Spring is here!!! And with that comes a need for a whole lot of cleaning…the yard, the windows, the closets…I’m sure you can think of twelve other things on your list, too. But is your heart on that list?
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
I will allow you to read this quick reminder on your own, though I want to highlight the steps and what thoughts come to mind for myself as I focus on this most important cleaning task for the season.
The author asks:
What needs to go?
What can you give away?
What needs some love?
When we address these questions in a typical spring cleaning sense, they seem pretty straight forward. But when we head to our spirits and our hearts its not quite so simple.
So what needs to go? For me, I’ve held on to guilt over a relationship in my life for far too long. I asked her for forgiveness and I received it, but since it didn’t look or feel like the forgiveness I was seeking I have held on to it for YEARS now. I’ve repented and I’ve received the Lord’s forgiveness so it is time to LET. IT. GO.
What can I give away? When thinking about this task I was reminded that my own, sweet godson is not even going to church. He’s young, so this isn’t within his control, and it presents an opportunity for me to give away part of my faith life. If I was chosen to help raise this child to know the Lord, I better speak up now before the family’s distance from Him continues to grow. I better start giving away the Good News.
What needs some love? Many things get messy that just need a little extra attention from time to time. As I bring a close to my winter bible study, its time for my quiet time to get a little bit more love. I do well with a plan, so a Bible reading plan is in order. Its best I love on this now before my mind gets lazy as the weather gets warmer.
As you take inventory of what cleaning needs to be done, will you take the time to read the article above and add your heart to your list? I think we all know we need it.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands…and purify your hearts.” James 4:8
This winter has been long. Anyone else?? My sister just told me yesterday that’s she’s run out of the enthusiasm for all things snow and bundling up kids and fun outdoor activities. That first big snow, the enthusiasm is HIGH. And last week, my enthusiasm was LOW, LOW, LOW.
We’d spent far too many days indoors and had two snow days added into the mix. My patience was low and my boys were driving me CRAZY! The baby was needy and I couldn’t stand to play super heroes or dinosaurs ONE. MORE. TIME.
I got out snacks and sat the boys at the table because its the only way to keep them in one place for longer than 30 seconds. I started prepping dinner but I could hear their crunching on that trail mix and oh I wanted to be somewhere else! Silly, yes? But it was real.
I honestly prayed for patience then reached for my phone to turn on Pandora to the Zach Williams station (see December post for more on that). Oh, the Lord heard my prayer and answered with MY SONG!And you know how hearing your song can immediately change your day…
So “To the Table”comes on but this version was new to me as it was live from Harding Prison. Zach starts by talking about his history with substance abuse then says to these men, speaking of our God, “He can take the biggest mess and turn it into the biggest message.” Aaaaaamen.
As I’m hiding from my boys in the kitchen, kneading pizza dough, the tears start rolling. A certain mess in my life immediately came to mind and it was in that moment that I realized how that mess wasn’t so messy any more. And how many messages the Lord sent me throughout the course of that mess. And how grateful my heart should be because that BIG mess just isn’t a mess any more.
So lost in the messiness of the day-to-day, I was reminded of those bigger messes that no longer are. What messages have you heard and what messages are you still waiting for? Let us look to His Word and be reminded of the next best step:
“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6
Thank you, Lord, for making that path straight again. Amen.
So now we’re two months into the new year. How are your resolutions looking? I smirk and smile as I write this, because I imagine there are a few of you laughing at the misery your resolutions caused you before you threw them out the window. And I imagine there are others of you who are rocking your resolutions and kudos to you! Keep going.
I will say I made three resolutions and two of them are going well. One of them is a HUGE struggle but such is life. I haven’t thrown in the towel, but I have found myself discouraged and I decided I needed a “resolution reset.” If I identified this area of my life as something that needed to become a priority, I best not throw it out the window, right?
Maybe I just need a reset—a change in the way I view a needed discipline in my life. How about you?? Do you need a resolution reset? Or did you totally forget you had some resolutions and you just need a resolution reminder? For those of you that need a little reset, lets hear some truth for the course ahead:
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Be mindful of the work inside of you. Enjoy the process. Scripture even tells us to expect it to be painful. I think sometimes we’re afraid to fail, so we avoid things that might be hard or might not turn out well. But here’s some more truth for that course, too:
“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7
Hear that? Power AND discipline. Not fear, but the ability to do what lies ahead. So go on. Recall and reset those resolutions with God’s truth in your hearts. You got this!
