Sign-up to receive Kathy's FREE E-Newsletter or Weekly Blog Posts

A Glorious Adventure of Faith

My guest blogger today is Gwen Smith! Gwen is an amazing musician, worship leader, woman of faith, and author of the brand new book “I Want it All!”

Gwen SmithGod has a plan for you, and it’s not an “I’m fine,” average life. You were created to be a woman of impact who is so in love with her Lord and so aware of His might that she cannot help but expect great things and move in His power and grace.

God’s plan for you is unique. No cookie cutter Christianity here. His plan may not look like the dreams you had as a little girl, but it IS a good one. Do you trust that?

God wants you to have a full, beautiful life—in Him, through Him, and for Him. Truly. The Bible tells us so. He offers us joy, but not the world’s joy (John 15:11); peace, but not the world’s peace (John 16:33); power, but not the world’s power (2 Timothy 1:7); love, but not the world’s love (John 15:12-13). I want every ounce of His joy, peace, power, and love. Don’t you? God’s plan is a good plan . . . for us, not against us . . . a plan that is filled with hope and a future. His is a plan that leads us directly to His presence in worship, and, ultimately, to a deep and intimate relationship with Him. Yes, please!

I want to live out God’s sacred plan that invites me to a glorious adventure of faith, that beckons me to perfect love, that calls and challenges me to His cross-carrying ways, that demands my everything and satisfies the longings of all I’ve ever dreamed my life can and should be.

I know many of you are going through difficult and painful challenges. Life throws curve balls that can leave us gasping for breath on any given day, at any given moment. I’m right there with you in the ditches of reality. God’s ways do not always make sense. They don’t always feel good. At times they even sting wildly, but one thing is always true: the great life He intends for us to live begins and ends with the Word. The Word made flesh: Jesus. And though we remain broken and impacted by an imperfect world, we can rise above and get through anything in the power and hope of God, for His glory.

And just like God spoke vision and life to the weary prophet Jeremiah thousands of years ago, His Word speaks vision and life to us today, and every day, reminding us of the beauty available to all in Christ. A beauty that brings Him glory.

That’s the ALL God wants us to want. All of Him.

What do you want in life? Will you be satisfied with the “all” the world offers or do you want God’s all?!

 

Gwen SmithGwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net and Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen’s latest book, I want it allI Want It ALL, (David C. Cook), was released on March 1, 2016 and comes complete with a study guide and questions for reflection. Gwen speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a co-founder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

 

 

Share This:
Read More »

3 Spiritual Benefits of Need

NeedIf we had our choice, most of us would choose abundance over need. We would rather have more than enough money to pay our bills. We would rather not go hungry.

Yet God’s Word actually warns us about the dangers of having plenty. Too much money, food, and possessions fool us into relying on ourselves. Material abundance fosters pride and self-sufficiency. “Plenty” leaves us spiritually bereft.

Are you in a time of physical need? Maybe you’re struggling with a health issue or job loss. Maybe some unexpected expenses has drained your bank account. God not only sees your need, He cares deeply. He longs to meet your physical needs.

Yet, the Bible also teaches God works through times of physical need to benefit us, to grow us spiritually. As much as God cares about our physical condition, He cares much more about our spiritual condition. Our physical condition is temporary. Our spiritual condition involves matters of eternity.

When the children of Israel were poised to enter the Promised Land, Moses warned them about the danger of their future material abundance (Deuteronomy 8:1-20). He reminded them of the spiritual benefit gained by wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. God used their time of physical need to foster great spiritual growth.

The same can be true for us. If we allow Him, God can work in our lives during times of material need in ways not possible during times of plenty.

3 Spiritual Benefits of Physical Need

  1. Humility – Pride is a root that sprouts an abundance of other sinful attitudes and behaviors. In times of physical need God can open our eyes to truth. We don’t possess anything He has not provided. Even our ability to work comes from Him (Deuteronomy 8:17-18).
  2. Dependence – When we realize God provides everything in our lives we will begin to lean on Him, to rely on Him every minute. Our illusion of self-sufficiency is shattered.
  3. Growth – As we lean on God more and more, our faith is tested and proved. As we learn more about God’s character and ways, He develops spiritual boldness and we willingly take new steps of faith never considered before.

Are you in need today? Don’t waste this time! Ask God to grow you spiritually and teach you to depend on Him every minute. Times of material need can be glorious times of spiritual plenty.

