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The Power of Your Testimony

by Brenna J. Fields

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”

John 4:39 (NIV)

There was a period in my life where I experienced death, divorce and their aftermath.  I was experiencing the loss of one loved one right after another, all while navigating a traumatic divorce.  Initially, I chose to be very private about what I was going through, but after starting to feel God’s power healing me from these challenges, I was moved to begin sharing my testimony.

The Samaritan Woman had a chance encounter with Jesus where He revealed that He was the Messiah on whom she has been waiting.  This interaction with Jesus has opened her eyes to Jesus and has given her a testimony.  What can we learn from this woman about our testimony?

There is power in our testimony because it provides proof of the realness of our God.  After her conversation with Jesus Christ, the Samaritan Woman rushed back to town to share her experience! She said, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” As a result of her testimony, many other Samaritans would come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and would believe, not just based on what she said, but came to know for themselves.

As a result of my testimony of how real God was in my life during tragedy, others have been encouraged to believe the same, and have been able to see God’s realness through their own challenging times.  A friend said that my testimony has allowed other to taste and see that God is good (Psalms 34:8) through it all!

I encourage you to, as you are led by God, to share your testimony.  It has the power to transform, empower and bless someone. Your testimony has the power to show them the Messiah.

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Lessons From My Second COVID-19 Vaccine Dose

I received my second dose of the vaccine about 4 days ago, and today is the first day I have felt almost 100% normal.  The experts say it affects every person differently, and I know that to be true!  My almost 80-year-old father had very little side effects, while I seem to have had every last one of them!

Being down for the last few days has given me some time to think (between chills and body aches 😊) This is what I’ve learned:

Never take your health for granted

Good health is a blessing!  I assumed that my second dose wouldn’t affect me, so I had a whole agenda for the weekend planned.  I had no choice but to set most of it aside.  If you are relatively healthy, do your best to maintain it (eating healthy, exercise, self-care, etc.), and be intentional about taking care of yourself.

Pray for others

While I could do nothing, I was led to use that time to pray for others. After all, we really should be interceding on behalf of others anyway!  God kept reminding me of people who were experiencing difficulties, and I would stop and pray for them right then, or even send them a text message to let them know I was praying.  As you are going through, don’t forget there are others also experiencing challenges.

Allow people who care about you to help you

I was raised to be independent, but sometimes, we need the help and support of others.  When I really started to feel the effects of the second dose, I thought I would be able to go to the store myself to get Tylenol and other things, but my body would not let me.  I’m grateful for friends who checked on me and went to the store for me.  We are not super men and women; set pride aside and allow others to be a blessing to you.

Listen to your body

If your body says rest, then rest!  If your body craves water, then drink it!  Your body will tell you exactly what you need; all we have to do is pay attention to it.

Count your blessings

While most of my Easter Weekend (including my vacation day on Good Friday) was spent at home, I am grateful.  Now that I’ve been fully vaccinated, I can plan a trip home and visit family members I haven’t seen in over a year.  My challenging few days are worth it.

What lessons can you learn from your challenging times?

Slow Down

by Brenna J. Fields

I am currently in a season of life that is extremely busy.  Since January, I have been “head down” in working on my businesses, promoting my book, working in the community, serving in church, and oh yeah, showing up for work every day!  And at the same time, I’m trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle (some weeks I do well, and some week – like this week — I miss it).  But yesterday, something happened that reminded me to slow down.

I was going to the grocery store to get what I needed for the upcoming week (for those of us from New Orleans, we call that “making groceries”).  I parked my car and was walking toward the entrance of the store I noticed there were several people just standing around the parking lot, not doing anything (or so it seemed).  I was almost at the entrance and something said, “stop and turn around.”  I did and discovered why people were standing in the parking lot.  There was a group of about 5 ducklings trying to jump up on a curb so they could catch up with their mother. They were tiny little things, much shorter than the curb, and they were struggling to step up.  They jumped and missed, they tried again and again, and one by one, each of them made it!  The shoppers observing this all said “aww” in unison as the ducklings waddled away to be with their mother.  It was the most precious sight, and I almost missed it because I was in a hurry to make my groceries so I could move on to the next thing on my list.

I almost missed God’s creation at work.  I almost missed the kindness of strangers as they watched out for the ducklings in this busy parking lot.  I almost missed that moment in time that can never been recaptured.

Yes, life can be very busy.  But even in our busy seasons (and yes, they are just seasons), it’s important to slow down.  Life is going on around us, and if we are not careful, we may miss something that can be a blessing to us.  Take a moment to enjoy nature, say a kind word to someone, or enjoy a good meal (and actually taste your food!).  These are small things that can change the course of our day and can remind us of the fact that there are kind people in the world (some days it’s hard to tell) and that God is good.

Take a moment today and slow down.  You’ll be glad you did.

