How to Listen to that Difficult Person in Your Life

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for full disclosure.

When my friend Rachel Britton, author of Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships sent me this post for you, I was delighted. Rachel gives us such a powerful but counter-intuitive way to listen when we don’t like what we’re hearing. Make sure to read to the end for a giveaway of her book. Please welcome Rachel!

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If you’re like me, you don’t want to listen to a difficult person in your life. 

I find myself groaning about that person giving their point of view in the meeting. I avoid making eye contact, and especially conversation, with the relative sitting across from me at the dinner table. Or, I try to walk past the woman at church pretending I haven’t seen her. At the most I force a smile and a “how are you,” which doesn’t look like it’s coming through clenched teeth.

I have to say, it’s exhausting dealing with my emotions when I don’t want to listen. Unfortunately, often, we have little choice. The most difficult people are usually closest to us.

So, how do we listen without getting worn out? It is important to take the time and let our work colleagues, family members, or sisters at church have their say. But, there’s another lesson in how we listen that can be learned, and that is realizing it’s what we listen to that can trip us up.

We need to be aware of how we allow the words we hear to affect us.

I can pick up on one small phrase or word said to me, which blows up in my head. Before I know it, I’m wrestling with accusations not actually spoken to me.

“I’ll send you the details again,” she said innocently. Yet, I didn’t just hear “again.” I heard:  “You’re so disorganized and unprofessional.” “You’ve made me do extra work.“ “You’re such a loser.” “Can’t you get your act together?”

Unfortunately, my internal monologue didn’t stop there. I repeated it to my husband when he walked through the door after a long day of meetings. I’m chopping carrots like I’m using an axe and fifteen minutes later I could see from his shoulders this was not the way to unwind for the day.

So, how do we listen without finding ourselves blowing everything out of proportion, complaining about our friend to someone else, and learning to let go of words that hurt?

Thankfully we have a heavenly Father who we can talk to, who listens to what we have to say,  and who promises to bring peace into the situation. Not only that, we can trust him to speak on our behalf.

The Bible, in Philippians 4, encourages us to take our anxiety about anything and everything, including our frustration over words spoken to us, to God in prayer.

And in Psalm 109 we have an example of David turning to God about the people who “opened their mouths against me.” They lied, said hateful words, and made accusations. David didn’t hold back in his anger. “May his children be wandering beggars,” he said about his enemy! We can be like David and let it all out to God. After all, God knows everything we’re thinking, feeling, and feel like saying and doing to the other person.

Praying is a safe place to talk about that difficult person. What we say doesn’t go any further with God. We can burden him with our woes, instead of burdening those we love. And God, who lives in relationship, fully understands relationships both perfect and imperfect.

So, prayer isn’t telling God what’s new. Prayer is letting God give us a new perspective, and that includes a new perspective on the words we hear.

Just like David, after his outpouring, we have to ask God for his help. He says: “Lord, help me for your name’s sake; out of the goodness of your love, deliver me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” We need to ask God for help to get over the words we’ve heard that hurt us, and a fresh view on the words we think we’ve heard.

Prayer is not just pouring out our pain and frustrations, it is allowing God to pour in His peace.

We have to trust God. We must give everything over to God and believe He will deal fairly with what has been said to us, because He cares for us. And like in Psalm 109, if there has been any wrongdoing said against us, God is just. Like David, we can ask God to “not remain silent” on the matter.

As my finger hovered over the keyboard waiting to tap out an angry reply, I let my thoughts travel upwards. “Lord…”

It’s not easy to let go of what’s been said to us and leave it in God’s hands, but it’s better than taking the matter into our own hands.

Unhealthy reactions are likely to lead to unhealthy actions. With God, we can let go and move on. And, we’ll feel so much better for it. We’ll be freed from those exhausting emotions.

Next time you listen and words trip you up, catch your reactions before they go too far. Take them to God, pour out your pain, and ask for His perspective and peace. It may take more than one time, but persevere in prayer.

