Category: Inspirational/Motivational


Sunday Inspiration: The Encouragement of Solitude

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a Sunday devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. This edition of “Sunday Inspiration” is an excerpt from my newly-released book, a 30-day devotional entitled Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a SUP (Hilliard Press). The book is available online through Hilliard Press and on Amazon (profits go to support my mission trip to Brazil with Justice & Mercy Amazon).

Day 23:  The Encouragement of Solitude

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray. (Luke 5:16 NASB)

One of my spiritual gifts is the gift of encouragement. In every type of professional work I’ve done, I’ve been able to use my gift to serve my clients and my students. Likewise, in certain friendships and relationships, I’ve had the opportunity to give comfort and confidence to others in times of sorrow and anxiety, and have also had it reciprocated. To get to operate in my spiritual gift is an encouragement to me.

I remember listening to a podcast series by a well-respected pastor on the topic of encouragement. He said that people are in more need of reassurance and relief today than ever in the history of the world. He described different ways we can be an encouragement to others, and how we can be an encouragement to ourselves when we need it most. The pastor said one way we can reassure and restore ourselves is through solitude.

Solitude may be something some people are uncomfortable with, but I’ve learned to relish it, even when I don’t feel like being alone. Here’s what the pastor had to say about solitude:

God used certain people in a mighty way, but before He could, He had to teach them to be alone, teach them what isolation was all about. There is ministry in solitude and if we don’t learn how to cultivate that, we will have a very difficult time encouraging ourselves in the Lord. To be quiet so you can talk to God and so God can talk to you. King David understood the importance of getting alone, and so did Jesus. If a man considers his time to be so valuable that he cannot find time to keep quiet and to be alone, that man will eventually be of no value to anyone. To spend all of one’s time with people is soon to have nothing to give any of them of any value. ~Dr. David Jeremiah

For me, there are a few things I do in solitude that serve as a big encouragement for me. First and foremost, it’s reading the Word at the start of each day and recording in my journal what I think God is saying to me through His Word, as if He were talking directly to me. (Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 NIV) When I later go back and read what I’ve recorded, it’s often what I needed to be reminded of at exactly that point in time, or it’s to confirm that He did what He promised He would do.

The sounds of nature are also an encouragement to me. Being alone outside, especially paddling on the water, is soothing for me. God’s Word reminds me of the hope I have in Him, while being on the water makes me forget my sorrows and anxieties, at least for those few hours. The rhythm of the paddle strokes, coupled with the sounds of the water and the birds, make everything just melt away for me.

I love paddling on my own when I’m feeling discouraged (which was how I was feeling the day I wrote this). But I also enjoy paddling with a friend or a group who can also serve as an encouragement. I hope whoever is reading this is finding encouragement from the words God has put on my heart to share.

What are your own spiritual gifts (take the spiritual gifts test)? How are you using them, and are you getting encouragement from using them in various areas of your life? Spend some time in solitude to reflect on how you can better fulfill your purpose.

Side Note

Just last weekend I took a retreat on my own that required complete silence and solitude. It was a reminder of just how true the words of this post are. I encourage you to find time, even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day, to get alone and be with yourself and with God. You’ll return to your daily routine refreshed and renewed.

Purchase the entire 30-day devotional

If you enjoyed this excerpt, I invite you to purchase the entire book. If you’re local to Nashville, you’re also invited to my book signing on June 24th, 11am to 1pm, at Paddle Up (525 Basswood Ave., Nashville, TN 37209) for popsicles, paddles, and paperbacks!

SUP

Books are $12 and the event includes a signed copy of my book, 15% off one paddle board rental the day of or any time during the 2017 season (courtesy of Paddle Up), and free Padrino’s Pops popsicles to the first 10 people!

If you can’t make it to the book signing, you can also purchase a copy online. Profits support Justice and Mercy International’s Amazon mission trips.

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Sunday Inspiration: Don’t Look Down

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a Sunday devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. This edition of “Sunday Inspiration” is an excerpt from my newly-released book, a 30-day devotional entitled Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a SUP (Hilliard Press). The book is available online through Hilliard Press and on Amazon (profits go to support my mission trip to Brazil with Justice & Mercy Amazon).

