Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spiritual Misfit - A Review and Giveaway

Misfit. Awkward. Not enough.

Do those words strike a chord with you? They hit me hard, because I know those feelings. That's why Spiritual Misfit hit home for me.

Michelle and I come from very different backgrounds, but her story resonates in my heart. I've been the spiritual misfit - the one who felt like her faith wasn't enough, the one who looked around and felt completely out of place among seeming super-Christians, the one who feared that people would see behind the facade to the real me. I struggled for years before I started to truly grasp God's grace and overwhelming love.

Michelle writes with so much honesty about her struggles with faith. She had me emotional on one page, and on the next she had me laughing until tears streamed down my face. Seriously, you will never look at Cheese-Its the same way again - and if you've ever nursed your children, you'll have to put the book down during chapter three. I promise, it's going to take a while to quit laughing.

Spiritual Misfit is beautifully written. Michelle holds nothing back, sharing her highs and lows on her journey, her doubts and fears, and how God led her to Himself. 

Thanks to the wonderful people at Convergant Books, I am giving away one copy of Spiritual Misfit. Entering is easy - check out the Rafflecopter giveaway below. You must be a resident of the continental U.S. to enter. 

One last note: Starting May 1, I'll host a weekly book discussion on my blog, covering one chapter of Spiritual Misfit at a time. I'd love to have you join in!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Where Do I Start: Choosing the Right Bible Study

You can't start a job without the right tools. The same is true for studying the Bible. If you look around any Christian bookstore, though, you'll see there are about as many Bible study options as there are people. Some require a major time commitment, others take only a few minutes a day. There are topical studies, book studies, word studies, and more. Where do you begin?

1. Choose the right translation.
Walking into the "Bible" section of your bookstore can be overwhelming. There are enough acronyms to make your head spin. If you're going to make the most of your time studying the Bible, you need to choose the right one. Where do you start?

Let's start with translations. There are three main translations I love:
NIV - easy to understand, this is a very popular translation with lots of Bibles and other study materials to choose from. I teach children's church, and this is the translation I use when I teach.

NASB - For my own personal study, this is the version I use. It's widely regarded as one of the most accurate translations, plus it's easy to understand. Personally, I am a huge fan of the NASB Study Bible.

ESV - Also a very accurate and easy to understand translation.

One important note: Make sure you choose a translation (NASB, NIV, etc.) instead of a paraphrase (The Message). A translation is word for word from the original languages, while a paraphrase is a retelling in an individual's own words. Paraphrases can be a great tool - I love reading The Message - but they should be used as extra reading, not your main study Bible.

Now what about types of Bibles? Once you choose your translation, you can find anything from a devotional Bible to a study Bible to a wide-margin Bible just for taking notes. I love a good, basic study Bible, like the NASB Study Bible. It's filled with good information, including background information on each book, maps, cross references, and more - but it's all on a pretty easy to understand level. It's a great for your first study or your hundredth.

2. Think about your learning style.
Are you a visual learner? Do you like variety or do you need repetition to learn? Do you move quickly through new material, devouring it all at once, or you like to mull over new ideas over a few days or weeks? Look for a study that moves at your pace without overwhelming you.

Personally, I'm very visual. I love using colors, symbols, charts and graphs to help me digest information. When I discovered Kay Arthur's book "How to Study the Bible for Yourself" I knew I'd found my perfect match. I love her visual, detailed approach to Bible study. As a former English major, I love to study the little nuances of a text, and her color/symbol approach to marking my Bible helps me see the big picture quickly.

3. Start small.
If you are just starting your Bible study journey, start small. Instead of committing to reading the entire Bible or jumping onto a year-long study, find a study that you can finish a few weeks. There are some great long-term, intensive Bible study plans (I'll get into specifics next week) but for now, set goals that you can reach in the short term. This also lets you experiment with different study styles. You might find that your original approach doesn't work. You may need to try several styles before you find one that fits.

Next week, I'll walk you through a few specific styles of Bible study. And if you're ready to dive in to a short-term, doable study, consider signing up for Hello Mornings. Registration for the next study - a free six week study of the book of 1 John - starts today.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Why the Truth Still Matters

(Image courtesy of FreeFoto.com)

I've been quiet on my blog the past few weeks as I caught up on reading (I'll have a review of a fantastic new book up soon!) and Bible studies. God has not been quiet, though. He's been speaking loud and clear to my heart through my Lent study of Holey, Wholly, Holy. It hasn't been an "easy" study. It's been a hard, tearful few weeks, leaving me broken and grieving over my own sin. But it's also ignited a fresh fire in my heart as I see - really see - how big and amazing God's grace really is.