Giveaway: How do you think prayer can change your hard-to-listen-to conversations? Leave your comment for a chance to win a copy of Rachel’s excellent book, Tough to Love: How to Find Peace in Difficult Relationships.

 

Rachel is a British-born, author, blogger, and speaker. She helps women pray naturally and become comfortable and confident in their conversation with God. Raised on the east coast of England, Rachel moved to New England. She now lives in New York City with her husband. They have three young adult children. Connect with Rachel at rachelbritton.com

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The Dance Between Speaking and Listening

Wow. Your response to the series on listening has been amazing. I’ve read every comment, email, and social media post that you’ve sent, and I’m encouraged. We’re in this together!

But I’m certainly new to this, and I’m learning from so many others. In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to let you listen (see how I did that?) to some other voices with more experience. These are friends that I trust with additional resources for our growth as we learn to listen.

There will be lots of new thoughts and giveaways too, so make sure to read to the end and comment to enter!

Today, I’d like you to welcome my sweet friend and valued agent, Blythe Daniel, and her mother/co-author, Helen McIntosh. Today’s post is an excerpt from their wonderful book, Mended: Restoring the Heart of Mothers & Daughters.

(At no additional cost to you, this post contains affiliate links that help maintain the site. Click here for my full disclosure.)

There’s a dance between mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, husbands and wives. Do you bite your lip to listen or go for it? Sometimes we don’t know what to say to each other when there have been hurt feelings, time or space, or something more serious between you. What do you say exactly?

Part of being wise is knowing when to speak. Silence can be golden, but not if we are mute at the wrong time. We don’t want to talk too much, but we don’t want to seem uncaring by our silence. You have probably seen wonderful dramatizations of people consoling one another without words, and it’s beautiful.  But at the right time, speak some words, and I am suggesting a very gentle sentence or two for starters. Even if you have been verbally put down or assaulted, you will want to regain your confidence to voice your thoughts by even speaking just a few appropriate sentences. Especially after a grievous loss or change, it’s helpful for the other one to say, “I am so sorry for what you are walking through. I don’t know what to say but I hurt for you/with you.” Another really good thing to say when you don’t know what to say is, “How do you see me helping you? What do you need that I can do for you?”

You may have just winced at that question. Do something for someone whom you feel awkward around because of the issues surrounding you, or for someone who perhaps doesn’t seem like she even wants you to bring up a conversation with her? Remember, your job is to ask. To initiate conversation. If she can’t accept your help, then you have at least asked. You can’t force yourself in, but you can offer. It may be the opening thread that helps tie your relationship together at some point down the road that you can’t see right now.

Have you prayed about the timing of your message? Often, right at the onset of pain, it’s hard to hear another person and you can mistakenly turn them away because you are really only thinking of yourself and your situation at the time. You might ask yourself, “Is my mother or daughter ready for me to have this conversation with her? Is it more about me wanting to get off my chest, or do I sense this would be helpful for her right now?” Make sure your need to talk isn’t more important than your mother’s or daughter’s need to hear it. It needs to be equally helpful and timely for both of you.

You will want to also pray for the hearer of your words, and for God to consecrate and bless your time. Your ability to sense how the conversation is going is a big part of talking and inviting yourself into the other’s life in that moment. You may come prepared to ask one thing, but have other words prepared so that you don’t feel at a loss for words and then resort to frustration or anger. You’ll want to pray before and after your conversation so that what you discuss is sealed and affirmed under the covering of the Lord Jesus and so that neither of you can deny His power in your conversation when doubt may want to creep in after your exchanges.

A great skill for families is listening well to one another. Hearing one another and hearing from God helps us replay to our loved ones in a wise and peaceful way. We need to be excellent listeners to words and hearts, and hearing from God for our replay is the greatest gift we can receive and the fruit we cultivate to offer others. God has encouraged us to listen well to others and listen to Him as he leads our hearts to respond.

From Mended: Restoring the Hearts of Mothers and Daughters, by Blythe Daniel and Dr. Helen McIntosh, 2019, Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers. Copyright 2019 by Blythe Daniel and Dr. Helen McIntosh.

