Prayers for a Simpler Life by Faith Sommers {A Review}

20170316_150123Prayers for a Simpler Life by Faith Sommers is a PlainSpoken Devotional published by Herald Press. It is a 13 week study how to live a simpler life. This is not a book about decluttering your house.

It is a book about decluttering your life. Each devotional brings to mind a spiritual discipline we should be making a priority in our lives. Each one is based on a chapter in the Word and includes a prayer and thought-provoking, digging deeper question.

Each day takes just minutes to read but you could spend all day meditating on the truths shared. It would even be a great stepping stone to studying for yourself the deeper truths of Scripture.

It would work well as a personal study or with a group.  It does use the King James Version for the Scripture but you are free to use any version you like.

Faith Sommers is a conservative Mennonite mother and wife. She is a columnist for Ladies Journal (a publication for Amish and Mennonite women). Faith is also the mother of 6.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

I

A little Grace

Recently we were dining out, it was a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was busy. We had about a 15-minute wait. Once at our table our server came by to take our drink orders and almost immediately she returned with them. After she took our orders she said she was going to go put them right in and we should have our meal in no time.

We enjoyed our appetizer and didn’t notice that it had been quite awhile since we had ordered, our server goes by and says she’s going to check on our meal. A few minutes later she comes to our table and tells us she had forgotten to put our order in right away, and she offered to get her manager so they could do something with our bill.

20161112_123951

All of our eyes are on this girl, brave enough to face hungry people and say “I screwed up.” Her question of getting her manager just hung there over our silent table for a pair of moments while we all looked at her, not quite daring to breathe.

Was it okay? Was it okay with us, the hungry family, that she had failed to do as promised?  Was it okay?

dsc_0061

I thought of every time I’ve screwed up. And I remembered the cross on my wrist. The cross I’ve been inking into my flesh for months in hopes of reminding myself to live cruciform.

Live all give out in the shape of a cross.

DSC_0012

Live all give out when someone else does something that isn’t okay.  Live as Jesus lived when I’m inconvenienced or kept waiting.

20161108_093552_optimized

I found myself saying, “You know what, we all screw up. It’s okay.”

Because it is. It really is. We do all screw up. Your screw ups are no worse than my screw ups. Jesus’ love covers mine as well as yours. His grace is deep enough to cover them all. And if I’m truly living as a conduit of His grace, I have no choice but to extend it to you.

Jesus didn’t call us to be grace hoarders.
He called us to be grace givers.

DSC_0117

Those chosen people who exhibit His grace and His character in all of our activities. Even those that squeeze us, inconvenience us.

Maybe by showing His grace and extending His grace is how we know we are given grace. Maybe that is how we feel grace. Maybe that’s why He requires it of us. Because He knows we’re nothing but grace beggars and if the broken hurting world is going to see His grace it’s only when we extend it.

DSC_0141 (2)

DSC_0138 (2)

We’re all beggars when it comes to grace. In myself I have none. None for me and definitely none for you. But in Jesus…in Jesus is found all the grace we could ever need. And He gives it freely to us.

DSC_0013

So we can give it freely to others. It’s living in His grace.

So we can give it freely to others.

Picture Post!

So I’ve had my big, fancy camera, as the girls call it, for a few years now. I’m still trying to learn all it can do.

I’m also still taking pictures like a house afire.

A Nickel’s Worth

DSC_0155 (1)I’ve been noticing a trend lately amongst my friends. They’re all looking for something. But not just any old something, something in particular. Every time they find what they are looking for they eagerly take a picture and share it across social media lines.

Just what is this thing they are looking for so almost frantically?

Hearts. A simple heart shape in the world around them. Some of them call the hearts they find glimpses of God’s love for them.

Now I’m a non-conformist to the core. If everyone else is doing something, that’s a good enough reason to me to not do it. I just don’t want to do or be like everyone else.

DSC_0156 (1)

I’m also if nothing else a study in contrast. You see I think it’s neat and great that these ladies are finding God smiles in their day. Neat. And if I were to speak the truth, which I am, I’m a bit jealous. I want something from God, something that He gives to just me as a reminder that He, as it says in Psalm 32:8, has His eye on me. That as He promises in Job 23:10 He knows the way I take.  So I want the same thing He is giving to these ladies, but I don’t want a heart shape.

So I’ve taken the past few weeks to as I think about it, pray for Him to give me something special, unique to let me know He’s watching, He knows, He cares and He loves me. I haven’t wanted a heart shaped anything because that would be too conformist for me. I want my own shape.

DSC_0158 (2)

A couple of weeks ago I was having an especially hard week when I glanced down in a parking lot and saw a nickel. I’ve always been one to pick up loose change I see lying around and this day was no different. I picked up that nickel and immediately I had the most godly thought ever. Yeah, or not as the case really was.

