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Category: In My Life

Three Ways to Connect to your Power Source

My car wouldn’t start. The temperature lingered below zero, and my car sat there, dead. I’d left the dome light on, apparently. All night long. And my car just couldn’t recover. It took energy to run that dome light, energy the car couldn’t provide while not running. The light was on, but connected to no power source. Sometimes we attempt the same with God. He is our power source, but sometimes we try living on our own power instead of his.

[Check out my eBook, Defeating Distractions: Connect with God!]

Attempting Life without God

We try to live without connecting to our power source. Sometimes it’s not intentional, it’s just a gradual reality we struggle through. It leads to burnout. It leads to emptiness.

At first you might not even realize it. As soon as I turned off my car the dome light began draining the car battery. The light effectively illuminated the car.

It’s the same with us. At first, we can maintain our schedules and our ministries. Everything looks fine on the outside, but the reality is a steadily draining battery. We can last for a season, sure. Many do. Even the car light lasted until 1 AM, according to the dash clock. But it wasn’t sustainable.

[Related verse: Jeremiah 2:12-13]

[Related post: Three Ways I Stunt My Relationship with God]

Power Source

Jesus said the same thing.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Jesus is our power source. Any attempt at living for God in my own power will fail. It may seem to work for a time, but it won’t last. I’ll drain the battery. I won’t produce fruit because I’m not connected to the vine.

How to Stay Connected

Abiding, or remaining, in Jesus takes being intentional. There are habits you can begin practicing that will help sustain your relationship with God.

Bible Reading. Meet and hear from God through reading and studying his word.

Prayer. Connect, depend, and notice God often through talking with him regularly.

Community. Read, pray, and live life with other Christians, being vulnerable and carrying each other’s burdens.

There are distractions, though, roadblocks that keep so many Christians from connecting with God. But those distractions can be defeated! I wrote an ebook explaining strategies I have personally found helpful in sustaining the habits of Bible reading, prayer, and participating in community.

You can download “Defeating Distractions: Connect with God” for free by clicking the link.

What about you? What helps YOU connect with God? Have you tried living for God in your own power, only to burn out? We’d love to hear about what you learned! Share in the comments below.

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Environment Impacts Our Time with God

The Nerf war raged, but my twelve year old cousin protested in a corner. She hid, tired of being shot at when she had no weapon, and wanting no part. But then a funny thing happened. My family’s Nerf War theme music is from Pirates of the Caribbean. Someone turned it on, and soon the motivating rhythms reverberated through the house. And then my cousin was up,  scavenging for a Nerf gun. She joined the fight with all her heart. Environment changes things.

Environment

The score from a movie changed my cousin’s attitude within seconds. Environment is powerful. But it is more than music. Environment includes lighting, sounds, smells, what is on the walls, how tidy everything is, the overall atmosphere or ‘feel’ of the place, the people or animals nearby, and more.

And if something so simple as a few notes from a movie score could coax my cousin into joining the Nerf war, it’s natural to assume environment also impacts my time alone with God.

To Prevent or Spur

Where I have my quiet time matters. The little things that make up my environment either distract me or tune me in.

Silence tunes me in.

Clutter distracts me.

Lighting a candle helps me focus.

And so on.

It’ll be different for you, what works and what doesn’t. And your ‘ideal environment’ will change through life’s seasons. But finding what works now is important.

When Your Environment is Out of Your Control

 

It’s life, and it’s to be expected. But that doesn’t mean we go on strike against quiet time  until the stars align and our ideal environments are available.

No. In the meantime, we work with what we’ve got. A great many things actually are within your control.

Once you know what your ideal environment consists of, do what you can to make it happen. Wake up before the kids so it’s quiet. Tidy up at night so it’s clutter-free in the morning. Take the necessary steps because it’s important. Environment matters.

What about you? What is your ‘ideal environment’? In what ways have you noticed the importance of environment in your quiet time? Share in the comments below!

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Thanks for visiting!

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Photo by Nitish Kadam

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Be Unstoppable this Christmas

The man ran like his life depended on it. I was driving to work, past the train station. This man was on the sidewalk making a beeline for the train. He was working up a sweat to catch that train, ignoring his nice shirt and sweater vest, letting his briefcase flop in every direction. He looked unstoppable.

I wondered what waited for him on the other side of that train ride. Whatever it was, it mattered to him. He was determined not to miss it!

It reminded me of the Wise Men, in a way.

Unstoppable

The Wise Men were unstoppable. We may not know how many there were, but we know their determination. For two years they followed Jesus’ star before finally having the chance to worship Jesus.

