Sunday, December 29, 2013

When You’re Ready for the Year to End


I’m ready for 2013 to be over. It was a rough year and I’m ready for a fresh start.

At the same time, there were blessings.

God stretched and tested me this year. It was unpleasant, and at times, downright painful, but even in the midst, I knew God had a purpose. I knew He was refining me and correcting me, and it was part of His plan for something better.

The blessings came in knowing He never left me.
Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:21-22 NIV
And He never let the trials overtake me.

Now, I’m looking ahead in anticipation, waiting to see what God has planned.

Thankful for new beginnings.

A new year and new possibilities.

And then I remembered…we don’t have to wait for the year to change on the calendar.

God’s new beginnings come each day with new chances to experience His love.
Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23 NLT
Where do you find yourself today? Are you ready for a new year to begin?

In Christ,
Laura   


Women of Christmas - Week 8

Thank you for joining me here for the last week of our study on The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. I hope you've enjoyed the study and have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

In Christ,
Laura 

Week 8 – Dec. 29-Jan. 3
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 8 “Joy of Every Longing Heart.”

Tuesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 8 study questions on pgs. 191-193.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 8.

Friday – Catch up on the reading and study questions, if necessary. What from the reading do you want to live out in the New Year?

Friday, December 27, 2013

What’s Your One Focus?


It’s that time of year when we tend to take stock of our lives. We look back at the year, and we look forward with changes in mind.

Changes we write as resolutions.

Changes that often don’t make it past January 31.

What if we skip the list of things we want to start or stop doing, and instead have a focus for the year?

One focus. Something to think and pray about throughout the year.

It might be one area God wants you to pay attention to, or one word that will shape your year. Maybe it’s one Scripture verse you want your life to reflect…

To continue reading, please join me here at Gloria Dei...

In Christ,
Laura  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

God Confidence

This week – Chapter 7 “And Our Eyes at Last Shall See Him,” in The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs.


Luke reminds us that the name Jesus was chosen before his birth, which means it was chosen before Mary said yes. Not only did she have faith in God, but God had faith in her.
– Liz Curtis Higgs, The Women of Christmas

Have you ever felt like you couldn’t do what God was asking you to do?

Many times, I’ve told God, “I don’t think I can do this, but if You think I can, then I can.” And you know what? Knowing God thinks I can do something makes all the difference in the world. It’s that boost of confidence I need—not confidence in myself, but in Him.

I wonder if Mary ever felt that way…maybe when she had to tell her family she was pregnant before she was married…or when she found herself ready to give birth in a stable.

She may have had moments of thinking she wasn’t strong enough, but God knew. He had a plan, and He chose her to be a part of it. That had to have given her courage when hers was waning. 

God will do that with us. He will guide us outside of our comfort zones and lead us through situations we would never choose for ourselves.

He will give us courage when ours is gone. And confidence when we have none in ourselves.

Not all of our attempts will turn out favorably. There will be things we try and fail. And God will be there to say, “But look, you didn’t let fear stop you from trying.”

He knew we could take that step, as long our trust was in Him.

Other times there will be success, despite a long and rocky path in getting there. And He’s there…encouraging us to keep going, providing comfort in our frustration and grief, and guiding us when we get distracted from the path.

God knows His plans for us and He chooses us for His purpose. We may or may not know what that purpose is, but He knows us. He knows what He created us to do.

And He knows that when our faith and trust are in Him…we can do it.

How do you feel when God calls you to do something you don’t think you can handle? Does it encourage you to know God called you for a purpose?

In Christ,
Laura   

Linking up with Thought Provoking Thursday and Faith Filled Friday

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 7

Merry Christmas!

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 7 – Dec. 22-28
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 7 “And Our Eyes at Last Shall See Him.”

Tuesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 7 study questions on pgs. 190-191.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 7.


Friday – Spend time in prayer this week reflecting on God’s gift to us of His Son.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Immanuel, God With Us

This week - Chapter 6 “The Wondrous Gift is Given,” in The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:6-7 NIV
When I really think about it, I am in awe over the great extent to which God wants to be with us.

From the beginning, God intended to be with us. 
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8 NIV
God walked in the garden…with Adam and Eve. Isn’t it hard to imagine being able to walk around with God, talking and hanging out with Him?

