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I could not be more excited to have my amazing friend Tricia Goyer be my first official guest on my new podcast. Tricia is one of the most inspiring people I know. I find myself sharing parts of her story (anonymously) with others all the time. You know those conversations like, “I have this friend who…” People are always so blown away by her story and how she and her husband have said, “Yes!” to God in some ways that not many would be up for. I can’t wait for you to hear it!God Uses Your Pain and Your Past for Good

We all have “baggage.” You know, those things in our past that we wish hadn’t happened. Past pain and hurt that left a scar on our heart or a wedge in a relationship. There we are all the same. However, how we deal with that pain is often dramatically different.

Some ignore it and try to stuff it down deep inside where they hope it won’t bother them again. Some hide it and pray that no one will ever find out about it. Some choose to forgive and find peace with their past.

Then there’s Tricia…

This is where Tricia’s story is so amazing. I can’t wait for you to hear all about how Tricia allowed God to weave together her story in such an impactful way — both for others and within her own family.

On a “Simply” & “Joyful” side note…

I love talking to my guests about ways they add simplicity and joy to their lives. Well, Tricia is also one of those people you stand back and think, “How does she do it all?” She is a mom to ten…did you catch that…10 kids! Yep! Plus, she’s a very accomplished author!! She’s written over 60 books! I can’t wait for you to hear that segment of the podcast.

In This Episode…

In this episode, you are going to be blown away by Tricia’s story. She will encourage you to “press forward” toward what God is doing in your life.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,.” — Philippians 3:13 (ESV)

She also shares some of the advice that she received from her life coach that has helped her to find more balance and joy.

Highlights from This Show…

— We talked about the importance of taking every thought captive.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” — Philippians 4:8

“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take everythought captive to obey Christ.” — 2 Corinthians 10:5

— Tricia is involved with Teen M.O.P.S. and Project Zero (in Arkansas)

— I just love the photos that Tricia shares on Instagram and Facebook. You’ll want to be sure to follow her there. (I wish I was able to find that picture for you to see…that was a lot of shoes.)

— Books we discussedPrayers That Changed History (my favorite) and Praying for Your Future Husband.

Words to Remember…

Here are a few fun quotes from this episode. Please feel free to share the images on social media. Tricia always has so many wonderful words of wisdom. Here’s a few that stood out to me. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about what stood out to you in this podcast.

“God can use what we feel ashamed of to make a difference in others lives.” — Kristi Clover

“God showed me that my story can help people so they don’t don’t have to go through the same pain.”  — Tricia Goyer

“We always want our kids to grow up, follow their dreams, and do great things for God…but then we are afraid to do that ourselves. It’s a great example for our kids to see ‘if Mom does it and can do great things for God, I can too.’”  — Tricia Goyer

“That is my hope for all my kids, that they find that thing that makes them feel like “I was created to do this.” And for them to be able to pursue it and really enjoy it. Even though it is hard and there is work, there is joy in it, too.”  — Tricia Goyer

“Whatever negatives thoughts are running in my mind, capturing those thoughts and thinking in positive ways, has brought so much joy.”  — Tricia Goyer

“A lot of circumstances haven’t changed, there is still laundry and messes, but my attitude towards them has changed. I don’t rehearse those negative thoughts over in my head and that has brought me joy…”  — Tricia Goyer 

“God showed me that my story can help people so they don’t have to go through the same thing.” @triciagoyer Simply Joyful Podcast (CLICK TO TWEET)

“We always want our kids to grow up, follow their dreams, and do great things…but then we’re afraid to do that for ourselves” @triciagoyer 

God Uses Your Pain and Your Past for GoodPlease Note…

— Be sure to grab your FREE copy of my bookSanity Savers for Moms, by joining our Simply Joyful community. It’s a great way to keep in touch…and get subscriber only freebies like my book. Click HERE to get the book and join!

(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

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I am so excited that this day is finally here! The Simply Joyful podcast is finally “live!” 

The purpose of the Simply Joyful Podcast is to encourage and inspire you to find simple ways to bring more joy into your day. Whether you are looking for a little encouragement in your faith, family, home, homeschooling (if you do) — or just in life — then this is the podcast for you! Let’s get real and talk about the challenges that we face as women in our day-to-day lives. My guests and I will discuss practical tips and “hacks” about how to find harmony in relationships, order in your home, and how to add a little good ol’ fun to your week. My prayer is that this podcast will bless you and add a smile to your face (even if it causes a few new wrinkles) — and to hopefully help you “Live Simply” and “Be Joyful.”

This podcast has been a long time in the making. I’ve spent so much time researching and praying about this podcast. The last couple of months I’ve been busy recording interviews with some extraordinary guests — yes, in my closet. I’m a closet podcaster. As silly as it sounds though, the sound quality is great in there. Plus, I can lock the door of my bedroom so I don’t have little visitors pop in while I’m recording.

