Summer Gardening: A Decision, a Discipline, and a Delight

I’ve enjoyed sharing this little spin on Summer Gardening by growing in spiritual disciplines and in Christian life.

My summer of turning the soil (silence and solitude), soaking in Living Water (worshipping in His Presence), and fertilizing the soil (reading and listening to good books) has been and continues to be really wonderful!!!

It’s been a delight, but it hasn’t always been.

In summers past, I slept late everyday.  I had very little time to myself because taking care of the kids was is wonderful but nonstop. It seemed like by the time I got up and got rolling, the day was mostly gone. Even with the gift of summer days at home, I still wasn’t tending to my heart like I really wanted. I had the desire to deepen my relationship with God, but the choices I made was not getting me there.

Like with any summer gardening, you need the right tools to get the job done, to get to where you really want to be.

I had to make a decision and develop a discipline in order to make it a delight!

The routine I wanted to grow my heart wasn’t going to change until I made the decision to change. The desire for the outcome I wanted had to be stronger than my current habits which caused me to waste a lot of time. I had a lot of excuses too- I’m not an early morning person, I don’t have a lot of time for reading, I don’t have a lot of time by myself, etc. While I’m working during the school year, it truly is more difficulty to do the things I really desired to nourish myself so I knew I had to steward the gift of my summer days at home better than this. Nothing really changes unless you make the conscious decision to do something different. So, making the decision to make different choices was my starting point.

 

Next came the discipline. I am not an early riser by nature. I love to sleep late. I love my summer laziness. It’s the great gift of being a school teacher to sleep in and take it slow and easy through the morning…..at least it is for me! During that season where the kids were babies and toddlers, there was no sleeping late. I thought I would never sleep past 7:00 again! As they’ve grown, of course they are sleeping later! Hallelujah!

Following my decision to make new habits, I began the discipline of getting up before the family. At first, it was hit or miss. Some days I would and other days, sleepiness would win. With each day I said ‘yes’ to the discipline, the choice to rise up got easier and easier.

Proper discipline requires balance, and it is summer, after all. So, on Saturdays, holidays, and vacation I sleep in. Glorious! And, on Sundays, I’m getting ready for church.

Day after day of choosing to wake up early for silence, soaking and study quietly and almost without notice became a delight! I would find myself looking forward to this precious time. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed sleeping in Saturdays, I found myself thinking “oh, tomorrow is Monday, I will have my morning time!”

Devotion to my spiritual disciplines has turned into a delight! When the alarm goes off, I roll out of bed and take my place. I still have days where I have to make a decision to get up, but it’s always worth it. When school starts again, I’ll have to amend this routine to fit the schedule. I’m not quite sure how that will work. It may be a new decision with a new discipline

I bet many of you are early birds and don’t have to work at rising early. What other areas could you make a decision and a discipline turn into a delight to deepen your faith and help your Summer Garden grow?

I’d love to hear about it!

Check out this Facebook Live video where I’m talking about the 3 D’s here.

If you need a little help with your summer gardening, I put together a little e-book with Scripture meditations, reflections questions, and a resource list just for you! When you sign up, you’ll get access to other Bible studies and the WoW Newsletter. Sign up here. Hope it helps!

~Amy

 

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Summer Gardening: Rich, Dark Soil

You gotta have rich, dark soil. Any good gardener or farmer will tell you that.

After years and years of growing a crop or a flower bed, the earth gets depleted of its nutrients and its substance. The ground gets stale from constantly bearing fruit.

It’s no different with my heart.

After a season (or many seasons) of output and productivity, my heart becomes depleted of its nutrients and substance. I can get stale and weary if I don’t take the time to put nourishment back.

We’ve already talked about how silence and solitude are like turning the soil and soaking in His Presence is like soaking in water. Now, we must put the good stuff back by fertilizing the soil.

I wish I could use another idea to describe nourishing the soil because fertilizer is….well you know what it is. And, I don’t want to imply that taking care of your heart is B.S, but you get the idea, right?

In my summer gardening, I’ve been fertilizing the soil of my heart through listening to and reading books.

At the beginning of this year, I challenged myself to deepen my literary scope by reading some classic Christian authors and widen my scope of Christian history. However, with work and home and church and ministry, it was really hard to have the time or energy to dig into such dense spiritual nutrients.

So, for the summer, I’m making it a priority.  First off, I’m reading the Bible. I’ve already worked my way through Jeremiah and Lamentations. Now, I’m reading Ezekiel. I do this first thing in the morning while the house is quiet before the kids wake up. Since it’s still kinda hard to sit down and read a book, I’m using the book app, Scribd, on my phone to listen to books while I do other things. I’ve already listened to A.W. Tozer’s The Crucified Life and am currently working through Weight of Glory, a collection of sermons by C.S. Lewis. I have a real book that I hold in my hands called The Joy of Ministry by  Thomas W. Currie, III that I’m slowly digesting bit by bit.

My strategy is to rotate different kinds of works and authors to get a variety of deposits into my spirit- Christian discipline, theology, etc. Next, I hope to include some good ol’ church history and some practical ministry resources. I’m also watching videos of one of my favorite authors, Alicia Britt Chole. She has a series on TBN called The Sacred Slow. I haven’t had the chance to read her book yet, but the videos have been a great addition to my other books.

Of course, I have to add some good, yummy fiction to round out this diet for my soul. I have a few titles picked out on my Scribd account that were recommendations, but I have a physical book by my favorite fiction author, Francine Rivers. Many years ago, I read her Mark of the Lion series which is wonderful, so for a few minutes a day, I’ll read A Voice in the Wind. Delightful!

Can I tell you how wonderful this has been? The Tozer and Lewis pieces were simply inspiring and gets me motivated to exercise. The phone app has been really great because I’m still a better listener than a reader. I can’t wait to dive into the church history. Watching Alicia always draws me closer to Jesus. I feel like I’m nourishing myself well.

By depositing Scripture, authors, and ideas into my spirit, I hope to enrich the soil of my heart by teaching my mind and nourishing my heart so that I can have a more fulfilling relationship with God and hopefully, continued quality seasons of productivity and ministry.

Last week, I talked about it here on Facebook. Check it out.

What books are you reading? How are you fertilizing your soil? How’s your summer gardening going?

If you need a little help with your summer gardening, I put together a little e-book with Scripture meditations, reflection questions, and a resource list just for you! When you sign up, you’ll get access to other Bible studies and the WoW Newsletter. Sign up here.

Hope it helps!

~Amy

Summer Gardening: Soaking in His Presence

The most satisfying experience in all my existence is being the in the presence of God.

Out of all the pleasures that are ours to enjoy….eating, sleeping, playing, satisfaction in completing a task or job, reading, learning, nature, friends, music, art…or even chocolate……none compare to being in God’s Presence. Only the love for a child and the embrace of intimacy even come close.

These God-given, human experiences delight us and make us happy. They are part of the full, abundant life that God delights in giving us. We are content, satisfied, and blessed, but they leave us wanting more. When the experience fades (or the food is digested), the hunger or desire or longing returns, and we want more. It satisfies, but then we must experience it again to be satisfied again.

Being in God’s Presence, however, is not just pleasing to my senses or fills a physical need. Experiencing God touches something deeper than the biological requirements of my body, or the intellectual questions of my mind, or the expressing of my emotions. Being with God satisfies my spirit. Deep within me, at the essence of my being, God’s presence connects with mine.

I am satisfied in a way that is so much more complete than any of those other earthly experiences. I feel whole. I feel I am who I was meant to be.

This deep spiritual satisfaction radiates from my inmost being and rises up in me expressing itself in overwhelming floods of emotion- love, joy, peace, thankfulness. My mind has ideas and thoughts that only come from the wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Spirit so that my questions get answered and guidance is given to my decisions. My body responds with tears and laughter and words that may or may not be understood, and out of me overflows a love for those around me.

Soaking in His Presence, or worshipping God, continues as part of my Summer Gardening. Communing with God’s Spirit is like drinking up, bathing in or, diving deep into water so that’s why soaking seems to be the appropriate gardening imagery. Like a gentle rain on a lazy afternoon, my spirit is saturated and satisfied worshipping God, soaking in His Presence.

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Many of us worship God in lots of different ways. For me, though, my primary mode is through music. Singing and playing has a way communicating to God and with God in a way that puts me in that Holy Place like no other. Music is the language that intersects the spirit, mind, and emotions. It fills the room when we are alone and unites the assembly when we are together.

