Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Art of Listening

Have you ever had a hard time hearing someone before? My son just got tubes put into his ears recently. He has had trouble for awhile hearing us. He occasionally mixed up words he heard and he could only hear parts of what we said at times. I mentioned it to the doctors years ago, but he passed all the required tests so nothing was done. I am surprised that he has managed so well all this time and even got incredible grades in the process. It wasn’t until after really pushing this time that they finally did more tests to find out he wasn’t hearing everything correctly. Hmmmm… you think?

Hearing is pretty important. It affects every part of our lives. Can you imagine if you lost your hearing how it would affect your life? What would you NOT be able to do anymore? How would it affect your day? Think about it. It would be difficult to drive, talk on the phone, shop, go to school, order fast food, etc… As we get older, the harder it is for us to hear. For some of us today whether we realize it or not, our hearing has been impaired for some time. People all around us are talking, but we are missing what they are saying. We aren’t really listening.

Have you ever been in a conversation where you couldn’t get a word in edgewise? You were forced to do all of the listening because that person wasn’t that interested in what you had to say. Have you ever been guilty of talking more than you listen? Listening is an art… and something we need to learn to practice. Listening is taking hearing a step further. We don’t just hear what someone is saying, but we listen intently and back it all up with genuine emotion in response.

The Bible talks about listening in James 1:19. It says… “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I think God intended for us to listen MORE than we talk. Why should we listen? You can learn a lot about a person by listening. If you listen really close, you can hear their heart. When you take the time to really listen to someone, it shows you genuinely care about them. So, how do we learn to become a better listener…

The first step to learning how to listen is to let the person you are talking with speak first. Treat them as the honored guest in your conversation. Ask them questions and set out on a quest to learn something new about them each time you interact.

As a listener we should be…
~like an archaeologist digging for the truth
~like a reporter investigating the facts
~like a writer gathering information

The second step to learning how to listen is to motivate and inspire the person you are talking with to share. Look for ways to get them to talk. Ask lots of questions and really listen to their answers so you can learn more about them. Show interest in what they are saying and stay engaged in the conversation. Their job is to do the same for us! Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way YOU need to CHOOSE to be a good LISTENER.

Think about your last conversation. Replay it in your mind. How much did you learn about the person you talked with? Did you listen long enough to hear their heart? What were they excited about? What was troubling them? Did you leave them encouraged and uplifted… better for having been with you?

The third step to learning how to listen is to share only when asked and briefly. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Sometimes less is better. Give them a chance to inspire you to share. Let them dig a little deeper into your life. Your relationships will grow richer and deeper as you learn to invest in other's lives through listening.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to be a good listener especially with my family. I get busy, distracted, or uninterested in what’s going on and really miss what is being said. What a great place to practice our listening skills. They are the ones that will notice the difference immediately. I dare you to try it!

I think you will be surprised at how your relationships will change as you begin to practice the art of listening. Let God lead you as you begin your next conversation and watch as He uses you in ways you never imagined. Let the conversation begin…

Living to leave a Legacy!
Julie

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Buttons"

Recently I shared a topic at a women’s group that has been soaking in my spirit ever since. The topic was on “buttons.” “Buttons” being those areas Satan likes to bring up in our lives to make us go back to those old habits, attitudes, and behaviors of the past.

Think about your life now… how has it changed since you have given your life to God. Have the things of the past remained the same?

When we compare what we looked like before having God in our lives to after having God, is there a difference? Here are some things to think about as you look a little closer into your “God life”…

What did your life look like without God in the following areas?

What habits did you have?
What kind of people did you hang around?
What issues did you struggle with?
What did you feel like inside?


What does your life look like with God in the following areas?
What brought you to the point of salvation or committing your life to God?
What did your life feel like inside afterwards?
What things changed in your life?
What did you start doing?
What did you stop doing?


Satan is not happy about this change that has occurred in your life. His goal is to get you to turn away from God and go back to your old way of living.

There are some things that I want you to remember as you think about your old way of living. The Bible is clear about how we should view our life before God… take a look.

Colossians 3:9-10, 12-14 says…
“You're done with that old life. It's like a filthy set of ill-fitting clothes you've stripped off and put in the fire. Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete.”