In This Episode…encouragement in simple things that bring joy to your day

In this episode I share about my vision for the Simply Joyful podcast and a little behind the scenes on why it took so long for the podcast to get off the ground. (It was originally going to launch in spring of 2016). I want to take this opportunity on my very first episode to let you know what to expect in each episode, as well as let you get to know me and my family a bit better. I actually share the story about how my husband and I met and a little bit about each of my kids. I also talked about how God uses topics that I speak about as opportunities to refine me. Speaking on family unity years ago and now on joy have come with some crazy struggles.

I hope you will be encouraged with every episode of this podcast…starting with this one!

Highlights from This Show…

  •  My God story about how Steve and I couldn’t see eye-to-eye about having more kids. I wrote a post all about it HERE.
  •  Our family’s favorite comedianTim Hawkins (this is Wade’s favorite DVD of his comedy acts).
  •  Speaking: I love to speak. You can see the topics I speak on HERE.
  •  The first workshop I did for our church was on organization for moms. I wrote a series on it! The introduction to the series can be found HERE. (It’s called the “M.O.M. = Master Organizers of Mayhem”)
  •  My crazy trip to Spain was definitely not a typical DITL for me. I share about that story HERE.
  •  The death of my father-in-law was very hard on our family and definitely tested the source of our joy. I talk about how we learned to find balance through this time HERE. I share a few extra details about what we had going on this past summer in this post.
  •  “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength” by Rend Collective has been such an encouragement to me and I feel so honored that I was given permission to use this song in my podcast.

Please Note…

— Every podcast episode will have all the highlights and links from each episode (just like this) on my website. So, come on over to the blog to find the show notes.

  • Be sure to grab your FREE copy of my bookSanity Savers for Moms, by joining our Simply Joyful community. It’s a great way to keep in touch…and get subscriber only freebies like my book. Click HERE to get the book and join!

(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not emedia network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Welcome back to the Ask Pastor John podcast with John Piper. We begin a new week with a question from a young woman named Kate. “Dear Pastor John, thank you so much for all that your ministry has done for my faith and relationship with God. I can’t fully express how much your words have changed my walk with Christ forever. I was very encouraged by your words in episode 908 about fatherhood, directed to the husband of a wife who wanted children. In the episode, you said, ‘There are glories of motherhood, too. That’s for another time.’ I would like to hear about this glory and any other encouragement you have for me.

“I have never taken it lightly to have children. It seems overwhelmingly weighty to me to be responsible for forming another person’s character for 18 years and beyond. It has absolutely terrified me in the past, and for a time I decided not to have kids. As I have found my identity in Christ, I have also found strength to agree to willingly have children, and obey God’s call on my life, but I am still so afraid of perpetuating my own dysfunction and sins into them. I am afraid of childbirth, also, but ruining their hearts scares me the most. I would love to hear any advice you have for me. Thank you.”

There are glories in motherhood that every woman should think about and embrace and rejoice in as God calls them to motherhood. And when I say “glories,” I don’t necessarily mean things that are easy, but things that are profoundly significant and beautiful and precious in God’s sight and essential for his purposes in the world. So, that is what I want to focus on. So much more could be said about those other issues she raised, but she asked me to say what are some of those glories that you said were for another time. So, I will mention five.

  1. It is a glorious thing that human life originates in the womb of a woman and is sustained for nine months by the woman’s own body and in most cultures is sustained at her breasts for another year or two. Both Moses and Paul saw this as a glorious thing, a great wonder of the world, that a mother should be continually amazed at. To be sure, all the glories of this life are fallen glories, imperfect glories, corrupted glories because both our souls and all of nature have fallen under the judgment of God because of sin. But the glories still shine through, and in Christ we are meant to embrace them and free them as much as we can from the contamination of the fall. Immediately following the words of God’s judgment on the serpent and the woman and the man in Genesis and immediatelybefore God’s merciful clothing of the man and the woman with animal skins, right in that little place, Moses records this: “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20).

What If I Ruin My Kids?Now, it seems clear to me that God intends this right where it comes — after the curse, before the mercy of those skins — God intends this to be seen as a gift of unspeakable grace. Both Adam and Eve were warned that the day they eat of this fruit they will die (Genesis 2:17). And, in one sense, they did. But instead of only death, not only did they live, but Eve becomes the source of all human life. He could have done it another way for the mother of all the living and every woman after her. Then Paul tries to show how significant this is in 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 where he says, “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” In other words, every man that has ever lived, however small or great, owes his life to a woman, his mother.

