faithcounts

Following God One Step at a Time

When the Unexpected Happens

We have all experienced when something unexpected happens.

It could be something good, like a surprise visit from a dear friend or relative.

It could be winning big money in a contest.

It could be landing that super job that you thought you had no chance to get.

There are also times when something bad happens.

It could be a devastating accident, or tornado.

It could be the death of a close relative from a heart attack.

You could lose your job, or find out you owe a huge amount on back taxes.

Whatever happens unexpectedly, how do we typically react?

1 — Many people would scream and cry first.  For most people our emotions jump in first, before clear thinking.

2 — After a quick text or phone call to your spouse or significant other, agreeing to talk more later.  That long talk with our spouse or significant other is very important to our decision.

3 — Next, many people want to tell their friends and relatives.  Our phones will be busy for hours sharing the news, and asking some of these people for advice what to do.

So where do many of us go for real advice, the kind we will likely use to make our decisions?

4 — For many unexpected events, we are left clueless about what is the best thing to do, so we contact a professionalDepending on what happened, we would talk to a lawyer or doctor or financial advisor. 

5 — And it should be no surprise, that surveys show many of us still go to Mom for advice!  Mom remains a big influence in difficult decisions, even more than Dad.

6 — So who do we often leave out?  Our best advisor, who cares the most about us, is usually not thought of until after all the others are contacted.  Our best advisor, and where we should go for advice first, is God.

I bet you knew that. Right?  But most of us don’t go to God first.  I know that I didn’t.  When I first found out that I had cancer, I went to my husband first, then we went to a doctor specializing in the type of cancer I had.  When everything was confirmed, and we had advice from the doctor, then I told my family (parents, children, aunts and uncles) and friends.  Then yes, I went to God, and my church, and put myself on as many prayer lists as I could. 

After more than a year of battling cancer, I was reading the Bible, and was struck by a verse that I had never used before, James 5:14.  “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”

 

I read it again.  I knew that God was bringing this Scripture to my attention.  I then did what I should have done sooner, I called the elders and set up a time for them to pray over me and anoint me with oil.  This proved to be a turning point in my battle with cancer, although the battle continued for several more years, and I had the elders pray over me a second time, and had everyone I knew praying for me, when finally God healed me of cancer.  I have been cancer-free for five years now. (If you want to read more about my cancer experience, click here.)

The important point here, is that God should be our first consultation.

Why? Before you tell anyone else what happened, God already knows!  In fact, God already knows what your future holds.  He certainly can give you the best advice! 

So how do we do that?  How do we go to God first?  We always think of the important people in our life first, our spouse, our mom, our good friends, our children (especially if they are over 21); however, God is the best advisor we have, and God loves us more than anyone, and He knows everything about us.

This is what I do now—

 I learned an important lesson when battling cancer.  Now, I go to God first every morning.  It is as simple as that.  Since I pray with God every morning, that gives me the opportunity to ask Him for help, for guidance, for answers.  When I don’t have any big, important questions, I still pray with God every morning over a list of friends and relatives and church ministers, and all the families of these people too.  Although it is simple, it does take discipline to pray first every morning.  I pray before I eat breakfast, because otherwise I have found that I get busy and distracted and either don’t remember to pray, or just can’t find the time.  For some people, it might work better to pray before you go to bed at night. 

What is important is that you make it a rule, so it becomes a habit –  pray before you eat breakfast every day, ( or before you go to bed every night).  Choose what works for you, and stick to it. Every day!  That is the best way I have found to make sure that you go to God first when the unexpected happens.

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Who You Follow Matters

One of my daily go-to Bible verses is John 10:27.  Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice.  I know them, and they follow me.”  We are His sheep.  Jesus knows us by name.

To follow Jesus takes courage.

It takes trust. 

And it takes listening to His voice!

Don’t be looking at all the other sheep, and following them.

Don’t be listening to all the other sheep (even Christians), and following them.

Sheep are great to hang out with, to encourage each other, to help each other…

But you need to follow Jesus, and Jesus alone!

Have you seen the movie “Far From the Madding Crowd”?  The shepherd in this movie loses his whole flock of sheep.  How?  They got scared by a barking dog and all started running.  Since they were all following each other, they all kept running right off a cliff.  The whole flock died at the bottom.  Now that shepherd has no sheep left to follow him.  (Here is a short film clip from the movie, although it is not the one where the sheep run off the cliff.  It shows you what the movie is about.)

Those sheep should have asked, “Where are you all running to?” 

The answer would be, “I don’t know.” 

