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Summer Activities to Keep Your Faith Alive

School’s out, sun’s out, and we’re outside to enjoy it! Whether you just graduated, took the summer off, or been out of school for a while, you’re in for some kind of routine change these next few months.

It’s easy to get lost in the slew of sunshiny activities, new schedules, vacation days, and more, but one thing you don’t want to lose is your time with Jesus. Here are some activities to help enjoy summer and keep your time with God a priority.

  • Outdoor Devotions

If you have a regular devotion time, you probably already started doing them in the comfort of the morning sun. I love being able to enjoy the birds and the breeze and the calm of the morning while reading my Bible and devotionals. Sit on your porch, balcony, or bring a blanket out to the lawn. Have a cup of coffee or smoothie to combine with the perfect morning pick-me-up.

  • Painting

I love to play around with painting. My favorite place to paint is on the porch with a sermon or some worship music playing in the background. It helps me focus, feeds my spirit, and exercises my creative juices. I paint rocks, shells, and canvases. Some have verses or images pressing on my heart. Even if painting isn’t your thing, you can do something else like wood carving, knitting, puzzles, sketching, while allowing God to minister to your soul through teaching or music.

  • Hiking

Nothing brings the heart closer to God than nature in my opinion. Its unmistakable beauty can be such a clear representation of God’s fingerprint. Bring a friend or a group and hold a Bible study at a picturesque location. Don’t get too distracted by the scenery—the point is to be surrounded by God’s beauty as you fellowship and dig into His Word.

  • Camping

The summer is the perfect time for a retreat. Longer than a hike, camping takes you out of the luxuries of the world and brings you back to the basics. Camping can be a good time to escape from every day distractions so that you can pray under the stars or spend time in the Bible by the fire. If you can’t go far, you can take a mini-retreat via tent in the backyard.

  • Night of Worship

Sticking with the camping theme, a simple worship and fellowship around a small bonfire can be so refreshing. It’s a time to get intimate with people, with yourself, and with God. Time to share feelings, encourage others, and simply worship. I guarantee you and your friends or family will want to have another one soon.

  • Be Thankful

Nowadays, summers fly by, so make sure you’re relishing this one with thanksgiving. Before we know it, the nights will turn cold and coats and boots will be coming out of storage. Be thankful for the sun, the rain, and the time with family and friends. Be aware of new life, new blessings, and the change that summer sweeps over your life.

No matter how much you do this summer: vacation time, friend time, family time, work time, beach time…it will never be as fulfilling as Jesus time. Shine some light on the soul this summer. Have fun, make memories, and grow into the next season of life!

God bless!

LJM

When You Feel Stuck

Do you remember jumping on the trampoline when you were a kid? You couldn’t wait to get your shoes off and throw yourself on the taught black netting. You’d squat down and launch into the air, land and propel even higher the second and third time.

The thrill was that feeling in the pit of your stomach. You know the one. When you’re at the peak of your jump with your stomach lifted into your ribcage and your hair floating and outstretched like your arms. It was the moment of flight just before you returned to the springy mesh for another go.

Do you ever feel like that in life? I know I have, especially this past year. I felt like I had jumped higher than I’d ever jumped before, reaching for a pivotal moment in my life, and then…I just stayed there. I hovered with my intestines wrapped around my lungs and my feet flailing in the air, anticipating the descent, but never getting permission to land.

I was stuck. Stuck because I had done all I could and I just had to wait for something to happen. Stuck because this could change everything. My life felt halted even though time did not. I kept thinking, “if I only knew, if I could only speed things along, I could get on with my life.”

But it was a season. A necessary one even though I still don’t know all the reasons why it was necessary. If you’re still in the air, let me give you some advice while you’re up there.

  • Acknowledge it

It’s okay to know that this is how you feel and it’s uncomfortable. But it’s also okay not to know what’s going on. If you trust that God knows what He’s doing, you know that this unpleasantness is not just to make you squirm.

  • Pray

I’ve never felt more dependent on God than I have this year. I could do nothing but make little attempts at controlling the situation, but ultimately, God had the final word. It could be a word you like and it could be a word you don’t, but know that it’s coming and the best thing you can do is pray God will help you wait for it and that He will help you prepare for the result.