  1. Then the Psalms multiply the glory and the wonder of all of life originating in the woman by saying explicitly that her womb is no mere natural cocoon, but the sacred place of God’s own personal handiwork Himself. Psalm 139:13–14says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” God is at work in the womb of every mother, and his hands are forming an everlasting human being just as closely as if he were using his fingers and knitting needles — and that is a great glory.
  1. Then the Bible describes the glorious ongoing shaping of every human by the influence and teaching of his mother.Proverbs 1:8–9says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” She has given her sons and daughters life and now, by her teaching, she gives them garlands and pendants for their neck. These are intended to be signs of glorious ministry. In my opinion, the most influential people in the world are mothers. Thousands of men may rise up to positions of power all over the world. All of them come from the womb and the influence of mothers, even kings and presidents. This is amazing: it says in Proverbs 31:1, “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.” So, not only do you have the words of a king, but you have Scripture as the oracle of his mother that she taught him.
  1. God’s design in all of this is that a mother should be duly honored, or, you could say, appropriately glorified for her gifts and her sacrifices to her children.Ephesians 6:1–2says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother.’” Children are to honor their mothers because their mothers have done an honorable and glorious thing in all that they have birthed and influenced.
  1. Lastly, the sorrows that every mother will experience in giving birth and raising her children will be glorious sorrows. And what I mean is that, when a mother has sorrows — even over the forsaking of God, the forsaking of a family by a child — when a mother has such sorrows, it is a glorious sorrow because it is a partaking in the very sorrows that Jesus himself experienced at the one point where he compared himself to mothering: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). So, here we have Jesus comparing himself to a hen, a mother longing and aching and crying and praying out for the wayward children in Jerusalem, and they are not coming — and he is weeping over Jerusalem. Your sorrows as a mother are glorious sorrows because they share in the very sorrows of the Son of Man when he compared himself to motherhood.

And Kate, the list could go on. So, take heart. Of course, you and every woman and man bring brokenness. That is what you emphasize. You bring brokenness as well as faith to the challenge of parenthood. But remember these promises. I will just give you two. They are daily precious to me:

  1. My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus — that includes mothering needs, as well as others (seePhilippians 4:9).
  2. God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all mothering sufficiency in all things related to mothering, at all times in your mothering, you may abound in every mothering good deeds (see 2 Corinthians 9:8).

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Grief over death is a tricky thing. It is different for everyone. It moves in a unique way in each of our lives. But we all know one thing for sure: our loved one is simply not here anymore.

What consoles us? Logic? Logic says everyone dies. Culture? Culture says many things, sometimes conflicting things. Time? Time dulls. Religion? Religion gives us advice. But what does God do? God gives us good news. Jesus died the death we should have died, rose again, and conquered death forever. And this is what consoles us.

Kellen Nichols had reservations about leading his first Missional Community group at the Austin Stone Community Church, but he knew God had called him to invest in a community that would serve one another and the Austin area. He said yes to God and leaned into one of his favorite quotes: “God does not call the equipped; He equips the called.”

Kellen and his group of mostly extroverted and sociable twenty-somethings had no idea what sort of journey God would use to equip them for service, but they were ready to take it together.

In late April of 2013, Kellen Nichols received a call we all fear: his father was killed in a freak accident at work. In his grief, Kellen sent a text message to his Missional Community to notify them of his father’s passing. Moments later, he began to receive texts and phone calls in response. From that moment on, his community stepped up and became a physical picture of what it looked like to obey God’s command to “bear one another’s burdens.” During his five-hour drive from Austin to his home in Hemphill, Texas, Kellen felt God take the weight of his burden from his shoulders and evenly distribute it among the willing shoulders of his Missional Community.Bearing grief together as a community

Before his father’s funeral, Kellen received another phone call, one we would all welcome: his Missional Community wanted to know if they could attend the funeral to support him and his family during this time. Gratefully, Kellen agreed.

During the group’s trip to Hemphill, the environment in both cars slipped in and out of fervent prayer and levity. The friends prayed and laughed until they got lost in the piney woods of East Texas. However, being lost did not stop this crew from pulling over to take pictures. A smile stretched across Kellen’s face when he received the pictures via text message of the group gathered against the towering pine trees.Bearing grief together as a community

The Missional Community made it to the funeral service and Kellen felt strengthened by their prayers and presence. Kellen, his brother, and his sister delivered the eulogy and all three preached from the Scriptures boldly. The children wanted to pay their respects to their father, but the end goal of the service was to exalt God. And that was exactly what happened as they preached the gospel, piercing the hearts of their family and friends. God was at work, wooing his people to himself through the paradoxical pain of losing a father, friend, and family member, and the celebration of a godly man going home to be with his heavenly Father.

