Archives For Devotional

Cover 1“In the same way the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Romans 8:26

I’m so glad I said ‘yes’ to reviewing Beth Moore’s Whispers of Hope: 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer. Working through this book—which is part devotional and part prayer journal—has strengthened and changed me.

If you do nothing else today, enter my giveaway for a copy of the book. You just might win!

Truly, God is using Beth’s words to whisper hope to my heat. Here’s a passage I found especially touching   . . .

“Imagine this poignant scene. The child of God musters her last bit of strength to collapse before the throne of God. Words do not come—just groanings.

They are not her groanings, though they emerge from so deep within, she thinks they are hers.

The Spirit of God searches her heart, gathers her pain, and lifts it to the Father of all comfort. The Spirit of God, knowing both the depth of her agony and the will of the Father, can bring forth glory from even this. He insists that the Father issue overflowing comfort. He urges the child to let the Father have His way.

He prays for things that she could not bear to pray.

That she lacks the courage to pray.

He prays for glory.

How long does the child lay before God’s throne?

Until strength comes.

Until she identifies the heart of the Spirit’s intercession for her and can make it her own. Perhaps this is one of life’s finest hours for the believer—when the will of the Father and the will of the child converge as one—and the cloudy pillar of God’s glory settles on her shoulders like a down comforter.

And for just a moment, heaven comes to earth.”

My favorite quote–well, it’s actually a poem Beth Moore wrote:

Morning Star 1

Gift Alert: This book is pretty enough to give as a gift. The deckle edge pages give the impression of age, and the cover gives the illusion of being hand stamped. The cover flaps are just as charming & make useful bookmarks—as you can see in my photo.

Pop a copy of Whispers of Hope into a gift basket or Christmas stocking & bless someone special to you!

Flaps 2

Giveaway: Enter here to win a copy of Whispers of Hope. Once the contest ends, I’ll set the widget to choose a winner and send that name to Icon Media Group. IMG will send a copy directly to our winner. I’ll run the giveaway until Sunday, December 1st.

 

If you don’t want to wait for the results of the giveaway, you can follow this link to purchase your copies of Whispers of Hope. ***Thanks to Beth Moore and Icon Media Group for providing both review & giveaway copies.

About the Author: Beth Moore has written many best-selling books and is a dynamic teacher and a prolific Bible-study author whose public speaking engagements take her across the United States to challenge tens of thousands. Beth is focused on teaching women all over the world and is known and respected wherever she goes. She is a dedicated wife and mother of two adult daughters and lives in Houston, Texas, where she leads Living Proof Ministries and teaches an adult Sunday school class at her church.

You can connect with Beth at Living Proof Ministries, on her Facebook page, and on Twitter. Continue Reading…

Have you ever felt invisible? You wonder if God has put you in a corner and forgotten about you. Your wants and needs seem insignificant to Him. When these feelings build up inside me, I long for reminders that God understands me. That He knows exactly what I can bear. That He is not surprised when I sin and disappoint Him and fall short. That He just . . . loves me.

One of my favorite reminders comes from the Old Testament, Genesis 15. In this chapter, God promised childless Abraham that he would have a son and that his descendents would flourish. God promised the land of Israel to Abraham, warned Abraham about difficult times in the future, but assured Abraham that he would end his life in peace.

And then God made a covenant with Abraham, He made a commitment, that what God says will happen, WILL happen—or else. God instructed Abraham to bring Him a heifer, a goat, and a ram. Abraham sacrificed them, cut them in two and arranged them on the ground opposite each other so that the blood flowed in between the two rows.

My commentary reads, “This was a very common practice in the desert communities of the Middle East. The animals were cut in two and placed opposite each other so that the blood formed a pool, a so-called blood path, in between the pieces as they drained. The two parties then walked through the blood as a way of saying, ‘May what was done to these animals be done to me if I do not keep this covenant.’ The one who failed to keep the covenant paid for it with his life.”

Then God caused Abraham to fall into a deep sleep. In a vision, Abraham saw a smoking lamp pass through the blood path. The lamp represented God, who was basically saying, “Abraham, if I break my promises to you, then may what was done to these animals be done to Me.”

Wow. Pretty incredible that the Creator of the Universe would hold Himself accountable to a mere man. But that’s just Part I of the covenant. Abraham had to know what came next. He, Abraham, was supposed to pass through the blood path. He was supposed to say, “God, if I break my promises to you, then may what was done to these animals be done to me.”

