There a crisis happening with those who have served us well?

I am not sure where or how to start this blog, so I will just begin. I have a loved one; let’s call him Jack, who has fallen victim to financial exploitation. As a result, the feeling of shame and embarrassment that he has is immense. I believe the exploiters are using these feeling to manipulate and capitalize on his fear and insecurity while they continue to work in the shadows for their own ends. I believe it is time to shine some light so others can know and protect their loved ones from the hell Jack is experiencing.

Over the last five months, Jack has been suffering from extreme anxiety as the situation has deteriorated because of a financial exploitation scam that has wiped out his life’s savings. Now the exploiters are going after his pension and house.  The people who are doing this to him are truly evil and have no conscience. I have proof that the exploiters are based on foreign soil and are running a very complex and sophisticated ring using many vulnerable adults and seniors across this country. They are using complex systems within our banking institutions and as one former law enforcement official said, “Heather this is the bounced check crisis of our day.” The dollar amounts that people are losing are staggering. Our seniors who have served us so well for so long are being taken to the cleaners, and no one is talking about it.

My hope in writing this blog is to raise awareness with others about signs we saw with Jack in the hope that it will give you enough confidence to inquire and help save your loved one from the living hell my family is walking right now. I cannot tell you how many people I know who have a family member or know of a fellow senior citizen who has been wiped out financially or are actively involved in this financial exploitation and no one can do anything about it.

I first became suspicious when Jack began to complain of financial constraints. Usual purchases like eating out or buying birthday presents became a concern. I also noticed that he was overly concerned with his ample retirement funds. With the planning and a lifetime of hard work, he should have had NO concerns about retirement funds. Jack has worked so hard to ensure he would have the means to retire comfortably that this raised a red flag.

When I approached him about the status of his finances, I hit a brick wall. Everything was fine. Then I began to hear concerns about his ability to work. The need to earn money was extreme. A panic. I heard “I’ll get a part-time job. I’ll work for a while.” As he talked about it, I chalked it up to Jack’s need to be active and his desire to keep engaged in the workplace and with others.

It wasn’t until April of this year when everything exploded in a crisis. Jack approached several family members for a loan. The money was needed immediately. The urgency and the tone in his voice scared me. Something was horribly wrong. I called my family members, and we set up a time to talk with Jack. It was Friday, April 21st that the call happened. I learned that he was involved in a financial scam and had taken about $300,000 from his savings and racked up another $40,000+ in credit card debt to give to the “bad guys.”

With my family, we did everything we could to learn what to do. Calls to the local police, calls to the Attorney General’s office, calls to federal agencies designed to help, calls to lock Jack’s credit, calls to change phone numbers and mailing addresses, calls to all the financial institutions where he had accounts that had been hacked and exploited. Hours and hours of calls to the many credit cards that were involved. The financial exploiters had conned Jack into sharing every single detail with them from social security information to account information and passwords, to personal information. The financial exploiters were able to get Jack to share details about other family members in case something happened to him so they could enjoy the financial “prize.”

When we were temporarily able to cut the lines of communication with the exploiters, the bad guys called my younger brothers house constantly 24/7. They had his personal information. To this day, we are still terrified for all of our family members. The exploiters now had our information, and we had no idea of what they would do to Jack let alone our family and our children. We unplugged the phone, and we made sure an adult was with our kids 24/7.

If that wasn’t bad enough, law enforcement told us not to worry about the calls. These criminals never come to your house. They are making empty threats. Don’t worry. Well, guess what, the financial exploiters have sent people to Jack’s house. They have sent taxis, and they have sent multiple pizza delivery people. The pattern is the same; they send someone unsolicited to Jack’s house; he answers the door, and the delivery person hands him their cell phone with the financial exploiters on the phone with a message. We have discussed this with the police, with federal law enforcement and even with the pizza delivery shops. We have changed Jack’s landline and cell phone number multiple times. Trying to break the lines of communication with the exploiters and Jack to this point has been impossible. It is terrifying to know that criminals are coming to the door of your loved one.  My heart is breaking as I am witness to the suffering, anxiety and complete surrender of Jack to this dark force in his life. I would willingly cut off my limb to stop the suffering. Name the price evil ones, and I will pay. Leave Jack alone! Make the suffering stop!