After the funeral service, the group asked Kellen if they could go with him to his house to fellowship, eat, and be with his family for the afternoon. Again, gratefully, he agreed. As his friends gathered around him and his family, they ate, laughed, cried, played bocce ball, and helped clean up after everyone headed home. Through this, Kellen’s mother saw the many ways in which the community served and loved Kellen, her family, and each other. God was still at work, softening her heart and wooing her closer to himself through Kellen’s community. Once the group left, Kellen remembers his mother crying, moved by the love she witnessed and experienced from his Missional CommunityBearing grief together as a community

For this light-hearted and fun group, the ride home would not be complete without writing and recording a rap song to send to Kellen. Again, a smile stretched across his face when he received their song via text message.

Back home in Austin, grief still moves in Kellen’s Missional Community, but the group still bears this grief together. And together they do not grieve as people without hope. Rather, they grieve as a people waiting for the day when Jesus will wipe the tears away from all of our faces forever.

The Austin Stone Story Team is a community of artists who tell stories of gospel transformation. We are photographers, writers, editors, filmmakers, and musicians on a common mission to use our gifts for His glory.

(By The Austin Stone Story Team. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Transform Slider

(The following was originally published at CareyGreen.com)

The business world, and life in general, can fill us with all kinds of insecurities and doubt. The LORD has better plans for His people.

This is a “from the heart” video as I took off to visit some good friends, just God’s voice to me one morning as I prepared for a day of travel. What hit me most was that God has done so much for us, and has done so much in us – we are fools to doubt His power in our lives.

What will it take for us to get past the self-doubt when Jesus has already destroyed its power? When will we take up the mantle of self-confidence because He’s given us His very life? When will we base our success on His power and mind in us rather than on our own frailties. Why do we continue to fixate on the failures of our own life when Jesus has already given us the success of His?

Ephesians 1:4 tells us,

He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love.

Consider what this amazing truth really means to you and me. Before He spoke and made all of creation come to life, the God of the universe chose you and me to be His children. In light of this, there is no place in history where God saw our value and wanted it, but rather we have value before we breathed our first breath, as chosen people of the Almighty God!

How can we ever doubt this and dwell on our failures and the sins in our lives that Jesus willingly gave His life for? How could we look at ourselves in the mirror and deny God’s mercy, grace and love and say, “No… I’m insecure. I’m not worthy. I’m not valuable.” When, in fact, as Christ-followers, we are children of the King!

Now, I don’t say this to puff us up; I say it to puff Him up. If nothing else, we should be inspired and filled with confidence to live out faithful obedience to Him. Because His plan is great. His intentions are pure and good. And He has called us into His family so that we can be something much more than we could ever be on our own.

So, lift your head up and look beyond what you think you are capable of. Realize that God, in His power and His amazing grace, desires to make you so much more. He wants to use you, this very day, to do amazing things for His kingdom, as we read in Ephesians 2:10,

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Just as he chose us in advance, He has also prepared good works for us in advance. That’s what is on your “to do list” today, through His power and through His strength.

Now, there may be difficult things going on in your life right now and this may not appear to be the reality you are living in the midst of. But, lift your head up and see the truth that God has done amazing things for you! Not only that, but He continues to do amazing things in you and through you for the rest of the world.

You are the Lord’s! That gives you great value.

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The pine trees danced over my head as they sweetly whispered their songs of praise to the wind. I was hiking alone through the beautiful park that day, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the feeling of doing something really good for myself in diligently keeping up my pace in walking. Somewhere in my conscious hearing I began to register an angry voice lashing out in the distance behind me.

“Hurry up, you slow poke. You are so stupid. Can’t you ever do anything right? You are a bad little girl. You have to walk faster; run if you have to! C’mon, move it! Hurry!” This diatribe continued to get louder as I turned and sought out the offending, cruel voice.

There to my right, not far behind me, was a precious little girl who looked to be around four-years-old. She was running as fast as her little legs would take her with a look of terror on her sweet cherub face, but it still wasn’t fast enough for her mother who was about ten yards from her, off to the side. Rage filled my soul at what I was witnessing, but just as quickly I asked Jesus what was I to do. I knew it was urgent to intervene but was unsure what would be most effective. Truth be known, I had this uncanny urge to scoop her up and run the other way with her in my arms. What would make a difference and not make the mom’s anger even more caustic? I knew that if I just jumped right in to rescue the little girl, I could meet with a wall of hostility, making it harder for the child.

Jesus immediately told me to put a smile on my face, squat down a few feet from the little girl, and let Him speak through me. Getting down to her level, I began to talk to her in my most delighted voice at my joy to see her. I told her she was beautiful. I asked her if she knew that Jesus loved her. She ran right over to me and stopped a few steps away and just stood there staring at me in wonder with huge unblinking eyes. Suddenly it was as if I was looking into my own face from all those years ago when I was being sexually abused. My heart cried out for someone to rescue me from back then. I instinctively knew that whatever I would say to her, I would be speaking to that little girl inside me.