  • Don’t make impulsive decisions

When I get impatient, I start making rash decisions and paying for them later. As soon as you start to take matters into your own hands thinking you’re helping God along rather than the other way around, I guarantee you’ll regret it. They either hurt or do absolutely nothing to help the situation.

  • Remember it’s temporary

I read something on Twitter that said, “all suffering has an expiration date.” I relate that to trials of any kind whether it be temptations, suffering, overcoming people and places, even feelings. All of it lasts for a season, even if it’s a long season. The best way to help the time go by painlessly is to let God do His thing, and to do less kicking and screaming and more surrendering. A drowning victim has a better chance of surviving when they stop fighting their rescuer and just simply let themselves get dragged to shore.

  • Pray

Did I already say this? It’s worth repeating. Jesus wants to walk alongside us, especially through our moments of extra struggle. If we just grit our teeth and plow through on our own, we could miss out on valuable growth in our relationship with the Most High, who wants nothing more than our heart. Talk to God as much as you need and ask Him what He’s trying to say during this time. He’ll answer the way your heart needs to hear it.

I thought I knew what it would look like to finally come down from being suspended in the air. I thought I would drop and hit the ground running full speed ahead. Whereas that might be true for some, it wasn’t for me. Instead, God eased me down so slowly, I didn’t even know He was doing it.

He lowered me back to earth, rested my feet on the ground, and now as if I’m a child, He’s shuffling me forward one step at a time.

Remember what goes up, must come down eventually, and it will be at the pace you need with the next step laid out in front of you.

Your time of being unstuck is coming. But whether you’re stuck or unstuck, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and just keep going.

God bless!

-LJM

The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11

When More Than Your House Needs Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year when the sun shines and suddenly you’re aware of every piece of dusty furniture, smudged glass, and clogged gutter and you dedicate every spare moment taking part in the reluctant but necessary ceremony of spring cleaning.

Don’t worry! I’m not going to give you literal housecleaning tips. You’re going to have to jazz that up your own way. However, I would like to encourage you to take the duster around your heart in case any cobwebs have started to build up. Here are some ways to get started.

  • Look for the dirt

Are there choices or habits that just aren’t working for you? Do you find yourself in a rut rather than a routine? Now’s the time to stop in your tracks, look those bad boys in the eyes, and say “We’re gonna fight.” It’s time to be active not passive. Take the time to make a list of the things in your life that are missing, not working, or just plain harmful. Recognize them and pray about them. They are issues for a reason, and God is the only one who can give you enough strength to wrestle with them.

  • Sort through the mess

Just like when we decide to sort through closets, attics, or storage space, we must sort through the areas that affect us spiritually, mentally, and physically.  What are our priorities? How do we manage our time? What do we spend our money on? How are relationships? Keep whatever brings a smile to your face and discard the unnecessary in your life.

  • Prepare for your plan of attack

Now that you’ve asked the hard questions, it’s time to fast and pray about what God has revealed to you. Fasting depends heavily on prayer for strength, discipline, patience, and whatever you’re wanting to accomplish through this cleanse.  It’s humbling, it’s difficult, it’s refreshing, and it’s beneficial in many ways. However you decide to fast (food, media, TV), lean on the grace of God to help you grow closer to Him. He may reveal ways to help with this process. He may give you the added strength to be done with somethings that’s hindering your growth. Or He may spiritually reset your mind.

  •  Clear the clutter

This is when you officially act. I look at clutter as anything that has crowded your life in a negative way and has kept you from Jesus. Whatever that may be, come up with a plan to deal with them. Take it one day at a time and know that you’re not going to step into perfection, but you can step into progress.

Spring cleaning can be grueling, but the whole reason we do it is because we want to be surrounded by the things that make us feel good and healthy and proud. Do this for your soul and for your mental health. Your spirit will thank you.

If you take the time to go through these steps, you’ll be ready to walk lighter and smile brighter, feeling renewed, rejuvenated, and redeemed.

Happy cleaning!

-LJM

The Cry of Jerusalem

*On the anniversary of Israel becoming a nation (May 14th, 1948)*

My limbs are broken, cut through the bloody bone,

The sky above my only ray of hope,

It’s where You left and now I watch and wait,

My eyes spill tears yet disappear within

My skin. I’m old and haggard just let me die,

My lungs held on but filled with hopeless sighs,

My voice deemed not my own is lost

I moan and wail, but I am never heard.