After talking with Jack, we were able to piece together that this financial exploitation began in the spring of 2016 with the promise of winnings from a lottery where a winning fee was needed to be paid to claim “the prize.” To be clear, Jack never bought a lottery ticket and yet to this day is adamant that the winnings he is entitled to are just around the corner. The temptation and allure of having a significant amount of money have been so enticing that logic, reasoning and all clear-headed thinking has ceased!

One of the hardest parts in all of this is this fraudulent activity is still happening. The financial scammers are still actively coaching and programming Jack. It is now to the point that I feel like I am watching a terrifying movie of a train crash that is coming to a head but no one will do anything to help. This train is barreling to the station. The train is going to crash. I am yelling at the top of my lungs “get off the train. Stop the train. Get out of the way.” No one is responding.

My family has reached out to doctors, psychiatrists, local police, state agencies, federal law enforcement, attorneys, county departments, even the local crisis intervention team all said – we can’t-do anything. Wake up! There is a crisis happening, and no one is helping Jack. You name it we have tried it. Even my psychologist has shared that she has never seen a family try to help a loved one to the extent that we have. The message we keep hearing over and over again is no one can help him until it gets bad. What is their definition of bad anyway?

No one seems to be in a position to offer help. Jack is caught up in a dangerous current that is heading out of control. No one appears to be able to fully comprehend the depths and darkness of this crisis that I know in my heart is impacting more people than just my loved one. No one seems to be able to enter into this messy, dynamic and out of control nightmare. Trained professionals are saying their hands are tied. Well here is my cry. My loved one needs help. Someone somewhere has to have seen this before and knows how to help. Please someone see my smoke signal, see my warning flag and send help. My loved one and your loved ones who have served us well need us.

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Do you believe in enduring love?

Before I met my husband, I did not believe that enduring love was a possibility or even real. Sure I’ve read the scriptures, sure I’ve seen the movies, and even heard of love stories. But, I never thought that I could feel or have an enduring love. My experience with love was conditional and full of trying so hard to be loved by let’s be honest by people who did not have the capacity or the ability to love others.

It was after I relocated to the Twin Cities that I had had it. I needed a different approach to me and a different approach to being in relationships.  I finally got serious about working on me. Who was I in these relationships and who was I seeking and finding in the relationships?I found a fabulous counselor and got to work discovering and learning about the real “me.” I began to piece together my life story – all the hurts, all the sorrows and I began to see patterns in the relationships. With my awareness then came a choice – who do I want to be and who can I be my best and broken self – who will love and accept me warts and all? Not an easy thing to do – to love someone for ALL of who they are. Who has this capacity to love unconditionally?

I found a fabulous counselor and got to work discovering and learning about the real “me.” I began to piece together my life story – all the hurts, all the sorrows and I began to see patterns in the failed relationships. With my awareness then came a choice – who do I want to be and who can I be my best and broken self? Who will love and accept me warts and all? Not an easy thing to do – to love someone for ALL of who they are. Who has this capacity to love unconditionally?

Along with therapy came another shift, for me this was surrendering my needs in prayer. Laying all my brokenness and needs at the feet of the cross was huge. Letting go of the need to have all the answers and being open to where God leads me took me places I never could have dreamed of. Letting go or surrendering was a significant shift, and I noticed not only in my search for relationships but also in my being as a human. With this shift, I went from reading the scriptures with my head to reading the scriptures with my whole being and finding God’s presence. As I read, I would imagine myself sitting with Him and soaking in His love. I imagine marinating in an enduring love that is unconditional. It is a love that shines the light illuminating those dark places bringing healing and wholeness.

As I sit here today some twenty years later getting ready to celebrate my anniversary with the dear husband, I give thanks for all the heart break. For without those tough spots, I never would have discovered the love of my life. I give thanks for those difficult years, that challenged me to shed what I held onto so tightly. For in the healing of the heart breaks, I was able to grow and find a mate that loves me with an enduring and unconditionally love, and for that, I am eternally grateful every single day.

As I continue my journey, I am for ever grateful for a Heavenly Father that loves me enough to shine a light on the places in my heart and soul that I try to hide from others. It is humbling having a husband in my life that loves me with an enduring and unconditional love even though many times I am not deserving. It is humbling to be loved by a Creator that loves me with a love that can bear all things and endure all things.

Today, I encourage you to lay your burdens down and let go of the need to be in charge. Try letting go. Try letting the Big Guy have a shot at it. Go to His Word and find Him. Spend time with Him and see what is illuminated in your heart and soul. Be open to what you might be able to let go to make space for an enduring love.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Finding calm in the storm?

