What is God Redeeming in Your Life Today? {And A Gift for You!}

Redemption

I marvel at God’s redeeming power. Salvation. Forgiveness. Mercy. Grace.

Lives once lost, now saved — and that reality of redemption reaches deep into our days. Not one experience, one gift, one talent, one sin, one stumble, one glint of shame, one creative idea, or one of anything else is beyond His redemptive reach. He uses it all. Nothing in our life goes to waste.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV

Today, the discussion of redemptive power in your life and mine continues on Karen ‘Girl’ Friday’s blog, “Hope Is Among Us”. Click her to join us. {And did I mention a Starbucks gift card will be given away in celebration of the this week’s launch of Pauses for the Vacationing Soul: A Sensory-Based Devotional Guide for the Beach? What better way to celebrate than with a cup of coffee? It’s chock-full of sensory benefits! Visit Karen’s amazing site and leave a comment to be eligible for the drawing. See you there!}

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A THANK YOU GIFT… FOR YOU

Pauses SmallThank you to the best creative community ever! Your support and encouragement spur us all on to be the women God has created us to be. I’m deeply grateful for the amazing help you offered by sharing, purchasing, and reviewing my new book on its launch day Tuesday.

To celebrate, all new subscribers will receive an uber-cool beachy scripture-based coloring page. Design artist Brittany Leigh Powell of Britt Leigh Design & Marketing Studio created this just for YOU. {Current subscribers, if you did not receive the newsletter with the link to your coloring page, please let me know.} Enjoy!

Visit Brittany’s Etsy Store to grab your own cool designs for a multitude of projects.

The Power of With {One Week After Easter}

The power of with

This wasn’t the post I intended to write the week after Easter. Things, however, have been topsy-turvy at the Baker house. Last week, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. The tiredness is a reality that feels more like a nightmare. And while there’s never a good time to be sick, there’s certainly a bad time⎯like now. I wasn’t able to attend our Easter service or hunt eggs with the kids. And then there’s my little book that’s set to launch on Tuesday, May 2nd, that requires more of me than I have to give right now.

But amidst all this — the disappointment of missing out on a special holiday with my family, the feelings of inadequacy, and the concern of flat-out failing to launch the book properly, one word has held me together: WITH.

The weight of this word with is heavy and sweet like the scent of tea olives in Spring. It brings rest to the soul. Mark 16:20 frames the word in all its glory:

Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.  [Emphasis mine]

After the crucifixion and before the resurrection the disciples were confused and afraid. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews…”.

But then they discovered the power of the empty tomb. Jesus was not there. He had risen! In that moment they went from being without Jesus to being with Him, and Him with them. Jesus wasn’t only with them following His resurrection⎯He worked with them. And the same Jesus works with you and with me this very day to accomplish your goals for His glory.

Recently, I had a slight but powerful shift in my relationship with Christ, my prayer life, and my calling when I began walking in the reality of God’s “with-ness”. I’ve experienced the reality of His presence within me since becoming a Christ-follower at the age of 27. But only in recent months have I harnessed the power of His being with me.

With me when I don’t have the physical energy to complete necessary tasks.
With me when I can’t understand the timing of getting sick.
With me when I’m feeling alone in an overwhelming process.
With me when I can’t be all that I want to be for my family and for myself.

His with-ness provides the grace, mercy, and rest required to move forward when everything else around me feels backward. His sovereignty trumps it all. And knowing that He is with me⎯and not indifferent toward me or against me⎯changes everything.

Have you considered how grasping the reality of God being with you might shift your perspective in your ministry, as well as life in general?

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The Power of With:
  • You wonder if what you’re doing is making an eternal difference or if you’re just spinning temporal wheels. Jesus is with you, prompting others to encourage you at just the right moment. No — that email, text, or call was not “out of the blue”. He is with you and knows exactly what you need to keep moving forward in your calling.
  • In the grocery line, you feel prompted to share the joy of the empty tomb with the woman ahead of you. Your pulse pumps with fear — but Jesus is there — right there, standing with you, ready to give you the bravery to speak.
  • Your work weighs you down emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Jesus is with you. He longs for you to ask for His wisdom and discernment instead of relying on your own. Your work matters to Him.
  • You’re a single mom or a widow. You’re exhausted and loaded down with questions of “what if?”. Jesus is with you, upholding you, giving you manna-strength for the day.
  • You’ve received a dreaded diagnosis. Jesus is fighting for you and He is with you.

