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Family Christian

  • Q&A With Irene Hannon

    Fiction readers rejoice! Irene Hannon has a new book available, titled Vanished.

    Irene

    Are you familiar with Irene? Irene is a bestselling, award-winning author who took the  publishing world by storm at the tender age of 10 with a sparkling piece of fiction that received national attention. Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!

    Since then, she has written more than 40 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a six-time finalist for that prestigious honor. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, a HOLT Medallion, a National Readers’ Choice Award, a Retailers Choice Award and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as one of the top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011.

    Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!

    In her spare time (like she has any), Irene enjoys cooking, gardening and singing.  A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church. When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.

    Recently we sat down with her to ask her a few questions.

    FC: Irene, we are excited to read your new book Vanished. Tell us about it.

    Irene: Vanished is Book 1 in my new Private Justice series, which features 3 ex-law enforcement operatives who join forces to form a PI agency. In Vanished, reporter Moira Harrison is new on the job in St. Louis…but she’s no rookie to investigative reporting. She knows how to dig for answers and get results. But when she hits a pedestrian on a rainy night in a wooded area—only to have both the victim and the good Samaritan who stopped to assist disappear—she turns to P.I. Cal Burke, an ex-homicide detective, to help her sort out the puzzle. Cal is more than a little skeptical of her story, especially since the police have dismissed it. But as clues begin to surface, bringing them closer to answers, the danger mounts. Because someone doesn’t want this mystery solved—and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret that will destroy a life built on lies.

    FC: Who’s your favorite character in all your books and why?

    Irene: Ooohh…that’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child! I love all my characters, especially the heroes and heroines. I also enjoy getting into the heads of my villains and trying to figure out what makes them tick.

    FC: Are any of your characters based on real people?

    Irene: No. All the characters are imaginary. But I work hard to make them real for readers.

    FC: Are you a character in any of your books or is there one character you relate to the most?

    Irene: I think there’s a piece of me in many of my heroines. As for which one I relate to the most—I like them all and could be friends with any of them.

    FC: Tell us something about you. Favorite books? Music? Your favorite thing to relax?

    Irene: I love to read, though I wish I had more time to read for pleasure. I also enjoy taking walks, travel and spending time with my husband and family. I was once an avid figure skater, but again, there are only so many hours in the day. I do love to sing, and in addition to being involved in the music ministry at my church, I love to perform in community musical theater productions. In fact, I was in a show last summer!

    FC: What has God been teaching you lately?

    Irene: To keep my priorities straight. In the new year, I’m going to try very hard to turn off my computer by 6 p.m. every night and work less on weekends. Writing (and the requisite social media obligations) can be all-consuming, but people need balance in their lives and I need to do a better job at creating that.

    FC: What’s on your bucket list?

    Irene: I’ve been lucky to do many of the things I’ve wanted to do. But in line with the previous question, high on my bucket list is finding a way to simplify my life so I have more time to spend with the people I love.

    For more on Irene and her books, click here.

  • Looking Around

    Rachel

    "Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap." Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV)

    Do you ever look around at other women and wonder how in the world they get so much done?

    Me too.

    It's frustrating to feel that you are somehow falling behind, or missing out on all the things you want to accomplish because you just can't seem to make it happen.

    So I started to analyze why it was others seemed to get more done than I did. Why did they reap more than me?

    Was I just not cut out to run at as fast a pace as them?

    I suspect there may be some truth to that. We all know people we'd classify as "high energy." Note: I'm energetic, but I'm not one of those perky morning people that I dislike, uh, er ... admire. Okay, envy.

    Was I just in a different season of life? I still have kids in the home - kids who cannot drive. Certain seasons of mothering or care-taking can be busier.

    But the more I thought about it, the more I realized these were not the full crux of my problem.

    No, the crux of my problem was waiting for everything to be perfect before I moved forward. If I didn't feel I could do something "right," I often didn't do it at all. If I couldn't control each move, or the outcome, I waited rather than began. And that meant a lot of things sat either un-started or unfinished.

    Home improvement projects.

    Sewing projects.

    Writing projects.

    Work projects.

    Even my elaborate study-the-Bible plans.

    I spent a lot of time waiting until I felt fully ready, and all conditions seemed ripe before I would begin. That was a lot of time wasted. In fact, when I reflect on the things I have accomplished in life, I'm not sure I've ever felt fully ready for any of them when I started.

