Being Intentional

What Happens in the Garden?

Hello and Welcome!

I can't wait to share this post because I love nature. I hope you'll discover something new as you read and use it to positively impact your life!

Do you know what happens to you when you sit, work, or play in your garden? Healing. Nature’s effect on your body is being recognized as an important component of the healing process. There is a response by your body to the exposure of fresh air, the sounds of nature, the colors and complexity of plants and trees, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the energy of the earth. How much exposure are you getting?

CyprusDeviation from nature is deviation from happiness –Samuel Johnson

There is a growing body of research that suggests the level of your exposure to nature, being connected to it, is directly related to your attitude, stress recovery, nervous system function, immune response, psychological wellness, and more. Studies have found that hospital patients can better envision the possibility of wellness when they have opportunities to visit a garden within the hospital and see the plants thriving, strong and alive. This powerful visual moves patients to believe that they, whether in part or in whole, are healing and can thrive in spite of the health issue they are experiencing. There is a new understanding that the longer we are separated from nature the more we are negatively impacted in nearly every dimension of health. You and I are connected to nature because we are an essential element of it. You and I are meant to experience nature as a healing gift by the One who created every intricate detail. It’s time to increase your exposure and experience the benefits!

Sacred Space 2Keep close to Nature’s heart. Break clear away, once in awhile, and

climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. 

Wash your spirit clean.  –John Muir

There is something significant about separating ourselves from the noise and the energy of the city, our household, and our work. Busyness encapsulates us. Stress entangles us. Pressures drive us. We allow ourselves to be enslaved to doing and forget to be. Nature doesn’t beckon us to come do—it invites us to be with it, in it, and part of it. I believe we forget that nature is a gift from God to us and for us. Nature is alive, it renews, it feeds us, it shelters us, and it teaches us. For these reasons and more, we begin the grasp the impact of nature on our health—physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.

Consider the artist who creates a piece with the hope that it will reveal the artist’s soul and message. In the same way, God speaks to you and me through the magnificent elements of nature. And when you read the Bible you find example after example of God using nature to communicate a message to His people.

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. –Luke 5:16

When was the last time you withdrew from everything that demanded your attention? When was the last time you separated yourself from the busyness, the noise, and the stress? It's meaningful to me that Jesus chose often to withdraw to pray. Withdrawing had to have been necessary with so many needing him, pressuring him, insulting him, hunting him. There are times when you and I experience such things in varying degrees. Take a moment and think about who needs you, what pressures you, what or who stresses you, and what hurts you endure. It's these things that make it especially necessary to withdraw and be in the presence of Jesus who very much knows what you live through every day. It makes sense that placing yourself in a place of quiet, separated from everything that distracts, is how you will deeply connect with the Holy Spirit. Intentionally seeking a quietness of heart and mind in an environment such as a garden, meditative space, or a place of sacred space is an invitation from your soul to the Lord. When we seek to find God, we will find Him, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, NIV). Where better to find God than in His creative playground—nature!

Garden BenchThe Meditative Garden

Have you ever considered creating a meditative garden? It can be a beautiful way to meet the needs of your soul, mind, and body and create a place of sacred space to meet with God. Your meditative garden is your space so it should reflect your personality and be creatively designed so it will draw you there. There are plenty of resources on the internet to guide you. The garden should impact at least one dominant sense whether its smell, vision, touch, taste, or hearing. By creating the garden around your dominant sense, it will be a place of calm and of peace. For those of us that don’t have the space, the time, the energy to an outdoor garden space, you can create a small indoor garden space in your home. Indoor houseplants, small table gardens, or fairy gardens are great examples of bringing the outdoor inside. By adding candles or essential oils, a meaningful piece of art, poems, scripture cards, photos, music of nature such as bird songs or soothing rhythms, a comfortable chair, or a table fountain you can create a special space to withdraw.

A meditative garden is one way to create a physical sacred space—a place to go, setting all other things aside in heart and mind to center your focus on the Lord. In my next post I will describe how we can create sacred space around us and within us. I hope this post encourages you to set aside time to place yourself in nature. If you have a meditative garden or have ideas for our readers on how to get one started, please share by posting a comment on this blog. You can email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks for reading -- Terri

References:

Health, healing and recovery: Therapeutic landscapes and the everyday lives of breast cancer survivors. Social Science & Medicine (English, Wilson, Keller-Olaman, 2008)

How to Deeply Connect Your Body with Nature. www.spiritualityhealth.com/blog/bess-oconnor/how-deeply-connect-your-body-nature

Does Nature Make Us Happy? Connections with nature are linked to happiness and ecological sustainability. (Price-Mitchell, 2014). www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-moment-youth/201403/does-nature-make-us-happy

