In Light of Current Events…

In light of current events, I find myself, trying to go to sleep, but unable to, as there are people, both near and far, that I cannot stop thinking of. So, while I am awake, not being able to sleep, just know that I am praying for you all, and am missing you all. Never thought we would ever see a time like we have right now. Please, be good to one another, try not to stress too much. Don’t watch too much news, if you can stream a movie, or escape into a book, then do that. Or, check in on loved ones with a phone call, or IM them, or facetime with them, there are several different ways, now, online that this can be done, IE, Skype is another good one.. Well, i could ramble on and on.

Also, pray for those parents with special needs kiddos. Some of these littles simply won’t understand why their therapies are cancelled, and why their caregivers may not come to their home during this time. Pray for the parents for the strength to get through this. I work for a company that is essential, but may limit my time and exposure.
I love you all my friends. 

So, Does God Want Me To Be Happy?

Keep It Simple

Joy and Purpose

Without any hesitation we can say that yes, God wants you to be happy. The Bible (as well as experience) tells us that the Christian is given happiness in an incredible number of ways. But Christ has actually sweetened the deal and offered us something even better. While happiness is used to describe a basic feeling of gladness and contentment, what Christ offers is joy, which includes happiness, but runs much deeper, lasts much longer, and is felt much more strongly than happiness. The word joy shows up roughly four hundred times in the Bible, and it is no coincidence. Christ wants you to experience the joy that comes from him.

The angel announcing the birth of Christ declared, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). You cannot read the Bible, particularly the New Testament, without hearing time and time again of the joy we have in Christ. So anyone who claims that happiness is not necessarily a part of the Christian life is missing out both on God’s Word and the joy that is found in him.

Keep It Simple

Joy and Happiness

It’s also important to remember that our idea of “happiness” is often deeply misguided. Many assume that happiness means getting more money, more power, and more casual sex. Have you ever stopped to question that? Many don’t, which is strange when you consider how many celebrity examples are out there of people who have gained everything they ever wanted and were still deeply unhappy and dissatisfied.

There is a popular Christian saying that says, “God cares more about our holiness than our happiness,” and this is true in one sense—making us like him is his top priority—but it also makes it sound as if we have to make a difficult choice between being happy or following God. This is not the case. God made us to find the greatest happiness in him. Choosing to follow Christ is choosing to be a happier person.

How We Experience Joy

Here are some of the ways those who are in Christ experience joy right now:

Knowing that our sins are truly forgiven (Ps. 32:1–2). If you don’t take joy in this, then, simply put, you don’t understand Christianity yet. You could be saved from a burning building, or caught before falling off a cliff, and it wouldn’t be half the good news that this is. Your criminal record before God, the very thing that had separated you from God and eternity with him, has been wiped clean.

Having a clear conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21). Many of us still refuse to allow ourselves to feel the joy of a clear conscience. We know that we are forgiven, but still feel that we must approach God as if he were waiting to punish us and tell us how terrible we are. You don’t have to feel that way! You are no longer under guilt and condemnation! Psalm 103:12 puts it beautifully: “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Realizing that God views me as his own son or daughter (2 Cor. 6:17–18). The apostle John says it best in 1 John 3:1 when he exclaims, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (NIV). When you were saved, you not only gained eternal life in heaven, you also, among many other things, were adopted by God. This means that you will never go another day without having a Father who loves you more than you could ever love him back. It means that you will never be alone again. It also means that he is looking out for you. Romans 8:31 reminds us that “if God is for us, who can be against us?”

Experiencing God’s presence with me in all of the ups and downs of life. No one can completely understand everything about you or how you are feeling. No one, that is, except God. On the one hand, it’s a relief to know that there is finally someone out there who understands us completely. On the other hand, sometimes that’s terrifying—that means that God sees all the darkness in me too. But this fear melts away when we read of God’s love for us. This way, when things are going well in life, I have a heavenly Father that I know is rejoicing with me, and in times of difficulty, someone who completely understands what I’m going through and loves me through it. This has been genuinely comforting to me in my own life.

