Your relationship with God

October Newsletter

Hello Encouragers,

It’s October, a time to plant bulbs of encouragement in your heart and those around you that will bloom at their intended time. It’s so glorious when the Spirit brings forth to our mind an encouragement from the past such as when a friend’s comforting words rises from the background of your mind at just the right time. Always ask, and expect, Holy Spirit to encourage you.

This month’s newsletter, an 8 minute read, is packed with good things for you:

  • A Hymn of Promise - guest post by Tara Shantz, a dear friend and fellow oncology RN
  • Opening the Door to the Heart is Tough – Musings by Terri
  • October Book Review - Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian meditation in focus, by Sarah Geringer

Introduction to Tara’s Guest Post

Planting bulbs to rise in the spring is an autumn task, and there’s an expectation of a big reveal. The hymn titled, In the Bulb There is a Flower (Hymn of Promise), by Natalie Sleeth, speaks of seasons and revelations. The devotion, A Hymn of Promise, comes from the heart of my dear friend, Tara Shantz, and her thoughts were prompted by the message within the hymn. Tara’s graciously allowing me to share it with you in this post.

Following_jesus.heartsencouraged.comThe Hymn of Promise, by Tara Shantz

The Hymn of Promise is uplifting to me. Its optimistic lyrics written by Natalie Sleeth in 1985 remind me there is light in the moments of trial, tribulation, and even despair. The lyrics remind me of the human lifespan and that our beloved Jesus rejoices and endures alongside us.

As a nurse primarily focused in oncology care, I learned to stop asking the question “why?” a long time ago. My first couple of years spent at the bedside with acute leukemia patients were very hard. Not only was I learning how to be a nurse to critically ill patients, I was also learning how to cope with compassion, fatigue, and grief that affected me both professionally and personally. Six months after starting my job, I was called to support my brother in California for six weeks. Complications of open-heart surgery led him to have a heart transplant. Thankfully, he thrives today. This time period of my life is when I realized “why?” is not my business, believing is. The last line of the hymn speaks well to this, “unrevealed until it’s season, something God alone can see”.

Although the grief encountered in my nursing career has not lessened, the threshold of my resilience has improved. I remain prayerful that the Holy Spirit works through my knowledge and skills to meet my patient’s needs where they are with the resources that I have at any given time. I remain humbled by the talented healthcare professionals who I get to call peers and colleagues – the patients who demonstrate unbelievable courage – grateful for perspective and so much more.

The Hymn of Promise is special to me. It provides a comforting reminder that there is light in moments of trial, tribulation, and even despair.

Pray with me: What you can see, God, is so unknown to us—and we are humbled by your vision for us and for your world. We have hope knowing we, and all things, are in your hands. Help us embrace the mystery that is you, and that is us. Amen.

Below is a video of the Hymn of Promise 

Musings by Terri - Opening the Door to the Heart is Tough

I’ve been posting to this blog for a little over three years. Some of you have been with me since the first post and your encouragement and comments have sustained me. Lately, the Holy Spirit is pressing me to share from the deep, inner recesses of my heart, saying, Share the valleys, the pits, the pain, and the lessons, Terri. I respond, Oh my, there’s been plenty of that, for sure, but your request, Holy Spirit, is a scary thing.

For years, I fiercely guarded my heart to protect against hurt and rejection, and no one could protect my heart like me. As a Christian, I followed God, loved him, but did not give him access to my heart. I misunderstood God’s brand of love as opposed to human love. I didn’t think I could trust Him with the most delicate and fragile part of me. With much brokenness, scars and shame, along with deep hurt, I believed my heart was no place God needed to be nor wanted to be. Tears fill my eyes, even now, as I recognize how much I needed his presence in those days. What healing could I have received and so much sooner?

Then came the day when I had no choice. As a last resort, I fearfully abandoned my guard post and invited God to not only enter, but take up residence. On my shins with head bowed, and going against every reservation pulsing through my mind, I gave God access. I chose to trust Him with my heart. And, I’ve never had to be on guard since.

Daily, God directs me how to tend the soil in the garden of my heart and we work it together. But now, the Spirit is asking for others to be invited in. This means sharing my story, God’s story written on my heart. There’s risk in doing this—being misunderstood, rejection, or silence. In a blog format, one never knows how the message is received so putting your heart out into the world takes guts. On the other hand, every time we tell of God’s loving, incomprehensible, incomparable presence, wisdom, direction, and acts, we give others hope and support their faith endurance and perseverance.

