Steps of Faith Movie Review & Giveaway!


It's June, and I'm soaking up the sun like a lizard on a rock! You too? In my humble opinion all those long days of maximum Vitamin D absorption are best capped off with nice, cool summer movie nights, icy Coke and buttery popcorn in hand. Well, just in time for this year's vacation viewing comes a new faith film called Steps of Faith. I screened this movie last night, and I'd love to give you my thoughts about it, an exclusive sneak peek, and an opportunity to win a DVD copy of the film! Stay tuned.

Disclosure: LEV3L Digital provided me a free copy of Steps of Faith in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. No other compensation was given.

Steps of Faith follows Faith, a spunky accountant whose family bemoans her lack of dates and sporadic church attendance. Faith lets them know she's received a message from God that she's to move to a new town to work on a children's horse therapy farm--despite having a rough track record with kids and animals and little experience getting her hands dirty. Her parents are understandably skeptical, but a loving pastor and a requested sign from God spur Faith to go ahead and take the plunge. More challenges await Faith at the farm; at first she can't get them to hire her, and when at last she does, she's shoveling manure all day long. In her new community she continues to receive a mixed reception from coworkers and fellow church attendees, but slowly she begins to find her way, proving her ability to persevere and stay true to the calling she believes God has given her. Along the way a romantic attachment forms between Faith and a coworker; things are finally going well for her, and she's even begun to overcome her fear of the horses. Interacting with the children is the final obstacle Faith must confront, but a near-accident involving one of the kids forces her into a crisis of faith and causes her to question everything.

Ready to check out the trailer?

I really enjoyed this movie! I loved that the story focuses on the journey of a girl who is quite frankly an unlikely spiritual heroine due to her infrequent church attendance and implied history of mediocre spiritual interest. Many would question the validity of God speaking to someone like this, but I believe that's shortsighted. God is reaching out to people like Faith constantly, pursuing them, drawing them, and speaking to them in ways that only He can and in ways that only they can understand. Instead of focusing on how Faith heard from God or how she knew it was the voice of God, Steps of Faith spends its time on how she acted on what she believed was a message from God and what happened as a result. Spiritual journeys are messy, but God responds to seekers, and this movie does a great job of portraying just that--what an encouraging takeaway for people no matter where they are!

I appreciate a film that can communicate a strong message without being heavy-handed, and that's exactly what we've got here. Steps of Faith is breezy and comical, but it still manages to get our wheels turning about calling, responding to God's voice, failure, and perseverance. Also, we get to watch a dating relationship develop that's fun and pure, and goodness knows we need more of that!

How about a sneak peek?

Steps of Faith is currently available digitally, but I've got a physical DVD to give away to one of you, thanks to LEV3L Digital! Shoot me an email at, letting me know you're excited to check out this new film, and you'll be entered to win. Contest ends Tuesday, June 12, 2018, 5:00pm, CST. Winner will be notified via email.

You can buy or rent a digital copy of Steps of Faith here, and you can find more info about the movie on its official website here. Once you've watched the movie, I'd love for you to stop by again to let me know what you think!

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Secrets for Successful Missions: Give God Credit


Our journey with Abraham’s servant is almost at its end. He’s given us two secrets for successful missions—pray in faith and stay laser-focused—and today he’s got one final secret for us before we part ways. Let’s re-orient ourselves in Genesis 24. Abe’s servant’s mission was to find a wife for Abe’s son, Isaac who meets these criteria: 1. She must be a relative of Abraham’s. 2. She must be willing to go. He’s traveled to where Abe’s relatives live and stopped at a well where he asks God to single out Isaac’s wife by fulfilling a specific sign. A young woman named Rebekah fulfills this sign and reveals that she is a relative of Abe’s—check that off the list! The servant is invited to stay with her family overnight, where he tells of his quest and Rebekah’s completion of his desired “sign.” Her family agrees that she should go and become Isaac’s wife, so he sets our to return to Abe with Rebekah the very next morning. Her family would like her to stay with them another ten days, but he insists that they not delay.

Here we pick up the narrative in verse 57. At the servant’s desire to head back home with the bride-to-be ASAP, Rebekah’s mother and brother call Rebekah and ask her if she’s ready to go. She says, “Yes, I will go.” Her willingness to go checks the second item off of Abe’s prescribed must-be list for Isaac’s wifey—in case there was any remnant of doubt, the servant’s mission has been 100% successful! They head back to Abe’s place, meeting Isaac in the fields on their way. The servant retells the whole story to Isaac, and the chapter ends with this sweet verse: “And Isaac brought Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent, and she became his wife. He loved her very deeply, and she was a special comfort to him after the death of his mother” (Gen. 24:67). In a time of arranged marriages, I imagine that deep love and “special comfort” like Isaac and Rebekah experienced were icing on the cake! Once again we see God going above and beyond in blessing His children.

