Monday, February 8, 2016

One Simple But Meaningful Gift for Singles this Valentine's Day

by Cathy Baker @cathysbaker

I've been thinking a lot about Hagar lately

Remember in Genesis 16 when she fled from Sarai? She felt abandoned and probably forgotten by God. She must have felt as if no one saw her, or cared about her, or the baby she was carrying.

This Valentine's Day, many of you will find your love life to be much like a box of chocolatessatisfying, sweet, ooey-gooey on the inside...all yours to enjoy. 

For others, it might instead be a day of remembering what was lost, or what could have been. It could be a day when you relate more to Hagar than you ever thought possible.

I remember reading the story of Hagar (Genesis 16) in my early 30's as a relatively new believer. I wept when I read verse 13. It had only been a handful of years since I was a single mom struggling with similar emotions. But God {game changer} rescued me, and as a result, I could say for the first time, as did Hagar, I have now seen the One who sees me.

It's because of those single days that my heart goes out to you who may not hear your name called when flowers are delivered to your workplace, or handed your very own box of chocolates to enjoy.

This year, while strolling {okay, stalking} the $1.00 aisle at Target, glass jars with sparkly hearts spoke to me. I didn't exactly know what I would do with them, but that didn't stop me from buying several. 

After a little thought and prayer, I decided to make a jar filled with seven slips of paper, each with a different promise from God. Seven, because it's the biblical number for completion. In Christ, we find our completenessnot in another person, our children, our homes or anything else. His promises from the Word are active and alive, able to lift the heaviest of hearts. 


A Gift of God's Promises



{This is the jar I found at Target but you can use any container.}


{At first I felt a little guilty for not handwriting the promises but then I was reminded that it's not my hand that holds the power, but His. Click here for a printable copy of the seven promises I'm using.}


{I also found these tags in the $1.00 bin at Target.}


 
{On each tag, I'll write a brief note describing why seven promises were chosen. I'll also share how much they are loved, especially by their heavenly Father.} 
 
And the best, most precious gift we can to give anyone is prayer. As I head to their home or to the post office to deliver the gifts, I will pray for each of them by name.


She [Hagar] gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: "You are the God who sees me," for she said, "I have now seen the One who sees me." Genesis 16:13

Has God placed a Hagar in your life? We have a week to consider how we can love others, single or not, around us this Valentines Day.  

What is one of God's promises that you would include in the above gift? Please share!   


If you missed Saturday's post, Edie Melson: A Glimpse Into Her Quiet Time, click here to read it. Be blessed!







Saturday, February 6, 2016

Edie Melson: A Glimpse Into Her Quiet Time

by Cathy Baker @cathysbaker

Welcome to the first Saturday of the month! Today, Edie Melson invites us to sit alongside her to simply catch a glimpse of how her one-on-one time with the Lord often unfolds. 

To say that Edie has impacted my life is an understatement. She teaches me something about the craft of writing everyday via her blog, meets with me over grits to catch up on life, and most importantly, models what a true prayer warrior wears.

Please remember, I share these glimpses not to say that a quiet time should look a particular way, but rather the opposite. My heart is to invite you into the freedom that awaits when we meet with our heavenly Father {thank You, Jesus!} in a variety of ways.

So, welcome Edie! 


If we were to join you during your one-on-one times with God, what might we observe? I try to be open to what God is leading. But generally I start with prayer, then move on to reading my Bible. I always have my journal nearby to record what God shows me. And I keep it quiet, just me and God.



Other than the Bible, what is your one go-to “tool” you use during your time with the Lord? My journal. I’ve discovered—the hard way unfortunately—that if I don’t record what God shares with me I forget it. I also always have my archival colored pens to take notes right inside my Bible. I love to add dates to verses that have special meanings to me.



Is there anything else you would like to add about your one-on-one time with the Lord? Just this, each of us is unique, designed for a one-of-a-kind relationship with God. There will never be another one like you—past, present or future. When we neglect that time with Him, He misses us.



What word of encouragement would you like to share with the readers in regard to spending time with the Lord? Like anything worth doing, it takes practice and discipline. Having my quiet time didn’t always come easy. But as I got to know God in a more intimate way, it felt more and more natural. Stick with it and don’t stress if you don’t sense anything earth shattering. Sometimes, He just wants to hang out.


Edie, thanks so much for taking time to share a glimpse into your time with the Father. It's both encouraging and inspiring. I think one of my favorite things you mentioned is how, when we neglect that time with Him, that He misses us. Sometimes it easy to forget the priceless gift Jesus made available to God's children...communion with a holy, loving God. Wow.  

