Monday, March 31, 2014

Sheila Walsh "The Storm Inside" interview on FaithGateway

So, this was kind of unbelievable, but tonight I got to interview one of my very favorite Women of Faith speakers, Sheila Walsh! I know! How crazy is that?!

She is completely lovely, as expected. 

Her new book, The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are is a gorgeous discussion about the storms of life that devastate us beyond imagination, something I've become very familiar with. If you're in the middle of a wicked life storm, you're going to want to get this. Sheila tackles these really tough topics:

  • Shame
  • Disappointment
  • Fear
  • Heartbreak
  • Regret
  • Insecurity
  • Insignificance
  • Despair

and shares from her heart and her experience about getting through horrible circumstances clinging to Jesus Christ.

For the next 48 hours, you can get The Storm Inside on FaithGateway for an additional 25% off (40% off total!) with the promo code on the author chat video. 

No matter the storm, God knows, God cares, and He is always there. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Final Live Restless Bible Study - Week 8

In case you missed our last live Restless Bible Study, here is the replay! I so enjoyed leading this group of lovely women! Thank you for joining us! I can't wait to hear what great things will come out of it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

He Neeeed the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

This is our last week of the Restless Project. I know. The What Now? factor has kicked in.
We’ve gotten real together. We’ve studied, and prayed, and read, and dreamed, and reflected, and asked, and acted, and imagined, and gathered, and responded, and (some of you have) drawn? We’ve inventoried our gifts. We’ve bravely shared our suffering and asked the Lord to redeem the pain for the purpose of blessing and helping others. We’ve talked about the places God has us positioned in and the people He has put in our paths. We’ve unearthed our passions, our sufferings-with, the places in our heart that bleed for the need we see around us. (I still think that would make a great bumper sticker!)
What do we do with all of our threads?
Before we go any further, it’s important that we remember this comment from Jennie that just cracked me up: Without a new soul, without the Spirit filling us, we are just jacked-up, stuck humans. That is so true!
Let’s talk about the Holy Spirit. What do you think about the Holy Spirit? Do you envision a dove? Or a cloud? Wind? Fire? Is He a big question mark for you? Do you have a relationship with the Holy Spirit? Do you feel filled with the Holy Spirit?
Because if you’ve received Jesus as your Savior, the third Person of the Trinity, God the Holy Spirit indwells you (John 14:17Ephesians 2:221 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:191 John 2:271 John 3:24). God Himself!
In our study this week, we will study Luke 24:44-49:
When Jesus arose, He appeared to the disciples. He appeared right in front of them! He spoke! He ate! He explained the Scriptures to them. Can you imagine how instantaneously everything they thought, felt, feared, and cared about changed?
In His final huddle with His followers, His last teaching on earth, Jesus told them that they would not be left alone. He would send a Comforter, an Advocate, a Helper.
What comes next is very important: I am sending what My Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until He arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high. - Luke 24:49 The Message
