Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Eeeeeee!  I started putting out Christmas decorations today!!  Normally I make myself wait until the day after Thanksgiving, but there has to be some allowance for the lateness of Thanksgiving this year, right?  One of my very favorite moments of the entire year is putting my nativity scene on the mantle with my girls.  (I get all cheesy and traditional around Christmas, you should just know.)  The mantle isn't fully decorated yet, but here is the scene:

Do you see baby Jesus?  Isn't he sweet as pie?
I LOVE CHRISTMAS!!!  And speaking of speaking in all-caps, can we just take a moment to love Paul?  This line is actually in the Bible and I didn't even know it: "See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!" (Galations 6:11)  He kills me!

In his large handwriting, Paul goes on to discuss circumcision.  The old Julie would have skimmed over this part because if ever something didn't relate to me?  It would be this particular debate.  Now I can see how this IS relevant to me; not circumcision exactly, but the main point that "... what counts is the new creation."  New life in Jesus- it's for everyone!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Five Awesome Chapters

I'm cooking with peanut oil now, Friends!  The New Testament is a blur of baptism, Holy Spirit, church plants, and miracles!  Of course it's not all so pleasant; our disciples are being flogged, imprisoned, and even arguing with each other (I'm looking at you Paul and Barnabas!)  Next to the Old Testament, which covers hundred and hundreds of years, the NT is clipping along like a zippy, ordained sports car.

I need to take a minute to try to express my love for the book of James.  Be still my beating heart.  I was indifferent, until I did Beth Moore's Mercy Triumphs study on the book.  She pointed out that Martin Luther wanted James removed from the Bible, and maybe that's why I love it so.  I love a rogue... book?  Actually, it carries a lot of weight with me because it calls me out (loose lips sink ships, Julie!  See James 1:26), yes, but also because of who wrote it.

Who knows how things were in the Joseph and Mary household, but in most homes siblings know each other.  Really, really know one another.  And by the way, James was Jesus' brother.  I did not know that most my life, but the book has more clout for me now!  Couldn't you write about topics important to your siblings better than anybody else?  I could.  My brother and sister could.  They would also include a lot of jabs about what a nerd I am and may bring up a bad haircut or two, but still.

James holds us accountable- he calls Christians to action.  It's not enough to say you have faith: "...faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:17)   Chapter 1, verse 13 comforts me: "... For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;"  James talks about the importance of wisdom: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry." (James 1:19)

 Every verse is solid gold in James.  I could be here all day giving my favorite verses and soon enough we'd have the entire book of James.  And incidentally, if you do Beth Moore's study, she does have you write out the entire book!

Have a lovely Sunday evening and happy, healthy Thanksgiving week!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Laying On Hands

The church I grew up in was a really traditional Presbyterian church.  Very "King James Version."  Always dresses for the girls, suits for the guys; a lovely choir, but a trumpet was the flashiest instrument we would expect; our "Amens" were only whispered after prayer; clapping was only acceptable after the children's choir sang (and then only if they reaaaaalllly knocked our socks off).  You get the picture.  But don't get me wrong- I love that church!  I love the tradition of it, and the mix of solemnity and joy.  I just want to paint a picture, so you can understand the small culture shock I had when I started attending the church I go to now.

At this church (that I love equally), we rock out a little, we clap, some people (get ready for it.....) raise their arms in jubilation.  Every now and then an "Amen" is loud enough for me to hear a few rows back and not even after a prayer, but in agreement with the pastor!!  Wild, I know.

One thing that I was a bit skittish about at my new church was the laying of hands.  When we collect food for Thanksgiving baskets, school supplies for needy children, Operation Christmas Child, or whatever, the congregation is invited to come up and lay hands on the goods as we pray for the recipients.  I'm not going to lie, this weirded me out a little at first, but it's grown on me.  There's something sweet about physical touch and lovingly praying for a person through an item that they will soon be holding.  I've also taken to holding my daughters' hands when I pray with them.  I just like the physicality of it.

Now I'm reading the book of Acts, and the laying of hands has come up a few times:
Acts 6:6  These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
Acts 8:17  Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:3  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Acts 28:8  ... And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him healed him.

What are your thoughts on laying on hands?  Do you do it at your church?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Take 3!