When I first started reflecting on biblical love at the start of the month, I couldn’t help but notice that John emphasized what it doesn’t look like. As I spend time in 1 Corinthians 13, I’m finding that Paul’s focus is remarkably similar. Speaking to a people new in their faith, he hoped to encourage them towards a Christ-like love, not a self-seeking image of a “perfect” believer.
Whether we are twenty-two or eighty-two, I think its prudent to take a humble position of being “new” in our faith, too: always seeking wisdom, Godly examples, scriptural truths. Though I don’t think we need to be intimidated by Paul’s message here. I don’t want to approach verses 4-7 as a checklist.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Don’t get me wrong—I LOOOOVE checklists. But I also get hung up on performance and accomplishment, being helpful and using my time wisely. Why? Because I’m self-seeking. And that leads to pride, which makes me boast, and that dishonors others. Yikes.
While my intentions are good, I’m forgetting to extend love along the way. As Leanne wrote last October about walking humbly, “I don’t want a life of checkmarks … I want a life marked by His grace and love extended to those around me.”
The way I love should lead others to Christ. I want it to be unmistakable who my God is. Will you pray for me in this? I’ll do the same for you.
Aaaand it’s February. The first thing that comes to mind for me, aside from another cold month, is LOVE. Something to celebrate, something to give, but most importantly, something to be grateful for.
“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
While the festivities of Valentine’s Day are not likely to include thoughts of our heavenly Father’s love for us, lets make a moment to remember this great love. A love that started before we were made. A love that is undeserved and underestimated. A love that is unconditional.
Before I even recognize my own sin, His love is there. Before I even think to beg for forgiveness, His love is there. Before I even truly understand the depth of His love, it is right there.
If I want to reflect God’s love for me, I, too, must love. I’m commanded to, rather, as John reminds us:
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11-12).
A song comes to mind as I’m processing all this love…and it’s not biblical…but it sure is catchy 🙂 In their song Love Ain’t, Eli Young Band sings “I may not know what love is girl but I know what love ain’t”.
While at times I fail to fully grasp how GREAT God’s love IS, my heart seems to fully convict me of what God‘s love AIN’T. It ain’t the love of a seamless day, a clean house, the right school, a great outfit, the perfect party. John reminds us of this, too:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
While there’s SO MUCH MORE that God’s Word has to teach us about love, this month I’m going to emphasize these things which I know itisand those which I know it ain’t. Won’t you join me?
Lord, help me to exhibit love that has an eternal purpose. A love that is sacrificial and genuine, when it’s easy AND when it’s hard—enabled by you because I couldn’t possibly muster up the desire to do it on my own. Because of your Spirit’s work in me, I can experience your love and I am grateful. I love you, Lord. Amen.
What am I loving today? Or this month, really? The weather!!! Don’t get me wrong, I would prefer a white Christmas, but I will NOT argue with God about the beautiful sunshineyDecemberHe has gifted us. And anyway, it looks like its about to change back to real winter pretty soon. But take a peek–a chance of snow for the holiday!!
So what else am I loving? Music, my Bible reading plan, walks in the aforementioned weather, and everything Christmas with a preschooler.
MUSIC:The album Chain Breaker by Zach Williams was five dollars well spent. Remember his breathtaking voice at church last month? I knew I liked the song “Chain Breaker” from the radio, but I had never heard “To The Table” until he sang it during the service that weekend. Listen for yourself and you’ll understand!
BIBLE READING PLAN: LifeWay Women put together a concise yet thoughtful reading plan for Advent. Each week they email you what to read daily as well as things to do and things to pray. They even send an image to save to your “lock screen” on your phone with a memory verse for the week. When covered in flour as I bake cookies or reaching for the ribbon as I wrap gifts, a touch of my phone brings His word back into focus.
It’s not too late to sign up! You can revisit the past week’s readings and get caught up. CLICK HERE!
WALKS:Because the weather is phenomenal and our boys are in awe by holiday lights, we manage to sneak in a “twilight” walk around 4:30/5:00PM most evenings. The sun is getting low, the lights are turning on, and daddy isn’t home from work yet. The boys see everything from Minions in Santa hats to Nativity scenes on the roof and we all get fresh air and exercise. Not always so easy in December!!
