Tag Archives: Spiritual Maturity

A Pre-Christmas Makeover

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My friend, author Amanda Flinn, really knows how to speak to the heart of mamas. In this guest post, she shares five ways to perform a spiritual makeover, just in time to really appreciate the Christmas season and prepare for the New Year. Be sure to check out Amanda’s blog for more encouragement.


 

At this time last year, I was really in a funk about life.

Not depressed or anything, just overwhelmed, out of routine and really just out of sorts. I was using the cold, dark mornings as an excuse to skip my workouts and my daily quiet time, which definitely added to my sour mood. My marriage was struggling, my gig as a stay at home mom was exhausting and my efforts to follow my dreams were slower than I had hoped. I was basically going through the motions, attempting to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, but not truly engaged. And my feelings were spilling over into my journal entries.

Check out this sad little snippet from November 19, 2017.

“Friendsgiving last night. Nice time, but I also felt tired and a bit disconnected. Aside from eating too much, not sure why.”

Have you been there?

Have you ever spent so much time taking care of others that you have forgotten to take care of yourself? Have you ever been so overwhelmed by life, that you are at the party, but not truly present? Have you ever been so mentally and physically exhausted that you have started medicating with Netflix rather than the Word of God?

That is where I was last year.  And that is where I know so many mommas are at today.

The holiday season is busy and demanding and often times overstimulating, with added pressures to make everything perfect for our families and our friends. We are bombarded by extra activities, extra spending and extra calories and before we know it our schedule, bank account and waistline have been zapped.

What we need, and what I began last year, is a pre-Christmas makeover. A reset of our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual self. A re-boost of our entire being. A reminder that it is important to take care of ourselves and that by doing so, we can better care for others, especially during the holidays.

Here are five simple challenges to start today and get your pre-Christmas makeover in motion:

 

Get Up.

Even if you already wake up early, try getting up thirty minutes earlier than normal. Time alone in the morning is vital to your success. This process starts by telling yourself the night before that you will get up on time, no matter what. If you know you are getting up earlier, then you may need to go to bed earlier. Adjust it out and make it happen.

 

Get Silent.

Just be still. Be present. If God speaks to you then listen, but do not talk. Set a timer and just be in the presence of your Creator. I find that sitting by a fireplace, or a candle, or a lit Christmas tree helps set the mood. I do not recommend staying in bed, under the covers. Trust me on this one.

 

Get Gratitude.

Start with a few gratitude statements. Example: I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for my coffee. I am grateful for my kids. Then move on to some “I am” affirmations. Example: I am strong. I am capable. I am worthy of love. And finally a big dream statement. If you have a dream inside of your heart, there is a good chance it was placed inside of you by a God that is bigger than any dream you could ever imagine. What big idea are you sitting on and waiting around for that you need to hand over to the one who created it? Example: I want to write a children’s picture book. (That was mine last year.)

 

Get Reading.

Spending a few minutes in God’s Word at the beginning of each day is a game changer. There are so many places to start and a multitude of reading plans to guide you through. The book and verse does not matter, just an open heart and a willingness to hear from God. I find that journaling about what I’ve read really helps with this process.

 

Get Moving.

This could be a short walk, a few stretches or a thirty second wall sit. Just spend a few minutes moving your body and build from there. Looking back at my journal, this part of my morning was pretty basic for the first two weeks. After that, I was able to challenge myself to actual thirty minute workouts (which pushed me to get up even a few minutes sooner than before).

 

All of these challenges are simple, but they will take commitment and a willingness to care for yourself—your whole self. Speaking from experience, I know how difficult that can be. I also know how wonderful it feels to come out of that pre-Christmas funk. But like any good plan, it doesn’t work unless you work.

So, get to it. I believe in you and you are worth it.

