Mysterious Adventures – Haunted

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For those that chose the “house of mystery” at last weekend’s service, you heard from Pastor Christine Sweeney. She talked about the role mystery plays in our lives and shared a story about a family road trip. Her children had no idea where they were going. It was a mystery to them. Along the way, they had to trust their dad’s plan, believing  it would be enjoyable.

Similarly, we don’t always know where the adventure we are on is heading. But, as Christine shared with us, “when we know God, we don’t have to fear the unknown.”

When I first moved in with my roommates, we spontaneously went to the boat docks in downtown Toledo to watch the sunset. When the idea first came up, I had no idea if they were serious or not because I grew up thinking adventures were meant to be planned out and structured. I looked at spontaneous adventures  as an inconvenience, a disruption, and I became anxious at the thought of stopping what I was doing to go. It was abrupt and unplanned. I didn’t know what to expect—it was a mystery to me.

We all want joy, peace, and opportunity in our lives, but we need to realize that the adventure to those things might involve risk or mystery. Th question we need to answer is do we trust God in that mystery? In my example, I had to come to the realization that I know and love my friends; therefore, I could trust that their plan for us was good. (Perhaps at times, Pastor Sweeney’s children felt the same way during their road trip to an uncertain destination.) I know for me that after my adventure, I realized the best adventures are mysterious.

It is the same with our relationship with God. Mysterious adventures help you grow to know God more. It can still be a little scary at times, but through the risk, we often receive more joy, peace, and opportunity. The unknown is not as bad as you might think—sometimes you get the best view.

If I had not gone on that adventure with my friends, I would have missed out on dancing in the car with my friends, as the driver sped along bumpy roads. I would have missed the chance to connect with them and to see a beautiful sunset. I saw how awesome God is in that moment, knowing he has good plans—to prosper and not to cause harm—even when life is disrupted.

Jeremiah 29:11    
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

Questions:
What is scary/uncertain about mysterious adventures?

Do you remember a time when your life was disrupted, but it helped you grow closer to God?

What has been your favorite adventure so far?

Next Steps:
Do something spontaneous that you have never done before.

Trust God—take a risk and do something that is holding you back.

Take the next step to serve someone or volunteer to serve here at CedarCreek.

Prayer:
God, you are an awesome Father. I pray for awe, even when life is disrupted. I don’t know what the future holds, but I want to know you more. The mystery can be a bit scary at times, but you promise you have a good plan and purpose for me. Even when Jeremiah’s life was disrupted time and again, he was still willing to take the risk to know you more. It can be hard to trust you when life gets disrupted, but through the risk, I know I can receive more joy, peace, and opportunity. I pray you would help me to go on the mysterious adventure of life, so I don’t miss out on the good plans you have in store. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Becca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut.


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Seek First – Haunted

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About a year and a half ago, I faced an opportunity I’d been waiting years to receive. From a young age, I’ve known I wanted to pursue a career in writing. So when God led me to a writing conservatory, tailor-made for my goals and interests, it seemed perfect. But then came the dilemma—do I enroll in the conservatory and potentially achieve my dreams, or do I play it safe and try to reach my aspirations some other way?

It seems like opportunity always places us at a crossroads. It’s never passive. It extends an invitation, and it’s meaningless without subsequent action. As Christians, we face a different opportunity: to seek God and abandon our own hurts, habits, and hangups, or to stick with our way of living and reap the consequences.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV)
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

God doesn’t force us to seek him—he simply holds the door open for us to do so, showing us the blessings on the other side. It’s our choice to either lace up our spiritual boots and step through or to passively linger by the door frame without committing. In life, uncertainty taints many of the opportunities we have, but the opportunity to seek God comes with a trustworthy outcome.

Jeremiah 29:13
If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

If we search for God, we will find him. He’s given us that beautiful promise, and we can confidently trust God’s word.

