SD#52 Bucket Lists and Resolutions: The What and Why of Goals

Psalm 20:4

“May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.”

Our motivations matter as we pursue goals in 2020. Our innate desires are hopes and dreams stem from unmet needs, wants deep within from comparison or inspired by God. When we figure out WHAT are goals are, we also need to find our WHY. Listen to find the sub goals that help our goals become a reality.

Day 21: Hope’s Debtor: Gratitude & Humility

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This new reinvented hope longs to please God, not self.

Scripture of the Day:

Romans 5:3-4

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

This new reinvented hope is not formed without some friends – gratitude and humility. The beauty in the struggles of life is that they can work precious character into our hearts, if we let them.

Yielding requires trusting God in the face of suffering as well as in times of blessing. Gratitude is not a normal response in heartbreaking circumstances. In the fires of affliction, it is carefully molded through perseverance and a heart and mind change initiated by the Spirit of the living God.

Instead of having the attitude that we deserve what we want, we cry out and ask God to help us “put on” an attitude of gratitude. Why did we think we deserved our way in the first place? The root of our expectations often exists in a self-centered hope. But this new reinvented hope – it longs to please God, not self. Only God can achieve that in man’s heart.

Gratitude can’t be mimicked. Anyone can be thankful in the moment, but an abiding gratitude stems from knowing God and having confidence that nothing ever transpires in our lives without His perfect good will. We can be truly grateful in sorrows because we know God wins in the end. Our hope is fixed on this truth and the fact that every jot and tittle, every moment of our lives – He is redeeming.

Humility cannot be manufactured by man, either. It comes in when we recognize, like Job, that when we question God, we truly do not understand Him or His ways. How can the one who is made know the mind of the Creator? And yet He draws us near to know Him.

Humility is a death to our flesh that wants to reign. There is no greater example of humility than seeing our great Holy God choosing to bear our sins and suffer our punishment. And He did it with joy. Gratitude that souls could be won.

If we have the mindset of Christ, our trials become our triumphs and we see them through the scope of eternity. No more do we regret suffering. Instead we see ourselves as co-laborers with Christ and cry out for Him to use it to save just one.

Mankind does not want to take the blame for anyone else’s actions. Our pride wells up and demands justice. Christ chose to be mistreated in the most extravagant demonstration of humble love ever seen.

Lord, help us to have Your understanding and to seek to honor You in every aspect of our lives. It is for Your glory alone that we live!

Day 19: Fairy Tales Remixed

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. 

Scripture of the Day:

John 10:28

“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.”

Once upon a time (had to start this blog post like this, right?), ok, where was I? Oh yeah, once upon a time everything was perfect and a perfect looking person (who is the object of this story) suddenly had something imperfect thrust into her life. Whatever would she do? Oh, no worries, there is always a fairy something or another to help save the day after she goes through a significant amount of pain that makes it all worthwhile.

Sorry for the notable sarcasm present in that last paragraph. Fairy tales were not something I read to my kids much when they were little, and while I am at it, we did not celebrate Santa, either. I know – I am a real killjoy. Or am I?

I always wanted my kids to know that I told them the truth. Being fed lies can leave us hopeless and disillusioned when real life smacks you hard in the face. I wanted them to know that when I told them about Jesus that they could trust me, because I had laid a foundation of being a truth-teller.

Back to our story. We all somehow wish we could live in a fantasy world, because things always turn out well there. The “bad guys” always get what they deserve and the “good guys”always win out in the end. Life is good and it all revolves around us. Well, not really.

In the story of our lives, a life well-lived revolves around Jesus, the real Hero of our story. He made us, and though He was God, He came in the form of man and laid down His own life for us. He did not seek a comfortable life nor man’s praise. He, the God over all, humbled Himself! He did not complain about things being unfair, but entrusted Himself to His perfect Father, knowing the story would ultimately be for God’s glory and His good.

Perhaps instead of craving a “perfect” life where we are surrounded by orchestral music constantly cheering us on in our adventures and where everyone adores us, we could have a change in our mentality. If we, too, laid down our lives as Christ did and sought to have Him live through us, then our perspective becomes one with a much different goal.