Giveaway: Leave a comment telling one way listening has helped you OR one tip recommended by Blythe and Helen that you’ll try. Your comment will enter you in a random drawing for a copy of their new book, Mended: Restoring the Heart of Mothers & Daughters.

Blythe Daniel is a literary agent and marketer with 20 plus years of experience in publishing. She has written for Christian Retailing and Focus on the Family, and she links bloggers with readers through BlogAbout. The daughter of Dr. Helen McIntosh, she lives in Colorado with her husband and three children.

Dr. Helen McIntosh (EdD, Counseling Psychology) is a counselor, speaker, educator, and author of Messages to Myself and Eric, Jose & The Peace Rug®. Her work has appeared in Guideposts, ParentLife, and HomeLife magazines. She resides in Georgia with her husband Jim. They have two children and five grandchildren. For more information, visit www.ourmendedhearts.com

 

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How to Level Up Instead of Powering Down

At no additional expense to you, there are affiliate links included in this post to help defray the cost of website maintenance. Click here for my disclosure.

Also, hang on to the end for a giveaway!

Do your kids play video games? If so, you may know about the concept of powering up. In my devotion today “The Unexpected Power of Kindergarten Truths,” I’ve explained how this video game idea has applied to my spiritual life, and I encourage you to read there before reading on!

When God sends us back to Kindergarten to relearn a previously-experienced lesson in a deeper way, we have two options:

  1. We can submit to leveling up OR
  2. We can power down, quitting in discouragement and defeat.

The #2 way of dealing is often my default. In the past, I’ve seen going back to Kindergarten as a bad thing. A failure. A demotion.

But we don’t have to respond by quitting. If we’ll embrace an old lesson in a new way by leveling up, then we’ll find ourselves closer to God and with a higher view. Here are two steps that can lead us to leveling up instead of powering down:

Pray for Humility

When I taught elementary school, my most prized students were the kids who were teachable. They were the children who didn’t resist my instruction but dove eagerly into anything that I gave them. It was a delight to teach those kinds of learners!

For me, the main obstacle to taking what seems to be a step back is my pride. I’ve resisted returning to lessons on love and belief and prayer because I thought I should be past that. While it’s true that we’re called to maturity, I don’t think we’ll ever be “past” those foundational and essential pieces of our walk with Jesus. So instead of resisting, I’m learning to pray for humility and a willing attitude. I want God to delight in me as a student of His ways!

Dive Deeper Into the Basic

Instead of seeing an old topic as old hat, it’s helpful to get a new perspective. That’s one of the reasons I like to revisit a familiar idea with a fresh set of eyes. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Always, always, always start with the Bible, but try using a modern translation of the Bible like The Message beside the one you usually read. I’m cautious about translations that aren’t word-by-word translations, but I don’t believe they’re harmful if we use them alongside others for accuracy. God often uses The Message to wake up my brain and see His Word in a fresh way. I’ll do a word study of the topic God is reteaching and follow it through in several translations. The cool version that I linked has the NIV translation side by side with The Message.
  • Use a devotional Bible to read other’s experiences with God in combination with Scripture. I’m clearly prejudiced, by my favorite is the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible that contains devotions written by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team. (It comes in an awesome compact size too!)
  • Read books by others who have studied your topic. When I got sent back to learn about prayer, I loved the book Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children which taught me to pray in my current season of life. If your perfectionism is damaging your relationships again, my book Breaking Up with Perfect might be just the perspective that God uses to bring renewed freedom.

When we embrace leveling up instead of powering down, there are rich rewards!

Giveaway:

I’m beyond excited to announce that my new book Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not. Love Who You Are. Live Your One Life Well, co-authored with my dear friend Cheri Gregory, is coming out on June 4th. It’s available for pre-sale now, but the freebies aren’t quite ready yet. If you pre-order now, be sure to hang on to your receipt so that you can receive them later.

To enter to win this beautiful necklace, simply say “I’m ready to EXHALE!” or tell me how leveling up has been powerful in your life.