It's Brooke's last post!  Boo!  Soak up her wisdom now, because after this you're stuck with me again!

We often miss the people in the church pews who need the love of Jesus just as much as non church-goers.  You could argue it's not evangelism, but sometimes there are people in the church who are struggling just as much as the non-believers.

James 1:27 tells us to look after the widows and the orphans:

WIDOWS: those who have lost their first love, Jesus, and are lacking passion and hope; most suffering from depression.

ORPHANS: people who have felt abandoned by God and are left striving to prove something, fighting for attention and love, not knowing how valuable they are.

Often we want people to know Jesus, so we focus on outreaches and forget to really hear the hearts of those beautiful people we see every Sunday.

Take a minute after service to ask a sincere "how are you?" and you'd be surprised how quickly people will open up; we're all desperate for relationship, first with Jesus and then with each other!
Follow up on prayer requests during the week give a quick call to that lady in church you haven't seen in a while.

Ask God what He's doing and how you can join him.  The Holy Spirit is always speaking and He's ready to use you as a vessel if you're willing!  Ask Him what He's doing and how you can join him and watch as He uses you to change lives everyday just by being Jesus to those in need!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Being Evangelical

As promised!  Here is another guest post by the lovely Brooke!


Outreach Evangelism is necessary, and I want to urge you to pursue people relationally. People need Jesus - a friend to listen and care for them and we should be a reflection of His heart for them. Take time to ask people how they're doing and let them talk, you'll find you'll be able to insert Jesus with a simple encouragement and as the conversation builds, the door will fling open and you'll be able to share Jesus with them.

BUT practically it's good to know some kinds of people you'll encounter:

"MEAN GOD" These people have heard the message of Jesus but have been delivered a God who's mad, has too many rules, and makes bad things happen, so they've said, "Screw that; if that's who Jesus is, I don't want Him."

These people might need you to explain God isn't to blame for the bad in this world; the devil is fighting for souls and his mission is to kill, steal, and destroy. (John 10:10.) Once they understand we simply live in a fallen world you can start to give examples of how God ultimately has power over it all and He makes all things work for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28)

Share stories of ways the enemy has tried to ruin you and how God came to save you and granted you victory!

"THERE'S GRACE" They're okay with where they are, most don't know the 'more' of God and don't care for the fellowship of believers. They acknowledge He's real and that's about it. "I don't go to church or read the Bible, but I pray every night and know He is real."

These people need to know about the more, and if you want to effectively grab their attention you have to be pursuing it yourself. Most of the individuals in this category are walking in sin, not understanding every area of sin is a love deficiency and a counterfeit of God's true intention.

For example; someone struggling with lust and adultery doesn't know intimacy was created by God and intended for marriage to help us understand Him as the bridegroom and us as the bride. The word for "lay with" in the Old Testament is Hebrew for "to know." Sex is the reflection of vulnerability and deep knowing, hence why relationships are always more of a mess when sex if involved. Of course the devil wants to destroy intimacy so people would never know God intimately so they would never know how much they're loved.

The devil offers small moments of satisfaction that slowly kill us and eventually people will find this to be true and they'll want to feel the real love God intends, a small sacrifice that will always bring life.

THE "ATHEIST" From my experience you will never argue a atheist into the love of God.

Apologetics are important to research and know, but it's far easier to pray continually for God's love to overwhelm them than to argue with someone who's not ready to hear your side anyway. Most of these people have been severely hurt by people in ministry or have felt cheated by God (much like the "MEAN GOD" folks) and have talked themselves into this false theology.

If you continue to show them love and ask deep questions about their childhood and past life experience, you'll be able to minister to their hearts covertly and you'll watch as God works in their lives despite their skewed view of Him.

REMEMBER; There is no formula of how to get people to the saving knowledge of the cross; this is not a script. Continue to ask Jesus throughout the day who needs His love and He will highlight people for you to approach whether it's a family member or the cashier at the supermarket. All God needs is a willing vessel!

