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

Archive | Spiritual Dryness

5 Bible Reading Plans for the New Year

Do you plan to read your Bible regularly in 2018? Many of us start the year with good intentions, but regular time with God in His Word often falls by the wayside because we’ve failed to put a plan in place or because we’ve set the bar too high.

Planning is not “unspiritual.” Paul told Timothy to “train yourself to be godly” (1 Timothy 4:7) because real spiritual growth takes discipline and purposeful intent. “5 Tips for Setting Spiritual Growth Goals” will help you realistically plan for your personal spiritual growth.

5 Bible Reading Plans

A great place to begin is with a Bible reading plan. Haphazard reading will always be just that – haphazard. If you have a plan, then you have direction and structure. You never have to wonder, “What will I read today?”

Each of these 5 Bible reading plans below is for a full year. Some are more time-intensive than others. Look at each of them and pick one that will challenge you but not overwhelm you. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

For instance, if you are currently reading your Bible only for a few minutes just a few days a week, don’t try to read the Bible through in a year which requires several chapters 7 days a week. You may become discouraged quickly and give up. Instead, choose a plan that has smaller chunks of reading for 5 days a week. (Note: The first three plans were developed by Kathy Howard. The last two were developed by Dr. Doug Lamb, one of Kathy’s former pastors.)

5 Bible Reading Plans for 2018

  1. Key Character Bible Reading Plan – Spend 5 days a week discovering how God wove individual lives into His overall plan! From Abraham, Moses, and David to Peter, John, and Paul, God still uses His people in the Scriptures to impact His people today. With the life and work of Jesus Christ central to this Bible reading plan, it’s a daily experience you won’t want to miss.
  2. Christian Doctrine Bible Reading Plan – This 5-day-a-week plan walks you through the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith. The first quarter focuses on “Theology,” the study of God and His character. The second quarter on the nature of the Bible, mankind, and Christ. The third on “Soteriology,” the study of salvation. And the fourth on the Holy Spirit, the Church, and end times.
  3. Chronological Story Bible Reading Plan – Spend a year getting familiar with the big picture of the Bible. Read through all the major stories and key passages in five days a week.
  4. New Testament in a Year – This handy daily Bible reading guide will take you through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs in one year.
  5. The Bible in a Year – Dr. Doug Lamb, developed this daily plan to read through the entire Bible in one year. He is glad to share it with you.

Pick a plan that works for you. Print it off and put it in your Bible. Get a journal or notebook to record insights from the Holy Spirit, God’s direction for you as your read, and your prayers to Him. May 2016 be a year marked by spiritual growth and wonderful time with our great God!

I’d love to hear from you! Share with us about your plan to read the Bible in 2018.

Some additional posts you may find helpful:

Read More »

4 Ways to Foster a Thirst for God

Do we really thirst for God? If we had to measure our desire for God, how would we rank it? Let’s try. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being hardly at all and 10 meaning you constantly desire to be in God’s presence, what number would you give yourself?

By the way, this is a personal question. Just think your answer to yourself. I simply want us to consider our level of spiritual hunger. Since we were made by God and for God (Colossians 1:16), we are at our most fulfilled and joyful when we are close to Him.

Thirst for God

In the 63rd Psalm, David the shepherd king expressed his desire for God:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

If I’m being honest, I can’t claim these words as my own every day. The things of life claim my attention and even sometimes my priorities. But, thankfully, I’m growing and they describe my desire for God more than they used to.

4 Ways to Foster a Thirst for God

In Psalm 63:2-8, David gives some insight on how we can foster a growing desire for God. Though I’m sure there are more, I spotted 4 specific ways.

  1. Worship with God’s People – David experienced the presence of God in His house among the people of God. And it whet his appetite. Let us not neglect gathering with other Christians to worship.
  2. Practice Praise – I know some days we don’t feel like praising God. For instance, those days when everything and more seems to be going wrong. And those days when we struggle with grief or pain or loss. But every day, we can remember God’s steadfast love. And we can praise Him.
  3. Meditate on God’s Past Provision – Sometimes our current circumstances are so difficult and heavy we can think of nothing else. We wonder if and when God will come to our aid. Reflecting on times in the past where God has intervened, helped, strengthened, or comforted will give us reason to draw close to Him.
  4. Go to Him First, Always – I don’t know about you, but sometimes when trials hit God may be my second or third or last person I run to. Probably because I’m too focused on the physical instead of the spiritual. God longs for us to go to Him first for strength, help, provision, comfort, and support. He want to help us. He is just waiting.