I told her she was a wonderful little girl and so precious to Jesus. She seemed to understand what I was saying as she lit up like an angel. I knew I was speaking directly into her spirit…and mine as well.   It seemed as if I already knew her, and I felt divine love for her as she stood there looking up at me with a hunger to trust. She was starved for love, kind voices, and validation to her existence.   She seemed frozen to the place where she stood.

Now, her mama had noticed me right in the middle of a harsh bellow of criticism as she was lashing out to her (I assumed) daughter. She immediately lowered her voice and put a fake smile on her face, and listened to what I was saying. She began shaking her head in agreement with me as if she wanted me to know she already knew that what I was saying to her little girl was truth. I could see the mask begin to cover her face to hide her out-of-control anger at this innocent child. In an instant, I knew that this mother had been abused as well and was repeating the same pattern with this precious little child.

mother encouraging child

Image: London Scout

The encounter didn’t take long. Maybe less than five minutes.   I knew that whatever Jesus did that day in the heart of that little girl, she would never forget that she is loved. Even in her worst moments in life. It was a supernatural thing. I believe she will find Jesus in her life ahead.

My steps were ordered by God that day, even though I thought it was just a random walk through the park. He used that encounter to speak not only into the little girl’s life, but into my still broken and unloved places, too. Everything we do in this life that reaches out to the unloved and hurting, counts for eternity in the lives of others. Sometimes, you may be the only Jesus that a person will ever encounter in their lives, and how important is it that we stay in tune with Him so as to not miss our chance to be His love extended. We won’t know until we get to Heaven what our mere presence brought into their lives.

Is it a smile that’s needed? How about paying that extra amount in the grocery store for that single desperate Mom struggling to get by?   Or a cup of cold water or a kind word to someone weary in this life? You never know what a person’s story is behind their sad countenance. We all have a story. Only God sees the whole picture. We just need to be obedient to do what He says to do. To hear Him, we must be in the knowledge of His constant presence to be able to be available when He speaks.

One day not too long ago, I had a whole Saturday all to myself with nothing planned to do. I decided to give the day to Jesus and ask Him what He would have me to do that day. At first I wished I hadn’t asked, because almost instantly I knew He wanted me to visit an elderly shut-in whom my husband had been wanting me to visit for a long time.   I had been putting it off because visiting with the elderly is not my strong suit. But now that I asked, I had to do it. I certainly knew I didn’t make it up, because if it had been me, I would have told myself to go to the beach and relax.

I went into my backyard and picked some roses, wrapped them up, and went to the assisted care home where she was living. I had known her for years.   I will never forget, as I entered her room, the light that came into her eyes. We had a delightful visit and prayed together. As I said I would pray for her, to which she was delighted, she said that first she was going to pray for me, and then she took over and prayed a prayer for me that humbled me to the ground.

I thought I was going to minister to her, and she ministered to me instead.

She told me that she prays every day that this will be the day she gets to go home to be with Jesus, as she was so excited for that day to come. She was ready. I left that day full of joy and thankfulness that I went. Because if I had not, I would have missed it all. Kathleen has since had her prayer answered and she has stepped into eternity, and I look forward to seeing her again one day. I am so thankful I was listening that day.

We are here to make a difference in the lives of others. It doesn’t have to be a hard thing. A little kindness goes a long way with so many who have none. You never know that one day as you walk through Heaven you won’t encounter someone you don’t even recognize. When they know you, you will ask how they know you. They will say, “It is because of you that I am here. You spoke life into me when I wanted to die, and I knew that there must be a God.” You will say, “But I only spoke a kind word to you that day.”

Their answer?   “That one word drove me to my knees to seek a God whom I saw in your face, as you were reaching out to me.”

Let His love shine through us always.

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Real Stuff My Dad Says Slider 2

Over the last year, my sons and I have taken up running as a hobby. My oldest and I have run a couple 5k races and a 10k, and I just signed up my seven-year-old twins for their first 5k. To me, this is funny because I have never, ever, EVER enjoyed running. As I get older and more out of shape, I hate running even more.

But I absolutely love spending time with my boys and this is something we can compete in and spend time doing TOGETHER.   In addition to the physical activity and cardio workout, we actually have some amazing discussions when we run together.

Yet, it seems that what my kids love most about each race isn’t the training or the “meaning of life” conversations… it’s the finish line.

