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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

So we can give it freely to others.

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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And then He spoke.

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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.

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“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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Brokenhearted Comfort

In Psalm 147:3 the word translated “binds up” means literally to wrap/bind one thing with another. And the word “wounds” refers to emotional suffering. In this verse, the emotional suffering and wounds from it are bound by the Lord. But what does He bind them with? Himself!
The word translated “brokenhearted” means “destroyed or crushed”. We all have people and circumstances that come into our lives intent on destroying and crushing our heart. But He is our Healer of our crushed hearts.
When we are brokenhearted and wounded emotionally the Lord Himself binds us to Himself for our healing. He truly is Jehovah-Rapha and the Balm in Gilead.
It is truly a foolish person who resists this binding and pushes away from His healing.
But why does He do this?
The obvious answer is Love.
The not so obvious answer is found in 2 Corinthians 1:3-6. We find in verse 4 that He comforts (and here I’m taking the liberty of using the word “heals” in place of comfort) us in all our afflictions, all those things that destroy our hearts, He heals. So we can take that comfort and healing and share it with another who is suffering.
He is still the One who heals. He is the One who binds us to Himself for healing. But He uses us in our suffering to show others that He heals and He comforts.
I can comfort someone. But I can’t heal them. I can point them to the One true Healer though.
In this I am fulfilling 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift (Divine gratuity), employ (deacon) it in serving (deaconing) one another as good stewards of the manifold grace (JOY) of God.”
(All Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible)

The Truth about Me.

But God demonstrates His own love toward Virginia, in that while she was yet a sinner, Christ died for Virginia. Much more than having now been justified by His blood, Virginia shall be save from the wrath of God through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

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Therefore, having been justified by faith, Virginia has peace with God through her Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also she has obtained her introduction by faith into this grace in which Virginia stands, and she exults in hope of the glory of God and not only this, but Virginia also exults in her tribulations. Knowing that tribulations brings about perseverance and perseverance proven character, and proven character hope. And hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within Virginia’s heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to her. For while Virginia was still helpless – at the right time Christ died for ungodly Virginia. (Romans 5:1-6)

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When I fully realize that all of everything I do is because of His grace toward me – I fully realize I have nothing to prove and therefore I have nothing to defend. (Romans 6:1-3)

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Therefore Virginia has been buried with Jesus through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father so she too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4)

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Jesus died in the flesh, so I could live in the Spirit. (Romans 6:8-9)

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Lord, here I am –  a weak, frail, fleshly girl – I present to You my body as one alive from the dead. I present my members to You as instruments of Your righteousness. I place myself under Your grace –  because sin shall not be my master. (Romans 6:12-14)

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But THANKS be to God that though Virginia was a slave of sin, she became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which she was committed, and having been freed from sin, Virginia became a slave of righteousness. (Romans 6:17-18)

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Slave of Sin = Dead to Righteousness.
Slave of Righteousness = Dead to sin.
Alive to sin and the law = Dead to Righteousness and God
Alive to Righteousness and God = Dead to sin and the law.

I was made to die to the law through the body of Christ that I might marry (be joined to) Christ – every time I serve sin I am committing adultery. (Romans 7)

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There is therefore now no condemnation for Virginia who is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

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But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in Virginia, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to her mortal body through His Spirit who indwells her. (Romans 8:11)

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For Virginia has not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again…
BUT Virginia has received a spirit of adoption as a daughter by which she can cry out, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

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Suffer – then Glory.
Suffering brings glorification. (Romans 8:17)

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Predestined.
Called.
Justified.
Glorified. (Romans 8:30)

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What then shall I say to these things? If God is for Virginia, who is against her? (Romans 8:31)

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When I am in tribulation, distress, being persecuted, in a famine, and naked, peril or seeing a sword (instrument of death), I think I have been separated from the love of Christ but that isn’t the TRUTH! I overwhelmingly conquer through Jesus who loves me through them. (Romans 8:37-39)

(all verse from the New American Standard Bible)

Love Suffers

Love. It’s what we all want. What we all need. It is what we crave.

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But what does Love mean? What does it mean to live loved? Is that even possible? Is it possible to live loved all the time, even when we feel loved less than?

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I’ve mentioned a teary time or two that I’m reading Ann Voskamp‘s book, The Broken Way. I’m currently in a love-hate relationship with it. And with Ann. I mean nothing bad about Ann at all. Don’t misunderstand. But it’s like she lives in my town, or at least in my head and is pointing out all the places I need to change to grow.

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It was through her book I started putting a red cross on my wrist. As a reminder to me every day to live cruciform. To live in the shape of a cross every day. To remember the best gift is to love others. To remind myself to Be The Gift…to Give It Fully Today.

When I choose to focus on someone else who is just as needy as I am, to focus on them and meeting their needs, trusting the Meeter of my needs to meet my very great needs. When I do this then the healing of my broken and shattered places begins.

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When my healing begins, my cup is no longer empty.

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It’s a little oxymoronic I think to have a blog about my FULL cup when it seems my cup lives empty.

But that is how I am to live. I am to live empty, poured out, given out in love to the One who loves me.

“‘Love will always make you suffer. Love only asks, ‘who am I willing to suffer for?'”

Those words leaped of the page of Ann’s book last night.  I underline it in green, and read it over a few times. Trying to grasp the meaning. Rejecting the statement as impossibly untrue. Love doesn’t make you suffer. Love erases suffering.

Then I read further.

“Love, before it is anything, to be love at all, it is first patient. …patience is nothing but a willingness to suffer. Patience and the word passion, they both come from the exact same root word, patior, to suffer. …Passion embraces suffering because there’s no other way to embrace love. Love isn’t about feeling good about others; love is ultimately being willing to suffer FOR others.” (from Ann’s book, The Broken Way, page 137. emphasis mine.

And I was stopped dead in my reading tracks.

Love is being willing to suffer for others…because Jesus (LOVE) was willing to suffer for me.

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When the words you read make you jot down your thoughts on the other side of the page and then you take a moment to read them. The realization of my own black-hearted self-centeredness washed over me like a waterfall.

I can not say I love anyone if I am not willing to suffer for them. I can not.

I’m rather reserved with my “I love Yous” I am. They don’t come easy for me.

This doesn’t come easy for me either. Every time I have said it thus far in my life has more than likely been a lie. A complete fabrication. A lie I’ve said to make myself feel good and to make you feel good.

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The man I promised myself to in marriage. If I am not willing to suffer for him, I am not willing to love him.

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Those children that I gave birth to, if I’m not willing to suffer for them. I do not love them.

Those precious souls I’ve been blessed to have befriend this broken pile of flesh, if I’m not willing to suffer for them, I’m not willing to love them.

As painful as all of that was to realize, I knew in the very deepest part of my soul, if I am not willing to suffer for Jesus, I am not willing to love Him.

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If I am not willing to take up my cross and follow Him in the path of His suffering, joining in His suffering for me, then I am not willing to love Him.

And if I am not willing to love Him, I am not willing or able to love anyone else.

So my prayer for myself and you this Christmas season is simply to be willing to be willing to love Him as He loves us. To be willing to suffer for Him because that is the path to wholeness, life and love.

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