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Delicious Comfort Zones and a Giveaway

Rhonda and Kaley Rhea are my guests today! Keep reading to find out more about chocolate and comfort zones, and to enter for a chance to win a copy of their new book, “Turtles in the Road.”

We both love a nice, cozy comfort zone. By “comfort zone,” about eighty percent of the time we probably mean “chocolate zone.” Did you hear about the recent study that determined that 10 out of 9 people love chocolate? It doesn’t even matter that the math doesn’t work. Know why? Chocolate.

Since people are finding more ways all the time that chocolate is good for your health, we’ve decided that we shall never at any time of our lives think of ourselves as “overweight.” We shall forever refer to it as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s our comfort zone and we’re sticking to it.

Turtles in the RoadWe just recently somewhat stepped out of our non-chocolate-related comfort zone to write a romantic comedy about a gal who was forced outside her…well, on theme…outside her comfort zone. The book is titled, Turtles in the Road and, not to give anything away, but our deliciously funny character finds laughs, grace and all kinds of adventure in her most uncomfy places.

There are comfort zones, and then there are comfort zones. When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable. We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step away from their nets, out of their comfortable lives, and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life we can promise will happen, but we can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort from The Comforter. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone and into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

It’s a God-enriched life. And as awesome as a chocolate-enriched life is, a God-enriched one is infinitely better.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of “Turtles in the Road,” share your most comfortable comfort zone in the comments! Winner will be drawn Thursday, May 11th at 8am! 

Rhonda Rhea, Kaley RheaMother/daughter writing duo, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea, are the authors of Turtles in the Road, an inspirational humorous romance that’s just releasing. They are both TV personalities for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Rhonda is also a nationally-known speaker, humor columnist and author of 11 other books, including Fix-Her-Upper, a soon-releasing nonfiction project coauthored with Beth Duewel. Rhonda is married to her pastor/husband, Richie Rhea, and they have five grown children and two grandbabies. Kaley works at Missouri Baptist University and she and Rhonda both live in the St. Louis area. You can find “Turtles in the Road” at Bold Vision Books and Amazon

 

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Have you ever forsaken God?

I can see a lot of us shaking our heads and saying, “No! I have never forsaken God!” If you are a Christian, this thought probably seems shocking and unimaginable. But let’s pause for a moment to consider if we have ever left God behind or forgotten about Him for a time.

Have you forsaken God?

Here are just a few ways we may have forsaken God:

  • Doubted God’s goodness, faithfulness, or provision during times of difficulty
  • Forgot that God was in control and took matters into our own hands
  • Failed to give God glory or recognition when He answered our prayers
  • Didn’t remember God’s past mighty works or intervention on our behalf

Forsaken GodI don’t know about you, but I must admit that I have forsaken God. My friend Janet Thompson addresses this topic in her new book, “Forsaken God: Remembering the Goodness of God our Culture has Forgotten.” In Forsaken God?, Janet helps us recall our own memories of God and learn new ways to remember God’s goodness. She also shows us the power of sharing those memories with the next generation.

Today, Janet shares some thoughts from Forsaken God? to help put us on a path of remembering our great God!

Today’s culture is quickly forgetting the goodness and power of our Great God. If we don’t remember what God has already done, we won’t believe what He is capable of doing in the future. Memory builds faith.

The Bible describes the potential destruction to people who forget and forsake God. The dangers are paramount. We read the Old Testament and lament at how forgetful the Israelites were of God’s goodness. Every time he did something good for them, they started grumbling that they needed something else.

God was only as good as the next miracle or provision. A forsaken God.

We wonder at how the Israelites could be so blind and ungrateful. Why couldn’t they trust that a God who provided and protected them in the past, would do the same in the present and future?  But are we any different today?

Our memories tend to be very short. God has done amazing things in our lives, but when the next crisis arises, we panic that He might not show up for us this time. Or when prayers are answered, we might take credit ourselves or offer praise to someone else instead of giving God the glory and recognition he deserves.

We would never intentionally forsake God, but if we’re honest, we do unintentionally forget Him. 

We live in a world today that is quickly trying to eliminate God from the public square and even in the private domain. Christians must help a lost world remember God and that starts with remembering him ourselves.

