Why is it, the moment we start to pray, our mind jumps to a thousand other things? Why does an hour in church service launch launch thoughts of our to-do list? These questions arose as I read my guest blogger’s post this morning. Fellow ACFW writer Sue Barr shares a comical yet thought-provoking analogy below, from a writer’s perspective. Enjoy, and happy Easter!

Spiritual Bunny Trails

By Sue Barr

Being that the Easter weekend is only a few days away, I thought I’d share a small story about bunnies. Plot Bunnies to be exact. Cute, fuzzy, totally adorable and can lead you down a merry path where you lose focus and ultimately don’t meet any of your goals. I know of which I speak.

Plot Bunny dropped a single line into my brain and then proceeded to hop around adding ideas, characters and exciting scenes. Soon I found myself scouring sites for character inspiration and the whole story consumed me. I lost a few days of precious writing time before the Lord gently reminded me of my current work in progress.

Ultimately, I believe I was allowed to run amok because God had a plan to link plot bunnies with the way we behave as children of God. Fitting, don’t you agree?

How often do we lose focus in our Christian lives? We become sidetracked by social activities within our church family as well as our blood families. Ever catch yourself thinking about where you’ll go for lunch after service when you should be praising God? Do you tune out the pastor as you quickly send/receive a text or peruse the church bulletin? Do you wonder if, or think about, or…the list is long.

Why is that?

In the big picture called Life, our loving Father asks very little of us and we sometimes struggle to spend a few precious minutes focusing on Him. The plot bunnies of life intrude and all they really do is take away our joy.

Then you will call upon Me and you will go and pray to Me and I shall heed you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13 One New Man Bible)

What a promise.

God does not lie, and this is a promise we can cling to. We will call. We will pray. Ergo, we will focus, and He shall heed us.

This Friday is Good Friday, when we reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of Christ. He laid down His life so we could stand before our Holy Father blameless and forgiven. Let’s focus our attention on what is true. Cast aside those plot bunnies which threaten to sidetrack us and steal our joy. Give God the Glory, for the things He has done. I love that hymn.

***

Sue Barr is a wife, mom, grandmother and a Christian fiction writer. She’s a member of ACFW as well as Romance Writers of America and their satellite chapter, Faith, Hope and Love. She writes small town contemporary romance as well as Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF).

Her latest release, Caroline, is first in the series Pride & Prejudice continued. Reviewers agree that although Caroline Bingley is a character we all love to hate, they reluctantly find themselves rooting for her throughout the book. Which is exactly why Sue penned this novel. God placed on her heart to write a story of redemptive love and healing of shattered dreams. Something He’s exceptionally good at.

Caroline:

Whatever happened to Caroline Bingley after her brother and unrequited love interest married a Bennet sister?

Caroline Bingley, beyond frustrated with her brother and Mr. Darcy both proposing to the Bennet sisters, dreads their upcoming nuptials. For three years her sole focus has been on attaining a marriage proposal from one Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, only to be foiled by a country miss with ‘fine eyes’. Adrift and not sure of her place in life, she meets the devastatingly handsome Lord Nathan, who equally vexes and intrigues her.

Lord Nathan Kerr, third in line to a Dukedom, had a well-earned reputation as a Rake. He cast all that and his noble title aside to become Mr. Darcy’s vicar in Kympton, finding contentment in leading his small flock and doing the Lord’s work. His plan for a quiet, country life is thrown into upheaval when he meets the fiery Miss Bingley. Can he reconcile his rising desire for the spoiled miss with how a vicar’s wife ‘should’ behave?

Buy the book HERE.

Visit Sue on her website and blog, connect with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

You might also enjoy:

Taming ADD Prayers

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

And for those who like to follow the devotions on Wholly Loved, this week guest blogger Eileen Rife shared how we can find peace and fulfillment when our life-roles shift. You can read that HERE. (If you’d like Wholly Loved to come to you, email us at contact(at)whollyloved(dot)com, and visit our website to learn more.

