An Invitation to GROW in 2016

A Meme - Grow 2016 - Col. 1-9 - Used for One Yr Bible Invite Dec 30, 2015Growing spiritually requires abiding in Christ and being rooted deep in the Word of God.

In just 15-30 minutes of reading a day, we can journey through the entire Bible in one year.

 

 

 

We can learn God’s whole story and experience His presence powerfully.

This year, I’m using a simple schedule delivered via email through the Christian Broadcasting Network (http://www1.cbn.com/spiritual-life). To join me, just click the link, scroll down to the Bible Reading section, and sign up.

Each week, I’ll share a short reflection on my blog.

I invite you to comment or share how God’s using the daily readings to help your grow closer to Him and others.

When we think of the daily readings as a task or obligation, the journey can feel like a burden.

Remember, this commitment is an act of grateful worship.

Spending time reading God’s Holy Word is good stewardship, a nurturing of our personal relationship with Christ, an offering of our treasured time to the Maker of time.

As we ask the Holy Spirit to meet us where we are, He’ll make each verse feel like an intimate conversation with God.

He’ll reveal His character as He transforms us inside and out with His truth.

We don’t have to understand everything.

This isn’t the place for theological debates, though questions are expected and welcomed.

If I don’t know the answer, I’ll be glad to find someone to help.

But, only God knows everything.

Our goal isn’t to learn it all.

Our goal is to familiarize ourselves with God’s story so that we can know Him better as He reveals Himself personally in His Word.

This day-by-day, lifetime process results in loving God more, as well as knowing and loving ourselves and others in light of His truth.

Setting and keeping a daily date with Jesus, as a priority not an afterthought, works best for me when I commit to a reading schedule.

If you’re busy and always on the run, you can pack up your Bible and read whenever you have a moment of down time, while you wait, or during a break or lunch.

When you read God’s Word in public be prepared for divine appointments, though.

God has blessed me with countless opportunities to minister to others, pray with strangers, and be encouraged by His people when I read my Bible in public.

Having an accountability partner helps, too.

Alan and I have been reading the Bible daily together since 2005.

Every year we learn something new and are changed, strengthened, and encouraged as God reveals Himself through His Holy Word.

If you choose to join this growing adventure, please leave a comment with your first and last name below so I can add you to my prayer list.

I look forward to growing with you, Sister!

Lord, thank You for Your inerrant Word. Please help us remember that time spent seeking You in the treasure of Your Word is a privilege and an expression of loving worship and gratitude for who You are and all You’ve done. May Your name be magnified as we read Your whole story, Your love letter to us, one verse at a time and one day at a time throughout the year. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Meme Created By: Xochi E. Dixon

Photo Taken and Used with Permission By: Begona Maier

 

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When Someone You Love is Hurting through the Holidays

20151223_200043Years ago, my husband came up with a simple way to spread Christmas cheer that has grown into a full-blown Crazy Christmas Hats-travaganza.

 

 

 

Every day, starting on Thanksgiving, he wears a different holiday hat wherever he goes. He’s rewarded by countless smiles, as well as a few strange looks.

Traditions and twinkling lights dancing to our favorite Christmas songs, though fun, can often blind us to the pain of others.

As I enter another difficult December, God has shown me five ways I can minister to others who are hurting, even in the midst of my own pain.

  1. Keep Christ first so we’ll reflect Him through the worst.

When we’re fueled by God’s truth and led by His Spirit, we’ll be equipped to minister to those who are often forgotten or ignored during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

  1. Offer prayers faithfully and immediately.

Praying on the spot helps avoid unintentionally dropping the ball. We can pray for others through a Facebook post, via text or email, in a card, or in person.

  1. Offer love, understanding, compassion, and kindness, not unsolicited advice.

People need to feel safe to process, trusting there will be no judgement or a barrage of tips on what others think they need to do. God can use a listening ear, a hug, or a word of encouragement to affirm His love and let a hurting soul know they are not alone.