“Stay here… until you are equipped with power from on high!”
We’re not supposed to do anything without the Holy Spirit. We are to wait for His leading, His power, His counsel, and His comfort. Jesus didn’t act without God the Father’s leading (John 5:19-30) so how much more so should that be true of you and me?
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 Apart from Me you can do nothing. – John 15:5
Nothing we have done matters without the Spirit of God. He empowers every move we will make for His glory. – Jennie Allen
The breath of the Almighty gives me life. - Job 33:4b
I will ask the Father and he will give you another Comforter, and he will never leave you.John 14:16
It’s also important to remember that we have an enemy and he is a punk. He does his best to render us as ineffective, as impotent as possible, and he’s good at his job. He comes and speaks words of rejection and abandonment. He drags out the black cloud of shame and embarrassment. He lobs chaos into our relationships. He messes with our lives to distract, annoy, and derail us. He’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to deflate, disable, and sideline you so that you will not fulfill the plan of God in your life.
We need the Holy Spirit. We don’t just need Him, we neeeed Him. Desperately.
How is that so easy to forget? How is it that fear can win with barely a fight when we have the fathomless power of the Holy Spirit on our side to be victorious in accomplishing anything He has for us to do?
It encourages me to read about Joshua. How many times the Lord told Joshua not to be afraid. Just search “be strong and courageous” and see how many times God said not to be afraid. That means this champion of the faith felt great fear! Joshua 1:9 alone reminds me that Joshua wobbled, he trembled, he quaked.
So fear isn’t really the issue, the enemy’s wicked tactics for our destruction aren’t really what matters, the terrible, heartbreaking things that may or may not happen, what something looks like from our perspective, impossibilities, roadblocks, empty hands, incapabilities, whatever – they don’t mean a lot.
What matters is the Holy Spirit.
My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9
You have God in you and waiting to go crazy though you, if you will just let Him. – Jennie Allen
In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Don’t you wish you were there for that? That’s another scene I want to see on instant-replay when we get to heaven!
These last few years I’ve gotten to know the Holy Spirit enough to realize I can’t function without Him. At all. I’m an easy target for Satan when I’m not fully relying on God. Really, in the past, he hardly had to try at all. He sidelined me with chaos, heartbreak, arguments, panic, and all manner of crisis. But, I’m learning to slow down and listen, to not move or decide anything until I ask Him to fill me again. I leak. I do. I empty so easily. I’m learning to stop, and ask, and wait until I hear from the Holy Spirit, until I get an inkling what He wants me to do, until I see that single step right ahead of me.
Looking at my threads this week and back over my previous blogs, there’s no doubt there’s a theme: ministering to and helping other women. So, last night I took a few steps. A few brave steps.
Restless Project Be Brave
Are you ready to be brave with me? Are you ready to take a few steps, or just one step with the Holy Spirit’s leading? You can do it!


