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Pizza, Best Laid Plans, and a Bunch of “Un’s”

Plans

This post is a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Rhonda’s new book “Messy to Meaningful!” Ever have your plans fall apart? Or perhaps they took off in a different direction half-way through? Maybe they didn’t line up with your calling. In this guest post, Rhonda Rhea shares how God’s plans always succeed, even in the midst of our “un’s.”

I was a little upset the other day. I ordered a pizza online from my cell phone. And then I found out they wouldn’t even fax it to my house. Really?! Why isn’t there an app for that?

Honestly, sometimes I struggle with technology. Even my smart phone is smarter than I am. The way I know my phone is out of date and it’s time for an update is when I finally figure out how to use it.

Although my tech-savvy children don’t believe me, I’m not completely inept with all of the current technologies. Why, just today I was playing Twitter and I’m pretty sure I won.

Devices and Plans

I was reading in Proverbs 19 the other day, and I had to chuckle a little when I got to verse 21. It says, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand,” (Proverbs 19:21 KJV).

“Devices.” Yeah, that got my attention. We have so many devices nowadays. We’ve got an e-this and an i-that. Here an e, there an i—everywhere an app for that.

E, i, e, i-phone.

Really the “devices” in this passage are all about the plans we make on our own. The English Standard Version calls them “the plans in the mind.” Have you ever had a plan in mind that you were all ready to plug in, only to find it wasn’t what the Lord had planned?

In a contest between our plans and His, I know I don’t need to tell you that there is no contest at all. The verse in Proverbs says that it’s His plan that will stand.

Struggling with “un’s”

Understanding that it’s the Lord’s plan and recognizing His call in our lives makes a big difference in those inevitable moments when we feel unworthy of His calling—or unprepared for His plan. Or a thousand other “un’s.”

When Isaiah received his call from God, his response was “woe” and “un.” “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts” (Isaiah 6:5, HCSB).

The Lord God is the one who prepared Isaiah to fulfill his calling. He brought him all the way from “un” to the sure place of “Here I am. Send me,” (verse 8).

Isaiah was overwhelmed by the blazing holiness of God. That made his own unholiness so painfully, desperately obvious. But the Lord of Hosts took care of Isaiah’s need for cleansing. He readied Isaiah for His call and His plan.

Is there any “un” on your list He can’t take care of? No!

We serve the same Lord of Hosts. He will ready us for our call as surely as He did Isaiah. We don’t even need an app for that.

Though for the record, on the pizza side of the conversation, I’m still thinking my smart phone isn’t all that smart if there’s no pepperoni app.

What devices and plans of your own making have fallen by the wayside recently? What “un” in your life can you allow God to take care of today? (This post is a giveaway! Rhonda is giving away two copies of her new book “Messy to Meaningful!” Comment on this post to enter!)

 

Rhonda RheaRhonda Rhea is a TV personality for Christian Television Network and a humor columnist for great magazines such as HomeLife, Leading Hearts, The Pathway and many more. She is the author of 13 books, including the new release, Messy to Meaningful—Lessons from the Junk Drawer(messytomeaningful.com), co-authored with Bridges TV host, Monica Schmelter, and writing partner and daughter, Kaley Rhea. Rhonda and Kaley have also teamed up for the hilarious Christian Rhonda Rhearomantic comedy, Turtles in the Road, with more fun fiction in the works. Rhonda also co-authors the Fix Her Upper series with Beth Duewel. She enjoys speaking at conferences and events coast to coast and serves on the publishing team of Bold Vision Books. She lives near St. Louis with her pastor/hubs and has five grown children.

 

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3 Ways to Respond to Hurtful Words

Hurtful Words

(This post is a giveaway!) A good story transcends time, culture, and history, grabbing our hearts in a way no other medium can. A good story even has power to give a voice to the voiceless, hope for the hopeless, and the power to overcome hurtful words.

But no story offers entrance into the world of relationships like the greatest story ever told—the Bible. Full of romance, conflict, betrayal, and more, these true stories reveal the power of real love transforming the lives of real people. People just like you and me.

I’ve held my Bible close through the years, but it seemed to come more alive for me during a particularly traumatic time in my life. Somewhere in the midst of grief and healing from a crushing relationship, I found a story in the Old Testament that literally changed my life.

