Pursuing Purity? (part 2)

I’ll never forget the night I cried out to the Lord, “If it’s really true, if you want a personal relationship with me, I want you!”  I knew I was a sinner and suddenly it all fell into place – Jesus who lived a perfectly sinless life died the death I deserved (Romans 6:23), he died in my place, paying the penalty for my sin, so that I could be justified – redeemed, restored, made whole.  “Just as if I never sinned.”  “Just as if I did everything right!”  At that moment, from the tip of my head all the way down to the bottom of my feet I felt a physical sensation of being made pure. It was wonderful! I think in my case, the Lord knew I needed a bit of extra affirmation!

And I continue to need this! That’s why the second part of pursing purity is found in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Sadly, even though I’ve been walking with Jesus for over thirty years, I still sin daily. And I’m finding taking the time each night before I go to bed to confess my sins, agreeing with God that I was wrong and asking for His help to repent is having a huge impact on my life!

Now whether I take time to confess or not, as a believer in Christ I am pure!  The difference is whether I’m experiencing this or not!  You see, I can get so down at the end of the day, with this sense of having blown it hanging over my head.  When I look in the mirror I don’t see myself the way Jesus does. And of course the enemy loves to point out how much I fail!  He is called the accuser for good reason! (Revelation 12:10)

But when I take time to agree with God and remember what He’s done to make things right and who I am in Him – that He really is faithful and just to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness – does it ever help me remember, embrace and rest in what really is true!  Faith is being sure of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.  And is my faith ever strengthened when I actively take time to remember.  What an incredible gift from the Lord confession is!  It truly is preaching the gospel to myself daily!

It not only makes me so much more aware of my need for Jesus, but most importantly makes me appreciate even more how much it cost Him to pay the penalty for my sin and realize even more how incredible His love is for me!

Now remember sin isn’t just what you do, but can also be how you do what you do as well as what you don’t do.

Recently I was having a quiet time in Isaiah 64:6 and it hit me ~ if even my most righteous acts are like filthy rags (the English Standard version reads “polluted garments” ~ talk about impure!) then I need to be confessing them too! Confessing how my motives sure can be mixed! Or how I fail to fully carry out what the Lord wants me doing. Has this ever been a humbling eye opener to start being intentional about confessing this!

And sin can also be failing to do something I should be doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 nails me every day – this makes it clear it’s God’s will in everything for me to give thanks! I’m sad to say even after all these years of walking with Jesus I often don’t. And what about the two verses right before it: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.  Once again I fall so far short in both. And what about all the time I waste on other things when I could be praising and adoring the Lord – when I’m focused on me, and not on Him or get sidetracked with my own agenda rather than seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness?! (Matthew 6:33)

What a difference it’s having in my life as I’m actively seeking to confess these things on a daily basis. I have never been more humbled especially when I take time to consider how even the most righteous things I do are tainted. Does it ever help me see even more how much I need Jesus to save me not just once but every single day!   And as a result I appreciate Him even more!


I love to use the acronym A-C-T-S, taking time before bed to:

Adore the Lord,

Confess (then write in red on top of it, “Paid in Full!”)

Thank Him! and then

Share with Him the concerns on my heart both for myself and others around me.

To be honest I often don’t go straight through from A to S! Usually I start with confession, thanks just flows so naturally out of that as well as sharing my concerns and I often end up with Adoration. For me, that’s a powerful place to end up, intentionally taking time to remember who Jesus is.

What a great way to prepare my heart to rest for the night!

So the two most important ways to pursue purity are both about pursuing Jesus – first through entering into a personal relationship with him where I accept what He’s done for me and trust that was sufficient to atone for my sin and then secondly, through confession.

But it doesn’t come “naturally” to confess, does it? I find I have to be intentional! And to be honest, I haven’t met many believers who take Jesus up on his offer in 1 John 1:9 very often. Oh, maybe for the “biggies” but not the dailys – and are they ever missing out on growing in loving Jesus even more as a result (Luke 7:47) and experiencing the purity that truly is theirs!

In James 5:16 another aspect of confession is revealed as we’re commanded, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”  Biblically confession isn’t just a private thing!  But something we are to do with each other!  And it’s not just that younger women should confess to older women.  I even did this with my son when he was growing up.  When I’d lose my temper, I’d come to him and confess my sin and ask him to pray for me!  Talk about humbling!  But also life changing – for both of us!

When older women will not just share their struggles but ask younger women to pray for them can this ever create an environment of safety and a healthy God honoring view of our continued need for him – and pave the way for younger women to seek out older women to confess to!

This is a simple but life changing way older women can spur younger women on, and teach them to be pure ~ model it! Let them see your continued need for Jesus!  And for others to pray for you!

I know when I was younger I honestly thought by the time I’d been walking with Jesus ten years I’d really have it together! And when I hit that mark I actually got depressed, how could it be that I was seeing even more sin in my life?!

I really believe this is a key reason why we are told in scripture older women are to train the younger women to be pure. It’s so easy when you’re young to fall into the trap of believing if I just try harder I can be pure.  But the longer you live and the harder you try – trust me, you soon know the futility of that!  We need Jesus!  And each other!

So share with her your struggles along with the truth that in Christ you are pure!  And in Christ she is too!  Forever clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus even on her worst day!  What a difference this can make in a believer’s life to keep her running to God and not from Him! (Genesis 3:10)



To Be Pure…



In Titus 3:5-6 Paul instructs older women to teach what is good so younger women can learn to be… pure!  Did you catch that?  Purity is something that is learned!

Contrast this with the popular thought that purity is something to be retained, something you don’t want to lose.

But scripture makes it clear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) and David even says in Psalm 51:5, “Surly I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”  It’s so easy to look at an adorable baby and think he or she is a blank slate, entering the world pure, but that’s not what scripture teaches.  In Isaiah 64:6 we’re told even our righteous acts are like filthy rags!

The Greek word used here for purity is ἀγνος which means “pertaining to being without moral defect or blemish and hence pure.” (Louw and Nida).  It is closely related to ἀγιος which means “pertaining to being holy in the sense of superior moral qualities and possessing certain essentially divine qualities in contrast with what is human —‘holy, pure, divine.”

So how does one learn to be like this?

In John 1:29 when John the Baptist sees Jesus coming towards him he exclaims, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  And 1 John 1:7 says, “the blood of Jesus Christ God’s son cleanses us from all sin.”  And 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just, to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   Purity comes from Jesus! You learn to be pure by learning to run to Him and receive the cleansing that only He can give.

So here is the reality – if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) After David commits adultery with Bathsheba then arranges the murder of her husband, when he finally repents he exclaims, “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”  Psalm 51:7

Do you realize if you have entered into a relationship with Jesus, you have been made whiter than snow?  You are pure.

But there’s someone who doesn’t want you to get this!  The enemy knows if he can get you to keep seeing yourself as an impure mess, it’s much easier to get you to fall and isolate you.