    I wanted ideal conditions. A primary lesson in the book of Ecclesiastes is learning to distinguish between the things we have control over, and the things we don't. For instance, we can't control the weather, the aging process, or the job market. Trying to control such things is futile. And waiting for the climate, our appearance or the work industry to be perfect before we embark on our dreams is just as useless.

    Will we never plan a picnic because it could rain? Will we not bother exercising because we're going to die at some point? Will we put off training for that new job we've always wanted because the economy could turn?

    The message of Ecclesiastes 11:4 is: Stop procrastinating! Don't be overly cautious. Quit waiting on perfection. Staring at the clouds stops you from sowing, which ultimately limits your reaping.

    True, the conditions might not be perfect. Your efforts might fail. Or they might have to be repeated for months before they yield significant results. But they also might succeed! And you don't know in advance what is going to work.

    Nothing will work, however, if we do not.

    We can't control the rain, the locusts of life, or the size of our harvest. But we control the planting. And nothing grows that isn't first planted with energy and fertilized with prayer.

    Ecclesiastes teaches us our inability to control the future should lead us into diligent work, not into depressed daydreaming while we watch clouds - and others - go by.

    While we can't control everything, we can do something about one thing. She who stares at the clouds - waiting - does not reap. But she who plants, reaps.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for the time I've wasted waiting for ideal conditions. Waiting until I felt sure I could succeed. I want to move out in faith. I want to plant and reap. I want to be a good steward of the time and opportunities You afford me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: Lose the long list of resolutions — all your sweeping promises to change — and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. In Rachel Olsen's newest book, My One Word, she and co-author Mike Ashcroft lead you in choosing just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. Pick up your copy by clicking here!

    Reflect and Respond: What have you been putting off doing?

    How does procrastination, fear, or perfectionism prevent you from being a good steward of God's opportunities and callings?

    Power Verses: Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)

    Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

    © 2012 by Rachel Olsen. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Word From God

    Boyd

    “For no word from God will ever fail.” Luke 1:37

     

    God’s word never returns void and because of the Spirit’s inspiration, it is always successful. Mary and Elizabeth received a word from the Lord that He had blessed them with very special children. Sons who would represent their heavenly Father with a servant spirit and who would boldly proclaim the word of God. Yes, the Bible communicates Christ’s words in a transformational way, but Scripture requires respect. 

    Do you read the Bible for information or inspiration? Is your goal to study the Word, learn facts about God, or to know God? If you are a serious student of Scripture you will encounter Christ in your search for truth. The word of God is a hammer that chisels pride from your heart, a fire that brands truth into your brain, and a sword that slices ego from your soul. Watch for a word from God, for it will lead you to success.

    “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29

    Moreover, as you take time to meditate on God’s word, it begins to marinate your mind with wise thinking. Beyond your personal interaction in prayer and study, make sure you are engaged with a small group of Christ followers who will challenge and sharpen your thinking. Life change results from a clear understanding of why you believe what you believe. Yes, ask your heavenly Father to fill your mind with what really matters to Him.

    Do you have a word from God for a major decision you are facing? If not, wait until you do, and then validate your thinking with other godly advisors. If you do, then proceed in the power of the Holy Spirit and trust the Lord with the results. It may not make sense in the short run, but you can trust Him in the long run. God’s word always wins out!

    “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, engraft Your word in my heart so I grow to know You better.

    Related Readings: Luke 11:28; Acts 12:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:9

    Post/Tweet today: Watch out for a word from God for it will lead you to success. #success

    © 2012 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    Order our new book: Seeking Daily the Heart of God, vol. II... http://bit.ly/Tv6y9a

  • What Child is This - a time of reflection with Jenny Simmons

    Check out this devotional from Jenny Simmons of Addison Road.

    In the popular children’s T.V. show, Dora the Explorer, there is a character who always sneaks up on Dora and her best friend Boots and swipes their stuff. This bad guy, Swiper the Fox, follows up his sneaky swiping of goods with, “You’re too late! You’ll never find it now!” and he disappears leaving Dora and Boots empty-handed.