Now let’s double back and zoom in on the third secret for successful missions, something that the servant has done numerous times throughout this venture:

Give God credit.

Though Abraham—a human—has entrusted this awesome mission to his servant—another human--one cannot read this story and walk away with the impression that the success of this mission belongs to humans. On the contrary it is blatantly obvious that God is the real hero here, in part due to the providential way that circumstances unfold and in large measure because of how frequently and intentionally the servant gives God credit. I see him doing so in two primary ways:

          1. He worships God. The text specifically tells us that the servant “bowed low” or “bowed down to the ground” and worshiped the Lord at two times—once when he realized that the young woman who had fulfilled his requested sign at the well was indeed his master’s relative and once when Rebekah’s family agreed that Rebekah should go with him to become Isaac’s wife. Both of these times the servant stopped right in the middle of a conversation with other people in order to physically bow down, to acknowledge God’s provision, to humbly thank Him, and to give Him the glory for how things were falling into place. I’ve never been in a conversation which was interrupted by someone actually bowing down in worship to God, but I have been around those people who lift a hand in the air and say, “Praise God,” in response to a good report or answer to prayer that has been shared. Whatever it looks like physically, I think that the posture of the heart is one of expectancy—awareness that God is the giver of all good gifts and the only one who can truly fix life’s messes, asking Him for help, and then looking for His provision with anticipation.

          2. He tells other people what God has done. Before the servant asks Rebekah’s relatives for their blessing to take Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife, he tells them in great detail the whole story of his initial commission by Abraham, his prayer at the well, and his subsequent encounter with Rebekah there. This retelling takes up fifteen verses of the chapter (Gen. 24:34-48), and I think the repetition is somewhat comical! Why did the servant spend so much time repeating every detail of what happened, and why was it important that the reader also revisit these details? Couldn’t those fifteen verses be replaced with one verse that said simply, “The servant recounted to them all that the Lord had done?” Sure, but here’s why I believe it is the way it is: Greater detail, more nuance, and sharper specificity give God more glory because with each additional occurrence of God’s providence, no matter how “little,” the chances diminish that humans could have accomplished this on their own. I wonder if the servant’s lengthy account of distinct “serendipities” influenced Rebekah’s family’s response: “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed” (Gen. 24:50-51). And I wonder if this amazing story also influenced Rebekah; in 24 hours she went from going about her daily activities among her family to willingly leaving all that behind to move to a different place and become a man’s wife. I can’t help but think that she too was convinced that this was “as the Lord has directed” in part because of the servant’s amazing story. Verse 66 of the chapter tells us, “Then the servant told Isaac everything he had done,” and I guarantee you he reported the whole detailed thing to his master, Abraham, as well. He gave God credit, and I bet everyone who heard it received an infusion of faith. That’s the thing—when we give God credit by sharing in detail what He’s done in our lives, we’re not only giving credit where credit is due, but we’re also pointing other people to Him and challenging and encouraging them on their own faith journeys.

Check in with your own “mission.” How are you doing at giving God credit in the midst of it? Sure, sometimes it might look like nothing is happening, but I challenge you to—like the servant—get in the habit of looking for God’s provision even in small ways and worshiping Him for it. Then tell someone about it! The more detail the better, and it will encourage them and you too! I’m praying God gives you great success in all your missions.

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Secrets for Successful Missions: Stay Laser-Focused


Last week we began journeying with Abraham’s servant as he seeks a wife for Isaac. He’s traveled to the town where Abe’s brother lives and has just stopped at a well where the local young women are coming out to draw water. Here he takes a moment to pray in faith, the first secret for successful missions. He asks God to lead him to Isaac’s wife in this way:

          If he asks one of the young women at the well to give him a drink and she says, “Sure, and I’ll water your camels too,”

          Then she’s the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife, and this is how the servant will know that God has made his mission successful.

Before he’s done praying he sees Rebekah, and here we resume our story beginning at Genesis 24:15. The text goes ahead and tells us that she is a relative of Abraham’s—one of Abe’s requirements!—but the servant doesn’t know that just yet. All he sees is that Rebekah is very beautiful and old enough to be married. We’re not told that physical beauty is on Abraham’s list of must-haves for his son’s bride-to-be, and it doesn’t enter the servant’s prayer regarding the situation, at least not that we’re told. I like to think that just as the servant expects God to answer his prayer, he also expects God to go above and beyond in blessing those involved. He’s observed God’s faithfulness to Abe’s family for years and likely experienced it in his own life as well. It would be just like God to not only provide a relative of Abe’s willing to go and become Isaac’s wife but also a very beautiful one at that!