~ By Amanda Flinn of www.amandaflinn.com

4 Ways to Love God with Gusto (Part 2 of 2)

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Last week, author Kristen Hogrefe shared with us how we can love God volitionally. This week, she wraps up this two-part series by explaining how we can love God with all our strength. If these posts have encouraged your walk with the Lord, please let us know by leaving a comment below.


In September, my church hosted a 5K to raise money and awareness for foster care. For those not familiar with running terms, that’s a little over 3 miles.

Running didn’t come naturally to me, but now, it’s a lifestyle I’ve learned to enjoy. My boyfriend, though athletic, hates running. But to his credit, he ran the race with me, adopted my pace, and even smiled for photos. He got out his comfort zone, and it meant so much to me.

Last time, we looked at loving God volitionally, which involves a choice or act of the will. In my case, my boyfriend chose to run even though he didn’t want to. In addition, he invested time and physical energy to show up and finish.

This example, though perhaps cheesy, brings me to another way we can love God: with all our strength.

 

Loving God through Our Actions

As author Gary Chapman explains in his book The Five Love Languages, physical touch is one of the primary ways people express and receive love. Although we can’t physically “touch” God, we can still love him through our actions.

In Scripture, we see examples of believers performing acts of service again and again.

  • The Shunammite woman and her husband built an upper room for the Prophet Elisha so that he had a place to stay when he visited them (2 Kings 4).
  • Martha opened her home to Jesus and served him dinner (Luke 10). For all the bad rap she gets for being too busy to simply listen like her sister Mary, Martha deserves credit for her hospitality and generosity.
  • A widow gave everything she had to the temple treasury (Mark 12).

Of course, Jesus himself modeled service to others time and time again through miracles, washing his disciples’ feet, and ultimately dying on the cross.

No matter our situation, we all have varying degrees of physical ability. Some people can travel for mission trips or volunteer locally. Others serve behind-the-scenes doing preparation work no one seems to notice. For someone with limited physical ability, this action might look like a hand-written note of encouragement or even a whispered prayer.

The bottom line is that when we act to help others, we please God. When we love “the least” of the people who cross our paths, we’re loving him too (Matthew 25:31-40).

 

Loving God with Our Minds

During one of my friend’s weddings, the bride asked me to read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, which begins this way:

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments …”

That phrase, “the marriage of true minds,” sticks with me, because it suggests a unified purpose, set of values, and life focus. So too, when we love God with our minds, we’re saying we want to live “on the same page” with him.

Once again, Scripture sheds some light on what this unified mindset looks like:

  • We are to bring “every thought” into “captivity” or obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • We are to exercise humility, following Christ’s example (Philippians 2:5-8).
  • We are to focus our thoughts on things that are excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • We are to guard our minds by not looking at something that will tempt us to stumble (Psalm 119:37).
  • We are to study God’s Word, the “word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sure, there will be days we fall short, way short. That’s why Paul wrote that the goal here on earth is not perfection but to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

 

Desiring to Love God More

When we seek to love God with our all, we love him with every part of ourselves. Preacher and poet Isaac Watts expressed this idea eloquently in his closing lines to the hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” He develops the idea of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate love. How can our response be anything less than everything?

“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Lord, may I love you with all that I am, all that I have, and all I can be. 

~ By Kristen of KristenHogrefe.com

The Secret to Getting What You Want Out of Life

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Earlier this year, I traveled to The Book Expo in New York where I met the folks from Red Lightning Books, an imprint of Indiana University Press. When I saw how cool their books are, I had an idea. Actually, it was more like a vision, a complete download from God of the kind of book I could write for them.

Breathlessly, I pitched my idea to the publisher: The book would be all about cast iron cookware, from the history of it to the care and use of it. I could even include a bunch of recipes that are easy and relatively healthy—with professional photographs, of course. And to make it even more fun, I could visit the Lodge Manufacturing Co in Tennessee and explain how they’ve made cast iron cookware since 1896.

The publisher loved the idea! (Yippee!)

