Monday, October 16, 2017

#write31days: What Is Comparison?

Last week we talked about how to have a grateful heart Today we are going to make sure we know what comparison is so that we know how to kick it to the curb.
The thing about comparison is that it can be very sneaky. I used to think of it only in the sense of coveting another’s belongings or gifts, but that is only one of its forms. Comparison can also come in the form of vanity and pride. Do you celebrate another’s failures or secretly wish that she doesn’t get what she wants? That’s comparison, too. I’d never thought of it that way until I read Comparison Trap by Sandra Stanley. In this timely book, she helps you uncover secret thought patterns that are unknowingly killing your friendships and relationships with those you love. 
This week, we will take a look at how to kick these ugly thoughts out. We will begin to identify our unhealthy thought processes and look at just how icky this sin can be. It may not be fun or pretty, but the work will be worth it. I hope you’ll do what you need to do to find freedom from this trap!

Saturday, October 14, 2017

#write31days: How to Love Your Life Pt. 2

Each Saturday I will bring you a little challenge that will help you on your road to contentment. I may sound like a broken record, but there is nothing that will change your heart and mind like the word of God. Hebrews tells us that it is sharper than any two-edged sword and can change our very lives. Today’s challenge is simply this- choose a verse from Scripture that will help you remember that God is your everything. Then memorize it!
For those of you who think you can’t memorize anything, that’s a lie. You can memorize things for school and new song lyrics at the drop of a hat. Memorizing Scripture takes work, but it is worth it. So maybe take a look at yesterday’s post and choose a verse that will help you remember where your true contentment lies. 
And if you need help memorizing, try the following:
Say the verse ten times. 
Write the verse over and over. 
Put the verse on a notecard that can go on your mirror or dashboard.
Make the verse your phone background. 
Doodle or illustrate the verse. 
What verse will you memorize today?

Friday, October 13, 2017

#write31days: Truth to Hold Onto, Pt. 2

This week has been all about gratitude. Can I be honest and just say that everything I'm sharing with you is for my heart, too? I am by no means a master of these practices and attitudes of the heart. Everything that I write here is what the Lord is teaching me and challenging me with in my every day life in the present. So please know that this is all from a "me, too" perspective. :)

Today we are going to take a look at verses that call us to give thanks. The Scriptures for today are all from the NIV. :)

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. - 1 Chronicles 16:8

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his loves endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. - Psalm 100:4-5

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." - Hebrews 12:28

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:57

Thursday, October 12, 2017

#write31days: Cultivating Gratitude

The flowers above are from my garden. During the spring, I set out to start a garden and was very ambitious. I love flowers and was so excited about the possibility of eating my own produce! So I followed a plan from my favorite master gardener, the one and only Lara Casey. Rory dug the beds for me in our backyard, and I got to work, planting several types of herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and zinnias. Lots of zinnias. Well, friends, I got three big zucchini from my garden and had tears of joy in my eyes when I pulled my first harvest. But the tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers? Nada. Zip. Goose egg. Nothing. Right now, my basil is going strong, and I was able to get a good amount of cilantro during the summer as well. But the zinnias got super tall and were kind of taking over everything, and in an effort to "prune," I think I killed the majority of them. :( 

When I first sowed the seeds, I was faithful to go out and water every morning when I took Bailey out. But as the summer went on, I found that some of my plants weren't doing well because I was over-watering. Oops. So in the midst of travel, lots of crazy rain storms, and a lack of discipline, I kind of let the garden go. In other words, I gave up. But you know what? I've walked out there and pulled up the dead roots. I've cut back some more flowers. And the crazy thing is that there are still things blooming. It's beyond anything I've really done and can't have much to do with any of my lackadaisical efforts. 

Isn't gratitude the same way? Maybe for a whole week you do great with sowing seeds of gratitude- you make lists of the things you're thankful for and your heart is full of songs of praise. But then maybe your heart gets distracted. You get tired and weary. And suddenly gratitude, the thing you need to practice the most, just doesn't come as easily. Or you just plain don't want to do it. 

I've been there, friends. Actually, I'm there right now. I'm tired. Weary. But I know my God is good. And I know that the best thing for me is Him. And I want to know Him in all things. I want to be made more like Him. So I take ten looks to Christ and I put on the praise music and I cultivate the gratitude so that my heart is lighter and I can rest in Him. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

#write31days: Play With Fire Book Review

Each Wednesday during this series on contentment, I will share with you a book that has encouraged me. Today's book is not a new release, but it is one I've wanted to share with you for a while now! Bianca Juarez Olthoff is an author I love for oh so many reasons. I first discovered her through her blog several years ago, and then I heard her speak during the IF: Gathering simulcast. She is incredible, y'all. I kind of feel like she's my spirit animal because she is just so full of sass but she loves. the. Word.

Bianca's first book, Play With Fire: Discovering Fierce Faith, Unquenchable Passion, and a Life-Giving God did not disappoint. I found myself laughing, crying, and underlining up a storm. In this spiritual memoir, Bianca explains how she went from fear to faith. She describes a journey of self-loathing, self-pity, and a severe lack of confidence and places herself in the midst of a story of redemption that only God could dream up. In doing so, she explains how a life guided by the Holy Spirit of God is the best life anyone could have.

