I just wanted to share with you my notes from another powerful teaching on “Self-Control Vs. Grace” by Katie Souza. Here are my notes! I have added some additional links to Scripture and Strong’s Concordance from BibleHub.com.
Instead of writing a blog on this, I would like to share with you my notes from this message. I did a bit more of an in-depth look at the Scripture that she highlights! Hope this rocks you!
Exodus 14:10 -20 NKJV
13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. (Matthew 14: 24 – 32 NASB)
Peter gets out of the boat, and starts walking on the water. He actually gets out of the boat. Out of all the disciples, he got out.
First of all, he either had some serious faith in Jesus, or he was just a crazy daredevil-type of guy who just wanted a thrill! I think it is the first option.
Peter seems to show the desire to do the impossible through the power of God. He didn’t just want to stay calm in the midst of the storm, when Jesus tells them all to not be afraid, he wants to take it a step further. He has his eyes fixed on Jesus so much that he forgets about the storm – the boisterous wind and waves. He gets out of the boat and starts walking, and then he SEES the wind and waves. He was focusing on Jesus, but he had a “moment” when he stopped looking at Jesus. At that point he cried out for Jesus to save him! Of course, Jesus puts out his hand and rescues Peter.
What principles can we glean from Peter’s experience?
One look away from Jesus in the storm can make the “wind” and “waves” of life suddenly appear to be the scariest thing ever.
What “wind” and “waves” do you have in your life that are trying to engulf you?
If we are bound up with fear, then our eyes are not on Jesus. We have to approach the throne of God and surrender all of our fear to Him. We have to think about what we are thinking about! We don’t have to think every thought that pops into our head. If our head is leaning towards the the negative, then we need to expose our minds to the Word of God and His promises. “Fixing” our eyes on Jesus means – fixing our eyes on God’s Word, and what He says about our circumstances.
I often take just one Scripture to meditate on in any given day, that helps me to combat any recurring negative thoughts that keep trying to pop into my head. Look at this one…
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB)
The word “fixing” comes from a Greek word that means “looking away from all else, to fix one’s gaze upon“. Hello! Now, that’s the challenge! This is do-able, or why would the apostle Paul mention this?! It even sounds like a command! —- Fix your eyes on Jesus, or else you will sink!
I’ve been there. In fact, I’m really there every day. I start “sinking” every time I take my eyes of Jesus. The longer it takes me to focus my eyes back on Jesus, the farther I sink!
The good news is, when we do focus on our eyes on Him, He actually takes care of the rest – He perfects our faith. The perfecting of our faith is on the inside of us. The building up of our “muscle” of faith is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is about us “working” the Word. When we work the Word, the Word works!
Peter’s faith muscle was big enough to get him out of the boat, but it wasn’t quite built up enough yet to walk on the water for very long, so Jesus had to grab him. The moment Jesus grabbed him, the wind and waves stopped.
I have had so many moments like this in my life. I’m going along, stepping out in faith, doing some things that are risky, trying to walk on the water, and then “BAM!” all of a sudden I start focusing on myself and my ability or on the “wind” and “waves”. It might take me anywhere from a day or two to a couple of weeks to get myself to call out to Jesus in the midst of my “sinking” feeling. And then I see Him reach out and grab my hand and lift me out of the fear that is trying to take me under. Every time He does this, there is a calm that comes to my soul.
In this instance with Peter, the “wind” and “waves” immediately stop when Jesus pulls him up out of the water. In our lives the “wind” and “waves” on the outside may or may not stop when we call out to Jesus, but the wind and waves on the inside can always immediately stop!
We need to remember, too, that a little faith is all it takes to get out of the boat. Jesus can take it the rest of way. If our faith falters, Jesus can catch us. He truly is the perfecter of our faith.
Jesus asks Peter why he doubted Him, as if to say, “You don’t have to doubt me for a single second. I got you. My hand will always be here to save you.”
We can have full assurance that we CAN get out of the boat, and we CAN walk on the water. And one day we may just walk for a long distance without sinking at all! Hallelujah!
We have to believe that our day is coming soon to “walk on the water”. For now, we may just need to be like the other disciples and start with the “be not afraid” part before we step out of the boat. That’s okay if that’s where you are for now.
I’ve been one of the other disciples a lot in my life, but I would like to be like Peter, even if I start sinking sometimes. How about you?!
You can get out of the boat.
You can walk on water.
Philippians 4 (NASB)
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned[before], but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction.
Paul speaks here of being content in His relationship with God no matter what his financial state is. He has been rich. He has been poor. He says the secret to being content is to lean on Christ in Him to strengthen him every day. However, let’s look at what he says next about his current financial state that would be result of him leaning on Christ who strengthens Him.