Whatever the reason Rebekah stands out to him, the servant runs to her and asks her for a drink. Just as he’d hoped, she gives him a drink and then waters his camels as well. She has fulfilled the sign from God he requested! As she’s working, the servant watches her, the text tells us “wondering whether or not the Lord had given him success in his mission” (Gen. 24:21). I see myself here in the servant’s musings; he’s asked God for something specific to happen, that specific thing has happened, and he’s wondering if God really did it or if it’s a coincidence or something that would have happened anyway.

Remember, the servant still needs to confirm two crucial matters to determine that Rebekah is the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife: 1. She must be a relative of Abraham’s. 2. She must be willing to go. He wastes no time in gathering the next piece of info—“Whose daughter are you?”—and finding out if her father would be willing to host him and his traveling companions overnight. She names her family and affirms that they would be glad to have them as guests. The servant’s response is to bow down in worship to God because Rebekah’s family is none other than Abe’s relatives!—another confirmation that Rebekah is very likely God’s pick for Isaac.

Rebekah runs home to tell her family about all this, and her brother, Laban, runs back to invite the servant to come stay with them. (Have you noticed that there’s been a lot of running going on?) He does so, Laban gets the camels settled, and the servant and camel drivers wash their feet. Then a meal is served, but Abe’s servant says, “I don’t want to eat until I have told you why I have come” (Gen. 24:33). We’ve arrived at the second secret for successful missions:  

Stay laser-focused.

You know the feeling the servant must have been having in that moment—it’s been a long, eventful day, you’ve just gotten cleaned up, and a hot meal has been placed in front of you. Ah, finally! Yet he is so laser-focused on his mission, determined to perform his part with excellence, he doesn’t taste a bite until he’s moved the needle forward on this endeavor. Wow! I’m impressed by this guy’s single-mindedness, being unable to imagine very many conversations I wouldn’t postpone for the sake of a hard-earned supper!

Why push the issue? Wouldn’t it have been offensive to his host and fellow diners to make them wait to eat? What would be the harm in relaxing a bit and then returning to the business at hand? The text doesn’t tell us the servant’s motives, but I suspect that one or more of the following truths influenced his decision:

          1. There are no perfect circumstances for action. I bet you’ve noticed this while on your own various life missions as I certainly have. Suddenly you’ve got clarity regarding what God wants you to do next or at least a general sense of the direction you should go, and just as your heart begins to beat faster with the thrill of a new mission, it drops as you notice the 27 obstacles in your way—time, money, naysayers, etc. Circumstances will likely never be perfect for you or I to take our next step, but as the servant did, we’ve got to do it anyway.

          2. There is wisdom in “picking your moment.” Though there are no perfect circumstances for action, I do believe that there are better and worse circumstances for action. The servant chose to have his needed discussion with Rebekah’s family while they were likely hangry—yikes! This is definitely not a preferred mood to which to introduce a weighty topic! However, after dinner they might have been sleepy due to the big meal or slightly intoxicated by wine—even worse conditions in which to attempt to cement a betrothal, I’d say. A moment of prayer and thoughtfulness can help us to pick our moment wisely.

          3. Delayed action often becomes partial action or inaction. Been there too; how about you? I know I need to have a hard conversation with a friend, so I set up a meeting with them. When we’re together I know it would probably work best to get the tough topic out of the way, but I decide that we need to “catch up” for awhile first. I’m enjoying my friend’s company, and I’d hate to disturb the peace, so I convince myself to modify my original spiel so it’s not so abrupt… Soon I’ve talked myself out of it entirely! It would have been better if I’d brought up that difficult thing right away. Perhaps the servant knew this tendency in himself as well, and that’s why he forged ahead.

Whatever his reason, the servant laid out his mission to Laban and Rebekah’s father, Bethuel, while the food sat there getting cold on the table. We’ll look at this part of the story in more detail next week, but for now we’ll simply say that after the servant re-told of his conversation with Abraham, prayer, and exchange with Rebekah at the well, Laban and Bethuel acknowledged God’s hand in all of this and agreed that she should go with him to become Isaac’s wife. The servant gave presents to all of them, and then—finally!—they ate their meal.

We see the servant’s laser-focus again as early the next morning, he’s ready to take Rebekah and go! Her brother and mother wanted her to stay with them for another ten days, but the servant said, “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful; now send me back so I can return to my master” (Gen. 24:56). Once again we’re challenged by this fellow’s steadfastness.

We’ll wrap up this tale next week, but for now consider that mission you deeply desire to be successful. Are you laser-focused on it? If not, how could you become more single-minded? Whatever it is that you believe God wants you to do next, I challenge you to pray for wisdom to pick your moment, realize circumstances won’t be perfect, do it anyway, and do it right away!

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Secrets for Successful Missions: Pray in Faith


I’d like all of my various missions in life to be successful—wouldn’t you? For the next few weeks we’re hanging out with Abraham’s servant, a lesser-known Bible bro who’s got some secrets for successful missions to teach us. What current “mission” of yours are you most passionate to see successful? Keep that in the back of your mind, open your Bible to Genesis 24, and let’s go!