I’m going to take the risk, but I’m feeling insecure and uncertain.  This means it’s time for me to softly sing my go-to hymn, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”. Sing with me,

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow Jesus;

I have decided to follow, Jesus;

No turning back, no turning back.

I sing to renew my promise to God and my conviction. Faith beckons us risk sharing our heart and trusting God to use it as he chooses. 

Now on to the Book Review!

BOOK REVIEW
Transforming Your Thought Life: Christian mediation in focus, by Sarah Geringer

Sarah and I met at a Proverbs 31, She Speaks, writing and speaking conference. We became prayer partners before the conference and as her friend, I’ve been supporting her journey to publishing her first book via mainstream publishing. She has at least three self-published books. Transforming Your Thought Life identifies thought pathways embedded in just about every woman’s mind. For instance, self-critical thoughts, discontent thoughts, regretful thoughts, unforgiving thoughts, and so on. These pathways can be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Sarah provides Biblical content and her own stories of thought-life healing. Moreover, it’s a great book to use as a reference for thought-life tune-ups.

Here’s a quote from the chapter titled, Defeated Thoughts,

"Look for God’s goodness every day, and your confidence in him will grow. As you watch the Lord destroying your defeated thoughts and uplifting others, thank and praise him for his goodness (Psalm 27:13). He always makes good on his promises, and tracking the victories will strengthen your faith."

Sarah’s book is being released this month and I’ve received an advance copy. It’s definitely a must-read. Check out Good Reads and Amazon for other readers’ comments.

 

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You've reached the end, and I hope you've enjoyed the content and the links. As a parting thought, know to the core of your being God has you in the palm of his hand. No other place is as secure, supportive, and powerful. He's got you! Peace to you, Terri

 


3 Options to Refresh Your Private Time with Jesus

Hello and Welcome!

I’m so excited you’ve popped in to discover three ways to refresh your private time with Jesus. Any time we engage in a daily practice there’s the potential for it to become routine, familiar, and even boring. Private time, meditation, or prayer with Jesus is not immune. To ensure you don’t fall into a rut, refresh your practice of meeting with Jesus with three options.

Refresh Option 1

Lyrics from a song easily transforms into a prayer or focal point for meditation. Several years ago, I bought The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and hymns for worship for just that purpose. Sometimes, a verse or even an entire song declares  exactly the feelings I have for God. For instance, the fifth verse of the hymn, Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, contains a heartfelt, image-evoking prayer. Copyright law prohibits me from quoting the verse word for word so I've paraphrased it below.

Your love for the Lord, stored in your heart, is a treasure so precious it cannot be valued. You pour out this love upon His feet as an act of undying surrender. You offer your love, your life, dedicated to Jesus only, forever and ever and ever.

What a beautiful prayer and image describing one's love for Jesus. I can see myself at Jesus’ feet, pouring out my love as an offering. See John 12:3 for a similar image.

Alternatively, lyrics can turn into a meditative focus. We can create questions to go even deeper in the message.

Let’s try it with the same paraphrased verse from Take My Life.

Your love for the Lord, stored in your heart, is a treasure so precious it cannot be valued. You pour out this love upon His feet as an act of undying surrender. You offer your love, your life, dedicated to Jesus only, forever and ever and ever.

I find two questions arise in my mind: 

Am I offering every part of my life to Him?

Do I have any idols trying to compete for His attention and my devotion?

Here’s another example from one of my favorite musicians, David Crowder. His song, Come and Listen, is a call to quietness and reflection. It says pay attention because Jesus has done stuff for us, he's doing stuff for us, and he's going to keep on doing stuff for us.

Again, we can tease out a couple meditative questions.

Am I sharing what Jesus has done for me and is doing for me?

Second, do I live in such a way that someone might ask about Jesus?

Consider introducing lyrics into your time with God to keep it fresh.

Refresh Option 2

I enjoy reading the New International Version because I know it well. Familiarity enables me to find verses quickly. On the other hand, familiarity can decrease the power and meaningfulness of those verses. To guard against this, exploring a different Bible version can make it fresh and new again.