If my expectations are that all will work out well for me, my expectations can lead to idolatry. Ultimately, it ends well for those who are in Christ Jesus, but there will be times where life just does not make sense and sinful people seem to get away with wicked things. Other heroes of the faith got distracted with this reality, too, but they hoped in God.

When life hurts, we just want to escape. We want to hope in a perfect life. But maybe instead of that vain, temporary hope, we can begin to see a new hope forming. A hope reinvented is a hope in the tragedies and mishaps of life that is focused on hoping to live a life worthy of the life Christ gave on our behalf. It is a passion to be faithful and to glorify God in the pains and the joys that life brings, a life that overcomes obstacles and looks to the Author of our faith instead of the obstacles themselves. That is my hope.

I know it’s hard to have faith when there is turmoil all around. It is a death, of sorts. But this life is not the end goal, anyway, and after death there is life.

This life might not have a fairy tale ending on earth, but all of our sorrows will be swallowed up in Heaven and for all eternity. We may not have a castle that eventually moth and rust destroy, but we have mansions in Heaven that never fade – beside the crystal lake, where we will have no more burdens and no more tears. Sounds better than any fairy tale ending I know – pretty amazing, in fact.

This song, “I Can Only Imagine” by mercy Me has always got me. What a hope we have that never disappoints!

Lord, help our hope to be solely in living lives that glorify You. Take our burdens and use them to make us more like You!

 

Day 14: Facing and Embracing Reality – The New Normal

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Change is a stepping stone in the path of life that is necessary for our final destination.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 37:9

“Those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.”

Coming to grips with our new normal is no easy task. We are creatures of habit and prefer comfort and stability to change – especially if that change is abrupt and unwelcome.

But while we are waiting for our circumstances to change, looking to the future is not our only solace. Right smack dab in the middle of our new normal we can be not just content, but at peace – knowing we are exactly where God has us to be in that moment.

This truth might also create some misunderstanding between ourselves and God. Why would He allow it? Can’t He see that we are uncomfortable?

In a land not their own, the Israelites wondered if they would ever reach the promise land. Many of them didn’t. They did not like God’s provision, doubted His goodness and His promises. It did not make sense that they should stay so long hanging out in a seemingly purposeless trip in the desert, yet they determined the length of their stay by their actions.

If our chief goal is to glorify God with our lives, then we don’t just accept our new normal, but embrace it as being in God’s will for a purpose much higher than our own.

Hanging onto yesterday will leave us discontent and ineffective for the Kingdom of God. But being Kingdom-minded will help us to have a perspective that thrives when things around us are unsettling and uncertain.

Did we somehow forget that our stay here is a temporary one? This is not our home. Having a mentality of flexibility helps us to process change and view it as a stepping stone in the path of life that is necessary for our final destination.

Each presumed off-course path that we take is instead a fulfillment of our calling. Will we accept our mission? Having our hope in the character of God enables us to overcome a lack of faith when it seems we have been forgotten in the new place He has brought us too. We hold firmly to God’s hope because of the character behind His promise. He cannot be unfaithful. It is impossible for Him to do so.

If we could see the end goal of where God is bringing us too, we would not try to avoid each station of life. Instead, maybe we would learn to get comfortable with discomfort and joyful when things are doubtful, for it is in the dark places that a new hope is born. 

Adversity in the dirt of life creates a beautiful pearl of substance and a hope that is no longer easily shaken. Staying in one place in a perfect surrounding could never achieve such beauty.

This worship song really sums up well how God can use our momentary problems and turn them around as blessings disguised. Blessings by Laura Story

Prayer:

Lord, thank You for changing our hope into one that never fades. Help us to trust you in the transitions of life that threaten to steal our hope and find ourselves filled with a reinvented hope, instead.

 

Mundane Monday: Call Me Chief

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Timothy 1:15

“This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’–and I am the worst of them!”

