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Finding Home

Finding HomeIn honor of my newly released book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway, I’m launching a regular feature on this blog called Finding Home. Like my book, these posts are primarily for women who are moving, especially those who move often such as military or ministry wives. (Of course, I just happen to be both–a military and a ministry wife. One husband. One adventurous life!)

Since the key to finding home, however, is learning to be content wherever you are, whatever your circumstances–a condition that comes of knowing Christ as Lord of your life–I invite other readers to find encouragement in these posts as well. Sometimes life situations far out of our control can make us feel as if we’ve been kicked out of all that’s familiar. We may not have moved anywhere, yet we still long to find home. If you’ve ever felt this way, these posts are for you, too:

“Where you go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. When you move, I’ll move. I will follow.” -Chris Tomlin, I Will Follow

We sang this song in church yesterday morning and it had quite an effect on me. The powers that be are talking about my husband’s next assignment, and so, we’re praying, again, about my husband’s next assignment. I’m willing to go wherever, but the anticipation of where that’s going to be still has a tendency to rattle me. I just want to know what’s next!

But that’s one of the joys of Army life. You never really know where you’re going until you get there, and even then, the Army can change its mind. This can be perplexing, but the Army sends us where the Army needs us. There’s a bigger picture than what we can see. What perfect training for obedient Christian living! We see this pattern all through the Bible:

God had a plan to create a new nation. This plan required that Abraham and Sarah move. God didn’t even tell them where they were going. He just told them to pack it up and leave.

God had a plan to spare His new nation. This plan required that Esther move–right into the palace where she had to risk her life to save God’s people from genocide.

God had a plan to encourage that nation in its captivity. This plan required that Daniel be taken captive, too. He moved with the people he served, suffering as they did, too.

God had a plan to redeem the whole world. This plan required that Ruth the Moabite woman follow her mother-in-law and move. Ruth didn’t even know the God she’d come to serve, and yet, He used her in a wondrous way. (She’s part of the lineage of Christ.)

These are just a few examples. There are so many more: Joseph, Moses, the disciples, Paul. In order to make a difference for God, they all had to leave home. None knew how it would turn out. (For more information on any of these people, visit BibleGateway.com.)

When I was a teenager, and even a young adult, a lot of my friends talked about being afraid to follow God for fear that He’d call them to be missionaries in Africa. I wanted to be a missionary, so this just tickled me. The truth is, God doesn’t call too many people to move far away from all that’s familiar, from the people they love. (If you picture yourself helping Jesus pack belongings into big moving boxes whenever you sing, “When you move, I’ll move,” you are one of these few.)

What God does call us all to do is obey Him, to do whatever He calls us to do. When we sing Chris Tomlin’s song, obedience is what we’re all pledging. Some of us just get to follow literally like Ruth, and we trust, like all the movers of the Bible, that God sees and blesses this, too.

Father, where You go, I’ll go. Where you stay, I’ll stay. When you move, I’ll move. I will follow–each day. Thank You for leading. I’ll entrust the outcome to You. Amen.

For more about what people are discovering at church, visit Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.

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Climbing Higher

Climbing Rock“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.” –Psalm 94:18

I tried rock climbing once. My senior class in college took a trip to Yosemite National Park where the rock-climbing club from our campus volunteered to give a lesson to those who were interested. It looked easy enough.

It wasn’t.

Swaddled in harness and ropes, I began my ascent, quickly realizing that the strength I needed would have to come from my fingers and arms–every little muscle in each would be required for the task. My legs existed for balance and support as my hands sought a sure grip for lifting myself to the next level. Halfway up the rock face, I thought I could go no further. I felt exhausted, but had to go on. I began to rely on a voice from above.

That’s where my instructor was.

Below, I could hear friends, my fellow first-time climbers, shouting much needed encouragement as I struggled through my shaky situation. But my instructor was giving the advice I most wanted to hear:

“Move your hand a few inches to the left, Janet. There’s a great handhold there. Do you see it? There! Now place your foot in that crevice and push yourself up. Keep going! Now move your other hand to that small ledge just above the other one. You’ve got it!”

