How Prayer Quiet and Calms Us

Purple flowers with yellow background and text from post

If God is sovereign, why pray? If He already knows precisely how everything in all the world, my life included, will play out, what’s the purpose in laying my requests before Him? Why not simply bow my head, say, “Thy will be done,” and move on to more productive matters like serving in soup kitchens, orphanages, and nurseries?

I suspect we’ve all wrestled with these questions. I have. I’ve even brought them to God in prayer, as ironic as that may sound. And as I sat in His presence, He met me and showered me with His love and grace. My requests became conversations, my fears and anxieties pathways to certainty, and my unmet earthly desires avenues to becoming filled with something more sustaining and satisfying than anything I might acquire apart from Him.

Yellow background with text pulled from post.Through prayer, God redirects, instructs, and fills my heart while purging it of everything that gets in His way. He reveals hidden motives, undetected sins, and bits of deception that, if not dealt with, hinder my faith, my journey, and my relationship with Him. Often, I begin with a frustration or concern, but as His love reigns over me, it overpowers every angst filled thought with truth.

When I fear financial difficulties, He reminds me He’s my provider and that all the world, a thousand banks included, sit under His command.

When illness steals the health of those I love, He assures me He holds all of eternity, their life included, in His grasp.

When I’m watching someone I care deeply for flounder and fight their way to maturity, He gently directs me to Philippians 1:6, which tells me He is working, at this moment, to grow them in Him. He won’t let go, leave them as orphans, nor will He let up until His will, in their life and mine, has come to pass.

There’s such peace in knowing that. In recognizing that God has a good, loving, and hope-filled plan for each of His children and is fully capable of bringing it to pass. When I pause to reflect on that truth, promised numerous times throughout Scripture, my soul quiets itself like a weaned child resting in the arms of its mother.

You may be familiar with that reference of a content and satiated toddler, and of the story behind the man who wrote it. It’s found in Psalm 131, written by David, Israel’s second king. Anointed as a youth, he endured years of persecution and betrayal before seeing God’s plans unfold. In the waiting, he fled his homeland in fear for his life, hid in the wilderness, caves, and acted like a madman. But though sorrow and fears assaulted him, they never remained. God never allowed them to take root. Instead, as David sat in the presence of the Almighty, loved from the hairs on his head to the tips of his toes, God led him on a gentle but empowering journey to faith.

Psalm 59 is one of my favorite examples, written after David, afraid for his life, flees a murderous king by climbing out his window. His prayer begins with desperate pleas but ends with courage, confidence and peace.

“Rescue me from my enemies, O God. Protect me from those who have come to destroy me. Rescue me from these criminals; save me from these murderers. … I have done nothing wrong, yet they prepare to attack me. Wake up! See what is happening and help me!” (Ps. 59:1-2, 4b).

Can you sense his desperation? It’s as if he’s saying, “Don’t You see? Why have You allowed this?”

But then, in the middle of his turmoil, God draws him deeper into His embrace, and David’s heart overflows with praise. “You are my strength,” he says “O Lord our shield” (vs. 9a, 11b). “My enemies come out at night, snarling like vicious dogs as they prowl the streets” (v. 14). In other words, they’re real and terrifying, but David knew God was greater. “As for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will Psalm 59:17bsing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You” not castle strongholds, weapons of warfare, or armed soldiers “have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress” (v. 16).

I love that last line and the promise it provides. God is our refuge and safety, and we can always rest in His love. As we come to Him with our heartfelt concerns, He quiets the angst within and replaces it with unshakable confidence and peace.

Though He may indeed answer our prayers as we hope, He anchors us in something infinitely deeper, more solid, and more enduring—Himself and His unfailing love.

I don’t know your requests or how God will answer. But I can promise this:

He sees you. (Psalm 34:15)

He hears you. (Psalm 34:6)

He loves you unfailingly. (Psalm 57:3)

He will fulfill His purposes for you. (Psalm 57:2)

He surrounds and defends you. (Psalm 34:7)

When your heart breaks, He holds you close. (Psalm 34:18)

He is faithful, strong, attentive and true. (Deut. 7:9, Ps. 28:7, John 3:33)

Let’s talk about this! Do you have any favorite Psalms, most specifically, those written by ancient Israel’s King David? If so, which ones and why do you treasure that passage? Have you ever used one of David’s prayers as a guide or springboard for your own? Share your thoughts, stories, examples, and questions with us in the comments below, because we can all encourage, challenge, and inspire one another!