Questions to Prompt Your Memory

Use the following four questions to get the memories flowing. Have a journal or notebook ready to record what God brings to mind:

  • What has God been doing in your life?
  • How did you become a Christian?
  • How does God help you through the day?
  • How did God answer a prayer request?

Helps to Remember the Future

Now with some past memories firmly in place, let’s be purposeful in recognizing and remembering the things God will do in the future. Here are some ways to capture them:

  • Take pictures
  • Journal
  • Read our Bibles
  • Receive Communion
  • Keep an ongoing “thankful list”
  • Join a small group
  • Share with others

What other ways can you think of to remember and share the goodness of God?

ForsakenGod.inddJanet’s book is challenging and practical. If you want to cling to the goodness of God and share it with the next generation, get a copy of Forsaken God?” today! Each chapter includes questions and conversation starters for discussion in small groups, Bible study groups, book clubs, mentors and mentees, or with family and friends.

Forsaken God? is available at:

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Carla McDougal’s 911 Prayer

Carla McDougalThis post is a giveaway to celebrate the release of Carla McDougal’s new book “Sold Out: Live for Jesus.” Read below for how to enter!

Have you ever prayed the 911 prayer? It’s a regular prayer for my friend Carla McDougal.

Shortly before she was scheduled to speak at a women’s retreat, she felt a heavy oppression. Although she knew it was a spiritual attack from the enemy, she began to doubt her  reason for being at this women’s event.

Earlier that day, during her morning prayer time, she had opened her Bible to Psalm 91. The first verse seemed to jump off the page:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1 NIV

Peace washed over Carla, and God’s Word strengthened her for the event that evening. The next day she shared this experience with a close friend who said, “Next time, text me to pray for you!”

Later in the day Carla went back to Psalm 91:1 and this is what she saw—­ 911. Her heart started pounding with excitement and she decided from then on, when oppression comes her way, she will text PRAY 911 to her prayer team. Sometimes there isn’t time to do anything more. But they don’t need to know why Carla needs prayer, they just need to know to pray.

Carla jumped up and started praising God. Even now, she smiles when she thinks of how God used that real life situation to teach her a spiritual life lesson.

Carla shares about 911 prayer  and much more in her new book “Sold Out: Live for Jesus.” “Sold Out” reflects Carla’s desire to live her life for Jesus and not for herself. When she was 40, she heard the phrase, “Life is not about me, but all about Him.” She took this to heart, and it became the focus for her life and ministry. Today she strives to reflect Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

SOLD OUT Cover2 RvCarla’s close, “sold out” relation with Jesus is evident even by reading through the Table of Contents of her third book, “Sold Out: Live for Jesus.” Titles such as “God Appoints: His Kingdom Puzzle,” “Forgiveness: Fresh Start, and The Word: Spiritual Nourishment” entice the reader to hear what she has to say on the subjects. The chapters are short, but the content is mighty. “Sold Out” is a wonderful devotional tool, with each section containing scriptures, personal anecdotes, a life challenge and a place to journal your thoughts.

Related links:

Carla is giving away a copy of “Sold Out” to one of you! The giveaway will end at noon on Wednesday, September 16th. You can enter in up to four ways:

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Share this post on Facebook, then comment here to let me know you shared
  3. Share this post on Twitter, then comment here to let me know you shared
  4. Share this post on Pinterest, then comment here to let me know you shared

Note: You are entered when you comment, so you will need to comment here each time you share!

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Forgiveness – Where the Healing Begins

Today’s guest blogger, Laurie Coombs, learned radical forgiveness while corresponding with her father’s murderer in prison. She tells her story in the recently released Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. I met Laurie last summer and heard her story. Today, she shares it with you. This post is also a giveaway! To enter, share this post on Facebook or Twitter, then comment below and let me know you shared!

Laurie CoombsI didn’t want to revisit my past, but I knew I needed to. I had already seen God move mightily on my behalf in the short time since giving my life to Christ, but I knew He wasn’t finished yet.

Healing begins the moment we allow Jesus complete access to the darkness contained within our souls. Darkness must flee in the presence of light, in the presence of Jesus, but light cannot go where it is not permitted. Doors must be opened for light’s rays to touch our darkest dark. And at this point, I was flinging doors open left and right, begging, Come, Lord Jesus, come.