Patient’s recovery experiences of indoor plants and views of nature in a rehabilitation center. Work. (Raanaas, Patil, Alve, 2016)

Nature is the Best Medicine. The Environmental Magazine: Green Living with the Earth in Mind. (Johnson, 2007)

 


Your Brand of Beauty

Hello! So thankful for your continued support of Hearts Encouarged. I hope this post on beauty is a blessing to you. You are of such importance to God and I pray your trust and hope in Him flourishes as He reveals his unfailing love and enduring faithfulness to you.  Fondly, Terri

What brand do you support? Nike? Michael Kors? Disney? Samsung? Apple? Most of us advertise on behalf of our favorite brand because it’s on our clothes, phones, and accessories. We spend money on a specific brand because something about it causes us to find it reliable, to be of high quality, or it meets the level of excellence we need to support our activities. Now, having brought this to your attention I’d like you to consider that you, too, have a brand. Surprised? I’m serious--you are sharing your brand every day. Your brand is based on your interactions with people, your attitude, your responses, and acts--what you do and how you get things done. People perceive you in a specific way and that’s your brand.

Purple flowerThere is an abundant need in this world for your exact brand of beautiful.

–Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

When I read this quote from Lysa’s book Uninvited, I loved it. Those words emphasizes that you and I possess a unique brand of beauty that impacts anyone who crosses our life path. These words inspire me, lift my spirit, give me a reminder that I don’t need to assimilate to the pattern of the world. I have a beauty given to me by the One who created me. And, I sustain and enhance that beauty as I apply the beauty regimen God has designed for me. Surprised, again? God has a beauty regimen? Read on my beautiful friend!  “I praise you because I am remarkably and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well....” (Psalm 139:14.) There’s more. You have this undeniable beauty that causes you to shine like a star in the universe when you refrain from arguing and complaining (Phil 2:14). When you choose and use the wisdom of God, a garland of grace adorns your head, a crown of beauty (Proverbs 4:9). When you interact with or respond to another soul from a heart filled with gentleness and a quiet spirit, you display an imperishable quality (1 Peter 3:4). The woman who places her hope in God beautifies herself in this way (1 Peter 3:5). This is your brand. This is my brand. Or, it could be.

Here’s one more verse about beauty and I think it’s hilarious. When I read it I started laughing because the image was so prominent in my mind. A beautiful woman who rejects good sense is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout (Proverbs 11:22). Can you picture it? The outer beauty of a woman is nothing more than a trinket in a pig’s snout when there’s nothing of beauty on the inside of that woman.

Poppy fieldWe hunger for beauty because it is a beautiful God whom we serve.

–Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand

Beauty brings us into places of healing, as well as into God’s presence.

– Jane Rubietta, Between Two Gardens

Yellow flowers

I believe the world is looking for beauty within people because their souls are starving for authentic relationships. Most people don’t know why they feel unsatisfied. And, they try to meet the need of their soul in various ways. God is beauty and we exhibit an aspect of that beauty when we extend the love of Jesus. You and I can bring healing with our words, a look, an act of kindness. The apostle Peter calls you and I to maintain an intense love for each other and to serve each other with the gifts we have received from God. Your gifts make up your brand. You, my friend, are known as a woman who…. Read that last sentence again and finish it in your own words. You get to develop your brand. It forms by following the example of Jesus and the examples of beauty in the bible. What do you think about giving some attention to your brand and considering how people perceive you? Whether you know it or not, people have assigned you a brand. You are known for a brand as it pertains to your work relationships, your leadership, your friendships, your servant attitude, and your display of Christ-like qualities. There’s no time like now to embark on a beautification of your heart! This is an opportunity to do a self-assessment for the purpose of sharing with the world your exact brand of beautiful that brings glory to God. Below are some starter questions to begin the assessment process. After the self-assessment, review the verses I provided above that highlight some of the ways inner beauty can be expressed and positively impact those near to you. Next, identify an area where your beauty can be more fully manifested. Fervently pray for what you need so you may experience the change you would like to occur. Here’s an example from my self-assessment. In my zealousness to advocate for the staff at work to ensure they are treated with respect, I may speak harsh statements about those who are not interacting with the staff respectfully. While my motives seem to be well-intended, those harsh statements show judgment and a lack of grace. My words reflect my perceived brand—harsh and judging. But, that’s not really my brand. I’m an advocate and I have a heart that cares about injustice. However, it doesn’t really matter who I think I am when the perception by others is different. As a result of this assessment, I need to find a better way to communicate to the staff my position of advocacy for them while remaining non-judgmental toward other involved parties.

