Tag Archives: Jesus

Finding Center in Life’s Turbulence

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I’m so pleased to share with you the following story from guest-blogger Kristen Hogrefe. I’ve done a lot of traveling lately, and I can certainly relate to her message! Be sure to check out Kristen’s site for more faith-filled encouragement.


In my recent travel adventures, I noticed the flight crew now refers to “turbulence” as “rough air.” I’m not sure why. “Rough air” sounds no less pleasant. Regardless of how we spin it, turbulence remains a reality for air travel and, honestly, for life in general.

Sometimes, we don’t even have to be in the air to experience it. My last travel experience involved being grounded in a plane for two hours before the airline allowed us to disembark (due to weather).

As I waited in the crowded plane, just ready to be home, I felt a rising frustration at my helplessness. I closed my eyes and tried to pray, but my emotions were less than Psalm 23 worthy.

I typically can find the positive in the negative. This is a first-world problem. At least the AC is working, and you’re sitting next to your best friend. But despite all these happy thoughts, an unrest clung to my spirit like gum to a shoe. Have you ever felt that way?

In the grand scheme, this was just an inconvenience that taxed my tired travel nerves. However, God used this low moment in my life to remind me that circumstances shouldn’t control my emotions but that He should be my unshakable center.

Real-life rough patches

Compared to the Apostle Paul’s life, my little travel drama was like dust on a sleeve. In 2 Corinthians 11, he recorded his sufferings for Christ that range from stoning, shipwreck, beatings, imprisonments, and worse.

At first, I’m tempted to think, Yes, but Paul was a super Christian. I’ll never be at his level.

Yet he himself told us the very opposite. “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” (2 Corinthians 11:29 NKJV)

In other words, he had his times of weakness. He became tired and frustrated, just like we do, but here’s the difference: He didn’t let those emotions control him.

In another letter, he gave this testimony:

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:11-13)

The solution isn’t to deny the emotions we feel, whether mere frustration or genuine pain from heart-breaking circumstances. The solution is to cling to the unmovable Rock of our faith, Jesus Christ, during them.

Calm in turbulence

We know that our center can’t be ourselves, but there’s a real difference between knowing and applying.

Back to my travel confession. I was trying to distract myself with prayer instead of actually praying. I attempted to pray for other people when I myself needed the Holy Spirit’s work in my own life first. No wonder I felt ineffective and gave up.

Instead, I should have confessed the words of that old song: It’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. Next time, I need to try this biblical approach:

  1. Bring my thoughts captive to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). I shouldn’t sugar-coat my feelings and thoughts but be honest with Jesus. He already knows anyway, so why pretend?
  2. Ask for his will to be at work in my circumstance and for his peace to calm my heart (Philippians 4:6-7).
  3. Focus my mind on what is good and lovely (Philippians 4:8-9).

I don’t know what challenges you’re facing today, but God does. Whether big or small, God cares and wants you to bring them to him.

Maybe next time life gets turbulent, we can pray something like this: Dear Lord, I feel _____________, and I want to give this emotion to you. Please replace it with your peace and calm. You know the circumstance I’m facing: _________________. Please bring your Word to my mind so that I focus on what’s good and true. Help me trust you to work even this out for good.

When have you struggled to find center, and have you experienced God’s peace when you’ve been honest with Him?

A God Connection: Being Available for Kingdom Work

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A couple weeks ago, I walked through security at the Tallahassee airport and headed toward my gate. I saw him instantly—an older man in a wheelchair tuning a mandolin. Not something you see every day.

I sat down near him to enjoy the melody emanating from that beautiful instrument, but he quickly began to put it away. Before I could think of a reason not to, I leaned over and blurted out something like, “Excuse me. I’m a writer, and I would love to have a picture of you holding your instrument. Would that be okay?”

Mr. Gordon with Maggie Maggie

He beamed. “Of course! Do whatever you’d like.”

We introduced ourselves, and he said his name was Mr. Gordon. He sat proudly holding his mandolin while I snapped a few photos. Then he told me all about the love of his life: Maggie Maggie (pronounced Maggie McGee). Of course, he was referring to the century-old wooden mandolin he held with pure reverence. Mr. Gordon had been the proud owner of Maggie Maggie for the past fifty years.

Our talk soon turned to the reasons for our trips. I was on my way to New York for the first time to attend the BookExpo of America. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was trusting God was going to do awesome things.

Mr. Gordon was fleeing a disaster. He had lived in Hawaii for much of his life, and now his home was being threatened by recent volcanic activity. When lava had come within two miles of his house, he was evacuated. Fortunately, he had family in Georgia, which is where he had spent the past couple weeks. Now he was headed to Tennessee to visit with some old musician friends. He wasn’t sure if he’d have a house to go back to, but he was glad for the opportunity to reconnect with those who mattered most.

Available for Service

It may have been the mandolin that caught my attention that day, but it was Mr. Gordon’s sweet spirit that drew me to him. You might call it a God connection. At the end of our conversation, I asked to pray with Mr. Gordon (something I don’t do very often), and he readily agreed. I was only slightly embarrassed as I wiped away a couple tears during our prayer. After all, it is a holy thing to speak true words of comfort over a brother in Christ.

“Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16 NAS).

I love this sign on Maggie Maggie’s case!

That encounter with Mr. Gordon set the tone for my trip to New York. I was reminded that God’s plans are greater than mine, and He is always looking for opportunities to draw others to Himself…even in the middle of an airport. I agreed right then to make myself available to Him—even in busy New York—so I could be useful for His service.

“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20 NAS).

The trip to New York was awesome! We had a wonderful time, and the fruit of those meetings is still being realized. But it’s the Mr. Gordons that I met along the way who mattered the most.

Encouragement for the Week

This week, I encourage you to make yourself available and useful to the Lord. Start by saying a simple prayer like this: “Lord, life is so busy that it can be hard to recognize those you put in my path. Please forgive me for all the opportunities I’ve missed to do your will. Soften my heart and quicken my spirit so that I can be receptive to your desires. Make me a willing participant in your kingdom work. In the name of the True Servant, Jesus. Amen.”

Have you had any “God connections” lately? Did they encourage your spirit?

 

[Click to Tweet: Lord, help me to not be so busy that I fail to be useful for your Kingdom. #faithlife]

 

Dreams of the Heart

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When I was little, I thought about being a teacher some day. I liked the idea of helping others learn about subjects important to them.

Then I read some non-fiction books that helped me better understand God and His plan for me, and I thought how amazing it would be to write books that helped others.

Later, when I heard a speaker at my high school, I wondered if I could ever impact the lives of others through speaking.

I didn’t know anything about these careers or how to begin, so it’s no wonder that my college studies took me in a different (and more safe) direction of risk management. Sure, I could teach, speak, and write about my knowledge of business, insurance, and risk, but I gave up the idea of turning these childish fantasies into careers.

Boy was I wrong!

I had no idea that those fantasies were actually part of a bigger dream—a dream that God placed in my heart. That’s how He works, you know:

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NAS).

This Scripture is two-fold. It means that God puts the desires in our heart and then He fulfills them.

Unbelievable Dreams

At first, I didn’t think my dreams held any meaning. That’s because of two issues.

1. I didn’t fully understand my dreams. They seemed distinct and disconnected; how could I have three different careers? But I’ve learned over the past few years in the writing world that speaking and teaching are integral parts of writing non-fiction. If I didn’t have a desire to do all three, then I wouldn’t be as successful as God apparently wants me to be.

2. I didn’t understand God’s long-term vision. I was looking for short-term wins, but God was focused on the long-term goal. It wasn’t His will for me to get published in my twenties, but maybe my books will come out in my thirties. Even if it takes longer, I am now content that God’s will is perfected on His time and in His way. All I can do is work diligently; He’ll handle the rest.

Celebrating Wins

Nowadays, I rejoice in the place God has me, and I celebrate every little win. This month, I have several things to be grateful for.

1. A Win for Writing – A few weeks ago, I shared with you that one of my articles was included in the anthology Faith and Freedom, which makes me a “published author.” As if that weren’t cool enough, I now have my own author page on Amazon, which includes my bio, links to my blog posts, and a list of upcoming events. Folks can even follow me on Amazon to know when my next book comes out.

2. A Win for Teaching – In July, I’ll be teaching a five-week class at the Tallahassee Christian College and Training Center called “Begin with Blogging.” I look forward to helping others start their blogs from scratch so they can get their message out there. I was recently interviewed on Wave94 about this upcoming class. If you’re interested, click below to hear the recording. You can also learn more and register at www.TCCTC.org.

3. A Win for Speaking – This year, I got serious about making my dream of speaking a reality. I’ve been working with a coach to solidify my messages and learn how to reach out to churches and conference hosts. Take a look at my Speaking Topics here and let me know if you’re interested in booking me for your next event.

4. An Awesome Opportunity – Next week, I’ll be joining my mentor Michelle Medlock Adams in New York, NY! We’re going to the Book Expo of America, the largest book expo in the US. Not only does this make the book nerd in me very, very happy, but it will be a great time to meet with publishers and this year’s hottest authors. I certainly didn’t expect God’s path to take me in this direction, which makes me all the more excited to see where it leads!

Your Dreams

What’s your dream? I know you have one because God puts desires in each of us. Perhaps you’ve forgotten what that dream was…or maybe you’ve been waiting so long that you think God has forgotten you.

Earlier, we looked at Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Do you know what the next verse says?

“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 37:5 NAS).

This week, I encourage you to write down what’s in your heart, even if it seems like a “childish fantasy” at first. Ask God for clarity and guidance, and then write down whatever He gives you. The more you seek God’s will for your life, the clearer it will be. And the more willing you are to take a leap of faith in God’s direction, the stronger your faith will become. Commit your way to God, and He will bring about the dreams of your heart in ways you never imagined.


Need prayer? Leave a comment below with your dream list, and I’ll agree with you in prayer this week that God will give you the knowledge, favor, and wisdom to move forward. God bless you as you live (and dream) for Him!