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Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality in Atlanta GA’

Blessed By The Best

November 20, 2013 Leave a comment
I Am Thankful

When was the last time you counted your blessings?

Small group for me is a weekly highlight! I get to hang out with four other guys and just talk about life. This week, one of the questions that was posed was “Who is someone in your life that you see and think ‘They have an AMAZING faith!’ ?” As we each took a turn sharing our answer, one of the guys talked about his aunt. The main thing that really had a positive influence on him was any time someone would ask her how she was, she always responded with the phrase “I’m blessed by The Best!” It instantaneously became my new mantra.

When someone asks how we are, our first inclination is to turn to the circumstances in our life. We respond with “Well, my car broke down today on the way to work” or the typical go-to response of “I’m fine.” Why don’t we stop and think about the blessings we have been given when we are asked that question? Blessings aren’t circumstantial! God can bless us whether things are going well or if we are having a bad day.

One thing I do every morning when I’m driving to work is pray – specifically that God would bless me in ways that: 1) I would know beyond the shadow of a doubt it was Him so I could give Him all the credit and glory AND 2) I would be enabled to grow and be strengthened in my faith. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, take the time to thank God for those blessings and find ways to bless those around you.

How have you been “Blessed By The Best” lately?

Photo Credit: By MTSOfan

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Migraines and Sin

Both migraines and sin are evil.

Migraines and sin have several similarities.

Recently I have had the misfortune of dealing with migraines. The positive thing is that I found out what was causing said migraines (a tooth issue) and have had it fixed, which has resulted in relief. In dealing with the migraines, God has used them to reveal to me how much they are like sin in our lives. It may sound silly at first, but please hear me out as it will make sense when I am finished.

When you have a migraine, you don’t want to be exposed to light. When we deal with sin in our lives we honestly don’t want to be exposed to light either. We take the “what people don’t know won’t hurt them” approach and try to keep our sin hidden from others, but no matter how hard we try that sin will eventually be brought into the light for all to see in some form or fashion.

You don’t like being told what to do when you have a migraine. The last thing you want is someone trying to tell you how to “fix” your migraine issue. Sin is the same in that we don’t want people telling us what we should be doing to “fix” our sin problem. We would rather just attempt to do things on our own, but we all know how that ends. Migraines cause us to become isolated from others – you just want to be alone and not be bothered. Sin isolates us from the people who love us the most…our friends and family. We seclude ourselves from others because we don’t want to be judged or just don’t want to face others due to the shame we feel as a result of our sin.

Both migraines and sin involve pain of some kind – with migraines the pain is almost always immediate and lingers, but with sin pain doesn’t always happen instantaneously…it can take some time before you feel the painful consequences of sin. There are also after effects with both – a migraine may make you may feel weak, fatigued, sick, or exhausted afterwards and sin may do the very same thing. Both migraines and sin can feel paralyzing, in that once you’re dealing with them you feel constricted and can’t move.

I’ve often found myself bargaining with God when dealing with either a migraine or sin. “God, if you make this migraine go away, then I’ll <fill in the blank>!” These negotiations are based on things which we never plan on following through – “God, if you get me out of this situation I will go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life, I’ll tithe, and I’ll never do this again!” God can easily see through our child-like pleas and knows what it will take to bring us back around to Him and sometimes it takes us suffering the consequences of our actions.

Migraines can happen to anyone…no one is immune. The same is true of sin – the only one who was sinless was Jesus Christ. Romans 8:23 states it clearly – “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The thing is, just because we are prone to sin doesn’t mean we have an excuse to sin. What we do with this sin us completely up to us. Will you let it consume you and rule your life? Will you ask for God’s forgiveness, turn from it, and use it as a learning experience?

What is another illustration you’ve heard comparing sin to something else?

Photo Credit: By Ben Photog

Being Yourself is a Gift Most Treasured!

The Gift of Being Yourself is a must read!

