Spiritual Sunday: Building a Strong Foundation

If you’re a Christian, you’re likely to be familiar with this scripture:

I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins. -Luke 6:47-49

For a long time, I was the latter of these two types of people. Though I had heard of God’s will, I still chose to build my life based on one idea of this world or another. Sometimes I built my house based on an intimate relationship, putting my significant other at the center of my world. Or maybe I built it around my friends, focusing on being the kind of person I thought would fit in with others. Other times I’ve built it on personal desires: to get ahead financially, to live longer, and yes, to have a family.

And yet so many times, my house has collapsed to ruins. When we build up our house around our spouse or our children, for example, not only are we putting the weight of our world on their shoulders, but if something happens to them–sickness, death, divorce–what happens to our home? It shakes, cracks, and crumbles to pieces. Our hearts become homeless.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of building and rebuilding my house, time and again, just to watch it fall to pieces. So several months ago, I started building my home on a solid foundation. This time, I’m building it around God and the one whom he sent to us, Jesus Christ. Through reading the Bible and prayer, I’m creating a stronger relationship with God on which I can build my home. For with God as my foundation, my home will never fall. Even if the world around me crumbles to ruin, my house will stand firm.

Keep in mind that Satan is the “floodwaters,” and that he won’t make it easy. But it will be worth it.

I hope that you will join in me in making your foundation deep and solid on God’s word.

Thanks for reading today.

Spiritual Sunday: An Interview with “Be An Acorn”

I am so excited for today’s edition of Spiritual Sunday. I did an interview Friday evening via Facebook chat with a friend of mine, the blogger behind Be An Acorn. The thoughts and stories that he shared with me are jaw-dropping, humbling, and inspirational. And he gives all the credit to God, whom he is truly walking closely with through his journey. You’ll see what I mean… Enjoy!

Interview with Courtney from “Be An Acorn:”

Laura @ Close Families: So what first inspired you to write your blog, “Be An Acorn?”

Courtney @ Be An Acorn: I suppose I’ve always been a writer and after my encounter with God, where the blog name came from, I almost couldn’t NOT do it. I’d been blogging for awhile at the time and it was really just a natural marriage of two desires: writing and teaching via life experiences.

Laura: Yes, that seems like a good fit! When you say, “my encounter with God,” when would you say that happened in your life?

Courtney: 

Wow. It feels so long ago. I think it was about 2007. I’d been a believer, sincerely, since about ’01, but while in the woods, alone, I’d been praying, really yelling in frustration, to God, when he verbally answered me. I heard as clear as if you had spoken to me “be an acorn.”

So by ‘encounter’ I really mean encounter, not simply ‘getting saved.’

Laura: Wow! That is amazing. Amazing doesn’t even scratch the surface of what that must have felt like to experience that. And how did you know what he meant by that phrase, “be an acorn?”

Courtney: I didn’t. Not initially. I was in a complete state of shock and disbelief. I spent days, maybe weeks, arguing with myself whether I’d really heard the voice of God or just made it up in my head. Eventually, after prayer and pondering, I realized it meant that great things start out small and to be the beginning of something great. Jesus uses seeds in so many of his parables.

Laura: And an acorn is a small seed compared to the great oak it will one day become. So since that moment, since you took those first steps toward something great, what have you learned through Be An Acorn… through the writing and teaching?

Courtney: That’s a great question.

Laura: Thanks. 🙂

Courtney: 

It seems like I’ve learned on every topic. I’ve learned about soil, that what I’m planted in, what I’m surrounded with is incredibly important. Translated that means what environments and people I surround myself with.

I’ve learned that on my own I can accomplish nothing, but only by working with God in the way he designed me will I grow and prosper. When a seed is planted, it must actually be broken, it must die, before life can spring forth. I had to learn to die.

Laura: That’s a powerful statement. And humbling?

Courtney: 

Very much so. Being broken hurts. Dying…I wouldn’t say it hurts, but I would say it can be quite terrifying at times.

It is the ultimate test of our faith, if what we have hoped for will be seen.

Laura: And if someone wants to hear God’s calling for their own life… how do you suggest they start?

