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?
My every day self-care now includes spending good, quality time with our Father God. Every day during lunch at work, I go outside and listen to a meditation devotional for 15 minutes. It is one of my most precious times of the day. It is something that I look forward to. It is something that replenishes me. It has turned into something that I yearn for. It is like needing food and water. I need time with God every day.
You do too. Start taking better care of yourself and your soul. Start by spending more time with God. And, start right now. You are worth it!
Social media in now a staple in life. I remember a time not too long ago where most people thought it was just a phase, that it wouldn’t last very long. Even with all the problems social media is having, I think it is here to stay. (At least in some form or fashion.)
When you create a Facebook page, it asks your relationship status; single, married or its complicated. (There are probably more options than this, but these are three I remember.) This got me to thinking, as a Christian, what is your relationship status?
First, I must point out to you that being a Christian actually requires some work on your part. I know some so-called “Christians” who attend church on Sundays and think that’s all they need to do. Just going to church does not a Christian make. (I can make myself a sandwich in our kitchen every Saturday, but that doesn’t make me a chef.)
In my last post, I talked about having a come to Jesus meeting. Well, that is part one of becoming a Christian. The second part is having an actual relationship with Father God. He is not just some entity in the sky, He is alive and He is right here with us. And, He wants nothing more than to have a real, honest-to-goodness relationship with you.
Think about your current situation here on earth. Are you married? Are you currently seeing someone? Is there someone special in your life? Whether you are in a relationship or not, I am assuming you are old enough to know that being in a relationship, any real relationship, requires work. And, it is hard work. But, anything good worth having is worth working for. This is true for a good relationship with your significant other and it is most certainly true in your relationship with the Lord.
Being a true Christian means having an authentic relationship with God. This means spending beneficial, quality time with God each and every day, not just an hour or so on Sundays. I mean, think about it, if you only spent an hour or so with your spouse one day a week, what kind of relationship would you expect to have? Be honest now. It wouldn’t be very good, would it? How could it be? The point of being in a relationship is spending time together. The same is true of being a Christian.
When we spend time with God by reading our Bibles and in prayer, and/or by going to church, we learn more about Him. This gives us the opportunity to grow spiritually. And, I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, the more time I spend with God and learn about Him, the more time I want to spend with Him and the more I want to grow to be like Him, be a reflection of Him.
As we grow in our Christian faith and our relationship with God, we start to change on the inside and outside. Our minds are being renewed. God uses our circumstances to develop His mind and heart in us. The more time you spend with God, the more you will start to think and act like He does. The Holy Spirit will guide you more and more. His still small voice will grow louder in your head. These are all wonderful things!
Think about your life now. Don’t you pick up little traits of the people you spend the most time with? Do you catch yourself saying things that someone else always says? I do. I am sure you do too. Therefore, spending proper time with God and having a right relationship with Him is vital in our spiritual growth.
So, after reading this, I ask you again--as a Christian, what is your relationship status? Are you realizing that you need to tweak it a bit? Maybe you need a complete overhaul. I am not here to judge. It took me years to understand this and get to this point. I do hope that after reading this post that your perspective has changed, at least a little bit, on what it means to have a right relationship with the Lord. I hope you grasp how crucial it is for your own overall well-being and spiritual growth.
Growing up, I would sometimes hear the phrase, “have a come to Jesus meeting”. I never really thought that much about it. I was one of those goody-goody two-shoes little girls. I didn’t get in trouble much. But, I did know enough about that phrase to know it was not a good thing. I never wanted to hear my parents say those words to me.
As an adult, I still don’t want to hear those words. They are words that people dread to hear, especially in the workplace. (This is something you definitely do not want to hear from your boss.) What is funny to me though, is that this phrase started out with a literal meaning and it has now turned into a figurative one.
A “come to Jesus meeting” was originally an American term describing a Christian religious service where it was hoped that many people would dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ. Back in the 1800s and 1900s, preachers would travel around the country holding tent revivals. They wanted to share the good news of Jesus Christ, the gospel, and save as many people as they could. They wanted people to come to Jesus.
Today, the “come to Jesus meeting” has taken on a figurative meaning and is often used in politics, parenting, and business. This type of meeting is had when you need to point out to someone that they have taken a wrong path. It is not a fun meeting, and quite often it is a last-ditch effort made to straighten out someone before more serious actions are taken. Many times, people use this expression when they are dealing with someone who has a drug or alcohol problem.
I think it is high time that we bring the literal meaning back into fashion. Don’t you?
I want everyone I know, and everyone I don’t know, to have a "come to Jesus meeting"--a real, honest-to-goodness, come to Jesus meeting.
