Monday, May 18, 2015

Psalm 1: God's Rest, God's Way


Tree by stream


Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. 
Whatever he does prospers. Psalm 1:1-3


Sleeping through the night. Getting 8 hours of sleep. Neither one is a regular occurrence for me. Between menopausal hormones, a snoring husband and years of late night habits (when my younger body could handle being a night owl) a solid quality night’s rest is often an out of reach dream.

But sleep is not the only kind of rest that our body needs.

Psalm 1: 3 talks about someone who is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields fruit in season and whose leave does not whither. Sounds nice. Sounds like someone who is resting and refreshed in their living. So how does one find this way of living?

Verse  1 & 2 shows the way.  
1.      They don’t walk in the counsel of the wicked. In other words, they don’t take advice from folks who don’t walk with God. This does NOT mean they never converse with those who live in complete opposition to the truth. But the counsel of those not walking with God does not lead us down a path full of life and light and rest.
2.      They don’t stand in the way of the sinners. In other words, they don’t make it a habit to be part of the “sinning” lifestyle. This does NOT mean, they never sin. It does NOT mean they aren’t friends with sinners or keep themselves so separate they can’t influence them. Jesus himself hung out with the less desirable characters of His day. To speak life to them, to show them He was the bread of life. Not to become like them!
3.      They don’t sit in the seat of mockers. In other words, they don’t get comfortable with those who mock God – with their words or their life. This does NOT mean they shush everyone who speaks a mocking word. Or turn their backs on them. Or disown them. But, rather than letting mockers pull them down, they call mockers to a better way by their example of living.
4.      They delight in God’s way. In other words, seeing Him in every part of life and giving thanks and glory to Him. Its celebrating the good He is doing. It’s also preferring His way over the world’s way. This does NOT mean we will never be sad or struggle with what He is doing in our life.
5.      They meditate on his law day and night. In other words, they habitually ponder and think on His word and His ways. Through reading, study and memorization they carry His word in their hearts. This does NOT mean they have to become a monk or a nun.


God’s ways lead to life, fruitful living and true soul rest. 

Considering my life right now, in this moment, I need to work on delighting in God’s way. Not the wanting and choosing to follow God kind of delighting, but the finding JOY in the following. In the day to day living and walking it out. Finding refreshment and strength in His JOY kind of delighting!


Do you need to work on on of these areas to find refreshment like a tree planted by streams of water? 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Getting Past Barriers to Hospitality



































Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2 NIV

Where has the art of hospitality gone? In our life of crowded calendars, distractions, and adrenaline rushes there are plenty of barriers to hospitality. Here are twelve reasons I have either used myself or have heard others use to avoid offering hospitality:

1.      I don’t have the space
2.      My house is messy and I’m embarrased
3.      My kids are little and would stress out the guests
4.      I’m too busy
5.      Possible guests are too busy
6.      Our schedules don’t coincide
7.      I don’t have enough money (to buy food)
8.      My family doesn’t want me to
9.      I don’t cook
10.  I don’t want my house to get messy
11.  I don’t want strangers in my house. Can I trust them?
12.  My family is going through a rough patch right now.          (health, marriage, kids)

Some barriers to hospitality are valid. Like the seasons in our life where the only “come over to my house” hospitality offered is to our spouse and children. For whatever reason we need to circle the wagons, so to speak. That is okay.

Some of us don’t have the Gift of Hospitality and for the most part, “come over to my house” is only reserved for those closest to us. That is okay, too.

However, God calls all of us at one time or another to welcome others with the heart of hospitality. Having a welcoming heart is one of the easiest ways to reach people with the love of God. It’s a good thing that true hospitality is a heart condition, not a house condition and does not always have to be a “come over to my house” invitation.

True hospitality is a heart condition, not a house condition. [Clickto Tweet]

Some of the barriers above just need extra effort to get past. Others can be resolved with some creativity. Most of them require a willingness to get outside our comfort zone—letting something go to make room for others in our life.  

Through this series, I’ll share some creative solutions to these common barriers, but for now, here are some general guidelines to help you make it work:
·         Keep hospitality simple
·         Don’t compare! (Don’t buy that book/magazine/               remember it doesn’t have to be like Martha Stuart or         a B&B)
·         Be Creative and think outside of the box (or the               house if you will).
·         Invest YOU in people’s lives.
·         Don’t be too hard on yourself: There are seasons             when it simply doesn’t work

What excuses or have you used to avoid hospitality?
Or what seasons of life have kept you from it?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Quiet Your Soul


The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me 
lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 
he restores my soul. Psalm 23: 1-3a

This year, I’ve shared a bit about my burnout experience and my desire to find rest. Well…..finding rest in the middle of a busy life can be challenging. I can easily turn resentful of all there is to do.

