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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A New Day

Don’t you just love a good quote? You know the kind. It’s a quote that inspires the heart, expresses a lived truth, or one with an insightful revelation. It’s a quote that leaves you pondering and wanting to remember it or turn it into an action or attitude. Today’s post contains two quotes that I found inspiring. Dig in, ponder, and take what you need to live each day to the fullest and with a wellness attitude. Share how you approach each new day! We would love to hear your comments. Fondly, Terri   Alarm-clock-1191561_640Every morning, when we wake up, we have twenty-four brand-new hours to live.

What a precious gift!

We have the capacity to live in a way that these twenty-four hours will

bring peace, joy, and happiness to ourselves and others.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

I love this quote for its simplicity. Subconsciously, I realize each morning that I have this new day before me. Everything hinges on the attitude within me that rises from my bed. Yet before my toes hit the floor, I seldom contemplate the type of energy and attitude I’m bringing into the gift of a new day. If my life is working well and all things are in order, no hiccups, and no known problems on my plate, then I’m bringing a peace, a joy, a positive energy and attitude into my interactions with others. Those days are my best-lived days and it impacts everybody around me. But… There’s all those other days. The days where I have carried forward the previous days’ troubles and more. I didn’t think about whether I should. I, Terri, let it happen. And, I let it ruin the day. My attitude is stink-o, my energy level is low, and it there’s no doubt it impacts those around me. I’d like to think these types of days are far and few between.

Icon Hearts EncouragedThe truth is there have been times when it felt like difficulties stalked me from one twenty-four hours into the next. What happens to me is a belief settles into my heart and mind causing me to feel like there have been no days without trouble and turmoil. During those periods of difficulty, I have discovered the best way to live is within each hour. It’s about remaining very present so not to feel the burden and overwhelm. It’s enough to wonder how to take the next step. This is when we need a precision focus. We can find strength by narrowing our focus to what is directly before us. In this way, we can take note of any small victories in our situation. With a precision focus, we may see the tiniest detail that is working in our favor. We can take one small step after another and sense there is progress. Living within each hour with a precise focus helps us identify and appreciate what is working and enables us to find reasons to speak prayers of gratitude. We focus on the truth that God’s compassion never, never fails. We seek the peace of Jesus letting it fall like rain refreshing our soul, filling the empty places of our heart with His peace and even joy. Heart spaces known only to God. And in the midst of our circumstances, unaware, we shine the light of Christ as we move through our life hours with a hope and peace that is a mystery to those who know what we endure.

Desert flowerBe surprised by joy, be surprised by the little flower that shows its beauty in the midst of a barren desert,

and be surprised by the immense healing power that keeps bursting

forth like springs of fresh water from the depth of our pain.

–Henri J.M. Nouwen

I love that I, Terri, can be a beautiful flower in a barren desert with that desert representing the difficult times in my life. There was a period in my life when I mistakenly thought that I had to be a woman with a strength of character unmatched by anyone else because I’m a Christian. Probably this comes out of the perfectionistic side of my personality. Now, I know I don’t need to act as though my trouble is no trouble at all. That’s not what God wants from me. If I live as a woman who knows, deeply knows, God’s love for me, then this keeps me from being consumed because his compassion never fails me. I become, without effort, an unintentional light. If I live each hour from a place of steadfast hope, quietly waiting on God’s response, action, wisdom, presence, and faithfulness, then I’m presenting a peace of heart and mind that draws attention. Still not intentional, but noticeable. It’s our unintentional examples that capture the attention of the souls who wonder at us. The nature of our very personal relationship with God enables us to face trials and trouble differently. I am seen as that beautiful flower in a barren desert.

Water-lily-1857350_640King Solomon wrote of days of trouble in the following passage and it’s an insightful and encouraging reminder of how we can live.

"I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks. It’s a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God."   Lamentations 21-24, The Message

Twenty-four hours, new every morning. God’s love, new every morning. His faithfulness over your life, endless, and it is the same for His love of you. Live encouraged!

Don't forget to share your approach to a new day. 