15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent [a gift] more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
In the previous verses he told us about his ability to be content whether rich or poor, but here we learn that this church was his financial support. No other church but the one in Philipi gave like they did, according to verse 15. Even when he was in Thessalonica and could have received all his support just from them, the church at Philippi still sent him money gifts to cover his needs! He clearly emphasizes that he wasn’t seeking after this financial blessing and he was not desperate for it (because Christ was His strength), but he was glad that they sent it because he knew that it was adding to their heavenly account and was going to increase the financial blessing on their own lives. Paul was amply supplied. He had more than enough! He had prosperity at this time in his ministry. He didn’t lack for financial support.
Ministries thrive because of our giving. God needs us to give to His Kingdom work. The money didn’t fall from the sky into Paul’s lap. It was the result of the Philippians understanding that they were partners with Paul in ministry. He ministered to them the Word and discipled them. They ministered to him by taking care of him financially. What ministry is helping you to grow? What ministry or individual is pouring into you? Are you giving to them?
He further expounds here that because of their lavish giving, God would supply all their needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. God supplying all of their needs was connected with their giving. Let’s not get religious here and say that this is just spiritual needs, because all the previous verses are about money. Not only would their needs be supplied, but they would be supplied according to God’s riches in glory in Christ Jesus! That’s abundance!
We have to understand that our giving our lack thereof is directly connected to our current financial status. Even if there is not much in your bank account, and you are having a hard time paying your bills and paying off your debt – increase your giving as much as possible. Take a risk, pray and let God show you what amount (that may be greater than you think you can afford), and just see what God will do in your finances! The Philppians gave out of their gratitude to Paul for his ministry to them, and God blessed their giving hearts in return.
Over the years I have given a lot of offerings to ministries that have poured into my life, over and above my tithe to my church. I have seen tremendous increase year-by-year the more that I have given! If you tithe that’s a good start, but I challenge you to give over and above that. (If you don’t tithe, then that’s a whole different discussion.) Put some expectation in your giving while you are at it!
Bible passages taken from: http://biblehub.com/nas/philippians/4.htm
Our Heart, His Heart
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.
Proverbs 31:10 NASB
“Excellent” in the Hebrew means strength, might, efficiency, wealth, army. A woman of strength, might, efficiency, and wealth, who is strong like a member of an army is worth more than jewels or money. If men would realize this, there would be a lot less choosing based on solely on looks, and a lot more choosing based on Godly character. In God’s eyes I am a woman who is worth more than jewels or money. Do you walk in the knowing that your Heavenly Father sees you as a gem?
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb.
[ The Redeemer of Israel ] But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. Isaiah 43:1 NJKV
Oh, Beloved, the Lord wants you to rest in this Truth. He formed your inward parts. He knows how to keep you well spirit, soul, and body.
The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil. All the days of her life. Proverbs 31 NASB
“Heart” in Hebrew is the inner man, mind, will, understanding, soul, and seat of courage. Emotional and spiritual intimacy is implied here. This is great to think about in terms of marriage, but as a single person, Jesus is our husband.
Do you connect with the heart and mind of God?
Does God entrust to you the secrets of His heart?
Do you open up and really share your heart with God, too?
A man should be so relaxed and trust in his wife that he can share his hopes and dreams with her, and she should feel the same way about her husband. This is the same with our Husband Jesus.
Have you hidden any places from God?
Are you submerging any fears?
Are you trying to conquer something on our own, without letting Him in on it?
Intimacy is constant in-to-me-see. It is a daily relationship. It takes time. It takes honesty. It takes getting away from busyness and separate ourselves to be with our Lover, our husband, Jesus. He wants to share the secrets of His heart with us. He wants to share His vision for our lives to us. He wants to be able to entrust precious promises to us and see us trust in Him so much that we are patient as He fulfills them.
A husband may quit sharing his hopes and dreams for the future if the wife continuously questions and doubts that it can come to pass. Your Husband wants to continue to shares His hopes and dreams for you with you. If you have stopped dreaming of a bright future, and have lately been more focused on the negative circumstances of your life, then begin to be quiet more and listen to the heart of God.
A confident woman is one who accepts the dreams that her Husband Jesus shares with her! She longs to be with Him, to hear her Husband’s heart. She wants to slow down and take the time to be with her Husband. It is her priority. Beloved, make your sharing your heart with Him a priority. It will make all the difference in your life. You’ll never be the same.
And Relax in His Grace…
Philippians 4 (NASB)
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle [spirit] be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
How many times have you read these Scriptures?! If you’ve been saved for any length of time, then you’ve probably read it many, many times. However, in order to make these Scriptures come alive to me, I did some word studies today and then put what I learned into what I call a “personal paraphrase” that I can directly apply to my own life. You can click on words in the passage and see links to the Hebrew definitions! Here’s what I got today from my word studies…..
