, , , , , ,

What should my quiet time look like?

FOCUSed15 Podcast – Episode #7 (Season 2)

Whether you realize it or not, we all have expectations and pictures of what the “perfect” quiet time looks like. Though we certainly need to be careful not to give in to the paralysis of perfectionism, it is typically helpful to have some guidelines in place to evaluate how effective our time with God is. Listen in to this 15 minute episode to receive some helpful guard rails to keep your quiet times on track.

IN THIS EPISODE YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT:

  • How we define a “quiet time”
  • The importance of both hearing from the Lord and speaking to Him within your quiet time
  • Specific elements given to help incorporate both this hearing and speaking into your time with God
  • Three ways to approach the intake of God’s Word
  • Three ways to communicate with God during your quiet time
  • Quiet time ruts we may get into that keep up from experiencing God more fully

RESOURCES MENTIONED:


HOW TO LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST:

You have many options for listening in. Simply choose your favorite from below.

1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post.

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app. You’ll have access to new episodes on either app as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes or Stitcher. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes or here to listen from the Stitcher website. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes and/or Stitcher dashboard.

 

, , , ,

My heart on the presidential election and the image of the church

My heart has been incredibly heavy this week over the state of our nation. I have friends and family on all sides of every issue and I can’t stand to be on social media right now. So much of the back and forth—the hate, the pride, the lashing out—is disappointing, at best. I’ve been fairly quiet online as I process where to go from here.

Lord, what is my part? What actions can I take? How am I supposed to pray?

This I do know: I am a Christian and an ambassador for Christ, not primarily of a political party or certain candidate. I am the brand of Christ. When people look at me, they are to see and feel something that is supernatural and special. Not because of who I am, but because (whether they can identify it or not) they see Christ in me. Everything I say or don’t say, do or don’t do is a reflection of Christ and I long to reflect Him well.

Everyday Love Images.009

I wish I was better at this. There are so many days and moments that I fail to reflect the glory of God to the people around me. And yet God is to be glorified through all His people—the church. I long for His good and gracious character to be made known. I want souls to see their utter need for Christ. And none of this can happen if Christians don’t look like Christ.

Lately it seems our reflection of Him has been covered in mud.

Everyday Love Images.010

So—starting with me—I’m praying for a revival of a renewed repentance and deep humility among the church. I’m asking God to show me if there is any wicked way within me and lead me toward repentance. Today, I choose to focus primarily on my own actions and attitudes and —by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit—I will follow the example of Christ down the road of counting others more significant than myself.

LORD JESUS,

I sin — Grant that I may
never cease grieving because of it,
never be content with myself,
never think I can reach a point of perfection.
Kill my envy, command my tongue,
trample down self.
Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure,
peaceable,
to live for thee and not for self,
to copy thy words, acts, spirit,
to be transformed into thy likeness,
to be consecrated wholly to thee,
to live entirely to thy glory.

. . .

O God, the Eternal All, help me to know that
all things are shadows, but thou art substance,
all things are quicksands, but thou art mountain,
all things are shifting, but thou art anchor,
all things are ignorance, but thou art wisdom.

—Valley of Vision, Purification

thou-art-wisdom

Amen.

, , , , ,

When Your Hopes for the New Year Already Fail You

2016 has already found me in a funk.

Crabby. Tired. Discouraged. Defeated. Stuck.

I think some of it is a result of two weeks of no schedule and little order. It’s been a GREAT two weeks. Though we missed not being with family during Christmas, it was truly perfect to have our little family alone yet together as we continue to create our own Christmas traditions. But there has been a ton of laziness and trying to get back into get-it-done mode has been harder than usual.

Most people feel a sense of newness, excitement, and motivation for the new year ahead. That is usually me: recharged with motivation and a deep hope for change, growth, and all the possibilities a new year holds. But this year, instead of hope I feel pressure. Dread. Overwhelm.

And feeling overwhelmed robs me of everyday hope. My mind turns to all that is undone and not right in my life and I begin to feel as if I must act NOW, and fix it all as soon as possible. But before I even attempt a step in the right direction, the sheer volume of all the areas that need work brings a crushing blow to any fire for change that was present.

Read more to the kids, be more patient, figure out a better laundry and chore system, write more blog posts, promote my new studies without being self-centered and pushy, keep my husband a priority, coordinate church ministry details, love and disciple the women God has placed in my life . . . the list goes on and the ideals and goals and resolutions for 2016 are already off to a really bad start.

Some may want to make the case that I have too much on my plate. I take that very full plate to the Lord almost daily, asking Him what I can/should let go of. My husband and I have regular conversations about it and for now, I fully trust it is how it should be.