Holy Spirit, we love you. Come and fill us again because we are so prone to leak. Thank You for Your Presence. Thank You that You are so willing to meet us exactly where we are and that You speak tenderly. Thank You for comforting us in our sorrows and for redeeming them so that we may comfort others in the way we have been comforted (2 Corinthians 1:4). Thank You for the places You have us, the people You’ve put in our paths, the gifts You’ve given us, and even for our sufferings. Thank You that You want to include us in Your grand story. Show us this week what we are to do with the threads of our lives. Show us the next step, God. We give You all the glory. Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Passion = Pain

In our Restless study so far, we’ve looked at our restlessness, our discontentment. We’ve looked at God’s Story. Our gifts. Our suffering. The places in our lives. The people in our lives. This week we’re looking at our passions. As Jennie conveys in her teaching, in our culture, we’ve totally stripped that word passion of its depth, richness, and color as we’ve co-op’d it to mean our drives, desires, bodily lusts, etc. But, those meanings are not the original roots of passion at all!
Have you heard Easter week called Passion Week? Easter week, the week that Jesus was betrayed, sold, abandoned, stripped, tortured, mocked, and slaughtered… Why did He do that?
Christ laid down His life as a sacrificial lamb for our sake. He submitted Himself to that humiliation and agony beyond our ability to understand even for the sake of those who would spurn and reject His love and mercy. He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf out of His fathomless love so that we could become the righteousness of God through Him. That was His passion.
Passionate love (platonic as well as romantic) requires suffering. Agony.
Passion = Pain and suffering
As we’re studying the life of Joseph, let’s look at what aroused his passion.
We’ve learned about Joseph’s complicated and messy family story, the favoritism by his dad Jacob/Israel which led to strife with and jealousy from his brothers and ultimately to the evil abandonment he endured at their hands. We’ve learned how God used that history to perfectly place him in Potiphar’s house, then how God used him to minister and serve in prison, and ultimately placed him standing before Pharaoh interpreting dreams which led to him becoming second in command over the whole nation of Egypt for the saving of a generation of people. What a story! His life went so sideways, but not sideways for God. God foreknew the hardship, He foreordained the story from beginning to end (even the years of waiting and suffering), and was with him every day along the way.
Our passions determine our direction… Where does your heart bleed for the need you see around you? – Jennie Allen
And through these long years of loneliness, emotional duress, and hardship in a foreign land, Scripture tells us Joseph was faithful to God. He served. He submitted. He was changed from a arrogant, braggadocious brat to a faithful servant of God who leveraged every single relationship he encountered for the glory of God. That’s not something you learn to be and do without God pounding selfishness out of your heart through suffering.
Joseph suffered great pain in his life, but his suffering gave him a sincere passion for reconciliation and human care. We don’t naturally have passion for others. We are naturally danged selfish. – Jennie Allen
With ease and comfort, human beings, because of our sin nature, would be completely unconcerned about the needs of others. If I had abundant wealth, smooth sailing day in and day out, a clear path without troubles, easy-peasy relationships, comfort, and everything going my way, I would be a nightmare of self-indulgence and arrogance.
It’s only in discomfort, pain, difficulty, and want that we can share in and care about the suffering of others.
I’m so glad we have that example of Jesus Christ to study. How could we ultimately relate with a God who didn’t know what troubles are like, temptations, difficulties? How could we trust ourselves with a God who hadn’t been betrayed? Who didn’t know the crushing blows of being hated and maligned, who didn’t feel the sting of bitter words and actions from those who are supposed to love you? Who didn’t have to settle petty arguments among others, deal with difficult, manipulative, or prejudiced people? Who hadn’t felt sexual temptation, physical exhaustion, emotional fatigue, hunger, fevers, food poisoning, sandal blisters, sunburn, congestion, sore muscles, bumps and bruises, hangnails, and the flu?
But, because Jesus has been there with every manner of suffering, we know He knows what it’s like and we can relate to Him! And, because the Creator experienced it all, His passion for us was fully ignited, even unto death!