Enjoying deep friendships with fellow Christians. Fellow Christians are not just like any other people in our lives—they are people who have been saved from death in the same way we were. They are family. God values and loves them every bit as much as he loves you . . . and that’s a lot! We have so much to celebrate together. God has arranged for the body of Christ to be fed not only by him, but through each other. The companionship, support, and love we receive from the body of believers is part of the joy that we as Christians experience.

Knowing that I will enjoy life after death and a wonderful future (Ps. 16:11). Armed with this knowledge, what can harm us? No matter what happens, we know that the end of our story finishes with “happily ever after.” Not everyone can say that. For many of us, life didn’t turn out the way we wanted. It feels like we’ve failed or wasted our lives. Christ not only gives us a clean slate and a fresh start, but the relief that this life is but a drop in the ocean, and we have an eternity in paradise to look forward to. The knowledge that we have heaven to look forward to allows us not to stress about the little things. It also enables us to see the people around us in a different light, and view material things for what they are—temporary possessions that have nothing to do with our long-term happiness.

Having the Holy Spirit within us (Rom. 14:17; 1 Thess. 1:6). While a Christian has many reasons for deeply rooted joy, the most direct reason is that the Holy Spirit lives within you, and he gives you joy. Galatians 5:22–23 tells us that the Holy Spirit produces a number of good things within us, the first of which is love, and the second being joy. Not only do we become naturally more joyful people, but we begin to take great joy in the things that make God happy. By residing within us in this way, God is sharing in our struggles and our victories, helping us, and simply being there with us.

Seeing the gospel reach others (Phil. 1:18). There is no greater gift we can give someone than the good news of Jesus Christ. Getting to take part in others finding salvation, and consequently the joy, meaning, and change that comes with it, is far greater than the joy we could ever gain in giving nice gifts to people. Having worked at an evangelism training camp for years, I (Jeff) have been blessed enough not only to lead people to Christ myself, but to share in the joy of my fellow believers when they are able to share the gospel with someone. There are few things in life as joyous or rewarding as getting to see someone receive salvation.

These realities, and so many more, are enough to bring us joy and happiness each day of our lives, much more than if we did not have Christ in our lives. This joy transcends anything that wealth or success can offer, and the pain, betrayal, and difficulties of life cannot take it away.

So Yes, in light of the darkness that used to surround my soul, and the light that now shines brightly on me, I deserve Joy and Happiness. The lessons learned in the past few months have been extremely painful, however, there is also a new freedom now. It is my only hope that she finds the same freedom and stops focusing on the negative!

“FEAR NOT”

KEEP IT SIMPLE

God created your body to completely trust Him in mind, body and spirit. However, after the fall, sin entered, causing us all to mistrust people in the world. Violence, abuse, and other sins made people grow fearful of the world around them.

Your body gives off a physical response when your brain believes or perceives a threatening situation. An increase in adrenaline occurs, making the brain choose to either fight the situation or flee from it.

Anytime you feel emotional, mental, or physical pain or other trauma, this causes you to be fearful. Yet, even in those moments, God calls you to trust in Him, rather than in what you can see.

The moments when you cannot see or feel God are prime times to experience fear, yet God promises he can overcome fear.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

What is fear?

Fear as defined by Merriam-Webster is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”

But in a biblical sense, fear is an opportunity to choose faith.

When God asks you to put your trust in Him and believe He will do things in your best interest, your human nature resists that, opting to take an independent stance from God. You and I naturally tend to try to control outcomes, and this can keep us apart from God.

Fear is the enemy of God because God gives peace. He promises it to those who trust in him wholeheartedly, even in the midst of inevitable fear.

Why does God encourage us not to fear?