Finding calm in the storm. I call Psalm 91 my 911 scripture as it reminds me that while darkness prowls and tempts me to turn away from God that our Heavenly Father provides the strength to turn away from that which pulls us away from Him. I am also reminded in that no matter how far we stray from our God, He awaits us with open arms to come back to Him.

When life gets hard, and I mean really hard. Be it physical illness, death, divorce, mental illness, addiction, abuse – whatever comes your way… first take a deep breath. Breathe in God’s love and light. Feel the air in your lungs, notice your inhaling and pay attention to your exhaling the air. Slowly take another breath and just notice your breath and notice the moment. Then go to God in prayer. Know, and I mean genuinely know and trust that He hears every prayer.

In this moment of pause, in this time of being fully human, lift your immediate need to God. Cry our, call out or whisper to the One who loves you your immediate need. Call to Him. He hears our calls and cries for help. He answers our prayers and tears. While I may not get the answers that I necessarily want, but I as a child of God get what I need.

Rely on God’s provision. Depend on the Holy Spirit that resides within you and stirs within you. Rely on Jesus to provide the compassion and grace to you in this moment of crisis. Trusting your Heavenly Father will give you what you need to weather the storm.

In your crisis, in your confusion, in the madness of the moment lift up your prayer, raise your burden and trust, and I mean genuinely trust that God has your back. HE loves you, He knows you, He created you and promised not to harm. Trust through the fog, trust through the unknown that God’s got you.

Psalm 91 reminds me who covers me with His wings in the storms of life. This Psalm reminds me who is in charge and tells me who loves me through all the storms of life. I was reminded of the saying that sometimes God calms the storms, but other times God climbs in the boat with you as you weather the storm. You are not alone. This storm will pass. Hold onto God’s promises. Hold onto God’s deep love for you.

I remember that His angels guard me. In the midst of the storm, even though I can’t see through the fog, even though the waves of woe keep coming, I do deeply, deeply trust and wait. I pray that in your storm you will find the peace and love of God within you and around you in those He places in your path to be His hands and feet. With God’s help, you can do this.Amen.

Psalm 91 (NIV)

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

For more stories on finding God in your days, both the good days and the hard ones, please check out my book Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Lessons in Hope and Healing or my devotion Seeing Yourself as God Sees You: Don’t Let Lies Be Your Truth.

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Can you do what you think you cannot?

As I prepare to launch my second book Eleanor Roosevelt’s question can you do what you think you cannot is very real for me.  I want to share the beginnings of my journey of me getting to a place where I felt I could put anything to paper was hard for me. I want to share what my initial conversations with God to illuminate my struggle with what the Holy Spirit was calling me too. My hope is that you may see similarities to where you are or possibly uncover new insights.

My starting point was learning how to slow down. For me slowing down began with the prayer—

Be Still and Know That I Am God

Be Still and Know That I Am

Be Still and Know

Be Still

Be

—coupled with learning to take slow breaths. In my slowing down and becoming more present, I had more capacity to connect with others. I began to see where my life might be more “human doing” than “human being.”

After learning to slow down, my next challenge was learning to say “no.” With the help of a patient and brilliant executive coach, Dr. Lynn Nodland, I learned that if I say yes to something, then I am saying no to something else. Through weekly conversations with Lynn, I learned to hold space to write, to say yes to me, and to more deeply trust God’s call for me to help others awaken the gifts within them. What amazes me is that if you slow down and listen to God’s call, He is there waiting for you. When you learn to listen to God’s voice He will meet you where you are and provide exactly what you need. It may not be what you expect, but I have come to trust that He provides what I need.

Making time for reflection and prayer were big wins for me. I have always had prayer time but it was rushed, and I usually was exhausted. In slowing down, in learning to say “no” to overscheduling and not getting enough sleep, I began to feel better. Now in my daily prayer, I had energy, I had attention, and I heard the Holy Spirit calling me to document the stories and one-on-one experiences I have had with people.

The call was to write, which is hard for me. This call was bigger than anything I could accomplish on my own. Surely something divine was in play if I was going to be able to get thoughts, stories or ideas to paper. This must be holy because heaven knows writing does not come easily to me. I love to tell stories, but ideas that are in my heart and soul seem to get lost by the time they get to my elbow and flow out into the world rather than taking a turn and making it all the way to my fingertips on the keyboard.