The Importance of Silence

by Brenna J. Fields

Have you ever been so busy with various things in life until you feel like you can’t think straight?  You’re moving from task to task, assignment to assignment, doing them on autopilot (or so it seems).  Then, when you finally come out of that busy season, you can take a moment to exhale.  You breathe a sigh of relief, thankful that you have been able to successfully navigate a crazy time in your life, and you take a moment (hopefully) to just pause.

This is exactly where I am as I write this.  From January until this past weekend, I have been moving non-stop! The month of February was particularly crazy for me, having coordinated 3 events, facilitated my weekly group coaching program, led my bi-monthly online book study, taught my weekly Sunday School class, and worked my day job.  I prayed that I would get through all of that with some level of success, and God definitely answered my prayer.

As I am now able to exhale a bit, one of the things I’m learning is the importance of silence.  This past Sunday, I spent some time at the beach, which is one of the things I enjoy doing to relax.  While sitting in the sun and enjoying the breeze, ideas began to come to mind about the next things I can do in ministry as well as my businesses.  Where did these ideas come from?  Why weren’t they coming before now?

I believe my ideas stopped flowing because my mind was too cluttered; there were no room for me to receive them!  If those ideas had come while I was in the middle of finalizing plans for 3 events, when would I have acted on them?  They probably would have been lost in the shuffle of everything else. 

I understood the importance of silence prior to now, but this season has reinforced this lesson in me.  Two things are standing out:

First, while we will have seasons of busyness in life, we should not want to exist in a perpetually busy state.  One effect of overwork in my life is that I don’t sleep well.  My sleep is interrupted by my mind trying to remember all the details of what I’m working on, especially if I’ve got multiple things going on at the same time.  It’s not good for our physical and mental health to live like this all the time.

Second, we must schedule and plan downtime.  As I was in the middle of everything in January and February, I kept looking at the calendar to see when I would get a break.  Then I made up in my mind that I would take that break (even if I didn’t exactly know at the time what I would do with it).  Not only do we have to schedule and plan our downtime, we must also protect it.  Invariably, something will come along that can potentially rob us of it, so we must be intentional about safeguarding it.  Learning how to say “no” is an important part of this.

I encourage you (as I remind myself) to remember that silence is important.  Silence is not a waste of time!  It enables us to recharge, refocus and to be inspired to take the next steps to achieving our goals.  Be sure to take time (and make time) for silence, if not today, then one day very soon!

Holidays Reimagined

by Brenna Fields

2020 has been a as been a year of change and adjustment. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused life as we know it to be drastically different.  While we hope that things can eventually get back to ‘normal,’ as I write this blog, the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in most states across America.  Because of this, the holiday season is probably unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

Thanksgiving week 2017 with my parents and grandmother (RIP Mama and Maw Maw)

For me, the holidays (especially Thanksgiving and Christmas) are about family.  The last several years have found me either hosting family members or traveling to Louisiana to spend the holidays with them.  Particularly since my mother’s passing in 2018, I have been intentional about going to Louisiana for Thanksgiving and Christmas so my grandmother (my mother’s mother) could have a memorable holiday.  2020 now finds me not only facing the fact that this is my first holiday season without any grandparents (my grandmother passed away in March of this year), but also deciding not to travel for Thanksgiving and possibly not for Christmas because of the pandemic (plans are still up in the air).  So, what do I do?  This is how I’ve decided to spend Thanksgiving; if your plans for the holidays are different than normal, I hope these suggestions help you.

Cook!

If you really know me, you know I love to cook!  While my spread will not be as elaborate as it might generally be, I am going to prepare a special dinner.  There won’t be any turkey (because I’ve never made one lol), but I will make a few special dishes.  And, in honor of my great-grandmother, who loved to serve elaborate meals and to host people,  I will use some of her china to serve myself with (no everyday dishes for me!)

Serve Others

You may ask, “what are you going to do with all of that food?”  There are a few people I know who are in need.  They don’t know it yet, but I plan to drop off a few plates to them.  There are a couple of other people who I know are spending Thanksgiving alone, so I will invite them to drive by and get a plate.  There is joy in serving and giving of oneself; I look forward to the opportunity to share.  Is there someone you can serve and be a blessing to this holiday season?

Reflect

The last 3 years or so of my life have been quite challenging.  Since I am now on the other side of a lot of them (thank you God!), I want to use this time to reflect.  God has been so good to me…I truly cannot tell it all!  During this Thanksgiving season, I want to take some time to count my blessings.  I also want to take some time for me! I may take my folding chair to the beach one day and just sit and enjoy God’s creation, or I may go to the park and take a walk.  Although there are a couple of things I want to get done Thanksgiving week (one of them is putting up my Christmas tree), I’m not going to have much of an agenda or a schedule; I am just going to flow.  I am very intentional about how I spend and schedule my time, but over the next several days, I am going with the flow.  When was the last time you did that?

