Tag Archives: before amen

simpl.if.I – Don’t Worry! (Summer Series Week 5)

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Somewhere nearby, a dog sits in his backyard barking all. the. time.  As you might imagine, this annoys the neighbors and upsets households for blocks.  But instead of getting angry, I find myself feeling really sorry for him. The truth about his beautiful boy is this: he’s an anxious dog who is in serious need of some solid training and attention (and maybe even a little dose of tough love…).  I know he’s bothersome to many people, but I just try to keep it in mind that his behavior is a result of an owner who doesn’t know how to take care of him or how to deal with his anxiety.

 Doggie Gate

I’ve experienced times and seasons of anxiety in my life and it occurs to me that perhaps this pretty baby isn’t so different than many of us humans who also feel sad and anxious.  We all just want to feel better, you know?  Maybe we’ve been “barking” and crying for help for years, and even those closest to us didn’t hear us (or didn’t know how to).  All this barking to simply say – “I don’t feel good.  I feel worried.  Take care of me.  Help me.  Bring me inside so I can feel safe because I can’t do that for myself right now.”

Worry exaggerates reality and makes us do one of several things:  we fight; we flee; or we freeze.

“Fighting” most often takes the form of trying to control the situation with a sense of force, which is just a nice way of saying manipulation, and – let’s be honest here – nothing good comes from that.

“Fleeing” when we’re worried just prolongs the inevitable, because life has a way of catching even the swiftest of us.

And “freezing” creates a whole set of problems in itself, because we cut ourselves off from anyone and anything that could possibly help, and end up isolated and alone in our pain.

None of these options deals with the worry.  Instead, all of these options turn our attention onto ourselves and our situations and they distort the truth, so we’re left feeling hopeless in the midst of the anxiety.

But what if we added one more option to those choices?  What if we built on everything we’ve learned so far here in our simpl.if.I series and added a “Don’t Worry” card to our deck?!

Don't Worry Matt 6-25

 

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells us not to worry!  In my favorite verse of all time (you’ll be reading it in it’s entirety this week), Jesus reminds us that worrying doesn’t do anything productive.  It keeps us from living in the moment, prevents us from fully experiencing God’s blessings, and moves our focus off Him and onto ourselves.

But trusting God?  Well, that is productive!  It gives us freedom.  Freedom to live boldly, with hope and peace, covered in True Love, even when life tries to tell us otherwise.

So back to my neighbor’s barking dog.  What if this dog’s master was able to bring him inside, provide structure, love, and discipline, and training?  What if the Master were to show him the freedom in trusting Him?  How would that look from his heart’s perspective?

 

pretty boy

I think that’d look like one contented, peaceful pup!

Lord, meet me at the back door when I’m barking and usher me into Your peace.  Teach me to fight the urge to manipulate, flee, and freeze and remind me of the freedom I have in You.  Give me courage to stand up to the lies that “worry” tries to tell me. Instead, show me how to listen only to Your Truth:  that you love me, have good plans for me, that You will never leave me, and that I am Yours forever.  You are so rich in your mercy, Father.  Thank you.

Practical Application:  (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take so you learn not to worry!):

1.  Find/print our mantra/scripture card for this week:  Don’t Worry!

2.  Read this portion of Matthew 6 to get our verse in context!  Such good and meaty truth in here, sweet friends!

3.  Call out your worry!  Make a list of things that cause you to either fight, flee, or freeze and then CROSS THEM OUT!  Instead of letting them control you, spend time placing them in God’s hands through prayer and through meditation on His goodness and His ultimate control and concern for you – you ARE the one He loves!!!

4.  Watch this music video for the beautiful song, “Shoulders”, by For King and Country!

If you are reading before amen with us (by the wonderful Max Lucado!) it’s time to read Chapter 4:  “I Need Help”, because, really, who doesn’t?!   If you have time and energy, complete the study guide for the chapter at the back of the book!

Have a great week, sweet friends! Know I am praying for YOU this week to break free of whatever is worrying you!  TRUST God and KNOW freedom!  Don’t Worry!  😉

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week 6 (yes, we are onto the second half of the series…!):  Be Real!

IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING ANXIETY OR DEPRESSION at a level which is disruptive to your daily routine and/or impairing your ability to function, I urge you to PLEASE call your doctor right away.  If you are feeling like things are hopeless and life is not worth living, please call 911 immediately.  You are important, you are cherished and loved, and you have so much more to say and do for this world!  Help IS literally one phone call away.  I am praying for you.

