dreams, future, vision, warning, prophetic, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Dreams: Receiving Instruction, Warning, and Prophecy from The Lord

The Lord can speak to us in our dreams. Whether it’s an instruction, warning, or vision of things to come, we need to pay attention to what He’s showing us.



For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.

Job 33:14-18

The Lord can speak to us in our dreams. Whether it's an instruction, warning, or vision of things to come, we need to pay attention to what He's showing us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #dreams #future #prophetic #vision

Genres…

For as long as I can remember, I have had very vivid dreams. Like a list of movie genres, they’ve spanned the spectrum from horror to drama, sci-fi to action and adventure. Many nights, I wished the Lord would just let me see a lighthearted rom-com! For the most part, the subject matter of my dreams has been much deeper and dramatic than that. During some seasons, dark and scary nightmares plagued my sleep. Like the time when I was four years old and saw the front room of my house catch fire. 

Other times, suspenseful action has been the order of the day, or should I say, night? For an entire year, I had countless dreams of being caught in terrible thunderstorms with people who were in danger of being struck by lightning. It was my responsibility to shepherd them out of the storms and into safe shelter! By far, the strangest dreams I’ve experienced would fall into the sci-fi category. I’ve been transported into centuries past and future and have seen people and places that I have no touchstone for in real life.

But my favorite dreams have always been when I’ve been swept away into some fun and exhilarating adventure–like when I get to fly! I’ll be dancing or swinging, and all of a sudden, I lift off the ground and realize that I can leap up and soar through the air. A few times, I’ve flown so high that I’ve gotten an aerial view of entire towns. Despite their different genres, my dreams have had a consistent theme: I’ve seen events that have actually come to pass. More on that later…

A Curse or A Gift?…

Before I knew Christ, I simply regarded my overactive dreamlife as a curse. My dreams left me chronically exhausted. Each night, my brain spent countless hours caught in REM sleep–that mysterious stage of sleep when we dream. Rarely did I get to stage four sleep–the place where we’re supposed to enjoy deep, restorative rest. Instead, a familiar routine of mental gymnastics played out all. night. long!–my brain trying to keep pace with a roulette wheel of random images rotating on the movie reel of my mind’s eye.

As I’ve been walking with the Lord, however, I’ve come to understand that what I see at night is not actually a curse. In fact, our dreams can be a prophetic gift from the Lord. I don’t claim to know exactly why He chooses to speak to us this way. But I do know that He is a good God, and His intent is not to disturb or scare us, but to help us. Although most nights, many of our dreams are nonsense “pizza dreams,” there are other times when our spirit recognizes that a dream carries more weight. And that’s when we need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what He is showing us. 

Although most nights, many of our dreams are nonsense, there are other times when our spirit recognizes that a dream carries more weight. We need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand what He is showing us. Click To Tweet

Instructions, Warnings, and Prophecy…

Sometimes He gives us an instruction. Other times, it’s a warning. And then there are those times that He shows us a picture of things to come. A brief survey of dreams throughout scripture shows the many ways that the Lord speaks to His people. He gives Joseph instructions to marry Mary (Matthew 1:20-21) and warns him about Herod’s murderous intentions (Matthew 2:13). He shows Jacob the ladder reaching into heaven (Genesis 28:11-22).

Gideon overhears a dream about a barley loaf that represents his enemy’s being delivered into his hands (Judges 7:13-14). Joseph has prophetic dreams about sheaves of grain and celestial bodies bowing down before him (Genesis 37). And Pharaoh’s dreams of cows and corn help save an entire nation from famine (Genesis 41). And the list goes on… In all of these instances, the dreamers recognize that the Lord is speaking to them, and they heed His instructions, warnings, and prophetic visions.

He’s Still Speaking…

Now, so far, I don’t think the dreams that the Lord has given me have enabled me to save an entire nation from famine! But I do believe that our Lord–who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8)–is still speaking significant things to us through our dreams. While I’ve slept, He has shown me some incredible sights. Remember the childhood dream I mentioned about the front room of our house going up in flames? Nearly two decades later, that room of the house burned to the ground!

One night I dreamed that my close friend was three months pregnant. The next night, she and her husband came over for dinner. When I jokingly told her I couldn’t offer her a glass of wine because I’d had a dream the night before that she was pregnant, her mouth fell open. She stammered, “We had planned to wait until after dinner to tell you the news, but I’m three months pregnant!” Then there have been really difficult dreams. Like the one I had the night of my father in law’s 65th birthday. In it, he died suddenly. I awoke and told my husband what I had dreamt. One week later, my husband’s dad died suddenly. 

Wake Up and Listen…

Over time, I have had to wake up to the fact that the Lord is speaking to me in my sleep. And I’ve begun to listen and pay closer attention to what He is showing me. Beloved, if you’re a dreamer, don’t disregard your dreams. Don’t be afraid of them either. The Holy Spirit gives us discernment about which ones hold real significance and which ones we can let go of. He shows us the ones to share with others and the ones to hide in our hearts for the future. But in all of this, God indeed is still speaking. And we need to be listening.

Do you remember your dreams? Has the Lord ever spoken to you in them? Have you received an instruction, a warning, or a prophetic vision? 

The Lord can speak to us in our dreams. Whether it's an instruction, warning, or vision of things to come, we need to pay attention to what He's showing us. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #dreams #future #prophetic #vision

All scripture references are from the King James Version of The Bible.

Billy Huynh

dreams, foolishness, passion, wisdom, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Foolishness: Rejecting Worldly Wisdom to Follow Christ

Sometimes we feel foolish when we veer away from the path that the world prescribes for our lives, but choosing to live out our calling is not foolishness. 