  1. Understand that cheering up may not be an option.

People deal with emotional and physical pain in unique ways. What works for one person may not work for others. If we tell someone to cheer up, we’re basically telling them it’s not okay to feel. Instead, we can come alongside them with compassion and know that it’s okay that we can’t fix everything. Even when we have the best intentions, trying to play God by fixing things often hurts more than it helps.

  1. Think service and sensitivity.

Our hurting loved one might not be able to accept our invitations to events. Some may be struggling with basic holiday deeds, like shopping or wrapping. Instead of taking the rejection personally or getting frustrated when they can’t participate in everything, we can offer them a helping hand. A short call or a visit will help them feel loved and appreciated and understood.

Those who are hurting usually don’t want to be isolated, and many feel they are burdening others when they ask for help.

When someone we love is hurting, we don’t have to avoid them or be ashamed of our blessings. We shouldn’t be afraid to share our special moments, either.

I love scrolling down my Facebook feed praying for friends and enjoying photos of families enjoying the Christmas season. But as we celebrate and share our joy, it’s important to ask God to give us sensitivity and compassion toward others.

It doesn’t take much to post a kind note of encouragement on someone’s page, just to let them know we’re praying for them.

Sadly, everyone will experience emotional and physical pain, at one time or another. How we deal with the hurt has a lot to do with our relationships with God and others. We don’t have to go through life alone, or allow others to feel alone.

When we’re not the ones hurting through the holidays, I pray we will be the ones spreading Christ’s love and grace with heartfelt prayers, genuine smiles, thoughtful acts of kindness, and maybe even a crazy Christmas hat.

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:10-13, NIV)

Lord, please help us minister to those who are hurting in word and deed. Give us the words of encouragement others need to hear. Guide us to reach out to those who may be struggling to ask for help. Sharpen our eyes to notice the sorrow, grief, and pain that are often hidden or lost in the shuffle of busyness. Keep our hearts focused on You and others, Lord. And help us remember how priceless intercessory prayer is and how much a simple touch can mean to someone who is weary, discouraged, or hurting when everyone around them seems to be overflowing with joy. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

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Hurting through the Holidays: When You’re the One Hurting

DSC_1087I rested in my recliner, staring at the red, green, yellow, and blue lights hugging the Christmas tree. Tinsel hung like streaks of tears glistening over mismatched ornaments.

 

 

 

Stories hung from the limbs of our artificial fir. Some happy and some that squeezed my tender heart with memories.

This Christmas promised as much pain and joy. I mentally marked the second December we’d be missing my mom, the fourth since a proper diagnosis whisked me into a healing journey riddled with painful procedures, bouts with depression, and dimming hopes of a full recovery.

Personal experiences with emotional and physical pain heightened my awareness of and compassion for the hurting. The ministry God placed under my care trickled encouragement from my recliner to the hearts of readers. But the current flowed both ways.

As I interceded in prayer for others, faithful brothers and sisters in Christ taught me the value of being on the receiving end of God’s loving grace shared through His people.

The support didn’t take the pain away, but knowing there were others who cared and interceded on my behalf rejuvenated my weary spirit and deepened my faith.

Though the hurt, God taught me ten ways I could experience joy and peace on earth when tears blurred the sparkle of the season that brought the hope of Christ into the world.

  1. Snuggle up with God.

Daily time spent in God’s presence, especially drinking in the truth of His Word, helps keep our focus on who God is and what He’s capable of doing. The peace of His constant and powerful presence combats the fickleness of feelings. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to shift our attention to God and others, instead of self and shaky circumstances.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28, NIV)

  1. Focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do.

It’s tempting to get caught up in a whirlpool of negativity, fussing about the things we wish we could do or griping about the way we think things should be. Instead, we can ask God to give us eyes to notice the blessings we often take for granted. Better yet, we can praise Him for the things He empowers us to do and shower Him with thankfulness.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)

  1. Ask for intercessory prayer.

God strengthens my faith when I intercede in prayer for others. So, my heart aches when I hear people apologizing when they ask others to pray for them. Jesus, God in the flesh, asked others to pray for Him and promised to intercede for us. When we hold back personal prayer requests we’re stealing a blessing from others whose faith will be deepened as they come alongside us and watch God work in and through our lives.