A few months ago I cringed in horror as Anna on Downton Abbey was raped.  And if that wasn’t bad enough it was heartbreaking to go all month watching the effects of this on her relationship with her husband Bates.  She even moved out of their house!  When he finally discovers the truth, she shares she didn’t tell him because she was embarrassed and felt soiled.  But what a difference it makes in their relationship when he takes her in his arms affirming he doesn’t see her that way at all!  What we believe about ourselves really makes a huge difference in our relationships!

So please get this – ever since the Fall (Genesis 3) no one, other than Jesus, is born pure!  There is only one way we can be made pure and continue pure and that is through Jesus.

In the next few posts we’ll look at practical ways older women can help younger women learn do this!

Where The Rubber Meets the Road…

One of the worst decisions we ever made was the purchase of our first home.  We started out with a realistic perspective on how much we were going to spend, but as the realtor showed us different homes each one was more expensive than the previous one.  When she finally showed us a home recently featured in our town’s Parade of Homes, containing everything we’d ever dreamed of and more, we were hooked!  When we asked, “Can we really afford this?!”  She smiled and assured us we could.  That night we signed a contract… which left us “house poor” for the next five years!

No one told us the realtor was working for the seller, trying to get us to spend as much as we possibly could.  We had no idea you can get approved to borrow more than you can really afford.  Now Jim at this time was a very successful salesman.  It was a pretty heady feeling seeing how his income kept increasing dramatically each year.  Little did we know a recession would start almost as soon as the ink on our contract dried greatly reducing his income.

So we lived in a gorgeous home… barely scraping by.

To get by I started couponing like crazy.  Each week I would spend at least 2 hours doing this and hitting all the grocery stores to take advantage of deals.  When we purchased our next home, we paid almost half of what our first one cost and discovered the joy of having “extra money”  …to give, to save, to pay extra on the house to get it paid off quicker.  And I thought, “I never want to go back to being poor again!”

But then the Lord convicted me of my extreme couponing, pointing out how this was based on fear, not on following Him.  Instead, He led me to do all my grocery shopping at one store.  Of course I’d still take advantage of the sales they offered, but it was amazing the opportunities I had to share Jesus and see His gospel advance as I spent more time in one store and developed relationships seeing the same employees each week.  And instead of spending two hours a week couponing and shopping for deals, He led me to use that time to disciple another woman.

Then when the Lord called us to go on staff with The Navigators and we had to move, necessitating the purchase of our third home I gave strict boundaries for how much we’d spend, refusing to look at anything costing much more than the house we’d just sold.  But one night the Lord convicted me I was reacting out of fear, fear of being house poor again, fear of living off support which varied from month to month, fear of not having enough, rather than following Him and He challenged me instead to trust Him. Eventually He led us to buy a home that cost more than our first home!  But every single part of it proved to be a vital part of the ministry He had for us!  And He provided what we needed to live well and love well in that home.

You see, in Titus 2:3-5 the third reason Paul says older women are to train the younger women in what is good is so they can be σωφρων.  Different versions translate this to be self-controlled, to live wisely, to be sensible, to be discreet, to use good judgment, to be temperate.  Historically this word was the mean between license and stupidity, frivolity and covetousness.  Paul considers it a virtue describing the Christian life in the world where “faith manifests itself in a proper attitude to the world and its goods,” one of moderation and content.*  As it says in Ecclesiastes 7:18, “Whoever is wise will avoid extremes.”

What a difference it can make when older women will come alongside younger women and help them learn what it looks like to live out a life trusting Jesus in practical matters.  It’s so easy to focus on shared quiet times and Bible study, but we also need help learning how that translates into our everyday living – and this doesn’t look the same for everyone!

For example, I’m not saying couponing is wrong!  But as Romans 14:23 says, “anything that does not come from faith is sin” and for me this was not coming from faith!  But if the Lord leads you to coupon by all means do!   But can it ever be wise to ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?  Is this motivated by fear or by faith?”  In the area of our finances this is vitally important for as Jesus says, “Where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)

“House lust” is what we call the insanity that sets in when you go crazy “falling in love” with something more than you can afford.  When you’re young, in your first job, experiencing the first tastes of success, with money in your bank account it’s so easy to get sucked into the American dream… until it turns into a nightmare!  Can it ever help when older women will walk with those younger helping them traverse through this critical time.  Conversely, others may be more prone to become hoarders – and I don’t just mean with packed garages, but with packed bank accounts, storing up treasure on earth rather than making eternal investments!

To take young believers through a Biblical course in managing money can be such a help!  But remember there needs to be a focus on following Jesus even in this.  When a young woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet the disciples rebuked her for the waste, but Jesus rebuked them saying, “She has done a beautiful thing for me.”  And while the Bible has much to say on the wisdom of saving, we also see Jesus telling a rich young ruler to “go sell all that you have and follow me.”

Remember discipleship is about helping someone live as a disciple of Jesus – as a learner and follower of Him.  And that’s not just concerning things traditionally considered “spiritual” but in all of life, including our finances and financial decisions!

But please note the word σωφρων is much broader than just relating to money.  It literally means, “to be self-disciplined in one’s freedom; self-restrained in all passions and desires.”** We’ll look at another aspect of this in the next post!


*Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Geoffrey Bromiley, editor, p. 1151.

** The Complete Word Study Dictionary:  New Testament” Spiros Zodhiates, editor, p. 1363.

Loving Your Children

When my son was finally born after three hours of pushing, I was utterly exhausted, but nothing can begin to describe the love that flooded my heart as I took him in my arms!  I could sit for hours just looking at him in wonder!  If anyone asked me, “Do you love your son?”  I would’ve said, “You better believe I do!”  And I do love him tremendously, but that doesn’t mean I always love him well.

Love as the Bible defines it is not a feeling.  And caring for children is one of the hardest jobs you can ever do!  Remember 1 Corinthians 13:4 – the measure of your love is not how you feel for your child, but how patient and kind you are to them… and not just in your “best” moments, but even when you’re sleep deprived and they are fussy and nothing you do can satisfy them or they’ve just learned the word “no” and are being off the charts irrational!

And being patient and kind is just the first part of this description!

When Paul instructs older women to teach what is good so  younger women will love their children, he is implying that younger women need help learning to love their children.

Note he doesn’t say older women should instruct “some” younger women to do this!

It is so important younger women understand all women need help learning to love their children!

Yet there seems to be an unspoken belief that a “good mom” should know what to do, should instinctively know how to love her child, and know what’s best for her child.  But this is a dangerous way of thinking ~ if you think to be a “good mom” you’re supposed to have this figured out, when an older woman approaches to give advice, it’s so easy to take it personally and take offense, walk away and miss out.

The truth is we all are deficient as moms and we all need older women to speak into our lives, teaching us what is good so we can love our children.

I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite part of discipling because it’s often like traversing a mine field.  I never know when someone is going to get upset or interpret what I’m saying as “she thinks I’m not a good mom” or if they do hear me out, start making excuses, “you just don’t know my child” or  “I’m already doing that.”