Courtney: Well, God communicates in a number of ways, but we know that Jesus sent the Counselor to guide us. The Holy Spirit is a communicator for God. As it says in Acts, to be baptised in Holy Spirit, is that first step. Just like communicating with anyone, gotta open up the line first. So, just ask that he speak to you, welcome him. Ask for it. Ask God that he reveal the purpose he has for you and then be ready for change and challenges. 🙂

Laura: I’m sure being ready for it is key too! “Be careful what you wish for,” so to speak? No doubt, God has great things in store for us all, but I’m sure you’ve had challenges in this journey you’re on… Care to share a challenge you’ve had to face recently?

Courtney: lol. Which one?

Laura: Any old one you choose!!

Courtney: 

How about learning to totally rely on God for provision. For over 16 months I have not had a “safe and predictable” income, yet somehow EVERY, SINGLE, month I’ve paid my bills.

He will take away everything you lean on, that isn’t of Him, until He is the only possible solution left. And He does this to get us to realize that He’s the only thing we need in the first place.

Laura: When you’re in that kind of situation, I’m sure prayer is the main thing that gets you through… What are some of your favorite inspirational Bible verses to help as well?

Courtney: It’s more than prayer, it’s more than us talking TO God, it’s hearing Him back. What got me through, and continues to, is hearing from Him and fellowship, more than it’s simply me speaking to Him. I don’t always know the numbers, but in 2Tim, it says “For I do not have plans to harm you, but plans to grow you and prosper you.”

“And if God is for us, who could stand against us?”

Lastly, of course Luke 8:15 “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Laura: And I love your insight on prayer as more of a two-way conversation. I think that’s what they mean when they talk about having a “relationship” with God.

Courtney: Absolutely! If any believer has not heard or sensed to a great degree, the voice of God, I beg you, I urge you to seek until you find. The encounters the prophets and apostles of scripture had weren’t only for them, they’re for us too!

Laura: Awesome. Before we wrap this up, I know that Hope Soap is another project that you are involved in and excited about. Tell me about Hope Soap, and how you got involved in it.

Courtney: I got into a conversation with a young woman by the name of Jennifer Preston at my local coffee shop. She told me about a non-profit she had started; Send Some Love. She builds baskets filled with toothbrushes, teddy bears, stuff like that and sends them to rescued victims of human trafficking.

She shared with me the financial challenges non-profits have. I wanted to help so I did some praying and brainstorming and came up/was given the idea of soap. I would sell soap and use part of the profits to put spa quality soap in her baskets and raise funds for her mission.

Now, we’ve grown beyond just the needs of her organization. We’re in several retail stores across our city and just received our first investment from an online retailer who’ll soon be selling our product to the entire world!

Laura: That’s awesome news!! Tell me a little bit about human trafficking and why it’s so important to support those victims. Does it happen here in the USA?

Courtney: 

Human trafficking is one of the largest global crimes right now. It has surpassed arms trading and if not curbed soon, it will surpass the global drug trade, becoming the number 1 crime in the entire world.

It’s an over 2 billion dollar industry. The average age of someone being abducted into human labor and/or sex trafficking is only 12 years old. It’s more prevalent in Europe, but it most definitely is happening here in US too. You can safely presume that every major city has human trafficking happening.

Laura: So how can we help?

Courtney: 

When you dig deeper you find it’s not just evil people doing evil things, but rather desperate people doing desperate things. Quite often it’s an effect from poverty.

Buy do-gooding soaps! And in addition, get involved with organizations like Endit! the A21 Campaign and/or local groups fighting it. Easily found by Googling.

But let me say one more. This comes down to the basic laws of economics; supply and demand. If we can decrease demand for this, it won’t matter if we can catch the criminals or not because they won’t want to do it if there’s no money in it. That translates to not going to strip clubs and no viewing pornography. I don’t know real numbers, but if church going people could stop those two things it would kill human trafficking. So, the solution is always the same: Love. Love God and love each other.

Laura: I think those are great thoughts to end on, Courtney. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with me. Any last words for the readers?

Courtney: Hmm. Everything changes when you realize that you are indeed here for a reason, that you have a destiny. With that in mind, I say Be An Acorn.