Did a particular thought or sentence stand out to you today? Please share in the comment section! Thank you. :)


Edie Melson is a woman with a passion to share what the love of God looks like in practical application. Her heart to help others hear from God and find His path for their lives has connected her with women all over the country. She has learned, through experience, what it takes to balance career, spiritual and personal life.

She’s written numerous books, including While My Soldier Serves, Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect on Twitter and Facebook


***If you missed this series on enjoying quiet times with God, you're invited to read other stories on the first Monday of every week in January 2016.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

3 Simple Ways to Love Your Neighbors this Valentine's Day

by Cathy Baker @cathysbaker

When I think of biblical community done well, the Rhodes family immediately comes to mind. 

I had the pleasure of getting to know them through a former church, and I've enjoyed staying updated with the many adventures God has taken them on over the years. I marvel at the openness of their hearts, hands, and homes. 

Today, I've asked Kim Rhodes to share about some of the things they've done to extend the love of Christ on Valentine's Day. {Thank you, Kim!}

The Rhodes Family
"We have been a part of many neighborhoods over the past 18 years of married life and with each place we have tried to get to know those that live around us. It always shocks me to find out that people living just a few doors down have never taken the time to meet or engage with each other.  

"Sometimes the greatest influence you can have is to the lives of those that live in closest proximity to you."  

We value the unique advantage and connection we have with people that live specifically on our street or around us. One of my personal core values is "Open Home"⎯that everything we have is a missional tool that needs to be used. And so we truly believe in the power of an open home, always making space to invite people in through our front doors, not into our perfect life but into our messy, lived, and present life.

I remember at one dessert gathering we had after we moved into one of our new neighborhoods...two families engaged in conversation. Each of them had lived on the same street a few houses down for over 9 years and had never met each other. They engaged for the first time in our home.

Just recently we moved to a new city and state. And as I met our neighbor living next door, she was sharing about the families that surrounded us. She wasn't quite sure of who lived in the house behind her because of the 15 years they had lived in their home they had never had a conversation with them. And this is not abnormal. This is shockingly normal for most streets and neighborhoods across the country. Somehow we have lost the value of opening up our homes, as well as our lives, to those around us. 

One of the ways our family tries to engage our neighbors is to use holidays as times to go knock on their doors. We normally give them a gift or treat and then it's always attached to a future invite of something happening in our home. We have found this to be something very low pressure. It allows us to engage others through an offering of a gift, and an invitation to a future time of connection. It's that simple. There is no pressure. The worst scenario is we are able to say hello and offer a gift. The best scenario is that we get the opportunity to invite them into our home and they actually show up!

The past few Valentines Days we have used different gifts. We'll be hitting up our new neighbors this Valentines Day with a single rose and and invite to a coffee and cobbler night at our home at a specific date in March. We've used Valentines day to give candy and invite people over to our "Jolly" Rancher and we've used Valentines Day to offer a single rose to our neighbors and just let them know they are "Loved" and that we would "Love" to have them over for dessert sometime soon.


Whether you live in an apartment or a large castle, everyone has the opportunity to open up their home and lives. My husband and I are both introverts and we've found it very easy to gather large groups of people engaged in conversation with little or no effort. We have found our biggest gift is giving space for those that come into our home to be able to find each other in their own stories and build a connection. In some ways our open home is a place of connection for people. And the connection and stories and life engagement that comes from those times are always beautiful and abundant."


Thank you so much for sharing, Kim. Both you and Dave have impacted our lives and countless others. You've definitely inspired this introvert! 

If you've been encouraged to think outside the box for the sake of the gospel, I'd LOVE for you to share about it in the comment section. :) Thanks! 


Coming up this Saturday, Edie Melson will give us a glimpse into her one-on-one time with the Lord. And on Monday, I'll share a simple but meaningful way to show L-O-V-E to the singles in your life on Valentine's Day!



Monday, February 1, 2016

NEW February Series - All Things Love and Who Won the Journal?

by Cathy Baker  @cathysbaker

Welcome! This month we're talking about all things love.  

Last week, our area experienced a dusting of snow. Enough to brighten the spirit but not enough to make snow cream. Still, it made for an interesting backdrop for an idea I'd had since purchasing this heart-shaped chalkboard at Target a few weeks ago. 

In a snap, I handed Brian chalk for writing the series title on the board while I grabbed my sweater, scarf, and brand new camera (thanks to my awesome hubster!)

After returning from our photo excursion we couldn't wait to upload the pics. Being the perfectionists that we are, the first thing we noticed was the erasure mark around the top of the "L". For a moment, we considered pulling out the sweaters and camera to run outdoors for a redo... but something within whispered, 

"Isn't that the real meaning of love? Embracing our  imperfections and those of others?  

