His Gentle Whispers


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“The whisper wafted into her heart. Again? He’d been sending her on these little missions more frequently these days. Not that she really minded. Amanda felt humbled that he would choose her. She wasn’t anyone special.”

Amanda Grace Stiles, A Mighty Wind

God calls Amanda Grace Stiles to befriend a mysterious stranger who lies in a coma after sustaining life-threatening injuries. Who is this woman and is there hope for her? Can Amanda help her survive the past that’s put her in danger? Book three in the Winds of Redemption series is coming this summer. ⁠

In this, the third book in the Winds of Redemption series (When the Wind Blows is book one and Where Blows the Wind is book two, coming this spring), God speaks to a young women and leads her to intersect with another whose tragic life has led her to the lowest possible place. Through Amanda, the mysterious stranger will encounter healing through Jesus, who sustains life and leads us in purpose.

Here’s the thing….

We never know where the Spirit of God will lead us. He is like a mighty wind blowing us in and out of situations in life that will impact not only us, but those we come in contact with.

That is, if we will yield to his control.

Will we let Holy Spirit direct us into unknown places that may not make sense? Will we lean in and listen to catch the whispers of his heart for the lost and broken so that he can lead them to Jesus who saves? Are we willing to take risks that cost us something? Maybe our perception, reputation, or relationships?

Scary, huh?

But what if we learn to trust and follow that mysterious Spirit the way the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night? What if we surrender what we think we know and allow Him to lead us into the unknown? What if that is where breakthrough, healing, peace, and joy are found?

The move of Holy Spirit is where:

  • dry bones turn into an army (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
  • axe heads float (2 Kings 6)
  • armies of ten thousands are defeated by 300 men (Judges 6-8)
  • a donkey talks (Numbers 22:28)
  • a blind man sees (John 9:1-12)
  • a lame man walks (Acts 14:8-10)
  • a little girl is raised from the dead (Matthew 9:18-26)

Today, Holy Spirit is living in each of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. (John 14:15-17) He leads us into all truth. It is by his power that we enter into a spiritual realm to see miracles accomplished in the name of Jesus.

Today, people are being healed in soul and body, delivered from the bondage of pain and addiction, released from depression and anxiety. Revival is here.

The world is desperate for Jesus.

As we listen and give way to the gentle whispers of Holy Spirit, we will experience an outpouring of such abundant joy and blessing, not only for ourselves and our lives, but through seeing others touched as we obey and intersect with their lives.

While the world is in turmoil, we live in a supernatural world of the incredible, the impossible, the unbelievable, the magnificent come to life. It’s a wonderful place to live.

Will you join me?

Letting Go of Expectations


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Far back, as long ago as I can remember, I believed perfection was the key.

I remember spilling a bottle of milk on the kitchen floor as I attempted to “help” my mom with the groceries. As a devastated three-year-old, an expectation formed in my soul and proved itself over and over in my life that if I could do everything right, say the right things, act in a certain way, all the wrongs in my life would be miraculously fixed.

No more bad stuff. If I could just get it right.

So my disappointments ran pretty high. Since no one is perfect, and I certainly wasn’t, my sense of achievement topped the charts too. Driving myself to accomplish more each day, and in a more perfect way, a failure to measure up left me spiraling down into a depressed state.

But not for long.

Because that wasn’t allowed in my perfect world. Especially as a Christian. Someone who believed in God, shouldn’t feel fear, anger, frustration, sorrow or exhaustion. Right? Only joy and gladness were granted space in my mental box of “rightness.”

My false beliefs bled into other areas of life.

I not only expected myself to get things right, but couldn’t understand why other people messed up too. Eventually, I learned to have grace for them, but not for myself. And if others did things wrong that affected me? Well, that was unacceptable.

Recently, I’ve seen myself from a better viewpoint – God’s.

He’s been showing me the places I expect so much from myself and reassuring me that he loves me for me, not for what I can do right or better or even at all. He’s been helping me rest in his perfection so I can let go of mine.

I’ve had a few opportunities to practice.