Once the contract came through, though, I had a moment of truth: would I be able to tour the Lodge? While they host a public tour once a year, that isn’t until April, and my deadline is the end of this year. I could call and ask for a personal tour, but who am I? I’m not a big-time chef or retail giant. Would they even answer my request?

And how would I secure a professional photographer on a budget (not to mention cook all the food for the photographs!)?

And did I mention that I’m expecting our first child in November?!

Still, my vision for the book was so clear that I could only move in one direction: forward. So I said a few prayers, sent some emails, and made a few calls. Thankfully, God’s favor continued to go before me!

Not only were the folks at Lodge receptive to my request, but they gave me a lengthy tour of their new foundry and let me take photos for the book! I couldn’t have asked for a better experience, and I know my readers will appreciate all the fun info I can now share with them first-hand.

As for the photographs, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a wonderful family photographer with an eye for food photography. It’s been a joy getting to know her and her family, and the pictures have turned out great!

 

Get What You Want

I’ve prayed for a lot of things in my life, from “Lord, please help me get to work on time” to “Lord, please let me win the lottery!” While many prayers have come true, many have not. For those prayers that went unanswered—or for which God said “No”—I used to wonder if I just didn’t have enough faith. After all, didn’t Jesus say that we could move mountains with the faith of a mustard seed?

As my walk with God has matured, though, I’ve learned a secret: faith is only a part of the equation. There are actually two steps we need to take to get what we want out of life.

1) Want the right things.

“Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday” (Psalm 37:4-6 NAS).

My flesh wants to win the lottery so I can spend my days in leisure and isolation. God wants me to work for Him to expand His Kingdom.

My flesh wants to be able to do whatever it wants to do with impunity. God wants me to be disciplined and to work as if for Him, not unto man.

And therein lies the rub: God won’t give you something He doesn’t want to give you. If you’re praying for something that doesn’t align with His will, He’s not going to give in…no matter how much you beg or how much faith you have in His ability.

The key, then, is to want what God wants—and for that, you’ll need to surrender your earthly desires to Him. Only then He can place His desires in your heart and work to bring them about in your life.

So how will you know if a desire is from God? By “delight[ing] yourself in the Lord.” Spend time with Him and in His Word, learn to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and become sensitive to the very mood of God. If that sounds like a tall order, it is. It requires discipline, discernment, and the expense of personal time (but trust me, it’s worth it).

2) Ask for what you want.

Remember the story of the blind man in Mark 10 who called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”? How did Jesus respond? He asked the man, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Certainly Jesus knew what the man wanted! Not only was Jesus fully God, but it was clear that the man was blind; what else would he be begging for? And yet Jesus wanted the man to state out loud what he wanted:

“‘Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has made you well.’ Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road” (Mark 10: 51-52 NAS).

It’s not enough for us to know what God wants for us and to want it for ourselves. We must actively ask God to fulfill His will in our lives!

It takes an act of faith to pray for God’s will to be done, even if we’re certain we know what His will is. However, when we take that step of faith, we become partners with God as we help to bring about His will on earth. Not only is this a crucial step in getting everything we want out of life, it’s necessary for our ongoing spiritual development. For like the blind man in Mark 10, we’ll be compelled to follow Jesus wherever He goes.

 

What do you want?

What do you want…I mean really want? Do you want to publish a book of your own? Do you want live in another town or get married and have kids? Are you stressing over a budget that won’t stretch anymore?

The secret to getting what you want out of life really isn’t a secret at all; it’s clearly outlined in Scripture for you to read and understand. Start by making a list of your desires and determine which ones are of the flesh and which ones were put in your heart by God. If you’re not sure, spend time with God and in His Word until you have clarity. Then pray for all the things that God wants for your life, from the small (like a pay increase) to the ridiculous (a huge promotion).

Then enjoy a life in which your heart’s desires become your reality!

[Click to Tweet: If you want God to give you the desires of your heart, then make sure your desires come from God.]