Monday, August 31, 2015
Sometimes I think to myself that God is like the wind. You can´t see the wind but you know it´s there when you look at how it affects nature and people. When you look outside and see big waves on the sea you know it´s windy outside. You can feel the wind but you can´t see it. I´m thinking that experiencing God is alot like experincing the wind. You can feel God´s presence in your life but you can´t see him. You can see that God is present in someone else´s life by looking at their actions. The wind makes the sea move and God makes people move.
God pushes us out of our complacent lives and makes us want to move, suddenly we want to do something to make the world better and to make ourselves better people. We want to love others, help the poor, heal the sick and comfort those who are lonely. God stirs us up like the wind stirs up the sea.
When we are struggling in life we can find comfort, strength and guidance from talking with God through prayer. When we pray and ask God to come into our lives and help us with the things we lack strength to handle on our own we can sense his presence. We can see God move in our lives as the circumstances suddely change, things happen that we know we couldn´t have done ourselves without his interference. When God guides us through our lives it´s like the wind blowing in our hair, we know it´s there but the wind itself is invisible.
I´ve met people who have experinced incredible changes in their lives that came after they invited God into their hearts and started listening to his still voice. My friend K was once a gang member involved in violent crimes and came to faith in God in prison after reading the Bible (in lack of anything else to read) in the high-security prison. Today he is a loving husband and father of two cute toddlers. I was very surprised when he told me that he once was a gang member because there is nothing in his lifestyle today that points toward that old life. He is one of the most genuine, kind and loving people I have ever met. Today he works as a pastor and is passionate about introducing the gospel to others who have no idea about how much God loves them.
When the wind is really strong a calm sea can suddenly change and become huge waves, it´s sometimes surprising how much the wind can affect the sea. The same way as the wind has the power to change the sea God has the power to change us, his goal is to make us into more loving and better versions of ourselves. God is inviting each one of us on that journey.
Friday, August 28, 2015
I´ve been reading alot of health magazines this summer. I love bringing magazines to read when I go to the beach. It´s fun to relax in the sun and be able to learn something new at the same time. My favorite Scandinavian health magazine right now is a magazine called "MåBra". I love this magazine because it focuses on both the physical side and the mental side of wellness and health. I find that many health magazines these days tend to focus a little too much on vanity and the perfect body. The mental side of health is easily ignored or valued less in health magazines.
One topic that was mentioned many times in the magazines I was reading this summer was the need for rest. Research shows that allowing your body and mind to rest on a regular basis is very important to live a long and healthy life. I also read daily in blogs and on facebook about how people are stressed, tired, and lacking sleep. It´s easy to prioritize other things over taking time to rest in today´s society because there is alot of pressure to constantly achieve things. More and more people push themselves so hard that they get burned out and are forced to give the body and mind what it needs.
I´m hoping for a future where being "stressed" or "busy" is less glorified and where taking time to rest is more prioritized. I talked with other women in our church one time and they were all complaining that they were stressed and tired from the lack of balance in their lives. They had their children, their careers, husbands and volunteer positions to think about. I said to them: "Sometimes I think that God probably knew our struggle to prioritize resting when he decided to make it one of the ten commandments. As Christians we don´t "get to rest" every now and then, we have to rest at least one day a week." That´s pretty awesome. When I rest God is pleased with me, I don´t have to constantly achieve. Rest is not something that I only deserve when I have done alot of great work and when I´m exhausted. Rest is God´s gift to all people. I have also noticed that I get my best new ideas when I´m resting. Time for rest and reflection is super important in my life.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
What should we do when we are under pressure in life? What should we do when things don´t go as we planned in life? It´s easy to become fearful and loose hope when the pressure of life hits us. Life is full of different kinds of pressure; relationships, career, finances or when things don´t go as we planned. This week I´m still in Scandinavia so I decided to listen to a Swedish sermon online. Pastor Josef Barkenbom gives us a few tips on what to do when we are under pressure in life.
1) Don´t be surprised when the pressures come in life.
The more you live life right the more people will come against you. In fact, if nobody is against you or you are experiencing no pressure at all in life you might not be doing very much with your life. Take the pressure against you as a sign that you are doing something right because following your passion or fighting for what is right never comes easy. When you are working towards something that is good and right there will always be people trying to hold you back.
2) Stay comitted to the right things in life and learn to be flexible with the right things in life.
