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Tag Archives: Renee Swope

  • What's Their Secret

    Posted on May 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope MAY 20, 2015

    What's Their Secret
    RENEE SWOPE

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you …" John 17:21a, (NIV)

    Have you ever wondered why we need each other? Why we crave relationships yet find it hard to build the kind we long for?

    My craving for closer friendships surfaced as I sat across the table listening to the sounds of laughter and admiring the bond between two women I’d met at a lunch. What they had was uncommon.

    The way they loved each other, how well they knew each other and how much they enjoyed each other reminded me of a Hallmark commercial. But I wasn’t watching television. This was real life.

    And when I asked how long they’d known each other, they replied, "More than 60 years."

    More than 60 years? Now I was more interested in listening than eating lunch. So I put down my fork and picked up a pen like a journalist and tried to think of as many questions as I could. How had they met? What had they done to build a lifelong friendship? What moments and memories filled all those years and kept their hearts so closely knit together? What’s their secret?

    Here’s what I discovered:

    They were intentional about making their friendship last because it mattered to them.
    They became friends in grade school, but their friendship grew and continued long after they both married their high school sweethearts, who played football together.

    Things had to be planned and time together had to be priority.
    Their families vacationed together for years. And when they were young and had little money, they’d all get together for a meal while the kids played in the yard. But as their kids got older it became more challenging, so they’d get together and play cards once a week — a tradition that was still going strong.

    They determined early on they would be there for each other no matter what.
    These two lifelong friends were now widowed and counted on each other for companionship and laughter, weekly shopping adventures and everything in between. And they had an understanding between them. If one of them starts feeling down she’ll call the other and say, "Hey, I need to get out of the house." And then they go do something together.

    I thought about how different our generation is, how busy we are. How much more we rely on screen time more than face-to-face time. And a twinge of sadness came over me. Would there be anyone in my life I would have known for 40 or 50 years, much less 60 years, when I’m 70 or 80 years old?

    Besides my husband, which friend will be able to finish my sentences? Who will know me better than I know myself?

    From the beginning of time, God created us to be in relationship — with Him and each other.

    Designed in His image, our need for connection comes from God, who has always been in community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Jesus’ final prayer for His friends in today’s key verse challenges me. In it, He prays they will know the Father the way He does, and that the world would know His love because of their love for one another. And in Jesus’ prayer we find His heart’s desire for us to be closely connected with each other:

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21a).

    How can we do this better? Maybe we can be creative and get together for lunch during a busy workday, or meet to plan menus for our families each week, do laundry at one of our houses, or take turns cleaning out each other’s closets or running errands together.

    That was their secret. They wanted to be together and so they made sure they were.

    Dear Lord, the longer I live, the harder it seems to build close friendships. With family and work, and all I have on my plate, intimate friendships drop to the bottom of my priorities. And yet I know deep friendships are part of what You want for me. Show me how to get creative, find a new starting point and be intentional by reaching out to a friend this week. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 18:24, "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Looking for a great book to help you grow closer in your relationship with God and a friend, or a group of friends? Renee Swope’s book, A Confident Heart, can help you do just that! Packed with personal stories and Biblical truths we need friends to remind us of, each chapter also includes great conversation-starter questions at the end.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How often do you make time for friendships each week? What is one step you can take today to grow closer to a friend you already have, or make a new one?

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • When Concern Consumes Me

    Posted on April 22, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope APRIL 22, 2015

    When Concern Consumes Me
    RENEE SWOPE

    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

    As we drove home from a weekend away in the mountains, I felt a heavy sense of dread and sadness. Laying my head back on my seat, I told my husband, JJ, "I don’t want to go home."

    The stress and strain of countless commitments at home and at work were taking a toll on me. If only I could return to that little mountain town where no one knew me or needed me.

    JJ asked some clarifying questions, and then he suggested I make a list of everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back.

    Honestly, at first I resented the fact that he was adding one more thing "to do" on my already long list of things I’d never get done.

    But later that week I took his advice and wrote out all my commitments and concerns. I made a list of deadlines and dates on my calendar with every appointment, event, conference call and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

    And I prayed: Please God, show me where I need to make changes.

    I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cut backs at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

    Jesus showed me it was worry — not my workload — that was making me weary.