 

Soon, I heard God’s gentle whisper––“It’s time to forgive.”

I knew what God was calling me to. I knew I was being called to forgive Anthony, the man who murdered my dad. But quite honestly, I thought I had already done that. Yet over the course of the next several weeks, God slowly showed me that, while I had forgiven Anthony as far as I was capable, I needed His grace to forgive completely, to forgive unconditionally.

But then God took it a step further––“Love your enemy,” He said.

At that, I cried out to God and said, “Okay, God, I get this whole forgiveness thing, but love my enemy? How am I to do that?”

I wrestled with what God was calling me to do, but I had read account after account in Scripture of God redeeming losses. Of God healing physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds. I saw Jesus’s heart toward the brokenhearted, and I believed God could do all that for me as well. I didn’t want my faith to be just a belief system. I wanted it to be real. I wanted it to impact my life. I wanted it to change the way I lived. So I followed, believing wholeheartedly that God would deliver. That He would faithfully keep His promises.

And He did.

What began with a simple, seemingly insignificant call to love and forgive my enemy led to years of correspondence with the man who murdered my dad, through which I witnessed God do the impossible. I have seen God redeem a situation that seemed without hope or purpose. He has brought good out of evil, love out of hate, and peace out of despair. God has truly worked all things for good in my life. And I believe with all my heart that He will do that for you as well, if you let Him.

I pray you will.

You see, God has not left us to sit in our pain. Jesus came to heal. He is our redeemer, and I know it is His desire to lift each of us out of our despair and bring us in—to a new, better place. A place rich in beauty and blessings. But in order to get there, we must be willing to allow God unhindered access to all the pain and bitterness and anger in our souls. And we must be willing to forgive.

For this is where our healing begins.

Have you ever struggled with forgiveness?

This post is a giveaway. Enter to win a copy of Laurie’s new book by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter, then letting us know in the comments of this post! Drawing will be Sunday, July 5 at 8pm CT.

Letters From My Father's MurdererLaurie Coombs’s new book, Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness––which tells an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God––has just been released. It’s available wherever books are sold. Be sure to pick up your copy today!

Amazon Barnes and Noble | ChristianBook | Books-A-Million | Powell’s | Parable

Laurie Coombs is a passionate writer and speaker on the issues of forgiveness, redemption, and the hope found in Jesus. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, and she is a featured writer and blogger for iBelieve and Crosswalk. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their two daughters, Ella and Avery.

For more information about Laurie or to book her for a speaking engagement, visit LaurieCoombs.org. And be sure to connect with her on her blog, TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

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Gift of Bread for Christmas Advent

Good TidingsI know, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I’m already talking Christmas. However, I want to share a wonderful new Christmas Advent resource with you. The following devotional is an excerpt from “Good Tidings of Great Joy.” All the proceeds from this Advent devotional book benefit the Light of Hope Learning Center in Chittangong, Bangladesh. LOHLC ministers to young girls from the slums who need help in this life and hope for eternity.

I make cinnamon roles for breakfast on Christmas morning every year. I began this tradition when my kids were young. Since I make them from scratch, it requires a lot of time, effort, and planning. In order to have hot rolls on Christmas morning, I have to begin the day before Christmas and coordinate the rising times and assembly around our Christmas Eve schedule.

There’s nothing haphazard about the Christmas cinnamon rolls. This fact makes them special, but it’s also the reason I only make them one time a year! My “kids,” now young adults, appreciate and receive the cinnamon rolls for what they are – a gift of love from their mother.

Jesus is our heavenly Father’s gift of love to us. Nothing about Jesus’ birth was accidental or incidental. God meticulously planned Jesus’ arrival even before He created the earth. God knew the when, where, how, and why of every aspect of our Savior’s incarnation.

Consider Bethlehem, which means “house of bread.” Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, not the birthplace of King David. But a Gift of Breaddecree from Caesar required them to travel to Bethlehem for the Roman census. Mary and Joseph had probably arranged everything for Jesus’ birth in Nazareth. Joseph may have even used his carpenter skills to craft a beautiful cradle. But when Jesus was born, the cradle sat empty and Mary laid her newborn son in a feeding trough for animals.

