Growing Stronger Roots – A Prayer Journal Review

Oh friends this prayer journal is such a great little nugget of gold. I just love it. I’m still not sure how I came across Tara Furman on social media but I’m sure glad I did. She put together this prayer journal and it’s packed with all kinds of treasures!

My favorite features in this prayer journal…

The categories – Praise. Thanksgiving. Confession. Favorite Verses & Lessons. Listening. Prayer Prompts. Prayer Requests.

Each category has an introduction page and the rich wisdom combined with  personal warmth has been such an encouragement to me.

The size and quality – I love the size of this journal and that it’s durable. To keep up with this format of praying will provide such a treasure at the end of a year.

One thing I’m learning right now is that I am super quick to forget things. Things I’ve prayed about and things I’ve learned.

Writing out our praise and prayer requests help us be able to go back and trace the fingerprints of God. Often in the Psalms we see our struggling brothers and sisters in Christ talking about how they “looked back” or “remembered the arm of the Lord” or “recalled”.  They spent time looking back and recalling the deeds of God. And that simple act of looking back brought a renewed strengthening and hope. I want that for me and I want that for you. To be able to look back at all God has done.

You can snag one of these power packed prayer journals at amazon of course or you can order off Tara’s website. I also have my eye on the one for girls for my daughter. She is growing in her prayer life and I am all about supporting our kids in their faith walk and if it costs money you spend it. What greater gift can we give to our kids than to teach them to know and love their Creator God. And prayer is such a huge part of our faith walk. So I see this journal as such a keepsake treasure and life giving tool. I’m totally going to be ordering one for my girl.

 

 

How we’re handling The Shack and Beauty & The Beast as a family.

Hi friends – this post is to share where we’re coming from on two movies Christians are talking about right now. We might land in different places on one or both of the topics and it’s okay to do that. It’s the beauty of respect within community.

I read the Shack when it first came out but have not seen the movie. I’ve watched a few interviews with the author to better understand where he’s coming from. The story is fiction. My main concern with this book/movie is that some people are watching it and drawing conclusions about God based on this author’s representation. And his representation is heretical. On numerous accounts. One overriding theme is Universalism. Basically that all roads lead to God and that Jesus is walking with all people in their different journeys to God. The author asserts there is no need for faith or reconciliation with God because all people will make it to heaven. The real heresy of the book/movie is modalism in the portrayal of God.

My husband told me in talking about these things, “I’ve always seen the problem with the Shack being a (probably) good guy trying to help God out by taking it upon himself to explain God better to people. The problem is you have to be very careful to line your explanations up with Scripture.”

This is an author who claims to be a Christian (not saying he isn’t) writing a fiction story but supposedly with truths based on scripture and to help people have a better understanding of God. I think as Christians we have to be extremely careful in the things we portray as truth – even in fiction stories. Some argue that people aren’t walking away with a new understanding of God as a result of this movie. I disagree. I think it is shaping people’s thoughts about God.

There’s a huge danger in forming our own thoughts about who God is. We don’t get to do that as God’s creation. He is our Creator and He tells us who he is all through the Bible. It’s right in front of us. I believe we experience our Creator God in different ways and explaining that to others might be difficult at times. But God will never contradict his nature and who he says he is in scripture. Never. And I believe the Shack, although fiction, is taking dangerous steps in helping people form an idea of God that isn’t true. This is what modern day idolatry looks like.

With this said I personally am not opposed to seeing the movie. In fact I thought about taking our teenage son who is becoming more grounded in his Christian worldview to see the movie and discuss afterwards the areas of heresy. It would be good practice in discerning truth from heresy. However I’m not sure the time is right. I think there’s a time to purposefully examine heresy with the intent of being able to recognize and discern truth….and for the purpose of knowing what our world is hearing and swallowing. But it can be a slippery slope (a good ole’ churchy term) to go down that path. It should come at a time when there are solid biblical principles already established and rooted in ones soul and a deep love for Christ. I thank God that our son and daughter are being exposed to excellent Biblical training at home, at school,  in church and youth group. I’m seeing the fruit of this in their life right now. They have a desire to know, love and follow Jesus but they are both still tender in the faith. As for me and Randy – we don’t have a desire to watch the movie. We’re both afraid we might throw up in our popcorn bucket. Sorry for that visual.