Here are a few assessment questions to get you started! Ask yourself:

  • What would my closest friends say if I asked them what they would call “my brand of beauty”?
  • What beauty do I reflect from my heart, my personality, or my passions?
  • Do my words reflect the beauty of God within my heart?
  • Do my actions reflect the love of Jesus?
  • Does my attitude reflect a servant attitude much like Jesus during his time on earth?
  • How do I approach problems or issues? Do I currently display my brand of beauty in such moments? If not, what changes can I make?

I hope you found this post encouraging and enlightening. You and I are beautiful to God because Christ makes it so with his righteousness and with his sacrificial cleansing of our sin. The presence of the Holy Spirit within your heart gifts to you an inner beauty that cannot be exhibited without the Spirit. 

As always, I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts via the comment link. You can reach me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Subscribe to this blog by going to the sidebar and entering your email. You'll get a confirmation from Feedblitz and then you're on the mailing list. Thanks for reading and share with a friend. Fondly, Terri

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Living Encouraged

Hello and Welcome!

Have you ever thought about encouragement as food for your soul? In this post you'll discover how living encouraged can uplift your spirit and your life. As always I look forward to your comments and hope you'll pass this on to those that might benefit from the message. Fondly, Terri

Living encouraged is more than a feel-good idea. It is a two-fold process in that God will provide external sources of encouragement while you provide an internal source of encouragement. As it concerns Jesus, he wants you to live encouraged in spite of the obstacles and hurdles before you. Troubles and difficulties can occur, will occur, or are occurring right now in your life. Even more so, Jesus wants you to live encouraged. How do I know? Romans 8:31-39 tells us. Read the verse below taken from The Message Bible. I have personalized the verse as if Paul were speaking directly to you. Linger over the words letting the depth of the message sink into your heart. “So, what do you think? With God on your side like this, how can you lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for you, embracing your condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for you? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for you—who was raised to life for you!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for you. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between you and Christ’s love for you? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture…. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between you and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced you.”

Those words extend a powerful promise and truth. We should choose to believe it as deeply as we are able and then even deeper still. God’s message to you is that nothing stands between you and Him. He’s telling you there is more to your life than what you’re experiencing in real time. The soul is the essence of who you are, residing in a physical body. God has invested in your soul, your life—through His Son. He sends the Holy Spirit as a personal Counselor, adopts you as a son or daughter, and grants freedom for your soul from anything that attempts to enslave it. All of this represents God’s encouragement and hope to you so your heart will not be discouraged but strengthened and empowered (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17). He’s waiting for us to invest in a relationship with Him—an authentic, lasting commitment. In closeness to God our heart opens to receive the truth--God draws upon His unlimited resources to provide to you specific encouragements so you may thrive in heart and soul.  Balance
As God provides the external sources of encouragement, your part is to provide a steady source of internal encouragement for your heart and mind. The primary aspect of producing internal encouragement centers on balance. Balance is about avoiding extremes as it relates to our focus. We should monitor the focus of our thoughts, mindset, emotions, and attitude so we can remain in balance so to avoid falling into discouragement. There are three areas that can be a stumbling block and inhibit self-encouragement. These encompass our reflection on the past and anticipation of the future, self-judgment and self-condemnation, and an unbalanced focus.

Reflection

Reflection and review are of benefit until these become out of balance. The balance is altered when we consistently relive or reflect on past events depriving us of being fully present in the present. In turn, worry, anxiety, or stress on potential future events also prohibits us from being present in this day, this hour, this moment. I discovered I was not living well in the present due to out-of-balance reflection on the past and pre-emptive anxiety about the future. My thoughts and emotions were like a runaway train. My self-reflection of a single event would catapult into events over the last year and, at times, into the prior decade. My unbalanced focus centered on the choices and decisions I regretted, past mistakes, and my weaknesses. The result was a deep sense of discouragement. I didn’t realize how these episodes of self-reflection were devastating my ability to live encouraged in the day at hand. To establish balanced thinking patterns,  I established the “24 hour rule” to set a boundary or limit on my self-reflection focus. The 24 hour rule keeps my reflection on the past or my anticipation of the future within a plus or minus 24 hour window. Here are a few examples of how I use the 24 hour rule.

I reflect on the past 24 hours to acknowledge God’s provision, intervention, blessings, and favor.

I review my attitude, thoughts and conversations as well as actions and attitudes in the last 24 hours that may have wounded others or myself.

I review conversations, actions, attitude, and examples that may have encouraged others.

I confess sin behaviors that occurred within the last 24 hours.

I express gratitude and thanksgiving for what has occurred and in anticipation of God’s involvement in my life.

I seek God’s wisdom for a future need while eagerly anticipating His direction and intervention.

