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Colossians 2:6-7 on My Mind

NewOMM“As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live in him. Keep your roots deep in him and have your lives built on him. Be strong in the faith, just as you were taught, and always be thankful.” –Colossians 2:6-7, NCV

I love these two verses from Colossians because they so simply and clearly state what matters most in a Christian’s life: being rooted and growing in Christ. They also tell us how:

Continue to live in him. Paul, the author of Colossians, wants his readers to know that being saved (by receiving Christ) is only the beginning. Rather than check the block and wait for eternal life to begin “in Heaven someday,” we are blessed to be able to live that life right now. As soon as we receive Christ into our hearts, we can begin to live in Him.

Keep your roots deep in him. We live in Christ by growing in Him. Henri Nouwen said, “Think of yourself as a little seed planted in rich soil.”* In Christ, the conditions for growth are perfect. We do our part by resting comfortably in His Presence, allowing Him to nurture us, talking with Him about everything that’s on our minds, studying His Word and His world to learn more about Him each day, and by meeting regularly with others who are doing the same.

Have your lives built on him. We do this by remembering that Jesus Christ is our foundation. When everything we do is for the good of His growing Kingdom and the honor of His name, we are faithfully building on Him. Remembering this, that Christ is our foundation, will help us make wise choices about how to spend our time each day.

Be strong in the faith. As our roots grow deep and we build our lives on Christ, our faith will grow proportionately. We’ll see God’s work in and through us which will give us an ever-greater understanding of and confidence in what He is able and willing to do.

Always be thankful. Once we have Christ, we have everything we need for all eternity. Anything else He blesses us with is just gravy on the potatoes of life. Therefore, as we draw closer to Jesus, we always have something to be thankful for. Notice His faithful work and His generous gifts and express your gratitude.

Father, please help us to get these words of Yours firmly stuck on our minds through meditation and memory. May Your Spirit use them often to remind us of the one priority that matters most to our lives: living and growing in Christ. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

*In Joyful Hope, Meditations for Advent, p. 24

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Book Review: The Christmas Candle

Books!It only took me one afternoon to read The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado—ten short chapters with a thought-provoking message about Whom we put our trust in when we pray. I liked this story.

Set mostly in 1864, it’s the story of a town with a legacy. Every 25 years, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, an angel visits their candle maker and touches one candle. This candle brings a blessing to one chosen person. 1864 is the year of the next visit.

But this town also has a new minister who is a bit skeptical, refusing to cooperate with the traditions that have grown up around the angel’s visit. Discussions about this leave both townspeople and minister confused. To complicate matters, everyone wants the blessing of the candle this year and the candle maker has no son to carry on the legacy in 1889. The Christmas candle has brought everyone so much to fret about.

I recommend The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado to those who enjoy Christmas novellas with hopeful messages. The Victorian England setting, the way the characters communicated with each other even when they disagreed, the pace of the book, and the outcome were all just right. I enjoyed reading this book.

I received a complimentary eCopy of The Christmas Candle in exchange for this honest review.

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Book Review: Stones for Bread

Books!I just love stories about broken and lonely people gathering together to form community. Stones for Bread is this. It’s the story of Liesl, owner of the Wild Rise bake house. Still overcoming the shock of her mother’s suicide and of finding the body at the age of just twelve, Liesl holds people at arm’s length. Yet she loves to bake bread and takes her role as keeper of the bread seriously, preserving a family legacy.

Throughout the book, God brings new people into Liesl’s life and reveals secrets about the people she already knows. Liesl must learn to adapt to changing needs, to open her heart and her life to people she cares about, and to listen for—and trust—God’s Voice.

Because it’s a book about a growing community of broken people, suicide isn’t the only circumstance that people must work through that’s touched on in the book. Others include depression, self-harm, alcoholism, adoption, cancer, dyslexia, abandonment, divorce, death, and corporate greed. The story doesn’t dwell on these, however—just acknowledges they exist. The focus of the story is on Liesl and her loved ones learning to get along and care for one another. They’re learning how to live.

Stones for Bread is a leisurely read for a reflective day. I enjoyed my time with it. I probably won’t try any of the bread recipes scattered throughout the book, but I found the history and mechanics of bread baking to be interesting. Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for this honest review. I recommend it to you.

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Fasting as We Pray Fervently

Fasting. It’s kind of a mysterious practice, yet maybe it’s not as mysterious as it seems. DaisiesMaybe, in trying to explain it as a spiritual discipline, with rules and regulations and how-to’s and such, some have over-complicated the concept a bit. As a result of being exposed to these, I used to be quite skeptical of the whole idea—which I knew wasn’t good because the Bible talks about fasting. Jesus talks about fasting! But the idea of giving up food in order to get God to answer a prayer always sounded a tad manipulative to me. And I have too much respect for God to believe that He allows, and even encourages, Himself to be maneuvered that way. I also have too much faith in His fatherly love to believe that He would refuse to answer my deepest, most sincere prayers unless I sacrificed a meal or two or three or 40-days’ worth of them like Moses did in the passage I wrote about yesterday.