 

 

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Choosing to Praise

Whatever we focus on tends to dominate our thoughts, and our thoughts determine our emotions. Is it any wonder then that our misery grows when we obsess over the issue or difficulty? And yet, when we choose to praise … Today my sweet friend, photographer, and gifted devotional writer, Susan Aken shares some thoughts on how we can choose to praise God, no matter our circumstances, and why we must.

Choose to Praise by Susan Aken

My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn! I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your faithfulness reaches to the clouds” (Psalm 108:1-4 ESV).

God called King David a man after His own heart (Acts 13:22). There are many reasons God said this about David but Psalm 108 shows us one clear reason. David was fixed on praising God. He was fixed on praising God not because things always went his way. Not because he never suffered. Not because he was perfect. It was a choice he made. He told God, “My heart is steadfast!” To be steadfast is to be firm, stable, established, fixed. He was set on praising God and nothing would sway him from that. He said:

I WILL sing and make melody with all my being!

I WILL awake the dawn!

I WILL give thanks to You, O LORD!

I WILL sing praises to You among the nations.

David determined to sing for God with all his being. He chose to start his day praising God. He made the choice to give thanks to Him. He was set on praising God in his heart and also chose to praise Him among the nations.

Why? Why would he praise Him in spite of trouble and oppression? Why would he praise Him in spite of his own weaknesses? Why would he praise Him in the midst of daily struggles?

For Your steadfast love is great above the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!” (Psalm 108:4-5)

Why would he praise Him? Because God’s love is great above the heavens! His love never fails. His love is everlasting! Because His faithfulness goes on forever!   

He deserves all praise and all glory! His love and faithfulness will never fail us.

Like David, I can choose to praise Him. I can say with David:

I will sing and make melody with all my heart!

I will wake up in the morning praising Him!

I will give thanks to you, O LORD!

I will sing your praises to those around me.

It’s a choice I can make. I can praise Him in spite of circumstances because He never changes. His character is firm in spite of my problems and struggles. I can praise Him because His love for me never fails. He will never love me any less. I can make the choice to sing and make music in my heart. I can thank Him everyday for all He does for me. I can also choose to praise His name to those around me. I can tell them how great He is.

God’s love for me is steadfast. It will never change. His faithfulness goes on forever. He is worthy of all my praise.

I will give thanks to you, O LORD! I will sing your praises to others. Praise your Holy Name!

This is a choice we can make every day! It’s a gift we give to our Lord.

Let’s talk about this! Choosing to praise isn’t always easy, but man, is it important. It draws our hearts closer to Christ and helps us appreciate all the abundant blessings He’s provided. When life is going well, it’s easy to praise. But when life is hard, what can we do to really fix our thoughts on Christ and praising Him, remaining steadfast in our praise? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.

 

Susan 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

And be sure to check out her wonderful devotional!

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.

You might also enjoy:

Big Me, Little God Syndrome by Jennifer Henn

When There Are No Answers by Tara Johnson

As I’m linking to all these great posts, I’m reminded that I haven’t shared some of my devotions, written for Wholly Loved Ministries, with you. Sorry! For those of you who would like to check them out:

Fearless When Ill-equipped

The Freedom of Living Wholly Loved

And on Crosswalk:

Five Ways to Destroy Your Marriage

How to Develop the Mind of Christ

Also, if you’re in the Omaha/Bellevue/Papillion area, I’d love to see you Saturday! Stop in at Divine Truth Christian bookstore and grab an autographed copy of my latest release, Restoring Love! Reviewers are calling this my best novel yet, and I’ve been told it’d make a great witnessing tool. Plus, it’s set in Omaha, which is crazy fun!