Our story starts with father of the nation of Israel, Abraham, (hereafter referred to by his favorite nickname, Abe) laying out a mission for his servant. We’re not told much about the servant, not even his name, but only that he’s Abe’s oldest servant and the man in charge of his household. His mission? To find a wife for Abe’s beloved son, Isaac, through whom God would make Abe into a great nation. Regarding the future wifey, Abe gives two qualifications:

          1. She must be a relative of his. Why? Abe is taking seriously to the nth degree God’s  promise that He’d give the land to his descendants.

          2. She must be willing to go. The servant would have to travel to where Abe’s relatives lived in order to fulfill this mission, and Abe wanted to clarify that Isaac should not go and live among his relatives for the sake of marriage, but rather she should be willing to leave her family in order to come and be Isaac’s wife.

So Abe’s servant sets out on the long journey he must make to the town where Abe’s brother settled. When he arrives, he stops beside a well outside the town, where the women are coming out to draw water. Then he does what I believe is the first secret for a successful mission:

Pray in faith.

Abe’s servant begins by acknowledging God as Lord and asking Him to give him success on his mission. Then things get interesting as he sets forth a very specific if/then type of request for God’s guidance:

          If he asks one of the young women at the well to give him a drink and she says, “Sure, and I’ll water your camels too,”

          Then she’s the one God has chosen to be Isaac’s wife, and this is how the servant will know that God has made his mission successful.

I find this prayer fascinating, primarily because—spoiler alert!—things go down exactly as the servant has petitioned. Note with me several elements of the servant’s prayer:

          It’s specific. He gives a detailed request for God’s leading, not a general “direct me.”

          It’s bold. He states unapologetically what he’d like God to do; he’s straightforward and to the point.

          It’s humble. Though bold and specific, he’s also reverent. We don’t get the sense that the servant is making a demand of God but rather that he highly respects God and is committed to performing his part in this mission well because of his deep love for his master, Abe, not because of self-interest.

          It’s faith-filled. As we’ll see next week, the servant runs to complete his part of the if—to ask a woman at the well for a drink—indicating to me that he fully expects God to come through for him.

Wow! What a power-packed prayer! I believe there’s a beautiful hand-in-hand relationship between these four elements of prayer. Boldness without humility is demanding, specificity without faith is babbling, and so on. I’m challenged to examine my prayer life and ask God to strengthen me in the areas in which I’m weak. How about you? Which of these characteristics do you sense God wants to grow in your prayer life? By the way, if you’re thinking that you’ve got to get all the elements “right” before you speak a word of prayer to God, think again! Because God’s Spirit lives in those who believe in Jesus, prayer is dynamic! So the way to mature in prayer is simply to pray. Show up and engage in conversations with God, and He will guide you to a deeper prayer life.

Now we come to one of my favorite parts of this narrative. Before the servant even finishes praying, he sees Rebekah! If you’re familiar with the story, you know that Rebekah is the one who will become Isaac’s wife. So God brings the answer to the servant’s prayer right in front of his eyes while he’s still praying! Most of the time I’ve had to do some waiting (sometimes a lot of it!) for God to answer my prayers, but on a few occasions He’s answered my prayer while I’ve been praying or immediately after I finished praying, and let me tell you, those moments are faith-builders that make me want to do a happy dance unto the Lord.

We’ll pause the story right there and return to it next week. For today I’d like you to consider that mission you’d really like to see successful; how might praying in faith influence the outcome? What are you waiting for? Start praying about that mission today, and see what God does.

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Fun Tools for Fresh Quiet Times


I still remember my first experience with the Christian practice known as a "quiet time." I was twelve years old, had just made the cut to attend church camp with my youth group for the first time, and was having the time of my life there. I was rooming with two of my besties, and there was a pool and a cave and a soft-serve ice cream machine! The music moved me, and it seemed like the campus pastor was speaking directly to me every night. Each day after breakfast we were scheduled for half an hour of "quiet time." My youth pastor explained the concept this way: "Find a tree to sit under, read your Bible, pray, and listen." Ah-ha! This sounded like what I'd seen my mom do in the mornings--only she didn't sit under a tree. I found my tree, read a few chapters in Psalms, said some simple prayers, and sat there and stared at the lake. Nothing profound happened, but in a way I couldn't explain I knew God was there with me. That fit with what my youth pastor taught--that the purpose of a quiet time is to spend time with God, to build your relationship with Him.

My quiet times have evolved over the years as my relationship with God has grown, and I've discovered a variety of tools that help guide me and some that are just plain fun! As you think about your own relationship with God, whether you want to get back to the basics, dig deeper in your study of God's Word, grow in your prayer life, get creative in your time with God, get caught up in the story of the Bible, or infuse your faith with a little fun, I've got some product recommendations for you, all tested by yours truly.