”So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.” (MSG)


Ephesians 4:22-24 says “…everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)

Growing in God and moving forward is a process. This growth process involves overpowering the pulls of the flesh and replacing them with the character of Christ.

I love how 2 Corinthians 3:18 talks about this process of growing in God…

…our lives are gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him (MSG)

The more of God we get inside of us, the more beautiful we become inside and out.

Think about those issues you struggled with before having God in your life. Have any of these things been a temptation for you or a struggle since you have given your life to God? THESE ARE YOUR BUTTONS! Beware… you need to find some weapons to fight against the urge to give in and go back to your old lifestyle.

How can you continue to move forward and grow in your relationship with God? What can we do to overcome these areas? Here are some things to consider…

Do you have an accountability partner? This is someone to help you grow in God and hold you accountable to it. An accountability partner can help you not only keep from going back to your “old ways,” but help you make choices to move forward in your walk with God. If you don’t have someone to keep you accountable, you need to find a friend to do this. Don’t assume they will… ask them to do it and have a plan!

Can you name anyone you can go to when you are struggling that will encourage you. Accountability partners and other Christians can help us grow in God and protect us from temptation. Another way to protect yourself and become stronger in God is by going to church. Church is a great place to be around other people who love God and to hear God’s word that can change your life! Memorizing scripture is another weapon we can use to fight the devil. You can memorize verses in the areas you struggle with and when you need them, God will bring them back. The Bible is a weapon. Reading it and memorizing it can make your stronger! When Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4…. He used Scripture to fight the devil and we can too! Pray and ask God for help when you are struggling… He will be there to help you through it all.

All these things together will help form a hedge of protection around you to fight against the devil. We can never expect to ever be “strong enough” to overcome temptation. We can become stronger in our areas of weakness with God’s help, but there will always be days or seasons where we are more susceptible to Satan’s suggestions. Your button may be… holding grudges, anger, drinking, unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex, ugly talk, suicidal thoughts, pornography, anorexia… the list goes on. Whatever the button, Satan’s specialty is in using what is familiar and comfortable to tempt us. He isn’t very creative… he likes to use the same old things every time (those old habits, behaviors, and attitudes). When we choose to protect ourselves, we choose to win over the devil’s attempts to pull us away from God and back to our old ways!

Can you think of someone who’s relationship with God you admire. What about their life draws you to them? What about you? Who do you want to be in God? Can you see it? You can be all God has called you to be and more… Your life is inspiring others around you whether realize it or not. Satan sees all your potential and is watching you too! He wants you to fail… all the more reason to get stubborn and fight to protect your future! God has amazing plans ahead for you. Get your spiritual armor on, weapons ready, and get ready to fight! We’re going to win!!!

I am always available if you want to talk, need prayer, or just a battle buddie to share with… you can do it! I believe in you and I am watching inspired by your life. Shine bright for God!

Living to leave a Legacy!
Julie

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hide & Seek


My boys are full of life lessons. They never cease to amaze me by what they teach me along life’s journey. Their recent endeavor involved my solar lights outside on the walkway and football. We live out in the country and have a big front yard. For some reason even though we have a huge area out front to run around, they consistently choose to play football close to the house. Mom gave them some boundaries as they play to hopefully prevent them from breaking anything close to the house.

One day recently, I walked out the front door and the boys were close to the house… again playing football. I warned them that if they weren’t careful that they would break one of the solar lights. As I looked out at the lights I realized one was missing. Hmmmm… I wonder where it went. I asked the boys and was surprised at what I found. I guess it broke and they decided to go put it (or hide it) under the dog house on the side of the garage. When I asked them why… they said they thought it would be safer there in case it rained. When I probed them more I found out that they broke it playing football and tried to hide the fact. It was moments later when mommy came out and discovered it all. They even went to the trouble of rearranging my solar lights so I might not notice, but I saw it immediately. Moms know everything or so it seems.

Why is it that our first instinct when we mess up is to HIDE things? Eventually we are found out and all is revealed. I guess it started at the beginning with Adam and Eve hiding their sin from God.

