Archives For Religion and Spirituality
The amusement park’s jungle cruise boat captain entertained us with silly jokes and warned us to watch out for the water-spitting elephants. At seven years of age, I was enjoying myself immensely as I sat between my mom and dad in the full boat.
However, the captain’s voice suddenly turned serious. He warned we would have to go through a dark cave full of headhunters in order to get back home. There was no other way.
The captain shared there was no need to worry since the headhunters mostly attack little blonde-haired girls. This presented a dilemma since I was a little blonde-haired girl who wished to keep her head. I covered my eyes to avoid seeing my fate. However, I realized by covering my eyes with my own hands, I could not see if my dad was still there to protect me. So I covered my eyes with his hand instead. And with that move, I upstaged the captain as our fellow passengers dissolved into laughter.
Over the years I have often turned to my dad when I was scared or upset. My dad was always available when I needed him. He would “cover my eyes against the scary” with words of encouragement and promises God would be with me even when he couldn’t.
Fast forward 35 years from that jungle boat cruise. A different scary outcome lay ahead. The cave replaced with my parents’ house. The boat for a hospital bed.
I longed for my dad to cover my eyes against the “scary,” but his hand lay limp at his side. My dad was dying. Although hospice provided a book to inform us what to expect, living it was much worse than reading about it. Each stage much more horrible than the last.
I heard the death rattle in my dad’s chest and throat. Not being able to draw in much breath, he fought for air. The hospice nurses had promised he would feel nothing as he neared the end. However, even though he was sleeping, it seemed to me he was suffering.
My every instinct warred within me to help. But I knew there was nothing I could do. He was ready to go so I was forced to helplessly stand and watch.
There was no other way home. My dad was about to enter heaven and this was the only way.
As I watched my dad take his final breaths in this life, my body was wracked with sobs. I needed my dad to cover my eyes and encourage me everything would be okay.
But he couldn’t. My dad would no longer be here for me to turn to when I was facing something scary.
Then I remembered the principle my dad taught every chance he had. My Heavenly Father would always be with me even when my own dad could not. So I turned to God and begged Him to help me get through this horrible scene playing out in front of me.
I was reminded of Stephen in the bible who was stoned to death for his faith. Before he took his final breaths, he saw heaven open up before him and saw Jesus standing at God’s right hand. There was no suffering as he took his final breaths and entered heaven.
If God could open Stephen’s eyes to heaven and “cover his eyes against the scary,” then He could do the same for my dad. This became my prayer. And I choose to believe it was answered. Just as Stephen died peacefully amidst being stoned, my dad died peacefully amidst straining for breath.
And now He does the same for me day by day, moment by moment. God opens my eyes to the knowledge my dad is with Him. Unable to walk in the last 3 years of his life, he now runs the streets of heaven probably playing a pick-up game of basketball with Joseph. He is visiting with his own mom and dad, many other relatives, and the people in the bible he studied much about over the years.
These reminders allow God to hold me up with His right hand and “cover my eyes against the scary.”
As I continue to travel the “valley of the shadow of death.” He strengthens me, gives me wisdom when I ask, and comforts me. Although my dad’s hand is no longer available to me, God’s hand will always be there.
God’s there for you too. What “scary” are you facing? Pick up God’s hand and cover your eyes. Allow Him to hold you with His right hand as He soothes you with words of encouragement and provides strength to face what lay ahead.
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41:10
This post dedicated to my dad who went to heaven Oct. 16, 2013.
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
One night during family prayer, our 3 year old daughter, Calan, asked God to give her a brother named George. Kneeling nearby with our 13 month old daughter, Cauriana, I stole a glance at my husband, Craig. He was looking at me with wide eyes and we both chuckled.
When Cauriana was born, she came into the world demanding a manicure and a massage. High maintenance was her calling card. She would only take twenty minute naps and scream during the rest of our waking hours. If I wasn’t holding her, I was feeding her. And if I wasn’t feeding her, I was changing her diaper. And if I wasn’t changing her diaper, I was trying to figure out what was causing her ear splitting screams.
While I tended to Cauriana, I also tried to give proper attention to Calan by reading to and playing with her. I was exhausted! All the time!
So when Calan prayed for a brother, I decided to help God out. After all, this prayer would not be answered in the way she hoped so I was a bit concerned that it would crush her childlike-size-of-Texas faith.
I gently explained although God is in control of all things, He does let us have a bit of control over some things. And her dad and I definitely had some control over whether or not she would have a little brother and it wasn’t going to happen, nope, no way, no how, nada, not happening! Okay, maybe it wasn’t so gentle. But I was panic-stricken.