Comment on this post or email me at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com


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

 


Be As A Bird

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As one who is afraid of heights, I envy the birds. They fly so freely without fear trusting in the wind and their wings. I have watched the buzzards soar without a flap of their wings for minutes. They’re just a dot in the height of the sky. Slowly they glide closer and closer to the earth all the while trusting in the presence of the lift of the air. It’s incredible—do you think so, too? Of course, if you’re a sky diver, hang glider, or wearer of one of those wingsuits acting like Rocky, the Flying Squirrel, you probably don’t see it as a big deal. You’re one of those fear-free flying humans! And, I’m happy for you because trust is your middle name. I think it takes a LOT of trust to put oneself in the air like the birds. This kind of trust is the reason I am drawn to the following quote.

American-goldfinch-170602_640Be as a bird perched on a frail branch that she feels bending beneath her,

still she sings all the same, knowing she has wings

– Victor Hugo

I wonder what would come to your thoughts if I asked if there has been a time when you felt like the branch was ready to break beneath you. Or, a time when you thought the ground would give way under you. I’ve lived those times when everything, yes, everything, felt uncertain, unstable, and fragile. Either I felt fragile or I felt the situation around me was fragile, unstable. I’ve never liked those times. I try to avoid deliberately entering those situations. But, health issues, family issues, financial changes, natural disasters, and more are thrust upon us and it can be completely unnerving. That’s when I need to become the bird in the quote. Though days may seem uncertain and fragile circumstances surround me, I’ll continue to sing knowing where my strength and song come from. There is no need of fear because there is strength in my hope in the Lord. The truth is that sometimes I remember this and sometimes I don’t. At least not immediately. I need to remind myself God is for me and my hope is not in vain.

Song…I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.

Exodus 15:1-2

This Exodus verse is from Moses and Miriam’s song after the Israelites witnessed the power of the Lord to save them from the Egyptians. With their very eye they saw the power and strength of God. They saw the power of His love that saved them. You, too, are so loved by God. God is working in your life and knows exactly when you need Him to be your power, your wings lifting you up, out, and through those uncertain, fragile, and unstable times. Your strength of hope and trust becomes even stronger when you remember God’s nearness and knowledge of every detail of your life. Choose hope!

We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us. O Lord, even as we put our hope in you. Psalm 33:20-22.

I believe when we live with a strong hope in God’s active presence in our life, we become a significant encourager to those around. While they may not ask you directly, it may cross their mind to wonder where does your hope come from? What is powering your perseverance, your courage, and your joy? It’s your message without words to those who see you as you live encouraged!

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you either by comment or at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com. 

Blessing to you,

Terri


The Adventure of Journaling

Hello!

How are you? I ask with sincerity because I pray for you each morning. I know God knows who reads this blog and I seek blessings and peace on your behalf. I know I need as much peace and blessings in my life as God’s willing to give me so I figure you do, too!

Today’s post is about the practice of journaling and the creative uses and benefits of the practice. Yes, I know you don’t need one more “thing” to do but you might be surprised at how simple it is to journal. And, the benefits truly out-weigh the cost of your time and effort. It’s a great form of stress management. Journaling can help rewire your brain toward optimism and hope. It’s a fun, creative way to address problems, find solutions, and connect with our inner most self. You benefit physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Whether it’s prayers, praise or anything else you want to share with God—it’s what we’re invited to do. God wants you and I to pour out our hearts to him, bringing hopes and dreams, anxieties and worries, and requests and gratitude (Philippians 4:6, Psalm 62:8, Psalm 66:19-20, 1 Peter 3:12). Journaling is a great format for doing so. Let’s dive into the purpose of journals, the benefits of journaling, and the various types of journals you can create.