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One Powerful Truth to Learn About Listening

Welcome to all who are visiting from my devotion “The Anatomy of a Tender Heart and a Strong Voice”! Thank you so much for coming to by today. I hope that you’ll “sit a spell,” as we southerners say and even consider joining our community as we cultivate tender hearts and strong voices through this process:

Listen. –> Feel. –> Do. –> Speak.

You can click here for more information about how to do that.

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Listening has never been my strong suit.

In fact, as a confirmed word-girl, I’ve always thought that my words were more important than my silence. Working on my words was what I was always doing, even while you were talking. I might have looked like I was listening, but well… not so much. I was really formulating the next thing I was going to say.

My heart was in the right place.

After all, our Creator spoke everything into existence with His words. He expresses Truth to us in the Word through Scripture. In John 1, Jesus Himself is called The Word.

Words really are important.

But my problem is that I’ve often mistaken my words for His truth instead of what they are, my opinion (which I wrote about here). I also made this leap:

Listening = Agreeing

If I listened without responding with “truth,” I thought I wasn’t being a good Christian. I thought that not setting you straight was falling short. But I was wrong.

Listening ≠ Agreeing

I’m finding that listening doesn’t necessarily mean that I agree. I just means that I’m listening. Period. I know this might be a “No Duh” moment for you, but it’s been HUGE for me.

Let’s take the woman from my devotion that attacked me on FB as an example. My first response felt both true and justified to me. She called me a tool of the devil after all. No Christian like to be called a tool of the devil, and I’m no exception. Also, that’s not true about me (most days)! So I set her straight with “truth”/facts, a dose of Scripture and a name of my own. “You’re just a bully!”

But what if I would have just listened? What could I have learned? What if I had been curious not furious, as my friend Cheri says, asking questions to try to understand instead of reacting with more hurtful words?

Maybe I could I helped a hurt. Maybe I could have heard a perspective that softened my heart toward her. Maybe I could have even learned something that shifted my own dearly held perspective a little. Maybe none of that would have happened, but I would have done something else that’s still important.

By listening, I could have changed the whole dynamic. Even if I never agreed with her point of view, I could have brought the most powerful force into our interaction. A force that unites instead of dividing even when people disagree. Because here’s the truth I’m learning:

Listening ≠ Agreeing

Listening = Love

I understand that there’s a time to speak God’s truth, Scripture (not the same as our opinion or political rhetoric or a dearly held philosophy, remember?), into conversations, but the right time might be in the second conversation or the third or the fourth. In the meantime, as I listen in love, I begin to understand. I build compassion. I earn the right to speak.

How do we begin to cultivate tender hearts? First we learn to listen. Here’s the truth we’ll tuck away:

In the coming weeks, I’ve got some amazing guest posts coming up including how to listen and talk to that difficult person in your life and how to handle a conversation when it turns combative. If you’re not already a subscriber, make sure to click here and enter your email so that you don’t miss a minute.

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The Trouble with Touting Our Truth

It was an awkward moment.

Minutes before, my son’s friend was being nasty about his sunglasses, insulting his funky taste. When I encouraged words laced with the fruit of the Spirit, I got a sassy reply.

“Truth is one of the fruits of the Spirit.”

Because I wanted to diffuse the tense atmosphere, I just moved on, but I’ve thought about that response many times since.

If I’m honest, I often have a similar retort to anyone who confronts me or disagrees with me. I don’t always say it out loud, but these are the kinds of responses I have (often accompanied by an internal eye-roll).

“I’m just telling it like it is.”

“You shouldn’t get mad at me for telling the truth.”

There are two problems with those replies and the one my son’s friend gave that day:

  1. The statement my son’s friend gave about his glasses (and the ones I often hand out) elevated his opinion to the place of truth. 
  2. Truth actually isn’t in that list of the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5: 22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

As I’m learning to listen, I need to apply the corollary truths from this story.