But then I discovered a definition of fasting that makes complete sense to me. As I began to look at fasting from this new perspective, I realized it wasn’t fasting I was skeptical about, just some explanations of how to practice it.

In his book, Fasting, Scot McKnight says, “Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life” (p. xviii). What this means is that fasting is not a manipulative tool or a demanded sacrifice, as I’d heard before. Rather, fasting is simply a natural response to grief.

Let’s take a look at an example from the parent/child relationship to see, in very simple terms, how this works. Imagine sitting down to dinner with your family. You serve the food, but one of your children refuses to eat. You ask why and he tells you that because you refused to buy him the latest video game that all of his friends already have, he’s decided not to eat any more until you change your mind. If you are a wise parent, you call your child’s bluff—even if it means he chooses to skip a meal or two—because you know your child will eventually realize that he wants food more than he wants that video game. Your child’s “fast” isn’t going to get him anything because a) you, the parent, have decided it’s not something he needs and b) his attitude is just plain selfish. He’s refusing to consider the bigger picture or to trust that you are doing what you believe is best for him.

On the other hand, imagine that your child tells you he doesn’t feel like eating because he just learned that his best friend’s father was in a car accident and may not survive. His friend is devastated, so he is, too. Your response to this kind of information will be much different. You’ll pray with your child, comfort your child, take meals to the friend’s family, and do whatever else you can think of to help in this time of need. Your child is fasting because he cares deeply. In sharing his heart with you, he’s trusting you to join him in his concern and to help however you can. He’s desperate for relief.

That’s the power of fasting. God, our heavenly Father, is moved when something touches His children’s hearts so deeply that they just can’t eat.

I believe this is what happened to Moses in the passage we looked at yesterday. For the first forty days, he was sitting on a mountaintop in the very Presence of God. Can you even imagine that?! He was probably so enthralled by God’s majesty that eating was the furthest thing from his mind. And, evidently, being in God’s Presence made eating unnecessary.

For the second forty days, Moses was devastated by the actions of his people and afraid for their lives. God was ready and able to wipe them off the face of the earth. There was no time for a lunch break.

Fasting is a natural, physical response to anything that touches our hearts in a big way. When our deepest emotions become involved, we lose the desire and ability to eat.

Does this mean that we should never schedule a fast? I don’t think so. Sometimes we have to deal with on-going life situations that cause us continuous pain. Knowing that we (or a loved one) will need strength for endurance, we may choose to forego a specific meal or two each week in order to reflect deeply on what’s going on, to talk with God about the way the circumstance is progressing, to draw comfort and strength from His Presence, so we (or they) can keep on keeping on. In this case, we’re fasting because our need to absorb God is more important than our need to ingest food. Our time will be well spent.

There is so much more I’d like to say about this, but I’ve offered enough for today. I encourage you, however, as you consider the practice of fasting and come across passages in the Bible that mention it, to think of them in the light of this simple definition. When something touches us so deeply we lose all desire for food, it touches our Father’s heart, too.

Lord, thank You for caring about the people and events that matter most to us. Knowing we can bring our deepest feelings to You is comforting. As we talk these over with You, we thank You for what we know You will do. Beyond all we can imagine, Your actions are always perfect. We love You, Father. Amen.

In my next post, I’ll wrap up my thoughts on praying fervently.

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Book Review: How to Talk to a Skeptic

If you’ve ever found yourself challenged by a skeptic, you know it can be a daunting experience. If the skeptic simply wants to share ideas in a mutually respectful manner, the conversation can be beneficial for both of you. Sometimes, however, the discussion can take a nasty turn, so that suddenly, you find the skeptic no longer presenting ideas and trying to understand yours but determinedly trying to destroy all your beliefs. Even if you’re standing on rock solid ground regarding your understanding and practice of faith, this situation can be more than intimidating.

Dr. Donald J. Johnson’s book can help prepare you for this. His goal is to help you, when discussing the Christian faith with skeptics, to keep the conversation on pleasant and mutually respectful ground. I gave my highlighter a workout as I read this book.

In the first section, Johnson helps readers understand that the Christian faith is not a product to be sold. It’s simply the Truth. Our job as believers is not to sell this Truth, but to present it. Those who listen will choose whether to accept it or not. God’s Spirit does the hard work of helping us present the Truth and in drawing others to believe. Johnson goes on to present ideas on how to go about doing your part effectively.

In the second section of the book, Johnson talks about some common misconceptions about what Christians actually believe. I recommend this section to every Christian since many, as Johnson points out, buy into these themselves. Johnson does a fantastic job of presenting Christian doctrine clearly and solidly, according to God’s Word.

In the third section, Johnson gives examples of how to talk with a skeptic by presenting a few possible conversations that might come up and how he would handle them. He makes it very clear at the beginning of this section that it is in no way comprehensive. He has just chosen a few familiar topics as illustrations for readers to consider and learn from. He closes this section with a deeper look into the mind of the skeptic, so readers can better understand what motivates this attitude and, therefore, handle it more compassionately or recognize when it’s time to walk away.

I appreciated the information in this book and enjoyed reading it, too. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy for this honest review. It’s one I recommend.

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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!