Journal pic 1

Purpose of Journaling

  • Journaling is a practice of self-care. You can be authentic and free to express in a safe manner all the feelings and thoughts that you can’t express in other ways.
  • Journaling is an activity where you move the thoughts and emotions held within your heart and mind and place these in an alternative format. The format is determined by you to utilize the best expression of those thoughts and emotions. It can take any form such as a map, a list, as art, as narrative, or freeform streaming of thoughts and emotions.
  • Your journal is a mirror to your mind and soul. You express what is within and this helps you to view your authentic self. Healing, growth, creativity, passion, dreams and more can be experienced and/or revealed.
  • Journaling is a process that frees up your mind. As thoughts and feelings are realized in an alternative format, the process opens pathways that were blocked or clogged with the concern, issue, or emotional turmoil. Your mind is free to take a rest.
  • Your journal is a memoir. As you place your inner most self in a tangible format (released from your heart and mind), you have an opportunity to take the position like that of a third party or observer. Observing yourself, as if from a distance, may help you understand with increased clarity and perspective. New insights may be revealed.
  • Journaling helps you to track habitual thoughts and emotions that may be unproductive or unhealthy. It brings the subconscious to your awareness so you can take charge of what and why of thoughts and feelings.

Benefits of Journaling

  • Did you know that studies on journaling revealed we benefit physically from the practice of journaling? Physical benefits include enhanced immune system, improved memory function, reduced anxiety and stress, decreased blood pressure, increased capacity to cope with distressing issues and concerns, better sleep, increased healing of the body particularly the skin.
  • There are spiritual benefits when you engage in journaling. Spiritual benefits include peace of mind, peace of heart, enhanced awareness of God’s active presence, a deepened belief and trust in the promises of God, and it helps you track God’s faithfulness in your life.
  • Journaling promotes a mindfulness of what we are thinking and feeling. Bringing awareness to your thoughts, thought patterns, emotional responses is one of the ways you can manage stress and your response to the events that happen to you and around you.
  • Journaling brings your focus to the positive aspects of your day and your life.

Journal pic 2

Types of Journals

Below are descriptions of a few types of journals you can create. You can have one journal that has two or three focus sections or two or more separate journals. There are many different templates for journaling available on the internet. Some examples include: Penzu.com/diary-template, Microsoft Word Diary Templates, or Evernote. You can have a writing journal or an art journal like me. The journal is to support you not to burden you. The journal should be part of your of practice of self-care and not an obligation. The purpose of your journal will be unique to what you need and want. I don’t write or draw in my journals every day. My journals are a creative outlet and it helps me connect with God. I have an art journal, a notebook where I write prayers to God, and I have a “word from God” journal. I encourage you to try the practice of journaling by using one of the ideas below.

Gratitude Journal

I love the gratitude journal! There is so much for me to be grateful for. But too often I fail to be in a mode of gratitude. For example, it’s not until I’m sick with a virus or other malaise that I recognize how grateful I am for my overall good physical health. When I write down what I’m grateful for this act keeps me in a mode of thankfulness. It moves me away from a heart and mind that dwells only on what isn’t right, what isn’t happening, and getting stuck in a cycle of criticism and negativity.

Brainstorm Journal (or Mind Map)

The brainstorm journal is great when you have a project or a passion that you are trying to bring to reality. The reason I love this journal is because it can be completely disorganized. I’m organized in every aspect of my life but this allows me to be the opposite. This journal has you place at the center of your Word doc or piece of paper an idea, a passion, a project, or even a problem. With the main concept in the center, you move from the center outward and place the words and/or images that come to mind around the center focus. For example, I brainstormed (mind mapped) my blog. At the center of my Word doc was the word BLOG and a stick figure of me. Then I pasted cloud images all around the word BLOG and filled each cloud with those ideas that would help me realize my project. For another example, go to the navigation bar on the blog site and find “I Get To…” This is an example of a Mind Map but is similar  to a Brainstorm Journal.

Scripture Journal

The Scripture Journal is a wonderful way to imbed impactful verses of the Bible into your heart and mind. I’m such a visual person and there are times when I read a particular verse I get an image in my mind. One day I was reading Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling, and was on day January 19. The writing said, “I am like a supersaturated cloud, showering Peace into the pool of your mind.” Well, immediately I imagined a cloud over my body gently raining drops of peace on my head and body. That image brought such a peace into my heart that I decided I needed to draw it. I didn’t want to lose that image. My scripture journal is an art journal of those verses that evoke an image in my mind that I want to remember because I believe it deepens my unique way of being in relationship with God. (I use high quality stick figures—you don’t have to be an artist is what I’m implying.)

