During Billy Graham's life on earth, he shared the message of God's redeeming love for each & every one of us.
Again and again, Billy would give listeners the instruction to "invite Jesus into your heart" and lead them in a simple prayer of asking God for forgiveness and accepting Christ as Lord and Savior.
I never met Billy Graham in person, but I remember vividly the night I had unexpectedly changed the television channel and come across the last minutes of one of his large stadium-full crusades.
I remember listening to Billy's voice and inviting Jesus in. I remember praying. I really didn't understand what it all meant, but I felt this deep desire for help and hoped that this might help me. I repeated the words Billy shared, yet a part of me held back a little.
Until the day came when I knew that I no longer wanted to be like the foolish person in the parable, the one who had built a house on shifting sand. I wanted a firm foundation. I was ready for a new life.
Billy Graham had helped me take that first step of inviting Jesus into my heart and now I felt the power of the Lord's calling on my life. Like an aspiring knight, I dropped to my knees. I surrendered my life to Christ and received Him as my Lord and Savior.
I am beyond grateful for God's divine mercy & grace and Billy Graham's role in leading me to Jesus, who never forces his way in but always waits for your invitation. Have you invited Him in ? I would love to hear your story.
How are you feeling as this new year of your life is beginning? What did you experience on your journey through the holy days & into the new year ?
Care to join me for a cup of coffee? I'm navigating right now with an uplifting & tasty cup of coffee - well, actually I treated myself to a Starbucks nonfat latte. What's your beverage of choice ?
I'm always curious to learn more about you - and what you're enjoying & not enjoying in your life. It's so important to share your joy with others, but it's also important to share your struggles. What challenges are you facing as this year begins? Maybe you're thinking, "Toni, I'm grateful to God & I don't want to get stuck focusing on my 'circumstances'...but since you're asking, wanna know what I'm struggling with ? " Yes, I do.
lAs a Life Coach, I do a lot of listening - so I'm going to guess that beneath the surface of your life - and even with all that still seems "good", you're going through a set of challenges or some form of suffering - from mild to moderate to extreme - and you could use more support.
So today, as we launch into a new year, I want to zoom in on how you can get some life support through listening - support that decreases your suffering and increases your experience of clarity, courage and progress on your journey.
Here are Four Simple Steps :
1) Set aside 20-30 minutes to spend prayerfully with God. Find a quiet place to sit & breathe. Pour out your heart to Him. Ask Him to reveal a verse of scripture or some words of guidance that speak directly to where you're struggling as you embark on this new season of life. Then .... listen.
2) Be open to hearing and willing to be inspired. Not straining or stressing out, but trusting that God will let you know what you need to know. In the form that He chooses. Maybe right there & then...or in the hours or days to follow.
3) Write it down. Writing out your prayers & journaling can help tune your attention in to godly guidance. Keep a few index cards with you so that you're ready to make notes wherever you are. And check any guidance you get to see how it lines up with God's Word.
4) Give thanks. Thankfulness grows by practice. Whether gratitude comes naturally or feels counter-intuitive, whether you need to weep & rail first or whatever your circumstances, remember that when you surrender your heart & all your "stuff" to your Savior, He is mighty to save ! Praise & enjoy Him.
The verse that I received during my devotional time a couple weeks ago as I was bringing a burden of anxiety to the Lord is one that is well known to me. It's this:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear
but of power & of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1: 7
As I intentionally tune in & speak its truth aloud each day, I'm learning where & how I'm letting my mind, the world or the enemy draw me into fear & anxiety rather than receiving God's incredible gifts to me: POWER, LOVE & A SOUND MIND. God wants me to use these gifts here and now. His amazing grace is available on earth as it is in heaven.
Can you find or can you set aside a time & space, an environment that supports you in receiving, reflecting upon and advancing in the guidance & gifts that our generous Lord wants to give you? He wants you to take refuge in Him & experience more of his empowerment. What will help you do that this year ?
I'm very confident of this, dear friend: You are an overcomer. You wouldn't be here reading this if you were not. And whether walking, running, limping or being carried exhausted in God's arms, you crossed the finish line of 2017!
Whatever the obstacles, injuries or fears, you kept going. You kept moving forward in faith and you were willing to call on the Lord & on your God-given gifts of courage, endurance & determination. Congratulations & welcome to 2017 !