Both verses above share similar descriptions of how we’re supposed to seek God—“wholeheartedly” and “above all else.” In other words, we can’t look for God the same way we mindlessly scroll through social media or shop online. We have to prioritize him in all we do. It may not always be pleasant to spend those precious minutes reading our Bibles on busy days, praying when we don’t feel like it, or making space in our weekend to attend church, but those actions are worth it. And God faithfully rewards them.

I chose to register for the writing conservatory, and it’s been a huge blessing. But it required a decision and a leap of faith. We have a far more important opportunity before us in God’s call to seek him, and we can’t react passively.

He’s extended an open invitation. All you have to do is accept.

Questions:
How do you view opportunities?

Are you actively seeking God in your life? What are some daily habits you could adopt to place God at the forefront of your life?

Next Steps:
If you haven’t already, incorporate Scripture study into your daily routine.

Consider in which areas of your life you need to prioritize God more. Make an actionable plan for how to put him first.

For the women reading this, consider attending the Women’s Event on November 18th. At this event, you will have the opportunity to hear an inspiring message, grow in your relationship with Jesus, and have fun. Men, encourage the women in your life to attend.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunities you have put before me, including the invitation to seek you more. I confess that I don’t always search for you wholeheartedly. I often get distracted and become passive. Please, help me to put you above all else. Thank you for your love, patience, and grace. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Sarah Pagel, a regular contributor and editor or the LivingitOut.


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Surrender – Haunted

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Have you ever felt like God was trying to teach you something important? For example, have you ever  repeatedly heard the same message from different people? Or do you keep coming across the same Bible verse?

Recently, this happened to me. I kept hearing the word “SURRENDER.” I started meditating on the word, and I realized God was telling me that if I wanted peace, I needed to surrender everything to him, especially my worries and fears.

1 Peter 5:7 
Give all your worries and cares to God for he cares about you.

The last year and a half have been rough for all of us. It has been difficult to keep our peace and not focus on all the craziness around us. We can get so caught up in our worries that we try to figure everything out ourselves.

God was sending me a message, reminding me that I’m not alone. None of us is meant to carry our burdens alone. I needed to step back and let God be God. I needed to surrender all of my cares to him and let him take care of it.

Matthew 11:28-30
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give is light.

But how do we do this? Last weekend, Sarah Bucher spoke about how we lose our peace when we stop living in the present. We need to focus on God’s blessings in the moment. We need to always think, “I can hardly wait to see what God will do next.”

We accomplish this by focusing on what is good. In other words, we surrender all our worries and fears to God and let him fill us with his peace that surpasses understanding.

Philippians 4:8-9
8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9 Keep putting into practice all  you have learned and received from me—everything you heard and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Finally, to have God’s peace, we need to focus on what is true. Jesus, the Son of God, loves us so much that he came into this world to save us from our sins. He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins and was resurrected from the dead to save us. He loved us so much that he not only came to save us but also left us the gift of peace of mind and heart.

John 14:27
I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give you. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

Praise God! Jesus gives us peace of mind and heart. We don’t need to be troubled or afraid. We need to surrender all our worries and cares to him and let him fill us with his perfect peace.

Questions:
What has God been trying to tell you? What are you focusing on? What do you need to surrender to God? How does surrendering your worries to God fill you with his peace?

Next Steps:
Meditate on the verses in this LIO. Take time daily to surrender your worries to God. Reflect on all of his blessings daily, and thank him. Write three blessings down each day, and reflect on them.

Prayer:
Jesus, you are so awesome! You love me so much that you want me to surrender all of my worries and anxieties to you. You, the God of the universe, care about every aspect of my life. You want me to be filled with your peace. Help me, Lord, to surrender all my worries and cares to you daily. Help me to trust you, and fill me with your peace. I praise you that I have a God who cares! Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


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Make Time To Laugh Today – Haunted

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My children have joy down to a science. My son recently turned 7, and for the week before his birthday, he told us every day how happy he was that his birthday was coming. Finding a ladybug or seeing a hummingbird at our feeder in the summer is enough to send my 5-year-old into shouts of glee. Even my somewhat less enthusiastic 10-year-old randomly leaps across the room when the mood strikes her.