Years ago when I was in college, my mom gave me some sage advice. But at the time, I considered it foolishness. It was Thanksgiving break, and I had driven out to her little, off-the-grid homestead for a few days. During our visit, I basically spewed out all of my stress and anxiety about all of the school work that I had to do.

That following week, I would be taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), a challenging standardized exam required for graduate school admission. In addition to my GRE prep, a mountain of papers, presentations, group projects, and final exams loomed large on the horizon. Gripped by stress and fear, I could barely function, much less actually enjoy the holiday…

Sometimes we feel foolish when we veer away from the path that the world prescribes for our lives; but choosing to live out our calling is not foolishness. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

College Nonsense

On my last evening at Mom’s, she offered me some warm mulled wine to calm my nerves and settle my stomach. Sipping the hot, sweet concoction, I sat on a sheep’s fleece in front of a crackling fire in the fireplace. As I futilely attempted to practice my GRE vocabulary flash cards, I felt the strong brew hit my belly.

Just as I was beginning to feel tipsy and a little sleepy, Mom stood directly in front of me, leaned over, and stared me right in the eyes. With her typical dramatic flair, she emphatically stated:

Hopey, you need to quit school and go be a singer. You’ve gotta stop all this college nonsense and do what the Lord put you on this earth to do. Hopey, you have to sing!

Mom’s stark statement shocked me out of my sleepy stupor. Her words struck a chord inside of me because somewhere deep down, I knew that they were true. But at the time, I could not receive what she was telling me.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

Utter Foolishness

Rather than allowing myself to seriously consider her advice, as a means of self-protection, I took offense. I told Mom what an idiotic statement she had just made. Utter foolishness. Most likely I spouted off some comment like, “Yeah Mom, why don’t I just drop out of college, forget about graduate school, and go on the road and start busking for a living?! Sounds like a great idea. Really smart. I’ll be sure to get right on that.”

The next morning, as I drove the winding, hilly highway back to campus, I tried to shake the feeling that I was caving. Retreating back to the safety of the ivory tower. Back to the secure halls of higher education where Mom’s silly notion of pursuing my true passion was relegated to the annals of foolishness. I had organized my life in such a way that my education would be my ticket to success. Financial freedom and prestige were my goals. But all of the worldly ambitions I was clamoring for were drowning out the still, small voice of truth that simply said, “Sing”.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.

1 Corinthians 1:27

Her Foolhardy Dream

I comforted myself with the thought that, in her younger years, Mom had been a first class fool herself. A few credits shy of earning her Master’s degree in Music Education from the prestigious Indiana University School of Music, she had run off to New York City to chase her foolhardy dream of singing on Broadway. Mom never actually made it to Broadway, but she did land a number of leading roles in Off-Broadway productions.

One time she told me that she had played the role of Eliza Doolittle in the Off-Broadway version of My Fair Lady. For those performances, she got to wear all of Julie Andrews’ costumes from the Broadway show. Another time she mentioned making $5000 in a single day for acting in a nationally syndicated Huggies commercial.

I had always been curious about Mom’s former life in the entertainment industry, but whenever I pried about her experience, she would sidestep the conversation. Mom had categorically written off those years as her foolish and sinful past. And she claimed that when she had been born again, she had died to all of that. Ultimately, she regarded her years in show business the same way that Paul describes his life before Christ:

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.

Philippians 3:8

A Dead End

Fast forward a decade from that Thanksgiving visit, and I then had both a Bachelors and a Masters degree under my belt. I was establishing my career, climbing the supposedly sturdy ladder of professional success. That is, until the Lord–in His infinite grace, mercy, and wisdom–allowed me to hit a dead end. It came in the form of severe depression, crippling anxiety, and unshakable thoughts of suicide. Somewhere deep down inside, Mom’s foolish advice was still reverberating. I knew I was not living out my calling, but I had no idea how to change course. I wanted to end my life.

When I finally hit that wall, I was crying out to the Lord to show me my purpose on this earth or else… And to my utter shock, the Holy Spirit actually answered me very directly! In a profound encounter, He reminded me of who I’ve always been to Him: His songbird.

Today I believe that–despite how it might look to the outside world–the Lord is leading and guiding me in the way that He wants me to go. And I’m learning to follow His lead. I don’t have aspirations of singing on Broadway, but I am learning how to sing to the Lord. How to worship Him in spirit and in truth. And He has given me so many original songs that have carried me through difficult seasons that I would not have made it out of on my own. And He’s showing me opportunities to share those songs with others who are hurting in their own journeys.

Even If You Feel Foolish

Beloved, if the world were to inspect the trajectory of your life–your career, your relationships, all the choices you’ve made–are there some twists and turns that might look foolish? If so, you’re likely on the right path! When sheer worldly wisdom is applied to the life of a true believer, there should be a great deal of the picture that does not overlap. Because on the face of it, certain steps of faith appear like foolishness to the carnal, natural mind. And more often than not, worldly wisdom does not apply to the path of faith that the Lord calls us to walk.

It’s taken many years, but I’m finally coming to appreciate the simple wisdom in what Mom was trying to tell me: Follow your dream. Pursue your passion. Don’t get bogged down in all of the pressures and anxiety that the world tries to heap on you. Don’t do what you’re supposed to do. Do what makes you come alive. Do what you know you are called to do. Whether it’s singing, painting, cooking, teaching, running, writing, serving, inventing… Whatever you know deep down that you were put here to do, do that! And this kind of advice is not foolish; it is life-giving. Despite what worldly wisdom recommends, above all else, follow and trust God with your life. Even if at times it feels crazy. Even if you feel foolish. Do what He has called you to do.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

1 Corinthians 1:25

Have you ever taken some “foolish” advice that turned out to be wisdom?