The True Tale of Two Wives

This story centers on a man named Ephraim and his two wives. (See 1 Samuel 1:1-20.) Peninnah had many children. And although Hannah had none, she had the love of her husband. These facts alone make the story ripe for conflict.

This true story is filled with lessons on both healthy and unhealthy behaviors for relationships. If the cameras of reality TV had been rolling in 1083 BC, these two women would have been catapulted into stardom, starring in The Real Housewives of Ephraim or perhaps guest stars on an episode of Sister Wives.

Imagine how the juicy storyline would have filled today’s social media:

“Poor Hannah—Unable to Give Her Husband a Beloved Firstborn Son.”

Or maybe,

“Motherhood is hopeless for Hannah. Bring on the next woman!”

And if the shame of infertility wasn’t enough, Elkanah’s second wife, Penni—who was more than fertile—relentlessly flaunted her fertility. First Samuel 1:6 says, “Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”

The Bible Speaks Wisdom for Today

In order to irritate her. I really tried to give Penni the benefit of the doubt. She didn’t have it easy. But I finally realized I couldn’t sugarcoat Penni’s unhealthy, negative, hurtful presence in Hannah’s life. Penni was Hannah’s rival. Plain and simple, she was not a nice person.

Sadly, the world hasn’t changed. Mean-spirited people still exist. And they still purposeful work to hurt others with their words and behavior.

But Hannah’s story spoke wisdom to my story. Her response to her situation and to Penni, helped me know how God would have me respond to my own relationship trauma.

Hannah purposefully chose to respond in three ways: Hannah chose to pray, cling, and love.

 The more Penni spoke hurtful words, the more Hannah opened her heart to God in prayer. The harder Penni pushed, the harder Hannah clung to God, with the same relentless pursuit. And the hardest thing Hannah did that has the potential to change everything? When Penni chose hate, Hannah chose not to retaliate.

When those in our lives choose to act in hurtful ways towards us, we too have a choice. We can choose to act in kind or we can choose love. Is it easy? Oh no. But it is empowering.

How do you respond the last time someone spoke words that hurt you? (Comment to enter the giveaway!)

Overcoming Hurtful WordsToday’s post is by Janell Rardon, author of the new book Overcoming Hurtful Words: Rewrite Your Own Story. Hurtful words can steal joy, distort truth, and create long-term struggles with understanding your worth and purpose. In this powerful new book, counselor and life coach Janell Rardon, MA, equips you to address and reframe negative words and labels that have hurt you in order to achieve healing and lasting freedom.

Download Chapter One of “Overcoming Hurtful Words.

Free small group study guide for “Overcoming Hurtful Words”

Janell Rardon

Janell Rardon is an event speaker and board certified life coach (AACC) who specializes in marriage and family relationships, She loves nothing more than helping others speak healing words that help them live a rich, meaningful life. She loves traveling to Kenya with Tree of Lives, a non-profit serving the African family, with a particular interest in serving the Mamas of “The Joy Village,” a family-modeled orphanage to care for abandoned, abused and neglected children of Kenya.

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Grace Trumps Failure Every Time

Thank you to today’s guest, author Sue Edwards! She knows all about experiencing God’s grace through failure. This post is also a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Sue’s new Bible study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.”

grace failure

I learned about God’s grace through failure. And I learned that He is the God of second, third, fourth – infinite really – chances!

Discouraged by Failure

My first failure in ministry came while leading a small group in a community-wide Women’s Bible study. I’d only been a Christian three years, but I was on fire for Jesus and eager to serve Him. I was determined to be the best small group leader in the entire study, but every week, fewer and fewer women showed up.

Naïve and self-dependent, I called the women weekly, with urgent questions about their attendance. Of course, that only made things worse.

As I faced the looming reality that my first attempt at leading a small group might bomb, the enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered discouragement. As yearend drew closer, I wondered if the leadership would give me another chance. I wasn’t sure I wanted one. But when I met with the leader to discuss the possibility, she said,

“We are only called to be faithful, not successful. You have been faithful.”

This significant life lesson taught me more about God’s grace.

Too Insecure to Succeed

The second big ministry failure came several years later, after I had led several small groups that bonded and thrived. The leadership of the community Bible study asked me to take on an administrative position and I said “yes.”