Sad turn of events or God’s sovereign plan? About 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet Micah foretold the birthplace of the Savior. No accidents. No missed details. The Creator is sovereign over all things. Our eternal King would be born in Bethlehem. The everlasting heir to the throne of David would appear in David’s hometown. The Bread of Life (John 6:35) would enter the physical realm in the House of Bread.

BangladeshThe devotion above, written by Kathy,  is one of 25 in “Good Tidings of Great Joy.” The devotions are written by members of the “BFF Ministries” team. BFF Ministries is a group of women in the US who work to raise awareness and support for the Light of Hope Learning Center in Bangladesh (Read more about the ministry here). You can purchase the devotional book here for just $5. Your money will go straight to the center and the girls. (For more information about BFF Ministries and the LOHLC)

 

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Caught by His Holiness

The power of the ocean surprised me. I had heard stories of rogue waves, dangerous currents, and destructive tsunamis, but I had never experienced them. That was before the Pacific caught me in its pull.

Holiness of GodOur family was vacationing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. We rented boogie boards earlier in the day and I eagerly wanted to try mine out. When we hit the beach, I didn’t hesitate. I jumped right in and paddled out to catch the waves. Unfortunately, by the time I realized they were breaking too far out for boogie boarding, I was in over my head. So with my upper body on the small board, I began to kick my way back to the beach.

Despite my efforts I couldn’t make any progress. In fact, after several minutes of trying I was farther away from the beach and farther down the shoreline. The board was strapped to my wrist so I let it trail behind me and began to swim. I swam until I was exhausted and swallowing water, but I was even farther from shore.

Powerless against the riptide, all I could do was cling to the board and holler for help. My dear husband, who came quickly to my side atop his own boogie board, talked me through riding out the current. Soon we were safely on the beach.

That experience gave me new respect for the ocean. I had heard of its power, but without first-hand knowledge I treated the water too casually. My new attitude does not prevent me from enjoying the ocean, but I approach it differently than I did before. The personal encounter with its power changed everything.

Likewise, intellectual assent to the holiness of God is not the same as personal experience. We can mentally agree to the truth that God is holy, but when we come face to face with His holiness we are forced to respond.

Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? Exodus 15:11, NIV

You can experience our holy God in a real way. For instance, God can reveal His holiness to you when you are enjoying a magnificent sunset or reading His Word and praying. Sometimes we simply don’t wait before Him long enough. We see His glory in nature or we read of His majesty in Scripture, pause long enough to say, “Wow,” then we’re off and running again. I’m guilty of that.

Let’s try something together today. Revelation 1:12-16, included below, is John’s description of our Savior when Jesus appeared to him on the island of Patmos. Read it slowly. Picture this image of Jesus in your mind as you read. Ask Jesus to overwhelm you with His divinity, power, and holiness. Let His majesty envelop you like a bright cloud. Now sit, be still, and know.

12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  Revelation 1:12-16, NIV

How will you respond to His holiness today? In what ways could an encounter with God’s absolute holiness reshape and deepen your relationship with Him?

Kathy Howard’s new Bible study, “Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence,” helps readers discover a deeper intimacy with God through a life of holiness. This six-week, interactive Bible study explores why believers should pursue holiness and guides readers through practical steps to pursuing a holy life.

 

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Black Friday Freebies and Deals

Read to the end to hear about a great deal and a freebie!

I love Black Friday. And yes, I am one of those crazy people who will get up in the wee hours of the morning and stand in a long line waiting for the store to open. (I am not so crazy, however, to camp out overnight.)

In past years, my daughters and I have done this together several times. On Thanksgiving evening we scour the sale papers to make our plan. We make a list of what we want to get where. Then we decide which store we’ll hit first, then second, etc. There’s a coffee stop somewhere in the middle. We are home by late morning with half of our Christmas shopping done!

For us, the point of Black Friday is to find deals on things we would buy anyway. You could make an argument that we’re good stewards of the money God has given us. Plus, it’s fun.

However in recent years, I’ve spent less time and money in the brick and mortar stores and purchased more online.  In fact I’ve already made a big dent in my Christmas shopping without leaving home!

Another thing I love to do is share great finds and deals with my friends. That’s what this post is really about. On Black Friday, New Hope Publishers is offering three specials you won’t want to miss!