Mindful Awareness Journal (Mindful Journal)

A Mindful Awareness Journal can have several purposes. For the journal to be effective you need to engage in the act of being mindful--being present and experiencing the present with full awareness. Here’s an example of being mindfully aware: I find a place to sit in quiet indoors or outdoors. I am purposefully aware and very present in the moment. I deliberately quiet my mind and body allowing my senses to become fully active. I let my senses have precedence over the movement of mind and body. I slow down to take in the details—sound, sight, smell, touch, taste. I focus on sounds and images present before me. I breathe in deeply the air making note of any scents. This very present awareness places me in a state of being able to receive. Receive what? The rhythm of nature, the peace of God, the presence of those with me. I use the Mindful journal to track whatever I experience or receive during my time in quiet awareness. Later, even weeks or months, I’m able to go back to what I perceived or experienced. Another use for the Mindful Journal is monitoring and document the ebb and flow of your emotions. Acknowledging what you’re feeling and allowing those feelings to surface has important health benefits. Yet another use for the Mindful Journal is related to food and diet. It can help you identify triggers for specific eating habits as you document what you eat, when you eat it, and what you’re thinking about before and during food intake.

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Well Done Journal

A Well Done Journal is a fantastic way to capture your best self. In this journal, you congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished, goals achieved or achieving, mountains climbed figuratively or literally, or any small or big hurdle you have successfully conquered. You do so much good in your life and it often gets unacknowledged by you. Why do we need to congratulate our self? It’s great for us! Acknowledging what you do well keeps you motivated and encouraged. It’s promotes your confidence and feeds your soul. You are of such great worth to God and you are gifted by Him! When you recognize your unique contributions, it chases away self-condemning thoughts, internal criticism of self, and discouragement.

Faithfulness Journal or Prayer Tracker Journal

A Faithfulness Journal is where you capture God’s history of faithfulness, goodness, or presence in your life. This journal can double as a Prayer Tracker Journal as well. I started a journal documenting all the ways God had provided for me, sustained me in the past. I went all the way back to my birth. It was enlightening to go back through events hand in hand with God asking to be shown how He was there with me. At the time of those events I couldn’t see or understand God’s purpose and presence, but in reflection I saw with incredible clarity what I couldn’t see then—His nearness and His presence with me. I live in greater faith and trust because I invested the time to delve into God’s history of faithfulness to me. It’s that history that enables me to refuse to play with worst case scenario thinking and other non-productive thoughts. The Prayer Tracker also tracks God’s involvement in our lives. This journal involves documenting your prayers and then following up on these prayers with the status, response, or result. Regardless of the status of the prayers, answered or yet to be answered, it is good to track what we have brought before God because it can help to increase your focus on the active presence of God in your life.

If you have a type of journal that you find impactful and helps you live well, please share in Comments. I’d love to hear to from you. As always you can email me directly at heartsencouragedministry@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading! Terri

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References

Barbara Montgomery Dossey and Lynn Keegan, Holistic Journal of Nursing, Sixth Edition (Sudbury: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2013), 254.

Brian Luke Seward, Managing Stress: principles and strategies for health and well-being  (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2006), 215.

Cyndie Koopsen and Caroline Young, Spirituality, Health, and Healing and Integrative Health: A Holistic Approach for Health Professionals (Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett Publishing, 2011).

Kate Thompson, Therapeutic Journal Writing: an introduction for professionals (London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2011).

www.samuelthomasdavies.com/journaling-template


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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Let's Connect

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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Let's Connect

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.”  

 

 

 


A Child's Heart - It's In You

Hello and Welcome-

My heart earnestly thanks those of you who have subscribed to the blog. You are my encouragers! Quite a few of you have encouraged me right into creating this blog! When you post a comment, I'm encouraged. When you "Like" a post, I'm encouraged. Just like you, my goal is to honor God and share His message. In turn I hope to encourage you to stay strong in your faith. Now, let's get to the Soul Focus.

