Listen, Love, Repeat

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I know it has been awhile since I have written, but a lot has changed over the past year. Not only am I working, but I have gone back to school to get my teaching license. All the craziness aside, I have a wonder book that I simply had to take the time to tell you about, Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman.

I have had the privilege to not only read her other books but also meet her a few years ago at She Speaks when I was working with Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study. I am drawn to her books because the reader can relate to her and this one is no exception. Karen is real and engaging. It is like sitting down to coffee with a friend.

Listen, Love, Repeat is about taking the time to get outside of ourselves and listen to others and then love on them. I like the way Karen puts it – “a heart drop”. This is when you get to peek into another person’s heart. However, you can’t stop at just looking, you must be sure to listen. One of my favorite quotes sums up this point, “Living our lives prayerfully, preparedly, purposely, and perceptively will help us to tune our ears to the heart drops of others, so we can respond to their deepest needs in a meaningful, Spirit-centered way” (p. 30).

Each chapter is the book has practical tips and ideas of ways to apply the principles to your life. There is also a prayer at the end of the chapters. In addition, Karen has included bonus material at the end of the book – memory verses, quotes, recipes, and gift tags.

This is not just an incredible book, but there is also a DVD Bible Study. You will be able to gather your friends together as Karen guides you through the book week-by-week. For more information and to preorder the book visit Karen’s website,  http://www.listenloverepeatbook.com/.  I highly recommend you purchase the book as well as DVD study. In fact, it is so good that I am giving away a copy of Listen, Love, Repeat on my blog. To enter, simply share a way you can value others this holiday season in the comment section. I will announce the winner next week.

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Unpacking Treasure in the Word

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I love this verse from the book of Hebrews. It is filled with so many key items, almost like a suitcase after an extended trip. So today I invite you to come along with me as we begin to unpack this verse.

Hebrews 4:16 centers around prayer, which is an integral part of not only our faith but also our relationship with God.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence” (Hebrews 4:16a)

This means that because of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross, we not only have the gift of salvation, but also direct access to God. You and I do not need to speak through someone else. We not only have direct access to God but also can do so with confidence. We do not need to approach like a timid mouse, but rather boldly.

God longs to hear from us – the good and the bad. Just like me with my children. I want to hear about their day and have them talk with me not just when they want something. I encourage you to see prayer as simply a conversation with God. Like any relationship, it will grow with time together and that can be accomplished through prayer and time in the Word. God will speak to your heart.

He makes a promise to us in the second half of the verse: “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Dear friend, no matter what you bring to God in prayer you can rest assured that He will grant you mercy and grace. Just like David in the Psalms, God wants to restore us to the joy of our salvation. However, we must be willing to come to Him and lay our sin, burdens and struggles at His feet and let His love, grace and mercy flow over us.

We also need to view prayer as a preparation for what lies ahead. We can’t see the future. However, God not only sees the big picture, but also is waiting there with open arms. He knows what we are going to go through and uses prayer to guide, equip and strengthen us. However, we have to first come to Him.

Say for example you were heading out on a long trip and a friend said to stop by and he would give you everything you needed for the journey, would you make time to go? Absolutely, we wouldn’t even give it a second thought. You and I would want to be prepared. So why don’t we take God up on His offer? He has everything we need, and so much more all we need to do is go to Him in prayer. Jesus paid the price, our access has been granted. Take God at His Word and approach Him with confidence knowing He will grant you grace and mercy.

 

Your Turn: I encourage you to spend time with God in prayer today. Also, if you have a prayer request, please leave it in the comment section, I would love to pray for you.

The Mended Heart and a Giveaway

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I love to share great books with you. Today, I have the privilege to refer you to Suzanne Eller’s latest book The Mended Heart. In her incredible writing style, Suzanne captivates the reader from the very beginning of this book.

I would daresay that we have all experienced some kind of hurt or brokenness in our lives. This is a reality we cannot escape. Many have tried countless times and failed to “fix” the hurt. If you are masking the hurt and brokenness in your life then The Mended Heart is the book you have been searching for.

Suzanne gives great examples throughout the book as to how to address our brokenness. She reminds each of us that “The power of the cross is not found in what you do, but in what has already been done for you.”

I also love that Suzanne doesn’t just address this book from her opinion but has scripture verses that can help the reader’s pain and brokenness.

Suzanne shines the light on God’s truth that Jesus came to set us free and heal our brokenness. This is not something we were meant to do on our own. The Mended Heart gives you the courage you need to take that first step to healing – trusting God.

