Friday, November 6, 2015

Breathing Out Your Praise

So I'm breathing in Your grace,
And I'm breathing out Your praise.
Matt Redman

We sang the above song by Matt Redman Sunday, and it's been singing in my heart all week. Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given (John 1:16). Each day is a grace, leaving no room for the trite and pettiness so evident in the world. I can press them down, shake them, but still they run over -- each breath a praise to my God.

Praise for forgiveness, freely given.

Praise for life, abundant and full

Praise for peace, quiet and calm

Praise for joy, overflowing and steady

Praise for blessings, upon blessings, upon blessings.

This grace is undeserved. It's amazing, and constant. It's daily and unending. And it's for you! Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). 

Breathe in God's grace, and exhale with praise. There will always be grace-breaths to inhale. His grace never ends, but it is in the praising that brings sparkle to the grace. Without the praise, when we take grace for granted, it dulls. Take some deep breaths today, and count your graces.

What grace are you breathing in today?

For you...30 Days of Praise. 30 praise verses for you to cut out and use during this season of gratitude.

Click here (30 Days of Praise) to download.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Grief Observed

God is closest to those with broken hearts. – Jewish Saying

  It’s been a year. 365 days. 52 weeks. 12 months. 365 days of grieving my mother’s death. 52 weeks of missing my writing sounding board. 12 months of monthly trips to Pennsylvania. You see, I have felt lost without a mother, but my daddy is the real hero here. He’s had 365 days of living alone. 52 weeks of missing his sweetheart. 12 months of try to adjust to his “new normal” life.

For the first time in 60 years he:

  • Celebrated Thanksgiving alone
  • Attended baby granddaughter Emily’s wedding alone
  • Celebrated Christmas alone
  • Stayed in “their” special Southern Ohio inn
  • Didn’t buy a valentine
  • Had cataract surgery
  • Turned 80
  • Attended church conference, youth camp and family camp alone
  • Drove out (400 miles) – alone -- to see me 
  • Had a son get a sarcoidosis diagnosis
  • Watched that son go through life-threatening complications from meds 
  • Had carotid artery surgery 
  • Selected birthday cards for us kids
  • Washed clothes (and yes, things turned pink)
  • Ironed shirts
  • Fixed his own Sunday morning breakfast
  • Drove 25 miles to church every Sunday
  • Matched his own daily wardrobe
  • Missed telling his bride, “Pick out a flower bouquet for the dining room table.”
  • Interpreted doctor’s orders alone
  • Kept the house spotless
     His road of grief has seen many tears. It’s held hard, hard days. Sorrow has filled his mind and heart. Yet my daddy’s faith still holds. The core of who he is hasn’t changed. He’s still faithful to God’s house, cares deeply for the pain of others, and maintains his integrity unwaveringly. 

     Unlike what many think, grief does not magically end at the end of a year. Often the finality of death is just beginning to sink in, while the loneliness intensifies. I believe Jesus continues to look for people to be His hands and feet for the grieving. People to visit, text, and call. People to brighten a day with a card or a sweet treat. People to sit down, cease their chattering, and just listen.

    The bottom line: From last November to this November, I’ve learned just how lonely “lonely” can be – and how big a hero my daddy is.

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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