Barley-field-1684052_640The second area requiring balance and mindfulness is judgment and condemnation of self. There is nothing more discouraging to self than a continual streaming of negative internal self-talk. Balance is very critical when evaluating your life, your worth, and your purpose. Here are a couple tips:

Tip #1. Avoid self-depreciation, self-condemnation, and harsh self-judgment. It’s important to acknowledge a weakness, a sinful behavior, or disappointment in self but keep it in perspective. Acknowledge it, learn from it, and let go of it. Use the 24 hour rule to place a limit on any internal self-evaluation. Place your focus on how to prevent what occurred and seek Jesus’ direction and wisdom to resolve or limit future occurrences.

Tip #2. Acknowledge your unique contribution to the lives of those around you. Ask God to show you how you impact the lives that intersect with yours. This is highly encouraging as you recognize that God is using your life to fulfill His purposes. Remain humble thanking God for the opportunity to encourage and love others through your actions, words, and attitude. 

Wood-1246276_640The final area that can inhibit internal encouragement is an unbalanced focus. Where do you place your focus when you encounter difficulties or problems? Who is the primary focus of your life? You? Others? God? When your focus is out of balance, so goes your life. A laser focus on a difficult situation, problem, or person makes it appear much larger and more devastating. Anytime you feel trouble or difficulty is overtaking you, overwhelming you, or consuming your thoughts and emotions, then ask yourself:  

Am I controlling my thoughts? How can I become still in mind and heart? Where is my focus? What do I need to do to keep my focus centered on God? (James 4:8).

Am I using my power tool of prayer? It’s obvious but it needs to be the first thing rather than the last thing we do. Seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction. Be careful not to act or respond based on emotions such as fear or anger (John 14:13).

Do I need assistance from another source to help me readjust my focus? Do you need a professional counselor or psychologist, Christian pastor or minister, or a healthcare provider? It is a sign of wisdom to recognize and acknowledge your need for help. God uses multiple resources to help you to thrive especially when you face difficulties.

Is my focus turned inward? A focus on self can become detrimental if it creates unbalanced thoughts and emotions. When your focus is turned inward, you may miss out on the chance to encourage others and positively impact other lives with your unique gifts and talents. Your life is meant to intersect with other lives.

Do I have a focus on gratitude? Identify at least one positive thing that has occurred in your day no matter how small. There is power in acknowledgment.  Ponder, muse, or re-live any success, kindness, comfort, or laughter that you experienced today. Reflect on and acknowledge God’s presence in the events and conversations of your day.

Your thought life and attitude is a power source for keeping you encouraged. Living encouraged can become a way of life as you inject balance into your emotions, thinking, attitude, speech, and actions. God’s Word is the ultimate power source of encouragement. The Holy Spirit within you encourages your heart and soul. God leads you to receive encouragement through His people as they cross your path. Below are some other ways of thinking or attitudes to help you live encouraged. You might to create your own list of high-powered encouragement statements to say to yourself daily. As you and God encourage your soul, I hope you find your way to living encouraged every day and becoming an encourager to others.

High Power Encouragement Statements

Icon Hearts EncouragedEvery day is an adventure

Expect surprises

Don’t control – let go

You are fully understood by God

No need for pretense

You aren’t rejected by God

God is your firm foundation and you are safe and secure in His arms

Let your inner child-heart feel secure within His presence

Live with joy! Smile! Laugh!

Be open to adventure

Laugh at the future – don’t let a fear of the unknown enslave you

Lean into God

Lay your weakness at the feet of Jesus – let Him fill in the gap

Start the day asking God for an opportunity to encourage a soul

In tragedy or difficulty, live one step at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time

In the darkest hours, God is there – offer Him your faith and anticipate His comfort

Trust God to handle the future—He cannot be taken by surprise

Manage your response to your past – be balanced and seek God who will

give you the ability to forgive and receive forgiveness

Breathe in God—let the peace and love of God flow through your arteries and

veins straight to your heart God is your life—the lover of your soul

 


Experiencing God's Presence

Hello!

It is a great privilege to write to you and I hope this blog post peaks your interest in God’s presence. In the Soul Focus we’ll explore the benefits of having a greater awareness of God’s presence. I hope you’ll be encouraged to believe that He is near you. Beside you. Always close.

Soul Focus

Experiencing God’s Presence

Though it’s a challenging topic, I feel passionate about increasing an awareness of the nearness of God. My main reason for this passion is I don’t want us to miss out on what God has for us. I know the Bible states many things about God’s involvement in our lives and of God’s nearness. I know that each of us experience God’s presence in a unique manner. And, I know I’m missing out on the benefits that come when I don’t acknowledge His presence with me. Let’s explore the possibilities of increasing our awareness.