Like one time I was talking with a young mom about discipline and while holding her toddler she said, “But I do I discipline my child, I say no” and as the child started playing with the earring she was wearing, she said, “No” and pushed the child’s hand away, then “no…no….no…” again and again as the child continued to play with the earring until finally she exclaimed, “Oh all right, here” and she took the earring out of her ear and gave it to the child saying, “but don’t put it in your mouth.”

Now it’s easy to read a story like that and clearly see there’s a problem, but when you’re in the middle of life it’s not always so clear, is it?

But if you realize this is something no one “naturally” knows how to do, can that ever help you remain teachable.

And if we realize this is something we all need to learn and something God wants older women to help us learn can that ever spur us on to take initiative asking for input!

When our son was young we started actively looking for older couples who seemed to have done a good job parenting and we asked if we could take them out for dinner and hear their advice.  Did this ever prove to be a gold mine!

I’ll never forget one couple who met with us a number of times as our son was growing – they had three boys who all grew up to love the Lord and still are actively seeking to advance His kingdom , something we highly value – now these were active boys who were far from perfect – oh the treasures those parents passed onto us and the ideas they gave for parenting and loving active, strong willed, often mischievous boys well!

But here’s the kicker, despite seeking out input from older women and being committed to parenting our son as best as I could, I still fell short in so many ways.  One of the best things I had to learn to do was to confess to my son when I blew it and ask him to pray for me.  Did that ever model the gospel for him.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – including his mom!

So even getting the best advice doesn’t mean you’ll do everything perfectly – we all have blind spots, times when we feel like we’re loving our child but maybe our motives are totally off and we’re just doing what feels good for us at the moment.  This is why you don’t just need advice occasionally but it’s so important to invite those around you to keep giving you feedback, to ask, “Please would you let me know if you see me doing something that doesn’t seem to be loving as I parent my child.”

This is one area of discipling where it’s so important that younger women take initiative, simply because so many older women have been hurt when trying to do this.

And the best way to start doing this is asking the Lord to bring older women into your life who can help you learn to do this. Can this ever help you receive correction and instruction when it does come – so you’re seeing it as an answer to prayer and not a rebuke or imposition.

Yes, not all advice is going to be helpful!  So ask the Lord to give you wisdom to know what to accept and apply in your life and what to forget!  But what a difference it can make when you realize people giving you advice, even correcting you is an act of love.  Even if the advice isn’t the best you can still be thankful for it.

The book of Proverbs is filled with verses related to how a wise man invites, listens to, and appreciates correction.  Does this ever speak volumes to how hard it can be to receive this – it takes wisdom to receive correction well and appreciate it!

It is much easier to give and get input before you start doing something.  So for older women, let me encourage you, make the most of the time you have investing in younger women before they have kids, to prepare them to love their children well.  There tends to be much more openness during this season than after the baby comes out!

And one of the best ways you can help prepare her is to alert her to this trap of the enemy.  Help her understand that loving her children is something she needs to learn (I’m still learning and my baby is 23!), that all women need to learn and it’s something she’s going to need ongoing input from those around her to do well.  Helping her come to grips with this and even doing a word study with her on correction to help her learn to see it as a gift, can help you continue to disciple her well even after kids come!

This is such a critical part of discipleship, which is why the enemy works so hard to reinforce these lies, incite pride and isolate women regarding this!  But truly one of the best ways women can love their children is by being teachable!


Two other key implications flowing from the reality that loving our children is something everyone is deficient in and needs to learn to do:

  1. Asking God daily to help you learn to love your child can really help! (we don’t pray for what we don’t see a need for!  But can praying this daily ever serve as a reminder this is something we need help with!  And what wisdom it is to go to the Lord asking for the help He so delights to give!  I still pray this!  And you wouldn’t believe the ideas and insight He gives in response!!!)
  2. Remember love is a fruit of the spirit and Jesus says in John 15:5 “He who abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”  This is sooooo key!  I remember when my son was a baby he was up at 5:30 am like clockwork every morning clamoring to be fed so I had to give up having my quiet time before doing anything!  So I committed to taking the first opportunity I could to get time alone with God.  And you have to know during those days, the time he spent napping was so precious, so many things screamed at me to do them and you better believe the temptation was intense to do them, but I committed that I would seek first to get time with the Lord as soon as I could – and what a difference it made.  I cannot underscore how thankful I am for those daily decisions to make getting time with the Lord a priority.

Love Is A Choice

When Ruth Bell Graham (wife of evangelist Billy Graham) was asked if she’d ever considered divorce, she replied, “Divorce?  No.  Murder?  Yes!”

Marriage is hard.  Even if you get to choose who you’re going to be married to!  Imagine living in a time where your parents do the choosing, often years before you ever say, “I do!”

Small wonder one of the first things Paul instructs older women to teach younger women is how to love their husbands.  The Greek word used here is πιλανδρους which literally means “to have affection for one’s husband.”  When Paul was writing this most likely many women got engaged with zero affection for their husband as marriages were arranged.  Isn’t it wild to realize that having affection for one’s husband is something you can be taught?!

Having been married for over 27 years Jim and I have seen a lot of ups and downs – and some of those downs have taken us as low as we can go, where feelings totally flatlined.  There have been at least three times when I reached the point where all feelings died, where I simply felt no affection for him at all.

The first time happened after we’d been married two years.  In fact, I was ready to walk away from him and our marriage.  We were actually overseas at the time and I was staying an extra week to spend time with a friend.  I’ll never forget saying goodbye to him on the coast in England not caring if I ever saw him again.

But a few days later as I spent time with the Lord, He asked me, “Do you believe I brought you and Jim together?”  and I answered, “Yes, Lord.”  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt He had.  Then He said, “To walk away from him is to walk away from me.” And I thought, “I can live without him, but I can’t live without you!” So I decided to return to him and press on despite the pain and my feelings being totally dead towards him.

And here’s the crazy thing, as I did, those feelings came back, even more intense than before!  Over the course of 27 years, I’ve experienced this happening a number of times!

It is so vital that younger women understand this!

I’ll never forget a friend telling me.  “It’s over.  I don’t have any feelings for my husband anymore.  Our marriage is dead.”  What a difference it can make when we remember, God can raise the dead!

And when we remember, “Love is a choice!”  Feelings come and feelings go, and every marriage is going to pass through difficult times.  Any woman who has been married for any length of time can attest to this.  But you sure don’t see this in the movies!  And sadly, that’s where so many women learn about “loving” their husbands.

In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 we are given a description of love.  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast.  It is not proud.  It is not rude.  It is not self-seeking.  It is not easily angered.  Love keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects.  Always trusts.  Always hopes.  Always perseveres.  Love never fails.

Do you see any mention of romantic feelings there?!

One thing I’ve found so clearly through the years, when I seek to live out love as described in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, feelings follow.  Feelings are a result, not something you pursue!  And certainly not something that’s magically there and when they vanish forever gone!