If you have physical need now or have in the past, what spiritual benefit did you experience?

Share This:
Read More »

5 Tips for Handling Stress

StressToday’s post is by Karen Jordan author of “Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul.”

Are you overwhelmed with stress in your life? The book of Lamentations offers a clear word on how to deal with stress. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lamentations 3:25-29 MSG).

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Stress

  1. Go off by yourself. Solitude often seems impossible for me, even with an “empty nest.” But Jesus knew the importance of spending time alone with His Father. When He needed to listen, He would pull away from everyone. After Jesus fed the 5,000, He “climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night” (Matthew 14:22-23).
  1. Enter the silence. When we seek God in silence, Satan often tries to distract us with fear, like in the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). Hanna’s husband had two wives—talk about stress! And her husband’s other wife taunted her year after year, blaming and accusing God for Hannah’s inability to conceive children. Then, when Hannah prayed, her spiritual leader misunderstood her. “Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk” (1 Samuel 1:13).
  1. Bow in prayer. Prayer can be as natural as talking with a good friend or as intimate as sharing a secret whisper. It can occur any time of day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. God promises that if we call on His Name, He’ll listen. “And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours” (1 John 5:15).
  1. Don’t ask questions – My questions often interfere with my communication with God—I’m talking, instead of listening. When Jesus taught His disciples, He asked them on several occasions, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (Matthew 11:15).
  2. Wait for hope to appear – Waiting rooms seem to bring out the worst in me, like my impatience or frustration. But waiting does not have to be hopeless. “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip” (Psalm 40:1-2, MSG).

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:30-34, MSG).

So, remember, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lamentations 3:28-29 MSG).

 Do you struggle with stress? What helps you handle the stressful times in your life?

More about today’s guest Karen Jordan

Karen loves to encourage others to tell the stories that matter most, as an author, speaker, writing instructor, and blogger, addressing topics about her faith, family, and writing. Native Texans, Karen and her husband, Dan, now live in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, close to their children and grandchildren. Karen’s Karen Jordanfirst book, Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul, LeafWords that Change Everythingwood Publishing, released in 2016, along with her eBook, RESTNotes: A Fifteen-Day Devotional Guide to Words That Change Everything. Read a sample of “Words that Change Everything.” Visit Karen’s website!

Share This:
Read More »

A Christian’s Response to Terrorism

terrorismEarly Sunday morning a man claiming allegiance to ISIS entered an Orlando nightclub with a gun. The terrorist killed 50 and wounded dozens more making this the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil since 911.

My immediate response to the news was shock, grief, and anger. Then questions. Lots of questions. How can a person be filled with so much hate and anger? Why can’t someone stop this? When will world leaders join forces to fight this?

And what in the world do I do with this? I feel so helpless.

So, I’ve been thinking about that. How should I – how should a Christian – respond in the wake of terrorism. Whether here in our country or around the world, how do we deal with it and what should we do?

I absolutely don’t have all the answers. Not even some of the answers. But God did bring a few key things to mind as I reflected on the questions. Maybe they will be some comfort or encouragement to you. And maybe you can share some insight here with the rest of us.

4 Responses to Terrorism

  1. Trust in God’s Character – No matter what the circumstances, no matter how bad things look, God is still sovereign. He still knows all, sees all, and is in control of all things. No, I still don’t understand why He doesn’t stop some things from happening. But I do choose to trust God’s truth rather than my emotions.
  2. Pray – The morning after the terrorist attack in Brussels I felt drawn to pray. But I wanted to get specific, I was tired of trite generalities. I asked God to help me know how to pray. He guided my prayer time that morning giving me specific things to pray for the victims and their families, the medical personnel, law enforcement, and even the terrorists themselves. Let’s pray and let’s be specific. (Download the PDF Prayer Guide.)
  3. Support – The victims and their families are hurting. The law enforcement community and medical personnel are overwhelmed. Let’s think about ways we can reach out to comfort and give practical aid. For instance, if we live in the area, we could take food to hospital waiting rooms.
  4. Act – We may not have the power to command troops or call international summits, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do.
  • We can vote – if our elected officials are doing nothing, elect someone who will.
  • We can write – contact everyone and anyone who has the power to do something.
  • We can speak out – if you suspect something, tell someone. Do not remain silent.

