Monday, September 14, 2015

5 Steps to Know God More Deeply

The man who would truly know God must give time to Him. -A. W. Tozer

Rain, ground-soaking, refreshing rain.

I walked outside for a few minutes, just to watch and breathe deeply of the freshness. As I watched, I was reminded of a verse I read recently:

Let my teaching fall on you like rain;
Let my speech settle like dew.
Let my words fall like rain on tender grass,
Like gentle showers on young plants (Deut. 32:2).

While watching the ground soak up the rain, my thoughts gravitated to the desire of soul-soaking rain. I want to study His attributes more so I am daily learning more about my Heavenly Father, His holiness and the holiness He requires of us (not to be confused with man's definition).

My heart is ready to soak up the rain of God's teaching. I'm passionate about my desire to know more of God. The problem with passion is that sometimes it's all over the place. Being intentional focuses me, creating more of a tunnel vision, reducing distractions that prevent me from getting more accomplished. 

Here are my five steps to living an intentional life of knowing God more deeply.

1. Open Your Heart

Daily open your heart to God, asking to learn more of His attributes and, through them live more like Him. A Christian's main purpose is to know God. It is God who birthed this goal in us. This is a prayer God loves to answer.

2. Take Action
Ask yourself, "What one action can I take today to further my purpose of knowing God?" Without neglecting the Bible -- the best source to know God more -- are you reading Christian Living books, biographies of spiritual giants, or connecting with a mentor?
3. Use your Bible
It's good to use devotional material, but it doesn't take the place of digging in the Word. Does your devotional mention a particular verse? Find it in your Bible. Does your devotional book include suggested verses to read? Read them. If you are studying the omnipresence of God, search for verses like, "The eyes of the LORD are in every place, Watching the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).

4. Write it down.

There's joy in looking back over what God teaches us. Write down verses and quotes, and journal about the ways you've seen God's omnipresence in your life. Ask yourself how you can personally apply what God is teaching you.

5. Daily Evaluations
Look back over your day. Did you pursue your purpose? Do you know God more deeply today than you did yesterday? On those days when life takes over, replace the frustration with praise God for who He is, while reviewing His attributes.  

The deepening of your desire will only be achieved if we are intentional and faithful to pursue it. As God's gentle showers fall, my heart is watching, breathing deeply of the freshness, renewing my passion to know God more fully. I've turned my umbrella over, put on my galoshes, and I'm heading out to dance in the rain.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Guest Post: Revolutionize Your Prayer Life

My prayer time alone with the Lord Jesus is more important than any other thing I do each day. There in the secret place, the devil’s plans are shattered and God’s victories are won, evil is thwarted and blessings are unleashed, sicknesses are overcome and sin is denied its sway over the lives of the weak. Our God is an answering God. Lee Ann Rubsam

Some thoughts on prayer. I've changed a couple things in the past few months that have revolutionized my prayer life, so I thought I would share... in case they might help you as well.

1. I started praying out loud. This one thing has made an incredible difference for me. Now I don't always pray out loud -- just when I go to a room and shut the door to be alone with God.

Why this has helped:

It's harder to get distracted when you're talking out loud. If you stop talking, it's pretty obvious. It's also easier for me to organize my thoughts.

2. I quit using a form for prayer
Through the years I've seen and heard the acronym ACTS taught as tool to help people pray...
A- AdorationC- ConfessionT- ThanksgivingS- Supplication
Now there's nothing wrong with this order for praying. But one day I decided to just pray for whatever popped into my head and it was so freeing. God brought things to mind that I wouldn't ordinarily have prayed for. I still run down a list of prayer requests, but I don't feel tied to anything anymore. And I've discovered that after I pour out my requests to God, a feeling of overwhelming thankfulness and peace follows.
3. I started kneeling down with my eyes closed, alone, with the door shut. 
Now obviously we can pray anywhere, at any time, but again, for my dedicated prayer time, this has helped. You wouldn't think this would be such a big deal, but with four kiddos in this household, it's not always easy.
Eyes shut--putting my face in my hands or the comforter of a bed or the seat of a chair just really blocks out the world and visual distractions. 
Door Shut--it provides a physical barrier between me and the kids. I don't mind if the kids come in to ask a question, and I think it's good for them to see their mom in prayer, but they're less likely to interrupt me if they have to knock. Sometimes I'm praying about things they don't need to know about. Because I'm praying out loud, this is necessary.
4. I switched to mornings. 
For years I did my devotions at night--my mind was less busy, it was quiet, etc. But now things are a little different and I decided to make the change. This is not always easy. Sometimes it puts me behind schedule, sometimes I'm needed and I have to quit prematurely; sometimes I don't get it done if we're having to rush off, but overall I've been pleased. Occasionally I end up praying in the middle of the afternoon or evening, but I've been enjoying the morning time.

