Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Positive Affirmations Videos

For the last few weeks, I've been creating a YouTube Channel with positive affirmations videos. The main themes I'm dealing with currently are depression, stress, anxiety, self-acceptance, self-esteem and other hard issues that we all deal with. The YouTube Channel can be found here if you'd like to see all of them. Below is an example of one of the most popular affirmations. It's entitled "Evening Meditation" and it's designed to help you stop thinking negative thoughts, accept yourself and all the decisions you've made that day and find peace as you go to bed.  Check it out and let me know what you think:

You can also check out my Daily Meditations website to get more positive affirmations and inspiration (as well as the podcasts and free MP3 (audio) downloads of these meditations or my home website - Sonya Triggs-Wharton, where you can find the same links plus information about my Life Coaching Services.

Let me know also if you have any other ideas about what videos I should make. I'm currently in a self-esteem, encouragement, career-focused (destiny) mode, but I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Difference Between Religion and Spirituality

I hear a lot of people talking lately about how they are 'spiritual' or 'spiritually-minded.' Ask them about God, however, and they immediately backtrack to a distance they consider safe enough from being 'religious.'

"Oh, I believe, in Intelligent Design" they'll tell you or "I don't think you can only find God in a church" is another good one. My personal favorite is those who declare they are still "open" on the question of God (or god as they refer to Him) and are actively seeking. (And I'm sure they'll get right back with me once they go from the seeking stage to "found.")

As for me, I believe in God. The God, that is, that's mentioned in the Bible and in the Torah. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses. Yes, THAT God.

I say this because there is a wide assumption that anyone who claims an allegiance to a particular religion, denomination or specific identity of God is "religious" rather than spiritual. And to take it further, being religious is considered akin to being a "holy-roller," zealot or other type of religious "fanatic."

It is assumed that because I am "religious" that means I am not familiar with the Intelligent Design versus evolutionary debate, am not familiar with the fossil evidence which purports to support claims of evolution, have not studied any eastern religions or have just generally been brainwashed my family, friends or am a "victim" of the society in which I was raised.

Religious folks, are - in a nutshell - uneducated, close-minded, parochial and incapable of independent thought.

Let me say - for the record - that many Christians like myself choose God fully as educated, literate, well-read ADULTS. Yes, I was raised in a Christian church, but I spent many years away from this environment as I sought my own answers. And yes, I studied a bit about eastern religions, visited other worship services and contemplated evolution at one time or another in my life.

And, funnily enough, I still chose God.

Being "spiritual" (i.e., with aspirations to discover what lies beyond the natural realm) is all good as far as that goes.

Knowing what you believe and Who you believe in is much, much more valuable.

Think about it....

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why I Am a Christian (and You Should Be, Too), in 600 Words

by Roger Clegg

To begin with, it is foolish not to grapple with the question whether there is a God. On His existence hinges what sort of life you should lead. Not having an opinion about or having giving serious thought to quantum mechanics is one thing, but the answer to the God question makes a big difference to you personally.

It is true that, absent revelation, it is hard to know for sure whether God exists. But that doesn’t make the answer any less important. Saying you can’t know for sure who will make your best spouse is no reason not to take care in choosing.

Next, we do know two things about the God-existence question: (a) There are good arguments that there is a God, and (b) it is better to be wrong in believing than to be wrong in not believing.

On the first point, I won’t in these 600 words rehearse the various cosmological (Kalam, Thomist, Leibnizian, etc.), scientific evidentiary, design, moral, and other arguments. Suffice it to say that none of these arguments is silly, and that even an honest atheist has to admit that he cannot know for sure that God does not exist.

The second point is, of course, famous as “Pascal’s Wager. It’s quite straightforward. If there is a God, then there is a huge advantage in believing in Him and living one’s life accordingly, versus not doing so. If it turns out there is no God, then the (much smaller) consequences in this life are all that matter, and indeed it is not at all clear that one has lost anything by believing. Therefore, a rational person should believe, live one’s life accordingly, and cultivate one’s faith.

But how do we know which God to believe in, and how do we know what He wants us to do?

The arguments so far hinge on God wanting people to believe in Him and behave in a certain way; if God doesn’t care, then there’s no point in believing in that God. The most plausible candidate for the kind of God I’m talking about is not Zeus, Ra, or Vishnu, but the monotheistic God that Jews, Christians, and Muslims believe in.