Day 1:  Don’t Look Down

But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!” (Matthew 14:30 MSG)

After first seeing and hearing about stand up paddle boarding (SUP), I decided I was going to try it, but not on the ocean. I wanted to try it first on flat water, and figured there had to be a place near me here in Nashville since we have a large river and several lakes.

After a quick search online, I found a place at the marina closest to me that rents boards and offers a beginner course, making the thought of trying this new sport a little less intimidating. I invited a few friends to join me, but didn’t have any takers. I didn’t let the fact that I’d have to go solo stop me. I’ve been to the other side of the world to Australia by myself. I go hiking and biking by myself all the time. I could do this by myself too. And besides, I knew I wouldn’t be truly alone because God is always with me, and there would be some other newbies in the beginner class I could meet.

Not personally knowing anyone who had previously tried SUP, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be harder than it looked or easier than it looked. Would I have the balance to get up and stay up on the first try? I mean, you’re basically standing on water! I was sure it was something that probably doesn’t come naturally, at least not at first.

Despite how hot it was that day, I didn’t want to end up swimming with turtles in the Cumberland River if I could help it. So before heading out to the marina I prayed, “Lord, please let me be able to get up on the board on the first try and stay standing up.” (It’s true you can pray anytime about anything!)

Not only did God answer that prayer, but throughout the process of the beginner’s lesson, He showed me just how much this experience of learning SUP is a direct parallel to some of the lessons in His Word. For instance, just as I was about to stand up for the first time, the instructor told me to keep my focus on the horizon and not look down or I would likely fall in the water. As soon as she said that, I immediately thought of the story of Peter when he walked on water with Jesus:

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.” Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-30 MSG, 31-33 NIV) emphasis added

Peter started to sink because he took his focus off Jesus.

One of the other things the instructor told us was, “Your board will go where your eyes go.” This is why it is so important for us to guard what we look at and watch. If we take our focus off of God and peer down the path of darkness and destruction, before we know it we’re likely to be steering ourselves in that direction and heading down that road.

Take time like Jesus did to be by yourself and pray. Be like Peter and take a step in faith. Don’t look down. Keep your eyes on God, and when you feel like you’re sinking, reach out for Jesus’s loving hand. He will catch you.

Purchase the entire 30-day devotional

If you enjoyed this excerpt, I invite you to purchase the entire book. If you’re local to Nashville, you’re also invited to my book signing on June 24th, 11am to 1pm, at Paddle Up (525 Basswood Ave., Nashville, TN 37209) for popsicles, paddles, and paperbacks!

SUP

Books are $12 and the event includes a signed copy of my book, 15% off one paddle board rental the day of or any time during the 2017 season (courtesy of Paddle Up), and free Padrino’s Pops popsicles to the first 10 people!

If you can’t make it to the book signing, you can also purchase a copy online. Profits support Justice and Mercy International’s Amazon mission trips.

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How I Launched My Passion Project (and how you can too)

At the start of 2017, I challenged my readers to begin a passion project. I encouraged them to take the ideas they’ve had burning inside them for some time now, and start implementing them. The new year was a good time to add their passion project to their goals for 2017. I planned to join them with my own passion project, a 30-day devotional that combines three of my passions:  faith, writing, and stand up paddling.

How My Passion Project Began

My own passion project began much like the way the passion project process is described in Niklas Goeke’s article “How to Start a Passion Project One Day At a Time.” It started out simply as something I thought would be fun. I’d been enjoying a newly-discovered passion, stand up paddling, and was noticing several parallels between paddling and Biblical principles.

I thought it would be fun to record some of those spiritual epiphanies in writing, specifically on a personal blog. I set up the blog, named it “Spiritual Understanding & Prayer (SUP) on a SUP,” and began writing. However, I didn’t really promote the blog since I was just doing it for myself. Only a few friends knew about it and followed it.

A Greater Purpose

Fast forward two years. My publisher asked me for a 2nd book, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. Originally I was thinking perhaps a follow-up to my first book Advance Your passion projectImage.

