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.

God'sPresenceWEB

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

Kelli-joyquoteWEB

——

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!  

Heart Issues

When We Can’t (Or Won’t) See God’s Hand

speaker image with quote

Have you ever poured out your heart, time, and resources to someone only to have them respond with ambivalence, perhaps even contempt? How long would your kindness last? At what point would you grow frustrated, or perhaps deeply wounded, throw your hands up, and walk away?

A few years ago, our family opened our home to a troubled teen. Initially, we knew very little about him. We soon learned our original perceptions were false. His issues were far more extensive than we anticipated, including deep-seated anger and contempt that caused him to lie and manipulate. Our efforts and sacrificial acts of kindness were deemed manipulative.

Nothing we did or said penetrated his bitter, cynical heart. Instead of responding to our care, he rebelled against us, unfortunately, to his own harm. He chose self-destruction over life and hope.

For centuries, Judah responded to God in the same way. He’d nurtured and reared them, providing for all their needs, but they refused to see His hand. Oh, they enjoyed the blessings, much like the resentful teen had ours, but their hardened hearts remained untouched. They drifted farther from their loving Father.

God pleaded with them to return, to consider their ways and His care, but they refused:

“I reared children and brought them up,” God said, “but they have rebelled against Me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:2-3, NIV).

The NLT puts it this way: “My people don’t recognize my care for them.”

Were they too focused on the gifts God had given them or too entrenched in their sinful ways? Either way, they spurned the One who’d faithfully cared for them and slipped into ever-worsening rebellion. God’s kindness, which is intended to draw mankind to Him, had no effect. Before long, and after repeated warnings, tough love followed.

I may never have turned to idols or perverted justice, but I can easily Speaker image with quote on self-reliancefail to see God’s hand. I can become so focused on the blessings, so expectant and entitled, that what was meant to draw me closer has the opposite effect and fuels my self-reliance.

I think that can be true of all of us. It’s easy to get so caught up in life, so accustomed to all our blessings, that we fail to see our Daddy’s heart behind them. That we fail to understand or recognize the extent of His care for us, and before long, greed and entitlement seep in, pulling us further and further from God. This breaks our Father’s heart.

God issues the same pleas to us as He did to the Israelites so long ago: Lift up your eyes. Return to Me. Leave your rebellious, self-reliant and apathetic ways and let My faithful care for you nourish, strengthen, and protect your heart.

God’s blessings abound, and His love radiates throughout the world. If we can’t see God’s hand, it’s not because He’s not reaching but because we’re not looking, or perhaps refusing to acknowledge the truth. If we but stop and turn our eyes and heart to our loving Father, we’ll find ourselves deeply rooted in His embrace.

Let’s talk about this! How readily do you see God’s care? How often, in the middle of your day, perhaps even in the middle of the hard, do you stop to contemplate the love and faithfulness of your heavenly Father? When blessings come, do you focus more on the gift or your provider?

How might your relationship with God change if you consistently practiced the latter?

Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

If you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. You can do that HERE.

And make sure to connect with us on Instagram and Facebook!

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.

Scripture also taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

fear, Heart Issues

How Jesus Helps Us in Our Fear

quote from Sarah pulled from the post.

Did I hear God right? Leave our family and move half way across the country on our own? With a nine month old?

Leave the only hometown we’d ever known?

Where were we going to live? How were we going to make new friends? I was scared of the unknown. I was nervous and unsure. I wanted to stay where I was—comfortable, where everything felt familiar.

About 5 1/2 years ago, my husband and I were shopping in Hampton Virginia when my old boss phoned me. He’d recently moved to Omaha, Nebraska to be the Vice President of Marketing of a senior health organization. We’d kept in touch, so the call wasn’t out of the ordinary, but the reason for his call was. His company wanted me to spearhead their marketing for an expansion project.

My first thought was, Omaha, Nebraska? What do they do there? Farm? Grow corn?

At that time, my parents and my husband’s parents lived a mile from us. They were our safety net. Always there and available to help. The thought of moving and leaving where we’d grown up, a house we’d recently purchased, our parents, our friends, our church, and our life group felt overwhelming. Yet after much prayer, we felt certain we were being called to the Midwest. Even though we knew we were following Christ’s leading, we still feared the unknown.

I was afraid the job wouldn’t work out. I was afraid we wouldn’t make new friends. I was afraid my husband wouldn’t find a job. I was afraid it was a huge mistake.

What do you fear the most? Do you trust God’s provision?

Even Jesus’ disciples, struggled with fear and trusting the Lord. In Matthew 14:30-31, Peter and the disciples saw Jesus walking on water. Peter questioned if the man they saw truly was the Son of God, and said “‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’

“He said, ‘Come.’

Peter got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus. “But when he saw verse image Matthew 14:29b-30the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’

Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

Peter let fear paralyze him when he was walking on water. But Jesus comforted him with an outstretched hand.