Self righteousness is one of the slickest tools of the enemy. Pride at the root, we begin to think we are righteous of our own merit. Often unrecognizable as we see the flaws in everyone surrounding us except for our own, it is lethal to our walk with God and hurts those around us.

Paul is refreshing in his transparent view of himself. He did not boast of his righteousness, but instead called himself the worst sinner ever.  It seems kind of demeaning at first. After all, there is always someone worse than ourselves. But God does not grade on the curve and the beauty in recognizing nothing good in and of ourselves apart from the grace of God is not only seems truthful, but fitting.

It is in seeing my desperate condition before a Holy God that I see my need of His salvation. I cannot defend myself based on any deed or belief, for it was only His grace that enabled me to do or be anything that would please a perfect God in the first place.

Admitting we all are Chief in the sin department is at once condemnation and freedom. Gaining access to a relationship with our Holy God only happens through confession of sins and then sweet redemption when we choose to believe and accept His righteousness for our own.

When God has forgiven us, man’s judgment no longer has to have a hold on us. When falsely accused, we realize that although the accusation might not be true, there is something in us that we are guilty of even if we cannot see.

This truth has been such a blessing in my walk with Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation, even though we are guilty. For Christ fulfilled God’s perfect law for all eternity and we stand blameless before a Holy God. What good news this is!

Walking in this perfect freedom, we no longer have to fear, but we also can no longer judge our brothers and sisters, either. We do not know anyone else’s hearts and we all are equally chiefs of sin, too.

Lord, thank You for revealing our sins that we could be set free. Thank you for removing our sins as far as the east is from the west. 

Mundane Monday: Don’t give up!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Fanning into flame the gifts of God might just start out as a sparkler, but God can do a lot more with a sparkler that is lit than one that isn’t.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Timothy 1:6-7

“Because of this I remind you to rekindle God’s gift that you possess through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

It’s Monday again, and the prospects of all that needs doing around here are booming. But I need to be still before Him, first. Reading this familiar passage this morning is such a perfect start to another Monday.

We are a people who need new beginnings. We make a mess of things and long for a fresh start. Each day we get one, for God’s mercies are new each and every day. But we also get a new beginning to every week, every month, every year, and so on.

What good news this is – we don’t have to be stuck in a rut. I can hear someone saying, “Yeah, but nothing ever changes. It is so hard to go against all the challenges against me”. Yes, but not impossible. Don’t give up.

Sure, there will be hurdles – some seemingly insurmountable, but if there were no effort, the accomplishment of our goals would not be as satisfying. Sometimes even Christians will come against our efforts. The disciples were guilty of this, too, when they questioned the motives of other believers who were also baptizing new believers. May God help us to all spur one another on just like Paul did to Timothy. We are all on the same team – some leaders, some followers – all important – all needed.

Sometimes we just need a reminder – of what God has done in us, what He has placed in us. But most importantly, we need to recall Who will complete the work He began in us. This supernatural component to our calling takes the pressure off of us to think that we have to produce the results. Don’t give up.

Faithfully stewarding our talents means we need to keep pressing toward our goals even when it seems we are not making progress. In Christ, no effort is wasted, even if the results aren’t what we had hoped for … don’t give up.

Timothy needed some encouragement and reminding, too. It might have been someone calling out a gifting in us, or it might have been a gentle whisper from God, placing a vision on our hearts. Either way, we must be faithful to the calling on our lives, making the most of every opportunity – for we never know which investment will produce the best results for God’s kingdom. Don’t give up.

Paul did not just encourage Timothy to work at the gift of God placed within Him – He also told him not to fear. Fear of failure, fear of man – so many fears that can limit and plague us, but God. It is in trusting God with the results of all our labor in the LORD that we are free to work at our gifts, knowing He is pleased and will do with our offering what He wills.

Don’t give up. Fanning into flame the gifts of God might just start out as a sparkler, but God can do a lot more with a sparkler that is lit than one that isn’t.

Lord, thank You for the talents you have given, that we might serve You and make You known. Help us to not grow weary in well doing. Be glorified in us, LORD!

