As a new year of life begins, it's an opportunity to renew your relationship with hope and refresh your supplies of encouragement and inspiration. What brightens your day? I felt lighter and brighter seeing and hearing Amanda Gorman on Inauguration Day here in America. Here once again is her radiant delivery of The Hill We Climb.
It takes courage to shine, but let's not be afraid to be bright and visible. Try changing the setting on your dimmer switch. Turn up the light.
In the midst of the worst trials of my life, I've found myself singing. Not because I have a beautiful voice. I do not. Not because I'm great at remembering lyrics. I am not. Not because I play the guitar like our rockin' onstage sister. I don't.
I sing because I am a child of God and my Heavenly Father likes hearing me ... and likes hearing you, too. And Ioves it when we sing with and to each other. Our songs can bring us hope and courage and comfort and inspiration. Our voices can keep us connected in love to one another.
A Franciscan friar in Ireland recently wrote an inspiring poem along these lines. Here is a portion of Brother Richard Hendrick's poem, "Lockdown" :
Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares.
...All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting.
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way.
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
...So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again.
The sky is clearing.
Spring is coming.
And we are always encompassed by love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Tonight as I listen to the sound of long-awaited rain, I am so grateful for God's provision. Water is once again flowing in nearby streams. Here in my drought-ridden neighborhood in northern California, where the risk of fire has triggered repeated alerts and power blackouts, the drumming of rain sounds like an answer to prayer and an invitation to continue rain dancing.
I am thankful for the rain and above all, thankful for the one who sends it. The falling raindrops remind me that our Lord is the Living Water and that he has told us,
"...whoever drinks of the water that I give will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life."
Here in California as I prepare for the national holiday of Thanksgiving, my heart is flowing with gratitude for the many ways God has refreshed my spirit this year.
Wherever you are on this earth, dear friend, I pray that our Creator will provide you with refreshment and renewal in every area of your life.
Wherever you are and whatever is happening in your life, I want you to know that your life is precious in God's sight.
When I was a little girl, on those rare occasions when my parents would go to church, I felt encouraged by a song I heard: "Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight."
Ever hear it? It meant a lot to me because even though I was not treated so lovingly at home, and even though I was of mixed, non-white heritage, the song was clear that Jesus loved me and all the other children of the world.
He loved us all so much that He went to the Cross for us !
On this Good Friday, I am remembering how Jesus asked if he might be spared, yet he surrendered saying,
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42
On the cross, Jesus suffered and gave up his life. He paid in full the punishment for our sin - which some of you call "bad karma" - so that I can be spared, so that you can be spared, so that anyone who is willing to surrender and accept him as Lord and Savior can be brought out of darkness and into his marvelous light.
Christ died, then overcame death and rose again. For you, for me, for the restoration of our relationship with God.
" For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. " John 3:16
You are precious in his sight, dear friend, and I'm praying that Jesus, the Light of the World, will bring radiant new life to you as we celebrate His resurrection on Sunday. He is risen!
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Jesus asked his disciples, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?"
Matthew 16: 15
I invite you to take a few minutes to listen to a remarkably beautiful song that asks and answers powerful questions.
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 sinking 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.
As 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 15 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 2018!
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".
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 !
Letters to You
About the Author
Toni Kim has enjoyed writing since childhood when she discovered the word "penpal".
Toni coaches Christians globally and loves to hear from you. Your prayer requests are always welcome here.
She is also excited about the challenging journey of sharing God's love with greater