Logo image for Wholly Loved's Bible reading appBefore you leave, I have fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries’ Bible will soon have a 30-day Bible reading plan available on YouVersion! I’ll share the link when I have it. In the meantime, I encourage you to join our closed Facebook group. It’s a safe place where women can share their struggles, fears, doubts, and celebrations. to join, click the button below.

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Balance and Our Sure Route to Peace — Guest Blog

sunset on a lake with text on surrendering our schedules to God

We weren’t meant to live stressed out, depleted lives. We all must manage difficult and demanding responsibilities on occasion, but our seasons of busyness should be precisely that–seasons. If we’re constantly rushing about, always checking and rearranging our to-do lists to squeeze one more task or one more minute in our days, and especially if this has become a lifestyle, we’ve likely taken on assignments God never intended. Not only will this hinder us from pursuing what He has, but, as my guest today reminds us, it’ll also rob us of peace and joy.

And make sure to read to the end, because she’s doing a crazy fun giveaway to celebrate her debut release!

The Elusiveness of Balance

By Jennifer Hallmark

Tired again. I trudged through the house with another load of laundry on one hip and a grand-young ‘un on the other. I didn’t feel as if I could make the effort to finish my day, take a shower, and fall in the bed. But I had to. A deadline approached and I had much to do the next morning.

How did I fall back into this trap of twirling a hundred plates? Again?

I needed balance, something I’ve pursued in the past. I’ve sought it in my relationships, schedule, and work. Without it, I burn out over and over. Yet somehow I found myself there again.

My last year has been unbelievably stressful but things are working out. My mental and emotional stability isn’t perfect but it’s beyond what I believed it could or should have been.

Through it all, I’m learning what balance is and isn’t.

It’s not:

  1. Me figuring out how to organize my work, play, and duty so I have time for it all.
  2. Meals, bedtime, and worktime at planned intervals every day.
  3. Everything going smoothly and without crisis.

I sought those things for years. Order. My introverted, melancholy, perfectionist world to run as I desired. Then I’d experience joy, happiness, and rest.

But I’ve experienced joy in difficult and stressful situations and have felt depressed when I should’ve been happy. Order is nice but provides no long-term, life-changing effects. I find satisfaction checking things off my to-do list satisfies but not to the degree I need.

True balance can only come from God—as we align our lives with Him and His will.

He is…

  1. Omnipotent: all powerful.
  2. Omnipresent: always present.
  3. Omniscient: all knowing.

These facets of God enable me to find true balance. Schedules, lists, and order are helpful but can be, in themselves, unsteady. I’ve studied the Bible, prayed, and gone to Surrender is acknowledging God is God and we are not--imagechurch. This helps gain wisdom but since I’m not any of the “omnis” above, my interpretation and control is limited.

The solution: I hand my plans to God. I draw closer to Him and remain in relationship with Him. I talk, listen, then talk and listen some more. Then I take a step, listen, and take another step. I stop merely “going through the motions” and surrender my control, which I have very little of anyway.

When I feel anxious, instead of attempting to solve whatever I’m facing in my wisdom and strength, Scripture encourages me to turn to God. Philippians 4:6-7 says:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).

In other words, when life feels stressful and demanding, we draw close to the Father, tell Him about our day, good and bad, love Him, and present our requests. We praise Him for all He’s done and provided. Then we sit and await His reply. When we sense His guidance, we move forward in faith. We believe He’ll give us enough light to follow.

Living this way leads to emotional and mental steadiness. God knows my energy level and the time I have. He’ll help me spend each wisely. He’ll help me manage all I must get done, whether that’s finishing the laundry or typing another article. Me taking time to breathe, pray, and listen, not checking off lists, makes all the difference.

Balance—and peace—rests in our relationship with God, one where we daily seek out our Father’s voice. Surrender can feel scary but it leads to deeper intimacy with God—and the peace and stability we all long for.

The old expression rings true.

Let go and let God.

He longs to take our hand and lead the way.

Will we let Him?

