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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!

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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

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7 Resources for Online Summer Bible Study

online summer Bible studyWant to participate in Bible study this summer but your travel schedule prevents you from regularly attending a physical group study? Then an online summer Bible study might be just what you need to stay immersed in God’s Word. I’ve done a little digging around and found some great options for you to check out.

7 Options for Online Summer Bible Study

  1. “Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer through LifeWay – This study begins June 9 and ends July 21. There will be weekly emails and online videos. You’ll need to purchase a copy of the study guide. You can sign up here!
  2. Summer Book Club at Women’s Bible Cafe – Not exactly a Bible study, but Women’s Bible Cafe will be doing a non-fiction book each month of the summer to help you grow spiritually. Worth checking out! June’s book is “Believing God” by Lisa Harper. Find out more here.
  3. “The Husband Project” by Kathi Lipp at Proverbs 31 – This study begins June 20. Sign up here.  Find out more about how online studies work at Proverbs 31 here.
  4. Right here on Unshakeable Faith for Life – I have done several studies here on my blog and all the material is still available. You can use it, any time, anywhere! Check these out:
  5. Hello Mornings – A new group will begin June 20th. Includes online resources, weekly emails, and group challenges! Sign up here.
  6. “Wonderstruck” by Margaret Feinberg – Seven online session including video. Sign up here.
  7. “Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing” – My new Bible study will be released on August 1st and I can’t wait to share it with you! So, I will be offering an online version here beginning early August. Watch for more. Preorder on Amazon now!

Do you know of other resources to study the Bible online this summer? Would love for you to add them in the comments!

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This isn’t Real Life

Real LifeMy favorite soda is Coca-Cola. Don’t try to give me some substitute cola. Some generic thing. Or Pepsi. Definitely not Pepsi. I will not settle. Only the “real thing” will do.

But how often do I – do you – settle for substitutes for life? This physical life we’re living is not real life. It’s merely a shadow. Yet we often live like this physical world is the end all, be all. We focus on things that are temporary. We invest our energy and resources and time on things that don’t last.

In the book of Colossians, the apostle Paul encourages us to immerse ourselves fully and completely in our real life:

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4, NIV

Our real life is our relationship with Jesus and our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Everything else is a poor substitute. Yet so often I act like this shadow life is the real thing. What about you?

7 Signs you may be missing out on Real Life:

  • Trying to “follow all the rules” (Colossians 2:20-23).
  • Struggle constantly with the old sin nature and its desires (Colossians 3:5-7).
  • Relationships with other Christians are superficial and/or tumultuous (Colossians 3:8-11).
  • Fulfillment and contentment seem just out of reach (Colossians 3:15).
  • You worry excessively about your physical needs.
  • Your calendar rules the day.
  • You rarely have time to linger over God’s Word.

We don’t have to miss the real thing! Paul Doesn’t just give us the characteristics of living a shadow life, he also gives us practical tips for living our “real life” now.

5 Tips for Embracing Real Life:

  • Purposefully “put on” the character and attitude of Jesus (Colossians 3:12).
  • Form and keep a vital connection with a local church (Colossians 3:13-15).
  • Practice gratitude (Colossians 3:15).
  • Immerse yourself in God’s Word (Colossians 3:16).
  • Commit everything you do to the glory of Christ (Colossians 3:17).

Are you living the real life God has for you? If not, what can you do today to step into His real life?!

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Lavish Grace is Coming

Lavish GraceHave you underestimated grace? God’s lavish grace is not “just enough” and it’s far more than “sufficient.” His grace washes through and over every aspect of a believer’s life. It’s like a free-flowing river that knows no bounds. Yet, sometimes we fail to jump in!

A few years ago, God began to show me my desperate need for His abundant, lavish grace. In every day, in every situation, and in every relationship. So, I began studying about it in His Word and talking about it at women’s events. Then the next thing you know, I’m writing a new Bible study. And you guessed it, the new study is about God’s exceedingly, abundant grace.

This writing journey has been particularly personal. God has given me lots of opportunity to put what I’ve studied into practice. Of course some days it’s felt like two steps forward and one step back. And I’ve had the incredible blessing of witnessing God’s grace at work in the lives of people very dear to me.