So then stop running.  STOP!  Look for Jesus.  Listen for His voice.  Then follow Him!  Call some of the other sheep to turn and follow Jesus with you. 

Follow Jesus, because He knows all your needs, and will meet all your needs.  He knows you better than anyone else.  He loves you better than anyone else. 

In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Who but Jesus is willing to do that? For all the sheep.  Every single sheep, not just favorites.  Jesus loves all His sheep.  He knows us each by name.

Sheep can be misled;  sheep can run like crazy when they get afraid, and sheep can get really lost, if they don’t keep following the one true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd. 

Don’t let other sheep direct your life.  Don’t let other sheep tell you what to do.  Listen to Jesus, and follow Him!  We all have different talents and gifts.  We all have different paths in life.  Jesus knows where you need to go.  Jesus knows what you need to do.  Jesus loves you.

Go, follow Jesus!  He’s calling your name.  He says, “Come follow me.”

Who have you been following?  Who have you been listening to?  Need a change?

I’d love to read your comments.

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A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Story

I read this book after seeing a post by the author about his book.  It sounded very interesting, and I really enjoyed reading it!

One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview 

by Jason B. Ladd

OneoftheFew Cover

Jason B. Ladd is the right person to write this book.  He is a marine fighter pilot and a Christian.  He writes essentially a memoir of his Marine experiences and his growth as a Christian.  He artfully links the Marine’s physical training for battle with the Christian’s spiritual battle.   I loved reading about the marines, and I learned a lot about the training a fighter pilot goes through.  It was a unique twist to relate his military training to his own life as a Christian.  It was interesting to read Jason’s own thoughts about his military training.

Jason says “Honor, courage, and commitment are the Marine Corps values ingrained into every rifleman.”  These values are very much also a part of being a Christian.  However, he also says that hope is not part of the Marine’s course of action.  Hope is one thing Jason must learn as he develops as a Christian throughout the book.

Most of this book was very interesting, even riveting.  There were a few chapters where it bogged down on laying down rules for Christians about sex and pornography, drinking, and the responsibilities of a Christian husband and father. These few sections didn’t flow with the rest of the book.  It was more about what to do and not do as a Christian, instead of relating his life to his military experience.  I enjoyed the rest of the book about his life as a marine.  So there were 27 chapters in all, and 22 of them were great!  It was definitely worth reading.

I think this was an important story to tell. I hope it will encourage other men to make Christianity the center of their life, even in the military.  I give thanks to the author Jason B. Ladd for his service to our country, and for his leadership as a Christian.  Many men will learn more about Jesus and the Christian faith through this book. I hope it will show them that Christians can be tough and battle ready.

The Kindle version of the book is available right now from Amazon for $2.99, a super deal!  It is well worth reading this book!

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Your Reach

How far is your reach?

Do you reach just your family? Do you reach your co-workers?  Neighbors?  People on Twitter? Facebook? Parents in the PTA? 

What can you do with your reach?  You can influence people.  You can be an example.  You can share information.  You can pray for them.  You can become friends.

You can tell people about Jesus.  You can share inspirational Scriptures.  You can express your faith and what you believe.

If your reach is too small, then work at expanding it! 

Have you heard of the Prayer of Jabez? It is from 1 Chronicles 4:10
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

If you want to find out more about this Scripture, click on the link above to “1 Chronicles 4:10” which will take you to http://www.BibleGateway.com  I am on their blogger list, which I joined just this month!

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One of the ways I have expanded my reach is through this blog.  I talk about God here.  I talk about living as a Christian.  On “Faith Counts” I talk about “becoming a better Christian one step at a time”!

I have added book reviews of Christian books others may want to read.  (To see my book reviews, you can choose “Book Reviews” in the Category list in the right hand side of this blog, or do a search by typing in Book Review.)

I have been working at expanding the reach of my blog through social media — Twitter and Facebook, and I plan to add Google+ and Pinterest.

I also expand my blog reach through other blogs by commenting on posts and by using link-ups.  (Link-ups are hosted by other blogs with large reaches who host a link-up on their blog on certain days so you can attract the interest of people who haven’t seen your blog before. In turn this brings new people to their blog.)

This weekend I have tried something new to me — a Blogathon!

This is a 3-day event that brings all kinds of bloggers together to share tips, generate more interest in their blogs, and gain some Twitter followers, Facebook likes, Instagram followers and more.

