IN THE WHIRLWIND – LISTEN

Published on 11 September 2011 by in Encouragement

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IN THE WHIRLWIND – LISTEN

“Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind” (Job 37:38, NLT).

I love what this verse declares! When the loss and devastation of our experience is epicor when family and friends misjudge us; even when it feels like God doesn’t care about the hurricane force struggle of our inner world due to unexpected circumstances – we can be authentic about the storms of life, and God will answer.

God willingly listens; knowing it all, and in perfect timing He answers, with perspective!

We can learn from Job’s raw expressions and authenticity, and from God’s response – which clearly ticked off his wife and friends:

  • God can handle whatever we have to say; He does it best
  • He understands how much we need to say it; even if it comes out messy
  • God did not lose patience with Job. He listened as long and as deep as Job needed to release the torture of his soul; “Then the LORD answered from the whirlwind.”

Job was, in fact, crying out for someone to genuinely listen. Sure his friends gave him seven days of a compassionate listening ear. However, that changed. I wonder if they couldn’t listen longer for fear of facing off with their own personal, unanswered, and perhaps denied stormy wonders and questions.

When Job hit the center, God was there to listen and answer.

  • God’s answer changed Job’s thinking and belief system
  • Job was ready to listen
  • Perspective and a new response to his circumstances were gained
  • Prayer on behalf of his family and friends became his response after hearing God

Been there?

  • How authentic are your conversations with God?
  • How do you handle the disappointment of those who can’t or won’t handle your genuine and truthful struggle?
  • Have you experienced your Heavenly Father’s listening ear?
  • Are you willing to encounter the cleansing work of honesty and be humbled to agreement with God?
  • How have you mismanaged your pain? Have you felt God’s hug anyway?!
  • How have His answers given you new perspective? Are you still waiting to hear from Him?
  • Are you prepared to pray for those who misjudged you?

God can handle you. The question is: Can you handle what He will say to you?

Listen to Job’s response after the LORD answered him from the whirlwind:

“Job answered: ‘I’m speechless, in awe, words fail me. I should never have opened my mouth! I’ve talked too much, way too much. I’m ready to shut up and listen’” (Job 40:3-5, The Message).

What is your whirlwind? Do you believe that God will listen? He knows what it takes to get you to listen. That changes everything! Perhaps it’s time to release the valve.

God we are humbled and grateful that you are so patient to hear us out. You know us best. Thank you for encouraging us to be honest and that you answer, even when we screw up in our assessment and management of life. You are able to save us from ourselves. Your love is perfect and your ways above ours! Praise your name!!! Help us to be a listening ear to others, the way you are to us – with grace, mercy, love, truth and accountability!

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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CRUNCHED CHOICES!

Published on 30 August 2011 by in Encouragement

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CRUNCHED CHOICES!

“We are not our own bosses to live or die as we ourselves might choose  (Romans 14:7a, TLB).

A friend recently shared the costly choice her young adult son made after he had a couple of beer, to responsibly let a new friend drive his car home. Thankfully no one was hurt in the accident, but the young man was left to pay a costly bill, without any help from this new “friend.”

Which decision was the most costly, to drink and not drive? To trust someone he barely knew to drive his car? To place himself in the circumstances he did in the first place? Other? Whose choices were careless? The son, new friend, or both? What other questions reflect the cost of choice?

  • Do you prefer easier decisions?
  • Can you make tough choices when you need to?
  • Have you had to choose between right and right?
  • What guides your decision making process?
  • Do you inquire of the Lord regarding your choices?

“Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way we are his. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it” (Romans 14:8, TLB).

“It was through reading the Scripture that I came to realize that I could never find God’s favor by trying-and failing-to obey the laws. I came to realize that acceptance with God comes by believing in Christ. I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19-21, TLB).

What perspective will you operate from today for the decisions you face?

Are you prepared for any cost?

His Choice … Our Choice

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa 53:5, NIV).

All we say about ourselves is that we are your servants because of what Jesus has done for us” (2 Cor 4:5b, NLT).