They didn’t even know their destination. Their first stop was Jerusalem, naturally assuming the King would be born there. After some research they headed to Bethlehem. And finally they’ve found him, and they worship him, and they present their gifts, and they turn around and head right back home.

The distance didn’t stop them. The absurdity of the journey didn’t stop them. Even Herod didn’t stop them.

Just like nothing was going to stop that man from making his train.

This Christmas

So I began to think about everything on my calendar this holiday season.

I wondered which things I would be determined to make it to, even if it meant sprinting to catch the train. I don’t know about you, but booking it for half a mile would be a big deal for me!

As I watched that man run to his train, I noticed the other man. The second man was running too. But he didn’t seem to want it as much as the first man– the second man looked like he was only running because the first man was running.

I didn’t want to be that second man. I didn’t want to pseudo-run toward everything I’d scheduled, just to participate in the hustle and bustle.

Find Jesus

I want the determination to find Jesus. Sometimes our culture buries him, but that’s no excuse. This Christmas season, I want to keep my eyes open for how Jesus is moving and working and leading. And I want to worship him with intention and determination.

What about you? Share with us some ways you ‘find’ Jesus during the holidays, and intentionally worship him! And what are some things this Christmas that you’re determined not to miss? Share with us in the comments!

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More and More and More about Me: (Apparently, I like Stripes)

Thanks to Karissa Smith for nominating me for the Liebster Award, were you get to learn more about me! Check out Karissa’s blog, Becoming Kiona, for inspiration in becoming all that God created you to be. It’s a journey she’s on herself, and invites us to join in on! Check out this post in particular, on  finding your God-given purpose: http://becomingkiona.com/struggling-to-discover-your-god-given-purpose-start-here/

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Today, here, you’ll read about a blog I follow and love, 10 random facts about me, and then Karissa’s questions to me and my answers. At the end are the rules (and my questions) for the Liebster award for the bloggers I nominated, and for anyone who’s just plain curious.

Robin Melvin, over at Robin’s Nest

Robin writes vulnerably, sharing from her experiences and faith. I’ve been subscribed to Robin’s blog for a while now, always anticipating her next posts. And the book she’s working on!

Her posts are honest, vibrant, and grounded. This is what Robin says about herself on her ‘About Me’ page:

“I’m on a lifelong journey to uncover my divine design and live life to the fullest. Won’t you join me?

I hope you are encouraged and empowered by my transparent life ~ its struggles and its victories. Grace and peace for your journey, my friend.”

It’s true: Robin writes through her struggles and victories, and her transparency is a breath of fresh air. Through her struggles I am reminded I am not alone, that perfection isn’t expected, and vulnerability draws us together. Through her victories I am reminded to enjoy, to celebrate with friends, and to acknowledge the things that go well.

http://www.robinmelvin.com/

10 Random Facts about Me

  1. Apparently, I’m a soprano. I’ll be singing with my church choir this Christmas, and my part is soprano. Who knew?!
  2. I stack my books sideways, so I can fit more on the shelves. Space on my bookshelves is a coveted commodity!
  3.  I have a rolling cart for all my tea things (cups, mugs, tea bags, honey-on-sticks, etc) because I have such a collection of them.
  4. I like Doctor Who. Tennant was my first, the Ponds are my favorite, I like how Martha’s story ends. [And, on the TV topic, Shark Tank is one of my least favorite shows. Sorry.]
  5. I didn’t think I wore much jewelry, but I told my students that and they laughed.
  6. I like to learn things. I’m a huge fan of learning new information, helpful facts, and interesting tidbits. But that makes it hard to make decisions sometimes, because I always feel like I need more information before I can make a proper decision.
  7. I’m usually in the middle of reading five books and in the middle of five writing projects. I’m only in the middle of reading three books right now, but there are 13 books on my bookshelf in my ‘read this next’ pile.  (And apparently, per the picture included, my resting reading face is quite serious). I have at least five writing projects going, though I’m only focusing on one at a time these days.
  8. Back in college, I spent a few days in England and loved it. The cathedrals were impressive and stoic. The narrow roads and oncoming traffic had me holding my breath. The countryside was comfortable and rolling. It rained frequently, as expected.
  9. When people talk about what instruments they play, I respond, “Oh! Well, all I can play is the radio.” But that’s not true. Now I can also play my iPod, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Though, a few years ago I did try to learn to play the guitalele. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in the future.
  10. Watercolors are my favorite to use. French painters in the mid/late 1800s are my favorite painters—like Monet, and Renoir, and Pissarro.

