• Music that Blesses Others this Christmas!

    This Christmas, listen to Shon Stewart and other featured artists! 

    http://www.musicthatblessesothers.com/

    Blessings of Love from Music That Blesses Others on Vimeo.

  • Counseling Focus: Soul Care for the Advent Season

     Advent - Creating a Space in Our Souls for Christ

    by Nancy Kane, Assoc. Professor at Moody Bible Institute

    In our high-paced, technological world that allows us to accomplish things faster and more efficiently, we still find one thing remains – waiting. We wait to receive that book we ordered so quickly online. We wait in the self-checkout section of the grocery store where we can purchase our goods faster. We wait for a reply on that last text we sent. We wait for the call back on the interview. We wait!

    Efficiency expert Michael Fortino offers the following dismal scenario for the average life lived in the United States. In our lifetime we will spend: five years waiting in line, two years playing telephone tag, six months sitting at red lights, seven years in the bathroom, six years eating,three years in meetings, and eight months opening junk mail.

    If we do the math, between waiting in line, playing telephone tag, and sitting at a red light, we have spent about 7 ½ years! In the midst of all our technological advances, we still have to wait.

     Advent

    Yet there are times when waiting is fruitful and purposeful. This week marks the beginning of Advent as we look toward the celebration of Christ’s birth. During the Advent season, we reflect on the stories of the patriarchs, kings, prophets, and priests waiting for the coming of the Messiah and its fulfillment through Christ’s birth, and we look with expectant waiting Christ’s final and glorious return. In Mark 13:34. Jesus describes this kind of waiting saying, “It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.” Like the doorkeeper who is assigned to keep watch while the master is away, we are instructed to be alert so that we don’t miss Christ’s coming in ways that we could not ever have imagined!

    Yet waiting for many of us can feel difficult, if not impossible. In the life with Christ. waiting is a necessary and humbling aspect of our journey with Him. Advent is a time to practice the discipline of waiting and learning to be still. It begins with allowing yourself to become aware of the situations that you need to wait for something to be realized, and resolving to watch for Christ’s answer and presence in those very places. Where is the place in your life right now where you need to wait? Where do you long for God to do ”exceedingly more than we would ever ask or expect”?

    In all of this there stands an invitation from Christ to each one of us - to take moments to pull back from the busyness and stress of life to reflect on what it meant for Christ to break into our dark and confusing world and bring his light, life and love to us each us personally and uniquely. This season, take time to be still: ask God for the courage to sit in the waiting: invite Him to speak to you through his Word in these moments. He is closer to you than the air you breathe.

    Come, O God, into this world with healing and peace.

    Come into our lives with joy and passion.
    Startle us again this year, O God, with the truth of your Advent.
    And give us quiet moments in the busy and noisy days ahead
    to hear the singing of angels.

    Amen.

    Nancy J. Kane, L.C.P.C.

    Grace Family Counseling Center

     



     

  • More 2 Degree Ideas for a New Year

    P.S. You can use the 2 Degree Difference to build a stronger faith and be healthier as well!

    For example, so many people "start off" a New Year vowing to read God's word consistently. That's a great goal. But instead of setting your goal as, "I'm going to read 10 chapters a day, every day, until I get through the whole bible... How about choosing to actually read ONE Psalm a day. Or reading two or three Proverbs. Or one page in a modern translation, like the Message version of the bible, as you get into the great habit of reading God's word. For so many people, it's not the DESIRE of their heart that's wrong. It's thinking BIG things change everything! Just start with that one Psalm and watch how much stronger you grow in letting God's word invade your heart and life this New Year!

    Or to strengthen both your marriage and your faith, here's a small 2 Degree idea. Just pray a one or few sentence prayer at night with your spouse, or with your kids at the dinner table or in putting them to bed (instead of looking for that perfect time when you can carve out a whole hour to pray for your family that almost never comes…). My wife, Cindy, and I decided that whoever went to bed first, we'd stop and pray, even just a sentence prayer together before that person hit the sack. It was and continues to be a tremendous gift to our marriage. Yes, there are times we pray longer. But we don't miss that "small" way to connect before we hit the sack. I even call in and we'll pray when I'm on the road. It's just a short way to thank the Lord for our spouse, our kids, our day, our challenges. And it started with a small decision we made to just pray a sentence prayer together. (Instead of waiting for that non-existent "perfect" and peaceful time to formally pray a long time together.). 