I highly recommend you take a look at the first chapter of this book and then order it today. Words can’t begin to express how deeply Suzanne’s words touched me. She is willingly sharing the message God has given her. Don’t live in hurt and brokenness anymore; trust God and let Him mend your heart.

 

As a special bonus, Revell has generously offered to give a free copy of Suzanne Eller’s The Mended Heart to one of my readers. So, please share this on facebook and twitter as well as commenting below to say why you would like to have a copy of this book.

Made for More

 

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It is hard to believe that the Made To Crave study is drawing to a close. Where did the time go? It seems like just the other day I had the calendar turned to January with my journal, Bible and book laid out and ready for the journey. I do not know whether you were a fellow sojourner or not, but I know that this journey is not over. Unlike a 5K or marathon, there is not a finish line this side of eternity. It is a process, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. In fact, if anything, it should give us the drive to keep pressing on.

Over the past six weeks we have learned that our mental, spiritual and physical lives can’t be compartmentalized. They are woven together to make you who you are. Being overweight is just an outward expression of an inward situation. You and I could easily become discouraged and defeated and throw in the towel thinking there is no point of trying. However, God tells us that we were made for more…More than a sugary treat…More than a pack of cigarettes…More than all the world’s treasures…God has set us apart for His purpose and plan.

The real question is whether you and I will make the choice that will draw us closer to God instead of pulling us away. We must choose to give up anything that we crave more than God.

We are all like the rich young ruler coming before Christ. He told the man to sell everything he had in order to follow Jesus. God knew that the man’s money would get in the way of his service therefore he was asked to get rid of it. What is God asking you to get rid of? What is it that you turn to when a problem arises or the storms of life are knocking at your door?

Dear friend, God is asking each one of us to lay those things down because He has so much more for each one of us. Don’t wait another minute; choose today to obediently follow after God leaving everything else behind.

 

 

It’s a New Day

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Lamenations probably is not a book of the Bible that comes up in conversation very often, nor is it one that naturally falls open when flipping through the Bible. If honest, many would have to confess to looking in the table of contents to even find its location. Once we arrive at this book you and I can begin to discover the treasure within this week’s Made To Crave verse.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:22-24

As I have been thinking and studying about this passage over the course of the week, it kept bringing to mind the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness. If you are unfamiliar with their story, I highly suggest reading through it. Anyhow, they were complaining because they didn’t have anything to eat and would rather be back in slavery in Egypt than to be in the wilderness headed to the Promise Land. I don’t know about you, but boy, can I relate. Many times I find myself complaining about where I am instead of relying on God and trusting Him along the way. God heard the cries of the children of Israel and provided manna for them every morning. It appeared like the dew covering the ground in a blanket of white. The Israelites were instructed to only take what they would need for that day – their portion. If they tried to take extra, so as not to have to gather the next day, it would mold or have maggots. God was testing them to see if they would trust and rely on His faithfulness. The same is true for us.

I have found, being a stay-at-home mom, that there are several times that I, myself, would like a “do-over.” My day starts out well, and then for one reason or another I find myself running out of patience with the kids. This generally happens within the time they wake up until they need to head out the door to the school bus. There are mornings that I can hear the following from the kids, “where is my lunch box? Oh, mom, I need more lunch money? I forgot that I have homework due today, can you help me with it?  Did you make snacks for my class for today?  Is my cross country uniform clean and ready for the meet?”  To no fault of their own, some days I simply just lose it. I could blame them for not being responsible enough, or me for not getting enough sleep or not laying things out the night before, but sometimes my patience just wears thin. I end up getting upset with them, and they leave for school wound up. I hate mornings like that. I do not know whether you can identify or not, but it is times like these I would like nothing more than to have everyone go back to bed and start the day over.

Although, I do not have the ability to push pause on the day and rewind it, I do have the opportunity for a new beginning. This is promised to all of us in Lamentations. This passage of Scripture brings me so much encouragement. With each new day, we are given the precious gift of experiencing and discovering more of God’s love. The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary explains it wonderfully, The Lord’s great love follows through on covenant obligations. God’s compassion cannot be exhausted.” In the Old Testament, God made covenants with His people. His great love continues to flow through the New Testament to current day. What amazes me is that God’s compassion and love for us have no limits, and there is an endless supply. Keep in mind that God is with us all the time, not just when things are going smoothly. Even when we face struggles, God shows us His mercy. The New King James Version Study Bible goes further to explain that the passage in Lamentations means, “The comforting, compassionate character of God dominates the wreckage of every other institution and office. God remains “full of grace and truth” in every situation.”