There are various ways we can envision God. One way is a picture of God as being over all because of His nature as all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. God is on His throne, majestic, holy, the Master of everything. Another vision we may see in our mind is Jesus on the cross. Perhaps it’s seeing Jesus, when he was on earth, in a home, on a path, in the storm, walking and talking with the disciples. Yet, when I take these views of God it places Him far from me, dwelling in the past, but not near and by my side. It’s easy for me to view God and Jesus in these ways, but it’s not so easy to live believing that He is so very near, here present with me.

Too often, His presence with me is not always at the forefront of my mind. I forget. And believe me, I don’t want to forget that He’s near. I need Him and I’m okay with needing Him. But that’s not all I forget. I forget that He hears my voice among all the voices on this earth. I forget that I’m not lost in the crowd. Too often I let myself be lulled into a false sense of aloneness forgetting that my Heavenly Father truly knows my heart. I forget that He sees the state of my heart with the turmoil, the hurt, the anger, the hopes, and the dreams. I forget that He truly knows me, Terri, more than anyone else. If I believe God is truly by my side, then what am I missing out on by not acknowledging His presence with me?

Aloneness

If my dominate image of God is that of Him distantly monitoring my choices and thoughts and how I’ve followed His ways or not, this sets me up for trouble and my thoughts becoming tangled. Why? Because I jump to assumptions as to God’s attitude toward me. I envision God as a critical reviewer of my heart and mind and our relationship becomes skewed. I step into a frame of mind of self-criticism and judgment. But, everything changes when I choose to view God beside me, near to me. Something changes within me. I am able to see God and I are doing life together—He’s guiding me, leading me, comforting me, teaching me, loving me, correcting me, delighting in me. Believing God is that close to me is the hard part. Sure, I have many days when I’m absolutely certain of His nearness. I’m so amazed and filled with gratitude over His care of me. I can hold onto that for hours and days. But there are other times when I can’t seem to feel, sense or believe God is near. Part of it has to do with forgetting to remember God’s promises within His Word and standing firm in my trust in those promises regardless of what I feel or don't feel.   Come near to God

Come near to God and He will come near to you -- James 4:8

God is near. God is present in my life. God always hears me. God is not affected by my doubts, tentativeness, or forgetfulness. The one that is affected is me. I am immensely affected. In my opinion, I believe the doubt, lack of trust, lack of confidence in His intimate nature gets in the way of my ability to experience the fullness of His presence.

There are so many situations and circumstances that have the capacity to overwhelm me. My desire is to choose to be overwhelmed by the presence of God in those times. My desire is to immediately call, reach, and seek God with such confidence that I can immediately be affected by His presence. Do you know why I want this? Because when I’ve asked God to draw near, He has. And when I’ve asked with an expectation of experiencing of His presence, I received it completely. I have chosen the word completely because, beyond forgetting, I can do other things that block my ability to experience God’s fullness of presence.

BarrierYou and I can set up barriers keeping us from experiencing the closeness of God. Here are a few examples: self-condemnation, self-judgment, comparisons, assumptions as to how God perceives you, experiences of rejection, striving to show your worthiness, doubt in the depth of God’s love, and more. When I started my journey with God, there were set in place plenty of barriers between Him and I. God has and continues to guide me to an awareness of what keeps me from experiencing the fullness of His presence. By giving God full access to my heart, He and I assess for any barriers and I do the work of tearing these down. Even today, I have a couple very stubborn default barriers. God’s word is the power tool of choice when knocking down or removing specific barriers between you and God. Other important tools can include professional counseling and prayer.

God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life. 

Psalm 54:4 HSB

God has made a promise to us through Jesus. And, Jesus made this promise to His people, “I am always with you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus proclaimed that he lets nothing comes between us and him and no one snatches us away from God (John 15:4; John 10:28-29). The barriers to experiencing the fullness of God’s presence are often within our control. One barrier that we have substantial control over is related to our capacity to be present in His presence.

I love God’s word and it has the power to encourage us and lead us to truth. Let’s encourage ourselves. Take a moment to read the verses below and let these resonate within your heart. Allow the words to become an image in your mind. Place yourself at the center of the image and experience it as real. Let the image and the words root in the garden of your heart.

Sunrise-165094_640For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.

Psalm 91:11 HSB

…I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground.

This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them.

Isaiah 42:16 HSB

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in You. I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings until danger passes. I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me. He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. God sends His faithful love and truth. 

Psalm 57:1-3 HSB

The Lord your God is with you, he is might to save. He will take great delight in you,

he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

I hope your imagination gifted you with an experience of God’s delight and a quietness of heart and mind. I hope you imagined God commanding on your behalf, being your shelter, and battling for you. For me, it took the extra effort of taking God’s words from the page and imagining these as truth. I hope this post encouraged you to discover the increasing depth at which we can experience God’s presence in your life. If you're willing, please comment and share how you experience God's presence. Or, you can always email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. Thanks so much for reading! Terri

 


Activating Your Spiritual Senses II

Hi Everyone!

