weekly grace and links

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This week has been a week of chasing the small glimpses of hope. I have been carrying these words from C.S. Lewis close to my heart:  “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” Some days, the hope that I am grasping to hold seems quite far away. Some days, my faith feels smaller than a grain of sand. But there is the promise to stand upon, that there are only better things ahead because our God is a good, good Father and He only gives the best to us.

Here are links to great reads I stumbled across this week:

Choose to Sing into the Darkness. Reading through the Psalms, we hear of the author’s pain and suffering and yet — there is always this one thing: praising God. No matter what we walk through, we can always find a thread of hope in the darkness and we can sing praises to our Lord and Maker.

Learning to Pray in a World of Distractions. In all honesty, prayer has always been a difficult discipline for me. Yet, these words stopped me: a prayerless soul is a dead soul. Yet prayer is how our hearts align with God’s, and it is this communication that is essential to our soul health. So take a moment to read these words, my friend, and let them inspire you to bring you closer to your Maker in prayer.

Hope. Mary Anne Morgan’s photography always stops me, and these words on hope are too good to miss.

Don’t Resent God’s Training Ground“So, serve wholeheartedly today. Make the most of every opportunity. Run the race marked out for you with patient faith and persevering hope, setting your heart on the promise that he is working all things — all suffering, all waiting, all confusion, all reroutes, all journeys in the wilderness — for the good of us who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

Why you need a reading plan & good books. “When your battle is hardest, God always sends you arms — arms to hold you, arms to hold up your hope, to hold up your hurt and let it transform into more heart. To whisper you are Beloved and you are Brave and on the days when you feel unBrave, you are not undone, but undoubtedly are carried forward by the determination of grace.”

comfort on the hard days

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Maybe you are here with me, with a heart that is broken and a soul that has been worn down. Maybe you are in the midst of a storm, the waves of grief drowning you as they hit you one by one. Maybe all these battles have worn you down, fight after fight draining you until you are no longer sure you can take one more step. Maybe there are no more words to describe all this — the loss, the broken dreams, the frozen hopes, the sorrow, the anger, the despair.

There are these questions, that linger around in the folds of our souls, that take up space more than we ever like to admit — “How long, Lord? How much more of this pain, this sorrow, this hardship?”

“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart daily?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2)

These feelings, they remind me of those moments wondering through grounds unknown, deeper and deeper — until the moment you realize you are lost and alone. That dawning realization, the weight settling on top of your soul and stealing your breath — the moment when you realize that you do not know which way to go now.

There are moments, I find, when the hardest thing to face is that all words echo empty — in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls. We can fill our minds with the right words, and yet the empty echoes hurt the walls of our hearts.

Emptiness has a way of hurting us.

Yet we know that the pain ringing through, the doubts drowning us, the confusion and hurt, God is still here. Even on those days when the emptiness of it all hurts us the most, we remind our hearts of our Savior, God with us — in the hurt, in the confusion, in the doubts, in the storm. The Word become flesh, He is always with us right here as we open up the pages in our Bible and let His Word pour out on our hearts.

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears,
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart,
And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.” (Psalm 34:17-19,22)

In the midst of the deep pain, in the midst of vast darkness, in the midst of the valley: the Lord is our Shepherd and He will hear our hearts. In the moments of pain gripping our hearts, of sorrow surrounding our souls — we stand in the promise of redemption and grace to come. In our suffering, we can rest in the promise of our Savior coming near, knowing that He has walked this broken road before us.

These questions take space, and in the emptiness of words there might be no answers; but we have the promise of a presence of our great God, who is near and will never leave us. These feelings, these questions — we can bring them to the One who created us, knowing that He already knows our hearts. Not one part of this is a surprise to Him. He will carry you.

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s MusingsGlimpses Link UpModest MondayTeaching What Is GoodAn Ornament of Grace Link UpChristian Blogger LinkupCoffee and ConversationWord Filled WednesdayWise Woman Linkup#HeartEncouragement Thursday#GraceMoments Link Up#DanceWithJesus LinkupFaith Filled FridayGrace & Truth

tips for establishing a quiet time

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My friend, if there is something so very essential to our walks with the Lord — it is having a quiet time every day, letting go of the things of the world and just be still before Him, to read His Word and to hear His voice. This is how we grow spiritually. But this is also the very grounds where we fight some of the hardest spiritual warfare, where the enemy comes in to discourage us and pull us away from spending time with our Lord.

