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Lessons in the Strangest Places

Phone Headphones Flowers Are You Listening

My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in His presence, freely asking according to His will, sure that He’s listening. And if we’re confident that He’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.  1 John 5:13-15 (MSG)

Lessons from God

You can learn a lot from animals.  Whether a cow, dog, or fish, God can teach life lessons using anything!  One spring morning, I was out walking my dog.  Not the classy, go for a morning constitutional, get a little fresh air and exercise kind of walk.  This was the “I don’t want to clean up behind you in the house” kind of walk.  This is a routine for us.  Every morning, when I open my bedroom door, I see Millie sitting up and looking at me from her kennel.  She knows what is coming.  She has heard me moving around in my room.  Millie heard me open the bedroom door.  She knows I am going to let her outside as soon as she finishes jumping and wagging after being set free from her confinements.

Second Chance at SpringBridal Wreath Spirea

That morning, the air was cool.  It was warming up a little more each day and it looked like we were getting a second chance at spring in Georgia.  Some of my bushes that were hit hard by a freeze right after blooming were budding again.  Tiny white flowers opened along the boughs of my bridal wreath spirea and little pink tassels covered the Japanese Fringe Flower.  That excited me, because I hadn’t been able to enjoy their colors nearly long enough a few weeks earlier when they bloomed the first time!

As I walked Millie, keeping her on a tight leash until we were away from my flower beds, I looked at the freshly cut grass.  I always keep my eyes down, watching where I am walking, for many reasons.  One of those reasons is so that I can look for any type of trash that needs picking up.  I usually find a piece or two on my short morning walks around the yard, but this morning was different.  There was nothing to pick up where I was walking.  I breathed deeply as I walked.  It was then that the peace and quiet of the country air was shattered.

Across the dirt road and through the woods came the loud, low bellowing of a lone cow.  My closest neighbors don’t own cows.  Nobody anywhere on my road owns a cow.  But someone not too far away apparently had a cow or a bull that spring.

Moo Cow

CowCows used to be quite a fascination of mine.  As a young child, I had a toy cow on wheels connected to a bell-shaped bulb.  When I squeezed the bulb, the cow lifted its head and mooed.  I called cows “moo cows” most of my life.  In fact, when I was in elementary school I wrote the word “moo cow” in each of our home dictionaries to prove that it was really a word.

I had lots of cow-themed items growing up.  My parents gave me a collection box full of cow figurines.  Shortly before we married, my husband’s best friend gave me a pillow case.  The print on it read, “Something in the way she moos.”  I had cow stuffed animals in my bedroom, and my best friend gave me Mary Moo Moos that were adorable.

Nothing Like the Real Thing, Baby

I remember as a teenager when my fascination with wanting to own a real cow began to wane.  I was visiting my grandparents.  They had a house and a bunch of family-owned land in the country.  As I was out meandering on the dirt roads, I walked near a farm of a distant relative.  I could see cows in the field. I climbed up on the round metal poles of the pasture gate and watched them.  Several of the cows came close to where I was.  They were SO pretty, but then something hit me . . . the smell.  My goodness, they didn’t smell pretty.

Sometimes things may look fantastic at a distance, but when you get up close enough to see the reality – then, not-so-much.  This morning’s unusual sound filtering through the woods fascinated me because it sounded so forlorn.  Maybe it was “something in the way she moos” that made it stick out in my ears.  Hearing cows in the rural area in which I live certainly wouldn’t be shocking – even with the knowledge that my closest neighbors don’t own cows.

Specific Sounds

The bellow the cow made this morning sounded very distinct.  It sounded almost like the cow was communicating something very clear and specific.  It sounded desperate.  Lonely.  There were no other moos answering back.  Never having owned cows myself, I was intrigued with the sound.  I began to listen to see what the Lord might be wanting to teach me from the cow moo. I felt inclined to do a little research.

Bringing my dog inside, I put her leash beside the buffet just inside the front door.  I picked up my phone and googled, “Why do cows moo?”  The results seemed consistent, but I ran across one article, written by Kristofor Husted, that peaked my interest.

