Yesterday on the blog I laid out a simple, 15-minute challenge to sprout our spiritual growth:
Read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day.
The simple practice helps turn our hearts to God and keep Him at the forefront of our minds. The Psalms are filled with encouragement and hope while the Proverbs teach wisdom and point us toward a character-filled life. Reviewing them often—reading God’s Word as an ongoing process—draws us into a deeper, abiding connection with the Lord of Hosts.
That’s the entire goal for sprouting our spiritual growth. It’s the process of transformation that draws us into a closer relationship with Jesus. It prepares us to allow the Holy Spirit, making us more like Christ so that we may participate in the divine (see 2 Peter 1:3-8).
As we begin to adopt new practices, it’s not merely for the sake of doing, it’s for the sake of displaying more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and less of our worldly nature.
Spiritual growth is about living out what the Lord deposits into our lives as we dwell in His presence.
Today’s challenge is also simple:
Mull it over.
Meditate on God’s Word
The thought of meditation has taken on some negative connotations. Eastern religions and new age thinking often twist the Biblical practice. Throughout God’s Word, however, we’re instructed to mediate (mull over) on God and on His precepts and ways. When we meditate according to God’s instruction, we ponder His truths.
Biblical meditation is not a practice of emptying our minds to let “the universe fill the voids.” Rather, it is focusing intently on God’s Word.
As you read Scripture, take time to pause when a verse stirs your heart. For example, when I read Psalm 5:12 yesterday, it captured my attention and felt like a spiritual hug from God. So I paused to meditate.
A Meditation Example
In The Passion Translation Psalm 5:12 says:
“Lord, how wonderfully you bless the righteous. Your favor wraps around each one and covers them under your canopy of kindness and joy.”
I began to mull over the verse, considering the wonderful blessings that God gives His children. My mind traveled back a few days and I recalled God’s goodness in both large and very small ways. I thanked the Lord and spent time recognizing each gift as coming from my Heavenly Father.
Next, I pondered the idea of His favor wrapping around me. It isn’t in front of me or behind me, but wraps all around me, shielding me from every direction. When I considered being covered by a canopy of His kindness and joy, I couldn’t help but smile.
Mulling over this passage brought a new thought to my mind: How can I live differently today knowing that God’s favor wraps around me, He has blessings in store for me, and that I am covered in His kindness and joy? As I face things like an uncomfortable conversation, or a new business venture, or deal with a challenging personality, how can I think and act differently knowing the promises of Psalm 5:12?
Embrace God’s Promises
The Psalms and Proverbs are books of poetry. They’re beautifully written AND they are God’s truth. They’re thick with promises that the Lord will fulfill, and gifts that He wishes to lavish upon us as His own.
By mulling over Scripture, by taking the time to recognize that the Words are intended for me, personally, and by receiving them as my own, my outlook changes. My mood improves. And my hope and joy grow. I recognize that the Lord doesn’t intend for me to say stuck in a life of hum-drum, but longs to bless me as a child of the King.
As we move toward sprouting our spiritual growth, I encourage you to take a few minutes after reading God’s Word and mull it over. Let it penetrate your mind and sink into your heart. Receive God’s promises and grab hold of them with all your might.
My friend, Manyesha Batist helped me greatly. I’m thrilled to share her short video that helps me meditate on God’s Word.
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
After a long winter (this year our Colorado winter stretched all the way to May) the newness of spring is a reminder of the redeeming work of Christ. No matter how cold and bleary our past, He makes a way for renewal and hope. Jesus reminds us, regardless of how far we feel we’ve drifted from an abiding connection to Him, that He is steadfast and longs to draw us close once again. I love that.
I’ve recently come out of one of those hazy, blustery seasons of life and I yearn for a fresh start. My connection with God seemed to hang on by a thread and I struggled to feel His nearness or discern His promptings. I was in a season of spiritual winter, to be sure.
Stepping into spring and renewal inspires me greatly. Suddenly, I feel alive and rejuvenated, ready to take on the world. More importantly, I’m ready to reprioritize my walk with Jesus. Intentionally and on purpose. Care to join me?
Sprouting Spiritual Growth
I know what you’re thinking. It’s May. Things are crazy busy this time of year. Is this the best time to make new commitments?
Oh, my sister, yes. Yes it is. Our commitment to Christ is the most precious gift in our lives and leaving it untended will cost us dearly. The blessings of abiding are more than we can imagine so let’s reach out and grab hold. Let’s allow our spiritual growth to sprout again and take root. We don’t have to spend hours a day pulling weeds from our spiritual gardens. Drawing close to God is a little like breathing. It’s something we do all day, every day, alongside every other activity we face.