I don't know if this will benefit anyone else, but I feel like I'm on the right track with this method. Maybe it will change as my circumstances and needs develop, but it's working for now.

(Tonight I found Greg pacing while praying. I highly doubt that will ever work for me.)

A friend of mine once told me that her mom's spiritual life blossomed once she and her siblings reached the teen years. She didn't think that was an accident--and neither do I. The baby/toddler/elementary years are exhausting and time consuming. As my kids are entering the teen years, I'm already finding it to be... freeing? I don't have more time, because I'm certainly busier than ever, but it's just different somehow. I'm not nursing every two hours. I'm not constantly changing diapers. I don't have a little one in one arm--usually. I've got 13 years of parenting under my belt. And I'm not as drained emotionally. It does make a difference. And this change in my prayer life could probably be attributed to that to some degree. It's exciting!

But anyway, wherever you find yourself in life... I encourage you to pray. It really works! We've been seeing some amazing answers to prayer lately. God is working and moving and it's great to be in on that. Prayer changes people and circumstances. It alters eternal destinations. It brings peace and stress relief. Prayer is powerful.

So how do you pray? What works for you?

Heather Smith and her husband, Greg, live in Pueblo West, Colorado. They are planting a church which will be starting September 2015. Heather also homeschools their four children. Together the Smith family is seeking to love God and love others to the best of their ability.

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Monday, September 7, 2015

The Chaos of Life

God's end is to enable me to see that he can walk on the chaos of my life just now. ~Oswald Chambers

There I was huddled in bed, one cold pack on the back of my head, and one over my eyes. The heating pad across my shoulders. I wasn't sure why everything was turning black when I tried to get up, or why I was shaking and my teeth chattering. A quick check of my sugar level answered the question -- 524, certainly higher than the 110 I aimed for.

I was distraught. There were writing projects to complete, a leadership conference to attend, speaking scripts to write, and my house was screaming for some loving.

As I lay there in the dark, my God began to calm me, helping me release the conference from my heart and gripping hands, silencing the dust bunnies playing tag on top of every surface, and helping me change some self-imposed deadlines. It was God walking on the chaos of my life. He wasn’t tiptoeing; He was embossing His footprints on my chaos. 

With my doctor doing some medicine-tinkering, my sugars are near to normal. My writing projects are all delivered. And through all the chaos, God has walked with me, encouraging, calming and blessing in spite of the chaos.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Free Printable Encouragement Cards

Paul wrote many letters to the early churches and his friends. Tucked in among his praise to God, warnings and teachings, he encouraged the recipients. I've used his words on the cards below. These Encouraging cards can be printed on Avery clean-edge business cards (or a heavy weight paper and cut out) to use in your own letters.

Monday, August 31, 2015

How Full is Your Prayer Bowl?

Prayer sitting down at a table that God has prepared for us. He says, "I have everything you need today - all the grace, all the wisdom, all the provision that you need - but sit down at the table and eat. Don't be so rushed and so busy and try to live without My supply." Jim Cymbala

Prayers in Golden Bowls 

Imagine your prayers, rising from bent knees and bowed head, ascending to the throne of God. He holds out a golden bowl and the prayers gracefully settle into it, leaving a sweet fragrance from earth to heaven. That's what happens when we talk to our Father. My prayers mingle with the prayers of my father, pastor and friends. The collective fragrance doesn't come close to the exquisite perfumes we splurge on today. Nothing could prepare us for the glory of its scent.