KEEP IT SIMPLE

God is the first and the last—He was here before the beginning of time and He will orchestrate when Jesus returns. He knows the end of the story. God is sovereign and omniscient. He knows the number of hairs on your head.

If God cares enough to know the smallest detail of every one of our lives, you can trust Him in everything, even in the moments when you feel he has abandoned you, doesn’t hear you, or life appears like God is absent.

Here are some Scriptures to give you courage in the face of fear:

KEEP IT SIMPLE

1. God walks you through the darkest of valleys.

Psalm 23:4 – Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and most quoted verses in the Old Testament. This verse in Psalm 23 can give you great comfort because God is our shepherd. Shepherds guide their sheep to the food and water they need.

When a sheep goes astray, a shepherd will use his staff to gently guide the sheep back. Even when you mess up and stray from God, He is your great Shepherd. He will lead you back to life everlasting.

2. God wants to be your only stronghold.

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

In this translation (NIV) the word stronghold is used. Yet, sin may cause Satan to gain a stronghold in anyone’s life. God doesn’t want you to be mastered by anything other than Him. This may sound harsh, but actually should give you great courage.

God wants to be the one area of your life you can’t let go of, no matter how hard you try.

Instead of being bound by a sin that gives way to bondage, by allowing God to be your stronghold, you can live in freedom knowing you no longer have to fight your battles alone. God is with you every step of the way.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

3. God holds you in the palm of His hand.

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

This verse reminds me of how small I really am! Think about this: God holds each one of us in the palm of his hand. This means he is a big God! It is easy to only see your part of the world and think you are in so much more control than you really are.

It’s so comforting to know God holds everything—including you and I, and everyone—in one of His hands.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

4. Do not worry about tomorrow.

Matthew 6:34 – Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

This is easier said than done. Because God gave you the ability to look to the future, it’s easy to worry about how your actions or lack of resources now might negatively impact your future. Yet, you can trust that just as God cares for the most insignificant of creatures, he can and will take care of every detail of your life.

Therefore, it is fruitless to fret about tomorrow, since the author of tomorrow already knows what ‘s coming.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

5. Be aware of the devil’s schemes.

Matthew 10:28 – Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

In today’s world, it is easy to diminish the devil to a small cartoon character wielding a pitchfork and donning two red horns. Yet, Satan is a powerful force in this world, and he influences those that are apart from God. Scripture says he prowls around like a lion looking to devour. Lions are not small animals!

While you can put your trust in God, you still need to keep your guard up and protect your heart from the influence Satan can have in your life if you give him grounds to do so.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

6. Nothing can separate you from God’s love.

Romans 8:38-39 – For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Nothing can separate you from the love of God—nothing! This gives great comfort and assurance that there is nothing you or I can do to separate ourselves from God’s love. Even when you feel completely separated from God, take solace in the fact that Jesus’ blood covers every sin.

No sin is left uncovered by Christ’s blood.

KEEP IT SIMPLE

7. When you are humble, you have peace.

1 Peter 5:6-7 – Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I love that this verse not only tells you not to be afraid but also that through humility you can achieve peace. Pride is the antithesis of peace because pride allows you to think you’re independent from God and you can do things on your own. But when you humble yourself and tell God you can’t do anything without him, you can cast your cares onto God because He is big enough to shoulder them.

You no longer have to carry your burdens independently from Him and try to manage them yourself. God cares about you enough to lift your burdens and give you a yoke of peace that gives you rest when we need it most.

Fear is not easy to overcome. Yet, the Bible speaks a lot about fear. The above verses are just a sample of many verses that discuss fear. No matter what verse you analyze, however, know this—God is here for you in every detail of your life. In this you can take heart.

Oceans by Hillsong

Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)

Hillsong UNITED

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will standAnd I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mineYour grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start nowSo I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mineSpirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made…

A Great Word from the Elijah List

“A Word to Introverts: Come Out of Hiding!”