Genesis 3:7-12 says
When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

God called to the Man: "Where are you?" He said, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid." God said, "Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?"

The Man said, "The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it."
God said to the Woman, "What is this that you've done?"


It was their disobedience that caused all the trouble. Disobedience led to falling into sin, hiding it from God, and making excuses. Have you ever been there… done that? Disobeyed maybe your parents and tried to hide it. Have you ever tried to hide things from God thinking He couldn’t see it all on His own? Maybe there is a part of your life you choose to ignore and don’t like to look at… God wants to see into every area of your life.

Disobedience, making bad choices, and hiding our sin doesn’t help us draw closer to God. It pushes us further away from Him. Instead of hiding things from God, we need to invite Him to investigate our lives and become an open book. We need to crack open the book of our lives and let Him look at ALL areas freely as He chooses. I know there are some areas we don’t want to look at… we’d rather lock the door on those rooms and throw away the key, but God wants to know ALL of us. He loves us the same no matter what our lives look like inside or out. Invite Him to a closer look inside of YOU!

"God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
I'm an open book to you..." Psalm 139:1 (MSG)


We need to invite God into every area of our lives. He needs to be the center of it and everything we say and do should flow through Him. We need to let God see the good, bad, and ugly. The more of God we let in, the more we will grow to experience His freedom, peace, joy, love, mercy, grace, and presence. Why would we want to keep ourselves from these awesome things by keeping the book of our lives sealed to God?

In order to really know what’s in a book, we’ve got to open it, right? Have you ever ordered a book in the mail that was shrink wrapped? I’m sure if you are an avid reader that you couldn’t wait to rip the wrapping off and start reading. It’s hard to read a book that is sealed shut. Maybe we could read the front and back covers, but that limits us at getting to the meat of what’s inside. How often do we give God the shrink wrapped book version of our lives saying you can have my life God… I’m an open book. It’s all closed up and you can’t read or see the pages. Can we trust God with what is in between the covers of our life? I think so and when we do, we will begin to experience God in a new way.

Why do we think we can hide things from God? Actually it is when we bring things into the light that we are truly set free. Instead of HIDING FROM GOD, I encourage you to SEEK HIM. Chase after Him, tell Him when you fail… ask for forgiveness and move FORWARD. God wants to write some new chapters in the book of your life and you’ll never believe what He has in mind.

Open your life up to Him today… look inside for yourself and ask Him to show you what He sees. Sometimes His perspective makes all the difference! No matter what the pages of the past hold, there is always hope for a new chapter for the future. There are new chapters to be written and life to be lived. Choose today to invite God to be a part of the journey. The books He writes are always inspiring masterpieces!

Let today be a blank page given to God to write a masterpiece using YOUR LIFE as His inspiration!

Living to leave a Legacy!
Julie

Monday, October 11, 2010

"Can I have a Band-Aid... Life Hurts?


When my boys were little they had this weird fascination with band-aids. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t keep them stocked enough in our house. We were constantly running out. I decided to investigate this mystery. I discovered in my search that my boys had a unique philosophy about band-aids. They thought that anytime they hurt that the band-aid would immediately heal them and take all of the pain away. It was amazing.

I tested the theory several times to be sure. When they would get a bump, bruise, or scratch, they cried their eyes out and immediately stopped the minute the band-aid was placed in position. Wallahhhh… they were healed. I wish it were true! This concept seems a little silly, but some of us see God in the same light. We hurt and therefore we want Him to immediately put a band-aid on it and take all of the pain away.

There have been many times in my life’s journey that I wish I could put a band-aid on my life and see it immediately healed. It would be awesome to see all the hurt go away in a moment. It’s a nice idea, but doesn’t always happen that way. God doesn’t promise to take all of the pain away, but He promises to walk through it all with us. He has been there and knows what it means to hurt.

John 16:32-33 says…
“But I'm not abandoned. The Father is with me. I've told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I've conquered the world."

It is inevitable that we will face pain sometime in our life time. It could be the pain of a broken relationship, hurtful words, a miscarriage, financial hardship, disease, death, an injustice, or a physical pain that won’t go away. When we face pain, we can most relate to Jesus and how He felt on the cross. He was willing to suffer to do whatever it took to build a bridge for us to get to God.