Delight and be conscious of God’s grace always! Again, I shout out to you, DELIGHT IN YOUR FREEDOM FROM THE LAW, YOUR UNMERITED FAVOR! Let yourself relax and not live by the overly strict standards of the spirit of law, but live by the spirit of grace before everyone in your life. Jesus is coming back soon! Don’t allow yourself to be divided and distracted and pulled and drawn apart in opposite directions, but instead pray about everything and make a heart-felt petition to God with thanksgiving when you need Him to take away your negative emotions and give you wisdom and strength. Let God know your requests! He can handle it! And then His peace will come, which will surpass the peace that the world thinks anyone can have in the midst of all kinds of impossible circumstances! It will guard like a military sentinel guarding the gate of a city and will be both your offense and defense!
Rejoice! The biggest revelation today is that the word “rejoice” in Greek is rooted in the word – GRACE! Anxiety comes from the spirit of the law. Relaxation and peace comes from the spirit of grace. Amen.
Scripture link taken from: http://biblehub.com/nas/philippians/4.htm
God’s love is limitless. It keeps going and going and going. The love of God is not greater in magnitude for those who fear Him, but His love is realized more in its magnitude by those who fear Him. The “fear” mentioned here is a reverential fear of displeasing Him. It comes from the knowing that He already loves us and chose to remove our transgressions from us. Transgressions are those acts that we have deliberately done that are in rebellion against God. He has removed those transgressions as far as the east is from the west.
Do we get that? Do we accept that God, who is perfect, does not identify us by our transgressions? I believe when we do get this, His love is greater TO and INSIDE us.
Those of us who are honoring God with our hearts, with our lives, with our thoughts, are those who have the love of God MAGNIFIED in us. It is more real to us. It is more tangible. We see it and feel it at work in our lives. We recognize it when others may not recognize it. We can see it when we are in the midst of our own failings. We actually perceive how great is His forgiveness. When we are just going about and doing our own thing, not taking in and meditating on Him, it is easy to get out of touch with His love. We can take His love for granted as we get wrapped up in the mundane things of life. On the days that I am so aware of His presence and His love flowing to me and maintain an attitude of gratitude, are the days that I walk in the fruit of the spirit. My peace matches His peace. My joy matches His joy.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass, he flirtatious like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him and his righteousness with their children’s children with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:13 – 19 (NIV)
He knows how our heart and our emotions are formed. He remembers how He formed us. He knows every fiber that he weaved into us when He created us. He understands what we are going through. He not only loves us, but in that love is compassion. Compassion for what we are going through at any minute or hour of our lives. Our Heavenly Father wants to hold us, love us, comfort us, give us council through every single situation in our lives. His love is with us from everlasting to everlasting. His love is with those who fear Him. It’s not that the Lord’s love is not with those who don’t fear Him, it’s just that they are not in touch with that love. They are not in recognition of that love. We need to be in close proximity to to His love. Our Father wants us to abide in His love, take up residence in it. His love should should shape how we live our lives.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4 (NASB)
Abiding in the love of God has to be a daily choice. When we honor Him, He honors us, and His righteousness is with us. The word “with” implies that His righteousness is a partner to us. Righteousness is our identity. We are in right standing with God because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Our Father is to be praised for granting us the gift of righteousness. This gift is wrapped up in His love. We can just merely acknowledge it once and while, or we can choose to ABIDE in it by walking in His Word and following His commandments. As one who recognizes the price paid for our ransom from sin, we should submit ourselves to His Word and lean on the Holy Spirit to help us follow God’s commandments. As we meditate on the promises of God and align our life with His Word, we abide in His love. Our joy will be made full.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15: 7 – 11 (NASB)
Part 1: Speaking Like the Daughter of a King
For so many years I have looked at Proverbs 31 as a chapter for married women. Yes, it details the habits and character of a married woman. However, this chapter contains so many qualities and character traits that single women can develop before marriage, so that when married, they will be already ahead of the game. Moving from singleness to marriage ought not be a huge struggle for a woman who is allowing the Word of God to shape her character. Whether you read this blog on your own, or go through it with a group of women, it is my hope that you directly apply this to your life. Take time to journal and/or discuss with others. As we begin, daughters of the King, let’s remember that if we have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Savior and surrendered our lives to Him, then we are already in covenant with the Lord and one with Him, in much the same way as a husband and wife are one.
3“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine. Song of Solomon 6:3 (NASB)
4“He has brought me to his banquet hall, And his banner over me is love. Song of Solomon 2:4 (NASB)
5 For as a young man marries a virgin,
So your sons will marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So your God will rejoice over you.. Isaiah 62:5 (NASB)
Let’s take a look at the first three verses of Proverbs 31:
1The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him:
2What, O my son?
And what, O son of my womb?
And what, O son of my vows?