As we purposefully and consistently practice these things, we will experience God’s presence and provision. And as we do, our desire and longing for Him will grow. Once we taste the goodness of God we will not be able to get enough.

Read More »

Are you a Stunted Shrub or a Fruitful Tree?

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

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

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

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

Which are you? Stunted Shrub or Fruitful Tree?

Jeremiah 17

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

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

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

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

Read More »

Are your kids growing up in the backseat of your car?

Advertising executives design television commercials to sell their product. One way they do this is by finding common ground with the viewer and exploiting their emotions to move them to pull out their wallets. So successful ads often closely reflect what’s happening in our society.

That’s why one car ad I saw recently troubles me.

The spot is for the Subaru Forester. The announcer tells the watching audience that the Forester is “designed for your most precious cargo.” Sounds good. Keep the kiddos safe. The line that troubles me comes from the “mom.” After talking about her daughter’s first words, first days of school, and best friends, mom says, “The backseat of my Subaru is where she grew up.”

YouTube Preview Image

I know. I hear you saying, “It’s just a commercial.” But the reason it bothers me is because it pretty accurately reflects the over-the-top, ridiculously busy lifestyle that many of us lead.

Like the mom and daughter in the commercial, we spend our entire lives running from one commitment or activity to another. All that running around leaves little time to rest or foster relationships. Real connection to other Christians gets pushed to the back burner. And time simply sitting with God is practically non-existent.

Stop the madness! It doesn’t have to be that way. Your kids shouldn’t have to grow up in a minivan or a crossover or whatever it is you drive. (Check out this post for more about the dangers of busyness and how you can dethrone that idol.)

Model for your children and grandchildren the value of family, friendships, and a rich, satisfying relationship with Christ. It’s time to stop living out of your car.

Am I just crazy or does this resonate with anyone else?!

Read More »

The Sacred Cow of Busyness

What is your usual response to this question: “How are you?”

Many – if not most of you – probably answered with something like this: “Fine. Busy.”

I hear it every day – sometimes out of my own mouth. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed the shift. It seems we can’t be “fine” unless we are also busy. And most of us are busy. Really busy.

Busy and Proud of It!

We’re up before the sun, pound the pavement or the keyboard all day long, and spend the after-work hours doing housework and helping with homework or cheering at ballgames and volunteering. We’re crazy busy and proud of it.

Our American culture values busyness. We tend to see a “busy” person as someone who is in demand, talented, and indispensable. “Busy” is good. Downtime is bad.

Fed Up with Flat FaithThe Danger of Busy

So what’s wrong with “busy?” Everyone is doing it. It’s just the way these days, right?

Our society encourages us to push the limits of our time, resources, and physical ability in order to do more, make more, and be more. And we teach our children to do the same.

Often, these limit-busters are positive, beneficial activities. But over-pursuing has a price. We’re too busy for unhurried conversation with our families. Too busy for physical rest and renewal. Too busy to foster existing relationships or develop new ones.

But the greatest danger of “busy” is little room remains for God. No time to soak in His presence. No time to seek His guidance. No time to respond to God when He calls. No time to develop deep intimacy with the only One who can meet our every need.

Dethrone the Idol of Busyness

I’m not saying we should run our calendar through the shredder. God’s plan us includes good works. But God also designed our bodies. He knows our limits. He created us with the need to rest, refresh, and relate.

God desires our lives to be “full,” not busy. “Busy” is packed with activity – some purposed by God, but a lot purposed strictly by us. “Full,” on the other hand, describes a life filled up with the plans, purposes, and peace of God. A “full” life will be characterized by relationships, service, good works, and time. Time to focus on things that matter for eternity.

I challenge you to do something that could change your life, your relationships, and your faith. Commit to moving from a “busy” life to a “full” life. You can start by seriously evaluating the way you spend your time. (Download this PDF for guidance in evaluating your time commitments.)

Once you’ve made some time cuts, make a fresh commitment to your relationship with God. Regular time with Jesus will help you leave “busy” behind and fall headlong into the full, abundant life He promised!