Prayer. It is that magnificent, that important and yes, that necessary. So many of us get hung up on prayer. We don't practice it consistently, our words stumble over each other and embarrass us, we wonder, Is prayer important? Won't bad things happen even if we pray?

Communion with God

Prayer is communion. Communion with the Creator, God the Father through Jesus, the Son. We can come boldly before His throne with all the things we wish to share with Him. It doesn't need to be profound. We just have to be aware, authentic and full of assured faith. Just like with our friends -- we share all our most intimate secrets, our dreams, our plans. That's what God wants to share with us. He doesn't want the stench of hurried, demanding prayers. He wants our love for Him to show in our praises, our faith in Him to sit perched on top of requests and our silence to whisper "tell me more" in our listening.

Children of God who sit in rose gardens, prison cells or in a hut in India add to my own prayers --scented prayers, each as fragrant as the other. Saints gather in stained glass cathedrals, in humble chapels or hidden rooms in third world countries, and all churches in between the three, offering collective voices. It makes me wonder how sweet Heaven smells on the Sabbath with each congregation sending prayers heavenward. Do the bowls overflow?

We are flawed and sometimes fail, but God still accepts the prayers as they leave our lips. Our prayers pass through the nail printed hand of Jesus as He pleads--intercedes--for us. "For," the Bible tells us, "there is only one God, and one mediator, also between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus" (1Timothy2:5). God delights in the sweet smell. He whispers, "I delight to grant your wish," when our request will bring glory to Him. Sometimes God whispers, "Not now, my daughter, it's not the right time." Then there are those hard times when the soft words are heard clearly in our soul, "No, this is not my will."

God Knows Our Hurts

It is in the "no" times that God sends the Holy Spirit to minister to us. Our tears may still flow, but the comfort of the Spirit soothes, embraces and helps us to understand the "no" in light of the Father's will.

When we rise from our closet place we have the assurance our prayers were pleasing to God. And in the depths of our hearts we know it is time to face life again. We gained our strength from the Father who revels in our scented prayers -- yes, even preserving them in golden bowls -- from Jesus the Son, sitting at the right hand of the Father pleading our case, and from the Holy Spirit who gave us comfort. The beautiful heavenly Trinity taking part in our human prayers.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

5 Ways to begin a Mail Ministry

The art of art, the glory of expression, and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.  Walt Whitman

They are old and yellowed, with ink fading to a light blue. The soft, midnight blue velvet ribbon tied around them says it all – these letters are treasured. The art of writing personal letters is almost a gift of the past. Letters tell rich stories – of the writer and the recipient -- yet our generation is robbed of this gift.

Are handwritten letters a thing of the past? The availability of electronic communication makes it easy to send a quick message or make a phone call, thus writing a letter is usually too much trouble. Regardless, we all like receiving letters, and topping the list – the elderly.

Last year I made a commitment to send one letter a month to someone important in my life – someone who was alone and/or in a difficult situation. I didn’t quite reach my goal, but when I did, I was more blessed than the receiver. I knew I had brightened someone’s day. 

Essayist Phyllis Theroux said, “To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” But it seems so hard. Where are the stamps? What’s the address? I found a way to make it easier. I addressed twelve notecards – even added stamps, then readily visited with my pen – moving only my heart.

If you sense God urging you towards a mail ministry, consider these suggestions:

1. College students: Young people away from home and need encouragement. I think it’s fun to stuff the envelope with a $5.00 coffee shop card.

2. Facebook friends: How many times do you read of a friend struggling? You can find almost anyone’s address on Buy a stack of encouraging cards or use a blank notecard. Write an appropriate Scripture, a verse of a hymn, or a personal prayer asking God to bless and comfort them.

3. Preschool children: Children love to get mail, and I’ve found that sending mail to a child also encourages their mother. When my young daughters received mail, they carried it around all day. Include a sheet of stickers or a coloring sheet. Teach your own children the beauty of letter writing, and suggest they write a letter to their friends.

