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Devotions

God Will Meet You Right Now as You Ready, Set, Pray!

Do you feel a million miles away from God right now? Well, let me ask you this: Have you ever invited Him into your heart? If not, it is impossible to be close to Him. Are you ready? Get set! And then pray! Tell Him you want to meet. Ask Him in.

For more information, read The Gospel in a Nutshell and feel free to ask any questions you have.

Once you’ve done that- even as you’re doing that- He will meet you where you are and NEVER leave you.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”

Hebrews 13:5b

Maybe you have already established a personal relationship with God but still feel distant and alone today. If so, there is hope! This is fixable.

While it is true that God will never leave us, we often turn our backs on Him. And once we’re facing in that opposite direction, we can move as far and as fast from Him as we will. Can you look back and recall small steps or long sprints you took which carried you away from Him?

He isn’t a dictator, and He doesn’t force our faithfulness. We are free to make our choices. But He is a loving Father, and He wants a relationship with us. All it takes to restore our closeness with Him is our repentance.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

1 John 1:9

No matter how far we’ve gotten, or how lost we feel, He knows exactly where we are. We just need to decide that we’re ready, set our hearts towards Him, and pray. He will meet us. He will walk with us as we face the natural consequences of the poor decisions we’ve made. I read this recently:

“One thing I love about God is, He’ll bring you out of situations that you got yourself into, and won’t hold it against you.”

TobyMac

Precious friend, if you’re feeling separation between you and God today, please know this:

No matter how far you have gotten, you’re only just a prayer away.

He will cover the distance and come to you. He will walk you back. If you want to erase the miles between you, let Him know. He’s not mad; He’s waiting. Moments from now, you could be enjoying sweet fellowship with your Creator again. Ready, Set, Pray!

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Reflections

God is not Afraid to Leave His House

I’m in quarantine because of a close exposure to COVID-19. I couldn’t go to church last weekend. I won’t make it next week either.

But you know who isn’t in quarantine? God. He is always free to leave His house. And He comes to meet me right where I am.

My friend, are you housebound? Are you confined by illness or fear or something else? Don’t despair! You are not alone.

God is not afraid to leave His house. He sees you and knows your needs. He is ready to visit. Will you invite Him in?

God meets us where we are: God is not Afraid to Leave His House
God is not afraid to leave His house to meet us in our need.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:20
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Recommendations Reflections

Slow Living – 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy

Happy day, my friends! How are you? I hear the birds chirping outside and I am feeling their excitement. I have found some new inspiration and it fits like an old glove. Are you familiar with slow living? It is a counter trend – counterintuitive, counterproductive, and countercultural.

All my life I have been romanced by busyness. Haven’t we all? And it has been a tease. Enough is never enough. It is time to turn and embrace slow living. I can’t wait to see what God shows me about elevating focus over frenzy. I have already identified 7 things I need to change. Does any of this resonate with you?

What is slow living and how can it elevate focus over frenzy?

In case you’re not familiar with the trend called slow living, let me introduce you to the concept. It is a movement which challenges the idea that busy equals successful or important. It elevates the ability to enjoy focused free time. It protests the frenzied lifestyle, and offers the stressed and depressed masses a healthier, more fulfilling way to live.

“Slow living refers to a lifestyle that encourages a slower approach to aspects of everyday life. It has been defined as movement or action at a relaxed or leisurely pace… However, slow living does not prevent the adoption of certain technologies such as mobile phones, Internet, and access to goods and services.”

Wikipedia

I have spent decades at lightening pace. Am I better for it? Are my husband, kids, or grandkids? I have done many things, worn many hats, and spun many plates, but have I done any of it really well?

Related post: How Many Hats Can You Fit on One Head Without Dropping Any?

I am drawn by this idea of slow living. It’s back-to-basics approach, utilizing the technology we have to free us instead of entangle us, makes sense to me. And I’ve always admired people who are naturally inclined this way.

Electronic calendar displayed on a tablet: Slow Living - 7 Ways to Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com
Slow living makes use of technology

Here are 7 endeavors I expect to improve with slow living.

Quiet time

Frenzy says just get it done. Multitask if possible. Busyness is next to godliness, right?

Focus says worship God. Get somewhere and get still. Learn from Him.

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’”

Psalm 46:10

My quiet time has been in dire need of an overhaul. This year, I’m giving it a slow living makeover. I ordered a new Bible, adopted a fresh system of recording praises and prayer requests, and committed to blocking the necessary time to go deep in communication with Jesus. He is my best friend, and I miss Him when I simply go through the motions and fail to really connect.

