I have been talking recently about spiritual growth. It is my belief that the best way to grow spiritually is to spend time with God by reading your Bible and by praying. My focus lately has been on reading the Bible. But, I wanted to switch gears a bit and talk to you today about prayer.
I don’t know about you, but I find that prayer can seem intimidating. Growing up in a Baptist church and hearing strong men pray always left me with the impression that my prayers should be like theirs. It was almost as if there a certain way that you should pray—a right way, which means that there is also a wrong way. Those men I listened to praying as a child always sounded so well-thought out and purposeful. Even the ladies in my Bible book club who lead prayers are always so, well, perfect. And, my prayers don’t feel anywhere close to that.
It may seem like our prayer life is a looming task to complete each day with set of rules that must be followed. (Must we be down on our knees to pray? Must our hands be folded? Must our prayers be eloquent and lofty? Should we only pray at certain times or at a certain place? How do we make sure God hears us?) Once you become a Child of God, praying should be a joy-filled exercise that becomes as second nature as breathing.
Praying may seem like a hard thing, but I must tell you--there is no such thing as a wrong way to pray. The Bible tells us that our prayers will be met with God’s delight. (See Proverbs 15:8 and Psalm 149:4) So, I think God is just happy to hear from us. And, while Jesus does provide us with guidance on how to pray via The Lord’s Prayer, we also learn from the Bible that the Holy Spirit will help us pray when we don’t know how to.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Honestly, I think any communication we have with the Lord is a good thing. Do you have an inner dialogue or monologue with yourself? I do! And, I am willing to bet that you do too. I mean, don’t we all talk to ourselves? I have always done this. And, I have realized that rather than just talking to myself, I can talk to God! You can too. I often think of Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to pray without ceasing. This seems like an impossible task. But, if you start directing your self-talk to God, you can come a lot closer to praying, or at the very least, communicating without ceasing. And, I believe that this is and can be a form of prayer.
We are self-centered creatures and often go to God in prayer for something we need or want. We put ourselves first. We put our needs first. We put our problems first. Thus, we focus on the wrong things.
If we truly love and trust in Christ, we should put Him first. Then, we can come to God in prayer and be confident in His peace and sovereignty. We need to honor God with our prayers and communication. We need to put God first in our prayers, just as we need to put Him first in our lives. When we put God first in our prayers and in our lives, it puts everything in the right perspective. So, before you go to God asking for His help with things in your life, take a few moments to thank Him first. God first always.
So, no matter how you do it, I want to encourage to pray as often as you can. Just remember to put God first. As I have been typing up this post, I have been thinking of a hymn that goes along with this subject perfectly, “Have a Little Talk with Jesus” by Cleavant Derricks. I want to leave you a link so you can listen to it. And, below is the refrain that fits so well with this topic of prayer. Please, go ahead and have a little talk with Jesus
(Now let us) have a little talk with Jesus
(Let us) tell Him all about our troubles
(He will) hear our fainted cry
(He will) answer by and by
(When you) feel a little prayer wheel turning
(And you) know a little fire is burnin’
(You will) find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
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.
Human nature is a curious thing. If you do any research on it, you can easily become overwhelmed with all the information and schools of thought on it. Just reading the Wikipedia write up on it has caused my brain to hurt. Nonetheless, I would like to talk to you today about human nature, but it is MY version of human nature. (Which, has nothing to do Greek philosophy, Chinese thought, or even Christian theology.) My version of human nature is simply what I have noticed for myself in my 42+ years of living life on this planet.
No matter where we are or what we do in this life, we all will meet and interact with other people. These people are either family, friends, strangers, or acquaintances. And, while we can have various things in common, I feel pretty confident in saying that, besides the obvious things that make us human, we all share something else in common; an emptiness inside. (We are kinda like an empty jelly donut with no filling in this way!)
Okay, I know you are asking yourself, “What is she talking about?” Well, whether you realize it or not, I think we all feel like something is missing from our lives. You might think of it as an emptiness inside, or a hole in your life, or an innate longing for something else.