Jesus, you chose willingly to be crunched at a great cost! Thank you for your forgiveness, mercy, and grace that washes over our stubborn pride as we admit and agree with you about our selfish and convenient ways! Your ways are higher, costly, and worthy. Protect us from making convenient choices that are only for selfish gain. In Jesus name, Amen.

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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AWARENESS IS JUST CAUSE FOR ACTION!

Published on 15 August 2011 by in Encouragement

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AWARENESS IS JUST CAUSE FOR ACTION!

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel. There Ephraim is given to prostitution and Israel is defiled (Hosea 6:10, NIV).

I know all about Ephraim; Israel is not hidden from me. Ephraim, you have now turned to prostitution; Israel is corrupt. Their deeds do not permit them to return to their God. A spirit of prostitution is in their heart; they do not acknowledge the LORD (Hosea 5:3-4, NIV).

The one tribe of Ephraim affected the entire nation of Israel. It’s our turn, as a tribe of Gods own people, to get serious about acknowledging the LORD, for the sake of our nation(s). Clans have great influence for either good or for evil.

Pros-ti-tu-tion (noun) 1. work of prostitute: the act of engaging in sexual intercourse or performing other sex acts in exchange for money, or of offering another person for such purposes; 2. misuse of talent for gain: the use of a skill or ability in a way that is considered unworthy, usually for financial gain (Encarta Dictionary).

You can add your prayer action to bold and courageous initiatives, in order for individuals to recognize defilement for what it is, and return to and acknowledge the LORD. In fact, allow the subject to test the purity of your own heart.

In August 2011, in Vancouver, BC a bonfire was lit to launch the Ignite The Road to Justice Mission Tour to cities across Canada. The purpose to educate Canadians about the horrors of human trafficking (for more details: Prostitution is an affliction, not a profession)

Ignorance is no excuse. Let’s not be fooled, there are severe consequences! Nations are enslaved by prostitution. We have a responsibility and duty, as His family, to appeal to the grace and mercy, salvation and power of our LORD on behalf of our nation. God is just! Condemnation awaits corruption. What are we doing about it?! This is an issue of heart that can result in judgment!

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants’” (Rev 19:1-2, NIV).

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, The two will become one flesh.’ But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Cor 6:15-17, NIV).

  • How do your prayers touch/broach this topic?
  • What demonstrates that you care for those enslaved?
  • For what gain have you exchanged intimacy with God?

Father we cry out in shame for the sin of NOT acknowledging you, and for adulterating the intimate place-designed-to hold you in our hearts. We confess and repent of our actions, corporately as a human family that encourage and support horrible deeds of selfish gain, especially at the expense of the innocent. We recognize this defilement is an example of what you cruelly bled, suffered and died for. We call upon your mercy, salvation, glory, and power to extend undeserved grace; to right the wrong of human trafficking in our land. Bless those that Ignite the Road to Justice” to create movement and awareness, which would result in action that acknowledges YOU, while restoring dignity to individuals and families! We unite our voice as members of your clan! In the name of Jesus we declare YOU are just and holy!

He satisfies every need there is” (Acts 17:25, NIV).

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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DO YOU KNOW A TROUBLE MAKER?

Published on 05 August 2011 by in Encouragement

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DO YOU KNOW A TROUBLE MAKER?

“The one thing I ask of the LORD – the thing I seek most – is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, delighting in the LORDs perfections and meditating in his Temple. ‘For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Then I will hold my head high above my enemies who surround me. At his Tabernacle I will offer sacrifices with shouts of joy, singing, and praising the LORD with music’ (Psalm 27:4-6, NLT).

Who or what is YOUR trouble maker?

Threat, intimidation, lies or frustration… have you experienced the injustice of these? Have you been disrespected, mocked, bullied, or insulted because of someone else’s pride and baggage? If you are breathing, you likely know how this can undermine or chip away at your strength, patience or resolve; perhaps, at times, terrify you.

How do you handle the threat of this trouble?