    Imagine my surprise last Christmas when my sweet 2-year-old daughter, who is an avid watcher of Dora the Explorer, picked up the baby Jesus from our nativity scene at home and with as much gusto, fear, courage and spunk as her body could muster, yelled, “You’re too late now! You’ll never find him now!” and took off running with the Christ child down the hallway.

    And she was right. We didn’t find Jesus until Valentine’s Day.

    She had wrapped him up in paper and stuck him inside her treasure box and wouldn’t tell us where she put him. And then I suppose she forgot, because she truly couldn’t remember and ended up in tears as I demanded she find Jesus. I searched the house in vain for baby Jesus all Christmas season. And it wasn’t until Valentines Day, when we took out her box of treasures to put her Valentines in, that we found him.

    When I think about my 2-year-old snatching the baby Jesus, storing him in her treasure box and then forgetting where she put him, I am reminded of my own tendency to do exactly that. Feverishly loving the Lord, consuming His words and presence, storing these moments deep within me, in much the same way that Mary did, and then...

    Dishes. Laundry. Writing assignments. Phone calls to family. Taxi-driver. Wrapping paper. Church. Working out. Being a mom. Being a wife. Being an artist. Being a friend. Life happens.

    And sometimes in the midst of it all- I forget where I have put Jesus.

    As we enter into the season of celebrating the life of Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a baby, we are invited once again into a story of unbelievable shock, awe, beauty, courage and ultimately, redemption. And perhaps, like me, you’ve heard the Christmas story before and it has feverishly consumed your heart. But somewhere along the way, the smallness of daily living took over, and the very thing that meant the most to you, got hidden- and ultimately- lost. Well, this is your invitation to dust off Luke Chapters 1 and 2 and ask the Lord to help you find what has been lost on you. This is your invitation to ask “what child is this?” And this is your chance to let the answer, Jesus Christ, find you, keep you, embrace you and be with you- now and always.

  • From Overpowered to Empowered

    Lysa

    "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    It was one of those days. I was driving to the airport in the pouring rain. The skies were grey. The day felt a bit gloomy. And honestly, so did I.

    There were just a lot of little things swarming my thoughts. Feelings of inadequacy stinging. There are so many things I'm responsible for and never enough hours in the day. I do enough to keep things from sinking. But I just wonder if I'm doing anything well. I don't think I am – doing anything well.

    The more I focused on these thoughts, the more overpowered I became. The more overpowered I became, the more withdrawn I felt.

    I pulled into the parking space and started the fight with my luggage. My suitcase has two wheels missing. And of course I keep intending to do something about this. But I don't have time. So I make do with a crazy suitcase and a crazy life and a crazy sense I should pack my family up and move out West. Live on a ranch where we grow our own food and I cook beans in a black pot over an open flame.

    Surely that would fix everything.

    Except that I know it wouldn't.

    Because the chaos isn't from my circumstances. It's inside me.

    I boarded the plane. I stared out the window. I watched the grey clouds envelop us.

    And then the grey broke.

    Suddenly, we rose above the clouds and the sun was shining crazy bright and far wide and fabulously clear.

    The clouds were just a temporary covering. They didn't stop the sun from shining. They just prevented my eyes from seeing the sun. And it wasn't just the sky that appeared a little brighter. My mood did as well.

    I started to shift from feeling overpowered to empowered as I realized three things:

    Just because I feel it doesn't make it real.

    Just like I felt the sun was gone but it was very much still there, I might feel like I'm not doing anything well, but it doesn't make it true. The fact that I have weaknesses doesn't make everything about me weak. I have plenty of strengths.

    All I have to do is ask a couple of my friends or my family members to help me see what I do well. I can celebrate those, and then get a plan for bettering things that need improvement. I can start by identifying one thing to improve on this month. And do a little toward making that one thing better.

    There are a lot of people who would trade their best day for my worst day.

    Yes, I have a lot to manage. And yes, sometimes things get foggy. But that doesn't mean I have to stay swallowed up in the grey. That means I need to get my head above the clouds and see all the places where the sun is shining brightly in my life. I can make a list of things for which I need to be thankful.

    My mind needs some space to think.

    If I always run at a breakneck pace, I'm eventually going to break. My mind is a powerful tool, capable of seeing things that can be done more efficiently and effectively if I give myself time to think. When is the last time I just sat quietly with a pen and paper and asked the Lord to help me think?

