3 Steps to a Deeper Relationship with God

Do you sometimes feel disconnected from others? Unloved? Alone? If so, you’re not alone. We all struggle with these same feelings and doubts. We go through periods of time when we feel like everyone has deserted us and we are left paddling the streams of life all by ourselves. It is in these times that it is even more important to turn inward and to turn to God. Sometimes God allows these dry periods so we can come into a more intimate relationship with Him. We may not know exactly how to go about it so today I am going to share three steps to developing a closer relationship with God. An interesting question over the weekend precipitated this post.

I was at a good friend’s wedding having dinner, when a gentleman shared that he had read my book, “The Power of Faith”. He said he wished he had the same type of faith to get through the trials in his life and asked me if I thought if it was possible for anyone to develop a strong faith.

“Absolutely”, I replied without a moment’s hesitation.

In fact, God promises us this: “You will seek and find me when you search for me with all your heart,” (Jer. 29:13). Just as healthy earthly parents want a good relationship with their kids, so our heavenly Father wants a close relationship with us. In the same way, if we want an intimate close relationship with another person we must be intentional about it.

“Well, how do you do that?” my typically shy and reserved friend inquired.

Now I know, many of us are stuck in this sensory world we live in. If we can’t see, feel, hear, touch, or smell it, we don’t believe it exists. God does exist only in another reality – the spiritual realm and we just have to get comfortable operating in this realm as well. The good news is the same steps we take when we are serious about getting to know someone are the same steps we can use in developing a relationship with God.

1. Have an open heart and an open mind.

In other words, we have to believe in our heart that it is possible to have a deeper relationship with God, that He does love you, and wants to have a relationship with you. God wants to connect with us, just as much as the spiritual part of us wants to connect with Him. Once we let this truth permeate our minds, we open the doors for an amazing adventure.

2. Spend more time together.

Getting to know God is much the same as getting to know another person. When we make it a priority to spend time with someone, we get to know them at a deeper level. We come to know who they are, their likes and dislikes, their values, how they think. We each have our own way of spending time with God. Some of us like to take a walk, a hike, or a bike ride in nature. Others
prefer to listen to comforting music or work in the garden. Still others find God in a communal approach such as a church setting or a meditation group. Whatever puts you in a calm and receptive state of mind is conducive to meeting with God.

3. Learn how God feels and thinks about things.

God is not some secretive, illusive being. He wants to make himself known to us, to speak to us, and to guide us – personally. These days, when we want to find out information about someone, we do a Google search and look them up on the Internet. We can do the same thing with God, believe it or not. We go to a reliable source and seek information. In fact, God has put much information about himself, his ways, his thoughts, and his ways of operating in in one collection of books known as the Bible. Now I know many people have a problem with the Bible, saying it’s old and antiquated but not much has changed in the way of relationships since it was written. Did you know that the way experts determine the validity of a manuscript is by how many copies there are of it? Did you know that the Bible is one of, if the not the most copied manuscript in history?

When we make time to read Scripture, we learn who God is, what He thinks, and what is important to him. We also open up the channel of communication for Him to speak to us. You will be amazed when you start reading the Word, how some passage will jump right out at you and you will know that it is meant for you. Try it and see!

“One more thing,” I said to my friend. “Just ask God to reveal Himself to you, and He will.” My friend smiled and nodded.

So there you have it, friends: three steps to developing a deeper relationship with God. Do post a comment, and click the +1 Google icon to let me know you liked this post. If you’d like to receive my free guide entitled “7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path”, enter your email address in the box above. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

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Six Signs You May Need a Spiritual Path

Everyone is on a spiritual path, whether they know it or not. What’s more, everyone needs a spiritual path, not just those who have been abused, addicted, or abandoned. We all have been wounded in some way. How can I say this? Because after years of thinking dysfunction happens only in “broken” or “alcoholic” homes, I’ve seen enough people from seemingly “normal” families have the same kinds of issues. I’d scratch my head and ask “How did that happen? Her parents weren’t divorced/alcoholic/addicts or whatever.” Until one day, it dawned on me – we are all wounded. Each of us is in need of healing of some sort. It could be physical, emotional, spiritual or all three. Author Wayne Dyer says that “there is a spiritual solution to every problem,” and if we look deep enough, we will find it.