One of my duties was to recruit small group leaders for the following year. But when several of the current leaders decided they could not return, I took their resignation personally. The enemy successfully and relentlessly whispered “This is about you. They don’t want to work with you.”

Obviously, I was not ready for this role.

New in faith and still insecure in heart, I crumbled under the pressure. With less than a month before the study was to kick-off, I called the leadership and resigned. My immaturity caused the leaders to scramble to replace me, amidst much angst I’m sure.

But, amazingly – and graciously – they kept me on as a leader, and continued to pour into my life to build my spiritual and emotional strength. Another example of God’s character and grace.

Now, after almost forty years of ministry, I thank God for these dear women who continued to forgive me and invest in me. My service to others builds on the shoulders of these women who mentored me in my early Christian life. They did not give up on a naïve, insecure woman who loved the Lord but failed miserably many times. Their grace reflected God’s grace to us all.

Jesus is about second chances, and third, and fourth, and fifth. I’m constantly reminded of His grace and mercy. God’s grace–what an unspeakable gift!

Oh, Lord, help us all to remember our own failures and your tender mercies, and pass it on.

Leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy of Sue Edwards new Bible Study, “Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice.” The winner will be drawn Wednesday, February 14th.

Sue EdwardsDr. Sue Edwards has over 40 years experience as a Bible teacher, overseer of several megachurch ministries, and author. Now, as Associate Professor of Educational Ministries and Leadership, she teaches full-time at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has trained women leaders in Russia, Africa, and Germany. She is the author of 5 leadership books and the Discover Together Bible study series. Galatians: Discovering Freedom in Christ Through Daily Practice is the newest in the series. Find out more about the series at www.discovertogetherseries.com 

Galatians

 

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The Leper, His Pride, and a Humble Healing

Today’s blog is a guest post from author Kathy Collard Miller. This post is also a GIVEAWAY! Keep reading to the end for how to enter.

Has your own pride ever gotten in the way of something good God wanted to do in your life? Or maybe your own version of self-protection blocked something good God wanted to give you?

It happens all the time. There’s a story in the Bible that shows how a prideful man with leprosy almost rejected God’s healing because of the way God chose to heal him. For the entire story, read 2 Kings 5:1-14.

Naaman was an important man of high regard in Aram. He was an army commander and a valiant soldier. But Naaman also had leprosy, a disease that, in his time, brought shame and isolation.

A Jewish servant girl told Naaman about God’s prophet Elisha who could heal. Naaman agreed to make the journey to see Elisha and took much gold and silver with him, expecting to pay a high price for his healing.

But God’s instruction to Naaman for healing, through the prophet Elisha, was simply to wash his body seven times in the Jordan River.

Naaman stormed off in a fit of anger. Why didn’t God’s prophet wave his hand and cure me? Besides, we have better waters to be cleansed in than these here in Israel!

The Wisdom of a Servant

But Naaman’s servants who were with him were wiser than he. They gently asked him to consider his motives. Here’s a paraphrase:

“What does it matter which river you wash in? What are you trying to protect? You are the same person regardless of where you wash. See yourself the way Jehovah God sees you as important and valuable. Elisha has promised God will heal you. Why would you spoil that?”

Perhaps Naaman’s pride was an attempt to protect himself from the shame of leprosy. Elisha’s humble instructions for healing may have felt like disrespect to Naaman. And the situation was out of his control, threatening to tear down the prideful wall of protection he had built around himself.

Admittedly, I may be reading between the lines of this story. But, sometimes, God does allow us to experience difficulty so we will learn humble dependence on Him (2 Corinthians 1:9). “Even if obeying me puts you in a position of emotional danger, will you let me heal you as I walk with you through dirty waters?”

From Humility to Healing

Finally, Naaman willing humbled himself. He faced the rebellion of his pride, and subjected himself to what he feared—being viewed as someone only worthy of washing in a dirty river. And he was healed!

So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean (2 Kings 5:14).

Child of God, do you wish to be healed and delivered from the lies which create a lack of self-control, hurting both yourself and others? Be willing to be exposed to what you fear. Take hold of God’s power to obey. Use his power to reject your sinful inclinations and trust him enough to know He will define your value and wipe away your shame.