In choosing among these three religions, you must ask whether you believe the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. If you do, then you are not a Jew or a Muslim. If you don’t, then you have to ask whether you think Mohammed was a true prophet or not. Myself, I believe the evidence that Something Happened in Palestine around A.D. 33, along the lines described in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is, conversely, harder to believe that the Gospels are all simply made up.

Finally, how do we know what God wants us to do? One can certainly use tradition and logic and deduction. But ultimately one would be very interested in hearing what God Himself has to say on the matter. For that, the New Testament (and the Old, since Jesus endorsed it) is obviously the key text. Interpreting it is not always easy, and perhaps it is not the perfectly transparent text we would like. But you would not throw away the fragment of a treasure map because it wasn’t perfect.

Is all this too cold-blooded and calculating for a Christian? Well, my aim is to persuade nonbelievers, and the fact is that you can’t persuade most nonbelievers except by appealing to their self-interest. Once they believe, then they can begin shedding the cold-bloodedness, as Someone who shed His own blood for mankind taught us to do.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Do Christians Experience So Much Pain?

Why do Christians experience so much pain? Isn't being a believer in God supposed to afford you some sort of protection from all the bad experiences of life? God loves us, right? So shouldn't that mean we experience more of His blessings than His trials and tribulations?

Many Christians puzzle over why they experience so much pain in their lives. I know when I was a 'baby' Christian, I thought being saved meant an end to pain and misery and a life of understanding, transcendent joy, wisdom and knowledge. Boy, was I wrong! It's probably true to say I went through more pain in adjusting to the Christian life and learning some hard-won lessons than when I had been 'out in the world' and supposedly enjoying myself.

So why do Christians experience so much pain? Well, we know the conventional wisdom that our trials come to make us stronger. And this is true. We are promised in 1 Peter 5:10 that after we have suffered a little while, God would strengthen, establish and settle us. We can also learn from the way God treated the Israelites. In Isaiah 48:10, God talks about how He refined the Israelites like silver, using affliction as His 'furnace'. And why did He feel the need to refine the Israelites with affliction? Because they had constantly disobeyed Him and tried to refute His laws and live the way they chose to instead. They were headstrong and stubborn. Disobedient and arrogant.

Much like we are. We come to God fully expecting to receive His love - which He freely gives us - but never expecting to have to give up our arrogance, stubbornness, disobedience and sin. We have been taught so often that God is love, we forget that He is also a God of accountability, sanctification and responsibility. Truly, we expect a free pass on everything, knowing that if we turn to God, He will forgive us everything.

But we must be 'afflicted' with trials and tribulations in order to learn some very important lessons with God. We have to learn to be 'refined' until our pride and sin are burned away. Until there is less and less of 'us' and much, much more of God.

It is a very hard lesson to learn.

And why do our trials seem to last for so long? Because some lessons you don't learn in the first hour, the first day or the first year of your tribulation. Some lessons you only learn when you've gone beyond your ability to bear your burdens and you finally - finally! - turn to God and give Him complete control of your life. Sometimes you don't get to a place of complete submission and yielding until you've done absolutely all you can and finally - finally! - realize that your efforts are futile and that, without God, you are nothing. And that's when the trial is over.

And then you can begin to fully experience His peace, His Love and His open-handed, free giving of Himself and His Blessings to you.

(I am in no way suggesting that every time you go through a trial, it is because you have a lesson to learn, but many times when you go through, it is for that very reason.)

And here is the biggest insight to the scripture from Isaiah 48:10. God tells the Israelites that He used affliction as His furnace so as to separate the bad from the good in their spiritual lives (much as the dross (or impurities) are separated when silver is refined). BUT - Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible gives us even greater insight. This commentary tells us that:

It was to refine them, but not as silver, or with silver, not so thoroughly as men refine their silver, which they continue in the furnace till all the dross is separated from it; if God should take that course with them, they would be always in the furnace, for they are all dross, and, as such, might justly be put away (Psa_119:119) as reprobate silver, Jer_6:30. He therefore takes them as they are, refined in part only, and not thoroughly. “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction, that is, I have made thee a choice one by the good which the affliction has done thee, and then designed thee for great things.”

