Action Items

I took a personality profile in college that pegged me as a “doer.” This wasn’t news to me, or anyone that knew me. I am an “action-y” person. I get things done. I don’t let dust settle on me, as the saying goes. I think I have viewed my walk with God through the doer’s personality lens. Working on my faith has always been another thing on my to-do list, until I came across this beautiful truth tucked into the first part of Hebrews 12 – Jesus (not myself) is the Perfecter of my faith.

Fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. – Hebrews 12:2

According to this verse, my part is to fix my eyes on Jesus. That’s my sole action item. His part is to begin, continue and finish my faith. I had never before thought that anyone other than myself was in charge of my faith! Other Scripture backs this up – He is the Potter; I am the clay. He does the filling; I get filled. He is the Vinedresser; I am the branch. Just like so many times in my walk with God, another piece of the puzzle slipped into place. Perfecting my faith? That’s His action item.

PONDER: Have you assumed you were the perfecter of your faith? How does this verse change your perspective?

PRAYER: Father, thank You that your yoke is easy and your burden is light! Forgive me when I take Your job of perfecting my faith into my own hands. I realize now that I have a lifelong habit of attempting to do Your job for You. Help me instead to keep my eyes fixed on You while You continue and finish what You have started.

Giving Thanks in the Little Things

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Simon and I are practicing something new this Thanksgiving season, a variation of an idea I found here.

During the the entire month of November, we are paying closer attention to all the little things our kids are doing that are “praiseworthy” (like holding the door for someone, taking the garbage out unasked, remembering to use good manners, holding their tongue when treated harshly, or any number of other character qualities we want to encourage in our next generation). Each time we witness such an act, we are writing about it on a fall-colored sticky note and sticking it to their bedroom doors when they aren’t looking. (Example: “I was so thankful when I saw you offer to help the man in the wheelchair get a refill of his soda at Sam’s today.” True story. Cue Mom tears.)

Seems simple enough, I know, but I confess that I am too quick to point out the negative while being too slow to praise the positive. And a month focused on thankfulness seems like the proper place to change that pattern, don’t you think? After all, we are encouraged in Philippians 4:8 to do this very thing…

“whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable – if there is any moral excellence or if there is any praise – dwell on these things.”

How are you shifting your focus to one of thanksgiving for the little things this season? Please share your creative ideas (or links) in the comments.

More Like Mary

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Mary (left) and Laura, Season 1 of Little House on the Prairie

Growing up, Little House on the Prairie was one of my favorite t.v. shows. I could relate to Laura as someone who struggled to do the right thing when her feelings tempted her to do the opposite. One such example was from the first season. Laura and Mary had just experienced the first of many unpleasant interactions with nasty Nellie Olsen. Sitting on the stairs of the mercantile, Mary commented to Laura that she could never be as mean as Nellie.

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I confess – I loved this scened. Oh, Nelly!

Laura’s unforgettable reply was, “I could, if Ma and Pa would let me.” As she lived with her beloved parents’ daily influence, they molded Laura’s actions and reactions. In the same way, we have God’s Holy Spirit living within us.

I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. – Ezekiel 36:27

His Spirit is constantly available to influence the choices we make and daily mold our actions and reactions, as well. While our feelings may echo Laura’s sentiment, with the Holy Spirit on duty within our hearts, our reactions can be more like Mary’s.

PONDER: In what situation are you most tempted to react in your flesh? Choose to submit your will unto God’s, allowing the Holy Spirit to mold your actions & reactions.

PRAYER: Father, I confess that my actions and reactions are more in line with Laura’s. Help me to be more like Mary, slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger. Thank You for the gift of Your Holy Spirit living within me, teaching and guiding and directing me as I walk with You.

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Test Driving New Traditions

I came across a great idea at the end of summer while looking ahead to the Thanksgiving holiday season – a Thanksgiving Tree!

Perhaps the phrase “Thanksgiving Tree” heralds the nostalgia of school days with images like these…imagesthanksgiving_treethanksgiving-tree-2-apron-strings-other-things-570x526

Or perhaps the phrase “Thanksgiving Tree” brings to mind Pinterest-worthy creations like these?

We should have known Ann Voskamp would be ahead of the curve with this elegant table topper.
I should have known Ann Voskamp would be ahead of the curve with this elegant table topper.
This Thanksgiving Tree by Lia Griffith is absolutely enviable, right?
This Thanksgiving Tree by Lia Griffith is absolutely enviable, right?

Now put a pin in both of those preconceived ideas because when I say “Thanksgiving Tree,” this little beauty is what I’m talking about:thanksgiving-tree

I first discovered the whole idea of having a “Thanksgiving Tree” here and I love this site’s vision for a few different reasons. First, I scarcely decorate for Fall, much less Thanksgiving specifically. Second, I appreciate the focus on handmade decorations for our first “Thanksgiving Tree” because I have always have resident artists in my home. Third, it uses something I already own (the tree) in a new, creative way. Fourth, it cuts down on the workload that is December 1 in our home (the day we decorate for Christmas) by one tree.