Soul Focus:  A Child’s Heart—It’s in You

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Wow! Christmas is here. Family, friends, programs, presents, food, and a lack of rest. How did it go? In all of that busyness I wonder if you stopped to play. You know, play, as a child would. Don’t tell me you’re too old, too grown-up, too inflexible, or too whatever else. It’s good for you to PLAY! Before you were anything else, you were a child. You still are in God’s eyes.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1

One way to get in touch with your inner child is play. Think about your favorite activity as a child. What was your best toy? What did you do as a child that you loved but haven’t done for so many years? What fun activity did you do where time seemed to stand still? Here's an example from my childhood. I remember all the kids on my street playing tag in the late afternoon leading into sunset. We didn’t notice the waning light because we were just doing play and nothing else mattered. Not dinner, not the dim light, not the call of our parents. My plea to my mom was always" just 5 more minutes". 

If you're not yet swayed that play should move to the top of your To Do List, then how about I throw some science your way.

  • Play allows your brain to relax. Your mind needs to wander away from problem-solving tasks. By doing so, you increase your problem-solving potential when you go back at the task.
  • Play stimulates the five senses which is incredibly important for brain efficiency. It’s called neurobics. No kidding! Did you know that the five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell) require continual and challenging stimulation? Our senses map to different areas of the brain and the sensory input helps us engage functions such as planning, problem solving and critical thinking.
  • The brain needs to be challenged in different ways. We get into habitual routines such as driving the same route to work, eating the same foods in the same eateries, using the same problem-solving technique over and over, and performing daily tasks in a similar routine. This makes for efficiency but it’s not that great for the brain.

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Clearly, I've established play is important for your brain. But, enough of the science. Here’s the practical reasons:

  • Play builds relationships. You are and always will be your child’s best first toy! Young or old you should be inviting your kids, family, and friends to play with you! Trips, activities, new experiences, games, art, sports, puzzles—play brings you together. It’s about the act of being together. Let go of the striving and competition.
  • Play reduces stress. Play stabilizes emotions. Researchers have found that coloring can reduce anxiety in adults and children.
  • Play is very good for our physical, emotional, and social health. And, it helps us spiritually as well.

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Play is probably one of most direct ways to getting in touch with your inner child. When I was a child I was amazed at the world, asked questions, and was in a continual state of wonder. My heart and mind were open. I received the world through a child’s heart. I met God with that heart.

One of the wonders of a relationship with God is how we can relate to Him. When I come before God as a child, I feel great comfort and security. I'm amazed how this shift in my thinking, in my approach toward Him, has changed the relationship. It has enriched my soul. But, this can happen only with an open heart. As for myself, I closed off my heart for specific reasons and that act has had consequences. It's taken a lot work to re-open my heart as it was when I was a child. With an open heart I'm more fully able to live as the woman God created me to be. How do I engage with the world through an open heart? For me, it starts with attending to the world with a child’s curiosity. I focus on the details of nature. I try to live with joy. I find ways to play. And, I make it a priority to connect with the child that lives within my heart. 

It's your turn. I would love to hear from you! Share your favorite childhood "play" memory. Share what you do today to keep the "play" in your life. Or, share how you relate to God as His child. You could inspire the rest of us to get our "play" on!!!  

Fondly, Terri

I Get To...

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There are plenty of things you get to do. With gratitude, take stock of everything that makes up your life.

What are three things you get to do today. Here's a few ideas: dream, play, create, and on and on. Be specific. Do one of your ideas today. Just for 5 minutes. Get lost in what you get to do!

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome. Like this post or share it on Facebook. 

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In 2017, I'll be posting excerpts from my unpublished book, Now That's I've Found You, God: Being in an intentional and authentic relationship with God. Be looking for more information in the next post on January 6th.