For example, when I’ve kept a record of wrongs and not been intentional in forgiving my husband (and when you live in close proximity to someone in this broken, fallen world, do you ever have ample opportunity to get hurt and be hurt by them!) has that ever taken a toll on our relationship.  When this happens the slightest thing he does can set me off (talk about being easily angered!).  But when I take the time to process what’s happened and forgive him, the difference in our relationship is HUGE!  (there’s more info on how I do this in the “Heal” section on this website).

Another thing that’s really helped – In my early years of marriage an older woman challenged me to take time each day to write down ten things about my husband I was thankful for!  At first, since at the time we were really struggling, it was hard to think of anything.  I started out, “He doesn’t beat me.”  But you know as I did this simple exercise it made  such a difference in my relationship with Jim.

You see, this side of heaven, everyone is a mixed bag – of strengths and weaknesses.  The only perfect person who ever walked this earth was Jesus – and he never married!  The enemy so loves to get us focused on our husband’s weaknesses (and comparing them to some other man’s strength – forgetting that other man has weaknesses too!).  But I found as I prayed with thanks for Jim did it ever help me gain a more balanced view – and remember the blessings of who the Lord has created him to be (and yes, they are many!)  Following Paul’s encouragement in Philippians 4:6-7 to pray with thanks is so important!

In fact, praying for my husband has been a key part of loving him well through the years.    For nearly 20 years I have sought to pray weekly with a friend for an hour each week for our husbands.  I cannot recommend this highly enough.  It has helped me persevere in loving Jim through our darkest seasons.

Back around 1995 when we attended a Family Life Marriage Conference (something I highly recommend!!!)  the speaker shared how she met weekly with a group of women to pray for their husbands and she handed out a basic outline they followed.  Right away I went home, found a prayer partner, and dove in!  You wouldn’t believe the answers to prayer we’ve seen!  But more than that, as I take time to intentionally lift my husband before the Father’s throne, does it ever impact me.  It’s like the Lord uses that time in a powerful way to give me His perspective on my marriage… and on my part in it! (yes, I can be a challenge to live with too!)

One other help has been praying through a bookmark entitled, “Seeing My Husband the Way Jesus Does.” Whenever I’m struggling, when those feelings start to falter, I pull out this bookmark (see below) and go walk and pray – and what a huge help it’s proved to be.  As I’m praying for him, I’m reminded how God sees him and what’s true about who he really is.

These are just a couple suggestions for things I seek to pass on to the women I meet with to help them learn how to love their husbands.  What’s helped you?  What is currently helping you?  Draw from that treasure and pass it on!  Younger women so need this encouragement and so need you to share your struggles and what’s helping you persevere!

Marriage is hard.  Thankfully not all the time!  :0)  But you’ve got to learn to persevere through the hard times if you want to enjoy the sweet ones over a lifetime.  What a difference it can make when older women will step up to the plate and help younger women learn to do this!



Seeing My Husband The Way Jesus Does…

      is in Christ

Thank You for immersing my husband in Christ. Thank you for grafting him into the true vine.

      is blessed

Thank you for continually speaking well of him and favoring him in every possible way.

      is chosen

Thank you for picking him for yourself, like a groom marrying the bride he desires.

      is holy

Thank You for setting him aside for yourself, just like the best silver is set aside for special occasions

      is without blemish

Thank you that when you look at him, you do not focus on all his failures. Thank you for focusing on the best part of him, the part You have perfected, his innermost being.

      is adopted

Thank you, Father, that he is wanted. Thank you for coming to him, extending Your hand, pulling him to Your side, and making all the necessary arrangements to make him Your very own.

      is God’s child

Thank you for making him Your beloved child, in whom You are well pleased, for allowing him to bear your likeness, for making him your pride and joy.

      is free from sin’s power

Thank you for liberating him from his old master. Thank you for saving him from his enemy.

      is forgiven

Thank You that You now hold nothing against him. Thank you for not expecting him to make up for the ways he has failed you.

      is favored

Thank You for making him one of Your favorites. Thank You for hovering over him with a special loving attention, like a parent with a firstborn child.

      is wealthy

Thank You that as Your child he has an inheritance that provides all he needs. Thank You that he will always have more than he needs.

      is secure

Thank You for enveloping him in Your love so that he is sealed, secure and safe. Thank You for shielding and sheltering him by Your Spirit.

      is called

Thank You for giving him an exciting, fulfilling direction. Thank You for showing him why he is here and where he is going.

      is praiseworthy

Thank You for filling him with Your glory. Thank You for bragging about him as Your prized inheritance.

      is capable

Thank You that You love to show Your extraordinary power in him. Thank You that he is therefore qualified & able to do all You want him to do.

      is alive with Christ’s life

Thank You that since You came into his heart, he is born again – born from above and bursting with real life.

      is seated with Christ in heaven

Thank You for placing him with Christ in a position of extraordinary privilege and authority.

      is God’s masterpiece

Thank You for making him Your personal work of art. Thank You that he is the work of a Craftsman, not a mistake.

      is close to God

Thank You for not holding him at arm’s length. Thank You for pulling him to Your side in a prolonged embrace.

      is an insider

Thank You for making him a true citizen in Your kingdom. Thank You for making him a true member of Your household, no longer an outsider.

      is God’s mobile home

Thank You for moving into his heart. Thank You that he is now Your house, Your temple, Your tent.

      is promised great things

Thank You for making such priceless commitments to him. Thank You for letting him experience what others strive to obtain.

      is loved

Thank You for loving him the way he longs to be loved. Thank You that he can’t wear out Your love. Thank you for continuing to win his trust by convincing him of the depth of Your love.

      is a new creation

Thank You for completely remodeling his innermost being, his spirit. Thank You that all things in him are truly new.

      is righteous

Thank You for making everything right in his innermost being. Thank You for placing the holy and living Spirit of Your Son in him.

      is the light of the world

Thank You for making the light of Your life shine in him. Thank You for making him Your flashlight, shining into the darkness around him.

      is nourished

Thank You for satisfying his thirst and hunger. Thank You for the Bread of Life that fills him. Thank You for the Living Water welling up in his soul.

      is cherished

Thank You for adoring and treasuring him, like a parent marveling over a newborn baby.

      is Christ’s body

Thank You that although You once lived among Your people in an elaborate tent, and then You walked among us in a Galilean body, now You truly live in him. Thank You that he is actually a member of Your body.

      is united with Christ

Thank You for becoming one with him, as a husband becomes one flesh with his wife.

      is strong

Thank You that with You living in him, he can face anything. Thank You that every battle, test and victory belong to You.

Note: contents adapted from David Lyons’ booklet Now That I Am Born Again.

What’s In Your Pantry?!

One of my friends has an amazing pantry!  It’s so big you can walk into it!  But the best part of all – there is a place for everything and everything is in its place.  When she needs something she knows right where to go!  Even better, when someone pops over unexpectedly she can go in there and get the goods to whip up something delicious right on the spot for she keeps her pantry well stocked!