Karissa’s Questions for Me

What does your name mean?

My name means “victory of the people”, which I’ve always thought was a fun/odd combo with my middle name which means “bitter sea”.

What is your ideal climate?

Warm, but not humid.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Pretty certain I’m an introvert. But it depends on how many people there are, and how well I know them.

What’s your favorite thing about blogging?

I really like hearing thoughts about my weekly posts from my subscribers and from people on facebook.

What is your dream vacation?

My dream vacation is more about who I’m with than where I am. It includes some ‘laying around’ and some ‘doing’ like sightseeing and museum visiting; a happy medium.

If your friends and family could only use one word to describe you, what would it be?

(Over)Thinker.

What is your favorite topic to write about?

Ooo, trick question? Here on the blog I like to write about stories from the Bible, writing things I learned in my own study. But when my blog work is done, I take out the fantasy stories I’m writing.

What is one goal you have that you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

It’s related to the fantasy book I’m writing—to take it from rough draft to second draft by the end of the year. I need to get going to make it happen!

When and why did you start your blog?

It started something like two years ago, intending to make a place for Christians in chronic pain to find encouragement through the stories of other Christians who live with pain but have seen God use it for good. That is still a part of what I do, but I’ve broadened to helping Christians notice God and connect with him day to day.

What’s your favorite place to go out to eat?

Subway. ‘Nuf said.

 

Questions for My Nominees

What are three books you’ve recently read and loved?

What are three books you hope to read soon?

Tell us about a time you felt proud of yourself!

What was your goal when you started your blog?

What would you say if you were playing “Never Have I Ever”? (Something you’ve never done, but you think many other people have)

Describe yourself in one word. (You can have three words if you need them : ) )

What is something you’ve done that you think few people have done?

What is your favorite season and why?

List five things you can’t live without: five things keep you you.     

What are 3-5 things you think you’re good at?

 

Liebster Award 2017 Rules for Nominees

  • Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  • Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post, or by having it as the feature image.
  • Write a 150-300 word post about your favorite blog that is not your own. Explain why you like the blog, provide links.
  • Provide 10 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions from your nominator.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 200 followers.
  • Ask your nominees questions of your own.
  • List these rules in your post.
  • Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
    • inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award
    • provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

You can find the official rules Here .

 

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Study the Bible in 5 Steps, and Connect with God

Studying the Bible is important, and you probably already believe that. But sitting down to study the Bible is a whole different can of worms. Although we know it’s important, sometimes we get stuck on what that time should actually look like. There are many ways to study the Bible. Below are five steps you might want to try.

Why Study

I wrote a post about why we study the Bible. You can read the full article here or, read this summary/conclusion

  • We study the Bible because God talks to us every day. How do we listen to him? By reading the Bible.
  • We study the Bible so we can know God better. The Bible reveals to us everything we need to know about him.
  • We study the Bible because God says that’s how we allow him to change us to be more like Christ.

Study the Bible with These 5 Steps

Those are some good goals! But how do we get there? How do we actually study the Bible?

  1. First, we pray. We talk to God and ask him for his help as we read so that we can understand, and be more Christlike.
  2. Then, we read like we are on a treasure hunt. It is best to read slowly. The whole point is to understand, so we don’t want to speed through it. Instead, we want to go slow enough that we understand what we’re reading. Studying the Bible is an exciting thing that helps us grow closer to God. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss anything. So I read slowly, paying attention to what God might be trying to say.
  3.  To check if we know what’s going on in the story, we ask ‘who and what?’ after we read it. This helps us make sure we know what happened in the story, and if we’re not sure, we can always go back and read the story again.
  4. While reading, we pay attention to what Jesus says and does, since we are trying to learn about him. And we ask ourselves what we learned about God from that story.
  5. Finally, we think about how remembering that about God will help us today, or in our life in general. We prayerfully consider how to apply what we’ve just learned about God.

Studying the Bible for ourselves helps us learn more about Jesus. It’s not enough to just learn about God in school and chapel. To grow up as a Christian, we need to study God’s word for ourselves. That means we read it and we make sure we understand it. By doing this, we learn about Jesus, and we realize how knowing that about Jesus will help us that day, or in our life in general.

What about you? How do you study the Bible? What helped you create the habit?

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As always, scroll way down and add your thoughts in the comments below.

If you liked what you read, please subscribe, read more from the “God’s Word” section of the site, or check out the free downloads!