 

 

 

 

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simpl.if.I – Believe God! (Summer Series Week 4)

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This is my friend, Sarah.  As you can see, she is flawless.  Made by a flawless God.

sarah and keegan simply flawless

One of the coolest things about Sarah is this: she knows God made her exactly the way He intended to, and she isn’t afraid to flaunt it.  (Do you not LOVE this pose?!  Sarah and her good pal, Keegan, have this super funny thing they do where they say, “I woke up flawless” and strike that awesome pose!  I LOVE it!)  Sarah is a girl who 100% believes God.

Sarah can teach us a thing or two about believing God, because Sarah knows that believing God means more than simply believing IN God.  Believing God means taking Him at His word.  And taking Him at His word is crucial, if we are to have faith, and hope, in life.

It’s easy to say you believe in God, but it’s a little more risky to profess that you simply believe Him and follow Him based on faith.  It’s more than an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality!  Hebrews 11:1 says this:  “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Believing God means giving up a little (or a lot!) of our self-imposed importance and acknowledging our smallness in this life.

Having said that, believing God means knowing He has created us for a purpose and a life that, regardless of how the world defines it, is infinitely important.  It means knowing He’s there, even when we don’t see Him.  And it means trusting Him, even when we don’t “feel” like it, especially when we’re angry, sad, or confused.

It means taking the time to look back over the days of your life and seeing evidence of His faithfulness in bringing you through difficult and rocky times so that you have the wherewithal to let Him bring you through the next valley.  It also means celebrating the high points with gracious gratitude, knowing the blessings came directly from Him.  And it means looking at the person you are and knowing you have been created exactly how you are meant to be, for this time and place.  No one can be a better you!

Believing God is a mindset that leads to a lifestyle and a lifetime of reliance on the One who makes no mistakes and already has a plan in place for when we do 😉 !  Believing God means placing our circumstances at His feet and acknowledging that He knows far better than we do how to work things out.  Our minds cannot begin to fathom His goodness and His plans for us!

Believe God 1 Cor 2-9

The first step in believing God is knowing what you believe about Him to begin with!  Wondering what it is you actually believe?  I did, too!  So I took a little time out to ponder it!  You can see MY thoughts on what I’m believing by clicking here.

His plans are flawless and perfect.  Believe it.  And then, just like my pal, Sarah, flaunt it!

 

Practical Application:  (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take TODAY to help you believe God!):

  1. Find or print our mantra/scripture card for this week. Display it prominently and read it every day. Ask God what He wants you to know about Him!
  2. Read this portion of 1 Corinthians 2 to get a better idea of the context of our scripture for this week.
  3. Click here to try your hand at writing down what you believe about God!
  4. Check out this AWESOMELY FUN video by MercyMe called (what else?!) “Flawless”!

If you are reading before amen, by Max Lucado, read Chapter 3:  “You Are Good”.  I am honestly loving how Max can just tell a story from his own life and it all just makes great sense!  He’s so gifted!  If you are so inclined, go ahead and complete the study guide for Chapter 3 at the back of the book.

As always, thanks for tuning in with us for our summer series.  Your comments and support honestly encourage us to keep writing and reaching out with God’s word!

Have a wonderful week, sweet friends!

(I’d like to say a very special thank you to Sarah, Keegan, and Sarah’s mom, Lora – who also happens to be one of our FABULOUS ministry team members – for allowing me to share their photo and a little of their story with you today!)
Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I Week 5:  Don’t Worry!

 

simpl.if.I – Pay Attention! (Summer Series Week 3)

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I just started a new yoga class and I am already completely in love with it!  It’s not “power yoga”, “hot yoga”, or even yoga with lots of stretchy poses!  Instead, the class focuses mostly on breathing, and learning the power of being present in the moment; of being mindful of where we are at any given time, and to make the best decisions based on that mindfulness, instead of on quick or emotional judgment.

In order to practice mindfulness, we must learn to pay attention.  Paying attention means to notice all the details around and within us.  And when we can do that, we’re always going to see more than what we initially thought was there!

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I’m thoroughly intrigued with mindfulness as it relates to my walk with God because it reminds me that I don’t always slow down enough to see the bigger picture.  Usually, I’m too caught up in replaying what’s already happened (or I’m too busy stressing about what is still to come) to live in the current moment.  But mindfulness reminds me that God does work in the present.  Yes, He knows what happened yesterday, and He is aware of what will occur tomorrow, yet He is also currently working on today – the here and now – for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28!).