Why Cows Moo

Mr. Husted, a journalist and reporter for Harvest Public Media, met with a cattle geneticist to inquire from him why cows moo.  I have no idea what prompted him to ask that question, but I’m glad that he did and that he went to someone who was experienced in all things bovine.  Mr. Husted reported (2016) that cows seem to communicate for a variety of reasons.

First, he stated that when cows are moved to new locations, they often call out trying to find other cows that they know.  Cows also moo when they are looking for a mate for purposes of reproduction.  Cows moo when their calf (or the mom) has been lost and they are trying to locate one another.  Finally, it was reported that cows also moo when they are hungry, need to be milked, or are stressed in some fashion (heat, trapped, etc.)  Mr. Husted tried to get a recording of cows mooing but was unsuccessful.  In explanation, the geneticist simply stated, “happy cows don’t need to moo” (Husted, 2016).

It was that last line that I found most interesting and made the most sense in describing the lowing of the cow that morning.

The cow-call that I heard earlier sounded so anguished to my ears.  It didn’t seem to be happy.  It caught my attention and made me alert.  I wanted to go locate from where the sound was coming to see what was going on or if there was something I could do to help.

Crying Out

Thinking on that mournful moo made me contemplate what our cries out to God must sound like to Him.  Unlike my lack of understanding of the reason behind the cow calling out this morning, God knows every situation in our lives.  He knows our reasons even before we cry out to Him.  He loves each of us without condition and is concerned about everything that is of concern to us.

Luke 12:6-7 reads, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (NKJV).  That He takes count of every hair on our heads has always fascinated me – I lose hairs with every brush or washing of my tresses.  So, if even that detail doesn’t escape His eye, then no doubt He notes any situation of greater meaning to my life.  No problem is too big or too small for God to know about, care about, and be able to do something about.

Communicating with God

Let me preface my next few paragraphs by saying that communicating with God should not be reserved just for times of trouble.  (Who wants to hear from someone who only calls you when they need something?) But just like good parents appreciate when their children come to them when a problem is stirring, our Heavenly Father wants us to come to Him with situations we face.  And while parents may sometimes already be aware about situations that are troubling their children, God certainly already knows every detail of every aspect of our lives before we call out His name.

God’s Word tells us that when His children cry out to Him, He hears them.  Psalm 34:17 reads, “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (NKJV).  Psalm 50:15 reads, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (NKJV).  Psalm 86:7 (MEV) reads, “In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, for You will answer me.” Jeremiah 33:3 (HCSB) reads, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”

Communicate to Build Relationship

God longs for us to communicate with Him.  According to Merriam-Webster, (n.d.), communicate means to “share.  To convey knowledge of or information about:  make known; reveal by clear signs.  To cause to pass from one to another.”  Communication is a two-way street, with both parties sharing and listening to one another.  Communicating with God isn’t just about calling out when situations are starting to look scary.  It isn’t merely about desperate times calling for desperate measures.  Instead, communication is consistently acknowledging our reliance on the Lord and desiring to develop deeper relationship with Him.

We communicate with the Lord in our thoughts, the focus of our hearts, our actions, and with our voices.  For most of my life, praying out loud was something that terrified me.  The reason for that was because I was forgetting my intended audience of one, and instead was more concerned about what I sounded like to people.  I still, at times, struggle with that – especially in a crowd.  But the Lord has been showing me that I generally begin to feel more comfortable when I frequently practice something that, at first, makes me uncomfortable.

Lift Your Voice

But praying, declaring the Word of God, and crying out to God – out loud – well, there is something different about that I’ve noticed.  I don’t know that lifting our voices has an impact directly on God (He’s not deaf, nor is He nervous).   I think, however, that praying, declaring the Word, and crying out to God aloud causes something different to happen in us.

Barbara Ho, (n.d.), in talking about the children of Israel marching around the walls of Jericho and then obeying God on the seventh lap by yelling, stated, “Have you ever wondered why He had the people shout?  Of all things to have them do, why that?  Because lifting our voices takes faith.  Sometimes just stating facts aloud validates the reality of whatever the situation is.  It somehow makes it real.”

