Tag Archives: Bible study

Be Inspired! Conversation with Julia Roller (part 2)

Be inspired! I’m excited to launch a special focus in June featuring interviews with Christian women whose stories, thoughts, ideas, and choices inspire me—and will inspire you—to love more deeply, to seek God more passionately, and to live more abundantly.

be inspired
To kick things off, we’re continuing the conversation with Julia Roller about motherhood and the spiritual life. (Click here to read part 1 – you’ll love it!). Julia’s new book Mom Seeks God honestly depicts the ups and downs—and the hidden beauties—of her journey as a mom toward experiencing God in new and different ways.

At the end of this post, read how you can easily enter a drawing to win a free signed copy of Mom Seeks God as well as a free, signed copy of my Bible study guide Awaken Your Soul!

Here’s part 2 of our conversation.

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Your book Mom Seeks God chronicles your experiences with different spiritual disciplines & practices and how they fit (or sometimes don’t) with the reality of motherhood. How has your faith-life (practices, etc.) grown and changed as a result of being a mom? What practices or disciplines seem to “work” best for you in this stage of life?

Julia Roller lowres

My faith life has changed in many ways, most of them for the better. I find that I see God more easily these days, in my children as they grow and learn, in my husband, in those around me. I feel less pressure to get everything right and more of a feeling of confidence that God can make beautiful things out of my broken and imperfect efforts.

 

The disciplines that are most dear to me right now are some of the disciplines of abstinence (of taking away rather than adding): simplicity, silence, fasting (from all kinds of things in addition to food). One of the overall things I realized after that year was that I was trying so hard to DO MORE. In order to be a better parent, to be a stronger Christian, I thought I had to add more stuff to my list—more activities, more books, more prayer, more time. No wonder I felt so exhausted all the time!

It surprised me how much I benefited from and felt close to God through the disciplines that involved doing less. As I was able to turn things off (in the practice of silence), give something up in order to increase my focus on God (fasting) and try to do one thing at a time (simplicity), I found that I was able to open up some space in my life to slow down and listen for God’s voice.

Mom Seeks God jacketWhat practices or disciplines might you recommend for other moms to try–especially those who may be new to the idea of spiritual disciplines?

Prayer is always a great place to begin. I think we often put prayer off—to a time when we have more time, when we have quiet, when we can really focus. For moms, that time may never come! I am a big fan of praying short prayers in the moment. When I tell someone I’m going to pray for them, I do it right then. When I find myself in a moment of frustration or anger, I try to take time out to pray right then. This gets easier with practice. I also encourage moms to look for that time of day that can be the best time for them to have a consistent daily time with God. For me it’s at night before bedtime; I know for many other moms, the early morning works best. I love the idea of coming before God when I am at my best and since I am a night owl, for me that time is at night, when I can reflect on my day and look forward to the next one.
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A Blessed Collision — Mom Seeks God (part 1)

Friends, to wrap up our “Be Mom” focus in May and to launch into our “Be Inspired” series for June, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Julia Roller. She’s recently written a great new book looking at two of my very favorite topics: that blessed collision between motherhood and spiritual disciples. It’s called Mom Seeks God. Join me for a two-part conversation with Julia about the spiritual side of motherhood.

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Julia, can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

Julia Roller lowresMy husband, Ryan and I have two boys, ages 4 and 7, and live in San Diego, where we are often busy driving to (seemingly) every soccer and baseball practice and game in town. I love reading so much that I do it while I’m cooking (which is probably why I almost invariably burn the garlic bread). I often wish I were more crafty, but alas, I use Pinterest mainly to find quotes about reading and new ways to trick my children into eating vegetables.

I love the title of your new book, Mom Seeks God, because it sort of describes my everyday life. Can you tell readers more about your book? What motivated you to write it?

You receive a lot of warnings about life after becoming a mom—you’ll be so tired, so covered in spit-up that you won’t even care that you may never lose the baby weight, etc.—but no one ever warned me that becoming a mom might lead to a time of spiritual dryness. As much as the incredible love I felt for my new baby taught me about the inexhaustible nature of God’s love for us, I also struggled to feel connected with God after becoming a mom because my new life seemed to leave little time for prayer and Bible study the way I had practiced it before. Mom Seeks God is the story of my journey to figure out how to reconnect with God in the middle of the busy life of a mom with small children.Mom Seeks God jacket

Yes, I totally get that. The same experiences led me to write a book too! Like you, initially, as a new mom, I found my spiritual desires sort of colliding with the reality of motherhood. The practices I wanted to do didn’t seem to fit with my reality. What are some of the specific struggles or spiritual challenges you faced as a new mom? Continue reading

Surprise! God is present.

