3 Lenten Practices for a Season of Self-Abandonment 

The season of Christmas has come and gone. Epiphany and the first season of Ordinary Time have come and is now passing by quickly. Next week will bring the start of a new season and a new focus, Lent. This preparatory season begins with Ash Wednesday and lasts up until that glorious morning where we celebrate Christ’s defeat over the grave and triumphant rise from the grave. But in these days leading up to Easter, we take stock of our lives, contemplating and practicing what it means to take up our cross and follow Jesus. It is a season where we, with John the Baptist, say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV). There are days where we must surrender ourselves, again, at the foot of the cross. Traditionally, this has been done through 3 ways: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I read recently a writer who said she rejected all Lenten practices because these were things she must be doing always. While I believe her heart was seeking to honor God, I think she was foolishly mistaken as to the “why” of practicing these things in earnest for a specific season. I know that I need to pray more just as I know that fasting and almsgiving need to be more central parts of living out my faith. Lent gives me an opportunity to set measurable, meaningful goals in these areas that are time specific. It is widely recognized that having measurable, specific, and time-bound goals is the way to achieve success. Lent gives us an opportunity to walk through a season together as a Church where we do just that. So for believers, this is a wonderful season to re-center ourselves around Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. Prayer Take time to examine your heart and motivations during prayer. Are you seeking to bless God or are you simply asking God to play genie and grant your wishes? Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you to pray in the same manner in which He intercedes for you before the Father. Perhaps try to incorporate a new prayer practice during these next 40 days. Whether it is praying on your knees, audibly, with prayer beads, or through a written journal, there are many ways you can center your heart and remind yourself of your priorities in prayer. Find a written prayer that speaks to you and commit to…

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Prayer: A Private Devotion (+A Free Prayer Journal)

Prayer warrior. Hold that word in your head for a minute and think about what comes to mind. Likely, someone from your local church came to mind. Someone eloquent. Probably someone who conveys deep empathy and emotion when they speak. Someone bold. Someone willing to speak out loud when others hold back. That person, the person who came in your mind, they have a gift for public prayer. And it is a gift we all benefit from. However, prayer warriors aren’t the ones boldly proclaiming in front of the entire Body of Christ but often, the ones on the knees in private devotion, unbeknownst to any but their God. Can we dispel the myth that to be a prayer warrior, you have to be a public speaker? Because it’s simply not true. There are instructions given for the proclamation of the Gospel, for public encouragement in the Word of God, and there are instructions given on prayer. They are all different instructions. “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” -Matthew 6:6, ESV Prayer is an intimate, private conversation you share with your God. It is not a public display but a quiet moment in humility. Your words, they don’t need to be perfect. You did not need eloquence and you certainly don’t need an audience. Because when it is quiet, your audience of One, the One who knows each hair on your head and moment, unrecognized by anyone else, when your heartbeat it first beat and filled your veins with life-sustaining blood, knows you are there. He doesn’t need dramatic words because He is the Word.  Prayer isn’t to acquaint God with what’s happening in our lives, it’s to remind yourself that God is desperately involved in each moment of our existence. But yet, we do not pray as we ought. My heart is pulled to bringing trivial things before God. I pray for the weather, to avoid awkward situations, to be rewarded for my procrastination with something going smoother than I anticipated. I would, in a weak moment, say this was because God cared about every moment of my life but, if we were sitting on my couch drinking coffee and I was being truly honest, I would confess that it’s simply fear. Because, at the…

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New Year, New Creation: 3 Ways to Embrace Your New Identity in Christ This Year