I depended on these words and followed them as precisely as I could. Of everything he said, though, the words that comforted me most were:

“Don’t be afraid. If you start to slip, I’ve got hold of the rope. You will not fall.”

Life is like that climb. We lift ourselves up, one handhold at a time, while listening to that precious Voice from Above. Our fellow climbers shout encouraging words as we make our way to the top. God’s voice is the One to listen for, though. He is there to help us find our way. Better yet, He’s got hold of the rope. We can depend on Him; if our feet start to slip, He’ll never let us fall.

Precious Guide, thank You for holding me tightly with the harness and rope of Your love. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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Halloween Prayers for Our Neighbors

PumpkinsI think the thing I enjoy most about Halloween is getting to greet all of our neighbors right on our own doorstep. Throughout most of the year, our quiet neighborhood is, well, quiet! We might get to wave at a neighbor or two when taking out the trash or picking up the mail or while out on a walk, but that’s about it. On Halloween, though, the neighbors all come out and visit each other. I get to greet the children, tell them how cute or scary or beautiful or funny they are, and give them candy which brings smiles to their faces in exchange for the smile they put on my own. I get to say Hi to all their parents and wish them a happy evening. I get to laugh as our dog attempts to go home with every child who comes to the door. (He just wants to join in the fun!) Halloween may be known for the scary stuff, but I think it’s just a great opportunity for everyone to be extra friendly!

As we greet trick-or-treaters this evening, let’s remember to whisper brief prayers for them, too. We may pray for our neighbors in general throughout the year, but, on Halloween, we can pray for them specifically as we see their faces, greet them, and offer sweet treats. If you don’t participate in this aspect of the day, that’s alright. You can still pray for the families you see through your window or hear walking down your street. Your prayers that they’ll come to know Jesus, if they don’t already, and that they’ll grow healthy and strong both physically and spiritually may be the best treat they’ll never know they received.

Father, bless all the trick-or-treaters and their families tonight. Keep them safe and help them have good, clean fun. Thank You for this opportunity to see neighbors who usually stay in their homes. Help us remember to pray for them not only tonight, but throughout the year. May they come to know You well, then grow in Your love each day. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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Praying for Decision-Makers Whose Choices Concern Us

“May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great.” –Psalm 138:4-5

It’s easy to become alarmed when we read or hear in the news that a national or world leader or group of leaders is making decisions contrary to God’s known will, in other words, in opposition to what’s clear in His Word.

We don’t have to be alarmed, though. Our sovereign God is in control. He knows what’s going on, who’s behind it, and how it will end. And nobody does anything without His consent. He may not approve, but He does allow, and when He does, He knows just what He’s going to do about it.

So. No worries. God’s got this.

In the meantime, though. There is something more positive that we can do whenever we hear alarming news such as this. Like the psalmist, we can pray. In fact, he even gave us the words. Psalm 138:4-5 is a prayer for the leaders of this earth. When God brings them to mind through any news source, let’s remember to pray that they will all learn to praise Him. Let’s pray they’ll learn what God has decreed. Let’s pray that they’ll come to sing of His glory as they realize His glory is great.

In Romans 13:1, Paul tells us that “there is no authority except that which God has established.” That being the case, those authorities need direction from God. I have no doubt that He can and will use them for His purposes right where they are right as they are, but just think how much more effective they’d be and how much more fulfilled personally if they were working in cooperation with God, living as His faithful servants, longing to touch His heart.

Father, thank You for the prayers of the Bible. Thank You for leading us to this one today. Help us to remember these words and pray them often, for the good of our world, our nation, and our community, for the good of those who serve in positions of authority. Amen.

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Strength for More Than a Game

Salmon Flowers“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ . . . From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” –Ephesians 4:11-13, 16

Raise your hand if you remember Red Rover, Red Rover, the infamous, school playground game.