So, it is with great excitement and anticipation that I announce:

Lavish Grace is coming August 1st!

Lavish Grace is a 9-week, in-depth study through Paul’s experiences with and teachings on grace, designed to help us discover the riches and abundance of God’s grace for our lives today. Lavish Grace includes contemporary examples of God’s grace at work in the lives of women today to help you also embrace God’s amazing grace. The study is divided into 3 sections:

  • Poured Out – Explore God’s work of grace in our eternal salvation, continued spiritual transformation, as well as our call and equipping for ministry and service.
  • Poured Through – Discover what it looks like to be channels of God’s great grace, not just stagnant pools.
  • Overflowing – Learn how to rest in and rely on His grace in the inevitable times of trials, struggles, and difficulties.

You will hear a lot more about Lavish Grace and all the exciting book launch activities in the coming weeks. But here’s a bit of a teaser: Online study opportunities, giveaways, Facebook party, coloring contests, and more! I would love for you to be a part of it all. If you can help get the word out about God’s lavish grace – host a blog, share on social media, lead a study – let me know in the comments below!

Praise for Lavish Grace

Kathy has beautifully woven an account of how the grace God so incredibly pours into us, and practically shares with us ways we can exhibit grace to others. You will be blessed by this book! I know I was.  Jennifer Rothschild

If you want to renew, revive, and rejuvenate your life with God’s lavish grace, then the pages of this book will shower you with hope and help you embrace the exuberant, abundant grace-filled life we all long for! Pam Farrel

Kathy Howard does more than point out our need for grace; she teaches us to not only pour it out, but also to lap it up. A must read for a needy world.  Kathi Lipp

If you’re ready to understand and embrace this life-altering love in a fresh way, then don’t hesitate to take this grace-walk with Kathy. Gwen Smith

Kathy Howard pinpoints what each of us needs—a fresh awareness of God’s grace. Debbie Taylor Williams

A few links to check out:

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Rusty Mailboxes, Aching Bones, and the Overcomer

OvercomeMy parents still live in the house where they raised my brother and me. When we moved onto Dianne Street, I was eight and my brother was just five. That was 46 years ago.

Every time I make the four-hour drive to visit mom and dad – particularly these last few years – I am keenly aware of the passage of time and the toll this physical life takes on physical things.

For instance, just a few days ago, when I was there for a visit, I noticed the mailbox. I mean really took note of it. It’s the same mailbox they’ve had for decades. The same one I mowed down with my mother’s Lincoln when I was a young driver. Even then, Dad didn’t replace the box; he just replaced the narrow iron post with something a bit sturdier.

Today, that mailbox bears the wounds of standing unprotected for decades at the end of the driveway in all kinds of weather. Although the numbers, 6-4-1-3, still bravely cling to the side, rust dominates the exterior and the lid doesn’t quite close all the way.

Of course my parents have aged as well. Combined, they bear the marks of more than 150 years of living. Joy and grief. Success and failure. Fullness and loss. Just like anyone who lives in this world for very long. And today, they both struggle with physical ailments that only new bodies can fix.

Every visit home is bittersweet. I love spending time with my parents, but I wish I could really make things better. Or turn back the clock.

Today God reminds me that none of this takes Him by surprise. He well knows the effects this broken world has on His children. Sin has subjected this physical world and all that live on it to decay. We all groan inwardly while we eagerly wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises to His children (Romans 8:20-25).

We could replace the rusty mailbox with a new one, but it would rust again. The world would still get the last word.

But, praise God, the world does not get the last word in my parents’ lives. Or my life. The world does not have to have the last word in your life.

God gets the last word. The victory will be and is His. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, everyone born of God (1 John 5:4-5)! We are overcomers!

Are you an overcomer? Have you been born again by the Spirit of God? If not, why not today?

Want to be an overcomer? Find out more about a saving relationship with Jesus?

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7 Characteristics of a Mature Christian

mature christianWould you describe yourself as a mature Christian? Honestly, that term feels sort of subjective. What one person considers mature, another might not.

