Be a trailblazer!

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Are you ready to blaze a new road on your life journey?

I love the New Year! Each New Year feels like an opportunity for renewal, regeneration, restoration and renovation. And believe me, I always have plenty of resolutions to be implemented.

This year is no different! I have weight that I long to lose, career goals that I intend to pursue, relationships that I hope to improve, places I want to see, rooms in my house that I plan to reorganize and debts that simply must get paid off.

And since crossing one of those “age” hurdles in my life, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of doing and experiencing things I’ve never done before.

This makes me think of the introductory statement William Shatner used to make before each Star Trek episode. Remember it? He talked about exploring strange new worlds and seeking out new life forms and new civilizations — “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It’s words like “explore” and “new” that capture my imagination. I can certainly see that bold action is often required of a trailblazer, pioneer and groundbreaker.

After my husband and I walked a few trails in states like Colorado and Oregon, I couldn’t help but be grateful for the efforts and accomplishments made by explorers like Lewis and Clark. Over 200 years ago they set out on an amazing expedition where they faced unknown people, harsh conditions and territory they had never traveled before.

Walking through dense forests, even on a well-established trail, made me consider the courage and vision that must have been needed by the first trailblazers in order to imagine what was possible even when their view was blocked at first.

Who could imagine that on the other side of some steep mountains could be a vast ocean? Or who could imagine that in the midst of the forest would be a beautiful waterfall?

When we set out on a new trail in our life, we usually have no idea what we will find along our path —much less what we will discover at the end of our journey. Many times we probably have an idea about what we hope to find or experience along the way. But most likely, we can’t even begin to imagine the many surprises that we’ll undoubtedly encounter.

We can run into problems if we try to outline our expectations too much. When we don’t see what we think we’re going to see at the moment we thought we would, disappointment and discouragement can cause us to miss something unexpected and equally as wonderful as what we had hoped for.

So the lesson here, my friends, is to expect the unexpected and love the experience when you’re blessed with it.

Lee Ann Womack begins her song “I hope you dance” with “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” Hearts filled with wonder hunger to be surprised and eagerly anticipate the wonderment of all they will see and experience.

Remember the wonder of your first kiss, your first day of college or your first airplane ride?

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to find new wonder in the things I do each day. Wonder makes our lives more meaningful and enjoyable. I can see now how not having wonder leads to boredom and cynicism. It could be that part of my desire for something new and exciting is a wake-up call to rediscover my sense of wonder in what is already in my life.

So let’s rekindle our sense of wonder if we need to and make each day of our New Year more wonder-full. I suspect this will make blazing new trails as well as walking old ones much more fun!


Here comes the New Year

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

The New Year is fast approaching. A Facebook friend recently commented, “I’ll be happy to see 2009 in my rearview mirror.” I suspect she is not the only one who feels this way.

Yet even though some may be ready for their year to end, others are having some trepidation about the New Year and the changes it promises.

New beginnings sometimes bring both an excitement and an uncertainty. And sometimes the uncertainty leads to fear that can thwart our forward momentum and progress.

Indeed, fear can freeze us in our tracks and stop us from making decisions and taking steps that are good for us. Perhaps we’re afraid of making the same mistakes we made last year. Or perhaps we’re simply not sure which next step is the best one to take. So we do nothing!

There’s a song that often comes to my mind when I think about making a new beginning. It’s based upon an Old Testament story. (Genesis Chapter 26)

Once upon a time Isaac and his wife Rebekah were forced to move several times. Moving in those days meant digging a new well of water each time in their new habitat. Again and again, they settled in a location where they were unwelcomed. And their “enemy” filled their well with dirt in an attempt to make them move.

And so they would. Isaac and his family would simply pick up camp and move to a new place and dig another well.

Paul Overstreet wrote a song about “Ike” — as he calls him — titled “Dig another well.” The chorus pretty much sums up his main point and why this song has often come to my mind when thinking about making a new start.

“So when the rains don’t fall and the crops all fail,
And the cows ain’t puttin’ any milk in the pail,
Don’t sit around waitin’ for a check in the mail,
Just pick up the shovel and dig another well,
Pick up the shovel and dig another well.”

The solution is pretty simple, my friends. So you need to start over somewhere? Things have not worked out where you are now? Don’t hesitate. Don’t sit around in dismay and disappointment. Don’t ruminate over what could have been. “Just pick up the shovel and dig another well.”

I love this advice, and there have been many times when I’ve had to give heed to it!