Although it´s sometimes really difficult to accept changes in life it will become harder if we hang on to soemthing that we can´t control, something that we know deep inside that has to change. Many things in life change and if we can learn to be a little more flexible when things don´t go as we planned we will also find the strength we need to go on.
God on the other hand, will never change, and if we continue to hold on to his promises we can find new strength from him. When we remeber all the good things God has already done for us in life we will be able to trust that he will take care of us also this time.
3) Lift your eyes
When life is hard it´s very easy to fix our eyes on the now and forget the joy that God has promised us in the future. If we lift our eyes from our circumstances and focus more on the big picture and on God we can find the strength to get through a difficult season in life. Jesus himself was able to endure all the pain of the cross because his eyes were fixed on the future joy that would come, he knew that although the pain was very difficult is was temporary. Learning to forgive others that has come against us is also an important part of being able to move on towards a brighter future.
Friday, August 21, 2015
One really interesting thing about my journey to where I am today, having a personal relationship with God and a deeper understanding of life, is that it was always right in front of me but I still couldn´t see it.
I remember once when I was in church and a pastor said that there is nothing in the world that is more offensive than when you talk about Jesus. You can talk to people about meditation, reincarnation, love, destiny or whatever but when you mention the word "Jesus" people will cringe (unless they already believe in him). The Bible explains that the reason for this is that there is two powers at work in the world. One power is good and the other is everything but good. That other power will always do anything it can to keep you away from Jesus, to keep you away from anything that is good.
Jesus once said "I am the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6 NIV) I´ve wondered many times how it was possible that I grew up in a Christian country, that has the cross on it´s national flag and everything, and I still had absolutely no clue about who Jesus was. After I started to believe in God I realized that I had always sensed the presence of God in my life, but I had called it something else. I didn´t like to talk about God, that word made me uncomfortable. Instead I would say things like: "I believe in destiny, but I don´t believe in God." Today I know that it was God all along that I believed in, but without knowing it.
Sometimes it seems like people look in all the wrong places, they search for meaning and happiness and fullfillment in everything in life except in God. This made me wonder how it´s possible to be on the search for truth and still not find it? I don´t think this would be possible unless there is a second power in the world, another power than God, an opposing power that keeps pulling us in the other direction. This power pulls us away from God and away from everything that is good, true and right. You notice this every time you try to do the right thing, it´s difficult. It´s always easier to do the wrong thing. There is a power struggle.
The Bible describes the situation like this: "Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?" (Mark 8:18 NIV) This is really interesting. The Bible goes on to say that nobody comes to faith in God unless God himself pulls the person toward himself. It´s only when God opens up our eyes and ears that we can understand truth, truth that might have been right infront of us the whole time but we never looked closer at it.
When I turned twenty I started to feel like the most important thing in life was to figure out what "the point" with life is. I felt like I couldn´t make the big decisions in life that I needed to make before I had figured out what life is all about. What am I here for? This was the first time in life that I was truly open to anything, no matter what the truth was I wanted to know it.
I searched through many different religions and philosophies but none of them seemed to have it all figured out. There were big parts of each religion that just didn´t make sense, that allowed violence and seemed to lack love. I looked at every single religion I could find information about, except Christianity. The reason I thought there was no point in taking a closer look at Christianity was that I thought I knew everything there was to know about this religion and I didn´t like it. I really didn´t like this Jesus guy, I thought it was so weird that he "had to" die on a cross and that this was celebrated. I also thought going to a Christian church was one of the most boring experiences ever. I was very sure in my own mind that Christianity was wrong about life, so there was no point in looking in that direction.
At age 22 I wanted to travel and work abroad so I took the first job I could find and ended up in a place I would never have picked myself, Cincinnati,USA. My first thought was: "where in the world is that, I´ve never heard of this place before." This was the first time in life that I really let destiny lead me to wherever I was supposed to be. Long story short, one year later I came back to Scandinavia having found "the point" with life. I had found God and it turned out Jesus was the most amazing person who ever lived because he was God himself walking on earth. It still took me many years to figure out the details of what this meant for my life, but I was finally on the right track. Sometime around age 20 God probably decided to start pulling me toward himself and at age 22 I had discovered the truth. God had opened my eyes and opened my ears.
Today I still have a ton of questions about why God does certain things and about his timing, but I know what I need to know. I know what my purpose is, I know the meaning of life and I know what I´m called to do. I feel more excited than ever to get to spend the rest of my life answering that call. I know I exist to love God, to love myself and to love other people with all of my heart. I also know that God loves me, more than any human ever will in this life.