Over these first few weeks of simpl.if.I, we’ve seen that sometimes things happen that make us want to grab control and try to steer the ship of our life back onto the heading and course WE believe to be best.  But the thing is, God’s got a better idea.  He knew this very day was going to happen (because remember – He isn’t surprised by the trials we face in this life).  And maybe, just maybe, He knew whatever your “thing” is had to break apart and scatter the pieces in a very precise and perfect way in order for it to be put back together exactly as He envisions.

Our job, sweet friends, isn’t to micromanage the situation.  Instead, our goal needs to be to stop and take in what’s really going on. And instead of asking “God, why is this happening”, we change our mindset to ask “God, what do you want me to do about this, right here, right now”.  Our task should be to watch, look, and listen for Him moving in the current moment, and respond accordingly.

But we can’t do that unless we’re paying attention.

If life steals our attention today, let’s try to be mindful.  Take some deep breaths and remain focused on the moment, completely dependent on God to steer the ship.  Don’t let your own inner control freak (or even your inner scaredy cat) fool you into missing out on the details God is weaving into your day TODAY.

Pay Attention Isaiah 43-17

Be mindful this week of everything happening around you and spend some time PERCEIVING it!  Underneath what may look like a wasteland on the surface of whatever ground you are standing on is actually some pretty fertile soil, preparing the way for something great and new to spring up.  Fight the temptation to curse the dirt or to move greener pastures! Instead, focus your trust and attention on God!

Pay attention.  Live mindfully, aware of God’s plan for you, because He promises it is a good one!

Practical Application (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take today!):

  1. Locate/print up our mantra and scripture card for this week: Pay Attention! (please note that our actual verse is Isaiah 43:19, not 43:17 as printed on the card – sorry about that!)
  2. Read this portion of Isaiah Chapter 43 to see our verse in context!
  3. Make time every day this week for a little mindfulness practice! Carve out alone time where you can read our verse, and ask God to show you the new things He’s doing in YOUR life. Pay attention! I guarantee there are springs popping up all around you!
  4. Get ready for a treat!  This song is my new FAVE!!!   Sit back and take in this beautiful song by Hillsong United: “Touch the Sky”!  (Come ON – those lyrics!  “I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground”!!  Seriously?!  I LOVE this!)

If you are reading before amen, by Max Lucado, read Chapter 2: “Father…Daddy” .  I love Max’s way of paring things down and making sense of what could seem pretty complicated!  If you are up for it, complete the Chapter Two study guide at the back of the book.

Thanks for joining us this summer for simpl.if.I.  I pray the series is working in your spirit to let the complicated stuff fall away and help to focus your body, mind, and spirit on Jesus!

Peace, love, and joy!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week 4:  Believe God!

simpl.if.I – Always Pray! (Summer Series Week 2!)

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You’re Abe Froman – The ‘Sausage King of Chicago’?”

Sound familiar?! (I’m SO giggling right now!)

It’s actually a line from one of my favorite movies called Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!  But if it isn’t one of yours,  I’ll spare you from having to sit there reading all my favorite one-liners (sorry, I couldn’t help myself with the Abe Froman thing…)!

If you’ve seen it, though, I think you’ll agree that the line and scene that is probably the most memorable (and most often quoted!) is the one where a teacher is standing in front of the classroom taking attendance. In that monotone voice that we all think our teachers had, he just keeps repeating, “Bueller?  Bueller?  Bueller?” with no idea that no one is listening to him, and oblivious to what he’s even saying anymore.

(C’mon – are you giggling yet? Please say yes!) 😉

I was just thinking about that goofy movie this morning as I spent some time in prayer.  And  – much to my chagrin – I realized that sometimes I act just like that tuned-out teacher when it comes to talking with God.

Because if I’m not careful, I begin to think that movie scene is an accurate representation of God’s attention to me.   I talk and talk and talk to God and mistakenly feel like He isn’t listening because I’m not getting the attention or reaction I “expect”.  So eventually, I just stop paying attention to what I’m saying and praying.  Ugh…

I can be a little self-centered that way.  How about you?

But scripture (Truth) tells us something different.  Truth knows better than to believe prayer is just a bunch of words that evaporate into thin air once spoken.

Truth reminds us that prayer is conversation with God, and has supernatural power and implications!  That’s why our beloved Paul encourages us to pray without ceasing:

Always Pray 1 Thess 5-17

When we earnestly pray to God, we grow in our relationship with Him. We spend time talking with Him, learning about Him, sharing our life with Him.  That’s the miracle of the vertical growth of prayer.