Calan didn’t seem to notice or care so I felt we dodged a bullet.
The next day, I began to feel strange. In the early afternoon, I stopped in my tracks as I realized the only times I had felt this way was when I was pregnant. I immediately looked up toward the sky and said/yelled, “NO WAY!!”
I sped to the store and bought a home pregnancy test. By this time, you’ve already finished this story in your head. And you would be right. The stick turned pink. I was pregnant.
I was shocked. Craig was shocked. Calan was not. Calan said, “Of course you have a baby in your tummy. It’s a boy named George.”
During the entire pregnancy, she never deterred from, “It’s a boy named George.” Even when we tried to reason with her saying it could be a girl, she would respond, “Nope! It’s a boy named George.”
When delivery day came, lo and behold, we had a boy. I was shocked. Craig was shocked. Calan was not.
We called Craig’s parents house where the girls were staying to give them the good news. I said to Calan, “You were right! We had a boy! But honey, his name isn’t George. It’s Colby.” She said, “No it’s not! It’s George!”
She had been right about everything else so I was ready to rip the birth certificate from the nurse’s hand to ensure I had named our little boy Colby and not George.
Calan insisted on calling Colby, “George,” for the first week of his life. She finally conceded after that and began calling him, “Colby George.”
Today is Colby’s 12th birthday. And we are extremely blessed God answered Calan’s prayer. At least the “brother” part. And Calan has finally dropped the “George” from his name.
Calan’s special prayer taught me I never need to try to “explain” God. And I definitely don’t take credit for having control of things I do not.
So now when the kids pray for outrageous things that scare us, we let them.
Then Craig and I pray against them. It’s the “battle of the prayers” at the Johnson household.
Yep, praying kids are scary! But it just adds to this adventure we call life.
This post is part of the following link-ups:
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..” ~ Jeremiah 1:5a
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. ~ Psalm 139:13-14
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:16
“God created you with a longing to know you are significant, accepted and secure – and then He met that need through Jesus. You are LOVED with measureless grace and affection.” ~ Renee Swope A Confident Heart
“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~ Steve Furtick
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! ~ 1 John 3:1a
“The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator.” ~ Oswald Chambers
“Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted. i.e., keep fulfilling all the obvious duties of your station (you really know quite well enough what they are!), asking forgiveness for each failure and then leaving it alone. You are in the right way. Walk – don’t keep on looking at it.” ~ C. S. Lewis
What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. ~ Matthew 10:29-31
“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” ~ Malcolm Forbes, American magazine publisher
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” ~ Helen Keller
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17
“All your efforts to win God’s affection are unnecessary. All your fears of losing his affection are needless.” ~ Max Lucado
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. ~ Philippians 2:13
“Every artist was first an amateur!” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. ~ Psalm 34:18
“Don’t let people’s compliments go to your head, and don’t let their criticisms go to your heart. The degree to which you do either of these things is the degree to which you’ll be ruled by what other people think of you.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? ~ Romans 8:31-32
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This post is part of the Whimsical Wednesday Link up
and the Woman to Woman Word Filled Wednesday Link Up
©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
“I can do it Grandpa, I promise!!” My argument continued to fall on deaf ears as I tried to convince my grandpa I could indeed jump off the dock on the lake and not drown. He continued to silently rock back and forth on the porch swing that hung from the big, shady oak tree by the lake. This was one of his favorite spots on his property. But I was destroying the peace he loved so much.
Maybe he didn’t hear me. “GRANDPA!! I’M ABLE TO SWIM, I PROMISE!” The desperation to take that coveted leap may have made me embellish my 1 lesson in the water that barely consisted of introductions and instructions to never talk your grandpa into allowing you to jump off a dock into a deep lake until all water education was completed.
However, I was a very busy 8-year old at the time! I had rocks to skip, tadpoles to catch, trees to climb, grandparents to manipulate. There was no time for this silly nonsense of actually learning before leaping.
Besides, my cousin, Shelley, 5 months my junior was always allowed to jump off the dock into the lake. When my grandpa tried to explain Shelley had taken several months of swim lessons in the very lake by which we argued, he was met with a scoffing sound. I looked around for the rude person who would have the nerve to be so disrespectful to my short-tempered grandfather. Unfortunately, I realized I was that person.
My irritated and exasperated grandpa, tired of the fight, decided it was pointless to continue to argue with a stubborn child who insisted in learning things on her own. “Go jump in the lake!” he yelled.