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
I wasn´t planning on taking a trip back home to Scandinavia this summer but then it became a spontaneous trip after all. Sometimes things change quickly in life.
I have arrived in Finland and at our family cottage and the weather couln´t be any better. I enjoy getting to spend alot of time outdoors and by the water every day. It´s so relaxing to sit on the docks reading a book with the wind in my hair.
We have a large garden at the cottage which is fenced off to keep all the deers and other animals away. I love having the forest near by and being able to just walk out the door and take a hike every morning before breakfast.
I also love eating dinner outside when the weather allows it and enjoying fresh vegetables and berries from the garden.
At the cottage I don´t need a perfume, instead I use this organic body lotion that smells like a tropical vacation.
Although I usually try to stick to organic treats that rule does not apply when I´m back home in Finland. I want to enjoy all the treats that I only have available once a year, all the cookies and desserts that are finnish and remind me of my carefree childhood.
Our family cottage is more than 100 hundred years old and there is so many happy memories in this place. It´s the number one place in the world where I feel relaxed, peaceful and at home. It´s my oasis where I can always find opportunities for rest.
I read an article in a health magazine the other day on the topic of being "too kind." I´m thinking that from the time little children start to understand our language we tell them to be kind, but can you bee too kind? I agree with all the advice given in the article but I find that the language is misleading. You often hear people say things like "she is being too kind for her own good".
It´s important not to let people use you or treat you with lack of respect. Every healthy relationship has to inculde two people who both give and take. If you give but seldom get anything back the relationship isn´t healthy. On the other hand I wouldn´t say that the problem is that the person who is being taken advantage of is being "too kind". I would say that the problem is rather that this person isn´t kind enough towards herself. When we are loving towards others and ourselves we are at the same time protecting ourselves from being taken advantage of. If you have a healthy relationship towards yourself you will love, care for and respect yourself. Once you love yourself you can love others without risking being taken advantage of. The advice given in the article pointed out that it´s good to be "a little selfish" sometimes. I would disagree and say that selfishness never leads to anything good, it´s rather selflove that we lack.
Another problem is that we tend to care to much about what other people think of us. If we constantly do everything for others because we are afraid that otherwise they won´t like us then we aren´t being kind towards ourselves. It can be painful to realize that a person you did everything for might not like you if you stop, but people who treat you like that aren´t really worth your devotion anyways. People who love you for real won´t need you to do everything for them, they are happy just to get to be around you. People who love you unconditionally will be happy to serve you just like you serve them.
The better you get at loving yourself, the more likely you are to surround yourself with good people, the users will no longer be able to use you. Once you put your foot down and demand respect you are at the same time helpeing the person who has been using you. The usuer will now be forced to change if he or she wants to keep the relationship close. Letting someone continue to treat you without respect isn´t helping anyone, neither you nor the other person. Most of the positive changes we make to our own behavior we make because there is a demand for it. When you commit lo loving yourself it will be bettter for everyone.
Sunday, August 16, 2015
I love how modern technology gives us so many new opportunities. It´s great that you can Skype with your family members even if they are on the opposite side of the world. Today it was convinient for me to be able to visit church online since it's Sunday and I´m at the cottage. This morning I listened to the latest sermon online from our home church in Toronto called Elevation Church. The sermon is described like this on Elevation Church´s webbpage:
"No one said pursuing our calling would be easy. But what happens when the opportunity we’ve been chasing doesn’t turn out the way we planned? And how do we keep pushing when it feels like we're failing?"
Saturday, August 15, 2015
I spent the evening sitting on the docks reading a new book by Judah Smith called "Life is ____ ." The weather was wondeful today and spending so much time in nature got me very relaxed. The combination of the sun, the sea and the garden makes me feel so free and joyful. I can feel both my body and soul getting charged up with new energy on a day like this. Slow days are exactly what I need to get ready for an exciting but intense fall.
Reading the book "Life is ____ ." was so exciting, the book motivates me to live life in a new way. Each chapter is so uplifting and funny.
The day ended with a beautiful sunset at the cottage. I can´t believe that I get to live like this, on days like these it´s easy to be thankful. I´m thinking that heaven must look something like this.
Friday, August 7, 2015
How do you keep that "just married-feeling" alive throughout the years? My husband and I decided to read a book by Craig & Amy Groeschel this spring to get some good advice on how to keep our marriage happy and healthy. Craig and Amy have been married for 24 years and have six kids, so you could say that they know a thing or two about how to keep your marriage healthy.
