Category Archives: Encouragement

To come alongside another.

Book Review: In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

Do you have a lion you’re facing, that project looming larger than life? What about a fear you just can’t tackle? In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day will help you stare down your obstacle with a bravery you just didn’t know was possible. And, yes, it is that good. Mark Batterson has lassoed a beast many of us face, as we seek the courage to dream big dreams with God.

Mark Batterson is the author of a dozen books, including The Circle Maker, and the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. His innovative look at the definition of success will cause you to rethink your view of God’s work in your life.
I promise this book will make you stop in your tracks. Batterson says when we fail to step out of our comfort zones, we rob God of the glory He wants to showcase in our lives. When there is no problem to be overcome, there will be no miracle experienced, because we’re not fully relying on the Lord to do the unexpected. He says we’re called to chase opportunities and take risks for God’s best.
Are there any irrational fears and misconceptions that keep you from God’s best for your life? It’s time to reframe them.
Are there difficult circumstances you’re asking God to get you out of? It’s time to ask Him what He wants you to get out of them.
Is uncertainty rocking your faith? It’s time for your faith to embrace uncertainty. Batterson contends risk taking is at the heart of righteousness.
I chose to read this book because of the tagline: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars. Are there times when you feel like me, an opportunity is scarier than the potential? This book helps with that! Batterson provides tips to develop the skills needed for the path. Get your own copy today and go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention!
Sally
FTC disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”

Book Review: Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering

Sure Mercies

40 stories. 40 witnesses for the work of God through Christ. Sure Mercies: Hope for the Suffering highlights figures from the pages of history as well as present-day martyrs. Why is this an important book? When you’re hurting, it is a lonely place to be. Suffering feels isolated. The testimonies of others who suffered help us to see we’re not alone. They were victorious through God’s strength and we can be, too.

I started in the back with the Study Guide, and immediately liked Megan Vance’s style of writing. Her voice is easy on the ear, yet polished and carries depth of character. She describes Sure Mercies from the viewpoint of a hurting girl who connected with the cries of a hurting boy in the book of Psalms. She says David didn’t just memorize the Scriptures as a religious exercise, “he believed what they told him about Jehovah.”

And so this work continues to unfold accounts of those who believed God at His word, and stood for Him in unthinkable circumstances. William Borden gave up his family wealth to pursue missions among the Muslims of China. He died of meningitis. Corrie ten Boom came from Dutch descent and suffered in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp. Richard Wurmbrand spent years in solitary confinement in Communist prisons. Nate Saint and his friends were murdered deep in the jungle of Ecuador by Auca Indians. Yet, in all of these lives, and more, they resolved to follow Christ knowing a life spared would not be worth a witness sacrificed.

Sure Mercies is a compilation of short stories that are tall on inspiration. They tell the back story of those who are part of “God’s chain of grace” extended across time. And they bring hope! Ever wonder if you would be resolute under trial? Megan prays, “Lord, we need not fear our own inadequacy, but only behold Your Son and His finished work. Thank You that He works as we merely yield our lives to Him.”

The Meditation Prayers lead us to remember our future is not our own. The faithful testimony of those within these pages will encourage us to remain steadfast in difficult times. And, as she remarks about Gracie Parker Rosenberger, “Watching Gracie, it’s easier to believe impossibilities can create abundant possibilities.”

Bravo to Megan Vance on a thoroughly researched, well recorded progression of God’s Message over the ages. It is a timely dose of encouragement for us all!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Almost Home

On our return from Africa, our Mission Team flew into Toronto for the last leg of driving home to Jamestown, just south of Buffalo. The 17 hours of flight had only served to make us more homesick, as we longed for sweet sleep in our own beds.

Finally, with luggage gathered, tired bodies accounted for and vans retrieved, we settled in for the three hour drive home.

As we approached the Canadian/US Border, we noticed traffic slowing. And then it came to a standstill. We could see the flags of our own country, but could not advance to it.

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In these tumultuous days, we’re watching the effects of sin take a toll on our planet. War, hatred, abuse, the sex trade, people hungry for power, poverty, drought and all sorts of evil in between. And it makes us long for our Heavenly Home. Jesus said we would face trouble. But He also promised His presence would comfort and guide us. This is the time to stand firm and pray. When you hear the news, pray. When you see bad things happen, pray. And when you think you can’t take any more, pray.

Answers in Genesis opened their replica of Noah’s Ark on July 7. One of the first visitors was Bill Nye, who claimed children are being brainwashed. As I scrolled the comments of his supporters, I couldn’t believe the bashing toward Ken Ham (who happens to have the same name as one of Noah’s sons) and his Ark. And I wondered if that was just an inkling of the mocking Noah endured in his day. We are not home yet.

Our Heavenly Home is just over the horizon and our King is on His Return Trip. Stand firm; we’re almost Home.

What helps you stand firm? Leave a comment in the link just under the title, and I’ll send you 6 Tips for Talking to God.

Sally

We are not home yet

Teardrop

“What is home?”

