Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Week 4 - Confident Heart - Chapters 7 & 8

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs.  Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."   ~ Howard Thurman

Hello again!  And welcome to week four of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart!

As a nod toward Halloween, I want to do my blog a little differently this week.  Hang in there!

Zombies!  They are the latest craze of "scary".  They're in the movies & on TV; my son and husband recently ran a charity race where they had to avoid "zombies" on the course.  It was fun, even as a spectator, and for a good cause, so in this case being a zombie or running from the zombies was a positive experience.

But, do you ever feel like a zombie?  Like you're going through life, from one responsibility to another, but not really living life?  With so many things to do, people to please, and obligations vying for our attention, we can quickly feel overwhelmed and lost in our own lives.

I feel like a zombie when I've taken on too much!  For me, it happens in cycles.  Things are going smoothly, so I take on one more thing.  That's not too bad, so I think,  'sure I can do one more little thing, it's only once a month'.  Throw in a crisis or two along the way and the next thing I know I'm in Zombieland!  I'm running from one thing to the next, I have a list a mile long of things I need to prepare in order to do that one little extra thing, etc., etc!  I have a feeling you can relate.  I look around and wonder, "what the heck happened!?  Where am I?  Who am I?"

It's at this time that I realize I have been moving through life; doing, going, keeping up, but not really living my life as God wants.  When I'm busy with everything I have to do, there's no time for remembering who I am and whose I am; what it is He made me for and I realize it's been a while since we've had a conversation!  When I'm caught up in all of this stuff,  that's when I notice my fear of failure creeps into my thoughts: I don't want to fail at anything I've chosen to do or disappoint anyone I offered to help.  But why did I offer to help in the first place?  Out of prayerful consideration or was it because I wanted to feel important in a certain group of people?

All of this running, doing, fearing, and wanting to be special is draining!  Renee says, "...we have God-given emotional needs.  When those needs are left completely unmet, we become depleted and tend to operate primarily out of our weaknesses." (pg. 141).  WOW!  No wonder I sometimes feel like a Zombie - alive, yet not living.

When I feel my inner zombie creeping in, I've learned to stop.  I turn from saying "yes" to everything, to asking 'what does God want me to do?'.  I turn from wondering how I stack up compared to other moms, to seeing myself from God's perspective.  I turn my hurtful words against myself, to God's promises for me.

Zombies may have their place - in folklore, scary movies, and on a 5K charity race!  But God calls us, His children, to a full life of peace and hope and joy!  

God's promises are my weapons against my inner zombie!  It is with God that I can truly come alive!  You can, too!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body!"  Proverbs 16:24

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Week 3 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 5 & 6

Jesus said to the people, "I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."  John 8:12

Welcome to the third week of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart study!  I am so glad you are here and can't wait to share this time with you.

How are you doing?  It has been, as always, a bit of a crazy week at my house.  A little less crazy than some weeks, but with company over the weekend, meetings, extra phone calls & e-mails, a half-day of school in the middle of the week and my computer acting up, it's become a bit less serene than I had planned!

It's times like these that I am so grateful for you and our study.  Especially this weeks' chapters!  Chapter 5 discusses focus and perspective.  The first time I read this chapter, a few years ago, my focus was on my defects about 70% of the time, sometimes 100% of the time!  It was dark in there - in the shadow of my doubts about being a good wife, mother, daughter, friend, and Christian.  Can you relate?      

Paul says, "the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace." (Romans 8:6), so I had to change my perspective.  
We need to turn toward the light; turn toward God; turn toward truth (pg. 93).  Maybe it seems obvious, but it's not always so easy.  It's something we have to chose to do, but first we have to realize that we have turned away from the light.  This is the part that sometimes catches me by surprise.

Comparison, Conflict, and Criticism pave the road to doubt.  These three C's creep into my day and often I don't even realize it!  They are sly and can trigger my doubt in a matter of minutes.  Have you been there?

What are we to do when we find ourselves on the road to doubt or living in the shadow of doubt?  Jeremiah 29:12-13 tells us to, " on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  And if you wonder, 'well, how do I do that?',  chapter 3 introduced us to Renee's "When, then" statements.  They are a wonderfully practical thing we can do to remind us of God's promises, to help us turn toward the light, and see ourselves from His perspective.  

The "D" word: doubt!  When it's used to stir up negative feelings and thoughts about ourselves and others, it can be very destructive.  It's even suggested that sometimes 'doubt' disguises itself as 'worry' or 'fear'.  Oh my!  I have always been a worrier!  However, I am learning that the more I stay in God's word and believe His promises, the less I worry.  I didn't say I never worry; I still do, but I also pray, so the worry & doubt no longer overshadow my joy!  God's promises have turned me from a "worrier" to a "warrior"! 

Throughout the book, Renee has some suggestions on how we can remind ourselves of God's promises.  The "when, then" statements on page 60 & in chapter 12, the chart as compiled by Dr. Neil Anderson on pages 107 & 108, and "AM/FM" statements on pages 113-114.

