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Monday, January 26, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 3

Last week I ended my post with the suggestion that we cannot "own" our lives without the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul, in the book of Galatians, describes for us what a life, yielded to the Spirit, looks like.

"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, ESV)
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..." (Galatians 5:22, ESV)
"If we live by the spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25, ESV)

But, what does it mean to "walk by the Spirit"? Sally suggests that, "Walking by the Spirit means yielding our thoughts, attitudes, desires, prayers, and goals to the Spirit as we go about our days." (pg. 89) As you can see, living by the Spirit is a choice and a choice that we have to make daily.

From there, Sally goes on to discuss how we can partner with God to own our lives, live more in step with the Spirit and be transformed into people who do His will. Some of these ways include:

1. The Spiritual Disciplines-

The spiritual disciplines include the disciplines of reading your Bible, prayer and rest. Oh how I know these are so hard to practice as we go about our busy, daily lives. The time has to be thoughtfully and intentionally carved out. It is so hard but so worth it to carve the time out to read Scripture and to pray. But, what about rest? For my thoughts on what true rest looks like, read this post-

2. Be a Risk Taker-

This goes against every fiber of my being. I am a planner and an avid risk avoider. I attempt to plan my life in such a way that I'm always in control and always prepared for what will happen next. But, I don't believe that's how the Christian life was meant to be lived. I'm not saying that planning and preparing are wrong, to the contrary those practices are very prudent, but when all that planning takes the place of living by faith, we are headed down the wrong path.

"Faith, I've learned, is a mysterious process of following the voice of God, accompanied by hard work and wisdom. We step out in faith with engaged hearts as we pursue God's wisdom and ideals, which He whispers to us as we seek Him." (pg. 115-116)

3. Investing in your Emotional Health-

How do we invest in our emotional health? Reading good books that challenge us and inspire us, enjoying nature, exploring art, listening to good music and feasting on healthy, delicious foods are all ways we can invest in our souls.

Personally, I love good music, art and interesting books. I truly enjoy spending hours in an art museum and listening to people speak on new thoughts and ideas. But, these things are so hard to do with small children. Sally really challenged me in this area though.

"When we are constantly emptying our hearts, minds and souls, it is essential that we take responsibility to keep filling them up. What we feed our inner beings will determine what we can give to those in our spheres of influence. What we have stored, cherished, and valued in our lives is reflective of our true selves." (pg. 133)

This year I am making a concerted effort to improve in this area. I truly believe that I cannot pour into my children and teach them to enjoy the world God created unless I enjoy it myself. Instead of just throwing the dog in the backyard, I want to walk her more and enjoy nature as I walk her instead of texting or talking on my phone. Listening to good music can easily be incorporated into my daily life as I cook, clean and do my other tasks around the house. Instead of watching so much television and randomly searching the internet, I am reading more books that encourage and challenge me. Instead of aimlessly wandering through Target on mornings my kids are in school, maybe I can visit an art museum or attend a lecture.

My prayer for myself and for all of you is the same as Sally's on pg. 141.

"Lord Jesus, we praise You because You came to restore life to our bodies, souls and minds. Help us to seek You today in the midst of all the good gifts You have given us, and may we be refreshed by Your Word, Your creation, and all that we take in through our senses. And then, O Lord, help us to become life givers within our homes, neighborhoods, and churches, for Your glory. Amen." (emphasis mine)

"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 2

Have you ever sat down and really thought about the talents God has given you so that He might use them for His glory? Oftentimes I get so busy with the daily activities of life that I forget to pause and think my vision for my life- what are the dreams, goals and ideas that I want to pursue? I don't often pause to pray and ask God to help me live my life with intention and purpose. I don't ask myself, "What skills, gifts and talents has God given me and how can I use them to further His kingdom?"

In chapters 4 and 5 of Own Your Life, Sally encourages us to pray and figure out the purpose God has given us to do on this earth. My favorite quote from chapter 4 is:

"If you dedicate yourself to taking in spiritual wisdom from Scripture, giving yourself wholly to the purposes of God, disciplining the attitudes of your heart, and stepping out in faith to show Jesus to the world, God will use us to shape history for His glory." (pg. 47)

Really?!! Me? Shaping history?! That is a really hard pill to swallow. How am I, an ordinary wife and mother, going to shape history? It is really hard for me to dream that big and to see that my life really matters in the Kingdom. But as a wife, mother, friend, etc. I have the opportunity to love well and use my gifts to further God's purposes in the world.

I need to ask myself the questions Sally asks. "Are you willing to live by faith and bring His influence to bear in every aspect of your life - to live each day filled with His love and power?" "When Jesus lives through someone, He always moves that person to do what is on His heart. He is always concerned to redeem others through the life that is yielded to Him." (pg. 53)

So, how do we practically "live each day filled with His love and power"? I really like the suggestions she makes in chapter 6.