The book is packed with great advice for how to build a strong marriage that can stand the test of time. One of my favorite tips in the book is to do a "marriage checkup" with your spouse on a regular basis. On a day when you are both in a good mood take some time to ask each other two questions. First, ask your spouse this: "What are three things I do in our marriage that you appreciate?" This is your chance to lift each other up and share why you love each other so much. You might also learn something new, maybe what your spouse appreciates the most is something you would have never guessed.
The second question you ask each other is this: "What are three things I could do in our marriage that would make you appreciate me even more?" Make sure you are being gentle and kind when you share what your spouse could improve on. It will be a lot easier for both of you to really listen to the feedback during a marriage checkup than if you yell some feedback during a fight.
The key is to work on your marriage during non-conflict times and on a regular basis. If you wait with dealing with your problems until they have piled up and you can no longer ignore them it will be a lot harder to get back to a good place. Commit to regular "marriage checkups".
I love that Toronto is a city built on the lakefront. One of my favorite things to do in Toronto in the summer is hang out by the Harbourfront centre and take a stroll along the waterfront. This summer has made me appreciate my city even more than usual. The highlight of this summer in Toronto must be the Pan Am & Parapan Am games. It would be fun if we ended up getting the Summer Olympics next wouldn't it? :)
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
We all have two different voices in our head, one is for us and the other is against us. We describe the situation as having a little devil sitting on one of your shoulders telling us what to do, and on the other shoulder we have a small angel who tells us to do the right thing. Life is a constant struggle when we try to decide which voice we should listen to in each situation. The worse we feel, the louder the voice of that little devil gets. This voice tells us that we aren't good enough, that we might as well not even try because we are going to fail. This voice has the power to make us worried, fearful and filled with anxiety.
The good news is that we have the power to choose which voice we will listen to, which voice we will believe. We will never be able to push that little devil off our shoulder, but we can make the voice less loud. The louder the voice of that little angel gets, the less we will listen to the voice of the little devil. But how can we make that little angel's voice more powerful? We can seek out the truth and then intentionally feed ourselves the truth on a regular basis. Every time I struggle with worry and fear in life I know I have a choice. I can continue to listen to the voice in my head that tells me that I'm not good enough, or I can choose to listen to something else.
Every time I feel anxious and choose to listen to a church sermon I always feel better afterwards. Every time I lay in bed and feel worried and decide to get out of bed and listen to a few uplifting songs like "Cast my cares" by Tim Timmons I always feel better afterwards. The only problem is every time I feel hopeless and worried the last thing I want to do is listen to a sermon by some pastor. That little devil on my shoulder keeps telling me that it's a stupid idea. He tells me that God can't help me and that I'm all alone. He tells me that I should stay in bed and that there is no point in trying to feel better. Every time it's a battle. Will I do the right thing, or will I continue to listen to that negative voice in my head?
Our fears are fueled by worry. But what is really at the bottom of our worst fears? And is there any way to shift our fear to faith?
Steven Furtick gives us a great sermon on the topic of fear. We were not meant to live our lives in constant fear and worry. God wants us to be free from fear and live a life of joy and peace. Steven Furtick teaches us three things that we can do to get free from our fear, worries and anxiety.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
It's been a really hot week in Toronto, with up to +35 degrees Celsius. One thing I have learned from spending my summer in the city is that when you decide to head to the beach on a hot day, about two million other Torontonians decided to do the same thing.
On a Saturday the beaches are very crowded so my new favorite thing to do is to take an evening trip to the beach instead. I'm not a big fan of sunbathing anyways and my favorite thing about the beach is to go swimming. My husband and I have taken quite a few evening trips to the beach during the month of July. I love taking a swim at sunset and then hanging out on the beach afterwards until it gets totally dark outside, that's my favorite way to end a hot summer day. I'm very thankful that I get to live close to The Great Lakes, what would the summer be without the lake? :)
One book I read this year that I absolutely loved was the book Greater by Steven Furtick. Greater is a book about daring to dream bigger dreams for your life and learning to live life fully. We were not created to live complacent, ordinary lives. This book will help you get your passion back for life. Steven Furtick teaches us about how we can dream bigger, start smaller and ignite God's vision for our lives.
If you sense that you were meant for more but feel stuck where you are, Greater will give you the confidence to know that nothing is impossible with God, the clarity to see the next step He's calling you to take, and the courage to do anything He tells you to do.