And here’s the good news. Every time Isaac’s servants dug a new well, they found water. And so will we all when we begin anew. There will always be new opportunities and possibilities available to us. New ideas and discoveries await everyone who takes on a new adventure.

Recognize that God’s wisdom and care is at work in your life. Affirm that God wants only good for His children. Acknowledge His presence and power as the guiding influence each day — each moment — of your life today and tomorrow.

Trust His direction to lead you to the perfect home, job, relationship. The promise of 2010 brings a happy anticipation. This is a time to rejoice. We can expect a better year.

So come on in New Year! We’re ready for you!

Who doesn’t want to feel God’s presence?

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

Are you struggling with depression, loneliness or fear and wondering where God is? You’re not alone, my friend. Even David asked in one of his psalms, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord?” (Psalms 13:1)

It’s on dark and weary days that we desperately want to feel God’s healing presence more than ever.

Growing up with my mother taught me many lessons. I saw her overcome being homeless and jobless while having little means, education or so-called working skills to do so. I saw her conquer fear and uncertainty as she moved across country with her daughter following a difficult divorce. I saw her work her way out of poverty one day at a time — without government help I might add. One precious lesson can be summed up by the following Scripture — often quoted by my sweet mother: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)

Of course — actually — God is always close by as the Psalmist concluded. “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me and your strength will support me.” (Psalm 139:7-11)

God is forever near — holding us, leading us and lighting our path away from dark troubled roads. So since we can’t really be out of God’s presence, I think it’s more about us needing to direct our thoughts God-ward that helps us feel and experience His presence.

I was reminded of this recently as I listened to a song by one of my dearest friends. She and a friend produced a beautiful CD titled, “Inhabiting Eternity.” ( I’ve listened to their CD on numerous occasions, and every time a certain song begins, I have to stop whatever I am doing and get very still so I can be fully embraced by its message.

The song is titled, “I will come before the Lord.” Its lyrics describe God as “my song.” It reminds us, much like the Psalmist did, that whether in the stillness of morning, brightness of day, hush of the evening or darkness of midnight, God is our song — forever near giving inspiration, strength, hope, guidance, peace.

This is comforting news. So whether I am looking for solutions, clarity, calm, or freedom from stress, sorrow or pain, I know there is a powerful divine presence that can meet any need. And this gentle presence is so palpable that when I divert my thoughts to the divine whole-heartedly, I feel the angels of His presence assuring me all will be well — that all is well.

It’s sometimes far too easy when overwhelmed by problems and worries to give up or give in to whatever doom is on the horizon. But I’m learning not to do it!

When I don’t know which way to turn or what to do, my first step these days is again to get very still in order to tune in to God.

Whether we have hours or only a few moments, we can be filled with the nearness of His presence, power and love. We can feel the might and majesty of His goodness. And we will experience the power of His presence giving us the spiritual light we need.

You are never alone or forgotten, my friend. Turn your mind toward God and you’ll find He’s right there by your side lifting you up so you can find the answers you need. May you feel God’s love and presence in every moment during the upcoming holiday season and the New Year ahead!

Begin the New Year with a new you

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

How do you define yourself? As a mother, daughter, wife, husband, dad, or a son? Or perhaps as a student, teacher, manager, farmer, salesman?

Every day you create your own self-portrait. You name the image you see in the mirror and assign various qualities and attributes that you think go with your title. Then you act accordingly.

Your picture may be influenced by others’ perceptions, however, or by what you believe others think about you or expect from you. And you are likely to allow past experiences — your failures and successes — to further dictate and determine your abilities and your limitations.

What happens when your profile changes? Your kids are suddenly grown and move away from home. You get laid off from your job or you reach mandatory retirement. Your marriage ends in divorce or a spouse passes on.

Nothing can be more daunting than trying to reconfigure yourself, reinvent your life, and redefine your future — especially when the task arrives unexpectedly.

A new year is upon you. You must make a new beginning. Your old narrative no longer fits. You’re standing at a new road titled “self-discovery,” but reluctance, fear and lack of confidence is keeping you from moving up a street you’ve never been on. You are either unwilling to give yourself an overhaul or you’re clueless how to begin.

But perhaps what’s needed isn’t about defining a new you but rather discovering the true you — your identity as created by your heavenly Father.

This kind of self-discovery results in learning more about your “true” nature as it is divinely intended — without human conjecture, opinion, or critique.