So why are we not going to see the Shack but we are going to see Beauty and the Beast – The Disney movie with the first gay character in it? Here’s why. Disney has never claimed to be a Christian company producing Christian movies with Christian themes. They represent the world and the world is not concerned with portraying Biblical truths. We are exposed to worldly, non-biblical truths every single day unless we live under a rock. We put money towards secular establishments every single day. To see a movie with a gay character in it is not condoning or supporting homosexuality. And I don’t think it’s dangerous because having a continual conversation with our kids about a godly lifestyle and a Christian worldview should be happening all the time.

So how are we handling this with our kids? We’re talking about it. Talking about the fact that we’re disappointed that Disney is choosing a gay character in Beauty and the Beast. But also that we can’t expect the world to act like Christians. We have ongoing discussions about homosexuality openly. We believe  scripture teaches clearly against a lifestyle of homosexuality but that God still loves that person and so should we.

So we’ll be heading to Beauty and The Beast this weekend but we won’t be looking down on anyone who is choosing to see The Shack instead. Or staying at home under a rock.

 

 

 

2 simple & transforming Bible study techniques

So let’s admit that sometimes we open up scripture and are like, “ummmm what did I just read?” We go away confused or bored.

Been there done that.

I learned something from John Piper that has helped me and I want to share it with you. Every morning he gets out of bed and gets on his knees and prays these three verses. He calls them the I.O.U’s.

Instruct – “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8

Open – “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18

Understand – “Cause me to understand the way of your precepts, that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.” Psalm 119:27

Before you read scripture consider praying through the I.O.U’s and ask God for help in understanding his word. And then trust he will give it to you.

Then ask the 2Q’s. 

As you read scripture have these two questions rumbling around in the back of your head.

Q1: What does this verse say about God or what does God say in this verse?

All scripture points us back to God so we can come away with a truth about God or about something He is saying.

Q2: How does this truth about God or what he is saying make a difference at the end of my day?

This is the so what. We’ve learned _____________ about God now how does this flesh itself out in my day. In the office. At home. Neighboring. Etc, etc.

Try this out and see what the Holy Spirit reveals to you.

Do you have some thoughts on how to engage in your Bible reading? Let’s help each other out – sometimes a simple new tool in Bible Study and prayer helps us move forward in our walk with Jesus. Share it in the comments. 

Girls Beach Weekend

This weekend I got to go the beach and meet an amazing group of ladies. “Girls Beach Weekend” has put on a Christian retreat for the last 3 years for their girlfriends and any woman interested in the Triangle area. They do it at The Southern Baptist Conference Site in Oak Island, NC. A beautiful facility. They asked me to speak on Lingering in God’s Word through Bible illustration and journaling.

The GBW leadership team was amazing. They were warm and hospitable the entire weekend. They welcomed me and 100 other women with open arms and served us through the entire weekend working so hard.

Everything this group did was top notch. Rooms decorated with adorable painted pineapples, cute schedules and notebooks. An adorable pineapple pencil pouch and colored pencils. And more.

This was their notebook – you guys look at that adorable coloring page. Could it get any cuter? I think not.

The location was fabulous. I’d never been to Oak Island before so it was wonderful to explore a new place. I loved it there.

I loved teaching on lingering in God’s Word and Prayer and we actually got to do some of it together. One of my favorite times was when God opened up a sweet time of prayer for us corporately and we prayed for each other. Such a beautiful thing to do among the Body of Christ – even with people you don’t know. The Spirit of God has a way of bringing us together through prayer in a way that is so intimate and can’t always be planned or scheduled. He gave us that gift this weekend. And I will always remember it.