When I see their joy and hear the five of them giggling in stereo, I am convinced that I have lost my childlike joy. I’ve stopped living in the moment and am failing to experience the magic and joy in the world around me. If I’m not careful, I can go an entire day without laughing. How can it be that I, a fairly mature Christ-follower, can allow the cares of this world to drown out the joy that Jesus invites me to experience?

Christ followers should be the most joyful and happy people on the planet. No, we are not immune to the struggles of this world, but we know what the future holds. We know that although Satan might appear to be winning, for now, the ultimate victory belongs to the Lord. We know how the story ends.

This Psalmist reflects on the goodness of God and how the joy he brought to the people of Jerusalem poured out of them and into those around them:

Psalm 126:2-3
2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said,  “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!

If the service you attended chose the “house of joy,” you heard Pastor Andy Rectenwald tell the story of a somewhat horrifying experience that now induces laughter when he thinks back on it. I, too, have stories that make me melt into fits of laughter when I retell them. When I think about the silly things my children do on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis, a smile automatically comes to my face. And you know what? It feels really good to laugh. When I remember to stop taking myself so seriously, I experience simple joys and generally feel better about everything that is going on in the moment. Jesus promises to give us his joy.

John 15:11
“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

Somehow, we have this idea that Jesus was a serious man who went from place to place with a heavy heart, carrying the weight of the world with him. But I don’t think Jesus was like that. People wanted to be with him. They knew he had something they didn’t, and by being with him, they received some of his joy. No one wants to be with someone who is serious all of the time. When we walk around carrying burdens that God never meant for us to bear, we promote the idea that being a follower of Jesus is a burden. However, when we walk with joy, when we laugh and wonder at this crazy, beautiful world God created, we reflect Jesus and draw others to him through us. Let this be our prayer as we go forth into the dark world:

Psalm 95:1-3 (NIV)
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.

Questions:
Would you consider yourself a serious or a light-hearted person? When was the last time you had a really good belly laugh? Does your attitude toward life, your demeanor, make Jesus look like a joyful person or a sullen and depressed person?

Next Steps:
Make time this week to experience joy. Watch your children or grandchildren play. If you don’t have children in your life, watch a funny movie. Allow yourself the release of a good laugh.

Prayer:
Lord, thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience your joy. Thank you that the Christian life is not drudgery. Thank you for a life full of joy and laughter. Help me to not take myself too seriously. Remind me that the world is watching me, and if I am not a happy person, I am portraying the Christian life as burdensome. Amen.


This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading, and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her five young children.


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Amazing Grace – Haunted

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What an adventure we experienced in this weekend’s service! If you missed it, check out the replays on the app or at CedarCreek.tv. We wrapped up our series, focusing on the tricks our minds play on us—and how we can be victorious over those thoughts. As this series concluded, we looked at opportunity, mystery, joy, and peace—all of which are offered through our relationship with Jesus.

Lead Pastor Ben Snyder wrapped up the Haunted series with that very thought and invitation. Jesus invites us into a life-changing adventure with him. We just have to step into it. The problem is, life often prevents us from stepping into that adventure. Our thoughts can overtake us and even cripple us. Or maybe it’s the weight of our situations— work, school, our families, our physical or emotional health … (fill in the blank). It’s hard enough taking that next step to get through the day sometimes, let alone considering taking a step toward an adventure with Christ as your Savior.

People may choose not to follow Christ because they think it’s all about rules that would just weigh them down further. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth is that when we accept Jesus, we become followers of Christ. And as we follow him, he invites us into a life of joy, peace, and opportunity. We have the choice to receive the grace of God. And the Bible says, Jesus’ “grace is all you need.” His “power works best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The difference with Jesus is that when we are weak (struggling, weary, in despair, stressed, and overwhelmed by obstacles), HE can work in and through us. This is AMAZING GRACE! In our world, depression is up 15% in the past year, according to the CDC. People are struggling and hurting.

