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Finding Joy On The Journey 

This is a blog of confessions... I'm big on confessions since I wrote, Confessions of a Big Girl. Today's confession stems from the fact that I like to read my old blogs and see where I am in relation to where I've been.  That's when Ecclesiastes kicks in big time...you know, there is nothing new under the sun.  And so I found this blog originally written in 2010 about two months after I got married.  Who when I wrote this blog, that the scripture reference I used at the time would become my ministry mission statement, that I'd be moving again, this time to tiny town America, that I'd still be working on being a healthier me, overcoming illness and evaluating everything I do to make sure it lines up with the Lord's perfect will for my life? It's the climb baby, and I'd rather climb to see the view for a few moments, trusting that the trip down always leads to a trip back up.

The Climb

I have a dirty confession to make; I own the soundtrack from the Hannah Montana Movie. I know it might sound strange, but I stumbled upon the soundtrack by accident because I went to see the movie on purpose. In my last year of singleness, during the time I lived in Nashville, I came to a point where I was simply ok with being single. I was determined to live my life, have the most fun doing it and reach as many people for Christ as I possibly could. 

So every Tuesday night I took myself to the movies. I never had to justify what I wanted to see, I never had to debate the movie choice, and I never had to share the popcorn. And although I wouldn’t trade my husband and permanent movie date for anything, I will always treasure those times alone in the movies. It taught me how to be with me and to be ok with being alone so I could be a better wife and share of myself freely. 

But back to Miley and Hannah, besides being a cute little movie, the soundtrack to Hannah Montana is brilliantly written. With artists such as Rascal Flatts, Taylor Swift and the writers behind the bubble gum pop songs that Miley Cyrus sings, the song, The Climb is a real gem. 

Tonight while organizing my I Tunes library I found the tune hidden as an unidentified track in my messy musical listings. And I listened to it… several times, thinking again what a powerful song. 

At this moment in time where I am adjusting to being married (now 8 years), taking time to refocus and redirect my ministry, still battling vocal issues (now liver disease) and finding myself back in Ohio helping rebuild a church (now Leesville, LA, where my husband is leading a school), I struggle with what I’m suppose to be doing and how I’m suppose to be getting there. Sometimes I feel so frazzled, pulled in a million directions, called to a million projects trying to figure out what God’s will is for my life. 

And then I remember this scripture: 

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus 1 Thessalonians 5 16-18 

So instead of being frazzled I choose to enjoy the journey. Pause as I climb the mountain and take in the view. I choose today to give thanks when it’s more then difficult, joyful when it is challenging and prayerful to the point that I hear God’s voice so clearly that I know which steps to take as I climb upward like doe on mountain paths and high places. 

Today I am determined to enjoy the climb and sing while I pull myself upward… 

There’s always gonna be another mountain, 
I’m always gonna wanna make it move 
Always gonna me another battle 
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose 
Ani’t about how fast I get there 
Ani’t about what’s waiting on the other side… 
It’s the climb! 

Enjoy the climb, it’s a blessing from God!

Free As A Butterfly - Guest Post by Alicia Terry 

In 2001 I accepted a job that I tried to convince myself was the right move for me to make. In short, it wasn’t. What it turned out to be was the worst job of my life. It robbed me of my creativity, visionary thinking and had me second-guessing my ability to even write. I love to write and as someone whose career is based on it this was devastating. 

I felt like my wings were clipped and I could no longer fly. I was forced to stay inside of a cage for someone else’s comfort. I could go so far and inevitably be snapped back into a place of mediocrity and routine. That’s where management was comfortable and that’s when I learned that small minds cannot hold big dreams. 

I looked for another job, but nothing. So I stayed out of necessity (I told myself) and out of fear. I had bills, a car note, a mortgage and no savings. I also stayed because of expectations of others, primarily my parents. I didn’t want to disappoint them in leaving a job without having another one lined up. 

 

Breaking Bad 

It was a miserable existence. I accepted a job that I knew wasn’t for me and allowed myself to remain in a toxic work environment where eventually my spirit was broken. After a year, it came down to an “Alicia, it’s not working” conversation and like that I was out of a job. 

For the next five months all I did was sleep. Winter turned into spring and spring to summer. I was depressed, embarrassed, scared and probably a whole lot of other emotions. It wasn’t until the first day of summer I realized I slept through springtime and that made me angry. I needed to get out of the house to get some fresh air. I’d been cooped up long enough. 

So, my dog Rusty and I went for a walk. The warm sun felt good on my skin and the fresh air rejuvenated me. About a block and a half into our walk, we came upon a beautifully landscaped yard. There was protective netting over the flowers to keep deer from eating them. It was really beautiful and I just stood there taking it all in. 

Something Caught My Eye 

In the flowerbed nearest me something caught my eye. It was a butterfly trapped under the netting trying to get out. It flew up as far as it could and then dropped back down. Up and back down, up and back down. 