What a beautiful clue and reminder of the role and intimacy of prayer! There is great encouragement and necessary understanding in words like these:

“This is HOW the LORD rescued Hezekiah and the people of Jerusalem from King Sennacherib of Assyria and from all the others who threatened them. So there was peace at last throughout the land (2 Chron 32:22, NLT).

What circumstances in your life need peace?

 “What are you trusting in that makes you think you can survive my siege of Jerusalem? What makes you think your God can do any better? How much less will your God rescue you from my power! Said King Sennacherib of Assyria to Hezekiah” (2 Chron 32:14-15, NLT)?

“Be strong and courageous! Dont be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are just men. We have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles for us” (2 Chron 32:7-8, NLT)!

Thank you dear Lord that you desire to rescue and defend us from every threat of evil and every trouble maker! In fact, you have already fought and WON our battles!!! Grant us fresh perspective, with eternal eyes, to know Who You are; who others are; and, who we are. You alone are our hiding place and we sincerely say a huge THANK YOU!!!

How well do you know YOUR rescuer?

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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Stay or Not?

Published on 30 July 2011 by in Encouragement

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Stay or Not?

“The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you” (2 Chron 15:2, NLT).

Where DO the years go?!

Our first born moves from home, next month. Do I wish he would stay? A resounding YES – most of the time that is ;). Will he stay? Most definitely NOT! He can not stay forever. He is ready, prepared, and excited to move on, as it should be.

As God’s child, I have a choice of staying with God, or not. Herein lies the difference – I want and need to stay with HIM forever, as it should be!

Life’s experiences require an eternal perspective!

This verse takes on new, special and thoughtful meaning, providing great comfort to know that my all-seeing, all-knowing, ever-present, faithful, kind and loving Lord WILL STAY, and never leave my family, that is, as long as we remain in Him. This keeps us together, even though we must be miles/kms apart.

This also challenges my commitment to continue to press into prayer, to remain in His love so that the fruit I bear will result in an eternal reunion that includes my children.

What do you find most difficult to release regarding those you love most? What is your understanding of eternity? How you believe God purposed you and your kids to trust Him during days of transition? What helps you stay connected to your heavenly Father and your loved ones?

There is so much more life ahead yet to be discovered and experienced which includes eternity. According to what I’ve heard and read in God’s already declared Word, the plans are good; have a hope and a future, and, include everything needed for life and godliness. That does my soul good, helping me to release both of our sons into God’s perfect ways for them, and us.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you… “

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:4, 6-7, 9-10, NIV).

Dear Lord, thank you that you are the Author of life! You know the pages of our story, even before they are written. What a gift to discover and explore the adventurous plot and role you unfold for each one of us, day in and day out. I pray for all of us, including our sons and daughters who leave home, that we will embrace our experiences as opportunity to remain in you, confidently trusting and believing that ALL your ways are PERFECT and do have a PLAN!!! Help us remember it’s all about You! Thank you that you will never leave us or forsake us. Amen.

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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22.	WHO/WHAT IS ON YOUR HEART, LORD?

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb 4:14, 16, NIV).

“Our great Helper in prayer is the Lord Jesus Christ, our Advocate with the Father, our Great High Priest, whose chief ministry for us these centuries has been intercession and prayer. He it is who takes our imperfect petitions from our hands, cleanses them from their defects, corrects their faults, and then claims their answer from His Father on His own account and through His all-atoning merits and righteousness.

“Brother/sister, are you fainting in prayer? Look up. Your blessed Advocate has already claimed your answer and you would grieve and disappoint Him if you were to give up the conflict in the very moment when victory is on its way to meet you. He has gone in for you into the inner chamber, and already holds up your name upon the palms of His hands; and the messenger, which is to bring you your blessing, is now on his way, and the Spirit is only waiting your trust to whisper in your heart the echo of the answer form the throne, ‘It is done’” (A.B. Simpson, taken from Streams In the Desert, 1966).

Thank you Jesus that even today, on behalf of human kind, you stand before our heavenly Father with greatest awareness and presentation of our needs according to your eternal plans and provision. We take comfort and courage to press on, believing that our prayers are heard and answered, perfected by yours. Expand our desire, discipline and delight to pray more and more from your eternal perspective. What and who is on your heart today, Lord that we can agree with you? Reshape our understanding and practice of prayer that your enemies are made your footstool and we are made holy. In Jesus name we pray.

