July 2017 Book Recommendation

My July Book Recommendation is The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.

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I was given this book as a birthday gift and have truly loved it. Honestly, it is the best book I have ever read on prayer. When I read books, I like to underline parts that I like or quotes that I want to remember. As I read The Circle Maker, I feel like I was underlining almost the whole book!   It was that good!

There are so many good nuggets and challenges in this book. Let me share with you 2-3 of my favorites:

The book begins with him explaining the legend of the circle maker. I will let you read it for yourself but he refers to drawing circles around our prayers from this story. He encourages us to draw a circle around the impossible situation in our lives and then invite God to intervene. He refers to the story of Jericho in the Bible where God asks Joshua and his people to circle the city once a day for 6 days and then on the seventh day to march around 7 times. Then God delivers on the promise and the walls come tumbling down.   Mark says, “Drawing prayer circles begins with identifying your Jericho. You’ve got to define the promises God wants you to stake claim to, the miracle God wants you to believe for and the dreams God wants you to pursue.” He gives some examples and says, “Jericho is spelled many different ways. If you have cancer, it’s spelled healing. If your child is far from God, it’s spelled salvation. If your marriage is falling apart, it’s spelled reconciliation. If you have a vision beyond your resources, it’s spelled provision. But whatever it is, you have to spell it out.” So my question to you is what is your Jericho? What do you need to start circling in prayer? Who do you need to start circling in prayer?

Mark talks about how his Jericho is spelled 3 different ways- the names of his 3 kids. As a parent, I could totally relate to my Jericho being my kids. As I was reading this book, I thought about how I could put these ideas into action. As many of you know, I have a big black lab named Shadow that needs to be walked. I live right across from a park where I daily circle around it and walk my dog. I usually use this time to return phone calls or check email but this book has inspired me so much that I now use my walking Shadow time as my prayer circle time! Shadow and I circle the park at least 2 times so I can pray circles around each of my boys as well as myself and my family and friends. Mark says, “One of my responsibilities as a parent is not only circling my children in prayer but also teaching them to circle the promises of God.”   He talks about how he prays scripture verses over his children. I got super excited about this because each of my boys picked a life verse when they were baptized. Kyle chose Proverbs 3:5-6 and Conor chose Philippians 4:6-7. So as I walk the park, not only to I pray over things going on in their life but I also pray their life verse over them.   I pray that Kyle will “trust in the Lord with all his heart and lean not on his own understanding but in all his ways acknowledge him and God will make his paths straight.” I pray that Conor “will not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, he will present his requests to God so that the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard his heart and his mind in Christ Jesus.” When I had them pick their life verse years before at their baptism, I never thought about praying it over them. Again, this book is opening my eyes to so many cool things about prayer.

On a funny note, Shadow is only use to circling the park 1 or 2 times on his walks and the other day, I was praying circles and wanted to go a third time around and he was literally pulling me home because he was so tired. I was like come on Shadow- I have lots more to pray about!! I will be working on his endurance as I do my prayer circles!

Let me say that you don’t have to walk in a circle to pray circles around the people in your life. In the book, he talks about a parent who prays in each of his kid’s rooms. He also talks about keeping a prayer journal and writing out your prayers. I think I got the idea to physically walk in a circle because Mark is a Pastor in Washington DC and in the book, he talks about going on prayer walks around the city. His stories of how God provided different properties for his church are just amazing. Honestly, the stories in this book of how God answered prayers are inspiring and will ignite in you the desire to pray more, dream bigger and trust God than ever before. I was truly moved by this book!

Lastly, the book is divided into 3 sections: Dream Big, Pray Hard, and Think Long. In the Think Long section, he encourages you to make a life goal list. Now you might be thinking, how does setting goal have to do with prayer. Well this is what Mark says, “Goals are the cause and effect of praying hard. On the front end, prayer is a goal incubator. The more you pray, the more God sized goals you’ll be inspired to go after. But prayer doesn’t just inspire godly goals, it also ensures that you keep praying hard because it is the only way you’ll accomplish a God- sized goal. Simply put, prayers naturally turn into goals, and goals naturally turn into prayers. Goals give you a prayer target.” In this book, Mark goes into detail about how to set life goals with ten steps to goal setting, and he even shares his life goals with us in the book. I found this part of the book super helpful especially since my personality does not naturally dream big. It was hard for me but I started my life goal list!   Again, what I love about this book is that it gives you very practical steps for each of the 3 sections: Dream Big, Pray Hard, and Think Long. Mark also shares lots of examples as well which are so helpful!