Our class had a variety of answers; places remembered from the past, or an ideal set apart for our families.  But all I could think about was a feeling.  “You know that feeling you get on Christmas Eve?  When everyone’s in bed, asleep, and everything’s done that can possibly be done?  All that’s needed at that moment is to reflect on The Day to come, and gaze at the lights on the tree.”

That’s my picture of “home.”

Anne Graham Lotz talks about our heavenly home in The Vision of His Glory.  She says the glassy streets of gold will reflect God’s glory with every step that we take.  We will not only have access to the Presence of God (as the Israelites experienced through the priest entering the Tabernacle), but we’ll live in the Presence of God.

No, we are not home yet.  But Jesus is preparing it with painstaking detail, just like a mom would get ready for her college student to come home on break.  Anne reminds us that favorite meals would be prepared, activities planned and phone calls made saying, “My daughter is coming home!”

I can’t wait for my heavenly home!

Sally

Originally published at Sally’s Words

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Praying woman hands
Praying woman hands

Ever feel so helpless that you can think of nothing else to do to help a situation, except to pray? I’m task-oriented, and that means a task gives me purpose. But, what if my greatest purpose is to pray? Prayer is hard work. It is a discipline that harnesses the mind and will and channels it to seek God’s will. So, instead of prayer being the last resort, it becomes my first choice.

Scripture is a great tool for prayer. It mobilizes and empowers prayers. For example, which prayers are more effective?
A. “Lord, bless Nate today.”
B. “Lord, enable Nate to know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
A. “Lord, be with Kenzie today.”
B. “Lord, may Kenzie know the truth of Your Word today and be reminded that You will never leave her or forsake her.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
A. “Lord, protect Anna today.”
B. “Lord, may Anna find refuge in You today. Carry her safely in Your everlasting arms. Destroy any evil intended for her.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
In every A example, I am asking good things for my family. But the B examples help me to feel I’ve really been specific and gone to bat for them. One of the places I learned to be very specific in prayer was through Moms In Prayer, International. Moms In Prayer organizes moms to pray for their children and schools. And they have equipped countless families to build a strong foundation in God’s Word. It helped ours through some tough times, as well. Check out their website for more prayer tips.
As author, Mary DeMuth prompts, May I pray for you today?
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a) Amen.             In the comments section (located under the title), tell me what Scripture you will use to infuse your prayers today!
Sally


The Tweet-able Bible

Bible memory

Do you have a difficult time memorizing passages? I can work and work on committing a verse to memory, then go completely blank when it comes time to recall it. But I’ve found a 5 Step Method that helps me.

It’s easier to remember the context of a verse when you boil it down to the foundation. And that’s what happens when you tweet the text. Twitter allows 140 characters, your take on the passage is condensed to fit, and voila! You’ve got a Bible passage that’s planted in your heart and mind because you’ve taken it apart and applied it.

Here are some of my favorites:

True worship = total surrender. Romans 12:1-2

There is no flaw in God’s Word! Psalm 18:30

Am I once muddy, always muddy? No! I am washed, set apart & proven right in God’s sight! 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

And this, from a sermon my Hubby preached:

The 5 Step Method:

  1. Take the subject and verb, look for the affect they have on the topic.             God’s kindness leads us toward repentance. Romans 2:4
  2. Is there a cause & effect? Highlight that.                                                               When I put God first, He takes care of the rest. Matthew 6:33
  3. Can you bring out a formula?                                                                           Godliness + contentment = great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
  4. Look for lists, characteristics or benefits.                                                              Sound judgment & discernment = life, safety, stability, lack of fear & sweet rest. Proverbs 3:21-24
  5. Is there a command, instruction or promise?                                                         Speak up! Proverbs 31:8-9

When a verse speaks to your heart, it becomes a beacon to a great truth the Lord wants to spotlight. Your task in tweeting it, is not to rewrite the verse, but to whet the appetite of your readers so they will want to read it for themselves. Add a link to the verse so it is easily accessible. I like www.biblegateway.com; others use www.bible.com. Have fun with it; it will bring light to your time with God in a refreshing way!

O Father, draw me! John 6:44

Sally @SallyJFerguson

Originally published at sallyswords


Bible Study Expo

Check out the Bible Study Expo on Thursday, August 20, featuring 12 authors:

– Liz Curtis Higgs with “It’s Good to be Queen”

– Pam Farrel with “7 Simples Skills for Every Woman”

– Sara Hagerty with “Every Bitter Thing”

– Kimberly Sowell with “The Thin Red Line Series”

– Danette Crawford with “Total Turnaround”

– Sheryl Pellatiro with “Fearless Faith”

– Stephanie Olson with “Jesus is Passing By”

– Mindy Ferguson with “Moses”

– Jessie Seneca with “Joseph”

– Kathy Howard with “Embraced by Holiness”

– Carey Scott with “Untangled”

– Marnie Swedberg with “Flow Through Vessel”

The Expo is 100% free and online, catch it while it happens, or come back to dig in later. I have found this exercise to be very helpful in picking out resources for our study groups, as well as for networking.

How about you? Are you looking for your next study for Fall?