Certain steps of faith appear like foolishness to the carnal, natural mind. And more often than not, worldly wisdom does not apply to the path of faith that the Lord calls us to walk. Click To Tweet

Sometimes we feel foolish when we veer away from the path that the world prescribes for our lives; but choosing to live out our calling is not foolishness. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional

All scripture references from the King James Version of The Bible.

Ray Hennessy

Oh Lord Help Us, video, honesty, truth, purpose, mission, influence

Honesty and Truth: You Have Purpose, Pursue Your Mission!

We can often feel that we have no purpose, or that there is no reason to pursue what we feel passionate about. This is a lie!



Honesty and Truth

Ready for some honesty and truth? Here’s the honest: I often feel that I have no influence. I feel like the message that I am sharing, that I am so passionate about has already been said, and it has been said way better than I could say it. So why bother?

But here’s the truth. We do have influence. God gives us a passion, a mission, a dream, a purpose. In Titus chapter 2, verse 11, it says…

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people…”

All people need to hear God’s good news, and it takes all of us to get that message out. It says a few verses later, in verse 15…

“Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

If you are feeling that you don’t have purpose, and that you don’t have influence… dear lady! You are so mistaken, just like I am. Let’s not believe this lie that our words don’t matter. We are to share the good news, spreading God’s truth. So go out there and pursue your mission.

focus, dream, purpose, mission, worth, value, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, ministry

Focus: The Most Important Step When Pursuing Our Purpose and Mission

We need to be careful not to do this with our focus when we are pursuing dreams and fulfilling the purpose we believe we were meant to fulfill.



I was feeling  discouraged. Why is it so difficult? Why, Lord? Then I heard in my spirit, “Rachael, stop trying to get everyone to like you. Love them, be kind to them, but how people respond to you or feel about you, is not your concern.” Ok, fine.

My longing and discouragement was deeper than that, though. So I made a decision. Instead of powering through and acting like I have my act together, putting on a show in front of the One who knows me intimately, I got honest. (Yes, sometimes my actions show that I believe I can actually fool the Lord. Ridiculous, I know.)

But what about you, Lord? Do you approve of me? Are you proud of me? I know I am approved, as in I know I am loved and am a child of You, the King. But do you approve of what I’m doing? I need something here, Lord! I’m not doing this for popularity, or something to keep me busy. I’m doing this because I have followed the direction of Your Holy Spirit one scary step at a time. Now I am in this place, and I’m wondering if I took a wrong turn somewhere.

A couple hours went by while I replenished my low endorphin supply with exercise. When I returned to my phone, a few confirmations were waiting for me. Validation. “Yes, what you are doing has worth. Yes, you are valued.”

Driving back home, I was feeling lighter, and it was not just because of the endorphins. It honestly made me feel special that the Lord, the Creator of the Universe, truly cares about each of us intimately. My hurt was seen, and He knew I was in need of Fatherly encouragement.

We need to be careful not to do this with our focus when we are pursuing dreams and fulfilling the purpose we believe we were meant to fulfill. #dreams #purpose #mission

Focus on the mission…

Then, later in the afternoon, the reminder came of why He has led me on this path. Turns out, it is not about me feeling valued, it about others knowing their value. This mission I am on is not about me, or getting that pat on the back. This mission is about finding freedom, and joy, and hope. It’s about people becoming – truly becoming – who they were created to be.

Yes, I love approval, who doesn’t enjoy a good compliment? It is so easy to get sucked into the mindset of it being about me. Almost 100% of the time, when I begin to feel discouraged, or insecure, it is because my focus has shifted to where it does not belong.

It is the Lord who fulfills me. It is this mission that makes me feel alive. The Lord is who brings me joy, the mission brings purpose. I love this mission I am on, and I believe I am doing what the Lord wants me to do. But more than that, He wants my heart. Only when He has all of my heart does He reveal the next step to take in pursuing mission and purpose.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33, ESV

We need to be careful not to do this with our focus when we are pursuing dreams and fulfilling the purpose we believe we were meant to fulfill. #dreams #purpose #mission

Focus on our purpose…

Purpose looks different for each of us, and this is so beautiful to me. But I do forget it at times. Sometimes I think everyone has the same purpose as myself, and then I feel like, why bother – she has so much more talent, she knows more people, she, she, she…

In actuality, if we stop looking at other people, and look to our Creator, we will find our own specific purpose and see how it all works together to glorify the Lord. We will see the value each of us hold, and how we need one another. We will be fulfilled by the Lover of our soul, be confident in the value we have, and motivated by the purpose we have been given.

God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.

1 Corinthians 12:6, NLT

If we stop looking at other people, and look to our Creator, we will find our own specific purpose and see how it all works together to glorify the Lord. Click To Tweet

Focus on The Lord…

What is your mission? What dreams are you pursuing? And what purpose makes you feel alive?

Remember that the mission you are on does not define who you are. It is not your identity, or where you find your worth. If you find yourself holding on too tight to the dream that was place in your heart, I urge you to take a moment, and evaluate where your focus is, and where it needs to be. Yes, we are created for good works, but we are first created to worship.

xoxo

necklace, silver, loved

Sharon McCutcheon

talents, abilities, comparison, ministry, Oh Lord Help Us

Small: Turning Our Two Fish Into A Confident Ministry

Comparing ourselves to others in ministry is very dangerous. It can stifle our ability to see the big picture. To have the confidence, our two small fish are just as important as five thousand fish.



We all know that comparison is a killer and a liar. It kills our confidence and lies about who we need to be. It doesn’t just happen in personal comparing, but it also happens in ministry. We all want to please God, and because we are human, we need constant approval. When ministry is succeeding and hearts are being changed, we feel validation that we are on the right track.

