Book Review: “Essentials For Life” by Marcia Ford

I am a member of  BookSneeze which is the book reviewing arm of Thomas Nelson Publishing.  I love it.  Each month or so they have books available for you to either download or get a free copy of to read and review.  It’s a win-win. 

I just finished a book they mailed to me called “Essentials For Life” by Marcia Ford.  I really enjoyed it.  It’s a great book to use as a reference for years to come.  Marcia really simplifies different strategies and goals that pertain to your walk with God.  She uses Bible verses, examples and quotes to help you understand and put together your own plan of action.

In some ways it’s a “to-do” list, but more importantly it’s full of great reminders and inspirations that I plan to use in my daily life.

She covers all areas from how we see God, to knowing the Spirit, understanding the Bible better, spreading the Good News, cultivating our relationship with God,  serving and dealing with our time, relationships and money.   I can’t think of many topics or concerns we have as Christians that Marcia doesn’t cover in this book.  It’s easy to read and set up in a very organized manner.  You could even treat it as a devotional and read one chapter a day.  Each chapter is only 3-4  pages, but filled with great information.

For instance, one of my favorite subjects to talk about with people is spending time with God.  Marcia has a chapter devoted to this topic, of course, and in that chapter she gives some great inspiration.  For those that feel overwhelmed in making time for God she speaks truth about common obstacles (fear of solitude, annoying sounds, etc.).  She uses quotes from very famous authors about how important time with God is, despite our fears and distractions.  She ends with the mere reminder to ask God to help you find the perfect time for Him.  She quotes A.T. Pierson  in saying ” God knows how to save for you the time you sacredly keep for communion with Him.”  I love that.   He will help us save that time…if we let him.

This book is filled with wonderful nuggets of truth and inspiration just like I described above.  I want to read it over and over again to remind myself of these truths and simple acts that can keep me grounded and focused on what truly matters. 

I really think this book offers some great “how-to’s” for living intentionally, simply, and on purpose.  I would highly suggest buying this book, reading it once and then going back and reading it once a year to keep you focused and on track.  Our lives get so busy and we need to always remember the essentials!

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What are you afraid to give up?

Last night during my Young Life small group meeting we talked about Jesus asking his disciples (Peter in particular) to leave everything to follow Him.  He asks the same of us, but fear holds us back sometimes.  Fear of being uncomfortable.   What are we most of afraid of letting go of?

Think about that for a minute.  What is the first thing you think of as you imagine Jesus knocking on your door telling you that you need to come with Him….and leave everything.  Every single thing and person.  Can you imagine?

For me, it was my family.  I really can’t imagine life without them.  However, if I had to choose, I would choose Jesus.  I would walk out the door behind Him.  Because without Him, my life is nothing.

The point isn’t to sit around scared that He is going to ask you to leave your family because odds are, He won’t.  The point is to put in perspective what it means to follow His lead.   Obeying God should be our #1 priority.  Period. 

It should come before your comforts, your to-do lists, your schedules, your hobbies, your job,  your friends and even your family at times.  Making time for, talking to, listening to and obeying Jesus should be your #1 priority.  Today. Tomorrow. Everyday. 

What if at the top of your to-do list every single day you wrote “Obey Jesus” as #1?   Think how that could change your perspective, your priorities, your focus and your life.

The Garden of Gethsemane

Wow!  That’s how I felt after this sermon.  I’m noticing I feel that a lot after hearing Matt Carter speak truth.  However, this sermon may just be the very best sermon I have ever heard.  It is such a wonderful explanation and exploration into what Jesus was feeling and thinking as he spoke to God in the Garden of Gethsemane just before he was going to die on the cross. 

I’ve read these passages before, but never understood them like this.  Hearing it this way gave me a totally different perspective and created such a feeling of overwhelming gratitude for Jesus.  Not only am I incredibly thankful for what Jesus did, I’m in awe and I’m completely engulfed with the love He has for us.  Amazing Love. 

Watch or listen to this sermon and let me know if you are not changed, encouraged or comforted in some way.

Garden of Gethsemane Sermon

Passionate About What Does Matter

The other day I was listening to a clip on the radio of the lead singer of Casting Crowns talk about their new song “Courageous”.  He talked about what sparked him to write this song.  He’s a youth pastor and he mentors to teenage boys and in doing so he has gotten to know many of the dads.  He said what he realized is that men today have gotten really passionate about what doesn’t matter and passive about what does matter.  Ouch.   He talked about how that can lead to the demise of our famlies and many other things and how men were made for so much more.  He was specific to fathers, but again, this message spoke to me as well, it should speak to all of us.  We were all made for more.

I definitely do NOT want to be passive about Jesus, and honestly He is all that should matter.  Every day.  Ever hour.  Every single second. Jesus.  Without Him you and I would have no hope for a future, we would struggle in our own sins and guilt forever and we would never be made new.  We would die and never know everlasting life. 

So we need to focus on being passionate about what does matter and passive about what doesn’t matter.  All the time.  If we put a lot of time into what makes us happy and less time in to Jesus, what are we saying is more important?

If we find time to read many things of this world, but no time for the Bible.  Again, where are our priorities? 

Do you spend more time filling yourself with Jesus or the world? 

Don’t be of the world, be in the world only to change it and to turn as many people as you can to Jesus Christ.  Period.   That is our job.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  Romans 12:2

Here is the video for the song courageous. 

For Such A Time As This

I’ve been a Christian now since 2005 and ever since God and I started getting to know each other, He has been putting on my heart that His plan for me is to work with young women.  For many of those years I just felt this on my heart,  and had no clue how it was going to happen or what it would look like.  Basically I had no idea where to begin.