    You see, during the weeks leading up to my "meltdown," I let my thoughts dwell on the possible negative outcome of several different circumstances and decisions, all at the same time. And without realizing it, I had spent as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances and deadlines as I did working on them.

    It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted. It wasn’t until I brought it all to God, and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening.

    Instead of escaping to the mountains where no one knows us or needs us, in today’s key verse from Matthew 11:28 above, Jesus invites us to come to Him so He can give us:

    Rest for our weary hearts and minds.
    "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’" (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV).

    Freedom from the captivity of our concerns.
    "‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity’" (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, NIV).

    Maybe there are worries making you weary. Do you hear Jesus gently inviting you to come to Him, seeking and trusting that His heart is big enough to care and strong enough to carry all that concerns you?

    Dear Lord, when concerns consume me, help me remember You are there inviting me to come to You and talk about all I’m thinking and doing. Show me if my workload or my worries are making me weary and help me trust You more with both. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Peter 5:7, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you ever tire of feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough or gifted enough, you’ll enjoy A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself by Renee Swope.

    Be sure to download Renee’s "3 Steps to Getting God’s Peace" printable and enter to win her "Heart-and-Soul Spa" gift-pack that includes Renee’s A Confident Heart Devotional book, a prayer journal and a Bath & Body Works gift card. You’ll find it all on her blog today.

    If you’ve tried everything else to tackle the disease of stress in your life, with little success, maybe it’s time to give Jesus a try. Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles can help you do just that.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you think about all you need to get done, what makes you feel like you’re coming undone?

    Write three concerns on a piece of paper and put them in an envelope. On the outside of the envelope write: "Jesus, I’m giving my cares to You because You care about me." Put your envelope in a journal or notebook and let God take care of what’s concerning You today.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Sometimes I Have to Boss My Heart Around

    Posted on November 14, 2012 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—" Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

    I caught my heart heading to a pit of discouragement for spring break. It was supposed to go to the beach with my family and me, but it was not cooperating.

    We had been hit by one emotional and financial crisis after another. A close friend learned that, after a year's worth of abdominal pain, extreme fatigue, and an undiagnosed illness, she had a large tumor that appeared to be ovarian cancer.

    Then our upstairs air conditioner broke, again. And that same week, we found out our international adoption expenses would not apply as a deduction that year, which meant we owed significantly more on taxes than we anticipated. Yet our savings had been poured into our adoption and our air conditioning systems.

    My mind was divided. My spirit was depleted. And my body was exhausted.

    I couldn't stop worrying about my friend. I couldn't stop thinking about our finances. How was I supposed to rest and relax with all we had going on?

    Although I had packed my bags for the beach, my heart had decided it wasn't in the mood for vacation. It was marching straight toward the pit.

    But as much as I didn't want to go on vacation, I knew I didn't want to dwell in a place of despair or pull my family in with me. It wasn't part of God's plans—nor mine.

    Eventually I realized I was going to have to boss my heart around!

    King David was really good at telling his heart and soul what to do. In Psalm 103 he said: "Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name" (vs. 1). I decided to follow his example. In the midst of my turmoil and troubles, I told my soul to praise the Lord.

    Now this wasn't a superficial "say your bedtime prayers" talk to my soul. No, this was a deep-down, preach it to my inmost being, "GOD IS GOOD no matter what your feelings are telling you" sermon. I bossed my heart with Truth and pulled it away from the pit by telling myself to "forget not ALL his benefits" (Ps. 103:2).

    Then I walked my heart down memory lane, reminding it of the One who:
    Forgives all [my] sins and heals all [my] diseases,
    who redeems [my] life from the pit
    and crowns [me] with love and compassion,
    who satisfies [my] desires with good things
    so that [my] youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Ps. 103:3-5 NIV)

    No matter what the answer was to my friend's diagnosis, or how costly our air conditioner was going to be, or how much we owed on taxes—my soul needed to praise the Lord. My heart needed me to ...
    Remember Who He is.
    Thank Him for what He had done in the past.
    Trust Him for what He would do in the future.

    My circumstances didn't change but my perspective did. By re-directing my thoughts and my focus, I was able to re-direct my emotions. And our spring break wasn't ruined after all.