 

Mundane Monday: Margin of Possibility

It is in pausing and being still that we are empowered to make an impact that ripples throughout eternity.

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in pausing and being still that we are empowered to make an impact that ripples throughout eternity.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 127:2

“It is vain for you to rise early, come home late, and work so hard for your food. Yes, he can provide for those whom he loves even when they sleep.”

Running on the treadmill this morning I couldn’t help but feel somewhat like a hamster on a wheel. Another Monday, another day full of routine and responsibilities. Despite waking up with a headache, in an effort to be disciplined to reach my goals, on the treadmill I go. After that, I meant to throw some pinto beans and sausage in the crockpot this morning to feel especially accomplished to have exercised, showered and made dinner all by 8:00am, but life happens.

One child lost their cell phone, another child’s car was on empty, so on a day full of school orientations in addition to my normal full-time job, I need to flex and be creative, which is why I started work earlier today and am out the door early to accomplish the new challenges of the day, including writing this blog while my teenager with a learner’s permit is driving me to follow the child whose car is on empty on our way to Verizon. I meant that to be a run on sentence for effect. And Verizon is not open this early. Great – plan B or C, whichever plan we are on now. But I digress. Oh, wait – today’s blog is about creating margins in our life. Ha.

If I have a minute, or any amount of time, I will fill it up – Lord willing with useful endeavors, but I have often been told that I do too much. Guilty. But life is so short and I want to make the most of it. So where does margin come into this lifestyle I have created, which includes 5 children, a wonderful husband, leading worship, speaking at conferences, writing a book, writing a new song and working as an executive assistant? Good question. Very creatively is the answer.

It starts with rising early. I cannot accomplish all the LORD has placed upon my heart if I am not up before my kids, and one child in particular is awake before the sun rises. I tell him to occupy himself reading or building legos while I seek the face of God. Oh wait, that should have been point #1. God first. Am I perfect in that goal of placing God first? No, but somewhere in my day I have got to get into His word and my personal preference is to use a “Bible in a Year” reading plan. Here is a link to a website where you can choose a plan that works for you. Do I complete this perfectly every year? No, but I have learned to give myself grace and to press on year after year.

Discipleship. With a full life, discipleship for myself and my children, as well as time for my husband has to be intentional. These are the “big rocks” of life. My husband truly helps in this goal of closeness with date nights almost every week and setting aside time every year to go away together. Work will always be there, people won’t.

Discipling my children doesn’t look as neat and tidy as when my kids were little, when almost every morning we would rise and do a bible curriculum together, but they are older now and have responsibilities of their own. Creating opportunities to have one-on-one time is the challenge; it might be while driving in a car, or maybe just talking late at night, or finding a spot in the house to have a private conversation. Purposeful dates with kids is also one way this is achieved. Discipling for myself is a little harder to come by. This is where I mentor myself with books and studies – but when?

Multi-tasking. While on my treadmill, I have my reading glasses on, reading an inspirational study or a book on ministry, highlighting key phrases. An iPad is one of my favorites to use while on the treadmill, because it is easiest to highlight while literally, “on the go”. Another place where I multi-task is in the car. Since I have teens, I have built-in chauffeurs. It might make me a little sick to my stomach temporarily, but I can usually get something accomplished, whether it is doctor’s appointments, planning, working on my laptop, etc. Of course sometimes I need to be sensitive that it also might be time just to listen to loved ones.

Rest. My secret weapon is Melatonin gummies to help me get a good night’s rest. This is imperative for me to have strength and energy for the coming challenges of the day. It also helps with autoimmune diseases and might even curb headaches. The verse for today convicts my soul and reminds me that I am not invincible. Acquiescing to a schedule and getting proper rest are fundamental. This is still an area I am challenged in, but setting rest as a priority helps me achieve my goals.

Goals. I can have great ambitions and plans, but if they do not have deadlines, it will not get done. My flesh is a great obstacle in this regard, but as Paul said, I press on! In the past this has included registering for races which was an impetus to make me train. But goals are not enough alone. The motivation for the goals is essential. But where does that come from?