Wanda Alger, Winchester, VA

od is looking for some Gideons. It has long been prophesied that it’s time for some prophets to come out of the cave. Just as Elijah and David spent time in caves when being hunted by their accusers, so have some of God’s chosen ones sought refuge from the public eye. They have been hiding out because of fear. Just like Gideon, they have found comfort in the cave and doubt their ability to thrive in the light.

They are the introverted ones who have deemed themselves unready and unqualified in a field full of extroverted voices. They are the quiet hearts who love the secret place and have enjoyed the privacy and secrecy of the cave. And yet, they have thoughts that run deep and insights that bring life and purpose. (Photo via Unsplash)

There is wisdom hidden within these introverted prophets, and now they are being called upon to COME OUT OF HIDING and be a light to the world. That which they have discovered while in the cave is the very wisdom and revelation needed in this hour for the Church to fully mature and fulfill her destiny.

Don’t Disqualify Yourself!

The Lord would say, “Don’t allow the fear of man to rob your purpose. Don’t allow the softness of your voice to discredit the strength of your message. Don’t allow your high standards and expectations of yourself to cripple your assignment. YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN!”

It’s time to put away negative self-talk and rise to the occasion. It’s time to embrace the voice you have and celebrate your unique contributions to the conversation. You are needed! Where extroverts and louder voices may speak first, the last voice can often bear the most weight. It’s time to leave your comfort zone and seize the adventure.

Though you will feel uncomfortable in the flesh, your spirit will lead you into a supernatural zone where the impossible will become possible. That which has felt stuck will now come into perfect alignment, and the momentum you’ve lacked will quickly accelerate as you yield to the Spirit’s call. (Photo via Unsplash)

To my fellow introverts on this prophetic journey – this is YOUR time. You have something to say and the Lord is calling your name. Don’t let hesitation stop you from stepping out and walking in that which you were born for. You were created with a voice. It’s time to use it.

Camp Attitude

Two Years ago, I was introduced to a whole new world. And it was one that moved my heart, beyond measure. I met a beautiful Kindred Spirit, Known as Jill, and she has two boys. The oldest one, is on the spectrum, and is non-verbal autistic. And boys boys are Type 1 diabetic. And at the same time, was introduced to a place called, Camp Attitude! This was a place that literally moved me to tears. Here is a short video clip about Camp Attitude!

I can only hope and pray that Jill and the boys can continue to go to this amazing place. The respit time is amazing! And the helpers, I mean, the tears are flowing right now, thinking of the times I’ve seen, the young people who are devoted to help special needs children! The Buddies are amazing!

I miss Jill and the boys, so very much!

Just Begin to Write

Just Begin to Write!

Keep It Simple

Most writers struggle with getting their writing done for one surprising reason. They think writing is a one-step process, when in fact, it’s a three-step process.

What we call “writing” is actually made up of three distinct activities: coming up with ideas, turning those ideas into drafts, and then editing those drafts into publishable pieces.

When I decided to become a writer and made the commitment to write 500 words per day, every single day, I quickly ran into the resistance that holds most of us back from doing our work.

I’d get up early, brew my coffee, and sit down to write. And I’d wait. And wait. And I’d wait for the words to come, but nothing would come quickly. Some days, nothing would come at all.

The minutes would tick by, with me stupidly staring at the cursor, squandering what little time I had before having to go to work. When my writing time was over, I’d pack my stuff up, defeated, and beat myself up for the rest of the day.


Keep It Simple

Why couldn’t I focus?

The truth is most writers struggle with this. Because they believe the myth that writing is one thing. When I realized that coming up with a great idea, writing 500–1,000 words on that idea, and then editing that idea into something I could publish on my blog — all in one sitting — was, in fact, a ridiculous goal, everything changed.

I began breaking those activities — ideation, creation, and editing — into three separate actions. And you know what? When you have one goal to accomplish, you are far more productive and focused than when you have three.

Imagine that.