I lifted the netting to set it free. Interestingly, it didn’t fly away. It just kept going up and back down as though it was still trapped in the netting. This continued until the butterfly eventually stopped in the street not too far off the curb, but far enough out to potentially get ran over by a car. 

I started to pick it up to get it out of harm’s way, but I had an overwhelming sense that I was to leave it there. I struggled with this decision, but I couldn’t deny the overpowering veto in my gut. So I left it there and continued my walk. 

All I could think about was going back to save the butterfly. The thought of it getting run over pu

t a knot in my stomach. As we headed back home, I was afraid I would find it squashed in the road. I had such a sick feeling. Thankfully, when we came to the spot where I last saw the butterfly it was nowhere to be found. I concluded it had flown away. 

What’s It All About? 

I knew this was something more than a random experience, so I asked God what is it all about. Here’s what He immediately spoke to my spirit: 

So many of My people remain in bondage when, in fact, I have already set them free. They don’t realize they’re free and therefore don’t live in the fullness of life that I’ve provided for them. They continue to live in the old pattern of up and down, up and down. But like that butterfly, they need to realize they are free, gather up their strength, and get back to being who I called them to be and doing what I called them to do. 

Life’s situations and circumstances can easily lock us into a pattern of up and down, up and down. We can remain conditioned by the world’s system, or, like that butterfly, we can spread our wings and fly according to God’s plans and purposes for our lives. 

Which will it be? 

 

 

Alicia Terry is a communications marketing and training professional. She is also the owner and founder of Idea Haven, a training and development practice serving entrepreneurs, teens and women. You can learn more about Alicia at aliciaterry.com and connect with her on Facebook.

Jesus Laughed At Me! - Dr. Naima Johnston Bush 

Several years ago I sat down to write a blog introducing some new music I had released.  I wanted to write something inspiring about how I wrote the song, Dying To Know You and how Christ is waiting and longing for those who don't know Him to come to know Him through a personal introduction by one of His children. With Easter upon us, I thought this would be a good message to share with those of you who yearn for more intimacy in prayer and increased ability to listen for the voice of the Lord with an attentive ear.

I'm always finding myself in the midst of some deep life lesson based on the prayers that I pray. Once it was for patience and I was unemployed for over a year, once I prayed that I would truly know the Lord and the power of His resurrection. What a year that turned out to be, after what seemed a million bumps, bruises, and challenges, I found myself revisiting that verse and honing in on the rest of it, that I may know you and the power of your resurrection and the fellowship of your suffering! That explained most of the two years that followed that prayer! And here's another doozey, I asked to be content being single and we all know how that worked out - I was 39 when I said, "I Do." 

Anyway, earlier that year I prayed and asked the Lord to help me learn to sit silent before Him. Truly experience His presence in quiet worship. That our relationship would be truly intimate, so intimate that we could be together and not say a word. Imagine what happened next. I had some of the driest prayer times I have ever had in my life. I'd get down on my knees and wait, and wait and wait some more. Everything would be quiet, and my mind would start to wander and I couldn't focus. I'd start praying about anything and everything but then felt led to be silent. So I'd sit silent and I'd wait. I wouldn't hear a thing, wouldn't be led to move on anything, and it didn't seem like any of my questions were being answered. It didn't even seem like the Lord was near. 

Then finally after a few months of this, I was once again on my knees trying to pray. It was so quiet and I was just waiting. Even Bianca sat still, lying next to me waiting patiently for her quality time. And nothing came. I said Lord I'm not getting up until I get something, until I touch you - and still nothing. Exasperated I waited and waited and big girls like me, well our knees start to hurt when we are on them to long. Finally frustrated I smacked my hands down on the couch ready to pop up and go about my day. Muttering under my breath I was so busted that it seemed like Jesus was so far away. 

Then I heard it. Laughter. Not mean laughter, more of an amused chuckle. The kind of laughter a parent gives a child who is being taught a lesson and the child is having a hard time dealing with the learning. And then I knew what the laughter was and what it meant. And I began to laugh, to crack up. I laughed so hard I was bent over and could barely breath.  

So what was it? Jesus was laughing because He was only answering my prayer. I asked to learn to sit in silence, to worship Him in true quiet, to learn to just be with Him. Well how could I learn this if I didn't experience the quiet? The quiet that drew out of me a deeper longing then ever before to truly know Him and be with Him. A quiet that caused me to tenaciously wait, immobile and determined. I learned at that moment that the beginning stages of intimacy are often awkward but well worth the wait if you do the work to build the relationship.  

In the quiet Jesus was teaching me how to just be with Him. Not to ask for anything, not to constantly be speaking empty words just because I'm suppose to say something to worship Him. No, He was teaching me how to lean on His knee, with my head in His lap, to expose my heart, to give myself to Him with utter abandon and absolute trust. He was teaching me His peace. And so perfect is that peace. 