So who wants to start praying more boldly, more confidently and more specifically! Again, this book is life changing and I highly recommend it. I want to end with this quote for his book, “If you pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you, look out.”

God, help us all pray more audacious prayers! Help us pray circles around our loved ones, around our dreams and God sized goals that you have put in our hearts. We pray that you will ignite in us a desire to pray harder and leave behind a prayer legacy for our kids! In Jesus name, Amen!

 

 

 

June 2017 Book Recommendation

My June Book Recommendation is a book called Thrive: Digging Deep, Reaching Out.  It is written by Mark Hall, the lead singer of Casting Crowns (one of my favorite Christian groups).

I actually got this book at Friends of the Library about 3-4 months ago and was captivated by the picture of the tree on the front with the deep roots!   With my word being Depth this year, this picture was an amazing illustration of everything God was teaching me!  So, I bought the book for a dollar and could not wait to get home to read it.  I truly loved the book and was pleasantly surprised to see at the end of the book that Mark Hall also wrote a student edition of the book.  So for Easter, I bought each of my boys a copy of the student edition of the book!

Spring was super busy and sadly, we did not start the book until now.  However, this summer, my kids and I are reading it together; we literally started just a couple days ago and have been reading a chapter a day.   I would be lying if I told you my kids wake up asking to read it with me; they actually ask to get on their electronic devices.  However, after we get started in the morning, I feel like we are having some amazing discussions after reading each chapter.

The premise of the book is that “we were meant to thrive, not just survive”!  If you have ever heard the Thrive CD by Casting Crowns, there is a song about this and it talks about a tree planted by the water.   I want to share with you more about this oak tree in South Alabama.  It is more than 300 years old and it is extremely large and strong.   It is located where two rivers come together.  In the book, Mark shares that a farmer once told him, “You know, the reason these kinds of trees are so strong is, not only are they planted by the water, but they have just as much going on under the ground as they do above the ground.”   Wow- Love this!   Deep roots- check out the picture on the cover of the book again for a great visual.

Mark Hall says, “It dawned on me that, like the big oak tree, growth as a believer requires two parts.  We have to dig our roots deep.  And when we do, we naturally will reach out.”   Mark was inspired by this big oak tree and made this logo showing the importance of both digging deep and reaching out.    IMG_1926

Mark then divides the book into 2 sections: Digging Deep and Reaching Out and goes into detail on both.   Note: I don’t think you need to get both versions of the book like I did.  They are almost identical.  It just depends if you want to read by yourself or if you have kids and want to read it with them.  Personally, I loved the book when I read it the first time but there is something special about reading it with my kids. I am excited to see how God is going to use this book to grow our faith deeper and as a result, hopefully we will want to reach out to help others.

With Summer here, I think it is the perfect time to read together and also, we have a little more time to come up with creative ways to reach out.   Just the other day, I saw this post on Facebook of a mom who takes her kids out for a couple hours and their goal is to do 3 random acts of kindness.  I thought this was such a cool idea that I want to try with my kids so I had to share it with you.  You can take all your kids together or make it a special one on one time with them separately.   She said that you don’t leave with a plan, you just get in your car and drive and see where God takes you and who needs your help.  This mom said that they first went to a drive through and paid for the car’s meal behind them.  Then they drove past a laundry mat so they took quarters into one of the ladies washing their clothes. Finally, they ended at a grocery store parking lot where all the carts were spread out everywhere and helped put all the shopping carts back where they belong.  What she said about the last item is that it did not cost them any money, just their time.  I loved these ideas; there are so many great ways to reach out.  I am sure you have some great ones too!  Please share them with me- I would love to hear them!

I truly loved this book and the amazing truth in it!  I hope our goal would be to dig deeper and reach out, to make a difference with our lives.  My prayer is that both you and me and our kids too, will be intentional with our time and together we can live knowing “we were made to thrive”!

Cue up the music from their song: Thrive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ71RWJhS_M

My May 2017 Book Recommendation

I know it is June 1st, but I want to share my May book recommendation.   It is Hopelifter: Creative Ways to Spread Hope When Life Hurts by Kathe Wunneberg.