As this new year begins, I pray for a renewal of life for you - recharged energy, restored goodness, remarkable hope & healing - from our Savior who makes all things new. And from my heart to yours, I encourage you to trust that God can & will magnify His light in you & your life this year as you bring it all to Him.
Wherever you are on this earth, from Kansas to Kenya, if you need an ally & fellow traveler along the way, I'm here for you. May God's blessings be a lamp unto your feet & a light unto your path!
How goes your journey these days ? Mine has had some daunting challenges over the last few months. While I've continued to share posts on my Facebook ministry, caring for loved ones in crisis has meant less time to meet with you here. Welcome back !
Speaking of caring, how do you care for yourself in the midst of caring for others & coping with challenges ?
Of course, it's God who truly cares for you. How could you prepare to receive the Lord's care as you begin each new day of life ?
Years ago I memorized the 23rd Psalm and began including it as a prayer in my morning routine. I enjoy greeting my Shepherd in prayer. It prepares me for the day by centering my attention on who He is & what He's doing in my life. When my mind wanders off like a straying sheep, my Shepherd calls me back to Him through the gentle discipline of staying with the beauty & order of the verses.
It's a loving daily exercise. It's not the vain, mindless repetition that scripture discourages. Instead, it strengthens me and calls me to be mindful, hopeful & grateful for the greatest relationship of my life.
Here's how I like to say good morning :
Lord, You are my Shepherd
I shall not lack
You make me lie down in green pastures
You lead me beside still waters
You restore my soul
You lead me in paths of righteousness for your name's sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil for You are with me
Your rod & your staff, they comfort me
You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil
My cup fills & overflows
Surely goodness & mercy will follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever
Has our Shepherd led your attention to a prayer or passage of scripture that really resonates for you ? Doesn't have to be long. Maybe one verse that comes to mind again & again?
There's something empowering about reciting God's Word aloud. Try it early in the day. Like before you even reach for your cell phone. Imagine that. Pressed for time in the morning ? You can sing your prayer in the shower or read it aloud from a handwritten note card while you drink your coffee.
We all have our morning "rituals". What's yours ? Is it helpful ? Maybe you already practice a morning devotional time.
If not, or if you're beginning the day struggling, stressing or wanting "something more" - then I hope you'll treat yourself to the benefits of a daily spiritual exercise, like praying from the psalms in the morning. It can help lighten your burdens & brighten your day. We could all use more of that.
Let me know if you have a morning practice that prepares you for the day. From Alaska to South Africa, I've been inspired & encouraged to hear from you and hope to learn more about what your journey with our Shepherd is like these days.
ps Have you read Max Lucado's wonderful little book "Safe in the Shepherd's Arms ~ Hope & Encouragement from Psalm 23" ? You can order it from Family Christian bookstore or Amazon and carry it in your purse or backpack.
How are you feeling about Valentine's Day? It's the day on which many cultures celebrate romantic love & coupling - with a range of expression from childlike humor to heartfelt love & affection to false sweetness and sentimental overload.
If you are currently feeling un-coupled in any way - whatever your relationship "status" - Valentine's Day may heighten feelings of loneliness, longing & regret. It can lead you into false beliefs about your value and significance. It may lead you to judge yourself & your circumstances by negative worldly views or foster bitterness & hardheartedness in an attempt to protect your heart. It may even cause you to question God's deep, true, faithful and eternal love for you.
But I'm praying you will declare out loud: My heart is precious to God !
God wants to lead you out of every lonely wilderness and into the beauty of the Sacred Romance. I pray that you will listen as He speaks to your precious heart on Valentine's Day and every day. Here are life lines of scripture that I love to hear:
"I pray that you, being rooted & established in love, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide & long & high & deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3: 17-19
"For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory & honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." 1 Peter 1: 6-7
Are you going through a trial ?
When my marriage ended, I struggled through what felt like endless days and nights of shock, grief and fear. But it was then- and in the years to follow - that I came to embrace the comfort, strength and power inherent in God's Word.