This Blogathon sponsored 6 Twitter parties, and Sunday are the final two, which you can join in with if you want to see what I am talking about.  Sunday, January 24 at 2pm and 9pm EST are Twitter parties.  You can join in by following the hashtag #blogathon2.  (If there is only yesterday’s stuff there, try #blogathon3.)  This is my first time at a blogathon, so I’m not sure of all the specifics, but below is a link for you to get more information if you want to do more than join the Twitter party.  You can sign up for the final day if you want.

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Even if you don’t have a blog yet, look around and you may decide you want to start a blog.  It’s not that hard.  WordPress makes it super easy, and you can start with a free blog if you want.  Just go to http://www.wordpress.com  That’s how I started my blog about 4 years ago.

It can be scary to expand your reach.  It will take you out of your comfort zone, but we are meant to have a larger reach than just our friends and family.

In Joshua 1:9 Scripture says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Have fun expanding your reach!

Use the comments below to share where you plan to expand your reach…

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Born To Die

We were all born to die.  One day.

None of us can avoid this inevitable end to our human life.

What matters then is not how we die, or when,

but how we live our life.

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Every day, we make choices about what we will do that day.

Some of us use a daily or weekly “To Do” list, and check off each activity when it is done.

Some of use goals, annual, 5-year, 10-year… and even a lifetime “bucket list”.

Others of us use guiding principles, like choosing “One Word” to guide our year, or following the Bible, or wanting to do good so we can leave the world a better place, or just doing what we feel like doing.

Still another choice, is to live intentionally

To live intentionally is somewhat of a combination of the above options. It uses a word or phrase or several, as a guiding principle (a purpose statement).  It also uses goals, and a “To Do” list.  For Christians, it also includes biblical principles, and wanting to leave the world a better place.  But it also uses what we feel like doing, when that is based on our own personal choices.

Living intentionally, requires looking at your life so far, and choosing what you want the rest of your life to look like.  Then you choose how to accomplish that.  Write a purpose statement, set goals, make a “To Do” list, decide things you will do more often, and things you will do less, or won’t do at all.

Living intentionally prevents a wasted life of wandering through life with no purpose.

There are several books on the subject of living an intentional life.  Some are better than others.  I have read several, and my favorite is “Make It Happen” by Lara Casey.  This book sets out an easy to use plan to set up your life to live intentionally, so you can reach your goals and live with a purpose.  The book is full of examples, and it leads you through step-by-step how to live intentionally.  She has a Christian focus, but she does not preach about Jesus, so anyone can use this book.  Lara is also an excellent encourager, so I found this book very uplifting and inspiring.  I wrote a book review on it if you want to find out more.  The link is at the end of this post.

If you want a taste of what Lara teaches in her book, you can read a 5-part series in her blog, that explains how to review the good and the bad of 2015, and set up goals for 2016.  Then if you need more help, or want to do a more complete job of it, get her book and read it.  (Links are at the end of this post.)

Why would you want to live intentionally?

A life lived with intention gives you a purpose, from your purpose statement.  This helps guide your decisions.  You have goals, and you write “To Do” lists to help you accomplish those goals.

This is in contrast with how many of us live.  We get up feeling tired.  We force ourselves to get up and get ready for work.  We don’t really like our job, but it pays our bills.  We look forward to the weekends, when we let our hair down and have fun.  That is when we are not buying groceries, doing laundry, and cleaning.  We go shopping to snag some real deals on clothes or jewelry that we don’t really need.  We head home and grab some take-out food, eat and sit in front of the TV to watch some shows or a movie.  Before we know it, the weekend is over.  We head to bed, and wake up Monday morning feeling tired, and not ready to start our week all over again.

Does that sound like your life?

Wouldn’t you like to feel accomplished and useful at the end of each day? Wouldn’t you like to wake up each morning feeling inspired and eager to start the day, because you already know what you want to accomplish that day?  Wouldn’t you like to start your day with prayer thanking God for your life and asking for help for the day’s tasks?

So do you choose to live tired and bored and frantic?  Or do you want to live intentionally with a purpose?

Hey, it’s your choice!

So, here are the links you need to get started living with intention and purpose –

To read the 5-part blog series by Lara Casey (sorry but the giveaway has already ended) –

2016 Goal Setting in 5 parts –

Part 1: What Worked and Where to Start!
Part 2: What Didn’t Work + What I Learned
Part 3: Say Yes, Say No, Choose a Word
Part 4: Set Good Goals

Part 5: Make It Happen

To buy the book in one of several formats and from any of several stores – Go here.

To read my review of the book, go to my blog post.