    Finally, you can bless your family by living a more healthy life this 2014! Meaning, you can make big gains in your health by just staring with “small 2 degree things” instead of huge things. I teach about the 2 Degree Difference at all my seminars and I regularly get letters (actually mostly emails) that share how this concept make a change in their health! In fact, I often hear that it was a "small" goal they made in their health that started to changed everything - when everything else had failed to work!

    For example, one 2 Degree change might be choosing to drink more water each day. 

    Or choosing to go for a walk after dinner once a week (Instead of setting the goal of going to go to the gym every day and just driving by it and feeling guilty - until you change that route home!). 

    I got a wonderful email from a man who'd been at a summer seminar I did at Pine Cove camp in Texas. He went home convicted to make small changes in his home, his heart for God and his health. But in regards to his health, it all started with his decision... to eat 1 desert a night instead of 2! That's a pretty small step. But that first step lead to his choosing to eat 1 desert every other day. Then 1 desert on the weekend (where he still is at today). He wrote that it was that success with that one small thing - going from 2 deserts to 1 - that got him started walking just once a week. Then he'd walk a little more often each week. Then he started walking and running. Then finally running. And to his amazement, it lead to his running the Marine Corp Marathon! All 26.2 miles - starting with that first, 2 Degree step of cutting desert in half! 

    Bottom line is that BIBLICALLY, relationally, and practically, small things really can begin to change everything. In your heart for God, in your health, and in your home as you give and live the Blessing here in 2014. 

    Need more insight on how small, 2 Degree changes can impact a real life story? Check out the book, The 2 Degree Difference in our bookstore.

  • Small 2º Changes to a Great New Year


    It’s a New Year! So many people TALK and really WANT to make changes in their their home, their health and in their heart for God. But be honest. How long does the average New Years Resolutions really last?

    For most people, their goal of making a BIG, huge, dramatic change starts … and ends... before the month is out. And in most cases, it's because most people think if you need BIG changes - then that only comes with BIG actions! 

    But what if most people were wrong?

    In fact, what if BIBLICALLY it was SMALL THINGS that could begin to change everything? What if small things here in 2014 were really the key to your loving Him more, to loving your family better, and even to getting moving towards being in the best shape you've been in in years! 

    Jesus tells us, “He who is faithful in a little” is the one who will be rewarded much.

    C.S. Lewis put it this way. “This then is the great secret. Good and evil both grow at compound interest. That is why the SMALL things you do each day are of such infinite importance. It is the small things that will turn you into either a heavenly or hellish creature.” (Mere Christianity)

    This Month’s Blessing Experience Theme is all about “Out with the bad… and in with the good for 2014. But I’d add that the way we get the bad out and the good into our lives is by taking “small steps” – not dreaming of big changes.

    In short, let's start with our friendships and family. Each one of the 5 elements of the Blessing are all incredibly "small things." Each one can easily be a small, 2 Degree change of the steering wheel, getting us moving in a direction towards more greater closeness and caring. 

     For example, instead of relying on that ONE BIG TRIP as a family (that keeps getting pushed off each year) to somehow change everything and make everyone happier and closer... what if you started doing SMALL things? 

    Like the 5 elements of the Blessing...

    Appropriate Meaning Touch – Build a stronger marriage by STOPPING to give your spouse a 3 second hug before you head off to work – and again when you first come home. EVERY DAY. Yes, you're busy. Yes, you're running late most days or have a million things to do when he or she shows up. But the kids and life can wait... for three seconds in the morning and when your loved one comes home. You'll be shocked how "actions start to dictate emotions" and NOT the reverse. Meaning, as you start acting in small loving ways towards your spouse - 2 Degree changes - just watch your attitude begin to change in small and big ways towards that person you're choosing to value. Or with appropriate touch, take a small child’s hand in yours and pray a blessing over them at night, after a story and as you tuck them into bed.

    Spoken Message – Remember, you can WRITE words of Blessing as well as saying them. So how about sneaking out into the garage tonight and putting a sticky note on the steering wheel of your spouse’s car. You can just say “I love you” or pick a verse you like, and personalize it with their name. Like the verse, “I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me.” Phil. 4:13. On your sticky note, write that verse as a prayer for your spouse. Like, “Lord, help my husband (wife) know that no matter how tough the day gets today, (their name) can do all things through YOU who gives him (her) strength." That kind of "small" note is great for a kid’s lunch sack as well.