Staying quiet in prayer takes no guts at all. Speaking out takes courage. It takes faith. Voicing our prayers aloud means we can no longer hide behind appearances.
Stone Fish by SeanMack

Lifting our voices takes faith.  Wow.  Boy is she right.  I can pray all kinds of crazy, wild prayers in my head, and God the creator of the craziest things (Google weird ocean animals and be amazed) hears me but isn’t ever surprised.  But if I start praying and declaring the Word of God over big, crazy dreams – aloud, where I can hear me, or other people can hear me, when THEY know the crazy things I am believing for – that is a little different, isn’t it?

Is Your Crazy Showing?

I’ve seen humorous memes on Pinterest that say things like, “You might want to tuck that back in, your crazy is showing.”  Society is mostly about conformity.  Sticking out usually makes people feel awkward.  But if we are going to be crazy about anything, let it be about Jesus, and let it be something that makes our faith stronger!

Besides building our own faith, speaking the Word aloud in prayer might encourage someone else to believe big for themselves.  The “Me Too” movement, begun in 2006, is still a hot topic in the media right now.  But what if we say “me, too!” when we are praying with people about things that are unattainable without God’s intervention?  He’s more than able to do for your prayer partner the same as He can do for you!  Think bigger!  Call out to God!  He hears us and longs to communicate with us.  For what are you believing?

 

Do you like what you read?  Consider reading more from this author!  Check out her book, Believing for a Miracle!

 

 

References:

Communicate. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2018, from Merriam-Webster

Ho, B. (n.d.). Crying Out to a God Who Answers. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from Harvest Prayer

Husted, K. (2016, May 16). Why Do Cows Moo? Here Are A Few Reasons. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from Harvest Public Media

SeanMack. (2006, June 30). Stonefish [Digital image]. Retrieved September 29, 2018, from Wikimedia

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No Regrets

No Mistakes, No Regrets

And, of course, it is very good if a man has received wealth from the Lord and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and to accept your lot in life—that is indeed a gift from God. The person who does that will not need to look back with sorrow on his past, for God gives him joy.  Ecclesiastes 5:19-20 (TLB)

Mistakes Made

I love to laugh. I love to look for spectacular things that others are doing and calling them out. Encouragement is so easy when you are seeing great things going on around you in the people you know and love. But what about when things are not going so well? What if you have made a mistake? How do you move forward then?  How do you live a life of no regrets?

Coffee, Believing for a Miracle

If you have never made a mistake in your life, you can probably stop reading here. If you just sat down with a fresh cup of coffee and have nothing better to do, but still fall into the “I’ve never made a mistake in my life” category, feel free to keep reading. For the rest of us, I hope that reading this post will bring some relief.  I pray that you find encouragement on how to move forward from past mistakes.

 

No Regrets

School, homeschool, home, Believing for a Miracle

A few weeks ago, I chatted with a mom who had decided to homeschool her children. In our conversation, I remarked that I had never regretted my choice to homeschool my children. I’d questioned it at times.  I’d made sure that I was hearing clearly from the Lord about that choice.  But I felt no regrets about homeschooling.

My eldest son has now graduated and is attending a local technical college. Looking back on the years I spent with him one-on-one causes no feelings of regret at all. There are many things in my past that I wish I could go back and do differently.  Yes, many.  Homeschooling my boys just isn’t one of them.

Regret, Defined

I don’t know that there is a worse feeling in this world than the pain of regret. Our minds can feel absolutely tormented if we have thoughts like “what if I had only” or “I wish I had” playing on repeat as we think about various life experiences. Regret is defined as “to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act, fault, disappointment, etc.); to think of with a sense of loss: pain or distress in the mind at something done or left undone” (regret, n.d.). Even reading that definition makes me feel rather disgruntled in my heart! No one wants to feel the pain of regret.  Knowing that, I doubt there is one person on the face of the earth today who has not felt regret about something in their life.

It is human nature to try to avoid pain. Some pains are beneficial.  Pain may help us achieve goals we have set.  It may keep us from further damage to our bodies or to others. But the pain of regret is one that we typically want to sidestep. And while none of us want to make regrettable decisions, few experience a life of no regrets.  An article in Psychology Today states, “Regret is the second-most common emotion people mention in daily life . . . and it’s the most common negative emotion” (Grierson, B., 2017).