THANK YOU again, Courtney, for joining us at Close Families to share this awesome, inspiring, and humbling interview. To learn how you can help the victims of human trafficking, just click the button below to check out Hope Soap. I’m also going to leave the button on my sidebar so that you can have easy access to the project’s website anytime! I’ve used the soaps and they are AMAZING. Seriously, my home smelled good for days just from opening the box!! 🙂 If you have any questions for Courtney, contact him at Be An Acorn. Don’t forget to follow Be An Acorn to keep up with Courtney’s  journey, or like the Be An Acorn page on Facebook by clicking here!

Hope Soap Button

Thanks for reading today, friends!


Spiritual Sunday: Is God Searching for You?

I absolutely love this verse:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.

-2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)

In this section of 2 Chronicles, we learn that King Asa had stopped being loyal to God. He started looking for help elsewhere. He became stubborn and turned away from God, and so God turned from him. Even when he became ill, he sought doctors for healing instead of God.

And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.
So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign.
-2 Chronicles 16:12-13
I know there are many times in my life where I have thought I had the answers. Or if I didn’t, I could find the answers myself. I’d Google it. I am smart and capable, I told myself. I still like to believe I am both of those things, but the key to real knowledge is wisdom. And the Bible has much to say about being wise.
Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it.
-Proverbs 8:33 (NIV)
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
-Proverbs 3:7 (NIV)
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.
Isaiah 5:21 (NIV)
God wants us to be wise, but he doesn’t mean we need to know it all. It’s quite the opposite. God wants us to rely on him and his word for the answers to our struggles.
Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time, and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied upon the Lord God of their fathers.
-2 Chronicles 13:18 (KJV)
And as for King Asa, well…
And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him,
Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the Lord thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand.
-2 Chronicles 16:7 (KJV)
Now when we look back at that first quote I mentioned, 2 Chronicles 16:9, it begins to make sense. God is searching the earth, looking it over carefully, for those who choose to rely on him. Those are his people. Those are the wise ones. He cares about and loves each one of us, but he will “show himself strong” to “those whose heart is loyal to Him.” Think of it this way, which kind of person would you be more inclined to help, someone who tells you “I’ve got this! I can do it on my own.” or someone who says, “I can’t do it without you.”
If you are willing, say a quick prayer with me:
God, help me to humble my heart so that I can be wise to rely on you in all things.
Thanks for reading today. Feel free to share a way God has touched your heart this week in the comments below.

Spiritual Sunday: A New Path

2012 will come to a close tomorrow. 2013 is just a couple of sunrises away. While the change from one year to the next is brief and abrupt–just one second in the passing of time–each year, it’s such an anticipated moment. When Christmas has ended, we tend to look back on the rest of the year and reflect. We critique ourselves:

  • What did I do right?
  • Where did I go wrong?
  • How can I improve?

After some reflection, we come up with a list of resolutions for the impending new year:

  • Exercise more.
  • Eat healthier.
  • Have more patience.
  • Make time to relax.
  • Get organized.
  • Blog consistently.

The repetitiveness of this New Year’s tradition says something about it’s effectiveness: it’s not effective. Ask any true gym rat (my mom!) and they will tell you how annoying it is at the beginning of January when unfamiliar faces start pouring in. They take over the aerobics classes and occupy the machines until maybe mid-February, and then the crowd starts to dwindle. By March, the gym is left with the same faithful members that were there the year before. The commercials and advertisements shout to you this time of year: Match.com, Nutri-system, Weight Watchers, etc. They prod you onto a path of finding a better you.

I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t make resolutions. That we shouldn’t strive to better ourselves. I’m questioning the method. If this is your fifth year in a row of making a resolution to exercise more, there must be a reason that it’s not sticking with you. Some might argue that it’s simply a matter of willpower. That’s a possibility. But there could be something else holding you back.

Your mind.

Unless your mind is already on the path to a better you, your body will not follow. If your mind is telling you at the end of the year that you’re not good enough, that you need to make changes to yourself, then your mind is not in a good place. It’s going to convince your body to stop all efforts, and it will succeed. The repetitiveness of our New Year’s resolutions tells us that.

How do you break the cycle?

With faith.