What a difference a pantry can make!  If you don’t have one, you end up sticking things wherever you can!  And if you have a tiny one that’s not organized, it’s so easy to lose things, forgetting they are even there!

Do you have a pantry?  If so, what shape is it in?  And what impact does this have on your life?


And what does this have to do with discipling women?!

There’s a fascinating verse in Matthew 13:52 “And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

Oh how I encourage you to spend time camping out in that verse asking the Lord to open your eyes so you can see wonderful things in it!

I’ll never forget when Barb Choat was discipling me she shared this verse and challenged me to take time to create a “pantry” writing down in an organized way the treasures that have helped me in my walk with the Lord.  Now I am not God’s gift to organization, but I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this was… and continues to be!

There’s not one right way to organize a pantry.  In fact, if you google “organize your pantry” or go to youtube you will find tons of articles and videos on how to do this.*  This isn’t about getting it right, but getting it down!  And getting the stuff that’s benefitted you into a usable format, where you can remember it so you can pass it on to others!

For example, on my “prayer shelf” I have prayers from scripture, the ACTS acronym, 100 Descriptions of God handout, Praying for My Husband handout, a daily prayer journal featuring quotes from E.M. Bounds that really spurred me on in my prayer life that I condensed into a booklet I can share with others, an article on rewriting Psalms in the first person, a video by Philip Yancey on prayer… and a host of other treasures!

I always start with asking, “What’s helped me?”  I don’t put in my pantry things I haven’t used.  What a difference it can make when you minister out of the overflow of your own life!

When I first start meeting with women who want to learn how to disciple others, I will often ask them to compile their pantry.  First, it helps them see they really do have a lot more to offer than they ever dreamed!  It’s just behind the couch, in the hall closet, under the bed… metaphorically speaking!  But once they start praying through what’s helped them grow and start filling their pantry shelves, its neat to see their excitement realizing they already have stuff to share!

Secondly, it helps us see where her strengths and weaknesses are – especially what areas in her life might need strengthening.  And keeps me from planning something for our one on one she’s already done!

One other benefit in compiling a pantry is it gets you remembering what helped when you first started out.  What’s helping you today may not be the best thing to help a new believer get started.

On each “shelf” I include everything from articles, to videos, to books, illustrations and stories, to handouts and tools I’ve created or picked up along the way that help me.

Here are some ideas for categories or “shelves” you could use to organize your pantry:

You could organize an entire section calling it “The Word” and have a shelf for scripture memory, another for Bible study, another for meditating, another for application, another for quiet times and also extended times with God…

You could also have a section dedicated to character:  with a shelf for patience, another for perseverance, another for humility, another for kindness…. and place on each shelf things that help you grow in each area.

And speaking of that last shelf be sure you include shelves for each of the categories listed in Titus 2:4-5!!!  Remember this is a key list revealing what the Lord wants older women teaching younger women – so you could have a shelf for loving your husband, another for loving your children, one for being self controlled, another for pursuing purity, as well as one for being busy at home, kindness, and submission.

If you’re not a visual learner or artistically inclined, your “shelves” can be lists!  In fact, even if you are artistically inclined you may find starting out with lists helps you know how much space to allot for each section.

And it’s ok to have empty shelves!!!  The Lord may actually use these to spur you on to grow in new areas!  And yes, empty shelves can be humbling too… serving as a great reminder there’s always room to grow!

And just like with kindness, some of your shelves may overlap!  That’s always the tricky part for me in putting a pantry together!  Just remember, you don’t have to do this perfectly!  The idea is to know what you have and be able to find it and be reminded of it so that it’s even more usable!  When you’re praying about what to do with the woman you meet with this can be such an incredible help rather than just hoping God will bring something to mind from out of the blue!

Other shelves can be for evangelism, fellowship, obedience, assurance of salvation… as well as conflict resolution, forgiveness, love languages, personality types… whatever is of value to you in growing as you follow Jesus!

But I will say one of my favorites and most used is “Trusting God” which is filled with God’s names (“those who know your name will trust in you”  Psalm 9:10) as well as His promises and creative ways to help a woman learn about these and incorporate them actively into her life so she experiences how very great and precious they are, and so they help her grow in trusting the Lord (for more on this see the article in the “Helps” section entitled “Promise Based Follow Up”)

Just as each person’s journey is unique so are the materials the Lord uses to help her grow – and you grow!  This is why every woman’s pantry is going to be distinct!  I have a huge prayer shelf!  Prayer played a key role in me coming to Christ as well as in my daily walk with Him.  I don’t have as much on that busy at home shelf…

This is why it can also be helpful to encourage those you disciple to get time with other women too! For example, if someone you’re meeting with was sexually abused but you never were, ask the Lord to bring into her life another woman who can share with her what’s helped her deal with this – that may be through a book or in person, but don’t feel like you have to be the only one pouring into her!

And note how it says in Matthew 13:52 “new as well as old!”  Don’t let your pantry get static!  A disciple is a learner!  We are to continually be adding to this!  When I come across an area where someone I’m meeting with wants to grow but I’m deficient in that area I often arrange for us both to meet with someone who is strong there – so we can learn together!

And this has always been one of my favorite things about conferences and summer training programs as that provides a time when a bunch of disciplers come together and you can ask “What’s in your pantry?” learn from each other and exchange treasures!!!

Now some tools you may feel like you have a better grasp on than others so when creating your pantry, you may want to pencil in things you’d like to get more practice with and then put in bold those things you use regularly and have down pat.

Like my quiet time – I’ve been doing that nearly every day for 3o years so it’s bold on my chart!  But a new tool I’m currently learning is coaching, where you ask questions rather than tell – I know, sounds pretty basic, but it’s opening up whole new opportunities in helping “adolescent” and more mature believers who have a good foundation but are still in need of some guidance.  I’m still very much in the early stages in learning how to do this well so I’m just penciling that in on my pantry.  I can pass it on but not in the same way as I can quiet times!

See your pantry as a work in process, a lifelong work in process!

So what’s in your pantry?  Let me encourage you, if you don’t yet have one, create one!  Has this ever been of benefit to me and those I meet with!


*Taking time to consider a real pantry can help you create a written discipleship pantry!  One person who has helped me learn how to organize is Susan Stewart.  You can see her video on “Organizing your Pantry and refrigerator” here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fY9GVH3a7VY

And here’s a link to a fascinating article with links to 14 pantry makeovers!  One key thing that stood out to me while reading through some of these… it wasn’t easy and they didn’t always get it right the first time, but kept trying until they found something workable!


Following God When He Leads from Behind

We have a new Christmas eve tradition of going ice skating with my sister and her family.  I can’t even begin to tell you how fun it is even though I’m still a bit wobbly.  I have great respect for Olympic athletes who make it look so easy!