Do you need special "tools" to build your relationship with God? No, you do not! You need Jesus in your heart and a Bible in your hand. These days you can even access the Bible online, and many Bible websites offer reading plans to help you approach this awesome--but intimidating--book in a way that makes sense for you. It's never been easier to obtain the information you need to get going! However, for me there's nothing like a physical book that I can mark up and make my own. Some of the Bibles and notebooks I've used over the years have become meaningful visual reminders of my personal history with God, and these build my faith! Plus, if you're an adult who annually laments that you don't get to pick out school supplies for yourself anymore, your spiritual life is a fabulous outlet in which to redirect this passion, speaking as one who knows.

Without further ado, here are my favorite fun tools for fresh quiet times, organized by aim:

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through one of the links I've provided here--at no additional cost to you. Please check out my disclosure policy for more info, and thanks for your support!


I want to get back to the basics.

Don't underestimate the power of simplicity in your relationship with God. Remember my youth pastor's advice to "read your Bible, pray, and listen." (You decide about the tree.) The first thing you need is a Bible, God's written Word to us. This ESV Bible is cute and compact, without a lot of extra frills, while this CSB She Reads Truth Bible contains some additional study materials and pretty typography. Both the English Standard Version (ESV) and Christian Standard Bible (CSB)  balance accurate translation with readability.

If there's one other quiet time "essential," it's a place to jot things down--prayers, answers to prayer, what you're learning, verses that stand out to you, how you see God working in your life, etc. On occasion I've simply used the margins of my Bible for these notes, but other times I've needed more space; enter the cute journals! Any notebook will do, but here are a few I especially love.

And, of course, you need writing utensils. In case it hasn't already become abundantly clear, for me the more bright and colorful the better! I like a pen with a fine point, and the three brands shown here are my favorite. Note: These pens are suitable for most journals but will bleed through thin Bible pages. I use colored pencils to write and highlight in my Bible.


I want to dig deeper in my study of God's Word.

If you want to take your Bible study to the next level, check out these three fantastic reference books, which earned a spot on my "faves" list because of how easy they are to use.

The Rose Book of Bible Charts, Maps & Time Lines is full of colorful charts and illustrations covering a variety of topics, such as the names of God, Old Testament feasts, the miracles of Jesus, and Paul's journeys. I love this resource because it helps me to put together big-picture info I might miss if I'm focused in on a smaller chunk of Scripture.

A concordance helps you to find specific words in the Bible, while a Bible dictionary defines those words in the original Hebrew or Greek language; these works are especially handy when taking a deep-dive into a specific topic. (Concordances and Bible dictionaries are also available online; the best web version I've found is at Blue Letter Bible. This site is a bit cumbersome, but its tutorial videos are helpful!)

Finally the Holman Illustrated Bible Handbook gives fantastic background and summary information for each book of the Bible, perfect for enhancing a book study. It also contains interesting photos and QR codes one can scan to access relevant video teaching via smartphone.


I want to grow in my prayer life.

Prayer is having a conversation with God, simple as that! I believe that the more we pray, the more God helps us to know what to pray for and how to pray. In other words you don't have to figure out the "right" way to do it before you dive in! (Do you worry about the "right" way to chat with your best friend on the phone? No! You just do it!) Jump in, fill your mind with God's Word, and listen, and God will guide you.

That being said, there are some tools that have helped me to take that first step, including these Sticky Prayers, which remind me that I don't need to be long-winded or fancy, and this tin of prayer cards, which each have a passage of Scripture or excerpt from The Book of Common Prayer on one side and lines to write your own prayers on the other side.

There's an abundance of books out there if you'd like to hone in on a specific prayer focus. I enjoyed Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer, which presents readings and prayers to guide girl bosses and ambitious gals like myself. I also highly recommend Pray for the World, which suggests ways to pray for every country in the world! A new edition is released every few years to attempt to keep up with current events and, consequentially, prayer needs. This is a fantastic tool for those--like me!--who want to pray for the world but feel overwhelmed by the task and need a jump-start.


I want to get creative in my time with God.

In the past few years a new movement has begun that pairs Bible study and prayer with art! Those desiring to add creativity to their quiet times can dip their toe in the water through devotional coloring books or go down the rabbit hole with paints, stencils, washi tape, and all sorts of artsy mediums meant especially for Bible journaling. If you'd like to venture down the rabbit hole, your Wonderland is Illustrated Faith. (You're welcome.) I love looking at other peoples' intricate Bible art, but my eyes start to cross when I think about actually doing it myself. If you feel the same way, I think you'll appreciate these recommendations: 

First, check out this drool-worthy coloring Bible. It's the New Living Translation (NLT), which attempts to express the original text's intent in the most accurate thought-for-thought modern English. It's in a one-year format, and sections of Scripture are arranged chronologically instead of by type of literature as in a regular Bible, allowing you to get a good sense of how everything fits together. It has wide, lined margins for note-taking, interrupted every few pages by a verse, word, or drawing to color. Next, take a look at this interactive journal. Each activity prompts you to take a look at a passage of Scripture and to engage with it by coloring a picture, journaling your thoughts, or doing some simple drawing (the only kind I do).