    As 2 Corinthians 12:9 teaches, God's power is made perfect in weakness. Just when I think I'm sinking in thoughts of inadequacy and plans to relocate out West, I remember that my ability is not based on what I can do. My ability and strength come from the One who can do all things. With the Lord working in me and through my weaknesses, I can feel the transformation from being overpowered to empowered taking place.

    If the clouds have been looming close lately, maybe it's time to stop. Pause. Lift your eyes to an altitude that can rearrange your attitude.

    Dear Lord, only You can provide all I need to stay the course. Please replenish me with a new attitude as I try to see above my grey clouds today. Help me to refocus my attention to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: God gave us feelings to experience life, not destroy it! If you're feeling overpowered by your emotions during this holiday season, add Lysa TerKeurst's Unglued to your wish list.

    The accompanying Unglued Bible Study will also help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. To order your copy click here.

    Reflect and Respond: 1. Identify one thing to improve on this month. 2. Make a list of 5 things you are thankful for. 3. Commit 5-10 minutes a day to sit quietly with a pen and paper and ask the Lord to help you think.

    Power Verses: Psalm 34:17-18, "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

    © 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Never Give Up Hope

    Boyd

    “Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” Luke 2:25-26

     

    Sometimes the Lord gives His children a promise or assurance that is not fulfilled until later in life. It’s in this process of time that trust needs to stand firmly vigilant over a soul, like the ever present Queen’s Guard at the gates of Buckingham Palace. God’s promise sometimes requires a pregnancy of obedience before the vision is birthed. Hope in Jesus is a lifeline that leads Christians to trust in His promises. Hope holds on to God.

    The coming of Christ at Christmas is our hope incarnate. The promise of His first entrance to earth took generations to fulfill, just as His second coming has. So, as we wait on our ultimate hope of reigning with Jesus, we enjoy His presence in prayer and faithfulness. What has the Spirit revealed to you that you will one day experience? A loved one’s salvation, children who love God, a healed hurt, a volunteer ministry or a best friend? 

    “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 1:3

    Your hope in Christ gives you the capacity to grow old with grace. You anticipate being better because, with understanding, you come to know the Lord better. While the body gradually grows old, your faith grows more robust like an aged bottle of fine wine. The flavor of your words are tasty to other thirsty hearts and your luscious love gives hope.

    Furthermore, do not discount the hope you personally provide for other people. Your weekly visit to the nursing home gives life to those ebbing toward the end of life. Your coaching and mentoring of younger leaders gives them confidence and peace to persevere. Your financial gift to a ministry gives them hope to carry on for Christ. Never give up hope and you will always be able to give hope. Hope in Jesus brings great joy!

    “May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.” 2 Thessalonians 2:17  The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I place my hope in You so I can extend other’s hope.

    Related Readings: Job 6:8; Micah 5:3; Hebrews 3:6; Titus 2:13

    Post/Tweet today: Hope in Christ gives us the capacity to grow old with grace. #hope

    © 2012 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    Order our new book: Seeking Daily the Heart of God, vol. II... http://bit.ly/Tv6y9a

  • When You Don't Have It In You

    Renee

    "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

    I was completely blindsided. I'd been called into a meeting at my church with another woman in leadership who had been upset with me for months. But I was just finding out about it.

    Someone told her I didn't agree with her leadership style. But that wasn't what I'd said – months before – in a meeting with several other leaders. I had been asked my opinion about a situation and shared my thoughts. It broke my heart that I was just being asked about it now, many months later.

    We both volunteered countless hours in ministry, pouring our hearts and lives into women in our church. All the while, we were on the same team and assumed we fully supported one another. But now the trust we'd built for years was unraveling.

    It was a mess. I was a mess.

    I decided I was done. I just didn't have it in me. I wasn't strong enough or resilient enough. And I was exhausted from the hurt I felt and the hurt I had caused.

    That afternoon I went home and cried. Told God I was ready to call it quits. Laying my head down on my desk, I said I couldn't do it anymore.

    But then a truth that had been buried deep in my heart surfaced: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

    And in that moment, I knew if I was willing to die to myself and completely rely on Christ in me I could experience His resurrection power in this place of depletion – where I had nothing left to give.

    There was no way around this crossroad: I could either walk away from God's calling on my life or I could allow Jesus to live HIS life through me.

