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Archive for the ‘Praise’ Category

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Photo by stock images found on freedigitalphotos.net

Do you feel frazzled, confused, anxious, defeated? Like you’re running in circles, wearing yourself out without getting anywhere? Are you spending your days and nights stressing and angsting over everything from your children’s spiritual health to your job security?

Whatever we fear, whatever the struggle, there’s one answer: Fear of the Lord. Because fear of the Lord and fear of the world cannot coexist. At each moment, we’re fearing one of the other.

One depletes us, the other, like Proverbs 3:7-8 promises, nourishes us. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (NIV).

Fear of the Lord, which is the act of surrendering to God in reverence and awe and resting in who He is, what He’s promised, and what He’s done, changes everything!

Duffey_Myers300In the following post, today’s guests Betsy Duffey andLaurie Myers reminded me of this life-encompassing truth as they shared their thoughts on a pack of stupid, smelly animals. Read her thoughts then share yours. But first, I wanted to let you know, there’s still time to enter last week’s book give-away drawing. Go here to learn more.

AND… We’re launching another give-away today! The Writing Sisters are giving away a copy of their latest release, The Shepherd’s Song, to one of you (in the continental US), randomly selected from the comments left on today’s post.

Learning from The Shepherd by Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers 

Have you ever thought about yourself as a sheep? In the Bible people are often compared to sheep. As we wrote The Shepherd’s Song we needed some firsthand IMG_0398experience with sheep so we found a farm in North Georgia and set up a visit. See if you can find yourself in what we learned.

The Shepherd prepares good things for us

As the shepherd filled up the feed buckets, he explained the importance of the formula of the food. Sheep cannot eat regular feed because it contains copper, but the feed he prepares is safe.

Carefully, the shepherd measured the quantity. “Sheep don’t know when to stop eating,” he explained. “Their appetite is bottomless. They will eat anything and they will eat until it is unhealthy.”

IMG_0380The shepherd poured out the healthy food into troughs so that each sheep could get to the food without crowding or leaving out the weak ones. The food was for all.

Our heavenly Shepherd knows what we need. He gives spiritual food that will satisfy, not like the world. And He gives the right amount and He gives to all.

The Shepherd protects the sheep

We were leaning over the wired enclosure to get better photographs when the shepherd called, “Be careful that’s an electric fence!” Quickly we jumped back. It turned out that only the bottom wire was electric. The electric fence may shock the sheep at first, until they learn to stay away, but it also keeps out predators that can kill them.

Our heavenly Shepherd protects us in ways we do not know or understand.

The Shepherd lets the sheep experience consequences.

Ultra, one of the bigger sheep ate too fast. The dry food caught in her throat and she began to gag. The shepherd shook his head. “She eats too much, too fast, and then can’t swallow it all. She has to work it out for herself.”

It was painful to watch her struggling to heave up the dry oats in her throat. She coughed and jumped and strained. But the shepherd could only watch. He was with her, but let her work out the problem caused by her own actions.

Our Shepherd may, at times, let us work out our problems, but He is always there with us.

Gratitude pleases the Shepherd.

The sheep’s pen was bare of grass, but we could see the meadow adjacent where the shepherd had planted rye grass for the winter. “What I love,” he explained, “is when I take the sheep to the grassy meadow to feed. They have all the food they want, they don’t need me, but some of them still come to me.”

Our Shepherd loves it when we come to Him in gratitude.

Time with the Shepherd makes the sheep love Him more.

Amanda was the oldest sheep, and older sheep have acquired wisdom. Amanda was a stabilizing force in the flock, and the most savvy about dangers. She was also the most grateful. She never misses an opportunity to spend time with the shepherd. “Even when there’s no food involved she’ll come out to see me,” he said.

Time with our Shepherd helps us love Him more.

Our field trip to learn about sheep and shepherds turned into a rich learning experience, one that we will not forget. God always grows us and teaches us sometimes in unexpected ways! Did you see yourself in any of the examples?

The Writing Sisters, Betsy Duffey and Laurie Myers were born into a writing family, and began critiquing manuscripts at an early age for their mother, Newbery winner Betsy Byars.  They went on to become authors of more than thirty-five children’s novels. Their first book for adults, The Shepherd’s Song, is being released in paperback April 2015.