Ok, now I have set you up to start living your life with intention.  I have accomplished one of my tasks today from my “To Do” list, and feel happy.  Next I will eat lunch, before I tackle my afternoon tasks.  I love my life!  And I am never bored! 

So get going, and “Make It Happen“!

What will your “It” be?  It’s your choice!

DoAllThoseThings

 

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Book Review on a Blue Bike

It’s Friday, so I am doing a book review on a book I just finished today!

The title is “Notes From a Blue Bike“, by Tsh Oxenreider.

I have been wanting to read this book a long time.  It was recommended by Ann Voskamp who wrote the foreword.  It is about a family with young kids trying to live intentionally.

Why read this book?  4 reasons —

1) Ann Voskamp recommended it.

2) Taking notes on a blue bike sounds tricky, and does anyone pedal a bike with a bell anymore?

3) A person with such a unique name (Tsh Oxenreider), must lead an interesting life.

4) I have been working on living more intentionally for a couple years now.  I could use some tips and ideas.  How about you?

I went to the library, and checked out this book, an actual print book.  Does anybody do that anymore?  Well, I do!   

I read the book in a few days.  Tsh (the author) talks about how she loves to travel, and so does her husband, and they even travel to other countries with their kids.  Brave right? They lived in Turkey a couple years.  They also lived in Texas, and Oregon.  They vacationed in Paris and Martha’s Vineyard.  No they are not rich.  They are frugal, live on a small budget, and are debt-free.  Interested in reading it now?

I enjoyed this book.  There were a few parts that were boring, but “I’m bored” is one of the chapters in the book, so Tsh has suggestions for dealing with that!  Mostly I was eager to keep picking it up to find out where else they traveled.

Tsh writes about the different places she lived and visited, and what she liked about each.  Her family loves traveling, so they save up money to go on trips.  This is something they do intentionally.  Yes, she does talk about how they live intentionally, and how they decided what their life would look like.

They choose a slower paced life, without debt, with kid friendly living quarters, and jobs that don’t require a specific location.  They write and earn money on the internet.  They tried home schooling.  They tried living in a small town.  They want to keep traveling, and they never want to stop learning new things.

This is a simple book, about a family that lives simply, on purpose.  I think you will enjoy reading it, and will learn some new things.  Although Tsh and her family have family values, and believe in God, this is not a Christian book.  This is a book for anyone with kids, who want to live more intentionally and more simply.

You can find Tsh at http://TheArtofSimple.net  You can find some of her books in a library, or click over to Amazon to see her author page.

Let me know what you think about this book, or suggest other books on intentional living, in the comments below.  I love hearing from readers!

 

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Forget About It

We are all into the new year now.  We are trying to make changes we hope will make our life better.

Some of us may be finding it difficult to let go of the last year, and move forward into the new year.  The best advice I can give is to “Forget about it”.  Forget 2015.  It is over.  Now you have a new year, with new opportunities, new blessings from God, and new hope.  Step up into the new year.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is God’s faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)

Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah after the city of Jerusalem was burned to the ground.  Despite this, they had hope for a new day!  They trusted God’s faithfulness and His compassion.

For my new year, I have been working on “re-focusing”.  I am determining what my focus will be.  Do I want to continue blogging?  The answer is “Yes”! 

I write this blog, because I enjoy writing, and I want to share what I have learned as I work at becoming a better Christian. I don’t do this for money.  I do this to encourage Christians.   I do this to stay in God’s Word, and encourage others to think about the Bible and what it says. I do this to challenge myself to become a better Christian, and to challenge you to do the same.  I enjoy reading new books, so I can write book reviews on some really good Christian books, to encourage you to read some of them.  By the way, if you read one of the books I review, I would love to get your feedback on the book in the comments below, or to my email FaithCountsBlog@aol.com

I expect that 2016 will be a year of turmoil for the world.  But because I am a Christian, I expect 2016 to be a year of new beginnings, renewed faith, re-focused priorities, with God at the top of my list.  I expect to become a better Christian by the end of this year.  Hopefully we all become better Christians every year.  New and better each new year. 

May we all have hope that we will have a better year this year, because of our faith in God, who has compassion, new every morning.  So choose to forget last year, and to commit to a new year with renewed faith to become a better Christian.

God is blessing you today!

I am sharing this post at Holley Gerth’s place.

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One Word 2016

Once again it is a new year.  It is time for some to make New Year’s resolutions.

For others, like me, we pick “One Word” to be our direction and focus for the New Year.