However, what do we do if our validation isn’t immediate? What if it is the long game? We don’t always see the work of the Lord right off, and we become discouraged. We feed the lie that what we are doing isn’t important or our talents are small in comparison.

Comparing ourselves to others in ministry is very dangerous. It can stifle our ability to see the big picture. To have the confidence, our two small fish are just as important as five thousand fish. #womeninministry #womenoftheword #spiritualgrowth

Small Dreams

My husband is a dreamer. He dreams so big! I, on the other hand, tend to dream small. The two of us make an interesting pair. Here he is dreaming about these elaborate future plans, and I’m totally cool with the way life is now. Sometimes, this can discourage me. I think, because I don’t have these dreams of grandeur, maybe his dreams are more important.

I tend to surround myself with people who have drive, goals, and energy. They are my opposite and make me feel complete…but I tend to also compare myself. Believing that I need to be like them, I try and try to dream big. To make my life big. I see God using them. Their talents, their prayers, their dreams and I think, “How can God ever use such smallness?” I’m not the greatest artist to live, I don’t have the most beautiful singing voice, I’m not the most social person, or the most eloquent writer.

Small Ministry

Ministry work can be tough. Especially if we have the mindset like I have with my husband. It’s hard enough to combat the enemy when we are in the trenches of ministry. Let alone, combatting the lies of comparison. There are those who have many talents and resources to carry out massive Kingdom work. Then there are those of us out of the spotlight, supporting in ways that are much smaller. It’s easy to say, “I don’t do it for my glory but God’s glory.” And, that’s true. However, it can sometimes feel like our work isn’t really that beneficial. It’s not that important. We really aren’t bringing much for the advancement.

I feed lies like this. ALL. THE. TIME.

“You’re so small.”

“Your talents are worthless.”

“What do you think you are doing?”

“You’re benefiting from someone else’s dream.” 

I was having a season where these lies were so loud. It was so hard to tune them out and the louder they got, the more I believed them. I decided I was through fighting these lies on my own. So, I hit THE book, to figure out what God says. I was perusing the Bible, when I landed on John 6. There’s that precious little boy with the 5 loaves and 2 fishes. He didn’t have much, but he had the perfect tools for Jesus to preform a miracle!

Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?

John 6:9, NIV

Nothing’s too Small

Without a doubt, Jesus would have found a way to feed the five thousand had the boy not been there. But, he was there with his little meal and Jesus used him in a mighty way. None of the glory went to the boy. All went to Jesus.

So, here’s our lesson: we offer up what we have, lay it on the altar, and ask Jesus to be glorified. It’s so simple, why do we make it difficult? He makes miracles out of the smallest things. There’s nothing too small for Him. We can have confidence our work has value, because God crafted each of us for specific roles in ministry.

Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

2 Corinthians 3:4-5, NIV

Offer up what we have, lay it on the altar, and ask Jesus to be glorified... He makes miracles out of the smallest things. Click To Tweet

Small Ideas

Read the Bible to elderly folks at a nursing home. Sing songs to our children. Prayer is a small act, with massive results. Create tiny scripture reminders to bless others. Write an encouraging letter and send it snail-mail. It doesn’t take much to show others how GOOD God is.

I’ve really been evaluating what small quirks God has woven inside of me. I believe these are the tools he has equipped me with, to help advance the Kingdom. I would love to encourage you to evaluate your uniqueness too. These are your tools; your ministries. Live them out, find ways on a daily basis to breathe life into them. Allow God to take your two fishes and multiply them for His abundant glory.

Have you been comparing your Kingdom work against someone else’s? What do your two little fish look like? What are your unique ministries?

Comparing ourselves to others in ministry is very dangerous. It can stifle our ability to see the big picture. To have the confidence, our two small fish are just as important as five thousand fish. #womeninministry #womenoftheword #spiritualgrowth

Sophia Marston

calling, purpose, Oh Lord Help Us, ministry, Christian, women, encouragement

Nudging: Wake Up to What God is Calling Us to Do

Do you feel the nudging inside you to take action? Do you know what you are to be doing, but fearful to take the next step? You are not alone.



The Bud

For years, no matter where I moved, a colorful magnet was a constant fixture on my fridge. It read, “And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” This phrase was penned by Anais Nin, an author who was not exactly a bastion of wholesome purity. But her simple statement served as a powerful reminder: I too contained a bud, a story, that one day would flower into something beautiful to behold. But for far too long, my story remained an unfurled bud. My depression was a frost in spring. As it stung my petals with its bitter cold, I drew them back into my sheath so as not to feel a thing.

Do you feel the nudging inside you to take action? Do you know what you are to be doing, but fearful to take the next step? You are not alone.

The Knot

I’ve known for a long time that one day I’d write my family’s memoir. But the undertaking felt so daunting that I could never fully wrap my head around how to begin. How does one recollect, let alone accurately redact, all the details of a lifetime? There were far too many tangled strands of story lines. The intricate braiding and painful upbraiding of my unconventional upbringing. The unsightly split ends and splitting of hairs caused by my folks’ radical life choices and failing relationship. Not to mention the rigidly combed parting of social isolation and the starched white bonnet covering of my fledgling faith.

The Unraveling

My story, like so many of our stories, consists of innumerable loops. Its strands, so tightly wound, that the painstaking process of picking them apart presented an impossible mental knot to untie. But the Lord is beginning to unravel the intertwined mess to unveil the underlying beauty. And He knows every hair on my head.

But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.