Related post: Why Would We Pray for Courage Over Comfort?

Meals

Frenzy says fast food! Drive through, take out, grab and go, eat on the run.

Focus says gather ’round. Plan, pick, purchase, and prepare whole foods. Nourish yourself and those around you.

To bring a slow living mentality to my mealtimes, I am going to sit down. I will converse with people or with God while I eat. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy. In fact, understated pleasures are often the best.

I read some advice that has worked well for me in the past. It was to think about each bite and visualize what was required to get it on the fork. What did God have to do? Sunshine and rain? What else? What did the farmers, ranchers, or truckers contribute? I want to be more mindful, thankful, and satisfied with even the simplest of meals.

People gathered around a table: Slow Living - 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
A longer linger to savor flavor and connection

Commuting

Frenzy says take the freeway! Honk and hurry, gotta scurry. It’s all about the destination.

Focus says slow down. Leave early and don’t worry. Enjoy the ride!

Slow living while I commute, means more scenic routes with more open windows and open roads. I want to give away the right-of-way and notice flowers in the median. I’d like to enjoy meaningful conversation, a good audio book, or uplifting music while I drive. The journey should be at least half the fun of going somewhere. I must plan accordingly!

Calendar

Frenzy says fill it up! Schedule to the minute. Keep movin’ and groovin’, makin’ and shakin’.

Focus says guard your time. Give God room. Be choosy, be discerning, and keep your calendar with care.

I want my slow living calendar to have wide berths. I’m tired of one unexpected task making me late for everything else all day. Much of my schedule is dictated by my job, but my free time is up to me. I am going to keep open time, in pen, on my calendar. I will use it to do things I want to do, to catch up on things I need to do, and to be available for what God asks me to do.

Workouts

Frenzy says I’m just too busy. Does running late burn calories?

Focus says your health is a priority. Raise your heartrate, lower your cortisol. Strive for balance – mind, muscle, and mission.

To attain slow living with my workouts, I must be intentional. I will not be cramming exercise into tiny open slots on my calendar. I want to strive for purposeful exercise using full range of motion. I will take time to breathe deeply and to stretch. I need to listen to my body. How many workouts have I hurriedly completed with no time left for a cool down? I feel those catching up with me already!

Mother and daughter stretching in the living room: Slow Living - 7 Ways To Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
Temple maintenance!
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” 1 Corinthians 6:19a

Spoken Words

Frenzy says talk fast. Be heard. Say what’s on your mind.

Focus says listen. Repeat what is said to be sure you understand. Pray about how to respond.

I can practice slow living all day long when it comes to my words because opportunities abound. I believe there is grace and wisdom in being the last to speak, and I want to embrace it. I have been convicted to speak fewer opinionated words and more truthful ones. I need to slow down and discern the difference.

My feelings are like a volcano. When they are triggered, words erupt. I need to keep my emotions in check and hold my tongue.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

James 1:19

Decisions

Frenzy says decide now. Go out on a limb, no time to waste. Grab the deal, make the trade, accept the offer.

Focus says take a deep breath. Don’t be pressured to make a quick decision.

I want to be characterized by slow living in my decision making. When I am faced with a decision, I want to sleep on it, pray about it, and seek wise counsel. I would rather miss an opportunity about which I was unsure, than to be stuck with one I despise because I made it in haste. The decisions I make affect everyone around me. I owe it to myself, and them, to take time to make careful and prayerful decisions.

Related post: Buy Buttons: How Understanding Them will Make and Save You Money

Time pieces of all kinds: Slow Living - 7 Ways to Elevate Focus Over Frenzy
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. Ecclesiastes 3:1

Well, there they are – 7 ways to embrace slow living and elevate focus over frenzy – in print and already making me feel accountable. Slow living mandates that space be built into each activity to ensure time to embrace, enjoy, and accomplish it well.

There will be a learning curve. I’m certain there will be days when nothing goes as planned. Some days will still be busy. And that is ok. Slow living is a practice, something to pursue.

I believe I can serve God better with this mindset, but I also give Him full editing priviledged over my schedule. My prayer is that He will make me more effective at loving Him, magnifying Him, and lovingly encouraging His people.

What do you think about slow living? Do you feel frenzied or focused in the lifestyle you lead? Are there obvious things in your schedule that you’d like to elevate above the others? Would you care to join me as I settle into slow living?

“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17
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Reflections

Why Would We Pray for Courage Over Comfort?

What have you asked of God today? Would you like trials and tests or are you hoping for smooth sailing? Does that seem like a dumb question? Why would we pray for courage over comfort?