Basically, I think that we all feel like there is something we need, or need to accomplish, to make our lives “whole”. Surely, you know what I am talking about. It is that thought or feeling that if you just got that ideal job, or meet the right person, or have that child, or could lose that weight, or could afford that dream house, or “fill in the blank” that your life would perfect. I think this is just a feeling that is universal to all humans.
I believe that all of us feel incomplete somehow and we spend an awful lot of our time trying to “fill the hole”. We want to be complete, to feel happy and content. (We want that jelly filling!) I have also come to believe that many of us try to fill this hole with things that do not work or make us happy. Things like food, alcohol, drugs, sports, or sex. Sure, these things can give us some happiness, but only for a little while. It is not lasting.
Or, we start making idols out of things in our lives. We find something and we put all our focus on it, and it therefore becomes an idol. And, our idols don’t have to be golden calves! We can do this with anything. I have witnessed family, friends, and co-workers do this with their kids, their marriages, their work, or hobbies. We do things to occupy our time and our thoughts. All ultimately with the goal of filling this gaping hole. (Or, at the very least, to divert our attention away from it.)
I have personally done this with a myriad of things throughout my life. But, two areas really stand out. I have done it by trying to find my purpose in life job-wise. And, subsequently, wasted at least 15 or so years on trying to find fulfillment in my job.
I have also done it by being super focused on my health. I have what I refer to as a mystery illness. I have struggled with this illness for about eight years now. I have gone to more doctors than I care to think about. I have searched for answers about what is wrong with me far and wide. I have spent a lot of time, energy, effort, and money into trying to get to the root of my illness; all in an effort to get better. I have not found a satisfactory answer yet. But, I have succeeded in making myself crazy in my attempts to find said satisfactory answer. (And, I think I have driven my hubby crazy too!)
And, guess what? Nothing works. Not the job searching, not the obsession with what I am eating, not the TV shows I watch, not any of the books I read. Not of any of the things I mentioned above works. It hasn’t worked for me and, if you are honest with yourself, nothing you have tried has worked for you either. Why? Because we are looking for the wrong thing in all the wrong places! (Cue the old country song by Johnny Lee, Lookin for Love.)
But, I have some amazing, life-changing news for you. I know who can fill that hole: God!
Doesn’t it just make sense that the one who created us, created us with a void that only He can fill? This emptiness we have inside, this hole that we want to fill, it was put there by God. I believe that He put it there so that we would search Him out. Sadly, most of us try to fill this hole with things other than God. (As I have been talking about above.)
However, once you seek God and find Him, you will start to feel whole. I am sure it is different for different people. It could happen right away, or it could take some time. If you have been following along in my posts, you know that I am a slow learner. It has taken me a while to put these puzzle pieces together. But, the Bible tells us in Matthew 7:7 seek and ye shall find. And, I have finally realized that what I have been looking for, what I have been seeking, this longing that I have had for so long—it has been God all along. He is what I have been searching for. And, it is He who has made me whole.
I know that you are in the same boat. And, I am here to tell you that God can and will do the same thing for you. When you enter a personal relationship with God through faith, He will make you whole. He will fill that hole, that longing. And, you will no longer need to seek it elsewhere. It is the most glorious, freeing feeling in the world. This is when you will get the peace of God, the peace that surpasses all understanding. (See Philippians 4:7)
Don’t you want that for your life? I know you do. If you don’t yet know God as your personal savior, I implore you to seek Him out right now. This PeaceWithGod.net website shows you how. I am praying for you every step of the way!
As we say goodbye to winter, I realize that I have been remiss in sharing some beautiful pictures with all of you that I took over the last few months. So, better late than never, right? I mean, there is never really a bad time to look on God’s handiwork.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I adore nature. It is one of the few things in life that truly fills me up spiritually and emotionally. There is simply nothing better to me than being outdoors. I relish getting to hike, but because of my health issues, I don’t get much of a chance to do it. So, I settle for taking walks around my neighborhood and local parks. And, I have come to be thankful for these small excursions.