***

Let’s talk about this! What area is most difficult for you to surrender? How might remembering all God’s “omni” qualities help you to relinquish that area to your Savior? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

I also invite you to join me, in person or virtually, at Christ Community Church this evening to learn how to shift from orphan mentality (“Life, or this area, is all up to me; I must retain control”) to living deeply and wholly loved (“God’s got this and me; because He is fully trustworthy, I have no reason to fear and every reason to surrender”). Those who are local can register HERE. The rest of you can pop into Wholly Loved’s Facebook group to watch a live video then engage in discussion after. You can do that HERE. Please note, you’ll need to join our closed FB group first.)

Get to know Jennifer Hallmark!

Jennifer Hallmark's author headshotJennifer Hallmark writes Southern fiction and has published 200+ internet articles and interviews, short stories in several magazines, and has co-authored three book compilations. Her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope, released on June 17th, 2019.

When she isn’t babysitting or gardening, you can find her at her desk writing fiction or working on her two blogs. She also loves reading detective fiction from the Golden Age and viewing movies like LOTR or Star Wars. Sometimes you can even catch her watching American Ninja Warrior.

Visit her online at:

www.jenniferhallmark.com

www.inspiredprompt.com 

Jennifer Hallmark, Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Instagram

Check out her debut novel, Jessie’s Hope!

Cover image for Jessie's HopeYears ago, an accident robbed Jessie Smith’s mobility. It also stole her mom and alienated her from her father. When Jessie’s high school sweetheart Matt Jansen proposes, her parents’ absence intensifies her worry that she cannot hold on to those she loves.

With a wedding fast approaching, Jessie’s grandfather Homer Smith, has a goal to find the perfect dress for “his Jessie,” one that would allow her to forget, even if for a moment, the boundaries of her wheelchair. But financial setbacks and unexpected sabotage hinder his plans.

Determined to heal from her past, Jessie initiates a search for her father. Can a sliver of hope lead to everlasting love when additional obstacles–including a spurned woman and unpredictable weather–highjack Jessie’s dream wedding?

Buy it on:

Make sure to get in on her fun giveaways!

June Blog Tour Giveaway Extravaganza

June 10th-June 30th

Prizes include:

  • $25 Amazon Gift Card
  • $10 Starbucks Gift Card
  • Print copy of Jessie’s Hope
  • 2 Kindle copies of Jessie’s Hope

Giveaway details: Go to her Rafflecopter Page (HERE) to enter the drawings for five prizes to be drawn by Rafflecopter from all the entries. Winners will be revealed on the author’s blog on July 1st.

Link to Rafflecopter found by visiting my June blog tour from June 10th until June 30th. Blog tour includes:

June 13thJennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud/Jennifer Slattery

June 14thFavorite Friday Fiction/Me

June 15thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 17thAuthor Trish Perry/Trish Perry

June 17thSouthern Writers Magazine

June 18thAuthor Liz Tolsma/Liz Tolsma

June 19thInspired Prompt/Betty Thomason Owens

June 21stSnark & Sensibility/Linda Rondeau

June 24thFear Warrior/Jerusha Agen

June 24thJune Foster/June Foster

June 25thTrumpet Tuesdays/Julie Arduini

June 26thSeriously Write/Sandra Ardoin

June 28thHeartfelt, Homespun fiction/Cynthia Herron

June 29thThe Write Conversation/Edie Melson

Building Redemptive Relationships

Flower with text: No matter the conflict or challenge problems are temporary but people are eternal

I’m forty-four and I’m still learning how to create and maintain healthy relationships, really to be an instrument of love and grace. In this, God recently sparked a major mind-shift, one that arose smack in the middle of tension, confusion, and heartache.

But resulted in incredible hope and peace.

I’ve learned and grown the most through my marriage and interaction with my daughter. Those are my two most important relationships—the ones I most want to hold tight to. Therefore, I have a great deal of motivation to love well, in a way that deepens emotional intimacy, creates wholeness, and builds trust. I’ve discovered, fighting for those things has such greater impact in the long term than any “solution” my mind might latch on to or contend for.

As the saying goes, we can win the battle and lose the heart.

Last month, my daughter dealt with some hard stuff. Long-term life impacting hard stuff, and it’s been crazy difficult to watch her struggle. Whenever I see her hurt, regardless of the reason, a fierce desire to protect rises up. I want to immediately “fix” the situation. Whenever I land in that place, however, not only am I getting in God’s way, but I miss out on amazing, transformational teaching opportunities.