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Ephesians 6:18, NIV)

  1. Receive graciously.

Sure, it’s better to give than to receive. Let’s consider that truth the next time we decline help or don’t allow someone to give to us. Rejecting a gift can hurt the giver, especially if they feel God has led them to minister to us.

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:4-5, NIV)

  1. Give generously.

When we’re hurting, it can often feel like we have nothing left to give. But there are a few things we can give that actually fill us up during the process. Offering an encouraging word, praying for someone, or doing something simple and kind refreshes our spirit as much as it ministers to the receiver of our gift.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NIV)

  1. Do things cheerfully and in love, not because of guilt, shame, or compulsion.

The holidays often come attached with invitations that feel more like obligations. Prayerfully considering our options before committing is a healthy and holy part of relationship building. It’s wise for us to be selective in choosing how to give our time, talent, and treasure. Emotionally or physically hurting people must be even more careful in decision making. We can pray for those who have a hard time receiving our no as an act of self-care instead of a personal rejection.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7, NIV)

  1. Be strategic when preparing for the inevitable tough moments.

When we plan for hard days, we’re less likely to be blindsided by our emotions. Considering pain on this side of eternity is temporary, we can rest in the hope of Christ’s constant presence and victory. On this side of eternity, we can consider the things that make us feel better and prioritize events that we want to participate in, planning times for rest and rejuvenation. We can surround ourselves with tools to help rekindle peace and joy that doesn’t depend on circumstances.

My survival kit includes quiet time prayerfully reading Scripture and devotions, worship music, my favorite Christmas movies or TV series on Blue-Ray, quality time with family, cuddling my pup, and friends committed to spontaneous prayer via text or phone call. Writing also helps me feel closer to God. So, finding something we enjoy can actually be a form of therapy.

“I have told you these things so that in me you will have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)

  1. Fall apart when necessary.

When we ask God to help us trust Him completely, He teaches us to surrender to His will. In doing so, we can depend on Him to carry us when we have melt-downs. As long as we don’t camp out in The Land of Negativity, a good cry can actually lead us to raw-emotional prayers through which we can open up to God.

“In my distress, I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” (Psalm 18:6, NIV)

  1. Flash those pearly whites.

Fake smiles are not the goal here. When genuine smiles take the place of grumbling, gratitude grows. Once we get into the intentional habit of smiling, we’ll smile more often. Whether we grin a greeting or thank you, an authentic smile has the power to change someone’s day. Those smiles can lead to laughter that massages our souls with hope. And as we experience the joy of spreading joy, God can make those toothy grins and belly laughs contagious.

“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.” (Jeremiah 31:12b, NIV)

  1. Don’t let anyone or anything stop you from getting the help you need.

Though many people won’t have pain sneaking in to squelch their Christmas spirit, there are many others who need to know they are not alone or forgotten. We’ll all experience pain at one time or another in our lives and we’ll all need help. Sometimes professional help is necessary.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls who has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, NIV)

As we learn to extend grace to ourselves and others, God reminds us He is with us. His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in our weakness. He is loving. He is faithful. He is good. He is all-knowing. And He was and is and always will be totally in control.

Lord, when physical or emotional pain tries to pummel our joyful spirit, please keep our minds anchored to Your truth, our hearts steadfast in Your love, and our lives overflowing with the evidence of Your mercy. Help us reach out to others and let them reach out to us. Please, Lord, help us draw nearer to You as we recall that You are the reason every Christmas is merry, no matter what our personal situations or feelings. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

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