One morning I asked my kids for some of their favorite Bible stories. They answered, “David and Goliath, Moses, and Esther”, among others. We discussed what made the lives of these people exciting and worth reading over and over again.

We noticed that these were regular human beings like us, but they were brave enough to face difficult tasks. And God showed up mightily every time. They did not cower from situations which invited the miraculous intervention of the ultimate hero.

Then we wondered why we so often pray for a ‘good day’, and for things to be ‘quick and easy’. Shouldn’t we pray instead for the courage to do hard things with Jesus? For what has He saved us? To spend smooth days in comfort, or to stand up and display His strength and power for the benefit of our faith and everyone else’s?

A person on the highest peak: Why would we pray for courage over comfort?
Photo by Roman Pohorecki on Pexels.com
Soli Deo Gloria – All for God’s Glory!

Are we spectators – fans of God’s glorious work? Or are we in the game – leaving it all on the field for His glory? What would be different if David, Moses, and Esther did not embrace their trials and tests, but pursued smooth and simple things instead?

How will we pray differently this year? Will it be the same ole’ “God bless me”, or will it be “God use me?” Will we ask for epic, or plead for easy? Why wouldn’t we pray for courage over comfort?

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

1 Peter 1:6, 7
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Reflections

My New Year’s Handle Verse is One to Hold On To for 2022

It was before dawn, Friday morning, New Year’s Eve. All was quiet around me, but not inside me. I sat in the dark, thinking about what has transpired in 2021 and feeling off balance, heading into 2022.

My habit is to consume a bottle of water first thing in the morning, and I often browse WordPress Reader while I drink it. I follow Cindy Dawson’s blog, on which she posts a ‘verse of the day’. That day, December 31, it was as if God had her share one just for me. The words sunk deep into my soul and the tears flowed as I felt my equilibrium return.

The text of Luke 1:45 against the background of trees and the ocean.
My handle verse:
one to hold on to for 2022

I have been holding tight to some specific promises God made. I have been repeating them and defending them and believing them, even though they seem further from being fulfilled now than they did when God made them. I think I was growing weary. I was yearning for the moment when I would see the reward of my fervent belief. And this verse clearly states that I am already blessed, simply because I believe.

I know the Bible is full of verses to ‘mankind’ which apply to women equally. But when I come across one that uses female pronouns, it really hits home. I clicked over to my Bible app and looked up the verse in context. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist was talking to her cousin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus.

“Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’”

Luke 1:40b-45

I read it twice and I ‘heard’ a voice in my spirit say, “This is your handle verse”. “My handle verse? What does that mean?”, I challenged. The answer came immediately, “It is one to hold on to.”

I don’t know what 2022 will bring but God does. I don’t know if He will answer my questions or resolve my concerns. But I do know He wants me to rest in the knowledge that I am blessed for simply believing that He will do what He has said He will do. With that, I can be at peace.

I made a new lock screen photo for my phone. In case anyone else feels like this is a handle verse they want to hold on to for 2022, here it is in the format that works with my device. Maybe it will fit for yours too.

My New Years handle verse - one to hold on to for 2022
Handle verse for phone wallpaper

Do you have a handle verse? If not, I encourage you to pray for one. Of course, the entire Word of God is of utmost value, and I hope you will find yourself deeply immersed in it this year.

God was faithful to give me a New Year’s handle verse – one I will hold on to for 2022. Nothing which has happened or is happening, in my life or in the world, changes what God said. He knew all of it when He made the promises He did. There is blessing in simply taking Him at His Word!

“Standing on the promises I cannot fall,

listening every moment to the Spirit’s call,

resting in my Savior as my all in all,

standing on the promises of God.”

A stanza from the hymn “Standing on the Promises”, written by Russell Kelso Carter in 1886.

I own the photos in this post. I give you permission to use them, if you like, and would appreciate a link back if you do. Also, please visit Cindy Dawson’s Real Christian Women blog and follow her, if you don’t already. I think you’ll be glad you did, I know I certainly am!

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Brownies Fit for a Black-Tie Affair

How are you feeling about the coming New Year? I find myself looking forward to it with more exuberance than usual. I don’t expect much to change with the tick of a clock at midnight, but I anticipate a new beginning – one that I intend to face with more realistic expectations than I did last year. I’d like to set myself up for 2022 according to some advice that I often give.

If you expect very little, you’re unlikely to be disappointed, but perfectly poised to be pleasantly surprised.

Mama Lava

And speaking of pleasant surprises, I have a recipe to share. It is one which upscales box brownies to a level fit for a black-tie affair. And you won’t believe how simple it is!