You can connect with Laurie and Betsy on their monthly newsletter where they send out updates and their popular free devotional books. Contact them at WritingSisters.com and find them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

Grab your copy of The Shepherd’s Song here.

Grunge ornamental cover for an album with photosThe Shepherd’s Song:

Follow the incredible journey of one piece of paper—a copy of Psalm 23—as it travels around the world, linking lives and hearts with its simple but beautiful message.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures…

Shortly before a tragic car accident, Kate McConnell wrote down the powerful words of Psalm 23 on a piece of paper for her wayward son. Just before she loses consciousness, Kate wonders if she’s done enough with her life and prays, “Please, let my life count.”

Unbeknownst to Kate, her handwritten copy of Psalm 23 soon begins a remarkable journey around the world. From a lonely dry cleaning employee to a soldier wounded in Iraq, to a young Kurdish girl fleeing her country, to a Kenyan runner in the Rome Invitational marathon, this humble message forever changes the lives of twelve very different people. Eventually, Kate’s paper makes it back to its starting place, and she discovers the unexpected ways that God changes lives, even through the smallest gestures.

With beautiful prose evocative of master storyteller Andy Andrews’s The Butterfly Effect, this story will touch your heart and remind you of the ways God works through us to reach beyond what we can imagine.

Let’s talk about this! Besty said, “God always grows us and teaches us sometimes in unexpected ways! Did you see yourself in any of the examples?”

What are some unexpected ways God has grown and/or taught you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Susan Aken’s title says it all, summing up our greatest cause for praise:A Call to Praise icon 2

Please Don’t Give Me What I Deserve!

“Hey! I have a right to be in this lane. Get out of my way!”

“Why is my pizza cold? I have a right to receive it hot and fresh. I paid for it.”

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by stockimages taken from freedigitalphotos.net

“Why isn’t my cable operating? I have a right to good service.”

We love to talk about rights in our culture. We feel entitled to many things. We deserve to be happy. We believe we have the right to everything from unhindered access while driving to being first in line at the grocery store to having our family the way we want them. After all, we have the right to life, liberty and the

Photo by Susan Aken

Photo by Susan Aken

pursuit of happiness. Don’t we?

But do we deserve all that? To “deserve” means to be worthy, to have a claim to or be qualified for (reward or punishment), to be entitled to. It implies that we have earned this right.

What have we earned the right to experience?

The Bible says, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Romans 3:10 and “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a

Since we are all sinners and the wages of sin is death, what we have “earned” the right to is death. What each human being “deserves” is eternal separation from God. This truth is what makes Psalm 103:10 some of the most wonderful words ever written:

He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Praise God He does not give us what we deserve!

Why not? He is perfect and holy. He has the right to punish our sins.

Instead He chose to rescue us. He sent Jesus, His perfect Son, as a baby who would grow up, suffer and die for us as hopeless

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by bela_kiefer taken from freedigitalphotos.net

sinners. Why would He do that?

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear him.” Psalm 103: 8,11

His great love gives us what we don’t deserve.

I have brief moments when I think I am good. Than in an instant I am filled with envy, jealousy, unkindness or selfishness so much that I know I don’t deserve His grace. My heart apart from Him is wicked.

Those moments help me realize that I don’t “deserve” anything but I am given grace in everything.

That He could love me in spite of knowing what my sinful heart is like overwhelms me.

     Father, thank you for loving me so much you were willing to send Jesus to die for my sins. Thank you that you do not give me what I deserve. Thank you that I am free from the penalty of my sin. Nothing can compare to you! I cling to your grace. I rest in your abundant love.

Susan013Susan Aken is a homemaker, substitute teacher and writer. She lives in Nebraska but was born and raised in Oklahoma. Her greatest love is for the Lord Jesus Christ who has redeemed her and set her free. Her other loves are her husband and son (she is now an empty nester). Susan enjoys reading, photography, spending time with family and friends and writing. She has a heart for prayer ministry and loves her church! Visit her online at Soaring With Butterfly Wings and check out her inspiring photos at SusanAkenInspiringPhotos

Amazing Hope: Reflections on Hope in the Midst of a Crazy World:Amazing Hope - cover sunrise and sea

This is a 40-day devotional book on the topic of hope. Each day’s devotion includes verses from the Bible, inspirational thoughts by the author, reflection questions and a prayer. The topics include many of the struggles common to us all such as parenting, death, fear, sin, and the futility of daily life. There are also devotions on the character of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the power of God’s word and other topics. These writings express the hope that gets me through each day and I pray they will also help you.