I would even fall asleep with my Bible clutched to my chest. I kept a bookmark at the 23rd Psalm, which I had memorized, so that when I woke up in the middle of the night, I could read it and also declare aloud other verses like this one:
"The Lord will command His lovingkindness in daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me - a prayer to the God of my life." Psalm 42:8
Day by day and night by night, I continued to entrust my wounded heart to Christ and He continued to heal me. I continued to sing praise & worship songs - even when tears of loss & anguish spilled down my face. I tuned in to the joy of His song singing in me and discovered that it was greater than my sorrow and that the destiny He had planned for me was greater than my despair & discouragement.
What songs or verses strengthen and encourage you ?
I know that you have your own story. I would love to hear it. If you'd like to share it with someone who won't judge you but will honor God's light in you and help you discover the many blessings He has in store for you, let's talk. I'm available & affordable by phone or Skype.
Today & every day, dear friend, I pray that the everlasting beauty of God's love will refresh your heart and renew your life. Big hug and Happy Valentine's Day !
ps I invite you to follow Light of the World Coaching on Facebook for daily inspiration. You can also schedule a FREE "SAFE PLACE TO SHARE" initial call.
While days are longer & warmer if you are in Australia, if you are living out on the streets or in the aging buildings in the inner city of San Francisco in the Tenderloin you can feel the draft of winter chilling your bones.
Nights are long and cold in the Tenderloin, especially if you are short on blankets, but during my recent floor by floor, door to door ministry visits with a local outreach team, it was a joy to find warm hearts among several of the folks who live in this neighborhood that has the highest crime rates & lowest incomes in the city.
Free food is very welcome by most residents. If there is a measure of trust, some prayer is also welcome. Then if there is actually trust that a particular need can and will be met, a frequent & simple request right now is for "a blanket".
A blanket can make the difference between health & illness - even between life & death. Is there some simple way that you could help give health & life to others ? Let's continue to give as God leads us. Is there a step you could take to receive better health & well-being for yourself ? Open your heart to receiving also. Maybe one step will cover both. Go out and gaze at the night sky. And pray.
As I look out at the stars, I think about the shepherds on the night of our Savior's birth. They had lived through many cold dark nights out in the fields. I bet that one of their ongoing needs was for a blanket. Funny how the humble & the holy are woven together.
Little did those humble shepherds know that they would be the very first to hear the announcement of the birth of Jesus, who would offer them the blanket of his sacrificial and redeeming love !
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord."
Luke 2: 8-10
I am praying for you, dear friend. Praying that wherever you are... whatever your circumstances...and especially on your coldest, darkest nights, you will take time to look once again upon God's gift to us in that humble place on that holy night. Merry Christmas !
The afternoon sunlight is very comforting as I sit here writing to you today. I wish I could share it with you. Much as I love to write, I would really enjoy just turning off my computer and chatting and getting to know you.
Sometimes a little sunlight & a loving friend who will listen is such a blessing. And if you're going through a painful season of your life - where holiday words like "Happy " & "Merry" don't fit - please remember that we have a true friend in Jesus. He understands our suffering very well because he took birth as a human being - on purpose - and lived on this earth with us.
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14 .
I am so grateful that even in my darkest hours I can turn to my Savior, to our loving Lord who invites us to walk with him - through pain & suffering and out the other side into newness of life. You may have to walk through "the valley of the shadow of death" when you desperately wish you could do an emotional bypass, but he is with you. He's not emotionless & detached. He can relate and redeem. And he is the source of comfort & joy.
How will you find comfort as the holidays unfold ?
What would you enjoy or find helpful ?
How will you walk in faith rather than out of it ?
These questions can be very challenging when you're struggling through some big bad life issues. Let's get real : a larger serving of sorrow or extra portion of anxiety with your "celebrations " is not your heart's desire.
So I encourage you to spend some real time in prayer as you seek very personal answers to those comfort & joy questions and take a few actions, whether large or small, to receive more of the love and goodness that God desires for you.
I hope you'll be compassionate and not condemn yourself for wanting to be cared for. I hope that you'll make room in your heart for the healing love of our Savior. Many of you know these lyrics: "Let every heart prepare Him room."
And just so you know, I'm very thankful that you've connected with me here at Light of the World Coaching - some of you from as far away as Vietnam and Nigeria - and I celebrate your courage as you continue to move forward. As we say here in America, Happy Thanksgiving !
Thanks for opening my letter. What's on your heart as we share this time together ?
