Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Praise and Thanks


Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.

Several years ago, my One Word for the year was Praise. It was a word I struggled with and had to grow into.

Praise felt like a big word for when really big things happen—those Oh Wow! times that remind me God is at work.

What I learned throughout the year, though, is that there is always something to praise and thank God for. Always.

It’s not just the extra special days that show me God is present. I learned to look for God in the ordinary moments as well.

That might look like

…a lower bill than expected.

…laughter in the midst of tears.

…an out-of-the-blue call or text that cheers me up.

…appreciation in a situation, despite setbacks.

…hanging out with loved ones.

…fresh raspberries growing in November.

I don’t know what your ordinary moment might be, but might you see in it a glimpse of God?

God’s love for us is unchanging and unending, generation after generation. He is strong and mighty, and His Word is trustworthy.

No matter what our day looks like, regardless of what we can see, or how we feel—God sees it all. He sees you and me, and He cares. More than we are able or can imagine, God cares.

Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Search for the Lord and for his strength; continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given…

Lord God, thank You for letting us see You in our everyday moments—both the good ones and the difficult ones. Please forgive us for the times we fail to acknowledge You…for the times we forget to praise You…and for the times we neglect to thank You. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: K. Rath 2016]

Thursday, November 17, 2016

There is a Place for Your Story


It happened again last night while scrolling through Facebook. I saw a message between two women I know, one congratulating and encouraging the other on a recent speaking engagement. I don’t know if it was more about the accomplishment or the relationship between the two women, but the reaction was quick and fierce.

Jealousy. Envy. Defeat. I wondered why I even try when there are so many others with a better message.

I’m thankful that God has had me in this place before because this time I recognized it quickly. Just as quick as the jealous thoughts entered, I took control of them before they could take control over me.

I was reminded that God has made a place for each of us. There is enough room for each message and each voice. Even better, there is a need for each message and each voice.

Even when our messages are similar, they are still different because each of us has a unique way of sharing our stories. Your voice and message may touch one person, while someone else’s words catch my attention.

Each of our stories has the potential to reach out and draw someone closer to God. {Tweet this}

A life experience that brings someone to take a breath and say Me too! is a story worth sharing. It benefits both sides in ways we may, or may not, see. But God knows.

He has plans for our stories and He will use them to reach others. {Tweet this}

The jealously I started to feel when reading that Facebook message suggests there is only one story to tell, one way to tell it, and only one person to voice it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Satan knows that, but he will use it anyway to keep us quiet.

How often is he successful in keeping us from speaking? It almost happened to me last night. Even misplaced feelings of defeat are powerful in keeping us silent. But the Truth is much more powerful.

There is a place for your voice, and mine. Not one or the other, but both. God intends for us to share and encourage others through what He has brought us through. 
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT 
God has a time and place for each of our stories to be shared. The comments I read last night had nothing to do with me. They were God’s time and place for someone else. 
For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? Esther 4:14 ESV 
There will always be someone else to speak up…but how do we know we’re not missing the appointed time and place God planned for us to speak? Right now. Right where we are. To reach someone God has placed on our path.

Last night, I was able to recognize quickly when negativity started to creep in, so I did three things. First, I closed Facebook and got offline, because that’s often the best line of defense. Then, I went to bed, and while I fell asleep, I planned to write this post in the morning.

In Christ,
Laura 

[Photo credit: Unsplash.com]


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Journal the Word Bible {Book Review and Giveaway}


Last month, I wrote a short series on Scripture journaling. I love journaling while I study God’s Word. I use a personal journal and take notes in my Bible; I also created these Scripture Journaling Worksheets to share.

I’ve never had a journaling Bible, though, so, I was pretty excited when I got the opportunity to review the new NKJV Journal the Word Bible by Thomas Nelson.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how I would like it. Study Bibles are my preference, and I have three in different translations. I like the extra notes, explanations, and cross references a study Bible offers. Plus, I’m not much of an artist, so I didn’t anticipate producing beautiful artwork while I read.

Regardless, I wanted to give it an unbiased try. After I flipped through and got a feel for it, I started reading…and I kept reading, without stopping and without going back and forth between the text and study notes. I made some notes in the lined margins, and even tried some minor artwork with colored pencils.