I would love for you to share your thoughts, prayers, and feelings in the comments below. How can Christians respond to this kind of evil in the world?

 

Share This:
Read More »

Are you a Stunted Shrub or a Fruitful Tree?

Jeremiah 17We’ve lived in the West Texas desert. Twice. Not much can grow there. Even the small, stunted mesquite shrubs quickly become tumbleweeds in a windstorm. But here in southeast Texas the foliage thrives. It’s green around here pretty much twelve months of the year. Something is growing and blooming all the time. The plants have what they need – sun, warmth, and plenty of water.

I’ve seen plenty of stunted shrubs and fruitful trees. Such a stark contrast. In fact, God uses this contrast in the book of Jeremiah. God does that a lot in Scripture; He gives us word pictures to help us better understand spiritual truths.

The first chapter of Psalms has been my favorite for a long time – the man who mediates on the law of the LORD is like a tree planted by streams of water (Psalm 1:1-3). But recently, the comparison God gives us in Jeremiah 17 between a stunted shrub and a fruitful tree really impacted me.

This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8, NLT

Which are you? Stunted Shrub or Fruitful Tree?

Jeremiah 17

How does one get to be a “stunted shrub?” You turn away from God and trust in humans. And the results are not pretty. Stunted shrubs are cursed. They have no growth and no hope for the future.

How does one get to be a “fruitful tree?” You trust in the Lord and put your hope in Him alone. The results are far much better. This person will be blessed and secure in difficult circumstances. She will stay healthy and grow, producing “fruit” that lasts.

I would much rather be a fruitful tree! How about you?

What can you do today to put your trust and hope in God?

Share This:
Read More »

Muhammad Ali Versus Jesus: Who’s the Greatest?

Muhammad AliBoxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away late last week after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s. Often referred to as “The Greatest,” Ali had a long and illustrious boxing career. He won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and earned the boxing title “Heavyweight Champion of the World” three times.

Ali was also famous for making many bold – and poetic – claims about himself. Here are a few you’ve probably heard:

  • “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t.”
  • “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
  • “I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”
  • He also called himself “the greatest” and the “king of the world.”

Many people around the world also thought Ali was indeed “the greatest.” Former President Bill Clinton will be giving the eulogy at his funeral on Friday. And in the wake of Ali’s death, President Barack Obama released a statement, which reads in part:

“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail’… Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time… Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”

Ali was a strong, disciplined athlete. He was a unique poet and showman. He raised millions of dollars for charities and worked to promote peace around the world. He spent time with both presidents and dictators and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But was Muhammad Ali “The Greatest?”

Yesterday, our small group talked about the divinity and eternality of Jesus. Jesus Christ. God come to us. The self-existent One, with no beginning or end of days. Yet the world does not proclaim His greatness. Presidents do not declare His praises.

So, today I feel compelled to give Jesus a little glory due His name.

He paints the butterfly and shapes the bee (Colossians 1:16). He commands lightning and cuts a path for the thunderstorm (Job 38:25). He holds all things together, sustaining them by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3), yet He willingly humbled Himself to bring life to mankind (Philippians 2:6-8). He opens the eyes of the blind, heals the sick, and raises the dead. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13). One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11-12).

Muhammad Ali may have been a great man as far as men go. But Jesus Christ is our great God and eternal King. Praise His name!

 

 

Share This:
Read More »

Sex Trafficking, Hope, and a Bracelet Giveaway

Bracelet giveawaySadly, the following story is not only true, it’s just one of many like it. There are currently 24 million women and children enslaved in sex trafficking across the globe today, many of whom are trapped in brothels in India and Nepal. This story is told by Vision Beyond Borders, a Christian ministry that works to rescue women like Anna (named changed for protection) from sex trafficking in Nepal and India. Keep reading to find out how you can help. And comment for a chance to win a beautiful bracelet made by a woman like Anna.

Anna was raped by one of her mother’s relatives when she was just 10-years-old. Although initially imprisoned, the relative was later released when Anna’s mother accepted 20,000 rupees (about $200) from him as payment.

When Anna was a little older, she was followed home by three men who raped her again, then abandoned her on a dirt road. When Anna told her mother what happened she would not believe her. Just like she ignored the worsening sexual abuse by Anna’s stepfather. Not only did Anna’s mother refuse to help her, she verbally abused Anna herself.