Luke 12:7

The Nudges

Within the last month, the Holy Spirit has nudged me to begin writing. Some nudges have been gentle; others more direct. One of the first nudges came during a sermon my pastor gave called “Creative.” In it, he quoted Psalm 139: 13-14, “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

I’ve always loved the gentle image this scripture summons: God’s warm light hovering over a babe in its mother’s rounded belly. But this time, the take away for me was very personal: the epiphany set in that God has already written my whole story! He fashioned my petals, wrapped each one into the bud in my mother’s womb, and continues to cultivate my growth in ways I cannot even comprehend. He sees me as one of His marvelous works and longs for me to fully blossom! If that same God, through His Holy Spirit, now is nudging me and promising to lead and guide me perfectly, how can I not respond?!

God has already written my whole story! He fashioned my petals, wrapped each one into the bud in my mother’s womb, and continues to cultivate my growth in ways I cannot even comprehend. Click To Tweet

Gentle Nudges

The next nudge came the following day during a pleasantly lazy afternoon conversation on my screened in porch with my mother in law. Prompted by her simple questions, I was flooded with vivid memories of how my family had survived throughout my way-off-the-grid childhood. The petals of my story began to open. In one memory, I was holding up a large, lightweight screen to winnow wheat and then watch the soft chaff gently drift away. In another, my dad looked like an astronaut as he donned his beekeeping suit. As if slightly defying gravity, he softly and silently floated through the white boxed beehives. It was like watching magic to see him squeeze the smoker bellows, putting the honey bees to sleep before gently coaxing the treasured honeycomb from their hive.

Harder Nudges

Later that evening, more tightly wrapped petals of my story reluctantly revealed their edges: the fear I felt crouched in the dark shadows under the kitchen table as my parents screamed and violently flailed their arms at one another. And some of the thorny tips of my story’s stem pricked my heart. Like the night my mom, in a fit of rage, threw my beloved storybook Bible into the open flames of our wood heating stove. As my mind’s eye saw the edges of each sheet begin to curl, then smoke, then burn, it’s as if the Holy Spirit were restoring the pages of my own story. He was reminding me that because it has weathered strong winds of abuse and neglect, nearly drowned in rainy seasons of sorrow, and thirsted for life in the drought of depression, the little flower He fashioned is nothing short of a fearful, wonderful, marvelous work!

Laying It on Thick

A barrage of other nudges have come almost daily…

A pillow talk with my husband about hope and desire.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13: 12

My friend’s testimony at a ladies’ Bible study. She shared how the Holy Spirit inspired her to write a book of historical fiction, weaving her personal testimony throughout the story.

A sermon from my pastor’s wife about “Holy Imagination” and how the Lord, “…is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20).

Another sermon called “Inspiration,” in which my pastor described how the Holy Spirit inspires and anoints us to do things we can’t do in our natural strength or intellect. He literally even said the words: “Maybe God is inspiring you to write a book that will bless others through the power of God and His Holy Spirit!” At that point I was like, “Come on Lord. You’re laying it on pretty thick!”

The Last Straw

And the last straw came a few weeks ago over coffee with my new friend, Rachael. She asked about my story, and I spent the next hour sharing many of the memories I’d been thinking about for a memoir. As our time was ending, she asked me if I might consider writing for her blog. For over a decade, I’ve written nothing more than short song lyrics and grocery lists. But feeling the nudge, I said, “Sure, I’d love to!”

Awake, O Sleeper

It’s as if I’ve been tightly balled up in that bud, restlessly sleeping, and someone has been nudging me to wake up. The bud would feel the spring’s soft rain and warm sunshine but quickly seek shade from an overhead limb. I would pull the covers back over my head. But the Light is softly stroking my hair. The songbirds outside my window are perched on the budding branches, chirping their early spring refrain: “It’s time to rise and shine!”

Wherefore, he saith, ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’

Ephesians 5:14

Have you been spiritually asleep in a certain area of your life? Do you have a bud inside of you that longs to be exposed to the Light and refreshed with Living Water? How is He nudging you?

Do you feel the nudging inside you to take action? Do you know what you are to be doing, but fearful to take the next step? You are not alone.

Michael Petrila

All scripture from the King James Version
perspective, focus, Christ

Perspective: Resolving to Center Our Minds and Goals On God

Setting goals looks very different for each one of us. Igniting ferocity to seek God and centering our minds on Him, can change our perspective on setting goals.



“My New Year’s resolution is…”

Everyone is saying it. I loathe this saying. This probably comes from a place of inability to set goals. I often feel like “goals” place me in a box. I understand the importance of setting goals and seeing them through, but I also understand that life is life. Goals don’t always work out quite like we think they should, so why bother?

Worldly Perspective

I am sure your social media is buzzing with fad diets and burst workouts, pushing you to succeed in losing some fluffiness you gained over the holidays. Ads on day planners, bullet journals, meditation routines; OH MY! You can’t escape the optimistic posts supplied by all your friends’ new found love for being life coaches.

Please, do not get me wrong. I completely understand (and practice) the importance of planning. I see how fun it can be to check things off a list and watch a scale drop numbers. However, the over all feeling inside is failure and guilt. This resolution thing was a “following the masses” decision. For social’s sake, we’ve gone and done it… we’ve made a beginning of the year promise to change, like we’ve done year in and year out.

Personal Perspective

Okay, okay. I might just be speaking for myself. I should probably just speak for myself. What’s the percentage of pessimists in the world? I’ll speak for us. But seriously, I can’t be the only one that feels this way. I want to know what makes us roll our eyes. Not only that, why is it so difficult to succeed? It has to be that our hearts aren’t in it, right? Maybe we just lack the focus and optimism?

A friend and I were chatting about goal setting and how it’s extremely important in her life. My perspective is different and I wondered how I could gain her enthusiasm for setting my eyes to the future. She offered up some advice… change the word “goal” to “wish” or “dream”. The free spirit side of me rejoiced. Seriously, much rejoicing.