Kathy, today’s guest blogger, is giving away a copy of her new book, Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. For a chance to win, comment on this post. (US addresses only please.) Earn a second chance to win but sharing this post on Facebook. Leave a separate comment that you shared. The winner will be drawn on Friday, January 12th at 8am central time.

Kathy Collard Miller is an award-winning author of over 50 books that include Christian living topics, women’s Bible studies, and Bible commentaries. She has spoken in 8 foreign countries and over 30 US states. Kathy and Larry have been married for 47 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. They live in Southern California and often write and speak together. Visit her at www.KathyCollardMiller.com. She would love to hear from you. (This guest blog is adapted from Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory) Kathy would love to connect with you on social media. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 

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Are You “Blessed?”

Today’s devotional thought was written by Kimberly Texidor, minister, Bible teacher, and leader of the Facebook group “Soul Tired: A Walk 90-Day Walk through the Psalms for the Weary Traveler.”   (It’s not too late to join in!) This devotional is based on Psalm 1:1-3.

We just met “Harvey.” My family and I live and minister in the Houston area where we hurricane Harvey recently left devastating flooding in its wake. As the community mobilized to help with the cleanup process, there was an urgent need for what they call “mudding out” homes. It is as gross, smelly, and difficult as it sounds, but the work is vital to the survival of the property. 

As I scrolled through social media one afternoon, I came across a photo of a family’s soggy, ruined possessions tossed onto the street along with sheetrock, carpet, insulation, and a lifetime of memories. On the top of the pile lay a cutout sign that probably once adorned their mantle. It simply read #Blessed. 

I have to admit, I’m often perplexed by this “blessed” movement. So often the hash tag comes alongside photos of smiling families, cute children, new cars, or luxury vacations. What does it really mean to have a “blessed” life? What am I actually telling someone at the grocery store or coffee shop when I tell him to have a “blessed” day?

What does it mean to be “blessed?”

For the Psalmist, this “blessed” life was more than a collection of stuff or a season when everything goes according to plan. In the original language, this word is literally translated “happy”. This kind of blessed life is a deep-running happiness that endures outside of circumstances, seasons, floods, or feelings. 

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Psalm 1:1-3, NIV

What can we learn from Psalm 1 about this “happy” life? First, the text says this abiding happiness comes from a disassociation with the wicked and an attachment to God and His Word. (vv1-3). This happy person recognizes the sneaky nature of evil that would cause a follower of God to first walk, then stand, then take up a seat and sit with influences that bring harm to our souls. 

Second, this blessed person is consciously and consistently spending time in and meditating on God’s Word. In a changing, uncertain, storm-ravaged life, the blessed person chooses to focus on God’s eternal promises rather than temporary circumstances. As Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”

How Can I have a Blessed Life?

The truth is, if I base my happiness on the people, influences, or stuff in my life, where will I be if it all blows away? If I build a life on unhealthy relationships and decisions, will I feel happy when I see my own face in the mirror? To use the illustration of Jesus, if I’m building an entire life on a castle made of sand, who will I be when it falls? (Matt. 7:24-27)

But we can build a different life, a blessed life, even a happy life. We can build a life based on God’s Word and on living connected to Him. This person, according to Psalm 1, will be a stable, steady, well-fed, blessed person, through all the storms and seasons of life.

Apply these Blessed Truths:

  • Would I describe my life today as “blessed”? Do I base my feelings of blessedness on people, things, circumstances, or something else?
  • Are there unhealthy people or influences in my life that are causing me to walk, stand, or pull up a seat and sit in places where a child of God doesn’t belong? 
  • What commitment do I need to make in regards to meditating on God’s Word?

It’s not too late to join the “Soul Tired” community! There you will find the 90-day reading plan for the Psalms, daily devotionals and lots of discussion in a loving community!

 

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How Humility In Your Time of Need Changes Everything

A big thank you to today’s guest Tricia Goyer! If you want to hear more about how Tricia walks out her faith in every day life – and how you can too! – check out her soon-to-be-released book “Walk It Out.

Walk it outThe other day I was cooking dinner when my six-year-old son rushed into the kitchen.

Beads of sweat slid down his red face. “I’m so hot. You never get me anything to drink.”

I stirred my spaghetti sauce with one hand as I turned to him. “Excuse me?”

