this week’s action verse: Psalm 63.8

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my first fast

Growing up, my family, not to mention the church I was raised in, paid little attention to giving things up during the season of Lent or fasting, for that matter. This year, I’ll be fasting from an over-abundance of social media and enternmainment. Now. I don’t being going cold turkey. Let me explain.

I’m on the phone and the computer all day at the office. What excuse do I have to continue to be on it, surfing the net, filling time with mindless videos on YouTube or Netflix, when I could be spending that time with God instead? None. That’s just it.

With that being said, I’m taking a sporadic hiatus.

  • Between 4 PM and 8 AM on any given day (basically overnight), my goal is to not be finding myself in the mist of said mindless internet usage. That means no Facebook. No Twitter. No surfing the web unless it’s an absolute need — paying bills, finding a yellow bridesmaid’s dress for a summer wedding, a face-time date I already had scheduled with a friend, blogging (necessary blogging), renewing books online, etc.
  • One night a week, I’m allowing myself to catch up on shows that I enjoy watching (not to be mindlessly lost, but to watch them before they expire…unless I’ve caught up by now). This one also depends on my internet accessibility. It’s pretty sketchy where I live and if I can’t connect, I won’t be watching anything.
  • One afternoon each week — a Saturday or Sunday when I don’t have plans — I will allow myself to watch ONE faith-message based movie: i.e. October Baby, Ultimate Gift, Ultimate Life, Courageous, etc.
  • One night a week, I will allow myself to go out, alone – date night with Jesus. Doesn’t matter what it is — visiting a coffee shop with my Bible and journal in two, going out for dinner somewhere with the same items, dressing up (who says I can’t), going for a long walk or a hike even. I’ve done this before and I highly recommend it…to anyone, not just us awesome single ladies.
  • All that time I used to or would normally spend in front of the computer or TV, I’ll be spending focused on Jesus. Whether it be getting out into nature and going for a walk weather finally warms up (it is March after all), reading his Word (my Bible), journaling, prayer, reading books about Christian living, grace and faith in God, writing — maybe I’ll work on that novel, reading inspirational fiction (something with God at its center) or volunteering.
  • I will still be blogging, but only between the hours of 8 AM and 5 PM and only once or twice during those given days. I may share an article or post a tweet or status update during that time. I will not be “checking in” anywhere outside of those hours. I do have limited access to social media and email at the office and will sporadically be checking in during those hours…note: sporadically.

I’m both excited, filled with anticipation, and terrified to see what God will do with my heart and life during those 40 days. Maybe it’ll be a lifelong choice I’ll make going forward. I need more quiet in my life, more days unplugged and not connected to the internet for a few hours (thus the basic phone).

And I’m reaching out to my social realm of friends to aid in keeping me accountable. If you’re reading this and seeking the same, leave me a comment. I’ll get back to you. If you’re a friend and have my number, text me. *Hugs to all…and here’s to the next 40 days. May God bless them!

“The Sound That Saved Us All” by Anthony Skinner

Book Review: Emma of Aurora by Jane Kirkpatrick – the detailed hisory of this book is phenomenal

732156When I first requested this review copy, I didn’t realize that the book came as a volume. I’m half-way through the second book and have been enjoying the adventure this story has brought me on from the get-go. Although I’m not quite finished, I needed to get the word out as it is well worth the read.

The novels are written in the first person and in such a way that it literally feels as though you are experiencing everything the protagonist does. The details in the text also go above and beyond anything I’ve read in a long time. The time period and personalities are both very believable and realistic, showing that the author has done their research (paired with the incredible gift of their own imagination and the ability to write, of course).

The story is written with heart, adventure and gripping action. Jane also captures what we see in our own culture today, or at least what I’ve seen and experienced in my own life. Emma’s culture believes much as my own did (small-town America) did when I was growing up and since I share the same views of being in the world and not of it made this story come alive for me in ways that others don’t.