Humbly, I prayed, “God, I hear you. I have seen you move mountains, and I have seen hearts transform into all you hoped for. But God, this thing you are calling me to do—it’s too big for me. I can’t do this alone. I don’t have the strength to take this to a larger audience. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I don’t have time, Lord. I struggle with details; I move too fast. I need help.”

Now, looking at these words on paper, I see that after all my years of guiding and coaching others I suddenly found myself standing face to face with the deeply held misbeliefs that I was not good enough or smart enough to do as God had called me. Even though I had studied scripture about God equipping those He calls, I was drowning in self-doubt. All my insecurities stood in front of me like a huge tree, and I was in the shadows. Was I going to listen to my inner voices of doubt or was I going to trust God to guide my hands, feet, and heart where He would have me go?

Through my Bible Study Fellowship, my weekly time with God (Sabbath) and daily prayers, I have had major insights and continual growth. For years, I worshiped and studied God, but when push came to shove, I didn’t fully trust Him. Instead, I always trusted my reasoning more than God’s will. I have had to learn to let go of my ways and learn to trust God—really trust Him—to guide me.

Weaving spiritual practices into my day have helped me stay connected with Him. By staying in His Word and daily bringing Him my insecurities and worldly challenges, I’ve discovered that He always shows me a path forward. I have learned to turn away from those things that separate me from God so that His face can shine upon mine. Trusting God takes daily connection and commitment. When I feel close to Him and sense God’s loving presence, my life feels so much clearer; I feel more loving.

I am still learning to slow down and let go of what separates me from God. It is a journey, one that we should take with one another. Being in a relationship with others is so powerful in learning more about who we are and allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through others. The wisdom I gain in my Moms in Prayer group is so powerful and intimate as the Holy Spirit provides pieces from others prayers that woven together paint a beautiful message of hope, mercy, and grace. I encourage you to find others to pray with and discover who you are and whose you are.

If you want to read stories of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit at work in myself and others, make sure to check out my book Seeing Yourself as God Sees You: Don’t Let Lies be Your Truth. I hope the stories will engage, equip and empower you to be who you are, to thrive and be amazing!

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Do you stand behind a closed door?

Last night in my Authentic and Courageous Leadership graduate class at St. Mary’s University the topic of discussion was the value of learning lessons from our life journey. The questions I posed to the class were – Do they make time for daily or regular reflection in their personal and professional lives? Whom do they get feedback from? Do they have peers, family members, or confidants in whom will tell it to them straight without sugar coating the truth? What are they learning from their journey?

As we walk through life, we may find ourselves at the same challenging intersections time, after time, after time. If you are like me, this can be frustrating. I wonder what did I miss the first time I went around this block. Why am I here again at the same intersection? Making time for reflection and being open to seeing help me learn. This is a critical part of being wholly human.

Key components of being human are courage and humility. I know a colleague who defines courage as when the soul is at work, and the heart is at risk.  Having the courage to pause and look back, having the courage to see experiences and interactions from a different perspective, having the courage to consider different choices of how we behave opens us to higher possibilities of who we are made to be. We are human, which means we are not completely baked, we are not completed, not one and done. We are in fact people that are alive and that are evolving and emerging into who we are made to be. Living with deep humility in the awareness that we are all flawed, all broken and all human is a place where we should be operating from. This foundational truth should be our operating system. Instead, we tend to go to confidence, bold and loud. Thus missing the beauty and wonder of the small, intimate, vulnerable and human.

We are human, which means we are not completely baked. We are in fact people that are alive and constantly evolving and emerging into who we are made to be. Living with deep humility in the awareness that we are flawed, broken and human is the place where we should be operating from. This foundational truth should be our operating system. Instead, we tend to go to with overconfidence, boldness and being loud. When we work from this place, we miss the beauty and wonder of the humble, vulnerable, quiet and human.

I love the saying when life closes a door, God always opens a window. My wondering is how many of us either in stubbornness or fear stand behind the closed door and never find the courage to find the open window?

When life happens, because it always does, we must find the courage to leave what we have known and be open to what is next. This takes immense courage because, like me, perhaps you been deeply hurt. But it is in our hurt and broken places that we can turn to a higher power to ask for the strength to find the motivation and ability, maybe for the first time in a long time, to choose something different. To make a change and to dare to look for our open window that awaits us.