Who wouldn't want to meet a God who loves like that and laughs when He teaches us lessons of life? He's Dying to Know You; guess there's not too much more I can say.

I love for you to listen to the song if you've never heard it before. And always, please a comment, your thoughts or funny life lessons you've learned from Jesus - we'd love to hear them!

 

Dying To Know You 

 

 

 

An Upstairs Bedroom, A Stack of Albums and Jesus - Guest Post by Bonnie Lentz 

On Saturday, Tom and I sit on our bedroom floor. We’ve pulled a few hundred albums off our shelves and stacked them in towers. We pray for wisdom. I’m excited and overwhelmed. How long will it take? What will obeying God cost us? Tom selects “Pearl” my favorite album in the world. Did he pick it first on purpose, or is this another “coincidence;” God, cutting to the heart of the matter, pitting Himself against the queen of rock? I think of the angst in Janis’ songs, the drugs in Janis’ songs; Janis’ restless urge to “Get it While You Can.” My chin lifts.

It’s gotta go,” I tell Tom, turning my thumb into a hitchhike signal.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, Led Zeppelin; I whisper lyrics and ask God what He thinks. Outcasts go in a pile to Tom’s right. After an hour, there’s no keeps. As we sort records, I feel lighter. Freer. Tom jokes that it’s a Bible study and church cleaning in one.

After a break, he says, “You finish up, “and goes for boxes.

Later, he’ll sift through his art. My eyes fall on his explosion painting, the painting that gave me a peek into hell, I felt its flames and plan to never again dabble with the dark side. Finally, I’m left only with my Barbra Streisand Christmas album. Every other piece of music has been rejected by God. I trust His guidance, yet, I can’t believe there’s only one record in the “keep” pile.

Set it aside, Child. You need a fresh start. Give up all of it.

“But there’s a star on the cover!” the dog looks up expectantly, hearing her name. I call her over and rub her muzzle. She’s been patient, on a Saturday, to stay in a hot stuffy room. Tom returns with boxes, which we fill, ready to lug them to the dumpster. I keep glancing at “A Christmas Album” and that star. The star shines on Barbra. A fresh start. No music stars. God’s the only one to worship. I grab Streisand’s album and complete our music purge. It took all morning, but it’s done.

Excerpt from my memoir, “Tattooed by Jesus”

It’s going on 32 years since the experience of sitting on my bedroom floor listening to the voice of my Shepherd speak those words to me. “Set it aside, child. You need a fresh start. Give up all of it.”

And I must clarify, it’s not the artist, although there are those who are ministers of satan, nor is it the music itself. But God wanted to cleanse my soul and my soul needed to be cleansed, so that I could call upon Him with a pure heart and walk with Him in sweet surrender having intimacy with the One who first loved me. Intimacy with God is not a matter of duty, or discipline, but a matter of desire.

That day in my upstairs bedroom all I had was a willing heart filled with desire. A desire to know. A desire to hear. A desire to touch the heart of my Jesus. God of the heavens who formed us in our mother’s womb who knows every hair upon our head desires intimacy with us. We are created by Him, for Him and for His pleasure. In Him we live, and move and have our being. He is the LIVING GOD!

Let’s walk through scripture and look at the instructions God gives Moses in building the tabernacle. The place where God designed to meet with us is written about in Exodus 25. First instruction. Bring an offering with a willing heart. My offering that day was the things of my past. Things I needed to let go of to embrace my new life in Christ. I brought it willingly and set it before the Lord.

Question. What is in your life that you need to bring as an offering and set it before the Lord?

Second instruction. Make a sanctuary for the Lord to dwell among them. In whatever offering you bring before the Lord, make a sanctuary, be the temple. Invite the Lord into the moment. Your moment might not be a stack of record albums. Maybe your moment is despair, an illness, or the lost of a job, or a divorce, maybe you feel alone and uncertain about your future. Maybe you’re in a season of rest and great joy fills your heart. Whatever it might be, invite the One who loves you into that moment. There have been many times in my walk of faith when that moment has been every second of every minute of the day… and my Jesus is faithful! He does not grow weary of us, hallelujah! The Lord is with us! The Lord is for us! He cannot fail, nor will He forsake us. Amen!

We should come boldly before His throne of grace in the time of our need. This is true intimacy. When we come before a Holy God who moved the heavens and the earth to be with us! He waits for us to invite Him in. He is already there. He has even gone before us. Now, He waits for us to invite Him in. Jesus stands at the door and knocks and if we hear His voice, open the door, He will come in to where we are and eat with you and me.

Intimacy. Face to face communication. The third is not an instruction, but rather a description of this holy place of the Tabernacle and the intimacy that takes place when we come before the Lord.