Don't forget the colored pencils, and easily take them on-the-go in a cute canvas pencil wrap, available in many adorable designs.


I want to get caught up in the story of the Bible.

We tend to read our Bibles one chapter at a time, but the first Christians read large portions of Scripture at once, in part because chapter and verse divisions were added much later! It's a good idea for us to do the same--to remember that the Bible is one big, amazing story and to read it as such. Perhaps the most accessible Bible translation for doing so is The Message; it converts the original languages into contemporary speech thought-for-thought. It draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading! Perhaps my next suggestion is unconventional, as I'm pretty confident its target audience is twelve year-old boys. Nevertheless, I must admit that I, a thirty year-old woman, have recently enjoyed reading The Action Bible, a 700+ page full-color comic book Bible. If you'd like a quick and interesting tour through the Bible, I dare you to grab a copy...Then give it to the twelve year-old boy in your life!


I want to infuse my faith with a little fun.

Sometimes you just need to shake up your routine with a little whimsy and fun! Use this stamp in your Bible to date special verses along with notations like "prayed" or "wow God." Then when you flip back through the pages of your Bible, you can easily locate passages you wanted to remember. These stickers can be used in your journal, planner, or wherever you'd like, and they include snippets of verses, messages we all need like "bless this hot mess" (Ha!), and short lists for prayer requests and to-do's.

There's just something delightful about having all your tools together in one curated "kit"--perhaps this hearkens back to those school days when my heart rejoiced at a cute and well-ordered trapper keeper. I keep all of my quiet time tools in this pink Craftsman tool tote. It's very heavy-duty, and it has lots of compartments for organizing all of my things. Similar sturdy fabric bags and plastic totes are available where craft supplies are sold.


Whether or not you found a new tool you'd like to pick up to integrate into your quiet times this year, I hope your imagination was sparked with some ways to freshen up your quiet time routine, and I hope you're excited to spend time with God. May your time with Him be fresh, intimate, and fruitful!

What are your favorite quiet time tools? Are you implementing anything new this year? Tell me about it!

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4 Faith Films for Your Next Girls Night


Christmas is over, and we're swiftly approaching January, the most boring month of the year. (Sorry, January.) While I love the fresh possibility of a new year, I'm as affected as the next person by the post-Christmas let-down. I've learned to combat this by getting some fun events on my calendar, and in my humble opinion January's cold weather and dark days naturally lend themselves to girls movie nights! Chatting with friends, munching on hearty snacks, cozy-ing up with a soft blanket, and getting lost in a good movie--my soul needs these things.

Because I'm a believer in Jesus, I love the idea of watching a movie that will inspire my faith, but frankly the Christian movie scene hasn't always delivered--or at least not without an extra layer of cheese. I'm happy to report, though, that I believe that trend is changing! In the past few years I've seen several new faith films that I loved because they managed to weave together powerful stories, humor, and motivation for my own journey. The four I'm presenting to you today will both entertain and encourage you, and they'll spark fabulous discussion between you and your girlfriends--perfect for your next movie night.

I've given you a brief synopsis of each movie, some reasons why I love it, and some talking points for you and your friends. Click on the movie title to watch a trailer on IMDb. Here we go!

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1. Miracles from Heaven

Synopsis: A little girl contracts a serious illness, which causes a crisis of faith in her family. An accident incites a miracle, which influences the girl, her family, and community. 

Why I Love It: It affirms both that God sometimes does big, crazy miracles and that small miracles happen every day, making the viewer want to look for miracles and be a part of other peoples' miracles. Jennifer Garner is fantastic as the girl's mom, and in her character we see a real person struggling with legitimate doubts and fears. The movie in no way condemns her for this battle but instead shows how her faith became stronger because of it. Queen Latifah makes a welcome, funny appearance. And this movie is based on a true story! At the end of the film one can see footage of the Beam family whose story inspired the movie.

Talking Points: What kind of miracles--big or small--have you experienced in your life? In what ways could you facilitate a miracle for someone else?

2. War Room

Synopsis: A family living the American dream is actually falling apart behind closed doors. Through an unlikely friendship with a stubborn older woman, wife and mom Elizabeth begins to battle in prayer for her family.

