What’s Your Waking Verse?

For years, my mission statement has been, “Learning it. Living it. Sharing it.” Those words express how I aim to do life. They are the heartbeat behind the prayer journal I published last year and behind every blog I write.

Well, I learned something yesterday, I’ve lived it for just a few hours, but I believe it’s a powerful practice and I’m ready to share.

So, here we go….

Yesterday morning, I was challenged by a friend’s Facebook post to consider choosing what she called a “Waking Verse.” It’s a pretty simple idea.  Choose a verse from the Bible and train yourself to make that verse your waking thought.

I loved it!

I knew immediately the verse I would choose.  It’s one that causes my heart to rejoice and praise God in good times but one that gives me hope in the dark moments of life as well. It’s a verse that comforts me by reminding me that I am not in control but He is and His power is so much greater than I can imagine.

I chose Ephesians 3:20-21. 

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. 

I decided that if this were to be my Waking Verse, it would need to be the screensaver on my phone. Like most of us, my phone is also my alarm clock and it’s the first thing I see each morning when I wake up. I knew that clearing my home screen of everything except this verse was the surest way to make it my waking thought.

So, here’s how it went down this morning.  My alarm was set for 6:30am but, as is often the case, I woke up quite a bit earlier.  I grabbed my phone to check the time…

4:30am.  Ugh! 

Now, when this happens, my mind and heart start racing with thoughts of how much more rest I need, the upcoming demands of the day and every difficult situation currently faced by me or someone I love. Oftentimes, these thoughts keep me awake, while I toss and turn until I finally relent and just get up.

But today was different.As I grabbed my phone to check the time, I was reminded of my Waking Verse. I paused and read it. Yep, at 4:30am.

As the anxious thoughts crept in, I repeated the verse in my head.  I was reminded that He has the power over every situation that my loved ones and I face.  I was reminded that I am not in control but He is.  I remembered how many times in the past, He has already done more than I could ask or imagine.  And, I remembered how He does it all for His glory!

In other words, I gave every anxious thought back to Him.  I praised Him for His power over each one.

And, then, I fell into a deep and peaceful sleep until 6:30am.

So, I challenge you to choose your Waking Verse. Please let me know what you choose and how it changes your day.

The Beauty of Community and Why it Matters

I hate weeding and I’m always amazed at how quickly a patch of weeds can overrun an empty space in my garden.  After many years of fighting weeds in the sunshine state, where everything green grows all year, I’ve learned that the best way to keep the weeds from taking over in my garden is to simply crowd them out with beautiful flowers.  You see, I’ve learned that the weeds won’t grow where healthy plants are growing tightly together. 

I believe this same truth applies to our spiritual lives.  I believe that our brothers and sisters in Christ, when planted tightly around us in authentic community, work to keep out the spiritual weeds that are prone to grow when we try to “go it alone.”

I am so grateful that God did not design us to be lone rangers in this life. He created us, yes, for fellowship with him but also for fellowship here on earth with other imperfect humans who need us as much as we need them.

These “flowers” that fight the spiritual weeds in my world are a small group of  believers who are living out this journey with me. I meet at least weekly with these friends who love me, who speak truth to me and who allow me to speak truth into their lives as well.  These sisters and brothers in Christ, each in their own way, help to crowd out the unwanted weeds growing in my life….

When I mention the weeds of discouragement taking root in my heart, these friends encourage and pray for me.

When I speak of the weeds of doubt sprouting in my mind, they inspire me with their strong faith.

When I confess weeds of sin germinating in my life, these friends remind me of who I am in Christ, remind me of his grace and inspire me to live rightly.

And, when I express weeds of grief growing in my heart, these friends mourn with me, serve me and remind me of God’s goodness.

I haven’t always had friendships like this in my life.  It doesn’t come naturally.  I have prayed for friends….wise friends, godly friends and God has provided.  But, I also have learned that to have (and to be) this kind of friend requires vulnerability.  It means showing up and sharing honestly about the hurts, fears and struggles of my life and how they are impacting my soul.  This is not easy, but I am learning that it’s worth it.

It’s worth it because vulnerability reveals our need for the Gospel and it builds intimacy in our relationships. It knits us together with others and, when we build community that allows vulnerability, we are able to better practice the love and good works that the author of Hebrews calls us to in this verse. 

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25

Lord, thank you for that we don’t have to live out this life alone.  Thank you for the gift of community.  Thank you for those you place around us who encourage us in love and good works.  Help us not to give up on each other or on the time we spend together but help us to continue to spur each other on….for our good and for your glory!

If you’d like to learn more about praying scripture, check out our prayer journals. 