I’ve faced various types of pain in my life time, but a couple years ago I experienced extreme physical pain like never before. I had severe stomach pain that wouldn’t go away. I went to every doctor imaginable and each one kept saying we don’t see anything wrong. I felt like I was being sent in circles and nothing was helping. After awhile, my patience ran out. I was vomiting because of all of the pain and on strong pain killers that barely cut the edge off. I remember lying in bed in severe pain one night thinking… why me???? I didn’t blame God I just didn’t understand what He was doing. I decided that regardless of how I felt that I was thankful I was alive and could be with my family. I determined that if I had to live with this, I would with God’s help. After SIX MONTHS, we finally discovered that one of my meds I was taking for the autoimmune disease I have had a side-effect in very few people that caused abdominal pain. A slight change in the dosage fixed it. A lesson in patience I suppose.

I don’t know what kind of pain you are facing right now in your life, but the main thing you need to realize is that God has not forgotten you. He is near and wants to walk with you through it all. Run TO Him, when you are hurting not AWAY from Him.

I read this quote recently and it really stuck with me.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt

I remember feeling when I’ve been sick or struggling like I was hanging from a rope. It felt like it was wearing thin and I was hanging by a thread. But God reminded me that He was holding the other end and I was safe as long as I held on tight to Him. No matter where you are in life or what you are facing… run to God. Hang on tight and let Him carry you through. With God nothing is impossible. Pray, trust Him, Hang on, and let God take care of the rest. He is faithful!

“Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~Bernice Johnson Reagon

May God bless you today as you face life’s difficulties with His peace, presence, and patience for the journey.

Living to leave a legacy,
Julie

Monday, October 4, 2010

"The Amazing Race"


I like to watch The Amazing Race. It’s exciting to see all of the challenges the contestants have to face and the fearless passion they have to make it to the end. Their inspiration is to finish the race to win the money and change their lives! Many start the race, but few finish it. Did you know that we are in a race today as well. Our motivation is a little different though. It is a race to heaven. This life we live is a race filled with different stretches along the way… some ground is level, some places have ruts to watch out for, there are hills, and valleys. No matter what we face, God is faithful to walk with us along the way and carry us when we get too tired to walk.

Recently I was a part of a one mile walk for the Crisis Pregnancy Center here in town. It wasn’t “The Amazing Race,” but it felt like it to me. It was my first big physical feat after being so sick at the first of the year. Six months ago, I struggled to walk across the room because of my health problems. I set a goal that when I felt well enough I would strive to finish a one mile walk. It was my way to thank God for all He has done in and through me this year. I did finish the walk… I was tired and sore, but remembering WHY I was walking spurred me on. The pain I felt later was a reminder that I completed the walk and crossed the “finish line.” YAY! I did it!

Philippians 3:14 says…
By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back (MSG).

I heard it said before that goals are dreams with deadlines. If we never set a goal, we will never achieve it. It’s just a daydream. I don’t know about you, but I want some of my dreams to come true. Whether we set goals for losing weight, getting organized, spending more time with our family, reading our Bibles, or being more intentional at building relationships, goals can be a good way to move forward on this race called life in a positive way.

1 Corinthians. 9:24-27 says…
I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself (MSG).

No matter what goals you set or how outrageous they seem, God will give you the strength to do it!!! I encourage you to take some time today to set some goals. Make a list, fill in the details, and set some “baby step” deadlines to make it happen. Remember it’s a goal… something to shoot for. Some areas you might think about setting goals are:

FAMILY:
Spouse and kids, Family Nights, Date Nights, communication, showing love, memorizing scriptures etc…

SPIRITUAL:
Bible reading, prayer, being faithful to church, memorizing scripture, etc…

MENTAL:
Reading with purpose

PHYSICAL:
Diet & exercise

OTHER:
Ministry, Writing, Education, Starting a New Business, Goals to start doing something or stop doing something…

Sky’s the limit… dream big, set outrageous goals and watch God surprise you! You can do it!

Living to leave a Legacy!
Julie