Exodus 25:22 “And there I will meet with you, and I will commune with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony, about everything which I will give you in commandment to the children of Israel. We bring an offering with a willing heart. We make a Sanctuary for God to dwell with us. In this Holy place of His presence the Lord communes with us. In this place we listen as He speaks to us face to face.

The tapestry of Words. The intimacy of God. The heart of Man. Wrapped in the pages of ancient scripture reveals God’s heart and His desire to talk with us face to face. They are surrounded by two cherubim’s who stretch their wings on high covering the mercy seat. The Ark of the Covenant and the Commandments of God are placed underneath the Mercy Seat and this my friends, is the place of Divine Fellowship with our Maker. Jesus sits upon the Mercy Seat of God through His death, burial and resurrection. He made the way for us to sit in this holy place where the angels cry; “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty!”

I experienced sweet communion with my Lord that hot August morning as I sat on the floor in my upstairs bedroom with a willing heart. I opened the door and Jesus came in and sat with me. My ears heard the voice of His Spirit saying, “This is the way walk in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever… He is the God who speaks face to face. He spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to His friend. He desires to speak to us face to face.

The psalmist writes, “When you said, seek my face; my heart said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” I believe we are and have lost the face to face communication. We no longer look at each other eye to eye, but we hide behind the world of technology. I recently visited my Son and my daughter in law. I reminisced about when my kids were young. I told her the one thing I taught my children that when we talk to others we have eye contact. My son and daughter knew that when they had to say, “Sorry” it was required of them to look at each other in the eye and apologize. There’s no looking down or looking the other way.

Then my daughter in law laughs, and says, “that’s so funny, Mikey asked if I was ok the other day, and I said I was fine, and he said, look me in the eyes and tell me you're fine, and then I started crying, because I wasn’t fine.” We laughed together, but truth be told, when we look at each other in the eyes it’s hard to hid what is truly inside. The eye is the light of the body.

In this Tabernacle of our lives where God dwells with us. Moses creates a beautiful tapestry of words of this most holy place. Within our inner most being. The mystery that was hidden from ages, now revealed… Christ in us the hope of glory! Jesus, the Son of the Living God; beaten, despised, and reject, as He was nailed to a cross said, “I thirst” the thirst of the Almighty God to redeem His people was so great that not even hell itself could stop Him, GLORY!

Take time today to sit down and have a little talk with JESUS… He waits for you!

Still Hanging On A Ridge 

So.... Hacksaw Ridge is on HBO again. Every time I turn the TV on, it's playing Hacksaw Ridge.  Don't get me wrong, I love this movie, I'm a war movie buff... strange but true. Usually, when I see something over and over again I take it as the Lord is trying to tell me something.  And Hacksaw Ridge always brings me back to this blog I wrote when the movie first came out.

Hanging On A Ridge

Every Tuesday, Jon and I have a standing date.  Before we were even married, we determined that it was important to set aside a weekly time to connect, hang out and relax. I’m not sure why we always go out on Tuesday, it may be that we are always so busy with ministry work on the weekends, but I have the sneaking suspicion that it has to do with the fact that Tuesday is a super slow day for the entertainment industry.   

When we lived in Nashville, we went on an entire date for less than $20.00 – You could get a cheese burger and small fries for two bucks at the Sonic, the movie was $1.50 and they had a special called Recession Tuesday where we got small popcorns and sodas for a buck each.  We usually topped the night off with $1.50 ice cream cones from Baskin Robin’s and a walk.  When we moved to Florida we were delighted to find that the movies were $5 bucks on Tuesday and a myriad of restaurants hosted happy hour with half priced snacks and benefits.  

I guard Tuesday night like a dog with a bone. Don’t call me because I won’t answer, don’t ask me to go somewhere, I will promptly tell you no. Don’t IM me, tweet me, send me a post card or leave me a note. I will not respond… unless the house is burning down, then I’ll answer. And don’t let Jon get called for an extra shift at work, he knows better… 

I’ve learned over the years, especially since being in full time ministry that boundaries to protect the health of things are a must.  To live a life of joy, you must understand what you will tolerate, how much of yourself you are willing to give away, and what you will cut off at the knees if it rears its ugly head in your life.  So many of us don’t do that. In the name of Jesus, because of compassion, fear, guilt or obligation we allow life to rob us of our peace and we miss the miracles that are happening around us because we are tied up in knots over circumstances and situations. I use to live like that, but not anymore. I have drawn a line in the sand with love, and when it is crossed, I try my best to gently push the offender back across it. Notice I said try… yes, the Lord is still working with me.  

Sometimes it feels like standing on Hacksaw Ridge, which we saw on date night, a movie about faith regardless of the odds, it was also a war movie – and those of you who know me, know I have this super strange love affair with epic battles and weighty challenges. I’m the only person I know waiting with baited breath for Dunkirk to come out… But I digress! 