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I had read one of Kathe’s previous books called Grieving the Child I Never Knew. This book was instrumental in helping me grieve the loss of my miscarriage which was just over 10 years ago. In fact, I have probably purchased over 20 copies of that book and given it to friends and other moms hurting who have lost a baby during pregnancy. Having experienced multiple miscarriages of her own, Kathe’s words were comforting and brought hope.   So, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw that Kathe had written another book, I could not wait to read it and once again, her words are uplifting and encouraging.

Kathe is a hopelifter!! She takes her life experiences, her losses, her hard times and uses them to help others. She says this numerous times in her book and I just love this quote, “We believe we go through what we go through to help others go through what we went through.” Let me give you an example- she calls it Hope on Wheels. She will take a group of women away on a bus for a day to a retreat center. She has a very special bus tour on Mother’s day. You see not only did Kathe experience multiple miscarriages but she also carried a baby full term with a rare disorder and he only lived one day. She has a heart for grieving moms because she has experienced the hurt and pain of losing a baby. So every mother’s day, she takes a bus of moms who have lost a child. Listen to her words, “We share a common bond and sisterhood of loss. Some are fresh in their journey and preparing for their first Mother’s Day without their child. Others are veteran sojourners, well familiar with suffering and this bus trip. We call them hopelifters- people who have been transformed by their own experience with grief and who are now willingly offering themselves as the hands and feet of Jesus to comfort our hurting women. Amazingly, God’s power at work in and through their broken hearts spreads hope in the hearts of others.”   I want to stop for a second to make sure you don’t miss what she just said- it is God’s power at work through these women. They are taking their broken hearts and God is using that to touch the heart of someone else. Wow- that is beautiful!

As you can see, I am very passionate about this! God never wastes a hurt!! Instead, He uses our hurts to help others; they become our ministries. Like a mentioned above about my miscarriage, I have been able to help so many other women who have miscarried a baby because of my experience! The verse: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 became my life verse at that time! “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” I love that God can use our brokenness and our pain. Little did I know, that this life verse would become so real again to me as I went through my divorce. It has been over 3 years now and with God’s power, I am able to offer support and comfort to other women who are heartbroken by the loss of a marriage. I love what Kathe says, “The hopelifters’ presence, personal touch, prayers, practical advice, and individual stories of God’s help and healing power in their own lives lifts other women and points them to the God of Hope. And in time… those receiving hope will spread hope too.” You see, it is our presence that offers hope, our personal touch and our prayers that touch their heart, our practical advice and stories that offer them comfort. You just have to be real and vulnerable with your pain and God can use you in might ways. Who do you need to reach out to? Who do you need to offer your presence and your story?

Her book has so many great insights but I want to share with you my favorite part of the book called Recipes of Hope. “It is written by fellow hopelifters who have persevered through various life issues and are willing to share their insights to help you encourage others who may be experiencing a similar life struggle.” There are about 100 of them in the second half of the book. They are alphabetized by subject like adoption, cancer, depression, divorce, eating disorder, infertility, loss of a child, friend, parent or spouse, mental illness, miscarriage, prison, rejection, special needs, suicide, terminal illness, weight challenges, and workplace challenges are just some of the subjects. Honestly, I think they have something for each and every struggle you or a friend might be facing. What I love is that the hopelifter, the one writing it, is honest and vulnerable to share with you about that struggle and offers practical ways you can help someone going through that same thing. This part of the book is so helpful because sometimes you do not know what to do or what to say so they give you ideas. Some of them even give you ideas of what not to say. Knowing what it feels like to live through that struggle, these recipes of hope are powerful.   I loved the entire book but this part alone makes it worth getting.

Ladies, let’s be a hopelifter! Let’s take our struggles, our broken hearts, our hard times and let’s use them to bring hope to someone else who is struggling with the same thing. Let’s live out 2 Cor 1:3-4! I know it is hard sometimes to be authentic with our pain- what will others think? I think people will be thankful that you shared it with them. It will connect you to others in a powerful way. Honestly, being vulnerable with my broken places has been one of the most beautiful parts of my life story. I promise you God is faithful and with God’s power, your broken heart can offer hope to another broken heart. Again, who do you need to share your story with? Who can you offer hope to?