1. Plan a time for your quiet time

Honestly? Responsibilities weigh heavy on our shoulders, and life has a tendency to get busy very fast. The quiet time will not happen, unless we make the time. So do just that: schedule a time to spend with the Lord. Plan the time, and stick with it no matter what. Make it short in the beginning, as it is easier to commit this way. Even 15 minutes is enough — although soon you might just find yourself wanting more time with the Lord.

When is the best time to have a quiet time? I believe it is in the morning, as we have examples in the Scriptures of the Psalmist seeking the Lord early or of Jesus going up the mountain to pray before the day. For me, the routine of it helps me to have a quiet time every morning. For some, though, mornings might just be plain difficult. So pray about this; ask the Lord for His guidance. He will certainly provide a time every day for you to spend time with Him.

“O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.” (Psalm 63:1-2)

2. Decide on a book of the Bible to study

If you are new in the faith, the Gospel of John is a great book to read. If you are new to having a quiet time with the Lord, the Gospel of Mark is good for it is the shortest of the Gospels, yet contains so much. I love reading through the Psalms, reading one Psalm every morning for great encouragement. The Epistles of Paul contain so much wisdom, hope, and encouragement. The book of James is great for putting our faith into action.

3. Study the book of the Bible

First, pray for the Holy Spirit to teach you and to reveal more of Jesus to you during your daily quiet time.

Depending on the book you have chosen, the time you have, and even your motivation, choose whether you are going to read a verse, a passage, or a chapter every day. Then, reading the Scripture for the day, seek answers to what you can learn about:

  1. God the Father
  2. Jesus
  3. the Holy Spirit
  4. yourself as a believer in Christ
  5. sins to avoid
  6. commandments to obey
  7. love and Christian living

4. Keep a journal

I am not much for keeping a diary on a daily basis, but I do keep a spiritual journal. In the journal, I write the things I learn while studying the Scriptures and reading His Word. I write the things I hear from the Lord, and also the things I am saying to Him. I write down prayers and wishes, and I record answers to prayers — although I need to get better at keeping a prayer journal. I also write down the worries and concerns I have, pour out the hurt from my heart, put my anxiety into words, and dot down the meltdowns I have. I keep a gratitude list, as well.

The reason I love keeping a journal is that it allows me to look back and see God’s faithfulness in every season of my life. Prayers are always answered, which means the Lord hears even the quiet cries of my heart. He blesses me so greatly with so much more than I ever have dared to ask for. When I have been faithless, He has remained faithful.

5. Share what you have learned, in words and in action

I have found that the best way I learn, is to share what I have learned — whether it is in words or in action. Our love for God changes the way we love others, and applying these things to our lives will be a great blessing — especially to us. I have also been inspired so many times when a friend has shared about what they have been reading during their devotions and how they have seen God in the midst of the everyday life.

Another benefit of sharing what we have learned, especially by telling others, is that we process the same thing over and over again. This, I have found, might just enable us to apply what we have learned even deeper as we think of it in different places and in different context.

What has helped you to establish a daily quiet time with the Lord? Share in the comments below!

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s Musings

glimpses of grace, vol. 9

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It is almost the beginning of the Advent season, which is somehow unbelievable because this fall has seemed to fly by in some ways and stretch beyond what I thought I could take in other ways. But this time is the perfect time to stop and willfully make ourselves see the glimpses of grace in the here and now, that are around us all the time. Here are some great reads, to touch hearts and souls, to transform us for the better.

Lori Ferguson Wilbert wrote about walking in shame and this is the best post I have read in a while. Every part of my soul relates to walking in shame, no matter what season I am in right now.

Life is hard, but God is good. The simple truth is, life is hard. But our God is good and there is always hope. Jason Helveston writes here about four reasons why life is hard because, as he says, we usually want to find deeper meaning in our hardships. Here are also specific ways to respond to our difficulties, and there is wisdom in these words for all of us.

Here, Christel Humfrey writes a beautiful post on our current pain that reminds us of future gloryWe were made for eternity, and God’s blessings in the here and now remind us of that beautiful future. Yet it is so easy to forget this, which is why our current pain reminds us of our future glory.

