Let’s Give Ourselves a Time Out—For Gratitude!

Too often we wait until November, the month of thanks—or even the very end of the year—to focus on things we’re grateful for, but let’s take a time out to do it today.

After all, we should have thankful hearts all year long, right? Sometimes we let life blaze past us, forgetting to truly appreciate and express gratitude for the blessings in our lives. So let’s do our best from now on to continually cultivate thankful hearts—and we can start by being intentional about it today.

Since we’ve almost reached the midpoint of 2017, let’s each give some thought to the top ten things we’re most grateful for so far this year. Limiting it to this year will help us focus our thoughts on the most recent events in our lives rather than thinking of the general things that always come to mind when giving thanks.

Here’s my Top Ten Gratitude List thus far for 2017:

  1. I’m thankful for being able to trust God for the outcome of a big personal prayer concern as well as some work-related concerns. So grateful for the peace and rest I find in trusting him.
  2. I’m thankful for the times we’ve spent with our daughters, sons-in-law, and two sets of twin grandsons. So thankful for sweet baby smiles and little boy laughter, for snuggly cuddles and precious hugs. Thankful for trips to the zoo and for seeing baby milestones achieved.
  3. I’m thankful my dad, my sister Carolyn, and I got to go meet the newest member of our extended family—Jaxon, my niece Joanna’s baby and my sister Janice’s first grandbaby.
  4. I’m thankful for God’s Word and how he has used it to guide me and to strengthen and encourage me and how he’s allowed me to share it with others through my writing.
  5. I’m thankful to have reached one of my main author marketing goals for the year—participating in bridal fairs.  This has been a challenge because of high vendor fees, but God has led me to two so far on the lower end of the expense spectrum.
  6. I’m thankful for safe travel in all my trips to see our grandkids and also travel associated with my writing. For example, on one trip to Little Rock, I had three close calls on the interstate. I don’t take safe travel for granted.
  7. I’m thankful for the beautiful job Stephanie Wheatley of Wheatley Design did on the Wedding Inspiration cards I developed. Also very thankful for God’s leading in this project as well as my daughter Kristin’s help with various aspects of it.
  8. I’m thankful for good health for Don and me through cold and flu season. Also very thankful that God kept our grandbabies protected from the flu.
  9. I’m thankful for a quick getaway to Branson with Don in May. It had been over five years since we had been there. It was so good to enjoy Silver Dollar City once again—a place where my entire family has many great memories together.
  10. And finally, I’m thankful Don is carrying a lighter teaching load in summer school this summer. Since his Microbiology class is filled beyond capacity, he could never have kept up with all the extra work that causes plus teach Anatomy & Physiology the way he normally does as well.

So there’s my top ten—how about yours? I think you’ll find that when you get started, it will be hard to stop at ten!

“Come and see what God has done, the amazing things he has done for people.” Psalm 66:5 NCV

*What are you grateful for so far in 2017?

*Flickr photo by RnD.de.Portraits, Creative Commons License

15 Ways to Plant the Word of God in Our Lives

As believers, we need the Word of God firmly planted in our lives.

Scripture teaches that God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our paths (Psalm 119:105) and that it is a vital part of our spiritual armor in the fight against our enemy Satan and his forces of evil (Ephesians 6:17.) The Word is God-breathed and is useful in many ways, equipping us for good works (2 Timothy 3:16.) It is living and active and judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts (Hebrews 4:12.) No doubt about it, we need to be rooted and established in the Word of God.

Weaving the Word of God into the fabric of our lives may seem like a daunting task—after all, it IS a big book—but when we take things a step at a time and use a variety of methods, it is indeed possible. And remember, God will bless our efforts as we seek to grow closer to him and honor him with our lives.

Here are 15 ways to plant God’s Word in our hearts and minds:

  1. Read a passage of scripture every day, asking God to bless the reading of his Word.
  2. Be part of a Bible study group/small group on an ongoing basis. Study the Word.
  3. As you read the Word, underline words, phrases, and entire verses that really speak to you.
  4. Memorize scripture using a systematic plan for memorizing and reviewing. Use whatever plan and method works for you in your current stage of life.
  5. Find a translation you enjoy reading that has study notes/footnotes included.
  6. Incorporate scripture into your prayers. It’s a powerful way to pray and also reinforces the scripture in your mind.
  7. Sing the Word—either songs you create as you worship or praise songs you already know.
  8. Read books, magazines, and online content that include scripture.
  9. Listen to teaching from the Word.
  10. Read passages from the Word multiple times, emphasizing different words each time.
  11. Share what you’re learning from the Word with others in ordinary conversations,  Bible study groups, and blogs. Share scripture via social media.
  12. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring the Word to mind as you need it.
  13. Use the Word to battle Satan when he attacks or whispers lies to you.
  14. Apply what you’re learning from the Word to your life. Live the principles and wisdom you’re discovering.
  15. Become a teacher of the Word yourself in a Sunday School class or Bible study or through a writing or speaking ministry.