 

 

Resting in God

I remember, as a young believer in my 30s, asking advice from a pastor who was many years my elder.  I don’t remember the details of the problem I was confronting, but I have never forgotten his solution.  “Just rest in Him, Kim.  Rest in Him.”

I remember thinking (but not saying), “What in the world does that mean?” His answer confused me.  What did it mean to rest? I was a young mom with three children under 3 and, to be honest, I didn’t feel that  any type of “resting” was in the realm of possibility at that time.

Many years have passed since that conversation.  Those three young children are now in college, one more has come along and she’s almost in high school.  I still struggle with resting, but I have begun to understand what that wise pastor meant when he told me to rest in God.

Resting in God is working at the things I know He has called me to do do while trusting that He will do the things only He can do.

So, “resting in him” does involve some “work.”

Resting requires the work of knowing God, which means spending time with Him….in His word and with His people. If we don’t look to His word to learn who He is, we risk creating a God of our own design.  And, if we don’t spend time with His people, our view of who God is, will be limited.

Resting also requires the work of trusting God.  In order to trust Him, we must believe that He loves us, that He is good and that His ways are always perfect.  This isn’t always easy and the more time we spend getting to know God, the easier this becomes.

Finally, resting means obeying God.  And, this is where God has this thing rigged.  Because, when we work to know Him and we begin to trust Him, we begin to see the ways that He shows up and does what only He can do.  As we work, He does a work in us….He gives us the ability to obey or, as Paul says so beautifully….”He gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him.”

Since that conversation with my pastor, I have grown in my understanding of what it means to “rest” in Him, however, that doesn’t mean I’ve perfected it.  God gives me situations every day that offer me the opportunity to rest in Him or not.  Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes I fail.  

But, what I’ve learned, is that….

Resting in Him brings freedom.  

Resting in Him means I worry less and trust more.

Resting in Him means I’m less inclined to manipulate people and situations when things don’t go my way.  

So, let’s ask God for an increasing ability to rest in Him.  Let’s work hard to show the result of our salvation as we obey God, knowing all the while that He is working in us.

Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.  Philippians 2:12b-13

To begin your journey of praying through Scripture, check out our prayer journals.

Courageous or Brave?

Our family recently had an incredible experience white-water rafting on the Ocoee River.  I love what the photographer managed to capture in this photo….a moment of pure exhilaration and fun for each of us!  When I look at myself in this picture, I see a woman who looks brave and loves adventure.  But, the thing about photos is that they only capture a moment.  This photo doesn’t tell you that, 90 minutes earlier, I was in full blown panic. 

The morning started out just fine.  We arrived at the outfitter station on time and made sure all of our waivers were signed. We then moved outside to collect our rafting gear and to hear the obligatory “safety” meeting before we left.

That’s when the trouble started….

We learned, among other things, how not to drown, what to do if we fell out, what to do if the boat flipped and how to handle ourselves if caught in a current or, worse, caught in a “washing machine” rapid.  

We also learned how to pull crew members, who fell out, back into the raft. This was communicated in a way that implied that this skill would most definitely be needed. 

No-one around me appeared concerned.

I, on the other hand, was terrified.  

To add to my fears, I suddenly remembered a couple of very scary white-water stories I had heard from family members. These stories included near-death experiences, rafters being pulled into the boat unresponsive and in shock, along with stories of bruised and battered bodies that took weeks to heal. 

By the time we got on the bus to head up river, I was so scared that I was experiencing heart palpitations.  My husband asked what was wrong.  I confessed my fear and stated that I thought I would just skip the trip.  He tried to talk me down, but my fears would not subside.

When we arrived at the “put-in” location, I still wasn’t sure what to do so I sought out our guide.  I shared that, while my family was super excited about all of us rafting together, I was scared to death and unsure that I would even go.  He offered me a bit of assurance about the trip and, while my heart was still pounding with fear, I made the decision to go so that I could share this experience with my family.

By the time this picture was taken, we had maneuvered through a few rapids and I was truly enjoying the journey.  I was so thankful I had chosen to take this adventure in spite of my fears!

The whole experience reminded me of God’s call for me (for us) to be courageous spiritually.  I find it interesting that we are called to be courageous, not brave.  These words, that we so often use interchangeably, actually imply things that are quite different.

Bravery is an ability to confront danger and/or pain without experiencing fear.  It implies a feeling of someone who is bold and daring.  A brave person may feel or appear larger than his circumstances even when he is not. 

But, courage is different.  Courage is an ability to confront danger and/or pain in spite of fear.  The courageous person takes action even though he is scared and feels small. A courageous person acts, not because he feels capable, but because of a belief that the struggle is worth it. 