Maybe you do not have young children or struggle with the craziness of a busy morning, but I am certain that you have areas that are difficult within your day and you need God’s compassion, love and faithfulness. Do not feel like God’s compassion and mercy are some how confined to particular locations because they are not. God’s grace and mercy are poured out upon us every single day. Just as God provided manna for the children of Israel, He provided His Son for us. Christ is our daily bread, who satisfies our needs. Our portion, like the manna, is laid out for us, but we have to make the choice to take it in. Spending time with God daily is necessary to allow Him to “fill” us up for whatever the day may hold. Never forget that He knows what we need and He will provide.

Take a moment and listen to this song and let the words wash over you today.

A Choice to Make and a Path to Take

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Imagine for a moment that you are standing at a crossroads. The path to the left is flat as far as the eye can see, smooth and lined with flowers. The other path is hilly with rocks scattered along the way. Which path are you likely to choose? Before you answer let me add one additional piece of information, God is asking you to go on the hilly, rocky path. Now, which path will you go down?

I love what Lysa TerKeurst says about life in What Happens When Women Say Yes to God, “Life isn’t about being comfortable and taking the easiest route” (pg. 146). This is seen through the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. He was going out to check on his brothers in the field and ended up thrown in a pit, sold into slavery, taken to Egypt and put into prison. Not necessarily that flower-lined path is it? However, during the entire time the Lord was with him. The same is true in our lives. There maybe times when we step out for God, we say yes to Him and things seem to become more difficult instead of easier. However, it is during those times that we can lean on our Savior. He will give us the strength, courage and guidance we need. Like Joseph, we must trust God in the good times and the bad.

Sometimes in the valleys of life we become discouraged and defeated and choose to sit along the sidelines just wishing for the other path. Let’s look at Joseph again to see how he reacted during a low point. When Joseph was put into prison by a false accusation, he could have chose to sit in jail and sulk and ask God why his life wasn’t better. However, Joseph did just the opposite. He chose to allow God to use him and his gifts right where he was. Joseph decided to obey God out of love, not duty. God turned around and used that decision to say yes as Joseph’s ticket out of prison years later. I want the same thing in my own life. I want to be used – in the valley or on the mountaintop – to bring honor and glory to God.

You might think, well that’s all fine and good and if I ever get an opportunity to say Yes to God, I will know what to do. But let me remind you that “we don’t have to seek to create opportunities to say yes to God. God has already gone before us and established them. We simply have to respond” (pg. 149). God has the entire tapestry of your life laid out; you just have to decide whether you will say yes to His pattern and His timing. The majority of our most important opportunities come when we least expect them, just like Joseph. However, if we continue to stay close to God, we will be ready when He calls us to say yes.

It is so hard to believe the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study is coming to an end. I pray that you do not leave what you have learned locked inside your notes and book to gather dust on the shelf. This is a journey that will not be finished until God calls us home. Therefore, you and I need to continue to apply these principles to our lives as we daily walk in obedience and say Yes to God.

Exciting News and an Invitation

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The Lord has truly blessed me beyond words over the course of the year. As this year draws to a close, I look forward to 2014 with eager anticipation for what God has in store for me. I would like to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to come together on my blog this past year and help to grow this community. It is such a blessing to be able to share and reach out to women around the world.

And now for the exciting news, starting the week of January 6th I have the privilege of leading a group of ladies from Maryland Community Church through the What Happens When Women Say Yes to God study online. Therefore, my Monday and Wednesday posts for six weeks will be centered around this book. I invite you to join with us in the study. For more information or to register, visit the church’s website. If you would like to take the study a little deeper, I invite you to contact me directly and I will add you to the facebook small group. Whether you attend MCC, register for the study or not, I invite each one of you to start the new year off on the right foot by being openhanded with your hopes, dreams and goals and saying yes to whatever God has in store for you.

Another great way to start off 2014 is by choosing to crave God above everything else. I would invite you to sign up for the Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study Made to Crave. It will begin on January 19th and run until March 1st. My Thursday posts starting January 23rd will center on the topics in that study.

I have participated in both of these studies in the past and I would highly encourage you to sign up for them. I promise that God will take your step of faith and use it in a mighty way.

Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding either study. I am so excited to spend time studying God’s word together in 2014.

Enough

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It is so easy to fall victim to the doubts and fears that we are not enough. It can drag us down. We become so consumed with not having enough, not being enough, not doing enough…and our focus shifts onto that instead of where it needs to be, which is on God and what He wants us to be and what we are called to do. Satan just wants to keep us distracted and he does a really good job of this. All he has to do is put the question of enough in your mind. And if you are like me, you just take it and run with it.