When I seek His heart and will, not just for the situation or problem but for the person I’m interacting with as well, my vision becomes clearer. More Christ-like. And I’m reminded that God is much more concerned with what is going on within an individual than any decision they may or may not make.

I think we probably know this intellectually, but our natural inclination is to focus on the now. On finding solutions and alleviating the pain of today. It’s easy to forget how often God uses our struggles to bring about His greatest and deepest work. By following His lead, we have an opportunity to play a part in that.

In every conflict and difficulty, He’s inviting us to bring life and light into other people’s lives.

Let me explain, using my recent interaction with my daughter. From the surface, one might say she’s facing decisions related to her future marriage and everything that comes with merging two families from different cultures. Focusing on that—advising her on what steps to take or not to take—keeps us centered on one immediate situation. And initially, that was what I did.

But in the middle of vacuuming, it was like God whispered in my ear: This is a good thing. You have an opportunity to show her what healthy dialogue looks like and how to communicate with others who may not share her perspective.

So, setting aside my “fix-it” tool belt, I chose a mentorship role and planned a picnic for her, her future fiancé, and my husband. Together, we simply talked. We addressed tough issues, shared thoughts and feelings, and honestly, solved nothing.

But I built bridges of trust that will lay the groundwork for a lifetime of communication. We also, I hope, demonstrated what healthy dialogue looks like. Those things—how to persevere through relational tension and initiate and hold hard conversations with equal parts love and truth—will have a much greater impact on her future marriage than any decision she and her boyfriend make today.

This was my mind shift—to focus on growth rather than behavior. In short, to reach and protect and equip the heart.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” To the ancient Jew, the heartFlower with dark background and text from Prov. 4:23 involved much more than a person’s emotions. It was the core of their being and encompassed their will and intellect as well. In other words, it’s the place where decisions are made.

It’s easy to focus on the “everything else.” To believe the current problem is the problem. But God’s vision goes so much deeper. Scripture says He uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:38)—to mold us into the likeness of His Son (Rom. 8:39).

God’s goal is never behavior modification. He initiates transformation.

As my husband and I prayerfully evaluated the afternoon later, I realized God offers me the same opportunity He presented with my daughter in every encounter, whomever I engage. With every conflict or challenge, He’s inviting me to look past the present situation to the health and growth and healing He longs to bring through it.

This is what it means to create redemptive relationships. To help others experience the same mind-shift which God granted me.

My role isn’t to fix or convince or save but to demonstrate, by example, how we, God’s children, can bring life and light wherever we are. This takes courage and trust, not in the person I’m mentoring but in God. I have to believe He has a plan, is at this moment working out that plan, and that He’ll guide me and the one I love step-by-step toward His perfect and hope-filled will. Resting in who He is frees me to love well and without fear and to focus on the long-term growth, of myself and others, rather than whatever is going on today.

Anxiety, Distorted Vision, and the Power of Christ

You may have heard it said that each of us view our world through rose-colored glasses, which means we perceive situations or perhaps events as being better than they actually are. I disagree. I think, most often, our

woman with splattered glasses

Image by Noah Black on Unsplash

perceptions are distorted by a combination of garbage-splattered lenses and curved reflections similar to those displayed by carnival mirrors.

Our vision is tainted by past hurts, pride, fears, sin, and deception, making it hard to see God’s hand and clearly discern His guidance.

This spring, as all my vision distorters fight for dominance, I’m combatting them with truth. This is the only way I’ll be able to clearly see God’s will and heart for me.

In Matthew 6:22-23 Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if you eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

In Scripture, vision refers to one’s ability to view our world and lives from God’s perspective and clearly discern His heart and plans. Our vision sharpens as we grow closer to Him and align our thoughts and actions with His truth. It dulls when we move further from Him and become increasingly consumed with self—our sin, desires, and concerns.

Our family has hit some financial challenges that have me prayerfully questioning how I spend my time. My first response is often to plot and plan ways to “fix” the situation. Where and how can we cut our spending and increase our income?

According my wisdom, it seems logical to allocate my time differently, focusing on those things that generate the most income while reducing those tasks that don’t. Though there’s great honor in providing for our families, when doing so, we must operate from a heart that is completely centered in Christ and His will.