Easter is my favorite day of the year. Without the resurrection, there would be no hope. No hope of God being in a relationship with us, no hope of forgiveness, no hope of an eternity with Him. No hope of seeing our loved ones again — and the list goes on. But because the tomb was empty that Easter morn, with-ness with God is a reality.

As the song says, “May we never lose our wonder.”

“This is an invitation to spend your lives pursuing what you most enjoy doing⎯together with God. Raising a family. Investing in your passion. Chasing your dreams. In all of it, God’s primary goal isn’t to teach you lessons. He’s a Father who teaches, not a Teacher who fathers. And a Father’s deepest desire is to invite his sons and daughters into more intimate relationship with Him. Which means God didn’t primarily create us so we would do things for Him. Or even to learn lessons about Him. His primary reason for creating us is so we can be with Him.” — Allen Arnold, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love & Create

How does it make you feel to know that the God of the universe created you to be with Him?

 

Pauses for the Vacationing Soul

ON SALE MAY 2ND

 

 

 

 

 

A Prayer For Those Desiring a Teachable Spirit

A Teachable Spirit

I remember the days when my spirit was anything but teachable. I wasn’t under the tutelage of the Spirit at the time but perhaps a person can’t fully embrace the beauty of a teachable spirit until they have been broken by dirt poor wisdom.

Today’s post is for those who long to have a teachable, pliable, open heart to God. For those who want to wake up brimming with expectancy, fully confident that the same God who spoke life into existence long ago is even more excited to speak life into your soul this very day.

Psalm 25

Psalm 25:1-5

 

Show me your WAYS, O LORD

In Your
I-can’t-see-it-but-I-still-believe-it // unexpected // behind-the-scenes // life-awakening // justified // higher-than-mine // sovereign // heart-seeking // turn-the-other-cheek // love-those-who-pounce-on-you // Fatherly ways

TEACH me your paths;

Through
life-giving words that awaken the deadest of hearts // answered prayer // prayers yet to be answered // nature // words from babes // the deepest and darkest moments // abundant-life chasers // staying in step with the Spirit // humility

Guide me in the TRUTH

The truth that sets me free from
perfection // deception // grip of sin // disastrous decisions // legalism // mistaken identity // wasted time // the lie that says I must be doing in order for God to love me, accept me // the prison of my own conscience

for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.

 

Desiring a Teachable Spirit

Father,

With outstretched hands, I adore You, here and now.
Your ways soar above my own.
Your timing. It is precise, perfect. It is never one second too soon or too late.
Your presence. It is sweet and strong. It surrounds me, comforts and encourages me.
Sovereignty reigns in You alone. Nothing escapes Your attention, or care.
Even Your instruction⎯Your discipline⎯is a display of Your deep love for me. In this, I am confident for You are a good Father.

Obedience is Your love language.

Without You, I am nothing, Pappa.
Before You, I lay bare every lie I’ve ever believed that I could do anything meaningful without You.
I confess my pride — the idea that I have all of You that I need.
Though these words never leave my lips, this lie latches onto my actions. You see it when I refuse to ask questions for fear of seeming less-than. And when I choose not to listen well to wise counsel, or invest time in reading, studying, and taking notes to become more like Jesus.
I say I need You but I don’t seek You like a parched woman thirsting for water.
Please forgive me.

Father, this is my heart cry today, and every day:
Create within me a teachable spirit.
One that longs for You, thirsts for You, and finds everything I need in You.
For You alone are worthy.
Cloak me in discernment and wisdom to guard against sin and its disastrous effects,
for sin never leaves its slimy imprint on just one person’s life.
Pry open each finger of resistance to display an open hand and heart
desiring only You, Your ways, Your timing.

Amen.

 

// Your Turn //

 

Is there a word or phrase from the above prayer that you desire to make your own before the Lord? Or, what is one specific way you pray for a teachable spirit? Please share.

 

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How I Boosted Meaningful Productivity Through These Rituals

Turntable

Daily rituals fascinate me.