Drawing close to God is a little like breathing. It’s something we do all day, every day, alongside every other activity we face.
A 15-Minute Challenge
Could you commit, say, 15 minutes a day to focused, Christ-centered activity? Maybe give up a hand of solitaire on your smartphone or choose a messy bun instead of grabbing the curling iron. I know you can find a quarter of an hour at least 5 or 6 days a week.
Last month I decided to read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day. It took me less than 15 minutes each day. Most days I picked up my Bible and read before starting my daily to-do’s. Sometimes I read while I rocked my sleeping granddaughter or while my grandson played with his toys next to me. I’ll admit, there were a few days where I didn’t get it done, but most days I did. And you know what? Just that little bit of time in God’s Word stirred my heart and poured hope and truth into my dry, dusty heart. As they say, a little goes a long way and I’m enjoying the process again this month.
Will you accept the challenge to read 5 Psalms and 1 Proverb each day for the month of May? Let’s band together and give God’s Word our focus and attention for a few daily minutes.
I hope you’ll join me! If you’re up for the challenge will you let me know? Let me know on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll be happy to pray for you during the journey. I know you’ll love it and the joy it brings to your jumbled life.
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
“All the outs in free!”
We shouted those words so that our friends could hear from their hiding places: from under trees, behind laundry piles, inside dog houses, or disguised beneath a collection of blankets. We’d search for and find many of our chums, but there was generally one in our game of hide and seek that went undiscovered. Yelling the familiar chant let the outstanding hiders know that they could step into visibility without penalty.
As I think back to the frustrating task of finding someone who did not want to be found, it makes me glad that Jesus doesn’t hide from us. Yes, there are times when I feel I can’t find Him. He feels absent from my life, as if He’s taken a “hands-off approach” and left me to my own devices. As I wrote in my last post, the process of searching for Immanuel can feel long and arduous.
In these seasons, we must intentionally dig deeper to find the fertile soil beneath our clay hearts. It’s there that Christ remains alive, active, and ever-present.
We may weep and lament as we search for Him, but through the process of searching, we find. That’s when the joy comes. That’s when we discover fullness of joy in His presence. In the journey of finding, we often recall what we already knew. We find truths that we encountered before.
The process of finding helps us to not simply know, but to know again.
As we seek what is hidden, the process of remembering proves a valuable tool. When I searched for my best friend in our childhood game, if I remembered how much she loved dogs and tended to hide somewhere close to them, I could spy her out almost instantly.
By calling to mind—remembering—what I already know about Christ, I can also find Him more readily.
As I actively remember— things like His character revealed throughout the Bible, or the promises He declares in His Word, the blessings He lavished upon me in the past, or victories and freedom that He helped me attain—suddenly I can see His subtle fingerprints in my life. My eyes open to things that He is doing right now. I begin to identify ways that He is moving in my current trials and circumstances.
The Christmas Story
The story of Christ and His birth in Scripture recounts many who found Jesus through a process of active searching. They took the time and trouble to recall the promises and truths of God’s Word, which provided a type of roadmap leading to the discovery of Immanuel.
The wise men depicted in Matthew chapter 2 are believed to have traveled over 800 miles in their search for Jesus. Talk about a long journey! In the process, they examined promises of God’s Word and followed the star that led their way. When they found Jesus, Matthew 2:9-11 tells us that they were overjoyed beyond measure and fell to their knees in worship.
Angels revealed the Word of the Lord to unsuspecting shepherds during the night. Through this miraculous announcement, the shepherds were compelled to seek Jesus. In doing so, they discovered for themselves the good news of great joy.
Finding Through Remembering
We, too, can remember the word of the Lord and His activity in our lives, which will help us find Immanuel when we are compelled to seek Him.
Active remembering can take on many forms:
Present day memorial stones help us recall the Lord’s involvement and provision. Reminders like photographs of special, spiritual milestones call the Lord’s mighty work to the forefront of our memories. Embellishing and decorating our homes with Bible verses keeps our hearts focused on Him. We can document our experiences in writing through letters or emails to loved ones, journals, or even blogs.
Prayer and Meditation
Prayer and meditation allow us to draw near to God with a true heart, in full assurance of our faith (see Hebrews 10:24). After encountering the shepherds and hearing of their angelic experience, Matthew 2:19 tell us that Mary meditated on these things. She treasured the truth in her heart. The psalms are also filled with examples of recalling and pondering on the mighty works of the Lord.