Your voice rings rich low piercing through the clouds,

I hear your song stream far across the sky,

And feel your smile stretch over valleys wide

You’re here, You’ve come for me, I cry at last,

Your arms outstretched wrap me from east to west,

I’m full of you forever finally home.

Copyright © Leah Jordan Meahl

Created For This – Cher Gatto

You’ll hear talk of the ranch from me. I can’t escape it. That’s how it is with things indelible. They become a part of you and never leave you. Rancho el Camino is like that.

The ranch was a God-calling. One of those rare moments when you know He is speaking directly to you and there is no going back. Only forward. Into something entirely unknown. Radical. Without borders. You move forward because in your heart you know that, with Him, you are in the best place you can be no matter how scary it looks.

But how it started—before it was a calling, before we sold everything we had and packed up our van and five kids to drive across the border—before all that, it was just Him and me in a cement dorm. A sacred meeting I’ll never forget.

We were on a short-term trip to Mexico. My husband, Peter, myself, and a team of youth group kids from NJ. It was July. And it was hot. I mean really hot. Tip the scales hot with 100 percent humidity. I was seven months pregnant with my youngest and fortunate to wear medical stockings that take hours to get into on a dry day. I was an emotional wreck even before the fever hit.

Our team got ready for the morning—a full day of evangelism in a mountain village with people I didn’t know, a language I didn’t speak, food I couldn’t eat, and fly-ridden outhouses I shouldn’t use. When the man in charge heard me tell Peter I couldn’t go—more because of the fever than the outhouses—the man said, “Buck up. Get out there. No one stays behind.”

I cried on my husband’s shoulder until I got to stay behind.

So, there I sat. Alone. Tired. Hot. In a cement dorm room with bugs as big as my fists. The team gone and no one to talk to. Feeling quite pitiful. Telling God how wrong He was to bring me there. How I wasn’t a missionary. How I wasn’t an evangelist. How I didn’t like being in foreign countries, or even people that much. How I was sick and pregnant, and couldn’t He see how miserable I was?

In that room I wrestled with my failures and my inadequacies. As a wife, and mother, and even deeper, as a believer. How will I ever be used by God? When everyone else was so excited to be serving, and I didn’t even want to be there. My husband lived for those moments. In fact, he was made for them. God could use him, I knew that. But me? How could I call myself a Christian when I felt so spiritually weak? When I’d rather hide. When I’d rather be alone.

It was in that dorm, in that moment, God gave me the scripture that He would later use to call us to full-time missions in Mexico—ten amazing years in the desert to develop a ranch for kids. To use my love for horses to reach thousands. But I couldn’t see it then. Only how miserable I was. How ill-equipped and disqualified to make any kind of impact.

But the Lord gave me something else that day too. Something sweet and transcending. He spoke gently to my heart. To my turmoil inside.

He said: Child, I am not calling you to be someone you are not. I did not make a mistake when I knit you together. You may never be an evangelist. You may never be comfortable in a crowd. Or in a strange land. But you are uniquely you, with your own gifts I have given you. Not to be altered or changed by what others think you should be. Nor by your own guilt or judgement. Your equipping ground is to grow closer to Me. And through that, you will know who you are and who I made you to be.

You mean, You will use my passions and gifts? Those things already a part of who I am? For Your glory?

Yes.

The fishes and the loaves. My favorite Bible story. Many of us know it. A multitude needed to be fed—five thousand men. Not including all the women and children. The disciples found one boy willing to give up his lunch—two small fish and five loaves of bread.

But the disciples said, “What are these for so many people?”

Who am I to make an impact when all I have is this?

What the boy had in his sack was only enough to feed himself. That’s it. But in the hands of Jesus, the small offering became an abundance. It impacted thousands.

The boy could have held onto his lunch, guarded it, kept it secret to make sure he didn’t go hungry. He would have walked away with a good sermon and a full belly. But he would have missed the miracle. He would have never known what happens when his meager offering is placed in the hands of the Master.

That’s the thing. You and I can labor and strain and strive, and at the end of the day we’ll have enough to feed ourselves—maybe. And we don’t step out because our gifts and talents seem insignificant. Inadequate, with no true purpose or value. Not like that other guy, the one with the great platform and leadership skills. That disciple who really knew Jesus. He has what it takes.