I had one friend tell me that instead of training for a full 13.1 miles (as I train for a half-marathon), all I really need to train for is a little more than ten miles. He said that once I start to draw near to the finish line and hear the music and festivities that await; once I start to see people cheering me on, letting me know that I’m almost at the end, adrenaline kicks in and before I know it, I’ll be flying through the finish line. Sometimes, the finish line isn’t even in sight, but you know it’s there. You feel it coming. And, like the Bible says, you finish strong!

I mention all this, as an analogy, because my dad recently has had several friends meet their personal finish lines… not of a 10k, but of their lives. As my dad attended one memorial service after another over the course of just a few weeks, it reinforced in his mind his perspectives toward the need for us to finish strong.

You see, none of us know exactly when our finish line is coming, so we simply need to do the best we can with what we have as long as we have it. That being said, my dad never wants to be one to look back on life and reflect on missed opportunities, but instead, he wants to encourage everyone he can with the days that he has here.

Of course, there are those who are diagnosed with a terminal disease and are given some sort of prognosis on how much longer they have with us. There are also those who live beyond 100 who know that each day should be cherished, as they have many more days behind them than they do in front of them. But then there are the vast majority of us, like my dad’s friend who seemed to be perfectly healthy, in the prime of his life, out on a bike ride. Then all of a sudden, inexplicably, he blacked out and crashed. All tests came out normal, yet he still ended up in the hospital after smashing his bike into the back of a car. Fortunately, he has recovered from his accident.

But you just never know.

The one thing my dad does know is that the older we get, the closer we get to death.

That being said, he constantly prays that 1) God will open doors for dad to encourage and bless other people and 2) that dad would be able to recognize these doors. Since we can’t pause, rewind and slo-mo life, we need to be aware of the opportunities that surround us each day and not be so bogged down by missed opportunities of the past or worries about the future that you miss what’s going on now.

Getting back to the running analogy, one distance running blog after another tells us to stop stressing out about mile 6… or 26. You need to simply take care of the mile that you’re currently running. Then, whenever you get to the next mile, run that one the best that you can.

Or, as my dad says: you can’t do anything about the past or the future. But you can do something about right now. Now, sometimes, what you should do right now is repent for what you did in the past and seek forgiveness. Other times, what you should do right now is set yourself up for a better future. Then, there are the days where we’re surrounded by bad news on the doorstep, broken toilets and broken dreams… but even days like that shouldn’t stop us from making the most of each day and blessing the people around us.

From a Biblical point of view, we can take the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

24Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.

For some of us, the finish line is forty years away. Nevertheless, we need to run the mile we are at as well as we can in order to win the race. For others, the finish line is before sunset today. And yet, even still, we need to run the mile we are at as well as we can in order to finish well!

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Have you ever been gripped with that paralyzing fear that embraces your mind to the point that you’re too terrified to even move?

Our unguarded minds manufacture the most insidious scenes within seconds if we let our guard down.  Don’t you find that to be true?  How can we see through the smoke screen of the enemy’s lies?

  • I learned to pray Psalm 91 over my kids every day.  Oh, what sweet release to picture them surrounded by angels.  I have plenty of testimonies to tell of actual incidences that I knew angels had been there; but I digress.
  • I found out that God says in Matthew that our kids have special angels that always behold the face of the Father assigned to them.  They had to be pretty special angels because God created them just for our kids. I would pray that.  When we pray truth, God listens and we find relief.

I knew I had found a tool to incorporate a promise that was made available to me through the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • We have an enemy.  He is not happy when we have our eyes opened to the fact that we can actually use God’s power to overcome his feeble attempts to keep us inactive, due to fear.
  • He is hoping we will forget that fact and succumb to him if he makes enough noise, but we know that “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”    Satan roams around like a lion “seeking whom he may devour”… notice it says “seeking”… not all of us have our heads in the sand.  We have to be on our guard and walking in the presence of Jesus and not allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise of the enemy, and believe me he will make a lot of noise.

He is always there. His name is higher than any other, and at the mention of His name, every other thing, including fear, has to bow its knee to our King!!

  • I have realized it is going to take a supernatural life to be able to withstand evil attacks in these coming dark days.    It is time, my friends, to determine that whatever else our goals and hopes are we need to be seeking the strengthening of our souls and resist fear.
  • It all happens in Our SOULS… our mind, will, and emotions!!   We are spirit, we have a soul, which is our mind, will and emotions, and we live in a body.  It is the soul that is constantly under attack by the enemy; it is the battleground.
  • Our minds have to be renewed daily to what God says about us so that we can recognize when the enemy is speaking.  This is why the bible teaches us that we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities and darkness and everything that exalts itself over and against our God.
  • Fear can dictate how we live our lives, if we let it.  But the power is in our hands.  We can change if we know how to do it. He has given us all we need.

2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear.