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ

JohnStudy1

 

I had a very difficult pregnancy, one characterized by the constant fear that I would lose the precious child I’d prayed for, that I’d grown to love so deeply, from the moment I knew she existed. One night in particular, everyone–myself, my husband, our doctor–was certain I had. I was awakened in the middle of the night by a strong, rapid, and continual trembling and rolling in my abdomen followed by significant bleeding, and my husband rushed me to the hospital. As I lay on that cold, hard table, all I could  pray was, “No. Please Lord, no.”

I went home that night with my sweet Ashley, still very much alive, but my prayers took on a desperation after that. A bit of bargaining*. “Lord, if you’ll just help me keep this baby to term, I’ll give her back to you.”

I remembered that promise often in the days and years ahead: When I was tired and table-rock-943215_1920-1tempted to forgo our nightly Bible reading. When I was frustrated and tempted to take the easy road, parenting wise. When my heart was breaking over something she’d endured and I was tempted to focus on fixing the situation rather than helping her grow in Christ.

All I can say is, 19 years later, as I see the young woman God’s molded our girl into, I’m oh-so-grateful for that promise and how God used it to help me raise a child who does her best to reveal Christ.

This is our focus this week in our For the Love Bible study, and my special guest author Candee Fick talks about what this looked like for John the Baptist’s parents and how we can follow their example.

Raising Children Who Reveal Christ
by Candee Fick

It’s not everyone who gets a supernatural birth announcement or a miraculous baby after years of infertility. Personally, I think Zechariah and Elizabeth might have needed the baby-179378_640overly-dramatic beginning to give them the stamina and dedication to prepare their child for his destiny—to prepare the way for the Messiah. Every day they saw John’s face they had to remember that God was intimately involved in their lives, and then remember that John was born to tell others about the coming Christ.

Can you imagine the stories shared around the fire? John must have grown up surrounded by village tales of a heavenly voice in the Temple and a temporarily-speechless father not to mention an entire hill country wondering what he would grow up to become.

John’s life was the stuff of legends and the angel even said he would be great. Being told he would be filled with the Holy Spirit and go before the Lord in the power of Elijah could have led him to believe that he was something special.

And he was.

Except he wasn’t the greatest. Somewhere along the way, his parents not only raised John with the skills he would need to fulfill his personal mission of bringing the people of Israel desert-1197972_640back to God, they had to teach him to deflect the attention toward God. Huge crowds gathered to listen to John’s message of repentance, then one day John looked up from baptizing folks on the banks of the Jordan River and knew the time had come for his audience to follow Someone else instead. Between the Holy Spirit and the training he received from his parents, John obviously recognized the pivotal moment for what it was and transferred the crowd’s fickle attention with his announcement for them to “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

How did John’s parents raise a child who pointed others to Christ?

  • First, Zechariah and Elizabeth lived a personal example of faith. Between their priestly lineage and the gift of prophecy at critical moments, John couldn’t help but be raised with a solid foundation of truth and the knowledge of God’s power through history.
  • Second, they obviously also set up some behavioral boundaries to keep him on the right path and not derail his future. The angel told them to keep him away from the wine and fermented drinks (a cultural sign that he was set apart for God’s work) while later in the first chapter of Luke it states that John lived in the wilderness before he began his public life.
  • Third, I have to believe that every time John did something great or had some amazing insight thanks to the Holy Spirit in his life, his parents pointed out how that was an example of God working in and through him. Always pointing John back to person-371015_640God so that he could in turn point others to God.

I’ve got a son who is gifted with some serious athletic talent. In fact, he lettered in four sports his senior year of high school and is now in college with a basketball scholarship. All that to say, it would have been very easy for him to get a big head and strut his stuff down the hallways.

While this isn’t on the scale of a John the Baptist, as a mother I have tried to constantly remind my son of the Gift-Giver and his responsibility to use those gifts in a way that points people back to God. I strive to keep the presence of God in the middle of our family through prayer, devotions, and natural testimonies of what God is doing in my own life. To identify examples of God’s hand at work in the lives of others. Ultimately, my hope is that my oldest son will use his platform as an athlete to be the right kind of example for younger boys to model as he deflects attention heavenward.