For those following our Call to Praise Blog Hop Posts, visit the following:

April 2: Marji Laine hosted on Asslyson Carter’s blog, discussing what it means to live anew in God’s grace.

April 4: Susan Aken will visit Delia Latham’s blog to share her thoughts on Psalm103:14, discussing the what it means when Scripture says God knows we are weak

April 9: Carol McClain will post right here, on my blog, discussing God’s sovereignty and power.

April 11th I’ll tie up our series on Ginger Solomon‘s blog, calling each of us to be fully present when we praise.

And before you go, to help us truly appreciate what Christ did for us, fellow Faith, Friends, and Chocolate blogger and biblical fiction writer Carole Towriss wrote a powerful story on the resurrection, told through the eyes of one of Jesus’ executioners. You can read part one here, part two here, and part three here.

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Photo by cuteimage taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by cuteimage taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Is your hope rightly placed or are you headed for are you headed for a painful fall?

I’ve had many times, way too many, where I’ve placed my hope in the wrong things. My abilities, our stock portfolio, my husband’s job, friends. And each time, those things ended up disappointing me for various reasons, but one rock–a firm, unmovable foundation–remained unshakable. Today a sweet friend–my coffee-drinking buddy!–Angela D. Meyer, author of Where Hope Starts, shares her thoughts on rightly placed hope.

But first, I wanted to announce the winner of last week’s give-away. Audrey, congrats! You won again! I select winners quite randomly, so I’d say the fact that you won again must mean God really wants to encourage  you. I love that about Him! I’ll send you an email shortly connecting you with Johnnie.

Rightly Placed Hope by Angela D Meyer

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy publicity pic for bioSpirit, whom he has given us.

Romans 5:5 (NIV)

I was only five at the time my grandpa came to visit us. As I remember it, I was playing in the backyard and Grandpa was just sitting there enjoying the out of doors. (He was a farmer, more inclined to the country than the city).

I really wanted my grandpa to play. After much cajoling (I have to admit to taking a bit of license on this point with the memory of a five-year-old) he finally relinquished.

He looked me in the eye. “You know what? If you’ll run around the house 5 times (Maybe it was less or maybe it was more. The point – he wanted me out of his hair for a bit.) you’ll have 2 baby cows following you.”

“Wow.” And off I ran. Just like that I put my hope in what my grandpa promised. I wanted to have a couple of cows of my own.

If you haven’t caught it by now, my grandpa was pulling a joke on me. When I arrived at his chair after rounding the house the required amount of times, he was laughing.

I was crying. “There aren’t any cows.”

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo Dominici taken from freedigitalphotos.net

He laughed some more and pointed to the back of my legs. “There are two calves following you right there.”

The light bulb went on in my mind and I understood. But it didn’t feel like something to laugh about. I was vastly disappointed.

When we place our hope in the word of man, we will eventually be disappointed. But God always keeps his word. It may look different than we expect, but God always comes through.

Does that mean we kill all desire for people to do the right thing? No. But it does mean we recognize that people are not perfect and they will fall short of our expectations. And our joy, our peace, our life does not depend on them coming through for us. 

Opening ourselves up for the possibility of the best from people, will open the likelihood of being hurt. But with our hope in God – we will be comforted, we will be strengthened, we will find peace in the midst of the pain.

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD”  (Psalm 31:24 NIV).

***

Whether through story, blog posts, or video devotional here on the pages of my website, my books or a connection on one of her other social media sites, Angela D. Meyer’s desire is to  eencourage women in the midst of a broken life on their faith journey. Because life goes on even when its a mess. And when broken pieces litter the path, we need a little extra encouragement. Connect with her online at AngelaDMyer.com

Where Hope Starts Cover resizedWhere Hope Starts:

Karen Marino’s life is a nightmare. The New York City restaurant manager is a professional success, but her marriage is in shambles. When her husband, Barry shows up drunk at her restaurant, she loses both. She flees The Big Apple and returns to her Midwestern home to sort through her options. But instead of answers, she finds an old boyfriend ready to rekindle romance, a family full of secrets and an angry brother bent on revenge. Karen wants to do the right thing, but how do you forgive the unforgivable? As she searches for the answer, she uncovers a family secret that threatens to tear them all apart. Can she find her way back to the place Where Hope Starts?

