image Do you know what I just love?  I love authenticity.  I love it when what you see is exactly what you get.  I'm not a fan of false pretenses or underlying meaning.  I don't really like fake.   I like to be able to take things at face value and trust that something or someone is who they claim to be.  I kind of just like people to be real. Because of this love for all things genuine, I just adore Jen Hatmaker right now.  To be honest, I wasn't really familiar with her until last week when a friend mentioned that they were reading her new book and loved it.  The friend quoted some of her work on a Facebook post, and I was immediately hooked. I could tell that she was the real deal! I bought her book, For The Love, and I just LOVE it.  Jen is hilarious!  I actually woke up my son the other night because I was reading her book in the living room and was just laughing so hard.  Not only is she just really funny, she has a way of boldly and unashamedly  getting to the heart of a matter. Her manner is bold and brave but she is also very transparent and therefore very vulnerable.  She is a straight shooter and I very much appreciate that! I think I love that quality so much because God is such a straight shooter in His word.  He pretty much just tells it like it is.  He gives us some clear direction and clear commands in His word.  There are things that He leaves mysterious because we cannot understand His ways, but when it is time to lay out expectations, He takes most of the guesswork out. Not only is He clear, He is repetitive.  He knows that we need to hear things over and over for them to really sink in.  I've been reading through the Psalms over the last week and God keeps hammering in one clear message to me.  He used Jen Hatmaker's book to reinforce that message.  Like I said, he like repetition.  He's good like that.  He likes to give us the old one-two to really be sure we are getting what He has for us. He repeatedly showed me this week that He wants to use US to deliver HIS message to OTHERS.  He calls US to sing His praise, to declare His goodness, to speak of His might, and tell of His works.  He calls US to think on Him and share our thoughts with our children and our families and our communities so that we can make Him known. He calls US to extol Him.  I had to look that word up.  It appears in the book of Psalms a ton and I wasn't really sure what it meant.  It means to lift something up and praise it highly.  All throughout the Psalms, we are called to praise and extol Him. I don't think that God is calling us to a passive thing.  I believe He is calling us to take bold action.  He is calling us to stand for Him and tell the truth of what He has done for us.  He wants us to use our story to show Him to others.  He has given us each a specific story to share.  We get to be the connection for people!  Wow!  That's just plain crazy!  We have the privilege to introduce others to Him by sharing what He's done for us. Psalm 145: 4-7, 10-12 "One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. All your works praise you, Lord; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, so that all people may know of your mighty acts and the glorious splendor of your kingdom." That's kind of a big deal.  And it's not a responsibility that we should take too lightly.  It is a privilege and an honor.  Can I be honest?  It's also a little intimidating.  If I'm going to introduce people to Jesus, then I want the introduction to be a good one.  I want to share my story in a way that compels people.  I want to show other's how much Jesus has done for me.  I want to share His goodness, love, mercy, and grace.  I want others to be drawn to His saving power like I was.  But, that requires a lot of bravery and a lot of courage.  It requires me to be authentic and real and vulnerable. I can't really tell you of His grace and mercy without telling you what He's done for me.  I can't show you how He unconditionally loves me if I'm unwilling to show you how often I've failed Him and how often He extends love to me in the midst of that.  I can't really show you the power of His redemption unless you see how far He has brought me.  And I can't really show His strength until I show you my utter dependence on Him. To follow that call to praise Him and extol Him and declare His works, we must be uncommonly brave and bold.  We have to be willing to share.  And it's scary because being vulnerable is hard.  It's hard to just put ourselves out there for the world to see because the world can sometimes be a harsh and judgmental place.  But there is also a lot of love and grace and mercy there.  And there is freedom in the sharing because our boldness not only gives glory to God, it breaks down our own walls and it gives courage to others. My favorite quote from Jen Hatmaker's book addresses this specific thing.  She talks about telling our truth to the world regardless of our hesitations.  She says, "Just tell the truth because it sets us free.  This first domino unleashes a chain reaction of liberation.  If we tell the truth in the small things, our honesty is well-practiced when stuff gets dire.  This creates a sincere community for which the earth is starving.  