Lives Intertwined

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We make thousands and thousands of connections with others over the course of our lives. We met at school. We are neighbors. We were coworkers. We hit it off while waiting in a long line together. We were introduced by a friend of a friend. We know each other because our kids are friends. He is my great aunt’s step son. She is the girlfriend of my second cousin. She cuts my hair. He coached our team. We started talking at a restaurant and had a lot in common. We served our church and community together.

Each meeting might just bring a smile to the moment or may forever change the lives of the two people who make a connection and for the many other lives that are then touched. Like vines growing, stretching, twisting, intertwining through a forest, there are many touch points with separate vines crossing one another. Do you think the crossing of lives is random? Or could you dare to believe that some or many are orchestrated by God Almighty.

Fruit may come from the connections made by two lives coming together, creating new life, so unique, each so special. Is it all random, simply by chance, a roll of the dice what becomes of the crossing of lives? Or how amazing to think that all the connections made, and what is created, is according to a divine design. Imagine the complex map of relationships that exists with many paths turning and crossing, lives intertwined. And not just on Earth are we following these vines but past, present, future and into eternity, the soul connections remain with new intersections continually being made.

Next time you are tempted to say “Hello” to a stranger or accept an invitation to a party, or go on a date, just do it. You might meet a new friend, a soul mate or the love of your life. You never know what might blossom, a critical connection could be made that changes the world. With God’s divine desires, designs and guidance, there will be beauty in lives intertwining.

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The End is Just the Beginning

The pregnancy starts, life has been conceived with up to nine months of nurturing the precious little one as it grows in the womb.  God has breathed life into His uniquely special creation.  There is excitement and anticipation mixed with anxiety, aches and pains.  The time of birth approaches, the end of being pregnant.  This is the awaited moment, to see and hold the infant child.  The end is just the beginning.

School days, classes, studying and exams, getting an education is hard work.  It will take years to complete and along the way there are decisions to be made.  Time is needed to determine where strengths lie, to figure out the direction to take to chart the future.  God has bestowed gifts to everyone, it is important to discover these gifts and to ensure they are put into use.  The work pays off, finally graduation day is reached.  The end is just the beginning.

An awkward introduction, a chance meeting, or a long-time friendship becomes something more.  A relationship gets serious.  God plays the role as the match maker, aligning lives to intersect.  Two individuals begin to form a bond of love.  Goals and dreams are formed.  Maybe the two are on track for marriage and a life lived together.  The planning, the rings, the clothes, food and flowers and more details occupy their minds.  The wedding day arrives and ends with a legal document to say it is official, the couple is in this together.  They made it to the alter to tie the knot.  The end is just the beginning.

The day of death comes by surprise or slowly but surely, as the physical body can no longer hang on.  Breathing becomes shallow and ineffective.  The heartbeat grows weak.  The light in the person’s eyes and the strength in their voice begins to fade or are lost.  Those that are close to one another feel their hearts breaking as they will be pulled apart.  It hurts to lose our loved ones.  Will their souls live on without their bodies?  God has told us that He has conquered death, and we will live eternally with Him in mansions built in Heaven.  He has prepared a place for us where there is no suffering and pain.  We can be certain that God keeps His promises.  On Earth, we must say “goodbye” as loved ones pass on.  They will be welcomed into God’s Kingdom with open arms by Jesus and by those who have gone ahead.  The end is just the beginning.

Trust that it is not over, even when it seems over.  God knows the end from the beginning.  God is with us from start to finish and on into the next thing.  Like a circle, there is not a point where we stop.  He has plans for us and whenever we reach an ending, we can know that God will provide a new beginning.  Stay close to God through it all and be amazed at what His love does, to infinity and beyond.  The end is just the beginning.

Thank You for My Troubles

There are benefits to being a grateful person, it is good for our souls. Being thankful helps us get through tough times and tends to bring to mind thoughts of empathy for others. Christians may have heard that God wants us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to count it all joy when we meet trials of various kinds (James 1:2).  In Islam, believers should be thankful throughout the day. For Taoists, gratitude will automatically move you toward positive power, with some commenting that they can feel grateful for the influence trouble had on them, but not thankful for the pain they suffered. There is a Buddhist prayer “May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.” When the troubles come, can we find a reason to be thankful and find the good when things are going so bad?  Let’s challenge ourselves to do it:  fight fear with trust, battle despair with hope, conquer weakness with strength, crush doubt with faith, repel hate with kindness, replace anger with peace, honoring God with praise in our struggles.  Never stop praying and always find a reason to be thankful.