As God has taken me deeper into His Word, I've realized more and more how important it is to have regular time with Him. Studying the Bible isn't just something we should do, it's something we must do. If we aren't consistently spending time in the Bible, we'll shrivel up and die spiritually. We must study and learn the Bible.

Why? Because it's truth, and we need to cling to it.

We live in a world that no longer accepts truth. Instead, they have opted for "convenient Christianity," a watered-down version of faith that allows them to sin as long as they say the occasional prayer. Francis Chan puts it perfectly in his book Crazy Love:

All around us, the world is changing. There is more hostility toward Christianity than we've seen in our lifetime. Standing up for your beliefs will get you labeled as "bigoted" or "hateful." Many churches and ministries now accept lifestyles and actions as normal that just a few years ago were considered unquestionably sin. People are walking away from their faith like never before.

I look at my two boys, becoming men much too quickly. I think of the kids I teach every week in children's church. And I'm scared. I think of Brooke McGlothlin's words in Praying for Boys: "All it takes to lose the truth of the Word of God is one set of parents who fail to teach it." In a generation where ball games and birthday parties and sleeping in are more important than church, where God is put on the back burner so He doesn't interfere with the lifestyle they want - we're losing a generation right in front of us.

The truth still matters. Many times, we don't like the truth. It challenges us. It forces us to make a decision. It shows us that we're wrong. That's exactly why we need it.

(Click to Tweet)

He wants to change us. He wants to shape us and make us more like Him. If we love Him, we want that too. Even if it hurts. Even if it's hard.

We can't follow the truth if we don't know what the truth is. Next week, I'm starting a series on one of my passions: Bible study. I'm going to walk you through choosing a Bible version, finding the right study, and setting up a Bible study notebook. I'm passionate about spending time in God's Word, and I believe that knowing God's Word is more important than ever. I hope you'll join me.

Follow on Bloglovin

Sunday, March 23, 2014

What Is Good: Discovering Lent

This year, my year of studying what it means to be inscribed, is bringing me to my knees. I didn't know what I was getting into when God laid that word on my heart a few months ago. He amazes me, the way He's tying things together - from Bible studies to scripture memory to my reading list - and bringing my one word for 2014 in a direction I never expected. 

Recently I shared how and why I'm memorizing Isaiah 55 with Hide His Word. I've read the chapter before, but when you're really studying something, you see it in a whole new light. A few weeks ago, verse 2 just reached out and grabbed me. I can't get it out of my mind.

Isaiah 55:2 "Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance."

Ouch. That verse describes me a little too well. How many times do I spend "wages for what does not satisfy"? How often do I chase after things that really don't mater, when I should be chasing after God? How much time do I waste every single day, when I could focus on the important things?

I can apply this verse to so many areas of my life: literal food (my eating habits, exercise, how I care for my body - a temple of the Holy Spirit); spiritual food (time with God, Bible study, prayer); daily food (how I spend my time and energy every day). When I look at it that way, Isaiah 55:2 really hurts.

All of this has brought on some major soul searching, and it's led me to something totally foreign to this evangelical girl - this year, for the first time, I'm observing Lent. Maybe not in the strict sense if the word. I'm didn't receive ashes and I'm not fasting anything, but I'm spending the weeks leading up to Easter focusing more on my relationship with Christ and doing an online study of Kris Camely's book Holey, Wholly, Holy. I'd heard wonderful things about this book. When the study was announced, I knew it was just what I need, and it fits perfectly with my one word.

On Ash Wednesday, I dove in - and within minutes, I was in tears. One thing God is showing me repeatedly throughout this year is that being inscribed isn't about some warm, fuzzy feeling. It's not about how I feel or what I think. In fact, the only aspect of "me" that's involved is realizing that I am nothing apart from Christ. I'm inscribed because of my sin, because I am helpless and lost and desperately in need of a Savior.

(Photo courtesy of Free Foto)

Jesus inscribed me on His hands, giving me everything - and I owe Him so much more in return. It's humbling. Honestly, it's made me realize how selfish I really am. He gave so very much, and I give so little in return. I make so many excuses.

I'm now in week two of my Lent study, and it's putting me on my face before God. I asked Him to reveal my sins to me. He's answering, and it hurts. I'm seeing myself as I really am. It's ugly. But God is also showing me the depth of His grace...my ugly, dark, broken heart, covered and cleansed by His unending grace.

Monday, March 10, 2014

That I May Know You

My husband and I love watching the show "Hotel Impossible." It's a reality show where the host - an expert in managing hotels - goes to failing hotels and resorts to help them make their business better. Many times, the owners are on the brink of filing bankruptcy, and the show is their last hope for survival.