In a world full of the fake, artificial, pretend, and superficial, we have the sustenance to nourish starving hearts.  I promise to be gentle with your truth-telling, and you've already demonstrated tenderness with mine.  And as we witness this beautiful community, we aren't just observing vulnerability but rather chains breaking, darkness receding, victory rising.  We are watching the light win truth by truth, and when enough bright places are created, the dark has no where else to hide.  Show up.  Be seen.  Tell the truth.  Be free." I seriously love that!  What a bold deceleration of our responsibility to share our story and to be the ones pointing others to Jesus!  This morning I prayed for a renewed boldness and strength to stand for Him.  I prayed that He would give me the courage to be authentic and to share.  I'm praying that for you too.  I'm praying that we all will take Jen's challenge To Show Up.  To Be Seen.  To Tell The Truth.  And To Be Free.  After all, I think God calls us to the same thing.  Let's Extol Him.  Praise Him.  And Declare His Greatness. Love and blessings, Bobbie
image One of my favorite weekends of the entire year has come and gone.  The Inspire Heart Retreat always seems to rush past me in a blur of emotion and activity.  It drew to an end way before I was ready to let the messages and the images from those sweet days leave my thoughts. I have spent any quiet moments that I could claim today just sitting and reflecting.  I let the images from this weekend run through my mind like an old film reel.  I closed my eyes and remembered the feelings and let them sink deep into my heart.  The presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable throughout our praise and worship time.  It engulfed me.  With a heart full and hands raised, I closed my eyes and let my voice join in with the sound of over two hundred women raising their voices to praise our Savior. Our speaker, Nicole Johnson, delivered messages that were like a balm to the aches in my heart!  My eyes were continually brimming with tears of laughter, tears of brokenness, and tears of healing.  Her authenticity was refreshing.  Her willingness to join into our little community and minister was inspiring.  Her ability to point out our need for God's healing and His love in the broken and hurting areas of our lives was just simply beautiful.  I could feel my Father calling out to me through her words. The entire weekend was just enveloped in Christ's love, grace, and mercy.  I got teary eyed as I moved throughout the weekend and caught glimpses of His pure love in action.  Going though the foyer, I glanced out the glass of the front doors and saw two friends huddled close and deep in conversation.  On my way down the stairs I watched a group of ladies sitting cozily in arm chairs sipping coffee and sharing their lives.  In the kitchen I saw our speaker bowed in prayer over a tearful woman.  During one of the messages I looked to my left and saw a woman protectively place an arm around the shoulders of her friend as she wept.  I watched friends taking selfies to capture cherished moments together. I witnesssed women giggling with each other over a meal.  I saw strangers becoming friends during a game.  I saw women standing in unity during an ice breaker game and realizing that we have so much more in common than we think.  I listened to women talk about staying up late into the night with friends and sharing their hearts. Everywehere I looked this weekend, I saw examples of the kind of real, authentic connections that we all long for.  I saw women showing each other Christ's love, mercy, and grace.   The walls that we, as women, tend to put up were crumbling because of all of the love shown in that place.  That kind of love only comes because of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  He knit our hearts together all weekend long.  He forged new friendship and strengthened old ones.  He filled our hearts with love and He reminded us that when our focus is on Him, we can be vessels of love.  He healed broken hearts, broken lives, and broken relationships.  He encouraged and strengthened us.  He gave us faith in the power of our supernatural sisterhood. Nichole Johnson used her last message of the weekend to talk a little bit about the separation anxiety that she gets as these types of events come to a close.  That resonated deeply with me.  I hated to see our Heart Retreat weekend come to a close.  I knew that the moment that I stepped back into the busyness of real life, I would miss that sense of being enveloped in such a loving community of women.  I would miss those intimate times spent engulfed in Christ's presence.  And I would miss the times that I simultaneously spilled tears of laughter, brokenness, and healing. This morning was a little bittersweet when I woke up in my own bed.  I was so grateful to be back at home with my family.  It was wonderful to wake up to my husband and my boys and to jump back into the frenzy of everyday life.  However, I wasn't quite ready to let go of the beauty of the weekend, so I sat down and I journaled. I wrote down some of the things I learned about myself and my Savior this weekend.  I acknowledged the areas where I felt the Holy Spirit's stirring.  