    Attaching High Value – It's not just couples and families. Have a great roommate? Here’s a small, 2 Degree way to Bless that person's life. Flip through some old magazines you have laying around the house. Look for something that “pictures” a trait of the person you're grateful for. For example, let’s say your roommate has been a tremendous encouragement during a really dark time in your life. Cut out a picture of a chandelier and hand it to her (him) in an unhurried moment. “See this chandelier? To me, this is you. When things were so tough for me. When it seemed so dark and so hard to see things clearly. You’ve brought so much of God's light and direction into my life, to me you're like this expensive chandelier.”

    You can cut out pictures to Bless your child (or spouse) as well. For example, flip through some old magazines looking for something that "pictures" a “character trait” (not a physical trait) that you feel and see that God has placed in that child's heart. At the dinner table, put it your picture on their plate before you serve them dinner. Then explain it to them at the table. For example, if they're a young child who been a great helper, then cut out a picture of a mommy kitty with kittens. Say, “See how this mommy cat is taking such good care of her young? Sweetheart, God has put a servants heart inside you. You do such a great job of helping me take care of your littler sister, it's amazing. The Lord has made you a lot like this mommy kitty and I'm so glad He did!” Then be sure and bring his or her dinner! (Maybe even with a special, healthy desert! There are some!).

    Such a SMALL thing - a 3 second hug or cutting out a picture of a chandelier or a cat - but watch how much ground you gain in building a closer family and friendships if you'll just look for those small 2 Degree ways of Blessing your loved ones! 

    Next up: Ideas on how small 2 Degree changes can help strengthen your heart for God and even your health as well here in a New Year!


  • How to write a letter of Blessing for your Parents

    OK, I’m in! So how do I write a Blessing Letter to my Parents this Thanksgiving!

    If you’ve been to the Blessing Challenge you’ll see how we encourage people to take an “easy first step” in giving the Blessing to a loved one. An easy, but powerful way of doing that is by writing a letter. (Even if the keys get stuck at times!). 

    Here's what we mean by writing a Blessing letter. 

    Think of it as just three short paragraphs. A way for you to focus your thoughts, and to bring the Blessing home to your parent’s heart this Thanksgiving… (PLUS you blessing your own Parents is a great modeling tool for your children as well!)

    1. So pick one of your parents to start - 

    NOTE: *If both your Mom and Dad will be at the table, make sure you write a letter of Blessing to each of them. I'm a twin. I get how people try to "lump" two people into one. But your mother AND father EACH need their own letter of Blessing.

    *YES, you can read your letter of Blessing to them over the phone at Thanksgiving - or even better SKYPE or Facetime them if you’re not able to have them at your table that day. 

    *Finally we know many people who have written a letter of Blessing at Thanksgiving for THAT FAMILY OR PERSON WHO STOOD IN FOR THEM AS A SUROGATE PARENT, if their own relationship with parent(s) doesn't making writing them an option.

    2. You're going to write out THREE short paragraphs – let’s say it’s your mother who’ll be joining you at the table… You're almost writing out a prayer of thanks for them.

    The first paragraph – share ONE character trait that you love and value about that person. Even using a “word picture” that links your words to something that “pictures” that character trait…

    Example: “Mom, we are so grateful that you could come to our house for Thanksgiving. Since it’s a season of giving thanks, I wanted you to know that I have always marveled at how steady and consistent you’ve been. You know that grandfather clock we had when we were growing up? How it always stayed on time. Your consistency in always being there for us is something I’m thankful for every time I think about you."

    The second paragraph – share ONE example of how you saw that person handle a tough situation, wisely and well.

    Example: “Remember when you got sick when I was about 10 years old, and you had to quit working? Those were some tough times. But you stayed so positive and showed so much courage, even when things got pretty rough. Your faith that the Lord would take care of you, and of us, was such a great example to me. It calmed my fears, and it’s something that’s help me know I can trust the Lord in tough times as well."

    And the third paragraph, share your “genuine commitment” to love and Bless this person all your life. Here’s an example…

    Example: “So mom, before we have our turkey, I wanted you to know that I am so grateful that God has “blessed” me with you as my mom. And I want you to know that you have my blessing and my thanks for all you’ve done for me. For what you did for each of us kids. And with each year God gives us, I want you to know I’ll be there for you, like you’ve always been there for me."

    Now read them your Blessing at the Thanksgiving table! And let us know how it went! (Or even send us a picture. We’ll post as many as we’re able!). That’s it! Just three short paragraphs that can tell that a parent that you love and value them. And make sure that you “type out” (or go old school and hand write) your Blessing, fold it up and put it in an envelope for them after you’ve read it to them.

    And then enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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