When life closes a door, be brave, honor the hurt, and then consider stepping away from the closed door to find your open window. Make the time to ask for help, make the time to call upon the Creator who made you and loves you like crazy. I have seen people do this many times. It is beautiful and powerful. And I never fail to admire the courage it takes.

Do You Dare to Live Like You Are Loved?

Have you ever heard a phrase that hits you like a lightning bolt? That is what happened to me. I felt a surge of energy flow through my body and my heart skipped a beat. Wow, I love the moments when you know the Spirit is alive and at work in your heart and soul. Having a Creator who can connect so intimately and personally with me through the Spirit even in a large gathering of women reminds me of the close connection each of us has with our heavenly Father.

The phrase Dare to Live Like You Are Loved is especially powerful for me as I am launching a book of devotions Seeing Yourself as God Sees You. Don’t Let Lies Be Your Truth. In sharing and writing stories of how I have come to believe what I tell myself over and over again and how this became my reality. It is in those moments of pause and prayer that I begin to see and recognize the misbeliefs I have been telling myself. I have a choice to make. I can choose to continue believing the misbeliefs or I can decide to choose differently. The Spirit guides me and pulls me back to the One who created me. The Spirit that is within each of us as believers guide me back to the unconditional love of my heavenly Father.

When you have thoughts that are diminishing, discouraging, or thoughts that pull you away from others they are not from our Creator. So often when those thoughts enter your being, you begin to tell them to yourself over, and over again. Repetition in our thoughts builds strong, powerful connections in our heart, soul, and brain. Over time the misbeliefs can dominate, but they don’t have too.

You have a choice to stay on the misbelief course, or you can notice and pay attention to the Spirit that lives within you and change your course. When you let go of the misbeliefs, you make space for the One who made you with such intent and love. When you can let go of the worldly thoughts and step into being in a relationship with our heavenly Father, then the opening occurs. Choosing to change the course, and allowing yourself to yield to a higher power is a game changer. Choosing to pause, to pray, and yield to a higher power is a heart and soul changer.

When you can let go of the in truths of the diminishing, discouraging and separating thoughts, you make space for life. You make space for the ability to have meaningful connections not only with our Creator but with others. Your ability to shift to a place that allows encouraging, enhancing, and positive thoughts to flow through your being. Then you can step back onto the path of discovering who you were made to be by a Creator whose very breath brought you life. He knows intimately and delights in who you – good, bad and ugly. This higher source knows every hair on your head. He races across the heavens when you call for Him. Our heavenly Father desires that you know His eternal love here on earth. Imagine divine love here in our broken world. What do you choose?

To know this level of peace that surpasses understanding, to know this level of joy, and love, that he desires for you takes work on our part. It demands the ability to let go of worldly things. It requires the ability to let go of thoughts that are not from him. It requires the ability to turn away from the unyielding desires of this world. To let go of the misbeliefs, turn away from the choices the habits that separate us from our Creator, requires energy, focus, and attention. This effort is not meant to be done alone. I wonder if you’re curious? I wonder if something inside your soul seeks more, intuitively you are feeling something at work within you? So if you feel something percolating within you, then I have a question for you today. What would it feel like to dare to live like you’re loved?

Seeing Yourself as God Sees You: Don’t Let Lies Be Your Truth

Are You to Busy for God?

This past weekend at a retreat with the Sisters in Spirit at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins Minnesota, my colleague Laurie Erickson and I spent time together creating a safe container for women to talk about living in God’s love and light.

We opened with the story of the woman at the well in John 4. We practiced raising our levels of awareness and increasing our ability to be present at the moment. Being able to slow down, clear our minds, breathe and be able to create an opening and to create safe space is a foundational piece for living in God’s unconditional love and light. We shared stories about the challenges of being a woman and being able to have awareness and being present in our daily lives.

We went deeper in the challenge of busyness by spending time in the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. As we listened to the story of Martha complaining about all the hard work she was doing while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. How Jesus approached her, and they were able to walk and talk. Spending quality time with Jesus, Martha came to realize that her relationship with Jesus trumped all her works.Learning to sit with Jesus and spend time with Him was the beautiful lesson for Martha.

We asked ourselves, why are we so busy? Why do we focus so much on works rather than sitting and spending time in prayer and reflection? What are the true reasons that we are keeping ourselves so busy?

After we spent time considering why our culture is so focused on busyness and so focused on doing rather than being we had ah-ha that we drive the busyness ourselves. We many times create the pace of our world. We posed a question to the group of what are the things that are separating you from God?