  • What we fear most often reveals what we trust the Lord with the least.
  • Acknowledge the fear and make a choice to trust God with it. He knows far better what you need in your life.  Keep pursuing freedom. Keep professing God’s word as truth over your life.  Recognize that they don’t do anything to you unless you allow it. You belong to the Lord. Do not listen to those who say you will not make it or those who proclaim you as a poor parent or those who say you aren’t good enough. Do not listen as Satan whispers in your ear that your past sin will keep you from future success. Do not listen! You belong to the Creator of Heaven and Earth!
  1. Pray the word.  Put your name right in there as you pray.  Or pray the word over your family or others you may be called to pray for until you see God’s intervention.  Faith comes by hearing yourself speak truth!!  An example:

Psalms 91:1-2 (AMP): Lord, I thank you that because I dwell in the secret place of You, oh most high, I shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of You, my Almighty God, whose power NO foe can withstand… There are no limits in praying the word!!

  1. Sing His word from your spirit.  I love singing my prayers.  It slows down my mind.  And many times, in the Spirit, I have heard Him singing back to me in my own voice in answer to my song.  It is really beautiful.
  2. Let the Holy Spirit pray through you.  Just go with it and His leading in however He shows you to pray.  Just let go and go with it!
  3. Speak the name of Jesus.  When the heat is turned up and I just can’t seem to pray anything, I just say the name of Jesus over and over.  In Acts it says that there is no other name as powerful as the name of Jesus, and at the mention of that name every knee has to bow in both heaven and earth.   So the way I see it, even if you can’t do anything else when you just say His name He is right there fighting for you.
  4. Learn the power of surrendering to Jesus!!  When I am obsessing in fear over something or someone, I have learned to picture whatever it is in the palms of my cupped hands.  I then picture Jesus coming up behind me and cupping His hands under mine.  I then drop my fear into His hands and I watch him in the spirit as He walks away holding that which has me fearful close to his bosom. I can then just let go.  At that point I feel the weight of my fear leave, and I know that He is so much more capable of taking care of my issue than I could ever be. I have been known to do this over and over until the enemy gives up and leaves my mind.
  • If it steals, kills, or destroys you can know where it is coming from.  If it gives you life and joy then you know it is from God.  When we make agreements with demonic forces suggesting things to us, we come under their influence.   We give permission to our enemy to move in with force.  Anxiety attacks, which are always rooted in fear, are rampant these days.  Depression is too.  Jesus wants so much more for us; as a matter of fact He has already given us all we need to stand firm and fight this fight.  The real secret to really dwelling in His presence is pretty simple.  Fear can’t stay in His presence.   Light and darkness cannot dwell together…you can’t have two thoughts at the same time.  If the enemy puts a thought in your head, immediately say the name of Jesus, or a scripture that helps…the dark thought has to go.  It simply cannot stay.

Let Him speak to you and step out in faith and believe that it is Him.   In that way, you learn to recognize His voice over the voice of Satan.   Remember it is His sheep that hear His voice and the voice of a stranger they will not follow.

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For the complete story, listen to the podcast.

  • Gentle words are a tree of life a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit; Proverbs 15:4 NLT
  • Have you ever been in the company of an angry person?  Have you been the brunt of their issues being lashed out at you? Have you been tempted yourself to just give in to your baser self and say whatever you want to say, in spite of who hears it?
  • The bible says a lot about out of control anger and our tongues are a major part of venting our emotions.
  • In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches, but a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire.  James 3:5 NLT 
  • But no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:8 NLT

“There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there.” Author Unknown

And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.  James 3:6 NLT  

  • In realizing the power of life and death are in the tongue I was always so careful how I talked to my own children growing up.   I would never call them a name, even when I was very angry at something they did. And I would not allow anyone else to either.  I endeavored to only speak life giving positive words to them.  Even when disciplining them, I would tell them that God had a plan for them and they were disciples, taught of the Lord, and obedient to His will.
  • My own mother always told me I was fat, and so to this day I have to over-rule those words and conquer my addiction to food.  Even now that I am maintaining a good weight, I still see myself fat and struggle with that image she created with her words to me.  In other blogs I call those words spoken to us over and over as the “Voice”. Create, life or death, our choice.
  • Will we answer to God for destroying others with our words?  Yes, we will.  But even when we are forgiven, our words are still there in that person’s head.
  • It has taken me many years to learn that those words spoken to me were out of someone else’s insecurities and they do not define who I am.  Yet, because of those words, it is a fight and the hurt is there.
  • Some people are just not strong enough to overcome the death words in their life.
  • Because our words, without restraint, are the only thing the enemy can use against us.  He uses words to condemn, slice, wound, kill us, steal from us and destroy us.  Our own words are bringing life or death into our lives, our households, our children, and our grandchildren.  It is the only power Satan has in our life. Words
  • And our tongue is the hardest to bring under God’s control.