If you have not seen Hacksaw Ridge, you have got to rent it.  The hero is a conscientious objector to the war, but joins the armed forces as a medic who refuses to pick up a gun. You wanna talk about setting a boundary? He is ridiculed, beaten, challenged and put on trial because he refuses to comply with one of the primary rules the culture that he is a part of has laid out.  Interestingly enough, he has permission to be there, but the culture rejects him because of his beliefs, leaving him isolated, lonely and pushing him to find refuge in his faith. And they wait... as he clings to his beliefs, they wait for his demise and despair that his inability to be flexible will be the death of him and them. 

And what happens? In the midst of one of the bloodiest battles, after seeking the Lord, and continually calling on His great name, he rescues dozens of men from death without ever picking up a gun. All because he refused to bend to the will of the world and maintained his convictions. The boundaries that brought him emotional pain and turmoil, the boundaries that he kept close to his heart, the boundaries that he laid out and refused to wavier on because he believed that they were given to him by the Lord himself, brought joy to hundreds of people, brought husbands and sons home, bought life to children who would never have been born, and exalted the name of the Lord so many years later as the movie that celebrated his life and his refusal to bend played in the theater for millions to see.  

The lessons learned? If you have to stand on Hacksaw Ridge, and you will at some point...don't bend to the pressure and pick up a gun, bow for prayer and find His strength.  Boundaries – set them for your life, enforce them, do not compromise, be willing to risk it all for them and remember when you act within the directives given to you by the Lord, no matter what the cost, you just might see a miracle.

Let me know your thoughts, I'd love your comments here on the blog or email me your feedback at naima@ministryofnaima.com. And I did see Dunkirk and it was AMAZING!

This blog originally appeared in The Calling, The Official Newsletter of The Ministry of Naima.

 

My Issues Trusting God - Guest Post by Maggie Winterton 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; 
do not depend on your own understanding. 
Seek his will in all you do, 
and he will show you which path to take. 

Proverbs 3:5-6 

So, I’m just going to admit it: I have trust issues with God. For me, I feel it’s kind of a control thing; I don’t like having things “up in the air.” 

I’ve been reciting the above verse in my head quite often the past couple weeks, to remind myself to stop stressing and let “Jesus take the wheel.” 

But it’s hard. I mean, I know I worry too much (even though it’s something I have been working on for a while and have made some progress on). I certainly know by now that God has plans for me that I don’t yet know or understand. I can’t plan my life – that’s God’s job. 

Maybe it is my personality, because I’m guilty of not trusting my husband enough sometimes, too. There are certain things in our marriage that are really his thing (just like there are things that are my thing). But I guess I don’t trust him enough and I take it upon myself to needlessly worry about it too. He’s never let our family down. He is a completely responsible adult.Well, I mean, he has issues picking his socks up, but still… 

I mentioned earlier that I don’t like things being “up in the air,” and I have way too many of them right now. 

Or do I? Because it seems like maybe it’s just enough to make me throw my hands up and say, “God will handle it.” 

As a military family, things are tentative and unresolved a lot. Right now it’s kind of on overload. The best we can do is try to prepare ourselves for the various possibilities. Right now it’s kind of like, “well, if this happens, this could happen” and “once we find out about that…” It’s unsettling. 

I think that God has put me in this place specifically to work on my control and trust issues. If I didn’t have so many things going on in my life that were unresolved, then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten to this growing point. 

It’s just too much for me to handle (especially pregnant), forcing me to relinquish control, stop worrying and trust in the Lord. I don’t have to (or need to) worry about what could/will happen in the coming months – God knows what will happen. 

So I’m trying to train myself. When I catch myself worrying or stressing, I think: “God will take care of it.” 

That one simple phrase brings peace into my heart instantly, because I know it to be true. Sometimes I forget and slip back into those “what if” moments. But if I can just stop my rampant thoughts for a second and think of that phrase, I’m okay. 

Most of the time there’s not much I can do anyways. It’s God’s job, and he’s pretty good at his job, after all. 

So why worry? Why should I, a human, try to take things off of God’s plate when he clearly has it under control? That just doesn’t even make any sense. 

I just gotta remember…God will take care of it. 

This is what the Lord says: 
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, 
who rely on human strength 
and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 

They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, 
with no hope for the future. 
They will live in the barren wilderness, 
in an uninhabited salty land. 

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord 
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, 
with roots that reach deep into the water. 
Such trees are not bothered by the heat 
or worried by long months of drought. 
Their leaves stay green, 
and they never stop producing fruit. 

Jeremiah 17: 5-8

 

Maggie WInterton is the founder of Devotional Diva, Wife and Mother.  We are blessed to have her contribute a guest post this month.  If you have a question or comment for Maggie about this blog, please feel free to leave it below and we'll make sure she gets it.

