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?