For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence (Heb 9:24, NIV).

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them (Heb 7:25, NIV).

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:12-14. NIV).

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb 12:2-3, NIV).

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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THINK WITH YOUR HEART

Published on 14 July 2011 by in Encouragement

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THINK WITH YOUR HEART

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom 1:19-20, ESV).

God’s Word says the truth about God is known instinctively because He put this knowledge into our hearts. In other words, our hearts MUST be engaged to know God!

So why would we ignore or downplay our hearts? Why are we tempted to go to the Tree of Knowledge of Good or Evil, like in Genesis? What is the belief and lure there is greater value on brain power, thereby keeping our heart’s instinct separate and distant from the knowledge of God? Our culture certainly celebrates and encourages self knowledge. How, then, do we learn to think with our hearts?

I suggest that diligent observation, with sincere and honest thanksgiving, is one key way that serves to cultivate knowledge of the heart.

  • Today would you consider one invisible quality of God you are aware of and choose to express appreciation for that with your lips? What understanding stirs and grows by this revelation? Would you tell Him how and why that makes you feel the way you do.
  • Consider your current surroundings and what serves to make you familiar with His eternal power and divine nature?
  • Would there be any truth you you’re be avoiding or pushing away that might hold your heart back from knowing God and making Him known? Confess and renounce it. We have no excuse whatsoever, according to Romans 1:20b, for not knowing God. We need only LOOK and SEE what He has made to acknowledge and express appreciation.

Let us pay attention by acknowledging and giving God thanks today, and every day, or we may be in danger of thinking up foolish ideas of what God is like. Going down that track leads to minds that become ‘dark and confused.’

“When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done; they refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too”  (Romans 1:28, 31-32, NLT).

Dear Lord today we proclaim that you ALONE save! All around us the beauty of your creation shouts of your power and majesty. You are worthy of our saying so! We recognize and acknowledge, with our hearts, that you and your ways are glorious and strong and that our ways, in and of themselves, are foolish, inclined to evil! We sin against you when we elevate and justify our made-up belief systems, thinking in some way our ways are above yours; FORGIVE US for such foolishness, pride, and heartlessness! We declare that your grace and mercy is MARVELOUS and that you are worthy of our belief and trust. Please help us think and live from your life within our hearts! You deserve glory! You are God, we are not! Thank you for making yourself known to us. Amen.

Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be revered above all gods. The gods of other nations are merely idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Honor and majesty surround him; strength and beauty are in his dwelling. O nations of the world, recognize the LORD, recognize that the LORD is glorious and strong. Give to the LORD the glory he deserves” (1 Chronicles 16:23-29a, NLT)!

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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DESPAIR’S ANTIDOTE

Published on 06 July 2011 by in Encouragement

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DESPAIR’S ANTIDOTE

DespairWhat hardship are you or a loved one facing that leaves despair or hopelessness, even the feeling of a sentence of death? Are others aware? What circumstances seem to require a desperate rescue effort?

Have we grasped the concept that there is a purpose to peril? Not just for the one suffering but for the one observing? Do we understand that prayer strengthens those facing these kinds of situations as well as our own reliance on God? Are we willing and caring enough to work at prayer? It is a God-given responsibility!

Paul describes the honesty of his plight in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11, NIV. Observe how the willing work of prayer helped with a paradigm shift of dependence, provided a life line of hope for Paul and his crew, and triggered a deserving response in others.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

PRAYER makes a difference in the pray-er, and in someone’s rescue causing others to give thanks for God’s obvious answers! Do you see the value and influence of individual and corporate prayer?

  • Whose needs are you agreeing with others in prayer for?
  • Who have you asked to pray on behalf of your own anguish?
  • Who around you is taking note of God’s answers resulting in gratitude?

Prayer is the means, the transfer, the exchange of reliance from our selves to the ONE and only who has the POWER to change despair for purpose.

