Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:26 (NRSV)

My home was quiet after the kids went to school. I sat at my kitchen table to eat breakfast. I was thinking about my to-do list when I heard a lot of birds singing outside my window. The piney woods of East Texas are home to hundreds of species of birds. From my kitchen window, I saw bluebirds, cardinals and eastern towhee freely grazing. There was a freedom about the way the birds moved. The levity and beauty of their movement filled my heart with joy. 

As the birds flew away, I remembered Jesus’ words of care and courage in Matthew 6. The Bible teaches us that God cares for the birds and He cares for us. I thought about my cares for the day and I found courage as I started to pray. 

Prayer can be a lot of things:  monologues, Christmas lists, and even formulas. That morning, I learned that prayer can also be a witness to Christ. Witnesses testify of what they see. Christ is the Anointed One sent from God be our wonderful Savior. As I prayed that day, I told God of all the goodness I saw Him do around me. The sight and sound of birds reminded me that I am a person of value and He cares for me. This practice brings much hope. My tendency to be a woman of little faith is changed when I pray with this perspective in mind: God is at work all around me. I can recognize it and tell God about it as a witness in prayer. Where do you see Christ the Anointed One at work right now in your life?

Thought for the day:

God is at work all around me. How can prayer be a witness to Christ? 

Prayer: Creator God, you never cease to amaze us. Help us to see you at work and find trust in you. Amen. 

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Pastors Appreciation Month

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

October is the month we stop to celebrate Pastor's Appreciation Month. I love any reason to say thanks to my husband and to all the ministers who serve us so well. 

Being in ministry is not easy and still, ministers serve us so well. I observed how taxing the pandemic was to everyone but especially to those serving in ministry. 

Still, they showed grace, offered smiles, words of comfort, and prayers. Many didn't bother trying to answer the unanswerable but instead offered to be there, side-by-side as we walked thorugh the valley of the shadow of death. Many got sick themselves. Many are gone. We remember. We pray for their grieving families and congregations. 

I believe that the best gifts we can offer to pastors and ministers are prayers and encouragement. Prayers because they have real needs too. They mostly do not share what those needs are but God knows and He cares. Encouragement because everyone needs strength to carry on. Encouragement can come in the form of words, cards, messages saying "I am praying for you." 

I grew up in a church community that honored pastors from the heart. I am grateful for my upbringing. I learned to show honor and respect because it is due, it pleases God and it is appropriate. 

Thank God for those who are committed to caring for our souls. May they find all the acceptance, love, and joy they need to continue to serve well. They are faithful servants and we are better because of their diligence.
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Gratitude Challenge

Monday, October 18, 2021

Today I share with you all about the Gratitude Challenge a few hundred of my friends and I enjoyed this year. Listen here: 

The Challenge:

1. Pray and ask God for forgiveness for being a complainer;

2. Ask Him to teach you how to live a life of Thanksgiving;

3. Read His book. Start with Psalm 142;

4. When you do have a complaint, ask yourself the following:

What is the goal of my complaint? Is it to damage someone's reputation or is it to find a peaceful resolution?

What is the estate of my heart as I complain? Do I need to forgive? Do I need counseling? Do I need to pray before talking to others about my issues?

Will my complaint be fruitful? Do I need to learn more about the natural processes of life? Do I need to create a thankful heart instead of a complaining heart?

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How to get to Gratitude

Enjoy this honest episode my friends! 

Here are the 5 Principles I discuss in this episode:

1. Analyze your heart 

2. Repent from sin

3. Control your thoughts 

4. Verbalize your thanks

5. Seek God Daily 

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The art of encouragement

Encouragement is an art. It is also a choice. In order to learn it well, we need to practice it often. Where do we start? 

We can always start by talking to God about who He wants us to encourage. 

We can verbally encourage others. It costs absolutely nothing and it makes a world of difference. During the many races I run, encouragement from the crowd pushes us to keep going and not to give up. I remember getting special encouragement from friends when I was on mile 20 of my marathon. A couple of friends came to encourage me in person. I was strengthened by their words, their presence, their voices cheering me on. I will never forget how their encouragement got me to the end of that challenging race. 

We can do the same thing when we choose to encourage our friends with our words, our presence, and a simple "you got this." 

Our acts of service can offer encouragement. It can be as simple as helping a neighbor with a task. It can be offering an unexpected gift to someone in need of encouragement. 

I am sure that you are wondering who you should encourage. It can be someone you know in need of encouragement. It can be a person who came to your mind this past week. It may be someone God placed in your heart. 

Sometimes, a cheerful text message with a word of encouragement can make a world of difference. Be sure to listen to God for direction on who to encourage and how. 

The more you practice encouraging others, the easier it gets. Encouraging others is a skill that gets easier each time you do it. 