But Abraham knew, he could never keep his promises to God. No one could. I can’t imagine the fear and despair he may have felt in that moment.

So what happened? That was it? The covenant was over before it was even begun? Nope. A flaming torch—representing God—passed through the blood path.

What does that mean? That means that God held Himself accountable for Abraham’s part of the covenant, too. God basically said, “Abraham, I’ll do your part. If you break your promises to Me, then may what was done to these animals be done to—Me. Not you. Me.”

So God was willing to die just to give Abraham a child, a home, and a future? Yup. And no matter what happened in Abraham’s life, no matter how he messed up, he could always remember the powerful promise God made to him.

The promise God made that day wasn’t new, and it wasn’t just for Abraham. It hints at the coming of Jesus, the One who passed through the blood path for us so that He could give us all that we long for. It’s a powerful promise. And each time I remember it, I find peace, reassurance, and hope.

“We are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous ‘descendant,’ heirs according to the covenant promises.” ~Galatians 3:29~

This week I’m linking up with Monday Musings, Playdates with God, Soli Deo Gloria, Call Me Blessed, A Pause on the Path, Teach Me Tuesdays, Gratituesday, Good Morning Girls, Thought-provoking Thursday, Hearts 4 Home ThursdayYour Thriving Family, and Beholding Glory.

UPDATE: A winner of the August Amazon Gift Card Giveaway has been emailed! Congrats, Renee C!

“God’s hand that holds the ocean’s depth can hold my small affairs. His hand, which guides the universe, can carry all my cares.” ~Amish Proverb~

Bonnet books (Quaker, Shaker, Puritan, or Amish) are bestsellers in the Christian fiction world, and many readers are especially fascinated by the Amish. They wonder how the Amish can withstand the call of modern culture with all its conveniences, entertainment options, career opportunities, expensive activities, varied clothing choices, and remain content with plain living.

Are the Amish happier, more fulfilled, and deeply satisfied because of their lifestyle? What’s their secret?

A sweet devotional book, Amish Values for Your Family by Suzanne Woods Fisher, reveals these “secrets” by sharing vignettes from the daily lives of typical Amish families.

As I read the book, I found myself admiring the Amish commitment to family and community. Several stories along these lines touched my heart. I loved reading about 101 year-old Cora, who was able to live in the same house where she and her husband were newlyweds because of the tender care of her grandson’s wife, Mary. In a small way, their story brought to mind Ruth and Naomi.

Mary was not actually related to Cora, but embraced caring for her, spending time with her, singing to her. And Cora’s whole family was with her in the end, surrounding the bed and singing her favorite hymn as she met the Lord in eternity.

My 81-year-old mother lives with me, but I do not care for her alone. Because of the volunteers at Meals-on-Wheels and some young aids from Office of the Aging, I’m able to teach full time at a Christian high school. I’m glad my mom can be with me and live as she chooses. But my mother’s life and mine have been very different, and it’s easy to overlook her opinions and suggestions as an out-of-touch old person’s attempt to stay relevant. This quick two-page story reminded me that Mom and I share the same roots and a common heritage. And that is what can bring us together.

This chapter exhorted me to . . . “Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little, but it needs that little so much.”

Also from the book: “The Amish provide a tremendous example of care and commitment to the elderly. Aging parents don’t go to nursing facilities; they are cared for at home. Right to the end. Imagine the sense of security an elderly Amish has, to be loved and values, by their own family, right to the end.”

Suzanne Woods Fisher is a bestselling author of Amish fiction and non-fiction and the host of a weekly radio program called Amish Wisdom, found at this link. Her book The Waiting is a finalist for a 2011 Christy Award. Amish Peace and Amish Proverbs were both finalists for the ECPA Book of the Year (2010, 2011).

Her interest in the Amish began with her grandfather, W.D. Benedict, who was raised Plain. Suzanne has a great admiration for the Plain people and believes they provide wonderful examples to the world.  When Suzanne isn’t writing or bragging to her friends about her first new grandbaby, she is raising puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To Suzanne’s way of thinking, you just can’t take life too seriously when a puppy is tearing through your house with someone’s underwear in its mouth. You can find Suzanne at this link.

***Thanks to the publisher and to Litfuse for providing this book for me to review. You can purchase this book and others by following this link to Suzanne’s Amazon Author’s Page.

This was one of the first articles I wrote when I began blogging. I’m reposting it today because it goes along with the theme at the Women of Faith blog. And because it’s a much needed reminder of God’s grace in my life.  I’ve been feeling a bit dry and didn’t even realize I was thirsting for some living water. If you could use some refreshing, spend a moment soaking in an old, old story . . .