Paul encourages us through our series’ theme verse from Romans 12:2: “Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Our world is broken. But Jesus has come to give us new life. God wants to transform us. He wants to heal us. He wants to forgive us. And when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he meets us where we are, gives us strength when we are weak, and offers forgiveness and newness of life.

Take a step toward Jesus or a step back to Jesus. He is waiting for each of us. He wants to bear our burdens, give us grace and strength through our weaknesses, and provide healing through forgiveness.

Questions:
Are you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or in despair? Have you taken the first step toward Jesus? Is it time to take a step back to Jesus?

Next Steps:
The Bible says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Call out to God today for healing and forgiveness. Take a step toward the adventure Jesus has for you. Or if you have walked away from the Lord, perhaps it’s time for you to take a step back to Jesus.

Prayer:
Lord, I am weary. Thank you, God, for sending Jesus to experience all that I face in this life. Thank you that he bled and died for the forgiveness of my sins. May I take a step toward (or back to) Jesus and the hope, forgiveness, and joy he offers. I surrender myself in trust to you. May I faithfully walk in the joy, opportunity, mystery, and peace that is offered through a relationship with you. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Kendra Grubinski. Kendra is passionate about her relationship with Jesus and loves studying and sharing God’s Word. During the week, she is a Spanish Teacher at Findlay High School. She also enjoys spending time with her family and pups, reading, traveling, drinking good coffee and being active outdoors.


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3 Steps to Emotional Clarity – Haunted

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The LivingItOut is created to provide daily inspiration to live out the life God has for you. We hope that it reminds you that you matter and helps you to live out that truth in your life.

As followers of Jesus, living out our faith and applying the things we learn from the weekend message, our Bible reading, and reflection is crucial to growing on our spiritual journey.

This is why one of my favorite books of the Bible is the book of James. It is packed full of verses that have a consistent focus on practical action, and it challenges us to apply God’s word to our everyday lives.

James 1:22-25
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

This weekend, Josh gave us some practical steps to help us live out the weekend message. These steps will help ensure that we don’t just nod in agreement with what we heard and then forget about it. They help us put into action the truths Josh shared from the Bible.

The first practical step is to identify the white noise in your life. Are there things that you are doing to drown out your unwanted emotions? This could be your phone, social media, television, alcohol, or several other things. Identifying your white noise is the first step to emotional clarity, allowing you to see and feel what’s really going on in your life.

The second practical step is to experiment with it. For example, if your white noise is your phone, turn it off or charge it in another room. When you feel the urge to get it, ask yourself why you feel like you need to. Whatever your white noise is, turn it down and reflect on the thoughts and needs that present themselves to you in the absence of noise.

The final step is to intentionally listen for what it’s masking. Not only is the white noise masking your unwanted emotions, but it is also masking the true answer to these emotions. That answer is God, who is merciful to forgive, powerful enough to fix, and caring enough to walk with you through anything. In your newfound quiet, listen for his voice and the truth that he has for you today.

Psalms 46:10a
“Be still, and know that I am God!”

Questions:
Josh called the things we do to drown out unwanted emotions white noise. What’s your white noise?

What unwanted emotion are you not dealing with today?

Once you have identified it, what is your next step to deal with it—before it deals with you?

This weekend is Halloweekend! Who can you invite?

Next Steps: 

  1. Identify the white noise in your life.
  2. Experiment with it.
  3. Intentionally listen for what it’s masking.

Prayer:
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for being a God of action. Please help me to be a person of action. Forgive me for the times I know what I need to do but don’t move. Today, allow me to apply the truths that I am learning about you and myself. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 


This post was written by Ben Bockert. Ben is a proud husband and father of three beautiful daughters. He is honored to serve as the Director of the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Swirling Thoughts – Haunted

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I don’t know about you, but I can be so stuck in my head sometimes that my thoughts swirl and I forget my existence for a moment. This happened to me a couple years ago—consequently, I almost hit something as I attempted to pull into Panera! I was stressing about some personal things, my thoughts started swirling, I zoned out, and all of a sudden, I’m veering off course and heading toward a small fence. Fortunately, I snapped out of it before it was too late.

