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5 Routines to Find Freedom

OverwhelmedThis guest post by author Cheri Gregory is a giveaway! Read to the bottom to find out how to enter for a chance to win a copy of “Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity” by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.

I used to avoid routines. I knew they worked for other people, but to me they felt rigid.

I spent years telling myself, I’m a free spirit. My creative soul would be crushed by routines.

Then I read a paradigm-shifting statement in the book Triggers. Marshall Goldsmith said that structure can serve as “a surrogate for self-discipline.” This grabbed my attention, because I’ve never had much self-discipline.

The right routines replace self-discipline? Sign me up!

Living Without Structure Isn’t Freedom

While developing and implementing my new routines, I quickly discovered how much time and energy I had wasted living “spontaneously.”

When every task was up for grabs every day—Exercise today or sleep in?… Slacks or skirt?… Quiet time now or postpone ‘til tonight?— I was constantly overwhelmed with decision fatigue.

In the time I would spend debating whether or not to do something, I could have gotten it done.

Living without structure isn’t freedom; it’s a free-for-all that turns into chaos.

Conversely, routines guarantee that my Personal Manifesto—a simple written statement of who I am and who I aspire to be, by God’s grace and power—gets walked out in my everyday life.

5 Routines to Follow for Freedom

I’ve experimented with various routines and settled on these five non-negotiables:

Routine #1: Evening Routine

When I follow my evening routine, I’m ready for the day. When I don’t, I’m not. Sounds obvious. But I’ve been surprised to discover how much rises and falls on my faithfulness to my evening routine.

My friend and co-author Kathi Lipp puts it this way: “Our most important evening job is to get set up for tomorrow.”

(For a free evening routine worksheet, click here.)

Routine #2: Morning Routine

Whenever I get to mid-day, consider my morning, and think, “Well, that was time well spent!” you can be sure I followed my morning routine.

And whenever I get to mid-day and ask myself, “Where did the morning go? Why didn’t I get anything important done?” you can be sure I didn’t.

First-thing-in-the-morning Me is energetic and creative but highly distractable. My morning routine keeps focused.

(For a free morning routine worksheet, click here.)

Routine #3: Weekly Routine

I used to try to squeeze the necessary tasks of life—like bill-paying, grocery shopping, dental visiting, and the like—into my spare time.

Problem was, I rarely had any. And when I did, I wasn’t actually prepared to tackle any necessary tasks.

A weekly Prep and Plan Day has changed all that. Every week, I have several hours set aside to pull back, prepare for the upcoming week, and plan for the following weeks and months.

To make lists. Go shopping. Call to set appointments. Deal with paperwork. Do filing.

I don’t think I’ll ever find these sorts of tasks fun, but they are far more satisfying when I schedule time to do them. And then get them done.

Routine #4: Self-Care Routine

Most of us were taught to take good care of the people in our lives – often at our own expense. Yet, our ability to care for others is hindered if we don’t first take good gentle care of ourselves.

A self-care routine means that no matter what kind of day (week…month…year…) I’m having, I take care of myself. Period.

Routine #5: Quiet Time Routine

Pairing the word “routine” with the phrase “Quiet Time” does not automatically mean “rigid.”

Developing a Quiet Time routine that works for you simply means that spending time with God becomes a non-negotiable. It’s something you do every day, in some way, to re-connect to your Creator. And to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One characteristic which, of course, is self-discipline. Which makes our routines self-reinforcing, in the best possible way.

I used to believe that freedom meant having unlimited choices. But to my surprise, it’s having pre-decided routines that makes me feel free.

Established routines will set you free!

  • Free from wrestling with self-discipline.
  • Free from decision fatigue.
  • Free to live with integrity.

This post is a giveaway! Enter for a Chance to Win!

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of our readers! To qualify for the drawing, you need to do TWO things:

  1. LEAVE A COMMENT below.
  2. SHARE THIS POST on social media.

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into the random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Friday, January 13, so don’t delay! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

Free Offer from Cheri and Kathi

New Year’s resolutions seldom last, but a Personal Manifesto will carry you through the rest of your life! Sign up for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you. Get off the overwhelming cycle of making and breaking resolutions and create a gentle plan for lasting life change.