Let’s compare the verses from Luke 10:41-42 using the New Living Translation (NLT) and the New International Version (NIV) as an example.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

In the NIV version above, I always hone in on the phrase…only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better. The word chosen catches my eye. When I first discovered this verse, the idea of choosing Jesus above and beyond all other options had a high impact factor for me. Over time, the impact has faded.

Now, let’s read the same verse from the New Living Translation.

“My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NLT)

In this version, I immediately zoom in on the same phrase, …there’s only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it…. This time the words concerned and discovered jump off the page. The key word in the NIV version is choice, but the NLT version awakens me to the concept of discovery. Am I looking for or discovering Jesus in the midst of the moment?

Perhaps you'll experience new meaning or a new way of thinking about your relationship with Jesus by introducing a different version of the Bible into your private time.

Refresh Option 3

I've read daily devotionals so packed with nuggets I can't absorb it all in one sitting. Spotlighting a word or phrase allows me to linger with a small portion of the content. 

Let’s try it with a meditation I wrote. 

God sees you. He knows you. Every square inch, inside and out.  You're wholly loved by God. It's unconditional. Unchanging. Faithful. Let yourself believe it. Have no doubts about it.

We could pause at any one of the sentences, but my spotlight is landing on, Have no doubts about it. I can turn this phrase into a question.

Do I ever doubt God's love for me?

When you find your eyes or mind attracted to a word or phrase, it could be the Holy Spirit inviting you to linger with and savor the message. In turn, you can ask the Holy Spirit to reveal deeper insights and wisdom.

PrayerI hope these three options will rejuvenate and refresh your private time with Jesus. Below is a printable I've created for you to share or to keep handy when the time comes to bring newness to your current practice of meeting and conversing with Jesus. Download 3 Options to Refresh Your Time with Jesus

God loves us. He loves you. Thanks for reading! Terri

References:

Crowder, David. Come and Listen. A Collision. CD. Sparrow Records. 2005

Havergal, Frances Ridley; Malan, Henry A. Cesar. Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated. The Celebration Hymnal: Songs and hymns for worship. Arrangement. Copyright 1997 by Integrity’s Hosanna! Music and Word Music

Images by Pixaby

 


What's So Important About Awe?

Greetings Friends!

A few months ago I heard the word awe briefly referenced in a sermon. By the time I left the church service, the Holy Spirit tattooed that word on my heart and mind in gigantic capital letters. AWE. I needed to find out more.

I commenced an investigation and am convinced awe is a bigger deal than we realize. I invite you to discover how awe impacts our relationship with God.

Let’s take a look at the definition.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary concisely defines awe as a response of wonder, reverence, or even dread. My definition of awe is slightly wordier. Awe is an impressionable moment attributed to God because of the undeniable display of His active presence.

When God’s magnificence, glory, and power grabs our soul’s attention it prompts the realization of God in it or God with us. Awe is a step beyond thankfulness. It’s a declaration, a confession. Biblical examples include David and Daniel. Here’s an excerpt from Daniel Chapter 9.

“O Lord  you are a great and awesome God! You always Daniel 9What a profound confession from Daniel’s heart. Having personally experienced God’s life-saving power when confined with lions, he had every reason for awe of God. His awe expresses reverence and a love for God.

Have you ever wondered what our awe means to God? What if He receives awe as a love offering from our heart?

Here is the first reason why being awestruck by God is a big deal.

Awe of God expresses our love for God.

Awe of God 1

Below is a quote by Brennan Manning, author of Ruthless Trust, and it says volumes about awe.  

Awe of God Manning Quote

Brennan is saying pay attention. Let yourself be amazed. Why? Awareness of the awesome nature of God invites an inpouring of strength, peace, security, and joy. Awe beckons Jesus.

Here’s an example from the Book of Acts.

Acts 2Are you surprised prayer, the Word, and community cultivates awe? The closer you get to Jesus the more awestruck you become.

Here is the second reason why awe is important.

Awe significantly enhances your relationship with the Lord. 

To better explain, here's an example from my life. Twice, my heart has physically ached from being heart-broken. The first time it happened I didn’t think to ask Jesus for help. I went through it alone with misery. The second time I asked Him to join me.