The problem is that many of us are not aware that we are on a spiritual journey, so we fail to look for spiritual solutions. We look to medications, drinking, food, activities, and relationships to console us but sooner or later we realize, we have to go deeper. Hence, the popularity of such groups as Alcoholics Anonymous, meditation groups, and yoga classes. Participants realize there is a spiritual struggle going on underneath the covers of the suffering they are experiencing. We are three part entity: body, mind, and spirit. An injury to any one part affects the other parts. The Chinese have known this for centuries.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long correlated physical ailments with emotions. For example, a few years ago, I went to an acupuncturist for treatment of an asthma condition I suddenly developed. I had never had asthma in my life so I knew something was going on. “Asthma affects the lungs,” the specialist explained. Then he asked this probing question: “Have you experienced any grief lately?” At that, I burst into tears. Grief! I wanted to scream. Yes, I have experienced grief in several very close relationships all in the same year. The light bulb went on. Once I gained the awareness of the grief I was experiencing, the asthma symptoms completely went away. When we bring light to the darkness of the pain in our spirits, we can process the emotions, which then allow us to heal at the physical level as well. So how does one know if one is in need of healing?

There are probably many more signs, but the ones I am aware of I am listing below. See if any of these resonate with you.

1) physical symptoms and pain – such diseases as fibromyalgia, arthritis, high blood pressure, back pain may all have emotional and spiritual roots

2) incessant chatter – are your conversations self-absorbed (all about you)? do you focus on the negative circumstances in your life?

3) fear of the future – does anxiety about what may happen steal your joy? do you feel a need to keep up with every negative news story, gossip, or Hollywood drama?

4) overdependence on company of others – do you always have to be around people? Are you uncomfortable being by yourself?

5) preoccupation with any one area of life – are you a workaholic? exercise fanatic? Is there any area others would say you put too much time into?

6) inability to overcome addictions – such as overeating, alcohol, drugs, gambling, porn, or codependency?

If any of these hit home, I am offering a free mini e-book entitled “7 Steps to Finding Your Spiritual Path“. I’m not talking about religion here, so please don’t confuse the two. Spirituality is very different from “organized religion” although we may find our path in church for a time and that is quite alright. When you enter your email in the box to the right of this post, I’ll get it right out to you.

Stay tuned for more practical and spiritual advice on how you, too, can find healing, wholeness, and harmony and live the life of your dreams.
Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

Mindfulness: How it Can Help You Stay Connected to What’s Really Important

There’s been quite the hubbub lately about mindfulness. You know something is catching on when there’s an article about it in the Costco magazine. Mindfulness has made its way out of the yogic realm and into mainstream society. Our culture has us moving faster and faster with the plethora of electronic gadgets and social media. Many feel pressured to “keep up” with the pace of the world and every Facebook post, Tweet, or news event. Perhaps like me, you wonder if all this is such a good thing. In the midst of this information overload, are we losing sight of what is truly important and failing to enjoy the precious moments in our every day lives? Maybe the ancients were on to something, so this week’s post is devoted to answering this question:
What is mindfulness exactly and how can it help us in our daily lives?

When some hear the term “mindfulness” they conjure up visions of cross-legged yogis with eyes-closed chanting. Perhaps a more realistic and comprehensible word for mindfulness is “awareness” or “being present”. Being present & fully engaged is the best gift we can bestow upon our spouse, our child, our friends and ourselves. Mindfulness is a form of meditation one does to learn to clear one’s mind and to be aware of one’s thoughts as they pass by. An untrained mind is mindless. Our thoughts jump from one thing to another, like a monkey on tree. We are easily distracted, forgetful, sucked in to emotional reactions, and not fully present or aware.

One way to judge this is to notice the rate of speech we use. When we are talking a mile a minute, our minds are racing. My mother always used to tell me “You think too fast,” and now I realize she was right. I thought too fast and I talked too fast so that is one reason I have taken up the study of mindfulness. Nowadays, I am often bewildered by someone’s conversation when they seemingly go off on an unrelated tangent. I ask myself “How is this related to what we were discussing?”. What happens is in their mind there was some connection to another event. Their mind monkey-jumped to this other thought thread and they started following it without realizing it was not related to the discussion at hand. As we age, this happens more and more because the circuitry of our brains has been wired for years. However, it is possible to stay focused and connected, even as we age, by learning this ancient practice.