So, when God calls us to be courageous as we live for Him, we have a choice.  We can give in to the fear that we may naturally feel.  Or, we can make a willful decision to act in spite of our feelings because we have faith that whatever God has called us to is worth it. 

So my prayer today is rooted in these words that Paul penned to the Corinthian church….

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

Lord, would you strengthen my faith today? Help me to stand firm in you and help me to do all that you have called me to do.  Would you equip me to be strong and courageous in spite of my fears and inabilities? I believe that your Kingdom is worth the struggle. And, Lord, would you give me the grace to do everything with love?

Check out our Praying Through Scripture Prayer Journals to learn more about praying scripture!

Give Me All You’ve Got!

Give Me All You’ve Got!

On a recent vacation, our family rented a pontoon boat on a crystal clear lake surrounded by the beautiful North Carolina mountains.  We added a little excitement to the experience by renting a tube to take the kids on some wild rides.  The workers at the marina warned us to be careful of the many tree limbs floating in the water so, as my husband acted as Captain, our sons took their spots at the front of the boat to help their dad keep an eye out for any danger in our path. My place was at the back of the boat where I could throw out the rope and keep an eye on the tube riders.  

My girls jumped out of the boat and onto the tube, eager for the experience.  My husband took it easy on them at first, but then began the inevitable challenge of trying to toss them off of the tube. He increased the throttle, took the boat to full speed and began zig-zagging across the waters.  The girls shrieked in with the excitement as they held on to the rope.  When we took a break, one of them spoke up and said, “Don’t go easy on us, Dad.  I want you to give us all you’ve got.” 

Her overwhelming trust struck me. She was not concerned with floating logs or any other possible danger or injury.  She trusted her father to take her on the adventure that he’d planned for her.  From her spot, behind the boat, she could not see what was coming and she didn’t know what she might experience, but she trusted her dad to give her the ride of her life.

I was convicted of my own lack of trust in my Heavenly Father. So often, I want Him to show me the road ahead so that I can give my approval.  I want a step-by-step plan with some nice guardrails and guarantees along the way. I want to avoid the inevitable (and sovereignly planned) bumps and detours because they remind me that I’m not really in control. 

I realized, in that moment, how often I trust ME over HIM even though His word tells me to trust Him and not to rely on my limited knowledge. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

In that moment I also realized how often I forget that all things in this life, will work for my good and His glory.  And, “all things” includes the bumps and detours, the scary moments and the times I realize just how little control I have.  

And we know that, in all things, God works for the good of this who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

So, my prayer is this…..

Lord, help me to trust you over me. Help me to remember, day by day, that your understanding is good and perfect and that mine is so limited.  Help me to remember that you work ALL things for my good.  Help me to be able to say, “Give me all you got” because I know that a life lived fully trusting in you is the greatest adventure I will ever take. 

To begin your journey of praying through Scripture, check out our prayer journals.

Intentional Living

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16

Oftentimes, when my husband and I spend a morning working in our garden, I find myself looking at the yards surrounding the lake on which we live.  I’m always struck by the large number of neighbors who have nothing but grass in their backyard….no flower beds, no trees, no shrubs.  Truth be told, sometimes I’m a little envious of their carefree backyards.  But, when I survey the beauty of the blooming flowers and shrubs in our garden and when I stop to pay attention to the bees, hummingbirds and butterflies that thrive in our little sanctuary, I am grateful for the intentional time and energy we have spent to create a place that celebrates the beauty of God’s creation.

While it takes a bit of intentional time and energy to create a garden, it takes a lifetime of intentional time and energy to follow the Lord. Ephesians 5:15-16 instructs us to live carefully in this life.  We don’t have to be intentional to be influenced by the world and the culture around us – we are surrounded by it!  But, if we want to allow Christ to create a life of beauty in us, we must carefully choose how we spend our time and our treasures.  

Praise God for his glorious grace in your life and ask Him to reveal one way you can live intentionally for Him today.

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.

Rooted in Love

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Ephesians 3:17

My husband and I recently decided to improve the landscape of a small area of our yard that contained a beautiful, 15 year-old oak tree. We were excited to plant various ferns and shade-loving flowers, however our plans were quickly foiled as we tried to dig the holes necessary to put even the smallest potted plant in the ground. You see this oak tree had grown strong and its root was system was pervasive. Its roots had spread deep and wide under the ground and we were unable to break through to plant our shade garden.

God wants us to root ourselves in Him in much the same way. He wants us to experience his love deeply and fully and allow ourselves to grow in it. He wants it to spread through us so that it impacts every bit of who we are and what we do. And, when we allow His love to root deeply in our lives, we are strong in Him and He is glorified in us.