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Dependence: How and Why to Cultivate it

Independence is an American ideal. We strive for it in everything, don’t we? Even in our team sports, we give individual awards. In the workforce, we ‘rise to the top’ because of personal skill, hard work, and go-getting gumption. But it spirals out of control. In contrast, the Bible teaches dependence, and it’s an attitude that seeps into everything. And it’s an attitude we can re-learn.

[Learn about how Sarah Cauley learned dependence in this Related Post: Encouragement Through Hard Times (Interview with Sarah Cauley)]

I say ‘re-learn’ because dependence is something we all once knew. We couldn’t always feed ourselves. We used to rely on others to pick out our clothes and tie our shoes. But as we got older, we shunned that helped. Part of that is growing up. But it goes too far when be start to shun help from God.

Attitude

It all comes down to attitude. When independent, we become haughty. It’s natural. We accomplish things, ignoring the help we actually did get from others, and begin to believe we’re ‘all that’. With independence comes pride.

On the other hand, when we are dependent we tend to have a spirit of humility. No matter how much we accomplish, we are struck by all the help and support we got along the way. And dependence on God is sometimes simply an awareness of that dependence. With dependence, there is often humility.

Humility is not something to fake. There’s no point. A person’s true attitude will eventually shine bright. Humility, though, is something to pray for. And it’s something God wants to teach (see Ephesians 4:2 and Micha 6:8). And as we humbly trust God, we will become aware of our reliance on him, and become fearless.

[Related Post: How to be Fearless]

Awareness of Dependence

Cultivating dependence begins with being aware of how deeply we depend on God day to day. In the thick of our prideful independence, we are actually dependence on God. We are simply oblivious to our dependence.

A short list of things for which we depend on God:

  • abilities
  • dreams
  • ideas
  • life
  • daily blessings
  • everyday things we take for granted
  • spiritual growth
  • salvation
  • victory over sin
  • unity
  • love
  • wholeness

Cultivating a Spirit of Dependence

Becoming aware of our dependence on God starts with prayer. Ask God, and he will answer.

Other ways for growing in awareness of our reliance on God is to journal. Make a small list each morning or evening, whichever works best for you, of things you actually depended on God for that day (or the day before). It will help you recognize those moments in the future, even to look for them, and to turn to God in times of need.

*What about you? What do you think would help Christians grow in dependence on God?

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God Sees Through the Fog You’re Living In

We’ve had some fog this month– it settled over the land through the night and it was still hoovering while I commute to work.

And as I drove, I marveled at how it felt like I was traveling on a fog-shrouded road in my spiritual life, too. Nix the road, actually. It’s like I’m off-roading through the fog in an unexplored part of the world. 

We all are, in a way.

We don’t only get to see our present, not our future. Sometimes that stresses me out. I wish I could see ahead, wish I could know what’s coming so I can prepare for it, wish I could know where each fork in the road ends up. I wish I wish I wish. But it doesn’t work like that.

Instead, I’m learning, ever so slowly, to trust God. He does know what’s coming ahead– he made those good plans long ago. And I can trust that God is preparing me for my future in the present.

[And sometimes, it’s hard to step back and trust God knows what he’s doing with other people, rather than just yourself. Related Post: Trusting God with Other People]

Trust through the Fog

God sees the other side of the fog, whatever is just distant enough you can’t see it, or can’t see it clearly, with perfect vision. God knows what’s coming and it doesn’t surprise him. 

What’s coming might be a blessing. Every good and perfect gift comes from above. 

It might be trouble. Jesus knew we’d have trouble, but encourages us by reminding us he’s already overcome the world. It’s got nothing on him.

No matter how big of a surprise it is to you, good or bad, it doesn’t surprise God. God is not shocked, startled, or stuttering in confusion about what to do. He is fully aware and fully powerful to offer help should he be asked for it.

[Related Post: Needs are an Opportunity to Ask and See God Provide]

Let’s Get Practical

When you’re staring ahead into the fog, you may be tempted, like me, to try figuring out what’s on the other side, or to panic, or to park your ‘car’ rather than continuing to drive. But remember, as you drive, the next little leg of the journey becomes visible. 

So, instead, pause. Take a moment to remember God’s character, to praise him for his help through that last stretch of the journey, and to ask for guidance as you continue on. God is faithful, and the journey is worth it. 

[Related Post: When All Seems Lost, Remember God’s Character]

In the comments, go ahead and let me know how God has helped you through a foggy time in your own life. I can’t wait to hear your stories!

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Thanks for stopping by and reading!

As always, scroll way down and add your thoughts in the comments below.

If you liked what you read, please subscribe, read more from the In My Life” category of the site, or check out the free downloads!

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