In other words, if God allowed us to go through the amount of affliction necessary to TRULY refine us, we'd never be free from our trials and tribulations! In His great mercy, He CHOOSES to accept us as we are - only partially refined - and continues to love and work with us ANYWAY.

So the next time you are feeling morally superior, remember - though you've been through a lot and feel like you have accomplished a lot spiritually - you are still only partially refined in God's eyes. It is out of His great love that He blesses us at all, so be more grateful for what you have rather than focusing on the very necessary trials and tribulations that we all have to face as Christians.

So why do Christians experience so much pain? Because it is both necessary and essential to becoming the type of Christians we need to be. Because, really, isn't the purpose to serve Him? And, instead of feeling bad about the length and number of trials that we experience, we should instead choose to feel gratitude that God accepts us as we are - partially refined, but wholly His. Which means unending Love, prosperity, blessings and all the good stuff. But know and accept that you WILL go through trials and tribulations. Your job now is simply to have the best attitude about them of which you are capable.

Be Blessed :)

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Benefits of Loving God

This is an oldie but goodie, and I thought now is a great time to re-post it. Enjoy!

I've been having a lot of spiritual conversations lately. Who God is, what He is about, and why being a 'Christian' shouldn't mean having to following a certain doctrine or religion. And I've been having these conversations for years - why bad things happen to good people, the believability and credibility of God, the hypocrisy of Christians, why one religion is better than the other and, my favorite, how black people in America are only 'Christians' because of being brainwashed by the white majority society.

I'm noticing something strange - it's like we all still believe in God, but we are no longer certain of exactly who He is. Traditional beliefs are falling by the wayside, being replaced by humanistic, general divine-consciousnessness, and dubious 'spiritual' beliefs. Who is God, really, we ask ourselves? Could He also be Buddha? Can He be found in nature? Can we reach Him through internal dialogue? Or are we ourselves gods? We can't agree on what to call Him. Or how we should worship Him. If we need to go to a church, synaogue or mosque at all. If He is a man or a woman. Or if He is one of many gods.

Let me be clear about my beliefs: the God I believe in is the God of the Judeo-Christian Torah/Bible. The One who parted the Red Sea, brought plagues down on Pharoah, sent His son Jesus Christ and made a way for all to find their way to salvation. I am clear on who He is and who He is to me.

In light of these conversations, I very simply wanted to lay out the reasons why loving God (being in fellowship with Him, attending worship services, talking to other believers) is a good thing:

1. He Will Never Let You Down

God is a God of Truth. If He (or His Word) tells you something, it is true. If He promises to do something for you, He will. If He says something will not happen, it won't. If He says something will happen, it will. He will not forsake His children. He takes care of those who claim Him as their own. He doesn't lie, pretend or bluff. He will never let you down.

2. He Will Be There For You During Hard Times

Note - I didn't say He would prevent those hard times;I can almost guarantee you those will come. But, if you are a Believer, God will be there for you during those hard times. It might be through the intervention of a friend. Or getting eight hours of sleep when you didn't think you'd be able to sleep a wink. Or the day you wake up and realize you are healed of that old relationship, or the passing on of your beloved mother. The day you got a new job - or held on to one you desparately needed. God will be there for you during your hard times.

3. He Will Never Give Up On You (Unless you choose to completely walk away)

He has promised to love each of His children and He does - always. No matter how we behave. No matter how much we keep turning away. No matter how inconsistent or fickle you are. Yes - if you choose to live your life apart from Him, He will allow that. And the Bible does tell us that if we choose not to acknowledge Him in anwy way, He will give us over to this way of thinking. But He will never stop loving you. And hoping that you will return. God will never give up on you - only you can choose to completely walk away.

4. He Will Forgive You Your Sins

He knows what you've done. He knows where you've been. And He is still willing to engage in a dialogue with you - to work it out. To take you back into His arms. To help you get through whatever drove you to Him in the first place. He loves you. He won't give up on you. And He will accept you when and if you are willing to return to Him. God will forgive you of your sins - if you allow Him to.

5. He Has Prepared a Fabulous Place For You

Yes, I know the Karl Marx quote that says, in part, that 'Religion....is the opium of the people.' And how Christians are often maligned for thinking they are all going to go to a 'better place' after this mortal life ends. Where there will be no more tears and no more pain and no more sickness. But, just think for a moment - what if there really is a heaven? What if there really is a place better than this one? Where there will be no more tears and no more crying, no more wars and no more pain? Wouldn't you want to be there? Or are you more comfortable with the idea of lying in a cold, empty grave and going on to eternal oblivion? It's your choice - but I promise you this - God has a fabulous place prepared for all those who choose Him.