Remember, the Lord didn’t create you to be like that guy or that girl. You are NOT your coworker. Or your friend. Or the neighbor with the list of accolades. NOT the one who looks like they have it all together or the one who seems to juggle everything with perfection.

You are you. Uniquely shaped for your own Kingdom purpose. It’s not about what you lack, but what you already have.

And no matter how scary it looks, step into it. Release it. Because in your hands—your very own hands—you hold exactly what He needs to make miracles happen!

Cher Gatto

-Author and Novelist
-President of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) NY/NJ Chapter
-Co-Founder of Rancho el Camino, La Paz, Mexico
-Pastor’s wife and Mom of five amazing teenagers and young adults

Her award-winning novel SOMETHING I AM NOT released in January 2019 and was a #1 New Release on Amazon.

For more amazing content visit the site below!

www.journeywithwords.com

Trading my Hiking Poles for Crutches (Again)

Such a strong spirit and faith to have in times of pain and uncertainty. My prayers are with you, girl!

The Heart of Hiking

“I’m having surgery! I’m just so excited. I can’t even believe it. Not just one, but two! What an answer to prayer. Isn’t that great?” I exclaim with a childish grin.

“I’ve never seen anyone excited about surgery before,” Shannon, the physical therapy assistant, says with just a hint of surprise. She’s known me for several months by now, so she’s notably unaffected by my emotional extremes.

“You’re probably going to be in more pain than you think and need more help than you expect. They are going in there stitching up your labrum and shaving down your bone after all. That’s going to hurt some,” Shannon explained in an attempt to awaken me to the harsher realities of being cut open.

As soon as the surgeon recommended I have operations on both my hips (spaced at least six weeks apart), an unfamiliar peace flooded me. I’d spent the last…

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Why I Have a Problem with Being “True to Yourself”

*If you don’t know where your true identity lies, read until the end to find out.*

I’m going to upset a lot of people by saying this—stay with me!

I take issue with statements like these:

Trust your heart.

Do you.

Believe in yourself.

Be true to yourself.

Don’t look at me like that!

These are phrases and themes that you can easily find in Disney songs, movies galore, motivational speeches, and just about everywhere you look. More and more, society encourages us to discover and love ourselves, and ultimately do what makes us happy.

Sounds alluring to me! We are our own unique individual, after all, and no one matters more than we do. It’s our life, our body, our heart; shouldn’t we be the ones to know who we truly are and follow what we truly want?

While there is some truth to that mentality, there is a monumental flaw which can cause us to miss the DANGER WARNING WRONG WAY sign ahead.

Let me clarify: You are beautiful. You are unique. You are loved by the Creator Himself. You are the only YOU born into this world, and that is such a privilege. But let’s be honest. The society that prompts us to trust our hearts and be true to ourselves is the same society that forces us to compare to impossible standards and gives birth to insecurity.

It’s an endless cycle, and it doesn’t just stop once we decide to love ourselves and trust our hearts. Let’s face it, we’re not to be trusted. Our sinful nature motivates us to live by the desires of our flesh, and it’s so easy to get that confused with who God created us to be.

God outlined His intentions for us, and if we go back to the Bible, this is what we find:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44)

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Galations 5:14)

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever[a] you want.” (Galations 5:16-17)

When we live by our rules, trust in our own ability, and strive to obtain everything we want on our own, it only makes failing so much more inevitable and potentially devastating. That’s because we’ve left out one key figure.

Jesus.

*Let Him be the One to love you. Our identity begins and ends with believing in the love of Him as our Savior and the application of His Word. That’s what first welcomes us as sons and daughters and begins our journey as followers of Christ.

Don’t be discouraged.

He designed you as an incredible, one-of-a-kind being. Within His design comes skills, talents, dreams, and a multilayered personality. Those things are beautiful and fit within His special plan for your life. BUT He also reminds us to test our heart, to discover His will, and to humble ourselves.

We shouldn’t follow our heart. We should follow His. We don’t have to blaze our own trail, we can walk in His. We shouldn’t be true to ourselves, we should be true to Him and who He made us to be.

When we realize life goes so much deeper than ourselves, we can recognize the power God has to transform us into a life-altering force in this world.

Don’t forget you are loved!

LJM