As I step back from it all, the problem is not any specific item on the plate, or even the multitude of responsibilities piled high. The overwhelm stems from the weight of something different. The dread and discouragement comes not from the daily responsibilities or the resolutions for development. The paralysis stems from taking my eyes off the Gospel of Christ.

Because, it doesn’t take long for me to suffocate under the pressure of not being enough for every person and capable enough for every job. I will never be completely capable. I will never be perfectly prepared. I am not organized enough or kind enough or wise enough or savvy enough to do all God has called me to do. I am weak, selfish, and all-too under qualified for what God has called me to.

But what I keep forgetting to preach to myself is this: I don’t need to be fully qualified, perfectly caring, or altogether strong. Christ is all those things, and more, on my behalf.

The role the Gospel plays in our everyday life

This is the hope of the Gospel: I am not enough, but Jesus is. I am weak, He is strong. I am messed-up, fed-up, and marked-up with the weight of all my imperfections. But in Christ, there is freedom, forgiveness, and hope for my future. All of which is independant of my behavior and performance.

My prayer is that this post will encourage others who are feeling as I am. But, honestly, this is a selfish post. A self-preaching post. A post to affirm what I know to be true but often struggle to believe.

Though I am not commanded to have hope as if it were a verb, I am to hold fast to hope. I cannot hold on to something I don’t realize is there. So we must regularly take a good, hearty look at the hope we have in Christ. It is from this position, standing on the foundation of God’s grace and with a firm belief that I am justified before Him, that I can hold fast to my treasured hope.

The gospel is my everything. My only hope.

{God, keep me in continual clinging to your grace. Through Christ alone I have a living, heavenly hope. For that I am eternally grateful.}

Everyday Hope study excerpt

On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your grip on the hope of the Gospel today?


Everyday Hope Online Study Sign Up

Dive into Everyday Hope with me! Every Saturday in January I’ll be posting an Everyday Hope teaching video and link up here on the blog. So grab a copy of the study, a friend or two, and sign up here for the study group.
, ,

What We Desperately Need for the New Year

Over the years you may have chosen, or seen others choose their “word” for the year. One word which sums up a focus, a hope, a plan for a bigger, better new year. I love this time of year and all the promise of a fresh start and new beginnings, but as I look forward to the new year the thought of one word seems inadequate to encapsulate my hopes for those 365 days ahead of me.

It’s a significant step to dream big, to set goals, to move forward. Yet, I think it’s even more important to recognize that without the work of God in and around me, my goal-setting, year-planning, and one-word-choosing are a waste.

My focus and self-effort can move me forward for a while. Only a work of God produces permanent transformation.

And you and I are desperate for transformation. Not just for salvation, but for day-to-day living. For the eating habits we long to change. For the envious, hate-filled, or lustful thoughts we want to escape. For the harsh words and rage we desire to relinquish.

Or maybe that’s just me?

Let’s not run into our new year plans until we recognize our desperate need for Jesus. Let’s pause all our monthly planning until we’ve pursued God to reveal His purpose for our moments. Let’s be willing to cast aside our personal goals if they don’t bring us closer to His glorious perfection.

Because we desperately need a work of God more than we need a word to cling to. Chose your word, but look to the Word as your only hope.

Let’s search the heart of our heavenly, loving Father. Let’s beg Him for a glimpse of His good and glorious plan for our lives, the year ahead, and our moments hereafter. Then let’s trust Him to do a powerful work in our hearts this year.

May we look back at this time next year and see a year filled with a renewal of our motivations, and a revolution in our hearts.

What supernatural work do you need God to do in your life?

, , ,

When You Don’t Know Where To Begin

My blogging journey began on May 4, 2010, four days shy of my third-born’s 1 month milestone. I sat excitedly in front of the computer screen with baby Michael peacefully napping in my lap and I began to write. I had no idea what I was doing (nor the can I was opening,) yet even in my cluelessness I became a writer that hot Florida day. In the small step of starting something I began my journey towards a dream I didn’t even know existed.

I quickly found that I immensely enjoyed and desperately desired the processing that came with getting my words on a screen. There was much to learn (and still more) on the mechanics of writing, but communicating my thoughts, heart, and lessons learned became a natural and needed outlet. The outlet of blogging soon became more than just a hobby. It became a ministry, a job, and eventually an avenue to traditional publishing.