I poured out my brokenness and described how He administered healing.  I confirmed some of the decisions that I had made.  I put all of those beautiful memories down on paper so that I could reflect on them and store them away like the treasures they are.  I didn't want to forget.  I wanted to hold onto those sweet memories as long as possible so I wrote every single one of them down. I built myself a little memorial with words.  My journal is now a place where I can go to remember the work that Christ did in my life this weekend.  I can look there and let those feelings be stirred any time I need a little rekindling. I can return to it when I need the encouragement that these memories will provide.  I can go there and be reminded of His love when I am discouraged or hurting or just apathetic. When we have those types of beautiful encounters with one another and with God, we need to be able to go back and look at them and remember.   All throughout the Old Testament, men of God built alters to remind themselves of the work that God did.  Often they returned to these alters to worship God for what He had done in their lives, to remember, and to be encouraged. I challenge you to do the same.  Build a little alter with your words.  Create a way to remember the work God did in your life this weekend.  Create a way to hang onto those sweet memories.  While they are still fresh in your minds and in your hearts, I encourage you to write them down. Process through the events, the memories, and the feelings from those precious times with God and with His daughters.  Recall the sense of peace and love you felt when you rested in His presence.  Tuck them away like the little treasures they are and pull them out when you need encouragement.  When real life is roaring around you, let them be a reminder to you of a time when you felt totally engulfed in God's love! Love and blessings, Bobbie
image image Today is Thoughtful Thursday at The Women In My World!  I want to use these days to give you something to read, watch, or listen to that will really cause you to pause and think about your relationship with God and your Christian walk. Today, I'm thinking about thirst.  Have you ever been in that place where you are just thirsty for God?  This morning I was reading in Psalm 42:1-2 and I realized that the more God meets with me, the more I see Him moving in my life, the more I crave His presence.  It becomes like an unquenchable thirst. Psalm 42:1-2 "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?" There are times in our lives when we know God is present but we do not physically feel Him or sense Him.  He seems quiet and distant.  But, because we know God's character, we know that isn't accurate.  We just aren't as in tune with Him sometimes as we are at others.  In those times, we long to feel that divine connection to our Father and sometimes we chase after Him by filling our plate full of God things and hoping to impress Him.  We hope that by checking all of the God like items off of our to do list, we will please Him and He will want to connect with us.  That's not how God operates.  God is not impressed by our to do lists.  He's impressed by our focus on an authentic relationship with Him.  When we set aside all of our pretenses and truly seek a relationship with Him, above all else, He meets with us there. I have been reading through, and co leading a small group, on the book Chasing God by Angie Smith. She tackles this issue in such a real and relatable way. (Plus she is just terribly cute and hilarious!  I adore her writing style and humor!). She reminds us that often times, when we are thirsty for God we exhaust ourselves by doing all of the things that we think will allow us to catch God, instead of simply allowing ourselves to seek Him where He will most often be found. Those times when we feel His arms of love wrapped around us, when we can literally feel Him guiding, protecting, and leading us, those are the times when we are meeting with Him in the way He calls us to.  He wants us to seek a relationship with Him instead of making our Christain walk about doing certain things, looking a certain way, and living a certain life.  He doesn't want us to chase Him.  He wants a real relationship with us.  He seems to penetrate our thoughts and our daily activities in every way when connect with Him in prayer, His word, and an attitude of worship.  In those places, we will meet with Him in such a real and divine way! Because I know what it feels like to physically feel His presence, I just don't want to ever feel the distance come between us.  It's like the psalmist writes.  My soul just thirsts for Him.  I want to feel His continued presence in my life and His hand upon me. I've loved Angie Smith's book, Chasing God.  It has helped me to take a look at my relationship with my Heavenly Father and to identify the areas where I'm involved in a relationship with Him and the areas where I am just chasing Him.  It has changed my quiet time, my prayer life, and my thoughts on my Christian life.  It is a must read if you've been in that place where you are doing everything that you think will make you a good Christian but you are missing out on that relationship and you are thirsting for him. Think about it and grab a copy of this book. :) Love and blessings, Bobbie