I am a creative person and enjoy creating things. And, I have had an infatuation with textures for as long as I can remember. So, a lot of these pictures were taken because I thought the textures were cool. I hope you enjoy them! And, happy last day of winter.
Did I get your attention with the title of this blog post? I hope so! That was my goal. Do you know what the definition of masticate is? If not, let me enlighten you. Masticate is a fancy sounding word that means to chew. And, today I want to talk to you about digestion.
Digestion starts as soon as you take the first bite of a meal. Chewing is the first step in the digestion process and it is a crucial one. Chewing breaks the food into pieces that are more easily digested, while saliva mixes with the food to begin the process of breaking the food down into a form that your body can absorb and use. In other words, if you want to get the most out of your meals, the most nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, you must thoroughly chew your food before you swallow it.
So, what does chewing and digestion have to do with growing closer to God? A lot. Stay with me here.
As a kid, did your mom tell you to take your time and chew your food? To not gobble it up? Or, just not to eat so fast? If so, you had a smart mom! Per science and research, this is one instance where mom knows best. You should slow down and savor your meals. When you chew slowly and chew at least 32 times—it is better for your overall nutrition, digestion, and for telling our brains we are full so we don’t overeat.
I think we should apply these same principles to reading our Bibles. (Or, as I say, Book of Life.) I have been talking a good bit lately about growing spiritually and having a better relationship with Christ. The two best ways we can do this is by spending time reading our Bible each day and by praying. Today I am focusing on reading our Bibles.
Now, I know what you are thinking, reading the Bible is no easy task. It is a big book. Just looking at it can be intimidating. And, depending on which version you have, well, that can make it tougher. I grew up with the King James Version and all those “thous” and “arts” make it difficult to understand. As a theatre nerd, I liken it to reading Shakespeare. (I love Shakespeare, but it takes me a good deal of time to read and understand his plays. And, having two degrees in theatre, I have studied my fair share of them.)
But, fear not! Living in the 21st century has its perks! There are newer translations of the Bible that are easier to read than the King James Version. I know that there are lot of translations available and that in and of itself can be confusing. I am currently reading and studying a New International Version (NIV) of the Bible that was created specifically for study. I really enjoy it. And, below are some suggestions that I want to share with you that I think are helpful in reading your Bible.
First, take some time one day, go to a book store and pick up and read several translations. Buy the one that you understand the most. Personally, I don’t think God cares which version you read, He just wants you to read it. I think you will find the Holy Spirit in all of them! By reading it, you will be spending top quality time with the most important person in your life!
Once you have a Bible that you are comfortable with, schedule a time to read it each day. If you put it in your schedule, you are more likely to do it. You eat three meals a day (or you should) and those are scheduled at certain times. Think of reading your Bible as eating a daily meal. You need the nourishment from the Bible as much, if not more, than you need to eat food each day. Going to church on Sunday is not enough! Can you imagine only eating one day a week? That would suck! If I go a few hours without eating, my head starts to hurt. There is no way I would last a day without food, much less a week, without being completely miserable.
Then, once you have a set time to read your Bible, take your time with it. Go at your own speed. There are no rules here. No one says that you must read a chapter a day, or get through the whole Bible in a year. Maybe you just read for 10 minutes a day, maybe 30. Do what works best for you. But, I do suggest that whatever time you put into it, make it count. Since the Bible is sustenance for the soul, treat it accordingly. Don’t just pop it into your mouth and sallow it--masticate it slowly, savor it, and really enjoy and digest it. There are life-giving words in this book. Let these words become your life-blood. Let them enter your blood stream and flow to every part of your body. Let them renew your spirit, let them rejuvenate you!