Buy it here!

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Can you share a time when you’d placed your hope in something or someone other than Christ? What happened? How does centering our hope in Christ lead to lasting peace and joy? (Please not, by joy I am not speaking of a temporary emotionally happy state but rather the deep assurance that comes from knowing Christ and resting in His will.)

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And before you leave, make sure to check out the next stops on our Call to Praise Blog Hop:

March 21: Allyson Carter will discuss Psalm 103 verse 3, hosted on Carol McClain’s blog

March 24: Sarah Ruut hosted on Marji Laine’s blog, discussing how God’s Blessings in our lives can give us strength.

March 26: Delia Latham will visit Carol McClain’s blog to talk about verse 6 and how God’s justice makes a difference in our lives

March 30: Susan Aken will visit my blog, right here, to discuss Psalm 103:9-12, focusing on God’s underserved grace

I also encourage you to sign up for my free quarterly devotion, which I and 7 other Christian authors put out. In it, you’ll receive scenes from a serial story available only in the newsletter, devotions, short stories of varied genres, recipes, and more!

Subscribe to our free quarterly newsletter!

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Just when I’d begun to dive full-in to this faith thing, questions began to arise. Big questions. Questions that, depending on the answers, had the capacity to completely derail my faith. And that terrified me. It was ID-100181314as if, with every question, I was teetering on the verge of hell. Luckily, God was holding tight to me, using my doubts and questions to draw me deeper into Him.

He’s amazing that way.

And I just realized… my short story, without explanation, will leave you baffled, wondering how it possibly connects to physics and Marcia’s excellent post. So, let me explain. :) My questions had to do with biblical authority and credibility. I wanted to know if there was evidence to back up what I read. How did we know this book was God’s Word? How did we know Jesus truly was who He said He was? A man swallowed then regurgitated by a whale? Seriously?

These questions didn’t just arise my curiosity. They completely unsettled me, and I had to pursue them, regardless of where they led me. (I’m insanely stubborn that way.) So I spent the next three-to-five years studying EVERYTHING I could find: flood geology, archeology, astrophysics, the writings of the apostolic fathers, and the list goes on.

IMG_1976Here’s what I found: God uses it all. He is in all, the Creator of all, and the One who holds everything together. And yes, He can and will  even us physics to reveal another layer of His unfathomable glory. This is a hugely long intro into an amazing post written by Marcia Gunnett Woodard.

Faith and Physics by Marcia Gunnett Woodard

            God speaks to each of us differently. With me, it’s often through words and ideas—His, mine, or someone else’s. Math and science, not so much. The other day, though, He and I had an interesting conversation about physics and walking on water. I was reading the story of Peter going to Jesus, walking on the water.

Matthew 14:25-31

…He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him…they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus [said], “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  (NASB)

 

I heard God whisper, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

It was the same old story it had always been, but I sensed Him wanting me to see it through new eyes. I looked at it again and heard Him whisper again.

“How many times have you jumped in a pool? What’s wrong with this picture?”

I started thinking about jumping into a pool, about how short the time is, between when you leave the land, and when you are completely immersed. That was when I saw it!

I searched physics websites, asking the question, “How long does it take a six foot tall, 200 pound man to drop six feet?” I gave Peter the benefit of the doubt, though it is highly unlikely that he was that large. You know what I discovered?

They estimate the amount of time for a 200 pound man to drop six feet would be…ID-10064783

0.15 seconds!

15/100 of a second!

Isn’t that amazing? Doesn’t that just make you want to wave your hands in the air, shout “Amen!” and get up and dance? It doesn’t? Maybe I should explain.

The Scripture says Peter saw the wind, got afraid, and began to sink. Then he called out, “Lord, save me!” Or in another translation, “Master, help me!” But from the time Peter was standing on top of the water to the time the water closed over his head should have been 0.15 seconds! Do you know how much you can say in 0.15 seconds? I timed it with a stopwatch.

            In 0.15 seconds, the most you can say is, “Muh!”

What if it means that in spite of the wind, in spite of his fear, in spite of the fact that Jesus didn’t seem to be near enough to reach him, or help him, or get there in time, Peter wasn’t really sinking? The Scripture says, “…he began to sink.” His feet may have been getting wet, but it sounds like he wasn’t going under! Jesus’ miracle-working power was still keeping him above the waves.

