Sweet Fellowship

Oh how sweet it is to find a group of people who get you, huh? People with whom you can enjoy meaningful fellowship. On a professional level, I’ve found this with Fellowship of Christian Writers, the writers group I meet monthly with in Tulsa, and also through writers conferences. On a personal and spiritual level, I’ve found this throughout my life with other believers in Christ, whether through the local church or a ministry or mission group.

Today let’s consider and rejoice in the fellowship we share as God’s children. As we read the following Fellowship acrostic, let’s thank God for each aspect of fellowship made possible because of our bond in him. And let’s fellowship!

Finding others with common passions and goals and joining them.

Enjoying time together and encouraging one another in every way.

Listening to the burdens as well as the delights of fellow members of the body of Christ.

Learning from others’ knowledge and experiences and sharing your own.

Owning possessions with open hands and giving liberally to those in need.

Worshiping the Lord together in song, in prayer, and in words of testimony.

Serving alongside one another to minister to others and share the love of Christ.

Helping each other in time of need or to achieve a common goal.

Inviting new folks to join in your activities and groups.

Praying together for needs, common concerns, and for people to come to faith in God.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3 

*What aspect of fellowship do you most enjoy? Which aspect do you struggle with the most?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by Pepe Pont, Creative Commons License

Standing is Victory

As believers in Christ, we face spiritual battles daily—attacks from the same enemy who enticed and deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). Some refer to him as the devil, others call him by name—Satan.

Satan is a formidable enemy and comes at us in a multitude of ways, sometimes as a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and other times masquerading as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). And he is not alone. He leads an army of evil forces (Ephesians 6:12).

Scripture tells us we need to put on the full armor of God to do battle against this enemy of our souls (Ephesians 6:11, 13). With the armor of God firmly in place and with God’s help, we can withstand Satan’s onslaught and gain victory over him and his spiritual forces of evil.

Sometimes we may not feel like we’re gaining victory, but I love what author Sarah Young has to say in her devotional Jesus Always:

“When you’re in the thick of [spiritual] battle, declare your trust in Me—your confidence that I am with you, helping you. You may feel as if you’re losing the battle, but don’t give up! Hold tightly to my hand, and just keep standing. This is victory.”

Sometimes victory is simply standing. As weak as we may feel when we pull ourselves to our feet one more time, we are indeed victorious as we stand and refuse to let Satan keep us down.

Are you struggling to get to your feet spiritually today? Take hold of God’s hand. He will help you stand.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. . . put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10, 13 NIV

*What have you found helps you the most when you’re in the midst of a spiritual battle?

The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*Flickr photo by pic fix, Creative Commons License

Guest Blogger Julie Gillies: Let’s Choose Brave


I’d like to welcome writer friend and author Julie Gillies to my blog today as she shares an excerpt adapted from her recently released book From Hot Mess to Blessed. I’ve already read the book and it’s filled with biblical wisdom, encouragement, and hope. I pray Julie’s words bless you today!

Let’s Choose Brave

Bravery has ripple effects. We rarely consider this (at least I don’t) because we’re so caught up in the everyday and the here and now. Life’s daily battles are intense, and sometimes it’s all we can do to remain focused and keep plowing forward. Yet our courageous choices act as a gleaming machete, slicing a path through the thick jungle of fear that entangles and trips.

Choosing brave helps us fully believe and embrace and pursue God’s promises while inspiring those around us and making a way for those behind us.

A key component in learning to embrace bravery is praying brave prayers—prayers that focus less on avoiding fear or keeping fear away from us and more on courage and confidence and holy mettle. Though we might not always feel fearless, by praying for specific qualities from Scripture, we can fear less.

– Instead of praying that fear will be far from us, we can pray for strong, bold, and very courageous hearts (see Joshua 1:9) when fear comes near.

– Instead of asking God to remove all the sources of fear in our lives, we can pray for His grace to run toward the big, scary things with great courage (see 1 Samuel 17:48).

– Instead of praying that fear will leave us alone, we can pray that when we are afraid, we will have confidence and put our reliance on God (see Psalm 56:3).

– Instead of asking God for all fear in our lives to vanish, we can pray that His peace that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus—and supersede all fear (see Philippians 4:6-7).

– Instead of feeling alone and fearful, we can pray to consistently remember God is with us, and we don’t have to fear. King David declared, “The Lᴏʀᴅ is for me, so I will have no fear” (Psalm 118:6 ɴʟᴛ).

I think I need to write the above verse on a Sticky Note and attach it to my forehead. If I had it my way, I’d never wrestle with fear again. It would be completely and permanently eradicated from my life (Can I get an amen?). But this side of eternity, I don’t know how realistic that goal is. I think we will all have times when we must battle fear, but it is always for a purpose.