Communion and Worship
Communion is a practice that, as the Bible teaches, is a specific act of remembrance. We remember the work of Jesus on the cross, the power of His blood, and His ultimate sacrifice.
Worship is certainly a practice that calls to memory the promises, freedom, and victories that the Lord gives. I love to belt out old songs that helped carry me through difficult times. I also cherish the new songs that quench my thirsty soul and help me focus on the Lord’s character. The shepherds who found Jesus praised God for the fulfillment of the promises and for all they’d seen and heard. We’re wise to do the same.
As we face difficult trials and situations that make us question, “Where is God in this?” we do well to recall that He remains near. When we seek, we will find Immanuel, God with us. We’ll discover that His promises still stand. We’ll learn to see God’s subtle fingerprints as readily as His indisputable miracles. And we’ll remember that He is with us always.
May God’s Word strengthen you today,
She swaddled her firstborn tightly then laid him in a manger. A manger of all things, since there was no room for them in the lodging place.
It was a time of gathering. Of scurrying from here to there to register for the census, each in his own town. While the well-known manger scene is portrayed as lonely and quiet, the town of Bethlehem was most certainly not. Jesus came as Immanuel—to dwell among people, and entered the world in a season of hustle and bustle.
For many, the birth of Christ went unnoticed. God, who had been silent for 400 years, seemed as absent on the day of Jesus’ birth as he had for the preceding centuries.
The Lord’s coming was foretold. His people believed. Some waited with eager expectation. Yet in the fulfillment of time, Jesus was just a blip on the days’ events.
And so it seems today.
When God Seems Absent
We know and believe that this sacred holiday season points us to the Lord. We learned as children that His name, Immanuel, means God with us. He came to dwell among us and gave his life so that He could live in our hearts. And yet, we fix our minds on earthly things.
Like our shopping list.
Or our circumstances.
We focus on our financial woes.
Or our mean boss who seemingly wants to harm us.
We quietly obsess over broken relationships.
Or our marital issues.
The biggest struggles seem to come when we recognize Who God is, yet endeavor to see His presence in our lives.
We quietly wonder, “Why does God seem so absent?”
We question, “Is He still for me?”
“Does He see what’s going on?”
“Why did He let ___ happen?”
“Has He released me from His grasp?”
Rarely would we verbalize such thoughts, yet they linger in our minds, stirring doubt and insecurity. We thought we knew the truth about God and that we trust Him fully, but in the chaos of life, we question whether He remains active in our lives.
In this season, especially, we ask, “If Jesus is Immanuel, where is He?”
Searching for Immanuel
I received encouragement through a recent article in The Joyful Life Magazine. Author Ashley Mesa’s words touched my heart. When I experience dry and dusty seasons in my faith, I must dig a little deeper, through the stony, clay-like soil of my heart to discover God’s nearness. Such seasons require intense worship, focused prayer, intentional time in His Word, and deliberate communion with Him.
When things like grief and doubt and insecurity and anger and loneliness set in, I know I have a choice to make. I can continue to flounder, allowing what I can see to influence my level of faith. Or, I can press into God, abide in Him through my trials, and re-discover His immoveable and constant presence.
Time is a precious commodity in the holiday rush so for me, digging deeper means meeting with Him before sunrise when necessary. Over a cup of hot coffee, I let worship music blast through my earbuds and concentrate on praising Him for His character as each song reveals.
A focused period of prayer follows, where I pour out my heart to Him. I lay it all out—my hurt, frustrations, and confusion—and ask that He turn my heart toward His goodness so that I’m less focused on my circumstance. I specifically ask that He remind me of His nearness throughout the day.
Next, I pour over a short section of Scripture, writing down each word that speaks to my heart. Meditating on His truth sets a foundation for communing with Him through prayer and random (mostly silent) conversations throughout the day.
I discover that my God hasn’t moved an inch. He is right where He said He’d be—with me through every trial and circumstance. At my side through every celebration and victory. Leading me through every change and unforeseen event. Indeed, He is Immanuel. He is here. And He always has been.
My dad was a giver. I loved watching how he’d pour his energy and efforts into making the perfect gift for those he adored. From home-cooked meals (yes, my dad prepared the meals in our family) to a one of a kind, handcrafted step stool in a child’s favorite colors, from ornate, handmade Christmas decorations, to sacrificially purchased items, each gift originated deep in his heart. It was carefully considered, often met a need, and portrayed his incredible generosity.
Most of the gifts my dad gave to me are still displayed somewhere in our home. They were treasures intended to become heirlooms. Indeed, they have.