Awhile back, I got to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun for Today’s Christian Woman. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”

paintbrushesHow do you experience God and connect with God’s presence? What does it uniquely look like for you to be present with God?

Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.

But there are also some ways we can be present with God that surprise us. For example, we can connect with God through creative expression—art, poetry, music, and even casual doodling can be intentionally transformed into a Christ-centered experience as we ponder the beauty of God’s world or mull over truths in awareness of God’s presence with us. Continue reading

Flourish . . . in Worship

“Awake, my soul! . . . I will awaken the dawn.” (Psalm 57:8)

AwakenYourSoul-CVR1As we explore worship and prayer this month, I’m excited to share with you an excerpt about worship from my brand new Flourishing Faith book, Awaken Your Soul.

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What do you love about God? What leaves you in silent, wonder-filled awe? What is it about God that stirs up gratitude joy, delight, and devotion in your soul?

As we grow closer in intimacy with God, the character of God absolutely compels us to respond. And that response? It’s worship.

In English, worship comes from Old English weorthscipe1It simply means worth-ship. In this sense, worship is declaring God’s worth; it’s focusing on, delighting in, and living by the truly awe-some reality of who God is.

There are many biblical words that mean “worship;” one is is proskuneo which means to kiss toward, to bow down with forehead to the ground, to prostrate oneself, to give homage.2 It describes a physical act of profound reverence. The “kiss” isn’t a kiss of romance—it’s the “kiss” of face to floor, kneeling or laying flat in a posture of utter reverence.

Practicing the discipline of worship is a way we blink and rub the bleariness from our spiritual vision and, in sharp clarity, see the world as it really is. Continue reading

You . . . Shining

I return again and again to this passage – for conviction, for inspiration, for realignment, for truth. God’s people were worshipping him through fasting and rituals, but God asked for something deeper . . . for something harder.

light flower“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to cloth them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear . . . If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land” (Isaiah 58:6-11).

God invites YOU to shine your light. To shine your light through good-news actions of mercy, through compassion, through justice. To shine your light through good-news words of truth, of grace, of the Cross, of the empty tomb, of freedom. The light of the world lives within you . . . and shines through you.

ShineYourLight CVR-1Thank you for joining me this month in our discussion of justice! If you want to explore this topic further, check out my new Flourishing Faith Bible study Shine Your Light. Along with justice, it digs into scriptural themes like service, evangelism, mercy, and compassion.

Next month, we’ll look at a theme close to my heart: Cherish Your Family.

Liberty

What does it mean to shine as a light of the world? How is justice part of that life proclamation? What does Jesus reveal about a light-shining life? Consider this excerpt from my new Flourishing Faith book Shine Your Light.

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chains“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Jesus, here, identifies himself as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies and teachings about God’s justice, compassion, and welcome. Quoting from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2, Jesus launches his ministry by proclaiming this as his mission. Following directly on the heels of his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, Jesus boldly declared that this is what he’s all about. According to Jesus, God’s concern for justice and his compassionate love for the vulnerable are essential to our understanding of the “good news.”

How often do you hear these kinds of ideas reflected in the way people normally talk about the gospel? Have we lost sight of a critical component of Jesus’ teaching and proclamation? Do we really understand how central these values of compassion and justice are to the good news? . . .  Continue reading

Re-Envision Faith

When, recently, have you felt most alive in your relationship with God?

In Sunday morning worship? In an insightful moment during personal Bible study? During a quiet moment star-gazing on a frosty night?

There are a myriad of ways we can connect with God; the traditional spiritual disciplines, drawn from Scripture and church history, provide a great framework to help us look at some of these practices. But this is not a one-way relationship — we must always remember that God is about the business of connecting with us. As we put our souls in the proper posture to hear, to see, and to notice, we’re divinely surprised again and again. There God is! There God is in my life! In those perfectly timed Scripture verses. In those moments, those memories, those challenges, and even in that pain.

The main spiritual practice I’ve been focusing on lately is practicing God’s presence — which is a fancy way of saying making myself more aware of God’s faithful presence in my life. The discipline of noticing and of asking, over and over, Where is God in this? What might the Holy Spirit be showing me about myself or about God or about my calling or about this world?

How are you growing? Where is faith most vibrant for you? Continue reading

Meet My Friend JoHannah Reardon

Friends, as we discuss growing in character and virtue, I’ve invited my friend and colleague JoHannah Reardon to stop by. JoHannah is managing editor of Christianity Today’s ChristianBibleStudies.com. She’s also a pastor’s wife and a fiction writer. Listen in on our conversation about what it takes to grow in godly character.