I’ve always loved the story of the Woman at the Well.

I first experienced it as a teen, during a summer spent teaching Backyard Bible Clubs. Once a week for ten weeks, I told the woman’s story. Each time, in a different backyard to a different group of children. The kids and I especially appreciated the visuals, in which a sweet-faced Samaritan woman gazed at Christ from eyes filled with questions.

I remember thinking, She looks just as uncertain about letting this Stranger into her life as I was!

During the fall of my junior year in high school, I gave my life to the Lord. I’d been attending a teen Bible study taught by a young Christian man, who won our hearts with his gentle friendliness and clear teaching. Through the influence of our teacher and my older sister, I became a believer.

Soon, I began attending church and spending time with fellow Christians. Though the folks I met at church and study and youth events were always encouraging and kind, I couldn’t help but feel I’d entered a strange new world.

I wonder if that’s how the Samaritan woman felt on the day she encountered Christ.

It began like any other day. Since she was an outcast, she approached the well late in the morning, after the daughters and mothers and grandmothers of the town had returned to their homes. The passage in John 4 lets us know that she’d been divorced or put away by five different men and now lived with a man who was not her husband. Either the man had refused to marry her, or he was already married to someone else. No respectable woman would have wanted anything to do with her.

Most men, too, would have shunned her. In spite of the fact that some of them should have publicly shared her guilt. They took refuge in a culture which under-valued and demeaned women. Little did they know how far they’d strayed from God’s measure of the value of each individual.

Jesus ignored these social mores and did something completely shocking and revolutionary. He approached the woman in public and spoke with her. Not only did He speak with her, He asked her to give Him a drink.

I think it’s interesting that He asked her to serve Him.

Being needed is a powerful motivation within a woman’s heart, but few of us enjoy all the daily chores that come with being caretakers. However, our relationship with the ones we serve transforms performing those household duties into acts of love.

The Bible doesn’t say what events set this woman on her lonely path in life. But however it began, I can imagine she’d gotten to the point where she looked on the homes around her, homes filled with friends and relatives and precious children, with envy. Perhaps she wished she were drawing water for just such a household.

Instead, she was asked to draw water for the Lord, Himself.

Then Jesus used something the woman would understand, thirsting for water, in order to introduce spiritual truths to her. Their initial interaction went like this:

The Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me for a drink?”

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”

She said to Him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?”

At first, she related to Him on a concrete level. She couldn’t understand why He’d asked her for a drink if He was hiding some secret stash of fresh water.

As their conversation continued, He threw out what seemed to be a completely irrelevant request, “Go call your husband and come here.”

Now Jesus was stepping into even more controversial territory. The woman responded, “I have no husband.” Not exactly the whole truth, but all she wanted Him to know.

Jesus said, “You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.”

And, surprisingly, she didn’t walk away.

They talked further, and the woman mentioned being told of the Messiah, who would come to explain all things to them. At that time, Jesus fully revealed Himself to her with the statement, “I who speak to you am He.”At those words, the woman ran to get the people she knew best, some men of the city.

And here’s the part I find truly amazing. She said to them, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?”

Why was it a good thing that Jesus knew everything about her?

Not only the damage six men had done to her heart, but her own sinful thoughts and acts, too.

I’m convinced that somehow—through the look in His eyes or the tenderness in His voice or the respect in His manner—Jesus communicated this thought:

I see all that you are, the good and the bad, and I cherish you anyway.

He doesn’t join the ranks of our critics, who unfairly judge our words and actions. He doesn’t need to create some false image of us as saints who never do anything wrong. He clearly sees the reality of the true us: all that He intended us to be and how we have both fulfilled and fallen short of His vision.

And Jesus loves us anyway. I love that about Him!

The Bible account ends with, “Many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman.”

So she served Him well that day. And I’m sure her life was never the same.

Perhaps she could have echoed the words of this beautiful poem by Nancy Spiegelberg:

Lord,
I crawled across the barrenness
To You
With my empty cup,
Uncertain in asking
Any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known You better,
I’d have come running
With a bucket.

No ordinary bloggers

Renee Ann Smith —  January 7, 2011 — 25 Comments

I love meeting women from around the country and learning about their lives, goals, hopes, and dreams. So I plan to do some linking up in the weeks to come. How ’bout you? . . .