Jane Kirkpatrick paints Emma’s story in a historical setting. Her life isn’t perfect, but in the imperfection, God shines through. I think readers will appreciate the rich detail and our protagonist’s longing to live a life pleasing to God. Having this come as a volume to read at one time is a huge plus too for those who like to read an entire series together rather than having to hunt down the other books in the series. This was a great read!

I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are my own.

the way to victory: intentional sacrifice

“…victory isn’t a place we arrive at and then relax. Victory is when we [make the better choice] over something not beneficial to us. And we maintain our victories with each choice…the very next choice is a crucial one….One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline.”

– Lysa Terkeurst, Made to Crave, Chapter 17

Finding victory through intentional living…How does one get there?

This is not my first round with the word “intentional”. Although I’ve heard it numerous times throughout my life, the three years since I’ve moved to Minneapolis to help plant a church have been full of circling back to that phrase and what it means to live that way.

Be intentional with your relationship with God.

Be intentional in reaching out to your neighbors and serving in your communities.

Be intentional with the relationships you have with your co-workers.

Be intentional about really asking people how their souls are…don’t be afraid to get deep.

Be intentional about giving.

Be intentional with your relationships. Period.

And now…

Be intentional with your health.

Be intentional with godly self-care.

Prior to going through this study (see here), I knew that with my being a four-part being (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) that all parts are interconnected and that if one suffered, they all suffered. But, I did not know or realize the implications my food and exercise choices (or lack thereof) had on the spiritual portion of myself.

Oh does it ever!

2013 wasn’t the greatest year for me. Yes, it was full of trials and growth, but the latter portion of it: Not. Fun. In reading through Made to Crave these last six weeks, I’ve come to realize and embrace the truth about how and what I crave and what I should be seeking instead.

Crave

To crave means to long for, want greatly, and/or desire eagerly.

By that definition, I came to realize several truths about myself:

I crave love. After all, wasn’t I created to love and be loved? In the past, I’ve sought that out in my relationships with others – with my friends, my pastor, men I’ve dated…or wished I had dated (projecting is not healthy). My worth and feelings of being loved does not stem from those relationships nor should I be placing that expectation on them. We’re human and we’re all incomplete. Only God can validate me and it’s when I embrace that truth, letting it get really deep, that I feel satisfied and deeply loved.

I crave affection. There were so many days where I felt that if I gave another ounce of all I have within me, I’d be wiped from existence (wouldn’t really happen, but that’s how I felt). I used to give, give, and give until I was empty, but I’m learning that I can’t rely on people to keep my love-tank full. When I turn my focus to God, on who He says I am, only then can I continue to give, give, give without nearing the empty side of the tank. It’s a beautiful thing.

I crave feeling as though I matter…to someone…to anyone. I crave being asked how my day was, what my dreams are, what I need to do to achieve them, where I succeeded and where I didn’t. Being single, I rarely get that. Just this last week, a fellow sister in Christ posted a very encouraging blog article regarding the matter and it truly hit home for me. I also realized that God, in His goodness, provided me with a few good friends who do just that. When I’m with them, I’m not left feeling as though something’s missing or that there is something wrong with me. They love me as I am and continue to point me back to Jesus. That, my friends, is what Christian community, accountability and living should be. It’s amazing when the body of Christ works as it should.

I crave companionship. I do not fear being alone as I do enjoy my own company quite a bit, but going home to an empty apartment after a long day at the office and meeting appointments only holds so much appeal at times. Maybe I should get a pet…kidding, slightly. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize this last year, it’s that I do fear ending up alone. There is a big difference between the two, but I’m learning that whether I have three really close friends or five hundred Facebook friends and Twitter followers at the end of the day, it won’t matter as I am never truly 100% alone. I have Jesus and He is all that matters.