Well, as always, God knew what He was doing all along.  He has literally been preparing me for “such a time as this” for really my entire life.   And the past few years He has been preparing my heart.   Last night began this journey for me.  The one God has been preparing me for.  I sat among 600+ college freshman at UT at a Young Life Club meeting late last night in a huge lecture room on UT’s campus.   It was incredible.  That’s all I can say.

I looked around the room and thought…wow!  All of these 18-year-old kids have their entire futures in front of them.  If only they could fully understand how much Jesus loves them and what they can do for Him if they just give their lives to Him now.  Not wait until they are 34 to do so, like I did. 

However, as I looked around the room and thought that, I knew exactly why God had chosen me to do this.  Because I can share with them the reasons God asks us to obey Him.  I can give them real and painful examples of what happens when we don’t.  I can also share with them what Grace really means and what it looks like.   I knew in those moments last night that I was there for a very specific reason and God planned it a long time ago.  And now it was so much clearer to me.

At church yesterday, Matt Carter said exactly that.   That we are here and live where we live because God planned it to be that way.  There is no other reason.  It is not an accident, it was planned.

Let me illustrate that a little bit.  Brian and I made some decisions last year that were made for a few particular reasons (or so we thought), but now I can see God orchestrating it all the entire time.  We sold our house and planned to move to Central Austin, the we got involved with a new church in Central Austin.  In doing so, I met someone who led  me to  College Young Life and the person in charge of the girl’s small groups (after a year of going to this new church).  Then my church merges with the largest college age church body in our city at the very same time I’m about to begin this journey.  

So, let me go over that again.   I now literally live 4 minutes from the UT campus,  my church has now merged  (as of 2 weeks ago) with the church that has the highest # of UT students, and I am now (as of two days ago) going to be a small group leader for College Young Life.    Happenstance?  I think not.  I know not.  God had this all in his back pocket way before he even put one teeny notion of working with young women on my heart. 

Today I will receive my list of girls.  The young women that will be in my small group.   I will have the opportunity to meet these girls next week and then love on them , guide them, share the love of Jesus with them, and be there for them for the next 4 years of their lives.  I cannot wait. 

God knows what He is doing.  Trust Him every step of the way. 

He will prepare you and when the time comes, you will also think to yourself that you are where you are  “for such a time as this”.  Just like Esther.

When God puts something on your heart, it’s not your job to think of the ways to get there.  Just listen and obey.  Do the next thing.  He won’t give you the destination, He’ll only give you the next leg of the trip.  Follow Him.

Powerful Question

This morning on Facebook one of my friends posted this question and it blew me away:

“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

Wow, that’s all I could think after I read it.  Wow.  Then I racked my brain to think about what I thanked God for the previous day.  I usually pray “thank you for everything that you give me”, but I couldn’t remember for sure if I prayed that and it’s really to vague anyway.  I know I thanked Him for the food I ate at mealtime prayers and I thanked Him for the women in my Bible Study before we met last night, but I think that was it .  I love those women and I need to eat, but I was crushed that I might not have thanked God for the most precious things in my life.  My husband and children.  Sometimes I just feel like God knows that I am grateful for them.  But this question really hit home.

I used to thank Him every night for Jesus dying on the cross, but somehow I stopped that.  That is the # 1 gift I am thankful for, how I could I stop thanking Him?  Everyday is a reminder that again, He has forgiven me when I don’t deserve it.

I need to be thanking God daily for all those things that I never ever want to take for granted.  My loved ones and all the blessings He has given me.  This question was so good to read this morning.  I will make sure I start thanking God daily for EVERYTHING I am grateful for.

I have a “Gratitude Journal” by my bedside, I need to go back to writing in it every night.  It’s such a great feeling to go to bed thankful for all that you have, instead of depressed about all you don’t have.  And if one day we did wake up with only those things we thanked God for the day before, you’ll be in good shape!

God Provides

I’m continually amazed with God and how He provides for us. One day I’ll have to write out our saga with money and how God has saved us so many times. The secret is to just trust Him. That’s it.

That’s what Brian and I have done over and over. We have gone through some times where we could’ve been really depressed, or gripped with fear. It could’ve made us fight and created tension between us. However, we refused for that to happen. We were determined to continue to trust God with everything we had and to continue tithing, just like He says to do. We have tested Him like he instructs us to do in the book of Malachi, and ever time, He has come through.

Whenever we need to pay something big, he comes through with money we weren’t expecting. I’m encouraging you to let go of fear and trust God with any money issue you have. Trust Him and continue to obey Him and tithe. You will be amazed, I promise.

Manifesto by The City Harmonic

Last night we had our small group meeting, which is at our house.  After the meeting two of our good friends stayed and talked.  It was a really good time.  During that conversation we talked about this song.  I love this song.  I hadn’t listened to it in awhile, but after our talk last night I was inspired to watch the video this morning.  I decided to share it, in case you are not familiar with it.   It’s a good one.  Enjoy!

For I Know The Plans

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ”  Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of my favorite verses, it’s so comforting and reassuring.  God cares enough about me to have plans for my life, and He actually thinks that what I do can be important….for His kingdom.  Those thoughts alone could get me through each day. 

Today during my quiet time God spoke this verse to me through the Holy Spirit.   At the end of my prayer to Him I sat quiet.  Which is what I always do.  I wait, very quietly to hear what He has to tell me.  And after I prayed for my job and for Brian’s job and what God has in store for us, all I heard was this verse and it gave me hope for sure.

It strengthens my trust in Him, when I’m reminded all I have to do is trust Him. 

God has put on my heart a few to-do’s for Him.  At least as of now, I believe this is where He is leading me.  I’m working on them and as it unfolds I will know for sure if I’m headed in the right direction.  For now, He just wants me to respond and obey to where I feel led and that’s what I plan to do. 

I’ll explain more later, when it’s time.  For now, I need to get busy with the “plans” God has for me.