Dear God,                                                                                                                                       Thank you for not wasting our hurt and pain. God you specialize in bringing beauty out of ashes. Please use all of us; take our stories and help them bring hope and comfort to others hurting. God, I pray for those hurting right now. I pray you bring a hopelifter into their life to offer them comfort. God, please empower us to share our stories.                     In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

My April 2017 Book Recommendation

My April book recommendation is Steven Curtis Chapman’s new book. What a love about this book is the vulnerability that Steven shows as he shares his entire life in detail. The book draws you in and your heart will be forever touched by his family’s story.

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His authenticity in this book is what makes is so powerful. You see, he could just share with us his high moments in his life with his music career but he also shares the low moments and difficult times too: the struggles in his marriage, the hard times of parenting when touring and traveling, the road to their adoption of 3 girls, and lastly, the grief of losing their youngest daughter in a tragic accident.   Honestly, this is the part that will grab your heart and I recommend a box of Kleenex as the tears will come streaming down your face as you hear their heartbreaking story. It is truly so sad. But at the same time, as they share everything, you will also be in awe of how God cares about the details and the timing of events leading up to her death and the details after. You will see how God met them in their grief and because of Steven and his family’s strong faith in God, you will see how God is using his story and pain to help others- the beauty in the ashes.

There is something about being vulnerable that truly grabs at our hearts. So many people are trying to look like they have it all together. Think of social media like Facebook and Instagram, people post their pictures and everyone looks like they have these perfect lives. No one shares their struggles, their pain, their hard times- vulnerability is rare but very powerful. It allows other people to feel comfortable to share their struggles and pain instead of just pretending everything is perfect.

About 2 1/2 years ago I started this blog, heartbreaktostrength.wordpress.com, my very first post was called Being Vulnerable and I remember how hard it was to share about my divorce. I knew God was asking me to do it but I was so scared to put it all out there. Honestly, after I sent the emails, I remember taking a shower and thinking, Oh Sh*t, what did I just do. (Yes, I clearly remember swearing).   I got out of the shower and went back to my computer to see if anyone responded and I remember sitting there overwhelmed with what I read.   Many people had replied and what they shared with me was beautiful- they were vulnerable with me and shared their struggles and their difficulties. They would say something like thank you for sharing this and then they would tell me something very personal to them that I know I would have never learned if I had not been vulnerable first.   It was a powerful day that I will never forget. God made it so clear to me that day that you connect deeper with someone through your struggles and hard times than you can in your good times.

What do you need to share? I am not asking you to email it out to everyone you know but what can you share with a close friend? I want to encourage all of you to take down the masks of perfection and share the honest, authentic you! God can use you in ways you never knew possible. You see we all have a story and just like Steven was faithful to share his story in this book, God wants us to share our stories with others.

Here is my part 2 story of being vulnerable:

I am a single mom to two amazing boys but if I am complete honest, many times, being a single parent is super hard. I second guess my parenting all the time, and I feel frustrated that all the responsibility falls on me. I have an amazing support group that I can turn to for advice and help but the truth is that I am the only parent in my home and that can feel overwhelming at times. I try to be an intentional parent and that takes time. Trying to balance everyone’s schedule and mine is challenging. Some days, I feel like I am running around crazy and most days, I collapse into bed exhausted. I think many of you can relate.

Interestingly, this struggle of being a single mom has made me rely more and more on my faith and dependence on God! When we are weak, He is strong and I truly believe this. You see, the divorce for our family was heartbreaking and difficult and I would not wish it on anyone. However, it stretched me and grew me in ways I had never been stretched like that before. My faith is stronger now than the 2 1/2 years ago that I wrote to you all the first time. I call this “the bless in the mess”!   In Steven’s book, it is called the beauty in the ashes.

Ladies, don’t be afraid to share your entire story- the good and the bad. You will connect with others on a deeper level and you never know whose life you will touch and help by being vulnerable!

Love, Jodi

 

 

March 2017 Book Recommendation

My March Book Recommendation is Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny by Tony Evans.

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I was introduced to this book through the Proverbs 31 Ministries devotionals; Tony was a guest writer in January and the devotional really resonated with me so I purchased his book. I am so glad that I did because it was phenomenal!   Here is the quote in the devotional that stood out to me, “Detours are unanticipated routes that take us another way to our destiny. Detours are designed for our own good, regardless how we view or feel about them.   They are good things that often feel bad. This is because it’s in our detours that we’re developed for our destiny.” I love this!! Our character is developed in the detours! Even though they feel frustrating or negative at the time, God is developing our character in the middle of them. We are learning patience, gratitude, compassion for others, and how to live fully dependent of God. Tony says, “God is not going to bring your destiny to fruition until He knows that you are able to handle it spiritually, emotionally, and physically. If you cannot handle it, you will lose it rather than use it for His glory. That is why He focuses so intently on our development as He takes us to our destiny.” Now can you see what I loved this book- such great truth and perspective to have when life takes a detour.