EVERYTHING CHRISTMAS with aforementioned PRESCHOOLER:Christmas is REALby the time you turn four. As I write this post, I hear him in his room singing “Go Tell it on the Mountain.” Don’t get me wrong, we do Santa in this house, but we also do Jesus. And its pretty awesome hearing him shout “THAT JESUS CHRIST IS BORN!!” We have excitement daily to see whats waiting for us in the Adventcalendar, what the tree looks like when it lights up, how we can arrange the Nativity scene, and which song is our favorite today. And of course, there are LOTS of discussions about how Santa could possibly fit down the chimney and which animals were at the birth of Jesus.
Lord, thank you for the beauty that consumes me this Wednesday and everyday. You are faithful and good and may this season continue to be about You. Amen.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Love INC, or Love In the Name of Christ, is the last of our local impact partners to introduce. If you haven’t learned about our other partners—Child Bridge and Family Promise—check out posts from November5thand11thto learn more about these ministries and how to get connected and serve.
Love INC‘s mission is “to mobilize local churches to transform lives and communities In the name of Christ.” Many churches find themselves being constantly contacted for need requests from individuals, families and groups. While each church seeks to meet these needs the best they can (if at all), they may not have the resources to do it well.
Instead of every church putting forth a makeshift effort to meet each need that knocks on its door, why not collaborate across the city and across denominations to serve people with our strengths? And know that resources we can’t provide are being offered by someone who can? Thanks to Love INC, bridges have been built between the people with the needs and the churches with resources.
For example, one Billings church has a system in place to repair automobiles–the space, the help, the tools. Another Billings church offers classes on budgeting and finances. Another church collects diapers, while another houses a food pantry. Why spread our resources thin when others can go above and beyond to do certain things well? Again, thank you to Love INC!!
So how does this all work? Love INC is a clearinghouse. People in need call Love INC. With patience and prayer, Love INC volunteers listen and respond with Christlike compassion to the situation at hand. After referencing their database of resources, they can refer the caller to the most appropriate place.
How can you help?
If you are made aware of needs, refer to Love INC! 406-206-5896
FaithE is filling a specific gap for washer and dryer needs. If you or someone you know is updating their appliances and willing to donate their used washer and dryer, please let us know! We have a relationship with a repair shop who can get them in best working order and ready to donate.
Also, if you would like to help contribute a “blessing basket” to accompany the appliances, this is another area of need! Individually or together with your family, coworkers, or life group, consider donating laundry items. We have previously blessed families with a laundry basket, detergent, dryer sheets, hangers, a devotional, journal, and cookies. There is room for creativity here! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christlike relationships can be transformative. While the receivers of these resources may not know Christ, they are able to be in relationship with those of us who do. Please consider how you can bring Christ to our community!
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15b
Last week we began our series on FaithE’s Local Impact partners, starting with Child Bridge. Today we will continue the series as we highlightFamily Promise (FP). FaithE has had a relationship with FP for many years as a “host” church, which you may be familiar with. In this role, the church provides a safe, non-judgmental place for families to stay to help FP fulfill its mission “to help homeless families achieve and sustain independence through a community response to homelessness.”
These families stay at the church for a week at a time, typically every 2-3 months. While these weeks are spearheaded by two amazing coordinators, many volunteers are needed to make this happen—to help set up beds, make or serve meals, lead activities with the kids, and just make the families feel known and welcomed. There are 25 other local churches helping to fulfill this mission, but as a selected “partner,” we want to go above and beyond for Family Promise.
Before going into specific needs the organization has, I think its important to paint a picture of how FP is nurturing homeless families towards sustained independence. While churches provide basic needs during the week to families in their emergency shelter, they spend the majority of their time at the Day Center. They wake early to start their days as they receive case management services and do things such as apply for jobs, receive mentoring, and look for housing.
With assistance, families save enough money for both a housing deposit and two month’s rent. After achieving this, they “graduate” from Family Promise’s intensive services, though follow-up can still occur through theirtransitional housing, Partners in Housing, and aftercareprograms.
It is in all this work that Family Promise focuses on providing compassion and accountability. Isn’t that the love our heavenly Father shows us? He pours out kindness and love while not neglecting to hold us responsible for the life He has gifted us. With this in mind, let’s look at the many ways FP needs us to help extend this compassion.