Relationships:
Nothing is more upsetting to a wife than to come home to her hubby all excited about sharing something about her day and he tunes her out by reading the newspaper or being fixated on the boob tube, computer, or video game. I remember when I was married and I used to teach aerobics one night a week. I would come home from class all excited to share how the class went and my then husband would look at me briefly and then go right back to reading the newspaper. Is it little wonder then we ended up in divorce court? These days people substitute their cellphone, the television, the internet or a video game. It’s all the same problem – lack of mindfulness. Otherwise known as not paying attention.

Your kids:
When you are with them, make the effort to be truly with them. Don’t be doing dishes, talking on the phone, grading papers or whatever else needs to be done. Stay in the present moment and really be with your child. These things can be done after the kids are in bed. If you’re a working mom, like I was, you only have a few hours to develop a relationship with your children. Those hours are precious. I made sure eating dinner together was a priority. I’d ask them about their day and get them to talking. Some nights we’d have a bible study session where we would take turns reading the Bible. Now it doesn’t have to be the Bible. I wanted to make it a two-fer and use the connecting time as a teaching time as well. Then at bedtime, I’d often read them a bed time story. In other words, I made sure the hours I had with my kids, I was present.

Personal life:
How often do you forget where you put your keys, your wallet, the grocery list? You start one task and find yourself doing something else two minutes later. No, it’s not ADD or ADHD. Most likely it is the normal state of mindlessness. Not being aware of what you are currently doing. I think if we taught our kids mindfulness at an early age, far few kids would be on prescription meds. When we learn to slow down enough to pay attention to the present moment, we actively engage in the here and now. You know how you get so involved in your gardening, or playing tennis, or dancing and then wonder where the time went? That’s because you were mindfully present. You were actively aware in what you were doing. You were being mindful.

Inner world:
Perhaps one of the most important benefits of mindfulness is being more connected to our thoughts and feelings. When we slow down and pay attention to our thoughts, we are more aware of what is going on in our internal world. We are able to feel our feelings before they cause us to react in an unhealthy or unproductive way or keep us up at night thinking about things. Even though we are asleep, our mind is still trying to process the events of the day. This is why we wake up in the middle of the night ruminating. When we learn to be mindful during the day, we will process our thoughts and emotions real-time, so our minds don’t have to work overtime at night to do it. Just yesterday, I caught myself having negative feelings towards an old friend. Rather than ignore them or stuff them, I allowed myself to sit with them. I realized why I was feeling upset, which led to an understanding of what I need to change about myself in this situation.

Mindfulness is a practice, like most things worthwhile in this life. When we make the time to train our minds, we will have better control over our thoughts and our actions. Our relationships with others will be more intimate and more connected and we will be more focused and directed in our daily lives and accomplish more of what we want to do. There are several ways to practice mindfulness and I have attached a link here with more information.

Love to hear your thoughts on this relevant and timely topic. Please leave a comment below or on Facebook.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

When in Doubt – Pause

Decisions, decisions. Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions. Some are as simple as what to have for breakfast and others as complex as whether to stay or leave a relationship. Some people are good at making decisions quickly. Like the pro football coaches who have to make quick decisions about the next play. They have limited information and are under a lot of pressure, but yet they are responsible for making calls that could make or break the game. I have to admit, I would never make a good football coach. On the other hand, making decisions too quickly can be just as bad or worse than taking too much time. Sometimes I’m guilty of that, too. As a single mom of two boys, I’ve had a lot of decisions to make. The problem it seems is when to wait and when to act. I flounder in a sea of doubt. Perhaps you, too, struggle with this.

The decisions we make determine the path of our lives and so it can be somewhat stressful when one is unsure of how to proceed. Here’s a situation that happened to me this week I found post-worthy. I’m sharing it for those who, like me, have a bit of difficulty knowing when to pause.

It was Wednesday. A decision about whether to contact a certain party had been looming over me like a dark grey cloud on a summer day.

“Should I call them or should I wait to hear from them?”

The sun was beaming through my window, and I sat silently cross-legged, meditating on a verse from Psalm 46 which says “Cease striving”. Another version says “Be still and know that I am God.”

Which is it, Lord?