About “Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity”

OverwhelmedFeeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • Trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • Decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • Replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

kathi-and-cheri-photoKathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.

 

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Growing and Sowing the Fruit of the Spirit

Welcome Karen Whiting to my blog today! This post is based on her new book “Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl.”

Fruit of the SpiritAs a mother I worked at nurturing the Fruit of the Spirit in my children. That meant I needed to exhibit it in my own life. But too often my children brought out my lack of patience, kindness, and even goodness. Producing the desired Fruit of the Spirit meant planting the right seeds.

I grew up in a dairy and farming community, so I know the value of choosing good seeds and planting them in good soil. I can’t produce peace by planting anger in my heart or the hearts of others.

Plant the Right Seeds to Grow the Desired Fruit of the Spirit

I studied the Scriptures and the fruit of the Spirit to find what seeds I needed to plant for the Spirit to produce the fruit I needed. Here’s some of what I found:

  • Seeds of service – Jesus revealed that service develops love (Mark 10:45, John 15:12-17). As we serve others (Galatians 5:13) our love grows.
  • Seeds of gratitude –  The Israelites rejoiced with gratitude when God provided creative solutions to escape Pharaoh (Exodus 15). Praising God for His help, grace, and blessings always brings joy.
  • Seeds of righteousness and understanding – When we seek to make things right with others and reconcile differences, God brings peace (Psalm 85:10, Proverbs 3:13,17).
  • Seeds of submission and waiting – Accepting God’s will and learning to wait brings forth patience. Just as a farmer depends on God’s weather and time to grow his crop, our dependence and waiting develops patience (James 5:7-8).
  • Seeds of attitude – The attitude of our hearts produces the quality of our behavior, whether cruel or kind (Matthew 12:34-35). If we want to exhibit kindness and goodness in everything we do, we must allow God to renew our hearts to reflect His character (Psalm 51).
  • Seeds of prayer – Want to be faithful to God and others (2 Corinthians 5:7)? The best way to learn to depend totally of God is by being a woman of constant prayer.
  • Seeds of compassion and forgiveness – Intentionally seeking ways to love and help others will develop gentleness (Ephesians 4:2). As you purposefully practice putting others first and caring for their needs, your gentleness will blossom (Philippians 2:4).
  • Seeds of discipline – Identifying and avoiding temptation fosters self-control. Establishing personal safe guards and boundaries in advance will prepare us to meet situations head on with self-control (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Planting the seeds is just the beginning. If we want an abundant crop, we must continually work to keep out weeds of greed, selfishness, and other negative emotions. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit is a patient gardener. As the Fruit of the Spirit grew in me, I found it easier to plant and nurture the seeds in my children. Now I watch my grown children doing the same for their children.

In what ways do you plant and nurture the fruit of the Spirit in your own life and the lives of your children?

Fruit of the SpiritKaren Whiting shares these and other thoughts on the Fruit of The Spirit, especially moms of young girls, in a book she co-authored with Doreen Hanna. Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl is filled with practical tips, activities, and heart-warming stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Busyness Crowds Out Stillness

busynessJesus studies me. He observes my frenetic activity. My busyness. I am concerned over many things—the largely significant and the extraordinarily unimportant. He sees stress creasing my face and observes the knot in my shoulders. He hears my sighs as my tears tremble on my lashes. He notices me moving irritably toward two quarreling toddlers and listens as I scold my six-year-old harshly. He hears me curse beneath my breath when my husband calls, “I won’t be home until eight.” Hope for a Bible study with friends dissolves.

“Come to me,” He whispers. “If only,” I groan.

“Be still and know that I am God.” “How can I be still?” I grieve, as I recall the mountain of unfolded laundry and watch a million Cheerios tumbling onto the kitchen floor.

How, indeed?

Time with Christ in communion, fellowship, and the word is as important to the saint as food and water is to life. I would like to release you from additional responsibility. But in good conscience, I can’t. I can, however, attempt to liberate you from the burden of it.

Being with Christ in communion is not supposed to be a chore. It’s an invitation to wonder. The invitation says:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

There are ways we can “keep company” with Christ during busy days. We can connect with Him like Brother Lawrence, who practiced the presence of God in his daily life. He meditated, worshiped, and prayed as he performed common labor. We can do the same.