And now I'm going to borrow an amazing idea from Stephanie Clayton over at Proverbs 31!  She is also leading a Bible study of A Confident Heart and she has come up with a "No Fail Pail!"  
"What is that?" you ask.  It is a great way to USE all of these Biblical reminders of God's love & promises!  Check out her short video here!  I will have a copy of her beautiful "when,then" statements to get you started on your own "No Fail Pail!"  

Finally, we have come to the part where I get to hear from you!!!  
What was your favorite thing(s) in these chapters?  Post them all in the Comments.  Do you have a "when, then" statement that you've been using this week?  Would you like to share it?  I'd love to read it!  I know, I know: many of us get together and talk about this on Friday, but not all of us get to do that.  Post your comments to stay connected to everyone in our group!  Remember, if you are reading this in your e-mail, click here to go to the blog to make your comment.

Praying that your shadow of doubt shrinks as you turn towards Jesus, who is Light!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body!"  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Week 2 - A Confident Heart - Chapters 3 & 4

"I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called.  I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people."  Ephesians 1:18

Welcome!  I am so glad to be on this journey with you!  Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and dive in to Chapters 3 & 4 of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart, if you haven't already.

There are several ideas, phrases, and one particular word that Renee uses many times throughout these chapters.  Do you know what they are?  I have them underlined, sometimes 2 or 3 times, in blue, black, & red ink; I've made notes in the margins & taken notes on paper about them.  What do they mean for you?

As Renee's very personal story unfolds, do you find yourself identifying with any part of her situation?  I certainly identified with the notion of defining myself through the eyes of others:  parents, friends, teachers, my husband, and my children. I calculated my worth based on who I was to them and through their eyes.   As I started down the journey of discovering why I hurt, because I did despite the wonderful life I lived, I realized it was because I chose to let negative thoughts dwell in my heart.  The doubt grew, my failings grew (even if some were just in my head) and my self-worth dwindled.  Like Renee, I had heard that "God loves me" many times, I knew that my parents loved me unconditionally, but for some reason I allowed self-doubt to live in me.  I sought fulfillment in trying to be the perfect daughter, wife, mother, crafter, home maker, and entrepreneur!  I enjoyed discovering all the facets of doing those things, but there was still an emptiness inside my heart.  I was busy, but not fulfilled!  And, as Renee points out on page 55, I was the one who was not allowing Jesus to look into those parts of my heart where I most needed Him.

What can we do when doubt and uncertainty start to creep into our hearts?  Renee's "When..., then..." statements are a wonderful way to help us "stop and ask Jesus to help us see the worth we are placing in other things and the worth we are seeking in other people."   A few examples can be found on page 60.  I encourage you to write some of your own "when, then" statements, tuck them in your car, your purse, and anywhere else you might need a quick reminder of God's unconditional love.

We continue with "Sam's" story, too.  She shows us how Jesus can take us from "mess" to "messenger" by allowing Him into the broken places in our hearts.  And although Sam's transformation takes place within a few lines of Scripture, Renee reminds us that "...finding satisfaction in Christ and living in the security of His promises is a daily process." (pg.61).

Here is a list of a few other points that I am still absorbing from these chapters!:

*"unfailing love" is mentioned 32 times in the Bible and is only ever attributed to God

*falling into the patterns of this world's thinking, losing sight of Jesus as my confidence and completion, can happen over a period of minutes!  Oh my, that has happened to me and afterwards I wonder, "What the heck just happened?!  How did I get to that low place so quickly?"

*Jeremiah 29 sounds a lot like Jeremiah 1!

*The "sin of my unrealistic expectations" - ouch! 

*Ephesians 4 - we meet again, and I am so glad for it!

Our new challenge for this study!  
Whether you can attend on Friday morning or are doing this at your own pace through the blog: Please post your favorite quote from this week's reading in the comment section below. It can be something that inspires you, that made you say "ah ha!", or any thing that struck you as you were reading.  If you have more than one, list them all.  There were some real treasures this week! It is a great way to stay connected throughout the week!   No need to wait to receive my post, either.  Add your comments whenever the spirit moves you by visiting
I can't wait to read your comments!!

Your Partner in Ministry,

"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Confident Heart - Week 1 - Chapters 1 & 2

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence."  Jeremiah 17:7

Welcome to week 1 of Renee Swope's A Confident Heart!  

I am so glad that this book comes on the heels of our study on Spiritual Gifts.  Just because we know what our Spiritual Gifts are doesn't mean we automatically have the courage to use them.  That's where studying God's Word, living in it daily, and being in a faith community comes in to play.  We live in a broken world, one where doubt can take hold of us and keep us from being who God created us to be.  As we read through this book and spend time with the questions is raises, we'll uncover what "doubt" really is, where it comes from and how to move from doubt to confidence.