But God had a greater purpose in mind. Instead, I started thinking about a compilation of my personal blog posts on spirituality and stand up paddling. My publisher liked the idea and suggested putting it in the format of a daily devotional.

By the end of 2016 I was weeding through all my posts of my paddling adventures to choose just the right ones for my next book. I started reformatting and editing them around the same time I’d challenged my readers to pursue their own passion projects.

That’s when it dawned on me I could use my passion project for a bigger purpose. I could use the profits from book sales to help fund my very first mission trip I’m taking in July. This idea was a perfect fit since my paddling excursions mainly occur on rivers and my mission trip will take place along Brazil’s Amazon River.

Obstacles are Inevitable

Of course, when working on such a project, there are times when obstacles will occur. It’s just inevitable. For me, it was an unexpected surgery in late January and an extended recovery due to complications from the surgery. I couldn’t work on my passion project (or any projects for that matter) for over a month.

Luckily I’d submitted most of my manuscript prior to my surgery. But this set-back was still going to cause a delay in the release of the book. I did my best to not let this get me down. I picked up where I left off on my project as soon as I was able.

There’s also another hiccup in this story. Originally, my mission trip was to occur in early March. But since there weren’t enough participants from my church, I got moved to a trip with participants from another church who are going in July. I found this out several months before I knew I’d have to have surgery.

If the March timetable had worked out for my church, I wouldn’t have been able to go because I was still recovering from my surgery at that time. I’d already raised about half of the funds for the trip, so I would’ve been really disappointed.

God’s Timing Is Perfect

Despite having to have a 2nd surgery in late April, I’m now doing much better physically. In fact I’m back on the water just in time for the beginning of paddle season.

Most importantly though, my book is now available! God’s timing is always perfect! I’m so excited about how He plans to use the book for His Glory and the impact it will have. Not only on its readers, but also on those benefiting from the profits – the people in the tiny communities and congregations situated along the banks of the Amazon River.

Spiritual Understanding & Prayer on a Stand Up Paddleboard is a reminder to not just listen to God when you’re reading your Bible and praying, but also when you’re working and playing. This is true no matter what your own hobbies are, what kind of work you do, or what your personal passion projects are.

I’m so honored and grateful that champion SUP racer and pro surfer Candice Appleby penned the foreword to the book. She is a sister in Christ who openly shares her faith in the professional SUP community. She continually points her achievements in SUP and surfing back to God, always giving Him the glory.

How You Can Make an Impact

There are several ways you can also make an impact. First, by starting your own passion project and seeing where it leads. Follow Goeke’s suggestions in the article linked above and you’ll have the confidence to bring it to fruition and accomplish what God wants to do through you.

Second, you can contribute to my passion project by purchasing a copy of Spiritual Understanding & Prayer (SUP) on a Stand Up Paddleboard for only $12. One hundred percent of the profits go toward travel expenses and supplies for the mission trip to the Amazon. Purchase one of two ways:

  • In person at my book signing on Saturday, June 24, 11am to 1pm, at Paddle Up (525 Basswood Ave., Nashville, Tn 37209), rain or shine.
  • Online at http://bit.ly/SUPdevotional.

Even if you purchase online, I’d love to see you and sign your copy at the book signing if you’re in the area. Those attending and purchasing a book will receive 15% off a paddle board rental for that day or for any time during the 2017 season. Also, the first 10 people to purchase a book at the signing will receive a free Padrino’s Pops popsicle in your choice of flavor!

Thank you in advance for your support of this passion project. Your purchase creates a ripple effect in God’s Kingdom like a single drop of water does in a vast ocean!

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Sunday Inspiration: Just Start

Welcome to “Sunday Inspiration,” a bi-weekly devotional for those seeking spiritual encouragement in the pursuit of their passions. Each post comes from an outside resource (as referenced). I hope these posts will inspire and motivate you in your life and career in addition to our weekly original blog posts. Enjoy!

“An intelligent person aims at wise action…a fool starts off in many directions.”

PR 17:24 GNT

Successful people have one thing in common…they’ve developed the habit of doing what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do. We all want more money, but we don’t all want more work. We’d all like to be slim and trim, but we’re not all willing to eat right and exercise daily.

Commitment and Consistency!