Tony takes us through the life of Joseph in this book. If ever there was someone who went through many detours in life, it was Joseph. He went from the pit to prison to the palace. Along the way, God grew Joseph and developed his character. Honestly, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about Joseph in this book; he started out as a prideful young man bragging to his brothers about his coat of many colors. The brothers in an act of jealousy threw Joseph into a pit and then sold him as a slave. Then through a series of detours in Joseph’s life, God began to chisel away and refine him, growing him through the hard time times he experienced. After 22 years, Joseph came face to face with his brothers again, this time though he was a complete different man. He was humble, patient, compassionate and forgiving- all character traits he learned through his detours. Joseph was able to look into the eyes of those same brothers and say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Gen 50:20) Wow- so amazing!

The book has so many great truths in it and I honestly loved each chapter. I cannot share it all with you so I want to end with one of my favorite stories from the book!   There was a man who was ready to give up on God; he had been in a detour too long and lost all hope. Listen to this powerful story:

The man who told God he quit decided to go to the woods to have one last conversation with the Lord. “God, You disappointed me,” this man said. “You’ve got me stuck out here and I don’t know why. I don’t know how long I’m going to have to stay here in this situation before my change is coming. I’m ready to give up-unless you do something or say something right now.”

Just at that very moment, the heaven opened, and a voice spoke to the man. It said, “Look around and tell Me what you see.”

The man looked around and told the voice from heave that he saw ferns growing in a pot and also some bamboo. The voice from heaven replied, “Exactly. Now let me tell you about the ferns and the bamboo.” The man perked up his ears to listen intently.

“When the fern seed was planted, the ferns grew up very quickly, and they became lush and green and beautiful. But when the bamboo seeds were planted, nothing grew at all during its first year. Same thing with the second year. And the third. And the fourth. It wasn’t until the fifth year that the very first small shoot of bamboo came up.”

Then the voice from heaven paused, allowing that reality to sink in. Then continued with a question, “How tall is the bamboo you are looking at?”

The man answered, “At least a hundred feet tall.”

“You are right,” the voice from heave said. “And the reason bamboo is a hundred feet tall is because during the five years when you saw nothing, it was growing deep on the inside. It was growing strong, deep roots down beneath the surface where you cannot see. The reason why it was going deeper first is because I knew I had planned for it to eventually be over a hundred feet tall. It knew how high I planned to take it, and in order for it to sustain that height, it would have to grow deeper inside where no one could see anything at all.”

WOW- I love this story! God is trying to grow us deeper because He has big plans for us! Tony says this, “Friend, if God is taking a long time with you on your detour, it is because He is trying to take you deeper on the inside first. He is trying to develop and strengthen you to sustain the destiny in store. His plan for you is high. His calling for you is tall. His purpose for you will one day soar. But just as you can’t build a skyscraper on a chicken-coop foundation, you can’t place a divine destiny on a shallow soul. The higher your mountains, the deeper your valleys will seem. And difficult roads often lead to the most magnificent destinations.”

I don’t know about you but this gives me amazing hope! All the hard times and detours and struggles and pain are deepening our faith. They are growing strong deep roots in us so that God can take us higher than we ever imagined. He wants us to soar! He wants us all to get to this magnificent destination He has planned for us!   Ladies, do not give up hope along the way when the detour is long and you feel discouraged. Keep focused on the fact that God is developing your character! He loves you so much!

Dear God, When life takes us on a detour, please help us have this bigger perspective. Please remind us of the 100 foot tall bamboo and that you are working on the inside of us, giving us depth! God, sometimes though, detours are hard and can feel hopeless. I pray for my friends who are in the middle of one and need encouragement. I pray they feel your comfort, your love, and your peace. God, thank you that you are always with us! Thank you for continuing to develop our character and guide us to our destiny. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

 

 

February 2017 Book Recommendation

My February Book Recommendation is “How’s Your Soul? by Judah Smith. The Tagline on the book says, “Why Everything That Matters Starts With The Inside You”.