Because we can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). We can’t live enslaved to our bank accounts and clearly hear and heed God’s voice. If our focus is on the here and now and finding security in material things instead of, ultimately, in Christ, the voices of fear, insecurity, and greed will drown out that of our Saviors. The result will be confusion rather than clarity and anxiety and angst in place of peace.

“Therefore,” Jesus said, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear,” Jesus said. Do not marimnaó about your well-being, which means allowing your anxiety to draw you into opposite directions and pull you apart. Do not be internally divided, acting as if you were an orphan forced to rely on yourself and navigate life on your own.

Instead, God invites us to live like a child of the victorious, risen King. An adopted and chosen heir of the One who loves us deeply, knows us intimately, and holds the entire world, our lives included, in His hands.

Seek God first, Jesus said, and trust Him to provide, knowing He truly is a good and attentive Father.

Let’s talk about this! Why do you think Jesus sandwiched the passage regarding spiritual vision between the section talking about money and the one on worry? In what ways have you seen worrying distort your vision? What are some ways we can maintain a clear and accurate vision?

Share your thoughts, verses, and stories with me in the comments below.

Christmas dysfunction—or growth and peace. Your Choice

text from post with lights in background

If my Christmas feels out of control and produces more anxiety than joy and peace, I’m probably to blame. Nine times out of ten, when I honestly evaluate those things that cause me the greatest stress and anxiety, it’s my fault. I’ve failed to establish and maintain clear boundaries, have given other people’s behavior and opinions power over me, or both.

Most often both.

Let me explain using a parenting example. When our daughter was in high school, she went through the messy phase that seems inherent to adolescence. I’d nag, cajole, pester, and remind, and yet, dirty clothes remained on the floor, dirty dishes on counters, and piles of randomness cluttered nearly every surface.

As this problem continued, my frustration grew, until one day I realized … the situation was largely my fault. Though I’d stated my expectations, I lacked direct and clear follow-through. In getting upset, nagging, or running around tidying things up, I’d taken ownership of my daughter’s behavior.

I had three options:

  1. Communicate natural consequences and follow through.

(And if I do that, there’s no reason to get upset. I simply enforce the consequence and move on.)

  1. Remain perpetually frustrated.
  2. Determine to let the situation go.

Though this holds true year round, our lack of boundaries and unhealthy responses are felt most strongly over the quote pulled from text with Christmas wrapping and items backgroundholidays when obligation, expectation, financial strain, and reduced availability magnifies and reveals every dysfunction.

And whenever God allows something unhealthy to come under the spotlight, He’s giving us the opportunity to align ourselves and our lives more closely with truth and bring increased wholeness to what is now broken.

I think we probably know this, at least in theory, but many times, we’re afraid of what our healthy decisions might cost. We may know Great Aunt Leola’s expectation that all families, regardless of their schedule, commitments, or personal needs and desires, attend her Thursday night dinner, are unrealistic and unfair. But we fear, should we do what we feel is right for ourselves (our sanity!) and our family, we’ll lose the relationship or create uncomfortable tension.

Therefore, we determine her feelings and perceptions, regardless of how unjustified, and lack of conflict are more important than emotional and relational health. Than true peace, which, biblically speaking, means wholeness. We can’t set a boundary unless we’re willing to stand by it, regardless of how things play out and others respond. Otherwise, our boundaries are merely suggestions that will likely leave us feeling more frustrated and defeated than before.

The other morning, I spoke with a group of single moms on pursuing healing and learning to recognize what is and isn’t about them—what to take ownership for and correct and what to “shake off” in a refusal to “own” someone else’s opinions and poor behavior. The question that followed: How?

I think what they were asking is, “How can I stop getting so emotionally entangled in other people’s opinions, behaviors, and perceptions (which usually means, when evaluated at its root, how can I care less what others think about me)?

To which I responded: What gave them the right to hold that power? What did they do to warrant this, and what makes them—their opinion—more important than you and your emotional health?

That’s a question we have to ask ourselves each day, because until we’re able to say, “Nothing and no one gave them that power,” we’ll likely remain victims. Worse, we’ll teach our kids to do the same, and we’ll all suffer for it, the person with the poor behavior included.

Along these same lines, if we’re the ones attempting to override someone else’s boundaries, we must ask ourselves: Who gave me that power? Who gave me authority to force my dysfunction onto others? And what might Jesus have to say about that?