Each January, our society overflows with flocks of people determined to remake themselves. When I worked at a coffee shop, January was always the slowest month of the year. But inevitably, by the beginning of February, all of the resolutions to become someone new had faded away and it was business as usual. The self-resolve to avoid sugar, to go to the gym, to be less predictable, had fallen by the wayside as everyone resumed the roles of who they had previously been. As believers, our renewal is not simply a yearly resolve, it is a constant process of being changed and formed into the image of Christ. It’s not a fad, it needs to be a lasting, rooted pattern in our life. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 1 Corinthians 5:17, ESV If we are in Christ, He is the foundation of our life, a life that is being remade into a new creation. So as we grow more into the new creation this year, let us not grow weary and burn out after only a few weeks. Here are 3 ways to help embrace your new identity in Christ: 1. Know it’s Not Your Will-Power That’s Going to Bring About Change  We need to be committed to change. We need to let go of our sin and to embrace a life of holiness. However, unlike other resolutions, the resolution to embrace our identity in Christ isn’t something we can simply will-power into happening. It’s something that can only happy through the power of the Holy Spirit. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV The Holy Spirit will transform us. We cannot transform ourselves. His conviction in our life is the best accountability partner we could ever ask for. He will keep promoting our hearts, convicting us of sin, and transforming us into the image of Christ. But as we run this race, we need to remember that this transformation is not something we’re walking through alone. 2. Fix Your Eyes Upon Christ From the moment your eyes open in the morning, fix them upon Christ. Therefore, since we…

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My Marriage Isn’t Enough For Me (But It Points Me To Christ)

A few months ago, my husband and I were driving down the side of a mountain in Hawaii listening to the song, “Die a Happy Man” by Thomas Rhett. (Those of you who dislike country music can cringe now.) I was holding Hubby’s hand and was feeling butterflies about the joy of marriage and how happy being married to him makes me (most days). It was a rare moment of marital bliss. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful. Until Hubby’s voice broke the silence with a quip about how stupid the song was because could be anyone’s all. Horror came over my face as I realized that my perfect little moment was shattered. But of course, he was also right. Marriage is one of the most beautiful unions God has ordained. From the very beginning, God said that it wasn’t good for man to be alone and out of Adam, created Eve to be his wife and companion in the work God had given Mankind. Anyone who has been married for more than five minutes can tell you that it’s not a walk in the park or one big long sleepover with your best friend but there is a sweet union unique to marriage that comes from the deep vulnerability and commitment that the covenant of marriage brings. But yet, my beautiful, covenantal marriage isn’t enough for me. My husband is wonderful, but there are some things in my life that, through no fault of his own, he will fail me in. And there are many, many ways in which I fail him. We are human. Our lives here on Earth are marred by the sinful nature we were born with. My heart was born with a hole that no person on Earth could fill. My heart was made for companionship and, the partnership and love I share with my husband is a beautiful gift. But it’s not the end of the story. Because Christ is enough. And He is returning for us, the Church, His Bride. One of the rare privileges granted to a military spouse is a unique insight into this relationship. Because of the nature of military life, my husband has spent long stretches of time away and I have been left waiting for his return. Doing marriage long-distance brings many challenges. Miscommunications occur more frequently due to the limitations of technology. The highs are few and…

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Disciplines of the Faith: Coming Soon to The Thin Place

I have a long history of quitting things that are hard for me. Specifically, anything that requires an ounce of physical coordination/athleticism. Coming from a family that has infiltrated almost every sporting team in our area, I stuck out like a sore thumb. It was partially lack of effort but in truth, I was also just really dreadful and I knew it from a young age. I hated making a fool of myself and sports were a sure fire way to do that. So when I got a little older and came across the passage where Paul tells us to beat our bodies into submission and train like an athlete, my eyes just sorta glazed over and I flipped back to the poetic expressions of the psalmist. As I’ve grown in age and spiritual maturity, I’ve realized the wisdom in cultivating spiritual practices that help develop my faith. I set goals and routines for virtually any other area I want to see growth—my faith should be no exception. Discipline. It often reads like an icky word. We bristle and try to find a more loving term to use. Some people prefer using spiritual practices. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that term, I fear that we lose some of the intensity of what we called to do as believers. Discipline sounds serious because to discipline yourself is a serious pursuit. If we are to become disciples of Jesus, if we are to pick up our cross and follow Him, if we want to cultivate holiness in our lives, spiritual disciplines must be apart of our walk. As part of this year’s pursuit of holiness, I am vowing to realign my days to beat my body into submission.   So I’m starting a new series this upcoming week, on disciplines of the Christian faith. We will be looking at a long list of things, from prayer to fasting to service to fellowship, that God has instituted to help grow us in our walk with Him. We will trace through different applications and ways to implement each discipline in your home and community as well as explore resources to dig deeper in our personal study. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Be sure to sign-up below to stay informed each week as I add to the series and to continue to the conversation in our Facebook group. Check out…

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