Would you describe your life as “busy” or “full?” What activity takes up the most time?


This post is based on a topic from chapter three of “Fed Up with Flat Faith: 10 Attitudes and Actions to Pump Up Your Faith.”

Read More »

Keep the Faith Fires Burning

What is it about a fire that so captures our attention? I’ve spent many nights sitting around a campfire staring into its depths, transfixed by the yellow to orange to red flames. Dancing and curling, the flames hungrily consume logs, branches, and twigs. (And yes, sometimes the fire consumes my marshmallow.)

If the fire diminishes, instinctively I reach for more wood to keep the fire burning brightly. I don’t want the heat or the dance to die.

A fire begins when spark meets tinder. Tinder ignites and the flame spreads to kindling. Then soon larger pieces of combustible material are added to the small fire and it grows. Without this fuel, a fire will eventually burn itself out.

dry faith, flat faith, fiery faithSimilarly, a fiery, passionate faith needs a continuous source of spiritual fuel to keep it burning. Otherwise, the flames shrink and our once vibrant faith cools to a dispassionate, common thing. (Read about how to gather “spiritual tinder” that burns easily.) Scripture reveals a close connection between our obedience and an intimate, fiery, relationship with Jesus.

Obedience Keeps the Faith Fire Burning

Obedience keeps our faith burning strong. Obedience keeps the lines of communication open and fosters our dependence on God (John 15:10). Disobedience builds walls and cultivates stubborn independence from God.

I would love to say I always obey God. Unfortunately, even when I know exactly what God wants me to do, I still sometimes rebelliously chose my own way. Why is that? Recently I heard Patsy Clairmont say something that I think explains it well. “Obeying God is simple. It just isn’t always easy.”

Obedience often comes with a price. We may have to give up time, resources, or comfort. Obedience may mean ridicule or endurance. Sometimes, I see the path of obedience, but balk because of some pain, hardship, or even simple inconvenience it may bring.

An Example of Fiery-Faithed Obedience

My friend Jan trusted God and obeyed Him even when it was hard. When the music minister left Jan’s church to obey his own call from God, the senior pastor asked Jan to be the interim music minister.

Jan felt inadequate to fill this role. Although God gifted her with a beautiful voice and an incredible ear for music, Jan did not have any experience leading a worship team or a congregation:

At first, I told my pastor I couldn’t do it. I sing harmony—not lead! I can’t even read music! Yet, with all my excuses I knew all God wanted was my obedience. The next thing I knew I was sitting in a pile of music, telling God I didn’t even know how to put a worship service together and couldn’t do it without Him; He was going to have to do it through me. And He has! I keep obeying and leaning on Him and He keeps doing the job He gave me.

God called Jan to a task she could not do. She had plenty of logical reasons to refuse, but one thing overrode all that logical reasoning. She knew God had asked her to do it. So, Jan responded with obedience. She trusted God with the music theory, leadership challenges, time, and planning and Jan received the overwhelming blessings of seeing God’s miraculous work and sensing His pleasure.

Think about that hard thing God has asked you to do. What would happen if you obeyed? Imagine how God could ignite your faith if you trusted Him and allowed Him to work in your life like only He can.

Has God asked you to do something hard? What is it? What holds you back?

Read More »

2 Common Causes of Flat Faith Straight from the Bible

Flat faith, MarthaFlat, dry faith is not a recent phenomenon or a product of our contemporary culture. This problem plagued mankind long before the children of Israel grumbled in the wilderness. As far back as Genesis we can spot flat faith in the midst of God’s people.

Let’s look at one example from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament. Although there are usually multiple causes that flatten our faith over a period of time, we can spot two common culprits in the lives of Sarah and Martha.

1. Settled for a Casual Acquaintance

Abraham’s wife Sarah believed in God. She even left home with her husband to backpack all over Canaan. But Sarah did not expect God to work and she did not believe He had the power to do what He promised. Both of these “symptoms” resulted from an insufficient knowledge of God.

When Abraham came home with the news that God promised to give him offspring as numerous as the stars, Sarah set about to make it happen with the help of her Egyptian maid servant. Rather than letting God work His plan in His way, she tried to do it for Him in a way that made sense to her.