Because as the saying goes, truth without love is hurtful and abrasive, and love without truth is deadly. It kills relational intimacy, personal integrity, robs us and our families of peace, and perpetuates a cycle of dysfunction.

But truth and love combined? That’s power. The power of life, transformation, hope, and peace. True, biblical peace, not simply the momentary conflict avoidance that has killed way too many happy holidays.

Let’s talk about this! How much of your current stress is caused by lack of boundaries? What areas might God be wanting to bring wholeness to this holiday season? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

For those in the Omaha Metro area, fun news! I’ll be leading Wholly Loved’s new Bible study, Becoming a Princess, this January at Wildewood Christian in Papillion. I hope you’ll join us each Tuesday from 6:30-8:00pm as we learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His peace and power in our most challenging circumstances, rest from our striving, and daily live in God’s grace. I’ll share more details along with a sign up link soon!

When God Uses Christmas to Point us to Something Bigger

Image of woman holding cash
2002 started as a guilt-ridden Christmas but resulted in one our family will always cherish.

A month before the holidays, we feared our daughter would suffer the consequences of our bad choices. After years of careless spending, we’d depleted our savings and maxed out our credit cards. We knew we needed to make drastic changes but feared doing so would hurt our daughter.

Yet we could no longer ignore God’s prodding, not without becoming willfully disobedient. He wanted first place in our hearts Quote from postand asked us to purge those things, like materialism, that had occupied His rightful place.

And so, that November, we cut up our cards, tossed out our catalogs, and I set about making our daughter hand-made gifts.

A couple weeks later, my husband arrived home with a large, plastic garbage bag filled with stuffed animals—all with their tags still on. Through this, God provided the perfect gifts for our stuffed-animal loving daughter. But He did much more than that. He showed her that He sees her, loves her, and can provide for her through the most unexpected means.

As we sought to honor God with our spending, we experienced numerous miracles. Free plane tickets that allowed us to visit family when schedules prevented driving. Upgraded vehicle rentals when the economy car never would’ve been enough. Grocery sales when milk and veggies ran low.

For nearly a year, He helped us stretch every penny, so that we had neither too little nor too much. Here’s the interesting part—those miracles didn’t continue, at least, not to the same extent, once we had our finances managed. I’m convinced that’s because we no longer needed them. God continued to show up in our lives, but rarely in such obvious, material ways.

Honestly, I believe His purpose extended far beyond our financial blessings. With each stuffed animal and rental car upgrade, He taught us to trust in Him. He shifted our focus off our efforts and planning and onto Him, the One who held our future and our family in His hands.

God used our lack that Christmas and unexpected blessings to point us to the greatest gift of all, one that would outlast the season–Christ Himself.

Quote pulled from post

Some 3,500 years ago, God brought the Israelites on a similar journey. After centuries of oppression in a pagan land, He liberated them from slavery then led them on a forty-year trek through the wilderness. With every step, God taught this emerging nation to trust in Him for protection and provision. Their role was simple—surrender and obey. He took care of everything else.

Scripture tells us, each morning, He rained down cracker-like wafers from the sky, giving each family exactly what they needed for that day. Here’s the part I found cool: once they entered the fertile territory He’d long promised, the wafers stopped coming. Abruptly.

From that moment on, Scripture says, they ate the produce of the land. Daily, they discovered, they had more than enough. They saw, in a tangible way, God alone had the power to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

Each day, through difficulties and blessings, He leads us through similar lessons. When life hits hard or provisions abound, it’s easy to focus on all the material objects that bring pleasure and security, but with every need and gift, God is pointing us to something greater—Himself.

I don’t know if God will provide for you in the same way that He did for us, but I do know He will always and only do what is for your best. We tend to focus on our immediate needs and desires, but God knows where true fulfillment and peace are found–in Him. Our relationship with Christ is a gift that will bring joy long after we’ve packed up our tinsel and decorations.

Let’s talk about this! Are finances tight this Christmas? How might focusing on God, your provider, help reduce your anxiety and give you peace? How has past difficulties increased your trust in Him? Share your thoughts and examples with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from and encourage one another.

For those who are local, fun news! Wholly Loved Ministries has announced their first live Bible study, written by myself, Susan Aken, Dena Dyer, and Cheri Cowell. Join me at Wildewood Christian Church in Papillion where I’ll be teaching live.