Wise Words

The youth pastor at my church signs his emails “No Reserves, No Returns, No Regrets” (E. Hidalgo, personal communication, May 9, 2018). That isn’t a shabby motto by which to live. Wouldn’t it be great if, at the end of our lives, we were able to look back and say that we had no regrets? And yet, so many people experience this painful emotion. Psychologist Amy Summerville, in an article in National Public Radio (2017) states that it is repeatedly thinking over events that tend to bring about the most negative feelings. She states:
Rumination is having thoughts spring unwanted to mind and we’re chewing them over without actually getting anything new out of them, they’re just repeatedly, intrusively, becoming part of our mental landscape. What we’ve found is that people who have ruminative regret, tend to be the people who are experiencing the most negative outcomes. (Perkins, L., Boyle, T., Klahr, R., Vedantam, S., & Cohen, R., 2017)

Ruminate This

Cows, Pasture, Ruminate, No RegretsPicture this – imagine that you are visiting me near my house in the country. We are taking a walk down a dirt road near a green, grassy field. The wind is blowing lightly, causing the grasses to dance in the breeze, and a neighbor’s cows are standing around chewing.

We stop and enjoy the pastoral scene. It’s quiet, but as we study the cows we are thinking that they should have swallowed that bite and taken another by now. I can imagine laughter as we mimic their chewing motions.

The Webster Dictionary describes the root of the word ruminate as coming from the Latin word “ruminari” which “in turn derives from ‘rumen,’ the Latin name for the first stomach compartment of ruminant animals (that is, creatures like cows that chew their cud)” (Ruminate, n.d.). While we don’t spend a great deal of time chewing our food, cows do. In fact, Webster states, “Literal rumination may seem a little gross to humans, but to cows, chewing your cud (that’s partially digested food brought up from the stomach for another chew) is just a natural part of life” (n.d.).

There are things in life about which it is good to ruminate. Thinking over the great things God has done in your life, success, dreams, meditating on the Word and things He has whispered to you as you’ve listened in prayer. These are all healthy, productive ruminations. Some thoughts, however, are best forgiven and forgotten. Learn what you can from these negative experiences and then move on. Don’t waste time regretting what you can do nothing about.

The Word

Bible and CoffeeScripture has a lot to say about how to deal with regrets. God knew we wouldn’t always make perfect decisions, and we’d need to have a way to clean up our messes and get back on track! This is where I want to focus.  This is how to live with no regrets! While there is great wisdom we can glean from brilliant minds, there is no better source than the Word of God with which to hold as the standard for our decisions.

First, let me say that when we make a mistake, we need to ask for forgiveness if our actions affected anyone else negatively. In a letter to the church of Macedonia, Paul writes to tell them that he had previously written them some harsh corrections that he later regretted. Yes, even Apostle Paul had regrets! But he states that he didn’t regret the letter now because by calling them out on some things they needed to be better about, it had caused them to adjust their lives so that they were now living in the way that they should. In 2 Corinthians 7:19, he states “Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret” (MEV).

Forgive

Seeking forgiveness when we have made a mistake causes regret to fall away. We first need to ask forgiveness from the Lord. The good news there is that going to God for forgiveness of our sinful choices has only one result – forgiveness! 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (MEV).

Now don’t think that you can just do whatever you please, hurting other people, and thinking you will have no consequences for your behavioral choices. That just isn’t the case. In fact, there is another stipulation to receiving forgiveness. You can’t expect God to forgive you if you don’t forgive other people. It is a command to forgive – a choice we need to make. Matthew 6:14-15 reads, “For if you forgive men for their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men for their sins, neither will your Father forgive your sins” (MEV).

To be clear, there is no limit on how many times we should even forgive the same person of the same mistake. Jesus said, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22, MEV). That is a lot of forgiveness, but what a weight we release when we release others.  Living a life of forgiveness puts you on the path to a life of no regrets.

