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.
Sometimes in life, one is required to take a “leap of faith.” To me, a leap of faith, is where, as a Bible-believing, God-loving Christian, you step out in faith to do something you don’t feel comfortable doing, but you do so anyway, trusting that God will see you through it—whatever “it” is. This has been on my mind as of late. And, I felt the Holy Spirit compelling me to write about it. So, here I am.
As I have been pondering “leaps of faith” these last few days, a thought occurred to me. Each and every day of our lives, we all take small steps of faith. We all do things that we don’t necessarily know what the outcomes will be. What do I mean by this? Well, five days a week I get into my car to drive to work. I take it on faith that I will make it there. Most every day, I take our dog for a walk around our neighborhood. I take it on faith that we will make it back home safely. I do both of things so often, that I don’t even think about them anymore. They are just part of my everyday routine. I have certainly never thought about them as little steps of faith before. But, that is what they are, aren’t they?
In my drive to work, I could have a wreck. In our walks around our neighborhood, I could fall and sprain my ankle. I know that these are very real possibilities, but I choose not to worry about them, or for that matter, even think about them much. I mean, what would be the point? If I put my focus on all the bad things that *might* happen, I would never leave our house. And, God gave us life, and He wants us to live our lives to the fullest! God wants us to be joyful and content. God tells us in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” He wants good things for us.
So, back to leaps of faith. Maybe there are some things that are looming over you, or things that are happening that are out of your control. (Heck, there really isn’t that much that is IN our control, is there?) Maybe there are some things that you NEED to do and maybe there are some things that you just desperately WANT to do. Maybe you lost your job and need to find a new one. Maybe you have been through some difficult times and want to move and start over with a clean slate. Maybe you want to start your own business, or maybe you just want to go back to school.
When it comes to making the big decisions that define our lives, it is normal to be scared about them. Truthfully, I would be worried about you if you were NOT scared about them. These big decisions are definitely scary and stressful and they can be life-changing. We often doubt ourselves and our choices. I mean it isn’t called a leap of faith for nothing!
Whatever your personal situation is, I think it will help you to remember that each day you are taking small steps of faith, and this can make those big leaps seem not quite so scary. And, the biggest most important thing to remember is that God loves you and He is FOR you.
I think that once you make that decision to take a leap of faith, you will be surprised with how much you can handle on your own. All you really need to do is give yourself a chance. Oh, and put your trust and belief in God. No matter what happens to you in life, He has always got you.
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!
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.