When we step out in faith, despite our fear, God does the same for us.

I didn’t know why Christ was leading us to Omaha. I just knew in my heart we were supposed to be there. Fast forward a little over three years, and we learned why. In early 2016, I had a stroke while sitting in the waiting room at Children’s Hospital with my daughter. The medical community in Omaha is fantastic. Within fifteen minutes of our home, we have several nationally recognized teaching hospitals with every specialty imaginable.

These options were not close to where we previously lived in Virginia. I would’ve most likely had to drive to Baltimore or North Carolina to receive the medical treatment so readily available in Omaha.

If I hadn’t taken that phone call in Marshalls, and if I hadn’t listened to God’s calling to relocate to Nebraska, I may not be alive today. My fear of moving could’ve cost me my life.

When has God called you to the unknown? Were you fearful? Unsure? How did you push the uncertainty away? Let’s talk about this!

If you enjoyed today’s post, would like more inspirational content sent directly to your inbox, and want to stay up-to-date regarding what’s new with us, make sure to sign up for our free quarterly e-mailing. You can do that HERE.

Heart Issues

The Pride Our Eyes Reveal

What Our Eyes Say

by Dawn Ford

Woman scowling“Don’t look at me in that tone!”

When I was in my early twenties I was pretty cocky. I’d come from a dysfunctional background where my parents had made some pretty big mistakes. I determined I was not going to do the same things because I knew better. Soon, I developed an attitude. Nobody was going to tell me the way things were. I had it all figured out, and if I didn’t I’d figure it out on my own.

This was before I knew God’s warnings in Proverbs 6. Verses 16-18 lay out six things that God hates, and seven things that are detestable to Him. Number one on that list is haughty eyes.

The eye-rolling, arrogant, disdain that ripples from the inside of our hearts to the windows of our souls—the eyes.

Eventually God used His word as an industrial Windex to clean up my haughtiness. Anyone who has had Verse image for Prov. 6:16-18a teenager roll their eyes at them knows about haughty eyes. Attitude in capital letters.

Oh, yeah. I had it. I had turned the fear of instability and the hate for the lifestyle I’d suffered into an impenetrable shell. And any attitude that I received in return only fueled my own.

“Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 18:12).

Each time something I did or said came back on me, it stung. I didn’t realize it, but God was trying to reach out to me and prove my attitude needed to go. I’m ashamed to tell you how many times I went around in circles having to learn that lesson.

Eventually God used His Word as an industrial Windex to clean up my haughtiness. Years later I would come full circle to Proverbs 6 while raising teenagers. I found out not only did God hate haughty eyes, I did, too. Luckily for my children, I’d already learned how futile it was. I knew better, and with a humble spirit I taught my kids about what their eyes said.

God is always at work with us as believers, either with ourselves or reaching out to show others the goodness of the Lord. Please consider joining us at our next conference to learn about how God wholly loves you and makes you unique to carry out His good purpose in this world.

Our desire is to help you discover what that purpose is, and to give you the tools and encouragement to live that out. Join us for one of our upcoming conferences to learn how to live authentically, as you were created. Because when we live wholly loved, everything changes!

 

woman staring out a window
Heart Issues, Video Devotion

Pride Lurking Undetected–Video Devotion


“Move it people! What’s wrong with you?!” my daughter’s voice shrieked from the back of our mini-van as we sat in the school drop off line. Though I instantly corrected her impatience, I cringed knowing she’d heard those same words from me.

Troubled, I replayed the scene until I finally realized what lay at the root of my words—the attitude that I knew the “right” way, and others didn’t, and that my time was more precious than everyone else’s.

Have you experienced a humbling realization like mine—where seemingly harmless words actually pointed to a much greater heart issue?

My impatience stemmed from pride—my inflated sense of importance or superiority, that is usually first harbored in my mind and ultimately displayed in my conduct.

The deeper I examined, the more I saw how much pride infected my life.

I struggled to admit when I was wrong and tried to hide my shortcomings. While I outwardly hid the sinful chaos in my heart, the truth was, I continually compared myself—my appearance, possessions, kids, talents, and intelligence—to others, indulging my selfish desire to pass judgment and assign worth to myself and everyone else. In essence, I was playing God.

In Galatians five, Paul says those who belong to Christ have nailed their sinful desires to the cross and should follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

My daughter’s statement helped me see where I wasn’t allowing the Holy Spirit to lead me; where I wasn’t fully embracing my worth in Christ. I was still grappling to find it in earthly things.

As a result, I had a tendency to become idolatrous, jealous, selfish and divisive.

Wanting joy and patience to replace all the ugliness I’d allowed to grow within, I repented of my sin and surrendered to the Holy Spirit, and as I did, He filled me with His peace and love.

What fruit is being produced in your life? Ask God to make you aware of pride within your heart, and for strength to abandon your sin at His feet.