1. Taking time to wonder- As we ponder who God is and how big His works are, our faith will greatly increase. In order to serve Him in this world, we must be in awe of who He is and how He displays His glory around us. That should bring us to our knees.

2. Becoming like a little child- Children dream big and believe in miracles. What would happen if I stopped worrying so much and just enjoyed life? What could God do through me?

"Even as the tiny, temporary lights of city streets, cars, and signs seem to snuff out the powerful stars, so the false lights and values of this world can darken our minds to the grandeur and brilliance of God. It's only when we see with the eyes of humble faith and bow before Him that we can hear His instructions." (pg. 75)

"He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way..." (Psalm 25:9, ESV)
"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble..." (1 Peter 5:5, ESV)

3. Practice worshipping regularly

4. Choose thankfulness- If I am constantly discontent and have an attitude of ungratefulness, I will be blind to the work God is doing around me in the situations where He has placed me. But, if I choose to be thankful in all circumstances, I will be more open to what God is doing in my life in the here and now.

I know for me I can read these ideas and turn them into a checklist that I have to accomplish in order to be used by God. But, in the end, only God can work through me and use me for His will. I can try to do all He has called me to in my own strength, but I can't. I need Him to work through me by the power of His Holy Spirit.

"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13, ESV)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Own Your Life Book Club Part 1

Myla, age 4, with Belle at Disney

Oh, little girls and princesses...It just seems to be ingrained. I am not a very girly girl and for the most part my daughter is not either. But, there is just something captivating to little girls about princesses. Myla has princess everything and when we went to Disney in November out entire trip centered on attempting to meet every princess. What is it about the princesses that cause little girls to be obsessed with them? I think it's the beauty, the adventure in each of their stories and the grandness of their lives (i.e. castles, beautiful wardrobes, handsome princes, etc.).

I've just finished the first three chapters of Sally Clarkson's book, Own Your Life. She spends the first few chapters discussing the barriers to owning our lives. In chapter 3, she quotes from the book A Little Princess saying, "I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're are still princesses." 

I would say it's the same for little boys and super heroes. As Sally's son Nathan said, "Superman is inside me waiting to come out!" In each little girl and little boy there is a princess or a hero waiting to come out. 

But, life happens. Life is hard, circumstances take place, things are done to us that are outside of our control, etc. and our lives go from the exciting to the mundane. Part of that is moving from childhood to adulthood and living life, but some of that is the world, sin and others squelching out of us who we really are and the lives we are meant to live.

As Christians, Jesus promises us, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) As Christians our lives aren't meant to be mundane and mediocre. We are meant to live an abundant life that matters for the Kingdom!

Sally presents several barriers to owning our life such as culture and the busyness of life, but the one that hit home the most for me is the fact that I listen to too many negative voices. These negative voices, whether from within or without, keep me from hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Instead of living a life of purpose and intention and boldness, I cower as I listen to voices that spew lies and render me ineffective for the Kingdom. These voices convince me that I'm nothing special, I can't be effective in ministry, I'm not the perfect wife, mother or friend. But, these voices are lies! And God 's Word is covered in the truth that God loves me and has a specific plan and purpose for each one of His children.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love..." Jeremiah 31:3

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." 2 Corinthians 5:17

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

What barriers do you experience to owning your life, living a life of intention and purpose? 

"Remember - it's not just possible to live a full, flourishing life; God actually designed you to live this way." (Own Your Life, pg. xix)

"There is no single way to serve God, but the point is this: We each have only one life to live to tell a story about Him, about His ways, about His love. And if we are Christ followers, then God calls us to use our gifts, to exercise our faith, and to become salt and light right where we are." (Own Your Life, pg. xxi)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I'm Back! (Where I've Been and What's Next)

I'm back to blogging and it feels great! I took a little break in the fall because I started teaching a Bible Study again and I needed to dedicate more time to lesson planning. I will be teaching again this Spring but most of the prep work is complete.

One of my resolutions this year is to read more and watch less t.v./surf the Internet less. I've always been an avid reader but over the last few years I've slacked off mostly out of laziness and brain drain from raising little ones. My goal is to read one book a month over the next 6 months and blog here about my thoughts as I read. Talk about accountability!

One of my favorite bloggers is Sarah Mae ( and I've decided to follow her reading plan because I think she's picked some great books! Here's the plan:

January- Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
February- Fellowship of the Burning Heart (includes In Pursuit of God which I've always wanted to read) by A.W. Tozer
March- The Holy Spirit and Power by John Wesley
April- The Sovereignty of God by A.W. Pink
May- Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
June- Names of God by Nathan Stone

There are lots of reasons why I decided to go with her list but one of the main reasons is because I've always wanted to read many of the Christian classics. I had to read a lot of books in seminary but there were so many I never touched. Time to change that! I chose Sally Clarkson's ( new book first because I think a book on living with intention is a great read for the new year.

If you're interested in joining me in my virtual book club, comment below. I look forward to exploring these new (and old) reads with each of you!