Refreshed

It took a little while but this morning I was able to complete my 90-Day study of Awaken by Priscilla Shirer.  I love the format in which this book is written.  Each day begins with a scripture and then a short discussion followed by time to write down your thoughts.  If you are looking for a short daily devotional with high impact, I would definitely recommend this book.

On Monday, when I realized that I was almost done with Awaken, I stopped at my local Lifeway Christian bookstore to find my next bible study jewel.  I had no idea what I wanted to read/study next so I browsed the shelves for about an hour trying to find a book I was hoping would speak to my mind, spirit and soul.  I thumbed through all of the authors I am familiar with but nothing felt quite right.  I then turned my attention to authors I had not read before.  Low and behold I came across a book titled Craving Connection by (in)courage.  (in)courage, I have since come to know, was founded by Dayspring as an online community for women to share stories about their every day lives with God.

I purchased this little gem and brought it home.  I am looking forward to cracking it open in the morning and taking the next step toward building an even closer, deeper relationship with my heavenly Father.

On to greater heights...😊

Prayer Pause

If you read my last post you know that I purchased a new book, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.  I’ve been reading this book during my morning quiet times for about four weeks now so I am almost to the end.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is looking to update their prayer life.  To be perfectly honest, for me, I know that prayer is very important.  Growing up in church, it was known that one should pray.  It wasn’t until I got much older that I began to understand the purpose of prayer.  Although I love my conversations with God, it wasn’t until I read this book that I understood the true importance of prayer and how to make it a serious, specific and strategic part of my daily life.

I know when reading a book I usually stop to post and highlight each chapter.  This is one of those books that you just get into and it’s kind of hard to stop!  If a change in your prayer life is something you’ve been thinking about doing, here are a few highlights from the book that I have learned so far…

  • Fervent – felt very strong: having or showing strong feelings. Very hot; exhibiting or marked by great intensity or feeling.
  • In order to really see changes in ourselves and in our lives we need to truly understand that battle we are fighting. (Eph. 6:12)
  • Just as with any other thing we do in life, setting goals, throwing a surprise party, spending the day shopping…we must have a plan for our spiritual lives as well. (Judges 6)
  • Satan is a liar and sometimes recognizing him can be a challenge especially if you are dealing with a loss, relationship problems, issues with your children, stress, anxiety, work!  His end game is to separate God from his people.  (Rev. 19-20)
  • Shift your focus.  Stop wasting your time and energy on arguing with family and friends, having an attitude with coworkers or giving your husband the silent treatment.  All of those things are ineffective and zap your energy. (Micah 7:8)
  • Prayer keeps the truth about your real identity in constant, unbroken focus before you.  Prayer makes you aware of all the resources and strength and protection God has already placed on your side. (2 Kings 6:16)
  • Guard your heart and your relationship with God. (James 4:7)
  • Recheck your “To Do’ list! By taking time to spend with God each day you will actually be setting yourself up for success. (Matt. 6:33)

While I still have a few more chapters to go before I am finished with this book, I have learned a great deal so far.  I have started a prayer journal.  I write down ALL of the things that are on my heart and mind so I won’t forget who the real enemy is or what I am fighting for.  Instead of putting my prayers in an actual book, I post them on a wall in my bedroom.  The visual reminder helps me to keep my vision clear and my focus sharp.  Prayer changes things but specific and strategic prayer is a guided practice that works not only on the outside but more importantly on the inside.

🙂  Enjoy your day!

Chapter Twelve – God Calls Us to Wait

Whew…I have made it to the end of this book and therefore the end of this book study!  Yay, me!  I have learned quite a bit along the way.  Although I never intended for this study to last this long, sometimes you have to slow things down a bit to take care of the ones you love.

In all that we have learned during this study about finding our path, hearing God’s voice, understand our personal communication with Him and getting to know Him better, I think that learning to wait helps us to really see God working in our lives.  Sometimes the wait seems like forever but as we have come to know, when God finally responds He does more than we could have ever imagined.