The only bummer is this year I somehow managed to lose my gloves, the only gloves I have that aren’t heavy duty for biking.  So the day after Christmas wearing dress gloves I biked across town hoping to find my lost gloves turned in so I could get them back.  As the lady pulled out glove after glove from a huge box of things left behind, not one was mine.  Afterwards, I sat on the bench outside wondering, “Lord, why did that have to happen?  And why did I just waste all of this time coming over here?”  As I got back on my bike I decided to take a different way home.

Now on my trip to the ice rink I passed right by a used Christian bookstore and thought, “oooh!  I could stop there on the way back!”  but when I decided to head back a new way through town I figured that wasn’t going to happen.  But as I took one street after another – remember with the hills out here you can’t just go straight across town on one road! – can you believe I ended up on a street that dead ended right across from the bookstore?!  So being an off the charts bibliophile I went in!

Now I was pretty surprised that I ended up there so I asked the Lord as I entered, “Is there a book here you want me reading?  If so, would you please guide me to it!”  This is an amazing used book store loaded with books from floor to ceiling!  Every month they place a different section on sale with those books half off.  This month it was their “Christian Living” books so I decided to look in that section.  After pulling two possibilities off the shelves I looked down at a stack on the floor where a cover caught my attention, “Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes” by Jeff Cook.  Sitting down on the floor I started to read the other two books first.  They were pretty light stuff – but when I opened Jeff Cook’s book I was blown away at how his words resonated in my soul.

Now I only had 15 minutes to be there as I didn’t bring bike lights so I  needed to get home before dark.  I grabbed the book by Jeff Cook – and have been reading it since, absolutely amazed at how the Lord has been meeting me there, even answering questions I’ve been asking Him!

What an incredible discipler the Lord is!  I am so amazed at how He guides, even when I haven’t a clue!  I thought I was biking across town to get gloves!

And you know even in those light books that I read a chapter from but didn’t buy the Lord also spoke to my heart.

In one I read a story about George Whitefield – how when his wife was pregnant he thought the Lord told him the baby was going to be a son who would follow in his footsteps as a great preacher and he boldly announced this to everyone.  But then the boy died a few months after birth and the author went on to talk about listening to God and said while we need to be careful and use caution when we think the Lord is speaking to us regarding something nonBiblical, we also don’t want to fall into the trap where we view following God as walking a tightrope – one misstep and you’re a goner!  We need to remember He is our shepherd and He is so able to catch us and help us if we make a wrong move while seeking to follow Him.

Has that image ever been resonating in my mind.  You see, if I think of following God as walking on a tightrope, I’m not going to want to take that next step until I’m absolutely certain God is telling me to – can that ever paralyze you!  And cause you to miss out!  As in the case of my bike riding and book finding – God doesn’t always lead us by telling us what the next step is.  Sometimes He directs us mysteriously as we’re moving!

As it says in Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the left or the right, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.”  Sometimes God leads from behind!  I find that takes far greater faith than waiting for a neon sign!

I realize I don’t know what I need to know, that God’s ways aren’t my ways and I want to live a life of total dependence on the Lord, but often I’m finding that means crying out to Him to guide me and trusting Him to do so without having to tell me each step in advance.

In fact, I’m finding the clearer His direction is, that usually means the situation is going to be a harder one and I’m going to need that clarity to get me through!  So I’m starting to learn to welcome those murky times, when I’m just not sure what to do, or why I’m doing what I’m doing – because just like with the gift of the book, I am always even more amazed to look back and see how His hand was at work guiding me when I didn’t have a clue!

He knows I’m like a two year old spiritually in my ability to discern His will.  The question isn’t, “Do I know the right way to go” but “have I declared my dependence asking Him to get me where I need to be even when I don’t know.”  And just like the Perfect Father He is, He’s got me covered!

One of my friends was accepted to two programs for grad school and wasn’t sure which one to take.  So she asked my advice and I said, “Go where you know you’ll have the best fellowship” which meant “come to the school I’m at!” So she did!  But it didn’t take long till she realized that program was not at all suited for her learning style. Two weeks in she was pulling her hair out, decided to contact the other program which started later, found out they hadn’t yet filled her spot so she switched schools and ended up exactly where the Lord wanted her!  And did he ever provide great fellowship too!

Do you see how God was at work in that?!  He doesn’t want us to walk in fear, afraid of taking the next step.  He really is an amazing shepherd!  Even if we go the wrong way, as long as our heart truly is seeking to follow Him, inviting His intervention, we can rest in Him, trusting Him that He will guide us and get us where we need to be.

What an amazing God He is!

Discipleship Lessons from the Christmas Story ~ The Blessing of Each Other!

Luke’s account of the Christmas story begins with failure.

After years of disappointment Zechariah receives an angelic visitor telling him his prayer has been heard and his wife is going to bear him a son!  But instead of joy, he responds with disbelief.

“How shall I know this?  For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years…”  and he ends up voiceless for the next nine months as a consequence.

Fast forward ten verses and the angel Gabriel makes another visit, this time to a young girl.  When he tells her she’s going to get pregnant without ever having known a man, and before she’s even married, she responds, after a little clarification, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  What faith!

But here’s the question ~ was Mary more spiritually mature than Zechariah?

Remember, Zechariah is introduced as being righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.  That’s a pretty incredible intro!

Now we can’t measure spiritual maturity on the basis of this alone, but here’s a thought ~ it’s one thing to trust the Lord when you are young and have no idea what you’re getting into.  It’s a whole other to trust him after decades of disappointment, when you’ve finally resigned yourself to the reality your last opportunity passed years ago, when you’ve hoped and hurt so many times…

Does this ever illustrate why we need each other!  Why the Lord tells older believers to invest in younger ones!  Not just so the young will benefit but so those older will too.

Yes, when you’re older you’ve had more time for your roots to grow deeper into the Lord – no amount of excitement can ever take the place of that.  But, well, I guess I should say each season of life brings challenges in trusting and following Jesus.

Younger believers often have a harder time persevering because their roots aren’t as deep so there can be much benefit for them having someone older come alongside encouraging and helping them hang in there when life turns out far more difficult than they anticipated.

But for those who are older, there is something so invigorating about the optimism of youth, when you are with someone and they’ve first experienced Jesus and can’t get enough time with Him! When they’re ready to go anywhere in the world without a second thought or do whatever he calls them to do, no matter the cost!  It can be so infectious!  And spur you on to do the same!

I remember shortly after I became a Christian writing a poem that began…

I’ll climb the highest mountain, I’ll sail the roughest sea

I’ll travel to any distant land and live life dangerously

I’ll brave the harshest winter, pushing onward through sleet and snow

I’m ready Lord.  Do with me as you will, just show me the way I should go…

And I spent my years in college sleeping on a reed mat on the floor of my dorm room getting ready to do pioneer missions, to take the gospel where it hadn’t been before and meeting with anyone who showed any interest at all to share with them about Jesus!

I remember someone commenting once I was a gift to the woman I met with because I was so excited about anything that had to do with God, at a time when she was wrestling with the reality she was probably going to be single the rest of her life and discouraged over shattered dreams.  I better understand this now.