Black Friday Deal1. Every New Hope ebook will be available for $2.99 all day! – Christian Book Distributors will definitely carry the sale. It may also show up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble so check both! This deal will include my books Unshakeable Faith, Fed Up with Flat Faith, God’s Truth Revealed, and Before His Throne.

2. An interactive, digital version of “Unshakeable Faith” Bible study workbook will be FREE from 2-4pm CST!!! – New Hope Publishers recently launched a fabulous women’s Bible study site. Exciting new resources include four Bible study workbooks with interactive features that few publishers yet have. Check out a sample now.

3. The other interactive Bible study workbooks for $2.99 from 2-4pm CST.

These deals are good enough that you don’t have to feel guilty about getting them for yourself. Load up for holiday reading and enjoy!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Worry Can’t Change Others

I am thrilled to welcome Kathy Collard Miller as our guest today! This post is based on her new book, “Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries: Finding Peace in All Kinds of Weather.”

There’s something deep inside of us that believes worry can change others. If someone we love has a different perspective than we do, we worry. If someone we love has a different belief about God, we worry. If someone we love has a character flaw, we worry. We just know their wrong thinking will mess up their lives.

Some of these worries may truly seem “worthy” of worry. Your mother may not know Christ as her Savior, and she has cancer. Your son may be on the street taking drugs. Your friend may demonstrate a lack of integrity at work. Another friend drives while intoxicated. You may have tried to reason, cajole, quote Scripture, even manipulate each person into changing their ideas and their behavior, but nothing has worked—not even prayer. God hasn’t changed them either. You fear something bad, really bad, is going to happen.

Even if it’s not a matter of something really bad occurring, we can easily take responsibility for someone else’s happiness and then respond in an unhealthy way. I recognized that possibility as we walked through the grief process with my mother-in-law, Audrey.

Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries, Kathy Collard MillerMy husband’s parents, Don and Audrey, were married for sixty-two years and in that time, Audrey was only alone overnight for fewer than twenty nights—total. Even when Don was away during two different wars, Audrey’s mother lived with her. Four or five months before Don passed away, Audrey remarked to me, “If something happens to Don, I don’t know if I can live alone.” Then about a month later she commented, “I’ve been thinking about living alone and I think I can do it.” I was so proud of her.

The first night of Don’s hospitalization, Audrey stayed in our home. The next day she surprised us with her spunk, saying she wanted to return to her own home. I volunteered to spend the night at her home, but she said, “No, I have to get used to it.” And she did, even after Don died a week later.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t worried about her loneliness. During the first two weeks we made sure she had something to do with us every day. But realizing we couldn’t keep that up for long, I wondered how she would cope.

In my prayer time I prayed verses for Audrey dealing with the topic of loneliness. I began praying Psalm 146:9 for her: “The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; But He thwarts the way of the wicked” (NASB). Unexpectedly, I thought, I shouldn’t try to fill the place the Lord wants in her life.

Wow—that hit me hard. In my worry about her loneliness, I had begun to feel responsible to make sure she wasn’t lonely. I wrote in my journal: “I can try to be there too much and she could depend upon me and/or Larry instead of looking to You, Lord. Help me, Father, to resist the compulsion to ‘be there’ for her too much.”

When I told Larry about what the Lord had revealed to me, I jokingly (but with some seriousness) quipped, “God doesn’t want me to be your mom’s grief savior.” If I had continued to worry about her, I could have easily become that. And I’d be good at it because I so easily take responsibility for the happiness of others.

When I talked to Audrey later that day, she enthusiastically said, “Guess what Chuck Swindoll talked about on his radio program today?”

“What, Mom Audrey?”

“Loneliness. It really ministered to me.”

I laughed. God had come through. I didn’t need to be in charge of making sure she wasn’t lonely. Of course, she’s going to be lonely—she’s alone for the first time in her life. We certainly are going to help her, but she should primarily look to God, not us. Otherwise, she’ll draw too close to us and not closer to God.