Don’t Elevate Your Opinion to His Truth

I’m very careful about how I use the word “truth” these days because it’s a powerful word. There’s telling the truth which is the opposite of telling a lie. There’s truth based on data and evidence. And then there’s Truth with a capital “t”– God’s truth which is only found in Scripture.

I find that I easily deceive myself, touting my “truths” (otherwise known as opinions) rather than standing on God’s Truth. I confessed it first, so now I’ll just say it… Sisters, that’s a dangerous place to be.

Years ago, my friend Anne Forbis shared a conversation she had with God. In it, He said to her, “Anne, your opinion blocks my revelation.”

Mercy.

Do you hear it with your name inserted? I do all the time. “Amy, your opinion blocks my revelation.”

In this stage of learning to listen, I’ve realized over and over again how my opinion– my “truths” that I cling to– also block my ability to listen. It’s not that truth isn’t important, it’s actually crucial. I just want to make sure that the truths I cling to are God’s Truths, not my own.

Apply the Fruit of the Spirit to Listening

Instead of giving into my overwhelming desire to insert my “truths” into conversations, I’m working to listen with love. With joy. With peace. With forbearance (or patience– which is important when I’m listening to things that I really, really disagree with)… you get the picture.

My opinions are limited to my knowledge, education and experience. Only clinging to God’s Truth while listening with an open heart expands my ability to hear and understand. This is a lesson that’s been a struggle, and I’m still learning.

It’s not that my opinions or points of view are meaningless. They’re helpful sometimes. But most times they just get in the way, and they’re better left unsaid. God’s Truths are the ones I’d rather stand on.

How do you tell the difference between your opinion and truth?

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How to Listen If You Don’t Want People to Talk

Several weeks ago,  I was working on a project, and I craved some feedback. My husband Barry is always a willing victim participant, so I ran my questions by him. And then I pretended to listen.

“I need your marketing brain. Which of these sentence do you think works better?” I queried. “Are there any words you have trouble with? If there are, what would you substitute?”

Barry generously put his task aside and began to share his ideas with me. Sadly, he didn’t rubber stamp my original idea. He came up with other thoughts instead, and they didn’t suit me. Not at all.

So one-by-one, as he offered the suggestions I had asked for, I shot them down, revealing that I wasn’t really listening at all. I was critiquing.

“I don’t think women will identify with that.”

“Hmmm… that word’s overused.”

“That won’t work.”

Suddenly, Barry grew silent, and I looked up into his handsome face. At the beginning of this little exercise, he had a look of thoughtfulness and anticipation. Now he looked discouraged and totally over it.

I quickly apologized, asked for his forgiveness, and told him that I’d shut up and truly listen if he’d keep suggesting. Another lesson about listening learned.

 

Let me quickly say that I’m not talking about Scriptural truth, although even that should often be held until the right time. I’m referring to our own dearly loved opinions and preferences. In my situation with Barry, there wasn’t one right way to write my sentence. There were multiple ways to do it that will engage others, but I had a tightly gripped thought on what one way would work. (Ahem. Can anyone say “perfectionist in process?”)

Have you ever found yourself in that circumstance? Losing out on something you could have gained by listening because you didn’t hold back your critique? That’s the way to listen if we don’t want people to talk, but here are four lessons about how to listen if we do:

Ask questions without preconceptions. 

I’ve been working on asking great questions instead of monologuing my own thoughts, and it’s been a revelation! Asking a question is a fabulous way to learn something new or to gain a new perspective. People are actually surprised when you ask them questions, inviting them to talk about themselves or their ideas.

When I ask a question that requires feedback, I’m learning to put my preconceptions aside. My preconceptions strengthen the thought that there is only one way and weakens my ability to receive from someone else. If I really want to connect and learn, my “one right way” of thinking has to go.

Create space for something new.

By shooting down Barry’s ideas one by one, I both discouraged him (and annoyed him I’m sure!), and I blocked the flow of his creativity. I know that my best ideas often come at the end of 10 bad ones, but I hadn’t given him the same benefit of the doubt.

Once I’ve asked the question, I have to work really, really hard to not talk. Silence is the needed space where someone else can plant a new thought or idea.