Truth be told, we all continuously find ourselves in a waiting period.  Currently, I am waiting for a job promotion, waiting to purchase my very first home and waiting to get married.  Just waiting.  For me, the hardest part about waiting is that I ain’t getting any younger!  Time is not about to slow down for me and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  In the meantime, however, I am reminded in Galations 6:7-10, not to give up and to work for the good of myself and others.  All the things I’m waiting for will be here soon enough.  I just need to allow God to use this waiting period to get me prepared for when they do arrive…developing my patience.

Be patient and persevere…:)

Chapter Eleven – God Calls Us to Faith

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is a story in this chapter about a young man who wanted to be the very best lumberjack.  Although he tried everyday to beat the goal he had set for himself, he always seemed to come up short.  One day a much older and wiser man asked the young man about the frustration he saw on his face.  After the young man explained his dilemma, the older man said, “I can tell that you’ve been swinging your ax with everything you’ve got but I can’t help wondering, when was the last time you sharpened your ax?”

How many times a day do we venture out into the world with a dull ax or should I say a dull sword for us believers in Christ?  Just like the young man in this story we set goals for ourselves and the lives we want to live.  We get up each day working our plan and planning our work yet sometimes find ourselves coming up short.  We’ve been working the same plan (ax or sword) for the longest time and even though we are finding that it is no longer getting the job done, we haven’t stopped to re-evaluate the plan (sharpen the ax or sword).  Are there areas in your life where you feel you’ve been using a dull ax or sword?  If so, what is the best way for you to sharpen that spiritual ax or sword?

God calls each of us to have faith.  His word gives us the ability to strengthen and grow in our faith.  When we don’t take the time to read and study God’s word regularly (daily) we are simply swinging at our struggles and challenges with a dull sword.  God’s word is full of promises that sharpen us as followers of Jesus. (p. 70).

 

Put on the full armor of God, Ephesians 6…:)

Chapter Ten – God Calls Us to Obedience

I love being a mom.  My son…now that kid is quite the character.  He never gave me much trouble, nothing that I couldn’t handle.  He’s polite, respectful, charming and funny.  People just love the boy.  He will be twenty-two in just a few days and in all the years I’ve known him, he has one little flaw that really irks my nerves!

As a parent, we try to shield our kids from harm and guide them as best we can.  When we see our children about to do something that is probably not in their best interest we do all that we can to get them to think about their actions and ultimately the consequences that may follow.  As far back as I can remember, probably when the child started talking, when I stopped to talk to my son about something he was attempting to do that was not in his best interest, his response was always the same…”aw, mom! I got this!”.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard him say that, go off and do his thing only to find out that he didn’t actually have it.

However, over the years I have learned that he is right.  His choices and decisions are his alone to make.  I can only voice my thoughts, try to give him better direction and hope he will heed my warning before he makes his decision.  Being like nearly all other early twenty-somethings, the boy follows the road heavily traveled and will often come back to me saying, “Mom, I probably should have listened to you on that one”.  As a parent, you listen and try to encourage them to do better because really that’s all we can do.

After reading this chapter and thinking about my son, I came to realize that I sometimes do the same things to God that my son does to me when I am trying to guide him onto a path I know would be better for him.  And just like my son, when God is trying to stop me or shield me from harm, I am basically saying to God, “I got this!”, only to find out that I really didn’t have it and I probably should have heeded God’s warning.

God calls us to follow him and to be obedient so that we don’t have to keep hitting our heads against a wall when we chose not to heed God’s warning and follow the plan he has for us.  God gives us the freedom to make our own decisions but he also gave us the bible as a blueprint for living our lives so that the road we travel doesn’t have to be filled with a string of bad choices, regret, guilt, shame, judgement, depression, anxiety, anger and all those other negative things that keep us from being our very best in Him.