While I believe you can't give what you don't have, I also believe that when you feel down you should encourage others. Why? It is a good way to get out of your feelings and do something great and honorable. Instead of crawl in self-pity, think: how can I offer encouragement today? And do it. I guarantee you that your attitude will improve. 

We can encourage ourselves in the Lord. David, in 1 Samuel 30:6 did just that. He was in distress so he found strength in the Lord his God. That's what encouragement means: being strengthened. The little-known fact about this particular circumstance with David is that he prayed and asked God what He was supposed to do. We can encourage ourselves in the Lord and we can pray and ask Him for direction when we are distressed. 

Encouragement is like fresh water being poured out in a thirsty land. It revives the soul. We read about many in the Bible who encouraged others on purpose. Paul encouraged others on purpose. He assigned people to go to certain communities to purposefully encourage believers. The goal of the encouragement was to find the strength to serve the Lord. 

The world around us is thirsty for encouragement. The greatest source of encouragement is God's Words. I believe that as we walk with God we should use His words our own to encourage others. 

It is a choice and a decision. Will you do it?

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Thanksgiving and Holiday Healthy Eating Plan

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thanksgiving will be here in 6 short weeks. I find it important to prepare before we sit at the table with our family to eat. 

I often think about my health during the holiday season but it hasn't always been this way. I remember being so overwhelmed with the stress of family gatherings. I ate the food and I ate my feelings. I felt awful after everything was over. I had a massive weight gain that year too. Believe it or not, I also experience the joy that the season brings. The following year, I learned to analyze my situation and plan for a better outcome.

The analysis was eye-opening. I simply counted how many calories I consumed during Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce (homemade), salad, rolls, pecan pie. Of course, I went for seconds. Oh, don't forget about the sweet tea! We live in the South so it is truly sweet. 

I want to say I used to consume around 3,000 calories per holiday dinner. That number was eye-opening. That's when my approach to Thanksgiving (and holiday) eating changed. I learned that I can control a few things during holiday celebrations, including:

1. The food I put on my plate. I'm the only person responsible for that because I serve myself. 

2. How I want to feel before, during, and after the holiday meal. I am in control of my feelings. No one can make me feel a certain way. While others can influence how I feel, the decision is mine. 

3. How much I will move during the holidays. One year, I decided that I was going to cook, serve, clean and go for a run. It was the best decision ever. I don't always go for a run during the holidays but I plan to move because it helps both mind and body.

4. What the holiday is all about. I didn't know that I don't have to be paralyzed by stress during the holidays. I can approach it with a plan. This plan helps me decide what the holiday season is all about. It is not about avoiding difficult conversations, tough it may be part of it. It is not about food alone. I get to decide what the holiday is all about. I want it to be about thanksgiving and gratitude. I want it to be about family, laughter and joy. I know it won't be perfect. I can alwyas hope it will be good. 

I have learned to control what I can in such way that I truly enjoy what I eat, who I talk to and what I do during the holiday season. It wasn't always like this. I want to encourage you to think about what you want out of this year's celebrations and plan to achieve it.

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2021 Goals: update

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Listen to the episode here:

There are exactly 11 weeks until the end of 2021. The count down to reach those January goals goes on. Here are a few updates on my 2021 goals. 

Faith Goals • My faith goals include read the entire Bible as well as study two books: one in the New Testament and one in the old. During these 11 weeks I am committing to studying one Old Testament book. Our church is in the middle of a 21-day fast (yes!) so together, we are reading the Bible as well. It's been delightful and so good for my soul. 

Family • My family goals have a lot to do with spending quality time with the family. My goals are pretty much on track, except I need to pick and stick with some small but great books to read with the kids. We all read independently quite a bit. I need to pick those books and mark this goal as done. My other goal is to go on a certain number of dates. I'd say Zeke and I are on track. No matter how busy we are, we have been very intentional with going on dates.

Fitness • I was really encouraged today because I am 4 seconds away from running a comfortable 9:15 minute per mile pace. I'm grateful. I also noticed that if I aim for nothing I will hit it every time. My WW Lifetime goal has been dragging since the beginning of the year. I am determined to finish this year at my goal weight. I am sticking with the plan and I have real people who hold me accountable. I'm not giving up! 

Business • This year, I set 4 business goals. I am trying not to be discouraged about them. Often, I set goals then I look at them and ask "what was I thinking?" Then, I get over that very thought and I go to work. Lately, I've been having to work on my mindset. I have no doubt that God will continue to bless me if I decide that He is faithful and He will empower me to do what I need to do. Keep this area of my goal setting in your prayers. Thank you.

Other • This category includes travel and entertaining goals. Believe it or not we have reached both goals. I hope we don't stop both because it happened sooner than later. 

I hope you know that there is so much time to accomplish your goals and to make a big dent on becoming the person you want to be. Let's have a "can do" mindset and let's be sure that our daily priorities align with such mindset. 
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