Attitude. My attitude needs adjustment that is only found in the word of God. This is the most important fuel for my heart. But all sorts of problems try to dismantle the joy and positive attitude that is formed by God’s word. What then? I can find motivation in courses, groups, studies or courses. Michael Hyatt’s course Best Year Ever was a real encouragement to me. But sometimes we need somebody to come alongside us.

Accountability. This one is tougher to find, but within our own household we can find someone who has a vested interest in our success. Small groups at church are another great option, or if we have to go it alone, planning tools can help to keep us on track.

Planning. Speaking of planning, building in time for planning is essential. Evernote really helps me in this regard, but then so does utilizing an old fashioned planner like Amy Knapp’s that I write all of my children’s work schedules and daily reminders for me in. But sometimes you just need to come apart or you will come apart. This past weekend was such a time for me, but I confess it was not planned.

Saturday was a beautiful day. No obligations other than preparing for worship leading and making meals for the family, who were all out of the house working. I basked in the presence of God and spent most of the day planning. This was a rare moment for this girl and I cherished every moment of it.

Don’t get me wrong – I am also the girl who wants to be around my family 24/7, but in this moment God created a space for me to think and ponder for an entire day. (A dangerous thing, I know). This time served as a catalyst that inspired a lot of changes to how I approach the Seeing Deep ministry going forward. Exciting stuff!

Examination. So in my quest to be effectively used by God and maximize the time God has given me, I learned again this past weekend that I need to take one day a month to set aside to pray and plan, in addition to my daily quiet time.

It also might mean examining my life to see where precious time is wasted and asking the LORD for wisdom with what needs to be pruned and what needs to be added. This article How Americans Spend Their Time was at once enlightening and a little sobering in that it conveyed both an opportunity to be introspective and aware of how we are numbering our days, as well as hopefully an encouragement about how some of our time is well spent.

I long to be faithful and passionately pass on this faith in Jesus that has arrested my soul. Ultimately we are all accountable to the LORD for how we used this evaporating commodity called time. But to be more effective, ministry, family goals and work take planning. It is in the margins of life that our souls are replenished and refocused to the mission God has called us to. It is in pausing and being still that we are empowered to make an impact that ripples throughout eternity.

Lord, help us to number our days aright that we might gain a heart of wisdom. Help us to honor You above all else in these lives You have given.

Mundane Monday: Keep on Keepin’ On

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When life seems to disappear into a sea of never-ending challenges or failed attempts at reaching our goals, if we will just keep keepin’ on – each of those steps is one step closer to achieving our goals.

Scriptures of the Day:

Galatians 6:9

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we don’t give up.”

Philippians 1:6

“…Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”


Pursuing dreams is hard work. Seems unreachable and takes all we’ve got. But what would it be like if we never had a goal to pursue to start with? No bucket list, no aspirations. Just existing. Doesn’t sound like much fun.

Somehow in the longing and straining to be faithful to develop the talents God has given there is a peace. Even though the results of our efforts might not be what we had hoped, there is a sense of purpose in doing what instinctively God has placed on our heart.

When there is a calling deep within our soul, to deny it or to not work toward that calling for fear of failure is a miserable existence. Sure, it is a bummer when it seems like we take two steps forward and one step back, but even this is progress. 

When life seems to disappear into a sea of never-ending challenges or failed attempts at reaching our goals, if we will just keep keepin’ on – each of those steps is one step closer to achieving our goals.

I hope this blog encourages whoever is reading it to continue to chase after that calling in your heart. I know I needed it. But even if my eyes never see what I am aiming toward, the best relief in pressing toward our goals is that as we seek to work hard, God is the One who brings the results He wants. Ultimately the pressure is off of us to produce the final result.

Isn’t that good news? And the fruit and character developed as we labor toward our goals and dreams is perhaps the most precious reward of all.

Oh God, all I have is Yours. Extend my territory as You will. May I be faithful to seek You and Your righteousness and to make You known.