I have to say, I like itJ I received the Large Print version, which means my eyes don’t feel strained, especially if I’m reading at night.

With any Bible, there are pros and cons, depending on personal preference. Here are my pros and cons of the NKJV Journal the Word Bible.

Pros:
✽Nice size and a thick hard cover
✽Large print (10-pt font) easy on the eyes
✽Jesus’ words in red print
✽Thick, cream colored pages
✽Wide, lined margins for notes, journaling, or artwork
✽Elastic band around the Bible and ribbon marker

Cons: (These are not really cons unless you’re expecting a study Bible.)
✽No concordance
✽No study notes
✽No cross references

If you’re looking for a journaling Bible in either the NKJV or KJV, the Journal the Word Bible by Thomas Nelson might be just what you’re looking for. It would also make a great gift!

To celebrate the release of the Journal the Word Bible, Thomas Nelson has graciously sent me a copy to giveaway! 

This giveaway is for the NKJV Journal the Word Bible in Large Print. To enter, leave a comment on this post about your Bible journaling habits, or if you’ve yet to try it. On Friday, November 18, I’ll randomly choose a winner. Please include your email so I can contact you. (Sorry, only U.S. residents are eligible.)

In Christ,
Laura 

(Note: I received a free copy of the NKJV Journal the Word Bible by Thomas Nelson in return for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Be Still


“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 

I woke up this morning with this verse going through my mind. Not a coincidence, I suppose, for the day after the election.

I wonder if sometimes we breeze over this verse. Be still, and know that I am God. In our world today, be still makes us think of doing nothing, but doing nothing hardly seems accurate here.

The Hebrew word raphah (raw-faw') means to release or let go; refrain from or let alone; to relax or wait for. Causing yourself to let go of something is hardly doing nothing. Letting go can be hard work.

Children often struggle against their parents, thinking they know what’s best and wanting to do everything themselves. As a parent, I remember all the times I wanted to cry out, “Stop struggling! Let me help you!” Or when I explained, “I know you don’t agree or understand, but you just have to trust me on this.”

Don’t we do the same as adults? We want what we want, and we want it now! We want to understand. We ask When? Why? and How?

I imagine if we stopped struggling and trying to comprehend everything, we might hear Him say, Stop striving and worrying. Let Me be God. I know you don’t understand why or how…you just have to trust Me with this.

It’s not easy, but it is freeing. God is on His throne, no matter what happens, personally or nationally. And for that, I am forever thankful. (Tweet this)

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness and delight;
Come before His presence with joyful singing.
Know and fully recognize with gratitude that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, not we ourselves [and we are His].
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with a song of thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, bless and praise His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting,
His faithfulness [endures] to all generations.

Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for your everlasting love, truth, and mercy. Please help us to remember that no matter what happens, You are in control. You are on Your throne. May we learn to be still, let go of all we’re struggling to hold on to and worrying about, and let You be God. In Jesus’ sweet name we pray, Amen.

In Christ,
Laura

Friday, November 4, 2016

Life is a Journey


I’m joining the Five Minute Friday community with Kate Motaung…5 minutes, no rewriting, and a one-word prompt…

When my daughter was young, we debated when to start her in kindergarten. Because of her birthday, we had the option of starting when she was five years old, or waiting until she turned six. Although the kindergarten teachers did not know us or our daughter, I decided to ask for their opinions, and I’ve never forgotten what one teacher told me.

Life is a journey, not a race.

I don’t remember the rest of her email, but I still think about that one sentence. Do I see life as a journey or a race?

A journey takes time. A race needs speed.

A journey means there will be waiting, but it also gives time to breathe. It allows for time to enjoy the days we are given, the good ones and even the bad.

A race requires me to rush through life, always aiming for the next goal. It means I might neglect what’s around me now, only to look back at what I missed.

A journey means there will be seasons I would like to avoid, but there is purpose in every season, even when I can’t figure out what that purpose is. Those same seasons exist in a race—they are inevitable.

A journey gives time to feel…and time to rest. A race might help me ignore the emotions, but there is different pain to be felt and little time to relax.

A journey or a race?

I choose the journey.

How about you?

In Christ,
Laura