BOOK SUMMARY AND BIOGRAPHY:

It is possible to worry less through trusting God more. Regardless of the storms of trials, temptations, worry, uncertainty, confusion, or regrets that you’re facing, you can trust God more. Partly Cloudy with Scattered Worries offers a conversational style, personal testimonies, practical illustrations, and solid biblical teaching for breaking anxiety and the devastating effects of worry. Each chapter includes Discussion Questions for individuals or groups, along with a “Letter from God.” In addition, a profile of a woman in the Bible who struggled with or experienced victory over worry is featured in each chapter to inspire every reader to see God’s hand in her life.

Kathy Collard Miller is a speaker and author. Her passion is to inspire women to trust God more. She has spoken in 30 states and 7 foreign countries. Kathy has 49 published books including Women of the Bible: Smart Guide to the Bible (Thomas Nelson) and she blogs at www.KathyCollardMiller.blogspot.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband of 43 years, Larry, and is the proud grandma of Raphael. Kathy and Larry often speak together at marriage events and retreats.

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Have You Listed Your Prayers Before God?

I am honored to welcome Linda Evans Shepherd as my guest blogger today! The following post is excerpted from her new book “Experiencing God’s Presence: Learning to Listen While You Pray.”

Experiencing God's Presence, Linda Evans ShepherdToday I have a vibrant relationship with God, but this was not always the case. Though I’ve had a special love for the Lord since childhood, I felt lonely. I knew I could talk to him in my heart, but as far as I could tell, God either couldn’t or wouldn’t talk back, because I’d decided, God is silent, and his silence felt deafening.

Of course I knew God used the Bible to guide my life, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there had to be more. I longed for something beyond my one-sided relationship with him, to see him, to hear him, face-to-face. But I figured that wouldn’t happen until I graduated to heaven, and I wasn’t ready for that. I felt stuck because until then, my timid, little prayers had not seemed to connect me to God on a deeper level.

For starters, I wasn’t even sure how to pray correctly, effectively or in a way that helped me feel the warmth of God’s presence. It seemed to me that my prayers were only going as high as the ceiling. That’s why I set out on a quest to try to figure out how to crack the prayer code. Then the day came when I found myself listening to a speaker who explained that what I really needed to do was to create an elaborate list of requests to daily bring before the Lord. The speaker even demonstrated a clever notebook she’d developed that would help me organize my list. “The exciting part,” she explained, “Is getting to put a checkmark next to the requests as God answers.”

I was intrigued, so I dutifully bought the notebook and made my list, then carefully recited it to the Lord for an entire month. But I felt like I was merely reciting a shopping list to God. I couldn’t help but shake my head and grin; for if my husband only communicated with me through a list of everything he wanted me to do, I would certainly get annoyed.

Not wanting to annoy God, I abandoned my list until a couple of years later when I happened to find the notebook in the bottom of a drawer. When I opened it and read through my original requests, I was amazed that I was able to pull out my pen and put a checkmark next to every petition I’d jotted down two years earlier. So despite the fact that I’d been worried that my prayer list bored God, I realized God had not only heard my prayers, he had graciously responded with many miraculous results, even long after I’d forgotten to pray. This exercise proved to me that I could boldly come to his throne of grace, even when I came with a long recital of prayer requests.

Still I felt God was too majestic and powerful for me to think of him only as my ‘heavenly bag-boy’ and I knew my prayer life had a ways to grow if I were to develop the vibrant two-way relationship I longed to have with the Lord of the Universe.

Today, though I still keep prayer lists, I no longer recite them daily. However, I do review and update them monthly, and I do so enjoy checking off his answers.

However, I’m glad my prayer journey didn’t get lost in my lists, but continued as I pushed to connect with God. These days, I can tell you that my prayer times bring me the closeness to God I’d longed for. I’ve discovered that as I’ve reached for a more vibrant friendship with God, he reached right back with his presence. Not only has he given me a deepening relationship with him, he’s given me answered prayers, joy and peace, and most importantly, he’s given me his presence and allows me to hear his loving voice.

These benefits to going deeper with God are available to all who push into his presence and learn how  to recognize his voice.

Linda Evans ShepherdLinda is the, founder and leader of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and President of the non-profit ministry Right to the Heart. She oversees the publication of Finding God Daily, an online devotional as well as Thinking About Suicide, a ministry for the hurting. Linda has authored almost 30 books including co-authoring the bestselling Share Jesus Without Fear. She’s married to Paul and has two children. You can follow her blog here.

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Who Said Moms Have to be Perfect?