My first thought was exactly what zany thing I was going to post on social media about finding a nickel.

“If the saying goes, ‘Find a penny, pick it up, and all day you’ll have good luck’, what happens if you find a nickel.”

DSC_0157 (1)

I thought nothing more about that found nickel.

Until today.

This morning I walked to get coffee and to spend some time reading and talking with Jesus. I took Ann Voskamp’s book, The Broken Way, and read while I walked. I did stop on occasion to underline an especially meaningful part, or to just write down some thoughts Jesus was giving me.

DSC_0160 (1)

The wind was blowing  cold bitter air over my bare fingers but His words warmed my heart.  We talked of such things as where I was a year ago. How much has changed in this past year. 365 days of walking with Him. A year ago today I was in a hard place. Today I’m in a harder place, but the difference is while last year I knew intellectually He was with me, today in this hard-hard place I know experientially that He really is with me.

It was easy to stop and underline on the way to the coffee, but once I purchased my coffee and had headed for home it was a bit more difficult.

A few blocks from the shop I stopped to underline a sentence, I moved off the sidewalk, and squatted down on a small piece of concrete just off the beaten path. I set my coffee down, unzipped my pocket, reached in to grab my pen, and I froze.

DSC_0183 (2)

DSC_0162 (1)

DSC_0158 (1)

There in the grass was another nickel. Of course I picked it up.

DSC_0166 (2)

And I heard God laugh. Not a “haha, jokes on you” laugh. But a genuine chuckle. Like He knew something I didn’t, but He knew it would bless my socks off.

DSC_0165 (2)

And then He spoke.

DSC_0164 (2)

He spoke to me. He spoke to me clean through my frozen fingers as they caressed that found nickel. He spoke clean down the marrow my very soul.

DSC_0155 (1)

“That’s your gift. That’s your sign. That’s your shape. That is your way of knowing I’m watching you. I’ve got my eye on you. I see you. Even when you think I’m hiding. Even when everything in you is speaking lies that I don’t care. I’m watching you.”

 

 

Learning through Breaking

20160829_094013

Brokenness doesn’t come from badness. Brokenness comes, instead, from woundedness. God doesn’t break us because we’re bad, but He breaks away the  the self-made scars that we’ve grown over our wounds to heal ourselves. The wounds only appear on the outside to be healed, but underneath the surface scar there is still putrid, rotting flesh that is unhealed. It is unhealed because we cannot heal ourselves.

Self-protection is not healing. Self-protection is hiding.

Like Adam and Eve tried to cover their naked wounds with inadequate fig leaves, we try to cover out wounds with fig leaf clothing. Fig leaves weren’t made to heal or cover us. I so often look to wrong things for healing and covering. When I’ve screwed up (again), I reach for pride to cover my screw ups. I look around for blame to hide my sin. I look to and for people to validate my feelings.

Those are fig leaves. And fig leaves cover and heal nothing.

choose-joy

dsc_0061

20161112_123951

But Jesus. Jesus and His blood. That is where healing and covering is found. He heals us. Slowly. So very very slowly. And just like a physical cut heals from the inside out, His healing starts deep inside of me, so deep inside no one, not even me, can see it or feel it. But He is working.

20161108_093552_optimized

20161207_2000401

Wounds are ugly. Self-healed wounds are uglier. Jesus healed wounds are beautiful. Because Jesus makes all things beautiful. Because Jesus alone knows the beauty that lives deep inside the human soul.

coffeebeans

 

This might be a little overly simplistic, but coffee beans do not make a good cup of coffee until they are broken and ground fine.

They also are the most fragrant immediately after grinding.

The coffee bean is grown green. It is useless to make a good pot of coffee until it has been roasted. Roasting always requires heat. Always. When roasting the green coffee beans they will within the first 3 to 15 minutes crack, they will crack again within 15-120 seconds after the first crack ends.

In roasting coffee, the beans crack. They break. High heat breaks them. Then they are ready to be removed from the heat.

High heat breaks them. Just as it breaks us. It breaks away the skin that covers the bean, just as it breaks away the self-made scars we’ve produced to protect ourselves.

Then the bean is ready to be broken again and ground up fine. It seems the breaking process never ends. In grinding the beans the fragrance is released. Just as when we are ground fine by God’s grinding us release the fragrance of what is inside.

That still isn’t all. The coffee bean when it is grown but left green is of no value to the coffee drinker. The coffee bean when it is cracked by the heat of roasting, or broken by the coffee grinder still has no value as coffee and is unusable in that state until it has been placed in coffee pot and had hot, boiling water poured over it. That is when it produces the desired result. That is when it fully is what it was grown to be.