In examining my own heart and listening to others, I notice that just below the surface of so many relationships, we long to be more fully heard, known and understood...to be more deeply met in who we are. These seem to be core heartfelt needs.
They're accompanied by equally important needs to know that who we are matters, that we are valued regardless of our faults and failings, and that in times of difficulty, loss or trial, we will not be ignored or abandoned but will be cared for, comforted and encouraged.
Who knows the truth of who you really are ?
Who do you turn to for comfort, care and encouragement?
When human relationships fail to meet important God-given needs for connection, we can be left feeling unmet, unloved and uncertain about our future. Just being a Christian doesn't spare us those earthly woes, does it?
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." 2 Corinthians 4:7
Yes, we do ! I think we have been given more access to God than we can comprehend. Jesus spoke clearly about how his followers - that includes you and me - would be provided with help and guidance even in his physical absence. We have been graced with a Helper, Comforter, Counselor & Teacher : the Spirit of truth - the Holy Spirit.
To the best of my very limited understanding yet ongoing daily gratitude, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each one of us who has received Christ makes his guidance & leading available 24/7, right ? Jesus reassured us, "...he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:17
How are you experiencing or tuning in to the Holy Spirit ? Or not ?
I admit, as in any relationship, some of my encounters are more unforgettable than others, like one night when I was alone and in great need of comfort & care. I was going through a shattering divorce and intensive treatments for cancer at the same time. Not fun. I was nearly bald, unable to keep food down and in considerable physical and emotional pain. I could only faintly and with little enthusiasm murmur, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me". Phillipians 4:13
I felt like an injured, heartbroken little girl, like a frail and nearly empty vessel, so weak and hollowed out that I had to lean against the wall to support myself as I showered. Yet as my tears streamed down, something beautiful happened. I felt a cherishing love pouring through me and a gentle strength that lifted my hand tenderly to my face as a comforting voice from within said, "Precious little one, I have always loved you and I have cared for you since you were a little girl."
I felt known, understood, valued, comforted and consoled. I felt the truth of a love that had always known me and always would, a love that was alive and well and living in me !
In my brokenness and affliction on that night, and despite all external evidence and the disheartening lies of the enemy of our souls, I knew that I was not unloved or abandoned and left to die. I was and I am a deeply loved child of God. So are you. We were called into being by the Creator of the universe who says, "This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased ."
Who are you telling yourself you are ?
How are you experiencing being truly known and loved by God ?
What you're experiencing in your life matters to me. You don't have to be a client to drop me a line or share your story. I welcome all messages that come in from my contact page and please don't hesitate to email me directly: email@example.com. All communications are strictly confidential.
For daily inspiration, visit Light of the World Coaching on Facebook, where you can "like" or "unlike" what you see at any time . And last but not least, dear friend, I hope you're taking care of your body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, and I look forward to sharing some health tips with you in a future letter. Live well !
Wow, it feels exciting to be starting a new series of letters to you ! I'm so grateful to have a place where I can share some of my thoughts, inspirations and experiences with you. I would love to hear from you as well because the journey you are on matters and we can help each other.
As you may know, help is amplified whenever two or more of us are gathered in His name. By the way, how are you with that four letter word H-E-L-P ?
Sharing my need for God's help is an ongoing part of my prayer life but asking others for help is not always so easy for me. Fortunately, God is perfectly capable of leading me to people with knowledge and skills that I lack. Even when I have to cross oceans & time zones. A wonderful woman in Germany & another amazing lady in Sri Lanka recently took me to new levels of opportunity with some work projects but I had to step outside my comfort zone and ask for help.
How easy or difficult is it for you to ask for help from others ?
What stops you ?
Maybe you live or grew up in a culture where it's not okay to ask for help, where self-reliance and self-sufficiency are at the top of the menu. It may take re-evaluating some unhelpful patterns so that you and I can receive the help we need. Patterns like pride and control, fear of vulnerability and rejection, or distrust and discouragement.
But as Christians, isn't asking for help where our journey with Christ begins ? We come to Him bound by sin and completely unable to save ourselves and we receive Him as our Savior. We surrender our self to his sovereign lordship as He calls us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.
Jesus said, " I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life."