His voice rose in a full, high-pitched whine. “You never give me anything to drink!” He waved his hands and dropped to the floor.

I took in a breath and then released it, telling myself to keep my voice steady, calm. “I’d be happy to get you a drink. I just need you to ask.”

He kicked his foot against the floor. “But I want a drink now!”

“I know you do.” I peered down at him. “And as soon as you ask the right way I’m happy to get some some ice cold water.”

And then my son stood, smiled up at me and asked so sweetly for a drink of water … NOT!

Instead, he whined and fussed more. Finally, I asked him to leave the kitchen.

You know what? He never did ask. In fact, he didn’t get anything to drink until fifteen minutes later when we were sitting down to dinner. He was so bent on complaining and whining—in feeding his discontent—he didn’t want to release his control in order to ask me for help. I would have gladly given him the drink he requested if only he asked in the right away.

Feeding Our Discontent

I wish I could say this is just a little kid issue, but I’ve been there myself. During my teen years I lived in that storm of discontent. I complained when things didn’t go my way. I worried. I fretted. I fought.

I even took matters into my own hands when I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy at age 15. My own fears and worries led me to a choice I now regret—I had an abortion.

It wasn’t until years later, at age 17 when I was pregnant again, that things took a turn for the better. It’s then I humbled myself and turned to God. By this point I realized the whining, complaining, and acting out wasn’t getting me what I wanted or needed.

At six months along, I wrapped my arms around my growing stomach and prayed, “Lord, if you can do anything with my life, please do.”

God showed up big time. He not only gave me Himself (which is the best!), He has also led me on a journey where radical, and wonderful things, have happened. This has included marrying a wonderful Christian man, having two more kids, starting a crisis pregnancy center, mentoring teen moms, adopting seven more children, and writing over 70 books!

It Starts with Humility

God didn’t just offer me a cup of cool water when I asked. He opened the floodgates of blessing. But it took me humbling myself and seeking Jesus to meet my needs.

This reminds me of a Scripture I was reading just this morning, “I called on your name, LORD, from the depths of the pit. You heard my plea: ‘Do not close your ears to my cry for relief.’ You came near when I called you, and you said, ‘Do not fear.’ You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life,” Lamentations 5:55-58.

Mumbling, complaining and griping are easy, but they rob us of having our greatest needs met. Yet when we humble ourselves and turn to God, things will change for the better.

When we call to the Lord, He hears us. When we turn to Him, He comes. When we call to Him, He reminds us that He is present and we have no reason to fear. When we place our needs in His court, Jesus redeems our life.

It took a lot to humble me as a teen—two unplanned pregnancies in fact. Yet I’m thankful that I learned back then that when I turn to God He will meet my needs. He will meet them in more wonderful ways than I ever expected.

You can read more about how God can show up radically in your life in the book Walk It Out: The Radical Result of Living God’s Word One Step at a Time (http://amzn.to/2wi1Cwi). If you pre-order Walk It Out before October 1, you’ll also receive 30 Days of Prayer as You Walk It Out FREE! Details here: http://www.triciagoyer.com/walk-it-out/

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Where is God when Marriage is Hard?

Marriage is hardMy guest today is Laura Taggart, author of the newly released book “Making Love Last.”

Marriage is hard. Think about it. You and your mate come from different family histories. Different genders mean you think, process, and operate differently. Different personalities create challenges as you try to merge two lives with different ways of thinking and reacting.

Sound like a recipe for disaster? Amazingly God designed it that way. What was He thinking?

Year thirteen of my marriage was excruciatingly painful. My husband was doubting his love for me and not inclined to stay the course. I was disappointed with God for what I perceived as His lack of faithfulness. After all, I had tried the best I knew how to be faithful to Him, to love my husband and raise our children to know Him.

In the midst of my frustration and self-pity, I had a reckoning. What if, in the turmoil, God was doing something in me! What if God was being His good self in the middle of this mess? In that moment, I realized I didn’t want to miss what God had for me. Even in struggle.

I determined to hold onto God no matter what. I began to let go of my own perceptions. My hurt and disappointment began to dissipate. In time, I realized my expectations of my husband stifled his ability to be himself. I wanted my husband to love me my way and he wasn’t cooperating. I had relied on him for the unconditional love that only God can provide.