Thoughtful Thursday: Persuasion of Another Kind

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Perhaps the art of persuasion is not about getting our way, but about healing and encouraging those around us, instead.

Scripture of the Day:

Proverbs 16:21-24

“The one who is wise in heart is called discerning, and kind speech increases persuasiveness. 22 Insight is like a life-giving fountain to the one who possesses it, but folly leads to the discipline of fools. 23 A wise person’s heart makes his speech wise and it adds persuasiveness to his words. 24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

I noticed her heavy spirit as she rang in my food order. Looming over her like a wet blanket, sadness enveloped her but I longed to inject hope and make her smile somehow.

I thought about how I could identify with her and shared some words of encouragement. Without being aware of it, I was seeking to persuade her to feel joy.

How about you? In need of encouragement today? I hope you know that you matter. More than that, you are the apple of God’s eye and He adores you.

Words like this just make my soul sing.  Wouldn’t it be great if we all spoke this way to one another consistently, and just as importantly, spoke to ourselves that way, too?

My inner voice sees my flaws loud and clearly. So does God, but He bids us to look up in His sweet face and whispers life to our souls – persuading and motivating us toward Holiness. What an example of the best use of persuasion – the Creator of our souls wooing us back to who we were meant to be.

Words fly at a rapid pace in this day and age, whether spoken or written. It can be easy for those words to be unchecked, given the sheer volume. But the intentionality of the word, “makes” in the scripture above helps us to realize that we can pause and check ourselves. I am thankful for that. Even when we make a mistake in a moment of passion, we can speak words in humility and love to encourage one we might have hurt with our words.

The more time passes on, we can think we have achieved a new level of communication, but the simple truths presented in this Scripture are refreshing and timeless. Kindness is needed today, and the road to kind speech is paved with wisdom. 

The purpose of our speech should be redemptive and persuasive toward righteousness. This goal can be difficult when our tendency is to be self-focused, but as we seek wisdom our thoughts are transformed.

It has been said that the art of persuasion is getting our way, but perhaps a more admirable goal of persuasive communication is healing and encouragement to those around us. Can we affect someone so they have hope and a different godly perspective?

Words are powerful. Every word we utter ultimately stems from our thoughts and our heart. When we speak life to those around us, sweet words that build up and not tear down, our words heal the soul and might even affect one’s physical health or their eternity. Speak kindly – someone around you might need it more than we know.

Oh God, thank You that you comfort us and continually encourage us in our walk with You. Help us to speak words of life persuading those around us to hope in our living God. 

Thoughtful Thursday: Opportunity Knocks

Opportunity is Knocking

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

 

Luke 8:10

“He said, ‘You have been given the opportunity to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that although they see they may not see, and although they hear they may not understand.'”

“Knock, knock.” “Who’s there?”

Don’t worry, I won’t tell a cheesy knock knock joke. Had you wondering, though, huh?

Opportunity is a funny thing. We long for opportunities but often do not even recognize them. We hope to be used by God to do something amazing but miss astounding promise all around us, dubbed as “ordinary”.

We can feel it in the thump of our heartbeat. Hear it in the soul’s cry. Sense it with our Spirit. Somewhere within us is a sense of a calling. Opportunity is knocking on the door of our soul – wondering if we hear our Master’s call for us to see the longing around us.

The moment we are awakened to hear and to understand God’s word, we are on mission. Entrusted with secrets that God has revealed, do we pretend not to see the needs, the hurts, the deadness in their eyes? Maybe in our own?

Growing up, I always felt special when someone trusted me with a precious secret or a position of leadership. Those who Christ has revealed His Gospel are the most blessed people on the face of the earth. We hold the keys to salvation and the opportunity to share it with lost people who we once were identified with.

The resounding knock stirs our souls to act on the knowledge and insight we have been given. The world’s din can try to silence the relentless needs and opportunities, but if we listen carefully, we will hear the knocks and answer. The souls God has called us to reach around us are counting on it.

Lord, help us to hear the needs around us and to listen attentively to Your word so that we might share what is on Your heart.