When I thought about it, the two translations were similar. When I cease striving, I let go. I give it to God. I am still. I paused and pondered the decision hanging over me in light of this verse. Then the phone rang.

I usually don’t interrupt my quiet time to answer the phone, but I felt the need to do so on this day. “Unknown” read the caller id.

“It’s probably another one of those telemarketers calling,” as I’d been receiving a slew of calls lately. But something, or someone, told me to answer the call so I did. It was the person I had been debating about calling. I lifted up a silent prayer when I realized who it was. Now you can call it coincidence if you want but I don’t believe anything happens by chance. God is in everything.

Waiting is tough for most of us humans, I’d say. We like things to happen on our time-table. We want it NOW. Many times we take things into our own hands and make it happen. The discipline of pausing seems to have been lost in the hustle and bustle of today’s fast-paced culture. Patience is a learned skill which we only acquire by waiting. The answers don’t always come immediately as in this case. Sometimes weeks, months, or even years go by. Yet, we must learn to pause.

When we learn to pause, we give ourselves time to reflect. We give God a chance to work,to intervene, to assist. As a single mom, I have always done things myself because I felt I had to. I am learning that I don’t have to take care of every thing myself. God is there. He can make things happen I can’t. But I have to give him a chance.

So what decision are you facing today? Is there doubt in your mind about it? If so, take some time to pause. Give it to God and wait for an answer. It may be a phone call, a knock on the door, or simply that still small voice inside that speaks to each of us when we quiet ourselves enough to listen.

Please let me know your thoughts on this post. If you liked it, pass it on to a friend, leave a comment below or on Facebook. We all struggle with decisions from time to time, so I hope this post has been helpful to you.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

What To Do When the Unexpected Happens

Do you often find yourself frustrated and worn out trying to solve every problem on your own? We think we’ve got all the bases covered and then, poof – something out of the blue tries to put a monkey wrench in the works. What then? Do we yell and scream? Cuss out the cat, the dog, the kids, or the spouse?

As a single parent and the child of an alcoholic father, I have felt the need to control situations probably more so than I need to. Perhaps, like me, you’ve felt you have to “do it all” and found yourself crumbling under the mountain of to-do lists. In the past, I chalked it all up to “being responsible” but I think there is more to it than that. No matter how much I may think I have things under control, inevitably something happens to let me know that I am not. What’s good about this is that no matter what happens, all I have to do is give it to God and He will step in and make things right. Somehow. God’s grace is an amazing thing and when we start to expect it and look for it in our lives, more of it seems to show up. To give you an example, allow me to share a situation that happened this week and see what you think.

About a month ago, I purchased airline tickets online for my mom, my son, and myself. My mom’s tickets were purchased on a different airlines since she would be flying from another city. I filled out the credit card information, selected seating, and even put in a request for elderly assistance. My mom was adamant that we get the flight paid for quickly since she was getting a good price. When I submitted the information, I am quite sure I received a confirmation message because I remember uttering a sigh of relief.

Fast forward to this week, my mom was asking questions about her ticket.

“Let me see if I ever got an email from the airlines confirming your flight,” I said as I perused my inbox.

“Nope, nothing. I don’t see anything from them. I don’t remember whether I put my email address on your ticket or not,” I said.

A few hours later, I’m taking a nap, and my cell phone starts going off. It was my mom.

“I just called the airlines and they said my ticket was cancelled. I called my bank and they have no record of the ticket being purchased either,” she said in a frenzied tone of voice.

“Ok, Ma, calm down. Let me call the airlines and see what happened.”

Sure enough, the agent tells me there was one ticket in the system but it was put on hold and then the system cancelled it out. This certainly seemed bizarre to me. There was no way I had put that ticket on hold, as adamant as my mom was to get the fare.

“Is there any way I can get repurchase the ticket?” I asked.

“Not at that price,” replied the agent. “That price is no longer in the system.”

Not knowing what else to do, I asked to speak to a supervisor.

“Hold please, while I get one for you,”.

It was quite a while before someone came back on the line but I did have time to send up a prayer.

“Lord, please show us your favor in this situation. Thank you so much.”

When the supervisor finally came on the line she said her name was Miss Sophie. Funny, that is my mom’s name too.

To make a long story short, the supervisor agreed to repurchase the ticket for us at the exact same fare, with better seats and with no additional fees for phone service.