I began to lean into God more for my needs and trust His love to be enough. As I began to experience the security of God’s love, the fears that fostered high expectations from my husband began to lessen. I relied on God’s strength. My trust in Him grew. I gained confidence in his presence and provision.

“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield . . . my stronghold.” Psalm 18:12

As my anxiety diminished, I began to live with an open heart, enjoying the present. Rather than concentrating on my needs and my husband’s failures, I began to see the difficulties of our life together as an opportunity for my growth. This was life-altering. Paying more attention to my own unloving ways brought new life into our relationship.

Feeling totally accepted by God – just the way I am – helped me show my husband the same acceptance. When he began to realize my love for him was secure, that my previous high level of expectations were gone, his self-defenses dropped. Then amazing things began to happen. He began to change.

Intimate relationship is powerful. Marriage, our most exposing of all relationships, provides the most transformational opportunity of our lives. I can choose to be my mate’s harshest critic or biggest fan. If I can accept him in his humanness and trust God for what I need, I am more able to be thankful for the gift of my husband and less disappointed by what he isn’t. And I can begin to see God’s goodness in the mess.

Marriage is hard. Back in year thirteen, I couldn’t even imagine the sweet relationship my husband and I enjoy today. If your marriage is hard today, don’t give up! God is working through the hardness to carve out something beautiful!

Laura TaggartLaura Taggart is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and author of “Making Love Last: Divorce-Proofing Your Young Marriage” (released July 4, 2017). She has been an Adjunct Professor of Counseling for Fuller Theological Seminary, Northern California Campus. Laura is an international speaker on topics of marriage, parenting, and Christian spirituality.

With one-third of all married couples divorce before their ten-year Making Love Lastanniversary, in “Making Love Last” Taggart offers the wisdom she would share as a counselor with a couple in the early years of marriage. She helps couples examine their true expectations for marriage, provides six action steps for improving the way they relate, and gives them a new picture of what it means to enjoy marriage for a lifetime. Each chapter includes discussion questions for couples or small groups as well as additional questions for personal reflection.

 

 

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Cupcakes, Perfection, and Connection

This guest post by Christen Price includes excerpts from her new book “Invited: Live a Life of Connection, not Perfection.” Used with permission.  

I am in a cupcake war. A battle for perfection.

Standing in the kitchen, covered in confectioner’s sugar, I had been attacked by my strawberry cupcakes. I’d volunteered to bring cupcakes to a baby shower the next day, but my recipe had turned into one big blob of pink mess.  These cupcakes just would not do.

Insecure, I allowed the frustration of failure to mess with my head, causing me to spiral into doubt. All confidence vanished. I heard a soft whisper that I am like these cupcakes…not good enough.

Instead of letting good be good enough, I want to be, have, and give the best of myself to every aspect of my life. That’s why I thought I could make these cupcakes, and that’s why I’m ended up being overly critical of myself.

Do you ever allow the pressure of perfection to cause you to melt down, especially before a celebration?

Just like me, many women desperately chase perfection. Then when we don’t capture it, our emotions take over. The passion of pursuing perfection sometimes causes us to act in ways that make us later feel shame and unworthiness, like we will never quite measure up.

Is there a better way than “perfection?”

God calls us to celebrate, be in community, and believe that connection is far better than perfection. We can spend our whole lives trying to practice hospitality perfectly, but God simply wants us to accept His invitation and extend His love to the people we cherish most. God invites us to release our perfection-induced anxieties, receive others in love, and rejoice in the moment.

Invited by Christen Price

I won the cupcake war.

The next day, I woke up and called a local bakery to order two dozen strawberry cupcakes. Arriving at the baby shower with boxed cupcakes in hand, I arranged the cupcakes on a white tiered cake stand on the dining room buffet. They were delicious, beautiful, and store-bought, but it didn’t make my contribution to the party any less.

That night, instead of feeling not good enough because I couldn’t bake cupcakes as beautiful as these store-bought cupcakes, I was able to connect with friends and watch the mother-to-be open her presents without the pressure of perfection.

Let’s stop letting perfection make us feel not good enough, especially on insignificant matters like store-bought or homemade cupcakes. God is perfect so we don’t have to be. He invites us to live free from the stress of planning, preparing, and performing perfectly and to just be in Him.  Hospitality isn’t about perfection; it’s about connection.