    I could die to my desire to protect myself from getting hurt again and choose to tap into His power by relying on the strength of His Spirit.

    I wasn't enough ... wasn't strong enough, resilient enough, or humble enough, but Christ in me was more than enough.

    You see Jesus did not die on the cross just to get us out of hell and into heaven. He died on the cross to get Himself out of heaven and into us! That is resurrection life – and the very place where we get our enough!

    If you have been crucified with Christ, you no longer live, but Christ lives in you. The life you now live in your body, you can choose to live by faith in the Son of God, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

    I opted to rely on the Holy Spirit within me as my friend and I navigated this tough leadership situation. It wasn't easy, but it was good and it helped restore our friendship. The next time you and I find ourselves at tough relational crossroads—choosing to walk away from God's calling on our life or allowing Jesus to live HIS life through us—let's allow HIM to be our enough! For indeed He is.

    Dear Lord, You are mighty, and holy, and strong. And I thank You that Your sweet Holy Spirit is more than enough to help me die to myself and let YOU live through me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: How do we stop letting life's hurts and hardships knock us down? In her award-winning book, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope walks with you through the process of gaining spiritual resilience and lasting God confidence! You'll discover how to live in Christ by allowing Him to live His life in you and through you!

    Reflect and Respond: Prepare your mind and heart for the next time relationship conflicts arise. Decide now that you will allow Christ in you – through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit - to be enough and let Him live through you in those tough situations.

    Bury this verse deep in your heart: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

    Power Verses: Philippians 1:21, "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better." (NLT)

    1 Peter 5:5, "... And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (NASB)

    © 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Dedicated to God

    Boyd

    “Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (As it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord).”Luke 2:21-22

     

    Jesus (who was both God and man) was dedicated to the Lord by His God-fearing father and mother. Wise parents present their newborns before their Creator in prayerful consecration. Their intentional association with the sacred shows their sincere love for their child and for their heavenly Father. Later, when the newborn is able to look back and see their legacy for the Lord, they often look to the Lord. Public dedication builds a foundation of faith.

    Our baby’s dedication is as much for us as the parents as for the child. We acknowledge the sovereignty of God over us and our need for His wisdom and direction. A parent without prayer is set up for frustration and failure. However, when we lean into the Lord as a father and mother, we gain grace and the patience to parent. The dedication of our infant demonstrates our faith and reliance on God. Public commitment helps private practice.

    “No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” Romans 2:29 

    Your ultimate prayer is for your child to follow Christ in personal faith and commitment. Spiritual wholeness for your little one comes at conversion and continues in a lifelong commitment to growing in grace. Pray for your progeny to feel accountable to their heavenly Father, so even when you are not around, the fear of God motivates their behavior. Your dedication in dedicating your child to God is a milestone that invites heaven’s favor.

    Furthermore, further the faith of your family by facilitating a community of believers around them. The prayers and support of other like minded parents exposes the enemy’s minefield of lies and deception. You need the complimentary teaching of the church to assist you in raising your child in the grace and love of the Lord. Successful parents collaborate. Your child’s dedication to God is foundational for their discipleship!

    “The glory of children is their parents.” Proverbs 17:6

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I dedicate my children and myself to You.

    Related Readings: Deuternonmy 6:4-7; Psalms 127:3, Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4

    Post/Tweet today: Children dedicated to God look back, and seeing their legacy for the Lord, will often look to the Lord. #dedication

    © 2012 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Adjusting Our Holiday Focus

    Tracie

    "But the Lord said to her, My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10:41-42 (NLT)

    As I stared at the wood floor covered in shattered ornaments and tangled lights, tears welled in my eyes. The frustration and sadness over my fallen Christmas tree had finally pushed me to the breaking point. This wasn't the first time my carefully decorated tree had crashed to the floor that week. It was the fourth.

    After securing our top-heavy tree in its stand, my family and I hung decorations on each branch. When finished, we turned on the sparkling lights and stepped back to gaze at our accomplishment.

    We cherished that moment ... and did our best to cherish it again after the second round of decorating. But after the tree fell a third time and the surviving ornaments were sparse, the task of decorating became a chore.

    When the tree crashed in the middle of the night—for the fourth time—I loudly vowed to never have a Christmas tree again.

