Fun With Favor

Everybody likes to have fun, yes? Working for the weekend, you know. What’s your idea of a good time? Getting together with friends? Attending a football game or concert? Or perhaps participating in your favorite sport or hobby? There are so many ways to have fun, but have you ever thought about what makes the difference between a good time and a great time? The answer is this: the favor of God.

Now, you may or may not be familiar with this phrase so keep reading. According to my beloved pastor George, if we have our priorities straight, and I so agree with him, God will grant us fun with FAVOR. Let me share a recent example so you get the idea.

Last week was Valentine’s Day, right? And, being a single lady in this couples world, I refuse to let the holiday go by without celebrating. So I made plans with a girlfriend to go out to dinner in Little Italy, a quaint section of Baltimore, famous for its atmosphere and good restaurants. I enjoy getting dressed up and going to a nice restaurant every so often and she was up for the adventure.

What an adventure it was too. Now I’m not keen on driving in the city, especially on a Saturday night and a holiday weekend, but her car headlight was out so I agreed to drive. As I was about to make the left turn onto Eastern Avenue, I began praying for a parking space. Yes, the Lord does care about these mundane things.

“Lord, please give us a spot close to the restaurant so we don’t have to walk far in this cold,” I said aloud. As I turned onto Eastern Avenue, what do I see but a space on the right side of the road!

“I think I can fit in here,” I said to my friend, Janis as I maneuvered into the spot.

“Wow, you know how to parallel park,” Janis commented.

We got out of the car & checked the parking sign. “I think we’re good to go here. Thank you, Lord”. Surveying our location, I realized the restaurant was on the street immediately to our left, only a few blocks down.

Sure enough, Ciao Bella was only a short walk away. We arrived on time. The host steered us to a cozy table for two right in front of the main window. “This is the best seat in the house,” I said to Janis as I settled into my chair.

“You’re right,” Janis agreed. That was two gifts of favor and the evening had barely begun.

“So have you been here before?” Janis asked.
“Yes, once – years ago. And I had the best chicken with crabmeat and sun-dried tomatoes dish,” I recalled.

As I perused the menu, I didn’t see the chicken dish anywhere. Well, they must have changed the menu.

The waiter soon approached and began telling us the specials of the day. “And we have chicken Annabelle: a chicken breast, topped with lump crabmeat in a sundried tomato sauce.” Janis and I looked at each other. That was favor #3.

The meal was delicious, the wine exceptional, and I had a Groupon to cover much of the cost. After dinner, we decided to stop by Vaccaro’s for a hot coffee. As we sipped on our hot Mochaccinos, the warmth of the sweet liquid felt so good against the brisk night air. “What a great time!” Janis bubbled on the way home.

“Yes, indeed it was,” I agreed.

And that, my friends, is fun with favor.

So, are you experiencing fun with favor in your life? If not, there may be something you can do about it and it all starts with having faith in God. It really is a simple process and there is nothing to be afraid of. God truly loves each of us as his own special Valentine. Until next time, put your trust in Jesus and remember to keep looking up!

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Feelings: The Keys to Spiritual Growth

Picture this. A funeral of a young man, not even thirty-five years old. A father, stoic and expressionless. A sister, distraught, guilt-ridden. A sad scene, to be sure.
Nowhere but in the face of death are we assaulted by so many strong emotions, the tide of which is almost overwhelming.

For some, emotion is seen as a sign of weakness. Real men don’t cry is the unspoken mantra. Others put on a smiling face and pretend they’re happy, when inside, they are devastated. Then there are the two extremes: those who cannot control their emotions and those who numb themselves out, refusing to feel anything. Neither is healthy.

Where are you in this gamut of feelings?

I can say for much of my life I was told I was “too sensitive”. As a young child, I cried at the sight of dead chickens in the meat market case. I refused to step on my own shadow. Years passed, and I learned to stifle my feelings, believing the lie I had been taught. But then, I paid a high price. Failure to express our feelings takes a toll on our physical and mental well-being. I realized I needed to express my feelings – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And I was set free.

Emotions and feelings are a gift from God to help us deal with the situations and circumstances of life. They can motivate us to action and also drag us into the depths of despair if not dealt with. Suppressing our feelings is both unhealthy and unspiritual. When we refuse to express our feelings, we are denying who we are at our core.