The other speakers for the weekend talked about hospitality and among other things. Melissa Bell  spoke about the Turquoise Table and oh how I love this concept! Melissa actually did this when she moved from her home in NC to Texas – painted a picnic table turquoise and it’s where she and her neighbors gathered. And guess what? One of them flew all the way from Texas to hear Melissa speak in NC this weekend. This is what community looks like – you do crazy things like that. Love it.

I also loved Emily Sexton with the Flourish Market who spoke on Radical Hospitality. She has a store in downtown Raleigh that I just might drive two hours to go see one day. She is adorable and what she’s doing is life changing for women overseas. I scored me some cutey-patootey, big gold leaf earrings this weekend. And I know that my purchase is helping other women. How cool is that?

The many conversations I had over breakfast, journaling and farewell conversations were instrumental in my own personal life. God spoke to me through so many different people this weekend. I went to pour into people and by God’s grace he helped me do that but I also left being poured into by those around me and I thank God for that as well.

 

 

Why Umbrella Prayers…

“Umbrella Prayers” are changing the way I pray. When we start with WHO our God is in prayer and then bring up under him our needs, requests and worries it does something amazing.

It doesn’t always change the circumstances, although sometimes it does, but it does change our perspective. Coming to God first in acknowledgement and in praise of who he is gives us a stability and a hope.

Then as we place the names of people underneath that umbrella of who God is we can cling to the fact that God will never change. He will always be faithful to his promises. Always.

As we take the names of our loved ones and even ourselves and draw them under the umbrella of who God is we find a comfort in knowing we can leave our concerns in God’s hands and trust that He has a plan.

I will be teaching this seminar in more depth and with a creative aspect to it and would love to share it with you in person. Come check it out coming up on April 29th, 2017 in Reidsville, NC

www.umbrellaprayers.eventbrite.com 

Look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

When they grow up before your eyes

Slow down baby girl.

She’s 10 going on 15 and we struggle to keep the little inside her. It’s a Mama’s battle yet priviledge to step out of the way and let them grow up yet provide instruction and training while still nurturing. I don’t always do it well.

I swing from one end of the pendulum to the next at times. One moment I’m almost letting her talk me into wearing a dress that looks like an 18 year old should wear complete with a built in padded bra and everything. I guess I was thinking she could stuff socks in there?? I’m not sure what I was thinking.  (Thank goodness for my Mom, sister and a good friend who redirected me when I sent a picture of the dress in question). And we finally found something that was cute, trendy and modest.

Other times I find myself swinging the other way and in a clothing battle with her because I’m making her wear something that looks like it was pinned personally by Laura Ingles Wilder on a Little House Pinterest Board. Not sure what I was thinking there either.

And don’t even get me started on red lipstick and fingernails. My Mother would have never let me wear red lipstick at 10 years old. One word was associated with red when I was growing up: “hoochie-mamma”. I crack up now when I think about it. I’m not sure why the color red got such a bad rap back then but it sure did around my house.  But there she is – my 10 year old sporting some red hot lipstick and nails. But it was homecoming and she was on the court so I let her do it and was totally fine with it.

I have found that praying about even the little things is worth taking to God. Asking for his help in finding the right dress. Asking God for a good friend for your child that supports the same things you support as a family. We can take these things to our God and he hears us. The deeper issues is what we really want to take to him – Lord, let her heart long to know you and trust you more. To love you with all her heart, soul and mind. That’s really where it’s at. Because at the end of the day – who cares what color your lips are when your heart is pounding for God.

Lord – let us Mama’s not stifle what you want to do in our growing up little girls. Give us wisdom to know when to help them in holding them off for things that are too old for them and yet discerning when to let them move into new territory. And above everything we ask you would help our girls to know and love you more. Show us how to help them do that. Let them see us know and love you more. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Granny Gertrude ate lunch with my kids at school

I’ve always been told you need to have a variety of parenting tools in your back pocket. Meaning you can’t always whip out the same old “grounded from electronics” or “no car this weekend.”