But music isn’t the only way to soak in His Presence. Being in nature, reading, creating, spending time with precious friends or family, communion, reading Scripture are all ways to worship and to soak. Each person is uniquely created to relate to God in a variety of ways.

The mode or method, I’m learning, isn’t as important as the sincerity. Worshipping God doesn’t look the same from person to person as I once used to think. From God’s perspective, He doesn’t need us to worship in any particular fashion. He doesn’t need it in any certain way. I do think, however, the object of our worship should be glorifying to God. A Godly activity that makes us feel good is nice, but are we focusing on who God is and Him being exalted in our lives and in that moment.

The purpose of my summer gardening and soaking is to be intentional and take this extra time I have at home to really pursue God. Like I mentioned in Tending the Soil, those seasons of busyness can take a toll on one’s body and spirit. So, pursuing the silence, solitude, and worshipping in God will deepen the roots of my relationship with Him while He replenishes and renews me.

There’s nothing more satisfying than soaking in His Presence. Check out this video where I’m talking about it on Facebook.

What are the ways in which you were created to worship God?

How do you soak in His Presence?

If you need a little help with your summer gardening, I put together a little e-book with Scripture meditations, reflection questions and a resource list for you! When you sign up, you’ll also get access to other Bible studies and the WoW Newsletter! Sign up here! Hope it helps!

~Amy

Living Water

Water is amazing.

Water serves us as one of the most perfect gifts God has ever created on this earth. Think about it. It nourishes and hydrates- we drink it to live. It cleanses and heals- we wash to be clean. Water is comforting and relaxing. I am reminded how wonderful water is as I’m floating in my friend’s pool and all the tension in my body melts away. Even a simple fountain with trickling water soothes my mind and helps me breathe deeply. Aaaaahhhhh….can you just hear it?

But water is also powerful.

My family and I went hiking to a cave recently in the hills of Tennessee. It was a beautiful trail, a bit rocky at times though as I huffed and puffed my way down the path. When we finally reached the opening of the huge cave, waves of cool air hit us in the face as a reward for the long journey. A small creek was flowing out of the cave trickling down over several levels of boulders and rocks into a nice running stream. Taking off my shoes and wading in the chilly water, I was refreshed and renewed (no, I didn’t drink it. I learned that lesson the hard way many years ago).

I began to notice how all the rocks were shaped differently by the water. Some rocks were smooth and rounded. Some rocks had been hollowed out like perfect bowls. Some rocks had jagged or sharp edges made by the water. Flowing water had even carved out this cave.

The same water that can nourish and relax has the power to shape rock.

We have been given a similar gift. We have been given the promise of Living Water.

Water splashing over rocks.

Jesus tells us in John 7:38-39 “Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” 39 (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)”

The Holy Spirit that Jesus is speaking of fills us and flows out of us like a river. The Spirit comforts like a float in a calm pool. The Spirit cleanses like a long, hot bath. The Spirit refreshes like wading in a cool spring. When we drink of this water, we will never thirst again.

Yet, there is one difference between the Living Water and the H2O stuff all around us. While the Holy Spirit is powerful enough to topple a city or sweep out a town like a flood or tsunami, He will never, ever over take you. He will never force or flood you more than you can handle or desire.

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Like the slow, steady trickle from a cave spring, the Holy Spirit can take those rough, rocky places in our hearts and smooth out the edges, hollow out the stone and shape into us  a cave that only God can fill.

“Come to this water, there is a vast supply. There is a river, that never shall run dry.”

Come, drink- and be satisfied.

~Amy

 

Women Need Women

Everybody’s first mentor was, of course, their mother. Your mother was likely the first woman to have significant influence in shaping your life. My mother was no different- she had a tremendous amount of wisdom while I was growing up:

-I don’t care how tall you get, I will climb up in that chair and get you! (She is much shorter than me because I shot up past her at age 12.)

-You need to finish school before you start your family. (It took her 13 years to finish college)

-And one of the most recent… I want to be the mother you need now. (And, she is!)me&mom

But then, there were things that my mother didn’t tell me. It’s not that she didn’t try. You have only so much time, you know,  to raise a girl into a lady. She got the big messages pounded in my head, but still, there were some things she failed to mention like..…

my pregnant belly- the day after I had my first daughter as I got dressed, I turned one way and my stretched, wrinkly, deflated stomach went the other way. What? No one had ever said to me (and I even read the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book and not. one. word.) “Listen, when you have a baby, your stomach skin will deflate like a balloon. But, it’s ok, hon, your stomach will shrink back….mostly”

Or….. hair growing in weird places. I admit, I have heard about this one. But, I didn’t think it would actually happen to me.  Someone needed to say “Yes, you will grow hair in some places and lose hair in others. Yes, it Will happen to you”. Still. Shuddering.

And how can we leave out..….sagging skin. A few years ago as I climbed into the shower, I caught an accidental and very unintentional look at my backside in the mirror. I was shocked to find my rear end had fallen into my thigh which resulted in this hunk of skin bulging out. I mean…really! Where did that come from???

All I’m saying is that someone should have told me these things! At least I could have been more prepared.

 

Despite having to learn some of these lessons the hard way, there have been many women whose mentoring took me under their wings. Pastor wives, women’s ministry leaders, and older friends who would share of themselves in bible studies, prayer, sitting around the  kitchen table talking, and listening.

I’ve been especially touched in the past few years by women who were God-sent into my life who’ve literally taken care of me. I had my oldest, Abigail in 2005, then in 2007 I had triplets. So, in two years, we went from 0 children to 4 children!! We needed help! There’s been Judy and Paola who cleaned house and babysat. Rebecca, only 14 at the time, would organize books and onesies and play with Abigail. As the years have gone by, there’s been women who’ve come into my life and have supported me in countless ways. Like Kim who knew times were tight for us financially and would quietly bless me with a shirt or piece of jewelry. Or, Nancy who would let me float at the pool with no kids. They have taken care of me at a time in my life (and are still) when I’ve had to focus so much on taking care of others.

Through the years, I’ve had women challenge me to pray for the tough, selfless prayers and to grow in maturity and to learn ‘it’s not about me”. I even had a friend look me in the eye to say the tough words…”I’ve been there…. don’t do it….. stop it.”

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See, Women need women.

Women need women to pass down all this secret knowledge about being a woman and to encourage, teach, shape and inspire each other. I wonder…if Eve had ever had a mentor,  a sister, or even a BFF, would that have changed anything at all?

“Girl, put that apple down this minute!”

Because….women need women.

Titus ch 2 reminds us that the older women need to teach the younger women. The older women should pass down their experience to the younger ones who need a little help along the way. Older women should realize that their ‘job’ isn’t done simply because their families are grown and out of the nest. There are SO many ministry opportunities out there for an older woman to ministry to a younger woman.

Younger women need to realize that they can’t do it all alone. You need support and an extra pair of hands sometimes. Younger women need to seek out and listen to the advice and wisdom that older can offer.

Is there some secret knowledge you wish had been passed on to you? Who has shaped you into the woman you are today?

As we finish up the month of May and the celebration of motherhood, what ways can you reach out to the women around you?

~Amy

On the Outside of the Circle

She sat across the table from me. She didn’t say a word. We were a bunch of women who  attended a workshop together, so the hotel restaurant seated us at one table. Some ladies knew each other and chatted away about this and that. Most of us were strangers. I knew a couple of ladies on my left and spoke to them occasionally, but mostly, I watched the others around me.

I watched to see if any of the other ladies would strike up a conversation with the woman seated across from me.  I thought that maybe I should talk to her. But, I was stubborn. I was grumpy for being at this particular restaurant. I had wanted to go some place else, but for the sake of the group, I went with what they wanted. I selfishly thought “I always talk first, let somebody else talk, why doesn’t someone talk to me??” (Yes, there was a little pity party going in my head) So, I sat there, ate my chicken, and observed.

She waited for her food, ate her hamburger in silence, and left.

I was saddened that no one around that table said a word to this woman. She wasn’t included in any of their conversations. Then again, I was guilty too. I didn’t say a word to her either:/

Why is it we stay in our groups and keep to ourselves? Why is it so hard to widen our circles just a bit to include someone sitting just on the outside? Why is it we sit at the table and just talk to the people we know? At work? At a restaurant? At church??