The Gift of Being Yourself is a must read!

Have you ever read a book that you felt was written specifically for you? The Gift of Being Yourself by David G. Benner was definitely that book for me. It is the second book in a series of three books (the first book being Surrender to Love and the final book being Desiring God’s Will) that a friend recommended to me. There are only six chapters so it really isn’t a difficult read.

The chapter titles give you an idea of the specific topics covered by the book: Transformational Knowing of Self and God, Knowing God, First Steps Toward Knowing Yourself, Knowing Yourself as You Really Are, Unmasking Your False Self, and Becoming Your True Self.

A few of the takeaways that I had from the book were:

  • “Even when Jesus felt that God had abandoned him in the Garden of Gethsemane, his confidence in the love of the Father was so great that he still desired God’s will over his own. Jesus knew that he was loved whether or not he felt like it. His identity was grounded in God.”
  • “Self-acceptance and self-knowing are deeply interconnected. To truly know something about yourself, you must accept it. Even things about yourself that you most deeply want to change must first be accepted — even embraced. Self-transformation is always preceded by self-acceptance. And the self that you must accept is the self that you actually and truly are — before you start your self-improvement projects!”
  • “Until we are willing to accept the unpleasant truths of our existence, we rationalize or deny responsibility for our behavior.”
  • “Knowing the depths of God’s personal love for each of us as individuals is the foundation of all genuine self-knowledge.”
  • “The self that God persistently loves is not my prettied-up pretend self but my actual self — the real me.”

I highly recommend this book (and series) to anyone who is really struggling with self-esteem or self-image. This book helped me realize that it’s not my public persona (how I want to be seen) that God loves and wants to know…it’s the me behind closed doors that He wants me to embrace in order to truly reach my full potential, to become what He desires for me to be.

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

Saying Goodbye to the Original Ragamuffin

April 14, 2013 1 comment
Meeting Brennan Manning.

Meeting Brennan Manning.

September of 2008, I had the awesome opportunity to meet Brennan Manning. He was speaking at the NPCC Single’s Labor Day Retreat. Mr. Manning was a very meek individual who truly loved God. If you had seen him, he looked like any other senior adult who could have been someone’s grandfather. He shared with us his testimony – a story of alcoholism, being a priest, homelessness, and hitting rock bottom.

What I loved so much about Mr. Manning was after he spoke, we were given the opportunity to meet him. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him and his response was “Why would you want your picture taken with me? I’m no one special. God is the one who did it all through me.” I was floored by his humbleness and in talking with him further, I knew that God had truly used this man to further His kingdom. He also signed my copy of The Ragamuffin Gospel with simply “In Abba’s Embrace – Brennan.”

As someone who loves to write, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet two of the authors who have had a huge impact on my life (Brennan Manning and Donald Miller) and both interactions left me loving these two authors even more than I did prior to the encounters. I was saddened to hear that Brennan Manning passed away last week. In memory of Mr. Manning, I wanted to share a few quotes from The Ragamuffin Gospel that really blessed me.

“The Kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious cast of people who understand they are sinners because they experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.”

“God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”

“Over the years I’ve seen Christians shaping God in their own image — in each case a dreadfully small God.”

“The danger with our good works, spiritual investments, and all the rest of it is that we can construct a picture of ourselves in which we situate our self-worth. Complacency in ourselves then replaces sheer delight in God’s unconditional love. Our doing becomes the very undoing of the ragamuffin gospel.”

Surrender and Love Go Hand-In-Hand

February 24, 2013 1 comment
surrender-to-love

How do surrender and love work together?

We often hear the word love used in many different contexts. “I love hamburgers!” “I love the color blue!” “I love my family!”  “I love my church!” What is the true definition of love and how does surrender come into play with this definition? Upon the recommendation of a friend/mentor, I read the book Surrender to Love by David G. Benner. When I started this book, I honestly didn’t know what to expect as I had never heard of the author.