We’ve all felt it. All us women have bent under the weight of it.

The pressure for moms to do everything just right. The push to be perfect.

I fell for it hook, line, and sinker. I tried to meet the unrealistic expectations. To keep a squeaky clean home. To turn out well-behaved, academically-advanced children preschoolers. To cook tasty, healthy, budget-conscious meals seven days a week.  And to do it all looking great!

But you know what happened. I did my best, but I wasn’t perfect. I messed up and so did my kids.

Looking back now, I know that the greatest pressure to be perfect came from me. I was pushing myself too hard and expecting too much.

WonderWomanWannabe_final frontThere is a brand-new resource for moms I wish I’d had back then. In “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe,” author Jenny Lee Sulpizio gives moms practical advice from a Christian foundation. Her helpful hints are shared with honesty and humor.

Jenny tackles topics from the best way to manage drive time and peeing in peace to handling homework, meal planning, stress, and more! She also shares wisdom to not only help moms continue to pursue Jesus but also gives tips for moms to help the kiddos fall in love with Jesus too. And today, you have a chance to win a copy! (Be sure to read to the end to find out how!)

Here’s a sample:

Our faith, our passion for Christ, and our adoration for all things biblical is a love that must be shared with others. As mothers, the first disciples of Christ we look to create should be those of our offspring. We are raising the next generation of Christ followers, which means that every aspect of our children’s journeys in faith should be focused on the truth as depicted in the Bible. This is a routine that needs to be shared, and impressed upon your sweet children, as well. Luckily, I’ve got tips to do just that.

That’s why we pray: Get your days, and those of your children started off right by spending time in prayer with them each morning. Ask God for strength, wisdom, and protection over those little guys of yours. And pray that they will honor God in everything they do. Include Scripture in their lunchboxes, along with notes of encouragement and love. Follow this up at dinnertime with prayers of gratitude and appreciation. Teach them that one can never pray enough, and to pray hard and pray often.

Word up!: The use of chalkboards within the home are all the rage these days. Well, why not use one of these fun boards as a means to present Scripture to your children each and every week? Every Monday, select a verse from the Bible and spend the rest of the week committing those words to memory as a family. Discuss this verse daily. Ask your children questions about the meaning behind the words selected and how they can be applied to each of your lives. Get your kiddos discussing God, memorizing Scripture, and get them further in touch with their spirituality.

Daily Devotionals: I’ve already mentioned praying together, but investing in a devotional geared toward your children is yet another way that they can further their walks with God. Devotionals such as these are not only age-appropriate, but can assist your child with exploring biblical passages in depth and applying them accordingly. God online or visit a Christian bookstore near you for your best options when it comes to purchasing a children’s devotional.

Hump Day hallelujahs: Obviously, Wednesday is smack-dab in the middle of our calendar week, which makes it the perfect night to bring your family together to spend some time with on another. After homework is done and dinner is finished, after baths have been taken and the kids are winding down (yah, right), use this designated time to play games, watch a movie, pray, or anything else that strikes your fancy. Heat up some popcorn, sip on some hot cocoa, and make it a night your kids can look forward to experiencing each and every week. They’ll relish the moments spent together as a tight-knit clan, soaking up the Word and one another.

Jenny’s book gives moms permission to be less-than-perfect while giving us encouragement and practical help to be our best. “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe” is well worth your precious time!

Want a chance to win a copy of “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe” for yourself? You can enter up to three times. First, respond to one of the following questions in the comments section. Second, like Jenny’s Facebook author page and tell me you did in the comments. Third, sign-up for Jenny’s newsletter, then tell me about it in the comments! Contest ends at noon on Thursday, September 26!

What’s the toughest area for you as a mom? What message do we hear from the world that we most need to ignore?!

Jenny Lee SulpizioJenny Lee Sulpizio is a wife and mother of three who enjoys writing about anything and everything under the sun, but especially loves to instruct, motivate, and guide other moms with practical advice, tips, and a whole lot of comic relief in the process. Jenny is a contributing writer for The MOB Society and Moms Together, and is the author of the recently released guide for all mamas titled, “Confessions of a Wonder Woman Wannabe: On a Mission to Save Sanity, One Mom at a Time.” To find out more about Jenny or to follow her blog, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

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