Funny how that works. I have no problem admiring blue Mason jars with crusty lids or drinking tea from a cup with a few tea stains dappled here and there. Yet, sometimes I miss the beauty found in loving those, who like myself, have crusty edges if something doesn't go as expected. Or those who've been stained by past choices, circumstances, fears and such. {Yes, we are clean in Christ, but consequences can often linger a little longer. Sometimes, a lifetime. Trust me.} 

I don't know about you but I was raised not to focus on myself -- to put others first. I'm thankful for it, but when it comes to love⎯real love⎯we must look at ourselves first because if we're confident in God's love despite our own crusty edges and permeated stains, then we are empowered by a Love greater than we comprehend to extend that same real love to others...even when it gets messy.




This month we'll focus on the subject of love in all kinds of ways. Beginning with this Wednesday's post. When I thought of ways we could love our neighbors and community well with the love of Christ, Kim Steele Rhodes immediately came to mind. Join us as she shares how her family celebrates Val Day. You do not want to miss this!



Before we close out, congrats to Lori! You won the Dayspring journal that I secretly wanted to keep. Please message me via Facebook with your mailing address.  






Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I Should Have Said From the Get-Go (And a Dayspring Giveaway!)

by Cathy Baker

This is not what I'd planned. 

Today was supposed to be about sharing numerous ways to use our prayer journals, but something my pastor's wife, Emily, shares in an upcoming post made me re-think the premise of this post.

So, what did she say? 

It went something like this, and I should've said it from the get-go. 

While having a regular time with the Father is a holy, beautiful privilege⎯our  salvation, His love for us, His acceptance of usis not dependent on it.

As we bring the Drawing Close to the Father series to a close I want us to embrace grace and freedom through Christ, rather than finding another way to do something. Please don't hear me say that journaling (or using any other tool) should be shunned -- no way! Otherwise, I wouldn't have my own well-worn journals lining the shelves, nor would I be giving away one of the most beautiful journals I've come across in a long time.

This month, we learned valuable insights from friends who graciously allowed us to get a glimpse of their personal times with the Lord. Thank you Marcia, Lori, and Dee Dee. Although the series is coming to a close, the glimpses will continue every first Saturday in 2016. In February, Edie Melson will be our guest. You will not want to miss it! 

If you've followed my blog for long you know I love to share a little treat (my grandfather always referred to this type of treat as a "sercy") at the end of every monthly series. So, last week I came across this Dayspring journal. While tempted to keep it for my own {just keeping it real!} I knew it had a bigger purpose. I pray this sercy will bless one of you during your time with the Father. And I love the saying on the front cover: When God speaks, take good notes.  

To enter the drawing, you simply need to answer this random question in the comment section. (If you have trouble leaving a comment for some reason, please private message me on Facebook.) 

So here's the question: What book are you currently reading OR what's the next book you plan to read?  

Me? I'm currently reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Love it! 

Oh! In case you're wondering about our February series you need wonder no more. Check out the image below. (Loving my new camera, thanks to the hubster! The snowy day did its part, too.



 Beginning Monday, February 1st...

 



 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Dee Dee Parker: A Glimpse Into Her Quiet Time

by Cathy Baker

Many of you may already know my dear friend and author, Dee Dee Parker. She and I have been friends for several years. In fact, we've come to realize that we're two peas in one strange little pod. 

Dee Dee is one of the most talented writers I know and we always have a blast when we're together (especially at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference!), but when all is said and done, it's her heart, her walk with Christ, and her vibrant prayer life that I most respect.

Thank you, Dee Dee, for allowing us to take a glimpse into your time with the Lord. 


If we were to join you during your one-on-one times with God, what might we observe?  

I love meeting with God in the morning, most times in the wee hours. I tiptoe to the kitchen, not wanting to wake my hubby, and pour a cup of coffee or tea into a lovely, antique china cup. The dainty cup was a gift from my daughter, Brooke, who now resides in glory. As the morning unfolds I already feel close to God knowing precious Brooke sits at His feet. I return to my bed and open the blinds directly behind me to enjoy the stars for a few minutes. Star gazing always draw me closer to heaven.

Sitting quietly, I enter my one-on-one time, listening for the Lord’s voice. I wait with great expectation with what He might have for me to ponder, learn, or pray about. It is a privilege to enter His courts, isn't it? 

Other than the Bible, what is your one go-to tool you use during your time with the Lord?  