Let me speak to extroverts for a minute. Silence is immensely uncomfortable for us. I get it, but it’s necessary if we’re to receive the benefits of listening. Years ago, I became friends with an amazing woman who’s an introvert. I realized that my need to fill the spaces kept me from connecting with her. When I finally allowed some silence into our conversations, I reaped a huge reward! Every word she spoke was worth waiting for, but her personality required some space to speak. She wasn’t going to shove her way into my stream. 🙂

Focus your thoughts.

As I’ve said, I may have seemed like a good listener for a long time, but I wasn’t. Even when I wasn’t talking, I wasn’t really listening. I was only processing what you were saying to the extent that I could think of the next thing I wanted to say!

The other piece of listening that I’m having to work on with effort and intention is focusing my thoughts on what’s being said. Being present. Being truly attentive.

Be grateful.

It’s truly a gift when others are willing to share their time with us, and it’s a rare reward when people share their thoughts with vulnerability. Even when I don’t agree (much more on that to come), I can be grateful for what that person has given to me.

When Barry shared his ideas with me weeks ago, he gave me some of himself and his extraordinary gifts. I’m incredibly thankful that God showed me the effect my interruptions were having so that he was willing to continue.

How about you? Have you found yourself displaying the bad habits I did? How have you learned to listen better?

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I’d love to meet you face to face!

This spring I’m looking forward to traveling to lots of places to speak, and I’d love to see you there. Here are the locations and links more information about open events:

February 21                Columbia, MO               Columbia Christian Women                              [email protected]

February 22-23         Tuscaloosa, Al               Church at Tuscaloosa          https://churchattuscaloosa.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/193230

March 1-2                    Pawleys Island, SC       Kings Cross Church             https://kingscross.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/190476

March 23                      Amsterdam, NY            Perth Bible Church                                                  https://perthbible.church/

April 5-6                        Lake Geneva, WI          Northbridge Church            https://northbridgechurch.ccbchurch.com/

I’d love to speak at your event too! Click here to learn more.

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God’s Path to Tender Hearts and Strong Voices

Gracious.

It’s seems like it’s been forever since we’ve just done life here together on the blog. Between the holidays, a blogging break and the devo post last week, it’s been a hodge podge. Thanks for hanging in there with me. You’re a treasure. Truly.

But I’m ready and excited to settle back down into our purpose to develop:

Tender hearts. Strong voices.

We’ve got lots of newcomers, and I’m thrilled to have you here. Welcome! If you’re new and wanting to get a taste of where we’re going, I invite you to watch the videos below to get a clear idea of our direction.

“Will you go a new direction with me?”

“Unity and Love: Some rules of engagement”

If you’ve been here a long time, I’m so grateful! Either way, I know I need a chance to get back on course, and maybe you do too. God was so good last week to give me a clear, biblical picture of where He’s leading us.

I’ve never heard God audibly speak to me, but He’s always speaking. One of the ways I recognize His voice is through repetition. I’m slow, so I may miss it the first time. I’m not completely dense, though. I usually catch it the second time around.

This week, I studied Acts 2:41-47 with my friends at New Providence church, and then our pastor preached on the same passage at Apex Baptist on Sunday. Hello, God!

I’m going to be processing the lessons in that passage for a long time, but I felt compelled to review all of Acts 2 today. You may want to get your Bible and read it too. As I was reading, our process leapt off the page at me!

Listen

Starting in verse 14, Peter stood up to address the crowd, and they listened. Led by the Holy Spirit, using God’s Word from the Old Testament and explaining his eye-witness account of Jesus’ life, Peter explained the Gospel. Do you see what’s happening there? All three persons of the Trinity– God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit– are playing a part in speaking through Peter. He has been and is actively listening as he speaks.

As Peter speaks truth, the crowd is listening.

Feel

Peter wraps up his message of the Gospel, and verse 37 tells us, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart….” The people listened to the message given by the Holy Spirit through Peter, and they felt conviction. Sorrow. Pain.