A new line of thinking. That has to be the answer.

Failing Perspective

It is helping, but over all I still feel leery of setting “wishes”. Maybe instead of a pessimist, I’m a realist. Realistically, I understand that life has a mind of it’s own. I know that the year will, without a doubt, bring a hurdle or obstacle. Thus, catching my dreams ablaze. Okay, I’m a pessimist.

I often worry that my dreams are not what the Lord has called for my life. I worry that I’m not seeking Him enough to even know that I’m heading toward the correct wish. So, here I go, thinking ahead on something that hasn’t happened and may never happened. I focus on my future failure instead of God’s success.

This comes from a place of past failure. I’ve had complete and utter failures in my life. They all stemmed from wishes that weren’t meant for me yet. I ran after them, centered my thoughts around them. Centered my life around them. I fell flat on my face. I lacked a heart to follow God’s desires for my life. Lacked trust in His plan.

Setting goals looks different for each one of us. Igniting ferocity to seek God and centering our minds on Him, can change our perspective on setting goals.

Spiritual Perspective

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV

Yes. That is the usual scripture that goes along with this subject matter…but nothing about this scripture is cliche to me. In fact, the later part of scripture is often left out. God of the entire universe (omnisciencent, omnipotent, omnipresent) listens to us. He is the fabric of everything we know and don’t know. The vastness of this existence, is held in God’s mighty hands. Yet, He bends down to listen to our hearts.

“…Am I not a God near at hand” God’s Decree. “and not a God far off? Can anyone hide out in a corner where I can’t see him?” God’s Decree. “Am I not present everywhere, whether seen or unseen?” God’s Decree.

Jeremiah 23:17-18, MSG

Pause from reading and really let that sink in.

Setting goals looks different for each one of us. Igniting ferocity to seek God and centering our minds on Him, can change our perspective on setting goals.

When we seek our mighty God with ferocity, our ways align with His. His hopes are our hopes. When we center our whole being on God, we can’t get enough of learning Him; His commands, His character, His wisdom. Suddenly, our “goals” fade away and there is only God.

… teach me your ways [God] so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

Exodus 33:13, NIV

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.

Psalm 24:4

I’m joining in. The resounding chorus is flowing from my tongue…

My New Year’s resolution is to seek after God. Wholeheartedly, unconditionally, and passionately learning His heart! 

Will you join with me?


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I focus on my future failure instead of God's success. Click To Tweet

 Setting goals looks different for each one of us. Igniting ferocity to seek God and centering our minds on Him, can change our perspective on setting goals.

Matthew Bedford


Are you ready to seek God’s truth?

but God… Where the Story Changes, a six-week study on replacing lies with God’s truth. This study can be done on your own, with a friend, or with a group.

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vision, dreams, bold

Vision: Understanding Where Our Dreams Come From

We are created for a purpose. Each of us have a vision. When we understand where our dreams and visions come from, we have the boldness to act on them.



Of the many attributes I could use to describe myself, “dreamer” would be among the top. And I don’t stop with dreaming for myself. If you are around me long enough, I will start putting ideas in your head of things you could do with your life. I have peer-pressured  encouraged more than one person to run a marathon.

Some ideas come and go in an afternoon. A few, however, I just can’t seem to shake.

Vision: Understanding where Our dreams come from.

Those visions, those dreams, those ideas, those desires…they do not originate with us. They are a part of our DNA. I have long believed that when God gives us the desire of our hearts (Psalm 37:4), it is Him placing in us the desire, not simply giving us what we want. If we are seeking God, then the desires in us are there because of Him.

If we are seeking God, then the desires in us are there because of Him. Click To Tweet

A book I listened to a while back took this thought a step further. The author challenged that the dream actually came before the creation of the dreamer. It wasn’t that God created me, then said, “hmmm… What would be a good job for Rachael? Let’s see… She’s high energy, a tad aggressive (but I can work with that), and loves meeting new people. Oh, I know… I’ll give her the dream of working with women.”

Instead, God says, “Let’s see, there is a group of women who will need to some encouragement. They are questioning their self-worth and not sure where their identity lies. I’m gonna need to someone who has a lot of energy, maybe even a bit aggressive (in a positive sort of way), and isn’t afraid to meet new people. I’m going to create Rachael!”

Isn’t that an amazing thought? Our dreams were not an after thought to keep us busy. They are the reason we were created! The beautiful thing about this, is that even though your strengths may be vastly different than mine, we all have a vision to pursue. If we have a similar vision, we will impact different people in different ways. And if our vision is nothing alike, we are both still pursuing the ultimate goal of making Jesus known. There are no wrong visions!

We are created for a purpose. Each of us have a vision. When we understand where our dreams and visions come from, we have the boldness to act on them.

Vision: Dreams that end or change.

There have been dreams in my life that I no longer have.

I had the dream to open a coffee shop. We did, and we were a part of something so much bigger than just serving coffee. We were a bright spot in that neighborhood. Relationships were born there that continue to this day. But God’s plan was for us to birth that place and let other, more talented people, raise it to what it has become today. Not for a moment have I regretted walking away from that dream.

There have been dreams in my life that have changed.

When I was a newly married, my husband and I served the youth group at our church. I had a dream to begin a mentoring ministry with teenage girls, and was in the process of bringing it to life. But just as soon as the ball began rolling, we moved 6 hours away, and beginning life over with no friends or family nearby. Then, when we moved to Chicagoland (meaning the suburbs), we were actually looking at buying an old Victorian home with the dream of turning it into a place for teenage girls. The dream never grew big enough for me to see what kind of “place” it was going to be, just that it would be to serve young ladies.

