Following Me

Many moons ago, at the beginning of my marriage and before I had children, I found myself with too much time on my hands. Given my current life situation, having too much time seems like a foreign concept. At that time, however, while my husband was at work, I had many lonely hours to fill each day. One of my favorite ways to pass the hours was to visit the park near our home and stroll the walking trail there.

Sometimes I would visit the park by myself, listening to the radio as I walked. On days that I felt up to the adventure, I would take my black lab-mix puppy, Todd, with me to walk the trail. He was always filled with pent-up energy and excitement, and without exception he would end up pulling me around the trail. It was not uncommon to be stopped by a passerby who would jokingly ask, “Are you walking him, or is he walking you?”

Sometimes, on weekends, my husband would join us for walks at the park. One Saturday morning, as we were loading our dog into the car, unexpectedly our cat, Squeedunk, jumped into the car too. Now, most logical cat owners would have lovingly taken their cat back out of the car, knowing that cats are not designed for strolls at the park. We were not those cat owners. Young, naive, and curious, we decided to take him with us and see what would happen.

When we got to the park, Todd jumped out of the vehicle, and my husband quickly put a leash around his neck, preparing him for our walk. Squeedunk jumped out of the vehicle too. We did not put a leash around his neck. As my curiosity was replaced by anxiety, I reassured myself that we only lived a mile from the park. Surely, if we lost our cat, he would find his way back home.

We began our walk and slowly, trailing us by 20 feet, our cat began strolling as well. Todd, our dog, pulled us excitedly down the trail, sniffing all of the smells and chasing passing squirrels. As we walked, my husband and I took turns sneaking peaks behind us. Steadily, in his own time, Squeedunk sauntered down the trail behind us. Just as one would expect, he stalked us in feline fashion, trailing nonchalantly, looking like he had other things he could be doing. He continued to follow us for the entire mile-long walking trail.

As we returned to the parking lot, Squeedunk walked over to us and allowed me to pick him up and put him back in the car for the ride home. It was an interesting experience to say the least. We never pressed our luck by trying it a second time.

What if goodness and mercy follow us in a similarly unexpected way? The lyricist David, ends Psalm 23, promising:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:6 ESV

Following me. All the days of my life. How often do we pay attention to the way that the Lord’s goodness and mercy are following us? Is it easy for you to see the evidence of it?

I think there are seasons where the goodness and mercy in my life seem so evident that rather than casually following me, it feels they are hunting me down. Then, other times, like my cat, they seem to be trailing far behind. I find myself wondering if they are even still there. I can’t always see their evidence in the moment. Still, as I look back, almost always in hindsight, I find they have been there all along.

Sometimes goodness and mercy come in the form of tangible blessings, like money I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes they come in the form of protection, like a near-missed collision on the highway. Sometimes they arrive in the form of an opportunity, like a job or a calling. Sometimes, they show up as simply as my son’s hug and kiss at bedtime.

Regardless of how they arrive, goodness and mercy always come as love and provision from a God who infinitely cares for us all the days of our lives. What surprises of goodness and mercy are trailing you today?

Pause: Inhale and slowly exhale. Take a moment to quiet your mind. Slowly read Psalm 23 through once or twice. What stands out to you in this passage?

Renew: Take time to meditate or journal about how you have seen God’s goodness and mercy following you. Write down the large and the small ways you find evidence for goodness and mercy in your life.

Next: Keep your eyes open this week for ways that you see goodness and mercy. What you pay attention to changes your focus. As you pay attention to finding goodness and mercy, you will no doubt find them.

May we have joy on the adventure of life, knowing that goodness and mercy are following after us.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Seeing God’s Hand: An Interview with Lisa Monson

It was an honor to sit with my friend, Lisa Monson, as she recounted the incredible hardships and provisions of her faith journey through battling lymphoma. Now, seven years later, Lisa can look back and see God’s hand evident all along the way.

Lisa is a licensed counselor, and owns her own practice, Renewal Counseling.

I so appreciated Lisa’s authenticity about not only her physical struggles but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of battling cancer. She shared that, through her journey, she has learned that God uses the broken things in our lives. As a licensed counselor, Lisa feels that the trials she has experienced help her better relate to her clients who are going through trials of their own.

When asked about a favorite Scripture passage, Lisa shared that her favorite verse is:

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12 NIV

During our conversation, Lisa talked about how, after her own health crisis, and after a close friend’s death, she began to be more interested in heaven. Not only did she search the Scriptures, but she also found Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, to be a helpful resource for better understanding the promises of eternity.

I came away so encouraged by this conversation, and I hope that you did too. If something you heard on this podcast episode resonated with you, please comment below or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!

Fighting Words

Wherever you go, in restaurants, stores, even gas stations, there are background tracks playing. Like elevator music that fades into the periphery of conversation and the din of customers, the songs go mostly unnoticed. Then, a favorite song comes on, and suddenly you are aware that there has been music all along. Our thoughts play in much the same way. All day, every day, we are forming an inner script, creating the narrative of our lives inside the confines of our minds.