For simplicity's sake, I did not put in scripture quotes for each of the above points, but if you'd like them, let me know and I will get them to you.

What have your experiences been with loving God? What do you love most about Him?

On another note, have you ever wanted a career with more meaning? Christian Counseling Degrees available online, so you can pursue your new career in the comfort of your own home!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

When the Wheels Come Off

By Donna VanLiere

Author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again

I grew up in the 70's and 80's when parents still told their kids to go outside and play. My friends and I would spend all day in the yard and when we got hot and sweaty enough we'd run to the back patio, open the water spigot on the side of the house and get down on our hands and knees so we could get low enough to turn our mouths up for a drink of water that splashed all over our faces and down our necks. In the evenings I remember seeing my parents shaking their heads as they watched the oil crises in the 1970's unfold on the nightly news. Gas prices skyrocketed to 73 cents a gallon! "Turn it off," my mother would say to my dad. "Good grief! The wheel's are coming off but they make it sound like the world's ending."

Like me, as a child you probably hoped for a life that would exceed your dreams but as those dreams collapsed along the way you've simply wished for a soft wing of hope but instead have gotten life in a culture of ungrace. That's not a word but it should be. If you don't know what ungrace is just listen to most people who didn't vote for any sitting president, watch how fast Hollywood turns on a star who no longer sells at the box office or turn on the news anytime during the day. Ungrace pulsates in our workplaces, communities, and in the media and tells us that regardless of what has happened we must do better, look better, and make ourselves better. But to love and accept someone regardless of their flaws and failures is a breath of hope in a world that turns more upside down than right side up. That is the gift of grace. It's being dirty and smelly and turning your face up under the spigot. Sometimes the wheels need to come off and you need to get pretty low before you appreciate grace.

The wheels are coming off for my friend Lisa. She's the owner of a beautiful clothing store for women. She's put her heart and soul into the store but then the economy tanked and people ran scared (even those who still had jobs and owned their homes). Trouble is, she did everything right: paid her mortgage, creditors and bills on time so she doesn't qualify for help. The wheels are coming off for my friend Jacob. When he took his vows he never envisioned this animosity, anger or separation. The wheels are coming off for my friend Gerri. She finished chemotherapy and is beginning nine weeks of radiation for breast cancer. It wasn't her dream but she's added it to her daily schedule: go to work, get groceries, go to hospital for radiation, do laundry, make dinner.

When we plan our lives no one ever says, "When I grow up I want to get a divorce, maybe two!" Or, "When I grow up I want to lose my house, my business and my life savings!" Broken dreams are never part of anyone's plan. We tie our plans up with ribbons and bows and aim for the mountain top but end up in the valley. In Finding Grace (St. Martin's Press, March 2009) I relate a story of walking with my second grade class to the library when a sixth grader spit on me. He didn't intend to spit on me but I was fortunate enough to be the one to pass at that exact moment. My teacher Mrs. Brewer cleaned me up but when I looked down at my maroon polyester blend turtleneck I could see the white tissue particles clinging to where the snot had been. "He blindsided you," Mrs. Brewer said. "That's how it goes sometimes."

At some point, life blindsides us with something far greater than a giant loogie. The diagnosis, abuse, foreclosure, broken marriage, death, or financial collapse brings us to our knees and though we try to clean ourselves up the best we know how we're still left with the stain of it all. "That's how it goes sometimes." True. But isn't there more? The beauty of grace says yes. There's more love after the infidelity, more joy after the diagnosis and more life after the financial ruin. Chris Gardner, the bestselling author of The Pursuit of Happyness was once asked how he and his son were able to overcome the shame of homelessness. Gardner said, "We were homeless, not hopeless!" Chris knew he was living on the streets but he was still living. That's grace. Grace is always present and always near but it's easy to miss -- things aren't always as they appear. I just returned from Winnipeg where The Christmas Hope is being filmed in a house. In previous months the homeowner fell off a ladder and broke several ribs. During x-rays it was discovered that he had cancer. That break-up, closed door to a job, or fall from a ladder may not be as devastating as you think but an act of grace that will save your life and help you discover higher dreams.