As I did this, writing became easier and easier. I started writing more. I stopped getting writer’s block — period. I didn’t feel stuck anymore. I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I knew I could do it — so I did.

What resulted was, to my own chagrin, a system. To be honest, I’m not a very organized guy. I wish I were. But the truth is most of my life is messier than I care to admit. But what I’ve realized is every working writer I know has some sort of system to get the work done.

A system doesn’t have to be complicated or confusing. It just has to work.  A system is just a way of doing something that gets you a predictable result every time. Like, putting your keys in the same place every day after work (which I only recently started doing).

Below is my system, and maybe it’ll work for you, too. I call it: The Three-Bucket System. And it’s how I get my writing done.


Bucket #1: Ideas

All throughout the day, I capture ideas using an app called Drafts that syncs with Evernote.

That’s the first bucket: ideas.

I have a whole folder full of them for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department.

You can use a notebook for this as well. The tool doesn’t matter, as long as you aren’t just hanging onto all those ideas in your brain. Don’t trust that operating system. It will fail you.

You must capture ideas in a place where you can return to them later when your memory fails you and the coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.


Bucket #2: Drafts

Then, when it’s time for me to write (usually in the morning), I’ll pull an idea out from the first bucket and start writing, usually around 500 words in one session. This process makes it easier to just start writing because I don’t have to think about what I’m going to write — I already have a prompt.

The ideas I collect function as prompts for me, but this is not just a writing exercise. It’s work. I never write something without the intent of publishing it.This is what my friend Marion calls “writing with intent.” The best practice is the kind done in public, and the best writing is the stuff you intend to publish.

Once I’ve written about 500 words on my idea, I save it as a draft in Scrivener (if I’m working on a book) or in Byword (if it’s a blog post). Again, these are the tools I use. They don’t matter as much as the method.

This is the second bucket: drafts.

At any given time, I have a whole bunch of half-finished chapters and blog posts on my computer begging to be edited and completed.

This is not an overwhelming feeling. It’s an empowering one, because when it’s time to edit, I get to choose what I want to work on. I don’t have to come up with an idea or “just write.”

The point of this system is to think as little as possible and just do the next thing.


Bucket #3: Edits

Finally, I pull out one of those half-completed drafts and edit it. I’ll polish up the flow and sentence structure and of course, check for grammar and spelling.

At this point, the piece isn’t perfect, but it’s at least 90% done. I’ll either schedule it for a blog post or tuck it away in another folder called “Finished pieces” on my computer.

This is the third bucket: edits.

These are pieces of writing that are more or less ready for the world to see. The next step is to share them with an editor or publisher or post to my blog. Again, I don’t write anything just for fun. It all has a purpose.

This is what professionals do. They write for an audience, always with the intent of publishing. Anything less than that will result in something that isn’t your best work.


Putting it together

So here’s how this works in practice. But a quick word: if you’re just beginning, you’ll really need two days to get the system fully running.

1. Collect Ideas

Today, as you go on with the rest of your day, grab any ideas that come to you and capture them in a notebook or on an app that you can easily return to later. Shoot for five ideas. Write down a sentence or a phrase. Just enough to save the idea.

2. Write and Save

Tomorrow, when it’s time to write (say, in the morning, or whenever works for you), pull one of those ideas out of that first bucket.

I find that certain ideas speak to me, call to me even, and I try to listen to that voice. But sometimes, I just pick one. Typically, I choose the one that either most excites me or represents a deadline I have to meet.

When you’re done, put this piece in the “drafts” folder and save it for later. Then today, you’re done.

3. Edit and Publish

The day after, return to yesterday’s draft and edit it. Then move it to bucket three, maybe even publish it on your blog or wherever. Then go to bucket one to pull out a new idea and start writing again.

Do this every day, and you’ll never run out of writing topics. You’ll never run out of things to edit and publish. You’ll never have writer’s block again.

As long as you remember: writing is not one thing. It’s three things. So that’s my system. Give it a try, and let me know how it works.