I often find such encouragement when I read my Bible.  Honestly, this is a new thing for me.  I use to look at Bible reading more as a chore.  It was just another thing to check off of my Christian to do list. Read a chapter or two from my Bible today.  Check.  Next? But a while back, I felt convicted to really get back into God's word in a more serious way.  I love to read.  You can almost always find me with a great Christian book.  I've got a crate of them beside my bed.  They are stacked in piles on my desks.  My easily distracted self prefers to have a few of them going at a time so that if I hit a dry spot in one, I can stick in a book mark, and pick up where I've left off in another.  I study these books.  They are a wealth of knowledge.  I love how writers have the ability to take lofty Christian principles and put them into terms that I can relate to and easily understand.  The authors feel like friends to me.  They just get me. The book pages are pen marked.  The pages are dog eared.  The covers show wear because of their constant handling.  I pack them to read on trips, tote them along in my purse, and keep them handy in case I have a few spare minutes to read. Can you see how much I love them?  On our trip to California last week I packed six.  I was feeling ambitious and Heaven forbid that I not have just the right one to fit my mood.  As a matter of fact, I spent the better part of two days alternating between the couch in a hotel bathrobe and my bathing suit on a lounge chair in the sun, all the while with a book.  It was heavenly! There are many books that I've read this year that I love!  Some of my most well loved books sit on a desk in my kitchen because I enjoy referencing them again.  I love to pick them up, turn to a page that's worn and underlined, and find a nugget of knowledge that relates to exactly what I'm feeling or thinking or dealing with. These books are so great!  God has divinely spoken through some amazing authors and I've been so blessed by their work.  Please don't misunderstand me in this.  I adore Christian authors and the way they put pen to paper to flesh out stories that truly speak to me! But, I had let these books replace my time in God's word. The Bible was a little hard for me to understand.  I just couldn't bring myself to mark up these holy pages.  I didn't know how to study it.  I didn't think I could relate to it.  The language and even sometimes the principles were lost on me, so I had set my Bible aside in search of easier reading. Until about eight or ten months ago.  I'm not really exactly sure of the date, but I remember the situation.  I was struggling with the passing of my dad.  It was brutally hard.  I remember realizing that I was seeking wisdom, comfort, advice, and guidance from Man instead of God.  And honestly, it wasn't working out too well for me. For some reason, it hit me like a brick, that  what I really needed to do, was get back to God's word. It was the best decision I've made in a really long time! I pray each day over my Bible.  I pray that God will speak to me through His word.  I pray for wisdom to understand His truth.  I pray for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to see His character and open my heart to receive His teaching.  And I pray for people and stories that I can relate to. I can't honestly say that every time I open my Bible, I am awe struck by what I read.  (Some of those genealogies are a little long.). However, I can tell you that God's word has come alive to me in a way that I couldn't have imagined before.  Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and David have become like dear friends to me as I've studied the Old Testament.  Their stories resonate with me in such a real way.  We share some of the same struggles and I'm encouraged as I see God's faithfulness to grow them and use them.  I'm moved to tears by His unrelenting grace and mercy towards a people that continually fail him.  I see a parallel there and am awe struck that He shows the same grace and mercy towards me. This morning I littered the book of Ezra with underlines and notes.  Who would have thought that I could relate so much to this man of God?  Who would have known I could find so many answers to the questions that trouble me today in these pages penned so long ago?  Who would have known that these heroes of the Bible struggled with so many of the same things that I do? I just want to take a minute today and encourage you to go back to basics.  Don't give up all of the amazing books that God is using to reach you.  They have an awesome purpose and are instrumental in our growth.  But, turn back to that old black book too (well, mine is actually hot pink) and see what truths it holds for you.  Find comfort, wisdom, encouragement, and guidance in its pages.  Understand that God's word is alive and active and still so applicable to us today.  Ask the Holy Spiri to give you understanding and immerse youself in conversation with the Father.  Allow Him to speak to you through His word.  Find what you're looking for there. Love and blessings, Bobbie