Our thoughts are the hidden tracks of our lives.
Photo by Skylar Sahakian on Unsplash

Most of the time, we remain blissfully unaware of our thought content. Still, if we considered our thoughts to be like an album playing in the background of our lives, upon turning up the volume, what track would you hear playing in your mind? Some common refrains I hear in my counseling office sound like:

  • I am never enough.
  • What if I fail?
  • What do others think of me?
  • I hate my body.

The list can go on and on. Each of our minds have specific, go-to, negative tracks that our brains like to play when we feel tired, weak, hurt, discouraged, or lonely. The amazing fact about our mind is that all day, as we think and act, we are wiring and rewiring our brains. The neuronal pathways that “fire” together in our brains also “wire” together. This means that, as we continue to think the same negative thoughts, we are making super pathways for those thoughts in our brains. On the other hand, as we change our thinking patterns, our brains are capable of making new pathways. It’s a completely phenomenal design by our Creator who is in the business of redemption. That is the good news.

The bad news is this: it takes a lot of work. A LOT of work. First, we must become aware of our thought lives. Paying attention to our thinking, or “metathinking,” does not come naturally. It feels strange at first. The process of beginning to change those negative thoughts once we are aware of them is even more difficult. After all, if we truly believe the negative scripts playing in our minds, then with what ammunition are we going to fight them?

Ellie Holcomb has a song, Fighting Words, that I absolutely love. In one short, fun-loving song, she sums up the work of fighting negative thoughts by speaking truth to them. As we begin to challenge the thoughts, rather than believe them every time they present themselves, change begins to occur.

A few years ago, I heard a pastor on the radio teaching about taking our thoughts captive to obey Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). He advocated that the imagery of taking a captive is the language of war. It doesn’t mean gently reprimanding a wayward thought. It means forcefully taking it to the dungeon and chaining it up. We are taking thoughts prisoner. We are reminding ourselves of the truth of Scripture, even when we are not yet able to believe it. Even when we don’t yet feel it.

The “fighting words” we use to speak back to the negative and untrue thoughts playing in the stereo of our minds help us incrementally build new pathways in our brains. Each small success has an impact on our spirit and brain. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Even attempts to challenge old thinking patterns begin to disrupt old neuronal pathways. That, friends, is the beauty of neuroplasticity and a God who loves to redeem and make all things new.

Photo by Skylar Sahakian on Unsplash

Pause: Take a moment to still your body and calm your brain. Slowly breathe in and slowly exhale. Read Romans 12:2 and meditate on the idea of being renewed by the transforming of your mind. What does this mean to you? What could this mean about your thought life?

Renew: As you have time, list some of the negative thoughts that plague you consistently. Begin to write down true statements that you can use to combat those thoughts when they come. Find Scripture passages that directly relate to those thoughts and use them as your “fighting words.”

Next: This is hard work. Give yourself grace for even trying. Healing is never linear, and neither is change. It takes time and practice. Thankfully, you have a whole lifetime to keep practicing. Choose one thought that you want to start fighting this week and begin the warfare!

May we know and accept Grace and Truth as we change the music of our thought-lives.

Pause, Renew, Next!

In Want + Plenty: An Interview with Meredith McDaniel

It was my privilege to sit with Meredith McDaniel and talk about the faith journey that led her to write her first book, titled In Want + Plenty. Meredith is a licensed professional counselor and owns her own private practice, Milk + Honey Counseling. We met each other over a decade ago, and it has been a joy to see what the Lord is doing in her life.

Meredith McDaniel, licensed professional counselor and author of In Want + Plenty

In this podcast episode, Meredith shares how, through experiencing a season of unease and transition, the Lord began teaching her through the story of Exodus about the joy of finding “manna” in her every day moments. She began to look for His provision in seasons of discontent as well as in seasons where there was abundance. Meredith explains that she feels called through her writing and counseling to help others “taste of the land of milk and honey here on earth.”

In Want + Plenty will be available January 20, 2020 anywhere books are sold

During this episode, Meredith shared that through Emily P. Freeman, she became one of the first members of HopeWriters. She believes that hope*writers has been integral to being able to write in a way that she could not only be supported, but keep her “soul intact” in the process.

Meredith’s book, In Want + Plenty: Waking Up to God’s Provision in a Land of Longing, is now available. To learn more about Meredith’s book and ministry, visit her website: https://www.meredithmcdaniel.com/.

During our chat, Meredith talked about ways she is trying to focus on prioritizing her marriage and family relationships. One of the ways she is currently fostering intentional time with her children each week is by using a new resource she loves, called Imaginative Prayer.

I found this conversation to be so encouraging. If you know someone who would also be encouraged by it, please share! If something about this conversation resonated with you, I’d love to hear about it. Comment below, or join the conversation on PRN’s Facebook page.

May you be encouraged on your journey with Jesus.

Pause, Renew, Next!