What were Joseph’s passions?

After hearing these dream interpretations from God, Pharaoh made him second in command of all of Egypt, gave him a new name (Zaphnath-paaneah which most interpret as “revealer of secrets”), and gave him a wife, Asenath. Blessings were dumped on him beyond his wildest dreams. This was the beginning of Joseph’s “double for his trouble” (Isaiah 61:7-8) blessing. He and Asenath had two boys. His older son’s name, Manasseh, sounds like the Hebrew word for forget “because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household” (Genesis 41:51). His younger son’s name, Ephraim, sounds like the Hebrew for twice fruitful. “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Genesis 41:52)
Even though the Lord brought a season of great blessing on Joseph, the years of pain, loneliness, difficulty, mistreatment, wrongful accusation, unfair imprisonment had permanently molded and shaped his heart. God gave him compassion, leadership skills, the heart of a servant, and supernatural wisdom in those dark seasons of his life. He had learned obedience, faithfulness, and God-reliance and he’d learned to trust in God’s provision and goodness in the school of suffering. So much so that later, when faced with the brothers who had sold him into slavery, he could say to them in Genesis 45:5“Guys, I forgive you 100% so don’t beat yourselves up about selling me. It was God who sent me here, not you!”
Joseph was able to see past all those years of pain and the ones who had inflicted them upon him to God’s goodness, mercy, and wisdom is letting Joseph endure it for the sake of saving lives.
William [Wilberforce]’s passions turned into a calling. When that happens, the cost become irrelevant. – Jennie Allen
Part of my passions have been aroused not just in experiencing the breakdown of my marriage and financial abandonment, fear about how I was going to provide for my family, etc., but also in meeting other single mamas who found themselves in the same predicament.
Just as the Lord allowed Joseph’s pain to teach him compassion (which in the Latin means “suffer with”), He has done the same for me. Out of his own pain grew a deepsuffering-with for others who were going to be faced with financial devastation, famine, and displacement from their homes. Out of my own circumstances, a burning passion for other single mothers (a suffering-with) has grown. My thinking about money is radically different. I have a heavy burden for those in desperate straits and as I wrote last week, I have no doubt that God will direct my future helping financially devastated mothers.
Until we figure out what we’d give our lives for, we won’t know what to give our time to. – Bob Goff
This week I listened to Francis Chan preach about radically following Jesus. He shared about the early church in the book of Acts selling whatever they needed to sell so that no one went without. It was the attitude of “None of this is mine. Whatever I have, if you need it, it’s yours. If your family has a need, we’ll find a way to take care of it.” It wasn’t a cultural norm as some people have excused that portion of Scripture, it was this strange and different phenomenon that was noticed among Christians… They didn’t care about hoarding their stuff and their money. They shared. They gave. They provided. Because that’s what Christ had taught them to do! It was about God!
Francis talked about how he and a group of men had decided that that’s how they were going to be with one another – guaranteeing that they’d take care of each other financially no matter what. They made that commitment because they love Jesus so much, and because as Christians we are family, and because money doesn’t matter, and because it’s about God and His glory!
 It was one of those times… all of us looking around with a sense of awe… ‘Wow! This feels like Christianity!’ – Francis Chan
This Restless study has been tough for me because it’s required a level of authenticity and vulnerability way outside my comfort zone. It’s challenged and stretched me to be willing to share my story – the good, the bad, and the ugly – for the purpose of calling other women out to be brave along with me and to be used for the glory of God.
So, although it’s weird to share this part of my story, I’m where Francis is. I want to live that kind of seriously radical Christianity. I see single mamas around me who either are going through what I’ve been through and know that there are so many mamas whose marriages are crumbling and will go through marital, emotional, and financial abandonment… And, my passion (pain) and suffering-with are ignited. I’m mad at the injustice and deeply passionate about the Church (starting specifically with me) rising up to emotionally care for, support, provide child care, jobs, resources, counseling, friendship, food, sanity and safety for the abandoned.
The tension is that I have no idea how God is going to use me to do that. It’s scary. It sounds like an absurdly bold dream. But, then again, I’m (sort of) ready to be absurdly bold!
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What are your passions? What are your suffering-with‘s? What have you been through that has permanently molded and shaped your heart and left you with a burden to serve others? Will you share with us? If you don’t feel that, or you have no idea what your passions are, don’t worry! God will lead you and guide you. Leave your comments below and share with us! I would love to hear from you! ~ Laurie
Abba, we love you. Thank You for the suffering and hardships You have allowed in our lives – even if those are still so painful and agonizing. We thank You ahead of time for the redemption of those difficult, scary, trying seasons. Thank You for turning our suffering into passions/ sufferings-with for the sake of others. Thank You for allowing us to serve You and glorify You through our hardest and worst pains. You are so good, God! For those of us still in the fire, bring healing, Lord. Bring the season of double-for-our-trouble. We trust you and we long to be faithful servants. We love You and we want to honor You and give You all the glory. Amen.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Live Restless Bible Study — Week 6