But what if, instead of complaining about some of those things, I grabbed them as opportunity for quiet. What if I turned my attention to listening for God’s voice in the middle of the crazy?

When I’m in between one activity and the next.
When I’m waiting. At the doctor’s. For a child’s lesson to be done. At a red light.
While I’m driving to a jillion activities.
When I’m doing repetitious chores I don’t have to think about.              (dishes, laundry)
First thing in the morning. When there is a before-life-gets-moving        moment.
Last thing at night. As our eyelids close, before we drift to sleep.
When we can’t go to sleep.
When we’re up in the middle of the night rocking a child.
While doing mindless handiwork. Hand crafts: sewing, knitting,         bead crafting.
While the play dough is keeping the kids happy.

Instead of turning on the television.
Instead of listening to the radio.
Instead of reading that book.
Instead of getting that one more thing done on the to-do list.
Instead of social media.

Just be quiet. Invite God into the moment. Breathe. And listen. Be still. Rest.

A moments rest with God can replenish our soul and help us through the day. It is certainly more refreshing than spending those minutes being resentful, complaining or filling our head with noise.

What about you? How do you take advantage of the random moments in your day to find a space with God?

photo credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net // tiramisustudio 

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Heart of Hospitality

A quick note: I am closing down my Life at Applewood Hill blog, but didn't want 
you to miss the hospitality series I started there. I will be re-sharing the first two 
posts this week and next before we move on with the rest. Enjoy!  


In our culture of fast food and full schedules, it’s harder and harder to find time to open our home to guests on a regular basis. I think it’s time to revive hospitality in a culture feeding on adrenaline. Over the next few months, I will be sharing a series about the Heart of Hospitality. 

Have you ever been to a hotel where the service wasn’t great? Or perhaps the amenities were great, but the staff treated you not so well? The difference is the attitude of the heart.

Hospitality isn’t just about what you do;
it’s an attitude of the heart. 
Hospitality may not come as natural to some as others, but with a bit of practice and a lot of willingness, even the most hesitant can be successful at making their guests feel at home, even when they are not at home.

Hebrew 13:2 says “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” God doesn’t just tell us to invite our friends over. He’s telling us to take in those we don’t know! (The visitor at church? A new neighbor?) And as a Christian, I especially like the idea of one of my guests being an angel. If I keep that attitude it will help me to serve the most challenging of guests.

Remember, hospitality is not about impressing guests. Or only having the comfortable people over. It's about imparting peace and blessing to your guest. It’s about showing the love of Christ in a very practical and life giving way.

Hospitality is showing the love of Christ 
in a very practical and life giving way.  



How have you been blessed by someone showing you hospitality?

Joining a Little R & R Link Up Party!
Click here to come join the fun!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Author Highlight: Nancy Kay Grace




Yesterday, I introduced you to 
The Grace Impact 
by Nancy Kay Grace. 


Today, I would like to share an 
interview with Nancy. 





Like a drop of water released on a smooth lake, the ripples of the grace impact continue to reach outward to many. ~Nancy Kay Grace~

Why did you write a book on God’s grace?
I have been captivated by grace for many years, not only be­cause “Nancy” means “grace” but also because grace has transformed me, strengthened me, and sustained me through difficult times. It is a crown jewel with many facets given by the Lord for our relationship with Him.

How did The Grace Impact develop?
The idea for this book began several years ago. In 2007 I submitted some stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul and a devotional book. The stories were accepted, which encouraged me to continue my writing journey. In sharing this with my friends, I wrote a short devotional in an email and added my publishing news at the end of it. 

This was the first issue of GraceNotes, my email devotional. It is now offered as an opt-in newsletter on my website. I have continued to send GraceNotes each month since then, even through some very difficult and trying times. The Lord encouraged me to keep writing and sending GraceNotes. Eventually I hoped to have enough devotionals to compile them into a book.

In 2012 I was at a point when I was very discouraged with writing. A book project that I started abruptly ended. I attended a writer’s conference to hear from the Lord about my next step. While there I pitched the idea for this book to CrossRiver Media called GraceNotes: Thirty Days of Grace. The manuscript was accepted. 