Facing down fear teaches us how to engage the enemy, to fight, to stand, and to prevail. So be beautifully clothed in His mighty strength and the holy dignity He lavishly provides. Laugh without a care, free from fear’s taunts and digs. I see us—hot messes though we may yet be—laughing beautiful, musical laughs, heads tossed back, and hearts lifted toward heaven because we have nothing to fear.

This is an adapted excerpt from the book, “From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything”, Harvest House Publishers 2017. Used with permission.

*Question from Cheryl: What situation in your life is God calling you to choose brave for today?

Julie K. Gillies is the author of From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything and the devotional, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul. Healed from a traumatic childhood, Julie’s message helps women pray, know, and believe God’s Word. Julie is the joyful wife of Keith, mom of two soldiers and one civilian, and Grammy of four. She loves bicycling , any day without humidity, and hanging out with the entire family at home, especially on days when her house is clean. Find FREE resources and connect with Julie at www.JulieGillies.com .

*Photos courtesy of author.

Casting a Shadow

Shadows. They can be scary, can’t they? They hold the unknown. They sometimes even hold danger.

In life, we encounter shadows of a figurative kind. The menacing ones seem gigantic. Things like cancer, terrorism, financial problems, loss of loved ones, and divorce. Shadows like that can nearly suffocate us.

But not all shadows in life are negative. This time of year—in the heat of summer—shadows provide shade and welcome relief. We don’t run away from them. Instead we run to them. Some we welcome with open arms.

Loved ones cast a comforting shadow when we’re hurting. Mentors provide the shade of experience and encouragement as we try to grow. Friends offer the shelter of companionship when we’re lonely or needing some fun. And the Word of God stands ever-ready to give us whatever kind of refuge we need. No, not all shadows are negative.

The question we need to consider is what kind of shadow are we casting today in the lives of those who know us? What would they say about our influence or our impact on them if given the opportunity?

Do we bring others (or maybe just certain people) down by our negative or critical attitudes and words? Do we add a dark cloud of worry wherever we go? Or instead, do we lift people’s spirits with our happy dispositions and words of encouragement? Do we cast a ray of sunshine instead of an unwelcome shadow?

If you’re like me, it may be a mixture of both. Sometimes our families get an up-close and personal taste of the negative side of our personalities. Hopefully, those are balanced out by all the positive influences we bring into their lives.

Let’s make sure our shadows—whether with family or with the world in general—are the kind people run to, the kind that provide shade and welcome relief.

Let’s cast shadows that people welcome with open arms.

“O LORD, you are my God . . . You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:1a, 4a

*Who has cast a positive shadow in your life?

*My photo

Powerful Way to Pray for Those in Ongoing Difficulty

Most of us know someone who deals daily with an ongoing serious difficulty of some sort. Maybe we know someone with a chronic illness or problem with pain or someone in a caregiving situation. We may know someone trapped in an abusive relationship or someone whose job places them in the midst of crisis situations every day.

Whatever the particulars, our friends or loved ones enduring such stress likely feel overwhelmed and beyond discouraged much of the time. If we’ve ever experienced such a season ourselves, we understand how a person can come to the end of his or her physical, mental, and/or emotional reserves and wonder how they can possibly go on.

As their friends and loved ones, we feel helpless to fix the problem, but one way we can always help is to pray. And one powerful way to pray is to pray through the Psalms for them—slowly but surely.

If you’re like me, you’ve prayed the Psalms for yourself at one time or another, but we can also perform this wonderful ministry for those who desperately need to be upheld by our prayers. And if we pray just a few verses or portion of a chapter for them each day, our prayers will be long-term, just like the trial they are enduring.

We can simply start at the beginning of Psalms and read and pray through the verses with our friends or loved ones in mind, personalizing our prayers by using their names and the specifics of whatever their ongoing difficulty. Not every psalm will be completely applicable to suffering or difficulty, but let’s pray those scriptures for them as well. After all, each scripture prayed for those who are hurting will help strengthen them in some way.

Here’s an example from Psalm 3:1-4 NIV.  I’ll list the verses first and then personalize them in prayer for a loved one (using a fictitious name.)

“Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
‘God will not deliver him.’

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Prayer: Oh Lord, how many are Katie’s health problems. How many conditions rise up against her! These health issues seem to taunt her, saying “God will not deliver you.” But you, O Lord, be a shield about Katie, be her glory, the One who lifts up her head. Help her to call out to you and see you answer from your holy mountain.”

Let’s pray the Psalms for our hurting friends. Let’s hold them up with the powerful Word of God.

*Has God brought someone you know to mind? I have been praying the Psalms for a loved one for a few months now and will continue as God leads.

*Flickr photo by shaunanyi, Creative Commons License