And the same is true for us. No matter how bad the circumstances around us look. No matter how frightened we are. No matter how far away Jesus feels in that moment, He is there! And His resurrection power is at work in us, keeping us safe ’til the storm passes by.

How about it? A lesson on faith from a law of physics? Can I get an “Amen”?

 

***

        Marcia studied English and writing at Indiana Wesleyan University, and has been a published writer for over 30 years. She has written devotional and inspirational articles, newspaper stories, theatre scripts, short fiction, and children’s books. She is also a freelance editor and writing consultant. Her “day jobs”—newspaper carrier, Avon lady, barista—have fed her incurable fascination with people, and she enjoys writing to explore the commonalities and diversities of the human race. She sees her mission as using the parabolic arc of story to launch projectiles of truth and grace past barricaded minds and into walled-off hearts. Visit her online at her blog, It’s All About Marcia and website, and connect with her on Twitter (@MarGunWoo) and visit her Facebook page: Marcia Gunnett Woodard

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! Did Marcia’s post increase your appreciation of this miraculous account? When has God captured your interest with a story, sentence, or word, inviting you to dig deeper, and what were the results? I’m pretty sure we all have times of doubting and questioning. Can you share yours? Did God use your questions to deepen your faith, and if so, how? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I invite you to view the Christmas story through, perhaps a deeper lens. God chose a rather unlikely cast to share in the glorious incarnation. Kinda makes you wonder why, huh? And what was the real reason Mary and Joseph couldn’t find a place to stay? Join me on Renee’ Blare’s blog as I talk about this Unexpected Christmas Cast.

Oh, and some fun news! Readers have been messaging me to tell me Amazon is shipping my second novel. Woo-hoo! I can’t wait to hear what they (and you?) think of it! And I absolutely can’t wait to get myWhenDawnBreaks_N154102_300dpiRGB author copies. It’s always fun to hold an actual copy of your book. And to blast pictures of you doing so all across FB. haha.

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If you’re reading this post right now, God has a plan for you. A glorious, fulfilling plan that can quicken even the most lethargic pulse. One that can give meaning to the mundane and add joy to the most excruciating–or mind numbing–of trials.

I’ve stayed home for over seventeen years now. That’s been 17 years of making beds, doing dishes, and ID-100144935washing stinky socks. Seventeen years of completing tasks most would never noticed and many of which would only need to be completed again.

I must have spent hours playing dolls. Yes, I know, engaging in “floor time” with our children creates priceless memories and deepens the maternal-child bond. I got that, and I was grateful for it. But a grown woman can only burp a plastic doll so many times before her sanity begins to wane.

When our daughter was young, and my days were spent singing lullabies (the same ones over and over) and waiting, in a silent house, for her to awake from a nap, the monotony of it all became unbearable!

I felt insignificant and unvalued, and began to wonder, what if I never made the bed today? What if I let the dishes sit? Extrapolate this out… What if I did nothing but occupy space and take in air? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care?

In other words: Does this--whatever this was at that moment–really matter?

But then one day, an idea hit: What if I used our play time as an avenue for learning? About numbers, colors, shapes, letters, Jesus? And so, I began to count the dolls clothing as we dressed her for the hundredth time. Our Barbies went to church and learned to pray. We formed shapes and created patterns with the Legos, and halved our pancakes at breakfast and sandwiches at lunch.

As we did, as I began to see purpose in every activity, the monotony gave way to excitement. Because the mundane had meaning.

We were created to do, but not just to do; to do that which has meaning. Meaning that will last beyond today.

I love how Paul puts it in Ephesians 2:10  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago” (NLT).

God’s masterpiece. Handiwork. Workmanship. Lovingly, attentively, purposefully crafted, moment by moment, experience by experience, with every trial, setback, and triumph.

All of it has deep and eternal purpose.

Each of us have a deep and eternal purpose, a role to play, one that was planned by our Creator long before we took our first breathe.

Pause and contemplate that for a moment. Throughout our life, from the times we took our first steps to this day and until we breath our last, God has been watching us. Molding us. Directing us.

Leading us from the meaningless and mundane toward the abundant life Jesus promised.