In chapter one, Renee tells the story of how she discovered "the shadow of my doubts" (p.22).  I can relate to many of her questions, fears, and doubts!  But then she moves into God's Word and the promises He has for us.  This can be a trans formative process if "you are willing to have honest, soul-searching conversations about where you are, how you got here, and where you really long to be." (p. 24).  That is where real change happens!  Renee is a wonderful writer, able to relate, entertain, and lift up God's word.  But faith is a personal journey.  God knows us and he desires us to know Him.  The best way to do that is to study His word and be honest with Him & yourself. 

Chapter two talks about the "P" word: Perfect!  It can be both a blessing and a curse.  I used to struggle mightily with this idea of being perfect, but then I learned that God's perfect love was the only true perfection there is and my attempt to be perfect (in the world's eyes) was destructive to me and those around me.  God's perfect love is a blessing; being a perfectionist in this world can be a curse by raising self-doubt and hiding behind a facade of "I'm fine!".   This chapter is filled with stories & Scripture, you'll even meet a character you may know from the 1st Century, the Samaritan woman!  Find out how her story relates to our 21st Century lives.

We are moving at a quicker pace than in the past, but I know you can do it!  Most chapters can be read in 10-15 minutes.  The questions at the end are the place where you will need to spend some quiet, thinking time.  This is also where you will make the most profound discoveries!  Take the time - Do the work - You will not regret it!

Because we are reading more material each week, we will not be able to discuss each question.  Choose a favorite quote or two from each chapter and a question you would like to explore.  These are the things we will talk about in person each Friday.

Below is a new request I'd like to try for every week of this study!
Everyone: whether you can attend on Friday morning or are doing this at your own pace through the blog: Please post your favorite quote from this week's reading in the comment section below.  It can be something that inspires you, that made you say "ah ha!", or any thing that struck you as you were reading.  It is a great way to stay connected throughout the week!   No need to wait to receive my post, either.  Add your comments whenever the spirit moves you by visiting I can't wait to read your posts!!

"Stop doubting yourself & live in the security of God's promises"

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey - sweet to the soul and healing for the body."  Proverbs 16:24


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Respond by reaching out to each other and our community, in love and support"

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.  You need to perservere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. "  Herbrews 10:35-36

I am very excited about our gathering this week!  One of the "Re's" that our Re: group stands for is "Respond".  We respond to the needs of our community by doing something to help those in need.  There are many ways to do this indivudually, but there's something about coming together to serve others.  The beauty of Faith Kitchen is that it offers both an individual way to contribute (donating food) and a more social way (group cooking).  There's also the opportunity to Serve (Oct 10), offering a chance to physically get out into the community and share God's love in a real & pratical way.  We have been talking about spiritual gifts and it seems that no matter what your gift is, you can find a way to use it in the Faith Kitchen Ministry!  Please keep those who coordinate, contribute to, and benefit from this ministry in your prayers.

There have been a few e-mails regarding the cooking we will be doing on Friday, but if there are any more questions, please reach out to Tammy, Paula, or me.  If you don't have contact information, please leave a post and I will get in touch with you privately.

A reminder that we will start at our regular time, 9:15am, with a snack & beverages, but we will be meeting in the big kitchen!  We will be baking the meatloaves & then freezing them, so we need to start as close to on time as possible, so that we can finish within our time limit.

While we cook up a storm, we will continue to talk about how we can use our Spiritual Gifts.  Come with ideas, questions, and suggestions!  Amazing things happen when we share our thoughts in open, loving, and trusting ways!  To quote Mahatma Gandhi, "In a gentle way you can shake the world".  I look forward to the gentle ways in which we shake our world.    

I am also very excited about the next book we will be reading!  A Confident Heart by Renee Swope.  This book changed my life!  And I cannot wait to read it again, with you!  If you don't have it yet, pick it up this week!  We will be reading at a faster pace than we have in the past - 2 chapters a week.  Please have the first 2 chapters read by October 11.  There is so much we can talk about in each chapter, so our discussions will hit the highlights.  We all come to this book with different experiences, so it will be beneficial if we are all on the same page (literally & figuratively) for our weekly discussions.  

The blog is a great place to post queries & comments about what we're reading throughout the week!  A notebook and the willingness to write in your book is a good idea for this study, too.  The reflection & discussion questions at the end of the chapters are for your benefit, we will discuss only a few of them each week.  As we learned in "My One Word", journaling, slowing down long enough to really process our thoughts through writing them down, is extremely beneficial.  You owe it to yourself to spend quality time with your thoughts and God's Word.  And like most everything in life, you will get out of this study, what you put into it.  Unlike many things in life, you will actually get more out of it, because as we live in the Holy Spirit, he will bless us with the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I can't wait to respond to God's love by reaching out to our community and to reveal our confident hearts through Renee Swope's book!!!  The next few weeks are going to be Remarkable!

Thank you for being a part of this group!  New friends are always welcome!!

Your Partner in Ministry,


"Kind words are like honey, sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."  Proverbs 16:24

P.S. My youngest brought home her first school library book, Love is a Handful of Honey.  I hope your One Word continues to be an influence and blessing in your life every day.