But then sin entered the world and everything changed.

And while God still loved us, cared for us, and wanted to be with us, we were sinful and could not live with God. For anyone who saw Him face to face would die.

But God makes a way where there is no way.

Moses asked to see God’s glorious presence, and because God looked favorably on Moses, He made a way.
The Lord replied, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will call out my name, Yahweh, before you. For I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose. But you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.” The Lord continued, “Look, stand near me on this rock. As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and let you see me from behind. But my face will not be seen.” Exodus 33:19-23 NLT
God made a way for Moses to see Him, protecting Moses as He passed by. Think of the comfort and reassurance God’s presence must have brought to Moses.

God made a way for us too…a way to see Him, to walk with Him, to learn from Him.

God’s way was Jesus.

Born as a human, but still God, He made a way for us to see Him. A way He could walk with us. And a way we could live eternally with Him.

How incredible that our Almighty God wants to be with us so much that He came to us as a man—a person we could see and touch.

Think about it…He left heaven—for us.

He came to live in a sinful world—for us.

He went through hell and conquered sin and death—for us.

No words can fully explain the depth of His love for us.
For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 NLT
My prayer for you this Christmas…

May you feel and experience God’s great love for you through Jesus, even when it is more than our human minds can understand.

In Christ,
Laura   


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Waiting on God


Have you ever noticed that waiting on someone else is so much more annoying than when someone is waiting on you?

When someone is waiting on me, I have control. I know I’ll deliver on what I said I would do. But when I’m waiting on someone else, I can’t be sure of the outcome. Best case scenario, I wait and the other person comes through, even if it’s a little late. Worst case scenario, the other person doesn’t follow though and I’m left waiting with something left undone.

When I’m waiting on God, it feels like I have no control.

I can’t control when He’ll fix a situation or a person.

I can’t control when God’s right time will be.

I can’t control when or where I’ll hear from Him or how He’ll call me.

And it’s annoying because from what I can see if I’m asking, then it must be the right time!

To read the rest of my post, join me at Gloria Dei...

In Christ,
Laura  


Women of Christmas - Week 6

Have a good week!

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 6 – Dec. 15-21
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 6 “The Wondrous Gift Is Given.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 6 study questions on pgs. 188-189.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 6.

Friday – How are you doing with the busyness of this season? Can you take a few minutes each day to reflect on Jesus’ birth?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Something New Has Begun


Advent is the season of waiting expectantly and preparing our hearts for the arrival of Baby Jesus. We reflect on the miraculous conception, the birth in lowest of conditions, and the fulfillment of the prophecy…
…the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)
We rejoice on Christmas morning—Christ is born!

And then…Christmas is over. Or at least that’s how it feels. We put the Christmas decorations away and go back to our busy lives as usual.

But really, our lives are anything but usual now. In the waiting and preparing our hearts during Advent, we find ourselves changed. As if, something new has begun…

For the rest of my post, join me here at 5 Minutes for Faith.

Share with us…how will your life reflect the change in your heart…long after the Christmas decorations are put away?

In Christ,
Laura   


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Praise and Worship


By this time last year, I knew Praise would be my One Word for 2013. I didn’t exactly choose it for myself, but God seemed insistent that my One Word should be Praise. Obviously, God was trying to show me something.

Over the year, I’ve thought about what it means to praise God—in the good times and in the difficult times. And as I’ve read through Scripture, I’ve noticed and pondered how often praise and worship are written about.

From my Tyndale NLT Study Bible dictionary…
Praise—to worship, commend, or give honor to
Worship—to regard with great respect, honor, or devotion
To praise God is to honor Him and to give Him the glory, no matter what I may have done or not done. 

In worshipping God, we stay devoted to Him even in the midst of circumstances we don’t understand or that are unwelcome and unpleasant.

We certainly see this with Elizabeth and Zechariah. For so long, their prayers for a child went unanswered. I have to think this led to disappointment and discouragement. And yet, they never turned away from God.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes… Luke 1:6a
Righteous not because of what they had done, but because of their faith in God.

Praise and worship may have been easier after their son was born, but obviously, praise and worship were not absent in their lives during all the years of unanswered prayers. 

Praising and worshipping God strengthens our faith…and they were righteous because of their faith.