6 Ideas to Stay Centered on God’s Truth in the Midst of Busyness

  1. Pray for your children and husband as you fold clothes.
  2. Pray for leaders and elected officials as you listen to the news.
  3. Listen to worship music while cooking or doing household chores.
  4. Keep the “taxi” radio tuned to your local Christian radio station.
  5. Take advantage of technology. Use a Bible app for Bible reading on the go.
  6. Find a short devotional book for this busy season of life.

Some of these things can help us stay centered on truth. It’s good to have options and a plan when busyness crowds out stillness.

But still, there is nothing like being still.

5 Tips for Making Time for Still in the Midst of Busy

  1. Steal time. Five minutes. Ten. More? Quit texting. Get off Facebook. Facetime God. Don’t make beds. Eat fruit for dinner; your family will survive. Christ is your lifeline and the faithful abiding love of your life. Please steal time. Your family will thank you.
  2. Be still. Close your eyes. First shut the bathroom door. Turn your face toward Him. Breathe His name—His holy powerful name. Jesus. He has promised His presence to His children. He sees all and loves you unconditionally. Rest in His empowering grace. “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22a)
  3. Know that He is God. Meditating on the unfathomable riches given to us through Christ is empowering (Ephesians 1:1-14; 2:18-21; 3:4-10; 3:13-21). Your ultimate quest is to know God. The knowledge of God and His grace will be a source of hope and a spring of joy. It will also be an endless adventure because He is incomprehensible.
  4. Come boldly. You are righteous through faith by the glorious grace of God (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). You have a right to be in the throne room. Christ gives you that right. You don’t deserve it, haven’t earned it, and can’t earn it. He simply likes you and wants you to come, especially in your weakness, sin, and shame.
  5. Find grace, mercy, and help. “Come boldly to the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) How many times have my children run to me with stubbed toes, skinned knees, and broken hearts? My desire has always been to relieve pain and help. Certainly, I am no better than God—the source of abundant grace.

Daily we are invited to know God, fellowship with Him, and contemplate His truth, grace, and glory. It’s not a chore. Remember? It’s an invitation to wonder.

How do you find time to “be still” with God in the midst of a busy life?

Engaging MotherhoodLinda Barrett is the co-author of the recently published Bible study “Engaging Motherhood: Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling.” Linda has spent her life pointing others to the glory and grace of God through teaching, mentoring, writing, and art. Birmingham, Alabama is home. She is wife to Raymond and mother to three grown children. Linda blogs about life, beauty, and wonder at Invitation to Wonder.

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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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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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What Does Holiness Feel Like?

Kathy Collard MillerPlease welcome Kathy Collard Miller and her husband Larry as my guest bloggers today! I’m honored to have them share thoughts from their new book, “Never Ever Be the Same,” about how holiness feels in a believer’s life.

Have you ever wondered what holiness feels like? Malachi 4:2 expresses what God might like us to experience when we see the fruits of holiness that he is producing in our lives:

“But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

Have you ever “leapt” in your spirit after recognizing that your trust in God had expanded to include forgiving someone who hurt you because you recognize how much you’ve been forgiven? Or giving grace by listening with understanding to a friend share a problem—even though she usually ignores you—because you’ve experienced God’s grace? Or resting calmly in a situation that normally drives you over the edge because you know God is in charge? Or being patient when your child spills milk at the dinner table for the third time because you know God has repeatedly been patient with you?

We’re no longer fenced in and held in bondage by sinful patterns like worry, fear, selfishness, hate, resentment, and so many other binding things.

The NIV words it: “And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves.” Oh, to frolic like well-fed calves! Can’t you just picture it? This calf isn’t emaciated; instead it is healthy and well-nourished. It has drank often from the fresh, flowing spring. That seems to give the idea that it is assured that all its real needs are supplied and it is free from concern about receiving love and care.

New Start 15For you and for us, that’s the foundation of holiness: believing and trusting in God’s sovereign love that provides everything we truly need; therefore, we don’t need to demand it from people who are needy themselves.