Feelings tell us much about ourselves and the world around us. Take fear, for example. Fear comes in many forms, but in truly dangerous situations, it warns us to flee and to protect ourselves. We must listen to our feelings or we risk injuring ourselves even more. Grief and anger are two other emotions that must be expressed. If we keep them in, we will fall into depression.

But let’s remember the good emotions as well: love, joy, gladness, surprise, attraction. These also tell us something about ourselves and our world. We live in a hurting place and many feel unloved. A kind word, a compliment, a word of praise or encouragement is a simple act we can all do every day to spread a little more love. We never know what battles someone may be facing. Love and joy resonate at a higher energy level. Can you not feel it when you are around someone who is radiating these? It’s infectious and exhilarating. It’s uplifting. Yes, truly our emotions are keys to our spiritual growth.

So, as Valentine’s Day approaches, let’s each do our part to spread a little love around, shall we? What simple thing will you do to make the world a more joyful and loving place? To encourage a friend who may be down? I still give out those little Valentine’s Day cards we used to write as children to people at the office and neighbors. It’s silly, I know, but everybody needs to be reminded they are loved and if it brings a smile to someone’s face, then I’ve done my part. Will you do yours?

Until next time, keep the faith and keep looking up!

Waiting for Love – For All My Single Friends

It’s February and the month of one of my favorite holidays, Valentine’s Day. My son says every holiday is my favorite, perhaps that’s because I associate holidays with love, in some way, shape, or form.

Are you waiting for love? Wondering why your friends are all married and you’re not? Tired of the singles’ scene and staying home alone on the weekends? Take heart, dear one, you’re not alone and I have some advice to share with you. Now Ann Landers, I’m not, but I have learned some stuff along my journey to faith. When it comes to waiting for love – STOP WAITING! Love is all around you. Open your eyes and see it. Open your heart and feel it. Love often comes in unexpected forms and sometimes we have to step out in faith to experience it.

This past weekend, for example, I braved the snowy Baltimore weather to go country dancing about 30 miles from home. My mother would have had a fit, but I was bound and determined not to stay home two weekend nights in a row. After inviting several friends to join me, I made up my mind to go alone. “I’m going to trust God to get me there safely and provide people to dance with.”

“Well, what are you doing here tonight?” was the enthusiastic greeting when I walked in. “You braved the weather!”
“Yes, I did,” I said smiling after my 50 minute drive in the snow. I try to live by faith and not by fear, as most of you already know. And God rewards faith. Not only did I arrive safely, some great dance partners showed up and I was in heaven the entire evening, especially when they played one of my favorite songs,”Pontoon”, and I was out on the floor dancing with a wonderful partner.

The moral of the story is this: stop waiting for love. Go out and find happiness. Be with people you enjoy being around. Do what you love to do. Smile. Love is giving, caring, and sharing. Do that and basically, BE LOVE.

You’ll soon find out that once you start giving and sharing love, it will come back to you many fold. Until next time, send me all the little ways you show love to others and I’ll post them. As always, keep looking up!

Faith, Fear, and Focus

No question about it, life is tough! It doesn’t matter where we are in life, every season has its own set of challenges. It is up to us to decide how we will respond to these challenges – with faith or fear.

Since it’s the start of a brand new year, I’ve been talking about setting goals this month. As we all know, making forward progress in life is a challenge in and of itself. I’ve discovered that our main enemy is this silly thing called fear – False Evidence Appearing Real.

Fear comes in many forms: doubt, worry, anxiety and negativity, to name a few, all of which have one purpose – to distract us from moving forward and achieving our goals in life. Fear also steals our joy and our peace and that really sucks, doesn’t it?

What to do? Shrink back? Retreat? Give up? Cry? Drink?

NO!!

The answer is to STAND FIRM and refuse to give up or give in. We will be rewarded in due time for “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

When trials come my way, I repeat this phrase to lighten the situation. “This is a test. This is only a test. In the event of an actual emergency, you will be instructed where to tune in your area.” Remember that blurb they used years ago when testing on the radio? I know where to tune in – to Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. When I put my focus on Jesus he gives me peace through any storm and calms the waves of doubt, fear and anxiety that threaten to drown me, if I let them. Jesus gives me strength, courage, and confidence to endure till the storm passes.

What are you going through this month that is distracting you from your goals? Where has your focus been? If you don’t know where to tune in, may I encourage you to give Jesus a try? Like Coca-Cola, He is the real thing and he will refresh and energize you to keep pressing on to accomplish your goals.

Until next time, keep the faith, keep looking up and as Winston Churchill said long ago, “Never, never give up!”