I Didn't Finish Strong! 

 

November came and I realized I'd gained five pounds! Yikes! I looked over my goals and realized I missed a few! Ugh! I had started a new business and was behind on learning the ropes. I was nowhere near finishing the Prayer Journal I was working on.  

I mean I was busy, 2017 has had some triumphs but as the end of another year dawned I wanted to make sure I had hit the mark! So I did what any other occasionally nutty overachiever does. I put together an 8 Week "Finish Strong!" Challenge for my Facebook group. 

Honestly, I started the Challenge strong and then I puttered out. I left those who said they wanted to go on the ride with me hanging, because every time I sat down to work on the plan, there was a new fire to put out, graphic design dramas, new business glitches, blogging issues, an unexpected trip. I wasn't dealing with it well. I finally threw up my hands, did what I could and limped through November. 

Revelation came when I threw up my hands... Hand held high are often a sign of surrender and in surrender comes great peace and in great peace comes great quiet. When you are surrounded by great quiet you can hear the smallest whisper. The Lord whispered when I gave up. Quality not quantity is what people need. Do less, do it better and be more consistent, that's what changes lives. Take time to seek the Living God and rest in His Presence.  

So I didn't finish strong in 2017, I left some things on the table, some things fell through the cracks, I had to let go of some things, forgive

 

some folks, forgive myself. I started some projects that just didn't get finished, but I'm OK with that. Because what's the point of pressing to finish when there was no real purpose, or joy, and forcing yourself to try was never God's plan? 

When I threw my hands up, I was able to refocus my health and wellness activities - back to smoothies and walking miles. I found a renewed passion for the Word and am spending more time reading, studying and seeking intimacy with the Lord.  I'm rolling into 2018 with a very explicit instruction - Quality as defined by the Lord over Quantity that I think is beneficial.  

Yep, I admit it, I didn't finish strong, but I am all the stronger for it! 

Much Love!  
Naima 

If this blog blesses you, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Feel free to drop me a note or share your comments on my social media sites! And we are now booking for 2018, if I can be of service through music or speaking please contact me! Email Naima

Beautiful Posture - Lara Landon 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my stance lately. Not my physical stance, that I do think about (I have known for years that I rarely stand or sit up straight and I hate it), but about the stance that my mind and heart function and operate out of. 

I have to ask myself- Does my heart's stance resemble my body’s- taking the path of least resistance? Is my stance one that is graceful or sluggish and non compliant? 

My physical posture is completely under my control although most of the time I let it slip and slump- my hearts posture is completely under my control though I let it slip and slump. 

I used to be a ballerina or at least I took ballet and was really serious about it. I loved how it trained me to have beautiful upright posture, how to hold myself. I didn’t really even get to the tricky stuff- most of my ballet training was on simply standing or doing the smallest things with the right posture. And by just holding my body correctly I developed such strong muscles. 

It’s the same with the training of my heart. I may not be able to do huge works, big elaborate works with the right heart yet. But God is training me just to hold the right heart, learn the right posture. When 1st position is solid I can carry that into the beautiful elaborate turns, jumps, spins and lifts. 

That’s what I desire. Like any women I want to be beautiful and graceful not slumpy and clumsy. It’s starts by training my heart to hold that first position. Grateful not entitled. Open not closed. Upright not lazy. Sharp and pointed not dull and lethargic. 

The word of God sharpens, but only if I choose to apply it. It all comes down to training and choice. It’s always been about choice. Choose this day the discipline of beautiful posture. 

(Even now at this coffee shop where I’m typing it’s so unusual for me to be sitting completely upright- no one else is- it’s hard- and that’s how I know it’s probably right)

Lara Landon is a Christian Recording Artist, Author, Speaker and Dynamic Creative.

Learn more about Lara at: www.laralandon.org 

5 Steps To Intimacy With The Lord 

When Thou said, “Seek ye my face” my heart said, “Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)

What a glorious day to be ALIVE in Christ! I was so delighted when Naima asked me to write a blog with the topic; “Intimacy with God” As a child raised by an alcoholic dad and a mom who was so young and broken by abuse; intimacy was far, far away from my household. Intimacy meant letting others hurt you. The Lord has promised when your father and your mother forsake you, then He would take you in. At a young age, I heard a voice behind me saying this is the way, walk in it…as it is written, “When Thou said, seek ye my face; my HEART said unto Thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.”

The key word in this verse, “heart” My heart said. Not my mind. Not my knowledge, nor the good or bad experiences of life, but my heart said, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” In my heart, I knew there was one who was with me, always. One who was calling me out by name. I pursued Him. I searched for Him through my brokenness, my pain, my addiction, my lust and my sinful pride. A former spiritualist who was searching for truth in a world of lies… I was dead in my sin.