Self control is a fruit of His spirit.  Not our spirit.  When we focus on Him and His love in all situations, even our angry tirades, He provides His self control for us to use to conquer the rage.

But we have to apply it and just do it!   Learn to call upon Him for help in attaining this fruit of the spirit, self control.  Especially if you have a weakness of out of control anger.

Let’s make it a practice to speak life into the lives of those Jesus brings to us.

Let’s CHOOSE life and not death!!

  • Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.  Proverbs 18:21 NLT

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What is a religious spirit? 

  • A Religious spirits breeds bondage. It produces condemnation and blocks true liberty (see Galatians 5:1; Romans 8:1.) Religion creates only a form of godliness. This comes through regimen and repetition, not grace. We are to avoid people with forms of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5).  Religion corrupts and perverts. It holds up an unrealistic standard that cannot be attained because of the flesh. The laws of God are now written in our hearts and not on tablets of stone. Trying to live by the dictates of the tablets of stone alone only opens the doors to corruption and perversion through religious spirits of failure. This is why perversion and corruption are multiplied when men attempt to serve God by their own power and guidelines (see Hebrews 8:7–13).
  • They live by a set of rules and regulations and meetings and laws that they tend to impose on you as a means to draw closer to God.  They look at outward appearances and proclaim the sins of others without looking on their own lives and realize that we all fall short of living up to Pharasitical standards of acceptance.  It saddens me when I see these kinds of people for they struggle and work and presume judgment of others to achieve greatness in the Kingdom of God, when all along Jesus already paid the price for their freedom from those very laws.  They failed to see those rules only were there in the first place to show us we needed a Savior.  We could never measure up without Him. And it saddens me even more how many people their judgments injure and hinder in their growth because they just never measure up.
  • But it is too hard to change for many and too hard to let go of the control and the superiority of being the judge of others in the Body for then they might have to look inward.  The sin in our lives is often just the surface symptom of a deeper level of the heart that the Lord is working on.  So, how can we look on the outward ‘sin’ of others and presume we can judge their condition when God is the only one who can see the heart and the only one who knows how to heal that heart.

Do we really understand Grace?

  • Grace is an ongoing revelation to our souls as long as we are on this earth with our limited knowledge.   Everything seems conditional in our lives.
  • If you love me, then I will love you.
  • If you serve me, then I will serve you.
  • If we can find the right set of conditions to meet and we do it, our happiness is secured.    What happens though, if we can’t meet our end of the bargain?  Because for every promise of reward there is a promise of punishment in the world we live in.  This is where anger, fear, and insecurity begin to encompass us.

The message is that accomplishment precedes acceptance, and achievement precedes approval.

  • We get caught up in perfectionism and we have all sorts of ways to try to justify our actions, but none of those justifications can change the fact that instead of feeling accomplished, we allow impossible burdens to be put on ourselves that ultimately produces exhaustion, bitterness , shame and a general feeling of failure.   It may be all we know and we may even impose our conditions of acceptance on others.  Maybe even our children.
  • Have you noticed that the people in the bible that we call heroes are not really heroes?  They were mostly all losers at first, before God got a hold of them. Prostitutes, liars, adulterers, thieves, doubters, scornful, etc. etc.    They fall and fail, they make huge mistakes.  They get afraid.  They are selfish, deceptive, egotistical and unreliable.  Actually the bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin, with His grace, His salvation. They all became great men and women of God but not until they surrendered to God. Just like us!!
  • The focus of the bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer!!  It is not about us.  It is about Him.  He came just so we can be free of the demands of the law.

Grace is love that seeks you out when you have nothing to give in return. 

Grace is love coming to you that has nothing to do with you.  It is being loved and accepted when you are unlovable.

  • Grace has nothing to do with the loved, but everything to do with the Lover.
  • You are the beloved.
  • Grace doesn’t make demands it just gives.

Seriously, when you think about it doesn’t it look like Jesus is always giving of Himself, and did you notice, according to today’s church standards, He hung out with the wrong people? 

  • There were the prostitutes, the adulterers, the tax collectors and the like.  The worst sinners of Jesus’ day received his most joyful, compassionate welcome and love—because He knew that once they hung out with Him they would change from the inside out.
  • By nature we resist promises that seem too good to be true.  So we feel so much better and SO MUCH MORE IN CONTROL, when we work for His acceptance and then we can feel like it is about us and how much we earned His favor.

All we have to do is receive it…take the gift of Grace into our lives and walk in it.

  • But we are uncomfortable because grace turns the tables on us, relieving us of our precious sense of control.
  • Jesus came to liberate us from the weight of having to make it on our own, from the demand to measure up, and the obligation to fix ourselves.

Breathe in His peace!!

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