Gift-giving has since become an important and significant tradition in our family. I adore pouring deep thought and consideration of individual personalities into the gifts I give. When I choose a gift, my aim is that it will fulfill certain criteria:
- It surprises its recipient, often because it’s something she hadn’t considered for herself.
- It’s something that can be enjoyed for a lengthy period. I may not always aim for heirloom like my dad, but I do hope a gift will bless its new owner for several months, if not longer.
- Its a gift he’ll love.
- It doesn’t put me into debt. I like to pay cash, thank you.
That’s a pretty tall order, wouldn’t you say?
Inspirational Gift Ideas
As Christmas approaches and numerous gifts are needed all at the same time, it can be difficult to put as much energy as I’d like into my selections. Maybe you feel the same way. So I’ve done some of the work for all of us.
Below, you’ll find a list of more than 15 inspirational gift ideas that the adults in your family are sure to cherish for months and years to come.
** This post contains affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase. This is at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the costs of operating this blog and ministry and help provide for our family needs. Thank you!
A magazine, you ask? Yes! I received the premier edition in the mail a few days ago and The Joyful Life is unlike any magazine you’ve ever seen. It’s beautiful and robust (huge, actually) and comes out quarterly. If ever there were an heirloom-quality print publication, this is it. Over the last few days, I’ve savored one article each day as a part of my devotion time. This is a gift that will bless and bless. Click here to learn more!
Nearly all women love jewelry, and with a touch of added inspiration, who can resist these beauties? Meaningful words, especially when they point to Christ, can encourage us all. Click here to shop jewelry!
I’m a coffee mug junkie. With a cupboard (nearly) full of fun mugs, I can tell you where each came from. Morning after morning are filled with jokes, sentiments, photos, and memories from those I love. Click here to shop!
What’s so great about the Sanuk flips? They’re ultra-comfortable, even when spending long hours on your feet. This brand is a favorite in our family—we’ve spent hours and hours in them at Disney theme parks and they are foot savers to be sure. PLUS they’re cute and far more reasonably priced at this time of year than in summer. Click here to purchase!
Portable Bluetooth Speaker
This is another family favorite – a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker that we sometimes argue over. It’s perfect for yard work or relaxing outdoors, it’s small and easy to pack when traveling, and it’s a device we use every single day. Shop here!
I know, you might be slowly switching to the Bible apps on your phone. I am too. But we interact differently with a paper Bible. I love knowing that the verse I’m looking for is on the top right side of the page, highlighted in orange with a star next to it. The She Reads Truth Bible and the Study Bible for Women are two of my favorites.
This is a tried and true e-Reader in my life. In fact, I left mine behind on a trip a few months ago, so this is on my personal wish list. I can read at night with low light so as not to disturb my sweetie. I also appreciate the non-glare screen that makes reading outdoors comfortable and easy. The newest version is even waterproof! Click here to shop!
Another item on my wish list. I can’t provide a personal testimony about this one, but the time savings and delicious meal options look too intriguing to pass up. This is certainly a more practical than a sentimental gift, but the gift of time savings can sometimes change lives. Inspire those you love to re-establish the tradition of family meals at home. Click here to shop!
I’ll be honest. This investment was a game-changer in our family, especially during allergy, cold & flu, and “I-just-can’t-sleep” seasons of life. This is an amazing gift for newlyweds, new moms, or anyone looking for healthier lifestyle options. This one is available through my friend Jess Davis and her Young Living business. The link is for the retail option but there are wholesale/membership deals available too! (Be sure to check out their Black Friday specials!)
One of my favorite gifts to give. There is a nearly unlimited assortment of frames available from simple to ornate. Decorating our homes with smiling faces and happy memories is a great way to help us prioritize what’s most important throughout the year. Click here to shop! Remember, Hobby Lobby always offers frames at 50% off!
A beautiful journal can make quiet times even more enjoyable and there are a plethora of beautiful options from which to choose! I have adopted the habit of keeping a nice journal with me always, to take notes at meetings, on the go, and even at church. It’s nice to have all my chicken scratches collected in one easy-to-find location. Click here to shop journals.
It seems the older I get the more I enjoy a good-quality pen. Waterman has been a favorite for years and is a lovely gift for recent graduates, career-minded loved ones, or anyone who loves to write. It’s a great gift companion to a journal too. Click here to shop!
We adore family games and this is certainly in our top 5. It feels a little complicated to learn but is rather easy to grasp. And it’s easy to play with a small OR a large group. Click here to shop!