In case you missed Bible study last night, here's the replay! I'm so thankful for each of these ladies and for all of the women who join us online!

Monday, March 10, 2014

We Are All People Who Need People

If we’re going to love people well, we’re going to need God’s help!

As Jennie Allen writes in the Restless study guide on page 118,
Imagine getting to heaven and God saying: Before I laid the foundations of the earth, I thought of you and of the days you would live on earth. I planned out the people and the places I would give you. I laid out your neighbors and your workplace, the places you would attend school, and your family; I laid out enough days to do all the good works that I purposed for you, and I equipped you with all you would need to accomplish those purposes here. I filled you with My Spirit to encourage and remind you and lead you. I gave you My Word so you would know Me and know what to do. I gave you people to run with and people who need Me.
Let’s talk about how all that went.
I’m not ready for that particular conversation. Are you?
This week, we read more of Joseph’s compelling drama. It’s astonishing to learn what God did in and through him, not just saving two entire nations from starvation, but especially in the people department.
In Genesis 41, we learn that two full years have gone by since Joseph interpreted dreams for two of Pharaoh’s high ranking household men. But, when the Egyptian King had two dreams, the cupbearer (who, unlike the baker kept his head) remembered Joseph and on the same day, he found himself standing in front of Pharaoh telling him the interpretations God had given him.
All were amazed at his gifts and wisdom since he also gave excellent recommendations about what should be done. Can you imagine what kind of ruckus that would’ve caused?
Pharaoh, “You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.”
So, Joseph went from the prison to the palace, from owning nothing to being decked out in royal finery, from being powerless to being second in command of the whole nation.
Egypt prospered for seven years. The grain was eventually in too great of abundance to even measure. And, as told by the Lord to Pharaoh in his dreams, Egypt then floundered. People were hungry. When they came from surrounding nations asking for food, to whom did the King send them? Joseph!
It is the fire of suffering which will bring forth the gold of godliness. – Madame Jeanne Marie de La Mothe Guyon
Who dragged their raggedy selves in to buy grain? Joseph’s long-lost brothers (except Benjamin who is kept home because Israel is still playing favorites).
Joseph “could not control his circumstances but he intentionally leveraged every relationship in his path for the glory of God.” – Jennie Allen
I can’t control my circumstances. But, what relationships are in my path that I can leverage for the glory of God?
One of the most humbling and Christ-like parts of Joseph’s story is that after the terrible offenses done to him by his brothers, he still showed them love. His longest-term, most unbelievably shattered relationships — God steered back in his path as promised and Joseph had to decide what to do about them. And, amazingly, he (after testing to see if they’d changed and repented) chose to forgive them. And then not just to forgive them, but to welcome them, to provide for them, to overwhelm them with homes and goods and food, and every fine thing they could ever need or want.
A question that has nagged me this week is:
Would I have the strength, the generosity, the Christ-likeness, the chutzpah to lavish tears, love, forgiveness, mercy, gifts, feasts, piles of money, whatever I have at my disposal, upon those who hurt me the most?! Those who’ve thrown me away, tossed me in a pit, left me for dead, actually sold me for a profit, laughed and mocked me in my suffering?..
The question alone makes me feel feverish and squirmy.
Suffering produces deep change. Especially long-term, past-the-point-of-bearing, feels-like-forever kind of suffering. Well, it can anyway if we allow ourselves to be molded and shaped by God and for God. It’s God who replaces our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26), and He usually does so with crushing circumstances and a lot of pain and suffering.
I think that’s why Joseph tested his brothers. I think he needed to see what they would do about Benjamin — if they’d treat him the same cruel way. If they’d treat Israel with the same unfilial disdain. Had the ugly family dynamics changed? Had they softened with the passage of time? Had the dwindling of finances also diminished their pride and evil intent?
I do think Joseph would have provided the food his family needed either way. BUT, once he saw their brokenness, their repentance, once he heard Judah’s changed heart (Genesis 44:18-34), he couldn’t hold back the deluge of weeping any longer (Genesis 45:1-2Genesis 45:15). I think it was the change he saw in them that inspired not just giving them enough food to survive, but also the desire for renewed relationship, the invitation to come be near him, to be taken care of by him, and because of Pharaoh’s generosity, “the best of all Egypt”! (Genesis 45:20)
It begs the questions: What do I want God to be able to do in and through me that’s huge and sacrificial and stuns those around me so that they see Jesus shining through me particularly in the people department? How lavish am I willing to be with my heart, my gifts, and my resources in order to bless those around me — even the ones who have hurt, betrayed, and crushed me the most?

Restless Projects

These last few years, I’ve worked a lot on gathering people I can trust and rely on day in and day out. I’ve specifically chosen women who are crazy about Jesus, who are uplifting and Bible-centric, who are growing, repentant, and soft-hearted, who focus on the positive but acknowledge the pain of life while solidly moving ahead, and who are better women than I am. Truthfully, I assembled “my people” only after hitting crisis and realizing I didn’t have any friends of substance who would be there through thick and thin and who would let me be there for them, too.
I’ve also done a lot of people “weeding” which has been both painful and super important. If you’re going to move boldly forward serving God, you need your close people to be prayer warriors, supportive, loving, peaceful, fun — people with whom your soul says “ahhhhh, I am safe with you. I can relax now”.

People I Need: (Who has been Jesus to me?)

  • My kids — the most important people in my life
  • My parents — who have offered their home for over two years, filled my fridge when they realized we didn’t have milk, offered to let me borrow a car once I no longer had one.
  • A lot of wonderful family members
  • My precious, small band of beautiful girlfriends

People Who Need Me: (Who may I be Jesus to?)

