A Tap Says Notice me! While sitting at my kitchen table, I often feel a tap on my arm. Looking down, I find my white kitty touching me with his paw. Sometimes he lets out a pitiful mew as his blue eyes gaze with longing.
Sir Edmond usually wants me to feed him, but sometimes he’s pleading for his morning brush-down. Or he might initiate a game. He hovers around me as I do household chores, and he curls up nearby when I sit down to write.
I think he’s discovered I’m his best source for food, comfort, and play. I hear people say cats aren’t affectionate, but I know better.
In much the same way, people get confused about God. Perhaps they see him as an angry judge who lies in wait for them to sin, or someone so distant he doesn’t care. However, I crave his love, grace, and mercy.
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good, I have made the Lord God my refuge” (Psalm 73: 28 NAS).
My days flow more smoothly when I stay close to the Father. Just like my kitty, I often “tap” my Father when I need love, wisdom, or an eternal perspective.
Cynthia L Simmons and her husband reside in Atlanta. A Bible teacher and former home-school mother, she writes a column for Leading Hearts Magazine. She served as past president of Christian Authors Guild, directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference, and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio. Her author website is www.clsimmons.com.
If I am lost in a city, I like to go to a map so I can see the “big picture.” The same thing is true of discerning God’s will. Having an overall general understanding of God’s book, character, actions and words helps us to understand God and to understand how He works.
Read the Bible through in a year.The One-Year Bible or one of Tyndale’s One Year Bible Devotionals, like Devotions for
Women on the Go are options. You might read a new translation or use a different study tool as you read, but year after year – even if it takes you a few years to read it through – God’s Word will become anchored into your heart.
Study the Bible chronologically. Studying the Bible this way has helped me form my philosophy and methodology of ministry. For example, because I see how God lays foundations, then builds on them, I want to do the same in my ministry.
Study the character of God. By studying who God is, I get to see how He thinks, acts, and relates to people. When I am in a tough spot, especially when I have to make a quick decision, I go back and ask, “What would God’s character have me do?” This year, I had several important decisions on my mind, decisions that would dramatically impact my family, my ministry and my future. I felt compelled to travel back to the place I started my Christian walk more than 30 years ago – in the book of Matthew.
I re-read all the words of Jesus in the gospels, seeking the heart of God on the matter before me.
Dive Deep Into A Topic: For several years, I have been in the psalms. First as one of the writers for Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, then the following few years as a teacher of that study of the Psalms. The benefit of a focused topical study is you move closer to the heartbeat of God in that area of life or scripture.
Other ideas for study are the names of God in the Old Testament, the verses that speak of God as the Father, the names Christ is called in the Old and New Testament, and the names and character of the Holy Spirit. When you layer God’s Word into your life on a daily basis, you gain the ability to see things from God’s perspective. Jesus explains it with the phrase, “You are in me and I in you” (John 14:20, John 17:21-22). The Word of God is the key ingredient in protecting your life: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23).
One woman who had sat in a Bible-teaching church Sunday after Sunday for over 10 years told me something one day that took my breath away. She had been having an affair with her best friend’s husband! Those in her world had counseled her, confronted her in love, shown her care and compassion – everything possible to help her see the trauma she was causing two families – then one day she eloped with this man! When she arrived back in town, I saw her at one of our children’s sporting events. She was so excited. She was flitting from person to person showing her ring and wedding pictures. When she arrived in front of Bill and I, we were shocked by her flippancy, “Oh, aren’t you excited for me? I just knew it was God’s will that we marry because after the ceremony, I looked up and there was a ring around the moon!”
“A ring around the moon!” my heart screamed with sadness. Her heart had drifted so far from God’s Word that her decision-making ability had become irrational. That day has stayed with me – primarily because it wasn’t an isolated incident.
A best friend, married to a minister, told me God had led her to an Internet chat room where she encountered a man who met her emotional and sexual needs. Another woman, who had been a committed women’s leader for years, told me at a retreat, “I was praying about whether to leave my current ministry, and I saw a butterfly and thought, “Butterflies are free; I am free from this ministry calling now. I am released to fly on to something else. Something for me.”
Our world has become so feelings-based and experiential, women are hopping from one emotional high to another. Sadly, this thinking is also creeping into the church, and into church leadership.
Seeing this, I feel compelled to be in the Word daily because every day that I might lean on an experience or emotion rather than on God and His Word is one more day my heart drifts further from truth, and further from God. If I don’t gird up my mind with the truth, I will drift from the truth.
“I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving…” (Psalm 116:17).
From this verse I get the impression we offer thanksgiving with difficulty or under hardship—because we should do it, not necessarily because we want to do it.
Early in my walk with the Lord, my expression of thanks depended on my circumstances. When favorable, my heart overflowed with gratitude and praise. I found it easy to rejoice and thank the Lord.
I offered thanksgiving as a reward for his being good to me and withheld it if I thought he hadn’t treated me fairly. Then I read “in every thing give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
In everything? That’s expecting a lot. So I gave thanks as a formality, with great effort, begrudgingly.
Reading those beautiful hymns of praise, the Psalms, I saw how others handled this.
Those writers offered thanks and praise to God in spite of circumstances, with gratitude for his marvelous works in the past and confidence in his promises for the future. They praised him for his very nature—he is good, gracious, righteous, merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion and forgiveness.
If that weren’t enough, they praised him simply because he deserved it. The Lord God is worthy of honor and exaltation.