As I worked on it, the publisher noticed that in the past year several book titles included the word “GraceNotes” and suggested I consider re-titling it. After praying about it and researching possible titles, I decided on The Grace Impact. The project went from being a simple devotional about God’s grace to being a book on God’s grace that happens to be a devotional. This change challenged me to go deeper in writing, researching, and showing God’s grace.

What is the “grace impact?”
God alone is able to set into motion what I call the “grace impact”—His ability to work in and through any situation, revealing His love and forgiveness to us, thereby drawing us to Himself, ultimately through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

The initial impact of God’s grace to each of us comes by accepting salvation through Jesus. It continues in us and through us as our lives are transformed by yielding more to the Lord. As we grow in faith, we share God’s grace with others. Like a drop of water released on a smooth lake, the ripples of the grace impact continue to reach outward to many.

Is there a theme verse?
The theme verse for The Grace Impact is 2 Corinthians 9:8. 

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always   having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

The book is divided into four sections. The first section looks at the grace found in God’s character and why He is able to make grace abound. God is able to reveal Himself to us, and chooses to do so. The promise of grace pulses throughout Scripture. 

Section two is about the sufficiency of God’s grace, giving us what we need to live the Christian life. Once we interact and accept the grace of salvation through Jesus Christ, we begin to be transformed by the power of God. 

Section three explores the sustaining power of grace in all things at all times. His grace covers every detail of life, not just the good things, but also the difficult, sad, and complicated things. That knowledge can give us the ability to walk confidently through life knowing our heavenly Father is with us every step of the way. 

Section four encourages us to have an abundance of grace for every good work, sharing the blessing of grace with others.

In the book you say “The key is in living life unedited—living every moment in His grace, unafraid of making mistakes.”  Can you explain that further?
As a “recovering perfectionist,” I know the struggle of wanting to do something perfect and still being disappointed in my best efforts. I think many perfectionists wrestle with this issue. God has given me freedom in seeking excellence instead of perfection. 

Grace gives me the assurance that what I do, if I do it with the right attitude for the Lord, is good enough. Grace allows us to accept mistakes as a part of life and not fear trying again. The grace impact grants freedom and confidence to escape the bondage of perfectionism.

People often struggle with trusting God’s goodness in the midst of trials. What can you say to help them deal with that?
In The Grace Impact, I share how the Lord helped me through cancer, the death of three parents within six months, and other issues. Trusting God is more than a feeling. It is a decision made on the knowledge of God’s character and faithfulness.  Even when He seems quiet, God’s grace is ever present, sustaining us. God’s grace has carried me often, and I desire to share this hope with others.

What’s the most important thing that readers will learn from “The Grace Impact?”
God reached into the world with grace, bringing redemption to the failures of people and transformation to those who were weak. God’s grace reaches us today and His forgiving love is available to anyone who will accept it. Once we embrace it, we grow in becoming grace-givers to this hurting world.

How can we be grace-givers?
God calls us, redeems us and transforms us. We become His agents in the culture today, sharing the word of grace and passing the gift on to others. One way of being a grace-giver is to share our resources with others. 

To carry this out, a portion of every book sale of The Grace Impact will be given to the Grace Orphan House (Siyon Social Welfare Society, http://siyonsws.com) in Aurangabad, India. It currently serves as home for thirty boys and fifteen girls who were street children. Grace Orphan House provides a loving Christian environment, education, three meals a day and a comfortable place for the children to live. Anyone who purchases the book continues spreading the grace impact.

What makes this book different from any other devotional?
Not only can it be read as a thirty-day daily devotional, but it can also be used as a Bible study guide on grace. At the end of each daily reading there is a section called “Deepening the Grace Impact.” There are additional scriptures for further study, questions for your own meditation, and a prayer. 

I’m working on creating a thirty-day online Bible study using The Grace Impact. Another option would be to study one chapter a week, making it a 30-week or 8-month study. I will be using the book in an online Bible study in June. If you are interested in the online study, please contact me and I will get information to you when it is available.


What inspires you to write?
Many times I will begin with a personal time of worship through playing praise songs on piano. This helps me clear my mind and focus on the Lord. Reading the Bible also prepares my heart. When I sit down in front of my computer, I pray for God to open my eyes to His grace from something I read, the words of a song, or an observation from life about grace.

Where can we buy the book?
It is available at CrossRiver Media Group
or through Amazon. 

Autographed copies can be ordered by contacting me at nancy@nancykaygrace.com

If you would like to have me come to speak to your group, I am available for meetings, banquets, or retreats. Please visit my website for more information.