God reveals this deep truth through His prophet Jeremiah, “Am I a God at hand, says the Lord and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Says the Lord. Do not I fill the heaven and earth?" In all the suffering and pain of this world there is a God who is ever present. Have you ever considered that God wants you and I to find Him?

When we call upon Him and we Go and Pray, He will hear us. He challenges us to seek Him and we will find Him, when we search for Him with all our heart. He has promised… “I will be found of you” Have you ever considered that God thinks about you and me? I mean seriously and earnestly think about it, saints. The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth thinks about us! His thoughts toward us are good, His thoughts are peace and not evil, to give us a future and a hope.

Psalm 40:5 “Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” Psalm 139:17 “How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” Not only are we found in the thoughts of God, but did you know that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, ever lives to intercede for you and me. Yes, Jesus prays for us…you can insert a shout, “Hallelujah!!!” Jesus not only knows every sparrow that falls to the ground, He knows every hair upon your head and He is the one who wipes every tear from your eyes. He collects our tears and puts them in His bottle, written in His book…the psalmist writes, “You have recorded my wanderings. You put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?”

My point being…. God desires intimacy with us! God longs to walk with us in the cool of the day! God called out to Adam, “Where are you?” It’s not that God didn’t know where Adam was hiding, Remember the words spoken to the prophet Jeremiah, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I cannot see him? Do not I fill the heaven and the earth?” But Adam needed to hear and respond to God’s voice…and He calls out to us, “Where are you?” And today, as you read this. Today, as you hear His voice, will you respond to His call of intimacy He desires with you?

We witness throughout the life of King David, he desired intimacy with God. We see through his prayers in the Book of Psalms. David was a man after God's own heart. David desired to please the Lord, although he made many mistakes, as to not be the one who would build the House of the Lord; we see that David desired God's heart. Through his sin, his sorrow, though many wars, through the betrayal of family and friends, King David sought after the heart of God. Not just to please God, but to communion with God from the depths of His soul.

“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name. David invited the Lord into every aspect of his life. When confronted with his own sin, he took responsibility and embraced the consequences of that sin. As we ponder intimacy with God. What does it look like? How does one even attempt to be intimate with a Holy God? There are many examples within the lives of God’s people in the Bible. And every one of them would teach us about intimacy with God.

Let’s just take a quick peak into Psalm 27. King David writes. “The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" First step for intimacy; you must know the Lord and who He is. David acknowledge. God is Light. God is salvation. God is strength. We must trust the Lord to be who He promises to be through His written word. Second step for intimacy; we must guard our heart from fear. Fear of man. Fear of self. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of whatever. We must say as David said, “My heart will not fear.”

Third step for intimacy; Our confidence in God. David writes, “In this will I be confident. One thing I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion: in the secret of His tabernacle shall He hide me; He shall set me up upon a rock.”

One thing I have wrestled with in life is self-condemnation. The Word of God teaches us that we can assure our hearts before God. For me, it’s not a matter of if, but of when…We are not alone in this struggle, for John writes in his letter that if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart condemns us not, then we have confidence toward God. (1John 3:19-21) King David embraced this truth and applied it to his life. What was His confidence? He desired intimacy with God, He desired to capture Gods heart. He put his trust in God, knowing it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. David desired Gods presence. He desired to dwell in the House of the Lord, to live in His presence. He longed to see the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. To communion with the Lord. To talk with Him face to face as a man talks to his friend. David knew the Lord would protect him. Hide him and set him upon a rock, so that he would not be moved. His intimacy with God kept him during the time of trouble. And he had many days of trouble.

It was in the secret place of God’s presence David was hidden, not kept from trouble. David learned to live within the presence of His God. He had confidence knowing the Lord would lift up his head in the midst of his enemies. You and I many not face kings and kingdoms as David did, but we have comparable situations in our daily life. The loss of a child. Betrayal of a friend. Dysfunctional family issues. Struggle with lust. Suffering and death. The list goes on and on. We can learn from David to have confidence and put our trust in the Lord. How did David apply his confidence and trust? He sought after the Lord to dwell and be intimate, desiring to see the beauty of the Lord in every situation.

David cried out to the Lord with His voice. We too, must cry out and lift up our voice to the Lord. He cried for mercy. He asked the Lord to answer Him. Have you ever prayed that prayer? I sure Have. David reminded the Lord of what he had said…. “When you said, Seek my face; my heart said unto You, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.” David asked the Lord not to hid His face from him. Inviting God to intervene in his life. Wanting, desiring the Lord to even interrupt His life if need be. David reminded the Lord, that He had been his help in the past and trusted He would be his help in the present. It’s not that God has to be reminded of who He is, or what He has promised, but for us to speak His Word to Him shows our confidence, and trust in Him. So much so God is aroused and He visits us.