What separates you from God? This is a big question for a lot of people including myself. What are the things that I am doing? Where am I spending my time of my day? How much of my day do I dedicate to God? Is it five or 10 minutes of prayer versus the other 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day.

How do we spend our time each day and how much of it is with God? This is a big question for a lot of people including myself. What are the things that I am doing? Where am I spending my time of my day? How much of my day do I dedicate to worldly matters versus Godly matters? We posed the question to the group and asked them what separates you from spending time with God?

What I loved about this activity was the honesty from the women in the group. While we do have responsibilities with our family and with work, there are organic opportunities to sit and spend time with God. We shared ideas from doing devotions before the day starts to saying prayers during your commute time to doing evening prayers with our children. In sharing suggestions in the community, we can learn from each other. From generation to generation. From woman to woman. From Sister in Spirit to Sister in Spirit.

My next activity was one of my favorites. We asked everyone in the room to spend some time writing on a piece of paper what burdens they were carrying with them today. What were those heavy things on their heart and mind that they might be willing to let go to God? We listened to that beautiful song by David Crowder called Lay Down Your Burdens. As the women in the room had their concerns written on slips of paper, we asked them to crumple up those papers, and we had the women release those slips of paper into an urn with the fire and burn them. We released our burdens to God.

We sang the song be Let Our Prayers Rise Up Like Incense Before You. We watched as the smoke lifted from the urn and our burdens were released to God. We were making a sacred space for God. It was a very moving moment.

With lighter hearts and a sacred space, we spent time in God’s love notes, which is what I call the Bible. We read scriptures about how we are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), and how God loves us unconditionally (John 3:16, Romans 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 to name a few).

We encouraged everyone to find a way to live daily spending time in God’s love notes. Whether it’s a quick song Good morning God, this is your day; I am your child, show me your way. Or perhaps it is a devotion, or a Bible study, or reading the Bible. Being in the word of God every day is a life changer and a heart changer.

Today as you think about where you are, and where you would like to be, I strongly encourage you to make time to sit at the feet of Jesus and share your burdens with him. He resides within your heart and awaits you. I also encourage you to invite God’s love and light into your physical body. Just closing your eyes and visualizing his love and light pouring through the cells in your body to help heal what deals you is also a very powerful exercise.

I would like to thank my colleague Laurie Erickson who co-lead this retreat with me. Laurie and I have a new book coming out in April 2017 titled: Seeing Yourself As God Sees You: Don’t Let Lies Be Your Truth. This seven-week devotion provides healing for the inner critics and mis-beliefs that each of us can carry. Stay tuned for information on ordering your copy.

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What do Excelsior and Decorah have in common – Spirit!

I have written before about the power of the coincidences and the power of the Spirit at work, but I have a story from this week that I have to share. I need to go back to November when I was in Northfield Minnesota leading a Strength Finders workshop for hospitality teams from Minnesota and Iowa. During the workshop, I like to use real-life examples so participants can get to know and become more familiar with teammates strengths in action. I commonly use my strengths as an example.

One of my strengths is – Individualization. People who are exceptionally talented in this area are intrigued with the unique qualities of each individual. They have a gift for figuring out how different people can work productively together. (Source: Clifton Strength Finders Themes Card 2002) I like to paint a picture of what the area of talent and strength look like in the workplace so workshop participants become familiar and can begin to recognize the areas of expertise and strengths in their teams.

One of the fundamental tenets with Strength Finders is the importance of growing and developing your areas of strength. After equipping the teams on the areas of talent, I then share ideas of how team members can practice and develop their strengths. With practice, you can begin to perform at top levels of performance most of the time. Ok back to my story.

Next, I shared with the workshop participants that when I took Strength Finders, I was not sure about the Individualization strength. To me, it sounded kind of lonely and well individual. At first, I resisted this strength as I am such a social being. The more I read and learned about my area of talent, the more curious I became. Strength Finders gave me language for a talent that I had always taken for granted. For me, the real magic happened when I began to read about the ideas for action to refine and develop my Individualization strength. One of the suggestions I read about for those with the Individualization strength is writing about people’s unique stories. Well, I thought that this isn’t a good idea as I feel I am a terrible writer. When I sit down to write I have great ideas in my head, and they make it to about my elbow, and then they keep going straight out in the universe – they never make the 90 degrees turn onto the paper! After trying to write some devotions, I found people responding very positively to the devotions and stories. With prompting from others, I began to write more stories to the point that I published my first book on December 2015 and my second book is coming out in April 2017. I began to see first hand the power of Strength Finders, and I was encouraging the workshop participants to be open to trying some of the ideas for action.