  • My kids — They are my first and best priority.
  • My family
  • Friends
  • People I pray for on a regular basis
  • Single moms
  • People who are in suffering or going through crisis
I know breakdown now. I know what it’s like to be shipwrecked and stunned by grief. I know lack now. I know what it’s like to have kids with hole-y shoes, no gas in the car, no milk or bread in the fridge, and nothing in your wallet. I know what it’s like to go to food banks and feel ashamed, small, and so confused about how on earth life went so pear-shaped.
So, I look at single mamas desperate to make ends meet differently now. They’re my sisters.
I look at my friends, James and Troy, who are homeless, differently now. They’re my brothers.
I know that God is good. I know that He provides. And far more than just money (which comes and goes). He provides friends, and people who understand your story, who “get” you. He provides in crazy ways. And He gives you the privilege of sharing some of that provision once you realize nothing is actually “mine”. It’sall on loan from Him.
“When we run for God and for people, we forget for just a moment about ourselves, and it feels amazing. Nothing makes a soul sicker than too much time given to itself.” — Jennie Allen, Restless
I’ll tell you a secret. This is my bold prayer to God — I want to be crazy-generous to the poor. Help those I can help beyond my wildest imagination.
Right now, I’m taking baby steps — a meal, a cup of coffee, a hug and prayer. But, someday, God, I want to be able to give hugely. Ridiculously hugely. I want to pay someone’s rent. Pay a struggling single mom’s bills when she can’t make ends meet. Buy an interview outfit for someone who can’t afford one. Buy a bridal gown for a low-income woman who should feel supremely gorgeous on her big day. Send a bus-load of kids to camp who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go. Sneak over to someone’s home in the middle of the night and leave a get-you-there car that I know they are desperate for in the driveway with the keys under the mat and a note that says,
“I know how hard this is. I see you. I am so proud of your faithfulness. See how much I love you? – God”
Anonymously. (That’s the best part.) Wouldn’t that be the most fun thing?!


Abba, we love you. Thank You for the people You put in our paths. Even the ones who cause us so much pain and suffering. Even the ones who lie to us, throw us away, sell us out, betray us as friends, and break our hearts. Soften our hearts, Holy Spirit, so that bitterness cannot take hold. Help us to face our woundedness, process it with You, and then to see what good You can bring out of it. Help us to respond as Joseph did and forgive lavishly. Bring restoration to our broken relationships. Also, God, please show us those around us whom we can love. Open our eyes to see the hurting around us. Help us forge the relationships we need to grow and be more like You and also the relationships where we give without expecting or hoping for anything in return. We love You, God, and we want to honor You and give You all the glory. Amen.

InScribed Authors Live-Chat

This was a blast! I was in Nashville, TN, and got to meet and interview this wonderful ladies! What a total treat! If you're looking for a Bible study, pick up the InScribed series for your church, your small group, or for your personal use. I'm looking forward to studying each one!

In print now:

Wendy Blight, author of Living So That

Donna Gaines, author of Leaving Ordinary

Jenifer Jernigan, author of Dive Deeper

Heather Zempel, author of Amazed and Confused

Releasing this Fall: 

Ashley Linne, author of Inseparable 

Amanda Hope Haley, author of Barren Among the Fruitful 

Sarah Francis Martin, author of Just Rise Up

And, I got this cute necklace, too!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Live Restless Bible Study — Week 5

In case you missed it, here's the live Google Hangout for our Restless study Week 5! What are your Places? I'd love to hear from you!

This coming week we're in Chapter 6 — People

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

InScribed Authors Live-Chat This Sunday!

I'm excited to share with you about the InScribed author chat! 

This Sunday, March 9th
7:00pm EST/ 4:00pm PST

I'll be hosting all seven lovely InScribed authors — Wendy BlightDonna Gaines, Amanda Hope Haley, Jenifer Jernigan, Ashley Linne, Sarah Francis Martin, and Heather Zempel

* * * Register here! * * *

Tweet your questions for the authors using #InScribedStudies and I'll ask them!

During the live chat, FaithGateway will be giving participants who are on with us LIVE a special promotional code to get big ol' discount off the books, so keep an eye out for that!

And, by the way, March is Women’s Month at FaithGateway, so buckle up for an entire month of great author chats! 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The 40-Day Lent Challenge

Tomorrow, the 40-Day Lent Challenge begins as we count down to Easter 2014 and prepare our hearts to celebrate our Risen Messiah, Jesus Christ!