**Adopt a Family: with your life group, group of friends, co-workers, or family members, commit to a family nearing graduation from emergency shelter for a 6-month (or longer) period. What could this look like? Buying essential items for their new home, sending birthday cards, praying regularly for and with them, celebrating anything from holidays to job offers and other successes.
**Adopt a Room: when families become homeowners through the Partners in Housing program, help furnish/decorate/supply a room in their new home.
**Donate: contribute $20/month in their recurring donor program. (A perfect option for the time-crunched, busy family!!) Theirwebsitecan help you with this.
If you want to learn more about how to connect with Family Promise, you may contact me email@example.com.
Please prayerfully consider how you can make an impact with Family Promise. The opportunities don’t stop here! Other needs include childcare, organizing donations, helping families move, making “birthday bags”…one church’s youth group even brings their video game systems to the Day Center to play with kids and offer an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. Again, just consider what gifts you have to share.
I’ll leave you with a video to give you a glimpse into the beautiful work Family Promise is doing. May we remember to “keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels” (Hebrews 13:1-2).
Over the last year, FaithE has reviewed a multitude of non-profit organizations in Billings with a goal of selecting a small few to become the church’s “local impact partners”. As a partner, we are consistently providing finances and we are (hopefully) consistently providing volunteers. The prayer is that we can walk alongside these organizations to truly make a supportive impact in the work they are doing.
Child Bridge (CB) was chosen as one of our partners and I have no doubt that together an impact is being made. I had the opportunity to spend time with Erin Thom, the outreach and support coordinator for CB in Billings, who also attends FaithE with her family. While the majority of our time together was spent keeping our four small children from injury while sledding down our 100 year-old stairs, we managed to have a bit of intentional conversation and get a few questions answered. What a GEM she is with a HUGE heart for the ministry she is in! Here we go.
Me: What does Child Bridge do?
Erin: We find and equip foster and adoptive families in Montana.
Me: How big of a need does Yellowstone County have?
Erin: Its huge. Its ridiculous. There are 1000 kids in the county currently in foster or kinship care, totaling 4000 for the state of Montana.
Me: What’s kinship care?
Erin: When a child is living with a relative or close family friend.
Me: How many families do you serve?
Erin: About 80 families are actively supported, meaning we talk to them at least monthly. Around 100 families attend our Resource Group.
Me: How long have you worked for CB and why?
Erin: Two and a half years. In January of 2016 I heard them speak at FaithE and just walked right up and asked, “Do you have a job?”
Me: That’s amazing. Tell me more!!
Erin: I had been working in mental health with kids for eight years and saw foster families have no support. I loved the mission of CB and that it had a faith component. They were doing what I wished I could’ve been doing.
Unbeknownst to me, Val Young (also from FaithE) had the Spirit move her to have the same conversation with them and we were able to create a position with each of us working part-time.
Me: What do you do on a daily basis?
Erin: I support foster and adoptive families by doing things like talking with them on the phone or praying with them. I also coordinate the Resource Group.
Me: How has working for CB changed you?
Erin: There are a lot of ways! I’ve learned a lot about who God is and how much the heart of God is communicated in foster and adoptive care. Just the way God loves us, unconditionally—not because we’ve earned it, and even when we resist it…that’s the love of a foster or adoptive parent. I’ve also learned how much my role is NOT to fix things.
Me: What are your greatest needs?
Erin: (without hesitation) Foster families. And people to come along side foster families. And people to volunteer at our Resource Group.
Also, we are funded only by people who believe in our mission, so we always need people to join the team and give financially to allow us to continue to do the work we are doing. **DONATE HERE!!**
Me: What’s the best way to get connected and serve?
It was short and to the point, leaving room for me to include a few more details…
Resource Group was mentioned repeatedly. I must emphasize that this group includes 100 FAMILIES, not individuals, but FAMILIES!! That’s a lot of people and hence the great need for a LOT of volunteers. If you only have two hours to give monthly, please consider this!! It’s the second Monday of every month from 6-8PM. During these evenings, foster and adoptive families are served dinner, child care is provided, speakers provide encouragement and training, and there is time for fellowship.
Deeply Loved. This kid-free retreat weekend for foster and adoptive moms just took place last month at a resort in Whitefish. It emphasizes that “we need each other to do what God has called us to do. You are deeply loved and are called to love deeply!” The women are invited to relax, rest, connect with other moms, and be encouraged. Below you will find a recap video of their amazing weekend!