Growing up in the Baptist church, we did not always talk about the Spirit of God. It seems as though the last few years are when I've really begun to know Him more. One of my favorite verses in Romans says, "For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." This verse has served as a great comfort to me in times of sorrow. But the Holy Spirit is not just our comforter, He is our advocate, our helper, and our guide.

Bianca writes,

In our moments of pain and confusion, silence and isolation, we must hold on to the promises of God's Word. 
What is empty can be filled.
What is broken can be mended.
What is divided can be multiplied.
What is dead can live again. 
Jesus Christ is the living proof.
Just as God was faithful to resurrect the Messiah, His Son Jesus Christ, God is faithful to keep His promises to us too. The power that raised Jesus from the grave is alive in us today (Rom. 8:11). And the Spirit is not just promised to perfect people, or pretty people, or polished people, but for all who call on the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21).

Can I get an amen? Friend, if you need encouragement to walk through whatever you're facing with confidence in Christ, run don't walk to get this book. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

#write31days: Giving Thanks Precedes the Miracle

It is easy to think about giving thanks in November when we are "supposed to," but how do we consciously give thanks when we just don't feel like it? We often feel much more comfortable throwing a pity party and thinking about all the reasons why we shouldn't give thanks. We like to think about all that we do not have and justify our frustrations. But there is a better way.

Ann Voskamp writes in her best seller, One Thousand Gifts:

“Eucharisteo means 'to give thanks,' and give is a verb, something that we do. God calls me to do thanks. to give the thanks away. That thanks-giving might literally become thanks-living. That our lives become the very blessings we have received. I am blessed. I can bless. Imagine! I could let Him make me the gift! I could be the joy!”

The root word of eucharisteo is eucharist. The eucharist is the Christian sacrament of communion. So each time we take communion and remember what Christ did for us through His body and blood being torn and shed for us on the cross, we give thanks. We remember. And when we remember what He has done, how can we continue to dwell on all that we do not yet have yet feel entitled to? How can we continue to think about our lack when He is the all-sufficient one? Ann also writes: “Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” 

Isn't that the truth, friends? When we stop navel-gazing and stop thinking about ourselves and allow thanksgiving, or thanks-living to become our focus and way of life? We experience a miracle. Maybe it isn't the way we want it to look. It may not be the exact answer to prayer that we have been hoping for, but the miracle happens in our hearts. It happens when we can open our eyes to see all that God is doing in and around us. It happens when we are able to minister to others because we allow ourselves to enter into their pain with them. It happens when the focus of our prayer moves from what we want to Who we want. Are you in need of a miracle? Stop and give thanks. Live with an attitude of praise. And watch Him work in ways you didn't think were possible.

Monday, October 9, 2017

#write31days: Why Are We Not Truly Grateful?

Yesterday we took a look at what gratitude is and examined our hearts. I don't know about y'all, but I have some really dark stuff lurking in my heart. It honestly scares me sometimes to think about it. But that's another blog post for another day. When we take an honest look at ourselves, we may find a heart of ingratitude and entitlement. We may feel like we are less than because we are so busy looking at Suzy Q's life that we cannot appreciate our own. We may be greedy or materialistic. Whatever your struggle is, at some level, we all have a sense of ungratefulness lurking behind the shadows of our hearts. But what do we do with it? 

In thinking about this struggle, this Bible story came to mind. You may know it as the story of the ten lepers: 

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” - Luke 17:11-19 (ESV)

Here is the bottom line from this story- most of us are just like the nine lepers who went along with their lives and forgot about Jesus. We are a fickle, frail, and forgetful people. We say we want to know God more, but we really just want Him to give us what we want. We say we want to live lives that are completely dedicated to Him, but we want the healing more than we want the Healer. The nine lepers who went on without a second thought are quite similar to us- we are a forgetful people. 

Why are we not truly grateful? Why do we so easily forget what God has done for us or who He truly is? I believe it is because we are distracted. The enemy of our souls wants so badly for us to be distracted- it is a much easier tool than getting us to commit the "big sins," so he uses it often. We are distracted by so many other things that seem shinier and better and more fun than just the simple gift of the presence of our almighty God. 

In the passage above, it says that the nine lepers were cleansed. But did you catch that the one who came back to give praise and thanks thanks was made well? I remember hearing one time that the nine lepers who were cleansed received physical healing, but the one who came back to acknowledge and thank Jesus was made well spiritually. And isn't that what we all want? To be restored to our Father when we know we've messed up? To walk with Him without anything between us and to know His peace and joy always?

Today, let's be like the one who came back to Jesus. Let's run to Him, thanking Him for what He has already done so that we may be made well and whole. 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

#write31days: What is Gratitude?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

This past week, we took a look at what contentment is and what it isn’t. This week, we are going to dig deep into gratitude. You’ve probably heard it said that “gratitude changes everything.” But why? Why should it matter if we’re grateful or not? Well, friends, when we decide to be grateful, our circumstances may not change, but our hearts will. And isn’t that what matters the most? That our hearts would be pure and teachable? That we would be able to see the world as God does?

Webster defines gratitude as “the state of being grateful” or “a feeling of apppreciation.” When we allow ourselves to be grateful, we release negative feelings of entitlement, resentment, and jealousy. When we approach our lives with gratitude, we see the world as a place of abundance instead of a place of scarcity and lack. So today, let’s just take a moment to examine our hearts. Are you grateful? Or do you find yourself constantly in a state of want? Today, let’s decide to choose gratitude, and in turn, choose joy.


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