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I really enjoyed reading this book. The author, Judah Smith, has a way of writing that will make you crack up laughing and also at the same time, he gives you great insight and truth to ponder.   I think you will really enjoy his stories as well as the depth that he brings from them.

The books starts by asking, “Have you ever had someone look deep into your soul and ask, “Are you okay?”   Judah says in the book, “we tend to use outward indicators of success to prove how “okay” we are. But none of these things- not wealth, not fame, not family, not goals reached- mean we are healthy and happy on the inside.” He says, “This is a book about being okay on the inside. It’s a book about being satisfied, stable and healthy on a soul level.”

In his book, he defines your soul, “as the inside you- it’s your heart, your inner being, your mind, your will and emotions.” He shares so much great truth in this book, but one thing really stood out to me that I want to share. He says, “if you are like me, your soul has a tendency to drift like a boat on a sea. The purpose of an anchor is to keep you from drifting. It keeps you from being carried by every wake and current that swirls past. Ultimately, it keeps you from capsizing. An anchor is an agent of stability, security and steadiness.”     Quick side note- love the anchor analogy! Then he continues on and asks, “what is your anchor? Where do you turn to when your soul is overwhelmed? When you feel like you are drowning inside and need an escape?”

Again, I love how he asks lots of questions and gets you to really think and ponder where your stability and security is. He says he has heard answers like when I’m debt free or my house is paid off. Many people turn to their jobs, their education, their money, or their home for their anchor. I love what he says next- listen to this truth: “The bottom line is that things that do not have a soul cannot aid people who do have souls. “ Wow- such truth! He says, “ your car will not help you when you are discouraged. Your house does not have a soul and your job doesn’t have a soul. By definition and by nature, these things do not have the stability within themselves to aid you in your mind, your will or your emotions.”

So he continues and says that some people answer that their stability is their husband or wife, their family, their kids, their parents or their friends. He says, “yes, people have souls so this is answer is definitely a step up. But because that person you are counting on has a soul that is just as fragile and fragmented as yours and mine, he or she will be there for you sometimes but not all the time.” We have all experienced this before when someone has let us down.   Just a quick side note- Judah is not saying that relationships are not important; in fact, he says they are very important in the book. He is just saying that we can’t anchor to them for our stability and security.

Then Judah says this, “We need somebody with a soul. It needs to be a soul similar to ours, a soul that knows plight and condition. But at the same time, it needs to be a soul that is profoundly different, a soul that is flawless and perfect and whole. That is the only soul that can fix us, because it doesn’t have to fix itself.” Judah then says, “Jesus is the anchor our soul longs for.”   When we are going through circumstances that are tough, storms in our life, Jesus wants to be our strength and stability in the storm. He wants to be your anchor.   Now you might be thinking that it is hard to trust in Jesus because you cannot see him.   I love what Judah says, “An anchor does it best work where it is never seen. An anchor plunges through the depths of the sea until it settles and wedges itself into the ocean floor. Meanwhile, back on the surface, in the boat that is your soul, you continue to be buffeted by the elements of life. All you can see in the moment are the wind and waves. But under the surface, you have an anchor.” The question is will you have faith and trust that anchor? Judah says, “It’s easy to have faith when we are safely in the boat- when the wind is gone and the stars are out. But can we trust Jesus in the midst of the storm? Because that is when we need him the most.”   I truly hope and pray that we can trust Jesus as our anchor.   Judah ends the chapter with this, “I can’t promise you that the wind will instantly cease or the waves will immediately calm. But I can promise you that he will keep you safe in the midst of the storm. He is everything you need. And when you get through the storm, you will find yourself in a place of stability, faith and fruitfulness that come only from him.” I love this!

Dear God, I want to pray for all my friends who are in the middle of a storm right now. I know that it can feel lonely and hopeless. God, I pray that they trust you through this difficult time. I love that Jesus is the perfect anchor for all our souls. I love that He is with us during the storm and He keeps us stable!   I pray that we will not try to find our stability in things that do not have a soul like our homes or jobs or our money. I pray that we will not try to find our stability in people that can let us down and leave us even more discouraged.   God, I pray we seek Jesus for our stability and our security!   Thank you for being there for us during the storms in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

January 2017 Book Recommendation

 

My January book recommendation is the Hope Quotient by Ray Johnston. He spoke at Saddleback Church a couple weeks ago and I really enjoyed his message on hope so I bought his book. I read it in a couple days and loved it!