 

I had a wonderful friend remind me of one of the sessions we had at She Speaks that talked about spiritual warfare and putting on the whole armor of God. I really enjoy studying the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10–17). But I have never had it explained quite the way that Whitney Capps did at the conference. I just love how she said that we take up the shield of faith. But sometimes because of things going on in our life, we physically cannot do it or due to fears and doubts we drop our shield of faith. However, we have those individuals around us — friends, loved ones, brothers & sisters in Christ — that come along next to us and they put their shields over us to cover us, when we are basically too weak to do it ourselves. When we are simply not enough. But I have a secret for you — God is enough. He is big enough, strong enough, smart enough, good enough, more than enough than we can ever begin to imagine. So when those thoughts of enough come into your mind, turn to God and He will be more than enough for you.

The Real Me

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If you were asked to describe yourself, what would you say? The majority of us would start with our appearance and then maybe include our occupation and marital status. In most cases, it wouldn’t get any deeper than that. However, there are many more components that compose the real you.

For me personally, I struggled in the past with not only poor body image, but also comparing myself to others. I wanted to have the perfect look, because then everything else would fall into place, right? So, I stressed over an extra pound here or a bad hair day there. All the while thinking that if the outside was better then I would be better on the inside. This way of thinking quickly sucked me into the trap of comparing how someone looked on the outside to how I was feeling on the inside.

I love what Renee says about comparing/competing in Chapter 8 of A Confident Heart, “ God never intended for us to compete with each other; He wants us to complete one another, celebrating and encouraging each other’s strengths while discovering who He created us to be” (pg. 137).

I had to come to a point where I saw who I was through God’s eyes – my true identity. God didn’t create flat, one-dimensional people. He gave us spiritual gifts, passions, abilities, personalities and experiences, which make each one of us unique.

Each and every one of us has been given spiritual gifts to use for God’s purpose. Think about it like this, I’m certain that if someone gives you a Christmas gift you won’t leave it wrapped and sitting on a shelf or the bottom of your closet. Therefore, you and I need to utilize the gifts God has given to us.

I enjoyed taking the spiritual gifts assessment on Wednesday. If you haven’t taken one before I suggest you spend a few moments to see where your strengths lie. My top three were teaching, faith and exhortation. God has given me these gifts to reach out and shine His light and encourage those around me.

God has also put passions within each one of us. One of mine is to help and lift up those who are broken and hurting. Because of various experiences God has brought me through, I can identify with many hurts and pains.

Besides gifts and passions, we also have various abilities. Some people can sing, paint, lead, speak – you name it. God has blessed me with the ability to write. I first saw this as a possibility when I went through this study through OBS two years ago.

It was at this time I was encouraged to start a blog for the first time. I was so nervous when I hit the publish button the first time, but I chose to use what God had given me and be available to His leading. Since that first post, I have written and published my first book, Get REAL: Stop Hiding Behind the Mask, started on my second book and met amazing women through my blog that have touched my heart – all because I chose to use the abilities, gifts, passions and experiences God had created me with for His purpose and plan.

Every pieces of us as individuals may not make sense or be appealing, but combined together you and I are each a living breathing masterpiece from God. You wouldn’t go into a museum and take apart pieces of art thinking you knew better than the artist, so why do we do the same thing with God?

When you and I begin to embrace who God has created us to be, it will lead to confidence.

Your Turn:Who are you? What gifts, passions and abilities has God created in you? Most importantly, what are you going to choose to do with them?

Who Am I?

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There were many times in the past that I fell into the notion that I was not good enough – from being excluded in school, to comparing myself to others to my husband leaving me. For this reason, the enemy uses this doubt frequently in attacking me.

As long as I am stuck in that downward spiral, I am not moving forward or following after God’s plan for my life. The enemy can simply set back because I am already discouraged and defeated.

But God doesn’t see any of us as not good enough.

You and I must remember that God has made each one of us unique for His plan and purpose. The world needs us to fulfill that plan. We have to come to a point where we see ourselves as God sees us.

I encourage you to read through some of the great scriptures from Renee Swope’s Confident Heart:

                                      John 1:12

                        2 Timothy 1:7

                            Ephesians 3:12

Your Turn: Who are you? Not whom others say you are, but whom God says you are. I encourage you to let your true identity in Christ shine through to the dark world today.

Resources:     Confident Heart – Renee Swope

Get REAL: Stop Hiding Behind the Mask – Jamy Whitaker

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