Regardless of my circumstances, he is still good, gracious, righteous, merciful, slow to anger, rich in compassion and forgiveness–and so worthy of honor and exaltation.
Giving thanks is a decision. And sometimes it’s a sacrifice. Even so…
“My heart, is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Psalm 57:7).
(Adapted from Cabbages and Kings—Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ)
Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary of Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.
In today’s world with frightening headlines blasting the worst possible scenarios into our homes, and the stress of the daily responsibility of providing for ourselves and our families weighing heavy on our hearts, coupled with the unpredictable, unwelcome, unwanted, unbelievably hard or harsh circumstances like floods, fires, relationship strife, death and disease it is very easy to get depressed, discouraged and down-trodden.
But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. (Psalm 71:14)
The word hope is a verb, so it is an action we choose, to wait expectantly for God to move. I like to say, “trust while you tarry” , or to wait patiently (and sometimes painfully long) for God
to show up and show off! After doing a word study, to summarize the meaning, this hoping is to be exercised: surpassingly, repeatedly, increasingly, intensely, exceedingly, continuously, regularly, consistently, and perpetually! When I drew the verse in my Bible art journal, I pictured a geyser of ever-flowing hope!
My contribution to Discovering Hope in the Psalms is a series of inspirational devotionals that help women apply the psalms to their everyday lives and keep HOPE ALIVE. To help me keep HOPE ALIVE, in my bullet journal, I have pages I write my “God-Sized” hopes and dreams and I wrap them with scripture so I can pray the Word over my life.
The key to securing a hope like an eternal spring is also in this same verse, “praise you more and more”. The “more and more” means to accumulate or gather praise—and in doing this gathering we fuel hope. One way to picture accumulating or gathering praise would be how you might walk through a garden to gather flowers to create a beautiful bouquet or through a mall gathering gifts for family and friends that will bring joy!
So to capture praises to fan the flame on hope, in my bullet journal, I have pages to accumulate praises. One looks like the sun with praises written on each ray. Another is a vase with praises on each flower petal. Accumulated praise could also be drawn as gift bags collected while shopping, presents under a Christmas tree, waves on the ocean, or shells on the beach– use your imagination to personalize your record of praise!
What an incredibly unique and creative Bible study Pam, Jean, and Karla have created! It’s multilayered, dimensional, theologically rich, touching the senses—enlightening the mind, capturing the heart. Well done, beloved Sisters! Thank you for this gift.
Easter for a child can often only mean candy, ducks, bunnies and an Easter egg hunt. And for the
first six years of my life, I am sure waking up to find out how many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies were in my Easter basket must have been my priority– that is until one Easter, when my mom’s best friend recognized how much we needed the Easter message:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
My family NEEDED that living HOPE! My parents’s marriage was unraveling and hanging by a weak, fraying thread. And we also needed the unconditional love Christ demonstrated when HE CHOSE to leave the glory of heaven and come live among we lowly, imperfect human beings– and my alcoholic dad especially needed to hear he was loved, even in his unlovely state. We needed the grace and mercy the Father extended. To this day when I wake up, I pray God’s grace and mercy over me, my marriage, my family and my future:
God give me GRACE: Lavish me with the blessings I DO NOT DESERVE but that you freely give
I am a sinner, You are the Savior
God give me MERCY: Hold back the wrath that I DO DESERVE but You shield far from me
I am unrighteous, You are the Redeemer
As a little girl, in my pajama’s, I used to tip-toe out to the living room, pull my flannel night gown over my knees and turn on the TV to watch a Christian television cartoon that showed a healthy mom, dad and happy children. I would pray, (not even having a clue who I was talking to in the cosmos,), “I want a happy family like that.”
Soon, God sent my mom’s best friend to invite us to her church. My mother, sensing this was an
important day, dressed us all up in our very best and bought me white gloves and an Easter bonnet to wear on my first day of going to the “House where God lives.” There, in that little tiny church, in a little tiny town, a little tiny girl met the GREAT and GLORIOUS GOD.
My life was forever transformed for the better. I soon began a personal relationship with the Creator God I had been whispering to. Eventually my mother, my siblings all began a relationship with Christ– and the day my dad died, he too, while reading Steps to Peace with God by Billy Graham, finally gave his broken heart to the One who had been lavishing love over his life, waiting patiently for His prodigal son to come home.
This is why we write — we write, we speak, we teach for the reason Christ came and gave His –to reach the lost, the hurting, the broken and the bruised,
The Easter Sunday, or any Sunday after, be brave enough to pray one of two prayers:
Lord, give me eyes to see who needs a relationship with you, and the courage to invite him or her to come hear about You, the God who loves us all enough to go up Calvary’s hill and give your perfect life, in payment for our imperfect lives.
Lord, I want to know You. I, too have been talking to You, hoping, wishing, praying for a better life here on earth and an eternal home one day in heaven. Thank you for dying on the cross for me. I receive that free gift of Your love.
Pastor Pete Jankowski once put it like this, “The cross was not Christ’s destination– YOU were.” .Jesus went through the grueling pain of the cross out of love for you! God reached out in sacrificial love to you, now, simply reach back in surrender to the God who created you, knows you and loves you.
E Jones and Karla Dornacher) and the Farrel’s best-selling Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti The Farrels have experienced many of the merciful answers to Pam’s “little girl” prayers, including a happy marriage of 38 years and three grown sons, three daughter in laws and four grandchildren who all love Jesus too.Pam and Bill live in Southern California, where they enjoy Easter sunrise services on the beach.