Relationships are great for that. Whether it’s family, friends or work situations, God gives us places to work out what he’s freeing in our hearts. I love that he is so kind and caring to point out our “stuff” and lead us into new ways of coping.

He’s teaching me to let go.

In his loving kindness, God’s gently told me that I wasn’t hurt in my past because I did something wrong or didn’t do something right. He’s said that I can’t fix my past by controlling my present or future. I can’t keep bad things from happening by making everything right or perfect.

Instead, I’m learning to expect from Him, not me.

Jesus is perfect. He loves me. He promises that because I’ve believed in him and accepted his dying for me, his righteousness covers me. In everything. Past, present and future. No matter what I do or don’t do right, I’m still covered, loved and delighted in.

That’s good news.

And it frees me to be me. The good stuff, the flaws, the sorrow and joy mingling together. I can rest in that place of freedom. I can choose to rest there. Every day there are places of choice.

You can choose too.

“It is for freedom that Christ sets us free.”  Galatians 5:1

 

The 3 “D” Words


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Another tragedy struck Florida this week.

I hate to say this is becoming common place – may that not be true! But at the very least when people are senselessly shot down, we are left with questions, anger and sorrow.

But a tragedy isn’t the only situation that can set off the 3 “D” words. Sometimes it’s past trauma or something as simple as a difficult day. Maybe they’re set off by prolonged distress like abuse or bullying. Perhaps we’ve managed to survive for years when one of them, or all three, strike, leaving us reeling.

What are those words?

Depression. Despair. Destruction.

From the limited information I’ve heard, I would guess that the young man who open fired at the school in Parkland, Florida experienced those emotions. And certainly the families devastated by his actions will grapple with them.

So how do we handle depression, despair and destructive patterns?

I’m not a psychologist. I don’t have formal training. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert. But I’ve experienced all of these feelings at some point in my life, and I’ve talked with others who have struggled to get a grip in the wake of these emotions. Along the way, I’ve learned some information that has helped me.

Maybe if we each learned to cope with our feelings of depression, despair and destruction and noticed the indication of those emotions in others, we could help lessen future incidents of violence that result from hurting hearts.

Depression.

First, I want to acknowledge that there can be chemical and hormonal reasons for depression. For some people, medication may be the answer. I don’t propose that someone who is being helped by medication should not take it or feel bad about taking it. Each individual needs to do what’s best for them. Here are a couple of things that have helped me:

  • A dear pastor friend once told me that depression was caused by something being “pressed down” in my life, thoughts or heart. So I learned that whenever I feel depressed I should ask myself “What are you pressing down?” Usually, it’s sorrow, disappointment or frustration created by some previous incident, and I haven’t allowed myself to process, cry, talk, grieve or somehow deal with my feelings. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or thought I shouldn’t feel that way or tried to pass it off as no big deal. It’s usually a far bigger deal than I think if it leaves me feeling depressed. Sometimes I’m not sure what my feelings are or why, but I believe God knows. So I ask him. The Bible says:

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”   Jeremiah 33:3

  • I had to learn how I process situations and the emotions arising from them. Some people process internally, mulling over things until they can sort them in their head. Others process externally. I’m one of those. I think of it as dumping the contents of my purse on the table. When I see it all, I can keep or discard what I need. I have to talk out loud about things, sometimes more than once, in order to sort through it. If I try to process internally, I become depressed. Likewise, for some internal processors, if they’re forced to talk about something before they’ve had time to think, they may feel depressed by their inability to pinpoint what is in their heart or head. How do you process? It’s good to know and act according to how you best function. Whether you are internal or external, it’s good to talk to God and a trusted friend about your feelings when the time is right for you. God says in Hebrews 4:16 that we can approach him with confidence. He understands what we’re going through.
  • Sometimes we need to do some simple, everyday, ordinary task. Take out the trash, get dressed, make a bed or take a shower. Just one task at a time. And then another one when we’re ready. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah was depressed. He’d just had a show down with an evil woman and was exhausted. An angel came to him and said

“Arise and eat.”  I Kings 19:5

No earth shattering advice or vision or deep spiritual explanation. Just get up and eat. Sometimes God tells us to do something ordinary.