When we honestly pray with others, we grow with them, learn about them, share our life AND OUR GOD with them.  That’s the  miracle that comes from the horizontal growth of prayer.

The more we pray, the more in tune we become to God’s beautiful voice and His sovereign and holy will for this earth.

The more we pray, the more in tune we become to the needs of those around us.

The more we pray, the more joyful we can be in celebration and praise when those needs have been beautifully and perfectly met by God.

Here’s the bottom line on prayer, sweet things:  Every word we speak (aloud, in our heads, subconsciously, even as yet unformed…) is heard by our Father.  He listens.  And He speaks back.  Maybe not audibly, but through so many different ways – He speaks.  So when we choose to keep praying, even when we don’t see evidence of being heard, we’ve basically chosen to be in constant contact with the One who loves us most!

 

Psalm 116-2

 

Oh please, please, please don’t give up praying, my dears!  Always pray!  He is bending down, always, to hear you.  He cares for whatever is on your mind.  He IS paying attention and He loves you enough to answer.

Practical Application: (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to deepen the meaning of this lesson in your life):

1.  Find and display our second simpl.if.I mantra/scripture card:  Always Pray!  If you cannot find it or need to print one up, click here and you’ll find a link to the cards!

2.  Click here to read Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica.  The link gives you a little more context into our verse for the week!

3.  Pray!  Spend time conversing with God every day this week.  Give Him your thoughts, cares, worries, praises, and joy.  And then give Him time to speak!  Record some ways you see Him speaking to you – through friends, events, music, nature, your spirit, AND in scripture.  He’s just waiting for you to slow down enough to “hear” Him!

4.  Sit back and watch this beautiful music video!  Goodness me, you’ll be so glad you did!  😉

If you are reading before amen by Max Lucado with us, go ahead and read Chapter 1:  “The Pocket Prayer”!  It’s a quick, but powerful, take on Max’s ideas of what’s important in prayer and how to break it down to basics!  If you’re feeling really motivated (!), you can also complete the Study Guide for Chapter One at the back of the book!  It gives even more great insight into how prayer can change your life!

Thanks for following along with us this summer for simpl.if.I!  For more info on this series, click here!  We are so glad you are with us!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week 3:  Pay Attention!

 

 

Simpl.if.I – Choose God! (Summer Series Week 1!)

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There’s this amazing and crazy cool thing that happens when we free fall into God’s arms.  We actually experience the peace of Christ, which transcends all human understandingDoesn’t that sound amazing?!

But here’s the thing:  in order to experience it, we must choose to do so.

Choose God Psalm 16-5

The choice of making God “first and only” can come from two places:  a place of desperation, OR a place of gratitude and worship.

Do you find yourself in one of those places today?

Are you in a “good spot” where you can sit with God for a bit, letting go of any mundane cares of the day and allow your spirit to spend time counting your blessings and thanking God for them?!  If so, DO IT!  Because when you do, you’ll wind up worshiping the One who Blesses instead of just worshiping the blessings.

Praise brings Peace, sweet friends!  Choose God and watch your spirit soar in joy! 

On the flip side, are you swimming in a sea of anxiety or fear today unsure of which way is up, wondering how much more you can take and the thought of “counting your blessings” is so absurd that it makes your head spin? Yeah, I’ve been there, too. So today I want to especially encourage YOU and your spirit to choose God.

This past spring, my family traveled through a season of upheaval and uncertainty.  Some of you walked it right alongside me, and for that I am so humbly grateful.

But when it first hit, my first instinct was grab onto anything I could and try to right the ship on my own, in a frenzied effort to avoid the storm.  I withdrew from friends and family, worried a lot, and kept trying to grasp control of each second in a desperate attempt to manipulate the outcome.

I did everything I could think of doing, except I forgot about choosing God.  Don’t get me wrong; I prayed – sort of.  I told God what I needed Him to do and got mad when He didn’t provide the outcome I requested.  I bargained and pleaded and wrung my hands and worried some more until, finally, I felt Him telling me to let go of my own agenda and choose Him instead because His plan was the only good one.  I needed to let everything else fall away so I could fall right into Him.

So I chose Him first, and chose Him only.

There were days when it was a choice I had to make every single minute because, in being human, it’s hard to give up control.  But the more I consciously did it, the more Peace began to infuse my spirit and the easier I could breathe.  The more I chose God, the more trust I found I could place in Him. And the more I found I could trust Him, the looser that icy cold grip anxiety had on my heart became.