National Adoption Month is recognized in November. It aims to bring awareness especially to the need for adoption of children in the foster care system. This year’s emphasis is on the adoption of teenagers, whom, according to the Children’s Bureau, are “less likely to be adopted, often because of their age, and are much more likely to age out of foster care without strong or stable family support.”
Stand Sunday will also be recognized this weekend, November 11th, as promoted by the Christian Alliance for Orphans to encourage others to “stand up” for kids in foster care.
If the work of Child Bridge tugs on your heart strings like it did on Erin’s, please don’t hesitate. CB needs you. Foster and adoptive families need you. As the body of Christ, we are to be His hands and feet.
To all the mommas already loving these dear children, you are in the hard places and I’m praying for you. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
And I’m praying for me. Lord, make me uncomfortable in the ways you see fit. Help me make more room for people, for commitments, for difficult situations. Thank you for the work of Child Bridge and its supporters. May these children get to see a glimpse of you on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
My current stage of life is what I call “the nap trap”: baby sleeps in the morning and baby sleeps in the afternoon. There’s a short window in between during which we pick up big brother from school and MAYBE hit the grocery store. That being said, I recently went about two months without making it to church because I was home with the sleeping baby. And the ability to attend a group bible study is out of the question right now, too. So. To LifeWay I went to find a study that I could do on my own that doesn’t really require a video component. No time for that!
If you’ve ever looked through the women’s bible study section, it’s rather overwhelming. But, God is good and He sent me home with “Mom Set Free” by Jeannie Cunnion. I hesitated because the subtitle reads “good news for moms who are tired of trying to be good enough.” I don’t struggle with comparison and “keeping up with the Jones’s” any more, so I didn’t know if this study would be applicable to my life.
Indeed it was! If you’re early in your parenting years, there is SO MUCH to learn from this study. If you’re more seasoned, I think you will find freedom from any guilt you may carry over past parenting decisions. And if you’re really seasoned in parenting AND grandparenting, perhaps you can disciple a young woman by working through this study with her.
Cunnion starts by helping you identify pressures in your life, particularly the belief that God is relying on us to be enough for our kids, as this is the source of most of our stressors. She reminds us that “our children don’t need us to be the perfection of Christ. They need to see us in pursuit of Christ” (p.27). With the idea of being “broken together,” she encourages readers to confess our weaknesses and be honest with ourselves and our children, not to highlight our failures but to invite the freedom it brings.
A theme streaming through the study is our powerlessness. While our instinct is to control the day, fix the problem, transform a child’s heart, its the Holy Spirit at work within our children that will produce the fruit we’re striving for. We have incredible impact and influence, but being reminded that we are powerless can help release some of the pressures we face. In the end, we don’t want rule-followers, but God-lovers.
Cunnion also helps you identify areas the enemy might be at work: when he flaunts our weaknesses front and center, when he breeds thoughts of comparison to make us give up altogether, when he tries to diminish the magnitude of our sins. She guides in practical ways so we can parent “from purpose rather than pressure” (p.55). I don’t know about you, but when I feel pressured I overreact, I’m unreasonable, and I’m inflexible.
So that’s when we’re pointed to grace. Lots and lots of emphasis on grace. Cunnion walks through a bounty of Scripture to deepen our understanding and receipt of God’s grace, because “we can’t give what we haven’t received” (p.61). Only when we feed ourselves the truths of the gospel can they become central in our homes as they overflow from our hearts.
With receipt of God’s grace Cunnion encourages readers to discipline and interact out of love, stating that “the most sacred space to demonstrate God’s love is in our children’s failures” (p. 118). As Paul urges in Ephesians 4, being humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with one another. When we demonstrate this kind of love, this is when we will have the most influence.
Without revealing the entirety of the study, I will mention the very practical tactics she offers to consider implementing in our own homes.
Ways to plant seeds of faith in our kids’ hearts through prayer and studying God’s word
What, Why, How, and Now: grace-filled discipline that’s for our children’s good, being both corrective and instructional
Three ways to turn from our anger when responding to our kids
Remember, Rely, and Recognize: ways to nurture gratitude in our children’s hearts
Feeling equipped and encouraged, I will place this book on a table nearby, not on a storage shelf. I know too well that I’ll need the reminder that I’m not letting my kids down and I’m not letting God down when things don’t go as planned. I’ll need the reminder that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).