So I consider my most recent creative parenting tool quite a success. Of course my kids don’t see it that way but maybe one day they will.

I take Spirit Week seriously at our kids school. You know the deal – your school does it too most likely. Each day has a theme. Crazy Hair Day, etc. Our school declared Monday to be Senior Citizens Day. And I had the perfect getup for it. And I mean perfect. Wig. Granny glasses. Hot Pink House Coat. And even a real set of dentures. (Thank you local dentist office for your support in the training and admonition of my children. )

But. BUT……my two precious chilrens – well, they refused to dress up. They were too cool for school.

After much pleading, begging and failed persuasion I sent the kids to school that morning in regular clothes. It burned me up inside. Letting them do it. Giving in to them.

But then I went to a Doctor’s appointment that morning and my Doctor, whose kid also attends our school, whips out her phone and shows me pictures of her kid all dressed up Granny style. She was adorable. And I was so jealous. So I read her my rant on Facebook that I just posted while in the waiting room which stated how mad I was that my kids wouldn’t dress up and that I was thinking about dressing up as a Granny and showing up to school because of it.

My Doctor totally encouraged me to do it. So did a lot of my friends on Facebook. So I took invented “Granny Gertrude” and showed up to school for both of my kids lunch breaks.

Meet Granny Gertrude…..

See Sophie’s reaction when she saw me coming with my decorated hot pink walker.

Who needs Botox when you can stuff a beach towel in your britches to fluff the fanny. Like I really needed it! LOL!!!

This is me with my son and his high school friends. When I told a “yo granny’s so ugly joke” I threw the false teeth out on the table and watched these young men turn blood red. I gathered my teeth and said a few words about school spirit and that perhaps tomorrow they would want to dress up. And then Granny Gertrude left the scene.

When I got the van I realized I had left my clothes at home so I had to wear my Granny Gertrude getup to the dentist office to return the dentures by a certain time. When I picked them up initially there was nobody in the waiting room of the office. But when I went to return them the place was packed! And get this – with all Senior Citizens that looked just like me! Not kidding.  I debated how I might return them without being seen but there was no way out. I had to go in dressed like I was and return the dentures. So I did. I have NO idea what those people thought because I never looked their direction. I got in returned the teeth and bolted out of there like nobody’s business.

The first words out of both of their mouths at carpool that afternoon:

9th grader: “Mom! How could you do that. You made me look bad!!”

4th grader: “Mom, I know what I’m going to dress up as for career day tomorrow! Which means you don’t have to come dressed up tomorrow. Right?!”

Needless to say both the kids dressed up the rest of the week.

Mission accomplished.

 

 

The gift of story

It’s always a gift to me when someone is willing to share his or her story with me. We all have a story inside of us and until we take our last breath our story is still unfolding. I’m a firm believer in the importance of sharing our stories with one another. It’s how we gain perspective and learn to appreciate differences in other people. God is the author of every story and so I’m convinced he loves us sharing his work with others for the purpose of showing him off.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing many stories over a kitchen table with coffee in hand or on the couch with feet propped up. Tissues nearby. Most all of our stories include a “rough patch” if you know what I mean.  These are the defining moments in our story that take us back to a vivid point and time. Sometimes it’s really hard to go back there and talk about those defining moments. I guess this is why I’m humbled and blessed when someone invites me in to hear or be a part of their story.

I never tell someone’s story unless they give me permission or allow me to share pieces without using names. Sometimes people need another person to help tell their story. In sharing over coffee and saying things out loud for the first time after having it in your head for decades can be a healing balm. And then to know that you are helping others can be another layer of healing from such a dry and barren season.