Location: 2081, 1255 Royal Dr, Papillion, NE 68046

Dates: Jan. 15th-March 5th (with Feb. 12th off)

Times: Tuesday evenings from 6:30pm-8pm

Can’t make it to the winter study but want to join us? No problem! I’ll be presenting the study again at an Omaha church starting in March. (Details pending.)

Becoming His Princess: A 7-week Study on the Life of Sarah

Bible study cover imageDo you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and what their bank account or how accomplishment list looks like compared to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah, a woman from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.

For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her and her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, shame, and all her striving and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies.

As we read about her experiences, we’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence through our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.

Want our team to come to you? Contact me HERE. 

How an OCD Christian Grabs Hold of Peace

woman lying in bed

Image by MMPR on Unsplash

My obsessive, OCD mind tends to latch on to the frightening, the hard, the disappointing. The offensive or unkind. And the more I fuel negative thinking, the more miserable, anxious, and insecure I become.

How can I have the peace of God if I’m constantly stressing over what ifs or rehashing old hurts?

The night before He was to die, knowing the grief and terror His disciples would soon experience, Jesus gathered them together and made some horrific predictions:

I’m going to leave you.

The world’s going to hate you.

You’ll be imprisoned and expelled from your faith community.

In man’s misguided zeal for God, they’ll seek to execute you.

And perhaps the most difficult to hear of all: In your darkest hour, All of you will abandon Me.

But sandwiched in the middle of this frightful news, He said, in essence, “I’m leaving you with a gift—verse image John 14:27peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give you is a gift the world cannot give.” His next statement must have felt incredibly frustrating: “So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

As if it were that easy. As if one could simply decide, once and for all, to squelch their anxiety regarding a situation, and viola, all is well and joy follows.

My husband’s made countless similar statements:

Relax, Jen.

Let it go.

Chill.

If you’re female, you know precisely how effective such suggestions can be. And yet, Jesus isn’t my husband. He’s my Creator, my Savior, my Lord, so when He tells His followers, which includes us, to do something, we’d be wise to listen. He wasn’t the type to offer empty platitudes.

So was he speaking to men, then? When a man’s worried about something, they simply grab the remote, plop on the couch, and lose themselves in the football game, all concerns forgotten.

When we women grow concerned about something, watch out.

But … it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to live enslaved to fear.

In Christ, we have everything we need to live—and think—victoriously, in a way that reveals His power within us. But that doesn’t mean it won’t take determined effort and practice as we learn to toss out negative thinking, whatever its root, and fix our thoughts on those things that are good, true, admirable, and worthy of respect.

I’ve found I can’t do both. I can’t simultaneously obsess on the hard or the frightening and the truths of Scripture. At each moment, we’re entertaining one or the other. The challenge, then, is to do all we can, intentionally, to starve one type of thinking while feeding the other until our thoughts consistently mirror Christ’s.

That, my friends, is when we begin to experience the peace that surpasses all understanding.

In the middle of our most anxious moments, we can stop whatever we’re doing to:

  • I’ve found it especially to praise God for all His attributes. “Lord, You’re all powerful, all loving, all knowing. You’re faithful and attentive.”
  • There’s something about praise music that stills my heart and calms my soul.
  • Recite truth. There’s power in God’s word. In fact, of all the spiritual weapons listed in Ephesians 6:10-18, Scripture is our only offensive weapon. All the other weapons are defensive.
  • Engage in something positive. Though my brain isn’t easy to distract, finding something active to do, like vacuuming, going for a walk, or purging the coat closet helps.

Let’s talk about this! When anxiety or fear hits, do you tend to obsess over that thing or turn to God? What are some tools you’ve found that help you move from fear to faith? Do you have any favorite Scriptures you rely on? Share your thoughts, examples, and suggestions with us in the comments below, because this is an area we all can grow stronger in!

I also encourage you to engage with Wholly Loved’s Facebook page as we’ve been talking about ways to break free from fear. And make sure to check out one of our upcoming Bold and Brave conferences where you’ll learn how to break free from the shackles of fear to live in freedom. Find out more HERE.

And before you go, make sure to sign up for my free quarterly newsletter to receive short stories, recipes, devotions, and more! You can sign up HERE.