“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me in. “This world and all its woes can leave us feeling abandon and all alone. Again, David reinforces his confidence and trust in the Lord, that the Lord is the one who will take us in. When the Lord takes you and I unto Himself…which He has through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ we must desire for Him to teach us His way, and lead us. The Lord will deliver us from the battles we face. Deliverance can be, walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It’s going through something as well as being taking out of something.  

Forth step for intimacy, we must not lose heart. In the world, we will have hardships, disappointments, suffering, sorrow, and we may never know the answers to our why questions. How did David demonstrate his response to the uncertainty of the world? …” I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. God is a good God and He is able and willing to work all things out for our good…we love Him and He has called us according to His purpose. He desires to be intimate with us.

Fifth step for intimacy, we wait on the Lord and be of good courage. When we have courage and we wait on the Lord, He will strengthen our hearts. It’s in our hearts we will not fear, and within our hearts we will not be afraid. It’s in our hearts we will say, Thy face, O Lord, I will seek. It’s within our hearts, we have confidence toward God. Yes, our hearts need to be strengthened and the Lord is the one to strengthen it! Spend time with Jesus. He waits for you!!!

I leave you with the words of King David. A man after God's own heart. “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."  

“Nothing teaches us about the preciousness of the Creator as much as when we learn the emptiness of everything else.” ― Charles Haddon Spurgeon,

To Learn More About Bonnie Click Here.

Climbing A Tree While Living The Dream! 

This has been a week of great anticipation for me! When you work on a project for several months and are finally standing at the moment when you reveal it to the world you should feel a tremendous amount of joy right? I’d be a liar if I said I was feeling super joyful at this moment. It is amazing how the moment you set your heart to go to a new place in the Lord everything seems to turn against you, to push you in the opposite direction from His will for your life. I determined I was going to live a life of joy, prayer and thankfulness and the last three months have me comparing my life to a poorly written country song. 

I won’t go into the specifics, oh, no, that’s another live stream, blog or book. Needless to say, when you commit to encourage others to live a life of joy no matter what, you have to expect situations to come along that challenge you in that regard. I should have known better… I’m the one always preaching about dangerous prayers and if you pray for patience you won’t get patience, you’ll get situations that will force you to be patient. Why would praying for joy be any different? 

It feels like the Lord is saying, you want joy on the journey no matter what and you want to share with others how to do it as well? Well then you better learn to have joy in every situation regardless of how you feel! You want to pray with power? Well I guess you need to experience more situations that cause you to drop to your knees… And you want to be thankful, well let me show you how blessed you truly are even in the midst of your current situations. The flood of trials, losses and setbacks that have hit this week, the week when I launch a new part of the dream the Lord gave me has been so overwhelming that I feel like I am groping in the dark. Lost in a crowd, blinded by the many obstacles that seem to obscure my view. 

And then I came across this blog I wrote back in 2014… 

Go Climb A Tree 

I can’t see much right now. It’s one of those times in my life where it seems like I can’t see what the Lord is doing and my only choices are to trust and to worship. And it can be a challenge to trust and to worship when you feel isolated and shrouded in darkness. We are always taught to press through these times, forget about what’s going on and focus on the Lord and what He has done in the past. We pull out those platitudes that while true are quoted to placate us in times of trouble. The ones like, “God is never late, He’s always on time!” or “He did it before, He will do it again!” Like I said, true, but not always what you want to hear when you’re so crowded by troubles and issues that you can’t even see a glimpse of the hope that you know can and will deliver you. 

At times like these, you just gotta climb a tree. I loved to climb trees when I was younger although I didn’t climb to many growing up in the Bronx. And I never went very high when I did because I was always afraid of heights. But when I did get a chance, I would clamber up as far as I dared to get a different perspective of the world below. So that’s what I’m going to do now, climb a tree. 

In Luke 19, Verse 1-10 Zacchaeus the tax collector climbed a tree because he was too short to see Jesus through the crowd. Zacchaeus was so determined to see the Lord that he even ran ahead of the crowd and climbed the tree. And Jesus saw him in the tree, called him down by name and came to his home blessing him with his presence and with salvation. Zacchaeus’s entire life was changed because he climbed the tree. He changed his outlook on life and changed his actual behavior because he met Jesus when he climbed a tree. 

Well, I can’t literally climb a tree and wait for Jesus to pass by. But what I can do is go higher and change my perspective about what is going on. I can believe that Jesus will see me when he passes by. Going higher simply means that no matter how I feel, I should worship more, I should trust more, I should read my word more, I should serve Him even more. I have to change my perspective and trust that at the end of this trial I will be changed. I am going to hang out up high so I can see Jesus when He passes by. And even more importantly because I’m hanging in a tree trying to get a glimpse of Him, I believe He will look up, call my name and my life will be changed forever. 

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