Vision Beyond BordersIn desperation, Anna decided to run away. She left home with two friends and some other girls who told them they knew of a better place where they would be safe and able to make money. They took her near Nepal’s border with India where Anna then worked in a dance bar. She was the youngest girl working there and the customers touched her inappropriately. But Anna desperately needed money.

Not much later, the police found Anna and her two friends. But the girls who had taken these three young girls to the dance bar could not be found. Later, the police discovered that the older girls had planned to sell Anna and her friends in India, where they would earn a greater profit for their youth.

Anna was imprisoned for several weeks while her case was reviewed by several non-government organizations. When her paperwork was finally completed, she was brought to the Vision Beyond Borders safe house to recover from all she had endured. By God’s grace, Anna is doing well and has recently come to know Christ as her personal Savior! She recognizes God’s great love toward her, and He is healing her from the pain she’s endured.

Now 15 years-old, Anna is in school and is also learning skills in hair styling and jewelry making in the safe house. She is one of 16 girls currently in the safe house, including the 5 year-old daughter of one of the girls. Many of the girls share similar stories and have been sold by family members due to the lack of respect for women in their Hindu culture.

All these girls have come to accept Jesus as their Savior. Their transformation after salvation is miraculous! Some of the girls want to be in Christian ministry and others businesswomen, but they all love sharing about the Lord and radiate His joy and faithfulness.

sex trafficking in Nepal

4 Ways You Can Help VBB Fight Sex Trafficking

  1. Pray for the continued healing of the girls in the safe house and for their Hindu families (Download 15-day prayer guide).
  2. Purchase bracelets made by the girls to support their futures. Each piece was handmade in the VBB safe house in Nepal. One hundred percent of the proceeds go back to helping them.
  3. Go on a VBB mission trip to India or Nepal.
  4. Donate to the Vision Beyond Borders ministry to women.

This post is a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a bracelet made by one of the girls at the VBB safe house in Nepal. Leave a short prayer, words of encouragement, or simply tell us what color bracelet you’d like to win! Giveaway closes on Wednesday, June 8th at 5pm.

 

More about Vision Beyond Borders ministry to women:

VBB works in Nepal and India to rescue women in the sex trafficking industry and help them discover new lives in Christ. They provide safety, training, and healing and guide them into jobs and businesses to eventually support themselves. Sine VBB’s safe house in Nepal opened in 2014 more than 30 women have been rescued. VBB also operates a hair salon in India that’s a ministry base for women. Vision for Women is working to expand into other countries as well.

Share This:
Read More »

4 Tips for Staying Spiritually Fit this Summer

Tips for spiritual fitness this summerSummer is almost here! For many of us, that means a break from the usual routines of school, work, and other responsibilities. We sleep in, take time off to be with family, and even get away on vacations and long weekends. Life seems to slow. Regular weekly activities – like sports, lessons, and Bible study groups – go on hiatus until fall.

All of this is great for our families, our bodies, and our human relationships. But unfortunately, the change of pace often throws even the most disciplined among us off kilter spiritually.

Because of the weird schedule, regular Bible study and quite time sometime get set aside. Even church attendance gets spotty due to travel. But rather than feeling guilty or giving up altogether, let’s work with the season instead.

4 Tips to Stay Spiritually Fit this Summer

The following 4 tips include lots of great resources to help you take advantage of the summer schedule and keep spiritually fit:

  1. Summer Bible Reading Plan – Use a plan that’s short-term and gives you some breathing room!
  2. Family Devotions – Since you’ll probably be getting away with your family this summer, make good use of that time together. Download this 7-Day Family Devotional Guide to use on that next road trip or family vacation. The guide includes a Scripture passage to read, very brief commentary, and 3-4 discussion questions to get the family talking!
  3. Online Bible study and community – Many of you participate in Bible study groups throughout the fall and spring, but most of these groups don’t meet during the summer. Rather than neglecting Bible study until September, make use of one of the these great online opportunities.
  4. Podcasts – Many churches make their pastor’s sermons available for listening through the church website. If your church doesn’t, you can listen to many great preachers and teachers from wherever your summer travels happen to take you. Here are a few of my favorites:

    Summer doesn’t have to mean a spiritual setback! Just temporarily change the way you do things. I would love to hear how you and your family incorporate spiritual disciplines into your summer schedule.