Unforgiveness

There is a common expression that is derived from a 1938 book by Emmet Fox. In Fox’s book, he states that drinking poison with the intent to protect yourself from others is pointless as there is no “doubt who will actually receive the benefit of the poison” (Fox, 1938). The more common expression I know has been credited to many different people with a variety of negative topics, but I’ve heard as “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” The only person hurt by holding a grudge, rehearsing past wrongs, or hanging on to anger and resentment is the person doing the holding. You are much better letting those negative emotions go, forgiving, and moving on. The person who is really freed is you.

Forgiving others doesn’t mean that you are saying that what someone did to you was right; it doesn’t excuse their behavior. It doesn’t mean that what you did to someone else was right when you ask for forgiveness, either. Instead, forgiving the wrongs others have done to you keeps their behavior from hurting your heart further. Lewis Smedes (1984) wrote, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner is you” (p.133). But the choice to forgive is yours alone to make – choose to have no regrets.

Learn And Move On

Chicken Pot Pie, Fresh Baked
Freshly Baked Chicken Pot-Pie

The second thing that I wanted to address about having no regrets once you have sought or chosen forgiveness if needed, is to learn from your mistakes and then put them behind you. When I was growing up, I did a lot of cooking with my mom. She is an excellent cook and I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with her.

One day, I was pulling a hot dish from the oven. I was so focused on not burning my hands through the potholder that I wasn’t paying enough attention to where the top of my hand was. The knuckle of my pinky finger contacted the oven rack. There is still a light scar from that mistake, but I learned to be a whole lot more careful when pulling something from the oven and am that much closer to having no regrets in the kitchen!

Sometimes You Win

I’ve often heard the expression, “sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.” In fact, author John Maxwell has written a book by the same title. I prefer not to learn the hard way, but if I go through something hard, I surely hope I learn something from it! Once you’ve learned something, hold onto the lesson but then move forward. Don’t keep rehearsing the negative experience – that is counterproductive!

Psychologist Amy Summerville had mentioned that choosing to mull over negative events produces negative feelings (2017). Therefore, we must choose to stop. Philippians 3:13 reads, “Brothers, I do not count myself to have attained, but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (MEV). That same passage in The Message reads:
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back (Philippians 13:12-14, MSG).
The Passion Translation ends verse 13 by saying, “I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead” (TPT).

Choose To Focus

Choosing to put things behind you doesn’t give you amnesia. But as you work through the decision and process of forgiveness, learn from the past, and focus on the positive, the sting of regret fades.  Isaiah 43:18-19 says, “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. See, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not be aware of it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (MEV).

Choosing to put things behind you doesn’t give you amnesia. But as you work through the process of forgiveness, the sting of regret fades.

What does it look like to have a river in the desert? It looks unnatural. In fact, it looks supernatural, because only God can cause a lush, thriving, flowing river to spring up from a dry, lifeless wasteland. Acts 3:19 reads, “And now you must repent and turn back to God so that your sins will be removed, and so that times of refreshing will stream from the Lord’s presence” (TPT). Living a life free from the pain of regret is attainable by turning to God, repenting for any wrong you’ve done, and then moving forward in refreshing relationship with the One who loved you enough to lay His life down for you before you were even born.

Live Life with No Regrets!

There are multitudes of quotes sharing how to live without regrets. Most are serious and thought-provoking. I believe the reason for this is because it is such a serious and real emotion that most experience at some point in life. But we can choose to forgive the past, learn what you can from it, and focus on a more positive future. Don’t look back – live life with no regrets!

 

Believing for a Miracle, Healing, Cancer, Miracles

If this has encouraged you, consider purchasing the author’s book, Believing for a Miracle.

 

References:

Fox, E. (1938). The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life. New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap.

Grierson, B. (2017, October 31). The Meaning of Regret. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from Psychology Today

Perkins, L., Boyle, T., Klahr, R., Vedantam, S., & Cohen, R. (2017, September 11). Why We Can’t Shake Life’s ‘Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda’ Moments. Retrieved September 21, 2018, from NPR

Regret. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2018, from Dictionary.com

Ruminate. (n.d.). Retrieved September 21, 2018, from Merriam-Webster

Smedes, L. (1984). Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve. New York, NY: HarperCollins