3Do not give your strength to women,
Or your ways to that which destroys kings. Proverbs 31: 1 -3 (NASB)
In the first part of this chapter are some really strong words that most scholars believe are the words of King Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba. They proceed the whole virtuous woman section. Perhaps the purpose of these verses is to tell the virtuous woman for what type of man should be waiting, and define how she could be one who is worthy of being that man’s wife. Solomon’s name was believed to be Lemuel. This wise woman advises her son to stay away from selfish, ungodly women, and wisely choose a wife. I can’t help thinking that I want to be chosen by a “king”, and I want to know what qualities “kings” look for in a woman they want to marry. Also, what qualities can I teach the young women I encounter to seek after in their development into womanhood? Some of these qualities are listed in these first few verses, and they come straight from the mouth of this wise woman.
Solomon’s mother’s first piece of advice is to make sure her son is aware that there are women who take the strength of men, instead of giving them strength. Ouch! I can be a woman who takes the strength of men! I can be a woman who destroys the kingly qualities in a man. Yikes! How can I do that?! I can manipulate and try to get my selfish way in situations where they should be leading. I can demean men with words and comment negatively and disrespectfully on their leadership instead of humbly trying to help them improve. I can condescend men with my words behind their backs and in front of their face. Okay, I just stepped on my own toes. Did I step on yours?
There is nothing wrong with being a strong woman and having opinions, for I am one of those, but women can be masters of manipulation. We can fling our own opinions and constantly wear our feelings on our sleeves in order to get our way and receive sympathy from men and others. However, we can also gain the attention of men through humbly and respectfully leading. We can express our opinions and kindly speak of things that we are discerning without condescending anyone in the process. We can earn the respect of men and women, and instead of taking the life out of them, give life to them. We must esteem others more highly than ourselves, both men and women.
In an earlier chapter in Proverbs, we see a warning about not ruling our own spirit.
28Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. Proverbs 25:28 (NASB)
Well, now! A city broken down without walls is a city open up to the destructive forces of the enemy. It is wide open to be attacked by the enemy because it thinks it can handle protecting itself without any reinforcements. We don’t “rule over” our own spirits when we don’t have control over our mouths. Words that come out of our mouths are an indication of what is in our hearts. They may be an indication of an attitude that says, “I don’t need God,” or “I know more than you,” or “I got my act together more than you do.” When I become convicted in my heart that I might have said words that are harsh, I have to have a “come to Jesus” moment with myself and repent. I evaluate what thought pattern I have been allowing that is causing me to speak that way. I used to beat myself up a lot over any ugly words that came out of my mouth, but I’ve learned that God doesn’t want me to be under condemnation. He loves me no matter how ugly my mouth can be at times. The Holy Spirit is able to help me control my mouth. Just sheer will-power is not going to do it. I need Him, to help me keep the words of my mouth pure. Ladies, He is so honored when we make the choice to repent and change our thinking. That’s really what “repent” means anyway – “to change one’s thinking about a matter”. He can help us change the bitter thoughts of our hearts and mouths, to be sweet like honeycomb.
24Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 (NASB)
People who use pleasant words that are sweet like honeycomb are not usually ever lacking for good friends and company. People are drawn to us when we are full of life-giving words. I am already a daughter of the King of Kings, so when I look at these qualities, I ask myself, “Am I speaking and behavior like the daughter of a King?” I would like to ask you the question, too. Are there any ways that you respond to men that are destructive? What attitudes of your heart have led to this kind of behavior? We can give the Holy Spirit permission to help us with the words of our heart by listening to His still small voice on the inside. When Jesus ascended to heaven after He was resurrected, He sent the Holy Spirit to abide with us. He is our Helper and will teach us all things, including how to speak like the daughter of a King. It’s really not so hard to tame the tongue when you practice listening and obeying to the Spirit.
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you…. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. John 14: 16 – 25 (NASB)
Are you the type of person who likes to know what’s coming next? I mean what’s coming in the next hour, day, week, meeting, or big event? I am! I have forever been a person who likes to plan. I am a trained actress, and can get up in front of people with a script with virtually no problems, but a few years ago if you asked me to get up and do an impromptu speech or improvised scene, my heart would race, my palms grow sweaty, and my stomach curl. Seriously, in my head I would often think, “I’m going to die because I don’t know what I am going to say! I’m going to mess this up and look like a fool!” If you asked me to write a speech or think before hand what I had to say, for even five minutes, I would have been fine. However, ask me to do something on the spot, and I virtually felt my blood pressure escalate!