    I let that tree steal my Christmas joy, and replaced it with frustration and a small dose of anger. Winning the battle with this tree had consumed way more of my energy and emotions than it should have. Before I knew it, I'd completely lost my focus on what really mattered.

    In Luke 10:41-42, Jesus tells Martha she's lost focus. Martha was so consumed with planning the perfect dinner party for Jesus, and making sure she completed all her important tasks, she was too distracted with 'things' to make Jesus her focal point. She also got frustrated with her sister Mary's lack of help, which left her feeling agitated and upset.

    So when she voiced her irritation to Jesus, He quickly, yet gently, reminded Martha that she was worried about details that didn't matter. He wasn't concerned with fancy food, a perfectly decorated house, or clean kitchen. He wasn't impressed with all the 'things' she was doing. He only wanted her to realign her priorities and fix her attention on Him.

    Christmas is when we turn our focus to the birth of Jesus. Yet it's often where we get most distracted by a variety of 'things.' We stress about what gifts to buy and how much they will cost. We fret over what to wear to parties. We feel anxious about gaining a few pounds from indulging in holiday goodies. We work ourselves into a tizzy decorating. We cook and clean to prepare for special guests.

    We can be concerned about many things and forget to be centered on the One who really matters.

    Just as Martha allowed busyness to cause her to lose focus on Jesus, we can fall into that trap during the holidays. However, it may not always be activities that distract, but concerns over finances, stress over family get-togethers, or yes, even an unstable Christmas tree. It's easy to inadvertently let the chaos of the season lure us away from the joy found in Jesus, the most important thing.

    Let's be deliberate to adjust our focus this year on the birth of our sweet Savior, and avoid being engulfed by holiday stress. This change of heart could be the start of a great tradition. One where we remember to celebrate that Jesus truly is the reason for the season.

    Dear Lord, I can tend to get stressed during the holidays. Help me adjust my focus to stay on You, and not get distracted or frustrated by problems or obligations during the Christmas season. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: In her new book, Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace in Your Chaotic World, Tracie Miles helps you assess the toll that stress might be taking on your heart, mind and body throughout the year, not just at Christmas. If you'd like to learn how to tap into God's peace in the midst of stressful times, click here.

    Reflect and Respond: Have you allowed a frustration or disappointment to pull you away from focusing on the reason to celebrate Christmas?

    It's not too late to adjust your holiday plans or activities so you can stay focused on Jesus, not all the holiday distractions.

    Power Verse: Colossians 3:2, "Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth." (NLT)

    © 2012 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Man of Prayer

    Boyd

    “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.” Luke 1:13

     

    Men who pray serve a big God. They are not confused regarding their role of depending on Christ and His role to release His wisdom. Praying men rest assured that Almighty God has got it. They take heart that the Lord Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth, can create opportunities and give guidance under the Holy Spirit’s leadership. Prayer puts a man in a position to gain knowledge of the Holy Spirit, and how to act on that knowledge. Prayer produces wisdom.

    Are your family and friends under the canopy of your prayers in Jesus’ name? Your private prayers are the first line of defense for your loved ones. Do you call them by name to the One who named mankind? Pray for your wife to feel confident in her inner beauty in Christ. Pray for your child to stand firm in his faith under the enemy’s fire. Pray for opportunities to be like Jesus and share Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

    “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” Colossians 4:3

    We pray as desperate men, because we are desperate for God. We pray as confident men, because our focus is on our heavenly Father. We pray weeping, when our hearts our heavy. We pray praising, when our hearts are grateful. We pray in faith, because our trust is in the Faithful One. We pray because Abraham, David, Zechariah and Jesus all prayed.

    Therefore, persevere in your prayers--especially when heaven seems silent. Keep your eyes on Jesus, He will not let you down. Pray more for the needs of others in unselfish service. Your prayers matter to God and they matter to those you mention to God. Your prayers matter to you as they mature your faith. Pray as your first priority and not your last resort. Trust the Lord as a praying man and He will trust you with His favor.

    “The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer.” Psalm 6:9

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, my prayer is to be a man of prayer, for Your glory.

    Related Readings: Psalm 90:1, 109:4; Daniel 9:21; 2 Corinthians 1:11; 7:5

    Post/Tweet today: We pray as desperate men, because we are desperate for God. #prayer

    © 2012 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry

    info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

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