As I approach 50 it’s not quite as easy to climb those mountains, and after having endured this past week’s negative zero temps, I’m not certain how eager I’d be to push onward through sleet and snow – that’s not only cold, that’s wet!!!

We had a national staff conference a couple weeks ago and were so blessed to have Jim Downing and Jerry and Jane Bridges join us.   I got to see first hand – It’s a whole lot harder for them to come to these conferences than it is for someone 80 years younger!  But how blessed the younger staff are to have them there – and what a delight to see the joy on their faces as they interact with new staff!

If the Lord keeps me here I so hope to follow in their footsteps.  I want to follow Jesus however, wherever, whenever with whomever, but I’m much more aware of the cost now.

Do those I meet with ever keep me on my toes, challenging me to go out of my comfort zone.

Here’s one other thing – note where Mary heads right after she gets this news…  Straight to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house!  Can you imagine the incredible one on ones she shared with Elizabeth during their three months together?  And what a blessing that was to her, too?!

Don’t you just love how the Lord works things out so we all get blessed as together we follow him?!

Discipleship Lessons from The Christmas Story ~ 1

“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  Matthew 1:1

Got to love the way the New Testament begins with a genealogy!  One that places Jesus smack dab in the middle of a family… and one with quite a colorful lineage!  Reading through Matthew 1:2-17 is like a review of favorite stories from the Old Testament, only you really see how interconnected they are.

Then verse 18 begins, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way…”  Only it doesn’t begin with his mother going into labor or even with her conceiving…  Jesus’ birth story begins with Mary being betrothed to Joseph.  And then we see how the Lord goes out of his way to make certain that Joseph stays in the picture, sending an angel to encourage him to not be afraid to take Mary to be his wife.

He didn’t have to.  Mary could’ve been a single mother.  Yes, she needed in that culture to be provided for but the Lord could’ve done this through other people or even through birds bringing her food!  He’d done that before!

But in God’s perfect timing and ultimate wisdom, He chose Mary to be Jesus’ mother and Joseph to be her husband and to care for Jesus as his earthly father.

So what does this have to do with discipleship?  Just as the Son of God was born into a family, so each of us is born into a family.  When we disciple someone if we ignore this reality we will be greatly hampered in helping them.

1.  The Lord chose the exact family we were born into and grew up with.

For those adopted this may involve two families!  Jesus had this experience – at least through his father!  (note Luke 2:48 )  And I wonder…  adoption is such a key part of the gospel, could this be why the Lord so wanted Joseph involved?!  So Jesus could experience the temporal illustration of what He was going to make possible eternally?!

In Psalm 139:13 we’re told, “Certainly you made my mind and heart,  you wove me together in my mother’s womb.  I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing.  You knew me thoroughly; my bones were not hidden from you, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb.”  (NET)

Do you see the intentionality of the Lord revealed in these verses?  The hands on care?  Can you imagine the wisdom, power, artistry that went into hand fashioning each individual?  It is so vital for those you meet with to understand this!  So they can appreciate God’s majesty as creator through His  role in forming them but also…

To the extent they reject or feel shame or harbor bitterness or resentment against their family this will greatly hinder the Lord’s work in their lives and even without them knowing it, can impact in a huge way their relationship with the Lord.

2.  The Lord has a purpose for placing each person into the exact family they are born into.

Does Matthew’s genealogy ever highlight this for Jesus!

Note the Psalmist continues, “All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.  How difficult it is for me to fathom your thoughts about me, O God!  How vast is their sum total!  If I tried to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.  Even if I finished counting them, I would still have to contend with you.” (NET)  

God’s work in us does not “begin” when we become Christians!  From the getgo, even before our first day came to be, God was at work purposefully planning…  This was not a slap ‘er together and move on event!  Can’t you hear the Psalmist’s amazement at all the thought the Lord puts into this?

And yes, this can be hard to swallow for those who’ve experienced abuse at the hands of their families.  But even in these cases, it’s so important to help women work through these issues with the help of the Lord.  The reality is the Lord in His Omniscience knows everything that happens and knew in advance what would happen and He still chose to place them in that specific womb, in that specific family.  

Over the past thirty years I’ve met with many women who’ve come from homes where they experienced extreme physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse.  When this has been caused or allowed by their mom, it’s easy in situations like this for them to want to look to the older woman discipling her to take the place of her mom.  I try so hard to never do this, but instead am always encouraging those I meet with to learn to love their moms, to forgive her and pray for her ~ and whenever possible we pray for her parents together.  Time after time I’ve been blown away as I’ve seen the Lord draw the mom to Himself and bring deep healing not only to the relationship, but also to the woman I’m discipling!

3.  Our families play a huge role in shaping us

It wasn’t just happenstance Jesus ended up being a carpenter!  

With family it can be so easy to only look at the negative and forget the positives we’ve received from those who gave us birth and raised us.  What a difference it can make if we take time to help those we meet with identify the good they’ve received, even if it’s just healthy genes or inherited abilities!

And it’s vital to remember our families don’t just shape us as we’re growing up but throughout our lives.  Unforgiveness can have an even greater impact on one’s heart than abuse itself!

And even where abuse hasn’t occurred we’ve got to take the gospel and apply it, including, “All have sinned and fall short…”  I became a believer six years before I gave birth to my son.  And I so wanted to love him well and raise him well!  And yet, even in the areas I tried hardest, I fell short!  We all always need the grace of God and the forgiveness of Jesus!

But here’s the kicker – to the extent we are critical of and judge our families, not extending grace to them it will continue to have a huge negative impact on us… and our families!  In Titus 2:4  Older women are to be trained so they can teach younger women first and foremost, “to love their husbands and children.”  One of the best ways I can love my immediate family is by loving well the family I came from.  To the extent I don’t, one will impact the other.

4.  Families are important to God.

In 1 Timothy 5:4 Paul writes, “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. ”  This pleases God!  It brings Him pleasure when this happens!

Now Jesus is to be a higher priority in our lives than our families (see Luke 14:26) – it’s so important we don’t go to the other extreme where families become idols!  But Jesus makes it clear in Mark 7:11 we are not to spiritualize neglect of our families either!

5.  It’s not just about what our families have done (or not done) for us, but also what we can do for them.

When the healed demoniac begs to go with Jesus, the Lord refuses and tells him, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how He has had mercy on you!” (Mark 5:19)

6.  Families provide an incredible relational network for helping spread the Gospel and God’s Kingdom!

When Jesus was selecting his disciples, he chose two sets of brothers!  Indeed, all throughout the scriptures it’s amazing how many times one person believes in Jesus and the rest of the family is impacted.  And note while Jesus’ brothers start out seriously misunderstanding him (John 7:5), one of them ends up not only believing in Him (Galatians 1:19) but many believe he contributed the book to the Bible called by his name!!!

One of the neatest things about family – you’re an insider there!  And as your family expands through marriage and yes, even through tracking down distant relatives can you ever have neat opportunities to share the most important part of your life!  They may think you’re crazy, but you belong!