I never liked the fact that I was terrified of improvisation, and the fact that I always had to know what I was going to say in real life situations and acting scenes. After all, I saw how so many good actors and leaders were so comfortable and spontaneous in improvisation. I really wanted to get over this. So, I started making myself participate in activities that involved improvisation. One of them was Toastmasters. This is a speech makers club. In every meeting people deliver pre-written speeches, and one part of every meeting involves having to give an impromptu speech after receiving a short prompt. The first few times I had to do it, I was literally nauseous. However, after making myself get up and do this more and more, that nauseous feeling starting becoming less and less. It was really quite miraculous. These small successes helped me to believe that not being good improvisation all those years had more to do with a fearful mindset, than a lack of improvisation skill.
Another way I confronted my fear was by doing improvisation with my Drama students. I have been teaching Drama now full-time for over five years. I had to first learn a million different improvisation activities to use in my classes, and I started throwing myself into them along with my students. I guess I just felt like it was a safe place to learn how to be a better improv artist – around 11 – 14 year olds with no adults around. I could just throw myself into crazy scenes with them, and have fun without trying to feel like I was a “master” at improvisation. There are “rules” for improvisational acting, and in my classes, I could practice following these rules right along with students. I started coming up with these crazy characters and scene ideas all the time! It has become quite addicting. We do only improvisation activities always on Fridays, and my students look forward to this thrilling way to end their week in Drama class.
Developing my improvisation skills with my students was such a breakthrough for me – a break-through fear! I used to be blocked all the time in my formal theatre education classes. Seriously, I was terrible at improvisation because I judged myself, over-thought everything, and just expected myself to do do a lousy job every time. However, now I was not so self-conscious of my improvisation skill, but I allowed myself to trust my instincts and be creative moment by moment! I was finally just taking my thoughts and ideas for characters and scenes, and running with them, without out over-thinking them. This is one of the rules of improvisation – commit to your choices! So, I was learning how to commit to my choices!
About a year ago, I was still itching to take this newfound improvisation ability to a new level, so I took a formal acting improvisation class. A big step for me. Something I would have NEVER done a few years ago, because of the sheer terror of looking like a fool! This time I was determined that I would learn how to do this with adults. I have to admit that first class was so nerve-wracking. We had to do long improvisation scenes, which I wasn’t used to doing at all. We had to do improvisation games that required ridiculous spontaneity, the likes of which used to scare me silly! Low and behold, I threw myself into these scenes and games. I was not always tremendously successfully because I am inexperienced at more complicated improvisational acting, however, by the final class, I had come a long way. I mean, try doing a 3 minute scene with only one word as your starting point?! It is quite a fun ride! All you can do is listen and respond, say “yes, and…..” and just go with the flow!
This improvisation class changed my life. Why? I began to understand more what it meant to just live in the moment, a concept that seems very profound, but yet is hard to do for perfectionist-type personalities. I learned how I didn’t always have to think ahead. There were so many times when I had no idea what I would say or do in a scene, even when I supposed to be the one starting a scene from a frozen position! All I knew was – the idea would come to me once I boldly put myself in the position. All I needed to do was step out with confidence that all the creativity I needed was in my head to get the scene started! So many times I surprised myself and my classmates. So many times!
My creative challenge to you is to make yourself get involved in activities that involve improvisation, especially if you are an introvert or perfectionist-type personality who is terrified by impromptu activities. Here are a few activities:
- Swing Dancing (Yes, after you know the basic steps, you make it up as you go!)
- Toastmasters Club
- Leading a small group at church, work, school. (Bible study, interest group, book club, etc.)
- Jazz Music Club
- Improvisation Acting Class
- Teaching (whatever subject you know a lot about)
- If you are just a worship leader and all you do is sing, start making yourself speak here and there in between songs.
- Karaoke (This is singing in the moment!)
- Cranium, charades, or board games that involve having to get up and act out things on the spot and get your team to guess.
It may be that some of us will never be “brilliant” at activities that involve a lot of impromptu, but I truly believe that even most planned, perfectionist-type, analytical, left-brained personalities can still become better at living in the moment. We can conquer the fear of having to always know what’s coming next, and it can help us become more confident in every area of our lives! I have been there, done it, and I am learning to live in the moment more every day of my life!
Creativity is a powerful force. It exists in the heart of every human being. Some thrive on its power. Some make a living off of the creativity in them. Some musicians, writers, painters, singers, composers, actors, and dancers find joy in allowing the force to move through their lives. Some delight mostly at watching others express it. Some even feel it is a force that is not in them. Some feel the very force of creativity has eluded them. You may be one who marvels at the creativity of others, but never feel creative. If you are this person, then it’s time to start marveling at your own creativity. We were born to create.
Creativity is force that is inside of all of us whether we feel it or not. To create is to bring something into existence, or to form something out of nothing. It is to transform something that is maybe plain, boring, unappealing, or mundane and make it beautiful, interesting, or attractive. Creativity is to believe the impossible. It is to see beyond the very moment and into the next moment of what “could be. It is to bring out the colors of the world into the view of natural eye. If you do not consider yourself an artist, and you do not feel like you are very creative, then please read on. If you are an artist, but you feel like creativity it lacking outside of your works of art, then read on, too. How can you revive the creativity in your life?