Today’s Soul Focus is the second segment on the topic of Spiritual Senses. You can find Part I under the category “Spiritual Senses”. In this post, I’ve provided examples and action steps that you can put into practice to amplify your spiritual senses. One of the great benefits of activating your spiritual senses is how it helps you collaborate with God. We'll focus on three senses -- listening, perceiving, and seeing. Look forward to my next post February 5th on Health for the Seasons and Stress Management. I welcome your comments and feedback. Thanks for reading!

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Listening

God speaks in the silence of the heart --Mother Teresa

Listening means to give attention to and take notice of the words and the emotion behind those words. As the listener, you are fully present with heart and mind in the conversation. Whether it’s listening to another person or to the Holy Spirit, listening is essential to understanding. God may be communicating with you daily, even hourly. This communication can go unnoticed for several reasons: I'm not anticipating God connecting with me, I let the loudest noise in my life get my attention and miss the whisper of God, or I'm simply deaf to His voice. For some of us, we don't recognize God speaking to us. If you develop your spiritual listening sense, this can enable you to tune-in to the unique way God communicates with you. For example, He may speak to you through another believer—God’s message for you through them. You may have thoughts that are out of character for you (in a good way) and this may be the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart and mind. Or, a verse from the Bible might come to mind and the deeper meaning of those words is revealed to you at that moment. Here's an example: I received a text a little over two weeks ago from my friend, Annette, about a women's event in Columbus. She lives in Cleveland but thought I might want to explore it. I read the text and said to myself, "I should check it out on the radio station website--104.9. But, I didn't. Off and on a thought would pop into my head, "Hey, you didn't check out that event." But, I didn't follow up on those nudges. Then this week, I get a phone call from my husband in the am while I'm at work. Here's the kicker: the fact that my phone was in my range of vision (at work my phone is on vibrate), I saw the call, and I answered it, is miraculous. The fact that my husband calls me to tell me about a women's event at Mill Run is unprecedented. When I put my phone down, I knew I had to go to that event. This was my last chance to listen to what God wanted me to hear. This was an invitation from Him to me. And, once I was at the event it become clear why He invited me. So, I want to ask you this question: How might your day, your life be different if you let God capture your attention?

The key aspect of listening for God’s communication is quiet. Quiet is important because He doesn't compete with anything else. The act of deliberately stilling yourself tells God you are available to receive what He wants to give you. Believe me, there’s so much to be received—comfort, encouragement, wisdom, favor, blessings, and more. To successfully develop a practice of listening you need to put yourself in a setting of quietness and this includes physical and mental stillness. I totally understand you may not enjoy being in quiet and stillness with your thoughts. And, it could be difficult to settle your mind and your body. So, here's a couple action steps to help you make “being in quiet” a more natural part of your life. First, you need to identify the best place for you to be in quiet. This step is no easy task because its dependent on the nature of and the demands of your day. Now this might make you laugh but I’ve actually gone into the garage, gotten in my car just to get away from the household noise. I'm sure I'm not the only one. It’s one of the best places for me to get a moment of quiet. I get in the car (weather permitting), with ignition, radio and phone off and I let the quiet and stillness envelope me. I encourage you to get creative with finding quiet. Once you’ve identified your quiet spot, you’re ready to start a practice of being in quiet and stillness. The practice of a quiet heart and mind is very beneficial for enhancing your perceiving sense. If you’d like some help with this, you can go to the top of the blog and find the link to “A Practice of Quiet”. There you will find written guidance as well as a podcast to guide you in the practice.

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Perceiving

We have what we seek. It is there all the time and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us --Thomas Merton

Perceiving is the second sense that allows us to experience God's presence and power in our lives. Perceiving means to be aware of or know by way of the senses as well as the act of recognizing and understanding. Perceiving is being spiritually aware in heart and mind. God is unlimited in His choice of how He will interact with you, but you’ll miss it if you’re distracted. I know there are numerous moments throughout the day when I could connect with God but I have chosen to let something else be my focus. What do I mean? Daily, there is a steady stream of individuals coming into my office seeking information. Add the non-stop emails, my pager, my phone, my to-do list, and my thoughts. I jump from one thing to another working out of my own strength, my own wisdom and it works for me. For a while. But, I don’t have the resources day-in, day-out, hour after hour, moment after moment to solve, fix, brain-storm, lead, serve, and encourage. I need to take a time-out throughout the day to tune-in to God. I know what it’s like to be a lone wolf. There were years I be-bopped around making decisions and choices that, frankly, blow my mind when I look back. I can tell you that did not work out well for me. Maybe you do okay without listening for or perceiving God’s communication but I have no desire to do things the hard way because that’s all I have experienced—the hard way when I go my way.