Walking the road less traveled…:) 

Chapter Nine – God Calls Us to Know Him & Love Him

Revelations 2:5 ~ Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first…

Whenever I read a book like this I always try to find something in my life to connect my learning to.  I think it would be such a waste of time to do all of this reading and studying if I don’t find a way to connect and grow from it.  I was really able to connect to this chapter in the book because it made me remember all that I had done in years past to really build a relationship with God.  Prior to becoming an adult and taking responsibility for my relationship with God, I was baptized at around nine years old.  I remember that baptism at Rose Olivet Missionary Baptist Church in San Francisco, California.  I didn’t really understand it but I do remember it.  It wasn’t until I got older and started trying to “figure out” my life that began to grow in my knowledge of God that it took a little bit more than a dip in a baptismal pool to be in a true relationship with God.

When I moved to Tampa back in 2001 I met this wonderful lady who listened to my struggles and then did something no one else had…she opened up her bible and began to read it to me.  She prayed with me and helped me to actually study the word of God.  I was in awe.  Nothing like this had ever happened to me before and I will forever be grateful to my dear friend for setting me on a path of discovering what it means to have a relationship with God.  A few months later just after my 28th birthday, that beautiful lady, Denise and our friend Jasmine along with the pastors at our church baptized me again.  It was such a great night. Even now, when I look at the pictures, I am reminded of how great I felt that night.

Many times during our fight to stay strong through the hard times we already know what we should do but because we feel a certain way we just don’t do it.  (I am so guilty of that.)  There are times, even before trouble strikes we know we should have made a different choice but because we felt  a certain way we don’t do what we know is right but what feels good at the moment.  So, here we sit in the midst of the swirling storm wondering, “how did I get here?”

We all know that old saying that even after years of being together, couples should continue to date and do some of same things they did prior to marriage and kids in order to keep their bond strong.  I feel strongly that I can use this same wisdom to better connect to my relationship with God.  The same things I did way back in 2001 to build a relationship with Him are the same things I need to continue doing now.  Not everyday will be perfect and after the few weeks I’ve just had with the death of my mother and brother I can honestly say that I was definitely feeling some type of way.  What kept me going was the wealth of knowledge, studying and praying I had done during the good times that gave me strength when the bad times came along.  Building a relationship with God doesn’t stop at baptism.  It may change from time to time but it doesn’t stop.

Getting back to the basics…:)

Chapter Eight – God Whispers

So imagine you are at a get together.  Things have been a little hectic in your life and its been awhile since you’ve seen or been able to chat with your best friend. You know your bestie will be at the party so wait with anticipation to see her/him because you have so much to tell them.  Finally, the bestie shows up and before they can get caught up in socializing you whisk them away from the noise to give them the rundown on the current events in your life.  Just to make sure your conversation isn’t overheard, you lean as close as possible and whisper.  We whisper because we want the intimacy of having a private and personal conversation with the person we trust more than life itself.

Sometimes when we are praying and seeking God’s counsel, we half expect him to literally shake mountains or uproot and replant trees right before our eyes in response to our requests.  Of course, God could very well do those things if he so chooses but God may also choose to respond to us in a much softer, gentler way. He may prefer to simply whisper.  A whisper from God is like getting an invitation to lean in just a little bit closer to him in order to really see and understand all that he is attempting to teach us.  When we lean in, we can enjoy the intimacy of a private and personal conversation with the one who gives us life.

In 1 Kings 19, Elijah felt weak, exhausted, tired and frustrated with the events happening in his life.  Even as he was ready to give up, God spoke to him in a clear, soft whisper.  God reminded Elijah that even in the worst of times He is still present.  There was no earthshaking, no mountains moved and no trees uprooted.  It was simply God’s soft whisper in the midst of all that chaos.

Even when life seems out of sorts and chaotic, God is aware and communicates with us even then.  We just have to lean in a little closer to hear His whisper.