I hope we’ve each found something helpful here today as we seek to firmly plant God’s Word in our hearts and minds. I know God will honor our efforts and use his Word powerfully in our lives. May we bring him glory, honor, and praise!

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:47 NIV

*Which of these methods is most helpful to you in planting the Word in your life? What other ways come to mind?

*Flickr photo by Lel4nd, Creative Commons License

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

A Prayer for Your Summer Plus My May Blogging Break

As I mentioned in my Spirit and Soul Refreshment for Busy Lives post a couple of weeks ago, May can be one of the busiest months of the year. And this year is no exception for me. Probably not for you either, huh?

To do my part in allowing a little breathing room, I’m taking a blogging break the last half of this month. So no worries if it appears I’ve abandoned my blog over the next couple of weeks. I’ll be back with regular weekly posts sometime when June is bustin’ out all over. Let’s say June 6th. June should be in full bustin’ mode by then, right?

Before I break away, though, I’d love to pray for us all as we prepare to head into summer and all that it holds. May this prayer be a blessing to you as we gear up for the upcoming summer season. Feel free to keep it handy to give needed encouragement and refreshment as the days and weeks unfolds.

Pray with me, won’t you?

Lord, you are the Maker of every season and we thank you for the gift of summer. It’s a time to break from many of our normal routines and enjoy more time outdoors in your glorious creation, more time with our families and friends, and more opportunities for travel adventures. Thanks so much for such a wonderful gift.

Guide us, Lord, as we make plans. Help us not to pack so much into the fleeting weeks of summer that we end up feeling stressed rather than refreshed. And please grant your blessing, Lord, that all logistics for special activities and travels will flow smoothly so we can have truly refreshing times instead of those marked by frustration or disappointment. We don’t take mercies like this for granted so we ask humbly and thank you in advance.

Please protect us, Lord, as we do things like hike and swim and play sports. Watch over us, please, in our travels so that we will arrive safely at every destination. Protect us as well from our enemy Satan as he continues to try to undermine our relationship with you and with others. He doesn’t take a season off. Please surround us with your protection.

And finally, Lord, please bless us with lots of sweet times with you and with loved ones this summer. Grant us memories that will make us smile for years to come and also grant us periods of rest that will refresh and re-energize us to get back to normal routines in the fall. And may we shine the light of your love everywhere we go and in all that we do. May you be glorified in our summer, O Lord! In your precious name we pray, Amen.

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us” Psalm 67:1 NIV

*Do you have any special plans or activities that you’re looking forward to this summer? I’d love to hear about it!

The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out early this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo (taken in the Cleveland Botanical Garden)

What Will I Do When a Storm Descends

*I pray this encore post from April 2011 blesses you today!

A potential health crisis threatened our family a few weeks ago. A cancer scare. Like storm clouds hovering overhead, thoughts of “what if” cast their shadow for days. We deliberately tried to shove them aside, but they were still there, hiding just beyond the surface.

I won’t go into specifics of who and what, but the scare did not involve an extended family member, but one within our immediate family. Yes, that’s right. It hit close. Too close. And too unthinkable — though I had to remind myself, like so many others have had to do, not to ask “Why us?” but “Why not us?”

Thank God, benign test results relieved our fears, but those days of waiting gave rise to countless thoughts, feelings, and ultimately a few overarching questions: If it proves to be cancer, what will we do with our faith in God? Will we stay faithful and continue to trust him even if the news is devastating? Or will we pull away — and stay away — from him, losing faith that he is good and that he loves us? In other words, will we run to him or away from him?

Mercifully, God spared us from having to live out the answers to those questions in full, but we tried to prepare ourselves for the worst. We remembered the truths of God’s love for us and of how he can bring something good out of a heartbreaking situation. We reminded ourselves that he would be with us every step of the way. You might say we were preparing ourselves to be faithful, preparing ourselves to trust him, no matter the outcome.

One day a similar life test will go differently. One day we’ll have to live out the answers to these faith questions in full. Some of us reading this today have, in fact, already faced such a crisis, but even so, will we be ready for the next one? Join me today in considering, “What will I do with my faith when the unthinkable happens? What will I do when the storm descends?”

“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge…” Psalm 141:8a

*What helps you stay faithful to your faith in God when times of heartbreak come?

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right!

*My photo