My prayer notebook. In my notebook are the names of people I pray for, broken down in sections such as family, friends, events and so forth. Writing down their requests engraves them on my heart. I also use The Secret Power of Speaking God’s Word by Joyce Meyer. 

I cherish starting my day knowing that I’ve prayed for each name in my prayer notebook, and other people the Lord lovingly brings to mind. I picture them with a prayer covering over them as they move through their day. Such a joy! 

Sometimes I also incorporate other books, such as commentaries, always keeping a spiral notebook on hand. 

What’s one of the most unique experiences you’ve had during your one-on-one times with God? 

I have a rather unusual prayer spot; it is a prayer bush in my yard. Let me explain. I live in a farmhouse that is over one hundred years old. Tucked away in the back is a very old, very tall, forsythia bush with a large, river-rock beneath its limbs is a perfect place for sitting and praying in all seasons but winter. I tie a different color ribbon for each person on the prayer bush as a touch point to aide me in remembering to pray for individuals and events. The ribbons themselves hold no power except to help me focus. I’ve done this for years and friends often bring me ribbons for this ministry. Some days the prayer requests are plentiful and the bush looks like an earthbound rainbow. I rejoice when prayers are answered and I give thanks as I untie the ribbon’s knot and release the request. (Many of you that follow Cathy’s blog have ribbons on the bush.)

Once, when at the prayer bush, a ribbon became untied and fell to the ground. While tying the ribbon back onto its limb, I felt I was being led to spend extra time for the person the ribbon represented. The next day I received word that the person was involved in a serious car accident while traveling out of state. 

What word of encouragement would you like to share with the readers in regard to spending time with the Lord? 

I am in my late sixties now and have had the privilege to spend many precious hours in prayer with my heavenly Father. I can say that those hours have been some of the sweetest of my life. I would encourage readers to set aside time to snuggle up close with the Father. Listen for His voice. Pray for others. Please get in touch with me if you would like to be added to my prayer list. There is a ribbon waiting for you and together we will pray it through! 

Dee Dee, thank you for sharing your heart with us today. What a blessing.  

Is there some way Dee Dee can pray for you today? Please share in the comment section, if so. She would count it a privilege. 

Award-winning Appalachian writer Dee Dee Parker infuses wisps of Southern grace throughout her writing. Recent First Place winner in Southern Writers Magazine's Short Story Contest, she has also contributed articles to Chicken Soup for the Soul, Christian Devotions US, Almost An Author, Inspire a Fire, and Focus on the Family's Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Proceeds from her children's book, Josie Jo's Got to Know, benefit breast cancer research. Visit Dee Dee at http://comegohomewithme.blogspot.com

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Why Tim Keller's Latest Book Shows Up During My Quiet Time

by Cathy Baker

One particular gift from my Christmas list, The Songs of Jesus..A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms, by Timothy and Kathy Keller, has become a meaningful accompaniment during my quiet times.

Off and on over the years, I've read a psalm a day along with a chapter in Proverbs, matching that day's date to the corresponding chapter. Its lyrical prose reads like a songbook -- one that is active and alive -- resonating with the soul and all that matters most.

So why would I recommend this particular book? Let me count the ways. Three, to be exact. 
  • It's biblically sound. Enough said. :)
  • It's versatile. Three options are offered on ways to approach the book. One way is to read it straight through, as is. Each small page shares Scripture verses, which are written out, a brief summary, and a prayer. Secondly, you could also look up and study the embedded scripture found in the summary and/or prayer section. And lastly, show up with a blank journal and read the psalm portion twice slowly, asking three questions as you go: {Adore} What did you learn about God for which you could praise or thank him? {Admit} What did you learn about yourself for which you could repent? {Aspire} What did you learn about life that you could aspire to, ask for, and act on?
  • It's foundational for new devotees and rich with depth for longtime learners. Tim's inviting style welcomes the newest of Christ-followers while also challenging those who've dusted off their sandals more than once on this journey.  

The book of Psalms can revolutionize our devotional life, our family patterns, and the fellowship and witness of the church of Jesus Christ. -Willem VanGemeren 


So there it is -- three reasons why I would recommend this devotion to not only those who consider themselves to be Christ-followers but also to those who are still searching. 
“The more deeply we grow into the psalms and the more often we pray them as our own, the more simple and rich will our prayer become.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer - See more at: http://www.leadershipresources.org/blog/quotes-about-the-book-of-psalms/#sthash.YLMpcRvS.dpuf

How about you? Do you have a devotion book that you would recommend? 


{Coming up next Monday, you'll not want to miss our interview with Dee Dee Parker, as she shares a glimpse of what her quiet time with the Lord looks like and how a forsythia bush often finds its way into that sacred time.}