Consistently pointing back to Christ is a difficult lesson to learn and even harder to live. Yet aren’t we all called to do the same, to use our gifts for God’s glory and then become less so that God’s message can become more? Thanks to the influence of his parents, John learned to to do just that.

***

danceoverme-500x750-1Danielle Lefontaine, a fledgling actress raised to the lullaby of Broadway, searches for her long-lost brother and her place on the stage, but a jealous cast member and numerous fruitless leads threaten to drop the curtain on her dreams and shine a spotlight on her longing for a place to belong. Meanwhile, Alex Sheridan is living his dream except for someone to share it with. When Dani dances into his life, he hopes he’s found the missing piece to his heart but fears the bright lights of a bigger stage could steal her away.

Will the rhythm of dancing feet usher in their deepest desires or leave them stranded in the wings?

Find Dance Over Me on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And for a funny, more lighthearted post by Candee, visit my alter ego’s blog to read how she lives in continual weather-confusion. (You can read that HERE.)

***

candee-fick_headshotCandee Fick is the wife of a high school football coach and the mother of three children, including a daughter with a rare genetic syndrome. When not busy with her day job or writing, she can be found cheering on the home team at football, basketball, baseball, and Special Olympics games. In what little free time remains, she enjoys exploring the great Colorado outdoors, indulging in dark chocolate, and savoring happily-ever-after endings through a good book.

Connect with Candee on her web site, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Google+.

Let’s talk about this! If you’re parenting now, what are some ways you try to raise your children to point to and reveal Christ? What makes this hard? If your children are grown, what were some ways you did this while they were growing up? Can you see the results of your efforts now that they’re adults? Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below on Facebook at Living by Grace, or join our Facebook Bible study group For the Love to discuss this further. Because we can all learn from and encourage one another!

john12-24versejpgAnd for those following our Bible study, here’s this week’s memory verse, one God intends for each of us to live out, daily, and to teach our children to do the same.

*Note: God’s will cannot be “bargained” nor does this post intend to support that or encourage one to even try. Rather, it shares a moment of heartache and terror and my human response, and how God later used that, because He truly can use it all–our successes and failures, our steps of obedience and our regrets and weaknesses.

Learning Through a Child

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

Photo by David Castillo taken from freedigitalphotos.net

I admit it, I’m a needy Christian. I crave need and crave constant attention from my heavenly Father, especially when He’s nudging me into a new area. I want to be reminded of things He’s told me a thousand times, and more than anything, I need to know He’s always there, to feel His presence walking beside me.

Yes, I’m a needy child, but I don’t think God minds.  Today my guest  Teresa Tysinger, shares what she recently learned through her daughter about fear, insecurity, and divine reassurance. Read on and be encouraged.

“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

What My Daughter Taught Me about Being a Child of God
by Teresa Tysinger

Labor with my daughter, Emma, took over thirty-two hours. She began walking at only nine months old, learned to cook herself scrambled eggs at four years, and was only five when she took the dog out for her morning walk down the street while my husband and I were still sleeping. Now half way to eight years old, she reminds us that soon she’ll be mailbox-959299_640driving. She’s independent, determined, helpful, and maybe a just tad stubborn. It’s easy to forget she’s still a young child.

We recently moved into a new home. As night descended for our first night sleeping in the new place, Emma whined about bedtime as I tucked her in. The following conversation tugged at my heart in unexpected ways.

“Mama, can I sleep with you and daddy, just for tonight?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with me.

“Aren’t you excited about sleeping in your new room?”

“No. What if I wake up in the middle of the night and forget where you are?” Her little hand reached out and held mine tightly, as if afraid I’d be lost if she let go.

“We’ll leave a light on so you can find your way to our room if you wake up, okay?”

“But…Mama…” she whined.

“Emma…” Prickles of frustration marched up my arm. Boxes waited to be unpacked. You aremySunshineLaundry needed to put away. So much to do. It would be a big help if this bedtime process sped up.