One of the best things about blogging is the sense of community to be found among the countless women bloggers who frequent cyberspace. Whatever your interest may be, you can find bloggers who share it. I’ve perused blogs centered around the themes of living out your faith, homeschooling, crafting, cooking, raising special needs kids, living with chronic illness, home decorating, frugal living, product reviewing, writing, blogging, and, of course, reading. (Love the book bloggers!)

While surfing through these blogs, I happened upon a site called No Ordinary Blog Hop. This site was started by three bloggers who wanted to highlight the everyday things we say and do that uplift and encourage each other. NOBH featured my little blog this week. So if you’d like to read about how, when, and why I began blogging, you can link to the main page here.

The three hostesses who founded the site, Anna-Marie, Lynda, and Tracy, are homeschoolers who would like to connect with more of you. So take a few minutes to visit NOBH. From there, you can visit each gal’s individual blog through separate links. And if you’re a blogger, maybe you’ll think of some posts you can link to their blog hop that will encourage all the rest of us.

Another great inspirational site for both bloggers and non-bloggers belongs to poet and author Ann Voskamp.

She describes her blog, A Holy Experience, as a “place about finding the beauty and quiet, slowing to see the sacred in the chaos, the Cross in the clothespin, the flame in the bush.” Each Wednesday she hosts a meme where Christian women share posts about the spiritual practices that draw them nearer to the Lord. You can read about her Walk With Him Wednesdays here (scroll to the end of the post). Maybe you’d like to link up a post of your own there soon. If you’re not a blogger, you’ll still gain much from Ann’s site.

The last site I’ll mention is called Seeds of Faith Women, hosted by thirteen or so Christian women in various stages of their lives. Each Wednesday they host a blog hop called iFellowship to give Christian women a place to get to know each other. And you don’t have to host a blog to be part of the gang. You can link a Facebook page or Twitter account. The link goes live late Tuesday night. You can read all about it here.

I also enjoy jumping into general family-friendly blog hops–like Feed Me Friday at From Chalkboards to Strollers–link here and button in my sidebar.

What other great sites do you know about for bringing folks together?

Poet and missionary Amy Carmichael spent years in India working to help the poor, widowed, and orphaned around her. She wrote a book called His Thoughts Said; His Father Said to record conversations between a child of God and his/her Heavenly Father. In this excerpt the Son [Christian] can find no words with which to praise his Beloved [God]:

Amy Carmichael

The Son greatly wished to make a song of lovely things to sing to his Beloved–but he could not find singing words.

He heard the voice of his Beloved saying, “You are walking on the road where all who love Me walk. Some of them walked this way singing, and they’ve left their songs behind them.

Find their songs. Sing their words. They will be your song to Me.”

In 2011, let’s celebrate the Songs of Those Who Love Him wherever we find them.

In great lives from the past. In the words of talented authors. In songs and hymns and spiritual songs. In the lives of inspiring people we meet online. In the lives of everyday folks we find next to us in the pew at church. In whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and excellent.

And let’s encourage each other to stay on the right path–the Road Where All Who Love Him Walk.

I once read a great testimony but could not find the source from feeble attempts at research. A certain hard-living artist/painter came to Christ late in his life. But the bad habits he’d formed over the years proved difficult to break. He often slipped from his resolutions and fell into his old ways. His friends began to ridicule his attempts to share Christ with them. They questioned his Christianity and whether or not his faith was real. His reply went something like this:

If we were all lost in the woods, searching for some way out of the labyrinth of trees and thorns and thickets, and I found the way that led to safety, peace and happiness–whether I walk that road with vigor and purpose or stumble along it drunkenly

It’s still the right road.

Forgive my poetic license and keep that in mind whenever you stumble along the way or fear what lies ahead or feel tempted to find an off ramp.

Perhaps we’ve made bad choices that we cannot undo. Perhaps happy days have passed that we cannot recapture. Perhaps the way forward holds change and uncertainty. Or perhaps the way forward holds too much of the same old thing, and we’re losing our enthusiasm for enduring it.

Take heart, friends. If we’re following the Savior, it’s still the right road!

Happy, happy 2011!

A touch of rosy sunset

Renee Ann Smith —  August 31, 2010 — 8 Comments

For some people, discussing the scientific explanation of a sunset ruins its charm. Not so with me. When I learned why we see those beautiful colors, the sunset became even more precious.

The first interesting fact I learned is that light isn’t actually white. It contains all the colors of the rainbow, all the time, and all the colors blend continuously in with one another. Does this make you question your view of reality? Maybe it should . . . Continue Reading…