Fresh from the oven: A brownie fit for a black tie affair
Brownies fit for a black-tie affair, fresh from the oven

How are you going to ring in the New Year? Are you the type who enjoys fancy clothes and exclusive celebrations? Or do you prefer an intimate gathering of friends for your countdown? Maybe you’re like me and you enjoy sleeping through the whole thing so you can enter January 1st well-rested and ready to roll.

Whether the black-tie affair you attend is real, or in your dreams, this brownie recipe will fit right in. But first, let me tell you the short story that goes along with it.

You are already acquainted with my friend, Brooke. If you are not, you can find the humbling tale of how we met here. She introduced me to the incredible quiche recipe which has become a tradition in our house, and is sure to become a favorite in some of yours as well.

Brooke is amazing. She loves extravagantly and entertains with her heart. She does everything top-notch. It is just who she is.

One day, as I was scrolling social media, I came across one of her posts, announcing an event she was preparing to facilitate at a renowned location. She described the menu she had planned, and I saw my name near the bottom. It said “Also, the famous Brownie/York Pattie dessert, thanks to a recipe from my sweet friend, Mama Lava. She gave me the recipe many years ago and it’s a cherished favorite.” (Quote almost verbatim.)

Brownie cut so that mint layer is visible: Brownies fit for a black tie affair!
Brownies fit for a black-tie affair!

You know what? I had all but forgotten that I’d shared the recipe with her. I had tried to put it out of my mind, I think, because I’d been embarrassed about it. I recalled the fiasco.

I had made the brownies for a cookie exchange. (If you’re not familiar with cookie exchanges, I described one in this post.) These brownies are terrific on their own, but they were a terrible choice for the exchange. When they were plated with other goodies, their strong flavor tainted everything and ruined the more subtle flavors of the delicacies around them. I was dismayed that my dessert overpowered the hard work Brooke and our friends had put into their baked goods.

I was blessed to read that God had made a favorite out of what I had considered a failure. I was thankful for the surprise that Brooke had been enjoying my recipe through the years. It felt like reciprocation for her quiche recipe that I appreciate so much. It was just like God to be so merciful with my mess and prove to me that He is good, even when I goof!

Brooke was right about the recipe being fit for her black-tie affair. These brownies are meant to stand out and be noticed. They are sleek and decadent. And while they are impressive, they are also quick and easy to make.

Whether your New Year’s Eve plans are extravagant in actuality, or just in your imagination, these brownies will fit right in! Here is the recipe.

Brownies Fit for a Black-Tie Affair

The Ingredients

York Peppermint Patty bag: A brownie fit for a black tie affair
Bite-sized York Peppermint patties

The Instructions

  1. Preheat oven and make brownie batter according to box instructions.
  2. Pour half of the batter in your pan. (Use whatever size pan is called for on the brownie box. The most common sizes are 8×8 or 9×13-inch pans.)
  3. Unwrap York patties and place on batter, spaced evenly.
  4. Cover with remaining brownie batter.
  5. Bake according to box instructions.
  6. Let cool completely before slicing.
Covering the mints with batter: Brownies fit for a black tie affairBrownies fit for a black tie affair!
Place mints evenly atop first half of brownie batter and cover with second half of batter

The Notes

  • When you cut your cooled brownies, you can slice through the mints to show them off, or you can slice through the brownie and let the mint be a surprise in the center. If you plan the size and preferred presentation of your brownies, you will be able to intentionally place the peppermint patties to accommodate your desired result.
  • You can also use Jr. Mints and make brownie bites.
  • If you prefer a double thick brownie, use two boxes. In the photos, I’ve used only 1.
  • Pro-tip: Did you know that cutting cooled brownies with a plastic knife prevents tearing?
Topped with ice cream and sliced for a peek inside: Brownies fit for a black tie affair
I chose to serve the brownies with the mints hidden, but I sliced mine open so you could get a peek.

I served these after our town’s Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony a few weeks ago. I topped them with vanilla bean ice cream and a candy cane, but I was wishing I had pink peppermint ice cream. Mint chip works well too. And honestly, ice cream is not required! These brownies are incredibly flavorful on their own. They are decadent and delicious, and nobody will believe how little work you had to put in. I won’t tell if you won’t!

I adore chocolate and mint together. York patties are one of my favorite treats. Adding the brownie around it is just fabulous. This recipe elevates any occasion and, at least for one blissful moment, turns it into a black-tie affair. What event on your calendar could you upscale with a pan of these peppermint brownies?