It was the appropriate and Holy-Spirit-given response to what they had heard.

Do

But the people didn’t just feel and then leave. They felt and responded with a question, “‘Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37b). They knew that listening wasn’t enough. Even being moved wasn’t enough. Now it was time to act.

And act they did, thus the title of the book of the Bible! They turned to Christ for forgiveness and were baptized, but they didn’t stop there. They started learning and meeting and sharing and giving and breaking bread together. We’ll focus much longer on the end of the chapter when I write about our third step, “DO.”

Speak

We know that these new Jesus followers didn’t limit to do-ing. They also began speaking of Jesus, sharing the Gospel. As a result, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 47b) They told others who listened and believed, and so the process was repeated over and over. Through the centuries. Until there was you and me.

Stunning.

I was amazed and strengthened to see that the process I outlined before Christmas really is a God-idea, not just an Amy-idea. It’s my heart’s desire to share God-ideas with you because only those are transforming and eternal.

Are we all on the same page again and ready to move forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next week I’ll start writing about “Listening to Others” but “Listening to God” always, always comes first and is the foundation. If you missed any of the posts from before Christmas in the “Listening to God” series, this is your chance to catch up or review. Next week, we’ll hit the ground running.

To Be Successful Always Refer to Rule #1

How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

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Loving When It’s Difficult in the Month of Love

(Note: In the spirit of LOVE, I’ve got a friend that’s offering a great giveaway today. Read to the end to find out how to enter.)

If you’re here for the first time, visiting from today’s devotion “The Difference a Dose of Love Can Make”, welcome!

As I said in the devotion…

Loving others unleashes an explosion of God’s love.

I believe that to be biblical and therefore true, but it’s not always easy. There are difficult people in our lives:

The co-worker that seems to always undermine you.

The child who constantly challenges you.

The friend who focuses exclusively on herself.

The in-law who’s an out-law.

The neighbor who isn’t neighborly.

The church lady who’s always spiritually one-upping you.

These are all legitimate sources of angst, but none of the “causes”  are excuses not to love. They don’t let us off the hook for one clear reason.

Can I tell you? I KNOW that I’ve been the hard-to-love one, and Jesus could testify to that fact. Yet, He has loved me– and you– unfailingly. He is the faithful bridegroom that’s always there for us. Amazing. Hard to believe even, but true.

And so He calls us to love the difficult. The invisible. The unlovely. I don’t know about you, but I need some help with this. Here’s a short list of practical ways I’ve developed as I intentionally point my heart toward loving better:

We listen more than we speak.

This one is hard for a girl who has lots to say. Not only that, but I’ve mistakenly equated listening with agreeing. It turns out that one doesn’t equal the other. I’ll be exploring how to listen to others in a series I’ll start on the blog next week. Click here to join me. The more I listen to someone else, the deeper my understanding of them grows. Even when we’re not on the same page, a growing understanding deepens my empathy and love for them. It has never failed. Listening makes a difference.

We choose kindness even when others are unkind. 

Several years ago, a close relationship in my life had become distant through a series of hard circumstances. My usual method of dealing with this kind of situation is what my kids call “ghosting.” Instead of dealing with a difficulty in a relationship, I’d simply slip away. My friends would turn around and wonder where I’d gone. This time, however, God pricked my heart, challenging me to do something that would restore the friendship, and He gave me a tool. It’s a book called The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn. After following the steps in the book for 30 days, lo and behold, my friendship was restored. Kindness is a powerful, loving tool for improving difficult relationships.

We watch closely for opportunities to reach out to “invisible” people. 

Just like Babita displayed in my devotion today, there are people everywhere who need to be included if we’ll only open our eyes and ask God to show us. Just last weekend, I chatted with the housekeeper on the way into the bathroom at a conference center I was visiting. I complimented her on how beautiful and clean she kept the facility. It was a simple thing, but I meant it and felt compelled to tell her. On the way out, she introduced herself by name, we shook hands, and we had a lovely conversation. It wasn’t that I did anything that was a big deal, but I felt that it was a divine connection. A holy moment. Who might need a loving connection in your world today?