The book is a trilogy of sorts (the second book being The Gift of Being Yourself and the third book being Desiring God’s Will). In Surrender to Love, Benner discusses the concept of Godly love and how the ultimate surrender (the death of Jesus Christ, God’s only son) provides this love for us. We have a tendency to believe that God loves us based on our merits…if we do well then God loves us more…if we don’t do well morally then God doesn’t love us as much. This concept has caused many a people to fear God in an unhealthy way. God loves us regardless of what we do. He may be disappointed in us, but that doesn’t mean He loves us any less.

I walked away from reading this book with a better sense of what true love means and that you must have some sort of surrender in order to have that true love, or it isn’t really true love. This book was an easy read and I had no problem understanding the terminology and illustrations the author used. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in the concept of love and/or surrender.

Here are a few takeaways that I had from the book:

  • “Love is God’s character, not simply an emotion.”
  • “The Christian God doesn’t turn away from sinners in disgust but moves toward us, bringing us His redemptive presence.”
  • “The story of Jesus is the story of love personified.”
  • “Most of us who call ourselves Christians do so on the basis of belief more than experience.” – A. W. Tozer
  • “God isn’t simply the projection of our own image on the cosmos.”
  • “He (God) created us and knows us intimately…He knows how we respond to anything that threatens our need for control.”

Photo Credit: By Amazon.com

His Timing, Not Mine

October 12, 2012 Leave a comment
Wrist Watch

HIS timing is perfect!

Music is an integral part of my life. I listen to just about any and every kind of music (although I just can’t get into country or southern gospel). Certain songs have had more significance in my life during a specific season. At church, from time to time, we sing Always by Kristian Stanfill. We sang it again last night at Night of Worship and it really spoke to me in a new way.

Oh, my God, He will not delay. My refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always, always.

Up until recently, I was listening to the lyrics and thinking “God will not delay?! My God will come through always?! Yeah right! I don’t think so…He isn’t doing a thing in my situation.” I let my circumstances (being without a job for almost 16 months) determine my view of God’s movement (or lack there of in my mind). I couldn’t see who God truly was because I was blinded by what was going on around me.

Something happened on Wednesday of this week to change my view of the above lyrics. I had a job interview and later that day received (and accepted) a job offer. Thursday night when I went to Night of Worship, I focused intently on these lyrics and realized the error in my earlier mindset. I was using MY timeline to determine if God was delaying or coming through on HIS part. It felt like God was saying to me “You know…I was delaying until I thought you were ready. I wasn’t doing it to be mean or to hurt you in any way. Remember, I know what’s best for you!”

Watch the video below – may the lyrics of the song encourage you and help you remember God’s timing is perfect.

Photo Credit: By Blake Patterson

Conversations of a Life Unexpected

September 26, 2012 Leave a comment
life tiles

Life never goes as we plan.

I will be celebrating (okay, maybe “celebrating” isn’t quite the right word…more like “dreading” right now) a milestone birthday in less than six months. Last night I was talking with my roommate about all of these things that I had hoped to have accomplished or done by this upcoming birthday. We all have our “bucket list” of things we want to do by a certain age and my list was more out of feeling a sense of entitlement (like I deserved these things) – “Why am I not married by now?” or “Why do I not have a house of my own now?” These ideas brought more questions, but no answers.

Donald Miller’s blog Storyline has a great post by Jeff Goins on this very topic – “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect” and I felt like it was written specifically to me. Goins compares our life to that of a story where we are an important character, but not the MAIN character. God is the MAIN character in our story. Things happen in our life that we don’t plan – job loss, death of a friend or family member, car problems…and the list continues. We get frustrated because more often than not, we have no control over these situations.

One thing we are quick to forget – when we are on the other side of our respective situations, we will be stronger and a better person because of them.

How has your life turned out differently than you planned?

Photo Credit: By Wes Peck

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