Monday, November 18, 2013


I'm so excited right now you guys!  And not because it's semi-final night on DWTS!  I have asked my friend Brooke to write a guest post on evangelism and she agreed!  Brooke is one of the best evangelists I know.  I know it is because of her genuine heart for others.  She doesn't just try to tally up converts; she builds relationships, prays like crazy, and truly cares about people.  Her "life mission is to live a life that reflects Isaiah 61."  She knows what's what when it comes to evangelism you guys.  I can't wait to learn a thing or two from her over the next couple days.  I hope her words speak to you too.


"It's by the blood of the Lamb and word of your testimony that people are saved" (Rev 12:11) Evangelism is simple: understand what the cross did for you and tell others how the love of Jesus changed your life!  Evangelism isn't about you as a Christian earning your way to heaven, but rather sharing the heart of the Father with those who aren't aware of His goodness.

BUT, I've heard a lot of Christians have a defeated mentality, "Oh Jesus help us, we're no good sinners -have mercy on us, as we try to make it through this life, so we might finally be with you" -?! No wonder no one's coming to church...

To minister the heart of God rightly you have to understand your identity and what God says about you:

Child of God (Romans 8:14-15)
Royalty (1 Peter 2:9)
Friend of God (John 15:15)
Welcome in His house (Eph 2:19)

Once you're walking in the truth the world will be your pulpit. Peace and love overflow and people will notice and they'll come to YOU asking you what it is you have, in which case you have an open door to talk about Jesus freely to a willing audience!


Tomorrow and the next day, I'll put up posts by Brooke that cover some obstacles we encounter doing evangelical outreach and how to go about the whole intimidating thing!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Painting Jesus

It is windy in mid-Michigan today!!  We've been under tornado watches all evening, and my power has been flickering, so I wanted to check in and wish everyone a happy Sunday while I still can.

I did Painting With A Twist (more like Painting With A Twister in this weather!) for the first time today- it was so fun!  I'll show you my picture if you promise not to laugh.  And only because you can't see the paintings my much more talented friends whipped up! 

My one and only masterpiece.

Oh, it's baby Jesus if you aren't entirely sure what you're looking at.  In any event, it was a blast and I'm definitely going back.  My house will be properly (if not pitifully) decorated in no time!

I hope you have a lovely week; I have an awesome treat in store for you guys this week!  No, I won't be downloading more pictures of my handiwork, it's much, much better than that.  So stay tuned friends!  And Michiganders?  Don't blow away!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Easter in November

Today I spent the morning helping out at my daughter's preschool.  It was fun and hilarious and I drove 80 mph to get home to my Diet Coke because it was exhausting.  Exhausting in the most delightful way possible of course, but seriously.  How preschool teachers make it through two and a half hours every other day without Mountain Dew pumping intravenously into their system is a mystery to me.  I love each and every one of those munchkins, and I know!  The kingdom of heaven belongs to them and everything, but I'm out until 2014.  I'll be using every moment until my next visit training for... well, my next visit.

My little preschooler. By herself, harmless.  Armed with 19 friends? Hook up my IV.

In Bible news, it's Good News!  After the heaviness of Jesus' crucifixion, I made it to the joy and hope of the first Easter!  Glory, glory!  I love every word of it, Jesus appearing to Mary, the disciples doubt and then excitement, his healed body, all of it!  Aren't we blessed to celebrate his resurrection every Spring?  I can't wait.  Have you ever read the "Preacher Creature" books by Mike Thaler?  There is one called the Easter Egg Haunt in which a little boy asks his Sunday School teacher why we call Easter, Easter and then jokingly asks if it's because the "Son" rises in the east.  Cute!  Maybe I'll read it to the preschoolers next time I venture in.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Life's A Garden, Dig It.

Is anybody else bumming about the pitch blackness we are in by 5:30pm these days?  Even though I know it's coming this time every year, it always sneaks up on me and bums me out.  Not to mention makes me considerably less productive.  Once the girls are asleep, it's all cozy-up in front of the fire (probably with some popcorn- maybe the kettle variety, maybe butter; it depends on the night.) with my laptop (is this the best Pinterest season or what?!), knitting needles, or book until it's time to move my hiney from the couch to the bed.  I sort of love it, I'm not going to lie, but I can't help but remember Matthew 24:42-43:

"But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."

And then? I can't help but remember Joe Dirt. 