Now, go eat a cupcake!

InvitedIn her new book, Invited: Live a Life of Connection, Not Perfection, Bible teacher Christen Price tackles a problem that plagues many women – the unrealistic striving for perfection. She shares personal stories of her own perfection battle and gives practical advice and helps for finding a beautiful balance that embraces both hospitality and community.

Christen Price is a writer for The M.O.M. Initiative and founder of Undivided Women, an online Bible study community. With the heart of a hostess, she writes devotionals, designs party printables, and creates inspirational art in her Studio that invites women to celebrate their people, place, and purpose. Christen is married to her best friend, Raleigh, and their crew of three little ones, two dogs, and four chickens call the countryside of lower Alabama home. Connect with her at christenprice.com.

 

 

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7 Mountain Moving Prayers to Pray for Your Kids

Lori WildenbergToday Lori Wildenberg – author of the new book “Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home” – offers practical suggestions for energizing our prayers for the children in our lives.

My daily prayers for my kids have become rote.

My consistent plea is, “Lord draw each one of my kids to yourself. Give them a hunger for your Word, a thirst for worship, and a desire to make you smile.” 

Not a bad prayer. I just pray it a lot. I’m bored. I wonder if God is a little weary too. My prayer life sounds like blah, blah, blah. Clang, clang, clang.  It’s time to change it up. Refresh my requests.

I want to pray bold and effective prayers.

I want to pray war room prayers.

I want to pray mountain moving prayers.

This week my petitions to my great big God will focus on the heart; on character traits to be developed or deepened in my loved ones and in myself. I’m committed to no more clanging.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love,
I  am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without love for others or for God, we are only an annoying gong. Clang, Clang, Clang. We are nothing and we gain nothing. No matter our intelligence, natural talents or spiritual gifts, and even self-sacrifice. 

7 Scripture-based Prayers to Pray for Your Kids

Here are my short yet big supernatural love prayers for this week inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.

Monday

Sovereign Lord, Give _____opportunities to develop patience. Let my child (or me) wrestle with tenacity through life’s challenges in order to learn how to lean on, trust, and hope in you.

Tuesday

Father, Teach _____ how to love and respond in kindness even in the face of disagreement or adversity. Train him or her (or me) how to listen, discuss, and maintain convictions while demonstrating gentleness and respect.

Wednesday 

Provider God, Allow ________ to discover a grateful heart leads to contentment in all circumstances. When life isn’t going well, I ask that you show ______ that satisfaction rests not in the external but in the eternal. When life is going well I pray that, with a heart of thankfulness,  _______ gives you all honor and praise.

Thursday

Lord Jesus, Give_____ an a ability to accurately assess his or her strengths and weaknesses. Create a generous spirit in _______ that will encourage and raise another up. Move _______to share credit with others and give you glory.

Friday

Heavenly Father, Un-clench my (or fill in the blank) fists of selfishness. Open my (or her or his) hand and heart to those who may need or benefit from ________ time, treasure, or talents.

Saturday

My King, Forgiveness is not beneath you. It is you. Release ______ from any bonds of pride or bitterness so _____ can be fee to love and worship. Replace the unforgiving prideful heart with one that is graced with humility, repentance, and reconciliation.

Sunday

Lord, I pray_______ loves the things you love and hates the things you hate. Open ______ ears to hear that still small voice. Give him or her wisdom to understand truth. Give _______ (or me) the will to live by your words and follow your way. Give _____ the discernment to identify true truth from emotion driven belief.

Love never fails. Amen and Amen.

What’s the most powerful prayer you pray for your kids?

 

Lori WildenbergMessy Journey is passionate about helping families build connections that last a life time. She is a licensed parent-family educator and co-founder of the 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting ministry. Lori  is a parent consultant, national speaker, lead Mentor Mom over at the Moms Together Facebook Community Page and blogs every Monday about faith and family. She has written four parenting books including her newest,  Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home (New Hope Publishers). Messy Journey is for parents walking the difficult road with a wayward child. Lori offers practical grace- and truth-filled ways of navigating your relationship with a detoured child whether they are rejecting faith, dabbling in sin, or wholeheartedly embracing sinful behavior. There is hope. After all, their struggle isn’t really with you, it’s with God.

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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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