Is our reaction to unanswered prayers the same as when our prayers are answered—to praise and worship God?

I like Psalm 71:14-15 NLT…
But I will keep on hoping for your help; I will praise you more and more. I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power, though I am not skilled with words.
The Psalmist praised God and proclaimed his saving power—even while going through difficult times and waiting for God’s help. He praised God first, before receiving God’s help.

Maybe Elizabeth and Zechariah believed like King David did…
My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart! Psalm 108:1
They didn’t need proof that God was with them. They knew and they praised Him.

I want that confidence—to know without a doubt that God walks with me through every day in my life—the good, the bad, and the days that seem boring. I want my eyes open so I can see Him there.

And I want to praise God first—even before I see my prayers answered.

When do you find yourself praising God? Do you need to start praising Him before you see your prayers answered?

If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, we are in Chapter 5 this week, “With Heart and Soul and Voice.”

In Christ,
Laura  



Sunday, December 8, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 5

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura  

Week 5 – Dec. 8-14
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 5 “With Heart and Soul and Voice.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 5 study questions on pgs. 187-188.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 5.

Friday – Take time to catch up on the reading and study questions, if necessary.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Someone to Share With


Thank you for visiting. If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, we are looking at Mary and Elizabeth in Chapter 4 this week, “O Tidings of Comfort and Joy.”

Have you ever had a God-moment—something you know was from God—but didn’t know who to share it with? You want to tell someone who will be excited, but not just excited for you. You want someone who will be excited with you…someone whose faith is strong like yours, and will feel God in the moment.

That doesn’t describe everyone. Some will not believe. Some will listen with skepticism. Others will explain it away, giving reasons for your news that have nothing to do with God. If you’ve ever shared a God-filled moment with someone like this, you know how disappointing it can be. It feels like something has been taken from you.

But when you have another believer to share with—someone who walks in faith like you do—it makes your experience even more special.

For Mary, her person to share with was her relative, Elizabeth. With anyone else, Mary would have had a lot of explaining to do, criticism to listen to, and harsh words spoken about her. But when Gabriel told Mary about Elizabeth and the miracle of her pregnancy, Mary knew—she needed to share her news with Elizabeth.

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town  where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Luke 1:39-45 NLT

There was no need for Mary to explain anything. Elizabeth knew. She felt God there with them and she lived Mary’s excitement with her.

How incredible that God thought of even that detail—someone for Mary to share with about the miracle of carrying God’s own Son! At the very time Mary could’ve felt alone with no one to talk to, God provided fellowship.

It’s no surprise that God thinks of everything, but often, when I realize the depth to which God cares for His children, I’m in awe all over again!

In Christ,
Laura  



Monday, December 2, 2013

Coffee Talk with Jesus {Book Review}

Last year, my online friend, Barbie Swihart wrote a 31-day series on her blog called “31 Days of Coffee Talk with Jesus.” Each day’s writing was a personal invitation to spend one-on-one time with Jesus.

Each day was warm and inviting…like a friend’s hug.

I enjoyed her daily posts, so I was excited earlier this year to hear she was turning this series into a 31-day devotional book— Coffee Talk with Jesus - Intimate Chats With The Savior.

Barbie has gone deeper into each devotion, adding suggestions for personal reflection and a prayer for each day. As an added bonus, she’s also included recipes, each of which contains coffee as an ingredient. (Cool, huh?)

I’m on my second reading of Coffee Talk with Jesus - Intimate Chats With The Savior, and I’m still highlighting her words that draw me in.

Words that remind me of my worth…
Remember that I love you, and that I paid a high price to purchase you back from darkness. Your worth and value far exceeds what your mind could comprehend. –Barbie Swihart, Coffee Talk with Jesus, Day 14)

Words that comfort…
I promise you that no matter how you are feeling right at this moment, I will not allow you to suffocate under the weight of what it is you are carrying. –Barbie Swihart, Coffee Talk with Jesus, Day 4)

Words that lift me up and encourage…
I created you with a unique purpose, a destiny that is yours and yours alone. There is no one on this earth that can accomplish what I created you to do. But you must put your confidence in Me, that I will do what I said I would do, and then you must have confidence in yourself because with Me all things are possible! –Barbie Swihart, Coffee Talk with Jesus, Day 7)

Words that send me out with confidence, knowing God walks with me…
Because I have called you, I will equip you. I would never call you to do something without first preparing you for the task. And most importantly, I promise to go with you. –Barbie Swihart, Coffee Talk with Jesus, Day 16)


Barbie is also giving away 3 copies of Coffee Talk with Jesus. Visit her blog: My Freshly Brewed Life to enter. The giveaway will be open until midnight on Friday, December 6.