In a country of excess we suffer from a deficit of grace. In the last few months I've watched two stories on the news of men losing their jobs then killing their entire families and themselves. In another story a man lost his job after twenty years. "It's heart wrenching," he said. "But I still have my family and we're all together." That's the hope of grace speaking and it beats the alternative any day. Last week my friend Lisa liquidated merchandise and said, "It kills me to close this store but I know God still has a plan for me." That's grace at the end of a shattered dream. My friend Miriam's husband was devastated over their loss of money in the stock market. "How much do we have left?" she asked. Embracing and recognizing what is left is grace at the end of an economically depressed rope. There is life-altering power in that.

I once attended several Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for research. A man said, "I was a drunk for fifteen years. I lost my wife and son because she couldn't take it anymore. One day I woke up and said, ‘What the hell am I doing? I need to live.'" For fifteen years the noise of his life drown out the voice that said he was worthy, needed and loved but then came the day that he finally heard it. That wake-up call to life is a gift from God. With what strength that man had left he turned his face up toward that spigot of grace and let it splash all over him.

Finding grace in a culture of ungrace seems an impossible task but it is present, it is real and it is an indomitable gift that has the power to change your life. It does come with one condition, though -- like any gift you have to reach out and take it.

©2009 Donna VanLiere, author of Finding Grace: A True Story About Losing Your Way in Life . . . And Finding It Again.

Author Bio

Donna Vanliere, author of Finding Grace, is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Christmas Hope series and Angels of Morgan Hill. She lives in Franklin, Tennessee with her husband and three children. For more information please visit http://www.donnavanliere.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Seeing Through the Eyes of Faith

But we live by faith, not by what we see (2 Colossians 5:7 CEV).
If you are guided by the Spirit, you won't obey your selfish desires.

The Spirit and your desires are enemies of each other.

They are always fighting each other and keeping you from doing what you feel you should.

But if you obey the Spirit, the Law of Moses has no control over you.

God's Spirit has given us life, and so we should follow the Spirit. (Galatian 5:16-18, 25 CEV)

It's easy to get caught up in the every-day circumstances of life. We get up, we have to go work, get the kids ready, go grocery shopping, make dinner, do work at home, get gas for the car and a whole host of other things that consume our time and make up what we call 'life.'

But how do you view your life? Do you see it as an amalgamation of duties, obligations, and responsibilities? Or is there an underlying meaning to your life?

What I'm asking is - is there a purpose for your life or are you just living? Are you spending your time running errands, attending school recitals, watching your kids' soccer games and doing laundry? Or is there something more that drives your life?

Because it's okay (and necessary) to do all the ordinary things - after all, dinner doesn't cook itself, homework doesn't magically get accomplished and somebody's gotta make sure the kids get to school. But life is not ONLY about those things.

We (Christians) don't walk through life merely to exist. There is a greater purpose and meaning to our lives. Ultimately, to serve God. Which means, on a day-to-day basis, we see through the eyes of faith.

We see the content of a person's spirit and not simply what he or she presents to the world. We believe with blind faith things that others say can't happen in a million years. We use God's insight and wisdom to walk by faith and not by sight.

And what does walking by that faith mean? That we recognize the truth of what's going on here in the natural world (i.e., our company is downsizing and we may be in danger of losing our jobs), but that we don't allow that truth to override the overarching TRUTH (namely, that God has promised that He will never forsake the righteous and that our children will never go hungry (Psalm 37:25)). It means that we believe God MORE than we believe the news reports, what our friends think or 'conventional wisdom' (because we know that the world's wisdom is foolishness to God (1 Cor 3:19)).

God has also given us His Holy Spirit to help us in our walk of faith. By following the Spirit, we won't follow the flesh. That simply means that we will be so caught up in doing the right thing, thinking the right thoughts and behaving in a righteous manner, that we won't have the time to pursue our own selfish, acrimonious or divisive desires. God's Holy Spirit helps us to make peace with others, be the bigger person in an argument and keep eyes firmly fixed on the actions of Jesus as our ultimate role model.

God has given us life. God has given us His Spirit. See your life through the eyes of faith and be steadfast in your walk of faith. Be guided by God's spirit and He will never lead you astray!