From Wednesday, March 5th through Easter Sunday, April 20th, let's read the entire New Testament. Sounds daunting, doesn't it? But, it's totally do-able!

Full information on Download the free reading guide and join in the Lent Challenge.

Tomorrow — Matthew chapters 1-7.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

It’s Not Our Places; It’s What We Do In Our Places

This week we’re studying Restless Chapter 4 — Places. Honest to goodness, I thought Phew! We’re through suffering! Didn’t you?
But, like Joseph, sometimes our places are really hard places!
Maybe the places God has you aren’t painful or challenging. Maybe you’re exactly where you want to be right now. That’s just gorgeous! But, there’s still a lot to learn through the story of Joseph about God’s sovereignty, what He accomplishes during times and places of suffering, and how He grows and stretches us into the servant-hearted, humble, usable people He wants us to be.
If you’re in the middle of the worst of the worst, if you’re enduring a really heartbreaking season of trial, loss, or suffering, listen up. Right now, in the middle of the pain and hardship, God is doing things that you cannot see. He is using this place to prepare you. He is setting you up for blessing. He is writing your story for His glory and for the benefit of the Kingdom. Even if it is a long, long time before you see it happen, soak yourself in this story of faithfulness.
Our place contains God and the plans of God wherever we are! — Jennie Allen
Last week we learned that Joseph was nearly murdered by his jealous brothers. He was sold into slavery but served faithfully at Potiphar’s and God showed him favor. When the lady of the house relentlessly sexually harassed him, he resisted her. And, when she cornered him and insisted, he spiritually laced up his track shoes and ran right out of his jacket which landed him in the slammer! In jail, true to his track record, Joseph was faithful, and true to God’s, He showed him favor.
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. — Psalm 119:50
This week we read in Genesis 40 about Joseph’s years in prison…
The chief cupbearer (Pharaoh’s head butler) and the chief baker — both of these guys held very high ranking jobs in the palace — had been tossed in the klink because they’d somehow angered the king of Egypt. (As Matthew Henry said, “High places are slippery places.”) Joseph was given the job of being their servant in prison. It’s interesting that he was assigned by Potiphar himself, by the way, which means that by then Potiphar must have realized Joseph’s innocence of attempting to rape his wife, and yet he didn’t dare upset the apple cart at home by giving him freedom.
Sometimes we can be “stuck” someplace rotten even when the very people who could change our circumstances know that we don’t deserve to be there.
“Wherever you are, be all there.” — Jim Elliot
Anyway, one morning after they’d been there for probably a year, both were down in the dumps because they’d had dreams but didn’t have access that they’d had before to Pharaoh’s diviners whose job it was to pretend to interpret dreams. Joseph had great compassion on them as their keeper, their jailmate, and also as a dreamer (Genesis 37:5-9), so he said, “Hey, interpretations come from my God. Tell me what you dreamed.”
The head butler then told him his dream and the Lord gave Joseph the interpretation — in three days time, he’d be restored to Pharaoh’s good graces as well as to his old job. Joseph asked the chief cupbearer,
“Hey, buddy, here’s the deal. I just gave you great news! When it actually happens, please tell the king that I’m innocent and ask him to let me go.”
When the baker heard this positive interpretation, he told his dream to Joseph. But, things weren’t going to go so well for the baker. In three days time, he’d be hanged.
Three days later, on Pharaoh’s birthday (which was probably the anniversary of when they’d ticked him off), it happened just as Joseph had said it would.
The baker was hanged and the chief cupbearer got his powerful job back, but he forgot Joseph… for two. full. years.
Can you imagine Joseph in prison waiting to hear that Pharaoh was releasing him. Waiting. Waiting. One day. Two days. A week? How his heart must have broken! How he must have wondered what the Lord was doing keeping him in jail when all he’d done was serve in faithfulness and point unbelievers to the one true God.
When a man has no strength, if he leans on God, he becomes powerful. — D. L. Moody