Maybe some of you are better at it than I. Maybe you don’t let these opportunities walk away like I did. Maybe I’m a little sensitive to this subject. Oh I know…some of us are shyer than others, and some of us are more outgoing. I have to admit that its hard for me to open up with a new person until I feel comfortable with her. But, I’ve been on the other side too. I’ve sat on the outside waiting for someone to talk to me. I’ve been the newcomer awkwardly hoping to get in on the conversation. It’s not enjoyable. So, maybe that’s why I notice it.

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So, I’m trying to be better. I am trying to include the newbie, notice the one off to herself, and reach out to make that connection. I’m not going to let a woman walk away without saying something to her anymore. It doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m trying. I’m trying to be better because relationships, friendships and connections are the silver and gold, the real stuff that matters. Eternal.

What has been your experience? Is it easy for your to strike a conversation with anyone?Have you ever been on the outside of the circle? If you would like to sign up for some more encouragement, join me here…

~Amy

 

Silver and Gold

**One of the biggest blessings I receive from WoW gatherings is meeting and getting to know precious sisters in Christ! But not just me…watching all of you make friends and making new connections is such a joy to watch!! You are my Silver and Gold**

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“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.  A circle’s round it has no end, that’s how long I want to be your friend.”

Life is not about the stuff you accumulate or how much money you make. It’s not about your achievements or the letters behind your name.  It’s not about what you drive or your net worth.

Life is about Silver and Gold. It’s about friends, old and new. Those precious relationships mined out of life’s ins and outs. The people we meet that make our lives richer.

I’ve been keenly aware of the silver and gold in my own life this summer: A day at the pool,  sending that selfie from a dressing room ‘does this dress work?’, catching up on the phone, stopping by the office for a quick hug, planning a meet-up on Facebook, attending a difficult life changing event, inviting some over for a party, staying over for dinner, sharing revelations, and studying Truth. All of it precious. All of them Silver and Gold.

We can’t make it without friends. We need that wide circle of friends to cheer for us and have fun. We need that tight circle of confidants to tell us, “Girl, you’d better put that down!” We need that one kindred spirit to whisper those secrets of the heart. We need to nourish these relationships because we draw so much nourishment from them.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17

I love it that I get sharpened by my Silver and Gold. Keeps me humble. Gets me loved. Lets me grow. Makes me More than I am.

Who are your Silver and Gold? Don’t let them tarnish. Polish them as often as possible. In turn, they will polish you, sharpen you. And, you will never be left empty.

~Amy

What will you do when there’s a Flood?

We’ve been talking about how God can use simple people to do great things for Him.

But, it seems like there is so much bad stuff going on. Persecution and suffering around the world seem like a flood. It feels like the enemy is in overdrive to bring as much evil and heartache to the world. You feel it too, right?

We must remind ourselves, however, of Isaiah 59:19….

When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God will lift up a standard against it.

God promises that when the enemy floods our lives that He will lift up a standard against the flood.

What’s the standard? The standard is an opposing force that will stop the flood.

Who is the standard? Jesus Christ is the standard. God is promising that He will lift up Christ in the midst of this overwhelming flood from the enemy.

But How is God going to lift this standard of Christ? Through us. The Body of Christ. His Body- The Church. We are the ones who God will use to facilitate, administer, and activate the standard in the midst of the flood.

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God will use us to bring Christ to the world to stop this flood of evil.

But we aren’t going to infiltrate by marching in a parade wearing offensive hats?!? We aren’t going to be bossy, mean, demanding, or demeaning .

How are we going to do this? Only like godly women can!

Just like the Women of Courage from the Bible, we will lift this Standard with wisdom, love, the peace and joy of God, not by might or power but by His Spirit (Zechariah 4:6) We will lift this standard against the enemy’s flood when we……

birth babies like midwives when Pharaoh tells us not to

when put that baby in a boat and send him down the river like Jochebed

when we become queen like Esther influencing the heart of the king from within the castle

when we plead on our husbands behalf like Abigail

when we submit to the angel bearing the Good News like Mary

when we tell those around us ‘I’ve just seen Jesus’ like Mary Magdalene’!

We will lift the Standard of Christ when we teach children to read and speak, advocate for abused and neglected children, support people with disabilities, meet the needs of the sick and elderly, raise your children and grandchildren, care for your parents or spouse, teach SS, or lead VBS or make meals or work in the nursery……the list goes on and on….

We are going to love, encourage, speak truth, share joy and peace. We are going to be Salt and make people thirsty for the Gospel, and we’re going to be Light and shine the Glory of God in dark places for the glory of His name!!!

That’s how we will be Women of Courage to lift up the standard of Christ when the enemy comes in like a flood to hurt God’s people.

The enemy may see it as small, but God sees our service as big, bold, mighty acts. When you are a Women of Courage like this, you are Big Giants of the Faith. God wants to use YOU to stop the evil flood in this world!

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Join us for week 2 as we continue our series on “Women of Courage”! Find out how God can use you to life the Standard of Christ in this flooded world and how you can be a Woman of Courage!

~Amy

When God uses the small ones to do BIG things…..

Read with me Exodus 1:8-22.

The Israelites had become slaves. They were growing in strength and number. Pharaoh felt threatened and insecure, so he devised a plan to try to limit their growth and strength. He gave orders to Shiphrah and Puah, 2 common midwives to kill any Hebrew male babies when they are born. But the women couldn’t do it- they let the boys live.

Why couldn’t they do what Pharaoh asked? Because they feared God more than a man. Whether they were Egyptian with their various gods or Hebrew who believed in one true God, they knew enough to know that what Pharaoh had asked them to do was evil and wrong.  I love it how they made their excuses….”those Hebrews women are too strong and fast…they have the babies before we get there”!

The enemy used Pharaoh to execute a deathly plan, but what we see happening is the God puts into effect His own agenda. God used these women as His own unlikely secret weapon to stop the evil plot. They took a stand. They resisted evil. They infiltrated the enemy by defying Pharaoh and by delivering those babies.

Here’s the thing…… The devil has always tried to execute these grandiose schemes with such drama and flare. But God thwarts those evil attacks through people who are seemingly small insignificant with acts of subtle obedience. God infiltrates the enemy’s plan by working through a couple of simple women of courage who quietly waging war through delivering babies and allowing them to live.

Throughout the Bible, God  used the seemingly simple people to accomplish what seems like insignificant tasks…..Jochebed and Miriam allowing a baby to live, Rahab helping Israel’s spies to escape, Jael killing the enemy in her tent while cooking supper. It keeps going. God used a donkey, farmer, orphan, the last born shepherd boy, a coward in a well, a barren woman on and on it goes. God infiltrates the enemy’s schemes and He accomplishes His own plan through what seems like the small and weak people.

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However, in God’s eyes this obedience isn’t small or insignificant. Their acts of courage aren’t meager or trivial. Rather,  it’s great faith and courage and bravery. In God’s eyes, these women who feared God more than man were Big Giants of Faith.

Throughout history the enemy’s tactics have not changed! He keeps trying the same old strategy to kill, steal and destroy but God always has a secret operative working in the shadows….Corrie Ten Boom…..Mother Theresa….Amy Carmicheal…..Rosa Parks.

Women who quietly and subtly…yet powerfully and courageously, with God’s Spirit, were doing battle on God’s behalf…..rescuing Jews, caring for poor, sharing the Gospel taking a stand for what’s right…..because they feared God more than man.

It doesn’t stop there…..we are being called to be God’s secret weapon for today to infiltrate enemy strongholds and to be God’s strategic plan to carry out His Mission in these last days. We know there are modern day Pharaohs, Herods, and Hamans trying to do everything they can to take out as many souls as possible. Satan’s is raging like never before to attack what God loves most…His People.

Do you feel like you are small and insignificant? Do you feel like what you do matters little?

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Please join me at Women of the Way 2018: “Women of Courage”  as we discover how God used seemingly small women in the Bible to do BIG things for Him and how we can do the same! I truly believe this is an important message for this day and age! I urge you to be there! Find out all the details here! 

~Amy

Lazy summer days are the best!

When you need some power to face Monday morning…..

If you are like me, the journey to Easter was a blessed and rich one. Contemplation and reflection during Lent, Holy Week with the honor and suffering of our Messiah, Passover, Good Friday, and finally (whew!) Resurrection Sunday!!

It’s Monday night, and I’m exhausted…. again. If I’m not careful, the glory of the weekend can quickly fade to complaints and grumbles and ‘here we go again’ into the work week.