In Christ,
Laura 

Note: I was provided a pre-release PDF copy of Coffee Talk with Jesus in exchange for my honest review. This review is completely my own opinion. After reading the PDF copy, I purchased the Kindle e-book as soon as it was available on Amazon. (This was my own decision because I like to highlight, and it’s easier on Kindle that in a PDF.) I was in no way asked to purchase the book.

Linking up with WholeHearted Wednesdays and Circles of Faith

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 4

Have a blessed week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 4 – Dec. 1-7
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 4 “O Tidings of Comfort and Joy.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 4 study questions on pgs. 185-186.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 4.

Friday – Reflect back on the first four chapters. What has made an impact on you?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Mary’s Faith

Happy Thanksgiving! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are in Chapter 3 “The Virgin Mother Kind.”


This week, we move from Elizabeth and Zechariah to Mary’s visit from the angel Gabriel.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,  to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
I find it beautiful and amazing how seemingly easy Mary laid down her plans for God’s will for her life.

No doubt, Mary had plans. She was engaged to Joseph, a good man in the line of King David. Perhaps they were looking forward to a quiet life together. He made a living as a carpenter, and they would raise their family, without calling attention to themselves. No drama. No questions or gossip from family and neighbors.

But God had different plans. Wonderful plans. Plans that would be for all people.

Mary would be the mother of Jesus.

According to Scripture, she asked one question, not because she doubted what she was being told, but because her human mind only knew one way to conceive a child, and that one way had not yet occurred.

Did she wonder what she was going to tell Joseph? Or did she just know that God was going to work it all out His way?

It’s hard for me to not think of next steps and consequences. But if Mary thought about this, she didn’t voice it.

Her faith shines here.

One question. Gabriel’s answer. And without hesitation, Mary willingly embraces God’s will for her life.

What a moment that must have been for her—chosen and blessed to be the mother of God’s Son.

God will never choose another for that role, but He calls us for work in His Kingdom all the time.

Mary walked in faith. She let it guide her.

Will you?

In Christ,
Laura 




Sunday, November 24, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 3

Happy Thanksgiving week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 3 – Nov. 24-30
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 3 “The Virgin Mother Kind.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 3 study questions on pgs. 184-185.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 3.

Friday – Review this week’s reading and spend time in prayer.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Expressing Thanks


Throughout November, the writers at 5 Minutes for Faith are expressing thanks.

What are you thankful for today?

In Christ,
Laura

Linking up with Still Saturday and Jumping Tandem - The Sunday Community

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Letting Go

Welcome! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are in Chapter 2 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”


I’ve still been thinking about something I wrote last week, while looking at Elizabeth and Zechariah…“At some point, they must have decided that a child was not in God’s plans for them.” And I’ve been wondering…

When is it time to lay down a dream, and does laying it down mean I’m putting a time limit on God?

Maybe the difference is whether or not we take it into our own hands and try to make it happen any way we can.

For Elizabeth and Zechariah, they could have decided that since they were getting older, and Elizabeth was unable to conceive, Zechariah should have a child with another woman. But they didn’t.

Scripture tells us they were faithful and God saw them as righteous, so they must have laid down the dream for a child, and depended on God to get them through the disappointment.

I don’t think laying a dream down means giving up on God, but instead, forgoing our plans and desires for what God has planned. Even when we don’t know what that is.

There will be disappointment and sadness with accepting that we may not ever have something we desire so badly (a child, a spouse, healing, the perfect career, etc.), but letting it go allows for time to grieve and the ability to move on.

It releases us from the worry, obsessing, and trying to figure out how to make it happen. We let go and let God be in control.

Elizabeth and Zechariah didn’t know when they let their dream go what God had planned. Maybe for Zechariah to be the chosen priest from his order to enter the sanctuary and burn incense was another dream of theirs. And that day, they saw their dream come true. 