Remember when he says, "Is this where you want to be when Jesus comes back, making fun of Joe Dirt?"  Weird that any tiny word of the Gospel would remind me of Joe Dirt, but it is what it is!  Just another reason to get my face in the Bible- fingers crossed Jesus returns when I'm reading his very words, or praying over my babies, or doing something worthwhile!  At the very least I hope I'm not indulging in one of my guiltiest pleasures... although I'm happy to share my popcorn if He stops by any night this week.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Good Friday

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (Mark 15:37)  There is much to be said about these precious pages of God's Word, but at the same time, what can be said?  Jesus' blood told the whole story.  But here are two points that jumped out at me as I read about Jesus' sacrifice.

First, I should mention, it's been a long time since I've read about the crucifixion.  Certainly, I've heard it preached on lots of Good Fridays, but who ever wants to open their Bible and read about Jesus' death?  His resurrection, yes.  Crucifixion, no.  It's become a trend for me to learn something new in these stories I thought I knew so well, and this one was no different.  Take the actual moment of Jesus' death.  The land goes dark, the curtain tears, and... the tombs broke open?!  I do not remember this.  "The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.  They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people." (Matt. 27: 52-53)  Will this Bible never cease to amaze me?! 

The other thing that strikes me in the Good Friday chapters of the Bible, are the supporting people.  Pilate's wife, Simon the cross-bearer, the thieves beside Jesus, Joseph who "went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body" (Mark 15:43), and of course the Marys.  For all the wicked in this story, these people bring some comfort to readers aching for our Christ.  They were unexpected friends who came out of the woodwork to do a small favor for a giant King. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

First order of business: if you are a veteran reading this, thank you.  It's trite but true; I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  That goes for you too, active soldiers!  I hope you are blessed beyond measure in this life and the next.

Secondly, it is snowing, people.  Actual flakes that are sticking to the ground.  My kids are delighted and played outside all afternoon.  As for me?  I'm cold.

Thirdly, I am in the thick of the Gospel now.  Things are heating up politically and that means Jesus is on the hot seat.  Who would handle this so gracefully?  How could anyone doubt his holiness when it could only be supernatural grace keeping him calm and peaceful and loving even as he is scared beyond what we can comprehend.  One of Jesus' dearest friends is about to hand him over to be brutally murdered and he's speaking of... love?  Friendship? 

I love John 15:15: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you."  Don't you feel like a VIP?  Like a big flipping deal?  I mean, how's that for name dropping at a party?  "Your cousin went to kindergarten with K-Stew?  How cool.  I'm only BFFs with the Savior of the WORLD." 

We know what is coming next.  Jesus knew what was coming next.  The disciples seemed to be in a bit of denial about what was coming next.  But there is no denying Jesus is the best friend we'll ever have.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Christianity: Not A Sprint, But A Marathon

This morning I ran my first half marathon!  I couldn't help but remember a book I read by Greg Boyd (Letters From A Skeptic; it is absolutely fantastic) in which Boyd writes to his dad about an ultra marathon he ran.  He explains he feels closest to God when running, and jokes maybe that's because he's so close to death.  I'm certainly not comparing my measly 13 miles to his obscene number, but I kinda get what he's talking about.  It was fun in a torturous kind of way, I think I would do it again (someday).

Speaking of discomfort, how about those pieces of the Gospel where Jesus gives the disciples a run-down of the end of times?  Let me just say, it makes me squirm a little.  But why?  I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I know heaven is unfathomably amazing, but still.  Still, Jesus' description of the end of times bums me out, I avoid Revelation, and I just don't know what to do with the whole thing.  Wars, natural disasters, terror... I can't be the only one a bit nervous, right? Am I the only one? 

First things first, if it freaks me out, I clearly need to know more.  Knowledge is power, right?  Plus, I love how brutally honest Jesus is.  He doesn't want to sugarcoat things for us.  Nobody ever accused him of being a sugarcoater, I don't think.  But that's how we know we can also trust him when he leaves us with the comfort that , "...when these things begin to take place... your redemption is drawing near." (Luke 21:28)

As uncertain as I am about the end of times, I do know I'll be running just as fast as I can straight to Jesus when we "... see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory." (Luke 21:27)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I've Got To Hand It To Pinterest

Have you been enjoying everybody's "Thankful in November" statuses on Facebook?  I love reading them, especially later in the month when everyone has already been thankful for the biggies like family and health.  It's a wonderful time of the year!  Another thing I love about this time of year is.... Pinterest!  The holiday season makes me Pinzy! (Pinterest crazy.) 