I truly hope there aren’t too many of you who do. I remember the day when the playground monitor came out to stop us from playing it and to tell us that the school had decided it was just too dangerous. Someone was going to get their arm pulled out of its socket—or worse!

Part of my then ten-year-old self was outraged that the school would stop us from having so much fun. A bigger part, a part I kept quiet at the time, was oh-so-relieved!

That game was absolutely terrifying!!!

For those who’ve been blessed to have never heard of it:

Two teams line up facing each other on opposite sides of the playing field. Children on each team link arms to make a chain. One team yells, Red Rover, Red Rover send [unfortunate child from the other team] right over. That unfortunate child, often me (I’ll explain why in a minute.), then has to run as fast as she can across the field to try to break through the other team’s chain. If she succeeds, she triumphantly gets to choose one member of the opposite team to join her team. If she fails, she gets caught up in the chain like a convict snagged at the top of a barbed wire fence. Then, when everyone finishes laughing over this child’s humiliation, she reluctantly becomes part of the team she failed to break through. The other team then takes their turn, hopefully not calling the same, unfortunate child back.

Why was I often that unfortunate child? Because I was little. Think about it. A smart team is not going to call the big, football-player-type kid to come hurling at them as fast as he can from clear across the field. No. They’re going to call the child least likely to break through, aka the little girl.

On the flip side, the child who is running across the field is not going to try to break through between two giant, playground jocks whose arms are solidly linked. No. That child is going to try to break through two little girls. That’s right. Me and my best friend, Anne. If we weren’t the runners, we were targets, bracing ourselves for the on-coming blow and praying it wouldn’t hurt too much.

Oh, yeah. We were sorry to see that game go.

Spiritual warfare is kind of like that game of Red Rover. Satan is always looking for the weak link in the Body of Christ. He targets it and throws everything he has as it, hoping to break through to claim someone for his side. But as the Body of Christ, we are one. We are joined and held together by supporting ligaments. We are growing and building ourselves up in love as each of us does our work.

I see two ways this works:

1. Just as someone who wants to excel at a physical sport will eat right, exercise often, and get plenty of rest before a game, Christians train for spiritual warfare.

I don’t think either Anne or I could have built ourselves up enough to stand against the playground jocks in a game of Red Rover. No protein-rich, muscle-building diet or amount of strength-training would have made much of a difference for us. We were just too small. (And we didn’t take the game that seriously!)

But Christians can build themselves up. Bible study is our healthy diet. Prayer, worship, and fellowship with other Christians are essential strength-training. Honoring the Sabbath assures we rest.

2. Just as a team must work together, with every member contributing his or her strengths, Christians help each other succeed.

Think about that game of Red Rover. What if, just once, instead of leaving Anne and I to stand alone against the oncoming runner, one of stronger players on our team had linked arms between us. That person’s strength added to ours might have made the difference to keep the other team from breaking through. Evidently, we weren’t smart enough to figure that out in grade school. (Or maybe, at ten, we were still afraid of cooties.)

But we Christians can apply the principle now. By serving one another in love, we help the weaker links among us to be built up and grow. The whole body benefits when we strengthen each other this way.

We build ourselves up through Bible study, worship, fellowship, and prayer. We build the body through faithful service to our brothers and sisters in Christ until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Father, thank You for drawing us together in Christ as one body of believers. Help us do our part each day for individual and community growth. In You, we stand firm against the enemy. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

To read more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays and Hear It on Sunday; Use It on Monday.

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Thank You, Lord, for Significance

Red Flower“Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah.”–1 Chronicles 1:1-3

While researching my husband’s family tree, I learned of a genealogical society that had done extensive research about families in the area his family came from. I was able to order pamphlets recording their research about specific family names. I expected one that I ordered to provide information about my mother-in-law’s birth family. In that pamphlet, I found the name of her birth mother, with information about her parents and grandparents, etc.–just as I had hoped. I also found information about this ancestor’s second marriage and the children from both marriages. But this woman’s first husband was missing from the record; my mother-in-law’s birth father had been overlooked.