Our job? Keep stepping, with our eyes on our Lord and Savior, in surrendered obedience.

Let’s talk about this. Where are you today? Have you discovered your purpose and calling? If you have, let me ask you–what is the human element? In other words, in what ways are you, right now, using your gifts to reach out to others, encourage them, and point them to Christ?

Look back over your life, evaluating the joys and sorrows, in light of grace. Can you see God’s hand? His molding, crafting, stretching, and guiding? Before I go, I’d like to leave you with a verse, one I wrote out and have sitting on my desk.

“So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of His call. May He give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do” 1 Thessalonians 1:11

So much truth packed in that verse! Whenever I read those words, “worthy of His call”, I can’t help but think of all Christ gave–His very life–to save me. Truly, I will never be worthy of my call, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pursue it with all that I am and have. For His glory, and this is key, for it’s very easy to get so caught up in the call, we soon lose sight of the One who called us, allowing insecurities, pride, or selfish ambition to cloud our view.

I hope to revisit 1 Thes.1:11 in my next post. To my blogging friends, I invite you to join me. As iron sharpens iron, we can all learn from each other, and I’d love to read your perspectives on this verse. :)

LivingbyGracepicWhat are your thoughts on this verse? Do any words stick out to you? Do you have any favorite verses that help you remain focused on the eternal? If so, share them with us! Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook. If today’s post sparked an excitement within, I encourage you to join our month-long study on surrender. Find out more here.

Before you go, I encourage you to pray both of the verses I’ve shared this morning. Then, prayerfully listen to this song, making it your heart’s cry to God today.

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ID-100149509Do you ever feel like you’re done? Wiped out, ready to toss out your clocks, to-do lists, and pocket calendars and head back to bed? For ever?

We all have those days, periods of time when it feels as if we’re on a rapidly moving treadmill. Or three. All going in different directions. I’ve heard it said the Christian journey is similar to a marathon. I’ve also heard it’s more like a series of sprints. I say it’s like sprints in the middle of a marathon. ;) And when we’re in the middle of it, it’s easy to veer towards the sidelines. And sometimes that’s okay, for a period. But many times, I believe, God calls us to keep running.

Because time is short and eternity is long.

When I remember that, focus on that, everything becomes easier. But when I focus on me? Oh, my! Everything begins to snowball, and before long, my spiraling emotions take my energy down with them. It’s amazing how a shift in perspective changes everything!

Consider David, the biblical character whose story is told in 1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 1 to 24, among other places. You can read his story here. I’ll paraphrase. Anointed king and proven to be a mighty, victorious warrior, by chapter 22, he’s hiding out in caves in fear of his life as a man David served faithfully relentlessly pursues him.

Relentlessly. Wearing David down day by day.

Perhaps you can relate. When facing a battle–spiritual, physical, or emotional–it’s fairly easy to approach it with strength, hope, and faith, in the beginning. But after a while we grow weary, and in our weariness, it’s easy to also grow hopeless. To start looking for our flag to surrender; to do an about face, ready to retreat.

And the more we stay there, the more we contemplate our weariness and struggles, the more drained we become.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 39:1-7 (NLT)

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
when the ungodly are around me.”
2 But as I stood there in silence—
not even speaking of good things—
the turmoil within me grew worse.
3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:
4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
My only hope is in you.

Let’s unpack this. According to the Tyndale study notes, in verse 1, David is resolving not to complain about his struggles. Though he is likely referring to the consequences he is facing for a sinful act detailed in 2 Samuel 11-12:1-24, I believe the principle applies to all trials. Complaining doesn’t help anybody. To the contrary. Negativity breeds negativity, within ourselves and our listeners. That doesn’t mean we can never share our struggles, but may we be known more for our praises, and may we never forget, we are NOT victims. No! For in Christ, we are more than conquerors.

Do our words and actions reveal that?

Are we centering out thoughts on that truth, or are we, like David did in verse 3, allowing negativity to dominate our thinking:

3 The more I thought about it,
the hotter I got,
igniting a fire of words:

What, then, is the solution? How can we combat this cancer of negativity and self-centeredness? Because that is exactly what it is. When we’re playing the poor-me role, we are focused entirely on ourselves, and self-centeredness leads to sorrow, defeat, skepticism, and frustration. Every. Time.

To combat this and to reignite our joy, we need to turn our thoughts to eternity:

4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.