Thank you God for my sadness, feeling down is not where you want me to stay, so recognizing this encourages me to seek joy.

Thank you for the problems I have to face at work, at least I am being paid to deal with them and find solutions and make improvements, and you so often provide ideas to help.

Thank you for the times when I feel lonely so that I may find comfort in knowing that you, God, are always there and will never leave my side.

Thank you for the housework and laundry that never goes away, if I had no home, clothes or possessions, my “to-do” list would be different but by no means better.

Thank you for my losses and heartaches. If I hadn’t loved so much, it wouldn’t hurt this bad.

Thank you for my health troubles, these physical ailments remind me to listen and to take care of my body, where your Holy Spirit resides throughout my life.

Thank you for transportation challenges, because I need a ride, friends and family have been there for me to get me where I need to go, or perhaps some days you use car trouble as a way to protect me.

Thank you for disagreements, confusion, only with differences of opinions and times of questioning can we have an open mind for what is new and the desire to learn and understand.

Thank you for my weariness and fatigue, this is a signal that I need to find ways to rest and rejuvenate.  By letting go and letting you carry my burdens, you will renew my strength.

Thank you for the pressure and stress that comes my way, this discomfort may be your way of pushing me onto the path that you, God, want me to follow.  This test may be critical for my spiritual growth.

Thank you for putting us into situations that seem impossible, only then will we be able to experience the miracles that you have stored up for me and my loved ones.  When our hope is all but lost, divine authority can prevail and we can trust that nothing is impossible for you God.

God, thank you for my troubles.  You are in control.  You are good.  You are able to bring me through.

Facing Your Fears

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When I was a teenager, I had a reoccurring dream.  My brothers and I were going to cross an expansive arched pedestrian bridge over a large body of water.  It was a gorgeous, warm summer day.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining.  We were laughing and having fun.  We would decide is was a great day for crossing over the lake.  Once we made it to the middle of the bridge, everything would change.  A storm would come in with dark clouds, heavy rain and fierce winds.  Soon the metal side rails of the bridge would bend and break with large sections of the bridge crashing into the water.  My brothers and I would hang on as long as we could but eventually we would each fall to our deaths.  That was how it seemed to me as I awoke shaken, scared and glad that this was just a dream.   It all happened the same way in my dreams, many times, over a period of several months.  My brothers and I would be fearful about going on the bridge but with the fine weather, we thought we’d be able to make it across without trouble.  I never quite knew why we were so eager to get to the other side of the bridge.

One night, the dream was different.  It was the same bridge and I was with my brothers again, but this time the weather was terrible.  It was winter, we were in a snow squall, the skies were dark and the winds were wicked.  The lake below the bridge was frozen solid.  We were afraid but we encouraged each other and thought that at least this time the weather wasn’t going to take us by surprise, we already knew it was awful.  We would hold tight to the rails the whole time we were making our way along the bridge.  We’d be prepared for the worst.  Just like before, as we made it to the middle zone of the bridge, the storm worsened and the bridge started to rip apart.  We hung on.  A couple sections of the bridge broke apart crashing down, this time breaking through the ice.  We tried our best not to fall but our best wasn’t enough, we lost our grip and went down, one by one.  We each broke through the ice, but instead of death or waking up out of the dream, we lived.  At the time of impact, it was like a protective bubble formed around our bodies.  We went through the ice into the water and the bubble allowed us to breathe underwater.  We could swim and move whichever way we wanted without any pain or discomfort.  We could easily see where we would need to go up through the ice if we wanted to return to the surface.  Soon we were doing flips and having a great time.  We couldn’t wait to tell our parents about the exciting adventure we had.  After that, I never had the dream of the bridge again.

Have you found that your walk with God is sometimes like my dream?  We may be asked to go somewhere that scares us.  There are risks.  We could get hurt or die.  The amazing thing is that if we can trust God to be there as we face danger, He will provide a hedge of protection.  We may fall, but God has us in His hands.  Should we stay on the side where it is safe?  Or should we take the chance to face our fears and perhaps experience something amazing and exhilarating that God has in store for us?  Trust God when you are fearful.  He will never let you down.

Isaiah 41:10   Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

God is…

God is…

God is infinite, boundless love, yet is in an intimate, close relationship with each of us.