Take a moment today to meditate on the great love of God for you in Christ Jesus and pray that you would root yourself firmly and deeply in His love.

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.

Nuggets of Wisdom

Yesterday was my 50th birthday and I received a new Bible as a gift I had requested, from my husband. 

I feel differently about this Bible than any one I’ve received in the past.  I see this Bible not only as a resource of wisdom for me, but likely a treasure that will be passed on to my children one day when I am gone.  This morning, as I opened it to read for the first time, I decided to transfer the notes I had written on the blank pages of my previous Bible.  These were not notes related to specific passages.  Instead these were little nuggets (most are not direct quotes) that I picked up from various pastors over the years. Now this new bible has fewer blank pages so I had to be a bit choosey about which nuggets actually made it into the new Bible. 

Interestingly, 10 nuggets made the cut so here’s my first ever Top 10 list…

#1. Our greatest need is not words from man, but truth from God.

#2. It is a dangerous thing to know this Word and not let it change you.

#3. Doctrine matters because what we believe determines what we do.

#4. “The more you read the Bible, and the more you meditate on it, the more astonished you will be with it.” Charles Spurgeon

#5. Strive for holiness…..rest in the Gospel!

#6. God’s gracious conversion of us creates a gospel compulsion in us.

#7. Sin includes taking a thing that is good and making it into a god.  Idols are often good things.

#8. Salvation means we are saved from the penalty of our sin; sanctification means we are being saved from the power of our sin and glorification means we will be saved from the presence of sin.

#9. Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of someone else’s sin.

#10. If you are not whole-heartedly following Jesus, you’re not following Jesus at all.

I have chosen not to include commentary on these nuggets.  I believe they each speak for themselves.  But I would be interested to know which ones you love too!

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.

Far from God

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “Far from God?”

You may think of someone living in bold rebellion….someone seemingly unaware of the guilty stain of sin on their life and disinterested in the fact that God cares to save them from it.

Or, perhaps, you think of someone who walked with the Lord for a time but turned away from faith to pursue another lifestyle, denying what they once knew to be true about God

But, if you’ve walked with the Lord for much time at all, you might also have experienced times when, even as a redeemed child of the King, sealed in your salvation, you have felt far from God.

There’s many reasons for the emotions that create this perceived distance from the Lord.  

It might be a particularly difficult season of life and you feel that God has abandoned you and that He can’t possibly care.

It might be an extremely hectic season of life and you choose self-sufficiency over God-dependency because you are too busy to pursue Him.

Or, it simply might be a particularly great season where it’s easy to enjoy the pleasures of life with barely an acknowledgement of His presence or of your great need for Him.

Whatever the reason for this distance between you and God, I can assure you of this one thing:

God has not moved. 

You have.

I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been the one too sad, too busy, too consumed with enjoying the pleasures of this world. And, it was I who had moved.  Every time.

I know this because the Bible promises over and over that God will not leave us.  He will not forsake us. He cares for us and He is with us.  

Regardless of what we feel. 

And, I have found that the way back to closeness, to intimacy with God, is always the same:

His Word.

If I’m not daily encountering His word, it’s so easy to wander.  It’s easy to forget His goodness, to feel hopeless.

It’s easy to become comfortable in my own ways, forgetting that He wants to conform me into the image of Christ.

His word keeps me focused.  It reminds me of who I am.

More importantly, it reminds me of who He is. 

His word is the still, small voice that alerts me when I begin to drift away from Him and His ways.

So, if you are feeling far from God today, I urge you to open His word….  

Read Genesis 1 and stand in awe of the one who spoke the world into existence.

Read Ephesians 2:1-10 and let your heart rejoice that God has made you alive in Christ.

Read Romans 12 and remember how to abide as a living sacrifice. 

Read Psalm 23 and let the Good Shepherd comfort your weary soul. 

Or simply pick a book (maybe a Gospel) and read a few verses each day and ask God to reveal His great wisdom through His word.

His word can do a great work in our souls.  

The Praying Through Scripture journal is a great way to encounter God’s word each day.  Filled with Scripture, prayer prompts, journaling space and even a learning device to help you memorize God’s word, it is a tool that will help you deepen your walk with the Lord.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/guilty/

Finding Joy on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and, along with it, comes many disappointed mamas. While there are mothers experiencing true sadness and grief on this day due to incredibly difficult circumstances, there are also moms whose Mother’s Day disappointment could be eliminated by a new approach to the day.