I crave comfort. I’ve chased after so many things in this life, seeking the temporary satisfaction that they would give…that whole tray of Oreos…that pack of soft-shell flour tortillas…those Doritos…that bottle of sparkling cider…that next potential relationship…that movie or book I could get lost in for a couple of hours. I could go on. Ever since that little girl sought comfort that only a father-figure can give and was turned away, due to his own incompleteness, I have sought that comfort in food, entertainment and other things, all in the form of gluttony. I realize that now. That truth dawned on me last week as I was going through the car wash and it’s finally reaching the depths of my heart. Thank you, God!

I crave soul-deep satisfaction. Relationships, food and worldly pleasures can’t give that. I’m done living through if-only’s. I don’t need a man or that donut to be complete or satisfied. When I remain in Christ, I am enough. I am content with where He has me, but not so “content” that I let life just happen to me…that’s playing the victim. I’m done with that.

This study is nearing its end and I’m sure this won’t be the last of God’s work on me in this area. After all, we’re moving forward with the Action Plan portion of this book, taking a look at how to live this out and learning to put that into practice (I’m so excited!). Lysa begins closing this portion of our study with a challenge to live with intentionality.

Intentionality: Actions performed with awareness; done deliberately, consciously, on purpose Intentional11-819x1024(pp_w295_h368)

Intentional living requires sacrifice. It requires making choices that will benefit in the long run. It requires making choices that will not be comfortable. It requires choices that will “unsettle me,” getting my out of my blasted comfort zone and continually stretching and strengthening my spiritual muscles with God’s truth. Intentional living is a process and it’s not going to be an easy one. Anything worth having rarely is. This process and these choices will take a lot of discipline, focus, determination and hard work. It will also take courage.

What does that look like for me? And is it possible?

For me, it means

  • Choosing to sacrifice “sleeping in” to get my workout in before work in the morning. I discovered that I prefer to be up early. It’s quiet. No one else is at the gym. It’s just me and God, having a heart to heart in the secret places of my heart and mind, a place my imagination created as a child (it’s fun being able to return to that beautiful place on a daily basis). I listen to podcasts (usually past sermons or Christian talk shows) or Christian music (Jamie Grace, Kerri Roberts and Mandisa – music that really gets a girl moving). Sometimes, I’ll do my workout in silence and let God touch my heart any way He wants to as I listen to the hum of the treadmill and feel my heart beat to the rhythm of my shoes hitting the pavement/belt. If I crave sleep as much as I do, I can go to bed earlier. It requires choices, compromises and sacrifice.
  • Choosing a healthier diet. My current diet consists of lean protein, vegetables and fruits and eating three meals with a snack in between if I am hungry each day. Minimal on the grains as I’m staying away from those floured tortillas I mentioned earlier and most breads. I’ve also given up sugar where I’m aware of its presence (candy, cookies, pies, cakes, etc…frosting is a huge weakness!). The only exception to that rule: the two small pieces of dark chocolate I allow myself when I’m craving it.
  • Choosing to actually read the nutrition labels on products I pick up. If it doesn’t fit my diet, I put it back.
  • Choosing a workout regimen that works for me. I’ve always tried to cram it all in on one day…cardio three days a week, full body the other two. No results. I’m going to be taking a different approach with the help of a trainer (free perks courtesy of my gym) and will now be focusing on upper body, lower body and core on different days mixed in with adequate cardio every day. Here goes!
  • Choosing to have an accountability partner/partners who will get in my face. I know there will be moments of being uncomfortable because I’m being convicted by the truth she has/they have set before me. This also comes down to choosing to not allow that type of honesty to ruin those relationships, but rather deepen them. Guys and girls, you know who you are and I am so thankful for each of you (Philippians 1.3-6).
  • Choosing to have a plan. I like Lysa’s idea of planning out meals after breakfast, once you have a full stomach, being intentional about what you’re going to have the rest of the day. I also want to pre-plan before I go to the grocery store. That way, I’ll have on hand what I need for each day.
  • Choosing to get outside and move rather than go straight home to sit on the couch for another four hours, filling up that time with mindless TV watching or surfing the internet, after I get off work. I picked up a couple of books from my local library that cover different hiking trails or city walks in my area. The plan is to do each of them. Date-night walks with Jesus anyone? The more I think about that concept, the more excited I am about doing these. If only the deep freeze would end…soon.
  • Choosing to take any dating profile(s) I currently have up down and live my life pursing only one Man, Jesus. Would I like to date again? Sure. But I won’t do it at the cost of my relationship with God. After all, He is the only one worth pursuing. I could go on with this one, but that’s a topic for another day. Ladies, any man you have to chase isn’t worth your time. Pursue God and if you’re meant to be with someone, He will bring the two of you together in His time. You are not less of a person or less capable of doing good work for His Kingdom if you’re single. That is a truth I’m learning to embrace, no matter what our culture says about the matter.
  • Choosing to pray when I’m tempted; to allow the Word of God, scripture He has etched upon my heart, to roll through my mind and spirit when I’m facing a particularly tough situation (like the donuts a co-worker brought in to work on Monday or feeling tempted to browse Match.com just one last time).
  • Choosing to be intentional with my thoughts. Not allowing them to wallow in my own incompleteness, but choosing to focus on the things of God; choosing to “park my mind” on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4.8).
  • Choosing to look beyond hurtful words rather than respond out of my own incompleteness.
  • Choosing to really ask “how goes it with your soul?,” being prepared to patiently listen to that response, no matter what it is, without inserting my own agenda, and seeking out ways to serve that person.
  • In all, choosing to live my life in such a way that honors and pleases God and ultimately brings Him the glory He deserves.

