Heart Issues

The Gift You’ve Been Overlooking

The aspen tree leaves popped like golden flames against the evergreen forest. As we weaved through the mountains, the sharp contrast between light and dark leaves enabled my husband, who is colorblind, to notice the fall colors. For the remainder of our mountain trip, he was keenly aware of the golden aspen trees everywhere. Upon returning home to the Midwest, he was awake to the golden fall trees everywhere. The golden fall colors aren’t new, but his awareness of them was.

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If we want a more joyful and happy life, what if we don’t have to add anything in? What if we simply need to notice something already there? What if God is busy making our lives beautiful, but we've been overlooking it? Click To Tweet

That might seem impossible when nothing in life feels right. There was a time when everything felt dark and lonely. According to social media, everyone appeared to have what I desired. My critical attitude further confirmed that no one, nor anything, was good enough. I strove for achievements to keep me happy and muscled my way through relationships to feel accepted. I thought adding things would create joy, but they fell short. The harder I hustled for happiness, the further joy eluded me.

A friend shared an idea that kickstarted a happiness revolution, “God is not the author of chaos.” She directed me to seek and fix my thoughts on true, lovely, and admirable things, saying, by doing so, I could receive the peace of God (Phil 4:6-9 NIV). It was a mindset shift to intentionally seek God’s goodness, and my world brightened as I witnessed color I’d overlooked for decades.

In fact, brain science calls this frequency illusion. When we become aware of something new, we suddenly see it everywhere. Our brain maintains a heightened focus on this new thing or idea. Then we switch to confirmation bias, which reassures us that each time we see our novel item, it must truly be everywhere. 

I learned I don't have to physically see God to know He is always in my space. Click To TweetKnowing His brand of light helps me find Him when it isn’t so obvious. Chaos subsided, not because God changed my circumstances, but because He helped me look for His truth, “I have nothing, and yet, possess everything” (2 Cor 6:10b NIV). 

Like the blazing aspen leaves, will I intentionally seek light? Or, will I draw in darkness by giving my energy to material things I think will fulfill me? What about you? Like Jacob, choose to awaken to the evidence of God’s presence we’ve been missing. When we overlook His everyday blessings, we deny ourselves the very gift we seek--joy. Click To Tweet

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Practical Spirit/Reflection Questions:

When has a change of focus allowed you to recognize God’s presence during a particularly difficult time?

How would your life change if you noticed God’s presence already around you?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or engage with us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter!  

Intentional growth

Why Do We Ignore Warning Signs?

The locker room sign warned gym guests, “lock up your valuables!” Yet as humans, we grow overconfident and are tempted to be careless with our belongings, leaving them accessible and vulnerable. Every week, someone would saunter over to the gym check-in desk I worked at, wondering if their valuable item had been turned in. Usually, it wasn’t in the lost-and-found. “Bummer,” they’d say, “I need to remember to bring my lock from now on.”

“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11)Stories in Scripture serve as examples to show us what to do and what not to do and how we can please God. Click To Tweet

We see warnings posted every day, practical signs to keep us out of trouble. And despite the reminders, we get overconfident, and pride tempts us to ignore helpful advice, believing a tragic consequence simply won’t happen to us.

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Since biblical times, people have been tempted to ignore practical wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 10:11, Paul reminds us that although God guided the Israelites to the the land He’d promised them, they chose convenience and pleasure—money, sex, and unhealthy relationships—over God. Today, We’re tempted to sooth anxiety with an irresponsible shopping binge, to ease loneliness by calling on an old flame just to feel temporarily wanted, or excessively chase corporate status, even if that means sacrificing our family.

Yet, Scripture tells us, “… when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13b)

In spite of these temptations, God always gives us a way out. The Bible is our guide with instructions for “exit routes” from unhealthy behaviors, helping us align our actions with God’s will. The Bible provides exit routes when we're tempted. Click To TweetWrite down your favorite scripture verses and place them in prominent places as reminders of a way-in to God’s guidance when you need a way-out of your temptations.

Conduct an online search for verses that speak to your weakest moments, where can you write and post them to remain firm in healthy choices?

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Share your thoughts in the comments below, so we can learn from and encourage each other. And make sure to engage with us on Facebook and Instagram where we post daily snippets of encouragement.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION(R), NIV(R) Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. (R) Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

freedom

Are Your Habits Controlling You?

Image of woman hugging her torso with words from 1 Cor. 6:12By Kelli Thompson

I was a little chubby a good part of my life. Dressing room episodes usually began with hope and ended in a heap of clothes on the floor and a promise to eat better and exercise more.  In my mid-twenties, everything changed. An attempt to squeeze into the largest size of misses jeans resulted in an all-out competition between me and the denim. Barely buttoning at the waist, my reflection in the mirror rivaled the best Betty Crocker “muffin top.”

I committed that day to change my life. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19, NLT) as the Bible says, and I wanted to treat it as such. I joined a fitness camp, kept a food journal, made better choices, and lost about 20 pounds. I’d never looked or felt better. But the new image I reflected didn’t match the issues raging inside. My troubled marriage I fought to save was ending. Filing for divorce was the one thing I said I would never do. Living that relationship status burned me with the mark of ultimate failure.

Before long, my habits—my food and exercise obsession—began to enslave me. I weighed every ounce of food. Logged every bite. I placed my gym visits above God, friends and family time. I packed and ate my own meals in place of family dinners and business lunches. I competed in fitness competitions, the ultimate cattle call of judging on everything temporary life has to offer.

“I can do anything it takes to stay perfectly healthy!” I thought. “I am free from being fat.”

I wanted to be free, but I was deeply controlled. Controlled by food. quote pulled from post with an image of a woman walkingBy a brainless box of springs that measured gravity. By a community who desired me to appear a certain way. Mastered by the extremes and not the beneficial values of God.

Consider this. Is our desire really to be free? To live as we want even if the actions aren’t beneficial? Deep down, I believe what we’re truly desiring is freedom from consequences.  However, when I’ve worshiped my “right to do what I want,” I’ve become mastered by my desires and left unsatisfied.

Our choices create ripple effects. Not many people think it’s fun to hang out with someone who is too obsessed with examining every calorie and ditching them for the gym. And consequences remain in a daily battle with body image. Because at any healthy weight today, compared to a near-anorexic state, my brain works to dispel the lie that my reflection in the mirror is fat.

As we encounter the natural consequences of our choices, we often strive to achieve our ideals until our situation is so painful, so isolating, we hit rock bottom. In that place, we find we’ve been mastered by our own doing and awaken to the fact that God does not leave us, He patiently waits for our return.

Though God gives us freedom to make our own choices, we’re not free of the consequences. How can we find and live in freedom? We can begin by letting God correct our faulty thinking with truth. Then, we can turn over even the smallest daily choices to God, leading to His perfect will.