Now, to be clear, it is right and good for children to honor their mothers. It is also good for fathers to express gratitude to their wives for their role as mother. However, when we, as mothers, set our sights on being treated as queens for the day and when we establish unrealistic expectations of our loved ones, our sinful, rebel hearts are positioned for disappointment.

I know this because my heart has been there. My husband and I have been married for 26 years and I’ve been a mother for 21. I’ve had my share of amazing Mother’s Days and I’ve also experienced the sting of disappointment from unmet expectations. I guess that could be said for other holidays as well. But, Mother’s Day is one of those days that seems to hit us especially hard when it doesn’t go well. Perhaps, it is because we often find our greatest sense of belonging, of identity, in motherhood. But, that issue will need to be addressed in another post….

Over the years, I’ve learned a few lessons about contentment on Mother’s Day. I wish I could say I’ve practiced these perfectly, but that would be a lie. One of them (#4) is new for me this year, but I think it’s the one I’m most excited about….

So, here’s my lessons for defeating disappointment and finding joy on Mother’s Day….

Lesson #1 – Lower Your Expectations
Actually, just throw your expectations (especially your unexpressed ones) out the window. The only expectation you might want to keep is the expectation that the people in your family will be themselves on Mother’s Day. Example: If your toddler is in the middle of the terrible twos, it’s unlikely that he will suddenly become angelic and compliant for your special day. The same logic applies for your sassy 12 year old.

Lesson #2 – Maintain Perspective
Remember that Mother’s Day is one day of the year. Maintain a healthy perspective by remembering how your kids and husband love and appreciate you throughout the year.  Philippians 4:8 is a great verse to memorize…..

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Pray this verse and ask God to transform your mind to focus on the good in those around you. So, maybe your husband didn’t surprise you with a bouquet of your favorite flowers. Instead of focusing on the disappointment, remember how sweetly he put the baby to bed last night or how he filled up your gas tank last week. Or, how he sacrificially supports you and your family every day. There’s always something to be thankful for and, by thinking on on what is good, you are more likely to live a life of contentment.

Lesson #3 – Honor Your Mother (and your mother-in-law)
Find joy in honoring the mothers and grandmothers in your family. For years, I sacrificed what I wanted to do on Mother’s Day to spend the day with my mom. Because of her failing health, my family spent many Mother’s Days at our home, hosting and cooking for extended family members to make the day special for my mom. True confession….I sometimes resented working hard on Mother’s Day. But, my mom passed away almost three years ago. Now, I do what I want on Mother’s day. But, you know, if I had the choice, I’d be serving her that favorite BBQ dinner in our home again. Those Mother’s Day holidays spent serving her provide sweet memories and no regrets.


Lesson #4 – Honor Hurting Women
Consider serving and honoring those women who are facing truly hard struggles this Mother’s Day.

Maybe it’s a family who lost their mother this year. Serve the family in a way that honors her memory.

Or, perhaps, it’s a friend grieving her wayward child. Remind her that she’s a good mama and that she and her prodigal are deeply loved.

Maybe it’s a widow with young children. Fill in as “dad” and take the kids to the Dollar Store to shop for some small gifts to make her day special.

Or maybe it’s a friend struggling with infertility. Reminder her that she is loved and make a plan to spend time encouraging her.

Perhaps it’s a friend who lost a child prematurely. Speak words of remembrance and love to her.

And, in all cases, pray for and with these dear women in your life.

Lesson #5 – Make Some Plans
If you have something very specific (and reasonable) in mind for the day, plan it yourself. Make the lunch reservation. Check the movie time. Plan ahead to enjoy the day instead of wishing someone had surprised you with your unexpressed (or even expressed) desire. If children are involved, plan something everyone will enjoy. It’s been said that “If mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy.” But, I would argue that if nobody is happy, mama’s probably not too happy either. So, plan accordingly.

Lesson #6 – Manage Social Media
If you’re prone to discontentment on Mother’s Day, don’t even log on to Facebook or Instagram. They will only feed your expectation to be idolized by your family on this day. If you have a beautiful day and you want to share it, do so in a way that’s encouraging, uplifting and hope-filled. Perhaps, consider including some of the awkward or unexpected moments of the day. Real-life-truth on Facebook is a valuable thing. And those who struggle with Mother’s Day disappointment will appreciate your honesty…..on Monday when they log back in.

Lesson #7 – Remember Jesus
And, if you end the day feeling like you served your family when you expected them to serve you, remember this: You are never more like Jesus than when you are selflessly serving in love.

“Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45

Happy Mother’s Day

The Praying Through Scripture  is a great gift for the mothers in your life.  The journal equips women to become prayer warriors as they pray, memorize and journal through God’s words in their prayer time.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/rebel/