My Places

We have so little control over our circumstances, don’t we?
I certainly never would have dreamed of being in this place. I’m 43, legally separated from a man I’ve loved for 24 years, living at my parents' house with my three younger children while my oldest is at college and my older son lives with his father, with none of my own belongings, and not homeschooling after 14 years of living the life of a homeschool family. What??? The brokenness sometimes takes my breath away. It’s so foreign and feels completely off-track from what God surely must have had in mind.
My “places” are all radically different. Even church is different because there really isn’t a place for the separated. Marrieds, singles, youth, men, women, yes. But, married-separated people don’t fit in anyplace comfortably. The church, pastors, and even couples you’ve been friends with a long time don’t know what to do with you. And, I really do understand because I remember as a church leader and as a couple not knowing what to do with separated, heartbroken people.
My “places” are not the places I had hoped and dreamed about.
Not as I will, but as thou wilt. To be able to say these words and truly mean them is the highest point we can ever hope to attain. Then, indeed we have broken out of time’s hard shell to breathe, not its stale air, but the fresh, exhilarating atmosphere of eternity. — Malcolm Muggeridge
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. —Isaiah 26:3
On the live-chat last Thursday, I was sharing with Tiffany (who was so beautifully brave and transparent in sharing her story), that I spent the bulk of my marriage feeling deeply alone, and then found myself actually alone-alone. That’s definitely what came out of the Week 3 projects, one word repeated over and over — alone, alone, alone. But, I read Streams in the Desert for 2/27, which is all about how we must get alone with God in order to wrestle with Him, hear from Him, be healed, and to be a blessing to others.
Left alone! What different emotions these words bring to mind for each of us! To some they mean loneliness and grief, but to others they may mean rest and quiet. To be left alone without God would be too horrible for words, while being left alone with Him is a taste of heaven! And if His followers spent more time alone with Him, we would have spiritual giants again.
Our Master set an example for us. Remember how often He went to be alone with God? And there was a powerful purpose behind His command, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray” (Matthew 6:6)
Just look at these giants of the faith and what happened when they were alone with God:  Elijah, Elisha, Jacob (Genesis 32:28), Joshua (Joshua 1:1), Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 6:11Judges 11:29), Moses (Exodus 3:1-5), Cornelius (Acts 10:1-4), Peter (Acts 10:9-28), John the Baptist (Luke 1:80), and John the Beloved (Revelation 1:9).
Earnestly desire to get alone with God. — L. B. Cowman
God cares about our places. He sets us in our places. He does that so that people come to know Him. — Jennie Allen
This place has been the ICU. It’s holy ground. As I said last week, this is where the Lord Himself showed up and started changing me from the inside out. It’s where I’ve clung to His Word and His promises. It’s where I asked Him to clean out my heart and use me.Although in a lot of ways it feels absurd to be in my circumstances at my time of life, just as Jennie shared on the video this week that the theme of Philippians — where Paul was imprisoned — was JOY, that’s a lot of what I’ve learned during this season. Joy. Leaning on God in desperation, pressing into Him in confusion, hurt, anger, and every other emotion leads to a very strange, but solid joy.
God is in control. He is not surprised. He will use me in these places. If I choose Him, cultivate joy, choose a surrendered heart, and allow myself to be used. Right here! Right exactly where He wants me to be.
So, my places — my parents’ home, church, kids’ schools, the avenues given to me for writing, the support groups I am so grateful for — are the springboards for what God wants to do.
I want to do God-things right in the middle of a place that, for now, feels uncomfortable, strange, small, insignificant, broken, and foreign. I know that’s possible because it’s God’s specialty!


Father, we love you. Thank You for placing us exactly where we are, even if those places are tough. Thank You that You have a plan for us to be usable right here. We pray that You would expand our understanding of our influence and the people we can reach for you. Help us to see the beauty in the mundane, the difficult, the frightening, the challenging places and that You have stuff for us to do right here! Help us to dream about the ways we can connect with others in the places you’ve given us. We are so grateful that You entrust us with the people you put in our paths. We love You, Lord. Amen.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Live Restless Bible Study — Week 4

This week's study was on "suffering" which was challenging for all of us. Hang in there! There's great stuff on the other side of suffering!