“…His inspiration is to do the most natural, simple things– things we would never have imagined God was in, but as we do them we find him there.” Oswald Chambers

  • A change of scenery can change a perspective. Often when I am feeling depressed, I’d rather lie in bed than go out and face the world. But sometimes getting out to another setting even if it’s simply going outside for a little while can shift my thinking. Isolation begets depression so even when I feel I can’t be around people, interacting with others, especially if I’m doing something to serve them, is exactly with I need to break out of a depressed state.

These actions help me when I’m feeling depressed. I pray they will be helpful to you as well.

Next week we’ll look at the next “D” word: despair.

What helps you when you’re feeling depressed?

 

 

 

 

Looking Deeper


It’s been a rough week.

Symptoms of illness have flared again, leaving me discouraged and depressed. In addition, current circumstances are less than desirable. Can I confess that as a result, I’ve been having a hard time getting excited about Christmas?

But God has a way of flipping my perspective. 

Two days ago, I sat on a massive piece of driftwood, looking out over the expanse of our beautiful bay. My friend and I talked, cried and prayed. As I gazed at the bay, I felt a whisper from God.  What if I have something deeper for you this year? Are you willing to ask? Look for it? Find it?

In the moment, I didn’t voice those thoughts, but as the past couple of days have unfolded, I’ve come back to that moment.

What does Christmas mean this year? DSC_0002

It’s never really been about the materialism. Our family focuses most on the birth of Jesus, and our gift giving is a reflection of all he’s given us. But each year I find God digging deeper in my heart to turn up a nugget of spiritual gold; a treasure beyond even the best intentions of the season.

Last year, I was struck by Emmanuel – God with Us.

Everywhere I turned; the message danced around my head and evidenced itself in numerous ways. I needed God with me, and I knew with great confidence that he was. His presence was imperative to my existence and well-being so he showed up all over my life. His assurance dogged me this year.

What does he have for me this year?

I’m asking, seeking, contemplating. I expect it will hit me with a suddenness that will produce a rush of revelation and tears. And because of this anticipation, my heart toward the coming holiday has done an about face. Today, a seemingly impossible situation that unexpectedly changed reminded me that my God can do the unbelievable in a matter of moments. And nothing will be the same.

I remembered the words of James “…you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.” (4:14) In a moment, everything could change.

Waiting for that moment with anticipation this Christmas.

 

What about you? What does Christmas mean when you look deeper?

Getting Well Part 2 – What’s Up With This Depression??


We’re ready for the good God has, but depression blankets us in darkness. What’s up?

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I learned that when I felt confused or depressed, it meant I was striving to figure things out so I could get them back into my control.

For me, depression often comes as the result of knowing a particular direction to take, but not being willing to actually move ahead with it. Usually, God has spoken to me through the Bible, a friend and/or simply a whisper of certainty in my heart, but I try to defend myself or find a way around it. He may prompt me to do something or let go of something that I’m simply not open to or ready for (I think), and when I try to convince myself that God surely can’t mean what I think I heard, depression sets in.

I feel depressed when I try to figure out things on my own, even when I think I am trusting God.

Sometimes depression comes when God is trying to show me something in my life, like how I relate to people or situations, so he can help me deal with it, but I keep pressing it down because I don’t want to see the truth or feel the pain of it.

Learning to recognize the causes of my depression, has allowed me to listen and follow God’s leading more easily and quickly so the length of time I am depressed or discouraged becomes increasingly less.

God loves us, so he is persistent, but gentle.

He will continue to prod us kindly, sometimes blatantly, but if we insist that we cannot do what he asks, he will leave us alone for a time to deal with things our own way in that area.

Once, during counseling, some issues were uncovered regarding some abuse I suffered in childhood. I was encouraged to confront someone regarding my situation, but I was terrified of the repercussions. I wanted to heal, but I feared more the hurt the other person might feel if I brought up these hidden issues. I knew bringing it up was the best thing to do even though it would be terribly hard. I simply couldn’t do it. I ended up feeling fearful and depressed.