This isn’t to say we should continually spend ourselves to the point of exhaustion for even Jesus our Savior took time to rest. But even then, our ID-10032933-1focus should be on eternity. When we rest, we do so in order to rebuild and refuel so we can jump back in that race.

We can raise the flag in surrender but may we never retreat.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. As you read the above passage, what thoughts came to mind? In what ways has focusing on eternity helped you get through a rough or tiring stretch? For those who battle fatigue, does negative thinking ever exacerbate that, and if so, how? Join the conversation here or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

For those of you following my cyber-book tour, here’s where I’ve been this week.

For those of you who have read “Beyond I Do” (Still available in Kindle and Nook version for $2.99!) and would like to form a book club or simply did deeper into the novel, you can use the book club questions posted on my publisher’s blog. (I hope to launch an online discussion/Bible study group mid-November that will use the book as a discussion starter.)

I feel like I took up permanent residents down at KCRO/FM 100.7 The Fish’s studio this month with two interviews on KCRO (different times) and one on the Fish. I hope to have the recording of the Fish interview, and I think I posted my first KCRO interview. Here’s a link to the second one.

I’ll be on Deborah Piccurelli’s site all month. You can read my interview here (and get entered into the drawing to win a free book!).

For those in or visiting the Omaha area this Saturday, I’ll be at Barnes and Noble in the Oakview Mall doing a book signing. Details here.

AND for those wanting to hang about a little longer, I’d love if you’d follow me to my church’s Halloween Bash that evening from 5-7pm, located at Reality Church, 10695 Portal Road, LaVista, NE.

Yesterday I shared some stories of three men we’ve served at Takin’ it to the Streets–three very broken lives greatly changed by love. I hope you’ll be encouraged. You can read that here.

I camped out on Shannon Taylor Vannatter’s blog all week (and she’s doing a give-away). I shared my real-life romance story–an evolving love–on Monday. You can read that here.  On Wednesday, she interviewed my heroine. You can read that here. On Friday she posted an excerpt from the novel. You can read that here.

And before you go, if you’re a writer, I encourage you to read my friend Jennifer Hallmark’s post on ways to overcome writer’s block. You can read that here. 

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I’m formatting this post through tear-blurred vision, amazed once again by God’s mercy and grace. Those who know me personally know I’m not the most advanced-thinking, detail-oriented writer on the web. Lately, with book edits and launch responsibilities, this has proved more true ID-100160717than ever. The result–I don’t often read the guest posts authors send me until the last minute. (Which can result in scrambling if I find what my guest has written isn’t a good fit. You’d think I’d learn.)

Similarly, with the gunk I’ve faced these past two years, you’d think I’d learn … to choose to praise when I want to isolate. To persevere when I’d rather stay in bed. To lean on Christ, who’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, when I feel defeated.

I’m learning. Slowly, and at times with gritted teeth.

Profile Pic mainLong intro to say, today is one of those days, and just when I was beginning to slip into poor-me mode, I read Misty Beller’s post on trials and reminded myself once again, God is in the gunk and the glorious, and He can and does use every tear, trial, and triumph for eternal good.

The Blessings of Trials by Misty Beller

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

I’m not sure who came up with this nifty saying, but for so many years it’s been my life’s motto.

The fact is, trials happen. Life is hard. But through the pain, God has taught me two vital truths.

  1. Sometimes you just have to buckle down and get through it.

Over the last year, my family’s gone through a lot of hard “stuff”, from a miscarriage, to an accident where my husband broke multiple bones in his face and neck. Since then he’s had six surgeries, each rendering him mostly an invalid for about four weeks, and me the sole breadwinner and caregiver for our girls, age seven and three. There were so many times that I could only take one day—one hour—at a time. There was no room to worry about the future, I could only buckle down and focus on what had to be done in the next hour.

But that was a hard lesson for this former control-freak to learn. It took God stripping away layers of my perceived ability to control. I couldn’t know which doctor appointment would bring to light more broken bones, requiring immediate surgery. I couldn’t know when the call would come from the babysitter that one of the girls had thrown up five times in the last hour. God was the only one who could see ahead, and I had to trust that He would bring us through it. There was no other option for me.