But, Jesus didn’t raise from the dead so that we could go back to work on Monday morning living the same, ol’ unchanged life.  The fact is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us.

The Resurrection isn’t just for Easter Sunday. It’s for every day!!

Did you get that?

When I stop and really meditate on this truth, I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. I have to say it slowly and let the words sink in…….

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead….lives in us!

That means His Resurrection gives us the power to face Monday morning…again.

That means His Resurrection gives us the power to love the unlovable around us.

His Resurrection gives us the power to share the fruit that is evidence of His Presence in our lives- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.

His Resurrection gives us the power to bring Christ into the situation in which we’ve been called.

How are you living out the power of the Resurrection and bringing Christ to the people around you?

For different people that might mean different things. Some of you might be very evangelical by sharing how someone can become a Christian. For some of you, that might mean praying for those that work beside you. For some of you that might mean just a simple hug with some encouragement or serving your family.

It’s going to look a little bit different for each of us, but the goal is still the same…

How can I bring Christ to the world today?

Sure, we are going to get tired. We aren’t going to feel like coming off that mountain high of sunrise service and face the world again. But let that same Spirit give you strength to face each day in the power of His Resurrection!!

~Amy

All of You…Together

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in[a] you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,“He traps the wise    in the snare of their own cleverness.”[b20 And again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;    he knows they are worthless.”[c]

21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter,[d] or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

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Women of the Way 2013

Why does Women of the Way gather to study and fellowship together?

All of you together are the Body of Christ.

All of you together are the Church of God.

All of you together are the Bride of Christ.

 We are stronger when we are unified. We are more effective when we work together.  We are One when we love each other.

Our theological and doctrinal differences are minor in light of the children going hungry, the women enslaved for their bodies, the missionaries enduring persecution, or the nations without the Scriptures in their native language…all of whom need a Savior.

So let us step out of our neat little boxes that we retreat to on Sundays. Let us break out of the comfort zones of our hymns, bulletins, and worship songs. Let us be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world outside beyond the particular sign over the door.

“We are One in the Spirit, We are One in the Lord, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love”bodyofChrist

I really want to see you there at Women of the Way 2018!!! Please share with your church and invite you friends! For questions, email me at womenofthewaytn@gmail.com

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~Amy

We Belong to Each Other

I’ve written recently on Why We Need to be More Interdenominational. Now more than ever, I’m convinced we must be more about building the Kingdom of God than our own denominations.  (If you know my story, you know that I am a Heinz 57 mutt of denominations…..so, I am not against denominations). I do believe building His Kingdom happens better when we are unified.

Roman 12:3-5 “Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.”

Sometimes, we get in our church box where it’s comfortable and familiar, and we might have the tendency to start comparing our brand of church to other churches….that’s like comparing apples to oranges. Instead we need to compare our fellowship by the faith that God has given us. Are we fulfilling the specific mission that God has called us to do?

The reason we shouldn’t compare each other’s churches is because we each have a special function and purpose within the Body of Christ. Each part has its own way of ministering to and reaching all different kinds of people. So, it’s ok for us to have our own functions and missions as long as we remember that these differences are meant to compliment each other instead of divide us.

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When we realize that we are all parts of One Body, then we’re going to see that “we all belong to each other.

 

See, Jesus doesn’t see us as separate parts. He sees us as One Body….His Body.

With this uplifting perspective, we don’t have to compare our ministries or fellowships. We can support and cheer for each other and work together because we are all working for the common goal of building His Kingdom!

If fact, Jesus prayed that we’d all be one:

John 17: 20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.

22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me”

We belong to each other! If you believe in Jesus Christ, you are my sister and let’s be about the Father’s business building the Kingdom of God!

Join me at Women of the Way 2018 “Women of Courage” as we focus on WHO unites us rather than WHAT divides us!!! Check all the details here: Women of the Way 2018

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I can’t WAIT to see you there!!

~Amy

 

 

Why you need to be more Interdenominational……..

Women of the Way 2018 is almost here!!!!

More than 7 years ago, this idea of women from different churches coming together has grown and blossomed into such a beautiful gathering of the Body of Christ!

Each year, I love seeing women connecting, making friends, getting to know each other. We are inspired by the messages from amazing speakers and learn about the organizations that accomplish such great work in our community.

My favorite thing though?…….Oh……my absolute favorite thing about WoW is at the end of each session. We all hold hands with each other, and we say in unison the one prayer that brings us all together.

Our Father, who art in heaven,hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom Come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who’ve trespassed against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen

It’s one of the MOST beautiful things to experience in a church setting.

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Maybe it’s just me…..but it feels like the Father is just smiling down on us. It feels like the unity of his daughters radiates such pleasure from Him!

And that’s why, I believe, you need to be more interdenominational.

Gathering with other believers brings unity, oneness, and love.

It reminds us that we are part of The Body of Christ, not just our own denomination.

It calls us to something bigger than our own little corner of the world making us more aware of how the Spirit is working all around us!

To help you get ready for this year’s gathering, I put together this free ebook  “Prayers and Meditations for Unity” to describe why I feel unity and oneness in the Church is so important with prayers and Scripture to prepare your heart. Click on the link to download your copy here.

You can also get your own copy of “Building Unity”  on some practical ideas on how to actually experience more unity with other believers.

Yes! Each of our own churches and ministries are so vital and important.  I don’t want to take away from that, but taking some time to be with other believers has the potential to revive us in a unique way to keep pursuing our mission!!!

 

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I really hope to see you at Women of the Way 2018. God has always been faithful each year, and I anticipate this year to be no exception!! Check out the Facebook event page for the latest info and details!

Download those ebooks too! I would love to hear if they were helpful to you!

~Amy

Love Comes Full Circle

I am in constant search for God’s love.

It has been…and continues to be…a lifelong search.

Because of this search, I have been asking some tough questions like…..

Am I using God instead of getting to know God?

OR

Do I love ministry more than I love God?

Yes, God has been showing me and teaching me about His love layer by layer, revealing who He is and how much I need Him.

“For God so loved the world…”

“Jesus loves me this I know…..”

“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us……”

I have learned that Jesus loves me enough to die for me, that He loves me enough to secure my place with Him in eternity. Thanks be to God!

Pressing in further and digging in deeper though, God continues to reveal how His love just doesn’t save me. I’m learning that His love can change what I believe about myself. I can fail but He still loves me. I can turn the other cheek because He still loves me. I am beautiful because He. loves. me. Every misplaced, thirsty desire for attention, recognition, intimacy….or even chocolate, is a deep soul longing that only can be satisfied by God’s eternal love. I truly believe that so many of our “issues” can be restored or resolved if we allow His love to meet our needs.

So, if that is the case, let me ask this question:

“God, in what areas of my life can be changed, truly changed, by Your Love and how can that really happen in an everyday-practical-way?”

One of the answers came to me from 1 John 4:11- Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

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Of course, I have heard this message of loving others. Of course, I know “love your neighbor as yourself.” But when this verse flashed across the screen during the sermon a couple of weeks ago, a light clicked. To the degree that God has loved me is the strength, intensity, and duration that I should love others.

We spend so much time searching for God’s love for ourselves, getting our own needs met, and figuring out how God can help me. But how much, in comparison, do we spend loving others? Do we love others like God loves us? I don’t mean your BFF or your mom or husband or friends. Do you love the widow, the smelly kid or the mean girls? To the degree that God loves you when you are grumpy, depressed, or hurting is that how you are attempting to love others?

Could it be that the fullest expression of God’s love in our lives is only realized when we pour out on others what’s been given to us? Like a plant drawing nourishment from the soil, it must not hoard the water in its stem, but rather it’s converted into energy and produces a flower or fruit to be shared with others.

Could it be that while we are in the center of our own storm praying for God’s sustaining love to carry us through, we find His strength and courage more tangible while reaching out to others in their need? Because like the widow who kept pouring out the last drops of oil until every pot in the house was full (2 Kings 4:1-7), how much more will God continue to fill us with His love as we pour what we have into someone else’s jar?

Love comes full circle when we receive it and then give it away only to receive more and more in return. The supply never runs dry.

Is your circle a little incomplete? Even though you know God’s Love is working in you, do you need a little help letting His Love work through you?

I’ve written a *free* mini email course to help with the question, “Do you love your ministry more than you love people?”