Now, twelve years later, I have discovered that there is a home for pregnant teen girls where we live. This is my dream in action. The dream has been dormant for so many years, only to resurface as a ministry I can serve and support.

There have been dreams in my life that have been refined.

You, dear reader, are experiencing a refined dream at this moment. What began as a fun little hobby, and kind of a joke (“oh Lord help us stay sane” is what you will see if you look up at the URL), has lead into a shop of items, speaking, bible studies, and a group of women writing. More than once I have been tempted to pull the plug on this. More than once the Lord has confirmed to me that I am doing what He created me for, for this season of my life.

Vision: Boldness to move forward.

Since our dreams and visions come from the Lord, then so do the battles and the victories. Our dreams are not OUR dreams. We have GOD’S dreams. We can move forward because that is being obedient. He is faithful and will honor our obedience. Even if it is an earthly “fail,” it is a heavenly “win,” and God will redeem it for His glory.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:31, ESV

We are created for a purpose. Each of us have a vision. When we understand where our dreams and visions come from, we have the boldness to act on them.

Final thought…

I can no better shake my vision out of my being, as I can make myself a D-cup. Sure, I can fake it, just like I can get fake boobs, but it’s not real! I can ignore the dream, or distract myself from it, but deep down I, like you, have dreams that I am made for.

So what dreams do you have that you just can’t seem to shake?


There is no fear in love. And you are fiercely loved! Be bold in pursuing your dreams.


If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…

We are created for a purpose. Each of us have a vision. When we understand where our dreams and visions come from, we have the boldness to act on them.

Jordan Ladikos

Adventure: Leaving What is Safe for Abundant Life

Adventure means leaving our comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable, but often what is on the other side is the abundant life.



Just before I woke I had a chilling dream. I was running through a banquet hall attempting to elude a man pursing me. I felt sick as I realized there was nowhere else to run and I had to fight. Finding some knives on a nearby table I hurled them at my attacker. He was able to deflect them with plates or large metal bowls which he would in turn launch in my direction. We ended up in hand to hand combat; I was sorely outmatched. He pinned me against a wall where he slowly stab me in the thigh. I suspected that he thought the blow was mortal since it was one of his signature moves. He lowered me to the ground and walked away triumphant.

The scenes changed and it was dusk. Outside in a harvested wheat field, I was leaning against a wooden fence. Wondering if I looked pale or if I would soon lose consciousness I looked down at my feet expecting to see blood, but there wasn’t any. A glimmer of hope sprung up that perhaps my wound just needed to be mended. Birds started singing as I made my way back to the main house and I knew I wasn’t going to die from the stabbing, but I would have the limp for life.

That was when my tweeting birds alarm fully pulled me from my dream.


Adventure

It has taken me a seriously long time to grow into my name.

Emily: industrious, disciplined, striving.

It is difficult for me to stay on task, so striving certainly resonates with me. Somewhat recently I have scratched the surface of being more self-disciplined. This is because two years ago this weekend, my husband got a job that moved our family 600 miles away from my hometown. And stuff. got. real.

I didn’t used to be an adventurer; I stuck with what felt safe. But when we uprooted our family, I had two choices: become a recluse in one of the most densely populated cities in the U.S. or find community.

We hadn’t even begun to settle in our new home when the heavens opened up and dumped three feet of snow. The blizzard gave us the opportunity to meet several of our neighbors while we were out shoveling every two hours. I hadn’t met that many people on any street we’d lived on before! I had a lot of free time on my hands after our kids were in school. Out of my normal comfort zone, but strangely fearless, I signed up for a ladies’ bible study at our new church and met some friends. Life really took off from there.


Leaving What is Safe for Abundant Life

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23, ESV

My dream captured an accurate picture of my life as a Jesus follower. Historically I’ve run from conflict; but some battles I must fight. Usually they’re messy and rarely do you escape without some wounds and lasting scars.

A lot of change has occurred since our move. I took a job in ministry and have developed intimate community. But our family has also incurred some blows from the enemy. At times, I feel like I’ve prayed all the prayers, read all the books, said all the things…and the enemy still advances. So, I turn and fight – expecting the hits Satan thinks will wreck me – confident that my life is in God’s hand.

I turn and fight... confident that my life is in God’s hand. Click To Tweet

What adventures have led you to an abundant life? Let me know in the comments below!

 


Do you feel like you are striving? Strive to be better, not different!

striving, enough, tshirt


If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…

Adventure means leaving our comfort zone. It can be uncomfortable, but often what is on the other side is the abundant life.

Iker Haro

Trust, part one: Love

I have a past life that seems so long ago, I have to remind myself that it truly happened. It was about 10 years ago that this past life was born.

We had moved from Atlanta to Chicago for my hubby to begin his career. Actually I should say, “Chicagoland” because it was in suburb of Chicago, which is absolutely positively not Chicago. Life was moving along quite predictably when, BAM!! Out of nowhere my husband lost his job. Being that I was completely homesick, I was ready to move home to Louisville, Kentucky. But alas, he was not. We talked about all sorts of things to do. Move west, hike the Appalachian Trail, start a coffee shop, move into the actual city, etc. We decided to do the responsible thing of moving into the city so that he could work on establishing his career. And start a coffee shop too. Craaaa-zeeee!

See, I had this dream of owning a coffee shop when we lived in Atlanta. Just an innocent little dream. People dream all the time, doesn’t mean they actually do it. Not so for me. Hubby gets nervous when I start dreaming. Truthfully, he encourages it. I was looking for an apartment in a certain neighborhood in the city on craigslist. Out of curiosity, I did a search for a store front in the same neighborhood, just wondering what rent would be like for that. And then I realized there was an apartment and a store front for rent in the same building. How cool, I thought, would it be to live in the same building as the coffee shop. I pondered this for a while trying to decide if I should look into it. My hubby’s response was, “in five years will you be happy that you stuck with your career, or regret that you never looked into this opportunity.” Well, if you’re going to put it that way….