This year, I’m going to embrace what is, count my blessings and just be.  No complaining here!

What ideas do you have for someone who is spending the holidays without family and away from friends?  I would love to hear them; please share them in the comments.

Video

Special Announcements – November 6 and 9

Hello everyone!

Exciting things are happening in the next few days. Please listen in this video for a preview!

#bigannouncement #Godisgood #staytuned

Video

Special Announcement!

Tune in on Monday November 9 for a special announcement!

Exercise Patience

by Brenna Fields Taylor

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-3, NKJV)

When we go to the doctor, he or she may tell us that we need to start exercising.  Exercising is not an easy thing, and we may not want to do it (because it takes effort, it takes work); but it is required so that we can maintain or improve our health.

During the season in which we’re finding ourselves, I believe God is calling us to exercise patience.  By now, many of us thought that the pandemic would be coming to an end and that we could start returning to our normal lives (and as of the time of this blog post, that is far from true).  And on top of the pandemic, the racial, economic, and political climate is one that we in this generation have never seen or experienced.  And yet, I believe God is calling us to be patient.

In the epistle of James, the author teaches us to consider it joy when we face difficulties. Why? Because it’s going to produce something good in us, and that is patience.  No one likes to wait, but as we exercise patience, we are growing, we are maturing, and our faith is increasing.  So James says that we are to allow patience to do a work in us.

When we engage in physical exercise, the more we do it, the better we become.  Our muscles grow stronger, we can walk or run faster, our bodies function better, we sleep better, and we reap all kinds of benefits from physical exercise.  When we exercise patience, we’re reaping spiritual benefits:  we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, our faith is increasing, and we have a deeper relationship with God (we pray more, we trust Him more, we have the peace that passes all understanding).

Look at your life before the pandemic and now: Are you praying more? Are you seeking God’s face more? If the answer is yes to those questions, that’s means we are exercising patience! We have no idea when the situations we face will come to an end.  Until they do, I encourage you to continue exercising patience.  And as we do, watch what God does in your own life as well as in the world and His kingdom.  We will reap the spiritual benefits if we continue to exercise patience.

Biblical Self-Care

By Brenna Fields Taylor

The term “self-care” has become a popular one as of late.  I recently ran across a quote about self-care on Facebook that says, “Self-care isn’t always chocolate cake and trips to the spa.  Sometimes, it’s meal planning, going to bed early or letting go of a bad friend.  It’s forgiving yourself for not meeting your own impossible standards, and understanding that you are worthy.  Always. Self-care isn’t just luxuries, but a means for survival.”

If we look at self-care as a means for survival, what does the Word of God tell us about how we can care for ourselves?  Let’s look at self-care from a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual standpoint.

Physical Self-Care

In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul says this to the believers in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NLT): “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.”  In context, Paul is addressing a particular situation about sexual sin; he’s reminding the church that even though they came from a culture when the practice of being promiscuous was commonplace, as believers, the Corinthians should keep their physical bodies pure and ready for service to God.  What does this have to do with us and self-care?  We too should keep our bodies pure so that we can be physically able to be used by God.  That means eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water (something I don’t do enough of) and exercise.  The other day, I had a particularly stressful day at work, and I knew that, at some point during that day, I would need to get some exercise to relieve the tension I was feeling.  Instead of working out at home like I normally do, I decided to take a walk.  I walked about 4 miles, and as I felt the sun and the breeze blowing on this nice and peaceful evening, it was exactly what I needed to center myself again and relieve the stress I was feeling.  So, what are you doing to take care of yourself physically? What are you going to do today?

Mental Self-Care

Look at what the passage from Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says: “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think (emphasis added). Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

What influences the way we think?  What we feed ourselves mentally, what we allow into our minds is what influences the way we think.  Have you ever considered thinking about what you think? In other words, have you ever considered paying attention to your thoughts?  One scientist notes that, “We are aware of a tiny fraction of the thinking that goes on in our minds…The vast majority of our thinking efforts goes on subconsciously.” This scientist also says that the way to control these subconscious thoughts that come to the surface is to focus on something specific.  For believers, what is that “something specific?” It’s the Word of God.  The thing we focus on the most become bigger; it becomes a greater part of us.  Paul says it in the verse from Romans 12:  we can be transformed if we renew our minds, so we focus on the Word of God to do that.  What are you doing to take care of yourself mentally? What are you going to do today?