I hung up the phone.

“Hallelujah! Thank you, Lord!” I exclaimed.

I have to admit. This is quite a change of behavior from years past. I would let someone else’s upset become my upset. Now I have learned I don’t have to take on emotionally or energetically someone else’s problem. I don’t have to fix everything by myself. Here are some simple steps I use to help keep from losing my cool when something unexpected happens.

1. Take a deep breath and pause before responding.

2. Maintain my composure by keeping my voice low and slow.

3. Reassure the other person everything is going to be fine.

4. Pray! Ask God for wisdom and direction.

5. Take time to step back and think logically about a solution.

6. Take the necessary action steps without apprehension about what could happen.

7. Relax and give the outcome to God. Trust Him to handle it after I’ve done my part.

We all have unexpected events show up in our lives. The key is to not let them throw us of kilter for very long. If we get really good at it, perhaps there will come a day when they won’t throw us off kilter at all!

Love to hear your feedback on this post so please leave a comment or click the +1 icon. Until next time, keep looking up!

Ariel

A Christmas Poem for You

Twas the month of December and all through the house, the women were hurrying and bustling about. There is shopping, and cooking and decorating the tree. Oh, my goodness, will I ever have time for me?

Tis the season to be jolly it is said, but with these extra activities, I just plop into bed. So much to be done, so little time left. Visions of gifts and deadlines swirl in my head.

But what to my wondering eyes should appear, but an angel of peace beckoning me near. “Come now, my child, sit at my feet. Dwelling in my presence is so very sweet. Do not be afraid, all will get done for God has sent you his own precious Son.”

The true gifts of Christmas are hope, peace and joy, the angels proclaimed to the shepherd boy. Let me be like Mary, so calm and so mild. Her focus instead on the new born Christ child.

O Lord, forgive me I am such a sheep. I pray for my family in your protection to keep. It’s not the glitter or the red velvet bows, but the peace & love within my spirit that his glory shows.

Enjoy this season. Take time to relax and have fun. God loves us so much He gave us His Son.

Until next time, keep looking up!

Hope for the Holidays

The holidays are upon us and with them come a mixed bag of emotions, fun, stress, drama and anticipation. Perhaps like me, you have lost someone or something you value this year. It may have been a parent, a home, a job, a son or daughter or a relationship. The holidays will not be the same this year, you may be thinking to yourself.

But are they ever the same? A lot changes in the course of a year, doesn’t it? Friends get married. Others get divorced. Babies are born. Loved ones die. Old friends move away. New friends come into our lives. Things rarely stay exactly the same as the year before.  Life changes and that is a good thing. The certainty of change means there is always hope.

As the season of Advent begins, the focus for this week is Hope. It is the first gift of Christmas.
It is a time to reflect back on the year and ask ourselves what can we do differently next year to improve our lives, to live closer to God, and to walk more in love. Each of us is on our own path and we each have different steps to take, but take them we must, if we want to move forward into a more peaceful and rewarding life.

We may need to let go of unforgiveness or bitterness; be more grateful, generous, less self-centered. We may need to laugh more and stress less; surrender more and control less, trust more, and fear less. In every trial, there is a hidden treasure in the form of a lesson to be gleaned and applied to our lives.

Look at the example of the young girl named Mary. When the angel of the Lord told her she was going to be with child, which in essence meant she was going to be an unwed mother, a crime punishable by stoning, what was her response? “Let it be done unto me according to your word.” Mary was willing to trust and to surrender her life and her will for God’s purposes. Can we say as much?

Mary’s hope was in the Lord and in His great love for her. For this same reason, we, too, can have hope this holiday season. When we are secure in the knowledge of God’s immeasurable and unfailing love for us, no matter what comes our way, good or bad, we can rest in God’s promise to be with us. His name, Emmanuel, means exactly that – God with us. Like Mary, sometimes we don’t know what the future holds, but we can hold fast to the One who does.

What are your hopes this holiday season? What is the longing of your heart? Whatever it is, give it to the Lord, and trust that He will surround you with His amazing love this season. His gifts are for every child of His and that means all of us.

If this post has encouraged you,& you’d like to receive my weekly posts, please enter your email in the space provided and do pass it on. Someone you know may need a little hope this season. Until next week, keep looking up!