Friends, oh, how He met me in it. I felt His strong presence though the grief threatened to overtake me. Overwhelmed by awe, I confessed it to Him.  I didn’t feel lost and desperate. Darkness didn’t enter my heart. Rather, a strength outside of my own lifted me, guided me. Over time, His peace sealed the broken places of my heart. Further, I continued to express my awe to God for being by my side all the way. My expression of awe intensified my relationship with Jesus. I am closer to Him.

Perhaps you, too, have been lifted by the Lord when otherwise you might have been buried by love and loss. 

We have many reasons to be awestruck by God.

A crucifixion

A resurrection promise fulfilled

Promised life with God in a way we’ve never known before

Getting to be in His presence and love

Whenever you utter the words, Jesus, you’re my Savior, heaven erupts at your declaration. Whether it’s the first time or the 1000th, God embraces you with life-giving love and an unbreakable commitment, sealed with the Spirit in you. The day Jesus saved you was an awe-filled day!

May awe well up inside of us overflowing into a love offering because He loves us. In turn, He will fill you with his strength, joy, peace, and hope. He is our Lord and Savior.

Thanks for reading and your encouragement! God loves us, Terri

P.S.  Find more quotes, insights, and conversation at Hearts Encouraged Facebook Page.

References:

Merriam Webster Dictionary - https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/awe


In the Midst of Busy

Hello Everyone! 

What is it you need most in the midst of your busy, hectic day? Endurance? Perseverance? Courage? Could it be a power prayer?

Words have power. The Word of God is power. Praying God's Word helps you...

...love without boundaries.

...incapacitate the enemy.

...scatter fears.

...de-escalate anxiety.

...activate self-control.

...heal a wound.

...bolster hope.

...inspire.

...motivate.

...encourage.

In John 16:24, Jesus tells us to ask for what we need. There are no prerequisites. No request is too insignificant or unimportant. Tap into God's vast resources. You can bring your best to whatever you do by including Him in it.

I discovered the power of praying Scripture while reading Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word. I began to use verses in my prayers giving my requests a meaningful focus.

In the Middle of Busy Feb 2019I wrote the prayer called Free (above) using verses 1 John 3:19-20 and Romans 8:1. I speak this prayer when disappointment in my sinful nature turns into self-condemnation. Self-condemnation is a spiritual barrier. It prevents me from receiving God’s mercy and grace and it's an invitation for the enemy to aid my self-loathing.

Balance must be re-established.

My Free prayer rejects self-condemnation, proclaims my freedom, and reminds me God is for me. The power of this prayer is in its Truth. Self-condemnation is the equivalent of clasping shackles on my hands and feet. Sin, past or present, has no hold on me. My response to sin is simple: Pray God’s Word. It is my strength.

In the midst of busy, consider taking 20 to 30 seconds to include God. If it's a meeting, ask God for focus. If it's a project, ask God for inspiration and success. If it's a crucial conversation, ask God to direct your dialogue. Involve God in everything you do from the beginning to the end.

Meet the unexpected with power!

Loss. Change. Spiritual warfare. The unexpected can knock us down. God's Word re-positions us, firmly rooting us in His love, truth, and power. So much is asked of you in any given day. You face nothing alone. Make your need known to Jesus. He waits, ready to provide. 

I created several power-packed prayers comprised of paraphrased Bible verses. These are below. Praying God's Word, as Jesus did in the desert against Satan, releases power. I've attached a printable version of several prayers the size of a business card. Consider laminating and tucking one or more in your wallet or purse.  Download In the Middle of Busy Prayers Feb 2019 

Wisdom Prayer Feb 2019

 

Courage prayer Feb 2019

 

Self-Control Prayer Feb 2019

 

Peace Prayer Feb 2019

 

Prayer Feb 2019

I'm asking God to supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ (Ephesians 3:16). He is true life! My security, your security is found in Him! Find more prayers and inspiration at the Heartsencouraged Facebook Page @TerriHutchinsonAuthor.  Fondly, Terri


Competing Priorities

Hello and Welcome! May you find encouragement and blessings in this post. 

Cardinal-3212663_1920

One Saturday morning, sweet chirps outside my window acted like an alarm and a trigger. Barely awake, my mental To Do List began streaming:

Head to the writing desk no later than 8 am. Finish the current blog post, start the next one. Water the patio plants before the writing or it’ll be forgotten. Weeds in the front bed. Complete before it gets warm so before the writing. Get out of bed right now and you can do it.  