You don’t have to go to a tent revival to meet Jesus. You can meet Him at anytime, anywhere, anyplace. That is the beauty of Jesus--He is everywhere!
When you meet Jesus, your life will change forever and for the better.
If you have NOT had a "come to Jesus meeting" yet, I would be honored to help you with it, and introduce you to Him.
The first step in wanting to meet Jesus. You understand that you are a sinner and you need some help with things in your life. We are all sinners and need Jesus! You were never meant to live this life alone, you were meant to live it with Jesus.
Second, you need to be saved. Salvation is simply a process of confessing and believing. You must confess that Jesus is Lord, and truly believe that with all your heart. You must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and that Jesus now lives today. You must believe in the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Romans 10:9-11 tells us, “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”
Acts 2:38 tells us, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
That is all there is to it. It is both simple and complex at the same time. But, your decision to have a “come to Jesus meeting” it is the most important decision you will ever make.
Do you have a hard time believing that God is real? It is nothing to be ashamed of. I grew up in the church and I believe in God. But thinking of God as real, well, that feels like something completely different, doesn’t it? (It isn’t just me, is it? I hope not!)
As humans, we have this tendency to think that “seeing is believing”. I’ve heard this phrase a lot in my life. I am sure you have too. It is an idiom that dates back to 1639 and it means “only physical or concrete evidence is convincing”. For many things in life, I can understand this way of thinking. There is certainly a case to be made for it. And, no doubt, I am sure there are multiple areas in life where this way of thinking makes sense. But what about when it comes to God?
I don’t know about you, but when I think of God, I think of Him in an abstract fashion. Initially, what comes into my mind is a great, big, all-knowing, all-seeing entity. And, I do think God is that, but I believe Him to be triune. That means, I believe that He is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus was the human form that Father God sent to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus was the human form. But, I wasn’t around to see Jesus in the flesh. Maybe if I was, it would be easier to believe in God. Then again, maybe not. What do you think?
I mean, can we really trust what we see? If you lived in Jesus’ time and saw Him and talked to Him and watched Him perform miracles, would you believe in Him then? It’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Stop and really think about it. If you saw Jesus give sight to a blind man, would you believe your eyes? Would you think that Jesus performed a miracle? Or, was He just fooling you, putting on a show, pulling your leg? No one can make a blind man see. Surely, what you witnessed was not real! Or, was it?
Can we really trust our eyes? Honestly, no, no we can’t. (But we can trust Jesus!)
Psychology experts tell us that our senses can be tricked. Our eyes can be unreliable. Police tend to discount eyewitness testimony because they know that it is the weakest link between a crime and the criminal. Laboratory test results are much more precise. The witness of a crime could tell you that they saw a white male commit the crime. But, DNA evidence left at the scene of the crime tells us very specifically who that person was.
So, back to God. Is God real? You can’t specifically see Him. Even if you could see Him, can you trust your own eyes?
I know and believe God is real. But, how do I know? I have felt His presence, I have heard His voice, literally heard His voice, and I have observed His miracles. And, while I have never actually seen Him in the flesh per say, I have seen others who radiate His love and do His work here on earth. I see Christ through others. I also see His existence in everything around me, each and every day. I see God in sunrises and sunsets, oceans, prairies, and flowers. I see His fingerprint on all of creation.
It’s funny, as I type this out two TobyMac songs pop into my head, Feel It and Everything. Some of the lyrics to Feel It go like this, “Oh, I feel it in my heart, I feel it in my soul, That’s how I know.” Some of the lyrics to Everything tell us, “I see You in everything, all day, And every beat of my heart keeps reminding me.” (If you haven’t listened to TobyMac yet, please do yourself a favor and stop and listen to some of his songs. He is one of my favorite artists. But, I digress…)
Now, I know that just because I say and truly believe God is real doesn’t mean that you do. But, I want you to know God and to believe in God and one day say that you know He is real too. That is a huge reason as to why I write this blog. So, I must tell you another reason I know God is real and why I believe in Him; I have faith.
Faith can be confusing, but it is a basic tenet of Christianity. The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says, “Not-seeing is believing.” In other words, we do not believe what we see; rather, we believe what we do not see. And, that is what faith is all about! Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Jesus told doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
In the Bible, Peter also writes about faith. 1 Peter 1:7-9 says, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”
Faith is choosing to believe, it is a choice. And, I choose to believe.
If you are just coming across my blog for the first time, I encourage you to go back and read some of my older posts. Maybe you will find some that resonate with you. To get you started, here are some of my favorites: How Do You Get to Heaven?, He Is Risen!, Are You A Fighter?, Peaceful Easy Feeling, Grow Up, Masticate on This!, and Fear God?