Here’s the bottom line: Deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you.

My story shows what can happen when you don’t address your emotions. I was letting my anxiety and stress get the best of me. Before I got behind the wheel, I should have taken the time to pray and address my emotions. It’s a very effective way to release my stress, or whatever I am feeling. It helps me find freedom from toxic thoughts and prevents me from getting stuck in my head.

Today, we’re going to look at how David dealt with his emotions through prayer. How he identified them and gave them to God. Prayer is a time when we can unmask how we are feeling and ask God to work in us, no matter what.

David wasn’t perfect, but he consistently lived a life of humility. God considered him “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). What’s amazing is that we get a picture of David and his prayer life. David was authentic in how he prayed. To release his emotions, he was honest about his heart.

Here are some examples of David’s Prayers:

Psalm 6:3
I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me? 

He’s not faking. He’s telling God exactly how he feels—not because God doesn’t know, but because when we tell God, it also reveals to us how we feel.

Psalm 104:5
You placed the world on its foundations so it would never be moved.

David was praying for consistency when he felt uncertain.

Psalm 6:6
I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. 

He was saying, “I am sad and depressed.”

Psalm 17:8
Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings. 

David was saying, “God, I don’t feel safe. I’m being attacked. Protect me.”

Do you feel this today? There is hope! When you pray, tell God what is on your heart. Say it out loud. Journal about it. Express it in the way you connect best with God. It is not easy, and it can be uncomfortable at first. But once you unload that weight, you will experience clarity. And hopefully, you’ll avoid crashing by freeing yourself of those swirling, toxic thoughts.

Questions:
When was the last time you became stuck in toxic thoughts? What happened?

What emotion do you struggle to release?

What holds you back from being authentic with God about your emotions?

Next Steps:
Here are a couple of journaling practices that you can try to release emotions:

  • Write a verse that resonates with you and pray about it.
  • Name your emotion and then tell God about it.

Take 5-10 minutes this week to sit in silence and solitude to pray.

Prayer: 

Heavenly Father, thank you for being a God I can be honest with and release my emotions to. It is not easy, God, but when I am real about my emotions, it keeps me from crashing when my toxic thoughts try to consume me. I want to deal with my emotions before they deal with me. I am taking this time to release my emotions and find freedom from toxic thoughts. David prayed that surely we will see your goodness while we are in the land of the living. I am looking to you, God, in the middle of whatever I am feeling today, to find your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

 


This post was written by Rebecca Roberts, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.


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Emotions Run Amok – Haunted

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow stepped into a message focusing on the “haunting” of emotions that have run amok. No doubt, more than a few of us could share in great detail a personal “horror” story of being on the receiving end of emotions run amok— possibly one that still haunts us at times. Looking through the lens of King Saul in 1 Samuel 18-31 illustrates how emotions that had run amok cost Saul his life, and the lives of others too. I am hard-pressed to think of anything sadder than that!

The story of Saul explains what happens when there is a failure to “deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you,” as referenced by Josh in the weekend message.

1 Samuel 18:5
Whatever Saul asked David to do, David did it successfully. So Saul made him a commander over the men of war, an appointment that was welcomed by the people and Saul’s officers alike.

Saul promoted David because of his successes. Yet in record time, extreme anger consumed King Saul based on the lyrics of a song that infuriated him: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!” (1 Samuel 18:7). Jealousy came alongside that extreme anger to accomplish its mission—the eventual demise of Saul and others.

To be clear, anger did not need jealousy to accompany it in bringing down Saul. Anger, by itself, had the capacity to play havoc within Saul. But the stake of extreme anger ran much deeper within Saul’s soul when jealousy appeared. It is no different with us. It takes only one out-of-control, negative emotion to destroy someone. The irony is, we become its victim, too, via extremely bad behavior and/or embarrassing outbursts (whether or not there are witnesses to the crime committed).

For me, it takes zero effort for memories to surface that tell a variety of stories based on emotions run amok. The stories in my emotions-run-amok arsenal include both types—receiving and delivering. This is a case where it is more blessed to give than to receive, but neither is good—EVER!