When I was struggling with post-partum depression, I tried getting myself organized. I tried exercising. I tried eating better. But my mind wasn’t in the right place. It didn’t stick. And then I started reading the Bible. I started praying. I started listening to what God had to say instead of what the world had to say. And among the many wonderful things that He told me was this:

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.

But with God everything is possible.” -Matthew 19:26 (NLT)

The path I needed to find for a better life wasn’t through my own critique of what was wrong with my life, but through seeking God’s purpose for me. It wasn’t a gym membership or a new diet plan, but taking in more spiritual food. The more I come to know God and to follow the path that He has set for me, the more everything else falls into place.

I’m exercising more.

I’m eating healthier.

I’m feeling more confident.

I’m more organized.

And most importantly, I’m following God’s path for my life, because that path has a promise of something greater beyond this life:

This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you,

the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ. -John 17:3 (NWT)

Finding your spiritual path to God is not the easy path. It’s not a quick fix. But for me, it’s the only one that lasts.

I need no resolutions this year, but to continue getting to know God. Once our minds are set on following His path, all of our other needs will fall into place.

May God bless your life and your family this New Year!


Spiritual Sunday: God’s Word is Penetrating

There is a very powerful statement written by Paul, found in Hebrews 4:12, and it goes like this:

For the word of God is living and active.

Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

I often come up with my own ideas about my life. I think I know who I am, how I feel, and what I should be doing. But when I read the Bible, sometimes I feel my life start to shift. Something inside of me will stir, and it awakens part of me that I didn’t know existed. This verse in Hebrews helps me understand why that happens. When I let God’s word inside my heart, it is penetrating. It gets inside of me, pierces my heart, and makes a place for itself. How I react to the word of God says a lot about my true thoughts and intentions.

One example of this is who I am as a wife and a mother. When I began my new chapter as a stay-at-home mom, I felt like I had lost some of my purpose in life. I had this picture in my head that a successful woman should have it all: family and a career. I had both for several years, and it was hard for me to find purpose in being just a housewife. And then I came across Proverbs 31:10-31 and read how God’s word describes a “wife of noble character.” The way God sees a wife is as someone “worth far more than rubies.” This kind of wife is “clothed in strength and dignity” and “She speaks with wisdom” and “She watches over the affairs of her household.” This kind of wife does the cleaning, the cooking, and makes certain that her family is taken care of, and she does it all with with confidence. This sister owns her position! She sees her role as important, because God sees it as important. In fact, the passage ends with this verse:

Give her the reward she has earned,

and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Those words penetrated me. The word of God 1) made me realize how little I was valuing my role as a wife and mother and 2) made me take charge of those roles and really own them the way God intended me to. Working or not, my place in our household has a very significant value.

How does God’s word penetrate your heart? Feel free to leave a comment or a link to your own post for anything that’s moved you in a spiritual way this week.

Have a happy Sunday, friends!


Spiritual Sunday: If It Moves You, Share It.

I have always believed in God and in the Bible, but I haven’t always felt close to God. I know that for me, it’s always been easier in hard times to turn to God than it has been when things are going well. Until recently, God was like a distant relative that I only spoke to when something came up worth mentioning. AKA, when I needed his help. “Oh, hey God, did you hear what happened to me? What should I do about it?” Nobody truly benefits from that kind of relationship. Just like my relationship with my spouse and children, my spiritual relationship takes time to develop. It takes effort. It takes reading the Bible and prayer. The Bible tells us that our spiritual relationship is a two-way street:

Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. -James 4:8

I’m not to a place yet where I am satisfied with my relationship with God, but I’m working on it. I’m reading the Bible (almost) every day. I am praying more often. I’m putting forth the effort. But I have a long way to go.

One of the verses that stuck out at me this week was from the Psalms. It spoke to me in a way that moved me, and a little voice somewhere inside me said to share it with you:

I have told all your people about your justice.

I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O Lord, well know.

I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;

I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.

I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness. –Psalms 40:9-10

I’m not a preacher.

I’m not a Bible scholar.

I’m just a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a believer in God and his word, and a writer. I want to share the things that move me. I would love to hear stories, scriptures, or thoughts that have moved you throughout the week too. No matter your religious preference or beliefs. Anything spiritual goes.

If something has moved you this week, feel free to leave a comment or a link to your own post and share it with us.

Thanks for reading today.