However, the Bible does give us some guidelines for spiritual maturity. First, God calls us to spiritual maturity:

“…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:13, NIV

The Greek word translated as “mature” in Ephesians 4:13 is teleios. It means to be “complete, perfect, brought to end, of full age.” Spiritual maturity is God’s goal for us.

Next, our maturity is so important to God, He allows trials into our lives to grow our faith:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

If our maturity is this important to God, perhaps we should take it more seriously. But how can we know if we’re growing spiritually? What does a mature Christian look like?

7 Characteristics of a Mature Christian

The Bible gives us many marks of a growing believer, like perseverance and spiritual fruit, but the Bible specifically mentions the following 7 characteristics in conjunction with the Greek word teleios:

  1. Recognizes the difference between right and wrong then does what is right (Hebrews 5:14)
  2. Not easily swayed by false teaching (Ephesians 4:13-16) – So grounded in the truth of God’s Word, she quickly recognizes falsehood.
  3. Rooted in love (Ephesians 4:13-16) – Our words and actions flow from love for our fellow believers.
  4. Serves the church (Ephesians 4:13-16) – A Christian cannot grow to her full potential apart from a vital connection to a local church. She must find her place of mutual service and encouragement.
  5. Lives with an eternal perspective (Philippians 3:13-15) – The reality of the spiritual and eternal drives her life. She purposefully strives to continual spiritual growth because she knows this life is temporary.
  6. Controls her tongue (James 3:2) – If a Christian has good control of her speech, you know she is on a path to maturity!
  7. Reflects God’s character to the world (Matthew 5:48) – God wants us to grow in spiritual maturity in order to reflect the character of Jesus to a watching world.

So how are you doing? What area do you struggle in the most? Why?

Want to be purposeful in your spiritual growth? You may find this post helpful.

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Are You Disappointed with God?

DisappointedAre you disappointed with God? I know, that’s a loaded question. Even if we feel that way or have felt that way in the past, most of us would hesitate to admit it. After all, God is the omnipotent, omniscient Creator. And we are just, well, us.

But if we are brutally honest with ourselves, most of us have had moments – or perhaps are even there right now – where we felt as though God let us down. That He didn’t meet a need or protect us from pain or act on our behalf.

We’ve been disappointed with God.

I’ve been there.

In fact, during one particularly difficult period of my life, I told a close friend that not only did I feel like God had let me down, but I also felt like He had tricked me. That God had led me to believe He had worked in a certain situation then He pulled the rug out from under my feet.

Have you been there? If you have or if you’re there now, here this:

Our feelings do not always reflect the truth. Our emotions very often deceive us and lead us astray.

Last Sunday, my pastor said something I’ve been mulling over for a week:

“Disappointment with God is almost always a result of bad theology about God.”

If we are hurt or angry or disillusioned with God it’s usually because our understanding of God and His ways don’t align with the truth of who He is. And it can happen so easily.

Maybe we’re still learning about God. Maybe we’ve been taught something wrong about God in the past. Or maybe, our emotions took over and we temporarily forgot the truth we know.

That’s what happened to me. I knew “trickery” was out of character for God. But I allowed my emotions to take over.

Maybe you’ve been in a painful, difficult situation for a long time. Your emotions may tell you that God doesn’t care about you or He would fix things. He would stop your pain.

Yet Scripture clearly teaches us that God cares deeply about each of us. He cares about every detail of our lives. He sees our pain and wants to meet our needs (Matthew 6:25-34). If we knew, really knew deep in our souls that God cares, that He grieves when we grieve, that would change how we felt about God and our situation.

The more we know about God’s character, the more we know about trials and how God uses them in our lives, the less “disappointment” we will experience. Our emotions will catch up to the truth.

If you’re disappointed with God right now, immerse yourself in His truth. Study His character and ways in Scripture. Talk to a godly friend. And keep praying.

Are you disappointed with God? How can God’s truth speak to your emotions?