Many years later, I felt God prompting me again to deal with the situation.

This time I did. The fall out was what I had feared, and caused me deep sorrow and even more pain. But the freedom and healing which occurred as a result of my willingness to confront the issue allowed me to move forward with my life. I gained something better for my future. The shame I had lived in began to lift. I learned to live more honestly without the compulsion to judge and criticize others or justify myself.

While depression can have clinical origins, much of the pressed down feeling we struggle with can be attributed to allowing God to heal and change us. It may seem counterproductive to battle depression because we’ve decided we want to get well, but actually, it shows we are heading in the right direction.

We learn to “just say no” to many things like abuse; but to God we want to keep saying “yes” to getting well.

Are there areas in your life you are avoiding dealing with? Have you experienced depression? What is your experience?

Living With an Addict – Part 4


The unpredictability of life with an addict causes stress and inner turmoil.

 

We’ve been looking at the patterns of living with someone who suffers from an addiction, specifically in the area of sexual addiction. Often we can be lulled into a lifestyle of survival, minimizing, denial and isolation that becomes our new normal. We don’t actually know what “normal” looks like especially if we’ve grown up in these patterns of life and then married into them. The patterns become engrained in our soul and offer a familiar, even if destructive, way to relate.

Recognizing and examining these patterns is often the first step in becoming free.

  • Lack of unconditional love. True love is not about keeping a spouse happy, or trying to make them love us. Covering for our spouse’s indiscretions, making excuses for them, taking responsibility for their actions, and carrying the weight of the relationship and family is enabling their behavior, not loving them. A sexually addicted spouse may insist that if we don’t perform according to their particular desires, we are unloving, but sexual love is intended to be an outpouring of the love and intimacy we share; a joining together physically of what God joined in heart and spirit. Love never demands, it gives.
  • Rejection. When we don’t measure up to our spouse’s fantasy life or experiences with prostitutes, we are rejected. Even if we have been initially praised for creating a fulfilling experience for our spouse, it will never match fantasy in extreme or frequency and will often be disregarded. We may become the brunt of crude insults in private and even in public due to our lack of sexual prowess. We may be told that if we don’t do or like what they want, we should leave; or they will leave us.
  • Lack of respect. We lose respect for a spouse who is out of control and unkind. We lose respect for ourselves when we are simply an object for someone’s pleasure. That kind of prostitution leaves us feeling used, hated and dirty. If this person who we trusted with our entire being doesn’t respect us with consideration, we see no reason to care for ourselves. Often, our past abuse allows for this perpetuation of disrespect.
  • Lack of trust. Relying on our spouse feels like a dangerous proposition when they choose what pleases them at the moment rather than considering what is best for everyone in the family. Their lack of consideration, and hurtful or cruel behavior keeps us from entrusting them with our hearts and lives. Infidelity is an act of betrayal, and whether a spouse is emotionally involved in an affair, or physically involved with magazine pictures, computer images or women for hire, the betrayal leads to distrust. That environment breeds suspicion and causes difficulty in trusting not only the spouse involved, but anyone.
  • Depression. Slipping in and out of depression can be a daily situation often based on the mood of our spouse. Any affirming overture in towards us results in our hope that things are improving; that a better future waits just around the corner. One minute life seems full of possibility, but if something happens to rock our spouse’s fantasy world, they take it out on us. In devastation, we are without hope and despairing that life will always be hellish. We may feel a diminished ability to think or accomplish simple tasks one day, but then feel as if we can conquer the world the next. Bouts of depression becomes longer lasting with fewer good days between. Suppressed fear and anger cause us to rage at our children or burst into tears. We don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, or can’t sleep at night. Our emotions are out of control from pressing down all we feel in order to hold life together. Our children probably struggle in this way as well.

Next week we’ll talk about intimacy and sex with someone addicted to sex. The dynamics are unique and can be devastating.

Are there other patterns you have recognized or become aware of? How have you become free?
 
For further help or prayer, please leave a comment or email Laura privately at laurabennet14@gmail.com