Lord Jesus, forgive us for our prayerlessness. Grant us vision that will inspire our cries out to you, especially on behalf of the desperate and hurting. HELP! Bring hope that will strengthen and encourage reliance on you rather than on self. We agree that you alone have the power to give purpose to pain because you already carried and dealt with it at the cross. Thank you for your gracious favour! May others give you praise because you hear and answer. More of you Jesus! Amen.

“Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10, NIV).

© 2011 Karen Braun

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LESS IS MORE

Published on 30 June 2011 by in Encouragement

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LESS IS MORE

“The upstairs room where we met was lighted with many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke on and on, a young man named Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill, became very drowsy. Finally, he fell sound asleep and dropped three stories to his death below. Paul went down, bent over him, and took him into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he’s alive!” Then they all went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper,* and ate together. Paul continued talking to them until dawn, and then he left. Meanwhile, the young man was taken home unhurt, and everyone was greatly relieved” (Acts 20, 8-12, NLT)

Have you ever encountered someone you could listen to for hours on end? How about being familiar with tuning someone out, perhaps even falling asleep while they speak? What makes the difference? For a moment consider Paul, known to be long-winded, even writing run-on sentences and then read this account noting his words, action, and belief.

How would you have responded in Paul’s shoes? Would you have thought twice about how long you talked or what you said? What do you think influenced Paul’s focus as he ran down the stairs and acted in response? Where did this confidence and certainty come from? At the end of the day what did the listeners ultimately experience? What was their take-away?

Can you imagine that memorable Lord;s Supper celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection after that kind of experience?!

Paul proclaims a disclosing premise a few days later when he reconnects with his buddies from Ephesus. I’ve highlighted three points from Acts 20:20, 21:

  • “I never shrank back from telling you what you needed to hear, either publicly or in your homes. I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike, the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus” 
  • The truths in Paul’s words were backed with power and demonstration of faith. The elements he spoke of he also lived and practiced. The result – resurrection power!
  • “He must increase, but I must decrease. The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:30, 35, 36, NKJV).

The more you live for Christ and the less you live for yourself, whether your words are few or many, your conversations will also be marked by His resurrection power.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30, NIV). Prayer facilitates this process at a heart, soul, mind and gut level!

Dear Lord – as we decrease that you might increase, may we not shrink back from telling others what they need to hear. Increase our words and actions by your power that we and others will also know your life-changing and life-giving ways and love. In Jesus’ name we ask.

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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FLIPPED

Published on 23 June 2011 by in Encouragement

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FLIPPED

“…times of refreshing will come [on you] from the presence of the LORD…” (Acts 3:19b, NLT).

“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. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

Flipped completely upside down and onto the other side of our fence is how it landed. The sudden gust of wind carried our metal framed patio tent, just like a feather, in front of a fan. Wasn’t exactly the way I expected to meet our new neighbors! We did, however, have a good chuckle and great introduction by working together to hoist this 10X12 tent back over the fence into our yard. Thankfully no one was hurt and surprisingly no damage was done to either property.

Wind is a beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit. Just like a refreshing breeze during warm summer days, we can’t see Him but we certainly see evidence of where He moves, often in surprising ways, yes, and even upside down ways.

Why not set yourself up in front of the wind of His Spirit this summer. Plan a get away day or retreat for a few days to read the Word, to pray, to journal, to fast, to prayer walk. Be still and listen. You never know, He may just flip your thinking about something strategic, surprising you to new beginnings. You will value the shared experience as you work together. Don’t forget to enjoy a good laugh together too! I value the kind of experiences that introduce me to my “desperate need” for His wind to fill my sails.

Thank you Father that your way is perfect. We may make our plans but you direct our steps. Thank you that you speak to us with gentle leading and you also understand when we need a good blast, like a wake up call. Please transform our thoughts and speak to our inmost spirit by the power of your love.

May we be like a refreshing breeze to our neighbors where we live, work and play. In Jesus name I ask, Amen.

©2011 Dr Karen Braun

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