I popped out of bed and scurried to the kitchen for coffee. A stack of dirty dishes caught my eye. I looked at the clock. 6:40. I can get these done before writing, then hit the plants and weeds.

Coffee in hand, I went back to the bedroom to change from my pajamas. The unmade bed beckoned a question. When were these sheets last washed? Better do it while I’m thinking about it.

I recalculated the time factor. Get the sheets started first, then soak the dishes while watering the patio plants. Once the dishes are done, the sheets will be ready for the dryer. Get to the weeds next and the sheets should be done when you return inside. Really, who is better at maximizing every minute? Nobody! I marched to the laundry room to begin the gauntlet.

Three words stopped me in my tracks. Meet with Me.

This Holy Spirit whisper was my stop sign. 

Of all the tasks on my To Do List, the tip-top priority should have been lingering with the Lord. 

Do your priorities ever collide with God's_
Like me, and maybe you, Jesus’s disciples faced a similar problem: identifying their greatest need.

In Luke 22, we read the disciples and Jesus gathered for the Last Supper and, later, in the Garden of Gethsemane. The meal was a remembrance of God’s grace for sparing their lives from the final plague of death and to commemorate their freedom from Egypt. At the Last Supper, Jesus planned to direct them to a new remembrance of him and his sacrificial death.

Luke’s account reveals the competing priorities of the disciples during the course of that meal. These priorities included loyalty, position and greatness, and the identity of the betrayer. When the group moved to the garden of Gethsemane, sleep became the priority over prayer.

What was Jesus’ priority? Remembrance and faith. Jesus, anticipating this meal, this time with them, intensely desired their presence and focus. He knew the disciples’ relationship with and trust in Him would be tested.


Connected
Remain in me and I will remain in you.

John 15:4

Our faith, our trust is being tested. Jesus’ compassionate command to remain in him is a call to anchor ourselves to him. He is our Rock during times of testing. We are known to Him and we have full access to Him. We understand these things, but.... In my case, I let to-do lists’ and competing priorities lure me from Jesus. A subtle, steady drift.

Is it like that for you, too?

I can’t let competing priorities or anything else deter me from trying to get with Jesus. I know full well the enemy wants me restless and distracted and, for that reason, it’s worth any attempt I can muster. My greatest need that day, and every day, is absorbing His Word and settling into His Presence.

Remember this:

Every moment you intentionally seek out God you’re filled with a fresh awakening to his love for you and his power in you.
How do we inject time with Jesus in an already booked schedule? Set an invite to yourself to “Meet with Jesus”. If it’s not scheduled, then it’s probably not going to happen. You live strong by investing in your relationship with God. Keep in mind fleeting interactions won’t sustain you over the long haul. But, when you’re on overload and can’t linger for a session with Jesus, then maybe Take Five is your solution.

Icon Hearts Encouraged  Take Five  Icon Hearts Encouraged

Take Five is a three-part process.

Part 1: List your tasks for the day or week in priority order. Review the list. What are your greatest needs? In other words, what do you need from the Lord in order to be successful in the coming hour or the next eight hours? Is it wisdom, insight, attentiveness, creativity, patience? Document what you need.

Part 2: Take 5-10 minutes with the Lord to:

Acknowledge God’s priority in your life

Proclaim a statement of humbleness

Offer thanksgiving for the previous days provision

Tell the Lord of your greatest needs. Ask Him to be with you and to equip you for the task, the next hour, or the next person.

Part 3: Reflect on the tasks and the outcomes. Did He meet your need? Did you receive something you weren’t expecting? In Part 1 you documented what you needed. Now, you can document what Jesus provided. Reflection is your remembrance of and gratitude for Jesus with you.

I hope you’re encouraged to Take Five throughout your day to connect with the Lord. We would love to know how you take a “time out” to be with God in the midst of the hectic and crazy! Please share your thoughts on the Hearts Encouraged Facebook page (@TerriHutchinsonAuthor). 

References

The Last Supper. http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/what-is-the-meaning-and-importance-of-the-last-supper.aspx#xmLjYbl1q6EVgxWk.99

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here and Now: Living in the Spirit (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company , 2003).