And, because it can still be a hard thing to do, let me give you one last suggestion. There is a great book that was published in 2016 that can help you. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Charles R. Swindoll’s Searching the Scriptures when you buy your Bible. I found this book in my library when it first came out and I realized that I needed to own it. It is fabulous tool that shows you how to dig deep into the scriptures. Plus, it was a 2017 ECPA Christian Book Award Finalist in the Christian Living category. (ECPA stands for Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. You can read more about them here.) I think this book and a Bible are the two basic tools you will need to begin to transform your spiritual life.
By spending time with God each day by reading your Bible and in prayer, you will be putting yourself in the perfect position to grow in your spiritual life by leaps and bounds.
This is how you will grow your faith. This is how you will grow up. And, this is how you fight the good fight.
I wanted to share some things with you that have been on my mind lately, no pun intended (see title). And, my purpose in sharing this information is to educate you. So, before we go any further, I need to point out that while I hope this information is useful to everyone, I think it will be especially useful for those of you who “over-think” things.
I am an “over-thinker”—and I hate it. I honestly think sometimes about how nice it would be to be able to “flip a switch” in my brain and turn it off the part of me that cares about things so much. (Hence, the over-thinking.) I know that sounds bad, but, I am just being honest. Or, I think about lobotomies. I had a great-uncle that I never got to meet who had a lobotomy. (At least, I am pretty sure he did.) And, being a theatre nerd, it leads me into thinking about The Glass Menagerie and Laura/Rose. But, I digress.
I guess I just like the idea of being able to turn off my thoughts when I need to. I am learning, or trying to learn, to love myself just as I am. I mean, after all, this is the way God made me. And, the Bible tells us that BEFORE God formed us in the womb, He knew us and that we were set apart. (See Jeremiah 1:5) Plus, I also know from the Bible and experience that, through God, we are made strong in our weakness.
So, how about you? Are you an over-thinker like me? Do you pick things apart and go over them a million times? Do you obsess about people or things and wish you could change them? If so, I am here to tell you that you are not alone and there is help. Isn’t that great news??
I am part of a book club. I call it the Bible book club, as it is through a church and we read books by Christian authors to help us grow spiritually. (Side note, it is one of my favorite activities!) We recently finished reading the book The Mind Connection by Joyce Meyer and it has truly been a God-send. The secondary title of the book is How The Thoughts YOU Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, And Decisions (emphasis mine). Our book club not only reads books, but we work on the study guides that go along with the books we read. And, The Mind Connection has a great study guide for you to use. It helps you think about the topics more deeply and get more out of the whole experience.
I just love Joyce Meyer! If you have never ready any of her books, I strongly urge you to pick one up. Joyce writes from her heart and she writes in way that is easy to understand and follow. And, once you know her history, she will become an inspiration to you. But, this book in particular has been so helpful to me. I have already decided that I am going to re-read it again soon. And, it is one of those books that I now carry around with me, so I can quickly go back to certain sections when I need to.
For whatever reason, many people believe that they have no control over their thoughts, but it is not true! The main point of this book is for you to realize that YOU are the only person who can control your thoughts. Joyce points out that what you think about is reflected in your words, actions, decisions, and emotions. With God’s help, you can control what you think about. With God’s help, you can renew your mind and your thoughts. You can get better!
There is a question that Joyce asks in an earlier part of the book, that really struck a chord me with. She says, “I wonder how many blessings and provisions we miss in life because we simply have the wrong attitude. How often is God merely waiting to see how we respond to difficulty before He moves to help us?” My bet is A LOT! What do you think?
So, if you are like me, and over-think everything all the time, you need to read this book. You need to take all the great advice and recommendations in it to heart. It may take some time to wrap your head around it and to act upon the information in it. But, if you want to see changes in your life--if you truly want to change, with God’s help, you can! I know this is true because it is working for me right now.
Thanks to Joyce and her book, I am changing the way I think about things. And, I am NOT focusing on things or people like I used to. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am making progress. It is all about baby steps for me. I am handing off most of the stuff that I can’t deal with to God. And I am adjusting my thoughts to the good and positive things in my life. And, I plan on staying the course. Read this book and join me, won’t 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.