“Will you at least sing me a lullaby so I can hear your voice in my head while I sleep? That’ll remind me where I am.”

Her eyes closed, waiting for me to sing. I swallowed past the lump formed in my throat and crooned out You Are My Sunshine. As the last word hung in the air, her breathing was calm and rhythmic, face relaxed. Bless her.

When I made my way back to the living room full of boxes and bubble wrap, it dawned on me how similar we must seem to God as his weary children. We need constant reassurance that he’s there. We need to be reminded of his promises. And we need just to go to his Word to let his promises ring true in our hearts so we remember where (and whose) we are.

“And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.20

Parenting is so hard. The demands are constant, challenges plenty, and rewards child-praying-hands-1510773_640sometimes seem too subtle to recognize. I struggle with patience and selflessness. While Emma needed a simple reminder of her security in our new home—a reminder of her parents’ presence—she taught me about being a child of God through her ability and gumption to ask for what she needed.

Don’t miss these lessons parenting provides. I’m so thankful for my fiercely independent, yet still young and vulnerable, seven year old.

***

teresatysinger_bioTeresa Tysinger is a wife and mother transplanted from North Carolina to North Texas. When not working as the Director of Communications for a large downtown church, she writes charming southern romances, inspired by grace. As a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Religious Communicators’ Council, and the Association for Women in Communications, Teresa has spent over a decade committed to telling stories of faith through written word. She loves coffee, caramel, and stories with happy endings.

Connect with Teresa at:
Facebook – Teresa Tysinger, Author
Twitter – @TMTysinger
Website & Blog – http://teresatysinger.com

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Emma asked Teresa to sing her a lullaby so she’ll hear her mama’s voice while she’s sleeping and remember where she is. Have you ever experienced that deep need, whether with another person or with the Lord? How did you fill that need? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.

 Before you go, some fun book news! Two of my novels are currently available from Amazon at significant discounts!

Intertwined is on sale (paperback version!) for $6.78! That’s 58% off the e0d5a-intertwined_n154121regular price! Get it HERE and read the first 2 chapters for free HERE. Aaaaannnnnd, my latest release, Breaking Free, is on sale (paperback version) for $4.21! Get it HERE!

Looking Back and Moving Forward

HopeversejpgYou may have heard the expression, you can’t move forward when you remain fixated on the past. When our thoughts are consumed with old hurts or successes we’ve experienced. We may even begin to wonder if God is through with us, but friend, Christian’s don’t have shelf lives. If you’re breathing, God has a plan for you. A glorious, hope-filled plan.

Today, Michael Ehret shares how clinging to the past can hurt us, and shows us through his experience how we can move forward and see what God is doing in us now.

veronica-393194_640

Where are you reveling?
by Michael Ehret

In high school, I won a couple awards for various things now long forgotten and unimportant. One award, however, stood out for me because I worked so hard to get it and, award-833992_640I must admit, I felt I deserved it.

Each year the drama department of our high school would hold an awards ceremony—our own little Oscar night in Elkhart, Indiana. My tribe then was the drama and choir folks. As far as we were concerned, these awards were it—the be all and end all of the year.

In my senior year, I almost didn’t attend the banquet because tradition held that the “Best Actor” award went to the male lead in the fall musical. I did not get that role (Georg Von Trapp in The Sound of Music) after tryouts and was still sore about it because I really wanted that “Best Actor” trophy—and now I wouldn’t get it and would have to pretend to congratulate the guy who would get it. Talk about a “Best Actor”-worthy performance!

But I went. When my name was called as the winner of that coveted trophy, it was a true shock. But it shouldn’t have been. Because I had done considerable work on the stage in other productions that year (and, truth be told, I was a senior—there are benefits).

I thought of that moment in my life when I came across this passage of Scripture the other day:

Eternal One: Don’t revel only in the past, or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by. Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as i speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none” (Isaiah 43:18-19, The Voice).