God is timeless and eternal, yet present in every moment.

God is architect and creator of everything in the world and cosmos, yet works supernatural miracles on our behalf.

God is universal and vast, yet focused on each one of us as individuals, hearing our every thought.

God is omnipotent and has ultimate control, yet He allows us to exercise free will.

God is able to see the end from the beginning, yet He grants freedom so that we live with the consequences of our choices.

God is filled with justice and fairness, yet He gives us mercy and forgiveness over and over again.

God is wise, the holder of all knowledge and yet is able to share an inside joke to bring a smile to our face.

God is a great ruler, king, a leader like no other, righteous, yet comforts us gently when we are struggling or anxious.

God is the author of human destiny, yet is willing to co-write the story of our life with us.

God is bold, full of surprises and yet gives us subtle winks that only we can understand.

God is all-powerful and yet He shares that strength with each of us, bearing our burdens and carrying us when we cannot make it on our own.

God is a friend and father to us all, wanting nothing but the best for us and always there, day or night.

God is our provider and when we face lack, He provides abundance.

God is our light, when the darkness surrounds us, His guidance shows us a brighter way.

God is what fills the void when we are empty, only He can sustain us and help us thrive.

God is so many things, more than we can fully express and yet God is everything we will ever need, every day.

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When I Pray…

When I Pray…

Let my prayers be full of praise to our great God who holds our lives in His tender loving hands.  When I pray, let my heart be ever-thankful for the blessings, beauty and bounty that God has created.  In my mind, let God remind me to see the positive side of any situation.  Let no seeds of negativity or hate planted by the devil take root.  Dwell on the best, those ideas sowed by God for our benefit.

When I pray, let my words express my love for God and others.  May my conversations with God be laced with amazement and faith that the ruler of the universe is always there for me 24/7.  That’s incredible!

When I pray, I should try not to run through a list of needs for myself or even for others.  Let me ask what I should give much more often than telling God what I want.  Let me praise more than I plead.  Let me give compliments much more often than airing complaints.  Instead of ticking off names and problems, let my prayers demonstrate the trust I have in the Lord.  He knows our needs better than we do and His plans are for our good.  Praying for His will to be done shows that we are dependent on His Love and that we are standing on His promises. 

Let my prayers speak of my appreciation for the strength we are given to overcome our challenges, for the hope that God gives for our future.  Let me recognize and see the miracles that take place all around.  God puts people in our lives to fulfill His purpose, for this, let me be grateful.  May I follow the example that Jesus taught by showing compassion and reflecting His good in my interactions with those around me. 

Let my prayer time involve listening for God’s voice and understanding the actions He asks me to take.  Let me freely surrender my control to God.  When I pray, may my words be with appreciation and honor for the love, joy, mercy, peace and forgiveness that God has generously poured onto me.  Let me be forever filled with awe for the powerful, wondrous ways of God.

Hallelujah & Amen!!!

Will You Blossom?

We all have seeds planted in us.  There may be dreams, gifts, even sorrows and hurts that are sowed in our souls that hold the potential for growth.  Many of the seeds may lie dormant.  Most seeds have a hard time growing unless they receive the attention, water, sunshine and nourishment they need to germinate.  The seed may be trapped in a hard shell which resists the initial steps in a long process.  Is it worth it even to try?  Getting to the point of blossoming will take a lot of time, often years pass where nothing beautiful is showing.  At times, the growth that has started may look barren and dead like a dried branch.  Yet, sticking with it, the next season may bring an improvement.  The roots may need time to develop.  Are you growing on the inside, establishing a strong foundation for how you will reach the heights that are in your future? 

There will always be obstacles in the way.  Years of progress and expansion may be followed by pruning and being cut short.  Don’t give up.  The end result is something spectacular.  God has place these special seeds in you.  He will give all the nourishment needed to get to your time of blossoming.  There will be challenges which have a purpose to make you strong.  Your blossoming will not be “one and done”.  Your growth and blooming will be a repeat performance.  The difference and meaning God puts into you to let you bloom can propagate as you plant seeds into others.  The world may be fighting you and doesn’t mind seeing you whither.  That cannot be an excuse.  God will be there to provide what you need in all seasons.  He can remove the weeds that may try to choke you out.  God and all the Heavens are rooting for you and are thrilled to see you blossom abundantly.  Give them an awesome show!!!  