They never turned away from God, but in faith, they kept hoping in expectation of what He would do.

And there was no way they could have imagined that on that same day, God would resurrect a dream they had given back to Him—their dream for a child.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. 
Ephesians 3:20 The Message

How about you? Is there a dream you’ve let go, in hope and anticipation of what God has planned—even when you have no idea of what that might be?

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Time to Regroup


Last week, I sat in a meeting where a project I was involved in was presented. Unlike an earlier presentation, this meeting did not go well and almost every part of the plan was picked apart, as if someone was in a particularly bad mood.

My teammate and I left the meeting confused at the reaction and frustrated with the thought of starting over, but decided to meet the next morning to regroup.

As I drove home, I thought about how my personal plans often seem like the best route to take, only to encounter one roadblock after another. Although God doesn’t tell me how each step isn’t going to work, He does slow me down and close doors where I’m not supposed to go.

It can be just as confusing and frustrating as this meeting was. The prospect of scrapping my plans and starting over feels tiresome and discouraging. While I want to get right to the end goal, God’s timing usually involves waiting.

But waiting doesn’t always mean God has said no. Sometimes, my way just isn’t what God has in mind. To wait for what He has planned, I have to slow down and regroup, letting God lead instead of rushing ahead.

The next morning, we looked at what worked, and what needed to be tweaked. By adding some new details and adjusting the time frame, the project came together—looking better than it was before.

Isn’t that the way it is with God’s plans? I can choose to push forward putting what I want into action, but if I pause and spend time in prayer first, I’ll most likely find that God has a better way in mind. 

And with His way, I’ll have a guide—Someone to travel with.

Certainly, that’s worth slowing down my steps to see what God has planned.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. 
Proverbs 16:9 NLT

Has there been a time when you slowed down your plans to regroup, and God showed you a better way?

In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: Stock photo: people

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Women of Christmas - Week 2

Have a great week!

In Christ,
Laura

Week 2 – Nov. 17-23
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 2 “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 2 study questions on pgs. 183-184.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 2.

Friday - Reflect back on this week's reading and study questions. Catch up on Chapters 1-2, if necessary.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Choosing God’s Way


Welcome! If you are reading The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs with us, we are looking at Elizabeth and Zechariah in Chapter 1, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.”

There is a verse in Philippians that holds power for me. I’ve memorized it, I personalize it, and I rely on it.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Philippians 2:13 NLT
Although, Elizabeth and Zechariah wouldn’t have had Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi to read, God’s power was very much a part of their lives.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. Luke 1:6 NLT
Glancing at the verse, I could think obedience wouldn’t even be a question. Zechariah was a priest; they would have had to obey the Lord’s commandments and regulations.

But God saw them as righteous.

For Zechariah and Elizabeth, it was more than just following the rules. They weren’t obedient to earn God’s favor. They were obedient because they loved God.

Like Abraham, so many years before, it was because of their faith that God counted them as righteous, not because of what they did.

So, for me, the question isn’t whether or not they were obedient, it’s how were they able to stay faithful and obedient?

Like our lives today, theirs weren’t perfect. Despite years of praying for a child, they were childless. And aging. At some point, they must have decided that a child was not in God’s plans for them.

And yet, they continued to live their lives for God.
Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. Luke 1:6 The Message
How did they not let their disappointment, discouragement, and sadness get between them and God?

How do we?

They made a decision to rely on God, and through that decision, God’s power and strength were at work within them giving them the ability to stay faithful and obedient.

God’s power and strength is for us too.
God is working in you to make you willing and able to obey him. Philippians 2:13 CEV
It is God who gives us the desire and strength to stay faithful to Him.

How often do we find ourselves at a cross-road with a decision to make?

We see God’s way and know staying faithful is the right thing to do. But we know what we want, and maybe we could make it happen by going the other way.

Temptation is powerful, and the enemy uses it to encourage us to go the other way.

So, how do we choose God’s way when we’re weak, tired, and discouraged?

By relying on the strength and power God gives. He won’t force it on us, but it’s there—freely given for anyone who chooses to accept it.

And not to accept it just once, but every day, every hour, even every minute, relying on God, instead of ourselves.

In the face of temptation, we often don’t want to choose what’s right, or don’t have the strength to choose. But when we keep calling out to God—trusting Him to provide what we need to make the right choices—He is there.