1. Remember creative things you used to do that you haven’t done in long time and start doing them again.
Even though you may feel like you have never been creative, let me just say that “creative” doesn’t necessarily mean you produce skilled works of art. When you were a child before you grew to know the troubles of the world and adulthood, you were creative. You drew pictures in school, even if they weren’t “good”. You colored in coloring books. You came up with new games on the playground to play with your friends. You created excuses to your parents for your mistakes. You created study methods to succeed in school. You created sandcastles at the beach. You created forts in the woods. You drew with colorful sidewalk chalk on the pavement. You created outfits to get attention. You imagined what clouds were in the sky. You did so many creative activities!
Here’s the challenge…come up with a list of at least 20 creative things that you haven’t done in a long time that you used to love doing (even if they were in your childhood). Do one of those creative activities a day for at least 5 – 15 minutes.
2. Start a dream journal.
Cultivating creativity in yourself has a lot to do with giving yourself the chance to dream. When we stop allowing ourselves to dream, we stop the creative force in our soul. We are the ones who literally block it. There are many reasons why you may have stopped dreaming. It could be because of hardship and heartaches, emotional and physical pains of all kinds. One way we can pursue healing our souls from wounds is by allowing ourselves to dream again.
I challenge you to start writing at least one journal entry a week by starting with one of these phrases (or you can come up with your own):
Some day I would like to….
If I had all the time and money in the world I would…
If I could have the perfect career it would look like…
If I could go to any place in the world right now, I would go to….
If I could meet anyone in the world it would be…
If I could have my own business it would be…
I will have my own family someday and we will….
My dream home will look like….
My dream job would be…
If you don’t like to write a lot, try cutting out pictures and gluing them to a picture album page, poster board, or cork board to create a dream collage. You might do a new collage for each dream like: dream home, dream job, dream vacation, dream business, dreams for family, etc. Or you could just put them all on one big board. Make it your own. If you do a dream board, I recommend putting it up for you to walk by every day, so you help keep hope alive in your heart for your dreams to come true. At this stage in the game, this is not a vision board really that has to do with goals on how to reach them. Another blog will deal with the issue of setting goals, but this is just about starting to dream big again.
3. Create an idea board or page for your job.
You may be tired of your job. You may tired of the people at your job. You may be tired of the endless new stressful challenges. You may just be tired, period. It may not be a job that is your passion. What if you added a little creativity on a daily basis in the job?! Perhaps the job is so tiring because you are approaching and performing tasks the same way pretty much every time.
I challenge you to start an idea board or page for your job either on your office wall or in a journal. You can write, tack up post-it notes, or put cut-out pictures on it. What kind of ideas could go on it? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- How to re-decorate your office or cubicle
- Better and more efficient ways of doing the same activities you do every day
- People you need to get to know on the job whom you haven’t made an effort to get to know yet….and maybe how and when to talk to them
- Needs that you see not being met that maybe you could meet in your time on the job that will help your company grow
- People you noticed doing a great job at some activity whom you don’t want to forget to compliment
- People on the job who basically do what you do and seem like they need a little help because they are newer on the job than you
- Ways you change up the order of your daily routine – to help you escape boredom
As you tackle these creative challenges, let “you” be “you.” There may be part of “you” that you have stifled and kept inside for way too long, so you might feel awkward at moments. Don’t criticize what you do creatively at all right now. Don’t look at what you do as if someone is judging it. Don’t even judge it yourself. I promise you will start feeling more alive than ever.
Creativity is a life force that makes us different than any other created being on the planet. Reviving creativity in your life can revive joy, passion, and peace in your soul! It can also help your heart and soul to heal, too. Allow yourself to be okay with expressing the creativity in you, even if you might think others might look at it and think it is odd. Your creativity is unique to you, and it represents a one-of-a-kind person. You might just be surprised at how your creativity will put a smile on other people’s faces, and improve the quality of your life in amazing ways!
Ever heard a song and it instantly turned your blue day into sunny? Ever heard a melody and it made you remember something that you didn’t want to remember from the past?! Ever heard a lyric and been so inspired that you instantly made a bold decision about your life? The answer for me is yes, yes, and yes! Music has so much power to transform us.
How does music transform us? First of all, it can transform the way we look at ourselves and our own lives. Music is one of the most powerful forces on earth because it can move the soul. Music can define, inspire, comfort, energize, and bring joy or sadness. It can cause us to reflect on life and process what is going on in our heads and hearts. It can get into our head and change our mood. In fact, catchy tunes can get in our head and not get out for days!