Welcome, JoHannah! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

I am one of the very fortunate people who gets to do something I love for a living—writing and editing at ChristianBibleStudies.com for Christianity Today. But most dear to my heart is being a wife, mother, and grandmother. I feel so blessed to have those three roles. As I’m getting older, I feel that more and more.

This month we’re talking about virtue and character. Who comes to mind as an example of God-honoring character? Why? How does that person’s example inspire you?

If we are talking about someone living, I’d have to say my sister. She has the gift of evangelism and has led so many people to Christ (including me), but she also has the gift of mercy and has nursed countless people who are ill. Since I have neither of those gifts, I am in awe of her. She’s also a tremendously faithful family member to her sisters, brother, husband, kids, and grandkids—and a bulwark to those in her church.

If we are talking about someone not living, it would be Corrie Ten Boom. God used her writings to challenge me as a young, spoiled, self-centered Christian to learn to accept all that comes from God’s hand and to be faithful even when I don’t feel like it.

How about a little word play here: What does your experience in crafting (fictional) characters reveal to you about the idea of shaping and growing our own character? What insights or connections can you see between these two concepts? Or about how God is at work in us, “writing” and “crafting” our character?

I’m so glad you asked! That’s the reason I write fiction—to show, rather than tell, what it looks like to live a Christ-centered life. I was greatly influenced as a new Christian by George MacDonald’s novels, whose characters demonstrate what it means to live in a Christ-like way. Reading one of his books (A Quiet Neighborhood) is what made me want to be a writer. I love making up stories; but more than that, I love having my characters wrestle with the kind of things I wrestle with. And as I do that, I come to terms with some of my own struggles.

For example, when one of my characters wrestles with forgiveness, I have to confront that in my own life as well. It forces me to realize I need to forgive, or accept God’s forgiveness. Or if materialism is plaguing a character, then I have to honestly face that I would prefer to have no financial worries.

But the opposite is true too. As I see my characters struggling with sin, I want so badly for them to move past that sin and find victory. As I’m watching them battle their demons, I often realize once again that it is always miserable to give into sin. Conquering it is a lot more work, but oh so worth it.   Continue reading

Flourishing Faith Sneak Peak!

In my last post, we talked a bit about the surprising ways God connects with us. This idea -– that God can meet us, connect with us, and teach us within the context of our everyday lives – is one of the key ideas driving my new series for women: Flourishing Faith.

Each Flourishing Faith book is a hybrid between a Bible study and a devotional guide . . . with a whole lot of spiritual disciplines and creative encounters with God mixed in. In each 30-day Flourishing Faith adventure, you’ll dive into Scripture to study a specific theme (the first two books focus on cultivating one’s character and enriching one’s marriage). Along with studying God’s Word, you’ll find other “surprising” experiences that help you stay connected to God as you explore the book’s theme: worship, prayer, pondering (thinking through key theological ideas), journaling, using symbols or objects to help you connect with Biblical ideas, memorizing or meditating on Scripture, discussing key ideas with others, contemplative reading of Scripture, creating things (poems, crafts, simple art projects, etc.), and direct real-life application. Each of these experiences or activities takes 5 to 15 minutes and you have several options for each day. So, for example, you could do three experiences spread throughout a given day – or on a busy day you could select just one.

I’m so excited to share this book series with you! The series launches in July and will include free, downloadable leader guides for use in a small group or women’s ministry setting. If the Flourishing Faith series interests you, stay tuned for more info. I’ll have more to share in the coming month.

Surprising ways God shows up

A few months back, I was privileged to do an interview with pastor and author Adele Calhoun. My conversation with her was so personally encouraging, and one thing she said really stuck with me: “Consider the biblical story itself and the wide variety of ways people experienced God and got to know God: Abram heard God’s voice, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending, Moses saw a burning bush, Balaam heard God speak through a donkey, Samson felt God’s strength, Elijah heard God in a whisper on a mountain, Isaiah saw God high and lifted up, Daniel had dreams, Mary talked with an angel, and on and on. The Bible itself is a catalogue of people’s diverse and unique experiences with God.”

How do you experience God and connect with God’s presence?

Clearly, Bible study is a critical way to come to know and understand God and who God is. This is the starting place. We also connect with God emotionally, spiritually, and even intellectually in practices like prayer and worship. These are the “essential vitamins,” per se, of the Christian life.

But there are also some ways we can connect with God or experience God’s presence that surprise us. Continue reading