 

When I think about winning that trophy now, and I do frequently, it’s not an altogether happy memory. Looking back, I can see how my anger at not getting that one role (that ended up not mattering) colored my whole year. And I see a selfish young man that God has had to do considerable work with.

I’m grateful for that soul work, but there remains much to do in my life because Isaiah’s admonition to the Israelites—and to me—is still instructive.

I’ve forgiven the young me for his selfishness in the past, but until recently I was still living (reveling) in the past in other aspects of my life, namely my writing. I’ve dealt with this in other places recently (Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE), so I won’t go over that again today.

Today let’s look forward. Today let’s look at Verse 19: “Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am woman-591576_640preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.”

When Isaiah cautions against reveling in the past he does so not because looking back and learning from the past is bad, but because excessive looking back can keep you from looking forward—can keep you from seeing what God is doing (or wants to do) now in your life.

This is exactly what I did when I allowed a bad editor appointment to derail my writing for years. I gave up on many opportunities that God might have set in front of me because I was glued, pie-eyed, to the video in my brain of that editor telling me my writing wasn’t ready (it wasn’t). I looked back because I was afraid to look forward.

Don’t let that happen to you, whether you’re a writer or not. Look back at the past to learn from it—to gain motivation to look forward. But don’t look back so much that you end up living there. There’s no real life in the past.

***

a418a046dd1af61c5a01697fccf6257fMichael Ehret has accepted God’s invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he’s worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.

 

***

livingbygracepic-jpLet’s talk about it: Today, Michael shared his experiences with reveling in his past and how he moved on. Are you struggling with letting go of something now? Have you had something from the past you used to hang on to? How did you move beyond it? Share your thoughts on Facebook at Living by Grace or in the comments below. We can all use some encouragement and help!

If you follow me online, here’s where I’ve been this week:

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting with Mary Vee where I spoke about how God can use deep pain and sorrow to bring about eternal gain. Read it HERE. I also had the privilege of being interviewed on Lena Nelson Dooley’s blog. You can read it HERE–and there’s a giveaway of my latest release, Breaking FreeFinally (Friday was a busy day!), I spent some time with Robin Lee Hatcher in an interview. Join in the conversation HERE, and don’t forget to subscribe to her newsletter for another chance to win a copy of Breaking Free.

On Monday, Robin E. Mason highlighted me on her “New Week, New Face” feature where I wrote about the personality of a writer–I’m truly normal…or as normal as one can get. Come talk with us HERE.

Tuesday saw me over at The Singing Librarian for an interview you can read HERE. She also reviewed Breaking Free, which you can read HERE.

If you’re local, I’ll be at Divine Truth Christian Bookstore in La Vista, NE this Saturday for a book signing. I would love to see you there!

Divine Truth April 23

And if you’re within driving distance of Omaha, I do hope you’ll join me at the Wordsowers Conference where I’ll be teaching how one can craft characters that grab hold of readers on a deeply emotional level.

One last thing. In August, I’ll be in Nashville for the first Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat. Head HERE to read about who will be there and to register. I would love to see you there!

Other resources you may enjoy:

Releasing the Past to Live in the Now 

A Woman With a Past, a God With a Future by Elsa Kok

A Thankful Heart

turkey-532962_640Sometimes gratitude pours from us, unbidden. Other times it’s an act of will; a determination to praise God in the hard and sad. Either way, God is worthy of our praise and worship. And regardless of what we’re going through, I believe cultivating a grateful heart makes life sweeter.

November is the month of giving thanks, but in today’s guest blog post Jodie Wolfe explains that thankfulness should be a part of our everyday lives. As you are reading don’t forget all the reasons you have to be thankful, this month and everyday.

A Thankful Heart by Jodie Wolfe

Can you believe it’s only a week until Thanksgiving? I don’t know about you, but this year has been flying by for me. Seeing Thanksgiving photos make me in the mood for a succulent feast. Of course I’ll be the one cooking it.