God is most definitely real. And, I hope that you find Him soon for yourself. It will be the best thing you could ever do!
God created us with two hands. Hands are wonderful things, useful things. Our hands allow us to hold on to things. And, there are times in life when we need to hold on to things. There are some things in life that we should on to tightly and never, ever let go of. I think the most important and precious thing we can hold on to in this life is God. We need to hold onto Him, His love, His grace, His forgiveness, and His promises.
But, let’s be honest, there are also times in life when we need to learn to let go. I know, I know, letting go isn’t always an easy thing. Actually, I have personally found that it can be very hard. However, as we grow in our spiritual lives, it is imperative for us to learn how to let go. This is a key component in being spiritually mature. We must learn to let go of anger, bitterness, shame, disappointment, failure, stress, and hurt.
Once we let go of these things, our lives will become lighter and more peaceful. And, who doesn’t want that?
The problem is learning how to let go.
This is something that I struggle with often. I think we sometimes get a sick satisfaction out of holding onto things that are bad for us. Somehow, for some reason, we can get a kind of joy out of holding onto our anger and bitterness. Or, we take satisfaction in proving that we are right, even if that means we hold onto our disappointments, failures, and hurts. This has got to stop!
With this in mind, I am trying my best to let go of things that are harmful to me. And, I stumbled upon something recently that is helping me do a better job of this. (At least a little bit anyway. This is a baby-step process for me, just like everything is in my life.) So, I wanted to share this nugget with all of you. So here I am.
Question: What happens when you let go of something? Answer: You open your hands.
When you open your hands, two things happen: you let go and you set yourself up to receive.
We so often focus on the “letting go” part, but don’t think about the “opening up to receive” part. And, this is an essential part of the process, don’t you think? This second part never even occurred to me before. I was listening to a meditation app on my iPhone the other day and it was mentioned in that day’s meditation. It was a small revelation for me. (One that has the potential to be huge!)
When I think about letting go of things that are harmful to me, I occupy my mind with getting rid of the bad. What I should be centering my attention on is not only getting rid of the bad, but taking in the good that comes along with that. It’s a two part process – out with the bad, in with the good.
We can open our hands to let go of all the negative things that are weighing us down, and at the same time set ourselves up to receive God’s love, forgiveness, and peace. We just need to retrain our brains to think of the positive effects we will get. By opening our hands to receive we can rewire our minds; and this will in turn rewire our hearts. We can learn to open our hearts and minds, as well as our hands.
So go ahead and open your hands. Receive all the good things God has for you. This practice of opening our hands to God’s love is just the beginning. Once you get the good stuff, you will want others to have it too. And, every good gift is from above. That is what we should be holding onto. So, will you join with me today and open your hands? I know that we will all be better for it.
Growing up, I heard people talking about how God gives and takes away. This always seemed scary to me as a kid. I started thinking about this phrase in two different ways. One, was that God was an Indian giver. I know this is a horrible colloquialism. But, it is an expression I grew up hearing and it seemed to go right along with God giving and taking things away. The second, was that I only thought about God giving us “good” things and then taking said “good” things away. I guess they both boil down to the same thing though; God gives us things, but He also takes them away.
I think the scary part for me as a kid was the fact that at any time, without any notice, God could take something good away from us. I didn’t like that. It was almost as if the giving part had to be accompanied by the taking part. Also, I have no idea why I thought God would only take “good” things from us, but that is what I thought.
Now, as an adult who is growing spiritually, I am learning to view this remark in a different light. First, I should point out that the saying comes from Job 1:21—“He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’”
If you read this verse and think, yes, God can give and He can take away. Or, at the very least, He allows bad things to happen. Read the book of Job and you can see that Job has been blessed, but then he suffers great and terrible losses. From my point of view, Satan is the one taking things from Job, not God. Satan is the thief that we read about in the Bible. In John 10:10 it says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Reading the book of Job can also show you what a blessing it is to fully trust in God with everything you have. Job was not perfect, and yes, he lost a great deal in his life, yet through it all he kept his faith and trust in God. And, that faith and trust in God was eventually rewarded by God’s grace. Through God’s grace, Job got back everything he had once lost.
But, back to God taking “good” things away from us. I do think He can and does take “good” things away from us. However, taking “good” things away from us isn’t always a bad thing. Our definition of “good” may be skewed. What we think of as “good” may not really be that good. Maybe God has something better in store for us. Maybe there is lesson we need to learn. Maybe that “good” thing is hindering us and we don’t even realize it. Maybe that “good” thing is causing us to love things more than we love God.