I usually pick my word near the end of December through prayer, and as I celebrate Christmas and remember the reason for the season, Jesus’ birth.  Then I will get several confirmations that this is the correct word for me, as it will come up over and over again.  It will show up in my prayers multiple times, and other people will bring it up in conversations with me, and in my reading and studying the word will come up again and again.  When you pick your “One Word”, look for these types of confirmations to assure you that you have chosen the right word.

In the past, here are words I chose for other New Years:

–In 2012 I chose “Joy”.  In 2013, I chose “Trust”.  (You can read that post here.)

–In 2014, my One Word was “Come”, as in “Come near to God, and He will come near to you.” (from James 4:8) (To read that post, go here.)

–Last year, I chose “Encouragement”.  (Go here to read that post.)

This year, my One Word for 2016 is “Re-Focus”.

Focus means to come together at one point.  Re-focus means my point is out of focus and needs fine-tuning to make the image sharp and clear.  This involves renewal and revival, both mean to make new, to bring back to a former condition.  We all were made in God’s image, and our former condition would have been like Adam and Eve before sin.

In Isaiah 57:15, God speaks of reviving the spirit and reviving the heart.  And in Isaiah 40:31, God says, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.”

So, this year, I will be re-focusing on God, prayer, reading and studying the Bible, worship, and mission projects.   Focusing on these things will help me to revive both my spirit and my heart, and to renew my strength.

I will also continue what I started in past years by encouraging others, coming near to God, trusting God, and finding joy each day.  Each year the “One Word” becomes rooted in me.  It becomes a part of me, so it stays on through future years, and you can build on it.

Have you picked your One Word this year?  You can share it with us in the comments below.  It is interesting to see what word other people pick.

If you haven’t picked your word yet, you can use my past posts (with links above) to help you pick one.

So Happy New Year!  And may you all experience renewal and revival this year of our Lord, 2016!

 

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Giveaway and New Year’s Goals

Ok, I have really exciting news!

Awhile ago I did a book review on “Make It Happen” by Lara Casey.  For 2016, she is blogging about this book (in 3 blog posts) and explaining how to use it to review last year 2015, and make goals for 2016.  The information on how to do this is FREE in her blog, so I will give you a link to find it. –But wait!

First you need to know that she is also having a BIG giveaway!  There are 41 individual prizes! That makes your odds of winning pretty good. You can boost the number of entries by spreading the word about her giveaway.  Here is the link to my original book review on “Make it Happen“, which is an amazing book!  I used it to help get my life organized and focused for that year. Now I am doing it again, with Lara’s book and her blog for 2016.

This is Not boring goals, this is exciting ways to live your life on purpose!

Now you can go to her blog and read how to get ready for 2016, and to enter the giveaway! Right here, Go! (Note: giveaway ends January 13)

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Let Christmas Linger

It seems that the day after Christmas, once the presents are all opened, we are supposed to just forget about Christmas.

No one plays Christmas songs on the day after Christmas.

No one goes to church on the day after Christmas.

No one says “Merry Christmas” on the day after Christmas.

I know it might seem silly to do some of those things after Christmas, but I don’t want to let Christmas go yet!

I want to let Christmas linger a bit longer…

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I still want to listen to Christmas songs a few more days.

I still want to leave on the Christmas lights.

I want to leave the Christmas cards on display, and even read a few of them again.

I want to leave the nativity scene up awhile yet, and touch the baby Jesus in the manger.

At Christmas I feel closer to Jesus than any other time of the year.

Jesus came close to us, by coming down from Heaven, and putting on flesh, to be born a baby.

We hug babies.  We rock babies.  We sing to them.    We feed them. 

We like to smell their clean freshness.

I want to savor those close feelings, by letting Christmas linger a bit longer.

So today, I am going to play some Christmas carols.  (I’m sharing a few of my favorites below.)

Today I’m going to spend time talking to Jesus in prayer.  I’m going to think about baby Jesus.  I’m going to think about how quiet his birth was, yet how bright.  I’m going to think about how personal and private His birth was, and yet how many people celebrate His birth now.  I’m going to think about how fragile a baby is, and yet He had the power to save us all. 

Yes, I am going to let Christmas linger, maybe until New Year’s Day!

Some people don’t have to go back to work or school the week after Christmas.  Maybe the whole week after Christmas we should all get the time off, to let Christmas linger.  Just a bit longer, please.  Don’t make me forget yet.  It’s too soon.

So here are a few Christmas songs to help you continue to savor Christmas a bit longer.  I hope you enjoy them.

Mary Did You Know?

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Do You Hear What I Hear?

In the comments section below, you can tell us how you make Christmas linger a bit longer.

 

 

 

 

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