Is there a secret to this creative energy bubbling up in writers, poets, artists, and musicians? Would my waking up earlier, staying up later, or drinking lattes with the perfect amount of froth propel my creative energy into overdrive? I can’t say for sure but I have discovered how a few (nine to be exact) wisely-placed rituals lead my day well. This is especially true on the days dedicated to writing, which have radically increased while finishing up my first e-book scheduled for release in April. {I’m excited to share more about that subject in a few weeks!}

Alarm clocks

9 Rituals That Boosts Creativity & Productivity

 

  • Wake up early. Now that Brian has an hour commute we’re waking up by 5:45 am. Even on weekends, I prefer to wake up early. Part of this, I’m convinced, is genetic. But I’m thankful I’ve always been an early riser. For me, embracing the feel of a full day is exhilarating. Add a cup of hot coffee to the mix, and the day is officially underway.
  • Cue the praise music. After breakfast, the TV goes off and the music comes on. I listen to three different channels on Pandora:  Brandon Gilliam {our son}, Aaron Keyes, and Bethel Music. I crank up the music for 15-20 minutes, sing, raise my arms toward heaven, and worship. Zephaniah 3:17 says the Lord sings over us. I love singing to Him in return.
  • A Conversation. The music stays on, but now it lays low. I read through the Bible chapter-by-chapter, keeping my small hardbound steno close by. Speaking, listening, praying⎯all lay the foundation for a glorifying kind of day. At least, that’s my prayer.
  • Get dressed/ready. Now that we live twenty minutes from civilization I don’t “go to town” nearly as much as I once did. It can be semi-tempting to leave on the pajamas and leave off the makeup. But I’ve recently come to see that, at least for me, getting ready helps me to view my writing as work/ministry⎯not a hobby. So I get dressed, comb my hair, and swipe on a little color — sometimes more, sometimes less. {Both grandmothers loved their lipstick. I suppose this is genetic, too.}
  • Switch the Pandora channel to George Winston. This simple swapping of stations triggers my mind that it’s time to shift to writing mode. I don’t play this station any time except when I write.
  • Sit at the desk, not the couch. Another trigger to prompt my brain that it’s time to work, not play.
  • Mute the phone and shut down Facebook. I still check both but only at set times.
  • Invite the Holy Spirit to join me in the process. He doesn’t require an invitation but it reminds me that He is with me, for me. That we are in this together.
  • Pour a cup of Paris tea. I reserve this treat for the afternoon, and it’s my way of winding down.

Paris Tea from HarneyI pretty much stumbled upon most of these rituals or at least their order, but when the creative process began clicking, there was no turning back. Tweaking my schedule has increased my productivity two-fold.

Your goals and the steps you choose to attain those goals will probably look different than mine {especially if you’re not an early riser *wink*} and that’s perfectly fine. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than one of my favorite finds, Mason Currey’s book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work. It’s a peek into the minds of brilliant artists of all types. Their idiosyncracies make mine look mildly boring, and it’s a lovely feeling, I must say.

How about you? Do you have some type of ritual that helps you to be more creative and productive? Please share!

 

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How A Simple Arrow Can Point You in the Right Direction

An arrow pointed in the right direction

Ah, the bow and arrow. Now that both of our boys are honing their archery skills my appreciation for this form of weaponry has increased. Or maybe it actually began years ago when a pastor spoke on how our children are like arrows. How they were created to be released, not kept in the quiver. How we as parents are to release them into the care of their Creator, not hide them away for safe keeping. The message is a decade old and yet it still circles my mind like the hawks seeking their prey just outside my window.

This type of encircling is easier to understand when you consider the purposes of the different parts of the arrow. I’m sure there are deeper, more complex comparisons out there but here’s what I see when I spot a simple arrow.

orange arrow

How A Simple Arrow Can Point Us in the Right Direction:

 

Shaft // Jesus Christ

The shaft is the spine of the arrow and it is foundational. Everything else adheres to it.

John 15:5 reminds us, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” The Lord breathed temporal days into our lungs and eternal life into our soul. He is the foundation for all of life. We cling to Him like tendrils clutch to the branch and it is there we find joy, purpose, hope, and rest.

Feathers // Holy Spirit

Feathers on an arrow are also referred to as fletching. It creates wind drag. This stabilizes the arrow in flight, boosting its accuracy. It also helps to keep the back end of the arrow behind the front.

John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Spirit within us is the Keeper of all things⎯He prompts, reminds, convicts, encourages, teaches, and reveals. He offers stability as we stay in step with Him through obedience. And much like the feather on the tail-end of an arrow, the Holy Spirit is quick to reveal when we get out of the “let’s follow-the-Leader line”.

Nock // Community

This small plastic groove on the rear end of the arrow holds the arrow in place on the string until its power is released.

When I notice the nock of an arrow I think of fellow believers. In biblical community, there is power released, wouldn’t you agree? You can feel it⎯this synergy that we share in Him.

Arrowhead // Our Purpose

An arrowhead is the point of an arrow and there are various types. Each with a different purpose and advantage.