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In his book, he says, “Some wise person once said that we can live about 40 days without food, about 3 days without water, about 8 minutes without air but not a single second without hope.” Hope is so important! In fact, Ray shares in his book that “the opposite of hope is discouragement and discouragement always precedes destruction.” Sadly, when hope is lost, you may see kids drop out of school, parents give up on their kids, marriages end, people walk away from their faith…. and the saddest of all, people taking their own life. This is why Ray says Hope is the greatest gift you can give your family and friends! “Hope liberates, unleashes compassion, encourages people, motivates, helps people attempt new things, motivates people to find new strength and propels people forward- even when it seems impossible.”

Since hope is so important, Ray gives 7 ways to help increase your hope quotient (hence the title of the book).

The Seven

  1. Recharge Your Batteries. Nobody does well running on empty.
  2. Raise your Expectations. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you expect.
  3. Refocus on the future. It’s time to throw away your rearview mirror. No one goes forward well when they are looking back.
  4. Play to your strengths. Be yourself; everyone else is taken.
  5. Refuse to go it alone. Never underestimate the power of support. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.
  6. Replace burnout with balance. Burning the candle at both ends isn’t as bright as you think.
  7. Play great defense. Avoid these five toxic hope killers that can threaten your future.

Honestly, I loved each chapter and the nuggets of truth in each one but right now, I would like to focus on the following truth: “What can this become”; it was covered in the Refocus on the future chapter and in the Unleashing Hope in your Kids chapter.   Let’s expand on it- Ray says, “When I stop looking at the way things are and instead start to see them for what they can become, everything changes. I don’t know anything as powerful as this simple practice for replacing discouragement for encouragement.” He gives the example of when Jesus was asking his disciples to follow him. He says in Mark 1:17, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”   Ray says, “Jesus was not focused on what people were like. He was focused on what they could become.”

Ray talks about it from a parenting standpoint and how important this is especially with teenagers. He says, “Show me a parent of a teenager who is focused on what their kid is like right now, and I’ll show you a discouraged parent. Show me a parent who is focused on what his or her teenager can become, and anything is possible.” As a parent of a teenager, this is so encouraging to me! Ray shares that he has talked to many teenagers and he asks them these questions, “Is this the type of person you really want to become? Will the road you’re on right now get you to where you want to be? What do you want to become?” And then I love what he says next. “The answer to these questions is always fresh vision. Fresh vision leads to encouragement. Encouragement leads to hope. Hope leads to change! Change leads to better days ahead. The benefits of asking these questions are limitless.” Wow- such great insight!

Honestly, this “What can you become” truth is not just for parenting. A teacher can focus on what a student can become. It can be used by a business, a church, a marriage…. “When we can focus on what something can become, we are more encouraged and more encouraging!”

Hope- such a powerful word!   In fact, Pastor Steve shared on hope last week at the Saddleback Kids Summit.   He shared the verse, Hebrew 6:19, “This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” He started to talk more about an anchor and he said that an anchor is to keep a ship steady through a storm! Wow- this is powerful! All of us are going to go through storm/ hard times. We need hope that even in the storms of life that God has good plans for us!! We need faith and hope that He is at work in our lives even when we cannot see how God will get us through the storm.   He shared that the anchor is the Christian symbol for Hope! Love it!

I have shared before that at the New Year I choose a word to focus on. For the last couple years, I have chosen two words but at the beginning of January, I only had one. Well, after hearing Ray’s message at church, reading his book, hearing Pastor Steve’s message and finally reading a new devotional all about hope, I have decided to add a second word that I will focus on this year: HOPE!

Ray shares in his book that verse 1 Cor 13:13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.”   Ray says that “Christians will not thrive without all three. However, the Christian church has spent years majoring on two and leaving hope out of the equation.” He continues and says, “I have come to see hope as the most critical ingredient to success in life, family and leadership.” Now you can see why I added hope as my second word to focus on this year.

Dear God, I pray we can all experience more hope in our lives! I pray we will be encouraged and stay encouraged! I pray we can look at each other and focus on what we can become. God, for someone who is feeling discouraged right now, for someone who is in the middle of a storm, I pray that they can anchor themselves to you and have hope in you! I know that you are faithful and can help them. God, show up in their pain and in their tough circumstances and comfort them. We love you God! Amen!

Sharing what God is teaching me in the midst of my pain