We pray for those who are challenging us. 

Can I confess to you? Although I have a naturally sunny disposition, once you’ve crossed me, I’m apt to either ghost or hold a grudge (or both). I certainly don’t want to pray for those who have crossed my lines! But prayer is another effective way to love others and to change our feelings about them. It’s impossible to stay mad or in a state of unforgiveness if you’re praying for someone. Impossible. We can love others well in our difficult relationships by praying for them.

To help you pray, my friend Kelly O’Dell Stanley reached out to offer 5 of her beautiful prayer calendars to give away today. Wooohooo!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling one way you’ve shown love to others, a way someone has shown love to you or your favorite option from my list today. It can be short and sweet!

Everybody can receive a free gift, though. Simply click on the graphic below to receive Kelly’s February calendar  when you subscribe. Thanks, Kelly, for loving on us!

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post that help to defray the cost of website upkeep. If you’d like to read the full set of disclosures, click here.

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Stoking the Flames of Your Longing Heart

Wowza!

When I wrote about “How to Prioritize Prayer in Your Busy Life” and then invited you to sign up for more prayer tools, I had no idea how many of you would respond. Over 3700 of you joined our group here last week. Miraculous! Thank you! 

(Note: My special resource for subscribers was sent 1.10.19. If you didn’t see it in your inbox, please check your spam. Moving it to your inbox will ensure that we can stay connected, and I’d sure love that!)

This community’s response told me something important…

I’m not alone.

Prayer is important to us, because we long to know God better. We want to talk to Him, and most importantly, we want to hear Him.

Hearing from God has been high on my priority list for decades, but it has taken precedence this January. In the process we’re going through here to develop tender hearts and strong voices, the first step has been the most important. Listen. It’s been the theme for weeks leading up to 2019, and I originally intended to do a blogging break all during January so that I can practice what I preach– listen. Everything you’ve gotten since early Dec. was pre-scheduled so that I could take a break just to listen to God.

But I recognize the longing in your response, and I couldn’t leave it unaddressed. I want to re-share some resources this week with those of you that have just joined our little community.  These are some of the conversations and thoughts that have fueled my desire to listen to God. As continue my blogging break through the end of January, I hope these will keep you going… longing… seeking God in prayer.

Here’s a video with an interview of my dynamic friend Laura Lee about how to hear from the Holy Spirit. Click here to watch it on the website.

Prayer and hearing from God requires dependence on Him which means surrendering my own control over things. Click on the graphic below to listen to one of my Grit ‘n’ Grace interviews about the book It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Another way to hear from God is by studying Scripture. Click here to find out about a simple but profound 3-step Bible study tool God has used to speak to me personally through the Bible. A sample of my own personal notes is included.

There ya go– three more tools to enhance your time with God for the next three weeks. I’d love to hear which one helps or impacts you the most.

I’ll be back in Feb. with a series on how to really listen to others. God’s been speaking while I’ve been listening, and I can’t wait to share with you!

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For any of you new folks that might be speakers or writers, I want to let you know about another “hat” I wear. I’m the speaker coach for Next Step Coaching Services. Click on the graphic below to read our latest blog post, and we invite you to subscribe while you’re there. You’ll receive “15 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Speaking Ministry” just for joining our crew of communicators.

 

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Powerful Prayer in the New Year

Happy New Year, friends!

Do you love January 1st as much as I do? A fresh start feels so good… especially in the area of powerful prayer.

In today’s devotion, “How to Prioritize Prayer in Your Crazy Busy Life,” I shared about my 2018 word for the year, PRAY. There were so many lessons I learned, and I’m still learning.

In late November, I did an interview about listening to God through prayer with two of my gifted friends. Listen in to hear:

  • An fantastic acronym to use as a prayer tool (this one was new to me!)
  • A different kind of fast that just might change your prayer life forever

(Current subscribers, this is a re-run well worth watching again. Click here to watch on the website. If you missed it the first time, this is a great second chance!)

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