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the patter of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12.1
    -2

Is this possible? Yes. Not on my own strength or willpower, but on God’s. I know I won’t get there overnight. This process is one God wants me to venture on through with Him at my side. Intentionally pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for, want greatly, and desire eagerly.  He is the only one I should crave. I want that. Boy-o-boy, do I want that.

I am still confident I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord…be strong and take heart and wait on the Lord. Psalm 27.13-14

I’m intentionally choosing to wait on Him and there I will find victory.

How about you? What is it that you crave most? What does it mean to you to live with intention? What sacrifice would it require? Is it possible for you to live that out?

 

© Anita J. Brands. 2014. Website: https://authentictruthseeker.wordpress.com/

Shared Post – Seeking Solace in God

As I was browsing through my usual reads at the office today, I stumbled on this and couldn’t agree more. Today, I’m choosing #6. Lent is just around the corner (wait for that post to be uploaded — I’m calling for acountability and community here). Here’s to living life to its fullest!

6 options for godly single women wanting to marry

I am currently preaching through Malachi and talking about Living for a Legacy. While the book does say that God is a Father seeking “godly offspring” through his people, my concern is that singles will feel isolated or overlooked in this series. So, I wanted to supplement the sermons with some additional thoughts for singles.

“Daughters . . . Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

–Song of Songs 2:7 (NIV)

These are tough times for godly single women who want to marry.

There are some single women who remain single for no good reason. I know plenty of them. Some have never married. Some married only to have their husband die. Others have been divorced by a guy who did not appreciate what he had and did not want to invest the energy it takes to make a great marriage. These are women who are friends of Grace and I, people we know well, women who are very godly, actively serving others, and well known in their church community. Of course, the world is also filled with singles who are not mature, godly, or stable, but I’m not talking about them.

As for the godly single women wanting to marry, however, I’m meeting more and more women like this recently. They often ask me for advice on what they should do. Those who are over thirty are sometimes beginning to wonder if their hopes to marry and become a mother will be fulfilled. For some, this leads to near panic. For others, a constant despair with seasons of dark depression lingers like a chronic ache.