New Neural Networks to Fix Our Brains

Think about it!  Think about anything.  We’ll need our brains to do it—our incredible mobile supercomputers that never sleep and control all the physical and mental processes of our bodies.  Scientists say that our brains, like our muscles, need to be used often to stay strong and function well.   Some talk about neural plasticity.  This is the property of our brain that allows it to create new neural networks which help us to process our emotions, to think in certain ways, and to understand and learn new things; it is how our brains work.  Children have the most brain flexibility.  Isn’t it amazing how little kids soak up information to learn about their world and build their language and communication capabilities?  It’s a good thing that most people go to school when they are young, our older brains may struggle to take in all the new ideas at a rapid-fire pace.  As our brains age, it becomes more and more important to keep exercising our neurons.  For example, doing math problems and mental calculations, make us better at doing math problems and mental calculations.  Practice makes perfect!  At any age, what we focus our thoughts on has a big impact on the quality and direction of our lives. 

What are you fixing your brain on?  Do you have a goal that you are working to achieve?  Is your mind doing its part to give you the discipline to make the daily choices and take the actions to reach that milestone?  If you are working on a change, like losing weight or breaking an addiction, is your brain helping or hindering your progress?  Does your brain focus on your physical desires and temptations?  Or are you able to create new patterns of thinking which bring new and improved behaviors?  You have to get your “head in the game” if you want the best chance of winning.  Sports professionals are told to envision themselves performing at top form.  This helps prepare them for success during the actual competition. 

Reading, listening, repeating words, songs and facts allows the brain to memorize and be able to recall them later.  Our brains love to dwell and to get stuck on a circular loop.  Repetition is essential for strengthening neural connections.  These may be good brain networks to build.  Sometimes your mind might get in a rut thinking about all the things you must do or latching on to worry or anxiety.  What can you do to stop the cycle of negative thoughts?  Many can find help and hope in mindfulness and meditation.  That’s wonderful when relief can be found to your mental anguish by achieving control over the thoughts entering your brain.  But it can be very difficult to clear thoughts from your mind and quiet your brain.  Feelings of guilt, anger, loneliness, sadness, distress and other ideas fight hard for your attention.  So rather than empty your brain, why not fill it?  Fix your thoughts on God instead.  Ask Him to replace old patterns of thinking with something new.  What consumes your mind, will control your life.  Fix your brain on praise, gratefulness, joy and love. 

Let’s pray for one another that we can fix our brains on God and be filled with His perfect peace.

Four Moms & Their God Stories

God is co-writing the stories of our lives.  We’ll each have chapters with highs and some with lows.  Through it all, God is with us.  Realizing this has made me all the more interested in hearing people tell about what God has done for them.  I have read many books based on real life experiences where God’s direct presence was critical in how the story unfolded and how it was experienced.  With Mother’s Day near, the stories of four different moms have come to mind.  Each of the moms published books in 2017.  The moms’ passion for their children and for their God shouts from the pages as they retell their personal ups and downs, giving inspiring testimonies to lift others.

Two moms have stories where God brought their sons back from the very edge of death. The power of prayer is illustrated.  Plus, it is amazing how God puts people in just the right places, at just the proper time, to act out His miraculous plans. 

Finding Hope on Vegas: a memoir by Michelle Davis (BookBound Media, LLC, 2017)

Vegas is a bull.  Michelle’s son is involved in a horrible accident on Vegas.  The family finds themselves completely dependent on Divine Providence.  They prayed for God to intervene to keep Nathan alive.  Along the way, they found strength to handle more than they could have imagined.

The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection by Joyce Smith with Ginger Kolbaba (New York:  Faith Words Hachette Book Group, 2017)

Joyce’s son John fell through the ice into a Missouri lake. John was under water for more than 20 minutes.  He died.  But prayer really does work.  God heard the prayers and the unshakeable hope, and John’s health was restored.  Nothing is impossible with God.  Joyce’s story is in movie theaters now, titled Breakthrough.

Two moms tell their stories about giving birth to a child with special needs.  Their precious babies were born with very serious medical conditions.  Both women grow in the midst of the tragic circumstances.  They learn to fully trust God and hold on to His promises, finding great love and joy thanks to having a very special child in their family.