I’m not suggesting we all have to share our stories. Some stories aren’t ready to be unveiled and might not be this side of heaven. There might be too much raw pain to go public with a personal story. We should listen to those things. But when you sense the Holy Spirit nudging you to share do so with the purpose of giving God glory as the master writer.

In the weeks to come we’ll be hearing from some people who are willing to share their story in this space. I hope in hearing others stories we will be encouraged in our faith and encouraged to maybe share our own stories.

When’s the last time you shared your story? 

 

 

 

Infertility, Miscarriage, Still Birth and Abortion Support

Infertility, miscarriage, still birth and abortion are hard topics with deep, unique wounds associated with each.

We have experienced infertility and miscarriage and those were difficult days. I had a miscarraige very early in a pregnancy that resulted from IVF. My Doctor explained early on that my HCG levels were not normal and that the pregnancy would end naturally. Instead my HCG levels kept rising after daily checks to the point that we had a valid 8 week ultrasound report. Two weeks later I miscarried. These were painful days.

I can’t begin to imagine the pain related to having a miscarriage later in a pregnancy, having a stillborn child or having an abortion.

By God’s grace in our personal situation of years of infertility we were surrounded by an incredibly loving family and church family. Both sets of our parents prayed for us, encouraged us and supported us in big decisions we had to make. In addition our church family prayed for us and supported us also. God also used his Word and the Holy Spirit to minister to us through this time in some of the most profound ways. This blog is based on a verse that God showed me during those years of pain – Job 2:10 “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?” So while those years of infertility were so painful we survived without becoming bitter or resentful. We had hope in the painful process.

Recent stats tell us that infertility effects 1 in 7 couples. And 10-20% of women who know they are pregnant have a miscarriage.

This means that if you have any sphere of influence other than your own backyard then you most likely know a woman who is going through infertility, has had a miscarriage or had an abortion.

Maybe she’ll share her struggles with you or maybe you’ll stumble on them.

What will you say? How will you encourage her?

This is where we make things harder than they need to be all because we don’t know what to say.

And I get it. I’ve said untimely strange things to people in an attempt to express my love and concern during difficult times. If we’re honest we’ll admit we’ve all said stupid things before. But can we just put our big girl panties on and acknowledge it, apologize if necessary and do differently next time?

Refuse to let your past awkward words paralyze you in such a way that you decide it’s just better not to get involved at all for fear of saying the wrong thing.

Loving others will be flat out awkward at times. But it’s totally worth the risk. The more we do it the less awkward. Or perhaps the less afraid we become of being awkward in our loving of others.

The other side of this coin is extending grace to others when they say something to us that is well intended but wounded instead. It happens. The quicker we realize this the better we will love each other.

There’s a resource I’d like to tell you about that I have found to be helpful over the past 15 years in dealing with these topics. From receiving personal help to knowing what to say and what not to say to people during times of utter pain.

Caleb Ministries  is a Christ centered ministry that addresses what we’re talking about at LIABOW today. Rarely do you find a ministry that deals with all of these issues specifically and in such detail.

One of their many sweet resources is a P.A.T box – Providing A Treasure

It includes a handmade burial gown, knit booties, baby hat, and a baby blanket. Also included is a book called “Morning will Come” by Sandy Day, Founder of Caleb Ministries. It really is a beautiful treasure for a young Mom and Dad who have just lost their baby.

Maybe Caleb Ministries is a resource that could help you or a friend. Being aware of these resources is helpful because we never know when we or someone we know will walk through a journey that involves these painful things.

Have you walked through any of the things we talked about today? If so, how did God meet you in the midst of your pain? I’d love to hear. 

 

 

 

Live Full Walk Free Bible Study – a word from the Author & a giveaway!