There’s no limit to the distractions around us and I can pick and choose. I intentionally choose to be distracted by my Heavenly Father's tug in my heart, in my mind. Here are a few examples of how you might perceive God. You have a feeling of unexplained joy within your soul. You have a sense of comfort washing over you after a prayer or conversation. You sense hope in your heart and mind despite the potential outcome of the circumstance. Perhaps you're physically alone, yet you know deeply that you are not—you perceive the presence of Christ. Or, you experience a comforting blanket of peace around your heart in the face of an unsettling situation. These are only a few of the unlimited ways you may be able to perceive the Lord. The key to perceiving is an open heart and mind. We have a tendency to give credit to good luck, bad luck, karma, coincidence, or even ourselves for things that happen in our lives. But, I maintain that with an open heart and mind you'll be able to perceive and acknowledge God’s presence with you. Your sense of perceiving is often complemented by your ability to see.

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Seeing

I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it ceased to be one --Mark Twain

Seeing is similar to perceiving but it includes the physical vision as well as the ability to view a mental image. Spiritual seeing involves being able to reflect on your situation as if you are an outside observer and identifying God’s intervention in your life whether in the past or in the present. It is by seeing God’s active presence in your past that you are able to build a history of faithfulness. The importance of seeing God’s presence in past events comes into play when you’re faced with a current situation requiring an intense trust in God that seems nearly impossible. Having done the work of looking back or reflecting on God’s history of faithfulness and presence in prior situations, you're able to rely on His provision, protection, and involvement. This is your encouragement! Your trust is strengthened, and you're able to choose to hope during challenging situations in the present as well as in the future.

One way that I most clearly “see” God’s involvement in my life is through my journal writing. As I’ve gone back and read excerpts from my writings it’s incredible to “see” with fresh eyes the truth of the situation, recognizing the potential outcome and consequences that could have occurred and then comparing this with the actual outcome. I may not have been pleased with the actual outcome, but I can “see” God’s involvement. And, I can reflect on how I came to make that decision and choice along with the knowledge of whether or not I asked God to be involved. Other ways I have come to “see” God’s presence in my life has been with professional counseling. These are two examples of how I began the work of intentionally looking for the history of God’s faithfulness to me. When you realize how much and how often God's been at your side in the past, you are awakened to the truth--His love for you is unfailing, He delights in you, and you are never rejected. (Psalm 91:14-16, NIV)

I hope this has given you some insight into the spiritual senses and its significance to your relationship with God. Jesus felt strongly about the importance of listening and seeing in Matthew 13:13-16: “For this reason I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: ‘You will listen and listen, yet never understand; and you will look and look, yet never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn back—and I would cure them.’ But your eyes are blessed because they do see, and your ears because they do hear! (Holman Standard Bible). These people could see and hear, but they were blind and deaf spiritually. I want to see and hear with more depth beyond the surface. I desire to experience the deepest connection with God that He will allow.

God interacts with you in a very personal and unique way and it may take some time for you to discover how to listen for, perceive, and see His active presence. I feel certain your relationship with the Lord will take on a deeper dimension as you set yourself aside from the world to seek and tune-in to Him.

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If you have a prayer request, a private comment, or a question, please email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com

 

 

 

 


Activating Your Spiritual Senses - Part I

Hi Everyone!

It’s a new year and it’s going to be filled with incredible encounters between you and God! I’m excited to share this blog post because activating your spiritual senses opens one of the doors to being intentional in your relationship with God. Today’s Soul Focus is an excerpt from my unpublished book, Now That I’ve Found You, God. I wrote this with my friend, and church pastor, Bob Bowers.

Along with the post, I’ve provided a podcast that guides you through a practice of quiet. Now, I’m going to go off road here for a moment so bear with me because this is going somewhere. I think of you as a family and with your family you try new things such as a new recipe. Well, I’ve recorded this podcast with high hopes that its beneficial and does what I hope it will do—guide you into a place of mindfulness and a sense of relaxation. But…we all know things may seem like a good idea and then Kaplooey! If something doesn’t work, then I want to know. Your comments are so important. You’re the experts! Now, let’s go to the Soul Focus.

Soul Focus - Your Spiritual Senses I

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Do you have a television show that captures your rapt attention? You know the one—where the story unfolds with each new episode, each new season. Well, what if we compared our lives to a long-running television series? Each episode shows the characters making choices and decisions to create dramatic endings, successes, comedy relief, or loss and sadness. As we watch, we often see or know what the characters cannot. The choices and actions of a character determine their outcome. As viewers we don’t get to butt in, advise, direct, or help the character in any way to take the best path or make the better choice. We can only watch it unfold.