Years later, when God’s messenger made it clear yet again that God’s plan included Sarah she laughed because it seemed impossible to her. Sarah’s limited knowledge of God limited what she believed about God. Sadly, she lived her faith without any expectation of, or trust in, God’s miraculous activity.

2. Put “Doing” Over “Being”

Martha – our favorite New Testament hostess – suffered from her own consequences of flat faith. Activity replaced a vibrant relationship with her Savior. While her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and soaked up His teaching, Martha busily prepared the guest room and cooked a gourmet meal.

Serving Christ distracted her from enjoying Him (Luke 10:38–42). Martha was too busy “doing” to spend time fostering intimacy with Christ. However, Scripture shows us that Martha’s relationship with Jesus grew. After the death of Martha’s brother Lazarus, she made an incredible declaration of faith in Christ (John 11:27).

Are you flat or pumped?

Fed Up with Flat Faith by Kathy HowardI lived “flat” for almost two decades. Like Martha, sometimes the busyness of faith hindered me from finding the relationship with Jesus I craved. (Read about my “Southern Fried Faith”.) Many times I thought: Since I already do “all the right things,” then this must just be it for me. Some people are just wired to be more spiritual than others. I will just be happy with what I have. Sadly, I was also like Sarah. I did not know God well enough to believe He could—and would—act in my life.

What about you? Do you struggle with finding real passion and purpose in your relationship with Christ? Like Sarah, do you expect too little from God? Perhaps like Martha, you are too busy with the works of faith to foster your relationship with Jesus.

God is the only one who can pump up your flat faith, but you can position yourself to receive what He desires to give you. Here’s one attitude adjustment to make and one action to take that will begin to prepare your heart for God’s work:

  1. Relationship Over Religion – Make fostering your relationship with Jesus your priority. Allow God to guide your service and works as a natural outflow.
  2. Feast on the Word – Diligently read and study the Bible. The best way to expand your understanding of God is through His revealed Word.

Let’s Talk. What are some practical steps you can take in your life to put a relationship with Christ over the activity of religion?

“Fed Up with Flat Faith” gives 5 attitudes and 5 actions that will help you position yourself for God’s miraculous work. Find out more here.


Read More »

Flat or Pumped?

Spiritual dryness, Flat FaithDo you prefer flats or high-heeled pumps? I love the look of high-heels, but I can’t wear them for very long before my feet start hurting. Then all I want to do is kick them off and step into some flats.

Flats or pumps are simply a matter of preference. We can choose to suit our style and comfort. Either kind of shoe is acceptable footwear. But we should never settle for “flat” faith.

Flat shoes? Fun and comfortable! Flat faith? Frustrating and discouraging! Is your faith “flat” or “pumped?”

What is flat faith?

The word flat can be defined as “without vitality or animation; lifeless; dull.”Many Christians with flat faith love Jesus and continue to serve Him, but they often feel as though they’re simply going through the motions of Christianity. Their love for Christ is short on passion. They serve largely out of a sense of duty or because that’s what they’ve always done. The routine of the Christian life may even feel superficial and directionless.

Although not an exhaustive list, here are ten signs that may indicate your faith needs some pumping up:

  1. Relationship with Christ is not deepening and growing.
  2. Religious activities overshadow your relationship with Christ.
  3. Life of faith feels boring, tired, or overwhelming.
  4. Feeling of disconnect from God; no real sense of His presence or voice.
  5. Little excitement over or awareness of God’s activity.
  6. Little or no anticipation that God will work.
  7. Praise and worship feels dry and forced.
  8. Nagging sense you should be experiencing more.
  9. Notice fiery faith in others’ lives that you desire.
  10. Efforts and activity produce few results of eternal value.

Countless Christians experience flat faith. Some have never experienced a vibrant faith characterized by real intimacy with Christ. Flat faith is all they’ve known. Others have lost the passion for Christ they once had and desperately long to find it again.

I fell in that first group. Raised in the church, I accepted Jesus when I was eight. But I spent the next 18 years desperately trying to feel vitally connected to God and find passion in my relationship with Jesus.  When I was finally desperate enough to open up and honestly share my struggle with a Christian friend, God put me on a path to a pumped up faith.

You can read a bit more of my story in the following links:

Got Flat Faith? Get Fed Up!