    Let’s share now! How do you stay spiritually fit during the summer months?

Share This:
Read More »

4 Tips to Stay Connected this Summer

It is hard to stay connected with other women through the summer. Last June, I met with some of my Bible study teachers. When Megan arrived, she settled in a chair, looked at the ladies gathered around the table, and with a sigh announced, “I have missed being with women!” The rest of us felt the same and it was only the second week of summer!

Summer is a great time for families and relaxation. But the erratic schedule and unique dynamics of the season sure puts a strain on women’s ministry and women’s relationships with each other.

stay connected

Whether you’re a women’s ministry leader trying to maintain contact with the women of your church or a busy mom who needs adult conversation, you can proactively work to stay connected through the summer months. Then when “normal” returns in September, we won’t have lost the momentum of ministry and our friendships will still be warm. And you can do it from wherever you happen to wander this summer by taking advantage of technology and social media.

Stay Connected through the Summer

Here are a few ways to continue ministry, maintain contact, and foster relationships during the summer:

  1. Bible Study – Organize or participate in an online Bible study group for summer. Use a closed Facebook group for women to share insights and ask questions anytime that works for them. (See this post for a few suggestions!)
  2. Prayer – If you are a WM leader, organize your women into small prayers groups. Assign a leader to keep things moving. They can share requests via group texts or email. If you’re an individual, message a few close friends and start your own prayer group!
  3. “Spontaneous” Fellowship – Whether you’re a women’s ministry leader or just a gal missing her friends, don’t be afraid to be spontaneous! Use your women’s ministry’s social media accounts to publicize “spontaneous” fellowship events or message a few friends. For example, plan a picnic at a local park for moms and their kids. Since families keep a super flexible summer schedule, don’t publicize the event in advance. Instead, blast social media with invitations the night before and the morning of the event. Keep it simple! Invite them to bring their kids and a sack lunch. The point is simply to get your women together.
  4. “Meet” New Friends – If you’re a women’s ministry leader, take advantage of your ministry’s social media accounts to foster relationships between the women of your church. Once or twice a week, introduce a woman and her family to the women of your church. Share a photo, hobbies, and interesting facts. The goal is to encourage the women to connect with each other and make new friends. If you’re an individual, purposefully work to expand your circle of friends. For example, make a play date with a mom and her kids who are new to your neighborhood or ask a casual acquaintance to meet for coffee.

With a small amount of effort, you can keep ministry moving and your relationships growing, all summer long!

I would love for you to share some ways that you purposefully work to stay connected with other women through the summer!

Share This:
Read More »

The Danger of Plenty

PlentyFew of us in America have real need. Yes, I know some do go hungry and some have no roof over their heads. But that is the exception. The vast majority of us have all that we need. In fact, many of us have far more than we need. We have plenty.

And that in itself is a problem. Plenty can bring more serious trouble than need.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses warned the children of Israel about the danger of plenty before they entered the Promised Land:

11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. 12 For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, 13 and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.  Deuteronomy 8:11-14, NLT

After 40 years wandering in the wilderness and depending on God for every bite of food and drink of water, the Israelites were about to settle into a land of abundance. Yes, the wilderness had been a physically difficult place, but this land of plenty would bring unique spiritual dangers. Moses points out four specific dangers in Deuteronomy 8:11-19.

4 Dangers of Plenty

  1. Forgetfulness – When we aren’t forced to depend on God for our daily physical sustenance, we tend to forget Him. We fail to remember that God provides everything, even our ability to work and make money to purchase all the things we have.
  2. Pride – Not only do we forget God’s provision, we begin to think we have done it all ourselves. We become puffed up and prideful in our plenty.
  3. Disobedience – When we have forgotten God and become full of ourselves we begin to do anything and everything we want. We do it our way and give no heed to God’s commands.
  4. Idolatry – Once we have forgotten God, something else will assume His rightful place in our lives. Whether money, job, recreation, another person, or ourselves, we will worship something.

How can we avoid the danger of plenty? Moses tells us that too. In one word, we must “remember.” Remember God’s past provision. Remember God’s equipping for work. Remember God’s rightful place as the one, true God who deserves our worship.

Have you ever fallen prey to plenty? What were the results?

Suggested reading:

“Forsaken God: Remembering the Goodness of God our Culture has Forgotten” by Janet Thompson

Share This:
Read More »