    Every time I was tempted to start worrying about what might be, I used King David's prayer to focus on what was, is, and will forever be-God's faithfulness to walk by my side and navigate my heart through the valleys of life.

    Are there circumstances that have pulled you into a place of discouragement? Do you have concerns that are causing your thoughts to head down a path of despair? I pray you won't go there.

    Today you can be the boss of your emotions by telling your heart what to do-and if you have to get a little bossy, that's okay too!

    Dear Lord, please help me trust You and empower me through Your Spirit to stop my emotions from bossing me around. I want to quit worrying about what might happen and focus on what has already happened by remembering and praising You for Your faithfulness in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    This devotion was taken in part from Renee's Swope's best-selling book, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises.

    LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith, by Karen Ehman, will empower and equip you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are there concerns that are causing your thoughts to head down a path of despair?

    Every time you're tempted to worry about what might be, use King David's prayer to focus on what was, is, and will forever be-God's faithfulness to walk by your side and navigate your heart through the valleys of life.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 43:5, "Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!" (NLT)

    © 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Feel Like Your Not Enough

    Posted on October 30, 2012 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12 NIV)

    I had that awful yucky feeling of not being enough ... not smart enough or good enough. For weeks I felt inadequate and incompetent about everything–from the way I parented to the way I served God in ministry to the way I organized my time and my life.

    I had begged God to take away my feelings of insecurity. Though He didn't answer the way I hoped, He showed me what I needed to see in the most unexpected way.

    One afternoon, I was putting on make-up in my bathroom when I noticed a huge nine-foot shadow on the wall behind me. And as I stood there looking at the humongous shadow, it dawned on me: all of my insecurities were creating a huge shadow over my soul–a shadow of doubt.

    That day in my bathroom, I came to two important realizations. First, I could only see the shadow when I turned away from the light. And second, I was creating the shadow by blocking the light from the wall.

    Shadows are created all around us when something blocks light, and so it is with the shadow of doubt.

    When we focus our thoughts on ourselves and how inadequate we feel, or what others think about us and how we're performing, we cast a shadow of doubt in our minds by blocking the light of God's Truth in our hearts.

    But we were not designed to block the light. We were created to live in the Light by focusing on what God thinks about us instead of what we think about ourselves.

    Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12b NIV) When we follow Jesus closely and completely in our thoughts, turning away from doubts and lies, we can find lasting security and confidence in Him.

    That afternoon, I realized my self-doubt wasn't going to just go away. I had to purposefully shift my focus from my feelings of inadequacy to God's promises of His all-sufficiency and grace in my life.

    I had to choose to focus on truth {the Light} so I could exchange my feelings of low self-confidence with lasting "God-fidence."

    Feeling paralyzed and stuck in a place of insecurity is not where God intends for us to live. When Jesus spoke to the people in John 8:12, He called them out of darkness.

    Now He's calling you - to step of out of the shadows of doubt so that you can become the God-fident women He created you to be. A woman whose assurance and soul-security is found in what He says and thinks about her.

    And, the next time you feel your heart dwelling in the shadow of self-doubt, ask God to replace your lack of self-confidence with lasting soul-confidence as you turn towards the Light and focus your thoughts on His truths:

    When you feel inadequate, God says: You are CHOSEN. "'You are my witnesses,' declares the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.'" (Isa. 43:10a NIV)

    When you feel unstable, God says: You are ABLE. "The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights." (Hab. 3:19 NIV)

    When you feel unworthy, God says: You are PRECIOUS and LOVED. "... you are precious and honored in my sight, and ... I love you." (Isa. 43:4a NIV)

    Dear Lord, You say I am a chosen woman, a royal priest, a holy daughter, a woman belonging to You. Help me believe that and live beyond the shadows of my doubts as I follow and focus on the Light of Your truth today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    In her book, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises, Renee helps you see how self-doubt overshadows your heart and how it can hold you back from all God has for you! Then she equips you to overcome your doubts and live with lasting confidence in ways you never thought possible.

    Reflect and Respond:
    "I had to choose to focus on truth {the Light} so I could exchange my feelings of low self-confidence with lasting "God-fidence."

    Power Verse:
    Romans 8:6, "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace ..." (NASB)

    © 2012 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

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