This man married, fathered four children, and then died in Italy during World War II–before his fourth child, my mother-in-law, was born. He was only 26 when he died. Perhaps that explains why the historians missed him. To my family, however, he’s significant. His children, their children and grandchildren would not exist if this man had not lived, even if only for 26 years. Further, my life and many others could not possibly be the same without the impact of this man’s descendants on us. His life had meaning; he mattered—big time!

You matter, too. The book of 1 Chronicles begins with several lists of names, names, and more names–hard to pronounce, in most cases, significance lost to the past. But God remembers each one. His children matter, that includes you. Perhaps at this time, you’re feeling overlooked and insignificant. God has a place for you. He hasn’t forgotten. He’ll never forget. He gave you life, and He wants you to live! Live for Him today.

Lord, to think that among all the world’s people–past, present, and future–somehow I matter to You! I’ll show my thanks by serving You. You matter most! Amen.

To learn what some others are thankful for today, visit the Counting Our Blessings Link Up.

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Book Review: An Untamed Heart

If you’ve never read Lauraine Snelling’s Red River of the North series, you’ll want to read the newly released prequel  An Untamed Heart  first. If you have read this series—and the three series that followed it—you will love reading how it all began.

The Red River of the North series begins as newly married Ingeborg migrates to America with her new family. An Untamed Heart tells readers about Ingeborg’s life in Norway before that big move.

Personally, I loved reading about life in Norway, for both the middle and upper-class, near the end of the 1800’s. Most of the story was set at Ingeborg’s family’s seter. I felt like I was reading Little House on the Prairie set in Norway. I also thought that my three boys would have loved to have been able to spend their summers as Ingeborg, her siblings, and her cousins did. Snelling gives her readers a beautiful glimpse into Norwegian culture at this point in time.

She also gives more insight into some of what made Ingeborg into the beautiful person she becomes as her series, and the ones following it, develop. We see her learning unique skills and building a relationship with God. It’s not just about a girl growing up and finding a spouse.

I know I won’t have to recommend this book to existing fans of the Red River of the North. Like me, they’re probably pretty excited about the book’s release. If you haven’t yet discovered this series, though, I recommend you start with An Untamed Heart.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

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Turning Off the Voices in Our Heads

Words Aptly Spoken“Most of us, these days, spend much of our lives in our heads in a state of preoccupation and self-absorption, wrapped up in our anxieties and harangued by familiar voices that seem to run in an endless tape loop in our minds. We are obsessed with the things we have to do, or with how we can best play the starring role in what one of my students called, ‘the movie of my life.’ We rarely notice what is outside of us, right now, in the present moment.” –Barbara Baig, How to Be a Writer, p. 76

These words challenged me today. I’m all too aware that often they are true. Turning off the voices in our heads which demand we compare, contrast, worry, obsess, meet expectations, have our thoughts and opinions heard, or complete so many tasks in a day—too many tasks if they keep us from hearing others—can be difficult.

So let’s rise to the challenge today. Let’s make every effort to ignore those familiar, but pesky, voices, and use our senses to truly take in the action all around us. Let’s see the smile that’s not really a smile, so we can ask what’s really going on to show we care. Then let’s hear the story as it’s really being told, striving to get inside the talker’s head. Let’s smell Autumn in the air and taste whatever we eat—especially if we’re taking communion at church today! “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8a)! And don’t forget to touch. Greet each other with hugs and firm handshakes, being sure to take the time to connect with each other’s eyes. Let your friends know they are loved by offering your senses to them instead of to the voices in your head.

Then don’t forget to do the same for God. As I mentioned a few days ago, He’s all around us, waiting to be noticed, longing to be heard and loved. Make every effort today to listen for His voice, to see His face hidden all throughout this world. He promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Let’s devote our hearts to finding Him this day.

Father, thank You for this day. Help us, please, to live in the moment, noticing all that surrounds us, all You’ve given us to enjoy. Help us devote our senses to finding You and to loving the people You bring into our lives. With grateful hearts and Your Spirit’s help, we’ll train ourselves to live this way, intentionally, all the time. In Jesus’ name, amen.