We are in Him and He is in us. I guess that's why He went on to tell us something that blows my mind: "You are the light of the world..." Really ??? If you're anything like me, you may be very challenged to contemplate that awesome declaration about your true identity. Especially at times when the weight of your emotions and your circumstances seems anything but light.
And Jesus doesn't just stop with describing us, He tells us to "let your light so shine before men that it glorifies your Father in heaven."
Glorifying God ? I definitely want help with that. Bigtime. So what an incredible blessing it is to have a Bigtime Helper, the Holy Spirit. I'll be writing about the Holy Spirit in my next letter, dear friend, so hope you'll bookmark this site or start your journey as a subscriber.
Until then, please know that I care about you, wherever you are and whatever you're going through, and I encourage you to think about an area of your life where you need some help. Then ask for it.
How have you been since my last letter ? I've thought about you and wondered how you're doing. Really. One of the things I love about coaching is having the opportunity to ask about your progress and well being from a place of caring curiosity.
Whatever distance is between us today, I'm pretty sure that you're a caring, curious person or you wouldn't be reading this. So here I am sitting at my desk again writing, and trusting that this letter will reach you wherever you are.
Where are you located by the way ? One of the amazing advantages of global connectivity on the internet is that you could be just down the street at Starbucks or on the other side of the world.
In the last week I've had the privilege of connecting with individuals in America, Australia, India and Africa. I'm curious about each one of them and privileged to hear tales of progress and admissions of pain. When God-given, caring curiosity is present in getting to know someone, it can open the door to an experience of sharing and self-discovery that can help heal and transform lives.
In Jeremiah 33:3 the Lord says,
"Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things you do not know. "
Our creative Creator has some interesting stuff to reveal about ourselves and others and how He's working in the world..in every nation, tribe and tongue. He's not calling us to be bored, shut down or too busy to explore. Nor is He calling us to lose ourselves in idle or destructive distractions. But let's not confuse the wisdom and necessity of discernment with pridefully guarding against the unknown.
I want to be curious about the things God wants to show me... like the other day when I got curious about an ad geared toward Christian businesses and discovered a website that markets Christian merchandise to a large audience of Christians in India and Malaysia. It was great to see how much looked familiar, but also challenging to note the cultural differences. A real eye-opener...and more importantly, heart-opener. Are you curious about brothers and sisters you haven't met ?
Are you a curious Christian ? When was the last time you were willing to ask about, learn and discover some great and mighty things God wanted to show you ? I'd love to hear about them sometime.
Well, believe it or not, I am finally going to start blogging, but I prefer to simply call it writing to you since that sounds a lot less like jogging and a lot more relaxing.
Now I must admit, I don't outwardly appear to be relaxing in this photo. I also admit it isn't actually me in the photo - although she really does look a lot like me as a child. I loved to sit at my father's desk near the globe. He was a travel agent with maps everywhere and kept a journal like the one she's writing in. It felt both relaxing and grown up to sit and write about "important things" and to look forward to someday helping people plan their itineraries.
Do you like to write ? I'd love to hear from you. I hope you like to read a little because I would like to start writing to you.
How are you ?
Or as an Australian friend of mine phrases it, how are you going ? How are you going through life these days ? Timid steps, even pace, leaps of faith ?
And Who are you ? It's funny when you think about it, writing to a complete stranger. Only I don't feel like you're a stranger ...and I am seriously interested in who you are and what the terrain of your life is like right now.
As in any relationship, I'm bound to say things that reflect all the human limitations of not really knowing the other person, of attempting to communicate in this one-sided format and...well, all the limitations of just being me.
Yet you and I are coming to know the One who already knows both of us better than we know ourselves. I'm really glad that He has brought you here and given me this opportunity to share a little of my journey with you.
He calls us out of our loneliness and isolation and into relationships. I confess that I've been dragging my feet a little - okay, a lot - with getting this communication started, but our loving Lord has been patient and gentle in His instructions to me to begin this assignment. He's pretty cool that way !
He even brought a very simple but deeply encouraging reminder across my desk:
"Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin." Zechariah 4:10
Is there something He's been leading or calling you to get started ?
Maybe it's time to begin.
Letters to You
About the Author
Toni Kim has enjoyed writing since childhood when she discovered the word "penpal".
Toni coaches Christian women globally & loves to hear from you.
She is also excited about fulfilling the Great Commission and challenged to share God's love with greater