You can also sign up on Nancy's website for her GraceNotes 
newsletter and receive information about 
her online Bible study using The Grace Impact.  


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Discovering the Selah Moment


A guest post from Nancy Kay Grace, 
author of The Grace Impact. 









Easter preparations. Laundry. Baking. Daily commitments. Preparing for weekend guests. My mind swirls in the stress and I wonder how I will get it all done. This is often the way life is, no matter what the season of the year. The daily grind wears us down.

The following is an Excerpt from 
The Grace Impact 
by Nancy Kay Grace 
Day 21: Giving Up the Grind

A flurry of activity has become the badge of identification for many. It states, “I have so much to do.” Our time is filled with caring for our families and making a living. These are good things, but too often we leave out the most important relationship — our connection with the Lord.

The Lord doesn’t demand us to do more, more, more. On the contrary, He teaches us to rest in Him. Even when crowds pressed in on Him, Jesus slipped away to make time with His Father. Jesus drew strength from this time. 

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We are often yoked to the burden of responsibilities to our families and the calendar full of activities. Life feels overwhelming. People are demanding, and we cry out in desperation. “How can I take on another yoke to help me out when I’m so busy? I don’t have time for another thing.” Jesus uses an interesting metaphor of a yoke to teach us about the Christian life.

A yoke is a wooden collar that joins two animals, usually oxen, to enable them to pull together. A yoke also refers to a team paired together. When animals are trained with a yoke, a younger, weaker ox is paired with an older, stronger one. Over time they learn to work together, walking in step with one another.

When we are yoked with Jesus, we learn to walk in step with Him. Being the stronger one, He helps carry the burden of stress and worry that is on our backs. His yoke brings relief to our overwhelmed souls.

In The Message Bible, Matthew 11:28-30 states “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.”   

Selah, a Hebrew word of uncertain meaning, appears seventy-four times in the Psalms, and is regarded as a musical term indicating a pause or interlude. Beyond its musical implication, it can be a pause or rest for us in the activity of life. A selah moment would be a time to pause and reflect in the midst of the busyness of life, learning “the unforced rhythms of grace.”

Psalm 62:5-7 explains what I call a selah moment, resting in the Lord. “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

Choosing to rest in the Lord’s sovereign grace is a remedy to the stress of busyness.

Breathe deeply of His all-sufficient grace. Accept the invitation from Jesus to be yoked to Him and not to the stress of too much activity. Give up the striving and pressure of the daily grind as you rest your spirit in the Lord.

As I prepare for a busy weekend, I will remember to make time for selah moments—to take a deep breath and focus on the Lord. Only in Him will I find the strength and have the peace to enjoy life.

Will you join me in making time for selah moments?

Prayer: Lord, I come to You for rest. The busyness of life is overwhelming, but in You there is peace and rest. Take my weary heart and revive me again through Your unending grace. Amen.

What an encouragement. And there is more where that came from in Nancy's new devotional book, The Grace Impact, which releases tomorrow, April 17, 2015.


Grace Impact is available at
or through Amazon. 

Autographed copies can 
be ordered by contacting 
Nancy directly at nancy@nancykaygrace.com  



In a few months, Nancy will be hosting an online Bible study using The Grace ImpactIf you are interested in more information about this opportunity, please sign up for her GraceNotes 
newsletter at  http://www.nancykaygrace.com

Nancy Kay Grace is captivated by God’s grace and loves to share about embracing it in everyday life. Her devotional book, The Grace Impact, releases April 17 from CrossRiver Media. She has contributed stories to several anthologies and published magazine articles. Nancy is married to her best friend, Rick, who is a senior pastor in northwest Arkansas. They have served the Lord for mare than forty years, seeing His grace at work in many countries. Now they enjoy the stage of life with two married children and an increasing number of grandchildren. 

To learn more please visit Nancy on her website. You can also connect with her on social media: 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Guest: Elaine Cooper, Author of Bethany's Calendar

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading Bethany's calendar. With honesty and transparency, Elaine Cooper lets us into her heart and her home, taking us through the difficult days of her daughter’s journey with cancer.

Elaine graciously encourages others through the sharing of their story. Each step along the way Elaine shares lessons she learned that can help other caregivers and those close to them during the difficult days of disease, pain and death. And always she points us to God.

Bethany’s calendar is a courageous reminder that even in the darkness, there is light. Here is a look at the book and the author. 