Along with asking similar questions, this 3 Signs You Need to ReNew Your Ministry (sent to your inbox) will help you examine your relationship with God, your ministry, and your relationship with others. The course has questions and reflections to help you get things back into the right order in your life and prioritize what really matters.

3SignsYouNeedtoReNew

If you believe you could use a little help in your ministry, take the 3 Signs You Need to ReNew Your Ministry.

Sign up here.

Like Beth Moore said in a message “You are greatly blessed to bless!”

While in the midst of God’s love transforming you, how can you lavish that love on someone else in order to make the cycle complete?

~Amy

 

How I learned not to need ministry more than God….

I don’t need ministry anymore, and I’ve never been more fulfilled!!

Stay with me…..

Early on in my 20’s, I was such a zealous thing. I grew up in a family where our lives revolved around ministry, and I loved it! I was the good-girl, preacher’s kid who didn’t rebel. I wanted more than anything to sing, teach, volunteer….anything! I genuinely wanted to serve God in a real and effective way.

Looking back, though, I was also striving. Hard. I wanted so badly to prove how much I loved and was dedicated to God. I sincerely thought that if I did all the right things…especially ministry, I’d make Him happy with me. I hoped to do enough, to be enough, so I could be accepted enough.

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Photo credit: Nancy Rutledge

As much as I loved ministry…I also needed it to prove myself acceptable. Somehow, people’s approval fueled my efforts and my need for affirmation. People’s approval equated God’s approval which also stirred the battle between insecurity and pride.

Slowly, but surely…..through years of learning how much God loves me and not needing to earn God’s approval, my perspective on ministry changed. I’ve grown into realizing that ministry is the fruit of what flows out of my relationship with God. Not the other way around! Ministry is the overflow of what God is doing in me, not what I can do to prove my faithfulness to Him.

I didn’t realize this maturing process was even happening. A few years ago, I was able to fill in for the worship leader at the church we had just began attending. She had experienced a personal tragedy and needed to take some time off from leading worship to recover. So, I was asked to fill in and was more than happy to do for her and the church. She was my friend, and I wanted to help her in any way I could. To my surprise, this temporary fill-in turned into a regular gig.

When this opportunity was laid before me, something very special became apparent….I didn’t need this ministry opportunity. I was excited and thrilled because I never thought I would get an opportunity like this! I thought my music days were over. But rather than this chance at ministry scratching some itch rooted in my ego or insecurity, or striving to make me more acceptable to God, it simply made me thankful to God that the door was open. Ministry could overflow because I didn’t need it anymore!!!

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Photo credit: Nancy Rutledge

Do you feel like you serve in your ministry out of need or out of overflow? Do you find that sometimes you love your ministry more than God?

Are you asking yourself, “Am I using God or getting to know God?”

If so, I have written a short Bible study to help you answer questions like this. This email study that comes right into your inbox, 3 Signs You Need to ReNew Your Ministry, will help you examine your relationship with God and how this affects your ministry and your relationship with people. It will help you reflect on your priorities and motivations in ministry and help you gain a clearer understanding for your purpose in ministry.

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If you feel you need your ministry a little too much, please join me on this journey together. Once you discover how you don’t need your ministry, then you’ll be effective than ever in the overflowing work God has invited you to do!

Sign up for 3 Signs You Need to ReNew Your Ministry here.

~Amy

Are you using God instead of getting to know God?

Sometimes, I find it hard to read the Gospels. I grew up hearing and reading all the stories of Jesus. They feel so familiar. I scim over the passages because I’ve heard them over and over again. I don’t see anything new, so I keep going to something else.

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Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

I find, in recent years, I lean towards reading other passages of Scripture like the letters, proverbs and psalms. I asked myself this question. “Why do I have such a hard time reading the Gospels?”Here’s what came back to me:

Often, I’m reading Scripture to see what I can get out of it for myself.

As a “good” Christian disciple, I study the Bible looking for what’s going to help me be more Christ-like.  What can I apply to my life? What’s going to make me feel joy and live in peace? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? The Bible is our guide, our road map, our instruction manual. We are supposed to be learning, absorbing, digesting the Word of God and living it out! I do. I love it!

When it comes to the Gospels, however, the focus is solely on Jesus. Yes, so much truth and teaching can be harvested and gathered for me to apply to my life. I’m not diminishing that at all. They show us who Jesus is, how he lived, his example for us to follow.

But sometimes, I need to simply read the Bible just to get to know Jesus- that’s it!

So, that makes me ask another question, “In other areas of Christian life, how much of what we do is for God, or is it for us?”

Music…do you listen to that Christian music because it makes you feel good or is it bringing you into God’s presence?

Church….do you go to church to see what you can get out of it or what the service can do for you? Or, do you prepare yourself for what you can give at church?

Bible studies, volunteering, attending classes, events, communion…do you do all those activities because of what it can do for you or how it makes you feel?

In ministry, are you studying, praying, searching for only what you can use in your sermon or your class? Do you consume Christian material only so you can have something to output?

If we’re not careful, those of us who live in a Christianized culture can fall into the rut of doing these good and right activities because that’s what is expected of us as “good Christians”. We can do these things out of obligation or “that’s just what we do” mentality. We might even be selfishly thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ We can get too focused on what we’re doing and forget about Who or Why we’re do it. Sounds a bit like the religious Pharisees, doesn’t it? ouch.

I’m guilty of this……I’ll read an article and reference it for a blog post. I’ll hear something on the radio and think ‘I’ll use that in my Wed class’. I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think ‘that will be good for the next worship service’.

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Of course, all these activities, disciplines, and pursuits are what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we need these disciplines to keep us going in the right direction. We’re always going to be human, and we need these tangibles to help us develop a relationship with God. I’m not suggesting we throw out our studies, music, or activities. No! We need to do these things….yes God grows us and develops us. And YES, we are supposed to seek Him for what to say and do in life and in ministry. He uses all of these practices to communicate in us and through us. But be careful not to fall into the rut of using these things solely for your benefit.

If you find that you might be using God instead of knowing God, I’ve written a Bible study that could help:

3 Signs You Need to ReNew Your Ministry

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This short study sent to you by a series of emails will help you examine your relationship with God, your ministry, and those around you. It will give you some encouragement in knowing Jesus better.  You will have a better understanding of how your relationship with God is the driving force behind your ministry and how that ties into loving people.

I’d love for you to join me! Sign up here for this *free* Bible Study.

I’m looking forward to getting to know Jesus better. Hope you are too!

~Amy

When It’s Time to Do the Hard Thing……

Confrontation is always hard. Is there anybody who likes to confront another person? If you’re like me, my heart races, there’s an ache in my gut, and my mind plays over and over what was said or what should have been said. It’s torment.

In the instances where I have confronted a person or situation appropriately, it feels so good to have resolution. I feel so grown up and mature. I feel stronger and bit more like my true self.

So many times, however, I avoid confronting. I avoid it or do it badly. I want so desperately to say what’s on my mind, to feel heard and understood. I get so mad at myself when I let the moment pass. I will speak up……. next time.

Or, I need to do something equally hard- Confess and ask for forgiveness. Making myself vulnerable and say “I was wrong, I made a mistake. Please forgive me” is equally difficult. Sometimes we’d rather just forget it and let the whole thing pass.

But, that’s not right, is it?

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To refuse to confront or to ask for forgiveness is to choose to stay childish and immature.

What keeps us from doing the hard thing?

There’s probably lots of explanations we could explore as to why we don’t want to confront.

The biggest reason, though, is fear.

Fear isn’t always the thing that goes bump in the night or the feeling that sticks with you after watching a scary movie.

Fear is the enemy’s strategy to keep you stuck in the same old unhealthy ways of thinking and behaving.

Fear is what keeps you from growing into the person God is calling you to be.

Fear is what grips you so that you’re so scared you won’t risk being vulnerable, so you won’t say what your heart is screaming.

Fear wants to keep you quiet. Keep you hiding. Keep you from being strong.

But, here’s the truth: God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self discipline. 2 Tim 1:7 (New Living Translation)

That gripping fear does not come from God.

God does want you scared. Jesus didn’t conquer death, hell and the grave so you would live a timid life.

The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11) lives in you, and He has given you all the power, love and self-discipline to say or do that hard thing.

Let’s break this down:

Power– physical power, force, might, ability (Biblehub.com).  You’ve been given power through God’s ability to do this hard thing. God knows you can’t do this on your own. That’s why He’s given His power!

LoveNothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38)- not even our fears for today or our worries for tomorrow…..that’s what the Bible says. God has given us His Love. Therefore, we can risk saying or doing that hard thing. Even if that person rejects you or is mad at you, retreat to into God’s arms because His Love for you will never end.

Self-discipline– Other translations say “self-control”, as in, the Fruit of the Spirit or a “sound mind”, as in, wise decisions. In other words, God’s Spirit allows you to tackle this hard thing without doing anything crazy or getting out of control. Being scared can make you do or say stupid things because you are reacting out of fear instead of responding by God’s Spirit. Hey, another thing……I like the version that says He’s given you a “sound mind”. In other words….you aren’t crazy. When you feel compelled to do this hard thing because you know it’s the right thing, fear will make you think you’re crazy. It’s all in your head, that’s not how it really is, you are crazy.

Shut up, fear, I’m in the driver’s seat now. Dear Enemy,  I’m not gonna let you win.

Here’s the thing…..once we push through the fear and do the hard thing, the freedom that comes from the victory is amazing!!! The growth and maturity that results from your victory feels so good! And you’ll realize the freedom was worth pushing through the fear.

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Armed with God’s Spirit, His power, love, and self-discipline, we can do ALL through Christ who gives us strength (Phil 4:13) when it’s time to do the hard thing!

Father, there’s this hard thing I need to do. I know when I do conquering it will make me stronger. But right now, the fear is screaming at me, holding me back, making me scared to try. Almighty God, through your Spirit, you have given me everything I need-power, love, and a sound mind to do this hard thing. Give me wisdom with the rights words and the right actions. Let me feel Your Love and to know you will never let me go no matter the outcome. Thank you, Father, for overwhelming victory through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!

Hey Friend, I’m right there with you working on my own hard things. If you need some prayer or encouragement, send me an email at womenofthewaytn@gmail.com. I’d love to pray with you. If you know someone who needs to hear this, please share this post!

~Amy

 

 

 

When you think nothing really good comes from Winter……..

On this cold, snowy day, I am reminded of this description of Winter by Alicia Britt Chole in her book, Anonymous:

In winter, are the trees bare? yes.

In winter, are the barren? No.

Life still is.

Life does not sleep- though in winter she retracts all advertisement. And when she does so, she is conserving and preparing for the future.

And so it is with us. Seasonally, we too are stripped of visible fruit. Our giftings are hidden; our abilities are underestimated. When previous successes fade and current efforts falter, we can easily mistake our fruitlessness for failure.

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Photo credit by Nancy Rutledge

But such is the rhythm of spiritual life: new growth, fruitfulness, transition, rest…..new growth fruitfulness, transition, rest. Abundance may make us feel more productive, but perhaps emptiness has greater power to strengthen our souls.

In spiritual winters, our fullness is thinned so that, undistracted by our giftings, we can focus upon our character. In the absence of anything to measure, we are left with nothing to state at except for our foundation.

Risking inspection, we begin to examine the motivations that support our deeds, the attitudes that influence our words, the dead wood otherwise hidden beneath our busyness. Then a life-changing transition occurs as we move from resistance through repentance to the place of rest. With gratitude, we simply abide. Like a tree planted by living water, we focus upon our primary responsibility: remaining in him.

In winter, are we bare? Yes.

In winter, are we barren? No.

True life still is.

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photo credit by Nancy Rutledge

The Father’s work in us does not sleep- though in spiritual winters he retracts all advertisements. And when he does so, he is purifying our faith, strengthening our character, conserving our energy, and preparing us for the future.

The sleepy days of winter hide us so that seductive days of summer will not ruin us. Alicia Britt Chole

Father,  just as the earth finds restoration and rest in the quiet, solitude of winter, allow this spiritual season to purify my faith so that I might abide only in You. Amen.

~Amy

 

Advent: Love’s Greatest Story

Romantic movies try to create it. Love songs try to sing about it. Fairy tales try to capture it.

A longing lies in each of us for a Great Love Story.

We are drawn to such art, media, and entertainment because they touch in us this deep desire for love. Our hearts, and yes even our spirits, long for romance, adventure, and passion. We experience these thin attempts at love and long for more because they are only a shadow of a deeper desire.

Before time began, God wrote the story we crave. God set forth the plan to pursue and redeem us for Himself. He wrote the story of Jesus Christ as the Savior for us all.

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In this great romance, He didn’t send Jesus to get us cleaned up good enough so he could finally show His love to us. No, this isn’t your familiar love story where the perfect looking hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Instead, while we were yet sinners, broken, ugly, and undeserving of His attention,   He sent Jesus as the Word made flesh because He already loved us. His motivation to send His Son as Savior of the World was because of His passionate love for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have Everlasting Life. John 3:16

Read it again for the first time.

It doesn’t say that He sent His Son to make the people lovable and then pursue us the object of His Desire. Rather, He loved us first and then set in motion the plot of the Great Love Story. The Hero seeks out the heroine even before she knows He is searching for her!

The fourth week of Advent reminds us of this great love God has for each of us and to be reminded that God’s pure, passionate love was why He sent us a Savior.Adventjoy

It makes perfect sense, then, the weeks of Advent are all part of the Great Love Story- Thanksgiving giving way to Hope, Hope making room for Peace, Peace leading us to Joy, and Joy opening our hearts for Love. In a dramatic, breath-taking conclusion, Christ bursts onto the scene as a baby, Emmanuel- God with us, and Love’s Greatest Story is birthed in our hearts!

 

As we light the 4th candle of Advent, I pray this love story is written on your heart in such a way the celebration of Jesus’ birth floods you with Hope, Peace, Joy and most of all, Love!

~Amy

Advent: Unexpected Joy

During this penitential season of Advent, we look inward and examine ourselves to prepare for the coming of Christ. In clearing away the inward clutter, we focus on the essentials of faith…..hope….peace….and so on.

By stripping away the excess, the busyness, and the noise of the season, we might be tempted to think we are missing out on all the excitement. However, when we stop and take time to quiet ourselves, we find something much greater…unexpected joy.

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Watching leaves fall in the woods, delighting in giggly girls upstairs, enjoying the soft glow of lights after everyone’s gone to bed, gazing on the galaxy of stars on a crisp night, feeling the laughter of community in the church play, and dipping treats in chocolate with friends….these have been my joy this season in the midst paperwork, fevers, shopping, and rehearsals.

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As we light the fourth pink candle of Advent, may we quiet ourselves in prayer, meditation, and solitude turning our hearts to Christ. And, in the midst of the season, we will find Joy because our hearts in tune with His.

What unexpected joy have you found this season?

~Amy

Advent: His Presence leads to Peace

It never fails. I can count on it every time.

When I enter His Presence, His peace enters me.

Every. Single. Time.

So no matter how tired or weary I am; no matter how much my flesh cries screams out to stay on the couch, when I pray and worship, when I choose to enter His Presence, I am always surrounded by His Presence. I lay down my worries, concerns, and fears. I take my mind off myself, and I think about Him.

What do I get in return? Peace 

He gives me peace. In exchange for my feeble and limited worship He gives me His Peace.

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My circumstances don’t neccessarily change, but because he gives me His Peace, my spirit is put at rest, my mind doesn’t worry (as much), and I and strengthened to keep going. I can trust that He has all things in His Hands.

As we light the second candle of Advent for Peace, may we be so saturated by His Presence that we walk through this season of hectic celebration with a peace that passes all understanding. And, in so doing, may we be instruments of peace to others. Instead of looking for others to bring us joy and love and comfort, may we radiate His Peace to family, friends and neighbors all around us!

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~Amy

I Found My Cheerleader

I took the kids swimming so they could practice for the swim team. This summer will be our first attempt at an organized sport. I unconsciously (or maybe consciously) picked the swim team because I was on the swim team when I was a kid. Coincidently, my kiddos are starting at the same age as I did- the summer after 4th grade.

While they were swimming, I cheered for them to keep going, kick hard, and use their arms. Almost immediately, I had a flashback to my 10 year old summer…..

Learning to swim wasn’t the easiest thing for me. I was NOT athletic. I was an ‘indoor girl’, you see, so, swimming 50 yards was a big challenge. I had to touch the floor of the pool many times, gasping, struggling to keep going just to make it to the other end. Even in the struggle, she knew I needed this. In my little world in which most things came easy, she knew I needed to learn how to work hard at something.

The thing I remember most clearly in my flashback was my mother cheering for me.