Why I Love It: The tagline for this movie says it all: "Prayer is a powerful weapon." The viewer gets to watch the connection between Elizabeth's prayers for her husband and what's unfolding in his life. This is so compelling because we don't have the perspective of an omniscient observer in our own lives; often we have to wait for visible answers to our prayers, and sometimes we never see the fruit of our prayers! This movie causes me to ask the question, what might be happening that I can't see in response to my prayers, and what might I miss out on if I don't pray? Priscilla Shirer plays the main character in this movie, and Beth Moore makes a guest appearance--two Bible teachers I love!

Talking Points: How have you seen God answer your prayers in the past? What creative ideas do you have to create your own "war room" or to integrate prayer into your life in a new way?

3. The Shack

Synopsis: A man suffers a terrible tragedy and then receives a note in his mailbox from God inviting him to meet Him at the shack where the horrible event took place. His encounter there changes his life.

Why I Love It: This movie explores some extremely difficult questions, such as "What is God really like?", and "Why does God allow pain?" It has received a good deal of criticism for insufficiently answering these questions according to the broad teaching of Scripture. I agree with that assessment, but I disagree that there's nothing of value here. On the contrary, if you're willing to think outside the box, this film's unique but imperfect portrayal of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit will make you want to lean in, open your Bible, and get to know the true living God better for yourself. Also in this movie is a potent reminder that God hurts when we hurt.

Talking Points: What circumstance has sent your life and faith into a tailspin? If you could meet with God face-to-face, what do you think He would say to you about that circumstance?

4. The Case for Christ

Synopsis: A journalist attempts to disprove the existence of God. Meanwhile his wife becomes a Christian. The evidence he uncovers through his research and the new faith of his wife take him on a journey he never imagined.

Why I Love It: This movie, too, is based on a true story. It acknowledges some of peoples' most common hurdles to believing God, such as the apparent impossibility of Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and it presents some of the historical proof for the Jesus story of the Bible. To me this movie serves as a reminder that God is able to meet anyone where they are, whether their barrier is intellectual, emotional, or otherwise. I also like the glimpse into the life of a woman who has recently become a believer and is now facing the reality that her husband doesn't share her faith. The young but tenacious faith with which she prays for him is empowering!

Talking Points: What obstacles have you or those close to you encountered to believing in the story of Jesus as told in the Bible? How can you support a loved one who might be struggling with a matter of faith?

I hope that one or more of these films piqued your interest. Now all you need is a group text to your girls and a box of microwave popcorn. Have fun!

Did you watch one of these movies with your girlfriends? Let me know how it went!

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Lessons from a Fat Cat

There’s a fat cat that lives in my neighborhood. She walks slowly and deliberately down the street and through my yard, jingling as she goes due to the bell she wears around her neck. My husband and I have frequently watched her disappear into the tall grass bordering the field behind our home, and we’ve chuckled imagining her futile attempts to catch a mouse—announcing her presence to all creatures in the vicinity with the ringing of her bell and lacking the speed or energy to pounce should she actually encounter one. “Lazy cat!”, we tease her. “You need to lay off the Fancy Feast!”

One day recently I was checking my mailbox when I heard the familiar jingling. The fat cat was plodding towards me at her usual leisurely pace, this time having come from the tall grass and heading back towards the heart of the subdivision. “Hi, pretty kitty,” I said, walking towards her, noticing as I approached that she carried something in her mouth—a fluffy toy, perhaps, with a red ribbon trailing from it. “Whatcha got?”, I inquired, stopping in my tracks when I suddenly realized what she’d “got.” It was a mouse!—a live one—or at least it had been alive recently. It was quite dead now, it’s plump little body clenched tightly between feline jaws.

The fat cat took no notice of my dismay but instead continued purposefully on her way, presumably traveling to a location selected especially for the devouring of her prey. It occurred to me that I’d misjudged her. Despite my belief that she was simply an over-domesticated pet, she knew who she was—a huntress, wild and free and fierce, able to get the job done any time she needed a mousey snack.

This was followed by the revelation that my misunderstanding of her and even taunting her had affected her in no way. At all. She lived out her true identity in the face of opposition, paying no mind to my pointing finger, neither slowing her pace in shame because I doubted her nor quickening her pace in an effort to prove me wrong. She remained single-minded and focused, and she was effective in accomplishing her goal, much to the chagrin of the poor mouse.

I want to be more like the fat cat--in the idealistic sense, that is. Like all humans and women especially, I sometimes struggle with issues of identity, particularly when I’m misunderstood or opposed. At times I’ve succumbed to the temptation to shrink back from a challenge because someone doubted me or to strive to prove myself to the world and prove my critics wrong. God has been working on these people-pleasing tendencies in me over the course of the past year, and I’ve surrendered to His hands-on lessons with all the grace of the fat cat. Nevertheless I’m learning to listen for His voice instead of the voices of those around me and to desire His pleasure more than theirs.