I’ve only given a Willow Tree figurine gift once, but have received several over the years and I LOVE them! Their beauty and sentiment stir my heart and makes these figurines a classic and timeless gift. Click here to purchase.
What Christmas gifts have you already selected this year? And which are on the wish-list you prepared for yourself? I hope this list will help you with a few of the hard-to-buy-for loved ones on your list!
A guest post by Ailie Baumann
I’ve lost my joy, I think to myself. The overwhelming stress of my new surroundings seems to have suppressed every bone in my body that held an ounce of joy. The weather outside reflects my emotional and spiritual state – bleak and grey.
I’ve regularly experienced degrees of anxiety. Not enough to have an anxiety issue or disorder. Still, anxiety, stress, overwhelm, and fear have been unwanted companions for a long time. Mostly, I excuse them away with claims of “I’m an introvert” or “I just need familiarity”.
These unwelcome companions are stealers of my joy, of your joy. They work together to reduce our world into a limited circle of familiar faces, places, and routine. Instead of stepping out in faith, we huddle in comfort zones while longing for change and adventure.
The worst part of it lies in the shocking reality that in those uncomfortable times in life, I have called these “unwanted companions” back into my life. Why? Because of sheer desperation to feel normal or return my internal experience back to what I’m accustomed to.
Does it work? No. For weeks, I have cried on and off to the Lord desperate for freedom from these illogical waves of anxiety. My desperation for joy turns my prayers into shallow and hollow sentences bouncing off walls. I’ve forgotten His truth.
What is Satan’s plan in all this?
In all of this, the enemy plays with my mind. Familiar thought patterns whirl round and round. Each thought requires deliberate action to take it captive and submit it to Christ. The enemy wants you and me to remain captive in familiarity, fear, anxiety, stress, and doubt. He wants us to remain in our comfort zones, frustrated with life and blaming God for the lack of impact our lives have on those around us.
The result: Ineffective Christian women who have lost sight of who they are in Christ. This ripples into a lack of joy and loss of purpose. We no longer pose a threat to the kingdom of darkness. No, we are right where Satan wants us to be – sitting on the fence licking our wounds.
God’s truth is empowering
In this moment, I can blame God, others, circumstances, myself; or, I can listen to the voice of the Lord as He reminds me of His truth.
- You and I are no longer slaves to sin, our past, circumstances, etc. We belong to Him. God decided we were so worth loving that we were literally worth dying for. (Galatians 4:4-7)
- Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Our hope is in Christ Jesus who lives in us. In Him we live and move and have our being. We are supposed to find our familiarity in the presence of God. His love, peace, joy, grace, goodness, majesty are our familiarity no matter what we go through.
- You and I are children of God, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We get to have every spiritual blessing in heaven (Ephesians 1:3). We are blessed forever and ever. Our generations are blessed.
- You and I are in right-standing with God. (Romans 5:1)
But how do I get joy?
I’ve wrestled with this question myself. Here’s what I’ve concluded thus far:
Firstly, we have a choice to make. We can either continue to mope and struggle in our lack of joy and be dictated to by our circumstances and emotions. Or, we can choose to renew our minds by believing what God has to say about us, others, and our situations. The choice is ours to make. Either way, He remains with us, ever faithful.
Secondly, joy is a fruit that we bear. Have you ever seen a tree or plant convincing itself to bear fruit? (I’m having a good laugh out loud right now so come on join me in a good giggle.) Ridiculous right?
A tree bears fruit in its season, not a moment sooner or later. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. We can’t make joy by going to church every Sunday, being involved in multiple church events, activities or meetings (as great as those are). We get joy as we abide in Him and He abides in us. It comes out of us naturally. We can’t make ourselves have joy.
Maybe you are like me and today, you are in a season of growth and development. Maybe you are not seeing joy in your life (according to your expectation) because God is busy pruning you so that you may have an even greater harvest of joy.
Either way, joy is coming so long as you are resting in the presence of God.
Here are 5 Scriptures to get your joy back
To encourage you to persevere through your situation and remain in the joy of the Lord, here are some amazing Scriptures:
- Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b
- May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit Romans 15:13
- For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Psalm 30:5
- TheLord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of Isaiah 51:3
- Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for the Psalm 126:2
I encourage you to memorize, meditate, and soak in these Scriptures until the truth of God’s Word breaks any hold the enemy has over today’s joy. You can get your joy back. Today.
Online Christian Coach, blogger, wife and mum, Ailie is passionate about helping women discover their value, purpose, and self-worth in Jesus. Using life coaching techniques, counseling, and prayer, she walks with you every step of the way encouraging you as you encounter the unique way God speaks to You!