Related posts you may find helpful: 

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Thankful I was Forced to Unplug

unplugMy phone blasted out a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning at 4:30 yesterday morning. I had been awake a few moments anyway, so I crawled out of bed. Since I knew we might have to “shelter in place,” I quickly took the dogs out to potty, fed them, then made some coffee. First things first.

The wind began to howl so I looked out the front windows. No rain yet, but I could see the trees whipping in the light from our front porch. Then it happened. About the time I took my first sip of java the lights went out. Everywhere.

We keep two battery operated lanterns for times such as this. I grabbed them both from the cabinet in the laundry room and took one to Wayne. He was in the bathroom getting ready for work.

On a usual morning I get up when Wayne heads into the kitchen so we can visit while he has breakfast. He leaves for work about 5:45. That’s when I sit at my desk with my Bible, journal, and coffee. After some time with the Lord – often rushed and never long enough – I open my laptop and get to work. Then some time late morning I get some exercise on the treadmill while I watch the news or something on my iPad.

Yesterday’s routine looked a little different. No electricity meant no internet. No electricity meant only so much battery power on the laptop and phone. No electricity meant no television and no treadmill. So, what was a plugged-in girl to do?

The unwanted unplug was a blessing in disguise

Bible by LanternWithout the ability to turn my attention to email or deadlines or Facebook, I lingered with God’s Word, reading and journaling by lantern light. Without power for the treadmill, I walked through our neighborhood. I purposefully choose not to listen to music or an audio book. Instead I talked to God about some things on my heart and mind.

And I worked to listen.

The power was out for about six hours this morning. When it did return, I was a bit disappointed. I actually felt grateful for the forced time to unplug. God blessed it. And it highlighted how noisy my life has become.

Email. Social media. Online research and study. Instant entertainment. All this “convenience” is deafening. And addicting. I will be totally honest with you. I had some difficult moments in those 6 hours. I tried to do a needed task or two on my phone when I should have simply turned it off too and completely soaked in the silence.

I believe God is asking me to unplug a lot more regularly for the sole purpose of plugging back in with Him. Not sure how often or how long or exactly what that looks like yet. But it’s coming. I’m going to pull the plug!

What about you? Has God been asking you to spend some time unplugged? If so, what will it look like for you?

Regular, quality time with God can be difficult. You may find these posts helpful:

 

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Worship is Better Together

Nana & T 3Yesterday was my first time to church in three weeks. That’s unusual for me, but the last three weeks have been a bit unusual.

I just returned Friday evening after almost three weeks with my oldest daughter and her family. The first Sunday I was there, she was having contractions. The second Sunday I was there, she had a brand new baby. Plus my four-year-old grandson still needed Nana’s love and care.

Although I remember this from my younger days, this Nana came home with a renewed appreciation of a young mom’s ongoing struggle to maintain a regular time with God. (See “8 Tips to Help Make Quiet Time a Reality.”) Something that really surprised me though was how much I missed – and needed – corporate worship with my church family.

It sort of snuck up on me yesterday morning. My husband and I slipped into the row of seats as the music started. My voice joined with those around me and I felt worship rise. The Spirit’s streams of living water slowly soaked into places in my soul I didn’t even know were dry (John 7:37-38).

Oh yes, I certainly can – and do – worship on my own. Just me and God. And while an individual’s relationship with God is a very personal and intimate thing, God designed our faith to also be corporate. He made individual believers to need other believers. Even worship is better together.

worshipOur faith, our relationship with God can never be all God intends apart from a vital connection to a local church. Yesterday God reminded me that that includes worship. The worship of those around me fostered my own worship. Their awe of God pointed my heart to Him. Their surrender challenged me to give God my all.

Sadly, many Christians don’t understand the importance of that connection. They try to do faith on their own. Or they go to church only when it’s convenient.

The author of Hebrews knew the importance of individual Christians meeting regularly with the church body:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV

Well, the Day of Jesus’ return is getting closer every day. Are you vitally connected to a local church or have you allowed the busyness of life, hurt feelings, or something else to get in the way?

If you aren’t connected to a local church what step will you take today? If you are a part of a church, what is one thing you can do to strengthen those ties?

 

 

 

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