Thankfulness seems to go hand-in-hand with this month. As my boys were growing up we had a family tradition each Thanksgiving where we listed our praises from the following year. We kept a journal and recorded our appreciation so we could re-read it.

Being thankful doesn’t have to be limited to a certain holiday or time of year. In fact, according to this Bible verse, fall-591800_640anytime is a good time to be thankful. I’ve found the more I choose to be thankful, the more I’m aware of God’s many blessings He pours out each day.

Along with choosing to be thankful, don’t be surprised if you get thrown into situations which challenge your resolve. Keep firm in your decision. Don’t be swayed or falter.

Giving thanks each day is something you won’t regret. The more you do it the easier it is. Now is a good time to start having a thankful heart.

Jodie 2015Jodie Wolfe was bit by the writing bug as a young girl after reading and watching Little House on the Prairie. She loves writing stories about feisty heroines and strong, godly heroes. The power of story to influence lives and change hearts is what motivates her to weave tales that tell of the Savior’s faithfulness and forgiveness. Jodie is a columnist for Home School Enrichment magazine and had a devotion featured on Christian Devotions. She achieved semi-finalist status in the 2013 ACFW Genesis Contest and 3rd place in the 2015 Novel Beginnings at St. David’s Christian Writer’s Conference. She is represented by Linda S. Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency.

Jodie’s Website

Facebook Page

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this! A couple years, after reading a verse I couldn’t for the life of me find this morning, I started something similar to what Jodie in our home. The verse talked about how God was revealed in all He’s done, and this really struck me–the idea that we could come to know God better, His heart, character, and love, by staying alert to His hand each day. So, at dinner, our family talked about something God had done that day and also something He’d done in our past, discussing what that event or God-moment revealed about Him. It was such a sweet time of really reflecting on the goodness of Christ and of bonding as a family.

Perhaps start a similar tradition in your home this Thanksgiving, one that, like Jodie suggested, extends beyond the holiday season.

Have you paused to count your blessings, and if so, what were the results? What are some ways you can create an atmosphere of praise and gratitude in your home this holiday season? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook. Because we can all learn from each other!

Cultivating Intimacy

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It’s easy to fall into rote behaviors. To pray without thinking; to worship half-heartedly with our mouth singing one thing while our mind jumps to every task awaiting us. To read Scripture without personalizing and digesting the precious, intimate, life-changing Words of God.

It happens every year, it seems. Actually, more like every month, but admitting such would be far too self-disclosing. Somehow, my to-do list begins to grow, tugging at my heart, my mind, my worship. And when that happens, I’m left with two choices: keep going as if busyness is somehow normal and desirable, as if it’s perfectly okay to allow the temporal to crowd out the eternal–to keep me from the One person, the only One, who can strengthen, nourish, refresh, and fulfill me. Or I can stop! And make a conscious choice to slow down.

King David’s words to his son, right before assigning him a monumental task that would take decades to complete, really resonated with me this morning.

“…learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve Him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek Him, you will find Him” (1 Chron. 28:9 NLT).

Learn to know God intimately.

Worship and serve Him with [my] whole heart. An undivided heart. A focused and surrendered heart. And a willing mind, AbideVersejpg-photopublicdomainwhich means, I need to surrender my mind, and all those lists and agendas that run through it in a given day, to the lover of my soul. If I do that, if I intentionally seek Him, I will find Him.

Today, I need to unplug. Slow down. Rest and connect. And I plan to intentionally fill that need. This morning my sweet hubby and I are going to a lavender farm not too far from us, so we can enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, a creation that naturally draws the heart to the Creator. We’ll listen to praise music. Pray. And simply rest.

What about you? When was the last time you set your to-do list aside and simply slowed down? What are some ways, when your heart and mind feel pulled in a thousand directions, that you still it and center it in worship?

Share your thoughts in the comments below, and have a happy, restful, worshipful weekend!