Emotional Self-Care

When we think about our emotions, we think about our feelings. Have you ever heard the expression “being all in your feelings?” It means “overreacting, getting mad over something, or being distracted by one’s (usually morose) feelings.” Whether we realize or not, we can all get “in our feelings” at some point or another.  What can we do to pull ourselves out of a negative emotional state?  The scripture I want to highlight here is Hebrews 4:15-16 (KJV): “ For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” During His time here on earth, Jesus felt the same feelings and emotions that we do (He lived a fully human existence). He felt sadness, anger, frustration, impatience, grief, and disappointment. Because He felt the same emotions that we do, He can empathize with us, and can relate to what we are going through.  So, when we get all in our own feelings, we can go to the One who truly gets it…that’s Jesus Christ. Yes, we can choose to reach out to a friend or family member (nothing wrong with seeking wise counsel); but they may be only able to sympathize with us, and not empathize with us.  When someone can empathize with us, it’s more that just feeling sad for us, but it’s being able to really relate to another person’s experiences, because they have gone through it themselves.  Jesus Christ can be that Person for us because He shares the same feelings we do.  So, what are you doing to take care of yourself emotionally? What are you going to do today?

Spiritual Self-Care

Again, looking at the example of Jesus, Luke 5:16 (NLT) says that “But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” The word “often” means that He did this on a regular basis.  He needed to seek God for direction and also for renewing and refreshing so He could continue in ministry. If we go back one chapter to Luke 4, we see that Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted. He emerges from that experience ready to begin His ministry: preaching, teaching, healing, raising the dead. Yet, Jesus knew he had to take time to pray, to strengthen Himself spiritually. One commentator says this about this verse: “The Son of God had to hear the Father’s voice and determine where the Father was at work.”  God has given each of us an assignment, and as we work our assignment, we must continuously seek God to give us the strength and direction we need to complete it.  What are you doing to take of yourself spiritually? What are you going to do today?

I hope by now you can see that self-care is more than just a fad.  For believers, taking care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually should be a way of life.  My challenge to you is to look at your life:  Are you taking care of yourself in these areas? If not, what can you do to make some changes?  Because ultimately, this is not about us, but it’s about being the best instrument we can be to be used by God, so that He can get the glory for our lives and through our lives.

Photo credit: Madison Lavern

Maintaining Christian Fellowship When the Church Doors are Closed

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT)

By Brenna Fields Taylor

As I write this blog, we are about 2 months into the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States.  Because of the way in which the virus spreads, churches have been forced to close their doors and discontinue meeting in person.  And church leadership has become quite creative in determining how to keep doing church when we can’t go to church. One must wonder…prior to now, have we put too much emphasis on the church building?  Have we assumed that a church edifice, and everything contained therein, would be what would draw people to Christ (that’s what Christians are supposed to be doing, correct)?  Well, I don’t want to digress…that’s another topic for another day!

Christians have begun to make (or were forced to make) the adjustment to worshipping remotely. Even my daddy, who said he would never join Facebook, is listening in to bible study and Sunday services online!  Whether it is Facebook, livestream, Zoom, conference call, or a recorded message, Christians seem to be doing the best they can to adjust to the times in which we live (even if some of us had to go kicking and screaming).  But while we’re getting our worship and study in, what about the fellowship?  Using my own church as an example, the people seem to be thirsty for the person to person fellowship.  When we join the weekly prayer meeting conference call, as people join the line and identify themselves, they are joyously greeting one another and are excited to hear each other’s voices. It sometimes is a challenge because everyone is talking while we’re trying to begin the prayer service.  If you ‘ve ever been to a family reunion, it’s somewhat like that. Many families reunite every 2 or 3 years, and the meet and greet part of the weekend is sometimes the most exciting time.  Everyone is greeting everyone and giving big hugs because we haven’t seen one another in a long time.

So, until we can get back to church (the physical building), what can we do to maintain fellowship?   Whatever it is we choose to do, we must be INTENTIONAL about maintaining this fellowship.  Maintaining fellowship was easy when we saw each other at least once a week.  But now, things are different. When was the last time we picked up the phone (not sent a text) to call someone we haven’t spoken to in a while?  When was the last time we wrote and mailed a quick note to someone? (yes, the United States Postal Service is still in operation). Have we thought about doing a “drive-by” and dropping off groceries and supplies to someone in need?  We may not be able to go inside the person’s home and fellowship, but we can wave from our cars!

It is easy to become comfortable inside of our homes (I know I definitely am).  And I say “we” in the above statements because I know I can do better about maintaining fellowship. Just as, little by little, we’ve gotten comfortable in our own little bubbles, little by little, we can come out of those bubbles and intentionally plan to cultivate Christian fellowship.

While cities are slowly beginning to ‘open up’ again, churches do not yet know when we will return to in-person worship experiences.  Until such time, believers will need to get creative, not only in how we worship, but also in how we fellowship.  As one of my elementary school teachers used to say, “put on your thinking caps!”  Get innovative in how we fellowship with one another. We don’t need a committee meeting and a church vote to do something…do something today!