Thankfully, managing our emotions is possible. Failing to invite God into the process is foolhardy! Some of my steps to recovery are self-awareness, identifying the triggers, owning the feelings, and forgiving others and myself.

It is never a waste of time to identify the reason(s) negative emotions erupt within us. While it has never been a pleasure to dig in the dirt of my emotional pain, I have never regretted having done so.  It is so worth the effort—for others and me.

Questions:
Do you struggle with acknowledging emotional problems those around you are on the receiving end of?

Do you suppress your emotions or deal with them?

Next Steps:
Step into RightNow Media to access online resources—Dr. Henry Cloud’s “Changes that Heal” and “Overcoming Emotions that Destroy,” by Chip Ingram.

Listen to the Focus on the Family Broadcast, “Controlling Anger So It Doesn’t Control You.” It is a two-part broadcast.

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/episodes/broadcast/controlling-anger-so-it-doesn’t-control-you-part-1-of-2/

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/episodes/broadcast/controlling-anger-so-it-doesnt-control-you-part-2-of-2/

Prayer:
Lord, empower me to better understand and manage my emotions. Guide me with your strength and your truth as I intentionally seek to identify and resolve past experiences that trigger me. I desire to grow in you and your purpose for my life. Thank you for generously offering grace and mercy each new day. It surpasses what I could ever expect or request. May I generously offer genuine grace and mercy to others. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Karen Peck. Karen retired in March 2018 from Lucas County Information Services. She has been married to her husband, E. Michael, for over forty years. Karen is extremely grateful retirement has afforded her several soul-fulfilling opportunities to engage in deeper, meaningful relationship with Him and others.


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Be Here Now – Haunted

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Matthew 6:6 (NIV)
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow hit me where I live with his sermon last weekend. Since February 22, 2020, my life has been full of endless illnesses, deaths, losses, and increasing difficulties.

The presence of the one true God in my life is the one and only reason I am still functioning. He continues to hold my hand and guide me through this difficult time, and he provides all the answers.

Unfortunately, my husband and I had COVID-19 in December 2020 and continue to have a myriad of symptoms that won’t go away, the worst being brain fog and fatigue. It was then I became a heavy user of YouTube animal videos and began to spend a lot of time napping or fretting over the end of the world as I know it.

Josh talked about white noise—those distractions we interject into our lives to avoid a reality we have trouble coping with. That is exactly what I have been doing since last December. I am now a white noise addict to avoid facing my fears. I am addicted to podcasts and puppy videos. I’ve developed a pain in my left elbow and fingers from clutching my phone so often.

Thankfully, Josh also spoke about the practice of mindfulness or as it is known in the dojo, Be Here Now. But how do you put those distracting thoughts and behaviors away and find the peace of the presence of God that mindfulness brings? It’s not easy, but it is worth it. Beware! Your mind will fight you as you start this practice. But through the presence of the Holy Spirit, you will prevail, and it will change your life in ways you cannot imagine.

Go into your room, close the door, and set an alarm for 15 minutes the first few times you do this. Sit cross legged on the floor or in an armchair—but no slouching, shifting, or wiggling. Rest your hands in your lap, and close your eyes. Begin taking deep, slow breaths. Keep your eyes closed, and focus on your breathing, counting how many seconds you breathe in and then out. After 10 deep breaths, continue to breathe steadily, and focus your closed eyes in the direction of that space between your eyebrows.

If it hasn’t already happened, it will now: You will begin to itch or a hair will suddenly tickle your face or you’ll wonder if you let the dog out. The white noise will demand you stop what you’re doing and let it back in. Instead, gently refocus your mind and attention to that space between your eyebrows. Eventually, the external cues demanding your attention will fade away—the itch you refused to scratch, all those intrusive thoughts—gone. And as you steadily breathe and sit in stillness, you will become silent. At that moment, you will realize you are in the presence of God and are ready for prayer. It is a beautiful place to be, with the one who loves you most.