4. Weary, tired mothers: Being a stay-at-home mother is priceless, but let’s not think every minute is a Kodak moment. Kids get sick, pout, tug on clothes, and wear out the word “Mommy.” What harried mom wouldn’t love to watch the postman drop a personal letter in their box? You could write a funny story from when your own children were young or include a cartoon clipping about motherhood.

5. Extended family. My Aunt Posie is slowing down. I rarely get to see her. When I connect through letter writing, I make sure to remind her I don’t expect her to respond to my letters. It’s my gift to her. In my most recent letter, I included a picture of my grandchildren so she could feel a part of my joy. 

Write letters to soldiers, prisoners and missionaries. Send them “just because” or on special days. Share what God is teaching you. Make a bookmark to send in the envelope or sprinkle in some lavender petals. There’s no right or wrong except not writing at all.

You may write on beautiful stationary with matching ink, or scribble quickly on your child’s school notebook paper. You may write the address with a flourish or quickly fold the letter into business envelopes. You may seal the envelope with wax or quickly run your tongue over the glue. But we can all write like the great Biblical letter writer, Paul, opening with, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”

These "tuck-in" cards have been taken from Paul's letters to his friends. Click here to Download. Print on Avery clean-edge Business Cards or on heavy paper and cut out.  Tuck them into your letters to encourage your friends. 

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Monday, August 24, 2015

My Children are His!

Guest Post by Tracey Thornton. We are focusing today on praying for our children. School is beginning, students are headed off for college -- let's pray for them. Add your child in the comment section so we can all pray for each other's children. Sons (and daughters!) are a heritage from the LORD (Psalm 127:3).

If you are a parent, you know about worry. We want to trust God, but it's easy to get bogged down in everyday life, and in being human Lately, I have let stress and worry about my children eat away at me til I've been worn down to a pathetic useless frazzle. It's my own fault. When we take our eyes off Him and start looking down at the waves, we will sink every time. Today I was reading an article and one sentence jumped out at me: "Children crave their parents’ attention because it makes them feel known—deeply and intrinsically” (Mia Mauss).

I hope and pray my children feel that I know them. Divorce rips apart families and no matter what, the children always lose. I can't undo the damage. I can't fix it for them. Those of you that have intact families, thank God for it. Don't waste that precious gift. Don't take it for granted. Make the most of it. I never thought it would happen to me or my children. It was not my choice, and not having my children with me for ANY amount of time has NEVER been my choice. It would be very easy to be bitter and just abandon hope. I've been at that heart wrenching, completely broken, point so many times. 

I would like to be able to tell you that God always bails out the children and they are protected from the pain and loss. But that isn't true. Mine have suffered great loss, they still do, they always will. I've fought, struggled, cried, prayed, beat down heaven’s doors, but in the end, I can't make it be the way I want for my children. They live in a sin-cursed world, just like me, and will always suffer because of the choices of others. It's not fair. It just isn't. It is reality.

But, I choose not to be bitter. I choose HOPE! I know that we love and serve a big God and that He is more than able to bring my children through and home safe to Heaven. He will even bring them joy in this earthly life! He loves them far more than I even do. He knows everything that has happened to them, every heartbreak, every triumph, every battle, every joy. He knows and He cares. He won't let them fall. He said He wouldn't and I believe Him! All the good and all the bad that has happened to them, HE alone, can work it all towards their good. That is His promise!

I have one right now that is pretty angry with God and has chosen not to believe in Him. He knows that and He loves them anyway. He knows their heart and soul and every single heartbreak they have suffered. He knows the pain and anger and anguish that has surrounded them. But more than that, He has a redemption for them -- JOY for them. I'm praying, I'm trusting, I'm believing that God will take this that we have created and redeem it. He has loaned my children to me for a little while, but they are HIS!

So today, I'm letting go of the stress, the fear, the guilt, the constant worry that breaks down my soul and shatters my heart. I'm letting go and grabbing hold of JOY. I’m trusting in a God who cannot fail! I’m resting in His big, powerful, sheltering, loving hand and putting my four beautiful children right there with me.

by Tracy Thornton 

Linked to:
Women with Intention
A Little R and R
Hope in Every Season