I sometimes crave the emotional high that certain songs bring me. I can play the same song for weeks every time I need to be energized. I have a playlist of exercise music that, I promise you, makes me have the best workout every time! It’s almost like an addiction. It is a “substance” that provides a high, but without the negative side effects. Seriously, for a musical person like myself, it is a necessity, not just a commodity for my own emotional well-being. I am a much happier person when I am listening to music or singing. Music even provides an escape from the awful realities of life. It gives me the opportunity to open up my soul in a very profound way. When given over to moments of sadness or heaviness, nothing else can do quite what a song can do for me. However, is it the music itself, or is it the words in the music that has the power? It’s really both.
I listen to plenty of songs that are just fun or romantic, being the musical theatre lover that I am, but a lot of the songs that I play or sing have words that serve the purpose of extolling and exalting God. I sing songs that take my mind off of the circumstances of my life and take me up to a higher place above it all. I feel transported into a new dimension, one in which I feel the heartbeat of God and His unconditional love towards me. Singing to Him and about Him brings encouragement to my heart. I begin to let go of all fear and trust Him that He is working all things together for my good. No matter how ugly the circumstances, my faith rises, and I believe that God’s glorious power is working in my life to sustain me and change things for the better. The dark cloud lifts. The happy chemicals in my brain are released, and peace is mine. Awhhh.
This kind of experience with music is worship. In the Greek language “worship” or “proskuneo” means to “kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand.” * So, I am essentially lavishing love on my Master, only to receive an outpouring of love right back. It’s a win-win situation. To be consoled, counseled, and loved by The One who formed me in my mother’s womb is so amazing. It is like no other experience on earth. Truly.
Though this is an amazing experience, it is not always easy to make myself choose to worship God. Life can hard sometimes. People can, too. On the very day that I am so tired and so emotionally exhausted that I just want to go to bed or watch TV, I often decide to push past my feelings and worship God. Every time I make myself worship the Lord thru singing, I enter a domain that I don’t want to leave for awhile. A few minutes can easily become a few hours. These worship experiences in recent years have become the absolute deepest times of intimacy with my God. Just when I leave an experience in God’s presence and think “how could it get any better than that?”…it does. The next time it is better. Deeper. God comes in time and time again and engulfs my heart with His magnificent love in way that words can’t describe. He speaks to the very parts of my heart that need healing. I am transformed into a different person. I can walk in great peace and joy even in the middle of the most challenging situations in life. This is my secret place and it is just where everything makes sense.
If you have not experienced an outpouring of God’s love, I encourage you to pursue Him and watch Him in turn pursue You. He is chasing His beloved for intimacy and pleasure. As His creation you are His beloved. Turn your affection towards Him, and He will lavish unconditional love on you and you will never be the same again.
I would like to share some powerful songs that are my favorites. You can be transformed, too.
I have been listening and watching the story of Grease, the Musical, because I am acting in the show this summer. I’ve been doing much thinking about the story in this very lively song and dance show. The basic storyline is all about, Sandra Dee, the girl who doesn’t really fit-in with the popular crowd. She tries to just be herself, but in the end she realizes that she won’t be accepted by the popular crowd, nor by the guy she feels she really likes, unless she changes herself to be like them. Sandy decides that she has to dress provocatively, smoke cigarettes, and be willing to “go all the way” in order to get what she wants – the cute popular guy, and secondly – popularity with a capital P!
I feel great sadness for every person who has stooped to the level of becoming what they ARE NOT to attract the attention of people that they really never wanted to be like in the first place. Why did Sandy originally not want to fit in with the popular girls and guys? The popular girls and guys had completely opposite morals from her. Not only did they drink, smoke, use foul language, and sleep around, they were insecure, insensitive, highly vain, and competitive with each other in really bad way. (Cast members, please if you are reading this, don’t take offense to my character analysis.)
Somewhere in all of this, Sandy believed the lie that her value was in how accepted she was by the popular crowd. At one point in my life, I felt a lot like Sandra Dee. I’ve felt like, “It would sure be nice to completely fit-in, and not always stick out like a sore thumb because I am so different. It would be nice to actually get the popular, stud-muffin boyfriend, and tons of attention by everyone by the way I dress.” Seriously, just being honest.
For so long, it seemed like I had to really try hard not to do “this” and not do “that” as a Christian, in order to stand-out. Sometimes I wasn’t even so sure if I was doing the right things for the right reasons. I was just kind of following The Book, the best I could. I was just trying my hardest to follow what I had been taught. It was hard for awhile, then it just got easier.
Why and how did it get easier for me to stand-out from the popular crowd? I made the choice to spend my time with the unpopular crowd, the crowd of people who were like me, who wanted to glorify God with their lifestyle and behavior choices. I made the choice to sit and spend extra time with God and study his amazing Book of Life when others were just “hanging-out”. I believed that the price that I would have to pay to fit-in with the popular crowd was not worth losing my intimacy with God.