This is one thing I love about being married!  I don’t just have my family!  I’ve now got my husband’s whole family too!!!  :0)

If those you disciple are trying to run away from their families can they ever miss out on important opportunities to let their light shine!  What if God placed them in that broken, dysfunctional family (and what family isn’t?!) so they could give the reason for the hope they have inside and see God do a miracle of redemption?

I love how the Lord puts it in Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.  Is there anything too difficult for me?!”

7.  Families aren’t just about those who’ve come before us, but also the generations that will follow!  What we do or don’t do doesn’t just impact our life!

I’ve just finished reading through 2 Kings and over and over as each King is introduced and identified as either doing evil or following the Lord you know what it says?  Who his mother is!  Do we ever have a huge impact on the generations that are to follow – for good or for harm!

Reading about Hezekiah was so sobering.  He loved the Lord.  He did great things for God.  And when Isaiah came and told him he was going to die, he prayed earnestly and the Lord gave him an extra 15 years.  But later on when Isaiah told him the Babylonians were going to come and take everything, does he earnestly pray, asking God to change this?  No!  He actually replied, “The Word of the Lord you have spoken is good” for he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”  

Let’s not fall into Hezekiah’s trap (if you want to see the outcome of that read 2 Kings 21), just caring about ourselves or only about the women we are meeting with.  Even Jesus right before he died on the cross made provision for his mother.  Care about those who will continue on after you!  And after those you disciple!  Ask the Lord to give you a vision for her whole family, even for those yet to be born!

What a difference this can make when you disciple… and beyond!

These are a few of my favorite things!

I love a good movie!  And I must say The Lord of the Rings movies are my hands down favorites!  There’s something about the desperation in the middle, when all seems lost and there seems to be no hope of good ever happening again that I can so relate to.  You see, I live my life in the middle of the story.

But then Gandalf arrives, or Sam shows up or even Gollum hurtles back into the picture and my heart is encouraged to press on.  In the midst of this broken and fallen world, I so need the perspective a good story can bring reminding me the end is coming and it will be good.

That’s also why I need XTAWGs (aka extended times with the Lord!).  When Jim and I were first starting out we sought to do these once a month.  But the longer I walk with Jesus the more I need extended time sitting at his feet, focusing on who He is, taking time to let His Word dwell in me richly… to give me His perspective in the middle of my story!

The more intense life is, the more I desperately need this!  I now seek to enjoy such time weekly.  What a difference it makes  in helping me press on in following Jesus!

So I thought I’d share a few of my favorite ways of enjoying an XTAWG!

1.  When I first started doing this, I began with Lorne Sanny’s article How To Spend A Day In Prayer.*   In addition to explaining the value of doing this, this is a great guide for getting you started!  You can literally go through the article step by step and use that to structure and experience an incredible XTAWG!  We usually give this out to people when they are doing this for the first time, along with the circles that come at the back of Roger and Jean Fleming’s book Feeding Your Soul – I can’t recommend their book highly enough!!!**

2.  What I most use now is Prof. Richard Horner’s Bible Reading Plan*** only instead of daily I use it weekly, reading from ten chapters – one from each of his lists – during my XTAWG.  I find it is so helpful to have a set plan for what I’ll do each week, so I hop on my bike, asking the Lord to lead on our “date” and then stop, read one chapter, draw a small picture that summarizes the key thing that stood out to me as I read, then hop back on my bike until the Lord prompts me to stop again and I dive into the next chapter…  It’s amazing to me how the different readings will relate and often a theme will emerge during my time with the Lord.  (and yes I often end up at different cafes along the way!  ;0) You can see an example of this here:  http://restfulheart.wordpress.com/2013/06/25/come/  If you’d like a copy of what I’ve taped in the front of my Bible to keep track of where I’m at from week to week email me at jadseekhim@Msn.com and I’ll be glad to send it to you. :0)

3.  Once a month I love to spend my XTAWG at an art gallery or art museum.  Before I go in I pray and ask the Lord to lead me to one piece of art He wants me focusing on and then ask Him to give me ears to hear whatever He wants to say to me through this.  As soon as something stands out to me, I stop there and begin drawing it – I find I notice so much more when I slow down and do this and then I take out my journal and start dialoging with the Lord regarding what I’ve noticed.  These have been some of my most life changing times experiencing Him and hearing from Him.  You can find two examples of this at:  http://restfulheart.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/lord-please-save-me-from-ideas-that-are-not-yours/  and  http://restfulheart.wordpress.com/2012/10/27/despondency-or-delight/

4.  For those who are here in Colorado or if you ever come out here to visit – another favorite way to enjoy an XTAWG takes place at The Potter’s Inn in Divide, Colorado.****  They have a prayer walk on their 35 acres and a booklet you can purchase for $1 that will provide you with some amazing extended time with the Lord!!!  (imagine reading about Moses in the cleft of the rock as you’re actually sandwiched in one!!!)  I’ve done this three times and still look forward to the next time I get to do it!

Now you don’t have to bike.  And you don’t have to draw!  And you don’t have to go to art museums or on adventures discovering new special spots or come to Colorado or hang out at local cafes!  These are just things I really enjoy!

But isn’t that the point?  Make a list of what you really enjoy, a list of your favorite things, and seek to incorporate those into your extended times with God!  Think of it as a date with God!  When someone plans to take you on a date, if they are wise they take into consideration what you enjoy doing!  And is the Lord ever wise!!!

You see, when I first got married, my husband and I were encouraged to spend time every day interacting, even if just briefly, and then to take time weekly going on a date where we could enjoy uninterrupted focused time together.  What a difference those dates have made in our marriage!

This is also true for my relationship with the Lord!  I have my daily quiet time – which truly is the most important 15 minutes of my day, but then these weekly dates are taking me so much deeper in my relationship with Him!  And when you’re feeling very much in the middle of the story, wondering how any good can come of all that’s happening, is this ever especially needed!

So this is by no means an exhaustive list!  Just a few of my favorite ways to enjoy an XTAWG while doing some of my favorite things!  :0)  If you have ideas for what you enjoy doing as you spend extended time with the Lord would I ever love to hear them!


* How To Spend A Day In Prayer by Lorne Sanny:  http://www.cmfhq.org/Portals/0/acrobat/training/Day%20Alone%20with%20God.pdf  )

**Feeding Your Soul by Roger and Jean Fleming:  http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Your-Soul-Quiet-Handbook/dp/1576831442  (note:  If you go to Amazon.com and on the webpage for this book click to “look inside” this book and type “How to Spend A Half-day in Prayer” in the search box and scroll down to pages 140-142 you can see their circles for breaking down how to spend each hour for three hours with the Lord! I have found this to be of incredible help!!!)

***Professor Horner’s Bible Reading Plan:  http://www.challies.com/sites/all/files/attachments/professor-grant-horners-bible-reading-system.pdf

**** The Potter’s Inn website:  http://pottersinn.com/