I bolted from the swing before he could change his mind, ran straight onto the dock, and splashed through the puddles left from the many flying leaps my cousin had already taken from the “stationary diving board.”
As soon as my toes touched the end of the platform, I jumped and sailed through the air, arms outstretched. Feeling the wind in my hair, I closed my eyes and enjoyed my moment of victory and took pleasure that I was doing something my parents would surely incarcerate me in my room for later. But right now, I was free and I was going to squeeze every bit of pleasure I could from this adventure.
Relishing the moment a bit too long, I forgot to take a breath before plunging into the dark, murky water. Only taking into consideration how to get into the water, I had not given thought to how to get out. It was then I realized the wisdom in the advice to learn to swim before leaping.
It seemed like minutes as I sank deeper and deeper underwater. Wondering when I would stop, I suddenly felt my feet sink into the squishy, gooey mud at the bottom, leaving nothing hard in which to push off. Already feeling as if my lungs were on fire, I began to flail my arms and legs in an attempt to reach the top that felt 100 feet above.
Disoriented, I could only wonder if I was traveling upwards toward that cool breath of fresh air or if I was just spinning in circles. My lungs screamed for air. I couldn’t hold out much longer before my body would instinctively gasp for air only to take in dirty lake water.
Realizing I couldn’t save myself, I knew I needed Jesus! Nothing else mattered in that moment. Schoolwork, the fight with my sister, my cousin being able to do things I only wished I could, all of it went away.
It was just me and Jesus.
I prayed for Jesus to save me. It was in that moment my hands escaped the pressure of the water and felt the freedom of fresh air. Finally my mouth and nose broke through the surface and I was able to gasp for air. I choked and sputtered while thrashing around, trying not to be swallowed by the water again.
Suddenly, I felt strong hands grab me under my arms and pull me to the safety of the dock. My grandpa stood looking down at my face as I lay on the dock, sucking in as much air as humanly possible. We stared at each other too shocked to say anything for a full minute. When I finally stopped choking up water, he said, “I told you!” and walked away. Gotta love a softhearted man.
Do you feel as if you’re drowning because of choices you’ve made? Are you flailing trying to save yourself knowing it’s futile? Call on Jesus! He can bring you back to the surface and provide a breath of fresh air. Give Him your mistakes. He’s the Master at taking our ashes and turning them into something beautiful. Ignore the “I told you’s.”
Nothing else matters at this moment. It’s you and Jesus. Call on Him. He’ll save you.
“…..He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted…. to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes….” ~ Isaiah 61:1,3
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
Hateful words spewed from my “friend’s” mouth. I had worked hard in my volunteer position only to have her cut me down and question my motives. At first, I was defensive. Then my heart began to agree I was a terrible person. My mind raced wondering who else may think the same of me. Finally, I determined not to open myself to anyone ever again and was tempted to quit the position.
Have your thoughts ever spiraled out of control leading you down a destructive path after receiving an unfair criticism? We’re tempted to believe all criticism is true.
When trying to determine if criticism is constructive or unfair, consider the following:
- Is the criticism meant to help me change in order to grow? Or are the chosen words meant to cut me down and doubt my abilities?
If someone is interested in seeing you succeed and proceed to the next level, their words should be considered. However, if the person’s words are not constructive and are destructive then reject their opinion.
- Is the person acting as a caring friend or is jealousy coloring their words?
My “friend” was not being caring. Her credibility was damaged when it became apparent she was jealous and desired to assume the position I held.
- Is the person criticizing me in an open forum such as social media or are they using proper channels to speak with me privately either through a private message or phone call?
Social media allows people to speak in haste. It allows us to depersonalize others giving us permission to say whatever we feel without regard to how it will be received. Most of these harsh comments can be disregarded.
- Did the person share their thoughts anonymously or did they use their real name?
As soon as a letter is received through the mail, I immediately glance at the end to find a signature. If it is unsigned or is signed, “Anonymous,” it gets thrown in the garbage. Anyone who is not brave enough to use their name has nothing of value to say.
After deciding the criticism is from a credible source and is meant to help you grow, it’s time to determine if it’s valid.
- Take time to pray, look through scripture to determine if there is truth in his/her words, and read your affirmation file. An affirmation file is a file to keep all complimentary notes received, quotes that add to self-worth, verses from the bible that reveal how God feels about you, and even verbal compliments received that have been written down and filed.
- After seeking God on the matter, reading the bible, and looking at the affirmation file, you will be able to see things clearly. Thoughts crowded with false, accusing, negative self talk are replaced with truth. You’ll be able to see if there is room for growth.