Over the years the intimacy that I have built with my Heavenly Father and Lover of My Soul is far better than getting all the attention from popular people. Words can not describe how much better it really is to know you who you are and Whose you are.
Being rejected by certain people is not really a big deal when your identity has been fully developed through a relationship with God and His Word. My own personal belief system of right and wrong comes from the Word of God, and it has become embedded in my soul. My lifestyle and attitude has been shaped by what I have listened to and read the most.
When presented with many of the same worldly temptations on a day-to-day and weekend-to-weekend basis, it’s not really so hard to say no. There are certain things I just don’t do. There are certain places, I just don’t go. I know I am the daughter of The King of Kings, and there are certain things that His kids just don’t do! No questions asked. (Sometime soon, I will share some of those things that sons and daughters of the King just should not be doing.)
At this time in your life, whether old or young, you may still find that it is work to stand-out, but my encouragement to you is – it will get easier the more you behold your Heavenly Father and His Word, and put yourself in right relationships with quality people who want the same thing. We become more like the one whom we behold.
9But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9-12 NASB)
The Sock Monster is alive and well because I pulled these out of the dryer the other day. They are missing their mates! He is such a dirty rotten scoundrel. He is really a mean monster. I don’t want to wear these two socks at the same time even though they are the same style! Now I have two less pairs of socks to wear until the Sock Monster barfs them up. Seriously! He has been doing this for years to my socks. When will he ever stop?!
The email that was sent to me from someone at work never made it to my e-mail box. It was the Cyber Monster. He ate it. He undoubtedly gobbled up the thing, because he does that. He takes great pleasure in eating those e-mails which really need to reach me. Then, sometimes he seems to feel the need to barf them back up three months later so they magically appear in my e-mail box at a time when they are completely irrelevant!
The Cyber Monster and the Sock Monster are friends. Yep, I found them out. They are in cahoots. They like to take important things from us that we really need. They know just how to ruffle our feathers at just the right moment!
These two monsters represent things in our lives that really will never make sense. Don’t try to figure out these silly “monsters”, because it really will not help the situation, and can actually cause more stress and FRUSTRATION! Just tell the person to re-send the email, or buy new socks! So, you see, these monsters may be able to steal my socks and e-mails, but I say, “You will not eat my happiness and joy for the whole day! You can just keep the socks and e-mails if you like! Whatever!”
I took this photo from the window of an airplane when I was on vacation last year. I have been thinking a lot about heaven due to the passing away of a dear friend of mine. Heaven is filled with streets of gold, mansions, rivers, oceans, and streams. It is filled with beautiful things. Sparking gems. Light everywhere. It is a place with no more sorrow or pain.
Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. (NASB)
My friend is now in this amazing place. She is there with her beloved Savior and her Heavenly Father. She is sitting in the arms of Jesus. I believe she has also been dancing around the throne. My heart is hurting for the moving of this beautiful young woman from this life and into eternity, and the pain that her friends and family are feeling. However, just the mere image of her in the arms of Jesus, brings great comfort. I pray that her family and all her friends can have this vision of her in their hearts, as they try to recover from this sudden passing.
We all need to have heaven on our mind. It is our final destination. Our time here on earth is yet a small breadth of our eternity. God has written eternity on our hearts. We also long for a piece of that heaven here on this earth. God has made it possible for us to have it. He has allowed us to step into a piece of heaven as we allow ourselves to be drawn into His presence where He can soothe our soul, bring joy to our hearts, and captivate us with His unconditional and powerful love.
As I take a deep breath, and I worship my King right now, I find that little piece of heaven. He floods my heart with peace, when I open my heart up to Him. I really honestly don’t know how people grieve the loss of loved ones without God, and without knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt if a loved one is in heaven or hell for eternity. I know my friend is in heaven. She had accepted Jesus into her heart as her Savior. Thank God.
My friends, we must press in to God’s presence while we are here on this earth, and continuously allow heaven to permeate our mind. Heaven is wrapped up in the promises of God. Heaven is knowing and receiving His love and His grace. Heaven is the Kingdom of God that has come here.
Romans 14: 17 …for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (NASB)
If you have not found your piece of heaven on this earth, God has made it simple for us to do so. We can step into His presence through knowing Jesus as our Savior. He is the One who gave up his life on the cross to pay the price for all our sin once and for all. He desperately wanted for His presence to dwell in our hearts here on this earth.
Romans 10: 9 …that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. (NASB)
Salvation is not just inheriting heaven when we die, it is the ability for us to have a piece of heaven on this earth. There is no fear of death for us when we accept Jesus. We have to make the choice to take hold of the eternal life that our Heavenly Father has offered us.
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NASB)
I take hold of that eternal life. I choose to fight the fight of faith, no matter what lies this world tries to bring to me. I am entering that piece of heaven right now!