We are still growing in this of course, for as long as we live, but the joy that comes when we cooperate with God is like skipping out of a pen where we’d been restrained. We do not obey in order to have that feeling, but how generous of God to give us the reward to bless us.

Are you like a calf encircled in some stall? Could it be bitterness, a critical spirit, a sense of entitlement, people pleasing, or self-absorption? Do you want to break free? You can in God’s power through Repentance and Surrender. Receive the healing. Get ready to leap, gambol, and frolic. God is opening the gate.

As you think of God opening your “gate” of holiness, what does that feel like for you?

Never Ever Be the SameKathy Collard Miller is the author of 50 books and has spoken in 31 states and 8 foreign countries. Kathy and her husband, Larry, have been married 44 years. Larry is a retired police lieutenant who also speaks and writes. They live in Southern California, and have two grown children and one grandson. Visit them at www.LarryAndKathy.com and www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Never Ever Be the Same: A New You Starts Today (Leafwood Publishers) offers Christians hope that they can change their destructive patterns of behavior through identifying their sinful self-protective strategies and then being empowered to trust God instead. Their book includes biblical principles, insightful stories, and helpful instruction.

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2 Ways to Invest in Your Future

My guest blogger today is Lori Moody. Lori is a New Start 15 contributor. 

Nine earthquakes hit the Dallas area this week. A recent article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram quotes a few locals:

    I’ve never felt an earthquake before 

    I’ve never experienced it

    I don’t know what to do when an earthquake hits

    Next time we need to be coached…

New Start 15Because earthquakes rarely happen in Texas, most Texans live like they would never happen. Many believers have a similar attitude about the return of Christ. Because Christ’s return is delayed, we often live like He will never return.

In 2 Peter 3:10-18, Peter addressed some believers who apparently doubted Jesus’ promised return. He reminded them that one day the heavens and earth will pass away, that all things on earth will be burned up, and by the spoken Word of God a new heaven and earth will come into being.

Sometimes, like these first-century believers, we too doubt Jesus’ imminent return. And if He doesn’t return, we won’t be judged. Therefore, instead of living for eternity we live for the here and now.

But just as God used Peter to urge believers two thousand years ago, He also urges us to look forward to the future in two ways:

1. Investing in the eternal (2 Peter 3:10-13)

We spend so much of our lives investing in the work of our own hands, often at the exclusion of investing in things of eternity.  Because of sin, this world is under a curse of destruction; judgment is coming, and the things of this earth will melt away. A.W. Tozer states it this way:

The whole purpose of God in redemption is to make us holy and to restore us to the image of God. To accomplish this He disengages us from earthly ambitions and draws us away from the cheap and unworthy prizes that worldly men set their hearts upon.

We should hate what sin has done to this world and begin to love the things that God loves. According to Spurgeon, “Holiness and godliness will outlive even the flames of the last great day.” The “new” has already come in our hearts (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a new heaven and earth are on the way! Therefore, let’s invest in our eternal future.

2. Living a holy life (2 Peter 3:14-18)

In this passage, Peter repeatedly calls believers to live a holy life (vs. 11, 14). The English word holy means “well” or “whole.” Therefore, to be holy means that we are spiritually healthy and that we recognize the hand of God in all things. It’s not that we can be completely holy, but that God imparts His holiness to us through Christ. He sets us apart, and then we give our lives over to the ways of God.

There was a time in my life when I wanted very badly to please God. I think it was born out of my need to be loved and accepted. I was a rule-follower and always wanted to do the right thing. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but through many years of growing in the grace and knowledge of God, I now want to please God because I love Him. There is a huge difference in my motivation and it’s very freeing.

Let’s not seek holiness in order for God to love us, let’s seek it because He already does.

When Christ does return, we want to “be found by Him” spiritually healthy and whole. John Piper says it this way, “These two motivations God gives us for our sanctification: 1) that the earth and all the vain accomplishments of man are going to be burned up, and only the fruits of holiness will remain; and 2) that the promise of new heavens and a new earth shines so bright with God’s righteousness and glory, how can we not walk in the light!”

Thank you Lori Moody for sharing with us today! Lori serves on the Women’s Ministry Leadership Team of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and speaks at women’s conferences, retreats, and events.

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