Through the Eyes of Hope:  Love More, Worry Less, and See God in the Midst of Your Adversity by Lacey Buchanan with Bethany Jett (Lake Mary, Florida:  Charisma House, 2017)

Lacey’s son Christian was born with a rare case of Tessier cleft palate which caused facial deformities.  Christian was blind because his eyes were not developed.  Lacey is real with her emotions.  She is hurt by the callous things some people say about her little boy, but she channels that energy into being a powerful advocate for her son and her family.  She lets us see the amazing way God has made their situation beautiful and inspirational.

For the Love of Benny:  A Family Journey Wrapped Around the Delicate Fingers of Their Special Needs Child by Marietta Troyer (Lisbon, Ohio:  The Herald, Inc. 2017)

Marietta and her husband Maynard’s special Benny Boy joined the family with his four sisters growing up in the Amish countryside.  The baby had heart problems, breathing problems, feeding problems and more.  There was the need for many hospital visits and plenty of medical equipment and procedures to get used to.  The family goes from broken hearts to being overwhelmed by Benny’s powerful, unconditional love and his contagious laughter. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to hear the heartfelt, soul stories from these moms.  I am also grateful for all the wonderful moms in my life.  My own mother’s generous heart and love shows through and through.  I am blessed to have known many loving grandmothers, aunts, in-laws, and friends.

Thank God for moms!

God is Real, Can You Believe It?

If a person is on the fence about whether or not they have full faith in the existence of God, what does it take to jump off and take a side? I say it requires something very personal, a dream, an experience or event that hits home, transforming what you know to be true.

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Maybe the jump is to the side of unbelief in God. Perhaps there was a critical time in a person’s life when they needed help or an answer. If they put the problem out there for God to solve or come to their rescue and they felt nothing happened, God must not exist. They gave God a chance to prove Himself, and they feel He failed them. If their parents or friends believe or don’t believe, can that determine which side to fall on? Does it mean they follow others or does it push them in the opposite way? Some people want to exercise control over their lives and believe that it is solely up to the individual to direct their path and make things happen. Having a God who wants them to relinquish control and has rules to be followed isn’t what they want.

Others see the suffering, evil and destructive forces in the world and conclude there is no God or if there is, He is not completely good and loving. For some, the decision to believe or not believe is determined by the actions of ‘so called’ godly people. There are church leaders caught in scandals or religious teachings that fuel conflict and hate. If God’s people don’t live as an example of God’s way of being good, why believe or follow it? Many religious organizations teach “what” we should believe but they don’t tell the reasons “why” we should believe.  Even if taught the reasons “why”, would it change anyone’s faith or lack of faith?

Some people are ruled by logic and objective reasoning; on the surface, the belief of God isn’t logical. There are skeptics that need hard evidence to convince them of the truth. Or could it be that whether to believe or not believe is based on genetics and how are brains are wired? Or is it more influenced by our environment? Nature or Nurture?  Maybe a little of both?

A huge factor that really drives us to choose a side with the divine comes out of our life experiences. Something awakens the spirit inside that says you are not alone and that there is meaning in this great big physical world. You find that you matter to The One most powerful, or your self-centered nature dies to something that matters most. It is a unique path for every person, but when it happens it changes everything.  You are different.

The pages of history are full of radical, personal divine transformations that have changed the world. Full religions have grown from visions, dreams and inspirations known by the person to be the result of supernatural direction over their lives. If it isn’t a personal god that is revealed, it may be a spiritual rebirth where the person’s understanding of the meaning of life and an individual’s role in it is fired up. There is a quest to put the experience in a greater context. If the experience is real for one person, what does it tell us about the rest of the society in which we live? What does one person’s transformation mean for the world? Once a fire is lit, the intensity and passion people have propels them forward. They do things and have impacts in unexpected, often amazing, ways. The commitment to their beliefs can be so strong they may be willing to die rather than deny it.

When I think of the transformations that have changed the world and have led millions of people to follow God’s way, it fills me with awe. There is no question for many, they believe God is real. They feel it, they know it! It is especially inspiring and incredible when I don’t put a fence around how God or the divine is defined by religion, culture and history. How different the world is because God revealed The Way and guided human leaders to spread the word.  God is still real!  Look at all that is happening around you! Think of your experiences in the context of being led by a super-powerful force directing you to your unique path forward.  Have you gotten off the fence and taken a side?  Have your experiences established your belief that God is there?  Wishing that you are filled with a holy fire and that you hear God’s voice providing the inspiration to live a life that fulfills your greater purpose.  You’ll be able to say with confidence that God is real.  Yes, I believe it! ‘

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