Sally


Book Review: Your Family in Pictures

Your Family in Pictures

Me Ra Koh has successfully documented a way to equip moms to capture timeless moments. Photography was a catalyst for healing in her own life, and she advocates it as a way to empower women as they carry camera in hand. Me Ra says, “To impact a mom’s life is to impact the whole family.” (p. ix)

Not only does Me Ra Koh bring in tips for setting up photo ops with active kids, she cultivates family connections. She says to avoid a photo pose, (“Refuse to say cheese.”) and instead, look for a moment to capture. Her examples are so personal and practical, the reader takeaway is immediate. The author answers the question of “What’s in it for me?” with tips for individual shots, lighting recipes and aperture settings. Me Ra Koh gives hands-on advice for setting up a photo and locking in the emotion of the moment.

As a writing mom, I appreciate the journaling prompts provided. They jumpstart memories that later translate into scrapbooking slogans, adding to the legacy of that family moment captured in time. Koh also spins a tale, as in capturing the magic of bedtime: “…day’s adventures finally come to an end and dreaming begins.” (p. 46)

Wonderful book. Visually appealing. And great life applications found within!

Sally

 Disclaimer: “I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”
Get your own copy!

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Book Review: The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace

Stress Cure

Do you think The Stress Cure: Praying Your Way to Personal Peace might be an unrealistic premise? Anytime you use a hook and promise a “cure,” you set the bar high. Can Shepherd deliver?

Linda Evans Shepherd “is the author of over thirty books, including How to Pray through Hard Times (which won the 2012 Selah Christian Life Award), Experiencing God’s Presence, When You Don’t Know What to Pray, and When You Need a Miracle (which won the 2013 Selah Christian Life Award).” But her qualifications are born in the school of suffering, where she struggled with the questions of life’s fairness in her eighteen-month-old daughter’s injurious car accident.

There are gems sprinkled throughout the book:

“Building a bridge to peace involves gaining a better understanding of God and the tools he’s given us, which include prayer and God’s Word.” (p. 15)

“Having (God’s) Spirit inside us doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to yield to him. And this yielding could very well be the key to experiencing less stress in our lives.” (p. 31)

“If everything always went our way, how would we ever discover that God can flip our difficulties into good…?” (p. 38)

“The best way to develop a grateful heart is to learn how to walk in step with God.” (p. 66)

“Jesus changes our hearts from a slum to a palace fit for his presence.” (p. 94)

“If you are caught up in situations beyond your control, the solution is not figuring out how God can save you; it’s trusting that he will.” (p. 97)

“When our negative attitude comes because we don’t like where we are or what we have, we need to do a ‘will’ check: God’s will versus our will.” (p. 137)

Shepherd is a gifted storyteller, weaving details of Scripture in narrative form in order to clearly illustrate God’s truths. She’s so good at the craft, in the middle of a story, she turns the point back home to point out personal application. So much so, that you don’t see it coming!

But the biggest “ah ha” for me, came in the stories of her own battles surrounding her infant daughter’s car accident, coma and resulting disabilities. Shepherd clearly understands the need for stress relief in its many forms, and her narrative is a reminder of the power of story to connect a reader to the greater truths of God’s love, care and compassion.

This is an important book, because Shepherd brings hope. She reminds each one that “God is with you. He’s at work in your circumstances now.” (p. 77)

Is there anyone who does not experience stress in some form today? This book is a must-read for all. It provides space to stop reading in order to write out a personal application, as well as modeling steps of prayer to process the change needed. It provides fresh insight into troublesome stories in the Bible and reminds us of our calling to love and be loved.

Could Shepherd deliver on her promise to bring a stress cure? Yes, she did! The illustrations, Scripture passages and written-out prayers all served as a stress reliever, ushering in the peace of Christ!

Sally

Disclaimer: I received this book as a contest giveaway in The Book Club Network, Inc.


The Best Gift. Ever.

Christmas week provided an opportunity for my family to reconnect. As we played a game in front of the fireplace, my adult kids began to reminisce about their antics with babysitters in years gone by. It was amusing to hear their side of the “story,” and to see their reaction to our version. What a soothing balm it was for this mom’s heart to hear the laughter that has been so absent between them in recent years. I glanced at the lights on the Christmas tree and relished our Christmas miracle.
There was another Christmas week that changed our story. It was the Christmas when God’s Son was born in a manger. Jesus came to our world to remind us that we were made for relationship with Him. He is the true ambassador of God’s love, and our Christmas miracle.

Yesterday, our daughter-in-law slid off the snowy road and down an embankment. As a precaution in her seventh month of pregnancy, the ambulance took her to the ER to check on the baby. Our lives came to a standstill as we anxiously awaited news. We are all inexplicably linked, as we were made for relationship with each other. We received a Christmas miracle in knowing the affirmation of that love.

IMG_0146

It is God’s desire for us to be in relationship with Him and with each other. How else could He show us, than to come, Himself? It reminds me of a Christmas carol that says, “He taught us to love one another.” Jesus modeled that sacrificial love.
What gift are you thankful for? Have you experienced a Christmas miracle in the call to love one another?
Sally