Participants in the seminar respond warmly to the personal examples, and it was at the next break that the fun began. One of the participants Tom from Decorah, Iowa came up and shared that his mother used to publish books back in the day. He asked what the title of the book. When I shared the title name Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Lesson of Hope and Healing, Tom shared his mother wrote on spirituality as well. We loved the connection – especially as he told me how his mom Betty would carry books in her trunk. Yes, I do that too!

Next, I asked Tom where his mother lived, and he said she lived next to Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Hopkins Minnesota. I said no way. I just signed up to lead the Sisters in Spirit Women’s Retreat in February at Gethsemane Lutheran Church. To which Tom said my mom attends that retreat.  What a small world and beautiful connection – but wait there is more.

During the break, Tom purchased a copy of my book and asked if I could deliver it to his mom at the retreat. You bet I would be thrilled to give Betty a copy.

In the days before the Sisters in Spirit Retreat, I received a package in the mail from Tom. To my delight, I found three books written by Betty inside. As I glanced through the books, I discovered a poem titled Mary? Or Martha? Which Am I? This caught my attention. You see I had been searching for a poem or prayer for none other than my session on Mary and Martha. How perfectly divine that the Spirit would be at work in Tom to connect two Sisters in Spirit to prepare for the retreat and to accomplish good far greater than each of us could individually.

Friends, when we make and take the time to slow down and form meaningful connections beautifully things happen. Complete strangers from Decorah, Iowa and Excelsior, Minnesota while visiting Northfield, Minnesota can positively impact the world. So breathe. Be open and find meaningful connections.

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What example are we setting for our children?

“Children may close their ears to advice, but they open their eyes to your example,” -Anonymous

With the elections results still very fresh for all of us, I wonder what our children and seeing in our example? Over the last week, my children have come home with stories from school of peers pointing the finger at others who have differing political opinions than them. From the middle schoolers, I have heard stories of fake social media accounts pitting one side against another side. The online comments are hurtful and cutting. No one seems to be listening to one another. It is not safe to share let alone trying to explore what we have in common.

I have seen smart people, good people, faithful people marginalize and demonize others. My prayer is that behind the protests, behind the hurtful comments, underneath the loss of an election we can be reminded of who we are and whose we are. We need to consider what we are putting out in the world and be more emotionally mature in how we each engage and influence the change we hope to see and be in the world. Remember our children may close their ears to advice, but they most certainly are watching our example.

So I ask you, what example are you setting for our children?

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Do you take the time to pray?

From the time I was a young child, I can remember watching my parents and grandparents take the time to pray. From meal time to night time I had these role models teaching me how to pray to God. For me, giving thanks and praying on behalf of others is easier because of this. Where the challenges lie, and where I continue to grow in my prayer life, is in two-way communications — learning to sit and be with God. Being open to what He would have me hear is something I still working on. That, and being intentional in my prayer life. I now consistently carve out time in my day and week to be still and listen for his guidance, wisdom and direction are a top priority.

To make this two-way communication a reality, I have begun to schedule time daily for a time in my Bible study and prayer. I also pray each evening with my children using Beth Moore’s PRAISE Prayer (P=Praise God; R=Repent where have I turned away from God; A=Acknowledge that Jesus died for my sins; I=Intercession,  my prayer time for others; S=Self prayers for me; and E=Equip myself with wht I need from God to follow His will and way for my life.)

Some of the most powerful and meaningful conversations I have had with my children are during our PRAISE prayers. The Holy Spirit is alive and very active during those moments. Making time to pray with my family keeps us connected and keeps God at the center of our lives — which is where He belongs.

I encourage you to pray daily. Even better, throughout your day. Find those organic moments in your schedule when you can sit and be with God both in the Bible and with Him in prayer. When God spoke to Moses on how he wanted His people to stay close to Him with His commandments the very first thing He said was dwell with me, then He told us to love each other and then tell others. Staying close to God and turning away from that which separates you from God will bring you joy and contentment that is unparalleled. I encourage you to take time to pray today. Try it and see what happens.

If you seek exercises to help guide you in prayer, try my book, Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

Take time to pray. It is the greatest power on earth.

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