In other words, just because we think something is good, doesn't mean it is. As Jon Bloom, has observed, “Prosperity tends to conceal idolatry and false faith. Loss reveals what we really love and believe.”
I truly believe that God loves us and only wants good things for us. God is a giver. No matter what He is doing, whether it makes sense to us or not, He either does things to benefit us, or He can work bad things out, so that they can be blessings. God’s ultimate intention is never for suffering or death, but for blessing and life. Two of my all-time favorite Bible verses are: Romans 8:28 (…all things work together for good to them that love God…) and Isaiah 61:3 (…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…)
I also like to think about the fact that God takes “bad” things away from us too. He can and will take away our pain, our sorrow, our guilt, our worries, our shame, our remorse, our stress, our fears, and our sins. God loves to take away all those “bad” things that harm us.
And He will take them away, if we let Him. That is why He sent His son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins. It is our job to trust and believe in God and accept His gift of grace with a thankful heart. For, it is by His grace and love that He sent His son Jesus to save us. And, save us, He did. And, that same grace and love will heal us of all the “bad” things we fall prey to.
So, as a conclusion, I believe that our God is a loving God, a kind God, a God who gives and gives generously. He takes too, but not in the negative way that I thought of for so long. When He takes, He does so to help us and bless us. And, that is just another way of giving to us, another way of loving us. He is after all, our good, good Father.
Have you ever heard that expression, “Fake it ‘til you make it”? It is an English aphorism which suggests that by imitating confidence, competence, and an optimistic mindset, a person can realize those qualities in their real life. Some people believe in this strategy, others do not.
Personally, for a long time I thought it was stupid. If your heart isn’t in something, why try and force it? Well, a few years ago, I decided to try this method out anyway. I mean, what did I have to lose, right? My goal was to be a more thankful person. I wanted to pray more and count my blessings.
I came across this quote from Stormie Omartian about four years ago. I printed it out and it has been hanging at my desk at work ever since. I have shared it before, but it is so worth sharing again. This is what prompted me to start faking it until I made it.
“One of the ways we can learn to completely trust that God is a good God is to praise Him for His goodness. Every time we do, it opens up the channels through which that particular aspect of His nature is poured into our heart.
The more you praise God for His goodness, the more you will see it manifested in your life. That’s the hidden power of praise. You will be amazed when you pray this way how God will open your eyes to see things you haven’t seen before.”
After reading this, I really wanted to see if it would work. I began thanking God for everything I could possibly think of as I laid down to sleep each night. I didn’t praise Him, per say, but I thanked Him. Even if I was not in a good place, feeling down and depressed, or just stressed, I thanked God anyway. To tell you the truth, I felt like a phony con artist for a while. Often my heart wasn’t in it. But, that is what faking it until you make it is all about, right?
After a while, I started to see subtle changes in my life. I was looking around me, at my life and the people in it, and the lives of others, and it started dawning on me how much I truly have to be thankful for.
I was raised in a loving home. I have an amazing husband who loves and supports me. I have a nice home and clothes to wear. I have food to eat and clean water to drink. I can get out of bed each morning and clothe myself and feed myself. I have a job that allows me to contribute financially to our family. I have friends who rally around me whenever I need them. And, this is just for starters.
Now I am at a point in my life where not only am I thankful for all these things (and more), but I am grateful for them. And, not only do I pray and thank God for them, I praise Him for all these things as well. The more I open my eyes to the blessings God has given me, the more blessings I find. Stormie was so right. And, I can tell you from personal experience, faking it ‘til you make it, well, it works. (At least it did for me in this case.)
I think the key to all of this is “faking” it the right way. Your motivation has to be in the right place, even if your heart isn’t necessarily in it. You have to make sure that you want to be changed from the inside out. If you truly desire change—significant change, then you can get to work “faking it”.
So, if this is something you would like in your life, just start small. (Like I did.) Thank God for the small things. Your list doesn’t have to be long or extensive. You can be thankful for air to breath, sunshine, and flowers.
You can even make a game out of it. Sometimes I would pick a letter from the alphabet and focus only on things that began with that letter that I was thankful for. (For example, take the letter “A”. I thought about apples, animals, Aaron (my brother), the arts, my appendix, and avocados.) You can also spend time reading your Bible and looking for verses that inspire you. Have fun with it!
Before you know it, you will see your cup overflowing with blessings. You will see blessings that you have never seen before. You will be looking at everything in a different, more positive light. And, your brain and outlook on life will change, for the better.
Before I go, I thought I would share with you ten of my favorite verses about renewing your mind. (Which, is, after all what faking it until you make it, really is, right?)
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.