So…this year we’re going to test drive this new tradition of a Thanksgiving Tree and see how she handles for our family. What about you? What new traditions are you going to test drive this November in your home? Feel free to share your great ideas (or links) in the comments section.

Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 5

The “Lectio Divina” (or DIVINE READING) Method

The four steps are reading the Bible (taking a bite), meditating on it (chewing), praying (savoring the word), and contemplating its applications so it becomes a part of one’s life (digesting). This method seems to require the biggest time commitment at one sitting, so give yourself at least 30 uninterrupted minutes per day this week as you explore this different pattern of prayer.

1. Reading. Read the passage slowly. Pay attention to the text. Read it several times. Underline sections that catch your attention.

2. Meditating. Try to grasp the meaning of the passage, be aware of God’s presence in your life.

3. Praying. Respond to God, converse with him about the passage and his will. Open your heart to God. Share your heart, not a laundry list of needs or things you think you ought to pray about.

4. Contemplating. Focus on God, rest in his presence, and commit yourself to living out his will, especially as reflected in the reading.

For more information, a simple google search of the name will yield a wealth of further reading on the subject.

Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 4

This week, let’s implement yet another new pattern of prayer – The T.R.I.P. Method. This seemed like an abbreviated pattern very similar to last week’s P.A.R.T.S. pattern. Like the P.R.A.I.S.E. method, I enjoyed starting my time with God thanking Him for what He has already done. It positioned my heart for the next section, which is perhaps what I appreciated most about this particular pattern of prayer – the section on “regrets.” That is a category that I can relate to! Unlike “repentance,” regrets encompasses mess-ups that don’t stem from intentionality, but burden me, keeping me stuck in those moments. I appreciated this new aspect of talking through the times during the day that I missed the mark. It was unburdening to approach the Lord with these burdens, gratefully dumping them at His feet and being able to move forward – both in prayer and with my day. I feel that beginning with those two prepared my heart to intercede, praying for His will more than my own. And then ending by praising Him for His answers, whatever they will be.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 3

This week, let’s have our prayers focus on the P.A.R.T.S pattern, another new pattern of prayer for me. This prayer pattern didn’t flow for me as easily as the P.R.A.I.S.E. pattern did, but I appreciated the addition of “repentance,” as that is one area that I tend to forget amongst all the needs I find myself praying for more often. I also liked the “sharing” addition, as too often I keep my prayer & devotional life private. It challenged me to open up more with people and share what the Lord was actively teaching me and I needed that.

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 2

Our focus this week will be on the P.R.A.I.S.E. pattern of prayer, the first of many that were completely new to me. I particularly enjoyed this prayer pattern because it began with thanking God for what He has already done. I found that this opening act positioned my heart for all that followed. It “flowed” well with how my heart and mind are wired, so to speak. Another element that I appreciated was praying His Word, however He illuminated it to me that day in my morning devotional. (The way my day unfolds, I spend time in the Word in the morning and time in prayer in the afternoon so there was time to savor & ponder what He had shown me before praying it.) I also enjoyed the time at the end to just enjoy His presence, to “be still and know that He is God.”

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Patterns of Prayer – Pt. 1

In April of this year, my class was encouraged by our beloved Sunday School teacher {and DTS Professor} to branch out of our norm to explore various forms of prayer. We focused on this first one since it seems to be the most widely known. It was a very interesting week as I practiced new patterns and definitely took the routine out of approaching the throne.

Like he did, I want to encourage you during this month to step out of your prayer routine and explore various patterns of prayer. This first week, let’s focus on the famous A.C.T.S. pattern of prayer.

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For a very in-depth look at this popular pattern of prayer, go here.

 

A Time to Trust

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When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move;
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through;
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You –
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

Trust In You by Lauren Daigle

Oh my. This song has reverberated through my mind several times a day, every day, for several weeks now. I relate too-readily with the sentiment in the chorus. My heart is too ready to wallow in the feeling of God’s abandonment when anything is too tough or too long or too unpleasant or too uncomfortable.

Do I trust in Him when He doesn’t move the mountain in front of me? When He holds out His hand, offering instead to walk with me over the mountain, guiding me, helping me, do I eagerly take it or do I cross my arms and walk off in a huff, agitated and resentful?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t part the waters I wish I could walk through? When His wisdom dictates a more difficult or seemingly perilous route, do I drop to my knees – not in worship, but in a tantrum of two-year-old proportions?

Do I trust Him when He doesn’t give me the answers as I cry out to Him? When He lovingly answers instead, “wait,” do I accept that as an answer or rebel against His not performing on cue?

Because that’s what is at the heart of this ongoing issue of trust I continually struggle with – believing He knows best when it conflicts with what I think I know is best. Trusting His plan when it doesn’t match mine. Surrendering to His will instead of arrogantly clinging to my own.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

PONDER: What mountains or waters or questions are you facing right now about which God is asking you to walk with Him in trust?