Without commitment we will never start, and without consistency we’ll never finish. Getting started is the hardest part. Why? You know why. There are so many reasons not to.

So:

1) Start Small. Take the first step. You can’t take step two until you’ve taken step one. Taking the first step to prioritize your life will focus you in the right direction. But don’t expect to immediately understand all that’s required. “By faith Abraham…went out, not knowing” (Heb 11:8). God guides you when you’re in motion, so “you’ll know as you go.”

2) Start with Yourself. If you want others to respond to you differently, give them a different set of attitudes and actions to respond to.

3) Start Early. Someone said, “Noah didn’t wait for his ship to come–he build one.” Hard work is an accumulation of the easy things you didn’t do when you should have. The truth is, the work doesn’t seem nearly so hard once you stop putting it off.

4) Start Now. What are you waiting for? Until you finish school, get married, have kids, the kids leave home, you retire, or you die? If you wait long enough you’ll only have one regret–that you didn’t start now. [Jo]

Source:  http://www.skiatooknaz.com/cgi-bin/journal.pl?ID=1005&template1=template1&method=exact

A Simple Way to Make Big Decisions

Are you facing a big decision, unsure which direction to take or which option to choose? It could be career-related, such as the choice between two job offers. Or it could be more personal, like the choice between staying in a relationship or ending it. If only there was a simple way to make these difficult decisions! Well, maybe there is.

Notice I said “simple,” not “easy.” I’ve personally found a simple way to make some of my hardest decisions. But, it requires deep reflection and discipline to utilize it. I’ve used this same method in working with my clients to help them better face their own difficult decisions. Here’s how it ‘s worked for me, and how it can work for you.

Reflection

First, I had to come up with my own personal mission statement. I’d done a professional mission statement for my business, so why not a personal one just for me? I had to spend time reflecting on my core values, philosophy, and goals. Then I had to reflect on how I wanted to carry out those hopes and beliefs. This took some time and required me to be completely honest with myself and with God.

My personal mission statement:  To boldly pursue my passions and purpose, and to teach, encourage, and inspire others to do the same, resulting in lives overflowing with joy, peace, and fulfillment.

Discipline

Second, I had to remember to use my mission statement as a filter for all my choices. If the choice didn’t support my mission statement, it had to go. I had to be disciplined enough to make the decision my mission statement revealed to be the right one. No matter how difficult it would be.

For example, at the time I wrote my mission statement in late 2015, my friendship with my guy-friend was turning romantic. The relationship was great at first. But, after nine months of dating, I noticed a pattern that had been developing for some time. This pattern wouldn’t make such a relationship sustainable if certain variables remained the same, which they did.

I wasn’t sure if I should end the relationship or give it another chance. After much prayer, I was reminded of my mission statement and why I’d written it. So, I pulled it out and started reading it. I immediately realized that the relationship didn’t support the life goals in my mission statement.

What I had to do.

Though I didn’t want to end the relationship, I had to in order to stay true and authentic to my God-given hopes. It wasn’t an easy thing to do because my heart didn’t feel like ending it. But my soul knew what was best for me in the long run. (This is why it’s dangerous to subscribe to the “just-follow-your-heart” advice of today’s culture.)

I had to be disciplined enough to push through my fickle emotions which were temporary, and focus on the decision that would make me happier and healthier down the road. Once I ended it, I received confirmation in so many forms (including red flags that weren’t previously present) and realized I had indeed made the right decision. Anytime I considered turning back, those red flags served as reminders as to why I had to stick to my decision.

What do you have to do?

Do you have a big decision in your life you soon have to make? Maybe it involves a move to a new state or a new country. Maybe it involves going back to school or ending a long-time friendship. Whatever decision you face, I encourage you to follow a similar process to see if it helps make things a little simpler. Not easier, just simpler. It may even make you stronger.

To learn how to write a mission statement that’s authentic to your true self, check out my on-demand program Personal Branding:  How to Know What Makes You YOUnique and AWEthentic. In this program I teach you how to determine your unique differentiators and how to write your own vision and mission statements.

Note: 45% of the sales from this on-demand program go to support Justice & Mercy Amazon. Click here for more details.