Psalm 118:19-21
19 Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and thank the Lord. 20 These gates lead to the presence of the Lord, and the godly enter there. 21 I thank you for answering my prayer and giving me victory!

Questions:
Do you want to be free to enter the presence of the Lord?

Are you willing to be uncomfortable to achieve his peace, which surpasses your understanding?

Next Steps:
Spending real time in the holy presence of God will change your life in unimaginably good ways. Prioritize this practice at least once a day, every day.

Prayer:
Dear, Lord, thank you for loving me when I still hated or simply ignored you as insignificant in my life. I’m so sorry, Lord, please guide me and guard me. Please draw me ever nearer to you and give me the strength and self-discipline to exercise mindfulness so that I can continue to seek you more every day. In the name of your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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Be Still – Haunted

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Last weekend, Perrysburg Campus Pastor Josh Whitlow spoke about dealing with unwanted emotions. He said some people cannot deal with silence, so they use white noise to mask unwanted sounds. In the same way, we often use white noise to mask unwanted emotions (e.g., fear, anger, boredom, anxiety, loneliness, inadequacy, and hurt).

Sometimes it is easier to suppress our emotions than to deal with them. What are some of the white noises we use to hide from our emotions? Facebook, Instagram, Apple TV, Netflix binging, fantasy football, exercising, shopping, reading, busyness, substance abuse, and eating.

Josh’s bottom line was: “Deal with your emotions before your emotions deal with you.”

If you don’t deal with your emotions, you become a slave to them. You will become filled with fear, anxiety, and worry. God doesn’t want us to suppress our emotions; he wants us to surrender them to him. He wants us to pour our hearts out to him so that he can heal us. He wants us to have a pure heart.

Matthew 5:8
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Hearts are not pure when they’re filled with anger and fear. Over time, these negative emotions will harden the heart, and prevent us from being loving and kind. But we can soften our hearts by being still with Jesus.

Job 6:24 (ESV)
“Teach me, and I will be silent: make me understand how I have gone astray.”

Being still or silent takes practice but can help us heal our hearts. Find a place that you love. My place is my family room. It is very cozy and filled with things that I love. I light candles, turn on my salt lamp and diffuser, and if it’s cold, I light my fireplace. I sit in a comfy recliner with a cup of tea beside me.

Put away your phone. Take a few deep breaths. If focusing is a problem, have some index cards with your favorite verses to meditate on. Read your Bible and pray. Ask God to help you deal with any unwanted emotions, and ask him to soften your heart. Pour your heart out to him and surrender your emotions. Be real and honest with him—he can handle it.

If the idea of stillness overwhelms you, start with five minutes. Pretty soon you will look forward to this time each day, and you will want to increase the time you spend with Jesus. It will be like having a cup of coffee with a dear friend. You won’t want the time to end. Spend time with Jesus, and he will heal your heart. He will fill you with his peace and joy.

Questions:
What emotions do you try to mask? How do you mask your emotions? How can you have a pure heart? Where can you go to be still?

Next steps:
The next time your emotions start to spin out of control, stop and take a deep breath. Pour out your heart to God, and ask him to help you understand your feelings. Surrender the emotions to him. Meditate on verses that touch your heart. Carve out time each day to spend quietly with God.

Prayer:
Jesus, I am overwhelmed that my Savior and Lord wants to spend time with me and heal my heart. Help me to make you a priority. Help me to have a pure heart. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you and lead me along a path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23-24). Change me Lord and fill me with your love, peace, and joy. Amen.


This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

The LivingItOut Podcast is released every Wednesday morning. It discusses key takeaways and principles from the weekend message. Listen to the weekly podcast in your car, during your lunch break, or any other time that works for you. You can find the latest podcast here.


Leave a Comment?

We would love to hear how the LivingItOut is making a difference in your life. Let us know how today’s post inspired, challenged, or encouraged you by leaving a comment here.


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Printable version of this week’s LIO study:

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More Resources

Series Theme Verses
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RightNow Media
John Reading Plan