It’s honestly so amazing what happens when we let God get in there and take the place of worry in our hearts!

phil 4-6

We’ve all got a journey to travel here, and some parts of the road are going to be more torn up than others.  The lesson to remember is that wherever we are on it – whether it’s on miles of smooth pavement or smack dab in the middle of major (re)construction – we have a choice on how we roll.  With God, or without.

Let’s Choose God together.

Practical Application (simpl.if.I’ed steps you can take to deepen the meaning of this lesson in your life):

  1. Find and display our first mantra/scripture card for simpl.if.I: Choose God. Spend a little time each day reading over it and talking with God about what it means to you, personally, and what He wants you to know about Him through it. (If you don’t have the scripture cards already, you can print them up here!)
  2. Read Psalm 16 in its entirety in order to see our verse in context!
  3. Think about the blessings God has placed on your road at this time of your life. Write them down and take the time to thank Him for them – remember: Praise brings Peace!!!
  4. If you are in some major (re)construction right now, remember that a journey of any kind inherently means you are in motion. You are NOT stuck here – choose God and allow Him to move you through.
  5. Watch this awesome music video by Rend Collective and share it with someone you love!

If you are following along with our optional reading from before amen by Max Lucado, please read the last section of the book called “before amen Prayer Strengths”.  I know it sounds funny to begin at the end of the book!  But there is a method to my madness!  This section is designed to help you figure out what kind of “pray-er” you are and will take you to a website (BeforeAmen.com) where you can take a little assessment.  Then you can go back and read about prayer strengths and learn a little more about how you can best incorporate effective prayer into your life!

I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers this week, knowing God is working in great ways in your life right now.  I’m so excited to be on this journey together, sweet friends!

Peace, love, and JOY!

Wendie

Up Next Week:  simpl.if.I week two – Always Pray

Simpl.if.I (…you know you want to!)

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Happy Summer 2015, Sweet Sister Friends!

Have you ever thought or said anything like this:

Life would be simple if I just:

    • would’ve said no to…
    • cleaned up “that” mess in the first place…
    • kept my mouth shut when…
    • got back to basics on…
    • focused on what really matters with…
    • stuck to my guns on…
  • knew what God wanted me to do when…

 

Yes?  Me, too 😉 !

That’s why I’m so excited to ask you to join us this summer as we learn to simplify life through scripture and prayer.  We’ll be breaking it down to what GOD says about what’s truly important when our souls yearn for simplicity.

Girls, we gotta simpl.if.I.

simplifi logo

 

Let’s invite God’s word to get inside these beautiful hearts of ours and do its work in mighty ways!  We’ll be cutting the fat (so to speak!) and learning ten, simple and important lessons:

  1. Choose God.
  2. Always Pray.
  3. Pay Attention.
  4. Believe God.
  5. Don’t Worry.
  6. Be Real.
  7. Let Go.
  8. Be Nice.
  9. Thank God.
  10. Be Happy.

These two-word, weekly mantras will be accompanied by easy-to-remember scriptures, AND fun blog posts that will tie everything together!

These mantras aren’t “recipes” for gaining God’s love – we already have that!  And they’re not “to-do list items” that make us look better in the eyes of others.  Instead, they’re simple reminders to our body, mind, and spirit to turn to God and find what’s truly important in those moments when we tend to let things get more complicated than they were ever intended to be.

We’ll also be doing some optional reading in our series!  So, for those of you craving a great book this summer, get ready to start an awesome new read a by Max Lucado called Before Amen!

AND —ooooooohhh— did we mention there’d be a dinner party?!  Like, a REALLY fun dinner party.  Because we don’t tend to do anything without a party.  😉  If you are local, mark your calendars for June 23rd and watch your email for more info on the dinner!  If you AREN’T local – we triple dog dare you to organize your OWN dinner!  Come on – you know you want to…!

Next Monday, those of you who have been in our studies before will receive your simple.if.I goodie bag on your front porch or in your mailbox!  Inside, you’ll find some super fun stuff and further explanations to get you geared up for our June 15th start date!

(If you are NOT local or haven’t been in our studies before, don’t you worry!  Everything you need will be posted right here for printing and perusing on Monday, June 8th!  Invite a friend – the more the merrier for the glory of God, girlies!)

We are so excited to simpl.if.I with you this summer, sister friends!

Peace, love, and so much joy!

 

Wendie Connors & the …stringing pearls ministries… Team*

 

 

*This ah-mazing team includes these BEYOND angelically cool peeps:

 

Carol Murray, Marcie Clark, Lyn Schmidt, Laura Ulepic, Kathy VanEk,

Lisa Mojica, Lora Bak, and Lori Gapinski