What are you more likely to notice when you try to live this way? (The Leave a reply button is at the top of this post.)

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.

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Book Review: Take Flight!

Take Flight! a Sisterchicks’ Devotional by Robin Jones Gunn and Cindy Hannan is short and sweet, but just right for times when a woman needs just a little extra encouragement in her walk with God and friends. The book has 14 devotionals arranged in four sections: Bird’s Eye View, On a Wing and a Prayer, Take a Flying Leap, and Under the Shadow of His Wing. Robin writes the first part of each devotional: a story from her own life related to a quote from one of her Sisterchicks books. Each story explains a lesson Robin has learned and wants to teach. Cindy writes the second part of each devotional giving readers a deeper understanding of the idea Robin introduced, followed by Bible verses for further study, personal journaling space, a quote or two by a well-known Christian woman, and suggested activities for friends to do together, putting the idea into practice.

I enjoyed reading this book and appreciated its ideas and insights. I especially loved reading about Robin’s practice of setting a day a year aside for concentrated prayer and journaling and her story of becoming a missionary to Nairobi without actually ever going there. Our God offers such wondrous surprises when we follow Him faithfully. Robin and Cindy’s devotionals encourage Sisterchick readers who long to do this well.

I received a complimentary copy of Take Flight! from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for this honest review.

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A Place to Nurture Faith and Watch It Grow

Wildflower Collage2It all started in Texas.

I only lived in that state for one year, but that gave me just enough time to discover wildflowers and to learn how to hunt them.

That’s right. I hunt them down and shoot them—with my camera, of course.

The first flowers I noticed were the bright purple tuber vervain, the showy primroses, the bluebonnets, and the Indian blankets. They were everywhere—and so pretty.

One morning, after Mike had left for work and the boys had left for school, I grabbed my little camera and drove to a nearby park where I’d seen some of these flowers blooming. I took all kinds of pictures.

They didn’t come out very good.

But I kept taking pictures. And my husband bought me a better camera. And my son taught me how to use the settings on that camera. And my pictures improved.

My new hobby was born.

It became more than a hobby, though. I started to notice that whenever I would stop to take a picture of one flower, I’d notice others nearby. When I moved to take their pictures, I’d see more—then more. I would think I was stopping to photograph one simple flower, then end up taking pictures of a lot!

I realized that our thoughts about God work like that, too. God is all around us all the time, trying to get our attention, trying to get us to think about Him and to talk with Him, too. Sometimes we’re busy and ignore Him. We carry on right past the thought and miss the message from God.

IMG_3268When something simple from everyday life, though, like a wildflower, catches our attention and draws us to think about God in some new way, His Spirit will bring other thoughts to mind. As we consider these, we’ll remember Bible verses, sermons, and other words we’ve heard or read which reinforce the thought. When we know God’s Word supports the new thought, we’ll realize we’ve learned a new truth. About God. About the way He wants us to live life.

That’s how Wildflower Thinking, my first blog was born.

But this is Wildflower Faith! This is the next step.

You see, thoughts are just thoughts. Thoughts about God and His truths are good. Very good! When we learn to apply them to our daily lives in a practical way, though, that’s faith. That’s growing faith!

Shortly after our family moved to Georgia for the first time, the move that followed our year in Texas, my husband planted a few showy primroses in our front yard for me. He thought I might enjoy raising some wildflowers of my own, and he was right!Primroses

Winter came, though, and the flowers died. They do that in winter, you know.

But then came spring and with it came not just a few little showy primroses, but enough to stretch across the whole front of our house. Those primroses where everywhere!

Wildflower Faith is like that. When hard times come, it may struggle or seem to disappear. If we don’t give up on it, though, it’ll come back. Stronger. And it will bring friends!

I invite you to join me here in this place where, together with God’s Spirit and His Word, we can nurture Wildflower Thoughts into Wildflower Faith

And watch it grow!