Fed Up with Flat Faith by Kathy HowardDo you have flat faith? I didn’t have to settle and neither do you. In my new book “Fed Up with Flat Faith” I share 5 attitudes and 5 actions God used in my life to pump up and fire up my flat, dry faith.

Got flat faith? Get fed up and let God pump you up.

Let’s Talk: What adjectives would you use to describe your faith?

Read More »

My Southern Fried Faith

In the south, we fry anything and everything. If it walks, runs, jumps, swims, or flies we will roll it in flour or cornmeal and drop it in a skillet or Fry Daddy. In addition to the commonly known fare, I’ve also eaten fried alligator, squirrel, dove, rabbit, and crawfish.

Side note for context: I was born and raised in northern Louisiana. And yes, watching Duck Dynasty is like attending a family reunion.

In many places in the south, “fry” is the default method of cooking. Unless otherwise requested, your meat or vegetable and sometimes even your bread and dessert get baptized in boiling oil. It’s simply assumed. After all, everything is better when it’s fried.

Fed Up with Flat FaithWhen I was growing up, I internalized the “fry principle” and a host of other southern assumptions. For instance, tea is always iced, right hands go over hearts when a flag passes by, pick-up trucks are perfectly acceptable prom night transportation, and good people go to church.

From infancy my parents faithfully took me to Sunday School, worship service, Vacation Bible School, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. I memorized Bible verses, earned high attendance pins, and wore wire hanger angel wings covered with gold garland in the Christmas pageant.

Church service and attendance wove through the fabric of our family. The question of whether or not we would go on any given Sunday was never raised because we were a “church family.” This faithful commitment to church hindered my faith.

Please don’t misunderstand me here. The family my husband and I raised could be described as a “church family.” And I would not want it any other way. But while both might look the same on the surface, a drastic difference exists between my childhood church attendance and my adult faith.

Inside-Out Christianity

During the first half of my life, I attended church because I was what a “good Christian girl.” To me, Christianity meant saying the right things and doing what everyone expected. And that’s exactly what I did. In fact, my brother sarcastically dubbed me “Sister Mary Kathryn.” And although Mary Kathryn is indeed my given name, I’m sure my parents never meant it to be used as a synonym for Miss Goody Two-shoes.

Although I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was eight, I experienced little to no spiritual growth. The rich relationship I wanted with Christ eluded me. Something vital was missing. Connected to church, I still felt disconnected from God. I had no real sense of God’s presence. I could see the kind of passionate, dynamic faith I longed to have in others’ lives.

But despite many weak attempts to pump up my own faith, it remained dry and flat. Even though I had been taught differently, I had internalized that faith was what you do. I missed the part about it being all about Who you know.

Relationship Over Religion

“Doing” is a human’s default setting. We like to make lists and check off the items, proving to ourselves that we have accomplished something. We can perform the outward motions of faith without actively pursuing the object of our faith.

Religion cannot satisfy. Unless our works of faith flow naturally out of a vital relationship with our Maker it is merely religious ritual. We were created for relationship, not outward trappings of religion. Faith that does not produce these kinds of works is dead and useless (James 1:20). But religious works performed from a sense of duty or habit only sap our spiritual strength, leaving our faith dry, weak, and flat.

Setting Assumptions Aside

Fed Up with Flat Faith by Kathy HowardOver the years, I’ve learned that some southern assumptions of my childhood were accurate and some needed a bit of adjustment.  For instance, while a few things are indeed glorious fried, the flavor of most food is best appreciated when it is grilled, sautéed, or baked, and a mug of hot herbal tea soothes a sore throat on a cold day. But, I still cover my heart in respect for the flag and my son took his date to the prom in his pick-up.

Although the Bible Belt culture of my north Louisiana childhood is less influential today, religiosity can still hinder true relationship with Jesus. I had to set religion aside and embrace relationship with the One who died to save me. Religion alone is as dry as yesterday’s toast. But relationship with the living Savior is exciting, satisfying, and passionate.

Have you ever struggled with keeping your relationship with Jesus priority over the “doing” of Christianity? If so, in what ways?

This post is adapted from my newly released book “Fed Up with Flat Faith: 10 Attitudes & Actions to Pump Up Your Faith.” It highlights attitude #1: Putting Relationship Over Religion. Find out more about the book. Purchase it now on Amazon.


Read More »