A month later, we had a lease. We had absolutely no clue what we were doing. All we could see was the next step to take. It was complete trust that The Lord was leading us to do this and He would take care of us along the way. See, I believe that He gives us these dreams/ideas for a reason.

Delight yourself in The Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

It says that He gives us the desires. Not that He grants us whatever we desire. And if we are seeking Him, and seeking what He wants, then He will give us certain desires. What He wants is for us to love people. And He gave us the desire to love the people of this neighborhood with a coffee shop to provide the way.

It was a crash course in how to love people. See, this particular area of this neighborhood, was a bit rough you could say. It was “gentrifying”. Truly it was lawyers living next door to gangbangers. Not exaggerating. Hubby and I will reminisce sometimes about the experiences we had. Gone were my sweet naive beliefs, and shattered were stereotypes.

Laura. She lived in the building next door with her boyfriend and two year old daughter. This little girl was the sweetest thing. When we were building the space out, Laura and her daughter would just come over (let themselves in even though the windows were covered) and talk to us while we were working. This one particular day she was telling us about rats. Yes, rats are a major problem in Chicago. Go outside after dusk and you’re guaranteed to see one. “They ain’t got no bones, they ain’t got no bones.” She told us about a hundred times. Over and over. I’m pretty sure they do have bones, by the way. But I’ve never actually verified it. Then, once the store was open she started coming in to ask for work to make money. Then to borrow money. Then just for money. One day, she came in in a hurry and left her daughter there in the stroller while I was talking with some customers. She said, “I need you to watch her, I won’t be long!” And off she went with two men that were waiting outside for her. All I could think was that she was “paying” for her drugs and what if something went wrong and they killed her. What is this little girl going to do? I’m going to have to adopt her. Oh my word! Another morning (6am, she was probably still up from the night before), she came in so angry at her boyfriend and was threatening to blow their building up. Ummmm, she was just crazy enough that I had to take her a little bit seriously. And our buildings were about 3 inches apart (not exaggerating), so that meant our building would blow up too. So here I am before the sun was up standing with her at a bus stop with my bus pass to make sure she got on the bus to go to her mom’s on the southside. The last time I saw Laura, she was drunk and told me that she was going to have another baby (it was her 4th). I was pregnant too, and I wept after she left. I loved her.

Kyle and Mark. They were a same sex couple that would come in and work on their business. They were such a blast! Mark was gruff and bitter. Kyle was bubbly and friendly. I won Mark over when he made a ridiculous request one day, and I responded by giving him the middle finger. He cracked up, and I had earned his respect. One day while they were working, this crazy religious lady came in and started telling Mark that the end was coming and that God loved him and he needed to start stocking up on canned goods. Good grief! His response was that he didn’t believe in God, and he didn’t care. After I got her to leave, I told him that even though I am a christian, that’s why I don’t like christians. Mark and Kyle later told one of our employees (who is also a christian) that they’ve never before seen christians that act and love like we all did. I loved them.

John. It was halloween night and business was slow. There were some of the local gangbangers hanging around (easy to spot because they wore a certain color shirt). I knew who they were since they would come in at times, and lived in the area. But they were coming in a lot this evening while there will still a few customers in. John was a law school student that would camp out and study for hours. This evening he was sitting in a corner that was not visible from the street, and he was my last customer. The gangbangers came in for the final time, not knowing that he was there. They seemed so disappointed. Once they left, he confirmed what I feared, “they’re going to rob you.” But then he said the kindest thing, “so I’m going to stay until you close.” He was an angel, I’m pretty sure. And love was shown to me.

Curtis. He started coming in the winter after we opened. He was always dressed nice, and looked very professional. He would sit there for hours looking at the paper. Obviously he didn’t work a 9-5, so I figured he was self employed and some sort of business man. Since the majority of the Chicago population hibernates in the winter, and it was our first year open, business was sloooooooow. It would be hours with just Curtis and I in there. So naturally we started talking. Turns out he just got out of prison. For drugs. He was at one time a major dealer in Chicago (he was just busted with the drugs, not for dealing). He use to have a sweet apartment, with a fast car, and hot ladies to keep him warm. But not now. Now he had a crappy apartment, no car, and no ladies and no friends. All his “friends” left him because they feared they would get busted too. We had many in depth conversations, and I actually “scolded” him (he was 50 years old) at one point. I told him that he had led a self centered life dealing drugs and how could he expect his self centered friends to actually care about anything other than themselves. I was feeling bold that day. He told me I reminded him of his sister, whom he actually brought in to meet me once. When my son was born he sent me flowers that cost so much I confronted him and asked if he was dealing again. He promised me he wasn’t. Not that I believed him. Before we left the coffee shop world, he came in to say goodbye. He told me that people owed their lives to me. He said that he was so depressed and angry that first winter out of prison that if he didn’t have me to talk to, he probably would have killed his past associates. Whoa. I loved him.

There are countless other stories of people that came into our lives during that time. There are friendships that we still have and cherish deeply because of the risk we took to open a coffee shop. We only had the the shop for 2 1/2 years before our son was born and we decided to pass it on to people that could take it to a new level. It was a difficult few years for us. Crazy hours, never leaving the building, dealing with city government, enormous amounts of debt. So often we wondered why we were ever possessed to do such a thing. But then I remember that we were given a desire to love a certain group of people, for a certain period of time. And that’s worth the sacrifice. The Lord has been faithful, I will continue to trust.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent. Or not-so-innocent.

This is the second post in a series about Faith, Trust, Surrender.