Five years later (having just submitted over 75,000 Bible study manuscript words) I sit in front of the screen a bit word-dry (as my friend Stacey calls it) and again unsure of exactly what to write and what looms around the corner. My sweet Michael no longer fits in my lap for a peaceful nap, out my window is the lush and rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky instead of the flat palm tree laden sands of Florida, but this I do know: I’m called to be here, in front of this screen.

I still dream of being influential (and admitting this dream still scares me). Though I know see that influence isn’t just for a few. God has given us each our own platform — whether big or small — to steward for His glory. There are loads of big ideas in this head of mine for all I might attempt in my little corner of the web, yet I quickly get overwhelmed with the details and dedication needed to make it all happen. But tonight I’m reminded that I don’t need to conquer the world in an hour (nor is it mine to try). I simply need to start small and follow God’s lead as I did five years ago.

And so, I’ll quietly write one blog post and see where He takes me next.

, , , ,

Hope for The Weariness

My motherhood journey’s been a weary one. I’ve been sleep-deprived, emotionally exhausted, and physically worn-out. Yet my weariness doesn’t end there.

Maybe your’s doesn’t either?

I’ve carried a spiritual weariness with me for years. It’s a persistent burden and no matter how hard I try to get out from under its crushing weight, I find myself defeated underneath it.

This weight is a self-imposed set of motherhood ideals, super-great ideas, and the incredible examples of other Christian women. It’s the burden of the should’s.

Good things. Great women. But not the ideas or ideals God has intended for me.

There is a great, familiar passage in the gospel of Matthew, where Jesus addresses the burdened. We weary mommas can gather much hope from these words.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

When Jesus addressed the “heavy laden” here, He is referring to those who have been placed under the burden of religious legalism. People who were trying to carry around their “yoke” of extra-Biblical should’s. Rules originally intended to help people know God and honor Him with their lives, but these should’s quickly became burdensome; no one can follow ever rule.

Only Jesus upholds every ideal. And this is why he commands us to come to Him, learn from Him, and take HIS light and easy yoke.

greatest-grace-472

I’m no agrarian, but I do know that a yoke is used with cattle, so they can pull together in the same direction. When we yoke ourselves to every great Pinterest board, every parenting book, and every “perfect” mom we see around us, we are placing ourselves under a burden of should’s not intended for us.

Our intended yoke is to be side-by-side with Jesus—the perfectly capable one—who is able to bear the load. The command we need to follow is to come, learn from Him, and take up His yoke.

This is our only should.

So, ladies, let’s stop attaching ourselves to every great idea that comes along. Let’s quit pinning every good blog post to our “To Do” board and wishing for what other mom’s have. Instead, let’s focus on being with God so we can discern better what His yoke is that we are supposed to take up.

Let’s let other moms be what God has called them to be, and learn to admire and encourage them without taking on their should’s. Because when we are in sync with Jesus and His specific will for our lives, motherhood (and life) becomes much less wearisome.

Who’s yoke are you carrying? Have you experienced the burden of carrying another mom’s yoke yourself? How do you experience rest for your weary-momma soul amidst all the should’s? Let’s chat in the comments.

10945868_350688655131122_5940746018655126316_o

I’m so excited to share with you about a new book that is perfect for weary moms! It’s been called “a life-raft in print form” and it’s written by my friends Stacey Thacker and Brooke McGlothlin. Hope for the Weary Mom: Let God Meet You in the Mess can be purchased wherever books are sold. I encourage you to grab it today, keep your receipt, and then head over to the launch page where you can find out about their amazing bonuses with purchase! You can get three free videos from Stacey and Brooke that take the concepts found in the book even deeper by purchasing just one copy!

Affiliate links present.

, ,

One Year Ago Today

A year ago today, my brother James died.

JamesSlides 53

It’s hard to believe it has been over a year since I saw him last. In some ways it feels like yesterday.

I can still hear his goofy laugh and his low voice saying goodbye for the last time. Though I didn’t know it would be the last time we would be together, I treasure that last hug on a Kentucky July and those final I love you’s exchanged.

When I allow myself to go there, the pain is deep. A good friend told me grief comes in waves. She was right. But she also mentioned that the waves lessen in frequency as time passes. She was right about that, too.

A year ago today, I stood on the beach as grief’s relentless waves slammed me hard. Moment after moment a new wave of realization threw me to the ground. Time doesn’t make the hurt go away, nor do days passing lessen the ache when the waves come, but the waves are calmer and slower. Sometimes I can even see them coming, and I can back up the shore in time to avoid its sting.

JamesSlides 84

It’s in this way that I know a year must have passed.

For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me . . . Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love. But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you . . . “Salvation belongs to the LORD!” – Jonah 2:3,8-9

God allowed a deep place in my life. Yet He has proven Himself my faithful provider through the crash of every wave.