Post References

http://www.nifplay.org/science/overview/

Can Coloring Mandalas Reduce Anxiety? Renee van der Vennet. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07421656.2012.680047

Brain games: using neurobics to keep sharp. M. Galea. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine July 2007 (297): 76-77

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesn’t-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too

http://www.huffingtonpost/com/stevanne-auerbach-phd/playing-adults_b_2338894.html


Soul Focus - When Eyes Meet, Souls Connect

How many people do you see? A strange question but an important one. If you were out and about yesterday, did you see the individuals that passed you? Specifically, did your eyes meet theirs? Did you acknowledge their presence in one small way? I'm thinking about a smile, a turn of your head toward them, a nod, or letting your eyes meet their eyes. Have you thought about the potential impact of a small acknowledgement and how that could be a gift for someone? We can't read hearts or know what's going on in others lives but what if your acknowledgement touched their heart?

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I know small acknowledgements make a difference because I've seen it. As I walk the often crowded hallways of the medical center, I choose to deliberately make eye contact with individuals who are coming toward me and give them a smile. I don't stare down people or scare them with a huge toothy smile. I save that for my friends! Kidding aside, there is a proper way to make eye contact. Eye contact should be brief somewhere around 4 to 5 seconds. If it's not acknowledged, we shouldn't sustain eye contact. Did you know brief eye contact (less than 4 seconds) or a glance in a person's direction to show acknowledgement is acceptable in nearly every culture? It's sustained eye contact or staring that may be interpreted as confrontational or disrespectful.

As individuals pass by me in the medical center, I specifically focus on making eye contact with those who look worried, tense, or lost. When they recognize I'm looking at them, more often than not, the person's face changes (their face softens, their eyes or mouth smiles back), they may nod or speak. They realize that I see them. In some instances, the person determines that my eye contact makes me approachable and they will say, "Can you help me?" or "Do you know...". This is one example of the impact of acknowledging that you see someone. When eyes meet, souls connect.

In our busy-ness during the month of December, we have a tendency to look through people or look past people. Even without the additional activities, when we are in each other's physical presence we may fail to look into one another's eyes because we're looking at phones, computers, or anything but the person directly in front of us. Recently, I registered for an appointment and the individual never looked at me until they handed me my paperwork. Their eyes were on the computer the entire time. For the person who has one experienafter another experience where they aren't seen, it can be disheartening. The soul cries out, "Does anyone see me? Does anyone care to see me and who I am?"

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At this time of year, we should remember that for some individuals the holidays magnify a sense of depression, loneliness, and anxiety. The end of a year and the beginning of a new one doesn't always provide a reason for celebration and hope. For those whose hearts are hurting, this time of year can intensify their pain. For all the reasons above, you and I need to see the people who pass by, sit next to us, work with us, speak with us, or serve us. 

We are all seen--seen by God. Yet, this concept can be difficult to believe by the one who feels they are unseen by the souls who pass through their life. One small act, one soul at a time. You have a chance to be an encourager for the person who is experiencing loneliness, depression, emotional turmoil or a sense of hopelessness. It all starts with being aware of those around you and actually choosing to see someone. It's how we can make a difference.

(Below are links and references for the above content if you want to learn more.)

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Note to Self - Be Encouraged

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strength those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9

The greatest achievement of the human spirit is to live up to one's opportunities, and make the most of one's resources. --Vauvenargues

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, accounting to what his deeds deserve. Jeremiah 17:10

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Thanks for being a reader!

Please comment and let me know

how this blog can encourage you!

 

References and Information

People at risk: Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has determined that the rate of suicide increased with age for widowed, older men? The reasons for the increased risk for older men included financial insecurity, uncertainty about the future, and depression. Older men who are widowed often do not have a strong support system and this is one of the factors for the increased risk for suicide. Having this information helps us more quickly identify those people who may need additional support and help.

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml#part_145397

http://www.medicinenet.com/holiday_depression_and_stress/page3.htm

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

https://www.thebalance.com/business-and-social-etiquette-how-to-make-eye-contact-3514819

Greenlee, K. and Hyde P.S. (2014). Suicide and depression in older adults: Greater awareness can prevent tragedy. Journal of the American Society on Aging, 38 (3), pp. 23-26.