So often, we turn away from others and from God — because of fear, shame, or most likely — pride. We do not want others to see the ugly side of our hearts, of our lives, so we limp forward, pretending that we are fine. Francine Rivers writes beautifully on what happens when we allow things to entangle us.

Here is an absolutely beautiful post from Ann Voskamp, on how to live when the breaking waves of life, stress, fears, or sorrows come. “When tough things keep coming at you — you think you have to get tougher. I say it quietly, not sure she hears me over the waves? “Hearts that get tougher — leave you with nothing of value to give.” Love is what we have to give —- and love comes from places that are vulnerable and soft and tender enough to feel — to break. Only those who are really vulnerable enough to be broken —  get to be the ones who really love. Only those who are really vulnerable enough to be broken —  get to be the ones who really love. It can be that when you feel broken — it’s proof that you’ve given.”

Gavin Ortlund writes about 3 ways to respond when slandered. Slander, like gossip, is something that I think we are bound to face when we are in ministry and going about the ways of the Lord. So here are some wise, grace-full tips on responding to slander in a way that it honors God.

what hinders our thanksgiving

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There has been this tugging on my heart to spend more time around this space, to blog more intentionally and write out my heart and my mind. To pause more, to share more, to wonder more, to connect more, to open up more. To write about the important things, knowing that my heart will be changed in the process.

Thanksgiving is around the corner, although it is not celebrated in these parts of the world. But it is quite hard to miss the switch in the topics discussed, that circle around the idea of gratitude and giving thanks — and this time around, it has been hard on my soul. The stress of life right now is heavy. Some days it is a struggle for me to want to take on the perspective of thanksgiving, gratitude seemingly far away from me. This, in all honesty, is a hard place to be in — because I know my heart, that was meant for looking for those glimpses of grace and raising thanks to the One who gives to us so abundantly.

“Thanksgiving is a spiritual exercise, necessary to the building of a healthy soul.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

I have been reminded lately that thanksgiving and a grateful attitude are essentials in the walk of life for us Christ followers. I was making pancakes for dinner one evening and I was reading Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot, these words striking a cord in my heart — that the spirit of greed stifles thanksgiving, whether it is the greed of doing, being, or having.

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thess. 5:18)

This, I know, is the trap we so often fall into in our society of more. Some days, it is the need to be frantically doing more — whether it is finding more ministry opportunities, exercising more, spending more time with people, helping or volunteering, making our homes and building our relationships. There is the greed of doing more, always lurking in the background and stealing from us the still moments before our Lord.

My heart is most captured by the greed of being more, the lies of the enemy constantly reminding me of how I am not enough yet, how I should be more already now. There is this restlessness that settles into our souls, always writing down more goals on our “to be” list and forgetting to be in the here, in the now. We see this in the pulling in our souls, the demand for our current circumstances to be something else, something more because we are already now more than this season of life. There is that discontentment with our current positions, giftings, place, people, capacities — because we should, well, be more.

Yet, the most obvious one for us is the greed of having, woven into our societies these days. We have been given plenty, yet we are dissatisfied because there should be variety or more fulfilling experiences or less broken hearts. We carry around the pain of comparison, seeing others with lives so much more perfect than ours and our hearts cry out for the same. There is the lingering feeling, that there should be more to life than this, and the hurt turns into bitterness bit by bit.

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Yet I keep coming around to the same end point, that giving thanks will always be only good for us. It costs us, that is a sure thing — it costs us our hearts, lost as the Lord transforms them into something more beautiful. It costs us our comfort, as we need to lift our eyes from ourselves into the things of God. It will be painful, too, knowing our sinful hearts and praising our God, the One who gives and takes away.

It might just be the hardest thing in this season, giving thanks when everything reminds us of just how much we are missing. The elections, this pain, these broken relationships, the lost job, the house lost, these never-changing circumstances — it is painful to find gratitude in us. Yet, in our brokenness, we find our meaning as we find our Lord in every moment and in every place.

Linking up: Good Morning MondaysMonday’s MusingsModest Monday LinkupCoffee and ConversationWise Woman LinkupChristian Blogger LinkupCoffee For Your HeartWord Filled WednesdayAn Ornament of Grace