On pretty much every episode, the host asks the owner, "Have you ever run a hotel before? Have you worked in a hotel before?" Almost every time, the answer is "No." The owners have stayed at hotels, they've dreamed of running a hotel, but they have no knowledge of how to do it. They know nothing about the business, and it sets them up for failure.

So many times, Christians do the exact same thing. We know about God, but we have no real experiences with God.

We don't take the time to know God, and it sets us up for failure.

It's not enough to just know about God. It's not enough to casually mention Him from time to time, but do nothing. We can't show up at church on Sunday morning, then ignore Him the rest of the week and expect to live out a strong faith every day. If we are truly following Christ, we want to know His Word, His commands, His ways - and we want to follow Him.

God tells us, over and over again, that He wants us to know Him. He longs for a relationship with us. He wants to bless us. Psalm 71:3 says that God is "a rock of habitation to which I may continually come." He is always there, waiting for us to come to Him. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - the God whose spoken word created all that is and set the earth into motion - longs to have a relationship with us.

That's my motivation for morning time with God. Are there days I'd rather sleep late, stay comfortable in my warm bed and skip my time with God? Yes. Are there days I mess up and miss my time? Absolutely. But I strive every day to get up early and spend time with God, because more than anything, I want to know Him. I'm not perfect, and I never will be, but my prayer is that as I spend time with Him, I will know His ways - and most of all, that I will know Him.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Celebration Giveaway

February was an amazing month for me. My dream of being a published author came true when my first short story was published in Splickety Love magazine. This month, I decided to have a little celebration giveaway.

Thanks to some great friends, I've pulled together an amazing prize pack! One lucky winner will receive:

A one year digital subscription to Splickety Love magazine, including the premiere issue with my short story, "The Love She Never Had"

A digital copy of God's Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert

A digital copy of The Disappearing Key by Wendy Paine Miller

A digital copy of Elderberry Croft by Becky Doughty

If you love great Christian fiction, you will love this prize pack! The giveaway is open for one week. Just leave a comment to be entered - and check out several easy ways to earn more entries:

  • Like Grace In Our Moments on Facebook
  • Follow Grace In Our Moments on Twitter
  • Tweet about the giveaway
  • Follow Heather Gilbert, Wendy Paine Miller, and Becky Doughty on Facebook
Just click on the "leave a comment" button below to get started.

Monday, February 24, 2014

How (and Why) I Memorize Scripture

Scripture memory has never been my strong point. I know it's important, but to be honest, I struggle with it. I've tried different methods. I signed up and started Hide His Word challenges, with varying amounts of success, but I've never totally finished one. This time, when I signed up for Isaiah 55, I determined to see it through.

I need God's Word hidden in my heart.

There are so many reasons to memorize Scripture:

1. To fight temptation
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He fought Satan with a powerful weapon that we have full access to - the Word of God. You may not always have your Bible, but if you've memorized Scripture, you're always armed and ready for battle.

2. To meditate on God's Word
When I have Scripture in front of me all day, I stay focused on it. It's always at the back of my mind. So many times I've seen the verses I'm learning in a new light - through a sermon, a Bible study, or a book - because it was on my mind, and I was able to add to it through different sources.

3. To share my faith with others
4. To encourage others
Again, we can't use the Word unless we know the Word.

As I've worked on memorizing scripture, I've found several great, simple resources to help me. My favorites, which I'm currently using to memorize Isaiah 55, are:

1. Verse cards: Every Sunday, I write the week's verse on index cards - one to carry with me in my purse, one to keep at home. I have no excuses for not studying if my verses are always with me.

2. First Letter cards: This is my favorite way to review! If I'm struggling with a verse, just seeing the first letter of the next word is usually enough to jog my memory.

3. Sticky notes: I don't do this every week, but if I'm really struggling with a verse, I'll write it on sticky notes and post them around the house - on the bathroom mirror, above the washing machine, and so forth.

4. Journaling: I start each day with my gratitude list in my journal, then I write out that week's verse and track how many times I review it.

5. Scripture Typer app: This is one of my favorite iPhone apps! Scripture Typer makes it so easy to study verses. It even provides reminders when it's time to review, so nothing slips through the cracks.

6. Lock screen: Using my favorite iPhone photo editing app (Rhonna Designs), I create a lock screen design with the the verse I'm working on. Any time I use my phone, I can easily review my verse.

What about you?
Does memorization come easily for you, or do you struggle with it?
What are your favorite memorization methods or tips? 
Leave a comment and share them - I'm always looking for new ideas!