There’s a phrase in the Bible that has given me a glimpse of how God views His children: the “…dearly beloved and longed for…” (Philippians 4:1) Thinking of myself as God’s dearly beloved and longed for helped me begin a new career when a former job of eight years ended. This was also at the same time my only child left for college.

Knowing I was the beloved of the Lord made me certain God only wanted good for His child. And the idea that God longed for someone like me assured there was still a purpose for my life, even though at first it was difficult to imagine myself doing something new and different.

It turns out the mirror can’t tell us about the image and likeness of God — that’s you and me, by the way. (Genesis 1:27) Only by learning more about God and His nature can we understand our own identity as created in His image and likeness.

As you become in touch with your true spiritual nature, nothing is beyond your means. You get a sense of your unlimited potential. You understand that your purpose never ends because it is ever being defined and directed by your Creator. And you can approach each moment with the knowledge that it contains within it, the potential for any number of possibilities.

Indeed, you can begin the New Year with a new you or rather with knowledge of the true you — the “you” that is always seen in His eyes. And this knowledge can change your life — again and again.

In a desperate search

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

The desperation in their eyes told me this was not just fun and games. My husband and I were celebrating New Year’s Eve with our daughter and son-in-law. We were all dressed up in our holiday best for a night out on the town. After an elegant and delicious dinner, we decided to do something none of us had ever done before — play the penny slots at one of the nearby casinos.

Immediately upon entering the room, we realized that compared to most of the people there, we were extremely overdressed and our intentions were quite different. I’m not sure how many days some players may have been sitting in the same chairs, desperately feeding the game boxes before them with dollars, hoping for big returns. Their focused and weary eyes told a story of fervent need and longing, but also — hope.

I wouldn’t encourage a shot-in-the-dark approach for finding the solutions you anxiously seek, but I don’t doubt the value of being hopeful.

This casino scene reminded me of one of the recorded healings of Jesus. I think I’ve referred to this one before, but it’s one that offers many lessons. Like many of the penny slot players longing and waiting for the answer to their financial woes, hundreds of suffering and sick people filled the alcoves around the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). One of the Gospels explained that the superstitious crowds were waiting for the water to “bubble” and were hoping to be the first to get into the moving waters so they could be healed. Apparently, the people believed they could only be healed at such a time, and only one would be the lucky person.

Jesus approached a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be well, the man explained how he had never been able to be the first one — that he had never had anyone to help him. It was clear this dear man had no idea who he was talking with and also never imagined that healing was possible another way.

Jesus knew that God loves His children very much. He knew that God makes His children perfect, able, active and strong. So Jesus told the man, “Get up. Take your bedroll. Start walking.” And the man who had not walked for 38 years must have felt the divine energy of Spirit which impelled Jesus’ instructions, because he immediately did exactly what Jesus told him he could do.

Where are you looking for healing, strength, relief, answers, supply or peace of mind? Perhaps many of us would say we place our hopes in a person, a place or a thing. No doubt, most of us leave no stone unturned when we’re desperately searching for some help.

My question is: Why do we often turn to God as a last resort? Whether I’ve turned to God first or last, however, I’ve never not felt the divine energy of Spirit healing me, enlightening me, guiding me, inspiring me, encouraging me.

The familiar Bible verse “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8) has given impetus to my prayers. Although it may sound like a conditional statement — it’s not. It’s really a promise assuring us that when we do turn to God, we will find He is already right where we are with a healing solution readily at hand. And for me, it also means the more I understand my spiritual selfhood as a child of God and the nature of God as omnipotent good, I’m discovering a present, powerful defense for battling any foe and conquering any challenge.

There have been times when I’ve struggled with desperation, especially if I felt I wasn’t getting my most-wanted answer quickly enough. In these moments, I’ve found it helpful to pause and appreciate any progress I’ve made, and to cherish and reflect on any spiritual insight I’ve gleaned — however small I may think it is. I was recently reminded that God has “legions” of ideas and insights for His children to help us continue to grow and progress on our life journeys.

Jesus once said God could give him 12 legions of angels if he needed them (Matthew 26:53). In biblical times, a legion would have been a division of between 3,000 and 6, 000 men in the Roman army — an army trained for combat. In my weak and doubt-filled moments, I’ve found strength in being reminded that God can and will send me “legions” of angel messages whenever I need them. And these potent messages will reveal exactly what I need to overcome any obstacle as well as arrive exactly when needed.

Then, my desperation is replaced with great expectation. And my upward journey continues with calm resolve and reassured hope. And so can yours, as you turn to God for help!