He is the One who gives us the desire and power to do what pleases Him—to act in obedience and stay faithful—in all circumstances.

In Christ,
Laura  

[Photo credit: Stock photo: the way]


Monday, November 11, 2013

Small Steps to Big Growth


Last week, I was at Gloria Dei talking about transformational growth—the changes God wants to make in us as we walk through the Land Between.

Today, I’m there continuing the conversation…

Transformational growth is God’s work, but there is something needed from us.

Our willingness.

We need to be willing to see God’s work in us through the struggles and trials in life. If we’re not willing, He won’t force the issue. But when we’re willing and open to His work in us…a whole new perspective on life becomes ours.

Transformational growth requires small changes. It starts with incremental growth.

God is asking Will you trust Me? If we answer yes, then are we willing to take intentional steps toward growing in faith?


Please join me on the Gloria Dei blog to continue reading as we talk about taking small steps toward big growth.

What small steps are you taking to deepen your trust in God?

In Christ,
Laura 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Women of Christmas Study - Week 1

Welcome! This week we begin our study of The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. If you're reading along, the suggested reading schedule for this week is below. Each Wednesday, the author is doing a Bible study to go with the book on her blog. The link will be included in each week's schedule. Stop back later this week when I'll post my thoughts on Chapter 1. 

In Christ,
Laura

Week 1 – Nov. 10-16
Monday/Tuesday – Read Chapter 1 “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room.”

Wednesday – Visit Liz Curtis Higgs’ blog for Bible study.

Wednesday/Thursday – Answer the Chapter 1 study questions on pgs. 181-183.

Thursday – Visit Laura Rath ~ Journey in Faith for thoughts on Chapter 1.

Friday – Reflect back and journal on this week’s reading and study questions.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Monday, November 4, 2013

What I Learned by Not Going to Allume


A few weeks ago, the annual Allume conference—a gathering of hundreds of women, meeting together as a community of writers, bloggers, and speakers—was held in South Carolina. I wasn’t there.

I would’ve liked to attend, but certain factors, like cost, timing, travel, etc., got in the way. Most of the time, I was okay with not going. Other times, the enemy used it against me, telling me I’d never get there and everyone was moving ahead in this online world, while I was left behind. Every time jealousy stirred my insides (You know, that feeling of being eaten from the inside out?) I tried my best to give it to God.

Meanwhile, God was asking me to give up some particular dreams I was tightly clinging to, and I wasn’t particularly happy with His request. But, being the awesome God that He is, He explained. At a completely unexpected moment, He whispered to my heart…

You want them to think you’re important.

I was speechless—literally, mouth open, but without a word to say. I replayed His words to me over and over in my mind, and something clicked.

I realized I was looking to these dreams to define me, instead of how God defines me.

I thought about it for days, as the Allume conference came and went. Over the next week, I read posts by other writers and bloggers about what they learned at Allume.

I was surprised to read that many of the women who went, felt the same need I did—the need to feel like we belong…to measure up to others’ accomplishments—the need to feel important.

It didn’t matter whether I had attended Allume or not. It seemed God was teaching us the same lesson.

It’s not the people we know or what we accomplish that makes us important. It’s Who we know. And His opinion is the only one that matters.

It’s made me realize that I wasn’t left behind by staying home, because this is where I was supposed to be, right where He called me.

As for the Allume conference, I still want to attend someday…when God says it’s where He wants me. Until then, I think I like this little place He’s given me in the online world.

In Christ,
Laura  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Other Side

License: Public Domain
For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing at Gloria Dei about the Land Between—when what used to be normal in our lives has changed, and what the future will be is unknown.

Today, I’m there talking about when we reach the other side of the Land Between. Whether it’s sooner or later, eventually, life settles down, and we can look back at where we’ve been and what we’ve gone through.

The question is…

When you look back from the other side of the Land Between, what do you see?

Is your relationship with God stronger than it was before? Or, have you realized that somewhere along the way, you stopped turning to God?

The Land Between is a perfect time for transformational growth to occur, and one of two things will happen—we will move toward God or away from Him.

Join me at Gloria Dei to read my post The Other Side. What do you see when you look back on your journey through the Land Between?

In Christ,
Laura