- Decide if the comments are to be disregarded or considered. If the person’s words disagree with God’s and the comments in the affirmation file, they can probably be disregarded. However, if God uses the person’s words to reveal truth to you through convicting scripture and if there is nothing in the affirmation file to disagree, then their words should be considered.
Once you’ve determined the words are valid, make a plan of action.
- Pray and commit to making the changes needed.
- Take time to write down how the changes will impact your effectiveness. This can be used as an ongoing motivational tool.
- Determine if help is needed in making positive changes. Will counseling or additional training improve your chances of succeeding?
- Enlist accountability partners who will be honest with you about your progress.
- Write down the positive impact when following through on the changes you’ve made.
- Thank God for helping you make positive changes to your life. And thank the person who set you on the path of growth through their constructive criticism.
When criticism is unfair, we need to ignore it and ask God to remove it from our minds and hearts. When criticism is truly constructive, it can help grow our effectiveness and impact.
“Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.” Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)
This post is part of a blog link up at
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson
Today, I’m excited to welcome my guest writer, Valerie Welsh. A great mom many of us can relate to in following the strong parental instincts to keep her children safe at all costs. She agreed to share her inspiring story of overcoming fear and stepping out in faith.
The scene was sad and getting even sadder by the minute. Our 17-year-old daughter, Sami, was sitting before us at the dining room table with reasons she should be allowed to join her youth group on their mission trip in just a few short months.
Sami had neatly outlined on paper the ways she had already served the Lord in her own neighborhood, her own peer group and her own country. This was a last-ditch effort on her part. This trip was so important to Sami that my husband Andy and I promised her that we would pray for two weeks about a decision whether or not to let her go. The final decision had been made. The deadline was that day, and she wouldn’t like our answer.
Here Sami was, making the case to serve in Ecuador and giving us evidence of the ways her faith had grown from the time she had given her life to Christ at age 7. I was distracted, thinking that she might make a good lawyer one day and felt both a twinge of pride at her maturity and a touch of shame that I knew our answer would be “no”.
My husband and I purposely let the date for the informational meeting come and go. Mission trips were for other families, and they were certainly not for teenagers with severe asthma and allergies. Our reasons for not allowing her to go had everything to do with comfort – both hers and ours – and fear, which was a feeling I owned completely.
Sami took our answer with some maturity and lots of tears as she got ready for church that day. Andy and I reassured each other with slightly ashamed half smiles as she sobbed quietly in the back seat on the drive to church. All that mattered to me was that she would be staying right here at home, in my arms and totally safe from all the ways I could see her being ill or uncomfortable in Ecuador and out of my reach.
Sami sat at the end of the row next to her two siblings, head in her hands and praying deeply as the sermon began. We had been attending another church recently, different from the church we had attended for all of her life and in which Sami still remained active in youth group.
As our pastor began the sermon, I could hardly believe my ears! The title of the sermon that day was plastered on the front screen in front of the church:
“CAN I GET A WITNESS? Acts 1:8 – ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.’”
He explained how we should be ready witnesses for Christ in the comfort of our own home as well as to the ends of the earth.
Andy and I continued to exchange surprised glances throughout the sermon as Sami continued to pray silently at the end of the row. God’s voice was so clear to me during that sermon. It was convicting and gentle and saying, “Do you have faith enough to trust me to lead My own daughter?”
God changed our minds that very day. I was ashamed that I had called myself a follower of Jesus Christ, and yet couldn’t trust Him to know what was best for His children. I was basing my decisions on fear and comfort and not on His will. My fears had drowned out His voice as I prayed for guidance. I already “knew” the answer to be “no” and had really been praying for my own agenda.
Sami seemed introspective for days after her return from a successful trip, and she soon sat us both down to tell us her heart. I wasn’t surprised at all as she explained how she felt a calling to become a missionary during her time in Ecuador.
When she asked what I thought of her praying and researching this path for her life, I quieted my heart for just a minute before I answered. Doubts and fears came in again, but they soon were drowned out by the gentle voice of the Lord, reminding me that He would have Sami in the palm of His hand for all of her days.
Every morning while I pray, I remind myself that my three teenagers are all His and always have been. In my mind, I am letting go as a parent just a little more each day as they grow older.
I don’t know if God will lead Sami to the mission field again. I do know that everywhere we look, we can find a mission field in which to serve. It may be in our own homes and not across the globe, but listening for God’s voice is the first step.
I pray that we will have faith enough to hear and to obey, whatever we are called to do.
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©2013 Connie Davis Johnson