As I look back at the episodes of my life, playing the re-runs in my mind, I’m amazed at my lived experiences. I see sadness, excitement, good choices, poor choices, success, loss, courage, laughter, silliness, and regret. And, all along God watched as I lived it but never simply as a viewer of my life. God has always been willing to interact with me, connect with me. He walked with me in every one of those moments and was available to offer me direction and wisdom. As I’ve replayed those episodes of my life, what stands out most clearly is this: a realization of His protection and faithfulness despite my lack of listening for, perceiving, and seeing Him in those times.

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God knows the plans He has for me and, thankfully, He desires to interact with me and lead me away from paths and plans leading to dead ends and deep pits. Being in communication and collaboration with God is the most special part of my relationship with Him. Relationship with God is what makes women and men different from all the rest of creation. When I fail to engage God, interact with Him, then I also fail to listen, perceive, and see God’s direction or wisdom. It is I who spiritually close the door on Him. That act can never be good for me. There came a time when I realized I needed (and wanted) to intentionally seek God’s guidance. Now with a new mindset, I continually challenge myself to stop taking the lead on decisions and choices, and enter into a practice of seeking and tuning in to God interacting with me. However, initially the problem for me was the" how" — how do I seek and tune-in to God’s voice, His presence, and see Him?

Contemplating on how I could seek and tune-in caused me to come up with the idea of the spiritual senses. I believe you and I have spiritual senses and each sense acts like a filter. Your spiritual filters are made of your knowledge of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit, and your history with God including the degree that you trust and hope in Him. When you face a circumstance, event, person, answer, outcome, or difficulty, you have the option of running it through your spiritual filter. This filter allows worldly elements to pass through leaving behind the spiritual implications. Using this practice, you may see, hear, understand, or acknowledge with greater clarity the power and presence of God in the things you experience. The importance of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word is that it teaches, counsels, and guides you to hear, see and perceive. Keep in mind that your personal history with God, and how you relate to Him, has implications for how you will or will not see Him as you face various challenges in your life. Be open to the many ways God will communicate with you.

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Yet, there are those other times—other times that no matter how often you ask, seek, and tune-in God is unnervingly quiet. God reserves the right to refrain from letting you see the how, the why, or the big picture. With much sincerity, I am able to empathize with you. I know of the hours, the days, seemingly filled with nothing that could be labeled good. Those times require you to activate your deep trust and hope in His sovereignty. Choosing to lean on the Lord allows you to experience His promise to hold you up in it. From my experience, it may be that you will understand God’s involvement only by way of reflecting back on those times. Reflecting back is how you build God’s history of faithfulness to you. This history between you and God helps you do this: filter new and challenging situations with a belief that God will be with you in the present as He was with you in the past. You want your spiritual senses to be active and turned on so you can listen for, perceive, or see God. In fact, Jesus spoke of this in John 10:27—“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  

To better understand each spiritual sense, we need definitions for listening, perceiving, and seeing. All of the definitions are paraphrased from Merriam-Webster.com. Listening means to give apt attention to the message. The listener is fully present with heart and mind while the message is being received. Perceiving means to be aware of or know by way of the senses coupled with recognition and understanding. Seeing is like perceiving and includes the physical vision as well as mental imagery. Seeing may also involve reflection as if you are an outside observer of your own situation.

I believe listening, perceiving, and seeing help you to collaborate and communicate with God who knows all things, sees all things, and is in all things. You benefit when you open your heart and mind and humbly ask for His involvement. Daily you are presented with numerous decisions and choices. Your decisions and choices in addition to how you handle a circumstance matters because you’re a reflection of Jesus to the world or to the one soul who’s watching. When you seek God and anticipate God working in a circumstance, then you will reflect the peace of Christ, the attitude of Christ, and the love of Christ. Listening for, perceiving, or seeking to see God in every aspect of your life relieves you of having to rely on your own limited wisdom and understanding. (References can be found at the end of this post.)

In my next post, I'll provide examples and action steps you can put into practice to enhance your spiritual senses. One element of fine-tuning your spiritual senses is the practice of quiet.  Below I have created a podcast that will lead you into a session of quiet listening.

 

A Practice of Quiet

Download A Practice of Quiet Podcast

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If you would like to submit a prayer request, a private comment, or ask a question, please email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com

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Spiritual Senses Reference List

Definitions for listening, perceiving, seeing:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/listen

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perceive

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/see

Verses from Holman Christian Standard Bible:  John 10:27—“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”