During those meets, in the honorable mention lane, I would hear her yelling and cheering for me all the way down the pool, “You can do it! Keep going!” Every. Single. Week.

I wasn’t winning any races, that’s for sure. It took a few more summers until I could actually swim well enough to earn some real ribbons. But more than anything else, I remember Momma cheering me on to the end of the race.

She’s never stopped either. She’s always been my Cheerleader.

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Women of the Way 2017 Photo credit Nancy Rutledge

Throughout school, she’s cheered for better grades, piano recitals, and choir performances. She cheered for me when I got my first ‘real’ job at the shoe store. She definitely cheered when I graduated high school and college.

Her cheering took a on a different look as a I got older. She didn’t need to clap and holler to keep me going (at least not out loud). I could always ask her to cook a dish or pick up something at the store on her way to an event. Her quiet presence and support have always spoken volumes. She’s always had my back.

These memories are what come flooding back to me now that I am at the pool cheering for my own kids. I hope I can be the cheerleader to them that she was is to me.

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Summer swimming 2016 photo credit Nancy Rutledge

How has your mom…or another important woman…been a cheerleader in your life?

~Amy

Advent: Love’s Greatest Story

Romantic movies try to create it. Love songs try to sing about it. Fairy tales try to capture it.

A longing lies in each of us for a Great Love Story.

We are drawn to such art, media, and entertainment because they touch in us this deep desire for love. Our hearts, and yes even our spirits, long for romance, adventure, and passion. We experience these thin attempts at love and long for more because they are only a shadow of a deeper desire.

Before time began, God wrote the story we crave. God set forth the plan to pursue and redeem us for Himself. He wrote the story of Jesus Christ as the Savior for us all.

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In this great romance, He didn’t send Jesus to get us cleaned up good enough so he could finally show His love to us. No, this isn’t your familiar love story where the perfect looking hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.

Instead, while we were yet sinners, broken, ugly, and undeserving of His attention,   He sent Jesus as the Word made flesh because He already loved us. His motivation to send His Son as Savior of the World was because of His passionate love for us.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have Everlasting Life. John 3:16

Read it again for the first time.

It doesn’t say that He sent His Son to make the people lovable and then pursue us the object of His Desire. Rather, He loved us first and then set in motion the plot of the Great Love Story. The Hero seeks out the heroine even before she knows He is searching for her!

The fourth week of Advent reminds us of this great love God has for each of us and to be reminded that God’s pure, passionate love was why He sent us a Savior.Adventjoy

It makes perfect sense, then, the weeks of Advent are all part of the Great Love Story- Thanksgiving giving way to Hope, Hope making room for Peace, Peace leading us to Joy, and Joy opening our hearts for Love. In a dramatic, breath-taking conclusion, Christ bursts onto the scene as a baby, Emmanuel- God with us, and Love’s Greatest Story is birthed in our hearts!

 

As we light the 4th candle of Advent, I pray this love story is written on your heart in such a way the celebration of Jesus’ birth floods you with Hope, Peace, Joy and most of all, Love!

~Amy

How Football can teach you about Ministry

Show of hands…….Who else loves football season??

I’m not a huge sports fan, but I do love football.  The excitement, the intensity,the cool weather, the band….the win!!! I love it!

I grew up with a dad who particularly loved (and still does) a certain Crimson team with a rich history of tradition and winning. I remember waiting in the kitchen with my pom poms, and when there was a touchdown, I would run into the den to cheer!

I married a man who is equally passionate about our beloved team as my daddy. I always said the only thing my daddy and my husband had in common were football and me:) So,we pretty much plan our Saturdays around game time. Even though I prefer college football over professional, I still like the background noise of the game on Sunday afternoons…or anytime.

Here lately, I’ve been thinking about the training football players receive and what it takes to make successful teams and win games. I believe the same ideas could help us in life and in our ministries……

  1. Play a full 60 minutes: Football players are taught to give 100% for the FULL 60 minutes of the game.They don’t give up when there’s still another quarter left or even just a couple of minutes.  I can start to coast after lunch, or on Thursday afternoons, be tempted to call it a week. However, I know that’s not my best. I should give my best for the full day or week or task until it is complete….despite the outcome!
  2. Prepare: Football teams don’t start preparing for the game on the day of the game. They start way back in the spring exercising and strength conditioning. Likewise, if we are serving, giving, teaching, singing, preaching..anything, don’t wait to the last minute to prepare. There have been so many times I waited til the last minute to get ready. Even though things may have gone ok, I knew in my heart it could have been better if I had prepared more. Even if it’s just praying and getting my heart focused, any preparation for ministry makes the outcome more effective.
  3. Play your position: The quarterback can’t pass the ball and catch the ball and block the other players. He can only play his position. If he tries to play all the positions, he won’t be able to properly play any of them. Also, if he’s too busy watching or comparing what his other teammates are doing, he’s not going to play at his best. Same with us. If I’m comparing my ministry to someone else’s or jealous of someone else’s success, it takes me away from playing effectively in my part of the game.
  4. Stay focused on the goal: Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on why we are doing what we do. We get tired and pour ourselves out until we are empty. If we aren’t seeing a lot of results, we can get wore down and wonder if we’re gaining any ground or earning any points. Sometimes, making it to the final score seems too far away, so we keep our eyes on just making it to the next 10 yards to get the 1st down. Don’t ever forget….we aren’t playing for just a national championship (although that is very nice), we are playing for the eternal prize, the Kingdom Championship…..where every tear will be wiped away and we’ll be face to face with Him!
  5. There’s no “I ” in Team: Everybody loves a football player who humbly acknowledges the team  won the game together, not a single showboat hogging the lime-light. Same with us. Whether it’s your team of volunteers or music team at your local church or its the Body of Christ, the Church universal, we are ALL on the same team and should have the same goal in mind. We support and encourage each other. We set each other up for success.

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As I’ve thought about how to act more like a winning team, I also think about where I’m playing my game. I don’t just need to do my best in church ministry or when people are looking. My best game needs to be in all areas of my life….work….home….grocery shopping……with activities I enjoy but even more so with activities that I don’t enjoy. I need to bring my A game during sacred ministry (singing, teaching) as well as ordinary ministry (laundry, dishes). It’s easy to feel like winning when I’m doing stuff I love. Where I really need to crack down and play for 60, prepare, stay focused on the goal, play my position, and stay with the team is when I’m doing the stuff I don’t really like so much. That’s where God gets the most honor and where my acts of service and worship are more authentic and real.

Everybody loves to cheer for a winning team. Your team may or may not make it to a championship game. But, if we claim Jesus as our Head Coach, then we are on the Kingdom Team!!! No matter what position, no matter what mission is your playing field, play like a Champion Christian!!

Roll Tide!!!

~Amy

 

Remain in My Love

No matter where you come from or what kind of raisin’ you’ve had or what kind of life you’ve lived. …No matter if you’re in a season of lean or a season of plenty. No matter if you’ve really messed it up big or done everything “right”…No matter your color, size or zip code..

We are ALL looking for the same thing: Love

Even though we are all looking for the same thing, there’s a zillion different ways we go about it. We go “looking for love all the wrong places”……sounds like an old country song, right? It is….I grew up listening to 80’s country. Johnny Lee, 1980. Sure, it’s a great ballad cliche, but it’s true. We search for love in relationships, stuff, careers, etc, etc…….

But there’s only One way to get the love we are all searching for…..Remain in My Love.

Jesus said in John 15:9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” Our joy is complete, like it says in the next couple of verses, by being filled to overflowing of His Love (verse 11). Abiding in and soaking in His Presence. Having a revelation of how much He really cares for you.

Remaining in His Love is like being grafted into a vine where the source of nourishment never runs out. That’s why He says “I am the vine and you are the branches” in that same chapter. Remaining in His Love is like being a well where the water never runs out or a waterfall that never ends. That’s why He says “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart” Mark 7:38

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For all our searching and feeble attempts at being loved whether it’s through a relationship, food, drugs, possessions, job status, etc…the list goes on, there is nothing that satisfies more than the love of Christ. Nothing can compare to the security and safety of His Love.

So, no matter which side of the tracks you’ve been or where you are going, do you know how much He Loves you? Have you experienced a revelation of God’s Love?

But what if you don’t feel like He loves you??

Next time…….Part 2 Nothing Can Separate

~Amy

Chocolate

Let’s all pause for a moment and reflect………….

Aaaahhhhhhh……………………………………….