The single most helpful tool on my God-pleasing quest has been, of course, His Word, specifically those passages that tell me who I am as a follower of Jesus, woman who fears the Lord, and someone who calls on God. There are many such passages of Scripture, but here are several that have been meaningful to me lately, stated as affirmations:

I am approved.

I am a worker.

I have no need to be ashamed.

I am a truth-handler.

2 Timothy 2:15, as stated in Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love

I am bold and stouthearted.

Psalm 138:3

I am clothed with strength and dignity.

I can laugh at the days to come.

Proverbs 31:25

What would happen if I really lived like this was my true identity? I suspect it would change everything. I think I’d be like the fat cat, doing my thing and still getting a lot of weird looks and maybe even chuckles or outright disdain, but nevertheless living grounded, purposefully, and effective.

Is your identity rooted in who others say you are or who God says you are? How can you take one step away from people-pleasing and closer to God-pleasing today?

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Christmas in My Heart

This morning I set my mind to the task of writing to you, dear reader, and promptly made hot chocolate…and watched White Christmas. Having successfully burned two hours, I then reviewed my holiday calendar, read the Christmas story in Luke 2, and played carols on the piano. The holidays offer much material for creative procrastination.

The lilting melody of “He is Born” tugged at my heartstrings and, as beautiful music often does, turned my mind to deeper things. I thought about my Grandma, who loved Christmas and me dearly and whom I miss terribly this time of year. I thought about two friends—one overjoyed because her adoption journey recently culminated in a precious baby boy and one heartbroken because her arms are empty when it should have been her baby’s first Christmas. I thought about the relatives I can’t wait to see in the next few days at our family gatherings and the ones in whose presence I'm not as eager to be on account of unresolved conflict.

Ever pragmatic when it comes to my emotions, I decided that this sentimental reverie wasn’t doing me any favors in this “season to be jolly,” so I got up from the piano bench and looked around for a present to wrap or a batch of cookies to bake. Finding myself up to my eyeballs in gingersnaps and snickerdoodles and not quite crazy enough to mash my potatoes four days in advance, I determined that my physical preparations for Christmas were done. The irony of my vastly different states—outward completion and inner turmoil—was not lost on me, and I realized: it was Christmas in my home but not in my heart.

This is a classic struggle of mine—allowing hands-on work to crowd out space for mental, emotional, and spiritual work—and it’s a battle familiar to our culture, perhaps especially during this "most wonderful time of the year." Several chapters over from the Christmas story, Luke shows us one such scenario:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’ ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:38-42).

Though today by some Christmas miracle I find myself mostly ready for the coming days of seasonal get-togethers, numerous snapshots of my state of being over the course of the last month could be captioned “worried and upset about many things.” And heaven knows between the shopping, wrapping, baking, visiting, gathering, and attending, I’ve been “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”

What might it look like during this season to sit “at the Lord’s feet listening?” Or to choose “what is better?” Flipping back to Luke 2 with fresh eyes seems like a good start, so I begin to read, and what stands out to me this time around is completely different—“placed him in a manger,” “no room for them in the inn,” and “shepherds living out in the fields.” This is no Precious Moments nativity scene; this is a newborn in a feeding trough, a young family unable to find decent accommodations, and society’s lowest of the low. It’s into this messy and far-from-ideal set of circumstances that Jesus is born. “But the angel said to [the shepherds], ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-12).

That the Son of God and Savior of the world entered this planet in humble and even grimy circumstances is another irony not to be missed, one that has something to say to the full gamut of my earlier wonderings--to Christmas memories of my Grandma and longing to see her again, to both my rejoicing friend and my grieving friend, and to my peaceful family relationships and also those that are filled with strife. Good news. Great joy. For all the people. A Savior. Christ the Lord. Christmas in my heart.

What about you? I’d wager a bet it’s Christmas in your home, but is it Christmas in your heart? Amid the preparations that have to be made, how can you create space to ponder how Jesus’ birth meets you in the joys and messes of your own life?

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When in your life have you felt most alive? For me times like these come to mind: finding out how fast my jet ski could go in beautiful Ozark lake country, learning to lope for the first time during my childhood horseback riding lessons, skiing above the tree-line along a snowy ridge in Colorado, and floating in huge ocean swells in Mexico.

These experiences have some common denominators—a bit of risk, an element of being outside of myself, and the requirement that I give up some control and surrender to something bigger—the lake, the horse, the mountain, the waves. I guide the horse and move my body to direct my skis, sure, but there are about 57 things that could go wrong in each of these scenarios, and if I think I’m the one holding it all together, I’m deluded.

In a similar fashion spiritual “aliveness”—what Easter is all about—comes from surrender. I do nothing to achieve my own spiritual vitality—it’s all God. I can’t control anything about the process with bad or good works, and the result is vivacity, freedom, and elation that puts even the best earthly thrill-seeking to shame.

“But because of His great love for us, God, Who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

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