Sound familiar? Your arrow may fly farther than mine and that’s okay. In fact, it’s glorious! You are fulfilling your God-given purpose and I am fulfilling mine. Sometimes the Archer angles His bow at a 45-degree angle and at other times, 30-degrees. We trust and rest in knowing He never misses His target for our lives.

Arrow Stone

You may have read this post about the recent Valentine Tea I hosted for my critique group. One of their take-home gifts was this arrow-etched stone. While carefully placing each stone in my shopping cart, I thought of God and the master Archer that He is, gently pulling us from His omniscient quiver and releasing us into a particular sphere of influence. One of His making. Doors of opportunity will open, and some will slam shut. Nevertheless, the Archer’s aim is steady and the arrowhead, weighted in purpose.

Yes, there will be days when we feel more like the target rather than a weapon of truth in God’s quiver but when this happens, we need only consider the simple arrow and how it points us in the right direction: Jesus/Truth  // Power of the Holy Spirit // Biblical Community // Rest

Is there a particular “part” of the arrow that brings you assurance in the midst of your current circumstances? Is there some way I can pray for you today? I would count it a privilege if you would like to share in the comment section or message me via Facebook.

Love is Guarding Your Mind from the Muck

What the World Needs Now is Love
Love. If there’s anything the world needs now it’s love, sweet love. {cue music}

Words, heavy and dense like thunderclouds, roll across TV screens, Facebook feeds, and well, my own mind. I’m convinced that whoever originated the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” lived in a hobbit house tucked away inside an isolated hill far, far away.

A broken arm heals in a matter of weeks. Hurtful words can linger a lifetime.

Listening to friends and other voices around me, I sense I’m not alone in having allowed some of the recent muck being voiced today to penetrate places in my mind and heart it ought not. Like, feeling tinges of bitterness toward a women’s movement that clearly does not represent my thoughts, my “rights”, and certainly not my beliefs.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a friend across the US that is hurting, wounded by a friend. Not because of her friend’s words to her during a difficult time, but the lack thereof. Not one word, in fact.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a couple behind me in the self-checkout line at the local Ingles. He berates her in a crowd, not only embarrassing himself but those around him, and especially her. Kind of makes you wonder how he speaks to her in the quietness of their home.

But it’s not just that.

It’s about a beautiful twelve-year-old girl I had the pleasure of knowing who took her own life because of the words from a bully at school.

It’s true, isn’t it? The tongue really does hold the power of life and death. (Proverbs 18:21)

Our words and their tone, whether spoken or written, do one of two things the moment they leave our lips or fingertips: They extend life to another or kill it, sometimes literally.

Rarely, if ever, do words fall idle.

If I’m not careful, I won’t only wade through the muck of misguided, misspoken, or even non-spoken words, I’ll track them inside, leaving their sticky imprint on my thoughts, and eventually my own words, revealing my heart. (Proverbs 4:23) But we’re not left defenseless.

So how do we keep the muck from tracking into our minds and over our hearts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here are a few of mine:

Checking Our Words at the Door

How to Check Incoming Words at the Door
  • Know where the responsibility lies. We can’t control words that come to us, much like an unexpected guest at our doorstep. But we can control who—and what, in this case—we let in.
  • Consider the motivation. At times, there are words that are hard to hear but are said for right reasons. Allowing only the words we want to hear inside the door of our mind can lead to shallow thinking and unwise living. At times, we need to invite the hard words, escorted with the right motivation, into the entry hall. They don’t necessarily need to make themselves at home in our minds at this point, but we at least need to consider the words, the person, and their motivation.
  • Continue the interrogation. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive, much like our brave men and women who take our enemies captive. They interrogate the enemy asking where they came from, who sent them, and what their mission is⎯and our interrogation of suspicious words and thoughts should be no less.*
  • Rest and surround yourself in truth. Jeremiah 15:16 is one of my favorite verses. “When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty.” Nothing stabilizes, nourishes, or guards the doorway of our minds like scripture.

What the world needs is Jesus. He is the definition of love. A love by any other name is fleeting. Until He returns, we are to be wise stewards of words — those we share and those we receive.

Is there a specific way you guard against the muck leaving its imprint on your heart and mind? Please share!

*While snowed in one Sunday morning, I watched Steven Furtick from Elevation Church for the first time. (He and our oldest son are college friends.) He was speaking on 2 Corinthians 10:5 from a sermon entitled, “Hold That Thought”. I couldn’t take notes fast enough. You’re the blessed recipient of these jotted notes under “Continue the Interrogation.” You’re welcome. {smile}

 

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