Lord if it’s true that nothing is so ugly something beautiful can’t be made from it, please make something beautiful of me. Thank You for being the Creator of all and the Re-Creator of all that is damaged and broken. Thank You for being the Light that shines in and out of the broken. Thank You for being the Truth in a life filled with lies.
Please be with me to deliver me and Re-create me in You into something usable. And then Lord, please use me.

The Temptations

Last week I spent an enjoyable morning reading about Jesus temptation as is found in Matthew 4. The Spirit brought new truths to mind as He opened my eyes to see this familiar passage in a new light.

If you know the passage (I just can’t call it a story. It’s not a story, it’s truth), you know that after Jesus was baptized God the Father descended on Him like a dove. God spoke His Words of Truth over the Word and the Truth. Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He first fasted for 40 days and nights, then the tempter came to Him and tempted Him.

I don’t know how it works in your life, but in my life it works just like this. I will have time of God’s revealing His pleasure of me and I’m hearing His voice speak loud and clear to my soul. Immediately afterward I’ll have a sense that I’m going without something, that I’m fasting only not intentionally. Then the tempter comes in and seeks to remove and destroy all evidence of God’s pleasure.

I’ll start to doubt I heard God’s voice at all. Or that He’ll keep His word to me. Or that I heard right. I’ll be tempted, sorely tempted to doubt.

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone but on every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'” Matthew 4:4 (nasb)

When I’m being tempted if I respond with anything other than the Truth of God’s Word, I battle on my own and I will not win. If I slap truths on the temptation and rely on my own strength to muscle through the temptation. I will lose the battle every time. It’s guaranteed.

Then the devil took Him into the holy city; and there he had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple. Matthew 4:5

Again the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Matthew 4:8

Even when I battle with the Word, the temptation might not go away but the devil will change tactics and attack from another angle.

When this happens I must still respond with the Truth and in the Truth and I must rely on the Truth to bring my deliverance. If I respond to temptation with truth in myself I will continue to suffer from the deadly disease of pride as if I did it all.

I must not only know the truth, I must believe the truth is true for me. I must be able to apply to every situation in my life, every temptation that comes must be met with truth. But not any truth, it must be met with THE Truth!

I must be aware that temptations to sin can come from anywhere and can change. I must be ready for the rapid-fire changes and tactics or I will be caught off guard and will confuse the voice of temptation with the voice of my Savior.

If I wait the first time I heard something and then act when I hear it again I could be responding to temptation and not Jesus. Notice how the devil tempted Jesus to worship him all three times, but each time he changed the wording, the temptation didn’t change though.

And the tempter came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Matthew 4:3

Temptation (and the enemy–self or satan) attacks first who I am to bring doubt and confusion as to my identity.  When he has me questioning who I am, he has me on the ropes because I will answer to and fall for anything he says next.

The temptation then expects me to prove my identity by my doing something it requires. Satan expected Jesus to prove His identity by obeying satan.

Jesus knows who I am and will never ask me to prove it. He, even in His testing me, does not use “if” statements. He will never say, “If you’re truly My child then do……” Just as I don’t expect my children to prove they are mine, He doesn’t expect us to prove it to Him either. He knows we are His. We are the ones who doubt.

He does, however, use “because” statements. “Because you are My child this behavior needs to (either) stop (or) grow.”

Temptation seeks to sound like God so I will fall for it every time. Temptation always seeks my worship. It seeks to draw my worship away from God. The more I–through the power of God–resist the more blatant the temptation becomes. Satan started tempting Jesus to make bread, then he moved to more blatant temptations of worship.

The only way to battle temptation is to stand firm in Jesus and in who He declares us to be. Apart from that we have no hope, and haven’t a leg to stand on when faced with temptation. Thankfully Jesus brings us His identity and He battles for us. When we forget who we are and when we are cocky and battle on our own in our own strength we will lose every time.

Control Girl by Shannon Popkin {A Review}

Are you trying to stay in control of your quest for peace, joy, and security . . . and you’re exhausted? Shannon Popkin’s debut book, Control Girl, is a must-read for anyone with a heart that craves control. Join Shannon as she shares what she has discovered about her own control struggles and about God from studying seven Control Girls in the Bible. Whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future, each of these women’s stories contain warnings and lessons for us today.

 

 


Me  We all strive for control, and shudder when we lose control. We make ourselves ill pursuing and pushing for control of our lives and the lives of those around us. We think we have to or life will fall apart. But really we’re just deluding ourselves. 

Shannon Popkin discusses this in her devotional/Bible study book, Control Girl. She discusses 7 women from the Bible and how we can learn from their example to release our desire for control. 

My personal thoughts: I thought it was more fluff than substance. Its a great topic and one that we all need to hear and apply, but this book was just lacking some meat for my taste. But that is just my experience with this book, you might really love it! You should order it, or purchase it and read it for yourself. Then come back here and tell me what you thought about the book. 

 

I received a free copy of this book from Litfuse. All thoughts are my own.