JamesSlides 94

We miss you terribly, James.

, , ,

How to Live with Grief

Grief is a peculiar emotion. Yet, I’ve come to know it’s more than an emotion. It’s a journey.

There are days when this journey leaves me heartbroken. Other days I am able to avoid the tender places, but then I begin to feel guilty that I diverted my attention—that I didn’t let myself think about James that day.

The thing is, they still go hand and hand. Maybe one day I’ll be able to think about him and not get upset. But for now, it’s just not the case. Especially if I’m alone.

Grief is like a messy room in my house. I can close the door and choose not to enter, thus ignoring the mess inside. But the room is always there, and I know what awaits me when I open the door.

I move past the James room everyday. Just the mention of his name brings me right to the threshold of this room of grief. I brush past the door with a mental nod. I acknowledge its presence and move on.

I don’t have time to open the door. Not now. I can’t do this right now.

Because I know what awaits me, and it’s not simply a room filled with messy clothes. It’s a space full with the mess of my emotions.

When it’s quiet and I’m alone, I open the door. Sometimes I don’t even mean to, it just happens. I simply stand in the doorway and the memories wash over me like a flooding wave. His voice. Mad Libs at Christmas. Settlers. Laughter. The last hug. Seeing him in that casket, cold and lifeless. I’m unable to remember the good times without the inevitable ending. To experience the good memories, the pain must be experienced with it.

Presently, as I write this, I’m in the room. The grief is fresh once again. The loss is real. It hurts, and, as long as I sit here on the floor of this grief room, it will hurt. I have to get up off the floor and shut the door.

It’s just easier right now to stay out of the room. It doesn’t mean I don’t love James. I haven’t forgotten about him. I just can’t function while face down in my tears.

I just can’t.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’

And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.'”

I’m thankful that God is with me. He dwells within my heart as my Comforter and Strength. He wipes every tear from my eyes and records every sorrow (Psalm 56:8). He is present in every part of my life.

Even the grief room.

Do you have a grief room? Have you experienced the comfort of His presence?

, , ,

There is hope for your really bad week.

I’ve had a lousy week.

It was unusually busy, with a Bible conference held at our church during which I watched the 4-year old class twice. (If you’ll remember, nursery duty is not my typical place of service in the church.) The newness of homeschooling has more than rubbed off and the kids were less than cooperative. I’ve had to miss the gym several times over the last few weeks, the house is a wreck, and I’ve had many random and poorly-scheduled appointments which couldn’t be changed.

So, yeah, it’s been a bad week.

Though the external of my week was rough, it’s the inside of my week that stinks. My attitude, my selfishness, and my sheer exhaustion. I’m pretty sure much of it is hormonal and “thyroidal” (I have yet another untimely appointment scheduled which will hopefully take care of those issues.) but there is another surge of emotions taking over which is not a physical problem. It’s spiritual.

My flesh is putting up a good fight these days and I’ve been attempting to stand against it on my own.

I’ve failed miserably.

hold on hope.001

There is much about this week I wish I could erase, but I am thankful that I do have hope. My God has not forsaken me, my kids are still my kids, and my ever-amazing, servant husband is still by my side.

I’m clinging to grace once again, trusting in the truths God’s Word gives me. (And listening to this song on repeat all day.) 

And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. – Psalm 39:7

What truths do you cling to when you have a bad week?

affiliate links present

, , , , , ,

God’s Provision of Deep Places

*Podcast banner.002Today we take another look at Jonah’s prayer from the depth of the sea and how God is faithful, even in our deep places.

Sometimes the waves of life come and go and times are hard, but I bounce back. I learn from them, and may even find my devotions replaced as a result of the distress. Yet there are times when the waves consume and I find myself like Jonah, in a deep place. The deep, dark place where my soul is more than weary, my heart is broken, and my hope is almost gone.

Even these deep places are a provision of God.

Show notes:

my only hope.001

How to Listen to This Podcast

The FOCUSed15 Podcast1. Listen right here on the blog. Just click the little play button at the beginning of this post. (Email readers, you may need to head over to the blog to see the play button.)

2. Listen from an app on your smartphone, iPad or iPod Touch– For iDevice users, click here to access the podcast and subscribe in iTunes.  If you don’t have an Apple device, you can listen with the Stitcher app or directly from the site. For all podcast apps, new episodes will show up as soon as they are published.

3. Listen from your computer via iTunes. Just click here to access the podcast in iTunes. Once you subscribe to the podcast, new episodes will show up in your iTunes dashboard.

Enjoy!