While I was combing through some gorgeous and completely out of my crafty league holiday mantels, I came across this thing I pinned a while back.  It was originally pinned by Courtney (visit her blog- it's awesome! www.courtneydefeo.com).  Maybe you've seen it on Pinterest?  The idea is to trace your kids' hands and write a verse on each one that you want to pray over that child every day for a year (or a month, or whatever).  Here's how my version turned out:

They aren't as cute as the Pinterest version (hers were laminated, and I just don't see that happening in this house), but they'll do!  Here are the verses I chose for my girls:

Girl 1: And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests with this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people.  Ephesians 6:18 (NIV)

Girl 2: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Girl 3 (A bit shorter verse because she has the itty-bitty hands): Be always humble, gentle, and patient.  Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Ephesians 4:2 (Good News Translation)

Do you have specific verses you pray over your kids?  If so, let's hear it!

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Slew of Devos

Oo!  I feel like I hit the jackpot tonight, you guys!  I was reading my daily dose of Scripture (I'm still pounding away at it via my chronological reading plan on Biblegateway.com), when I noticed "Devotionals" on the sidebar.  I gave it a click and POW!  All the devos you could ever want!  There are devotionals for men, women, kids, couples, parents, leaders, etc. 

Do yourself a favor and give it a click!  Here's the link: http://www.biblegateway.com/devotionals/

I browsed the list and finally decided to subscribe to Quest Bible: "Answers to the tough questions you've always had about the Bible."  I guess I'm a little late to the party, some of this information probably would have been helpful as I labored through some of the Old Testament stuff, but better late than never, right?  Let me know which of the devotionals look most interesting to you! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Rich Guy

Let's hear it for Daylight Savings Time!  What did you do with your extra hour?  I'm not going to lie, I napped.   But only for a half hour, so I figure I'm still 30 minutes in the black!  In other exciting weekend news, Michigan State beat the University of Michigan yesterday!  My husband is a student at MSU, so these things are important to me now.  I have to say, I especially like buying cute MSU apparel.  And the winning is fun too!

The past few days, I've been reading the same few parables and stories in each book of the Gospel.  I just had to note the Rich and the Kingdom of God story.  This one used to make me so uncomfortable (actually, it still does.) but I caught a phrase this time in Mark's telling that I just adore.  A man is asking Jesus how he can "inherit eternal life."  Jesus explains he must keep the commandments; when the man says he has kept the commandments his whole life, "Jesus looked at him and loved him...."  (Mark 10:21)

He loved him!  I liken this to my baby trying to properly buckle her car seat.  She's so darling to try, and I love her ambition, but I just look at her lovingly, thinking, "Sweet girl.  You can't do this without me.  I love that you're trying, I always want you to try, but you'll never get it on your own!"  I hope this dear man didn't completely lose hope, I hope he kept doing his very best; but if everything went horribly downhill for the rest of his life, Jesus had looked at him and loved him.  And that was worth more than all the riches he could ever have.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Two By Two? Or Not!

Was Noah the first one out of the Ark?
No, he came fourth out of the ark

A little Friday funny for you!  Appropriate because yesterday my friend asked me how many of each animal Noah took with him on the ark.  When I was little the big trick was to ask, "How many commandments did God give Noah?" and of course the sneaky answer is ZERO because he gave the commandments to Moses.  Remembering this, I answered cautiously, "two?  Yes, two of each animal."  And I was wrong!  She pointed out Genesis 7:2-3.

Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one pair of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven pairs of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.

How did I miss that?!  There were actually fourteen of the clean animals!  It seems like I should know that.  I am both anxious and thrilled about this revelation.  What other obvious points am I missing?  Until yesterday I may have argued I knew "Noah's Ark" better than any other story in the Bible.  Wrong!  On the other hand?  How cool that the Bible is always the same, yet always different.  God just reveals fabulous little tidbits to us every now and then as He sees fit.  Brilliant.  So next year when we're reading the Bible who knows what we will glean?!  So much to look forward to!  No joke!