I am so excited to introduce you to Cindy Bultema, a sweet friend and Bible teacher that I have grown to love over the years. I’m still not even sure how our paths first crossed but it had to do with Shamrock Shakes from McDonalds. I’ve read all of Cindy’s Bible Studies and I love her because she’s so very much like you and me and has an ability to teach God’s word and connect with women of all ages and seasons of life. Even hard seasons that include rock bottom. Not everyone is willing to talk about their “rock bottom” with the grace and balance that Cindy does. This is why I keep coming back to her studies. Her blog. Her resources. In fact I’ve just started her brand new study Live Full Walk Free! More on that later. First I want you to get a glimpse of Cindy’s heart by hearing her words in this post. 

Meet Cindy:

High school was not kind to me.

Although there are a few fun memories – cheering for the freshmen basketball team, attending a zany psychology class, passing drivers training – I’m glad I never have to return to those four agonizing years again. Ever.

Mostly my adolescent days were filled with intense loneliness, rejection, and a bottomless longing for acceptance and love.

I’ll never forget the day I thought I finally was on my way to high school recognition. A fellow classmate shared she saw something written about me in the girls’ bathroom. Really? Me?!

I ran to the south side of the building as quickly as my clog-wearing feet would take me. I couldn’t wait to examine what someone had taken the time to reveal publicly about me!

I pulled open the heavy wooden door and scanned the chipped bathroom stall’s exterior. Then I spotted the six words that would shape my life for the next two decades…

“Cindy is a fat red cow.”

And on that dreadful day those six words attached to me like a sticky, descriptive name tag.

As the years went on, I may have appeared happy and self-confident. But beneath the cheery smile and bubbly personality, remained an injured and insecure young woman meticulously attempting to cover up the pain, and striving to protect herself from ever being hurt or teased…again.

I wonder if you can relate, sweet friend? What labels have attached to you over the years?

  • Not good enough
  • Stupid
  • Ugly
  • Fat
  • Not wanted.

Thankfully my story has a joyful ending. In 1996, in the midst of a drug and alcohol addiction, I was introduced to Jesus, and surrendered my life to Him. As I began to study the Bible, I quickly discovered God says I am….

  • Accepted (Romans 15:7).
  • Beautiful (Ephesians 1:3).
  • Chosen (1 Peter 2:9).
  • Dearly Loved (1 John 3:1).
  • Enough (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  • Forgiven (1 John 1:9).

My dear sister, you are too!

In Christ, we have been given new, Truth-filled, life-giving labels to wear. We all have.

Regardless of where we have been. Regardless of what we have done.

And in Christ, not only are the old labels erased, they have been replaced with power-filled words of Truth. Only God can do that!

What label are you wearing today? Did you put on “loved,” “significant,” “courageous” – or are your old labels trying to impact your new days?

May we say “no more” to not-nice nametags, lying labels, and sassy self-talk. Instead, may God infuse us with a fresh faith to “put on” Truth each day. His Words are always a perfect fit!

Be reminded of God’s power-filled words of truth with these free A-Z Scripture Cards available for download at http://www.cindybultema.com/live-full-walk-free/.

_________________________

With nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Cindy is a popular women’s speaker, author, and Bible teacher. But don’t let her cheerful smile fool you—Cindy has endured single parenting, overcome bondage to addiction, and survived tragic loss.

Cindy’s latest Bible study, Live Full Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin-Soaked World http://www.cindybultema.com/live-full-walk-free/ was released in December 2016. Cindy lives in Michigan with her husband and their four kids. Most days you can find Cindy walking her beagle Rocky, attending one of her boys’ hockey games, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school. Visit Cindy at www.cindybultema.com.

You guys – the Bible Study is really really good and the A-Z Scripture Cards are Awesome. Do you even know how many packs I’ve given away to people? Even danger stranger giveaways. I’m serious. Get you some! 

Cindy is donating a copy of Live Full Walk Free and a pack of A-Z Scripture Cards to a reader today. Just leave a comment on my blog and I’ll have the kids draw a name out of the hat. Umm yes, I did say drawing out of a hat. Sometimes I defy the high tech way of doing things and go old school. Actually I just don’t know how to do it. Ha! Be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in the case YOU are the winner.