Admittedly, I am not the best person to give advice to a single woman about specific ways to navigate the path of holding out hope while being realistic regarding planning for one’s future. But, I am a pastor and a dad. I do love the women in our church, and I love them like a spiritual father. Also, I am the father of two girls whom I absolutely enjoy and adore, the oldest of which is sixteen. So I think about this a lot.

For the godly single ladies reading this blog post, I know that sometimes the drama and details of relationships (or the lack thereof) can become confusing, cloudy, and cold. Sometimes, pulling back from a situation, particularly one that is emotionally expensive for you, helps you see that even though the specific choices you are making are not what you would want, they are the best in light of the options you have. This dawned on me recently while talking with a woman at an event where I was teaching. In that conversation, I told her she really only had six options.

Option #1: Sin

You can decide that God has not come through for you, so you take matters into your own hands. You decide to be a gal who parties a lot, casually dates a bunch of guys you’d never marry, sleeps around, moves in with a guy, or does other things that will really hurt the one relationship you have with a great man: Jesus Christ. If you take this path, you will eventually come to feel horrible for what you have done and miserable in the world you live.

Option #2: Surrender

You can give up on ever meeting someone worth marrying. You can just stop taking any risks, meeting any people, or trying in any way. Often this is because you are sick of getting your heart broken and would rather lock it away in a vault than take another risk. But when you shut down your heart to life in general, you are not just foregoing marriage but also hope and joy.

Option #3: Settle

You can lower your standards to the point that nearly any guy can meet them. Single men and women are prone to have a list of what they want in a spouse that is way too detailed, long, and unreasonable. But, it is also possible to keep editing your list to the point where “godly man” eventually becomes “believes in a higher power of some sort,” and “I respect him” becomes “I think I can put up with him.” This may get you a man, but not a long-term, joy-filled, God-honoring marriage.

Option #4: Suffer

You can allow your singleness to become the devastating, discouraging, and defining aspect of your life. You can let it make you feel unwanted, unloved, and unworthy. You can allow it to haunt you, pushing you into shame, isolation, and despair. You can let your singleness be a club for Satan to beat you with over, and over, and over, and over . . .

Option #5: Strive

You can start to obsess over doing literally everything you can to land a husband. You never leave the house without looking like you are ready for a pageant. You count every calorie and spend more time at the gym than the treadmill does. You start an account for every Christian dating site that exists. You attend every church with a decent number of single men, and never miss a singles ministry event at any megachurch within a two-hour drive of your home. The center of your life is no longer Jesus, but some guy you are determined to attract to fill his place.

Option #6: Solace

You can take comfort in God’s love for you and that Jesus is the Man in your life who sympathizes with your singleness. You can allow your singleness to explain you but not identify you. You can allow your singleness to be an aspect of your life but not the essence of your life. You can remind yourself that you worship a God who was single, and that the early church was nearly the polar opposite of today’s: singleness was considered a virtuous, preferable life by many in service to God. You can live your life without waiting for someone else to show up and make it worthwhile. You can retain your desire for marriage without drifting into desperation. You can be open to a relationship without putting your entire life on hold until one occurs. You can pour your desires for a family into your extended family and/or church family.

To my single sisters wanting to marry, I do not want to discourage you in any way. But, the truth is that it is harder to be a single woman than a single man as a Christian. Every poll I have ever seen says that single women are generally more mature and responsible than single men. Men are waiting until around 30 years old to marry for the first time, if they ever do. And, they are going for younger women, according to the statistics. Across Christianity, there are far more single women than single men, which means that the odds are not in the favor of godly single women. In addition, for theological reasons, many Christian women do not want to be the dating initiator, asking guys out and taking the lead in the relationship.

All of this together means that godly single women live in a complex world that is increasingly more difficult for those who want to marry and have children with a godly man. Love, prayer, friendship, support, counsel, and community are needed more than ever.

Being single is not easy. But neither is being married. They are just difficult in different ways as God uses everything in our life to make us more like Jesus, who happened to live a perfect life while single.