Anybody who knows me more than a few minutes knows that I am a Gen.u.ine. Choco-haulic. Yes, I admit it. I need therapy.

The honest truth is that once when I was little girl I kept begging and begging to eat the Reese’s cups, and mom decided to “cure” me by letting me eat all I wanted until I got sick. Yep, I ate all I wanted. And Yep, I got sick as a dog. It’s been a down hill addiction ever since.

This chocolate love-affair has also brought with it the whoas of battling the scale, but that is another story for another day. Let us, for now, just think about the chocolate…..

Used to, I’d eat anything that was called ‘chocolate’. Sure- some were better than others, but I didn’t care. I HAD to have it. Literally, it would call my  name. But then as I grew older and wiser and my tastes matured, I experienced a whole new level of bliss. My taste buds and my heart discovered the likes of Lindt, Godiva, and…..Ghirardelli<3<3<3

No longer did that cheap stuff from the Dollar Store satisfy. And even that common, household  chocolate pales in comparison to the richness of those mentioned above only pure enough to be called…..Chocolate.

Even so, it dawns on me this is exactly how it is with my relationship with God. I have spent so much time and energy feeding myself with sub-par substitutes…..tv, magazines, facebook, food. I’m looking to nourish myself, relax and unwind. Sure, it feels good at the moment but vegging out on junk for the mind and the spirit leave me sluggish and tired and not really rested and nourished.

But, during those times I put down the remote, close the laptop, and clear out artificial flavors, colors and additives, I find God waiting for me. When I feast on His Word and soak in His Presence, there is nothing on this earth more satisfying. Nothing.

His Word is bread. His Spirit is water. His Presence is……..Chocolate!

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What is it that you feed yourself? Is it the fake, mind-numbing diet of the world? Or, is it the richness and creaminess of God?

 Taste and see that the Lord is Good Psalm 34:8

How have you discovered to be satisfied by God?

Happy Valentine’s Day

~Amy

Ps…I might need to consider what to give up for Lent, but that is another story for another day:)

Advent: Repentance leads to Hope

Thanksgiving and gratitude give way to Advent, a time to reflect on the first coming of Christ and to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Since this purple, penitential season is a time to examine one’s self, repentance is the place to start.

I sometimes get caught up in what I need, what I don’t have, or what I want. Being thankful helps me to remember how blessed I am. It refocuses my attention on all that I do have and how I lack for nothing. When I think about all the overwhelming blessings in my life, it puts my sins in their right perspective, and I am convicted of the need for repentance. Before I can prepare my heart for the joys of Christmas celebrations, examining my attitudes, thoughts and actions helps to prepare the way for His Coming into my life.

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What do I find when I examine myself? I haven’t stolen anything lately that I can think of. I haven’t coveted my neighbors goat or broken any of the ‘big ones’. But this examination brings to light attitudes, negatives thoughts, selfishness, an ego always yearning for the spotlight, and pride. These seemingly subtle sins (but actually are the real sins) affect how I treat others and how I think others need to treat me. They blind me to seeing Christ in others, and deafen me to hearing His Voice.

Today, though, we light the first candle and read the Scriptures. We take in the verses of His Glory on our faces….preparing for His Coming….and being given every spiritual blessing until His return…and we say the words of the first week of Advent.

In my examining, I pray “Lord, Will I ever get it right?”

The answer is burning brightly before me……Jesus is Hope.Jesus is Hope

The questions I ask in my repentance are always answered in Hope.

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How does repentance bring you to Hope….the first week of Advent?

~Amy

Summer Gardening: Tending to the Soil

It’s been a very busy Spring season. Lots of productivity, creativity, and busyness have marked our days.

But now……(insert Olaf singing)……IT’S SUMMER!!!!!

My goal this summer is to be intentional about my summer gardening. However, if you know me, you know I’m not much of a gardener.

I’m talking about a different kind of gardening….I’m tilling the soil of my heart by pushing intensely into my relationship with God.

See, through all of my busyness in the spring, my heart got tired. I expended a lot of energy. After Women of the Way, I wanted to share thoughts and ideas. I wanted to write about what I’ve been thinking about. I wanted to keep the productivity going, but I just didn’t have the ‘umpf’ to match my intention. My soul was compacted- packed down hard from all the exertion.

So, once summer vacation began, the soul gardening started with silence and solitude.

Rising before anyone else wakes up, I sit in the light of the morning sun. The warm glow on my face, my eyes closed, and I meditate on God. He is good. I’m so thankful. His love endures forever.

Do thoughts creep in? Yes. What’s on the to-do list? I need to buy groceries. I’m worried about so-and-so…..Does sleepiness creep in….Oh yes! I’ll just stretch out on the couch for a minute. No, that will put me back to sleep! Sit up!

Opening my eyes, the sun is rising through the trees. The gleaming beams brighten up the quiet living room. I refocus and start again.

Lazy summer days are the best!
colorful sunset at the sea shore

This time, I listen for the birds.

Surprisingly, listening to the birds early in the morning helps me stay focused on God. Their calls and songs keep me from thinking about tasks that need to be done and keep my attention towards the eternal. I close my eyes again and listen for the birds while thinking about God. I listen for God.

At first, it wasn’t easy. I’m not a morning person. I LOVE to sleep late. So, starting out, getting up very early was a decision. Each day, the choice was a discipline. As each morning passed, I realized how much I want to get up early and spend time with Him. It has become a delight! I look forward to my special quiet solace in the sunshine.

This early morning gardening has turned up my soil and brought fresh air and sunlight into my heart. Where my heart had gotten a bit depleted for all the productivity and maybe a bit hardened (not discouraged or hopeless, just spent) from all the doing, this practice of silence and solitude has broken up the dry ground and worked in some fresh air and light.

Does it seem like I should be doing something for God? Sure, those things come later. But during this early morning, soul-tilling, heart-aerating silence, being with God is what matters most. This song, by Andy Park, is what my heart longs for most……

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret
In the quiet hour I wait only for you
‘Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more
I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

Here’s a video where I’m talking about my gardening and tending my soul through silence on Facebook. Have a listen…..

How are you soul tending and gardening your heart?

If you want some help with your summer gardening, here’s a little e-book I put together with some meditations, reflections questions, and a resource list to help you. When you sign up, you’ll get access to other Bible studies and the WoW Newsletter. Sign up here! Hope it helps!

~Amy

 

Being Made in His Image (or..I’m turning into my mother!)

It was bound to happen.

All my life, people told me how I favored my mother…blue eyes, round cheeks, smile. However, as I’ve become older, I notice how I am acting like my mother! It started with my husband saying, “you sound just like your mother when you said that!”…or….”you squinted your eyes just like your mother.”

I mean, I’ve heard plenty of times how women would say they looked in the mirror and saw their mother. That was no big surprise. But, in the last couple of years, I notice all kinds of little habits that are just like her! How I hold my hands, making a gesture, asking a question…..or even how I LOVE my favorite fountain drink on ice in a styrofoam cup complete with lid and a straw! I actually get giddy! (except I love Diet Mountain Dew and momma loves Diet Coke)

The good news is I don’t mind! I kinda laugh to myself when I do something that is just like her. What I find so interesting is that I never set out to try to do any of these things like her. I’ve never sat across the dinner table observing her subtle moves and gestures. I’ve never calculated and taken mental notes to consciously mimic her. Sure, part of it could be genetics. Maybe. But most of it is just from being around her for 40 years.

I’ve been formed in her image from being in her presence so much!

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Now, she’ll be the first to tell you I’m not a carbon copy of her. There’s a lot I don’t do like her (I rarely iron…sorry mom…I just don’t!). So many little parts of her have formed into me from simply being around her that I subtly pick them up!

It’s the same with our relationship with God.

Hopefully, I am being made into His image from being in His presence. When I spend time with Him in prayer, study, meditation, and worship, I began to pick up his characteristics of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self control and goodness. I began to love people like He does and want to reach out to minister to them.

If I tried to exert effort to act like Jesus, I would most likely fail because I am trying to be something that is not in my nature. But….if I am in His presence so much that His nature subtly changes me, then I find myself looking and loving and acting more like Him. Simply being around Him is going to affect the way I behave.

I think being like Jesus has rubbed off from my mom too!me&mom

So, next time you us zooming down the road, we’ll likely have our fountain drinks in hand!

How about you? How are you turning into your mother? How are you being made into His image??

~Amy