  1. The blessings can’t come without the trials.

This concept didn’t become crystal clear for me until recently. It’s not just that God will bless us through the hard times, with patience and strength, and maybe a few token bright spots. But it’s not possible to receive the best He has in store for us, unless we go through the hard times. Kind of like looking at a river on a map. You can’t reach the ocean until you’ve followed the path of the river.

My writing journey is a great example of this. There were so many times I thought I’d found the perfect avenue for my book. An agent or editor would send an optimistic response to my initial query, and they would ask for the full manuscript. But God gently shut each of the wrong doors, opening little windows of light in the direction He had planned. At the end of the day, I’m so thankful for the “No” answers I received, because they brought me to the point where I could see Him pointing toward the right door. And now, my debut novel The Lady and the Mountain Man released in September, and I have no doubt I’m exactly where God has planned for me in my writing journey. But I wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for the awful times of rejection and uncertainty and frustration.

These two truths aren’t new, and may seem fairly obvious. But when you’re in the darkest times, wondering if you’ll even make it to morning, knowing these two facts—along with the absolute truth of God’s love for you, His child—may be just what you need to see the light. I know that’s been the case for me.

I’ll be praying God blesses you with perseverance and the fullness of His plan for your life, even through the hard times.

Blessings,

Misty

***

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep. Growing up, her family was close, and they continue to keep that priority today. Her husband and two daughters now add another dimension to her life, keeping her both grounded and crazy.

God has placed a desire in Misty’s heart to combine her love for Christian fiction and the simpler ranch life, writing historical novels that display God’s abundant love through the twists and turns in the lives of her characters.

Writing is a dream come true for Misty. Her family—both immediate and extended—is the foundation that holds her secure in that dream.

You can find Misty on her website, blog, Goodreads, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Mountain Man coverThe Lady and the Mountain Man back cover blurb:

Leah Townsend, a recently orphaned heiress, flees Richmond after discovering her fiancé’s plot to kill her after their wedding. She needs a safe place to hide, and finds herself accepting a newspaper marriage proposal from a God-fearing young rancher in the Montana Territory. But when Leah arrives at the mountain ranch, she learns her intended husband was killed by a grizzly, leaving behind a bitter older brother and a spunky younger sister.

When Gideon Bryant finds a city girl standing in his log cabin, his first thought is to send her back where she came from. He’s lost too many people to the wild elements of these mountains––his parents, his wife, and now his brother. His love for this untamed land lives on, but he’s determined not to open his heart to another person.

But when an accident forces Leah to stay at the ranch for seven more months, can Gideon protect his heart from a love he doesn’t want? Has Leah really escaped the men who seek her life?

Buy it here:

On Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. When I’m going through a tough time, physically or emotionally, it’s easy to focus on the here and now and forget the eternal. But God is ever faithful to remind me of His sovereignty and love, a love that is bigger than anything this sin-cursed world can throw our way. And He sees. He knows. He cares, and He is always working to mold and equip us and to fulfill His eternal plan.

Eternal. I often lose sight of that, but in truth, trials are a tangible reminder that this world is not our home. (Praise God for that!)

What about you? When have you received blessings from your trials? How has a trial (grief, sickness, material struggles, etc.) encouraged you to remember and focus on the eternal?

Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

And now, for those of you who aren’t on FB, here’s where I’ve been this week.

Yesterday I shared an article on Rest Ministries that fits quite well with today’s theme. In it I share how God has used my chronic illnesses to bless and grow my family. You can read this piece here.

Yesterday I also learned my debut novel had been nominated for the fiction category of the ECPA awards. Yay!

Today I’m on Deborah Piccurelli’s chatting about my novel, where the inspiration for the story came from, and how I hope the story will impact my readers. You can read the interview here.

Deborah also read and reviewed my novel. I enjoyed reading her perspective of the story. You can read her review here.

I also did a book give-away on fellow author Sara Ellen’s blog, one which she has extended. So, if you haven’t read my novel yet and would like a chance to win it, or if you’d like to win it as a gift for a friend, you can enter the drawing here.

Author Catherine Castle invited me to visit with her readers on her blog. You can join our chat here.

On Monday I stopped by Jessica Everingham’s to talk about living a life without regret. You can read this post here.

That’s my week. (Most of it, anyway.) What about you? What have you been up to? What has God been showing you?

On Monday I talked about the life-transformaing power of grace on Wordsmith Woman. You can read that post here.

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