Meet the Author  

Elaine Marie Cooper has released her first non-fiction book, Bethany's Calendar. It is a personal memoir of her daughter who died of a brain tumor and how the Lord was their strength during the darkest journey of their lives.
As a novelist, Elaine Marie Cooper has written the award-winning Fields of the Fatherless and the Deer Run Saga. Her passions are her family, her faith in Christ and the history of the American Revolution, a frequent subject of her historical fiction. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her novels.    
     Connect with Elaine: 

Website  
Twitter  

About Bethany's Calendar

In January of 2002, Elaine’s world flipped upside down. What started out as a beautiful New Year for the mom of three, turned into a living nightmare when her 23-year-old daughter, Bethany was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

In the months to come, Elaine not only used her nurse’s training, she learned to recognize the hand of God on her daughter’s life. Bethany’s Calendar tells the story of Elaine and Bethany’s journey and the many ways God helped their family to survive.  It is a story of fear and faith, commitment and compassion, told with gut-wrenching honesty while sharing unwavering faith in God.

Find Bethany's Calendar at Amazon



Q & A with Elaine  

What books have influenced your life the most? The Bible led me to my Savior, Jesus Christ and helped me understand my need for salvation. As far as fiction goes, I read a book by Taylor Caldwell when I was a teenager entitled “Pillar of Iron.” What impressed me about that novel was the depth and length of research the author carried into the creating of that story. The inspirational fiction books by Karen Kingsbury (especially her Redemption series) made me aware of the impact that Christian fiction can have on weaving real life scenarios with hope through Jesus Christ. I know her creativity impacted my view of Christian fiction more than any other author has done since.

  What book are you currently reading? I just finished a wonderful historical novel set in WWII in a Wyoming Japanese internment camp. The book is called Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice Wisler, and it swept me away to an unfamiliar time and place. I learned so much about the treatment of Americans of Japanese descent during that war and it was heartbreaking yet filled with faith and hope.

   Tell us about getting your mind in a creative mode. How do you begin your writing process? I think my creativity gets sparked by research—and you never know where inspiration will spark! My latest manuscript that I just completed, entitled Saratoga Letters, was partly inspired by a lost motel key in Saratoga Springs, New York! Combine that with a mention by a historian at the Saratoga National Park Service that there had been a huge re-enactment and commemoration in 1977 of the war that had occurred in 1777, and my writer’s mind went into overdrive! LOL I ended up with a two-part novel, separated by 200 years, yet connected through ancestors and descendants. It was the most challenging book, research-wise, that I’ve ever done.

   Do you have a separate space set up in your home or a favorite place to write/be creative? I used to work at a desk that was in the main area of the house. However, I decided I really needed a separate office space to not only concentrate more when I write, but to also get up from my desk and leave my work behind occasionally. Everyone needs a break and having my desk in an easily accessible location made it difficult to concentrate on my family and other obligations. 

   What is your current release about? Bethany’s Calendar is a departure from my usual genre of historical fiction. It is a nonfictional memoir of my daughter’s battle with brain cancer, one of the greatest trials our family has ever experienced. I honestly did not want to write about this journey of pain but the Lord made it clear to me that He wanted me to do just that. Bethany’s Calendar is a book geared toward caregivers, patients and friends and family members who wish to be helpful during a crisis. There is no experience that can prepare you when a terminal illness afflicts a loved one. I pray that our story will help others on their own difficult journey.

   What was the hardest thing about writing this book? Reliving the moments of shock, desperation and pain that we went through, from Bethany’s diagnosis all the way to her eventual passing. I knew the writing would be difficult so I asked friends and family to pray for me as I wrote. I definitely felt the prayers, as the words flowed easily from my thoughts into my fingers and onto my laptop. It was perhaps the easiest manuscript I’ve ever written by the fact that I wrote it so fast, as though it was a river of memory escaping from a dam that had held in the pain for too long.

   Which part of your book was the most enjoyable to write? The day I spent reading all of Bethany’s journals to glean excerpts for beginning each chapter was a mazing. I had never before sat down and read through all of her thoughts that she had penned through the years. I was SO blessed by her insights about life and her faith in Jesus Christ. Words can’t adequately express my gratitude at seeing how the Lord had worked in her heart. What a joy.

   Do you plan on writing other non-fiction books? I don’t have any current plans for that—but you never know what plans the Lord may have. I just pray that my writer’s heart will listen to His voice. 
                                           
   Stop by and visit Elaine on her website 
   or one of her social media spot! 

   Connect with Elaine: 

Website  
Facebook    
Twitter